Abstract: ‘Quietist’ Salafis, considered typically to reject politics, political activism, and violence, and instead focus on religious education and learning, are in many ways the ‘heart’ of global Salafism. They also have deep roots and a significant following in North Africa, including in Morocco and Libya. How then have ‘quietist’ Salafis grappled with the 2011/12 popular uprisings that swept through both countries? In both countries, ‘quietist’ Salafis remained loyal – at least publicly – to the incumbent regime. Yet in Morocco, between 2011-2013, they also established an informal alliance with the country’s largest Islamist party. In both countries since 2011, ‘quietist’ Salafis experienced fragmentation. In Morocco, this unfolded between the newly-politicised and the ‘traditionalist,’ anti-political Salafi milieus. In Libya, by contrast, ‘quietists’ split over whether to support the Western-based or Eastern-based central authorities in the country after the disintegration of the central state in Tripoli.

Morocco and the Dor al-Qur’an before 2011

A Wahhabi-inspired Salafi trend emerged in Morocco in the 1970s, with the founding of the ‘Association for the Call to the Qur’an and the Sunna’ (Jama‘īa al-Daʿwah Ila al-Qur’an wa-l-Sunna) – popularly referred to as Dor al-Qur’an – in Marrakech in 1976 by Mohammed al-Maghraoui. Maghraoui had studied at the Islamic University in Medina, and maintained close relations with his former tutors in Saudi Arabia, Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani and ‘Abd el-‘Aziz Ibn Baz[1], until their deaths in 1999. Today, Dor al-Qur’an maintains strong relationships with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait-based ‘quietest’ Salafi transnational networks underpinned by al-Albani and Ibn Baz’s ideas. Maghraoui’s relationship to Salafi-Madkhalism, a branch of ‘quietist’ Salafism that coagulated around students and followers of al-Albani, namely Rabi al-Madkhali[2] and his brother, Muhammad al-Madkhali, has been less close, particularly following Rabi al-Madkhali’s public reproval of Maghraoui since 1999. Salafi-Madkhalism differs from other forms of ‘quietist’ Salafism through its particularly steadfast commitment to the “unquestioned and unquestionable authority of a ruling power.”[i] Dor al-Qur’an sheikhs criticise what they consider to be Salafi-Madkhalism’s avowal of absolute obedience to the political authority even in cases where the ruler engages in ‘disbelief.’[ii] In any case, pre-2011 Dor al-Qur’an argued that political parties, including Islamist parties, as well as protests, political participation, and disobedience to the political ruler of a state were all haram (forbidden). Following al-Albani’s approach, Dor al-Qur’an focused on al-Tarbiyya wa-l-Taṣfiyya (teaching Islam and cleansing it of ‘heterodox’ accretions). Accordingly, Dor al-Qur’an is paradigmatic of the type of Salafi groups generally considered ‘quietists’ by scholarship on Salafism. In the period between 1979 and 2000, the Moroccan makhzen (the palace-oriented political establishment) thought of Dor al-Qur’an as a pro-status quo trend potentially useful to oppose new domestic Islamist and leftist challenges.[iii] The regime therefore allowed Maghraoui to expand his network through mosques and new centres.

[1] Al-Albani was a Syrian national, scholar of the adīth, and good friend of Ibn Baz. He worked as a professor at the Islamic University of Medina and censured Wahhabi approaches to fiqh (law) for their reliance on Hanbali jurisprudence. Instead, al-Albani argued for the central place of the ‘science of hadith’ within the religious sciences (see Lacroix, 2008). A Saudi Arabian scholar, Ibn Baz was grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and vice chancellor of the Islamic University of Medina.

[2] A student of al-Albani, Rabi al-Madkhali is a adīth expert and the former head of the Sunnah Studies Department at the Islamic University of Madinah.