The noble Hasanid Sharif, Sidi Ahmad al-Abdalawi was one of the greatest saints of this Tariqa and a complete inheritor (khalifa) of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani. The successor of the Qutb Sidi Ali al-Tamasini, and the Shaykh of Sidi Ahmad Sukayrij.
He was born in Algeria two months before the passing away of Sayyidna Shaykh al-Tijani. So he was honored (like the great Sidi al-Arabi bin al-Sa’ih RA) to be born in the Era of Sidna Shaykh al-Tijani. His name giving ceremony was attended by the likes of the Qutb Sidi Ali al-Tamasini.
He grew up in a Tijani home as his father Sidi Muhammad al-Abdalawi was a close disciple of Sidna Shaykh Ahmad Tijani. In fact, it is narrated that when his father returned to his tribe after taking the Tariqa from the Shaykh, he motivated all of his tribe to take this blessed Tariqa. So he returned once again to Sidna Shaykh with 50 of his tribesmen and they all took the Path from its Master. It is also narrated that when he passed away, and was being washed, his dead body was heard reciting the Salat-al-Fatih. So Sidi Ahmad Abdalawi grew up in the company of such a father.
Furthermore, he was honored to spend his entire childhood in the company of Sidi Muhammad al-Habib, son of Sidna Shaykh, in Ayn Madi. This special relationship between them continued until the passing away of Sidi al-Habib. Till then, Sidi Abdalawi was considered his closest friend and keeper of his secrets.
After Sidi al-Habib’s death, Sidi Abdalawi was also from the few select Fuqara who were blessed to see the Kunnash al-Maktum (Concealed Diary) of Sidna Shaykh al-Tijani in which Sidna Shaykh’s unique personal experiences with the Prophet (SAW) were mentioned. The Kunnash was locked up after that, not be seen again by anyone.
It is also narrated that when Sidi Abdalawi intended to make his first trip to Fez, Sidi Muhammad al-Habib had told him to find out the answers to three pertinent questions from any Wali of the Ahl al-Kashf that he might meet in Fez, as Fez will never be free of Saints, known or hidden. Once he arrived in Fez, he started looking for such a saint. After meeting a few unbecoming individuals, he turned towards the Blessed Tomb of Sidna Shaykh and asked Allah through his Barakah to guide him to such a saint.
Immediately thereafter he was met in the marketplace by Mawlay Muhammad b. Abi al-Nasr, a senior Companion and one of the four grand Muqaddams of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani. Sidi Abdalawi had not met him before so did not know him, but the Muqaddam came up to him and greeted him warmly and started asking him about the well-being of Sidi Muhammad al-Habib and the Tijani brothers in Algeria.
Taking the opportunity, Sidi Abdalawi asked him if he knew anyone from the People of Kashf in Fez. Mawlay Abi al-Nasr answered that he knew one such person and that he would organize for him to meet this Wali who could answer his questions (that were related to unseen matters of the future). But first he wanted to have the honor of hosting Sidi Abdalawi in his home. Throughout the night, Sidi Abdalawi noticed amazing occurrences with Mawlay Abi al-Nasr. The next morning, his host told him to come again for another night in order to meet the Wali. Respecting his wishes, Sidi Abdalawi came again to spend another night by his home, but insisted to Mawlay Abi al-Nasr to make him meet that Wali as soon as possible. Thereupon, Mawlay Abi al-Nasr told him, “Why don’t you tell me the questions you want to ask that Wali?” Sidi Abdalawi refused, saying that he wanted to meet that Wali first. So Mawlay Abi al-Nasr told him, “What if I answer the questions for you?” Sidi Abdalawi said, “That would be even better.”
Then, before Sidi Abdalawi could ask the questions, Mawlay Abi al-Nasr started answering them one by one. He said: “You want to know if Sidi Muhammad al-Habib will have male children? And you want to know if the Enemy (i.e. French Colonialist Invaders) will harm him? Yes, he will have many male children. And no, the Enemy will not be able to do anything to him and he will remain honored and respected.”
Sidi Abdalawi was stunned and overjoyed to hear his questions and answers. Nevertheless, he had another two questions in his mind. Before he could mention them, Mawlay Abi al-Nasr told him: “You also want to know if the daughters of Sidi Muhammad al-Habib would ever get married? And you want to know of the outcome of your own relation with Sidi Muhammad al-Habib ? Yes, the daughters of Sidi Muhammad al-Habib will all get married soon. And the outcome of your relation with Sidi Muhammad al-Habib will be a good one.”
Sidi Abdalawi thanked Allah and the Shaykh, and took these answers back to Algeria to Sidi Muhammad al-Habib. Subhan-Allah, all of these predictions came true. Sidi Muhammad al-Habib had two male children who lived after him; Sidi Ahmad Ammar and Sidi Muhammad al-Bashir, both of whom were great Saints and their many Ahmadi Muhammadi descendants are still honoring the World. As for his most chaste daughters, they found honorable husbands in the noble Sons of the Qutb Sidi Ali al-Tamasini. As for the imminent French invasion of Ayn Madi, Sidi Muhammad al-Habib honorably passed away before any such thing could happen. He never saw a Frenchman. As for Sidi Abdalawi’s relations with Sidi Muhammad al-Habib, they remained on good terms till his last days and Sidi Abdalawi had the honor of washing him before his burial.
Sidi Abdalawi also received the complete Ijazah in the Tariqah from the Qutb Ali Sidi al-Tamasini who used to love him and who gave him the Tarbiya. Sidi Ahmad Sukayrij narrates from Sidi Abdalawi that he was once sitting behind his Shaykh the Qutb Sidi Ali al-Tamasini and desired in his mind that Sidi Tamasini should grant him the Ijazah for Muqaddamship so that he can serve the Tariqah. As he was thinking about this, Sidi Tamasini turned towards him and said: “I have granted you the Ijaza!” Sidi Sukayrij states that after hearing this story from Sidi Abdalawi, he was also thinking of the same matter, and then convinced himself to stop thinking of it. However, Sidi Abdalawi then turned towards him and said the same words, “I have granted you the Ijaza!”
Sidi Abdalawi, also met and benefited from (and benefited) the Qutb Sidi Akansus and the Qutb Sidi al-Arabi bin al-Sa’ih, all of whom were very impressed by him. In fact, it was said that he was the unparalleled Shaykh in this Tariqah after the passing away of Sidi al-Arabi bin al-Sa’ih.
In the latter part of his life, Sidi Abdalawi migrated from Ayn Madi, Algeria to Fez, Morocco to escape from living under the French Occupation and to spend the rest of his life in the blessed Zawiya of Shaykh al-Tijani. While passing through Tunisia during one of his travels, he met a Shaykh of the Shadhili Path. After discussing spiritual matter with him, the venerable Shadhili Shaykh confided to him that “although I am a Shadhili, I can feel my Madad coming from Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani!”
The people of Fez were very happy to have this great Arif-Bi’Llah in their vicinity, and countless people benefited from him and his company. Many took the Tariqa, and many renewed their Tariqa.
His most dedicated student was Sidi Ahmad Sukayrij, who also became his Khalifah, and would hardly do something without his permission. Sidi Sukayrij has mentioned many great miracles and openings of his Algerian Master in his great book Kashf al-Hijab. It is said that he used to recite no less than 10,000 Salat-al-Fatih daily, and that he would meet the blessed Prophet (SAW) and Shaykh al-Tijani in wakefulness. Sidi Sukayrij mentioned that the Jawharat al-Dhikr was opened in his heart so that his heart would continuously recite Salat-al-Fatih whether he was awake or sleeping. Sidi Sukayrij also mentioned that he once saw Sidna Shaykh Ahmad Tijani in the form of Sidi Ahmad al-Abdalawi.
He was also known to have memorized the entire Futuhat al-Makkiyyah (which is in 8 large volumes) of Shaykh Ibn-Arabi by heart. Indeed, he was unparalleled in Fez in the fields of Ma’rifa. Once when the Jawahir al-Ma’ani was being taught in the Grand Zawiyah by its Imam Sidi Gannoun, Sidi Abdalawi went into a deep state and said to him, “The words of the Shaykh are higher in meanings than what you are explaining, and none can understand his words except an ‘Alim, and you are not an ‘Alim!” The goal of Sidi al-Abdalawi was the Tarbiya of the nafs of Sidi Gannoun who was braving to teach a very sublime Book in a very sublime Presence. Nevertheless, this caused much consternation amongst the Fuqara in Fez, and many of them criticized Sidi al-Abdalawi for what he had said and shunned him after that. Sidi Sukayrij narrates in his Jinayat al-Muntasib that all those who spoke ill of Sidi al-Abdalawi suffered great afflictions after that, and most of them came back to him and asked his forgiveness. In fact, one of them, al-Faqih Shagrun saw the Prophet (SAW) in a dream who told him that, “You have hurt me by hurting Abdalawi.” Later on, even Sidi Gannoun asked for the forgiveness of Sidi Abdalawi.
Sidi Ahmad al-Abdalawi passed way in Fez in 1328 (AH), and was buried there. He left behind a son Sidi Muhammad al-Abdalawi who was also a noble Muqaddam of the Tariqa Tijaniyya. While Sidi Ahmad al-Abdalawi was not recognized as a Qutb, he was considered a Fard, a maqam that is beyond the Qutb in certain respects.
Nevertheless, Sidi Idris al-Iraqi mentions in his al-Ajwibah al-Ghaliyah that that three great Qutbs prayed behind Sidi al-Abdalawi, namely, Sidina Muhammad al-Habib al-Tijani, al-Haj Ali al-Tamasini, and Sidi al-Arabi bin al-Sa’ih.
Alhamdulillah, while Mawlana Sahib al-Faydah Shaykh-al-Islam Ibrahim Niyass had numerous chains in the Tariqah, he would prefer to use the one that goes through Sidi al-Abdalawi.