Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Brief history of Sanusiyah movement

The Sanusiyah is a sufi brotherhood based in Libya and the central Sahara founded by Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859). The Sanusi brotherhood is well known for its role in the resistance movement against French and Italian colonialism, but it was formed as a strictly religious brotherhood based on the doctrine of the Shadhiliyah order.

Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi was born near Mostaganem in Algeria. In his early life he studied Sufism and Islamic sciences including law and tradition in the reformist environment of Fez. In 1823 he moved to Cairo and later to Hijaz to continue his studies. In Mecca he studied under the guidance of Ahmad bin Idris, a well known sufi teacher. Soon afterward, when Ibn Idris left for Yemen, al-Sanusi was in charge of his students and built the first lodge at Abu Qubays outside Mecca in 1827. In 1841 he returned back to North Africa settled in Cyrenaica and founded his new organization.

The Sanusiyah is commonly known as a “revivalist” brotherhood but its doctrine is not different from other traditional Sufism. It disapproves of excess in ritual, such as dancing or singing. Its great emphasis is on the role of the prophet and on following his example. Al-Sanusi wrote several books arguing for the right of ijtihad. He put this into practice by incorporating elements usually found in Shafi’i school but still maintaining his way to be a Maliki one.

The structure of the organization was simple and centralized. The local lodge had very little autonomy and was ruled by three or four officials appointed by the center. The core area of the organization was a desert that of the Bedouin of Cyrenaica. The order also had a number of urban lodges and into non-Bedouin areas like Tripolitania and Fezzan in western Libya as well as in Hijaz. It spread across the Sahara to the east of Lake Chad.

The brotherhood was not at all militant; rather, it promoted learning and piety among its adherents. It also had a strong work ethic, particularly to the building and upkeep of new lodges and development through agriculture. The brotherhood became an important factor in the development of Trans-Saharan trade. The center of the order was established in Jaghbub, on the Libyan-Egypt border, but later on moved to Kufa in the middle of Libyan desert in 1895. The French, who were moving toward Lake Chad saw the Sanusiyah as an activist and inimical force and opened hostilities at the Bir Ali Lodge in Kanem in 1901. The Sanusiyah were caught unaware and withdrew. But they quickly took up arms, and the population in the region fought the French in the name and under the leadership of the brotherhood until the Sanusiyah were forced to withdraw around 1913-14.

When Italians invaded Libya in 1911, the Sanusiyah order was not targeted as enemies, but when Turkey withdrew from Libya the following year, the Sanusi leader Ahmad al-Sharif raised the call for jihad and led a large Bedouin force against the invaders. The Sanusi held the Italians at bay for several years, but an attack on the British forces in Egypt led to the brotherhood’s defeat. Al-Sharif was replaced by his cousin, Muhammad Idris. After the rise of fascism in Italy, the struggle became a more purely Bedouin one led by tribal leaders like Omar Mukhtar, while the Sanusi led by Idris was in exile in Egypt. During this time, which lasted until 1932, the Sanusi organizational structure of lodges was largely destroyed. When the modern state of Libyan was created and in 1951 was made king of Libya. He was removed by the coup of Mu’ammar Qadhdhafi in 1969. Later on the religious Sanusiyah brotherhood had become a monarchical order. Today the order is not tolerated in Libya, and outside Libya only a few lodges remain, including the oldest one at Abu Qubays near Mecca.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Islamic revivalism in Turkey

By the time of the death of Mustafa kemal Ataturk in 1938, Turkey was securely on its way to becoming a dynamic modern state. Kamal never for a moment swerved from his aim to make Turkey becoming a Western state, a European state. The westernization of the country through radical reforms and secularization was opposed by religious section of society and the democrats. But Kemal’s rule was one of uncriticized, and suppressed every one who opposed him. Until 1945, there was only one political party in Turkey, the Republican Party.

His successor, Ismet Inonu, wanted to build a consensus and therefore permitted members of opposition, who were more sympathetic to Islam, to enter politics. A real relaxation of militant secularism, however, came only after the introduction of multiparty politics in 1945, when the ruling CHP (Republican Party) recognized that the competition for vote against the Demokrat Party required the manipulation of Islam.

Consequently the CHP began to undo some of its earlier reforms. In 1948 pilgrims were permitted to visit Mecca. The following year, a faculty of Theology was opened in Ankara. Then religious education was restored to the classroom, and sacred tombs that had been closed down in 1925 were reopened.

Despite the concessions, the Republicans lost the election in 1950. The Democrats continued the policy of liberation and gained great popularity, especially by restoring the Arabic Azan and lifting the ban on religious radio broadcast. With political liberalization, the Islamic sentiment that had gone underground reemerged and became vocal. More people attended mosques, and new ones were built through out the land. There was a growing demand for religious literature. These developments exposed the fundamental weakness of the Kemalist’s reforms, their failure to reach deeply into society. Thus, even though the social institutions associated with the dervish orders were destroyed, their influence remained strong and began to reassert itself by 1950.

Nonetheless, there was no question of going back to an Islamist under the shariah or permitting the sufi orders to stand in the way of change. When some Sufis attempted to regain their influence, their leaders were prosecuted with the full force of the law, by the supposedly pro-Islamist DP (Demokrat Party).

The military coup of 1960 opened a new chapter in the political life of modern Turkey. The military regime introduced new institutions, including a liberal constitution that guaranteed social justice, the right to strike, and freedom of expression. As a result, a Worker’s Party (TIP) was formed and challenged the policies of the ruling classes. The establishment responded by mobilizing “Islam as the antidote to communism”.

The Justice Party, successor of the Demokrat Party, managed to capture power but lost ground simultaneously to the right and left. The Republican Party picked up most of the lower class urban votes. In the eastern region it lost ground to Milli Nizami Partisi (National Order Party), led by Necmettin Erbakan, who enjoyed the support of the Naqshabandis. An Islamist was soon entrenched through out the bureaucracy, posing a threat to secular education. The MNP banned by the military regime but regrouped as the National Salvation Party. The NSP again banned in 1980.

When political activity was partially restored in 1983, the Motherland Party led by Turgut Ozal, a former member of NSP, assumed the mantel of political Islam. But Muslim opinion in Turkey, radicalized by the Iranian revolution, wanted a more militant party to support. The Welfare Party, NSP reincarnation, attempted to meet these radical expectations. It emphasized the struggle against feudalism, imperialism, and fascism.

Generally speaking, Turkey in the 1990s is a country that feels comfortable with Islamic political and cultural discourse. It has become the part of the Islamic world and participates in most of its activities, often playing a leading role. It sees itself as a bridge between the west and the Islamic world and takes its Islamic identity seriously. This trend is likely to continue.



Hello readers!

You are invited to give any comment on this blog !


This Day in History

Today's Birthday