Having spent the last two weeks in Fez, it was not surprising when the last few days there bought with it a tingling sense of butterflies in the stomach as each day drew closer. On Wednesday 20th of May our last day began by the dash of last-minute rounds to complete, visits to make, shopping to do and in some cases last meetings with locals to hold. The trip in general was by all intensive purposes a spiritual journey with the added value of physical comforts and joys; swimming, horse riding and city tours.
One of the poignant memories of the journey was the serene sun set which used to settle over the ancient land of Fez. Visible from almost every high vantage point the golden glow of sunset was a keen reflection of the rich spiritual heritage of the city itself. Gold being synonymous with station and power it was a perfect metaphor for the spiritual power and station of its saints and sages gracing the large grounds of the age-old cemeteries surrounding the city.
Each day we would take the red Fiat Punto taxi rides to Bab al Futuh entrance and make our way to the resting place of Syyiduna Abdul Azeez Dabbagh, one of the greatest saints of fez to grace it’s land. Bab Al Futuh is mentioned several times in the book Al Ibriz (Pure Gold) where many anecdotes and stories are highlighted. Where either deep spiritual encounters between Abdullah Ibn al Mubarak al Lamati and Syyiduna Abdul Azeez Dabbagh occured. Or, the travels on its streets are intricately described with children playing and the shouts of the bazaars as back drops to daily encounters.
The spiritual opening of Syyiduna Abdul Azeez Dabbagh
Three days after the death of Sidi Umar the opening happened to me and praise belongs to Allah. We recognised Allah by the reality of our selves, and praise and thanks belong to Him. That was on Thursday the 8th of Rajab 1125 H. I went out of our house and Allah provided me with four coins, by means of one of His slaves who give sadaqah. I bought fish and went to our house and the woman said to me, “Go to Sidi Ali Ibn Harazim (an area in Fez) and bring us oil so that we can cook the fish.” I went and when I reached the Bab al-Futuh a trembling came over me and then many shudders. Then my flesh began to creep very much and I began to walk in that condition until I reached the grave of Sidi Yahya ibn ‘Ilal, may Allah benefit us by him, and that is on the way to Sidi Ali ibn Harazim.
My state became very extreme and my breast became tremendously troubled, and I said, “This is death without doubt.” Then my body began to extend until it was longer than any length. Things began to unveil themselves to me and to appear as if they were right in front of me. I saw all the villages and towns, everything in this land and the Christian woman breast-feeding her child sitting in her lap. I saw all the oceans, the seven continents and everything in them, the beasts and all creatures. I saw the sky as if I were above it looking at what was in it. Suddenly there was a tremendous light like dazzling sheet lightning which seemed to come from every direction. That light came from above me and from below me, from my right and left, and from before me and behind me. A tremendous cold from it struck me so much so that I thought I had died. I tried to cover my face so that I would not have to look at that light but I realised that my body was all eyes, the eye seeing, the head seeing, the leg seeing and all of my limbs seeing. I looked at the clothes I was wearing and I found that they did not veil that seeing which pervaded my whole body, so I realised that covering my face made no difference. 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 Sidi Ibn Harazim 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. Allah had mercy on me because He made me meet one of the gnostics among His friends. When I woke up from the night after the day of the opening, I went to visit Moulay Idris, may Allah benefit us by him, and there I met the Faqih, Sidi al-Hajj Ahmad Jarandi, the Imam of the Moulay 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 Allah, these four hundred years we have not heard the like of this.” He gave me many 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 Sidi Abdullah at-Tawdi, 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 Allah have mercy on him, but I followed his parting counsel and went to Sidi Abdullah at-Tawdi. When I reached the Bab al-Jaysah 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 Allah, and I realised that he was one of the friends of Allah, a gnostic. He said that his name was Abdullah al-Barnawi from Barno and that he had only come to Fez because of me. I rejoiced and realised the blessing in the words of the Faqih Sidi al-Hajj Ahmad al-Jarandi, may Allah be merciful to him, for he was one of the people of right action. Sidi Abdullah al-Barnawi remained with me, guiding me, directing me and strengthening me and removing fear of what I saw from my heart for the rest of the months of Rajab, Sha’ban, Ramadan, and ten days from Dhu’l-Hijjah. When it was the third day of the Eid festival I saw the Master of Existence (the Prophet Muhammad), may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Sidi Abdullah al-Barnawi said, “O Sidi AbdulAziz, before today I was afraid for you but today when Allah the Exalted has made you meet the Master of Existence, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, my heart is secure and tranquil, and I entrust you to Allah 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 opening and until the opening in witnessing the Prophet happened to me, may Allah 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. From Al-Ibriz ® “Pure Gold” by Sayyidi Ahmad ibn al-Mubarak, a pupil of the Shaykh. Fez is a city unlike any other with more than 350 awliyah alone buried in the famous graveyard of Fez.
Our stay in the Riad Al Makan included the customary early morning breakfast after which we would begin our daily excursions of the city. As part of the tour we visited the infamous Fez tannery, where the noble servant of God Syyiduna Abdul Azeez dabbagh used to work. Next to the tannery is a small non nondescript masjid where he did his spiritual retreat which still exists today as it did back then.
It requires more than two weeks stay to actually see and experience Fez in its actuality with its many resident scholars and religious institutions. The day 3 Sufi conference was organised to share research papers into spiritual experiences and the science of Ihsan itself concluded on the 17th May on a warm 26 degree celsius afternoon. The concluding words being given by Shaykh Ahmad Dabbagh, was the most riveting closure to the conference considering the moment and occasion. It was mentioned the last verse Allah chose to reveal to humanity; Summed up in 3 mins. Fear the day when you will meet Allah. You will be paid for your deeds and no one will face injustice in Allah. The whole summary of Islam is, have a good relation with Allah and have compassion on his creation.
The strange part of the entire conference was the out pouring of knowledge from the orientalist researchers present there displaying their deep understanding of Islam, Fiqh and Ihsan more than any average Islamic scholar can ever do. The unfortunate reality was many of them were non Muslims devoid of the essence of life which is belief in Allah; simply put a mere group academics researching into Islam nothing more. In the evening there were spiritual retreats held for the guests in which Shaykh Ahmad Dabbagh presented the teachings and path of Tareeqah Muhammadiyah. This is where most of the guests, including many of the orientalists went to, leaving many intrigued with the concepts and approach of Tareeqah Muhammdiyah in rectification of human character by the use of self analysis and introspection.
Once the conference was over it left us time to carry on with the schedule of activities and classes which was planned before the trip. Many took the chance to spend the last few days at the station of Syyiduna Abdul Azeez dabbagh doing litanies, spiritual exercises to improve their relationship with Allah.
As the final day itself arrived it bought along with it the last few trepidations of the journey back home, with many rising early to finish shopping, have breakfast and pack their bags for the eventful journey back home.