22 February 2017

Sudan: Sheikh Farah Wad Taktuk - Iconic Figure of Sennar Kingdom


Khartoum — -Sheikh Farah was a unique Sudanese character in which the legend mingled with the truth and his biography is still widely circulated by the people over ages as he was knowledgeable Muslim jurist, a wise reformist and an eloquent poet whose verses, proverbs and insights are still being repeated by the people as if he is a contemporary character.

There is no wonder in this as Sheikh Farah lived during the era of Sennar State the capital of which will this year be celebrated as the capital of the Islamic culture. It was the first Islamic Kingdom that was founded in Africa after the fall of the al-Andalus Islamic Kingdom that was established in Iberia (Spain and Portugal) and lasted more than 360 years. All Islamic tenets were applied in Sennar Kingdom in which the Islamic culture was widespread and was frequented by scholars from the Arab Maghreb, the Arab Peninsula and north-west Africa. The Sennar State has contributed to the shaping of the present national Sudanese character with its Afro-Arab elements.

Sheikh Farah was born in 1635 AD, correspondent to 1044 H and died on 20 Rabe'i 1147 H, corresponding to 1732 AD. He was taught by a number of the most famous Muslim jurists in his time, including Sheikh Arbab al-Agaid, Orator Ammar bin Abdul Hafiz and Orator Abdul Latif bin Ammar. In his early age, he traveled from one place to another in search of knowledge and at last he settled down in Hijairat village near Sennar where disciples and learners gathered around him and with them he established a social school advocating labor and drudgery, contrary to his contemporary Sufis and sheikhs who tended to prefer idleness and unemployment.

Professor Al-Sammany al-Nasry, a lecturer of history and Islamic studies in a number of Sudanese universities, analyzing the character of Sheikh Farah wad Taktuk, said:

Sheikh Farah wad Taktuk is an influential character in the history of Sudan, in general, and the history of central Sudan, in particular. He was famous for offering many pieces of advice and guidance and during his early days in the 17th century AD/11th or 12th century H, the Islamic teachings were unclear and the faith was very poor, an era which could be likened to Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz who famous to have been very just and as he ruled during Umayyad reign, he was a spotlight in pitch darkness.

Professor Nasry said Sheikh Farah differed from his peers in many aspects and in the ability of observation. He differed from those peers by memorizing by heart the whole Holy Koran when he was still young, something which was rare at that time. And it is recognized that the Koran strengthens the insight and grants the person a very high capability of reading the future.

Citing as an evidence of this future foresight, Sheikh Farah was reported as saying that "there will come a time when the people will travel in rooms and speak on lines," predicting the invention of trains and telephone lines.

"Heinous rulers will come tomorrow and will force you to move in the desert," Sheikh Farah said after a long look at the Nile with reference to the British rulers and building the Sennar Dam.

Relevant to this advantage, Sheikh Farah was characterized by insight which was bestowed upon him by God and, according to Professor Nasry, he gradually developed through knowledge. He was known to have been able to read the face of any person who appeared before him and knew whether he was sad or happy; he even knew the reasons for the sadness or happiness of that person, as if he was a psychologist. He was concerned with the people much more than with himself and therefore he concentrated very much like today's hypnotist to the degree that the person could not hide what he felt or what he was thinking about. He supported this ability with a piece of advice and amity, something which made people gather around him.

Sheikh Farah also possessed the psychological analysis ability and during a session of invocation of God with his disciple, he used to tell as absent-minded disciple that: "Chap, what have you in your heart? Your heart is not clear," which meant that he had the capability of sensing the harmony or what was behind the faces. He used to advice some of them by saying: "Man, go in solitude for three days... you, for seven days and you, for a month," and his advice is respected because he was highly sociable and highly communicable.

Among his famous sayings was that a true worshiper never feels loneliness because he is in harmony with the living creatures and with nature, as all creatures glorify God and when a person become part of the whole and the harmonious whole falls in one framework.

Professor Nasry says that since his childhood, Sheikh Farah was both stern and humorous and in both cases he offered advice assisted by the Holy Koran and his communication with the people. Most of the Sufis and sheikhs, during their maturity, used to take to solitude for worshiping God but solitude did not mean devoting entirely to worshiping but also to think of your own life. Sheikh Farah linked both cases, wishing God may inspire him of his deed. He used to focus on the value of work, earning and fighting idleness and therefore, he used to work and urge his disciples to work.

A piece of advice Sheikh Farah offered to one of his disciples urging him to work is still being related until today. One of his followers named Al-Badry asked the Sheikh to pray to God for him to succeed in gaining a good harvest. Instead of praying, Sheikh Farah took Badry's hand in his and said:-

O Badry's hand, get up early

Grow early, mow early

Reap early, see whether you can be beaten

These phrases are used to date as a theme song for a famous radio programme on agriculture.

The philosophy of Sheikh Farah, according to Professor Nasry, is partially derived from the Islamic faith and partially from his desire in the reform. He had an honest intention which he believed was a pre-requisite for success as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says: "Deeds are linked to Intention"

Sheikh Farah stood against Islamic doctrine deviation in his time and he launched numerous arguments with other Muslim sheikhs who deviated from the true Islamic tenets like a group led by a sheikh called Krain wad Abdulla on whom he recited a poem saying:

O you of an aberrant thinking, you of deeds not for God

When you are placed on the death bed, Krain wad Abdulla cannot help you

He reminded Krain's followers of the need for straightness before death after which repentance would not be accepted.

Sudanese heritage researcher Awad Mahjoub Hamadnulla says Sheikh Farah wad Taktuk was undoubtedly virtuous and disinterested in comforts and wisest man in his time.

"Perhaps his deep understanding of the events, his personal ripened experience and Sufi view of the universal phenomena, have made of Sheikh Farah wad Taktuk a thinker who, with his unique mind, could foretell the events and could see what his people could not see and he could make predictions some of which came true", he said.

It was cited as an example of his tendency to the social reform that once his daughter returned home angry of her husband, insisting that he had to divorce her. The Sheikh went out of the house, broke his ablution pitcher which was made of clay and came back weeping. When the daughter asked why he was weeping, the Sheikh replied that the pitcher was a longtime companion who viewed his genitals and kept the secret. The daughter understood that, like the pitcher, her husband kept the secret of their relationship and went back to him.

Another story about Sheikh Farah says that a man came running and asked the Sheikh to hide him from armed men who were chasing and wanted to kill him. Sheikh Farah simply asked the scared man to go and hide into a heap of sorghum cane. On their arrival, the men asked the Sheikh whether he had seen a running man and the Sheikh replied he was hiding in the heap. The men thought he was a dervish, did not believe him and resumed running. Coming out of the cane heap, the man asked him why he told his enemies that he was hiding in the heap and the Sheikh answered: "If the truth does not save, the lying will not do so."

Heritage researcher Al-Tayeb Mohamed al-Tayeb deduces that Sheikh Farah wad Taktuk died on Sunday, 20 Rabe'i II, 1147H of a fever that lasted five days, at an age of a few years after a hundred. He was buried on Monday at the ferry harbor of Hijairat village near the site of the present Sennar Dam.


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