Accueil English pages Articles written The Contemporary Sufi Heritage of Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Mustafa al-‘Alawī : The Seven Spiritual Stages of the Sufi Path - Historical brief on the French Colonialism in Algeria (1830-1900) and the role of the Sufi orders in Algeria
The Contemporary Sufi Heritage of Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Mustafa al-‘Alawī : The Seven Spiritual Stages of the Sufi Path - Historical brief on the French Colonialism in Algeria (1830-1900) and the role of the Sufi orders in Algeria
English - Articles written
Écrit par Omneya Nabil Muhammad Ayad   
Jeudi, 22 Mai 2014 00:00
Index de l'article
The Contemporary Sufi Heritage of Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Mustafa al-‘Alawī : The Seven Spiritual Stages of the Sufi Path
Chapter 1 : Introduction
Literature Review
Martin Lings'' Work on Shaykh al-‘Alawī
Thesis purpose
Primary Sources
Historical brief on the French Colonialism in Algeria (1830-1900) and the role of the Sufi orders in Algeria
Brief Biography on Shaykh al-‘Alawī
A comprehensive list of all the written books of Shaykh al-‘Alawī
History of the al-‘Alawī Sufi Order
Chapter Two : The Historical Background of the Sufi Spiritual Stages in Major Works
The History of the Development of the Spiritual Stages in Major Sufi Works
1- The Spiritual Stage of Fear and Vigilant Awareness of God (al-Khashya wa-l- Murāqaba):
2- The Spiritual Station of Satisfaction and Submission (al-Riḍa wa-l- Taslīm)
3- The Spiritual Station of Reliance on God (al-tawakkul)
4- The spiritual station of Poverty (al-Faqr):
5- The spiritual station of Sincerity (al-Ikhlās)
6- The Spiritual Station of Love (Hubb)
7- The Spiritual Station of Oneness (al-Tawhīd)
Chapter 3 : The Sufi Spiritual Stages in the Work of Shaykh al-‘Alawī
1- The Spiritual Stage of Fear and Vigilant Awareness of God (al-Khashya wa-l- Murāqaba)
2-The Spiritual Station of Satisfaction and Submission (al-Rida wa-l- Taslīm)
3-The Spiritual Station of Reliance on God (al-tawakkul)
4-The spiritual station of Poverty (al-Faqr)
5-The spiritual station of Sincerity (Ikhlās)
6-The Spiritual Station of Love (Hubb)
7-The Spiritual Station of Oneness (al Tawhīd)
Toutes les pages

Historical brief on the French Colonialism in Algeria (1830-1900) and the role of the Sufi orders in Algeria

Before delving into the biography of Shaykh al-''Alawī and his contribution in the field of Sufism, it would be beneficial to have an overarching historical look on the political situation of Algeria at the time of the French colonization of Algeria in 1830 until early 1900s along with the role of the Sufi orders in Algeria in fighting against the French occupation. This historical background would help us appreciate the rise of Shaykh Ahmed b. Mustafa al-‘Alawī and his Alawī Sufi order as an addition to the Sufi orders in Algeria which contributed in shaping the Algerian persona both intellectually and spiritually and had a positive role in fighting against the French aggression; a fact which reflects the role of Sufism as a spiritual movement in the political history of Algeria and North Africa at large.

When the French debarked in July 1830 in Algeria, they were driven by the idea of building a collective colonization in Africa after finding themselves totally driven out from the Western political game of power and sovereignty. The opportunity that was laid out for the French to build a New France in Algeria was not crystallized until 1868 when one of the brightest thinkers of France, Prevost Paradol, who was elected as a member of the French Academy, showed the rapid decrease of France in terms of population and the eminent threat faced by other neighboring countries such as the UK which extended its influence on many quarters in the world, the Slavonic races which began to find their place under the sun and the importance of taking up arms against both Prussia and the German states to face their potential danger. Paradol believed that the only chance for France to recover its loss in Europe is to colonize Algeria with French speaking population.8

The ultimate aim of the French colonization of Algeria was to extend its influence to both Morocco and Tunisia to establish the Mediterranean empire which will be as Paradol said "not only a satisfaction for our pride, but will also certainly be in the future development of the world, the last resource of our grandeur."9

Since the fourteenth century, Sufi orders in North Africa became an important factor in social and political life. The masters of the Sufi orders were well known for their leading position in securing social cohesion of local communities in times of political strife and the decay of the central power. The Sufi orders usually acted at these harsh times as a mediator between waring parties.

When it comes to the Algerian resistance to the French colonial plans, we find that multiple Sufi orders in Algeria played an essential part in resisting the French existence on the Algerian soil. The Algerian historian, Shaykh ‘ Abdelrahmān al-Jīlānī stated that the spread of the Sufi orders in the Islamic world was crystallized by the 14th Century C.E. and the number of Sufi orders reached eighty. In Algeria the number of Sufi orders reached twenty three in 1897 as many branches were developed after the advent of the Ottomans though there were two major well established Sufi orders prior to the advent of the Ottomans; namely the Qādiriyya and the Shādhiliyya orders.10

It was reported that the Shaykhs of the Sufi orders commanded all Algerian citizens to take up arms and stand united against the French occupation of Algeria in 1830. For this reason it is not a surprise to figure out that all the revolts against the French colonization were conducted, planned, managed and led by the Sufi Shaykhs and the Sufi disciples in lodges. 11

In Algeria, the Qādiriyya order spread all over the Islamic world and had a wide range of religious activities especially in Africa. In Algeria the Qādiriyya order had a leading role in taking up arms and uniting with the military national movement to fight against the French occupation. The Amīr ‘Abdel Qādir al-Jazāiri (d. 1883 C.E.) was well known for his unwavering zeal to resist the French aggression and fought against their existence in Algeria for seventeen years.12

The second oldest Sufi order in the history of Algeria is the Shādhilī 13 Sufi order. This Sufi order witnessed a rapid spread in Algeria and had a major influence on the other newly established Sufi orders in the 17th Century with its moderate teachings and refined methodology. Shaykh al-Shādhilī despite his old age was always adamant on fighting against the Crusades and this spirit of resilience spread to encompass his disciples in Algeria as they stood united to face the French occupation. 14

The third well spread Sufi order in the history of Algeria is al-Rahmaniyya. The name of the order was taken after Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdelrahmān who was born in Algeria yet travelled to Egypt for religious learning which lasted for 25 years. When he came back to Algeria, his Sufi order was spread in Algeria in the second half of the 12th century H, 1769 C.E and had a leading role in declaring sacred jihad against the French occupation especially in the area of the Aures Mountains. During his stay in Egypt, he accompanied a number of luminary Sufi Shaykhs and the most influential of them was Shaykh Muhammad Sālim al-Hifnāwī who granted Shaykh ‘Abdelrahmān the permission to lead the Khalawatī Sufi order and spread its teachings in the Sudan and India.15

Shaykh ‘Abdelrahmān was active in emanating the Sufi teachings of the Khalwatī order and his message was well accepted and gained many followers. The name of the order later changed to al-Rahmāniyya but its essential teachings stem from the Khalwatī Sufi order. The main areas which were known for the well spread of al-Rahmāniyya order are Middle, Eastern and Southern Algeria. As for the followers of this order most of them were from the impoverished working class, peasants and small merchants. This type of hard workers usually share the bigger brunt of sacrifice in hard times and probably this is the reason behind the remarkable position which al-Rahmāniyya order had in fighting the French colonization. By the year 1898, the number of the lodges of al-Rahmāniyya Sufi order reached around 177 lodges. Aside from the prominent role of this Sufi order in igniting the spirit of jihad in the hearts of Algerians to fight against the French occupation, it had an influential impact on spreading the Islamic culture and keeping the zeal of memorizing the Quran day and night in their lodges. These efforts helped in keeping the characterizations of the Arabic Islamic identity intact for decades in Algeria.16

Another prominent Sufi order which the European countries especially France and England called it as its number one enemy in Algeria is al-Sanūsiyya Sufi order. This order was established by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Alī al-Sanūsī al-Idrisī whose lineage went back to the Adārisa dynasty in Morocco. He was born in a city near Mustaghānim in Algeria in 1787 and was known for his zeal for religious learning and his companionship to erudite scholars from Algeria and elsewhere. He was known for his passion for travelling and meeting scholars and along his journeys, he met a lot of Sufi scholars especially during his seven year stay in the city of Fās in Tunisia. During his journeys, he settled in Makkah for some time during which he established his first Sufi lodge in the Mountain Abu Qubais which is a mountain in the eastern frontier of Makkah in Saudi Arabia in 1837. At that time the French colonial power wanted a fatwa to be issued to state the impermissibility of fighting against the colonial powers because their number outweighs that of the jihadists and therefore there would be no point of fighting against them, Shaykh al-Sanūsī expressed his staunch refusal of the fatwa that was about to be issued unlike many other scholars who conceded the fatwa.17

After his long journeys across the Islamic world, he found his way home to Algeria but learned that he was being pursued by the French army to hunt him down so he went to Barqah in Libya and settled there. It was a successful choice because Barqah was a strategic place as it resides in the middle of the cities in which he was eager to spread his Sufi teachings and ignite the flame of jihad in the hearts of Muslims. He established his major lodge there and was known as the white lodge or al-Zāwiya al-Bayda. The name was taken after the white paint with which the walls of the lodge were painted. This name extended to a whole city which was known as al-Bayda city. The colonial powers especially France and England announced that the Sanūsī Sufi order and its founder, Shaykh al-Sanūsī, are their first and foremost enemy in Africa. France on its part was adamant on sewing discord and dissonance between the Ottoman caliphate which was waning and the Sanūsī Sufi order through spreading rumors about the potential danger and the eminent threat which this Sufi order presents to the Ottoman empire.18

The colonial powers continued its hostile campaign against the Sanūsī order in its different media outlets and the animosity reached its peak when the Sanūsī followers engaged in battles against the Italian colonial powers in Libya which lasted for about 50 years. The spirit of jihad which was ignited in Libya had a deep effect on the jihadists in Algeria and other parts in North Africa. The Sanūsī order and its loyal followers offered great sacrifices to stop the Italian colonial flow in North Africa especially in Libya. One of the prominent Sufi jihadists is ‘Umar al-Mukhtār who under his leadership the Sanūsī order showed unprecedented resilience to fight the Italian powers who in turn exerted all their efforts to lure them in through seducing them with money, privileges but faced an emphatic refusal from the Sanūsī order.19

The Sanūsī order was not only known for its fierce opposition and struggle against European colonial powers but also their lodge was famous for spreading knowledge and eradicating illiteracy among people. Shaykh al-Sanūsī established a huge scholarly library which contained around eight thousand volumes in Islamic jurisprudence, Quranic exegesis, prophetic traditions, history, literature, astronomy among other fields of knowledge.20

The Sanūsī order was successful in graduating each year hundreds of Sufi advocates who spread across Africa and reached Chad, Somalia and Senegal in the West along with Niger, Congo and Cameroon. These advocates liberated many children who were taken as slaves in slave trade caravans coming from the Sudan. They adopted these emancipated children and funded their religious education to guide and teach their people in their home countries when they go back. 21

Another influential Sufi order is the ‘Āmeriyya which was established by the Tunisian Shaykh ‘Amir ibn al-Hajj Sālim al-Mazūghī. He resided in the city of Fās in Morocco and later moved back to Tunisia where he dedicated his time to religious learning in which he spent 10 years and was granted the permission to spread the teachings of the Shādhilī Sufi order. He gathered many followers and built a major lodge for his order in 970 H. and at this time Tunisia fell under the Spanish protectorate. Shaykh ‘Āmer had a leading patriotic role in fighting against the Spanish colonial powers in North Africa which treated Tunisians with outrageous injustice and practiced all sorts of aggression, persecution and humiliation against them.22

After briefly examining the most important Sufi orders in Algeria, later in this chapter we will discuss the rise of the ‘Alawī sufi order and its impact on the political history of Algeria.

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