Nabhan al-Babili assembles his followers every night in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza. The 62-year-old is the head of Gaza’s al-Rifaiya order of Sufi Islam, a position that was held by his father, Abdullah, and his grandfather, Abdulqader, before him.
It is at such nightly gatherings, in a space richly decorated in green and Islamic calligraphy, and the larger weekly hadrat gatherings, that al-Babili leads his followers, or murids, in a spiritual journey of revelation.
The evenings include singing and poetry recital. Abu Omar, 60, a regular at these gatherings, speaks with a trembling voice but does not hesitate to take the microphone to recite traditional Sufi verse to the great pleasure of the assembled murids:
“Oh rider, of white camels, stop by us so that we could bid them farewell. Oh rider, death is when you travel.”
Abu Omar, who asked only to be identified by his informal name, also happily breaks into a song by Yassin al-Tohami, a popular Egyptian Sufi singer:
“Love is from you and to you. You granted me a trembling heart that loves. I am fond of everything you made, so how come I do not love you?”
These are special nights to those assembled, especially during Ramadan. They invoke, said Abu Omar, the spirit of Sufism: “purifying and healing the soul.”
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