“The ego (nafs) always refuses what we impose on it and begins to transmit suggestions to enable it to go far into what can satisfy it. The Path has the opposite effect: when something attracts us towards the lower world, the path prevents us from answering the call." Sidi Hamza
The Regraga are a sub-tribe of the Berber Masmuda. They come from the Jbel Hadid Mountains and introduced Islam to the region. As well as a tribe, they also appear to act like a Sufi order, with organised worship and Dhikr gatherings.
Today, there is an annual musem of the Regraga, which is a large journey effectuated annually by the Chiadma clans of the Jbel Hadid and the Haha clans southeast of Essaouira. It takes place in spring and lasts 40 days. During these weeks, pilgrims visit a series of local graves belonging to Saints, from the mouth of the Tensift river south of Safi, to the northern outskirts of the High Atlas, including the city of Essaouira itself. They are led by two groups that effectuate a kind of round trip, stopping at every mausoleum on the way. One must dress at every grave a tent made of fan palm fibres and dyed with henna, the other one arrives in procession with a muqaddim (religious leader) riding a white horse.
The spiritual dimension to the journey is immense with Dhikr gatherings, prayers and the sharing of food at various points. The Berbers of the region hold the Regraga in high regard and show much love to the travellers on their arrival. According to Sidi Ahmed Nassour, the Moqaddim of Akarmoud, the story behind it is as follows:
When Sayyidina Isa (Jesus) (as) was sentenced to crucifixion, four of his disciples took a boat and sailed to the shores of Morocco. Their names were Hamij, Harid, Hirt and Alkama. They reached land and settled near Akarmoud where they lived for a long time.
Before his ascension to heaven, Sayyidina Isa (as) had predicted the arrival of the Prophet Sayyidina Mohamed (saw).
In their new found land, these four men had remained Christian. Between them, they had 7 notable descendants. Sidi Ouasmine, Sidi Boubker, Sidi Salah, Sidi Abdallah, Sidi Aissa, Sidi Yalla and Sidi Said. As soon as they heard the news of the revelation to the Prophet (saw), they left to join and swear him allegiance. As they travelled towards Mecca, they were reciting the shahada: ‘La ilaha illalah, Muhamed-ur resul-ullah’. As they arrived, the daughter of the Prophet (saw), Fatima-Zahra (ra) heard them and ran to her father (saw) to inform him. She told him that there were people who were muttering (regragou). He turned to Fatima (ra) and told her that she had just named them ‘Regraga’. The Prophet (saw) told them to return to their land to bring it Islam.
On their return, the seven saints converted all the Berber tribes of the region to Islam. Every year, they toured the land ensuring the people had not apostatized. To this day, their descendants make same journey every year. It is known as the route of Baraka (blessing).
(The above information is drawn from the documentary ‘Les Chemins de la Baraka’)
The ego, what Islam terms the Nafs, is a small part of the much larger “self”, though it frequently likes to think it is more than it is – it likes to maintain beliefs about itself (either positive or negative ones: usually somewhat distorted ones).
What, then, is the connection between the Ego and social media? My own thoughts on this matter continue to develop, but I am coming to believe that social media comes to the service of the ego (possibly at the expense of the self) and the ego interacts with the social network as an extension of the ways in which our individual egos negotiate the world in any case. The ego likes to maintain familiar patterns, and that’s not always in the service of the self. The self seeks recognition from others (full, honest, authentic, and non-judging recognition) – the ego, however, likes its recognition to be conditional upon its own expectations and desires.
If we think of the ego as an estate agent, its three most important needs are “recognition, recognition, recognition.” When we think about social networking, we can see how well it is created in the service of recognition. Examples of this are the number of friends on Facebook, Likes, Comments on posts, Retweets, Mentions and ‘personalised blogs’ etc…
Transactional Analysis has a wonderful term it uses for moments of ego recognition. They are called strokes; every time your ego receives recognition, it purrs just a little, as if it’s been stroked. The ego needs strokes to keep it going, and when it doesn’t get the strokes it thinks it needs, it can feel pretty bad.
Masses of people, especially the internet savvy young, are pushing their real names, locations, pictures, even describing themselves to the point of telling the entire world the details of their ethnicity and religious leaning on websites/blogs. Teenagers are even blogging details of the family relationships or courseworks/exams. The trivial become a subject of discussion because there is a chance of that ‘stroke’ making you feel better. Maybe assessing things so deeply is erroneous. It may be little more than immature stupidity. However, it would appear that the ego inside of us wants to be a little superstar, we are, more often than not, too happy to oblige.
If we accept the above as a rightful diagnosis (which your ego might not let you do), what can we do to cure ourselves? As the Sufis seeks to annihilate the ego for the purpose of self-purification in everyday life, we may also conclude that one may try to annihilate it online. As it is the same ego, one can only advise the same methods.
The opening (fath) is the sudden unveiling of the Divine Reality and therefore the end of illusion. It is like a snow ball thrown into the ocean. The snowball symbolizes the ego and the ocean Divine Reality. The snowball is nothing but frozen water; once thrown in the ocean, it becomes liquid and a small drop in the ocean. The ego has only one ephemeral and illusionary existence if we consider it in itself, cut off from its origin. Likewise, the snowball, if one judges it in its present state, at its momentary consistence, it seems very different from water. It appears to be of an original nature, other than that of the ocean; in reality it is nothing but a few drops of water, similar to all other drops in the ocean. There is only one water and many different states of the same water.
Sheikh Sidi Hamza
"Defect and ugliness are not in things or beings, but in the impurity of our vision of them. The more the soul is peaceful, perfect and pure, the more it will become disposed to see in all beings a Luminous Divine manifestation: All is beautiful. Only the non-polished heart of the disciple renders things ugly."
Sheikh Sidi Hamza
If the first inward thought is not warded off, it will generate a desire, then the desire will generate a wish, and the wish will generate an intention, and the intention will generate the action, and the action will result in ruin and divine wrath. So evil must be cut off at its root, which is when it is simply a thought that crosses the mind, from which all the other things follow on.
—- Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali
Image: Rohtas Fort, Pakistan