The Serenade

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“When I was young, the most arresting Sufi singers were from Algeria.  The Algerians brought with them a distinctive pulsating rhythm to the Andalusian tradition of song that never failed to electrify their listeners.  A delegation of Algerians would come to Morocco to celebrate the hawl of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.).  This was before the borders were closed between the two countries with the onset of the Polisario War between Morocco and Algeria.

The lead singer of the Algerian fuqara’ was a stout, cherubic gentleman with shining eyes behind thick spectacles.  Hajj ‘Umar hailed from the town of Boufarik, inland and south of Algiers.  I first met him in Morocco at the hawl of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.), and then later in England when he came to visit.

Years later, he came to Makkah and we spent time together.  As I recall, he was staying near Masjid Jinn, about two kilometers from the Holy Mosque.  I picked his companion and him up from their hotel to take them into Jeddah.  His friend had to mail a letter at the post office so we let him off and waited for him.  Hajj ‘Umar was sitting beside me.  We waited silently.  Suddenly, he turned toward me, leaned into my ear and began to sing.  He sang intoxicating verses in a lilting rhythmic flow.  His eyes glowed.  He could make the heart dance with his voice.  It was a moment of pure felicity.”

“All men are sure that I am in love,
But they know not whom I love.
There is in Man, no beauty,
That is not surpassed in beauty by a beautiful voice.”

A verse chanted to Shaykh Ibrahim Khawwas (q.s.), sending him into ecstasy 


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