Morocco’s Shia Identity

April 6, 2008

Pre-islamic Moroccan Berber tribes were mostly Jewish with a few minorities of Christians. It was very difficult to impose Islam on these tribes, and the fights took many centuries before Islam was completely settled in this land. Popular culture in Morocco believes that if the tribes were ruled by Cherifs (I mean people from the tree of the Prophet Mohamed a.s) the land would be fertile, as they carry a sort of Baraka (Blessing) wherever they go. These tribes start welcoming Alaouits who were escaping from the Umayyad and the Abbasids and making them the kings of Morocco. The first king of Morocco was Molay Idriss. He is a Hassanit who escaped from the Khilafa of the East and established his kingdom here. Molay Idriss married the daughter of the chief of the Berbers, as a symbol of blood alliance between the two. Since then, all the Moroccan dynasties are from Ali & Fatima, because only an Alaouit can unite the multiple conflictual Moroccan tribes & the incoming Arab tribes fleeing drought and political injustice as well as the Jewish & Arab communities who escaped from Andalusia throughout the centuries. Nowadays, our ruling King Mohammed V is him-self an Alaouit & an offspring of Hassan a.s. And believe it or not, The king still carrys that symbolic charisma of a Cherif.

However, due to the social particularities of Berber tribes and to the mixture that forms the Moroccan society, the Kings of Morocco many centuries ago have chosen to adopt Sunna as religious doctrine instead of Shia. Yet, they have chosen a very clever Sunna doctrine, as they married the doctrine of Malik Bnu Anass to the philosophy of Ashaari and to the Sufism of Junayd. Consequently, Morocco have kept many of its Shia roots and symbols and at the same time satisfied the needs of the street people (Al Jamaa), by adopting a Sunni Maliki Ashaari Junaydi approach of Islam. With my little experience of Moroccan Sufism, and the studies I did on the subject, I may conclude that Sufism in Morocco was developed as a sect which practices secret Shiism with a limited number of adepts, whereas the majority of people continued to practice a Sunni style Islam.

After Khomeini’s revolution in Iran in 1979, security measures were taken to stop the spread of such an ideology among young Moroccans in universities and Islamic parties. But in the 1996 Moroccan reformed Constitution, it was mentioned that Morocco is an Islamic country without focusing on the Maliki doctrine as it was the case before. This means that being Shia in Morocco is not against the Constitution, as long as it’s an individual practice not a political stream!

Anyway, Moroccan Shia today are a bunch of intellectuals, not more that 50 persons. Most of them received their education in Lebanon or Iraq or were influenced by the writings of the French thinker Henry Corbin or of Khomeini’s Political Islam’s ideology. Moroccan Shia are mostly located in Rabat, Marrakech, Fez and Northern Regions, but they have no spiritual leader (Marji Ataklid). They follow Iraqian or Iranian Spiritual guides most of the time, as I deduced from my discussion with many of them.

According to my sources, Moroccan Shia tempted to organise them-selves in a regular theopolitical movement during a meeting in Tanger. However, they had different interests and perspectives about that movement so it failed. But obviously, many members of some new Islamic Parties are Shia like Al Badil Al Hadari, and many educational and cultural associations are funded by Shia in Morocco like Al Ghadir association in Meknes and many others in the North.

During the celebration of the sad memory Ashurae in Morocco, we notice the persistence of many ancient symbols taken from both Shia and Jewish traditions. Moroccans fast during Ashurae and they bay dolls and games for children to stop them from crying the death of Hussein a.s. In some regions they even settle places for the ceremony of Azae. These are somehow Shia traditions. Yet, these symbols are mixed with others, borrowed from the Jewish celebration called Haylula, like lighting a big fire in each street and turning around it while playing on some leather instruments and using this fire for black magic.

When I saw Moroccan people crying Saddam’s death and accusing Shia in Iraq of being the allies of American forces, I feel a sort of bitterness inside. These people unfortunately ignore everything of their Shia religious identity, and Islamic education in the Moroccan educational system as well as media; don’t help at all in informing them about the subject. But when I see the support Moroccans owe to Hezbollah or Iran, I think that the traces of their Shia past can’t be erased by the wind of Sunna centuries.

I still need to clarify one more thing. Moroccan religious identity as I see it today is changing in a tremendous way towards a non-doctrinal sort of Islam. This is due to many reasons like: The huge luck in education, weakness of national media, the chock of modernity and the fragilazing hits it’s experiencing : Extremism, New Sufism trends (Adl Wa Lihsaan & Tarika Boutchichia) and Christian Missionaries… My personal prediction about the future evolution of the Moroccan religious identity is that; if Shia elite can emerge in this sensitive & particular moment of Moroccan history, the Shia doctrine can be resurrected as a major religious identity in Morocco.



  1. Excellent read!

  2. I am moroccan and i am very aware of the subject matter .. But we can only go forward and not backwards .. And that is why we the people of morocco and the grand maghreb (north africa), quit and dennounced the way of shiaa and their satanic teachings .. And ritual culture, and adopted the true and simple islam that is, shia emerged from a political and tribal dispute after the death of the holy prophet (sas) and adopted rituals and acts of polytheism that have no origins in the teaching of islam and shariaa.. So as a muslim, i am glad to have seen what our brothers in iraq and lebanon… Havent yet been able to forsee .. And god bless!

    • Salaam Joey,

      I am Moroccon Berber and I must say I am absolutely disgusted by your comment!
      I am a sunni (obviously most berbers are sunni) and I see NO justification in obliging ppl to be sunni NOR from the Quran NOR from the hadieth!
      If we want to be true with ourselves==>How come we have SUCH influencial Jewish moroccons in the Moroccon government??!! Exactly, all Israeli nutsack licking fools!
      We all know our government has been infiltrated by zionists, and the King himself may have alot of political power but he’s being “guided” by those very zionists.
      As for SHIA; if that’s their decision to BE a shia you should accept it, the same way you have NO problem to have such a larger influencial Jewish community in Morocco and Christian community.
      They are followers of the Book, and in no way are we the ones able to force our beliefs upon others!

      Mohamed El Boujeddaini

      • Hi mr mohammed, i feel so sorry and i do apologize if in any way my comment made you feel the way it did.., but i also strongly recommend studying more about shiism before jumping to conclusions.. I myself considered converting to shiism before i even became muslim hamdulilah..
        But studying it and looking very closely into its ways of worshiping brought me closer to the real islam .., but as muslims we shouldn t forget our duty of calling out the wrongs and inviting to the true way .. We dont worship the prophet, nor the imams… We worship the one god .. And shiaa doesn t in any way fulfill that requirement therfore my dear brother i urge you and everybody else to be very careful when facing this matter .. And again sorry if i do offend anybody with my opinion! And salam

    • I am a Shia and no, not from Tunisia or Morocco. I REALLY want to know what the hell are you talking about when you say Shias following satanic teachings and rituals? Also, what sort of “polytheism” is propagated in their belief system?

      I hope that all these views that you have are merely out of ignorance and not hatred, and if you are true to yourself and Islam, then allow me to really show you the true face of Shiaism.

      Please email me at : deadredburning @ yahoo.com


  3. Salaam Joey,

    I know perfectly well what Shia is and how they are NOT a part of mainstream Islam! But we should ask ourselves; is this a reason to tie a rope around their neck and hang them in public because they are shia? Yes, they have certain views that are UNISLAMIC and UNQURANIC you don’t have to tell me that, I figured them out months ago! It’s a clear SECT that seeks to turn the entire Middle East into a shia block! And the only reason they use the Palestinian cause is for Arab shia support not because they care about the Palestinians. As for us Sunni Arabs; I think we should unite against the BIGGER threat at hand (zionism!) and then worry about Shia “Islam” (I have a hard time calling them muslims) They are allowed to perform hadj and up to my knowledge only Muslims were able to do so? (Correct me if I am wrong plz) Us Sunnis what do we have to be proud of other then our faith in Allah? Our governments are corrupt, they are dictators and they have good ties with USA/Israel (Don’t tell me this is permissable in Islam, because it isn’t! Allah warned us to have Zionist alliances; Surah Al Ma’ida verse 51 etc)
    This is far worse then having to deal with a sect in Islam :/

    Salaam Alaykoum

    I wish I could talk to you via hotmail

    • Dear Mr. Boujeddhaini,

      I am quite frankly shocked after reading your reply, wherein you say that the Shia views and beliefs are UNISLAMIC and UNQURANIC… I really would like to know why and how you feel/think that way! As a muslim, that you call yourself, it is your religious duty to defend your words and opinion when needed.

      You have a hard time calling Shia muslims – why?

      Please email me why you think or feel so negative about the Shias? I’m trying to learn.

      deadredburning @ yahoo.com

      Thank you,

  4. i thought youre were saying your a berber, correct me if you mention in your text above as for us sunni arabs;
    please dont hesitate your faith to your origins.

    • I am a Sunni Berber btw, I thought I mentioned that unless I made a typing error

      A proud Sunni Berber btw 😀

  5. I had to type as for us “Sunnis” in GENERAL not just arabs to unite against the bigger threat

  6. Adressing an issue doesnt mean ignoring another .., we are here to discuss the shiaa in morocco and not the jewish influence nor the political system thats running and rulling muslim countries.. We can do that trough email if u r intrested.. I am not denying any of it.. Im just staying on the subject of the article itself..,
    And in numerous clerical opinions and ijtihads, the shiaa issue is far more dangerous than the jewish occupation of the palestine.. Due to its close distance and the fact that most muslims don t know the gravity of the problem , everybody knows about the jewish and zionist threat .., in the other hand, very few muslims understand how the shiaa view the sunnis.., im not for secterian war..im for peace.. And peace will only come with islam and shariaa.. Wa salam

  7. You guys follow Maliki fiqah in Morroco which is different than what we follow which is Hanbali fiqah. You are closer to Shia Muslims as you also pray with your hands open.

  8. I do feel bad for people who follow sunnism as there are five fiqahs that are being followed. Also, most of our Arab brothers are living under the monarchy wo do whatever they want with regard to their general public. Islam prohibits monarchy yet we see it in almost all the Arab nations that follow sunnism. How do I explain that to my christians friends and co-workers?

  9. Salaam,

    The discussion after the main article intrigued me more than the article itself. Nothing against the article. It is quite balanced article amongest what I have read on the same topic.

    What I am interested in is what you two actually know about Shia Islam and Shia Muslims practices. I am a muslim living in Canada for last 35 years so I have little or no realization of sunni or Shia (or any other sect). I am hoping you guys can share your knowledge which is beyond internet blogs and propaganda machinery. I am also hoping that you both have done real research on Shia Islam, specially brother Joey who decided to opt for Sunni Islam after his research. Another thing which I would expect that material you guys will provide will not be based upon extremist views, which are quite prevalent these days. As far as I know, its mainly shia who are getting killed in Iraq, Pakistan and some other countries for no reason except they follow a specific believe, So its obviously tells me that its the other side crossing the red line and not the shia. Doesn’t matter who says with mouth what he/she believes. I am a news (and to some degree political) junky, so please dont challenge me on barbarian killing of Shias.


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