Sufi Ramadan

Three days after the end of the London Conference the Holy month of Ramadan started. Many of our Sudanese colleagues were still in England, benefiting from their trip to enrich their experiences in each other’s fields by seminars and practical exercises, while getting to know more compatriots of their own who reside on the Old Albion as well as visiting the sites of the British past that has brought to the isles good portions of the cultural riches from the rest of the world…

We also stayed longer and had the chance to share the first iftar with one of those numerous Sudanese who spend most of their year and years in England. We went to Reading and were hosted at the house of Jessica and Mohanad, descendants of a Swedish family of teachers and authors and of a Sudanese family of judges and scribes respectively.

The latter are the Hashimab and their heritage to the modern Sudanese state may as well go back to the formation of the religious character of the person of the Mahdi himself. The role of such wise men in an Islamic milieu is manifold: they are the repositories of legal wisdom and the transmitters of its scriptural attestations to the next generations. Thus, in a world regulated by the sharia, their role expands to the safeguarding of the wisdom of the Holy men of Islam, saints and shaykhs. They are both teachers and givers of the law. As we understand it, their quest in life and society should be fulfilled when they reach out to the chosen one.

In our days, more often than not the media seem to be both the means to reach out and the target of this reaching out. What is published in a book, for example, constitutes both the message and the audience. One may feel that this is even more so in the case of translations. And it is about a translation of a book on Sufi wisdom from Sudan that we are writing today: a Bequest from Al-Shaykh Abd Al-Mahmud Al-Hafyan to his beloved brothers, his successors after his journey to Allah. The translation in English is by Uthman Sayyid Ahmad Ismail Al-Bili. The manuscripts that he worked upon were three editions, printed in the Sudan and outside, provided by Sayyid Hashim al-Hadi.

The reading of the book started on the first day of the Ramadan at the house of Mohanad Hashim; we felt that this was a story worth telling…
Not so much because we felt as the chosen ones; for we were not even fasting (Mo did!) …
Perhaps then, for the sake of safeguarding the blessing of the Holy month for our family?
But in our perception of life there can be no greater blessing than the hospitality we received at Reading.
Again, though, this text’s aim goes beyond the simple commemoration of these amazing days with Mo and Jess.
It goes even beyond a listing of the wisdom common between Sudanese Islam, so much imbued by Sufism, and Greek philosophy, Christian ascetism, human cognition…
It is rather a statement of appurtenance to this community, which likes calling its members with titles of affection and proximity. In Medieval Sudan, Christian communities of that sort put in the Golden Mouth of John Chrysostom such a calling and made his pseudepigraphic sermons open with the address: ⲞⲚⲦⲀⲔⲢⲀⲄⲞⲨⲈⲔⲈ alias in translation from Old Nubian to Greek, αγαπημένοι, or back to English: “My Beloved”.
There is a sincere continuity in the human instinct of expressing brotherhood-in-learning through words conveying this special meaning.

As Husna wrote it in her dedication of Al-Wasiyya when she donated the book to us back in Khartoum last February:
“Many are those who narrate knowledge, few are those who care and follow” – May we care…

Thus, this was an expression of this care; of the inner participation to the communal character of Ramadan and Bairam; of a promise for a pilgrimage to our Shaykh at Kweka; and for a return to the Island of Sai to continue works of devotion…

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