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Yasin, Abdessalam

By:
Malika Zeghal
Source:
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Yasin, Abdessalam

Abdessalam Yasin (1928–2012) was the leader of an illegal but tolerated Moroccan Islamist political movement, Justice and Benevolence (Al-ʿAdl wa-al-Iḥṣān). The movement originated in the 1970s in authoritarian Morocco, when, after the failed military coups of 1971 and 1972 against the monarchy, Yasin sent a letter, “Islam or the Deluge,” admonishing King Hassan II and asking him to “repent” and to become a just ruler. The king interned Yasin in a psychiatric institution until 1978. From then on, he spent time between jail and house arrest until Hassan's successor, his son Mohamed VI, freed him in 2000.

Yasin was born in the Suss, in Southern Morocco. He claimed descent from the Idrīsid dynasty and therefore prophetic lineage, but paradoxically also stated that his father was a peasant of Berber origins. He studied at the madrasah Yūsufīyah in Marrakesh and made his career in the Ministry of Education where in 1948, he became a teacher of Arabic in public schools and later inspector of Arabic teaching. In 1967, he retired for medical reasons. In 1965, he had joined a Ṣūfī brotherhood, the Butshishīyah, and followed the authority of its sheikh, Haj ʿAbbās al-Qādirī. After the death of Sheikh ʿAbbās in 1972, Yasin left the tarīqah (brotherhood) and politicized his Ṣūfī understanding and practice of Islam. The political movement he created in 1987 was reminiscent of a tarīqah.

Yasin's political thought was influenced by the writings of Ḥasan al-Bannā and Sayyid Quṭb. He belonged to the tradition of political Islam that distinguishes between jāhilīyah as an ontological category and the Islamic state. However, Yasin articulated his thought within the framework of Sufism, distinguishing his movement from other Islamist movements in the Middle East and North Africa. It bears continuities with the old Moroccan model of the saint-chastiser, such as Hassan Lyousi (born 1631), or Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Kabīr al-Kattānī (1873–1909). The mystical and messianic aspects of Yasin's ideology prevented him from unifying the Moroccan Islamist movements, who disagreed with his movement's Ṣūfī orientation and authoritarian nature. Yasin's stance towards violence was ambiguous. Clashes often oppose militants and police, and his writings contain revolutionary ideas, often adapted from leftist ideologies and Khomeinism.

The militants of Justice and Benevolence were also Yasin's disciples. They consider him a living saint. The movement organized their individual lives and rituals in a detailed way and also offered social services. The organization's structure is rigid and authoritarian, and observers state that it has about 30,000 members, a figure not confirmed by the movement.

Yasin did not recognize the legitimacy of the monarchy, and the state never recognized his movement as an association or political party. The liberalization of the regime after the mid-1990s weakened Yasin's movement, because Islamist movements began participating in elections and attracting voters and members at the expense of Justice and Benevolence. Yasin's movement remains nonetheless important as a defined sphere in the fragmented opposition to the monarchy, and it wields today the significant power of mobilization.

See also MOROCCO.

Bibliography

  • Munson, Henry, Jr. Religion and Power in Morocco. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993.
  • Tozy, Mohamed. Monarchie et islam politique au Maroc. Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, 1999.
  • Zeghal, Malika. Les islamistes marocains: Le défi à la monarchie. Paris: La Découverte, 2005.
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