Popular Sufi leader dies in Morocco aged 95

19.01.2017

The head of one of Morocco's biggest Sufi orders, with tens of thousands of followers at home and abroad, died on Wednesday aged 95, an official and local media said.

Sheikh Sidi Hamza al-Qadiri al-Boutchichi had been the spiritual leader of the Qadiriya Boutchichiya order since 1972. He died in the northwestern city of Oujda and was to be buried in the nearby town of Madagh where he was born and his order is based, local media reported.

Seen as a "living master" by his followers and famed for his wisdom and kindness, he was believed to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad and belonged to a long line of Sufi leaders. Every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came from across the world to Madagh to celebrate Mawlid, the Prophet Mohummad's birthday and hear the ageing Sufi leader preach.

Before he died, he designated his eldest son, Sidi Jamal, to succeed him, a spokesman for the brotherhood told the local press.

His followers included French rapper Abd al Malik.

Sufism is an offshoot of mainstream Islam which focuses on meditation, inner purity and finding a mystical pathway towards God. Sufis spend time studying the Koran, chanting and dancing to enter a spiritual trance. With hundreds of millions of followers across the world, Sufism has deep roots in popular culture in Morocco and across West Africa.

Various Sufi orders are active in Turkey, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Followers of Salafist and Wahhabist interpretations of Islam see Sufism as heretical.    (AFP)

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