DS0805 -

Islamic Learning in Morocco (18th -21th Centuries) : Islamology and Social Sciences – ILM

Submission summary

In Morocco, like elsewhere, the transmission of knowledge (‘ilm) in Islam is a major element in understanding this religion. It contributes to the elaboration of doctrines, standards, and “tradition”. This resulted, therefore, in the introduction of competing orthodoxies in the confined space of madrasa, in within the group of clerics (ulema, Sufi Masters, Imams, etc.), in intersection with the power and society. Studying the transmission of knowledge sheds light on modes of inscription of religion in society, its link with the economy, and its relation to politics. International relations also are involved: since the clerics’ peregrinations in their quest for knowledge (talab al-‘ilm) until today’s transnationalism, the teaching of Islam is rooted deeply in the local context, whether rural or urban, while projecting in a broader community of believers (umma) currently globalized.
After the observations of colonial administrators and orientalists, and then the referential works on classical forms of education in Islam, a renewed attention was brought about in the 2000s; yet the Maghreb, Morocco in particular, has been neglected. The ILM project aims to address this gap in a time when teaching of Islam in Europe, and in other immigration countries alike, turns out to be a crucial issue.
The program’s main objective is to explore the field of teaching Islam in Morocco since the 18th century, starting from learning the Quran by “simple believers” to the training of clerics and religious personnel. We will cross disciplines and periods, combine Islamic studies / philology and social sciences (History, Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, and Political Science). We also will brought together Moroccan and international scholars in a fruitful and thought-provoking exchange so that to open up this field of research.
The teaching of Islam covers here very diverse realities -especially as the approach is both diachronic and synchronic- that only a research program of such magnitude, involving thirty participants, can come to grasp them. The ambition is chiefly to renew knowledge by updating new sources and conducting investigations into unfamiliar fields.
The project will question, first, the religious knowledge itself to determine how all its forms, including Sufi teaching, Islamic religious sciences, Humanities, encyclopedic knowledge, etc., are articulated.
The second theme will focus on the conditions and terms through which this knowledge is transmitted: surveys will be conducted, in various regions, on traditional schools (madrasa ‘atîqa, mhadara) as well as on the major centers of knowledge, then on modern universities, but also on Sufi brotherhoods, religious associations and movements.
The third theme will deal with the secularization of knowledge and its teaching which began, in Morocco, under the protectorate, boosted by the colonial state but also by the Moroccan nationalists, and continued after 1956. The independent State set up a disposition organizing the religious education, in line with its needs, which has been served as a tool for the exercise of power and fits into its public policies as a ‘soft power’ towards outside.
The fourth theme has to do with Moroccan State as a producer and exporter of knowledge, but also as a receiver of imported knowledge. Despite the discourse praising the “Moroccan model”, as a Sufi-Maliki-tolerant Islam, there are other offers which are conveying competing orthodoxies. Since 18th century to the present, Morocco has received influences from the Orient (Wahhabism, “Salafism”), and this matter will be brought under light, documented and discussed.
In documenting this project, three corpuses of texts will be published: an anthology of texts in French from the colonial period; an anthology of Arabic texts written by actors in educational reform; and manuscripts in Arabic script.

Project coordination

Sabrina MERVIN (Centre Jacques Berque)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CJB Centre Jacques Berque
CéSor Centre d'études en sciences sociales du réligieux

Help of the ANR 247,470 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2017 - 36 Months

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