Reading the attempts for writing Sudan’s history, indicates that Prof. Yousif Fadl Hassan has realized very early the importance of verifying history documents and texts in their different versions and establishing distinguished relationships with eye witnesses, authors, Sheikhs and grandsons of those who have played prominent roles in the history of the country.
It even seems that when Prof. Fadl took the chance of verifying Tabaqat Wad Daifalla (a book on genealogy of religious and local community leaders in Sudan), he was completely confident that he was instituting for an era of maturity of national concern with Sudanese manuscripts and documents in their various versions and times.
On the path of al-Tabaqat, the scientific arena has rapidly opened in this respect, but Prof. Fadl’s distinction, which focused on understanding the past of ancestors and its cultural weight, constituted the basic starting point towards a bright future.
Prof. Fadl has contributed a new work where he, depending on his remarkable thought and rich knowledge, wrote a new book titled “Features from the Cultural Relations between Morocco and Sudan- 15th century to 17th century”.
In this book, Prof. Fadl cited how Sudan has been influence by the Moroccan scientific contribution in its religious and Sufi aspects.
Prof. Fadl’s Book, which lies in 80 pages of medium size, left a wide echo amid the Moroccan and Sudanese press and prompted intensive debate and criticism within the electronic media.
The book, published by the African Studies Institute, an affiliation of King Mohamed V University in Rabat, constitutes a new gate in the filed of tolerance culture industry, particularly that it contains a lecture that was presented by Prof. Fadl as part of the Joint African Heritage Chair.
Though the book covers a time period extending for five hundred years in two countries separated by some hundred thousands of kilometers, but Prof. Fadl has managed to reflect the political, cultural and social conditions in which those ancestors of the two countries have grown. The book, as well, reflects their remarkable ability to live in those conditions without bargaining on or waiving their basic values.
In a rich language flowing before the eyes of the reader like a melody and embodying the richness of the educational methods at that ancient time (keeping, instructing, and writing of Madih Nabawi “Poems in praise of Prophet Mohamed”), Prof Fadl has managed to depict the ability of the learners at that time to apprehend and master those different forms of knowledge linguistically and in a way that many of those who have enjoyed the present modern means of education have failed to do.
In a humble gesture like all great scientists and scholars, Prof. Fadl titled his book “Features from the Cultural Relations between Morocco and Sudan- 15th century to 17th century”. However, and before we flip through the book’s pages, it is to be noted here that the word (from) in the book’s title does not mean some but it is an indication of explanation as the term is used for both meanings. The evidence here is mentioned in the Holy Quran: (Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good), Surat Al Imran, verse 104.
Apart from this prelude, the book affirms the deeply-rooted Sudanese-Moroccan ties. These ties could possibly date back to before the Islamic tide in the 17th century. It is likely that the native population of Morocco of Barbar in North Africa were similar to Nuba and Bija groups of the ancient Sudan of the Nile Valley.
The Prof. indicated that the Nubians and Barbars belong to the black population of the Mediterranean Sea while the Bija and Barbar languages are of the Kush Group.
The book indicates that the real communication between the two sides started to appear after the emergence of Islam.
During mid of the 17th century, the waves of the early Islamic conquers had reached Dungola in the ancient Sudan of the Nile Valley and the Atlantic Ocean.
The book concludes that the Islamic civilization has expanded in a short time from the middle of Asia and across northern Africa to reach Branch Mountains in Europe. The Islamic civilization has influenced great parts of Africa and left its mark on.
This way, according to the book, the entry of the Islamic influence to Africa has opened a new page in the cultural relations between the Arabs and their African neighbors and paved the way for a great qualitative shift in the history of that cultural communication where Islam has become the pillar of the Arabic culture and the Arabic language become the store of the Islamic faith while the Arabic letter has become the container of that culture.
As part of the Islamic civilization, the two terms of “Land of Sudan” and “Land of Morocco” have emerged. This reflects the importance of this book as it fills in the clear gap in the very few account that had been written in the subject of the Sudanese-Moroccan relations. This is mainly attributed to weakness of communication in the first place, particularly that the two areas have not been geographically neighbors, despite the fact that they lived under a civilization of a united reference, which is the Quran and Sunna. This has given them both the unity of reference and orientation despite the difference in environment and location.
The book further reviews in details the cultural relations between Sudan of the Nile Valley and Morocco in light of factors of the historical and intellectual communication between the two regions. This can be specified through certain components including: The Moroccan knowledge of Sudan of the Nile Valley. This has been done through the Moroccan travelers who visited the Sudan of the Nile Valley and documented their impressions and observations about it together with the Moroccan migrations to Sudan which resulted in the influential Moroccan presence in the country. There was also the role of the Moroccan scholars who have greatly contributed to dissemination of the Maliki School which has become the bonding factor between the two regions besides the spread of the Quranic teachings, the Quranic readings and Tajweed. The Sufi sects, however, were the biggest factor of communication between the two regions as the Muslim scholars from both sides traveled between the two regions.
Another common factor is represented in the fact that the history of Sufism in Sudan and Morocco reflects that the Sufi sects in the two countries adopted a special methodology in education and behavior that stood on simplicity, piety and diligence in worship on the path of the predecessors inconsiderate of positions and standings. Additionally, they also have not ceased to practice their normal social life. They followed the path of tasting and climbing the ranks of the Suffi people regardless of personal miracles or fame as they used to conceal their miracles and conditions. In doing so, they adhered to their Suffi path with total devotion to worshiping, meeting with the Awliya (righteous people) and touring the earth without isolating themselves from the society.
On the bases of this Sudanese-Moroccan Sufism, a number of characteristics can be detected. The first is its comprehensiveness, the second its distance from idiosyncratic, verbal and philosophical abstraction and third its non-association with politics, a group or the society.
The book meanwhile cited many examples for this Sufi communication between the two countries, but it mentioned only one model for a Sudanese Sufi scholar who spread his knowledge in Morocco with many examples of Moroccan Sufi scholars in Sudan in turn. The book attributed this to the nature of the sources available in the Sudanese libraries, but indicated that we could possibly find in Moroccan libraries other examples for the role of Sudanese Sufi scholars in Morocco.
The book reviews another part of this Sudanese-Moroccan communication that has appeared during the 19th century when the Turkish forces, accompanied by Moroccan soldiers, scholars and employees, entered Sudan. Those have constituted the base of the cultural dialogue between the two regions. Additionally, the messages of Immam Mohamed Ahmed al-Mahdi to Morocco later on reflected the deeply-rooted relations between the two countries.
After reviewing entry of Islam and its spread in the two countries as the main factor of communication between the two regions, particularly after Morocco represented the fertile soil for development of the Maliki school which greatly contributed to the spread of the Arabic and Islamic culture between the two countries, the book reviewed emergence of a new generation of the Barbars0 in Morocco who have shouldered the responsibility of Islamic Da’wa (Call), marking a new era of a distinguished Moroccan Islamic culture that was completely distinctive of that of the eastern trend in terms of knowledge and efforts in all domains of science, culture, literature and arts. This coincided with a shrinkage in the influence of the Arab eastern region with the departure of the Fatimis towards the east in Egypt and establishment of governments of Barbars such as the Zirians in Tunisia, the Hamadians in Algeria and the Murabits in the far west.
The Murabits have achieved a great religious and political success during the 11th century, namely in Morocco, Andalusia and Sudan which neighbors them on the south and way down to the west- southern coasts of the African continent. According to John Henwick, the Moroccans have established “a Maliki School Empire of a strong political influence on the western part of the Islamic world”. The scientific stance of Morocco was enhanced during the 13th century and after by its scholars who have joined the centers of knowledge in the eastern part of the Arab Islamic world and by the Moriscans due to the Christian wars in Andalusia.
As was expected, the western parts of Sudan was influenced by those great scientific successes through the commercial and economic communication where the Moroccans had great and active contributions to the desert trade and to the spread of Islam of Maliki school.
Regarding the spread of Islam in Sudan, the book indicated that the Arab geographic specialists have given the name “Sudan” to the black or (semi-black) peoples who lived at the Savanna area which lies south of the Saharan and north of beginning of the equatorial forests. That area is bordered to the east by the Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. These Sudan lands lie between latitudes 11 and 17 north and inhabited by Nuba, Bijah, Four, Zaghawa, Barno, and Hawsa tribes besides peoples from Mali in addition to Sinqui, Takroor and Fulani tribes.
The spread of Islam has deeply influenced the Sudanese people and enhanced the status of the foreign Muslims among them, matter which paved the way for the spread of the Sufi sects, in particular the Ghadri, Shazali and Tigani Sufi sects of Sudan. The Moroccan Sufi scholars constituted the reference for many Sudanese and West African Sufi and Muslim scholars as Sudan has been influenced by the Moroccan Islamic and Suffi teachings.
The book does not exaggerate when it indicates that the western parts of Sudan has deeply been influenced by the Arab Moroccan Islamic culture to the extent that they became an extension for that culture, particularly with regard to its effects on the eastern parts of Sudan. The most famous scholars who came from Morocco to Sudan was Sheikh Hamad Abu Dunana, son in law of Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Suleiman al-Jizouli, founder of the Al-Shazali Sufi sect in Morocco. Sheikh Hamad abu Dunana settled at Saqady village west of al-Mahmia area at the time when Christianity was shrinking after the Church had weakened and Arab migrations increased. When the Funj Sultanate was established early 16th century this dark religious image was reflected by the author of al-Tabaqat who said that “no school for Quran or other science was known in that country where it was said that a man would divorce his wife and another man would marry her the next day without completing her legal Islamic period and that matters continued so until Sheikh Mahmoud al-Araki came and taught the people the question of Al-Idah (a legal period stipulated by Islam for the divorced woman to observe before getting married again )”.
It is obvious, according to the book, that Sudan and Morocco have not witnessed a parallel or balanced development in their representation of the Arab Islamic culture or in its expression in terms of intellect or application. The Moroccan lands in general and the far western Arab region in particular, the heart of this communication, has been more interactive in developing the Islamic teachings and expressing them through rich productions. That rich activity has greatly influenced the western parts of Sudan because in addition to Morocco’s active contribution to the Saharan inter-trade, spread of Islam and establishment of educational centers, it has also extended east, particularly after Sufism has become a phenomenon in the Islamic world, to reach Hawsa land and Kanim Kingdom and then middle Sudan has become the center of economic communication and an important crossing point for the pilgrims. Additionally, closing of Andalusia before the Arabs and Muslims encouraged the Moroccans to head for Sudan, matter which caused Sudan and Morocco to blend resulting in a rich cultural communication. Furthermore, the Islamic centers in Morocco and the great writings of the Moroccan scholars in the various branches of the Islamic teachings and sciences have made them similar to the institutions of knowledge in the eastern Arab region and even better than them in some fields.
This small size book drops a huge stone in our still lake of knowledge where the importance of the book emanates from the fact it provides a living image of some important phases in the history of our country and our men and their country and their men through a great author who has been for almost 50 years in field of pioneering scientific research.
What is really new about this book is that Prof. Fadl does not bother with pure theoretical issues, but rather focuses on attempting to rebuild the Sudanese self in a persisting endeavor to answer an old and new question: (How can temporary intellect restore and assimilate the rational aspects in its heritage and then better exploit them in a new manner?).