Amb Youssef Amrani insights on Sufism’s history, meaning and role

Amb Youssef Amrani insights on Sufism’s history, meaning and role

On invitation of the Mohammed VI foundation of African Oulema and in  the frame of the Eid Al-Mawlid An-Nabawi  celebrations, Ambassador Youssef Amrani took part on October 24  in a webinar on the topic: Sufi figures in South Africa, Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, the history of a scholarly family.

Ambassador Amrani  started his intervention by  emphasising that  the ongoing celebration of the Eid Al-Mawlid An-Nabawi “ are an occasion where the most beautiful images of Sufism in Morocco are manifested. Moroccans celebrate it with passion, reverence and admiration.These popular practices are festive events, often decorated in all cities with tents in which sweets and candies are distributed”.


He Highlighted that “His Majesty the King, the Commander of the Faithful امير المؤمنين  , presides over the celebration of the al Mawlid Asharif. Moroccan religious scholars and imams gather for these royal ceremonies. The King maintains this practice of reviving each year since his ascension to the throne.”


In the same vein, Ambassador underscored  that All the Sufi orders celebrate this day by hosting the religious MOUSSEMS  to which thousands of the Mourideen make the pilgrimage to take part and enjoy various religious activities such as dikr, the recitation of Coran, religious songs such as Bordet el Boussiri and others Said the Ambassador


Furthermore the ambassador paid a vibrant tribute to late Shaikh Seraj Hendrix's saying that “ this great initiative, comes in recognition of the late Shaikh Seraj Hendrix's precious legacy in Sufism, a tribute to his important contributions to education and the fatwa and his significant role in preserving the Islamic heritage in South Africa. A legacy of the Hendrix family and the entire community of Islamic scholars who, for 300 years, not only preserved their Islamic identity and the enduring values and goals of Islam, but also actively participated in the struggle, alongside their South African brothers and sisters, against the tyranny of colonialism and apartheid. South African Muslim scholars and Sufis have been able to truly contextualize the Islamic understanding with the socio-political context of colonialism and apartheid. This contextualization offered the possibility of creating a multiple identity, referring to a specific religious and/or cultural commitment while simultaneously participating in the "rainbow nation".


The Ambassador further added that “This valuable initiative demonstrated the interest of the South African Branch of the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Scholars for its Islamic and non-Islamic environment, in accordance with the principles and objectives for which it was created. Therefore, debating the legacy of Marhoum Hendrix is a sequel honouring the Branch lofty goals.


He stressed that the most important objective of the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Scholars is to share the Moroccan Islamic ideal and to help find common Islamic ground in the perspective of a united African Islam.  Sufism is a mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.


Ambassador outlined the  The Sufi must rigorously observe the Sufi etiquette with himself, with the Brotherhood, with Shaikh and Al Morshid and brotherhood in God. A Sufi who is authorized to teach, initiate and guide aspiring dervishes in the Islamic faith. He distracts himself from Worldly goods and women. The sheikh is essential to the path of the novice Sufi, for the sheikh himself has walked the path of mysticism. Regarded as the spiritual master, the sheikh forms a formal allegiance (bay'a) to the disciple of Sufism, authorizes the disciple's travels and helps him to follow the mystical path. Islamic tradition emphasizes the importance of chains and legitimization.


The Moroccan diplomate recalled that Shaikh Seraj Hendrix lost his battle against Covid 19. He was not alone, but more than 1.12 million were victims of this pandemic. In fact, this pandemic has affected the entire globe and continues to alter life, as we know it. With a population of 1.2 billion and weak health infrastructure, COVID-19 has severely impacted the entire continent of Africa. Believing in Islam's precious values of charity, sharing and solidarity, King Mohammed VI ordered the dispatch of medical aid to help more than 20 African countries in their efforts to deal with the coronavirus epidemic and its health, economic and social impacts.Marhoum Shaikh Seraj is yet another reminder that there are religious figures who continue to champion principle, not partisan gain, as the foundation of their public engagement. His continual rejection of identity slogans, and the constant perpetuation of the understanding of Islam as but a way of being. Shaikh Seraj was a community activist, a scholar, a mentor, an adherent to Sufism. 



Referring to Moroccan Sunni Sufism Ambassador underlined that Morocco is steeped in mysticism and spirituality. From the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts to the Sahara Desert, the kingdom is dotted with a wide range of holy and sacred sites, called Zaouias. They are the place where Moroccan saints of Sufi, Islamic and Jewish origin were buried. These sites are among the holy places that have been part of the spiritual pilgrimage for those who visit Morocco for centuries from all over the world, especially West Africa. The zaouias offer insight into Morocco’s people, traditions, values, and their unique culture. It lends those who interested in historical, religious and spiritual sites with an insider view of the culture. Morocco’s various ethnic Arab, Berber and Jewish made the spiritual journeys across the ancient Maghreb.


He added that Morocco is known to this day to be a major center of Sufism. Dharih Moulay Idriss al-Azhar (in Fez, Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish in Jabal al-Alam in north of Morocco, al Boutchichya in Berkane, Darkawiya, al jazouliya, al quadiriya; etc… Tens of thousands of mouridines make the pilgrimage to sufi sites of all parts of the world. The adherents of the Tijani Tarikat are over 300 million whose orders are directly linked to those of Morocco.Actually, At-tassaouf has played a very important role both religiously and politically. They play their role in diplomacy as well.


 Ambassador explained that  At-tassaouf plays the role of barometer in the preservation of moderate Islam in Morocco through its openness to others, its tolerance, its flexibility and its moderation. It is a determining factor in countering opposing extremes, extremism and dilution. Indeed, the Zaouias have a crucial role to the religious and educational framing of the citizens. Until recently, they were religious schools for indoctrination of Islamic sciences and memorizing the Noble Qur’an and the noble prophetic hadiths, in addition to their role in sheltering the wayfarers and travelers and feeding the poor. The Zaouias had political roles throughout Moroccan history, whether in strengthening national unity or in mobilizing and defending the nation's borders. The Zaouias enjoyed a historical relationship that linked the rulers of Morocco to the Zaouias shaikhs, who were playing essential roles in the country's political stability and spiritual security.


 Ambassador also emphasised on the fact that In religious diplomatic arena, the Zaouias undertake a important  part in strengthening relations, promoting economic ties and opening up new prospects for regional and continental integration. To cite but one example, the Tijaniyya Sufi order has always transcended national borders. Their founder, Ahmed
al-Tijani, died in Fez in Morocco. Today, the Tijaniyya are the greatest
religious group in Senegal, and the order spread throughout West Africa and
in much of the rest of the world. A common practice in Tijani is to make a pilgrimage to Fez, order the visit to the Zaouia of Ahmed al-Tijani,  produces a myriad of cultural collisions throughout its journey. Interactions between Moroccans and Tijani pilgrims are colored by a confluence of several identities, including nationality, religion and race. The economic role that shrines and Zaouias play in moving the economy through the movement of their followers, who periodically flock to them, in addition to their contribution to tourism promotion.


 Ambassador recalled that the result of the last census revealed that the Kingdom has 5,038 shrines and 1,496 Zaouias distributed across the country. The reasons for the spread of shrines and Zaouias despite the social and cultural transformations taking place in Moroccan society are due to the Moroccan fundamentals and constants:  the Ashaaria creed, the Maliki school of thought and Sunni Sufism (of Al Junaid). The three constants share comprehensiveness, moderation, syncretism and absolute Oneness ( االتوحيد)


He further added that Sufism will remain a bulwark against extremism, fanaticism and terrorism, and a beacon of moderation and reasonableness. Sufism spread the values of brotherhood and love, cooperation for good, and preservation of dignity Solidarity and charity. Morocco shares these constants, doctrine and madhab, with a number of African communities, especially in West Africa.


Ambassador concluded his intervention by  outlining that Sufism represents the true Islam that must be adopted to counter, delegitimize and defeat terrorism. The main purpose of Sufi is to bring humanity, separated as it is into so many different units, closer together in the deeper understanding of life. Their mission is to bring about brotherhood among races, nations and faiths and to respect one another's faith, scripture and teacher. Sufi is to confer sympathy on these lives, to impart love, compassion and kindheartedness on all creations.