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The Sufism sects in Algeria


The Sufi sects with all their intellectual and behavioral orientations represented the most important elements of Algerian society for a long period of time. Historians agree that it started spreading and gaining social power in Algeria starting from the 16th century, then it widely developed and expanded in the second half of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th. Therefore, it represents a significant part of the religious, cultural and social history of Algeria and even the political one.

2–The Sufi sects in Algeria:

a.           The Qadiriya sect:

The Qadiriya sect is one of the most ancient Sufi sects that accessed Algeria through the city of Bejaia, then was spread in the Algerian west, the southern west of the desert and the rest of the Algerian regions in addition to west Tunisia. Its branches were all over the cities and had zawiyas, mausoleums and mosques in Algiers, Tlemcen and other cities. It also had several endowments.

The Qadiriya represents the basis and stanspoint of all the Sufi sects in Algeria. Moreover, the Madaniya (named for Abu Madyan Shuaib Bin Al-Hussein) was branched out from the Qadiriya. Further, the Shadhili sect was stemmed from the Madiniya one, and from the Shadhili were branched many other sects like al-Darqawi, al-Jazuli, al-Yusufiya, al-Issawiya, al-Sheikhiya, al-Tayibiya, and al-Hansalih sects. Moreover, even if the Shadhili was branched from the Qadiriya, it adopted a different Sufi approach different from the Quadiri Sufi. The French estimated its followers in Algeria in 1882 AD at  (574.140 learners, 268 presenters, and 29 zawiyas).

The Qadiriya was named for “Sheikh Abdelkader Abu Mohammed Mahyeddin Ibn Abi Salih Abdullah” and the city of Jilan (beyond Tabristan) was named for “Ibn Mussa Janki Dost al-Jilali” who after his death, people started to adopt his approach, and learners started to spread the sect, so it had several sites in the Islamic world including North Africa. Sheik “Abdelkader” passed away in 561 AH and was buried in a school in Bagdad. 

Furthermore, the main Zawiya of the sect was located in Bagdad and had branches in Algeria, and each branch was independent from the other and had a presenter. Also, some state that the first one who established the Qadiriya branch was “Mustafa Bin al-Mukhtar al-Garissi'' around the year (1200 AH / 1785 AD) in El Guetna in Ouedi Hamaan near the city of Mascara. In fact, the branches of the sect existed in different cities previously, and had zawiyas, mausoleums, domes, and mosques in Algiers, Tlemcen, Constantine, Bejaia cities and others, and also had several endowments.  The most significant man who was in charge of the sheikhdoms of the zawiya after him was his son “Muhyeddin '' father of “Emir Abdel Kader al-Jazairi” the hero of the Algerian resistance in the 19th century.

b.   The Rahmaniya sect:

The Rahmaniya sect is considered as the most spread sect across Algeria during the 19th century, it dominated by itself more than 50% of the number of zawiyas according to the statistics in 18921 AD made by the French orientalist “Louis Rinn”. The number of the zawiyas  belonging to the Rahmaniya sect reached 188 zawiyas, 156214 learners, and they were spread especially in the east, west, south and even Tunisia. Among the most significant centers of the secte there was: Hamma near Algiers, Ait Ismail in Kabylie, Sadouk zawiya in Setif city, el-Borj near Tolga, Ouled Djelal, Khenguet Sidi Nadji, Ouedi Souf, and the last four centers were located in oases. It is also mentioned that the Rahmaniya sect played a central role in spreading solidarity among the inhabitants of the region, in addition to spreading knowledge and brotherhood in the rural areas of Constantine.

The establishment of the Rahmaniya sect was done by “Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Qashtouli al-Jarjari al-Azhari” born around 1720 AD in Ait Ismail tribe that was part of the Qashtouli alliance in the tribes of Jurjura located 15km away from the east od Draa el-Mizan town (Tizi-Ouzou), and he was named Zeouaoui after the town Zeouaoua in which he grew up, he was also called “al-Azhari” after al-Azhar mosque (Egypt). He started his studies in his hometown, then continued his education in Algiers city. In 1739 AD, he went to perform his Hajj pilgrimage and when he came back he settled in al-Azhar mosque for a long period of time frequenting scholars and sheikhs like “ Mohammed Bin Salem al-Hafnawi” then Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Rahman became his learner and student when he brought him to al-Khalwatiya sect. Moreover, he came back to Algiers after more than thirty years after his sheikh “Mohammed Bin Salem al-Hafnawi'' in Egypt ordered him to go back to his town and spread the Khalwatiya sect and that was in (1177 AH / 1757 AD) where he established a zawiya in his hometown (Ait Ismail) and started to preach and teach, and he found the Jurjura inhabitants gathered around him. Furthermore, he moved to el-Hamma in the suburbs of Algiers to expand the circle of his vocation, and established a zawiya where he started spreading the precepts of al-Khalwatiya sect, but he soon outraged the Almoravid and scholars probably out of fear for their power. Therefore, he came back to his hometown, and six months after his comeback he gathered his students and informed them about his imminent death, then designated a successor for his position and that was “Ali Bin Issa al -Maghribi”.

Moreover, the activity of “Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman” was not limited to spreading his religious Sufi vocation in the regions of Jurjura and Algiers city only, he also expanded his activity on the Algerian east where he designated his successor from the Constantine compatriots whose name was “Mustafa ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Bash Tarzi al-Karghali” and the latter spread the precepts of the sect in the eastern province where he designated several presenters, the most famous one was: “Muhammed Bin Azzouz” in the Oasis of el-Bordj near Tolga town. After his death in (1208 AH / 1793 AD) the Rahmaniya sect became more successful and its sphere of power was expanded which made the Turkish more agitated and angry, so they tried to limitate the flow of visitors coming from everywhere to the main zawiya of Ait Ismail, therefore they assigned three groups, one of them was able to transfer his seat to el-Hamma where he was buried in with an a solemn ceremony, then they build a mosque and a dome on top.  When the inhabitants of Ait Ismail villages realized that the body did not leave the original grave when they had exhumed it, they thought that the body was duplicated, and ever since  “Muhammed Bin Azzouz” was nicknamed : “Boukabrain” (two graves).

After all, his successor “Ali Bin Issa” who remained in office for 43 years (from 1208 AH to 1251) was able to run the main zawiya wisely and successfully, which made the sect gain a spread and expansion of power whether in the center of the country or east and south. 

c.   The Tijaniyya sect:

The Tijaniyya sect emerged in late 18th century by the founder sheikh  “Ahmad al-Tijani” alias “Bab Al-Abbas Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tijani Al- Sharif”, and its centers were located in Algeria during that era, more specifically in: Ain Madi, Tamacine, Laghouat, Tougourt, Ouergla and Oued Souf. “Ahmad al-Tijani '' was born in Ain Madi in (1150 AH / 1738 AD) where he recited Quran to sheikhs until he was about twenty years old, then he headed to Fés city to gain knowledge from its scholars. Moreover, he moved around different regions of the city like: (Boussemghoun, Tuat, el-Bayd, Sidi Sheikh, Tlemcen and others..) . Furthermore, when he was in Fés city, he met the most significant figures of Sufism, he discussed with them and  learned from them the precepts of Sufism and the principles of spiritual education. His stay in Fés city  lasted for about 18 years through which he was studying and understanding different religious and forensic sciences.

In 1773 AD, during his trip to Hajj, when he reached the Zeouaoua region he met Sheikh “Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman Al-Azhari” and learned the Rahmaniya Khalwatiya sect from him then he continued his journey until he arrived to his destination in 1774 AD where he called an Indian sheikh named “Ahmad Bin Abdullah” who was a Sufi and pious ascetic man, so he stayed with him for two months during which the Indian sheikh passed away, therefore el-Tijani successded his work and knowledge of Sufism sect. Moreover, during his trip, el-Tiijani stepped by Cairo where he met sheikh Muhammed el-Khaidari  who authorized him to spread the precepts of the Khalwatiya sect in North Africa, so he went straight to Fés city where he stayed for a period of time learning and teaching religious educations and established the Khalwatiya Sufi sect. Subsequently, he moved to Tlemcen city where he went to the Boussemghoun castles and the falls of the eastern desert. He built a secluded place and was disconnected to worship only, and stayed there for about eighteen years advocating his sect. He then moved between the saharian zones separating Tuat, western Sudan and Tunisia advocating Islam and spreading the precepts of his Sifism sect. Wherever he stayed he was accommodated by the inhabitants where he stayed for long periods of time as an educator and a guide, and established his own zawiya and designated a presenter assigned to teach his sect.

He continued to spread his sect until he passed away in 1815 AD, in the Moroccan city Fés where he had settled after the Bey of Oran “Muhammed el-Kabir '' chased him and seized the Ain Madi village. Moreover, he left a large repertoire of religious books, most importantly: (“The Divine Instructions During The Divine Conquests” from the Ahmadiyya Tijaniyya, which is an explanation of the Hamziyya poem by al-Buaisiri when praising the Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him salvation). In addition to “Jewels of the Truth'' explaining prayers named The Ruby of the Truth” that introduces the truth about the master of creation.