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In Quest for the Love of the Habib - Sohbet with Walid Lounès Bouzerar




1.
And among the Divine Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth / the soul and the body,
and the difference of your languages
and colors.

~ Message of the Final Testament, 30:22


Human language, a marvel of God in every sense and yet when it comes to visions of the heart or tastes of grace from the unseen world - even that marvelous instrument of expression falls short. That's why apart from spoken language of day to day communication we have poetry and songs that express what can not be expressed in ordinary expressions. Poetry capture more sublime expressions that come from the heart comprising visions of the spiritual heart.

Expression of love is probably the most frequent context of poetry. In Islamic spiritual tradition, no other personality claims more love than the beloved of God, Muhammad Mustafa, the Messenger of God. May Divine grace and peace saturate his perfumed soul. In the book, "And Muhammad is His Messenger" the author Annemarie Schimmel wrote in the chapter titled, 'Poetry in Honor of the Prophet' - The first praise poems of the Prophet were written during his lifetime. Hassan ibn Thabit served him as a poet in Medina. His duty was in a certain sense that of a journalist who poetically noted down the important events that happened in the young Islamic community... His poems are therefore an important source for the earliest history of Islam... Other poets besides Hassan were part of the Prophet's entourage...


2.
In Islamic path, the love for the Prophet, understood and believed as the most complete human being, is a pivotal station which every seeker of truth strive to arrive. Qur'an speaks of it (3:31): "Say (O Muhammad), if you (O people) love God, follow me, God will love you (in return) and forgive." A saying of the Prophet in paraphrase: None of you will enter the mystery of iman (conviction to reality) until I am more beloved to him than his own family, wealth and all the people.

Love is the path and road of our Prophet.
- Rumi

Loving the Prophet is a pathway to open the heart and a signpost towards the divine love. All praise and sending blessing to the Prophet is motivated out of only one cause, which is to be able to generate that pure love in the heart which purifies the being and elevate its human status.

"He (God) loves them and they love Him"
- The Qur'an 5:54

He who loves Me, knows Me,
and He who knows Me, finds Me.
- traditional sufi saying


- Credit  Qasidah al-Burdah | Poem of the Mantle | the most-recited and celebrated single poem in human history


It is a fountain of miracle of love that still overflows from the heart of those lovers of Prophet who spend sleepless night after night with memory of their beloved Prophet, in contemplation of him; every time he is reminded in a state of love, their eyes and heart over flow. Among such lovers those who are gifted in the faculty of expression sometimes they may be compelled to take up pen or keyboard in modern time and will obey the inspirations from the unseen to pen words of praise and love for the habib (Arabic, means beloved, a title of Prophet Muhammad).

Walid Lounès Bouzerar an Algerian poet now living in Canada who recently published a book containing a collection of poetry & prose in praise of the beloved Prophet Muhammad.

Here is a taste of his poem:

Whom Do You Love?

They asked me, “Whom do you love?”
I told them, “Muḥammad ﷺ;
A name pure and sweet on my lips like honey.”
They asked me, “Ask for anything in this dunyā.”
I replied, “I wish to behold the Beloved of God ﷺ.
Awake and asleep
In this life and the next
I wish for the presence of Muḥammad ﷺ.”
They saw me in my peculiar states
They heard me hint at my path
They asked, “What path do you follow?”
I replied, “The path of Muḥammad ﷺ.”
They saw me lonely and sick
So they asked me, “What ails you?”
“My yearning for Muḥammad ﷺ”
As a man who has fled from his village
Into the desert
I seek no one
But Muḥammad ﷺ.
My tongue has become numb
And this world has become stale to it
Like a sick man, its water has become sour
And its food has become bland
So it is for all whose hearts have remembered;
Who have had a taste of that sweet, inebriating drink
That showers from the Celestial Realms
Upon the mention of Muḥammad ﷺ.


Here is what Walid writes about the book and its subject matter:

Love for the Prophetﷺ pours without cease from the hearts of the lovers. It is a Light manifesting as affection from their eyes, wisdom from their words, healing from their touch, spiritual elevation from their presence. No there is never any blame in letting the world know of your love for the Pole of Creationﷺ. O lover, seek not to hide your state, profess it! Fear not the critics, this life is short, there is naught but glad-tidings in elevating his nameﷺ, and in reality you are only elevating your own name in the Heavens. Seek for your name to be associated with himﷺ in this life, and God willing it will be associated with himﷺ in the Hereafter. Leave not this world but that the Angels pass your grave and say: Here rests so-and-so, Lover of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ. O Allah - Make it so, for You say to a thing "Be" and it is. Ameen.


Quest for the Love of the Habib 

Sohbet with Walid Lounès Bouzerar

Author of Lights of Yearning: In Praise of the Most Praised ﷺ


Welcome to a new episode of In Quest of My Oasis at Technology of the Heart, a series where we aspire to share short dialogues with seekers & lovers of the Sufi path. The Mystic Master Prophet Muhammad, may holy benedictions rise to his noble station, said, "at-turuqu ila 'Llahi ka-nufusi bani Adam", 'the ways to God are as numerous as the human souls'. The Qur'an states in verse 2:148, "And for everyone there is a direction towards which one turns." The Series, God willing, will be tracing such unique, inspiring individual journeys to the Goal.

Here we wish to engage with contemporary seekers who are drawn to that Quest, whom we hope to know, connect and share their beautiful journey in the spirit of what Sufis call Sohbet. This current episode of In Quest of My Oasis is blessed by the presence of contemporary Sufi poet, seeker and traveler Walid Lounès Bouzerar, may Allah bless his pen and his path.



Sadiq M. Alam: Hi Walid. Please tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you end up as a poet?


Walid Lounès Bouzerar: Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem, peace and blessings be upon the Master of Creation, our guide and beloved, Muhammad, may the choicest blessings and peace be upon him eternally.

My life began in my home country of Algeria in the city of Algiers, although my paternal family is from a small village called Toudja in the mountainous region of Bejaia province, east of the capital. Our family moved to the Emirates in the nineties, a troubling period in Algeria, seeking refuge in a more stable environment.

Walid at Errachidia in the South of Morocco. In the background is a Zaouia founded by Shaykh Muhammad Belqurshi in the village called Touroug

Always having been drawn to the arts, I began writing poems at the age of ten. I began producing musical pieces shortly after and joined my growing collection of poems as lyrics to go with them. This musical path developed up until my departure to Canada upon completion of my secondary education, after having performed around the city of Dubai and being invited through the years to numerous radio, magazine and TV interviews, and this music being played across the country's radio stations. Upon moving to Canada, I continued producing music, and continued writing as well.


How did you first get interested in Mystical Islam or Sufism?

The story began in a summer following my move to Canada, when I was on visit in Toronto. The past two years had been a bit rocky and my transition to the West led to the opening of a new dimension in my life, what one might call a spiritual opening, I won't being going into any details in this short write-up, this led me to seek deeper meanings in life. On this summer night, whilst walking back to the guest house room I came upon a pile of abandoned books in the street. I had a look through, and after sifting through for a while I decided to keep walking, but had a second thought and looked to the bottom of the pile once more. Thereupon my eyes fell on a collection of poetry by Khalil Gibran called 'Thoughts & Meditations'. I picked it up and headed back to my room. Some time later, back in Montreal now, I searched for the title of the book and the author online and the browse led me to Sufism. Intrigued by the idea of a mystical branch of Islam, I kept exploring. I later discovered that a wall hanging that had been gifted to my family and had been up on my wall was a Turkish art piece of two Sufi whirling dervishes. The moment came after some time to return to University, and I had to pick my courses. A search for electives led me to the Religion department, and I quickly discovered that a Sufi course was being offered this year. So I registered for the course.

My interest for the subject grew, and one day, during an exam, there came a question that involved writing a poem with Sufi symbolism, which I was happy to write. The following week, I came in to class a little late and everyone was already seated. The professor asked me if I was 'Walid' and I replied in the positive. He informed me that he had returned last week's exam and proceeded to give my copy back, mentioning that he really liked my poem. Upon that, he asked if I would read it to class, but I did not deem it necessary and declined. He then asked if I would allow someone to read it, I preferred not however. After class, I was about to leave the building when the professor came after me and told me again that he enjoyed the poem, he then asked if I would agree to help him in the translation process of some Sufi poems that he would like to use for class readings and was happy to do so. This began a close friendship between us which led to my very first spiritual trek which took me through Northern India and Kashmir all the way to the Himalayas, meeting along the way Shuyukh and Sufi adepts, an experience I will undoubtedly never miss to be thankful for.


Please tell us about your path and its central teaching and what do you recommend to someone who may feel that yearning and may be seeking to find a guide on the path?

The central teaching of our path is adab, which can be loosely translated as the courtesy of giving every one and thing its due right from Allah. That being said, taking the path as a seeker or student of knowledge, one must then rid oneself of all one's previously attained knowledge and the degree of sincerity of the seeker will match the manifestation of one's teacher, since the teacher is as a mirror to the disciple. So the more effectively one effaces oneself and empties oneself of opinions and knowledge, the faster one will reach his desire through his teacher, may Allah facilitate this path for us and you.

The most important provision on this path is love and proximity to the Beloved of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, and he is the front door to the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth. We therefore seek to know him by sitting amongst his lovers and Holy Heirs, observing their states, emulating their characters, humbling ourselves before them, and listening to their words with an open heart.

Their presence is like a sun that nourishes our souls and provides vision and understanding, may Allah keep us amongst the lovers of the Master of the first and last, in this life and the next, peace and blessings be upon him and his sanctified family.



Ameen to your supplication.

You recently published a wonderful book containing mostly poetry on the Prophet Muhammad (s). Before the publication you used to share them on Facebook and received quite an outstanding amount of praise. Please tell us about the background of this poetry and since when you started to write?

My recent poetry in praise of the Beloved Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, was inspired by my last trip to Morocco that took place from November 2014 till January 2015, during the yearly Mawlid season, and consisted of Ziyarat to various Maqams and visits to living Awliya and Shuyukh. Upon my return I wrote the entire book 'Lights of Yearning: In Praise of the Most Praised' in about three months, with an ease that I have never before felt in writing. A blessing gifted through love of the Prophet, and sitting amongst his lovers, peace and blessings be upon him, alhamdulillah.


Kindly tell us about your travels to the maqams of various Saints / Awlia Allah? Can you please share some special experiences from there?

I was fortunate to visit many Maqams of the Awliyah, alhamdulillah. My first trip to Northern India and Kashmir took us to visit mostly Naqshbandi Awliyah Maqams.

I travelled a little later to Turkey and Cyprus, where we visited the great Sahaba Sayyiduna Abu Ayyub al-Ansari in Istanbul, and other Sahabas whose resting places are found in Cyprus, whereupon we visited the great Naqshbandi Sufi Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, may Allah have Mercy on his blessed soul.

Sidna Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib

Later on, my travels took me to Morocco and Algeria where I visited many of the great Awliyah's Maqams such as Shaykh Ahmad al-Alaoui in Mostaghanem, Shaykh al-Huwwari in Oran, Moulay Idriss I in Zarhoun and Moulay Idriss II in Fes, our Shuyukh Sidi Muhammad ibn al-Habib in Meknes, and Sidi Muhammad Belqurshi in the southern desert region of Errachidia, as well as Shaykh Ahmad Tijani, Shaykh Abdul 'Aziz al-Dabbagh, Shaykh Ali al-Jamal in Fes, and Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish the father of the Shadhili Tariqa, Shaykh of Abu Hassan al-Shadhili, to name just a few, may Allah be well pleased with them all and grant us Baraka and Mercy through their mention.
Sidna Shaykh Muhammad Belqurshi

Is there any particular maqam you love most and love to frequent? Any special reason for that?

All of the Maqams of the Awliya (saints) are blessed and attract a special Mercy of their Lord and each Saint has been given his own distinct favor from Allah with a unique portion of secrets and knowledge, so each visit has its own flavor; one of the Men of Allah once told me, the Awliya are like flowers and we are like bees, we take our nectar from all of them.

In front of the shrine of Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish

The most beloved Maqam Ziyarat of mine are those of Moulay Idris I, Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish, Sidi Muhammad al-Jazuli, the author of Dala'il ul-Khayrat - a renowned collection of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ, which we recite every week where I live, I was fortunate to attend its recitation at his blessed Maqam which I have visited a number of times in Marrakesh - and our Shuyukh Sidna Muhammad ibn al-Habib and Sidna Muhammad Belqurshi, may Allah be well pleased with them all and forgive us for their sake.


Kindly tell us about your experience of writing this poetry?

The most frequent experience can be explained as an overwhelming meaning that enters my conscience and my reflection upon it develops various forms or phrases, once I feel ready, I sit to write it and it usually always flows out all at once. Very often the poems were written after recitation of our daily litanies and happen spontaneously. The feeling can be described as birth pangs, and the feeling does not leave until I sit to write the poem.


What was it like to publish this book and what is the response so far?

The idea of publishing came upon me after having written most of the book, and the process happened smoothly and with help from Allah, alhamdulillah. Shortly after my announcement that we would be publishing the book, I received two messages, one was from a sister from South Africa who offered to design the cover art without cost, and the second was a brother who gifted us a generous amount towards publication costs, both messages were received that same day and I had never spoken to either of the two, may Allah have mercy on them.

I later messaged Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi who is now living in Rabat, Morocco, may Allah be pleased with him, and he agreed to write the foreword for the book. Allah Kareem. The response has exceeded my expectation alhamdulillah, may Allah make it a solace to the lovers by His Generosity, and may it plant the seed of love for the Prophetﷺ in all who come across it.


What is your next project?

The next book is ready, I won't reveal any details, but I will say: the cover art is ready, we have received for it a beautiful foreword by a renowned Shaykh, and the subtitle of the book is In Praise of the Most Beloved ﷺ.


How do you describe the relationship of a Muslim who happens to follow the Sufi Path and his or her special relationship with the Prophet? Often for western people it's difficult to fathom or relate to this. What do you think contributed to develop this love between you and Prophet Muhammad (s)?

The relationship between the Muslim and the Prophet ﷺ is not only central but indispensable, without loving the Prophet ﷺ, one cannot truly believe. The love for the Prophet ﷺ is the very soul of Islam and it is the key to proximity to Allah, Exalted be He. Many people have sent me messages upon reading the poetry and have asked me this same question, how do we develop this love for the Prophet ﷺ?

I answer with what I have been taught by the Shuyukh and by what I have seen to be true in my own experience, the first and most important factor is keeping company of his lovers ﷺ and emulating them in the closest manner possible, these men are no ordinary men, they carry the Light of the Prophet ﷺ , they carry portions of his states ﷺ, they carry portions of his manners ﷺ, they carry portions of his love ﷺ for Allah, they carry portions of his knowledge ﷺ, and upon sitting with these lovers, we also take a portion.

The second factor is, whilst not in their presence physically, to have a daily litany of salutations upon the Prophet ﷺ, and to keep to it. Also to read the blessed biography of the Beloved of Allah ﷺ , to travel to visit the Awliya, who carry his love ﷺ , with the intention of reaching closer to the Prophet ﷺ, to read the Revelation revealed to the Chosen One ﷺ, to attend the Gardens of Paradise, the circles of Remembrance of Allah, to yearn to behold the sacred countenance of the Prophet ﷺ , to seek him every day ﷺ, to follow his Sunnah ﷺ, for by following it we are remembering him ﷺ, and what better way to increase the love for one but to remember him and emulate him, the more we love him ﷺ, the more we know him ﷺ, and the more we know him ﷺ, the more we love him ﷺ, may we be written amongst his lovers ﷺ and may we be taken to our graves by his holy hands ﷺ, and may we be resurrected beneath the Banner of Praise, under the gaze of the Best of Creation ﷺ .


. End of the Interview .



We end this episode with another poem from the book where the beauty of the most praised one is etched on every letter.


Vanishing in Mīm, Ḥāʾ, Mīm, Dāl ﷺ

The Kohl-black of your pearl-like eyes ﷺ
Celestial spheres like two universes
Containing constellations of Divine Knowledge
Black as the ink in the Book of Divine verses
For verily, you are the breathing Furqān ﷺ
Your dark tresses like ropes from Allāh ﷺ
By which His creation reaches to the Heavens
Your Mantle the shelter for the Servants of Allāh ﷺ
May the letters of our names and titles
Vanish in the Mīm, Ḥāʾ, Mīm, Dāl ﷺ
May everyone of our temporal labels
Be replaced by the Stellar Crown that is your Sandal ﷺ
Every degree of Proximity to our Lord
Was gained through you, O Muḥammad ﷺ
How can I claim anything else before this evidence
O Lovers, invoke peace and blessing upon Muḥammad ﷺ
O Allāh, by Muḥammad and the Rank of Muḥammad ﷺ
By the Family of Muḥammad and the lovers of Muḥammad ﷺ
By Your love for Muḥammad and the River of Muḥammad ﷺ
Grant us Muḥammad in this life and the next, O Lord of
Muḥammad ﷺ
O Muḥammad ﷺ, may the dust of your Garden
Be placed on my every intention
Such that no word or deed emerges from my being
Save by your Holy Intercession ﷺ
O Allāh – upon the Light of our thirsty Souls ﷺ
Shower Your Infinite blessings and peace
A prayer that removes every hardship
And opens the doors of every ease.

~

The Prophet is reported to have said in the collection of Tirmidhi,

For him who sees my hilya after my death it is as if he had seen me myself, and he who sees it, longing for me, for him God will make Hellfire prohibited, and he will not be resurrected naked on Doomsday.

The hilya (literally 'ornament') traditionally consists of short descriptions of the Prophet's external and internal qualities. According to other traditions, the Prophet himself advised his "four friends" the first four caliphs, before his death to remember his shamail-nama, that is, the description of his looks and qualities, for he longed that it be remembered for his lovers to come in future generations who will miss him and long to see him and be united with him.

What Walid Lounès Bouzerar did in his marvelous work is no less than an ornamentation of the yearning for the habib. May the poems revive the longing for the beautiful model in our heart. We pray that may Allah and His Messenger accept this work of love and may it reach to the hearts of innumerable lovers of habib Allah. Ameen.

ﷺ reads the Arabic invocation upon the Prophet which translate as Blessings of God and His Peace upon him (the Prophet).


#References:

* Poetry blog

* Author's Facebook Profile

* Lights of Yearning Facebook Page

* For Ordering the Book: Lights of Yearning, please visit this page


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Technology of the Heart: In Quest for the Love of the Habib - Sohbet with Walid Lounès Bouzerar
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Interview with Walid Lounès Bouzerar, Author of Lights of Yearning: In Praise of the Most Praised
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Technology of the Heart
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