The Autobiography of a Moroccan Soufi - Ahmad Ibn 'Ajiba (1747-1809),
Paperback - 200 pages,
Introduced & Translated from the Arabic by : Jean-Louis Michon,
Translation by : David Streight.
Ibn Ajiba, May Allah be pleased with him, the 18th-century Moroccan saint (wali-Allah) in the Darqawi Sufi lineage, wrote his fahrasa or autobiography not for the pleasure of talking about himself but "to celebrate God's kindness" by informing others of the graces bestowed on him.
This account details Ibn Ajiba's travels in search of both secular and spiritual knowledge; his entrance on a Sufi path strongly based within the Islamic tradition; and the social, intellectual, and spiritual struggles that such a search entailed. He spent time in prison, and time in ecstasy.
He tells his tale with humility and a sense of humour, and the story manages to be at the same time practical (details of how much he paid to workmen to build a house or advice to his followers on how to consummate their marriages) and spiritual (explaining the subtleties of mystical experience and how the esoteric way is superior to the exoteric). His zeal for both intellectual learning and the devotional path are apparent on every page. Long unavailable to Western readers, this new English translation by David Streight is based on the contemporary French version by Jean-Louis Michon, a longtime scholar of Islamic culture and traditional ideas in the North African country where Ibn Aijba lived and taught.
" This lengthy and fascinating book is a rare example of the genre of autobiography in Islamic literature. It deals with everything from the little details of everyday life to the mystical states experienced on the path to God. It will be welcomed by everyone interested in the day-to-day workings of Islamic society, the interplay between "exoteric" and "esoteric" learning in the dynamics of Islamic understanding, and the place of the Sufi path in the personal and social life of the community. Recommended for historians and anthropologists, general readers, spiritual seekers, and Sufi adepts." ---- William C. Chittick, State University New York.
" A fascinating account of the life of a prolific, yet little known, Moroccan Sufi that casts special light on the socio-cultural and religious milieu of eighteenth-century northwest Africa. By tracing the events of his life between the extremes of the mundane and the spiritual, Ibn ‘Ajiba paints a detailed and engaging picture of what a person eager for spiritual fulfillment had to learn, practice, and endure along the path of Sufism.
In addition to the details of his genealogy, marriages, travels, contact, the geographical and tribal “maps” of his world (of interest to anthropologists and social historians), Ibn ‘Ajiba provides some insightful commentaries on the Islamic exoteric and esoteric sciences and alludes to the canonical texts in circulation. His preoccupation with the intricacies of daily life foregrounds his reflections and experiences gracefully against the rich, and often disharmonious mosaic of the social, intellectual, pedagogical, and moral values of the time. Michon’s rendering of the original text into French is masterful and elegant, and Streight’s competent translation into English has the subtlety and transparency necessary to reveal Michon’s erudite scholarship. The book will be of interest to scholars of Sufism and the socio-cultural history of Morocco and North Africa." ---- Samer Akkach, University of Adelaide.