In Meknes, divine music and poetry: at the heart of the Aïssawa Sufi brotherhood

The word “Allah” repeated again and again in the middle of verses of Sufi poetry (mystical path of Islam which is practiced through an initiation within a tariqa (a brotherhood) and around a spiritual master ), chanted by souls distraught with divine love, bodies that move, dance and sway to the sounds of daf (“drum”) and the ghaïta (reed instrument, similar to a simplified oboe, with a sound approaching that of the bagpipes), all immersed in the smell of bkhour (“incense”). This is a spiritual atmosphere typical of the Aïssawa Sufi brotherhood of Meknes.

It is impossible to talk about the former capital of Sultan Ismaïl ben Chérif (1645-1727) without thinking of this brotherhood which transmits its art from generation to generation. Its origin dates back to Mohammed Al-Hadi ben Issa, born in 1467 in the Souss region and died in 1526 in Meknes. After studying at the Al-Quaraouiyine mosque in Fez, where he distinguished himself by his rapid learning of the Koran, he was introduced to Sufism by the master of the brotherhood.

After his death, he went to join another great master of the chadhiliyya (Sufi brotherhood), Sidi Abdelaziz Tebbaa, part of the Seven Saints of Marrakech (a group of Sufi mystics revered in popular Moroccan Islam). Until he took over at the head of the brotherhood, which then developed and was subsequently designated as the brotherhood aissawi (phonetic distortion of issaoui, relating to the name Issa.)

Approaching God

According to Otman Benmoumen, at the head of a musical ensemble aissawi, their art is based on Sufi poems which are praises to the Prophet and his daughter, Fatima, as well as to the saints. The goal is to draw closer to God.

For a long time, art aissawi had remained relatively confidential and confined to religious festivals such as mawlid (or Mouloud. Al-Mawlid Al-Nabawi, lit.

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Raseef22 (Beirut)

In Arabic, raseef means “sidewalk”, like that of this street which has been rumbling since the outbreak of revolts in 2011. And 22 is the number of member countries of the Arab League, which has 360 million inhabitants. Founded in Lebanon in August 2013, Raseef22 is part of the movement of the numerous information sites and political blogs which emerged after the Arab Spring. Raseef22 is certainly one of the best of these new media. Bilingual in Arabic-English and jealous of his political independence, he presents himself as an observer of the social, political and cultural movements that cross the Arab world. However, its desire to cover news from 22 countries is far from being realized and the majority of articles, reports and investigations, often of very good quality, are devoted to the Middle East.

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