The Religious Case in Libya

March 23, 2017

The Libya Case Report – February 2017

The Official Religious Institutions

The official religious institution in the east of Libya is still maintaining its supportive position towards the military operation led by "Khalifa Haftar" in the cities of "Benghazi" and "Derna". It stresses its position at every opportunity, most recently through its response to the statement of Arab Maghreb Ulema (Scholars) Association. The latter denounced the siege of families in "Ganfouda" by the army forces affiliated to the House of Representatives (HoR) and the tightening of their stranglehold to the extent of cutting them off from food supplies.

The High Committee of Ifta (religious verdict) in the city of "Al-Baydha" accused the League of The Arab Maghreb Scholars (Ulama) of defending the groups of "Muslim Brotherhood", "Al-Qaeda", and ISIS besieged in "Ganfouda" and that civilians trapped in "Ganfouda" were given several opportunities to get out of the fighting zones.

In Tripoli, Fatwa Council (Dar al-Ifta) headed by Sheikh "Sadiq Al-Ghariani" continues its warning of the Political Agreement signed in "Skhirat" and the military operation carried by "Haftar" in the east. In frequent Television appearances on "Al-Tanasoh" channel, Sheikh "Sadiq Al-Ghariani" reiterated his rejection of "Skhirat" Agreement accusing those who signed it of resorting to foreign countries against their opponents and thus getting caught into injustice with their brethren. Despite all that, "Al-Ghariani" believes that countries supporting the Agreement are gradually abandoning everyone in Libya to stand behind "Khalifa Haftar" and provide him with political support against his opponents.

Sheikh "Al-Ghariani" stresses that there is no real settlement in Libya. He added that the Conflict has been limited to the HoR, the commander of its army "Khalifa Haftar", and the Presidential Council. Therefore, neglecting other forces in the west and south of the country is a shortage in describing the scene that leads to the inability to reach settlement in Libya, apart from the political and military conflict plaguing the country.

Sheikh "Al-Sadiq" also denounced the armed clashes in "Abu Salim" area in the capital "Tripoli" during the month of January and the clashes that preceded them in "Zliten" and earlier in the area of "Janzour" in western "Tripoli". "Al-Ghariani" explained that these clashes are an affliction caused by the sins and injustice to others committed by those who possess weapons who also do not stand by the oppressed as well as the deeds of politicians who are selling their homelands to foreigners for a worldly gain. He stated that carrying on these actions will slip the country into more scourge and tribulations. "Al-Ghariani" reiterated the right of scholars to talk about political affairs as they rely on a broad sharia knowledge in their Fatwas and political views. Sheikh "Al-Ghariani" further addressed his point of view in his article of three parts under the titles of (Life's Affairs for the Rulers, Afterlife's Affairs for the Scholars.)

On the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the 17th of February revolution, the Council of Research and Studies affiliated to Fatwa Council (Dar al-Ifta) released a statement in which it called for upholding to "Benghazi" and "Derna" and providing continuous support to Shura Council of both cities, in addition to supporting “Benghazi Defense Brigades” and the trapped families in "Ganfouda". The Council renewed its call to Libyans to reach a just, national solution, and to move away from what it described as ignorance.

The Salafist “Madkhali” preacher "Osama Al-Otaibi" continued his tours in the cities of eastern Libya and Western Mountain areas at the invitation of the General Command of the HoR-affiliated army and the blessing of the Ministry of Awqaf of the Libyan interim government. During his visit which lasted for over a month and a half, "Al-Otaibi" focused on warning of the Muslim Brotherhood and those he described as terrorist groups accusing them of having sold their country and religion to foreigners. He also accused those groups of providing moral support to "Khalifa Haftar" by praising him and showing how great his work is in fighting terrorism and opponent groups.


The outbreak of the political and military crisis in Libya have engendered a division in the religious opinion and support to parties backing it. Therefore, it is unlikely for the Islamic view of the two official institutions in "Tripoli" and "Al-Baydha" to change. Each of these institutions insists on supporting and consolidating its opinion through the daily events occurring throughout the country. Along with the absence of any attempts to review positions, the emergence of a third opinion and an opposing position to what is prevailing remain very unlikely.

Religious Groups

During an interview on Libya Alhadath TV, the "Madkhali" preacher "Osama Al-Otaibi" stated that Earth does not rotate which sparked the ire and cynicism of many. These statements brought back the “Madkhalism” movement to the fore. The movement was criticized in the incident of confiscating books in the city of "Marj" last month. Civil society organizations also criticized the movement about its confiscation of opinions.

The visit of the "Madkhali" preacher "Osama Al-Otaibi" to Libya raised disagreements among the movement symbols. In fact, preacher "Tarek Derman" from "Zintan" criticized "Al-Otaibi" accusing him of not understanding the situation in Libya and that he does not represent the Salafi movement. "Derman's statement urged "Al-Otaibi" to accuse him back of disobeying the guidance of the leading scholars. In a voice recording, "Derman" describes "Al-Otaibi" as reckless and frivolous who speaks in what he does not do well. He added that senior Salafi scholars gave a fatwa not to fight in the battles of "Tripoli" airport, while "Al-Otaibi" made a mistake by giving a fatwa urging the people of "Zintan" to fight and defend the airport. "Derman" also accused "Al-Otaibi" of giving Fatwa without understanding the reality of "Zintan" and Libya saying that "Al-Otaibi" came to "Zintan" without coordinating with the Ministry of religious endowments and Islamic affairs (Awqaf). "Derman" also stated that "Al-Otaobi" gave lectures without authorization and advised him to return to his country.

On another subject, the High Committee and the General Religious Endowments Authority (Al-Awqaf) in the eastern region welcomed the decision of the military ruler "Abdel-Razzak Al-Nadhuri" barring women from travelling without a male companion (Mahram). Although "Al-Nadhuri" retracted the decision and replaced it with another which stipulates that travelers, under the age of 45, of both sexes should obtain a travel permission before leaving the country. However, “Madkhali” movement Sheikhs praised the first decision and considered it to be in accordance with Sharia and mind. The “Madkhali” movement carried out a warning campaign against those they described as the secular who objected the decision. At the end of February, the General Religious Endowments Authority (Al-Awqaf) focused the Friday sermon on the subject. In fact, it addressed seculars and their attempt to corrupt the Muslim woman. The sermon praised the Fatwa on women's travel with a male companion (Mahram) and the decision of the military ruler because he abided by the Islamic law, according to the sermon.

On another subject, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya "Ahmad Al-Suqi" revealed the preparations of the movement to announce a new phase. "Al-Suqi" stated that there are in-depth discussions among Muslim Brotherhood members related to reviews, corrections, and developments to bring about a change. "Al-Suqi" stated that a change will include the old administrative and organizational working patterns adding that Muslim Brotherhood will work on creating a new culture to enable the movement to achieve accomplishments in its social reality. "Al-Suqi" denied what has been circulating about the movement's intention to dissolve itself explaining that such a decision is the right of the movement's General Congress and not to its leadership and Shura Council. "Al-Suqi" stated that the Muslim Brotherhood is working with others on reforming the society and assuming a role along with other various actors in the society. He also mentioned that one of the most striking features of the new change within the movement is getting away from the political feuds that deepen the disagreements in the society, especially that these subjects are not of interest to the movement which considers its mission primarily preaching.


Through its control over official institutions, the "Madkhali" movement continues attacking those which it describes as secular. The movement adherents launched an attack on those who opposed the decision of confiscating the books in the city of "Marj" last January accusing them of being secular and anti-Sharia. It is unlikely that the "Madkhali" movement will change its way of spreading its ideas and warnings of its opponents which will further deepen the gap between the movement and the various segments of society. In the eastern region, talks have begun about the danger of the "Madkhali' movement and the differences between it, ISIS, and "Al-Qaeda" and whether or not the battle with this movement is a matter of time? All this portends future developments which may not be in favour of the "Madkhali" movement, especially in the eastern region.

Changes claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood according to the statements of its leader are not expected to have a significant impact on the overall situation in Libya towards the group which is still facing accusations of being among the causes of the crisis in Libya.

Sufi Orders

February was marked by the several invitations Libyan Sufi Sheikhs addressed, through their media statements, to the League of Arab States calling it for intervention after what they described as the failure of UN envoy to Libya "Martin Kobler" to protect them and the people of Libya from the Salafi predominance, in particular, the "Madkhali" movement and extremist groups. Libyan Sufi Sheikhs stated that "Kobler" ignored to meet with them, while he met with Salafists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

They also demanded from the General Commander of the parliament-affiliated army, Marshal "Khalifa Haftar" not to rely on the "Madkhali" adherents as they are, according to Sufi Sheikhs, more dangerous than ISIS. In the same context, Sufi Sheikhs warned Algeria of the spread of "Madkhali" movement.


Sufi orders (tariqa) and Sufi Sheikhs, who have spiritual links with other Sufi orders in Egypt and Arab Maghreb are expected to continue their warnings of the widening of "Madkhali" movement's scope of influence in Libya especially within positions close to the military leaderships associated with the parliament-affiliated army as well as the control of "Madkhali" movement over the religious endowments and Ifta institution in "Al-Baydha".

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