August 4, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3144

Debate on the Origins of the Civil War between Sufis and Salafis in Somalia

August 4, 2010
Somalia, Africa | Special Dispatch No. 3144

Following are excerpts from a debate on the civil war between Sufis and Salafis in Somalia, which aired on Al-Alam TV (Iran) on June 3, 2010.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit

Sufi Sheik: Salafis "Focus on Politics, on Gaining Control, and on Imposing Their Ideology, Their Beliefs, and Their Principles on People"

Moderator: "The Salafi and Sufi movements in Somalia face off against one another – trench opposite trench, and guns fighting guns. [...]

"What are they fighting over? Over land? Over faith? Or maybe they are divided over politics? [...]

"What do the Salafis of the Islamic Party and the Shabab Al-Mujahideen want from you?" [...]

Sufi Somali Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "In Somalia, we do not call them Salafis. We call them 'Kharijites.' [...]

They focus on politics, on gaining control, and on imposing their ideology, their beliefs, and their principles on people. They do not spread their ideas by means of da'wa and guidance, but rather, by means of guns and force."

Moderator: "From what you are saying, I gather that they want to eradicate you."

Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "Yes. They try to erase any trace of the Sufi movement in Somalia."

Moderator: "They try to erase you both ideologically and politically."

Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "Yes, in terms of ideology, beliefs, politics, and even in terms of our very existence. They want to erase all trace of Sufism, which has existed there over 1,000 years." [...]

Salafi Sheik: Many Sufis Engage in Heretical Practices

Salafi Somali Sheik Abd Al-Rashid Ali Nour: "These are false claims, because the Salafis want to instate the shari'a of Allah on Earth, beginning in Somalia. They want to defend their country from the intervention of foreign and neighboring countries. They want to instate the shari'a upon the Somali people, because this is what the people have chosen.

"Our brothers [the Sufis] are the ones who rebelled, because they deemed the tombs and those buried in them to be sacred, and they would pray to saints. [...]

When they saw that the Salafis were opposed to this, and that they removed the pilgrimage sites worshipped by them, they began to amass arms and to fight. The Sufis established a huge force, and called for the support of whoever was willing to help them."

Moderator: "Sheik Abd Al-Rashid, all the viewers heard you say that they worship tombs – in other words, they worship that which is not Allah. You are accusing them of heresy."

Sheik Abd Al-Rashid Ali Nour: "I'm not accusing them collectively of heresy. We don't accuse people of heresy."

Moderator: "Sheik, you said that they 'worship' tombs. This is a clear accusation of polytheism, for one should worship none but Allah. When you say that the others worship tombs and pilgrimage sites, you are excommunicating them from the community of Islam."

Sheik Abd Al-Rashid Ali Nour: "You know that one should not generalize and say an entire group is heretic, if they are originally Muslims. However, many of them seek the succor of saints, visit tombs, and pray for all kinds of things. Worship has broad meaning. If you seek help from anyone other than Allah, you are tainted by polytheism." [...]

Sufi Sheik: "Islam Arrived in Somalia through the Sufi Movement, and through Preachers and Merchants"

Sufi Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "I am pleased that he admitted all this. May Allah reward him. He said that [the Sufis] worship tombs, and on the basis of this, they removed and destroyed the Sufi tombs. This is what they are fighting for. He admitted this. [...]

"What they are doing in Somalia is not supported even by the Salafi movement abroad."

Moderator: "We should explain to the viewers that you are saying that the Salafis – the Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen and the Islamic Party – exhumed Sufi sheiks from their graves..."

Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "They ransacked the graves..."

Moderator: "...and they took them to unknown places."

Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "We have no idea what they do with these bones or even corpses. They exhumed several corpses that had not yet decomposed, and some of these sheiks still had henna dye on their beards. [...]

"As you know, Somalia was not included in the Islamic conquests. Islam arrived in Somalia through the Sufi movement, and through preachers and merchants. These [exhumed] scholars were the preachers who spread Islam in Somalia. The Salafis divide society into three.

"They refer to the religious scholars who are dead and buried as 'idols,' and they rule that their graves should be ransacked. I have heard them say on radio and in the general media that they are not worthy of being buried or even being left to the dogs."

Moderator: "They used such expressions?"

Sheik Abd Al-Qader Al-Sheik Ibrahim: "By Allah, they did. To the living Islamic scholars they refer as 'guardians and servants of the idols.' They have ruled that these scholars should be killed. The third group is the people itself. The Somalis follow the Sufi movement. [...]

"They ruled that the Somali people who follow these scholars are polytheists, who have an opportunity to repent. If they repent – fine. If not, they will be put to the sword." [...]

Salafi Sheik Abd Al-Rashid Ali Nour: "When the Prophet entered Al-Madina and wanted to build his mosque, there were graves in the place that he bought. He ordered that they be 'ransacked' – exhumed and moved elsewhere. The Prophet ordered Ali bin Abu Talib to level all the tombs to the ground." [...]

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