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Ivory Coast Greets ISCA Chairman

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As part of his 2010 African Tour, ISCA Chairman Shaykh Hisham Kabbani visited Ivory Coast. The shaykh was treated as an honored dignitary, meeting with religious leaders as well as with President Laurent Gbagbo.

Day 1 - Arrival to Abidjan and First Events

Despite Ivory Coast's burning sun, several hundred people waited outside of the Abidjan airport for two hours for Shaykh Kabbani to come out. The welcome was phenomenal and Shaykh Kabbani created a stir several times in town. Some folk singers ("griots") improvised special salawaat incorporating Shaykh Kabbani's name and at some point it turned into a mini-hadrah. This was a surreal moment, to see all these people who never met the shaykh being drawn to him and running to kiss his jubbah (robe).

As Shaykh Kabbani arrived at the Pullman Hotel of Abidjan, African Qasida singers were competing to come up with the most beautiful improvised songs to welcome him, sung in African dialects.  One of the songs (translated) is:

O Shaykh Hisham,
you went to Madina,
you went to Mecca,
you went to America,
and now you are coming to Ivory Coast. 
O Shaykh Hisham
we were waiting for you.

Shaykh Kabbani's car traveled through the city of Abidjan with two white horses leading it. Crowds of people were in the street following the car.
One Imam quoted during the event when presenting Shaykh Kabbani to the crowd: "When you see the shaykh's physical and facial features and his beard, you cannot deny him.  Even if you don't know him, his facial features tell you he is on haqq.  When you look at him, he reminds you of Allah and when he speaks, he reminds you of Prophet (s)."

The Ivory Coast Sufi dignitaries asked Shaykh Kabbani to honor the great tradition of riding a White horse, which is a sign of honoring kings in their culture. Hundreds of people gathered around the shaykh as he rode the horse on the streets outside of the Palaix de la Culture. The dignitaries also asked Shaykh Kabbani to plant a date tree as a symbol of the date trees Allah will plant for the believers in Paradise. "It is their hope," they said, "that Allah plant trees for them in Paradise to honor the Shaykh's action."

Day 2 - Visit to a Qadiri Mosque

Shaykh Kabbani was invited to grace a Qadiri Mosque with his blessed presence. He surprised everybody during the visit when he declared that the Shaykh of the Mosque, Aba Cisse, was a wali (saint). Shaykh Kabbani said hsi teacher, Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani, told him to come to this Mosque and to give initiation to Aba Cisse in six different tariqahs including Naqshbandiyya. The event was full of unusual and powerful energy and Shaykh Kabbani said that the place carried a great tajalli and that Prophet's (s) spiritual presence (rawhaaniyyah) was manifest there.

The streets surrounding the mosque were packed an overflow crowd of with tens of hundreds of people who all rushed to Shaykh Kabbani as he was exiting the Mosque. This event was one of the most powerful and spiritually charged events of the tour.

Day 3 - Jumua in the Grand Mosque

Shaykh Kabbani's appearance at the Mosque for Jumu`ah created a stir with thousands of people (who were waiting for him) rushing to kiss his robe.

The other events of the day were equally popular with the crowd. Shaykh Kabbani attended many different meetings with hundreds of people waiting for him.  After dinner he said he had just received an inspiration from Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, who was saying that Imam Koudous, Ivory Coast's Grand Mufti, and Shaykh Kabbani's host there, had done his best for making this trip a success, and had been therefore been granted the spiritual station of Shaykhu 'l-Islam for the Ivory Coast, which is a rank that is above that of Mufti.  He said, "Awliya took his old title back (Imam of Imams) and gave him a new station instead."

Shaykh Kabbani also gave a short talk about his encounter with the Senegalese saint Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (also known as Baye Niasse) in Beirut in 1973.  The Shaykh Niasse told Shaykh Kabbani, who was 12 years then, that a day would come when he would go to his area in Africa and meet a lot of Africans.  He said Shaykh Niasse saw him and called him by his name even though they had never met before.  Then he came close to him and whispered something in his ear which he never told anyone before until today.  Shaykh Niasse said: "O my son, I am from Africa and in the future I am seeing that you will go to Africa you will find lot of saints there.  You will see them and you will know them.  Some of them they know they are saints, others do not. Africa is the land of saints."

"Imagine," says Shaykh Kabbani, "I am coming here after all these years and seeing these beautiful faces (of saints) here that Allah put them as mountains to balance this earth."

Day 4 - Meeting with the President of Ivory Coast

On Saturday Shaykh Kabbani met with Laurent Gbagbo, the President of Ivory Coast and appeared on a national TV show in prime time. Some people saw Shaykh Kabbani in the media and came to ask for his blessings at the TV station.

Shaykh Kabbani also attended a highly media publicised event at the National Palaix de Culture, where more than 2,500 people came to see the shaykh.  Shaykh Kabbani received traditional gifts from the local community including an expansive green boubou, the flowing robes that are worn by scholars and leaders. This event featured many national Islamic leaders and VIP personalities.