Celebration of Prophet's Birthday highlights Morocco's deeply rooted tradition of Sufism
The Moussem of Sheikh al-Kamil al-Hadi ben Aissa is one of the most famous religious festivals in Meknes, where Sufi mysticism intertwines with supernatural practices.
Music of the soul. Drummers perform during an evening of spiritual music and meditation in the Moroccan village of Sidi Ali near Meknes. (AFP)
2017/12/03 Issue: 134 Page: 12
The Arab Weekly
Casablanca- The celebration of the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday — Mawlid an- Nabawi — is observed across Morocco, including at Sufi shrines. It is a tradition that is centuries old.
King Mohammed VI leads ceremonies in Casablanca at the Hassan II Mosque, where religious chants are performed along with recitations from the Quran. The monarch, who holds the title of “the commander of the faithful,” continues a tradition of the celebration carried out by his ancestors.
Sufi shrines mark the Prophet’s birthday with ceremonies to honour his legacy with chants, trance dancing and hypnotic rhythms.
King Mohammed VI delivers donations, including money and gifts, to mausoleums and Sufi shrines across the country. This tradition seeks to support Sufi shrines and their message of religious tolerance, moderation and harmony.
“Many Sufi traditions are instilled in our daily life. The reason lies in the fact that sultans that had ruled Morocco throughout several centuries kept close ties with Sufi confraternities for either political or religious purposes,” said Mohammed Abdelouahab Rafiki, a researcher in Islamic studies.
Cultural events and religious ceremonies, including Sufi nights, take place in many cities and regions of the kingdom during the Prophet’s birthday celebrations.
In Sale, the Moussem des Cierges of Moulay Abdallah Benhassoun coincides with the Mawlid. The moussem, which dates to the 16th century, is celebrated in a unique way. Residents, led by Benhassoun descendants, light the streets of Sale with candles in a glittering parade.
Fez, considered Morocco’s spiritual capital, draws thousands of pilgrims from around the world during Mawlid celebrations to express their love for the Prophet.
The Moussem of Sheikh al- Kamil al-Hadi ben Aissa is one of the most famous religious festivals in Meknes, where Sufi mysticism intertwines with supernatural practices.
Sheikh al-Kamil founded the Aissaoua brotherhood, one of the country’s leading Sufi orders, in the 16th century. He practised a rare form of spiritual Sufism and travelled across Morocco to preach Islam.
About 30km from Meknes, the Hamadchas, who are affiliated with Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch, have a 7-day moussem each year at the tomb of their saint. Pilgrims flock to Sidi Ali to purify themselves from evil spirits by sacrificing animals and dancing in a trance until they fall unconscious.
A study by the Pew Research Centre, a US think-tank, in 2012 indicated that approximately 86% of Moroccans asked said they believe in supernatural beings, a higher percentage than in any other country surveyed.
“We have to differentiate between mystical Sufism and some confraternities’ unacceptable practices that will likely put off the new generation,” said Rafiki.
A report published by the US think-tank RAND in 2004, three years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, called for US President George W. Bush’s administration to encourage Sufi movements in Muslim countries to isolate the growing Salafist extremist and Wahhabi ideologies that were seen as threatening the West.
Rafiki said Sufism is an effective way of fighting radical Salafism because its principles contradict radicalisation.
“Love, beauty and the relationship with others are all factors in Sufism that shield people from all aspects of radicalisation,” he said, calling on Sufi to invest more on social networks to better disseminate their message of peace and tolerance to the tech-savvy generation.