Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri
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Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri عبد الرحمن الشاغوري (Homs 1912 – Damascus 2004) was a Syrian Sufi master of the Hashimi-Darqawi branch of the Shadhili tariqa, as well as poet, textile worker, and trade unionist.
Life and work
He attended the lessons of the major scholars of Damascus: Husni al-Baghghal, Muhammad Barakat, 'Ali al-Daqar, Ismail al-Tibi, and Lutfi al-Hanafi. However, his most important teacher was Muhammad al-Hashimi, an Algerian Sufi from Tlemcen who had already been living in Syria for twenty years before becoming the representative of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, spiritual master of the Shadhili tariqa. Al-Shaghouri himself met al-Alawi in 1932 in Damascus, but it was al-Hashimi who served as his spiritual guide. Finding that al-Shaghouri was already suitable, al-Hashimi placed him in a spiritual retreat. On the first day, al-Shaghouri pledged himself to al-Hashimi's guidance, an unusual if not unprecedented occurrence in Sufi instruction and discipleship.
Al-Shaghouri soon became an important figure within al-Hashimi's tariqa, serving as the lead singer for his session of sacred dance (hadra). Before his death in 1961, al-Hashimi had also given al-Shaghouri permission to transmit the general litany of the tariqa, a daily formula of meditations and prayers that typically serves to signal a disciple's commitment to his tariqa. Although he had received authorization as a full spiritual guide by Muhammad Sa'id al-Hamzawi of Syria and Ali al- Budlaymi of Algeria, he did not take any disciples until he was also authorised by his friend and companion, Muhammad Sa'id al-Kurdi from Irbid (Jordan). Despite al-Kurdi himself being renowned as one of the great spiritual guides of his time, particularly in Jordan, he only gave his authorization to al-Shaghouri to be a spiritual guide and his successor upon his death.
Despite his commitment to his spiritual order, al-Shaghouri always maintained an occupation until his illnesses made him unable to work. He was a textile worker and Syria's representative in the United Arab Workers Union. He was forced to resign for refusing to comply with the nationalization of factories in Syria, and he later became a teacher in many religious institutes in Damascus. He was also a representative of workers in the Syrian Parliament. For years he also gave sermons at the al-Khayyat mosque in Damascus, until 1999 when a stroke resulted in a long coma and left him severely weakened.
As a singer in al-Hashimi's choir for the hadra, al-Shaghouri memorised vast amounts of mystical poetry, which served as the basis for much his teaching and instruction. He was himself a poet, and his poetry was often sung in the hadra, and continues to be sung today. Al-Shaghouri's poetry draws on Arabic and Islamic literary tradition, and combines a genuine spiritual experience with a great mastery of poetical techniques. His poetry is, both in content and in form, akin to that of Ibn al-Farid, Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi and Ahmad al-Alawi. He published his poems in a diwan which he edited towards the end of his life, titled "Al-hada’iq al-nadiyya fī al-nasamat al-ruhiyya" ("The dewy gardens in the spiritual breezes"). Some poems have been published separately in many collections.
Weakness and death
Despite his later physical weakness, he never stopped receiving visitors or attending the weekly hadra at the Nur al-Din al-Shahid mosque, in the old quarter of Damascus. He died on 8 June 2004. A great crowd gathered to attend his funeral at the mosque dedicated to Shaykh Muhy al-Din Ibn al-Arabi. The funeral prayer was led by Habib Ali al-Jifri, from Yemen, a well-known representative of traditional scholarship and Sufism in Arab media. His death was widely mourned by scholars and laymen alike, and he was widely recognized as one of the most important revivers of the Shadhili tariqa and Sufism in general, particularly in Syria.
His legacy and renown has also become widespread (particularly in the English-speaking world) through two American students whom he authorized in the Shadhili tariqa, Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Zaid Shakir.
Collections of his poems
Al-hada’iq al-nadiyya fī al-nasamat al-ruhiyya ("The Dewy Gardens in the Spiritual Breezes"), Damascus, Dār fajr al-‘urūba, 2nd ed., 1998.
- Damascus, Dār fajr al-‘urūba, 2nd ed., 1998.
- Geoffroy, Eric (2005), ed., Une voie soufi dans le monde: la Shadhiliyya, Paris, Maisonneuve & Larose.
- Keller, Nuh Ha Mim (1998), Invocations of the Shadhili Order, Amman, Al-Fath.
- Keller, Nuh Ha Mim (1999), Reliance of the Traveller, translation of 'Umdat al-Salik di Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri, Beltsville, Amana Publications.
Two dissertations have been written on Al-Shaghouri:
- Radwan Izzouli, "Al-Shaghouri, sa'ir sufi fi al-qar al-ashrin" (Al-Shaghouri poeta Sufi nel XX secolo), Damasco, 2002. (a Master thesis discussed at the Lebanese University in Beirut by the author)
- Fabio Pesaresi, "Un popolo di ebbri: la khamriyya di Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri (1912-2004)", (Dissertation Thesis in the course in Oriental Languages and Civilizations, Urbino University, Italy).
Poetry collections containing his works:
- Alawī, Abu al-, ‘Abbās Ahad ibn Mustafā, al- (1986), Dīwān, Tunisi
- Khatīb al-Hasanī, ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al- (1994), Al-nafahāt al-‘aliyya fī anāšīd hadhra al-šādhiliyya (The sublime breezes in the songs of the Shadhili hadra), Damasco, Maktaba al-darwišiyya, 1994
- Qabbānī, Muhammad al-‘Arabi al- (1998), ed., Ğami’u al-nafahāt al-qudsiyya fī al-anāšid al-dīniyya wa al-qasa’id al-‘irfaniyya wa al-muwaššahat al-andalusiyya (Collection of the Sacred Breaths in the religious chants, the gnostic odes and the Andalusian songs), Beirut, Dār al-ha
- "Obituary: Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri: Light Upon Light in Damascus", Keller, Nuh Ha Mim (2004), ShadhiliTariqa.com.
- Glimpses of the Life of Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri
- The Book "The Defense of the sunnah"