Shaykh Sidi Hamza, may Allah sanctify his secret
Born in Madagh in 1922 Sidi Hamza BOUTCHICH showed signs of spiritual stature very early in his life. He quickly attracted the attention of the Majdubs (One who is Intoxicated in GOD) of market (Souk) Ahfir, well known for their spiritual perception. They embraced him and told Sidi al-Hajj Abbas to take good care of him. Sidi Boumadiane had also told him that Sidi Hamza would be someone exceptional. He spent an ordinary childhood for one born into a rural family. His time was divided between activities on the land and religion. His father would take him to the fields so that he might be familiar with the earth. “In my childhood I received a religious education. I grew up imbued with respect for people and the principles of the Quran”.
He pursued his studies along the lines of the traditional education of the time in the Zawiya at Madagh and Quranic school. His early disciplines entailed four main pursuits:
- Learning the Quran (from 3/4 years until 8/9 years)
- The religious sciences (Mutun) grammar (Nahu), jurisprudence (Fiqh) for six years.
- After the death of his uncle and teacher, Sidi al-Makki in 1936, Sidi Hamza went to Oujda to continue his studies at the university (1937-1940)
- He returns to the Zawiya in Madagh, where for a further four years he deepened his knowledge in the company of two religious scholars (‘Ulema) from the city of Fes.
He learned the traditional sciences of the Hadith, expounding of the Quran, Jurisprudence, theology, mathematics, rhetoric and logic, in all of which he excelled and mastered. From the exoteric sciences he went on to master the esoteric sciences.
Sidi Hamza is always quoting the words of his principle teachers many of whom are also members of his family and of the Beni Snassen such as Sidi Ali Qadiri the descendant of (see the initiatory chain) Sidi Moulay Abd-al Qadiri al Jilani (470H/559H -1077/1166 AD) and it is from here that Sidi Hamza has inherited the name of el Qadiri.
After many years devoted to the study of the religious sciences, Sidi Hamza then turned his attention to the esoteric sciences at the hand of Sidi Abu Madyan, a distant uncle, who became his spiritual master, but who was hitherto little known to him. It was after the death of one of Sidi Hamza’s sisters that the two were destined to meet.
Was an important year. Within the space of one month both Sidi Hamza and his father both became disciples of Sidi Abu Madyan. They would remain so for the next fourteen years. At the time Sidi Al Hajj Abbas was 40, traditionally the required age. Sidi Hamza was only 19, and had hardly completed his education. In the course of those fourteen years in the company of their spiritual master they took note of everything the master said and of every detail of his comportment and actions. “During the fourteen years we spent near to our master we assiduously followed our devotions which consisted mainly of the reading of the Quran and to remembering GOD (Dhikr). “I loved him dearly and greatly admired the simple majesty of his manners and of his words” notes Sidi Hamza.
Before he died, Sidi Abu Madyan appointed Sidi Hajj Abbas as his successor and inheritor of his spiritual heritage (Sirr). Sidi al-Hajj Abbas rejected this for five years. He only took up his destined direction in 1960 after he had three times had the same premonitory dream. In the dream angels exhorted him to take the appointment (Idhn) seriously and that if he did not he would be erased from the book of Saints (Awliya).
In fact Sidi Hamza also had received the appointment (Idhn) from Sidi Abu Madyan but after his death, he made allegiance to his father and became his disciple for seven years. “A black beard does not grow from a white beard”. The son cannot precede his father. This is an essential part of the respect of Sufi good manners (adab).
When Sidi el-Hajj Abbas died he bequeathed all his spiritual authority to Sidi Hamza and exhorted his disciples (fuqara) to follow him.
The Renewal of Sufism (Tassawuf)
Sidi Hamza continued the work of his father towards a renewal of Sufism. This renewal process is derived from a more subtle spiritual orientation than that of traditional Sufism known for its rigorous practices and disciplines. This is epitomised by the transition from the majestic (Jalal) aspect to the beautiful (Jamal) aspect of spiritual orientation. “Sufism has changed” In the old days the masters subjected their disciples to rigorous tests and exercises to help them to vanquish their own souls and to venerate the spiritual secrets that they would thereby acquire.
Sidi Hamza says:
“Dhikr takes the place of tests and exercises. And nowadays it is up to the teacher (Shaykh) thanks to his spiritual standing to raise his disciples to their highest possible degree of spiritual accomplishment by means of love (Mahabba) and orientation (tawwajjuh).”
The reasons for this change are both historical and social especially men’s natural attractions to the material world and the imbalance of the spiritual and the physical aspects of life which has altered religious consciousness. On the one hand modern man is prone to a multiple array of distractions from spiritual awareness and on the other hand there has been massive destruction of all that is religious and of spiritual value in modern times. Sufism has thus adapted to these new realities prevalent in the modern world.
We are witnessing three important changes.
In former times the spiritual master addressed his message to an elite seeking spiritual enlightenment, and was little concerned with the “ordinary” Muslim. Nowadays because of the state of spiritual crisis in the modern world, where even the practice of the five pillars is endangered, Sidi Hamza addresses himself to every one on his own level.
The relationship between the master and the disciple has also been transformed. Formerly it was the disciple who sought the master. Now it is the master who seeks out the disciple. The notion of disciple (murid) is derived from the word ‘will’ (irada). Embodied in this will is the quest for spiritual achievement, the aspiration that seeks satisfaction and the thirst that must be quenched.
Indeed formerly it was often only after years of searching and difficult travels that a would-be disciple would find his master and teacher. Today the quest and the physical difficulties are simplified or even eliminated and the murid, the seeker, becomes the murad, the sought after. The desirers as the disciples of Sidi Abu Madyan become the desired as the disciples of Sidi Hamza.
Austerity (Takhalli). Beautification (Tahalli)
Traditionally Sufism emphasises self deprivation and the stripping away of the structures of the ego rather than on embellishment.
The disciple must first undo his vices both inner and outer like a young bride who throws away her old clothes to don fresh, new and her most beautiful clothes. To rid oneself of one’s vices requires a high degree of sincerity and strength of character that are difficult to find nowadays. Hence we have the reverse idea of beauty taking precedence over austerity. Sidi Hamza compares a novice’s heart with a darkened room in disorder. For him in order to create order one must first bring in light.
Sidi Hamza first radiates light in the heart of the novice, so that he might taste this beautification of the soul. Then once the spiritual initiative has been seized, the disciple is ready for the second stage: The stripping down of the structures of the self to an austere minimum. These reforms do not constitute a change in the nature of Sufism. The repository and resource of the Quran and the secret (sirr) retain their essential status and importance. It is only the method and the way it is transmitted, particular to the living master, that has changed.
Sidi HAMZA alQadiri alBoutchich