May God be pleased with him and give him the privilege of seeing His Beautiful Face and bathing in His resplendent Light. Amin.
Sidi Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i as-Shadhili was a Shadhiliyya shaykh, a Muslim judge and teacher, a social justice activist, and a vocal advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. He was born in Tulkum in the Holy Land in 1935, and he died in San Francisco on November 11, 2015, may Allah be pleased with him and give him perfect peace and proximity to Allah, Most High. Sidi was a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, through his biological ancestor Shaykh Ahmad ar-Rifa‘i. Sidi received guidance and a rich spiritual inheritance from his master Shaykh ‘Abdu-r-Rahman Abu-r-Risah of Halab from Syria.
Called simply “Sidi” by his students, Sidi taught and gave Divine Love, Peace, Mercy, Justice, Freedom, and Equality to all people everywhere. The teaching from his spirit was very deep and is still accessible even now for all those who have a heart and who listen with this heart. His teachings shed an entirely new light on the reality of Sufism and the significance of carrying this message to everyone in this time. Sidi kept Sufism alive and at work as an institution and a school of thought and spiritual knowledge.
Teaching at the Masjid al-Aqsa
Sidi began his career as a judge at a very young age and lived with his family on the Mount of Olives in the Holy City of Jerusalem from 1959 until his passing. Before he retired, during the week Sidi worked as a government employee, but on Fridays and at other times, Sidi taught at the Masjid al-Aqsa, providing spiritual counseling to all the people in need. Not only was he a teacher and counselor for all those who came to al-Aqsa, but he was also its custodian. Through his hand and leadership, the Sacred Precinct was preserved in the face of many efforts to destroy it.
About Masjid al-Aqsa
Muslim people come from all over the world to visit the Holy City of Jerusalem and to take the blessing of the praying in this mosque. This mosque is linked to the Holy House in Mecca (the Ka’ba) because of what’s related in the tradition of the Night Journey (al-Mi‘raj) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. During the Night Journey the Prophet was taken from the Ka‘ba in Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque and from there to the heavens.
Sidi Tirelessly Helped the Needy
For most of his adult life, Sidi made monthly journeys all over the Holy Land to distribute food and clothing to the poor. He worked constantly to raise money and find help for those in need. There were always lines of people at his home and at his office, because the people knew that they could find real help from him.
Sidi opened a Sufi Center in an old building on the road to Jericho, which holds the Prophet Moses’ tomb, may the peace and blessings of God be with him. This center became the head of the Sufi operations of aid. It has also been used to rehabilitate drug users and dealers.
He was a Social Justice Activist
Sidi worked consistently, with great patience, to keep the peace between the people of the Holy Land. In 1997, he restored the 1,000 year old Sufi Council that served the Holy Land and headed up its leadership for many years. In the early 2000s Sidi started the first kindergarten in Jerusalem that did not discriminate against children and families based on religion, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic class. His son Ahmed continues to support Sidi’s legacy in Jerusalem today.
Sidi feared no one except his Lord and he did not care what people thought of him if they did not fear Allah, as well. Because of this, Sidi was never intimidated by high-ranking officials, or even kings. Sidi would take on governments and heads-of-state whenever they tried to act without considering Allah or they denied their people the right to worship God. One of Sidi’s long-time students relayed the following story in 2007:
Once I was here in Miami, Florida, having a cup of coffee when I saw a picture of the al-Aqṣā Mosque on the front page of the Miami Herald. I thought, ‘I wonder if this is anything about Sīdī?’ The whole article was about Sīdī. He had been raising money to rebuild the top of the golden dome (of the al-Aqsa Mosque). One Saudi prince sent him a check for $10,000,000, and said, ‘Please put my name on a plaque and I will pay for everything.’ Sidi put on the back of his check that he would rather have one dollar from the face of someone who loves Allāh truly, than $10,000,000 from some rubbish prince. Then Sīdī sent back the money. The King of Saudi Arabia came and asked, ‘Why did you do this and made such a big thing of it?’ Sīdī told him, ‘Because I do not accept dirty money.’ “Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i ash-Shadhili, A Righteous Word Is Like A Righteous Tree. Shadhiliyya Sufi Center, 2009. pp. 375-376.
In 2008 Sidi himself said:
I have said it to millions of people in the Friday speech across the Holy Land through microphones, the media, speeches and traveling across the world. I say it without fear of any ruler or tyrant. I have been imprisoned several times, but for me jail was a retreat. It was a time to take some rest. I did not care that they imprisoned me, for I was certain that Allāh would always answer the prayer.”A Righteous Word Is Like A Righteous Tree, p. 407.
Traveling to the U.S. and Other Countries
Sidi was well-known in Palestine and internationally, as well. He continues to have students and followers in the Holy Land, as well as in the Americas and Europe.
In 1993, Sidi received an order from Allah to travel to the U.S. and other countries. Allah gave him the order to take the teachings to people in every part of the world who are sincerely seeking the truth of their existence, the meaning of their lives, and the healing of their wounds. Up until then, the teaching had been reserved for those who came to study with him in his zawiya (spiritual retreat space).
In 1994, Sidi visited America for the first time and he continued to be invited back each year to teach at gatherings and schools across the United States.
Sidi’s Travels Throughout the U.S.
The Early 2000s
Sidi came to the U.S. to deliver the message and to help each student to turn and face Allah. In the late 1990s, Sidi encouraged Murshid Ibrahim Jaffe to purchase a property in Pope Valley, California, that housed an old, run-down retreat center. Some of Sidi’s students moved there immediately after it was purchased and gradually transformed it into the heart of Sidi’s Sufi Community in the U.S.. It became known as the Mother Center and it was informally referred to as “The Land.”
In the early 2000s, under Sidi’s guidance and with the hard work of many dedicated beloveds, the Mother Center became a full-fledged retreat center. Sidi established the Council of the Honest, which was comprised of 12 students with Murshid Ibrahim Jaffe as its first president. Sidi guided Murshid Ibrahim Jaffe to transform his energy healing school into a school that focused on spiritual healing in the Sufi way, and thus the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism was born. Sidi also guided Salima Adelstein in establishing the first East Coast Sufi Center, known as the Farm of Peace, in Warfordsburg PA.
Beginning in the early 2000s and continuing until his death, Sidi traveled and taught at large gatherings of his students around the country, called Sufi Schools. Sufi School would be held each year in Pope Valley, CA, Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Portland, OR, Frederick, MD, Warfordsburg, PA, and Fort Lauderdale, FL Some years Sidi would also visit Boston, MA, Palo Alto, CA, New York City, or Los Angeles, CA. During these Sufi School events there would be one night set aside for an all-night prayer retreat (khalwa). During the khalwa Sidi would give students an opportunity to meet with him privately (with an interpreter) to have their personal questions answered.
Listen to a Dhikr with Sidi from Ramadan in 2011
How Sidi Was With His Students
It was common for people to take the promise for the first time directly with Sidi during a Sufi School. Sidi would look inside the heart of each new student, see them very clearly, and then give them a new name, a Sufi name God inspired him to give. Sidi saw what each student needed and would treat each student slightly differently. With some he was very strong, with others he was very gentle, depending upon the deeper needs of the student. When he answered questions, he would often give different answers to different students because that was the correct answer for that student at that time. Sidi was a mirror for his students in the same way Allah mirrors us–what we believed about Sidi, what we saw in Sidi he would reflect back to us so that we could learn and grow. This was our guide.
Sidi would spend 4-6 months teaching in America each year. When he was back home in East Jerusalem he would take calls from beloveds and offer them guidance and answer their questions. He loved spending time teaching students. Each year when he came to the U.S. he would bring new healing prayers, healing remedies, essential oil blends and usually a fresh manuscript.
Themes in Sidi’s Teachings in the U.S.
Sidi loved Sufism. He loved telling the stories of the prophets and teaching about the inner meaning of the pillars of Islam and the hidden secrets of the Sufi path. Sidi described the real Sufi as someone who has deeply surrendered to God and embodies all the Divine Qualities, while at the same time follows Allah’s laws and abstains from His prohibitions. The topics Sidi returned to time and time again reflect this duality that Sidi taught his students to unify. Some of them included:
- Tawba (repentance)
- Learn from the deep spiritual lessons in the lives of the Saints and Prophets
- Receive and be the Divine Love
- Be active in embodying and spreading God’s message of Peace, Love, Mercy, Justice, Freedom, and Equality to all people everywhere.
- Learn more about written teachings from Music of the Soul, He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord, and more.
- Follow Allah’s laws and abstain from His prohibitions
- Drink deeply from divinely inspired poetry set to music
- Properly observe the 5 Pillars of Islam (witnessing Allah’s unity, praying salah, fasting for Ramadan, giving annual charity, and making Hajj)
- How to be a true healer to others
- How to heal yourself
- Be honest, upright, respectful, kind, loyal, hard-working, just, and value all life. Don’t steal, lie, oppress, cheat, hurt people, discriminate against anyone for any reason, kill, poison the earth, eat food that contains harmful chemical or was treated poorly while it was alive, or overeat.
- How to clean the Nafs (lower ego) and walk the stations
- How to care for your spouse and children
How Sidi Described Himself
During a teaching or a group interaction Sidi would often say, “I am just a poor slave of Allah” or, “I am smaller than the ant, I am no different than you, Allah is great.” If you thanked Sidi for anything, he would say, “Thank Allah!” and point his right index finger upward, which is a symbol of God’s oneness. He explained that he was not a guru and that he was like everyone else. He would never allow students to worship him or put him on a pedestal.
You Can Still Be Sidi’s Student
Sidi passed away in November 2015, may the peace and mercy of God be upon him. He is still our guide and his spirit continues to helps his students walk through all the stations of the way. You can connect to him through your on spirit and through his books and video and voice recordings and through spending time with his older students who carry his message of the deep love and sweet patient mercy. Many feel his presence around them now more than ever. So don’t be concerned that you did not know him in the physical. He knew you and knew that you would come in Allah’s timing. If he was here in body today he would say; “Don’t look at me, turn and face Allah, Allah is your destination and the only One worthy of your complete attention. I am just the guide who points the way.”
Sidi was not a teacher for just a certain type of person–he opened his heart to help everyone from every country and nationality, and he helped people from all over the world. He was the real beloved of God who worked for all those who are suffering. Sidi was a leader and an activist who helped keep peace and who served humanity, without prejudice. We at SSC are so grateful to have had the opportunity and privilege to sit with Sidi and to continue to spread the divine message he taught us, of Divine Peace, Love, Mercy, Justice, Freedom, and Equality for all. Amin.
Sidi’s Final Letter to Us
Sidi’s Spiritual Lineage (Silsila)
- The first one is the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
- ‘Ali b. Abu Talib
- Abu Muhammad Jabir
- Sa‘id al-Ghaznawi
- Fath as-Su’ud
- Abu Muhammad Sa‘id
- Ahmad al-Marwani
- Ibrahim al-Basri
- Zayn al-din al-Qazwini
- Muhammad Sham ad-din
- Muhammad Tajaddin
- Nur a-din abu’l Hassan ‘Ali
- Fakhr ad-din
- Tuqay ad-din al-fuqayyir
- ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-‘Attar Az-Zayyat
- ‘Abd as-Salam b. Mashish
- Abu-l-Hassan ash-Shadhuli
- Abul-‘Abbas al-Mursi
- Ahmad ibn Ata‘ Allah
- Dawud al-Bahhili
- Muhammad Wafa
- Yahya l-Qadiri
- Ahmad b. Uqba al-Hadrami
- Ahmad Zarruq
- Ibrahim Afaham
- ‘Ali as-Sanhaja al-Dawwar
- Muhyid-din ibn al-‘Arabi
- ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Majdhub
- Yusuf al-Fasi
- ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Fasi
- Muhammad b. ‘Abdullah
- Qasim al-Khassasi
- Ahmad b. ‘Abdullah
- Al-‘Arabi b. Ahmad b. ‘Abdullah
- ‘Ali al-Jamal
- Abu Hamza
- ‘Ali Nuriddin
- Sidi Ibrahim b. ‘Ali Nuriddin
- Sidi ‘Abd ar-Rahman
- Sidi Muhammad Sa‘id al-Jamal ar Rafa’i
Sidi’s Biological Lineage
1. An-nasab an-nabawiya ash-sharif as-sayyid ar-Rifa‘i al-murshid ash-shaykh Muhammad Sa‘id of Mahmud ibn Husayn, son of
2. Muhammad al-Ma‘ruf bi-l-Jamal son of
3. Ahmad, son of
4. Yusuf, son of
5. Yahya, son of
6. ‘Abd ar-Rahim, son of
7. al-Imam al-akbar Yahya ar-Rifa‘i, son of \
8. al-Imam Yusuf, son of
9. as-sayyid al-Imam Abu Bakr, son of
10. as-sayyid Ahmad of as-sayyid Yusuf al-Karmi, son of
11. as-sayyid Husayn, son of
12. as-sayyid ash-shaykh Gadaya, son of
13. as-sayyid ‘Amar, son of
14. as-sayyid Abu Bakr, son of
15. as-sayyid Qutb-ud-din al-Bistami, son of
16. Yusha’, son of
17. as-sayyid Jamal-ud-di, son of
18. as-sayyid Barakat, son of
19. as-sayyid Muhammad Qutb-ud-din, son of
20. as-sayyid Ahmad Sayf-uf-din, son of
21. as-sayyid ‘Ali al-ma’ruf bi-l-Bistami at-tani, son of
22. as-sayyid Ahmad al-Akbar, son of
23. as-sayyid abu Bakr Sharaf-ud-din, son of
24. as-sayyid the Godly Pole the imam ash-shaykh Ahmad ar-Rifa‘i Mursha leader of at-tariqa as-Sufiya, and his grandfather
25. as-sayyid Ahmad ar-Rifa‘i, who is the son of
26. as-sayyid ‘Ali Abu-l-Hasan, son of
27. as-sayyid Yahya, son of
28. as-sayyid Tabit, son of
29. as-sayyid Hazim, son of
30. as-sayyid Ahmad, son of
31. as-sayyid ‘Ali, son of
32. as-sayyid Rifa‘i Hasan, son of
33. as-sayyid al-Mahdi, son of
34. as-sayyid Abu-l-Qasim, son of
35. as-sayyid Muhammad, son of
36. as-sayyid Hasan, son of
37. as-sayyid al-imam al-Husayn, son of
38. as-sayyid al-imam Ahmad, son of
39. as-sayyid al-imam Musa at-tani, son of
40. as-sayyid al-imam Ibrahim al-Murtada, son of
41. as-sayyid al-imam Musa al-Qazim, son of
42. as-sayyid Muhammad Ja’far as-Sadiq, son of
43. as-sayyid al-imam al-Baqir, son of
44. as-sayyid al-imam ‘Abi Muhammad ‘Ali Zain al-‘Abidin, son of
45. as-sayyid al-imamal-Husayn Master of the youth of Paradise, son of
46. as-sayyid al imam ‘Ali, son of
47. Abu Talib
48. and our Master al-Husayn, son of
49. the Complete Master of all women saydat an-nisa al-‘alamayn al-batul Fatima the resplendent (az-Zahra), daughter of
50. Sayyidina Rasul Allah, salla allahu wa-lalihi wa-sallim, Muhammad
Much of this biographical information is courtesy of Sidi Muhammad Press, www.sufimaster.org. For more about Sidi’s history and stories from his life see the book titled The Guide available at sufimaster.org.