Sanusi Order

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Islamic order founded in 1837 by Muhammad ibn Ali alSanusi (died 1859); followed by Muhammad al-Mahdi (18591902), Ahmad al-Sharif (19021917), and Idris al-Sanusi.

Combining orthodoxy and Sufism, the Sanusi order aimed to unite all religious orders by returning to the sources. It called for closeness to the prophet Muhammad through study, training, and intention, but rejected ecstasy. It advocated a modest lifestyle and refraining from daily pleasures. Its main support was tribal (in Cyrenaica and central Africa). The Sanusi organization was based on a network of zawiyas (religious compounds), which were strategically located and served as centers of study and trade, to which neighboring affiliates contributed their ushr (tithe) and manpower. The Sanusi political power was recognized by the Ottoman Empire and by central African kingdoms. The order was a key factor in the resistance to Italian rule (19111933), which caused the death and exile of many Sanusi leaders and followers, the confiscation of zawiyas, and the de facto collapse of the order.

see also idris al-sayyid muhammad alsanusi; sanusi, muhammad ibn ali al-; sufism and the sufi orders.


Ahmida, Ali Abdullatif. The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization, and Resistance, 18301932. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Cordell, D. D. "Eastern Libya, Wadai and the Sanusiya: A Tariqa and a Trade Route." Journal of African History 18 (1977):2136.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949.

Ziadeh, Nicola A. Sanusiyah. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1958.

rachel simon

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Sanusi Order

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