From Points of Light: The Visit

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is an extract of “From Points of Light” by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“We had a plane to catch.  We were heading deep into the Egyptian desert to Humaythra to visit the tomb of one of our greatest saints, Imam Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili (q.s.).  The overwhelmingly generous high court judge, Yassir Azzam, had organised the whole trip and was driving up the hill to the heights of Mokkattam to pick up a fellow traveler.  The Toyota Landcruiser stopped at a street corner at dawn to wait for our new passenger to turn up.  We waited.  Time passed.  No show.  Yassir called him.  Sitting on the jump seat at the back of the Landcruiser, HRH Princess Reem al-Faisal, warned us that the man we were waiting for was an explosive presence. ‘He’s a majdzub!’ she said.

The word ‘majdzub’, for those unfamiliar with the term, refers to someone who is God-intoxicated, or more accurately in a state of attraction, jadzb.  Majadzib are men or women who are so ‘attracted’ by God that they often appear to be mad.  They have been referred to as Holy Madmen, which is a misnomer because a genuine majdzub is infinitely saner than ordinary people.  When the great saint, Imam Shibli (q.s.) was accused of being mad, he replied, ‘May God Increase me in my madness and Increase you in your sanity.’

My shaykh, Mawlay Hashem Balghiti (q.s.) related a story about a majdzub from Algeria, who was visiting the zawiyah of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib (q.s.) in Meknes.  The majdzub was completely wild. He gave his sons incredibly weird names like ‘Son of the Earth’, ‘ibn al-Ardh’, and, ‘Pole of the Age’, ‘Quthb az-Zaman’.  He was a combustible presence and he did or said something that offended the wives of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.) to the point that they complained to the shaykh, who summoned the majdzub to his presence.  Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.) informed the majdzub that he had to leave the zawiyah.  The majdzub snapped back, “Eh?  Do you think I’m in your house?”  With that answer, the shaykh let him stay.

Keeping company with a majdzub can be dangerous for a seeker because they do not have ordinary filters.  They are tapped into the Unseen.  They see things and it is a little like they have an illuminated version of Asbergers syndrome.  They blurt things out and what they say is almost certainly true but very often they should not be saying it.  According to the Sufis, the adab or spiritual courtesy for meeting a majdzub is to greet him or her with, ‘as-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,’ and then escape, get away.  One correspondent told me that he made the mistake of looking the great Moroccan majdzub, Mawlay Hasan al-Majdzub (q.s.), directly in the eyes and could not stop laughing for twenty-four hours.  The photographer, Peter Sanders, Hajj Abdul Adheem, was with Mawlay Hasan al-Majdzub when he distributed balls of couscous to every visitor predicting something that would happen to each in the future.  Everything he predicted came to pass.

A majdzub is a saint who has lost control but the term has been trivialised in our time.  When someone is imbalanced but religious, in other words, a pious nut, they are called majdzub.  So I was half expecting some eccentric weirdo to join our group.  He was still at home, wherever that was.  We all waited as the minutes ticked by and the time for our flight fast approached. Princess Reem took the phone from Judge Yassir and gave her guest an ultimatum to get himself to the car.  More minutes passed.  In spite of having flown from Dubai to Cairo just for the sake of this blessed journey, I felt strangely at ease.  If, indeed, this was one of God’s majadzib, we would somehow get there; of this I had no doubt.  If not, well then…

Shaykh Ahmed Abo Radi (q.s.) turned up suddenly and just in the nick of time, but of course!  Reem and Yassir were already giddy with anticipation.  I was sitting in the back seat alone behind the driver’s seat.  Shaykh Ahmed (q.s.) opened the door on my side laughing.  I moved across to the other side to make way for him to sit.  But he slammed the car door and came round to my new side.  I slid back behind the driver’s seat.  Shaykh Ahmed (q.s.) opened the door, leaned in across the seat toward me, hands splayed on the seat, and laughed.  We connected, we both laughed.  I was already getting drunk.  Then he slammed the door and came round to my side again and, I slid back across behind my friend Shems Friedlander, who was riding shotgun.  And Shaykh Ahmed (q.s.) opened the door again.  It was like a Marx Brothers routine, only more insane.  Shems watched this bizarre dance with rising amusement and said, ‘You need to put this in your next book.’

Shaykh Ahmed (q.s.) finally pulled himself up into the Landcruiser and sat down beside me.  He took my hand and prayed for me and I kissed his head.  There was instant intimacy.  There was no doubt about it, I was face-to-face with a full-blown, out-of-control majdzub.

He was a disheveled old man, somewhere between 70 and 80, in a worn out gray gellebiya and a ghutra or white head cover over his shaved head.  His beard was untrimmed and his mustache was long and wild.  He wore cheap sandals.  But his eyes were alight.  More than this, he had an unflagging spiritual energy.”


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