The Akbarian lineage within the Shadhilya Order

The so called western modernity, being a “culture” without a centre, from its very beginning started to produce a thirst for “the else”, a fascination with what was lost “inner” and was not understood “outer”. At the same time of fighting and conquering the “East” by the colonial or neo colonial order, or by the democratic free capitalistic one, there was a call for any kind of outsiders and intellectual seekers in the west shores to search for the missed centre in the cultures that if declared as inferior however were seen as full of promises of unknown truths. Lost middle age complexity and self centred spirituality, and even its renascence epigones, all the cultural needs that Enlightenment, Romanticism and Positivism could not satisfy soon gave birth to a chaotic proliferation of the more baseless believes, creating the more heterogeneous form of neo and pseudo spiritualisms, from occultism, to spiritualism (“ghost” evocations), from theosophy ( Blavatsky foolish fantasies) to new age. However some among the unsatisfied Europeans swimming in such “sludge” were somehow miraculously saved to a “safe shore” thanks to their travel to new exotic land just “conquered” by the purely material strength of the west European nations. Among them, a wandering Sweden painter arrived as several other bohemians like him in Paris in the late XIX century, and as others in the similar cultural soup fall in love with spiritual fantasies and with Anarchism ideology at once. But Gustav Ivan Agueli, from a cold and dusty small mine town in center Sweden, Sala, had a unique experience, he started to dream repetitively a man in Arab garb who invited him to study Arabic and (very oddly) the Holy Quran[1]…the young painter discovered himself an extraordinary talented self-taught Arabic scholar, and few years later he was in Cairo. Where not only become Muslim but he take bayat (pledge with a teacher in tasawwuf) and close intimacy with the son and spiritual heir of Shaych Mustafa Illiyash, Shaych Abd Er Rahman Illiyash, himself a pupil of Emr Abd El Qadir in the akbarian lineage, and fierce anti British activist, in close link with Osmanli sympathisers among the Egyptian Muslim scholars. Gustav now Abd El Hadi became a representative, moqaddem, of shaych Abd Er Rahman, was sent back to Europe to “spread’ the influence of Hadrat Ibn Al Arabi, the same influence which had lead the actions of the Emir al Jazayri few years before.

Abd El Hadi Agueli, before ending his life in Spain, only at 47 years old in a never well understood train accident[2], lived regularly commuting between Europe and Egypt creating informal circles of people looking for a deep effectively links with that Spirituality that the Modern West had completely lost in any forms. In this mainly undocumented work Abd El Hadi was able to reach a key person in the future relations between Europe and Turuq, Rene´ Guenon, who in his hand took Islam and also the bayat of Shadhilya Arabya. The monumental writing work (23 books and over 50 papers and articles) of who later will be known as Arif billah Shaych Yahya Abd El Wahid Guenon (see on him, his consideration among the Shuych and Muslim Scholars the work of Shaych Abd El Halim Mahmud[3], director of Al Ahzar, from 1973 to 1979, within the larger collection of papers titled al Madrasa Shadhiliya[4]) has been instrumental in the establishment of several intellectual and academic communities in West world who had completely changed the attitude towards the spiritual aspect of Islam in several environments of mainstream European culture. RG plaid then a pivotal role, this time historically traceable, on which the influence of the Emir, or more correctly of His real Master Hadrat Ibn Al Arabi were linked in different ways. Only in 1932 Abd El Wahid Yahya moved to live in Egypt, where he met eventually Shaych Abd Er Rahaman Illyash and a further Shadhili Shaych of Akbarian lineage, Shaych Selman Ar Radi[5], establisher of the Shadhiliya Hamidya, usul of which also Shaych Abd El Halim Mahmud was a representative. RG lived in Cairo until the age of 63 between the jamat of Shaych Selman, and that of his father in law a Rifai Shaych. In Egypt Shaych Abd El Wahid was able to build links also with two of greatest Shaych of Shadhiliya of XX century in the Maghreb, Ahmad ibn Mustafa al-Alawi and Shaych Ahmed ibn Mohammed Tadili, to who addressed Europeans, converted to Islam through his work. Some of them became then main divulgator of Islamic spirituality in the West such as Michel Valsan (Shaych Mustafa), Roger Maridor (Shaych Husseyn), from them took directly or indirectly inspiration nearly the totality of the all orthodox communities of Ahl al Turuq currently present in Europe.[6]

The “work “of Emir Abd El Qadir Al Jazairi took a progressively extend, in fact several Shadhili and Darqawi (Alawya and its ramification, plus other Shadhilis lines from Syria and Egypt) branches currently present with several zawya in West Europe and North America are if not directly linked to him, have been affected by the links that their initiators and Shuych had with him or his students. Moreover the influences of the Emir through some Syrian branches of Naqshbandya, (led by Shaych Ramadani and Shaych Kuftaro) had a great impact on the establishment of a complete new school of Oriental Study, mainly represented by academicians themselves linked to Islam and Tasawwuf, working within the l’École des Hautes Études of Paris, formed under the patronage of Prof. Michel Chodkiewicz[7].

Still on the other side of the Atlantic scholars formed under Sayed Hosseyn Nasr, directly inspired, by RG and Shaych Al Alawi (qs), even with some “personal” misleading, have been deeply changing the attitude of so called academic Oriental Studies towards Tasawwuf and Islam, and such intellectual changes in long term are currently affecting also the whole cultural perception of Islam within Western society.

However, such way of penetrations has been in the last 20 years progressively “supported” and partially substituted by the work of the ethnic based jamats, which spread the native turuq among the increasing immigrated Muslim communities in Europe and North America.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Year later Ivan then Abd El Hadi Agueli learnt from his own Shaych that the dreamt man was nobody else than Hadrat Ibn al Arabi himself.
  2.  Being himself an active opponent of the British rules over Egypt and close linked to the pro-Turkish circles in Cairo, Abd El Hadi was exiled by the British colonial authority, first and very likely “dispatched” after. During his exile Agueli had quarrels with local anarchists. Official investigation was closed on the assumption that the mild deafness Agueli had prevented him to realise the coming train on a country tracks where he was walking.
  3.  The influence of this spiritual friendship was so strong that still now old students of Shaych Mahmud, currently in charge of prestigious positions in such cradle of Islamic knowledge, recall that there were no rare the case that when some problems was leaving baffled the best minds of the al Ahzari scholars they used to send private message to Shaych Abd El Wahid Gueonon, seeking for advice.
  4.  Recently available in French as ”Un soufi d’Occident, René Guénon – Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wâhid Yahyâ,” ed. Al Bouraq
  5.  However the author of the present paper was told in Egypt by dervishes of Shaych Selman Ar Radi that RG had already in rohanya met Shaych Selman (QS) during his life in Paris, and in one case his very life was saved by a miraculous help from the Shaych, when lost in a wood and attacked by an huge black dog , felt in a deep ground hole. This episode of the life of RG, occurred in the Beaux de Boulogne, has been well documented in several of his biographies.
  6.  Among English speakers are quite well know F. Shoun and Martin Lings, two writers who popularised the works of RG, and developed with others European converted to Islam such Gay Eaton, Titus Burckhart, a sort of new age movement called “perennialism”, encompassing some doctrine borrowed from RG works. The first even if converted to Islam and linked to Shaych Al Alawi al Mosatghanemi through Rene Guenon, claimed later a Shaych authority received by the “Buddha” (sic) through a dream, and founded his own deviated “tariqa” known as Mariamya, based on the use of the Christian formula of blessing on the Virgin Mary (AS); the second was the faithful informer of the British intelligence service in Cairo on the life of RG there. Later become an active leader in the Mariamya, spreading it among British aristocracy and wealthy classes. Passed away in 2005 was considered as the “cultural father” of so many British and American converted to Islam.

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