The largely-desert country of Africa is amongst the newest oil producers, Mauritania bridges the Arab Maghreb and western sub-Saharan Africa.
Visiting Mauritania & meeting Shaykh Murabit Al-Hajj (HA)
Shaykh (Mufti) Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf Mangera (HA)
1 Eleventh largest country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa , and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest.
2 The population is nearly 3.9 million who are almost 100% Muslims and almost all of them are Sunni. In Fiqh the Madhab of Imam Malik (RA) is followed.
3 Gained independence from France on the 28th of November 1960
One of Africa's newest oil producers, Mauritania bridges the Arab Maghreb and western sub-Saharan Africa.
The largely-desert country presents a cultural contrast, with an Arab-Berber population to the north and black Africans to the south. Many of its people are nomads.
In the Middle Ages Mauritania was the cradle of the Almoravid movement, which spread Islam throughout the region and for a while controlled the Islamic part of Spain.
European traders began to show interest in Mauritania in the 15th century. France gained control of the coastal region in 1817, and in 1904 a formal French protectorate was extended over the territory.
Most of Mauritania is arid, but it is rich in mineral resources
Morocco opposed the country's independence in 1960 and for a time tried to absorb it. But Morocco's King Hassan II later improved ties as part of his plan to divide Western Sahara.
The eventual deal in 1976 brought more problems, though, with Mauritania coming under attack by Polisario Front guerrillas, who opposed Moroccan control of Western Sahara, and the subsequent downfall of the leader since independence - Moktar Ould Daddah - in a military coup.
Peace was agreed with the Polisario in 1979, but this in turn worsened relations with Morocco, until a detente in 1985. More recently, ties with Senegal have been strained over the use of the Senegal River, which forms the border between the two countries.
Mauritania has over the years been criticized for what human rights organisations say is the persistence of slavery, which the government denies.
The organisation Walk Free in 2015 ranked Mauritania at the top of its Global Slavery Index, saying slaves constitute a higher proportion of the population than elsewhere. It says more than 150,000 people are enslaved in Mauritania, or 4% of the population, compared with India's 14 million, or 1% of the population.
In 2014 a UN special rapporteur on slavery hailed Mauritania's progress in the fight against slavery but called on the authorities "to take more vigorous measures to eliminate slavery and to fully implement the laws and policies."
Biram Ould Abeid, a prominent anti-slavery activist who was awarded a UN Human Rights Prize in 2013, was imprisoned in 2014, and the human rights organisation Amnesty International says ''anti-slavery activists are subject to never ending harassment and intimidation''.
One of the world's poorest countries, Mauritania is rich in mineral resources. According to the World Bank it is Africa's second biggest exporter of iron ore, it is a modest oil producer with considerable natural gas deposits and its waters have some of the most abundant fish stocks in the world.
The country forged diplomatic ties with Israel in 1999, one of three Arab nations to have done so, but severed them in 2009 in protest at Israel's then military operation in Gaza.
Mauritania is seen by the West as a valuable ally in the fight against Islamist militancy in the Sahel region.
While there were some high-profile cases of foreigners being kidnapped or murdered in the late 2000s, EU has praised the government for making the country and wider region more stable.
However, the governments of France, the United States and Britain still have travel warnings in place, advising against all but essential travel in the south-east and against all travel to the rest of the country.
Mauritania 1: Road to Murabit al-Hajj & Nabbaghiyya
Mauritania 2: Return from Murabit al-Hajj
Mauritania 3: Mufti Abdur-Rahman in Taysir
Mauritania 4: The Ulama of Mauritania
Mauritania 5: Travel Advice
Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj is a master of the sciences of Islam, but perhaps more wondrous than that, he has mastered his own soul. His discipline is almost angelic, and his presence is so majestic and ethereal that the one in it experiences a palpable stillness in the soul.
Shaykh Murabit al Hajj’s birth name is Sidi Muhammad bin Salek bin Fahfu. He is from the Massumi clan who trace their lineage back to the Himyar clan of Yemen. He is a descendant of a long line of scholars and is renowned throughout Mauritania for his knowledge and piety.
After studying at the school of his father, he decided to perform the Hajj pilgrimage and at the age of nineteen, set out to Mecca from Mauritania for a trip that would total three years. He traveled by foot crossing Mali, Niger, Chad, and the Sudan and then by boat to Yemen where he then made his way to Mecca, spending time along the way teaching in many areas. He was offered a position of teaching in Mecca and although he had a great love to live in the city of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he did not think he could assume the right of being a neighbor to the Best of Creation (peace and blessings be upon him).
Upon his return, he spent most of his time in solitude; worshiping through prayers, fasting, and reading the Book of Allah. Staying near the encampment, he rarely interacted with people and had his food and drink brought to him. It was only after students came to sit with him upon hearing about his knowledge that he left his solitary worship. Subsequently, he spent most of his time teaching with little time for family, sleep, and other basic needs. He would teach late into the night by the fire light and then get up in the last part of the night to pray. However, if a student came for a lesson, the Shaykh would quicken or give up this time for prayer, as well as all other types of extra devotional practices. He has continued this way of life up until the present day where he still teaches, and the only thing that has slowed him down, although not considerably, is old age as he is about 100 years old. May Allah give him a long life to continue benefiting the Community of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).
Through his perseverance and sacrifice, Murabit al Hajj has produced many scholars, some of whom are his own children and relatives. At his present school, his cousin Shaykh Muhammad al Ameen, his son, Muhammad Tahir, and his grandson, Shaykh Abdullah bin Ahmadna lecture alongside him to provide a comprehensive system teaching the necessary sciences.
A day in the life of The Legendary Shaykh Murabit Al-hajj | Scholar Of Our Times:
During the blessed time that I was fortunate to have lived with him in his own tent, I observed his daily routine: He would usually awake at about 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning and begin the Tahajjud or night prayers. He would often recite for a few hours, and I heard him repeat verses over and over again and weep. Just before dawn, he would sit outside his tent and recite Qur’an, and then when the first light of dawn was discernible, he would walk to the open-air mosque and call the adhan. He would then pray his nafilah and wait for a short period and then call the iqamah. During that time, I never saw anyone else lead the prayer, and he would almost always recite from the last 60th of the Qur’an as is the Sunnah for a congressional Imam to do so according to Imam Malik.
After the sun rose and reached the level of a spear above the horizon, he would pray the sunrise rak’ahs and then return to his tent where he would have some milk brought fresh from a cow. He would then teach until about 11:00 in the morning and nap for a short while. After that, students would start coming again, and he would continue to teach until about 1:00pm at which time he would measure his shadow for the time of the midday prayer. He would then call the adhan at the time his shadow reached an arm’s length past the post meridian time as is the Maliki position on the midday prayer, if performed in congregation, to allow for others to come from their work after the heat dissipates. He would always pray four rakahs before and after the midday prayer and then return to his tent where he would teach until afternoon. He would usually have a small amount of rice and yogurt drink that is common in West Africa. Then, he would measure his shadow for the afternoon prayer, and when he ascertained its time, he would proceed to the mosque and call the adhan.
After Asr, Murabit al-Hajj would return to his tent and usually resume teaching and sometimes listen to students recite their Qur’an lessons from memory and he would correct their mistakes. During any lulls in his teaching, anyone in his presence could hear him say with almost every breath, “La ilaha illa Allah,” or he would recite Qur’an. At sunset, he would go and call the adhan, pray Maghrib, and then sit in the mihrab and recite his wird until the time of the night prayer. He would call the adhan, lead the pray and return to his tent. He would usually have some milk and a little couscous and then listen to students recite Qur’an or read Qur’an by himself. At around 9:00 pm whe would admonish himself with lines of poetry form Imam Shafi’s Diwan and other well-known poets. He would often remember death with certain line that he repeated over and over again, especially the following that I heard him many times:
O my Lord, when that which there is repelling alights upon me,
And I find myself leaving this adobe
And become Your guest in a dark and lonely place,
Then make the host’s meal for his guest the removal of my wrongs.
A guest is always honored at the hands of a generous host,
And You are the Generous, the Creator, the Originiator.
Surely kings, as a way of displaying their magnanimity
Free their servants who have grown old in their service.
And I have grown old in Your service,
So free my soul from the Fire