Yassine Conferences | Biography

A Brief Account of Imam Abdessalam Yassine’s Biography

In the Shade of a Highbred Family and a Qur’ānic School:

Imam Abdessalām ibn Muhammad ibn Sallām ibn Abdullāh belongs genealogically to a great renowned Sharifian Idrissi family called Ait Bihi -a family of noble lineage as they descend from Mulay Idris I, one of the grand sons of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace).

Imam Yassine was born on Monday morning, Rabi’ II 4, 1347 (corresponding to September 3th, 1928) in Marrakech. He was reared oscillating back and forth between rural and urban environment. His small family, albeit it was residing in Marrakech, was incessantly connected to the countryside, to which Abdessalam the boy used to pay a regular visit and see how people live close to fitra [Innateness]. Such connection to the countryside and its environmental and social milieu had the greatest impact on his life.

Once he memorized the Holy Qur’ān at an early age, God -glorified be He- appointed for him a Muslim scholar and mujahid named by al-Mukhtār as-Sūsi (may God have mercy upon him) with whom the first light of guidance shone in the life of Abdessalam the boy. The illustrious scholar Sheikh al-Mukhtār as-Sūsi (may God have mercy upon him), known for his numerous writings in literature, language, history, and other disciplines, was one of the national movement leaders in Morocco. When al-Mukhtār returned from Fez, he founded a school in the same neighborhood in which Abdessalam was living. The students of al-Mukhtār as-Sūsi used to instruct the young children -including Abdessalam the boy- the quintessence of knowledge and teach them the Holy Qur’ān and the basics of the Arabic language.

A Strong Will For Learning:

The signs of ingenuity and excellence were awaiting the boy who had already filled his heart with verses and chapters of the Glorious Qur’ān, rectified his tongue with the rules of the Arabic language, and become a poet at the age of twelve. He started making swift strides and looking forward to avail of knowledge, the fact which qualified him to enter Ibn Yūssuf Institute- the Islamic institute affiliated with the University of al-Qarawiyyīn by then.

He spent about four years at the Institute and was remarkably distinguished amongst his peers on account of his versedness in the Arabic language. He, at the end of that phase, began to learn foreign languages aspiring to read the books and magazines that were at close hand while he was nineteen years of age.

When Imam Yassine completed the four years at Ibn Yūssuf Institute with flying colors, he passed the Teachers Recruitment Exam which made him open onto a new world and resume the course of autodidactism. In the transition from Marrakech to Rabat, Imam Yassine found a favorable opportunity to broaden his intellectual faculties through multiplying communication and contact with students coming from various regions. The factor of rivalry between students had the greatest impact on the development of his abilities and erudition and strongly spurred him on to resume his efforts to learn languages.

Accordingly, his strong penchant for learning French did not prevent his zeal from acquiring other languages as English and Russian. After graduation, he was appointed a primary education teacher in al-Jadida city to which he moved in the company of his mother (may God have mercy upon her).

However, the burdens of the new work did not keep the young teacher from pursuing and exerting every effort to learn and advance as he was able to masterly cover in very few years the stages of the course at “High Studies Institute for Islamic Studies” in Rabat (Muhammad V University now). So once he got his diploma, he moved to Marrakech as a teacher of Arabic language and translation. After three years of teaching, he became an Inspector of Arabic Language in primary education.

An Abundant Educational and Administrative Expertise:

At the advent of independence (1956), Imam Abdessalam Yassine was amongst the first generation of Moroccan staff who received the reins of government from the French administration. He, therefore, held a number of educational and administrative offices and responsibilities at the Ministry of Education, comprising:

  • Engaging in educational inspection tasks in the primary and secondary education in different territories...
  • Presiding over training institutions affiliated with the ministry: Teachers Training School in Marrakesh, Inspectors Training Center in Rabat...
  • Taking part in pedagogical training seminars abroad: France, USA, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria...
  • Authoring pedagogical textbooks including: “How to Write a Pedagogical Essay”, “Recollections in Education”, “Educational Texts”...

These activities and responsibilities were but an entrance to acquire an abundant expertise, which kept Imam Yassine abreast of the social and administrative ailments and epidemics that were beginning to gnaw the wheels of the State and society alike since the French colonial period to develop into an unfavorable direction after the independence. The manifestations of nepotism, bribery and opportunism were declaring themselves in multiple forms and images and at different levels. Nevertheless, one can mark pauses at the remarkable moral excellence of the personality of the Imam in such infected professional and social environment. He was known for his moral rectitude, justice and strength in disclosing the truth.

The Decisive Turning Point in the Life of Imam Yassine:

Notwithstanding all such favorable circumstances, Imam Yassine witnessed an enormous change in 1965 which he expressed later in the book of “al-Iḥsān” [Spiritual Excellence]: “I was around forty years of age when God -the Merciful, the Compassionate to the believers- awakened me [to seek Him]. My heart was thirst and the truth about the Beginning of [the Process of] Creation and the Hereafter preoccupied all my thought. I found myself urged and driven kindly to seek Him -Glorified be He-. O Lord! How to seek You? Then, I devoted myself to reading the books of Sufi Masters; all of them urged me to seek the companion before the way. O Lord! Whom else I call for help other than You? I doubted and hesitated at first. Is it polytheism with God? However, after I engrossed myself in worship, dhikr [Presence with and Remembrance of God], combat against my ego, and recitation [of the Qur’ān] for some time, I found out that seeking the favors of God does not amount to seeking His Face for contemplation. The righteous Deeds indubitably award to Paradises should they include faithfulness and should God -the Compassionate, the Benefactor- accept them. But which is that would ascend me up to the stations of spiritual perfection [Maqamat al-Ihsān] and the spaces of spirituality? My grief exacerbated, I loathed myself and invoked and wept to God –the King, the Grantor. Soon God’s grace gifted me with meeting an Expert of God [‹ārif billāh] (may God have mercy upon him), in whose company I spent some years. Since then, I have come to understand the meaning of the way being closed, why is this barrage, how to break through it, where, and when? All sincere praise and gratitude be to God and to the People of God who mentor God’s creatures, fear but God in the duty of giving advice and expect the mercy of none but God. There is no god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

Imam Yassine consequently spent six years in the midst of the Butshishi Qādiri Sufi Order in the company of his Sufi master, Sheikh al-Haj al-‘Abbās ibn al-Mukhtār al-Qādiri (may God have mercy upon him) and in the company of his son Sheikh Hamza later on until Imam Yassine noticed that some behaviors and practices, at variance with the Prophet’s sunna, began to manifest in the Order. He started advising murids [followers of the Order] not to tend towards the material aspects, superficial and outward appearances of Sufism and neglect the performance of the obligatory worshipping duties. His two first books “Islam between the Appeal and the State” (1972) and “Tomorrow Islam!” (1973) had an explicit impact on his decision to gradually stop following the way of the Order.

But his famous open letter “Islam—or the Flood” to the then-king of Morocco Hassan II has marked a decisive point in the life of Imam Yassine -the caller and mujahid.

A Strong Political Position:

Imam Yassine addressed his widely-known missive “Islam—or the Flood” to the king in 1974 reminding, edifying and exhorting him. The letter was so powerful with regard to the contents it encompassed and to the distinctive political conditions of the period known by the Years of Lead –wherein the conflict between the poles of the political field: the Royal Institute, the army and the Socialist opposition, was tensed, even the dominant political language was marked by violence, accusation, and treason. Perhaps the most striking manifestation of that period was the reiteration of the coup attempts targeting the king in person and directly.

In the open letter, which surpassed a hundred pages, Imam Yassine succinctly exhorted the King, who was afraid of losing his rule. The well-articulated advice uncovered the real combating character of a man who had just left a Sufi Order and had been filled with the chastity of Presence with and Remembrance of God. It invited the king to the Islamic method of shūra [Islamic-born democracy], repentance, justice, and redemption by restoring to the Moroccan people the wealth he had amassed through plundering the country’s abundant resources. To urge him to make the requisite change, the Imam set forth the illustrious exemplary model of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdelaziz (may God be pleased with him)-the fifth Rightly-Guided Caliph- to be followed.

As a response to the letter which was so powerful, intrepid and eloquent, and was directed to a good many of the scholars, intellectuals and persons of high caliber, Imam Yassine was placed in a mental asylum wherein he was detained without trial for three years and six months. While in detention, he insistently reiterated the same act through writing a second letter (in French) to the king that he might still be edified and exhorted.

Organized Activism: The Foundation of the Islamic Movement:

After his release, Imam Yassine continued the course of calling people to truth and guidance. Once again he was denied the right to give lessons in mosques. Still, he vehemently resumed writing about the Islamic dynamism along with an attempt to communicate and rally the activists in this field. Unfortunately, the initiative he led in person accompanied by the handful of the faithful brothers who followed him was met with a chilly reception and indifference. Imam Yassine, hence, announced the foundation of the Islamic movement Usrat al-Jamā’a [the Association’s Founding Body] in 1981, which, afterward, took the motto of al-‘Adl wal Ihsān [Justice and Spirituality] and published al-Jamā’a [the Association] periodical and two journals: as-Sobh [the Dawn] and al-Khitāb [the Address]. All of them were spitefully banned by the authorities.

On the basis of writing an article in al-Jamā’a [the Association] periodical titled “Words should be followed by deeds” in which he criticized the King Hassan II's claim of sustaining the Call and the scholars, Imam Yassine was sentenced to two years in prison once more. Yet the ordeal did not stop as of his release in December 1985. Rather the State's security services continued besieging his house until the imposition of the house-arrest on him on 30 December 1989.

The house-arrest lasted for more than ten years, within which Imam Yassine exerted strenuous efforts in writing, communicating, and calling people by all available means. The most significant event in this stage is when Al-Murshid [Imam Yassine is also called al-Murshid, that is, the Guide] addressed on 28 January 2000 an open letter “Memorandum To Whom It May Concern” to the country’s new king, Mohamed VI, urging him to fear God –Glorified be He- and restore to the Moroccan people the wealth that was plundered and the rights that were violated in the reign of his father, renewing his advice to his late father in “Islam—or the Flood” that he should follow the model of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdelaziz (may God be pleased with him)

After the House-Arrest:

After the house-arrest was unwillingly lifted by the authorities in mid-May 2000 Imam Yassine came out of his house on 19 May 2000. The next day he held a press conference attended by the national and international media.

Over the following weeks, he received visits and letters of congratulation from national and international personalities: intellectuals, scholars, politicians and leaders of Islamic movement. Thousands of delegations of Justice and Spirituality Movement’s members -young, old, men, and women- came consecutively from various cities of Morocco to see him and pay tribute to him.

He also started a nationwide tour lasted for weeks through which he was capable of meeting with the Justice and Spirituality Movement’s members and sympathizers, as well as with the Moroccan public at large.

The presence of the Imam remained powerful and influential through the Sunday Meeting [ziyarat al-ahad] which was broadcasted directly on the internet through his website yassine.net. There were also other meetings which lasted for years. In addition to that, his scientific, missionary and educational activism still continues to this day.

A Long Course of Writing and Theorizing:

Imam Yassine owes his erudition and prowess to his eagerness to seek knowledge from its diverse sources through assiduous reading of books and literature - whether at home or imprisonment and in all his actions. Writing was -and still is- for him an inexhaustible source for founding an Islamic thought capable of interacting with and taking on the concerns of the Umma [the Islamic Community worldwide] and its renewed needs in time and space.

Imam Yassine started the course of writing with a range of pedagogical works related to the field of education and teaching, and then moved to Islamic writings which formed the building blocks of the project of “the Theory of The Prophetic Method [al-Minhāj an-Nabawi]”

Hence the project has begun with the first two books entitled respectively: “Islam between the Appeal and the State” (1972) and “Tomorrow Islam!” (1973) which laid down the fundamentals and bases of “the School of The Prophetic Method [Madrasat as-Sulūk al-Minhāji]”, then the book of “The Prophetic Method [al-Minhāj an-Nabawi]” (1982) which comprises the great marks of the school presenting an integrated and complete educational, spiritual and political conception of the Islamic dynamism (that is why this book is considered the ideological framework of the Justice and Spirituality Movement). Other books have come to expound the details of this conception in various disciplines. For instance:

  • Islam and the Challenge of Secular Nationalism” (1989) deals with the position from Nationalism and the harm it has caused the umma and from the secular thesis.
  • Reflections on Islamic Jurisprudence and History” 1990 sets forth the view to Muslims' history and its relationship with the developments of Islamic jurisprudence.
  • Guide to Believing Women” (in two Volumes) 1996 in which Imam Yassine propounds the position of Muslim women in the battle of change and construction in a complete freedom from the strict traditional view and the liberal western view.
  • Al-Ihsān [Spirituality] (in two Volumes) 1998-1999 which is the mainstay of “the Project of the Prophetic Method” due to of its deep analysis to Sufism and its affirmation as to the centrality of the educational basis in the Islamic Action. The book elucidates perfectly the contents of “Spirituality” the second part of the slogan of the school of the Prophetic Method, that is “Justice and Spirituality”.
  • Justice: Islamists and Power” 2000 represents a complete theorization of the Islamic rule, the obstacles awaiting the Islamists[1] and the ways to encounter them. It therefore clarifies the contents of “Justice” the first part of the aforementioned slogan.
  • In “A Dialog with Honorable Democrats” 1994, “On the Economy” 1995, “Shūra and Democracy” 1996, “Dialog of the Past and the Future” 1997, and “Dialog with an Amazighit Friend” 1997 Imam Yassine sets forth the view of the school of the Prophetic Method as for a number of contemporary values and principles such as democracy, capitalist and socialist economy, Amazighism and other topics.
  • Winning the Modern World for Islam” 2000, the English translation of Imam Yassine’s “Islamiser la Modernité” 1998. The primary concern of the book is “to make known the message of the Qur’ān: a message of peace for a violent world, a message of sanity for a directionless world, a spiritual message for an ailing modern humanity (Foreword).” The Imam seeks to “clarify the ideas and the ideals that Muslims can share among themselves and with people of good will and sketch the framework within which harmony can be attained, and the causes of discord between Islam and modernity can be undone (Introduction).”
  • The following is a list of Imam Yassine's bestselling books, the bulk of which can be found in the Encyclopedia "Siraj":

    Translated in English:

    1. Memorandum: To Him Who Is Concerned (Traslation of an open letter in French to the country’s new king, Mohamed VI), 1999
    2. Winning the Modern World for Islam, 2000
    3. The Muslim Mind on Trial: Divine Revelation versus Secular Rationalism, 2003
    4. Day and Night Schedule of the Believer (A book in Arabic and English), 2007

    In Arabic:

    1. Islam between the Appeal and the State, 1972
    2. Tomorrow Islam!, 1973
    3. Islam—or the Flood (An Open Letter to the Late King of Morocco), 1974
    4. Toward a Dialog with our Westernized Elite (Translation), 1980
    5. The Royal Century Missive in the Balance of Islam, 1980
    6. The Prophetic Method [al-Minhāj an-Nabawi], 1982
    7. Islam and the Challenge of Marxism-Leninism, 1987
    8. Exemplary Men (1st in the series Al-Ihssān), 1988
    9. Introductions to the Method, 1989
    10. Islam and the Challenge of Secular Nationalism, 1989
    11. Reflections on Islamic Jurisprudence and History, 1989
    12. Spiritual Gems (A Collection of Poems), 1992
    13. The Muslim Mind on Trial: Divine Revelation versus Secular Rationalism, 1994
    14. A Dialog with Honorable Democrats, 1994
    15. Letter of Reminder (1st in the series Rasa’il Al-Ihsān), 1995
    16. On the Economy, 1995
    17. Letter to Students and to all Muslims (2nd in the series Rassa’il Al-Ihssân), 1995
    18. Guide to Believing Women, 1996
    19. Shūra and Democracy, 1996
    20. Poetic Exhortations (3rd in the series Rasa’il Al- Ihsān), 1996
    21. Dialog of the Past and the Future, 1997
    22. Dialog with an Amazighit Friend, 1997
    23. Spirituality [Al-Ihssān] V1, 1998
    24. How Shall We Renew Our Faith, How Do We Advise For God’s Sake And His Messenger? (1st in the series “The Prophetic Method Discourses”), 1998
    25. Al-Fitra And The Remedial Treatment Of Prophecy For Hearts, 1998 (2nd in the series “The Prophetic Method Discourses”), 1998
    26. Spirituality [Al-Ihssān] V2, 1999
    27. Memorandum: To Whom It May Concern (Traslation), 1999
    28. Hearts Sincerity (3rd in the series “The Prophetic Method Discourses”), 1999
    29. Braving the Obstacles (4th in the series “The Prophetic Method Discourses”), 1999
    30. Justice: Islamists and Power, 2000
    31. Bunches of Grapes (A Collection of Poems), 2000
    32. Winning the Modern World for Islam (Translation), 2000
    33. The Scholarly Treatise, 2001
    34. Caliphate and Monarchy, 2001
    35. Exemplary Men of Uprising and Reform, 2001
    36. Day and Night Schedule of the Believer, 2002
    37. The Price (5th in the series “The Prophetic Method Discourses”), 2004
    38. God’s Custom, 2005
    39. Introductions to the future of Islam, 2005
    40. Day and Night Schedule of the Believer (A book in Arabic and English), 2007
    41. Leadership of the Umma, 2009
    42. Qur’ān and Prophecy, 2010

    In French:

    1. The Islamic Method of Revolution, 1980
    2. Toward a Dialog with our Westernized Elite, 1980
    3. Winning the Modern World for Islam, 1998
    4. Memorandum: To Him Who Is Concerned (Traslation of an open letter in French to the country’s new king, Mohamed VI), 1999

    Translated in German:

    1. Memorandum: To Him Who Is Concerned (Traslation of an open letter in French to the country’s new king, Mohamed VI), 1999
    2. Winning the Modern World for Islam (Traslation), 2000

    Translated in Turkish:

    1. The Prophetic Method [al-Minhāj an-Nabawi], 2012
    2. God’s Custom, 2012
    3. Caliphate and Monarchy, 2012
    4. Exemplary Men of Uprising and Reform, 2012

    • [1] “Islamist” names an observant Muslim, someone whose life source is islam in the sense of submission to God. Such persons may well strive for the creation of a society guided by this principle, but it is a grievous (and often intentionally vicious) misuse of the term to represent a religious fanatic or, worse still, terrorist.