The Holy Qur’an calls for educating the soul in the remembrance of Allah, the purpose of which is to permanently invoke His Existence and in the desire for His adoration and to translate this presence in doing good and in being just and fair. It is on this basis that trends of ascetism arose, calling for the rejection of worldly life in favor of that of the Hereafter, which gave rise to currents advocating adherence to good morals and soul searching, which is what Sufism is all about.
Since the early centuries of the Islamic era, they emerged in Morocco men who were impregnated with Sufism. In the 5th century Hegira, corresponding to 11th century AD, Sufi movement appeared in cities and villages. While the mystical movement in the countries of the east was characterized by poetry and philosophy, in Morocco, it was marked by its social aspect in which people rise to wilāyah or sainthood in the public eye through providing relief and alleviating suffering. Stories about their miracles known as karāmāt or saintly marvels abound.
Sufism in Morocco:
It was characterized by moderation and commitment to the realities of the unity of God and by avoiding suspicious expressions in a strict approach attributed to Abi al-Qasim al-Junaid, who died in Baghdad in 910 AD/279 AH; that is why it was adopted by the sultans and to which many a famed religious scholar were affiliated, in addition to the general public in cities and villages.
Launched from Morocco were two important trends; that is two Sufi orders, the followers of which spread across many parts of the world. The first order was the Sāhdhilī order in the 12th century AD, attributed to Abū al-Ḥasan ash-Shādhilī, who died in Egypt in the year 1258 AD. His name is Ali al-Ghumārī, from the Ghumāra tribe in north west Morocco. His teacher was Moulay CAbd as-Salām bin Mashīsh. The second order was the Tijaniya order which was founded in the 19th century by Sheikh Ahmad at-Tijānī who was buried in Fez in the year 1815 AD, corresponding to 1230 AH.
The Qadiriya order, which originated in Iraq in the 6th century AH/12th century AD, has had a limited presence in Morocco compared to the two orders mentioned above.
The Sufi movement has contributed to strengthening the spiritual dimensions of religiosity in Morocco. It consolidated the spirit of social solidarity and was mobilized to defend the country during several periods of history; it established schools and libraries in which valuable manuscripts of scholarly heritage are preserved. Sufi zāwiyas, or fraternities, endeavored to promote the wisdom of good behavior and raised human models through the commendable acts of men and women; it developed the esthetic culture through cultivating the value of humility; it enhanced taste through samaa, or listening, with love, longing for the truth and upholding the values of gratefulness, hope and giving.
Sufism had a tremendous impact on the life of Morocco throughout the ages as it fused the various population components into the crucible of aspiring to spiritual perfection under the guidance of Sufi masters regardless of the geographical, ethnic and social affiliations.
Zawiyas in Morocco:
Currently, there are 1674 zāwiyas in Morocco, most of which are branches of the two currents mentioned above: the Sāhdhilī and the Tijaniya fraternities; many of them have income-yielding endowed property. There are also 5,360 shrines attributed to people whom the public consider to be righteous due to the qualities they had in their lifetime and which are known to be qualities of Sufis.
The Commandery of the Faithful sponsors Sufi fraternities through the reverence and respect decrees conferred upon its sheikhs in the past in view of their roles in performing righteous deeds or through bestowing sheikhdom decrees on fraternity caretakers, a practice that still exists today. Young people are today witnessing a renewed interest in Sufism.