Morocco as a Hub of Globalised Traditional Islam
لِّلَّهِ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقُ وَٱلۡمَغۡرِبُۚ يَہۡدِى مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ اِلٰى صِراطٍ مُّسۡتَقِيۡمٍ[…] To God belong the East and the West. He guides whomever He will to a straight path.(Quran 2:142)1
2. Globalised Traditional Islam
Traditional Islamic discourse proposes a space beyond this colonial dichotomy. Although there are exclusivist currents within Traditional Islam, the discourse tends to celebrate traditional pluralism and accuse modernism and fundamentalism of rigidity and narrowmindedness.If we define fundamentalism as those perspectives that assume their own cosmology and epistemology to be superior and as the only source of truth, inferiorizing and denying equality to other epistemologies and cosmologies, then Eurocentrism is not merely a form of fundamentalism but the hegemonic fundamentalism in the world today. Those Third Worldist fundamentalisms (Afrocentric, Islamist, Indigenist, etc.) that emerge in response to the hegemonic Eurocentric fundamentalism and that the “Western” press put in the front pages of newspapers every day are subordinated forms of Eurocentric fundamentalism insofar as they reproduce and leave intact the binary, essentialist, racial hierarchies of Eurocentric fundamentalism.
much of the thought now produced in the Islamic world is not in fact Islamic. Western ideologies are presented by both dogmatic literalists and modern “liberal” secularists with a thin veneer of Islamic terms and sayings, while the voice of traditional Islamic thought is often muted and ignored. But through the work of scholars such as S. H. Nasr and Hamza Yusuf Hanson in America, A. K. Brohi and Suheyl Umar in Pakistan, ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Maḥmūd in Egypt, Naquib al-Attas in Malaysia, and Martin Lings, Ḥassan Gai Eaton, and T. J. Winter in England, it can continue to be heard.
Those who come to Islam because they wish to draw closer to God have no problem with a multiform Islam radiating from a single revealed paradigmatic core. But those who come to Islam seeking an identity will find the multiplicity of traditional Muslim cultures intolerable. People with confused identities are attracted to totalitarian solutions. And today, many young Muslims feel so threatened by the diversity of calls on their allegiance, and by the sheer complexity of modernity, that the only form of Islam they can regard as legitimate is a totalitarian, monolithic one.
Debates about soteriological pluralism are understandable given the importance of salvation in Islamic theology. Nevertheless, it should be noted that despite the controversy surrounding them, Traditional Muslim Perennialists represent a minority current in the West and among Westernised elites outside the West (Sedgwick 2004a, pp. 241–62).The Perennialist Muslims in the West constitute a highly educated cadre largely made up of converts, who have done some of the finest work on Islamic materials and have presented Islam in a beautiful and illuminating manner that has made it accessible to people it would normally not have reached, and with an aesthetic and intellectual dimension that is sorely absent from many of the mainstream efforts. In spite of the aforementioned concerns, to dismiss their noble endeavours is unconscionable and mean-spirited.(pp. 56–57)
3. Morocco as a Hub
4. Islamic Ideals and Muslim Experiences
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
The Quran translation used is that of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought 2019).
Decolonial world-systems analysts (Grosfoguel 2011; Grosfoguel and Cervantes-Rodriguez 2002) refer to the contemporary global system dominated by the West as simultaneously modern and colonial rather than postmodern and neocolonial because, from a peripheralised perspective, the continuities within the system are more relevant than its reconfigurations. Different intellectual justifications and political strategies have been used for centuries to peripheralise Muslims and other colonised peoples; however, the colonial logic remains constant. One decolonial theorist puts it bluntly: “During the last 510 years of the ‘Capitalist/Patriarchal Westerncentric/Christian-centric Modern/Colonial World-System’, we went from the 16th Century ‘christianise or I shoot you’, to the 19th Century ‘civilise or I shoot you’, to the 20th Century: ‘develop or I shoot you’, to the late 20th Century ‘neoliberalise or I shoot you’, and to the early 21st century ‘democratise or I shoot you’” (Grosfoguel 2011, p. 28).
The term Islamicate was coined by Marshall Hodgson. He explains that the term refers to “a culture, centred on a lettered tradition, which has been historically distinctive of Islamdom the society, and which has been naturally shared in by both Muslims and non-Muslims who participate at all fully in the society of Islamdom.” This usage restricts “the term ‘Islam’ to the religion of the Muslims, not using that term for the far more general phenomena, the society of Islamdom and its Islamicate cultural tradition” (Hodgson 1974, p. 58). Here, the term Islamicate is used “in its most inclusive sense, to refer to the dynamic mosaic of social and cultural life forms that exist not only in Muslim-majority societies, but also in diasporic Muslim communities” (Siavash et al. 2017, p. 2).
All Arabic terms are transliterated into Roman characters, in italics, using a simplified version of the Library of Congress System. However, proper names are given without italics, and words now incorporated into the common English lexicon, such as Sunni or Shia, are spelt using their English forms. This applies to certain proper nouns, which are commonly transliterated differently. For example, when citing an author, I favour the transcription used in the official citation—e.g., ‘Zakia Zouanat’, not ‘Zakiyyah Zuwânât’. Furthermore, the article al is omitted from proper names after their first mention in the text—e.g., al-Junayd is subsequently referred to as Junayd.
One linguistic convention important to Muslims is the traditional practice of including a prayer for the Prophet Muḥammad every time his name is mentioned, even in writing. Although this practice is dear to me, it is not conventional in non-confessional English academic texts. Therefore, the reader will find in this article the result of my own personal compromise on this point: I pray here once that the blessings and peace of Allah be upon the Prophet Muḥammad every time his name is mentioned in this document and elsewhere. Furthermore, may these blessings and peace be bestowed upon all other holy women and men in all times and places. Unfortunately, inserting even one prayer into a non-confessional scholarly text can be controversial. While I think religious studies and theology should remain distinct disciplines, I reject the widespread notion that any trace of discourse understood as theological automatically contaminates scholarship in religious studies. In fact, I seek to decolonize the secular/religious binary.
The modern/colonial system emerged in the Atlantic world but rapidly began to globalise. After Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512) realised that America was not Asia, in 1502, Europeans could imagine themselves at the centre of the world, with Asia to the east and America to the west. Only twenty years later, in 1522, a naval expedition launched by Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) completed the first circumnavigation of the globe. Dussel ( 1995) writes, “these discoveries took place within a European perspective interpreting itself for the first time as the center of human history and thus elevating its particular horizon into the supposedly universal one of occidental culture” (p. 35).
Traditional Muslims tend to be especially vocal about the importance of Sufism among the sacred sciences. They argue in response to condemnations of Sufism by “puritanical reformism, what we now call ‘fundamentalism’, and intellectual capitulation in the form of almost every modern ‘ism’” (Lumbard 2004a, p. xiii).
German social theorist Max Weber (1864–1920) developed the concept of ideal types to examine historical trends by deliberately simplifying complex data.
This is indeed a foundational text within Western traditionalism (see Guénon  1970).
Mattson became the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2006.
It was initially entitled The Diversity of Islam (Oliveti  2009).
Interestingly, the 2009 edition estimated that only 3% of the world’s Muslims were fundamentalist, whereas 96% were traditional. Apparently, 6% of the world’s Muslims have abandoned the latter for the former, while modernism has remained with only 1% of the global Muslim population.
A hub is the centre of a complex network. It is an intersection through which the diverse parts, routes, strands, branches, or currents of a system connect. When these disparate parts converge, they influence one another. This interaction within and through the hub transforms the entire system, which becomes, to use an Aristotelian idiom, greater than the sum of its parts. Cities are the human hubs par excellence. They not only connect surrounding rural regions, but often also other cities and sometimes even an entire civilisation. Contemporary Western civilisation is organised around and through such metropolitan hubs as New York, London, and Paris, which also influence the modern/colonial periphery. Indeed, those three cities are home to many of the most famous Latin American, African, and Asian athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. Conversely, even in the remotest regions of every continent, one can find people wearing clothes with the logos of sports teams from these cities. People around the world decorate their homes and businesses with visual art, often reproducing the skyline of these cities or famous monuments within them. The nation-states within which these cities are located are also hubs within the global system. The United States is currently the core of this system, the modern/colonial hub of hubs. As such, it is a country that influences the entire world but is also greatly influenced by it, a fact that worries U.S. American isolationists and protectionists. However, the global world-system is too complex to be centred around only one hub. Rather, it is comprised of many systems and interconnected hubs that often rival for influence within overlapping networks.
Al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo around the year 970, whereas Al-Qarawîyyîn University was founded in Fes in 859. There is some debate as to which can claim to be the oldest university in the world since it is unclear when each institution developed from a specialised school into a full-fledged university.
Even the English language recognises the significance of Mecca as a global hub since it is quite idiomatic to state that Mecca is the Mecca of Muslims, just as Hollywood is the Mecca of moviegoers.
For a comparative discussion about the central pillar of the world (Latin: axis mundi) in religious traditions, see Mircea Eliade ( 1958, pp. 367–87;  1965, pp. 38–47). However, decades before, the French Muslim Traditionalist René Guénon wrote extensively on this subject, notably in Le Roi du monde (Guénon 1927). The influence of Guénonian Traditionalism on Eliade is elucidated by Sedgwick (2004a, pp. 109–18, 189–92).
I have observed this bias among Westernized elites in Morocco, who seem to consider their country more advanced than other Muslim-majority societies, due to the influence of Europe through Andalusian refugees and later Portuguese, Spanish, and French colonialism. This internal colonial bias deserves further investigation.
The term normative is used here both in the sense of a socially dominant norm and as a prescribed ideal. Indeed, to prescribe behaviours or beliefs, religious experts need to have some sort of dominance or authority within a given social context.
It should be noted that throughout the Islamicate world, these disputes often took place in the margins of power, among scholars suspicious of the corrupting influence of governing elites. Court-appointed religious scholars were few in comparison to the majority of Sunni and Shia ulama who tried to be independent.
Whereas Shiism designates a clearly identifiable community and is spelt using an initial capital letter, sharifism refers to a tendency or trend.
It is true that many historians categorise the Idrîsids as a Zaydî Shia dynasty. Moreover, the Isma’îlî Fâṭimid dynasty had a major impact on sharifism across North Africa, but rival Islamic currents took centuries to develop into the sectarian divisions we know today (Hodgson 1955). They may have given birth to today’s divisions, but they were not identical. For instance, Mâlik Ibn Anâs (circa 711–795) is now known as a major Sunni legal scholar, but he studied with Ja’far al-Ṣâdiq (702–765), who is mostly remembered today as a Shia Imam. Mâlik supported the failed Zaydi insurrection, after which he advised Idrîs I to seek refuge in the Maghrib. Are we to conclude that Idrîs was a Sunni Mâlikî or Mâlik a Zaydi Shia? It seems more reasonable to posit that there was an early school in Medina which did not easily fit into sectarian divisions as they later came to be understood (Skali  2014, p. 24).
In the Sufi tradition, sobriety is associated with Junayd and spiritual drunkenness with his one-time student, al-Ḥusayn ibn Manṣûr al-Ḥallâj (circa 858–922). Such symbolism has its wisdom and didactic purpose within the tradition but, from a historian’s perspective, it may appear facile. For instance, historical accounts of Ḥallâj’s trial reveal a complicated web of religious, legal, and political factors. Ḥallâj may not even have been executed for saying “I am the Truth” (Ernst 1997, p. 71). Despite its Eurocentric Orientalist tone, the classic biography of Ḥallâj by Louis Massignon (1922) remains a thorough and nuanced scholarly work.
The Qâdiriyya was one of the earliest formally institutionalised Sufi orders, although the Rifâ’iyya seems to have been the first (Trimingham  1998, p. 11).
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy in which the king can intervene at will and set the parameters in which the democratic institutions and bureaucracy manage the country.
The Amman Message and Marrakesh Declaration may be historically unprecedented in gaining acceptance from a broad spectrum of Muslim authorities at a time when the community counts nearly two billion souls. However, they build on the legacy of earlier, more authoritative documents, such as the several treaties and covenants established by the Prophet Muḥammad (Morrow 2013; Lecker 2004).
This enormous difference in wealth can be observed in World Bank estimates of total wealth per capita in U.S. dollars (Lange et al. 2018, pp. 225–32). Total wealth is not limited to gross domestic product (GDP). It includes factors such as natural capital and human capital. Based on statistics from 2014, Jordan’s total wealth per capita is USD 49,287 and Morocco’s is USD 40,488, whereas Saudi Arabia’s is USD 512,869, and Qatar’s a whopping USD 1,597,125. This means Morocco’s wealth represents only 2.5% of Qatar’s and 7.9% of Saudi Arabia’s. Interestingly, no estimate is given for Iran, but despite international sanctions, the Republic’s oil reserves guarantee it a certain level of wealth.
While the Moroccan state benefits from cooperating with the European Union on migration policy, it also hampers the capacity of its own nationals to emigrate. Yet, remittances from Moroccans living in the West contribute significantly to the national economy (El Attaq 2021). It is also a sad irony that countries in the core of the world-system benefit from the presence of irregular migrants whose cheap labour helps prevent inflation.
Although countries such as the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia increasingly welcome certain traditionalist scholars (al-Azami 2019), they are primarily hubs for those who endorse or at least do not oppose their governments, including modernists, rather than Traditional Islamic hubs.
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Sparkes, J.I. Morocco as a Hub of Globalised Traditional Islam. Religions 2022, 13, 392. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050392
Sparkes JI. Morocco as a Hub of Globalised Traditional Islam. Religions. 2022; 13(5):392. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050392Chicago/Turabian Style
Sparkes, Jason Idriss. 2022. "Morocco as a Hub of Globalised Traditional Islam" Religions 13, no. 5: 392. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050392