The Full Wiki

Islam in Libya: Map

Advertisements
  
  

Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:



Mawlai muhammad mosque Tripoli
Most Libyans adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam, which provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for government policy. Its tenets stress a unity of religion and state rather than a separation or distinction between the two, and even those Muslims who have ceased to believe fully in Islam retain Islamic habits and attitudes. Since the 1969 coup (See: History of Libya), the Muammar al-Gaddafi regime has explicitly endeavored to reaffirm Islamic values, enhance appreciation of Islamic culture, elevate the status of Qur'anic law and, to a considerable degree, emphasize Qur'anic practice in everyday Libyanmarker life.

History of Islam in Libya

During the seventh century, Muslim conquerors reached Libya, and by the eighth century most of the resistance mounted by the indigenous berbers had ended. The urban centers soon became substantially Islamic, but widespread conversion of the nomads of the desert did not come until after large-scale invasions in the eleventh century by beduin tribes from Arabia and Egyptmarker.

A residue of pre-Islamic beliefs blended with the pure Islam of the Arabs. Hence, popular Islam became an overlay of Quranic ritual and principles upon the vestiges of earlier beliefs—prevalent throughout North Africa—in jinns (spirits), the evil eye, rites to ensure good fortune, and cult veneration of local saints. The educated of the cities and towns served as the primary bearers and guardians of the more austere brand of orthodox Islam.

Saints and brotherhoods

Quran studying board shot in Almayyit Mosque Tripoli.
Writing on wooden boards is the traditional method for memorizing Quran
Islam as practiced in North Africa is interlaced with indigenous Berber beliefs. Although the orthodox faith preached the unique and inimitable majesty and sanctity of God and the equality of God's believers, an important element of North African Islam for centuries has been a belief in the coalescence of special spiritual power in particular living human beings. The power is known as Barakah, a transferable quality of personal blessedness and spiritual force said to lodge in certain individuals. Those whose claim to possess barakah can be substantiated—through performance of apparent miracles, exemplary human insight, or genealogical connection with a recognized possessor—are viewed as saints. These persons are known in the West as marabouts, a french transliteration of al murabitun (those who have made a religious retreat), and the benefits of their baraka are believed to accrue to those ordinary people who come in contact with them.

The cult of saints became widespread in rural areas; in urban localities, Islam in its orthodox form continued to prevail. Saints were present in Tripolitania, but they were particularly numerous in Cyrenaica. Their baraka continued to reside in their tombs after their deaths. The number of venerated tombs varied from tribe to tribe, although there tended to be fewer among the camel herders of the desert than among the sedentary and nomadic tribes of the plateau area. In one village, a visitor in the late 1960s counted sixteen still-venerated tombs.

Coteries of disciples frequently clustered around particular saints, especially those who preached an original tariqa (devotional "way"). Brotherhoods of the followers of such mystical teachers appeared in North Africa at least as early as the eleventh century and in some cases became mass movements. The founder ruled an order of followers, who were organized under the frequently absolute authority of a leader, or shaykh. The brotherhood was centered on a zawiya (pl., zawaya—see Glossary).

Because of Islam's austere rational and intellectual qualities, many people have felt drawn toward the more emotional and personal ways of knowing God practiced by mystical Islam, or Sufism. Found in many parts of the Muslim world, Sufism endeavored to produce a personal experience of the divine through mystic and ascetic discipline.

Sufi adherents gathered into brotherhoods, and Sufi cults became extremely popular, particularly in rural areas. Sufi brotherhoods exercised great influence and ultimately played an important part in the religious revival that swept through North Africa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Libya, when the Ottoman Empire proved unable to mount effective resistance to the encroachment of Christian missionaries, the work was taken over by Sufi-inspired revivalist movements. Among these, the most forceful and effective was that of the Sanusis, which extended into numerous parts of North Africa.

Sanusis

The Sanusi movement was a religious revival adapted to desert life. Its zawaayaa could be found in Tripolitania and Fezzanmarker, but Sanusi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the region from unrest and anarchy, the Sanusi movement gave the Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity and purpose.

The Sanusis formed a nucleus of resistance to the Italianmarker colonial regime (see Italian Colonialism, ch. 1). As the nationalism fostered by unified resistance to the Italians gained adherents, however, the religious fervor of devotion to the movement began to wane, particularly after the Italians destroyed Sanusi religious and educational centers during the 1930s. Nonetheless, King Idris, the monarch of independent Libya, was the grandson of the founder of the Sanusi movement, and his status as a Sanusi gave him the unique ability to command respect from the disparate parts of his kingdom.

Despite its momentary political prominence, the Sanusi movement never regained its strength as a religious force after its zawaya were destroyed by the Italians. A promised restoration never fully took place, and the Idris regime used the Sanusi heritage as a means of legitimizing political authority rather than of providing religious leadership.

After unseating Idris in 1969, the revolutionary government placed restrictions on the operation of the remaining zawaya, appointed a supervisor for Sanusi properties, and merged the Sanusi-sponsored Islamic University with the University of Libya. The movement was virtually banned, but in the 1980s occasional evidence of Sanusi activity was nonetheless reported.

Islam in revolutionary Libya

Under the revolutionary government, the role of orthodox Islam in Libyan life has become progressively more important. Muammar al-Gaddafi is a highly devout Muslim who has repeatedly expressed a desire to exalt Islam and to restore it to its proper—i.e., central—place in the life of the people. He believes that the purity of Islam has been sullied through time, particularly by the influence of European during and after the colonial period, and that its purity must be restored—by such actions as the restoration of sharia to its proper place as the basis of the Libyan legal system, the banning of "immodest" practices and dress, and the symbolic purification of major urban mosques that took place in 1978.

Qadhafi also believes in the value of the Quran as a moral and political guide for the contemporary world, as is evident from his tract, The Green Book, published in the mid-1970s (see The Green Book, ch. 4). Qadhafi considered the first part of The Green Book to be a commentary on the implications of the Quranic injunction that human affairs be managed by consultation. For him, this means direct democracy, which is given "practical meaning" through the creation of people's committees and popular congresses. Qadhafi feels that, inasmuch as The Green Book is based solely on the Quran, its provisions are universally applicable—at least among Muslims.

Soon after taking office, the Qadhafi government showed itself to be devoutly fundamentalist by closing bars and nightclubs, banning entertainment deemed provocative or immodest, and making use of the Muslim calendar mandatory. The intention of reestablishing sharia was announced, and Qadhafi personally assumed chairmanship of a commission to study the problems involved. In November 1973, a new legal code was issued that revised the entire Libyan judicial system to conform to the sharia, and in 1977 the General People's Congress (GPC—see Glossary) issued a statement that all future legal codes would be based on the Quran.

Among the laws enacted by the Qadhafi government a series of legal penalties prescribed during 1973 included the punishment of armed robbery by amputation of a hand and a foot. The legislation contained qualifying clauses making its execution unlikely, but its enactment had the effect of applying Quranic principles in the modern era. Another act prescribed flogging for individuals breaking the fast of Ramadan, and yet another called for eighty lashes to be administered to both men and women guilty of fornication.

In the early 1970s, Islam played a major role in legitimizing Qadhafi's political and social reforms. By the end of the decade, however, he had begun to attack the religious establishment and several fundamental aspects of Sunni Islam. Qadhafi asserted the transcendence of the Quran as the sole guide to Islamic governance and the unimpeded ability of every Muslim to read and interpret it. He denigrated the roles of the ulama (see Glossary), imams, and Islamic jurists and questioned the authenticity of the hadith, and thereby the sunna, as a basis for Islamic law. The sharia itself, Qadhafi maintained, governed only such matters as properly fell within the sphere of religion; all other matters lay outside the purview of religious law. Finally, he called for a revision of the Muslim calendar, saying it should date from the Prophet's death in 632, an event he felt was more momentous than the hijra ten years earlier.

These unorthodox views on the hadith, sharia, and the Islamic era aroused a good deal of unease. They seemed to originate from Qadhafi's conviction that he possessed the transcendent ability to interpret the Quran and to adapt its message to modern life. Equally, they reinforced the view that he was a reformer but not a literalist in matters of the Quran and Islamic tradition. On a practical level, however, several observers agreed that Qadhafi was less motivated by religious convictions than by political calculations. By espousing these views and by criticizing the ulama, he was using religion to undermine a segment of the middle class that was notably vocal in opposing his economic policies in the late 1970s. But Qadhafi clearly considered himself an authority on the Quran and Islam and was not afraid to challenge traditional religious authority. He also was not prepared to tolerate dissent.

The revolutionary government gave repeated evidence of its desire to establish Libya as a leader of the Islamic world. Moreover, Qadhafi's efforts to create an Arab nation through political union with other Arab states were also based on a desire to create a great Islamic nation. Indeed, Qadhafi drew little distinction between the two.

The government took a leading role in supporting Islamic institutions and in worldwide proselytizing on behalf of Islam. The Jihad Fund, supported by a payroll tax, was established in 1970 to aid the Palestinians in their struggle with Israelmarker. The Faculty of Islamic Studies and Arabic at the University of Benghazimarker was charged with training Muslim intellectual leaders for the entire Islamic world, and the Islamic Mission Society used public funds for the construction and repair of mosques and Islamic educational centers in cities as widely separated as Viennamarker and Bangkokmarker. The Islamic Call Society (Ad Dawah) was organized with government support to propagate Islam abroad, particularly throughout Africa, and to provide funds to Muslims everywhere.

Qadhafi has been forthright in his belief in the perfection of Islam and his desire to propagate it. His commitment to the open propagation of Islam, among other reasons, has caused him to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptianmarker-based fundamentalist movement that has used clandestine and sometimes subversive means to spread Islam and to eliminate Western influences. Although the brotherhood's activities in Libya were banned in the mid-1980s, it was present in the country but maintained a low profile (see Religious Opposition, ch. 4). In 1983 a member of the brotherhood was executed in Tripolimarker, and in 1986 a group of brotherhood adherents was arrested after the murder of a high-ranking political official in Benghazimarker. Qadhafi has challenged the brotherhood to establish itself openly in non-Muslim countries and has promised its leaders that, if it does, he will support its activities.

Qadhafi has stressed the universal applicability of Islam, but he has also reaffirmed the special status assigned by the Prophet to Christians. He has, however, likened them to misguided Muslims who have strayed from the correct path. Furthermore, he has assumed leadership of a drive to free Africa of Christianity as well as of the colonialism with which it has been associated.

See also



References

External links




Embed code:
Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message