Religious movements and movements of peoples cross the Maghreb continue to impact North Africans, West Europeans, and Americans
From antiquity to the 21st century, the Maghreb has been a conduit for people, ideas, and movements. Consider the spread of Sufism. Mystical orders (tariqas) were established in North Africa in the early Middle Ages, and Sufism flourished in the region and eventually spread to West Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Each tariqa, usually named after its founder, espoused its own doctrine and traditions (including music), social conventions, and political culture. The presentations below explore the North African roots of four international Sufi tariqas and their spread across the world, and draw attention to the Maghreb as a crossroads of humanity and spirituality.
Vincent J. Cornell, Emory University
This paper illustrates the influence of North African Sufism on the wider Islamic world through the case of the Moroccan Jazuliyya Sufi order (15th-17th centuries CE) and the worldwide dissemination of Dala’il al-Khayrat (Signs of Goodness), a manual of prayers on behalf of the Prophet Muhammad. It begins by discussing the career of Muhammd ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 1465 CE), a Sufi jihadist, the author of the Dalil, and the founder of the Jazuliyya. Special attention is given to Jazuli’s attachment to two traditions of international Sufism, the Shadhiliyya of North Africa and the Qadiriyya, whose networks extended throughout the Islamic world from Afghanistan to Morocco. The second half of the paper focuses on Jazulite Sufism’s ideology of the “Muhammadan Way” (al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya). This doctrine of personal and social reform was originally developed in Morocco but spread in the sixteenth century to the Ottoman Empire and beyond through the mediation of Sufis in Egypt. The paper concludes with a discussion of the dissemination of Dala’il al-Khayrat as part of this reformist project through the worldwide networks of the Qadiriyya Sufi order.
Cheikh Anta Babou, University of Pennsylvania
The Tijaniyya Sufi order was founded by Ahmad al-Tijani in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Algeria and Morocco. It developed at a time of an intense religious revival in the Muslim world which was fueled by European colonialism and spearheaded by the contending forces of Sufism and salafism. This context of great change informed the historical trajectories of the Tijaniyya and helped its rapid expansion in North Africa, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. Over two centuries after its founding, the Tijaniyya remains a potent spiritual force, inspiring disciples in Africa and the Middle East but also in Europe and North Africa, where it was brought recently by the increasingly visible Black African Muslim diaspora. This paper seeks to explore the spiritual foundations of the Tijaniyya order and its extension in more recent times. It suggests that the dynamism of the Tijaniyya is rooted in its leaders’ political acumen, their capacity of religious innovation and adaptation, and their ability to respond to disciple’s changing spiritual needs across space and time.
Abdelilah Bouasria, American University
This paper analyzes the evolution of the Boutchichi Sufi order as a social movement that came from a non political stance to a pro-government stance. It will locate this Sufi oder in opposition to Al Adl wal Ihsane, another political islamist group of Sufi obedience, whose leader, Abdessalam yassine, used to be a Boutchichi disciple. The roots of the order are analyzed and its links to the Tijani brotherhood questioned. This paper also explores the strategic change of name of the order and other tactical moves in the Moroccan mystical mosaic. The main emphasis is the relationship of the regime with the order and their mutual helping. I explore the idea of a completely peaceful movement here through the writings of some of its members.
H. Talat Halman, Central Michigan University
In this paper I focus on the Shadhili roots of the Maryamiyya Tariqa, specifically its Shadhiliyya-Darqawiyya connection. I compare the directions taken by Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh 'Isa Nur al-Din) who introduced meditations, texts, and icons reflecting his interests in "Traditionalism," Marian devotion, and Amerindian "primordialism." Schuon legitimated his teaching authority especially through four figures: Shaykh Ahmad 'Alawi, Rene Guenon, al-Khidr, and the Virgin Mary. These competing interests and claims to authority contributed to dividing the Maryamiyya. After Schuon's death Seyyed Hossein Nasr turned back to the Shadhili roots, calling his Tariqa al-Maryamiyya al-Shadhiliyya. I examine the results of this return. I also describe the significant influence of the Tariqa on the academic study of Sufism in the USA and in Europe, including examples of Thomas Merton and Huston Smith.
North African migration ebbs and flows around the Mediterranean basin and beyond, to Spain and France in the west, northward to the Netherlands and Scandinavia, to Italy in the center and Israel in the east. And while a common perception of migration evokes dangerous crossings, social and economic upheaval, and religious controversies, the movement of people to and from North Africa can be traced back more than two millenia before the present global era, and can be viewed in the historical context of the circulation of Mediterranean populations.
The presentations below shed light on the dynamics and the politics of Maghrebi migration from historical, anthropological, and literary perspectives. The objective is to bring out the meaning and the relevance of the historical origins and the political forces that shape the human waves of people from and to the Maghreb.
Adnan Husayn, Queen’s University
Adnan Husain from Queen's University examines the complicated history of movement of people through exile, captivity, commerce, and conversion, among other processes, that negotiated the boundaries of language and culture in the pre-modern Mediterranean, particularly the western half of the Maghreb and the Iberian peninsula.
Hakim Abderrezak, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Hakim Abderrezak from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (“Hidden Migration” in Sight: Hrig in Moroccan Literature and Film) will analyze Moroccan literary and cinematographic representations of h'rig (clandestine migration) in the historical and sociological context of migration from the Maghreb to Europe from the second half of the twentieth century until now. Through close readings of novels and a film, he will explore Moroccan fictional accounts of undocumented crossings of the Mediterranean.
Sami Chetrit, Queens College, City University of New York
Sami Chetrit from Queens College/City University of New York, (Moroccans in Israel: Between Arabs and Jews: the search for a lost voice) discusses the sociopolitical dimensions of Moroccans in Israel--the largest Mizrahi ethnic group and the most racially mistreated. Through literature (mainly poetry) and music, he examines the undercurrents of rebellion and demonstration for more than 50 years including workers strikes, the Black Panther movement and uprising, and ballot revolts via the religious flank of Israeli politics.
The overall objective of the symposium is to inform and educate the public about the historical origins and political forces that shape the monumental movements of people from and to the Maghreb. From an academic perspective, this symposium examines the phenomenon of Maghrebi migration across disciplines–anthropology, history, literature—in order to grasp both the material, historical and political constellations that inform it.
Two related films are recommended: A Door to the Sky (Bab al-Sama Maftuh), directed by Farida Ben Lyazid, is a Sufi-inspired tale that vividly portrays the spiritual awakening of a young émigrée after she returns from France to her native Fez for her father’s funeral; Le Grand Voyage, directed by Ismael Ferroukhi, explores the transformation of a French-Moroccan teenager who grudgingly agrees to go along with his devout father who makes a pilgrimage from France to Mecca.
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