A three-day international colloquium on the Tidjani Sufi order began November 23rd at the University of Laghouat in Algeria with a hundred intellectuals and cultural figures from 29 countries. Participants discussed contributions made by the brotherhood and giving Islam a “human face”.
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Lagouat — 27/11/06
At a three-day international colloquium on the Tidjani brotherhood that began November 23rd at Algeria’s University of Laghouat, participants discussed social contributions made by the order, the creation and development of the Tidjani brotherhood and how the brotherhood is viewed abroad. In attendance were a hundred intellectuals and cultural figures from 29 countries.
At the opening ceremony, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem said that he wanted “to use this meeting and the zaouias (religious centre) both as a centre of influence and as platforms from which the precepts of our religion can be propagated.”
The founder of the Tidjani brotherhood, Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ettidjani Ben Mohamed Ben Mokhtar, a descendant of Hossein Ibn Ali, was born in Ain Madhi in Laghouat in 1737 (1150 AH). After devoting his life to religious studies, the Sheikh died in 1815 (1230 AH) in FÃ¨s, where he was buried in his religious school of Zaouia.
Ain Madhi is considered the birthplace of this brotherhood, where solidarity and mutual aid between followers are taught. Mohamed Habib Ettidjani, a descendant of the spiritual sheikh, explained that Sidi Ahmed used to say, “You can only know God once your soul has been cleansed of evil.”
Following in the footsteps of these two journeys, the travels of the sheikhs of the Tidjani brotherhood included stopping-places which made it possible to cultivate Islam.
“The meeting itself is a reflection of the desire to draw strength from a powerful support base in Africa. Tidjani networks are particularly influential in Senegal, Mali, Sudan and particularly Nigeria. The meeting must therefore promote an ‘Islam with a human face’,” Syrian writer Ihssan Baadarani said.
“This conference has reawakened true brotherhood in all of us since we have left behind geographical borders and restored our spiritual relationship,” Souleimane Ahmed Mohamed Osmane, a senior lecturer at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, said.
“Educating people, cleansing souls and good deeds and words are all more important than the warlike aspect of a religion which some political movements would liken to nothing more than a militant banner”, said the president of the Algerian national union of zaouias, Mahmoud Chaalal.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stressed the need to “emphasise the spiritual, human and aesthetic values of Islam when we explain it to non-Muslims and show them the true nature of this great religion”, in a message read at the meeting.
Ain Madhi’s citizens regard the rehabilitation of their zaouia as a sign of their acceptance by authorities. “We owe everything we have to the zaouia, even the tarmac on our roads and the building of the hotel which welcomes visitors,” teacher Ahmed Larousi said.