Baithul Fassi

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The House of AL FASSI and the Sri Lankan connection

By Dr. Hatoon Ajwad AL FASSI
(Historian, King Saud University, Riyadh)
Dec. 2003

Al-Tariqah is a Sufi term that means ‘the way’ to teach the followers or students, to reach to the knowledge of Allah through a specific kind of worshipping. In other words, it is the way to reach the Divine. Whereas, Sufism is a term that has an undecided origin, some say it originates from the Suffah people, who were the Sahabah who used to sit at the Suffah area in the Madinah mosque and pray. Some others, say it comes from the word ‘safa’, which means tranquillity and purity, others link it to ‘soof’, which means ‘wool’, the usual dress of modesty and Sufis. Whatever the meaning is, Sufism is a kind of order that concentrates on the spirituality of Islam. It is usually led by a Sheikh who is usually a pious person who seeks the acceptance of Allah and teaches his students how to do so. All Sufi orders have the same aim of reaching the ultimate purity.

The Shazuliyyah Tariqah (order), which is our concern here, was founded by Sheikh Sidi Ali Abu al Hassan, Ali, son of Abdullah, son of Abdul Jabbar, al Shazuli, a descendent of Sayyiduna Ali bin (son of) Abu Talib, Radiya Allah Anhu (peace b upon him). He was born in Morocco in 593/1195 and died on his way to Hajj in 656/1258. His genealogy joins with AL FASSI’s at Idris I, son of al Hassan, son of al Hassan, son of Ali, son of Abu Talib.

The picture on the left shows the Rawlah of Imam Ibul Hassan Ali Ash Shazulee (Raliallahu Anhu), in Umaizarah in Egypt.

His Tariqah became popular because of its tolerance and focusing on the essence of belief rather than the form. He preached ‘knowing Allah’ as the principal knowledge a human being needs in life. He was against retreating from life and asked his students for being involved into it and work hard. He has participated in Jihad in al Mansoorah battle between Muslims and the Crusaders when they invaded/attacked Egypt. His model of Sufism became popular all over the Muslim world. The tolerance of this order was the reason of its long survival.

The Shazuliyyah order (thariqah) spread in North Africa for a long time. It transmitted from one Sheikh to another until it reached Sheikh Muhammad, s. of Muhammad s. of Massud, s. of Abdul Rahman AL FASSI, the historical grandfather of the Al Fassi family, who revived the order adding to it in what became known as ‘AL FASSIYYAH AL SHAZULIYYAH’. He was able to spread the order in many lands of the Muslim World. Today it has followers in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Morocco, Jordan, India, Pakistan, some Central Asian Republics and Sri Lanka. Their number is estimated to reach over four million.

The “AL FASSI” also written as “AL FASSY” family descended from Idris I, son of Abdullah, s. of Al Hassan, s. of Al Hassan, s. of Ali ibnu Abu Thalib and Al Sayyidah Fatima al Zahra, daughter of the Prophet (Sallalahu Alahiwa Sallam), peace be upon him. Idris I was one of two Ah-Al-Bayt (descendants of the prophet) who survived the battle of Fakh 169 H/785CE, near Makkah, between the Ah-Al-Bayt opponents to the Abbasids lead by al Hussein s. of Ali, s. of al Hassan, s. of al Hassan, s. of Ali. Idris the survivor fled to Morocco through Egypt and was protected by the tribe of Urba and others of northern Africa (Berber). He then founded the kingdom of Adarissah or the Idrissis, which ruled northern Africa for two centuries (172-375 H/788-985CE) from their capital that was built by Idris I, Fez, (Fas in Arabic). After the fall of the Adarissah’s kingdom, small branches sprouted in other spots of the Muslim World under the name of al Sanussiah’s State in Libya and al Adarissah’s state in Aseer, south-western Arabia (now in Saudi Arabia).

Part of the descendants of Adarissah kept the name of the city of Fez (Fas), hence AL FASSI; some kept the name of Idrissi. Other descendants are known under other names, e.g. Al Addabbagh, Al AlKutbi, Al AlSanussi, Al AlMalki and others.

Al Sayyid Muhammad s. of Muhammad, s. of Abdul Rahman al Hassani, al Idrissi, Al Fassi returned to Makkah in 686 H/1275CE after passing by Tunis, where he met with some of Abu al Hassan al Shazuli’s students in 680H/1281CE. A prominent person of this branch was Taqy al Deen, Muhammad s. of Ali Al Fassi (775-832 H/1373-1429CE), the historian who documented the history of Makkah and the biographies of its men and women in the eighth and ninth century. Four of his major books survived and are the principal source for the history of Makkah during that period.

Another branch of the family returned to Makkah in 1252 H/ ca 1837. That was Sheikh Muhammad s. of Muhammad, s. of Massud, s. of Abdul Rahman al Hassani, al Idrissi, Al Fassi. He was the founder of the Al Fassiyyah al Shazuliyyah and continued the Sufi tradition of the al Fassi family. He lived in Makkah for forty years from where he spread the Tariqah and its zawaya to many parts of the world.

Sheikh Muhammad was born in 1173/1760, studied the Quran and Fiqh in the school of Imam al Malki. He studied under prominent sheikhs of his time in Morocco, Egypt, Madinah and Makkah. His main Sheikh was Sidi al Sheikh Muhammad, s. of Hamzah al Madani. Three of his books reached us on Sufism, Shazuliyyah and Fiqh.

He died ca 1280/1863 leaving the seat to his son Al Ajwad Shamsuddin AL FASSI. Sheikh Ajwad Shamsuddin died early in his forties. He left 3 sons and 2 daughters. Sheikh Ibrahim, Sheikh Abdullah, Sheikh Abu al Hassan, Sheikha Abbassiyyah, and Sheikha Raba`ah.

The picture on the left is that of Ash Sheik Ibrahim Al Fassi Al Macchi Ash Shazulee, taken during a visit to Sri Lanka in the early 19th century.

Sheikh Abu al Hassan died early. Sheikh Ibrahim and Abdullah inherited the Tariqah together from Sheikh al Sujjadah, Sheikh Ahmad Arab. Sheikh Ibrahim died in 1966, leaving behind 16 children; Abdul Rahman (d. before 1969), Dr. Muhammad (d. 1997), Ruqayyah, Abdul Wahab (d. 1999), Abdul Qadir, the twins Hassan and Hussein (d. 2000), Fatima (d. young), Jamal (d. of Typhoid), Massud (d. of Typhoid), Khayriyyah (d. 2000), Rida, Neamat, Rawiyah, Mustafa (d. 1971), and Wafa (d. young).

After the demise of Sheikh Ibrahim, Sheikh Abdullah (born 1304/1886) became the Qutb and sole Sheikh of Tariqah and Sheikh of the Sujjadah for a year. In 1967 Sheikh Ajwad s. of Abdullah came to SL to get the Baiaah for Sheikh Abdullah. In ca 1952-3 (ck date) he headed the International Islamic Union, which organized the First Islamic Conference, in Colombo.

In 1968 Sheikh Abdullah died leaving eight children alive, Ahmad Jamaldeen (d. 1994), Shamsuddin (d. 1996), Thahir (d. 1995), Ajwad, Salih, Aisha, Fayza and Mahdi. (Three died in his life-time: Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Makki and Khadeeja (d. 1965). At present, Sheikh Ajwad is the head of the household of Sheikh Abdullah AL FASSI al Makki Al Shazuli.

The picture on the left is that of Ash Sheik Dr. Muhammad Al Fassy Al Macci Ash Shazulee. This picture was taken during his last visit to Sri Lanka in 1991.

According to the rule of Al-fasiyyah, the eldest in the family becomes the Sheikh-Us-Sujjada, and enters the Silsilat al Dhahab. At the demise of Sheikh Abdullah in 1968, Sheikh Dr. Muhammad s. of Ibrahim AL FASSI became the Sheikh of Sujjada, (or assujjada). In 1997 Sheikh Muhammad died and Sheikh Abdul Wahab s. of Ibrahim became the Sheikh ussujjada. He died soon after. In 1999, Sheikh Abdul Qader s. of Ibrahim AL FASSI, the head of the household of Sheikh Ibrahim AL FASSI al Makki Al Shazuli, became the sheikh of sujjada. Today, he lives in Jeddah.

Picture on the left is that of His Holiness Ash Sheik Abdul Qadir Ibrahim Al Fassy Al Macci Ash Shazulee. This picture was taken during their visit to Sri Lanka in 1991. His Holiness Ash Sheik Abdul Qadir Al Fassy Al Macci Ash Shazulee is the present Sheik Us Sujjadah.

The AlFassi’s Tariqah or ‘altariqah al fassiyyah-alshazuliyyah’ is based on reading some prayers (duaas) called azkar and awrad (al wazifah and al yaqutah), after the morning and evening prayers in groups. It starts with the name of Allah, then with the name of “Ah”, after the duaa of Sayyiduna Ibrahim, peace be upon him. After that, the muridun will sit to read Quran and discuss matters that concern them in life and religion, called ‘al muzakarah’.

Al Fassiyah Ash Shazuliya Thareeqah was introduced to Sri Lanka by three merchant brothers, A.l.Mohamed (Haji Gudak), A.H.Ismail (Nondi Hajiar) and A.L.Sheikh Fareed, who were the first Ceylonese (Now Sri Lankans) to get the Baiah from Sheikh Muhammad Muhammad Al-Fassi Al-Makki Al-Shazuli in 1846. They kept good contact with the Al-Fassi family and popularized their Tariqah in Sri Lanka, Ceylon then. In 1868 the first Zawya was established. That was in Galle, as the local tradition says. The opening of more Zawyas, where the Hadrah and duaas and prayers take place, increased gradually. Today, there are sixty Zawyas in the whole of Sri Lanka.

In 1870, Sheikh Shamsuddin al-Ajwad s. of Muhammad paid the first visit to Ceylon and prayed in the first Zawya as well as establishing the Arabic College in Galle. Since then the visits occurred on regular basis according to feasibility. The average of Sheiks’ visits ranged from one to two every decade. The visits to Sri Lanka in the last two decades was done first by Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Fassi, Sheikh al-Sujjadah and his son Zhafir in 1991.

In January 2004, Sheikh Ajwad s. of Abdullah and his son Muhammad, (their pictures are on the left) visited Sri Lanka in a different format from the usual visits. It can be described as a modernised type of visit. This time the Al-Fassi’s Sheikh is to give public lectures for the first time. The lectures were directed to different audiences, men, women and youth, in Colombo and Galle.

The challenges that Islam is facing today are immense, and there is a need to develop the religious discourse, linguistically and conceptually, in order to address the needed and urging issues of the present time in a modern language for modern people. Preserving at the same time, the spirituality that one needs at the present, to counter the surrounding materiality. This is what the Al-Fassiyyah Al-Shazuliyyah is trying to achieve.

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