Morocco Religions

By | June 14, 2021

Religious affiliation

Almost the entire resident population is attributed to Islam. About 0.01 percent are Jewish (approx. 3000 people, estimate based on report by Della Pergola). Around 0.1 percent belong to Christian denominations. Most people describe themselves as practicing Muslims and as believers, although the way they practice varies widely. A small minority openly describe themselves as non-believers or atheistic. How strong this trend actually is cannot be estimated, as non-religious people in Morocco often shy away from expressing their opinion openly.

Islam

Over 99 percent of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims. Morocco officially follows the Malkite school of law, which has consequences for the design of the religiously divided civil status law. The new Moroccan civil status and family law from 2004 is not based exclusively on the Malikite legal conception, but also integrates elements of other schools of law that are considered to be more liberal, such as the Hanafi school of law. Despite the almost uniform Sunni orientation, Moroccan Islam is very diverse. The brotherhoods, including the Tijania and the Boutchitchiya, play an important role in society and increasingly also in politics and the Darkaouiya.

Religious Institutions

According to hyperrestaurant, state and religion are not separate in Morocco. According to the constitution, the king is “Amir Al-Mu’minin” (commander of the faithful) and thus the highest religious authority. The religious sector represents a central political field of action.

The Ministry of Religious Foundations (Habous, also: Awqaaf) and Islamic Affairs oversees mosques and state religious educational institutions, among other things.

Codified Islamic law (civil status law) and general religious studies are taught at state universities (e.g. Marrakech). The state religious college Dar Al Hadith Al Hassaniya (Rabat, in the suburb of Hay Riyad) provides training for Islamic theologians and legal scholars (´Aalim, pl. ´Ulamaa).

Women can work as family judges in Morocco. Since the beginning of 2018, based on a royal decree, they have also been able to exercise the function of Adoul, i.e. they can issue marriage contracts, marriage certificates and certificates of divorce.

Morocco Religions

Religion and identity

Islam has always been an important part of identity in Morocco. For some years now, there has been a conscious turn to Islam and a new interpretation of religious content by women among academics and educated middle-class women.

Popular religion and mysticism

In Morocco, among other things, the Islamic holiday “Ashura” is celebrated very extensively, which is rather an exception in Sunni contexts.

Folk religion, mysticism and belief in magical powers are very pronounced in Morocco. According to surveys, two thirds of all 16 to 29 year olds believe in the existence of ghosts. A central concept is the ” Baraka”, the divine blessing. People can have” baraka “, but also objects, plants, animals, or certain substances. Many Moroccans do not go to a doctor for physical or mental complaints, but to a healer (” Fkih “) or one Healer (“Shaouafa”). In addition to the healing powers, these are also ascribed the ability to see into the future. Powders, verses from the Koran and incantations on rolls of paper as well as all kinds of talismans are supposed to help against lovesickness, headaches and test anxiety. In case of obsession or attacks the healers use the so-called “evil eye” to question their “jinn.” This is their personal spirit, which they contact in a trance and which tells them from the other world how to resolve the client’s concerns.

Judaism

The number of Moroccans of the Jewish faith has fallen from almost 200,000 in 1956 (Moroccan independence) to an estimated 2500-3000 in 2018. The mass emigration of Moroccan Jews was not primarily the result of anti-Semitism. It is true that Jews and Christians in Morocco had fewer rights than the Muslim majority. They were basically second class citizens. But the main triggers for the mass emigration of Jews from Morocco were the Palestinian conflict – Jews all over the Arab world were made responsible for the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland from 1948 onwards – and the general political instability in Morocco after the end of the Second World War.

The Jewish community in Morocco is small today, but very present in public life. Many members belong to the country’s economic, political and cultural elite. Marriage and inheritance matters can be regulated by purely Jewish couples and families in Morocco according to Jewish law (Halacha). Jewish-Muslim connections are subject to Islamic law.

The history of Jewish settlements in Morocco begins as early as Roman times, in the second century BC. After the expulsion from Al-Andalus in 1492, an estimated 200,000 Jews came to North Africa from Spain. In Morocco, the Sephardi, as the refugees were called based on the Hebrew term for the Iberian Peninsula, held the status of dhimma. They were considered to be the sultan’s wards. As such, they were neither equal nor free, but they could practice their religion as long as they met certain conditions. This included determining the place of residence: The Jews lived in Jewish quarters, the so-called Mellahs. Today the imposing and well-preserved Jewish cemetery in Fes is evidence of this of times of peaceful coexistence.

During the Second World War, the then sultan and later King Mohammed V refused to hand over the Moroccan Jews to the Nazis. For this he was posthumously recognized as a “righteous man” by the State of Israel.

In 2003 extremists carried out a total of five bomb attacks in Casablanca, including one targeted at Jewish institutions. King Mohammad VI reaffirmed the historical duty of the Moroccan royal family to protect the Jews.

The largest Jewish community in Morocco is currently located in Casablanca. The members run their own schools, bookshops, kosher supermarkets and restaurants, many of which are located in the central “Gauthier” district. There are currently around 30 synagogues in all of Morocco.

The Musée du Judaisme Marocain in Casablanca contains numerous valuable artefacts that impressively document Jewish life in Morocco’s past and present. The museum was founded by the late Simon Lévy. In addition to a permanent exhibition, the museum is also a meeting place.

Some prominent Moroccan Jews take or took a critical stance towards political Zionism and Israel, for example the late Abraham al-Serfaty.

Christianity

An estimated 30,000 Christians live in Morocco (0.1% of the resident population). 24,000 Roman Catholic Christians are organized in around 40 parishes belonging to the archbishopric of Rabat and Tangier. The number of Moroccans converting to Christianity is not known.