Sidi Ahmed Benyoucef Al Melyani
By Mohamed Bokreta
Islamic Tourism: The origins of Maghrebian Sufism or Mysticsm date back to the early centuries of Islam, where the area of Central Maghrib became a safe haven for the descendants of the Beloved Prophet who fled Umayyad and Abbasid persecutions.
The Noble “Chourafas of Ahl Al Bait” or “Descendents of the Noble Household” that emigrated as far as present day Morocco and Algeria brought with them the saintly and pure message of Islam.
Further confirmation of the Islamic legitimacy of Sufism is supplied by the enthusiasm of its exponents for carrying Islam beyond the boundaries of the Islamic world. The Islamization process in India, Africa, and South-East Asia was carried out largely at the hands of wandering Sufi teachers; likewise, the Islamic obligation of jihad has been borne with special zeal by the Sufi orders, in total contradiction to all calumnious accusations and claims that Sufism represents a docile and non-militant form of Islam. The lives of the Muslim saints of Algeria, among them Sidi Ahmed Ben Youcef Al Rashidi (or Al Melyani), one of the most popular saints of North Africa, bear witness to this fact.
He was born in the middle of the 15th century in the area of Qala’a of Bani Rashed near the town of Relizane (Western-Algeria) and travelled extensively in search of science. While in Bijaya (Eastern-Algeria) he met an erudite Saint Sidi Ahmed Zerrouk Al Barnoussi, who initiated him into the Chadiliyya Tarika or Sufi path .
It was revealed that during this sojourn in Bijaya, Sidi Zarrouk invited three of his disciples and asked them to express their most cherished hope:
- I wish to perform the Hajj journey said one
- I wish that my curses against the oppressors will be fulfilled said the other
- I wish that Allah will make me similar to the earth upon which the Believer and the infidel, the righteous and the perverse, the slave and the free man and woman trample under feet!!
This last wish emanating from Sidi Ahmed Ben Youcef greatly pleased Sidi Zarrouk who instantaneously declared him the most learned and rightly-initiated student. While blessing him Sidi Zarrouk added: “O Ahmed you will be very beneficial to mankind”.
Sidi Ahmed Ben Youcef also played a great political role, as the Bani Ziyan or Abdel Wad dynasty of Tlemcen were in decline. Moreover the great and warm welcome given to Sidi Ahmed by the inhabitants of Oran attracted the Bani Ziyan ‘s wrath as it was seen as a challenge to their rule.
The Spanish forces captured Oran in 1509. When the Ottomans entered Algiers in 1516 in order to put an end to the Spanish threat to Western Algerian coasts, Sidi Ahmed had cordial and close relations with the famous Ottoman Brothers Kheirdinne Barbarousse and Arroudj and blessed their intervention.
He died while on a journey in the town of Kherba (Ain –Defla District) in 1526, and was buried at the entrance of the city of Melyana.