Destruction of Sufi Shrines

The Editorial Staff

The past two years have seen a disturbing trend of systematic grave desecration done by various Wahhabi groups in Libya, Mali, and Egypt. With the fall of ruling powers resulting from the Arab Spring many Wahhabis have decided to utilise power vacuums that opened up in Libya and subsequently Mali to ravage these lands by destroying all signs of their holy sites, which according to their puritanical view are heretical, pagan-like and akin to grave worship, despite the fact that the vast majority of Sunni scholars throughout history have held them to be valid and even praiseworthy to maintain. Spurred on by some popular scholars in Saudi Arabia the trend continues to happen although their destruction of centuries-old heritage has been condemned by all other Muslims as sacrilege.


March 2012 – the Tomb of a 15th-Century scholar Abdel Salam al-Asmar in Zlitan, about 160km (100 miles) south-east of Tripoli.

August 2012 – Al-Shaab Al-Dahman mosque housed close to 50 Sufi graves inside and, outside, the tombs of Libyan Sufi scholar Abdullah al-Sha’ab and a martyr who fought Spanish colonialists.

October 2011 – Desecration of the Al-Masry shrine in Tripoli.

In January 2012 – fanatics wrecked the cemetery of Sidi Ubaid in Benghazi, stealing 31 corpses.

August 2012 – digging out the blessed resting place of Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Zaruq.

August 2012 – The shrine of Sheikh Abdul Salam Al Asmari was blown up in addition to a large part a large part of the mosque named after him, as well as burning the ancient library which held a huge number of books and manuscripts dating back centuries.


2010 – extremists bombed the shrine of well-known Sufi master and wali, Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh Ali Hujweri, in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 42 people.

In April 2011, during the annual festival at a large Sufi shrine in southern Punjab in Pakistan, two suicide bombers set off an explosion killing more than 40 worshippers and injuring hundreds more.


April 2011 – in the Egyptian town of Qalyoub, armed with crowbars and sledgehammers, two dozen Salafi fanatics arrived at the Sidi Abdel Rahman shrine in the middle of the night aiming to smash it to pieces. Five other shrines in Qalyoub were destroyed soon after Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power.

June 2012 – The Shrine of Sheikh Zowaid was brought to the ground after being blown up at the hands of anonymous vandals.

In November 2012 a Salafi cleric called on Egyptians to destroy all ancient Egyptian landmarks, including the popular Sphinx and pyramids: the bloodline of Egyptian tourism revenue.

August 2013 – Shrines of Sheikh Hamid Abu Jarir in central Sinai and Sheikh Salim Al-Sharif Abu Jarir in the Bir El Abd area were detonated remotely and simultaneously.


According to Sufi officials, Islamists in Tunisia have attacked almost 40 Sufi shrines in recent months, most prominent being

January 2013- Sidi Bou Said’s shrine in Tunisia was set ablaze by a group of vandals.

January 2013 – Sidi Baghdadi in Monastir was torched by extremists.

February 2013 – Mausoleums Sidi Abdeljabbar in Jammal and Sidi Amor Bouzid in Awlad Chamakh were also destroyed.


Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, many mosques and Islamic sites have been witnessing a new type of terrorism, the blowing up and desecration of shrines and graves of saints, whether by the Syrian Armed forces or the revolutionists. The destruction of the Sufi shrines came under the spotlight as tens have been blown up all over the Islamic world. Some famous shrines have been under the threats of being vandalised, such as the shrine of Sakina bint Ali, Roqaya bin Al Hussine and the shrine of the famous Sayeda Zeinab Bint Ali. Further examples of desecrated shrines in Aleppo and Damascus are those of: Mohsen bin Imam Hussein, Sheikh Mohammed Ejrabh, Sheikh Mohammed Hassoun, and the near-demolition of the shrine of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Muslli before the residents of his city saved it from the vandals.


Similar incidents occurred in the capital Mogadishu, attacks on shrines mostly carried out by the militant group “Harakat Al- Shabab Al Mujahideen”; a Somalia-based cell of the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda.

The movement destroyed the shrine of Sheikh Ali Tairi and Sheikh Ali Mu’min.

The shrine of Sheikh Mohammed Bimalo, leader of the Qadiriyyah order in the early twentieth century.

The shrine of Sheikh Hassan Mu’alim Mo’min, founder of the Idreesia order in Somalia

March 2010 – The destruction of Sheikh Mohi- Al-Din’s shrine


Timbuktu encompasses a lot of Sufi shrines and tombs, hence the name “The city of 333 saints”. At the request of the residents of the city, UNESCO placed the city on its list of endangered world heritage sites.

April 2012 – The mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud, one of 16 shrines in Timbuktu, was under attack by Ansar Dine (a militant Islamist group led by one of the most prominent leaders of the Tuareg rebellion). On 30 June, it was reported by a local journalist that Ansar Dine had destroyed the mausoleum completely, along with Sidi El Mokhtar and Alfa Moya and five other sites with pick-axes, hoes and Kalashnikovs.

July 2012 – Members of the same group took down the shrines of Sidi Elmety, Mahamane Elmety and Sidi Mahmoudou. Another major destruction during the same month was that of Sidi Yahya’s mausoleum.

Ansar Dine tore down one of the doors of the 15th century Sidi Yahya mosque.

September 2012- Extremists destroyed the mausoleum of Cheik El-Kebir.

September 2012 – The destruction of the tomb of Almirou Mahamane Assidiki in Goundam

March 28, 2013: The Al-Andlusi mausoleum in Tajoura

In addition to this destruction, one can add the tragic assassination in August 2012 of Said Afandi, the Muslim Sufi leader of Dagestan. An outspoken critic of Wahhabism, the leader was murdered by a female suicide-bomber.

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