Two Sufi Commentaries

Arjan Post, Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald
Arjan Post, Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald


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The current volume contains the Arabic text and English translation of two commentaries by the eminent moroccan Sufi master. Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba (d. 1224/1809).

The first of these is Ibn ‘Ajiba’s commentary on a poem about the sufi way by his own spiritual mentor. Shaykh Muhammad al-Buzidi 9d. 1229/1814). This work, entitled Sharh al-Qasida al-raiyya fi tariq al-suluk, has up till now only been available in manuscript form. In its twenty-eight lines. Shaykh al-Buzidi sums up the pathwayto spiritual realization, from beginning to end, according to the principles of the Darqawi Sufi order, which had given birth to a spiritual revival in the north of Morocco in the late 13th/17th century that continues to play a major role in North African spirituality up to our times. The English translation is complemented by the carefully edited Arabic text of the commentary as well as an extensive introduction that includes detailed biographies of both al-Buzidi and Ibn Ajiba along with insights into the role of the Tariqa Darqawiyya in their time.

The second commentary in this collection, completed by Ibn Ajiba in late 1210/1796 during his spiritual travels in the north of Moroccco, is on the famous Salat al-Mashishiyya, the Prayer of Blessing upon the Prophet Muhammad attributed to the near legendary saint, Mulay ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Mashish, the shaykh of Abu al-hasan al-Shadhili. In addition to the actual commentary, Ibn ‘Ajiba’s introduction includes practically everything that has been recorded from the earliest Shadhili sources about the teachings transmitted to Imam Shadhili from his shaykh. This present translation, based on a manuscript written by Ibn ‘Ajiba himself, includes comprehensive notes on the text and is followed by the only fully edited Arabic version of this work in print.

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‘One of the early Muslims said: “the companions of Muhammad did not surpass you by the abundance of their prayers and fasting. Rather, they surpassed people through pure hearts, and generous Souls, and good character.”‘ – Ibn Ajiba commenting on Buzidi’s poem, p.68

Taken together, these two works complete a picture of the Tariqa Shadhiliyya Darqawiyya, that ranges from the teachings of one of its principle representatives in the days of its founding in late 13th/18th century back to its spiritual roots in the early 7th/13th century, as seen through the spiritual vision of one of its greatest teachers. Sidi Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba al-hasani, may God be well pleased with him.

“And be firm in justice (‘adl) with all that concerns you, whether good or evil. For good does not come your way so that you may overstep the limits and behave recklessly, and likewise, evil does not come your way so that you may despair and behave angrily. If you encounter good, be grateful to God, and if you are confronted with evil, endure it with patience. Shaykh Abu al-Hasan [al- Shadhili] said: “The gnostic is the one for whom the calamities of fate drown in [the ocean] of God’s graces bestowed upon him, and whose sins drown in [the ocean] of God’s goodness towards him: Remember (all) the bounties of your Lord, that haply you may be successful [Q. 7:69].” – Ahmad Ibn Ajiba, Two Sufi Commentaries, p.96 (commentary on al-Buzidi’s poem)

“He says: Your innermost secret (sirr) is what you seek, and you strive against your ego in order to reach it, which is a hidden sign in your ‘self’ (marmuz fi nafsika), concealed in your essential being (dhat). If you’d profess: ‘I am that secret,’ your words would be honest.  as long as milk is not churned, the butter within it does not manifest. But when churned, that butter manifests. It is the same for man: as long as he does not stir his ego through the remembrance of God (dhikr) and the spiritual combat (mujahada) of breaking with habits (kharq al-‘awa’id) and taking on the hardships [of the way], he does not truly desire to witness the very secret that is contained within him. But when he stirs and strives against his ego, he will perceive his innermost secret, taste its sweetness, and benefit thereby both in his life and his death.  In a similar way are seeds and fruits hidden in the branches of a tree, so that when it thunders and rains, and the trunk bends, and the winds pass through its branches, then that is where we can expect to see pollen, and that is where the fruits come forth.” – p.91, Two Sufi Commentaries



Although commentaries have sometimes been disparaged for not being original works, readers of these two important commentaries by the great 18th early 19th century Moroccan shaykh, Ahmad b. Ajiba, will discover that they are creative gems. Spiritual seekers will find these works to be inspiring and trustworthy guides to the doctrine and practice of the Sufi path. In addition, scholars will be pleased to see that these translations are excellent resources for enhancing their understanding of the Islamic practice of invoking blessings upon the prophet Muhammad as well as for furthering their grasp of the principles of the Shadhiliya-Darqawiya Sufi order.
-Dr.Alan 'Abd al-haqq Godlas, University of Georgia