Peer Syed Mudassir Nazar Shah with Cherif Ahmed Tidjani (Morocco) on Cheikh Ahmed Al-Tijani and Sufism in Africa
Abū al-ʻAbbās Ahmad ibn Muhammad at-Tijāniyy or Ahmed Tijani (Arabic: أحمد التجاني, 1735–1815, was the Berber founder of the Tijaniyyah tariqa (Sufi order). in Aïn Madhi in Algeria, and died in Fez, Morocco, at the age of 80. Tijani was born in 1735 in Ain Madi, the son of Muhammad al-Mukhtar. He traced his descent to a Berber Tribe, Tijania. When he was sixteen, Tijani lost both parents as a result of a plague. By then he was already married. He learned Quran under the tutelage of Mohammed Ba’afiyya in Ain Madi and also studied Khalil ibn Ishaq al-Jundi’s Islamic jusrispudence works that were written under Malikite rites. He also studied Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī’s Risala ila al-sufiyya. In 1757, Tijani left his village for Fez. While there, he joined three Sufi brotherhoods, the Qadiriyya, the Nasiriyya, and the tariqa of Ahmad al-Habib b. Muhammed. In Fez, he met a seer who told him he would achieve spiritual revelation (fath). Thereafter, he left Fez to teach at al-Abiad, spending five years at the village. In 1772, he began a journey to Mecca for hajj and to seek a Sufi way of life. During his journey, he was initiated into the Khalwati order at Azwawi. He later taught for a year at Tunis where he achieved some success. He left Tunis for Egypt where he met Mahmud al-Kurdi of the Khalwati order in Cairo. Tijani reached Mecca in late 1773 and performed hajj rites. In his quest to seek a Sufi way of life, he met Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah El Hindi, who rarely saw people except for his servant. He also met Abd-karim al-Sammman, founder of the Sammaniyya branch of Khalwati. Al-Samman told Tijani he will become a dominant qutb (pole) or a scholar within the Sufi orders in the region. Tijani left Mecca and returned to Cairo where he got al-Kurdi’s blessing to preach the Khalwatiyya order. From Cairo, he settled at Tlemcen for a couple of years. Tijani later settled at Boussemghoun, an oasis seventy-five miles south of El Bayadh. It was at Samghun that Tijani received a vision from the prophet who told him to start a new Sufi order. He left his previous affiliations with other Sufi orders and claimed divine instructions from the prophet Mohammed. Tijani’s order soon gained attraction in the desert regions surrounding Abi Samghun. Shaykh Tijani lived in Abi Samghun for about fifteen years. In 1796 he went to Fez, marking the real beginning of his Tariqa. In Fez, Tijani was well received by Mawlay Sulayman, the Moroccan Sultan. Though Sulayman disliked other Sufi orders, he provided Tijani a house and appointed him as a member of his learned council. At first, Tijani chose the mosque of Mawlay Idris to pray but performed the rites of the Tijani order in his house. Tijani later built his own zawiya. In Fez, he sent his trusted aides to spread the word of his order. Trusted aides such as Abu Hafs’ Abdul-Rahman was sent to Oran and Algiers and Abdul-Salam al-Waghiri to Constantine, Algeria. Further muqaddams were appointed among learned converts including Muhammad Fuwadir al-Abdallawi in the Jarid district of Tunisia and Muhammed al-Hafiz in Mauritania.