The Christian Science Monitor

How Tunisia's resilient Sufis have withstood hard-line Islamist attack

Sufi cleric Sheikh Mohammed Riahi stands at the zawiya, or shrine, dedicated to his ancestor, Sidi Ibrahim Riahi, a revered Sufi holy person from the 18th century, in Tunis, Tunisia on Feb. 9, 2018. Source: Taylor Luck

“La ilaha ill-Allah, La ilaha ill-Allah,” the men, young and old, chant as they rock rhythmically, pressing wooden prayer beads through their hands.

“La ilaha ill-Allah” – There is no God but God – they repeat, every syllable rolling into the next without breath, a never-ending song of faith.

Minutes go by, hours. Such recitations, a pillar of Sufism, are reserved by some communities for special holidays but are part of the weekly, and at times daily, routine here in Tunisia.

Yet in Tunisia, a 1,000-year-old tradition of mystic Sufi orders has been under pressure by a campaign of threats, slander, and vandalism from hard-line Salafist groups seeking to take over mosques and communities since the country’s 2011 revolution.

Salafism, a strict puritanical strand of Islam originating from Saudi Arabia, rejects Sufis for their reverence for holy men and for their worldly search for divine truth in life. They see them as

Spiritual battlegroundSufis in Tunisian historyWomen’s roleCommunity outreach

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