He is the knower of Allah, the baraka of Fez, sayyidi Abul Mawahib Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi al-Fasi.
As his name implies, al-Tazi’s family came from Taza in eastern Morocco, being part of a Sharifian clan called Rashida, although he himself was born and grew up in Fez. Among al-Tazi’s teachers and initiators are several interesting names. Makhluf lists them: first, in the Maghrib, sayyidi Muhammad b. Buzayyan al-Ghandusi (d. 1146/1733-4), then Mawlay Ahmad al-Siqilli (d. 1177/1762), sayyidi Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh and finally sayyidi Abdullah b. Abd al-Jalil al-Barnawi (d. 1116/1704-5), a scholar and Sufi from the central Sudani state of Borno.
The scholar and historian Muhammad b. Ja’far al-Kittani wrote in Salwat al-Anfas,
“Among those that he had met in his beginnings is the Renowned Pole, Mawlana Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh (may Allah be pleased with him). He had been privileged to encounter him frequently, seek his blessing, take from him, and attain many acts of grace from him. One day, he met him in al-‘Aqba al-Zarqa in Fez, he kissed his hand and bowed his head down toward the earth in silence. The Shaykh said to him: ‘My son, Abd al-Wahhab,—for he was his son through breastfeeding; his wife breastfed him when he was young—do you want to see the Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him)? ‘Yes,’ he replied. Then he said to him, ‘Raise your head and have a look!’ And there was the Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) and Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) with him!”
Sayyidi Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi made the pilgrimage in 1166/1753 together with a fellow Moroccan, Muhammad al-Manali al-Zabadi, and while in Egypt was initiated into the Khalwatiyya by two key figures, sayyidi Muhammad al-Hifni (d. 1181/1767) and sayyidi Mahmud al-Kurdi (d. 1186/1780), both students of sayyidi Mustafa al-Bakri (d. 1162/1749). It is interesting that the only Sufi affiliation that Ibn Idris is reported to have taken in the East was the Khalwatiyya from sayyidi Hassan ibn Hassan Bey al-Qina’i, a student of Mahmud al-Kurdi. Al-Tazi seems also to have taken the Naqshbandiyya while in the East; al-Sanusi gives two names for al-Tazi’s Naqshbandi affiliations: al-Kamal al-Sindi and Abul Baqa’ al-Makki, from Ahmad al-Dajani (aka Safiyuddin al-Qushashi). The point is of some importance because al-Mirghani took the Naqshbandi path from Ahmad ibn Idris, emphasizing this line more than the Shadhili one that the other students of Ibn Idris emphasized.
Shaykh Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi was head of the Khadiriya order from within the Shadhili tradition which had been established in 1125/1713 by Shaykh Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh, an Idrisi Sharif who was initiated by al-Khadir, “A servant of Ours” (Quran, 17:59-81). Dabbagh’s life, teachings, and miracles were written down by his student, Shaykhul Islam Ahmed b. al-Mubarak al-Sijilmasi al-Lamati (1090-1156/1679-80 -1743), in al-Ibriz (Pure Gold from the Words of Sayyidi Abdul Aziz al-Dabbagh).
One of his students was the Mauritanian scholar Shaykh Muhammad Limjaydri b. Habib-Allah, the first spiritual guide of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris. Limjaydri introduced his student Ibn Idris to al-Tazi. The story is related by the biographers of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris,
Sayyid Ahmad had an established shaykh who was one of the ulama of Shinqit (Mauritania) known as al-‘allama al-Mujaydri [Limjaydri]. The latter used to visit Fez from time to time. While he was in Fez, sayyid Ahmad (may God be pleased with him) used to study with him some major books – I think they were books of Hadith and religion which were not usually studied in Fez. On one occasion Limjaydri wished to return to Shinqit, but there remained some books whose exegesis he had not completed. Sayyid Ahmad asked him, ‘O master, permit me to travel with you so that I can complete these books.’ Limjaydri replied, ‘Be patient until I ask permission for you from my shaykh.’ Sayyid Ahmad asked him, Do you have a shaykh?’ ‘Yes, he is sayyid Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi (may God be pleased with him).’ Sayyid Ahmad was surprised that Limjaydri should have a shaykh who, may God be pleased with him, was obscure and whose spiritual station was unknown to most people. A little later Limjaydri told him, ‘The shaykh refuses permission, but told me to bring you to him so that he may unite you with the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace).’ Sayyid Ahmad’s astonishment became the greater. Then sayyid Ahmad went to with Limjaydri to sayyid Abd al-Wahhab. He took the Way from him and devoted himself to him, staying with and giving himself entirely to him.
Shaykh al-Tazi had attended some of Ibn Idris’ lectures. At their first meeting, al-Tazi is said to have exclaimed,
“What happened to that roaring voice (hadra), oh Ahmad?” The powerful teacher and orator was now sitting most humbly in the presence of his shaykh’s shaykh. Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris is said to have stayed with him for four years, and taken from him not only the spiritual path (the Khadiriyya) but also hadith.
Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris wrote,
“We took the Way from the succor of his time and imam of his age, the exalted shaykh, our lord and master, Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi al-Fasi. He took it from the succor of his time and imam of his age, the Hasanid Sharif, our lord and master, sayyidi Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh al-Fasi. He took it from the shaykh of shaykhs, the universal sage, sayyidi Abu al-Abbas Ahmad al-Khadir.”
Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris’ student, Shaykh Muhammad b. Ali al-Sanusi commented,
“This is among the most exalted of the short chains because al-Khadir (peace be upon him) met the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), during his lifetime in the same way as all the Companions took from the Prophet. Likewise sayyidi Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh took from him in the same way as all the Successors (al-tabi’un) of the Companions took on the authority of the Companions who were contemporaries of the Prophet (may God bless and grant him peace), and so on. Thus the intermediaries between us and the Prophet (may God bless and grant him peace) are four.”
However, Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris wrote to his student al-Mirghani:
“There is another higher more lofty aspect to this chain that what we have mentioned, which is that we received the Way from our aforementioned Shaykh Abd al-Wahhab (al-Tazi), and he received it from the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace). For I have heard him say, ‘I heard the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) say:
I have never seen anything more profitable than (dhikr with) “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadun Rasul Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.”‘
And this is indeed receiving directly from the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace). When the chain is high, by virtue of its low number of links, it is regarded as more perfect and better by the specialists of isnad (chains of transmission).”
After some time, al-Tazi said to Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris, ‘I think your shaykh, Limjaydri, has passed on to the mercy of God (most high)’
Sayyid Ahmad asked, ‘O sayyid, how do you know this?’
He replied, ‘The shaykhly master has his times when he turns towards the souls of his aspirants. As long as they are alive, the master does not necessarily meet them always in the same state. Sometimes their souls shine and sometimes their souls are dimmed, according to their stage upon the Path and their obedience to God. Sometimes they are close to Him and sometimes far away. For some days now his soul has shone with the same unwavering light as when I last left him.’
Shaykh Ibrahim al-Rashid, student and successor of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris, said of al-Tazi:
“The Knower of Allah and guide to Him, sayyidi Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi, who stayed in the spiritual rank of Ghawth for 34 years….”
Two dates are given for al-Tazi’s death; 27 Sha’ban 1206/20 April 1792 or 11 Safar 1213/25 July 1798. Mawlay Sulayman, the ruler of Morocco, built him a tomb in the Bab al-Futuh Cemetery.