Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri

Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri  (Homs 1912 – Damascus 2004) was a Syrian Sufi master of the Hashimi-Darqawi branch of the Shadhili tariqa, as well as poet, textile worker, and trade unionist.

His life and work
Born in Homs in 1912, al-Shaghouri was soon orphaned and moved to Damascus with his brother. As a child, he worked as an errand boy and later as a weaver.

He attended the lessons of the major scholars of Damascus: Husni al-Baghghal, Muhammad Barakat, 'Ali al-Daqar, Ismail al-Tibi, and Lutfi al-Hanafi.

However, his most important teacher was Muhammad al-Hashimi, an Algerian Sufi from Tlemcen who had already been living in Syria for twenty years before becoming the representative of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, spiritual master of the Shadhili tariqa. Al-Shaghouri himself met al-Alawi in 1932 in Damascus, but it was al-Hashimi who served as his spiritual guide. Finding that al-Shaghouri was already suitable, al-Hashimi placed him in a spiritual retreat. On the first day, al-Shaghouri pledged himself to al-Hashimi's guidance, an unusual if not unprecedented occurrence in Sufi instruction and discipleship.

His Teaching
He never stopped teaching. He once entered the head office of a small religious academy in Damascus with a group of his students and sat down to talk to the director, who bade him wait until he finished some things that were apparently urgent. One thing seemed to lead to another, and the phone kept ringing.

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman waited patiently, while his disciples, as the minutes drew on, became less and less so. Finally, the principal of the school set aside his work, looked up at the sheikh and apologized with a smile, and put himself at the sheikh’s service. The sheikh thanked him, asked him how he was, and then said, “I just wanted to make a phone call.” After a short call, he got up, thanked the principal, and left with his disciples. They had needed a lesson in patience and manners, and the sheikh had given them one.

Practice was the aim of the sheikh’s knowledge. Imam Abul Hasan al-Shadhili (d. 654/1258), whose order the sheikh belonged to, would not let his disciples beg, but had them earn their own livelihood, and Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman emphasized the importance of having a trade to earn one’s living by the work of one’s hand. He used to say, “I hope to pass on from this world without having taken a single piaster from anyone: I don’t even take from my own children.”

We had sat on the edge of a pallet on a narrow wooden bed in a room with a single window, whence light shone down on us, and the sheikh was answering a few questions I had on the last day of my first khalwa. “Will we be together in the next world?” I had asked. “All those who attained marifa, gnosis of the

Divine, in this life,” he said, “shall have a special place in paradise by a white dune of musk. Our Lord shall manifest Himself to them once a week, and they will remain drunken with the vision of it for the entire week, when He shall appear to them again, and hence ever shall it be.”
“We never speak of three things: this world, women, or politics.”

His weakness and death
Despite his later physical weakness, he never stopped receiving visitors or attending the weekly hadra at the Nur al-Din al-Shahid mosque, in the old quarter of Damascus. He died on 8 June 2004. A great crowd gathered to attend his funeral at the mosque dedicated to Shaykh Muhy al-Din Ibn al-Arabi.

The funeral prayer was led by Habib Ali al-Jifri, from Yemen, a well-known representative of traditional scholarship and Sufism in Arab media. His death was widely mourned by scholars and laymen alike, and he was widely recognized as one of the most important revivers of the Shadhili tariqa and Sufism in general, particularly in Syria.

His legacy and renown has also become widespread (particularly in the English-speaking world) through two American students whom he authorized in the Shadhili tariqa, Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Zaid Shakir.

His Works
  • Collections of his poems
  • Al-hada’iq al-nadiyya fī al-nasamat al-ruhiyya ("The Dewy Gardens in the Spiritual Breezes"), Damascus, Dār fajr al-‘urūba, 2nd ed., 1998.
His notable students
  • Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi
  • Shaykh Zaid Shakir
  • Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
  • Shaykh Gibril Haddad
  • Shaykh Ismail al-Kurdi

Hadrah with Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri in Damascus 1996
A video which captures a hadrah in Damascus 1996 with Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri. Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri was a well known Shaykh of tazkiyah and master of tasawwuf from the Hashimi-Darqawi branch of the Shadhili tariqa

Sources: (Hadrah with Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri)

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