Sufism is a religious philosophy of Islam and mystical movement mirroring the attempts to find the truth of divine love. Some see it as the inward dimension of Islam. Others argue that the Sufi philosophy came into being prior to the religion. Some researchers point out that Sufi ideas can be found in other religious denominations. Other researchers tend to see the direct connection between Sufism and Islam, as the former is seen as “knowledge aimed at renewal of the heart and devoting it to God”. Sufis create communities – orders – existing around the leader, and come together for prayers.
The Al-Tariqa Al-Gazoulia Order and the namesake ensemble are managed by Sheikh Salem Algazouly. He took them over from his father, Sheikh Gaber Algazouly (1913–1992), who founded the ensemble in 1950. In 1995, Salem Algazouly was elected a member of the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders of Egypt. In his home country, he is reputed as one of the most renowned and respected sheikhs.
The basic concept of the order and ensemble match the underlying idea of existence and assumes that peace, understanding and tolerance are three components of the world’s love melody. Each of them is beautiful in itself like strings of a musical instrument. However, to turn the melody into a path to the Divine these components must become one.
Both rhythm and melody are important along this path to the Divine. The rhythm, however, comes from inside, being set by the beat of the heart and generated by the breathing. Those who are not able to hear their inner rhythms cannot live in harmony with the Universe. The melody is required for knowing God through admiration and inspiration. Each of the Sufi rituals stems from silence and begins with recitation of God’s names. The recitation grows into chanting, first, with no instrumental accompaniment, then with sounds of gradually added Oriental instruments – the Arabic lute – oud, the reed flute – ney – and the Persian tambourine – daf – and turns into a ritual uniting the believers with God.
Sufi music is a prayer inspired by poems of Sufi poets, laid out by using the traditional Arabic stanza and accompanied by percussion instruments.
In Egypt, Al-Tariqa Al-Gazoulia is a famous Sufi ensemble performing ancient hymns, promoting the traditions, demonstrating mastery in solo improvisations and excelling in discipline. Twice a week its participants perform chants at meetings of the Al-Tariqa Al-Gazoulia Order. The ensemble is always invited to formal religious festivities organized by the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders of Egypt.
In July 2014, the ensemble made its first appearance outside Egypt, asserting itself as a musical form of Islam. The musicians took part in the Spiritual Overture Festival in Salzburg, having discovered a unique combination of traditional Sufi chants and classical music.
Sheikh Gaber Algazouly, the founder of the Al-Tariqa Al-Gazoulia Ensemble:
- “Love your enemies and they will turn into those who love you.”
- “He that is honest in his love will also be loved”
- “In love there is no word “I” – only “we”
- “Love and faith are giving without asking anything in return”
- “Leave me among mountains, but don’t take me away from the hearts of those I love”
- “There is no love without absolution of sins”
- “Faith is love and it knows no power”
- “Love is part of faith”
- “He that loves more than you is a truer Sufi than you”
- “Love is the only path that is right, and no selfish and arrogant person can walk along it”