Wassup! shou fi ma fi? This post is about a quest to learn more about the Ahmadiyya in Nablus.
It is sort of the answer to the teaser about the Naqshbandi sheikh in this Palestine Independence Day post from last month. Maybe pics of sheikh to come. Shall let ya know.
The story begins with a rumour. It was passed on to me that a journalist acquaintance of mine had heard that there were Ahmadiyya in Nablus. ‘See if you can discover anything more’, he said.
I got to work and asked around, but most of my Nabulsi friends had no idea who the Ahmadiyya were, and no leads on any presence in the West Bank.
I began to feel that my hack should give up.
One day, when I was waiting for him and his colleague* to arrive on a jaunt to Nablus, I was accosted by an ambient, unbusy tour guide. Drink coffee with me! He insisted. He overannunciated vowels and got to plosives with much flecking of spittle.
I accepted a tea and he paraded me around the main mall, apparently keen that everyone should know and see him with a foreigner. We drew side eye from a good-time-girl. I am Hassanein, he told me, and asked for my number.
The reverse cup-and-ball game I was playing trying to avoid catching his spit flecks in my tea, as well as his dogged requests for my number, was making me uncomfortable. But I had an ulterior motive.
‘Do you know if there are any Ahmadi in Nablus?’
BINGO. ‘Yes! We must listen very carefully to what they say. I know where they worship. I will take you to their chapel now!’.
‘Not now, thanks, but I will take your number, and give it to my friend who is a journalist. There is no need to call you to check that I have the right one.’
And several weeks, later, Andrea (for it was he) had negotiated that for the cost of a week’s rent each we could all be taken straight to the place of worship, but that apparently they had changed into Naqshbandi in the meantime because all the Ahmadiyya had left.
Long story short, we went to a Sufi takiya/tekyeh (hall, basically). It reminded me of an English or Welsh village hall used for scout huts and discos and white elephant charity jumble sales, if those village halls were built into alleyways using stone that thousands of years ago was part of an ancient fortified city.
It was lovely! We were invited into the worship, which involved singing and chanting and drums (including the cutest littlest kidlet playing drums) and such and I felt very warm and safe and welcomed. I was plopped on a mattress on the floor, slightly separated from the rest of the room which was entirely male and possibly all over 30 excepting the two lil boys joining in.
Afterwards, we were fed (chicken and vegetables). I requested a boy to eat with, rather than sit by myself. At the suggestion the nearest boy gave an ingenuous face of fear, but another accepted his duty of eating with the foreign woman. The Sheikh chatted with the journo boys and hopefully conveyed to them more of matters of the spirit than I picked up on.
I am not saying much, am I? The truth is, I was confused by the whole experience – I am not even sure that they were Naqshbandi, and Hassanein told us that the Rafa’i and Naqshbandi and Ahmadiyya and Sufi are all ‘nafs shi’ – exactly the same – and I harbour doubts as to whether this view is any more widely received than his approach to what is acceptable personal space.
Hassanein also was the loudest chanter and interrupted the Sheikh to tell him unconvincingly how he had felt God enter his soul the moment he entered the takiya. Which was a bit embarrassing. (The Sheikh was another al-Masri, would you believe, presumably no relation to the Masri of this blog of yore but the surname does dominate Nablus what with the mayors and supermarket chains and telecoms).
In fact whilst I’m going on about Hassanein, shout out to Andrea who refused to give him my number and in return received three texts of abuse, calling him a kathaab (swindler), uncultured, a beggar for his food – and all in contrast with Hassanein’s self-professed professionalism, refinement, and honesty.
And I will share this video, made by one of my friends. In fact the same friend who filmed the dancing sheep at the bottom of this post. At one and a half minutes, it’s a little long if you haven’t yourself turned down Hassanein’s offer of a place to sleep for the night, but bear in mind that the actor does not speak English – he is only mimicking what he has heard.
It’s also funny because he says ‘terrorism’ instead of ‘tourism’.
Put your legs in the cold water, go to Balata refugee camp to eat cakes, it will be funny for you.
Anyway, I still don’t know anything about West Bank Ahmadis, apart from that their marriage can be considered invalid in Nablus’ sharia courts. But here is a quote from an Ahmadi Sheikh resident in Israel condemning an attack on a synagogue:
“When Allah, exalted be He, gave permission for the Muslims to fight, he did so in order that they might defend complete freedom of religion. He emphasized to them that it was their duty to defend, first of all, the churches, houses of worship and monasteries of their fellow men, even before their own mosques.”
Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Odeh. Source: Ma’an
I think it was one of the Palestine Monitor contributors who said that he expected more about the things in the post summaries than the blog posts deliver. Fair cop, MattOrDre.
*alright alright you got me, these ‘journalists’ are my friends