The Secret of the Path

Some people some time ago left a book at our place. It is the book of someone unknown to me, but after some time I found out that both the writer as well as his book are well known in Moroccan Sufism.

It concerns shaykh ad-Dabbâgh and his book is called Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz). The Shaykh lived at the end of the 17 th century and in the beginning of the 18 th century. I hope to translate some parts thereof as it may also interest you.

It starts now:

The esoterical science
The esotertical science can be compared

To 99 lines written in letters of gold

And the exoterical science

To the hundredth line written in ink.

If, however, this black line would be absent

Then the esoterical science would not be useful

And the one who would only be occupied therewith,

Would be subjected to great risks.

Shaykh ad-Dabbâgh: Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz) p. 17.

Sîdî Mubârak ibn ‘Alî was a sufi shaykh. A certain seeker by the name of Sîdî al-‘Arbî met him in a mosque in Fez . He asked the sufi: “Teach me how the secret reaches those who are its depositaries?“

Sîdî Mubârak gave him this answer: “I want you to sneeze now!”

Sîdî al-‘Arbî then responded: “I do not need to sneeze at this moment”.

Sîdî Mubârak retorted: “It is the same for me. I am not able to teach you what you’ve asked for at this moment”.

Shaykh ad-Dabbâgh: Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz) p. 27.

Sîdî al-‘Arbî was one of the friends of God. When he was on his deathbed he called for a certain man and his wife and he told them, pointing to a cap and a pair of black trousers: “This is a trust of God which will remain with you until your son ‘Abd al-‘Azîz will be born. You then give these clothes to him”.

Some time later ‘Abd al-‘Azîz was born and when he reached puberty God inspired his mother to give him the clothes received as a trust. ‘Abd al-‘Azîz then put on his trousers as well as his cap. He then felt a great heat, so much so that tears appeared in his eyes. ‘Abd al-‘Azîz has said this about it: “I then understood what Sîdî al-‘Arbî had said and his allusion was clear to me, thanks to God, the Lord of the worlds.”

the story taken from the Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz) makes it clear that ‘Abd al-‘Azîz gets initiated into Sufism and that a certain transference takes place between Sîdî al-‘Arbî and him.

‘Abd al-‘Azîz has said this: “From the day I had received the trust (the cap and the pair of trousers) which had been legated to me by Sîdî al-‘Arbî and when I understood his message, God placed an aspiration in my heart for complete servanthood to God. That is why I started to search in an intense way. In case someone told me about a certain shaykh who accepted disciples I immediately went to him in order to have him as my master. But after some time, during which I performed the spiritual practices received from him, my breast became constricted and no longer I thought it to be necessary to stay with him. I then went to another and took him as a shaykh. After some time the same thing happened as in the case of the first shaykh and I went to a third one. And then the same took place once again”.

This period lasted for 12 years. In those days he went every Thursday to the shrine of the sufi Sîdî ‘Alî ibn Hirzihim and he read al-Burda (the Mantle, a poem written by a sufi in praise of the Prophet). One day, after reading al-Burda, he left the shrine. ‘Abd al-‘Azîz then met a stranger who sat under a tree near the door of the sufi shrine. The stranger started to speak to him about the inner experiences of ‘Abd al-‘Azîz.

‘Abd al-‘Azîz understood that this stranger has to be one of the unknown friends of God. He asked him: “Give me one of the sacred formulas to recite and initiate me into the way of spiritual recollection!”

The stranger ignored this request and started to talk about completely different things. Sîdî ‘Umar repeated his request several times, but the stranger refused to guide him as he had in mind to test the determination of ‘Abd al-‘Azîz. He stayed with the stranger until dawn. The call to prayer any moment was going to be heard.

The stranger then turned to him and told ‘Abd al-‘Azîz: “I will not prescribe any sacred formula to you if you do not accept the pact of God never to stop reciting it”.

‘Abd al-‘Azîz then gave this solemn promise. He then expected to receive a formula similar to the ones he had received from his former shaykhs. To his surprise the stranger told him: “You have to recite every day the following sentence: ‘O Lord! Because of the grace of our sayyed Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allâh unify me with our sayyed Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allâh in this world before the next one’.”

They then performed the ablutions and Sîdî ‘Umar, the guardian of the sufi shrine, joined us. The stranger told Sîdî ‘Umar to keep an eye on ‘Abd al-‘Azîz.

Time passed and when Sîdî ‘Umar was on his deathbed he asked ‘Abd al-‘Azîz: “Do you know who was the stranger who sat under the tree near the shrine and who gave you something to recite? It was Khidr!”

‘Abd al-‘Azîz has said: “Later on, when I attained illumination by the grace of God, I understood the message of Sîdî ‘Umar. I continued reciting the formula of recollection. It was difficult to perform on the first day and only during the night I was able to finish my recitation. Little by little it became easier to do…”.

Fath (illumination, inner opening)
‘Abd al-‘Azîz has an experience of fath (illumination, inner opening) three days after the death of Sîdî ‘Umar. M. Chodkiewicz, who in France among the Sufis is also known as shaykh ‘Ali, has called the description of this fath ‘one of the most extraordinary documents known about this subject’:

It so happened that the wife of ‘Abd al-‘Azîz asked him to buy some oil. ‘Abd al-‘Azîz has to buy it near the sufi shrine where he has met Khidr. At that place his body starts to tremble vehemently. This state intensified and it became so difficult to bear that he thought that he was going to die.

‘Abd al-‘Azîz has given this description: My body started to expand until it became larger than large. Things unveiled themselves to me and showed themselves to me as if they were present in my hands. I saw all the cities, villages and all hamlets – I saw all that can be found on earth. I saw the Christian woman giving milk to the baby in her lap, I saw all the oceans, the seven earths and all they contained as for animals and other creatures. I saw heaven as if I was above it and I was thus able to see what was in it”.

“Then an intense light, which looked like lightning, appeared from every side, from above me, below me, to my right and to my left, in front of me and behind me – and the cold was so intense that I thought that I had died. I quickly tried to cover my face in order to avoid seeing this light, but when I became taller I noticed that all of my body had turned into an eye: my eyes could see, my head could see, my foot and all my bodily members could see. When I saw my clothes I found out that they did not veil the capacity to see which was to be found in every part of my body. I then understood that it was useless to hide my face as it did not change anything”.

This state was rather difficult to bear and hard to understand for ‘Abd al-‘Azîz. He started to cry. He however received some help from some people. One of them stayed some time in the company of ‘Abd al-‘Azîz in order to protect him.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz continued his description of his fath (illumination, inner opening) thus:

“That state continued for about an hour and then stopped. I regained the first state that I originally had and returned to town. I was incapable of reaching a certain area near a sufi shrine in Fez and was afraid for myself and was busy weeping. That state returned to me for an hour and then stopped again. It began to come upon me for an hour and then vanish for another hour until it was living intimately with me. It began to be absent only for an hour in the day and an hour in the night, until finally it became continuous”.

“God had mercy on me because He made me meet one of the ‘arefin (gnostics) among His friends. When I woke up from the night after the day of the opening, I went to visit Mawlay Idris, may God benefit us by him, and there I met the faqih , Sîdî al-Hajj Ahmad Jorondi, the imam of the Mawlay Idris Mosque. So, I mentioned to him what I saw and what had happened to me. He said to me: ‘Come with me to my home’, so I went with him to the house”.

He entered and I with him, and we sat down together and he said, “Repeat to me what you have seen.” I repeated it to him. I looked at him and he was weeping. He said, “There is no god but God, these four hundred years we have not heard the like of this.” He gave me several dirhams and said to me, ‘Take them and meet your needs with them. When you are finished with them do not ask anyone to give you anything. Return to me and I will give you everything you need. And I insist that you go to the grave of Sîdî ‘Abd Allâh at-Tawdî, for there you will see good’.”

“I left him and I never saw him after that day. The sickness that caused his death came to him and he died, may God have mercy on him, but I followed his parting counsel and went to Sîdî ‘Abd Allâh at-Tawdî. When I reached the Bâb al-Joîsah there was a black man outside the gate. He began to look at me and I said to myself: ‘What does he want?’ When I reached him he took my hand and greeted me and I returned his greeting. He said to me: ‘I want you to return with me to the mosque, then we can sit for an hour and talk’, and I said: ‘With pleasure’.”

“I returned with him and we sat in the mosque. He began to speak to me, saying: ‘I am sick with such and such, I saw such and such, and such and such happened to me’. mentioning everything that had happened to me. He threw off the burden I carried by his words, by God, and I realized that he was one of the friends of God. He said that his name was ‘Abd Allah al-Barnâwi from Barno and that he had only come to Fez because of me. I rejoiced and realized the blessing in the words of the faqih Sîdî al-Hajj Ahmad al-Jorondi, may God be merciful to him, for he was one of the people of right action”.

“Sîdî ‘Abd Allah al-Barnâwi remained with me, guiding me, directing me and strengthening me and removing fear of what I witnessed from my heart for the rest of the months of Rajab, Sha’bân, Ramadân, and ten days of the month of pilgrimage”.

“When it was the third day of the ‘eid festival I saw the master of existence (the Prophet Muhammad), may God bless him and grant him peace. Sîdî ‘Abd Allah al-Barnâwi said to me: ‘Before today I was afraid for you but today when God the Exalted has made you meet the master of existence, may God bless him and grant him peace, my heart is secure and tranquil, and I entrust you to God the Mighty and Majestic’. Then he went to his land and left me. His stay with me was only to protect me from darkness entering upon me in this inner opening and until the opening in witnessing the Prophet happened to me, may God bless him and give him peace, because there is no fear for the one who has the opening then. It is only feared for him before that”.

When a man comes to see you
A man who lived in Algeria heard all kinds of stories on the many supernatural powers of a certain friend of God who lived in Fez , Morocco . Because of these stories an image had been created by him of an extraordinary and very charismatic man. He undertook a travel in order to meet this friend of God. The Algerian was very interested in his secrets.

When he arrived in Fez , people pointed out the house of the saint of God. According to his imagination there would be two doorkeepers. He knocked at the door of the house and the friend of God opened the door. The visitor asked him to be taken to his master as he was convinced that the man he saw was one of the doorkeepers.

The friend of God told him: “The one you have come to see and who has been the cause for your travel which lasted for more than a month, I am that person and no one else”.

The visitor answered him thus: “I am a stranger and I have been looking for the shaykh with a great desire, so tell me where he is, so that God may be merciful to you”. This he said, because when he saw the friend of God he did not notice any special sign nor did he see someone with an imposing stature.

The friend of God told him: “O, poor man! I am the one you want to meet”.

The visitor then replied: “I am telling you that I’m a stranger and I’m asking you to direct me to the shaykh and stop teasing me”.

“God is my witness, that I’m not trying to fool you”, was the answer.

The visitor however remarked: “God will call you to account!” Then he left, as the man he had met, was different compared to the mental image he had made of the friend of God.

Shaykh ad-Dabbâgh: Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz) by Sayyidi Ahmad ibn al-Mubarak, a pupil of the Shaykh.