Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on June 14 chaired in the nation’s spiritual capital Fez the installation ceremony of the Higher Council of the recently set up Mohammed VI Foundation for African Islamic scholars. A very important world event, particularly amid the difficult conditions in several African Member States in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa where risks posed to their spiritual, cultural, social and economic security, as a result of the growing terrorist threats by extremist groups (Boko Haram and others) in the region and the spread of some trends which are inconsistent with the Sunni Malekite school of thought followed by the peoples of African countries. The creation of this leading institution is another powerful spiritual landmark of the effective model of South – South cooperation in the religious and spiritual realm among African countries to which King Mohammed VI gives utmost attention.
The ceremony was held in the Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez. A university that attained prestigious fame, producing a number of high profile scholars that exercised a strong influence on the intellectual and academic realms in the Muslim world. For well over twelve hundred years Al-Qarawiyyin has been one of the leading spiritual and educational centres of the Muslim World, a typical institution, of many, underlining how learning constituted the heart of the religion of Islam and its civilisation
During the installation of this prestigious council, King Mohammed addressed the African ulema stressing that that “the aim is to make sure those values help us promote security, stability and development in Africa.” Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema as an institution for cooperation, for the exchange of experiences and for the Ulema to make concerted efforts to fulfill their duty and turn a spotlight on the true image of the pristine Islamic faith as well as on its open-minded values,” said the Sovereign in a speech during the installation ceremony of the Foundation Higher Council.
The Sovereign expressed confidence that the Foundation, through its branches in African countries, and together with other religious institutions, “will play its role in disseminating enlightened religious precepts and in combating extremism, reclusiveness and terrorism – which our faith does not embrace in any way – but which are advocated by some clerics, in the name of Islam.”
King Mohammed VI underscored that the creation of the Foundation “reflects the depth of the time-honored spiritual bonds between sub-Saharan African peoples and the King of Morocco, Commander of the Faithful.
In his Speech, the Sovereign deemed the Foundation as another building block which further enhances Morocco’s strategic policy designed to raise the level of its political and economic cooperation with a number of sisterly African nations, in order, he said, “to make it an effective, solidarity-based partnership, covering all sectors.”
Explaining that his decision to create this institution “has nothing to do with transient circumstances or narrow, passing interests,” he said “It is rather in line with an integrated policy to promote constructive cooperation and respond to the requests from a number of sisterly African nations in the religious domain.”
Moroccan spiritual diplomacy has been very successful in West Africa due to the country’s historic Maliki School through Sufi channels and methods of reaching worshipers in the sub-Saharan region and West Africa. The Tijaniya sufi order widely operating in West Africa was founded in North Africa during the 18th century. Other Sufi orders – including the Qadiriyya and Chadiliya orders – soon followed, gaining large numbers of devotees who identified heavily with Morocco, where the tomb of Sheikh Ahmed Tijani, the founder of the Tijaniyyah order, is buried.
Sufism attracts more young Africans because of its tolerance, due to the easy interpretation that gives to the Qur’an, its rejection of fanaticism and its embrace of modernity. Young people are the principles of” beauty” and” humanity”. Sufism balanced lifestyle that allows them to enjoy arts, music and love without having to abandon their spiritual or religious obligations. Sufi orders exist throughout Morocco. They organize regular gatherings to pray, chant and debate timely topics of social and political, from the protection of the environment and social charity to the fight against drugs and the threat of terrorism.
In addition, focusing on the universal values that Islam shares with Christianity and Judaism (as the pursuit of happiness, the love of the family, tolerance of racial and religious differences and the promotion of peace) Sufi gatherings inspire young people to engage in interfaith dialogue.
Sufism is so diffuse in Moroccan culture that its role cannot be properly understood if reduced to a sect or a sacred place. People get together to sing Sufi poetry, the primordial essence of the human being, the virtues of simplicity and the healing gifts of Sufi saints such as Sidi Abderrahman Majdub, Sidi Ahmed Tijani, and Sidi Bouabid Charki, the spiritual masters revered by peers and disciples for having attained spiritual union with God during their earthly lives.
Apparently Morocco’s religious authority – Imarat Lmouminin – is highly venerated by many Africans, whether in Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire… In all his trips in Africa, King Mohammed as Commander of the Faithful, receive all leaders of major Sufi orders. In all his trips in West Africa, he provided thousands of copies of the Quran issued by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Holy Quran Publishing to be distributed mosques and other major Muslim institutions. In short, a credible and very successful spiritual diplomacy led by the King to promote a tolerant Islam that teaches respect, love to other religions and contribute efficiently to counter all extremist voices who unfortunately seem to gain ground in some countries in West Africa.
In March 2015, King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates in the capital, Rabat. The religious training center that aims to instill the values of Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam, based on the Maliki rite and Sunni Sufism, in the next generation of Muslim religious leaders (imams) and preachers (morchidines and morchidates) from across the region and the world.
The new foundation (Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema) will be a key element in Morocco’s ongoing efforts to promote religious moderation and tolerance as a shield against extremism in the region. The spiritual ties between Morocco and many African Sub-Saharan countries are mirrored throughout history in the exchange of muslim scholars, saints and sufis who spared no effort to spread the genuine Islamic values of tolerance and moderation. This leading institution will be the most convenient forum where African Ulema can debate Islamic thought, unify and coordinate their efforts to disseminate the true value of Islam : tolerance, coexistence, peace and respect for other religions.
Here is the full text of the Royal speech:
Praise be to God May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure, on this auspicious day, to inaugurate the Higher Council of the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema.
This step reflects the depth of the time-honored spiritual bonds between sub-Saharan African peoples and the King of Morocco, Commander of the Faithful. Furthermore, it attests to the unity of our faith and doctrine, as much as to our shared cultural heritage.
This is another building block which further enhances our strategic policy designed to raise the level of political and economic cooperation between Morocco and a number of sister African nations in order to make it an effective, solidarity-based partnership, covering all sectors.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My decision to create this institution has nothing to do with transient circumstances or narrow, passing interests.
It is rather in line with an integrated policy to promote constructive cooperation and respond to the requests from a number of sister African nations in the religious domain.
Among the most significant indicators of this cooperation is the fact that many African students have been accepted for enrollment at the Mohamed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Murshideen and Murshidat (male and female preachers).
I view the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema as an institution for cooperation, for the exchange of experiences and for the Ulema to make concerted efforts to fulfil their duty and turn a spotlight on the true image of the pristine Islamic faith as well as on its open-minded values, which are based on moderation, tolerance and coexistence. The aim is to make sure those values help us promote security, stability and development in Africa.
I am convinced the Foundation, through its branches in African countries, and together with other religious institutions, will play its role in disseminating enlightened religious precepts and in combating extremism, reclusiveness and terrorism – which our faith does not embrace in any way – but which are advocated by some clerics, in the name of Islam.
I have decided that the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema will be based in Fez, given this city’s religious status, and also in view of the fact that it is one of Morocco’s main seats of learning and our country’s spiritual capital.
I have also chosen the city of Fez because I am aware of its standing in the hearts of Africans.
May God grant you every success