5 July, 2019
Palestine's Sufis in occupied Nablus, every week, women gather around Iman Abu
Mariam, a female cleric, referred to as a Sheikha in Jabal Jarzeen in the
occupied city. They take part in a session remembering God and the beloved
hours, the women read and recite the holy Quran and carry out the Abrahimic
prayer, along with the 99 names of Allah. They refer to this act as Hadhra.
repetition of recitations allows for the individual's spirit to fly as they
enter a space in complete focus on God once they are in Hadhra," Sheikha
Iman told The New Arab.
Iman inherited her religious following from her father in 2013, who gave her
and his ten other children their religious education – half of those were
daughter Sondos, 17, dances and plays the drums and her son Zakariya, 10, takes
part in a tradition with the Sheikhs of Nazreth. With her children, Sheikha
Iman goes to a number of Sufi events across Palestine, which were officiated by
Palestine's Islamic ministry in 2014.
many people in Palestine who oppose the Sufi school of thought.
including the ones in Nablus, regard Sufism as a part of their cultural
heritage. This is one of the main reasons Sufism has continued to flourish in
Palestine, as opposed to other countries where Sufis are considered innovating
parts of Islam, or are even condemned for leaving the fold of Islam in their
contradiction with my martyred son'
there are 20 hubs that are traditionally used for locals to socialise. All of
them date back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, except one – the Hanbali
corner, founded in 2013.
was founded by Abdulrahman al-Hanbali who named it after his son, Mohammed
al-Hanbali. He died fighting for the Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank.
al-Hanbali was one of the most prominent weapons engineers in the Hamas
military wing during the second intifada.
2004, the Israeli army broke into the Al-Muhafa neighbourhood in Nablus and
started a ten-hour gun battle in search for him. He was killed after the
Israeli army blew up a building he was hiding in.
fact that Hamas is opposed to the corner named after al-Hanbali, because the
group's religious ideology does not approve of Sufi practices, the movement had
no objection in naming a corner after one of their most prominent fighters.
in turn, saw no problem with naming a Sufi corner after his son, who gave his
life to an orthodox Islamist movement.
and political debates have not only failed to convince people to find an
answer, but it has failed to fill their thirst for closeness to God," he
Sufism is a way of life for many in Nablus, it's common to see women taking
part in Hadhra sessions.
Iman is not the only one to have a women's only corner – the nearby Sheikh
Muslim corner too offers female-only Hadhra sessions.
organiser of female-only Hadhra sessions, Jamila Haroun al-Debai, 55, was a
member of the General Union of Palestinian Women and a prominent political
studying in Sufism 2007, she embarked on a new life journey and gave up
political activism to immerse herself in spirituality.
began to study Sufism in 2007 when a group opened a special centre to teach the
origins and sciences of Sufism," she said.
fascination with Sufism became a turning point in my life when I found this way
sessions begin with recitation of the holy Quran and the prayer on the Prophet
Muhammad. She finishes off her session with a religious sermon and studying the
biographies and teachings of Sufi sheikhs.
the head of the Supreme Sufi Council Abdul Karim Najim, says these women's
sessions are "self-determination" and unusual because the women do
not co-ordinate with the Supreme Council of Sufis.
A new trend
has emerged within Palestine in which new parents want to celebrate the birth
of their newborns under Sufi traditions. The women, upon request, travel to
other cities to provide this service.
birth to her second child, Sanaa Khaled, 36, was told by her husband's family
that they want a Sufi-style birth, because their traditions entice them,
despite the family not being followers of the sect.
not know what I was signing up for," she says.
Sufi-style birth, women meet and start organising the birth under the umbrella
of an experienced woman. They pray on the Prophet Muhammad and sing songs with
them sitting in a circle around the woman giving birth.
she only agreed due to family pressure: "I agreed because I do not want to
oppose my husband's family."
the birth she has decided to continue with partaking in Sufi rituals, despite
not believing in them.
not completely convinced of the idea of birth,
but I noticed acceptance in my surroundings for these rituals, so that my sisters on some
occasions have become the birthplace."
Nofal is a Palestinian journalist living in Ramallah. She is also a member of
the Marie Colvin Network for Women Journalists.
Source: The New Arab