Citation for Istiqlāl

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Burke, Edmund III. "Istiqlāl." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 25, 2022. <>.


Burke, Edmund III. "Istiqlāl." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 25, 2022).


The leading Moroccan nationalist party in the period 1943–1962, the Istiqlāl (Ḥizb al-Istiqlāl, “Independence Party”) was founded in December 1943 by Aḥmad Balafrej and a group of younger Moroccan nationalists drawn from the urban bourgeoisie of Fez, Rabat, Tangier, and Tetouan. Together with King Muḥammad V, Istiqlāl played a major role in bringing about the end of the French and Spanish protectorates in March 1956.

From the outset, the movement drew both on currents of Islamic reformism (Salafīyah) and political organization and on the emerging younger generation of French-educated elites. Salafīyah-influenced young leaders, such as Muḥammad ʿAllāl al-Fāsī, joined forces with more secular individuals, such as Aḥmad Balafrej and Makkī Nāṣirī. Politically, Istiqlāl was the successor of the Kutlah al-ʿAmal al-Waṭanī, which had been established in 1932. The Kutlah was an elite-based nationalist organization that drew its supporters chiefly from the urban bourgeoisie of northern Moroccan cities. Many of the leaders of the Kutlah, among them Muḥammad Haṣan al-Wazzanī, Aḥmad Balafrej, al-Nāṣirī, and ʿAllāl al-Fāsī, later went on to play important roles in the nationalist movement in the 1940s. In 1934, the group issued a Plan of Reforms that criticized the French protectorate government and demanded far-reaching reforms. A major weakness of the Kutlah and other early nationalist groups is that they were primarily based among the elites and not the masses. By 1937, when French authorities banned Kutlah and jailed or exiled most of its leadership, members numbered only around 6,500.

After 1946, an alliance with the Moroccan king, Muḥammad V, permitted Istiqlāl to extend its influence rapidly among peasants and workers. In the ensuing years, the Istiqlāl party successfully developed into a mass-based nationalist organization, playing a particularly crucial role in the independence movement in the period following the French deposition and exile of Muḥammad V in August 1953. However, its lack of support in the countryside and the emergence of guerrilla groups outside its control marked the limits of its effectiveness. The return of Muḥammad V from exile in November 1955, and the subsequent independence of Morocco in March 1956, inaugurated a new phase in the party 's political role.

Following Moroccan independence, Istiqlāl became the largest political party in the Moroccan majlis (national assembly). Divergent interests and personal rivalries gradually undermined its alliance with the crown, however. When Muḥammad V encouraged the emergence of political parties favoring his policies, Istiqlāl gradually moved into opposition. At the same time, younger and more militant elements in the Istiqlāl party led by Mehdi Ben Barka (al-Mahdī Ibn Barakah) split off and formed a new party, the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP). Following the death of Muḥammad V in February 1961, Crown Prince Ḥasan ascended to the throne. The adoption of a Moroccan constitution in 1962 transformed the political arena. Since 1956, periods of representative government have alternated with periods of direct rule by the crown. Throughout, the king has continued successfully to pose as political arbiter. Istiqlāl was an important participant in several Moroccan governments. By the 1990s, no longer the dynamic force it once was, Istiqlāl has declined in political influence, although it continues to have a constituency among urban voters.

See also FāSī, MUḥAMMAD ʿALLāL AL- and MOROCCO.


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