Foucauld, a wandering mystic in Morocco

1 Apr

The Vicomte de Foucauld, Charles Eugène de Ponbriand was born in Strasbourg on 15 September 1858 from a noble family that gave the Saints Church and the French military. Was assassinated in his hermitage Saharan December 1, 1916. Teenager delicate, effeminate, smart and moody, he lost his faith at age 16 when she entered high school in Nancy. Bibliophile and gourmet spent several years at the Military devoting himself to the enjoyments of life, however. As an officer of the IV Hunters of Africa arrived in Algeria in 1880 preceded by a reputation as a vicious, drunken, immature. Everyone was aware that his degree was almost an obligation to his noble family, one of the richest in France. At Setif continued his frivolous life and had his first contact with Africa and Islam, contact the subjugated the desert. In discrepancy with its collegionari wanted to know the tribe of rebels Khumir, who lived south of Oran, after the ‘uprising desired by the marabout Bou-Amama. This ethnic group had significant differences with the Arabs, and at that point, Foucauld began to study them. The richness of language, social organization, pre-Islamic rites and customs, fascinated him enormously. Thanks to his military status could penetrate the area taking note of their lives, without any major incident. Began his first real job as an explorer in the field. For his insubordination and rudeness latency was later expelled from the army and returned to France, then allowed back into service until the end of 1881. He then asked permission to enter uncharted territory and was denied permission. At that point he decided to travel and left the army as a civilian. The meeting with Oscar Mac Carty, keeper of the library of Algiers and geographer, opened the way for his plans for the future. Morocco was a country little known, then a country is prepared to meet impenetrable and dangerous, especially for a Christian. He studied Arabic for a year and the jew, the Islamic religion and the little information he had at his disposal. The family was apprehensive but decided to finance the expedition to the young, convinced of the seriousness and commitment undertaken.

Autoimpose Foucauld is a process of physical and spiritual purification, sacrifice and inner knowledge. His technical training was carried out with passion, since the smallest details. In June 1883 the journey began, accompanied by the guide Mardoché Abi Serur rabbi. In eleven months, at age 25, traveled almost 4,000 km of which 2,500 completely unknown by geographers, resulting in 45 longitudes and 40 latitudes, arriving in his tracks up to 3,000 meters above sea level. His contribution to the cartography of Morocco was amazing. Foucauld left Morocco transformed both mentally and physically, and wrote: “Islam has produced a profound change in me (…) the view of that faith, of these souls living in the constant presence of God, gave me a glimpse of something bigger and more true that worldly occupations. “In February of 1886 he rented an apartment in Paris to prepare carefully the book” Knowledge of Morocco from 1833 to 1884 “(Trip in Morocco). He will live austerely as a Muslim at the time, reading the Koran and many other Islamic texts, dressing and eating in the Berber style, in a house devoid of furniture. He sought God in a spiritual unrest continues, and at that point, the family sent to his aid a spiritual father, that led him to a Pauline conversion. The stumbling block was given by the combination of Catholic prayers with the Qur’an, a practice that his new spiritual director will ban immediately. Began an ascetic path that will see him in Syria, Palestine and the Sahara. He followed the light of the Bible and Islam and Morocco was always present in his life with a greater love of his people. The work of Charles de Foucauld is generally known for its religious aspect. The official transformation from mundane to rigorous ascetic, the fulminating conversion to Catholicism with the hermit until his death, have produced a multitude of biographies such as “vocational“, which have distorted the reality, by loading only the purely spiritual aspects, according to convenience, losing sight of the value of his scientific work as an ethnologist and linguist. Foucauld was used with love by the Catholic and Muslim anti-colonialist colonialists because of its unique life as a Catholic, fell into an undeniable Islamism. In addition to “reconnaisance au Maroc“, 1888, Charles de Foucauld has left numerous scientific papers that published the University of Algiers, and “Spiritual Writings“. In 1925, André Basset has published in two separate volumes, which were then translated the poems after his death. In 1951 the French National Printing, with the assistance of the General Government of Algeria has published the dictionary French-touareg complete in four volumes. “Reconnaisance au Maroc” is a beautiful book, a true leader in some respects is still valid today. All the experiences of those months is meticulously described, since the smallest details, and customs of the villages he encountered, landscapes and meditations. The book included drawings of mountains and valleys, the explorer saw during his journey, as well as some photographs. He died a martyr, killed by a gunshot December 1, 1916, at the behest of some rebels Senoussi front of his hermitage, built in 1911 on the plain of Assekrem, at 2780 meters altitude, in the Hoggar region, 80 km from Tamanrasset in southern Algeria. He is buried, from April 26, 1929, in El-Golea, now called El Méniaa.

by Paolo, My Amazighen, Marrakech

Translate by Marco Pugliese, Editor in Chief, African Voices



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