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Monday, 26 March 2018 12:00 AM

Below we discuss the current make-up of religious communities in Morocco today. In our previous discussion we looked at the history of Islam in Morocco. The will discuss in a later article the effect of Islam on your Morocco Holiday,

Religious communities in Morocco

Morocco currently has a population greater than 33 million, of which it is estimated that 99.9% are Muslim - 67% of the Muslim community are Sunni and 30% are non-denominational Muslims.

It is estimated that there are around 5,000 Shia (Shiite) Muslims, although most of these are foreign-born. Whilst Moroccans have been relatively very tolerant of other beliefs, believing that they worship the same god, the relationship between Sunni and Shia has become strained in recent years.

The Christian communities have historically been centred around Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier, and there may be as many as 8,000 Moroccan Christians (in addition to foreign-born Christians in Morocco).

Additionally there have historically been significant Jewish communities in many parts of the country, living in mellahs in or near towns and cities, with a large influx from Spain in the latter stages of the 15th century; however, these communities have been shrinking in recent decades (less than 100 members are thought to still live in each of the major centres) as the faithful emigrate.

Although Islam is given rights in the constitution that the other religions do not, Morocco and Moroccans have historically always shown tolerance to the other major religions, as can be seen in the mellahs and churches that exist in many parts of the country – the Church of St Andrew in Tangier is a very well maintained and pretty church and worth a visit. That said, it is illegal to try to convert a Muslim to another belief.

In recent years there have been some tensions rising between the Sunni majority and the Shia, with the Moroccan Government wary of the promotion of Shia beliefs; however, the Government has also been keen to counter the radical Sunni beliefs of Al-Qaeda and other jihadist activities.

Sunni and Shia versions of Islam

Following the death of the prophet Mohammed followers of the faith (agreeing on the fundamentals of Islam) became divided on the question of who should succeed the prophet between - those that thought that the leadership of the faith should be taken from those most capable amongst the prophet’s companions (the view of Sunni Muslims); and those that believed that the leadership should stay in the prophets family and passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law (the view of Shia Muslims).

Abu Bakr, Prophet Muhammad's close friend and advisor, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. Sunni Islam is now days the largest branch of Islam and is the dominant religion in Morocco. The word Sunni is thought to derive from Arabic meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet".

Shia Muslims do not recognize the authority of elected Muslim leaders or the religious practices emanating from the companions of the prophet, rather they believe in the infallible authority of a line of Imams that they believe Prophet Muhammad or God appointed.

Caveat to this summary

Naturally Morocco is a specialist in bespoke travel to Morocco, not an expert in religion or history – the notes above are meant as an overview for interested parties, we apologise if there are any errors and we welcome any corrections sent to our main e-mail address.