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Dhikr, the African way

De titel van het nieuwsbericht

Vryday 7 octobre 2011, Omdurman, Soedan july 2014

Tonight I attended the Dhikr ceremony at the tomb of Sheikh Hamed al Nil, a 19-century Sufi leader. Every Friday, before the evening prayers, men are chanting and dancing, accompanied by rhythmic clapping and chanting the naam of Allah name, reciting the central verse of the Qur'an: La ilaha illallah. This mystical ritual creates a trance and, thereby, offers an opportunity for direct, personal contact with God. This is an element of Sufism, you can find more via Google. The ritual that I attended this afternoon, reminded hardly off what I had seen before.

I knew something about Sufism and the Dancing Dervishes, and I had seen a performance before, in the Caucasus. The monotone singing has a hypnotizing effect, and because the tempo is gradually accelareted, it indeed creates a
kind of trance. And I have been impressed by the film of Jos de Putter: The making of an empire,
in 1999. (Can be seen on Youtube: click here). De Putter filmed his experiences in Chechnya and in his film he also shows this ritual. In the Caucasus it is called Zikr. Moreover, it is certainly not what the Dutch media usually describe it like: an old
Caucasian war dance; it is an ancient mystical ritual.

This afternoon there was no harmony, it was pretty chaotic and it reminded me more of African ritual dances, and not of than the stylized, sophisticated form of faith, which it is, essentially.
Some bystanders, incidentally, disagreed with this last statement. Fives times in total, some of those present addressed this issue, very friendly, and started a conversation with me about Islam. Two of them found this theatrical display had little or nothing to do with Islam: devout Muslims should pray in the mosque, and not sing and dance outside. One of them told me sadly that his son asked him when he could come back to the 'party'. Two
others told me that all people, regardless of their faith and their status, are brothers and sisters and that they should unite to assure peace
and prosperity for all (with a refined, implicit reference to his disapproval of the current regime in his country).

This all happened on the dusty square in front of the mosque at the grave of Sheikh Hamed al Nil in Omdurman, Sudan, on October 6, 2011 = 8 Shawwal 1432