Sufis well-rooted in al-Rawda, but is there an all-out war on them?

People gather at al-Rawda Mosque in Bir al-Abd northern Sinai, Egypt a day after attackers killed hundreds of worshippers.. (AP)

Al-Rawda is around 20 kilometers way from West of Arish. The number of its citizens is around 2,000 families and most of them are from al-Sawarka tribe, particularly from the Jarirat clan which belongs to the Sufi Ahmadiyya order.

Extremists who roamed al-Rawda in their four-wheel drive carrying ISIS’ black flags following Friday’s deadly mosque attacks were heard chanting: “We will only leave monotheists in the area.”

Egyptian site Raseef22, quoted witnesses as saying that most of the victims were Sufis who belong to the Jarirat clan, in addition to others who happened to be praying at the mosque. This indicates that terrorist organizations have begun their actual war against Sufism in Sinai.

Some Sufis said ISIS had warned them in recent months not to hold celebrations near mosques and shrines but people ignored these warnings. 

Sectarian war 

Friday’s attack is considered an official declaration of a sectarian war between the extremist organization and followers of the Sufi order.

Before this incident, in November 2016, Sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, a 98-year-old cleric from the Jarirat clan, was killed in front of his house in south of al-Arish.

ALSO READ: Egypt mosque attack: Is Sufism a new target for terrorists in Sinai?

A leader of Wilayat Sinai said in the group’s magazine Al-Naba that followers of the Jarirat method worship in shrines and read out statements that imply polytheism, such as seeking the Prophet’s help and requesting intercession.

The Jarirat method, which is named after its sheikh Eid Abu Jarir who belongs to Al-Sawarka tribe, is one of the oldest Sufi methods in Sinai. It began with building a Sufi schoool in the city of Al-Tor. It later established a school of Quran memorization and built 200 mosques in Sinai.

Sheikh Eid has many followers in Sinai and other districts but Al-Rawda is viewed as the headquarters of the Jarirat clan.

According to some estimates, those who follow the Sufi method in Sinai comprise around 60 percent of the residents. The most famous order is the Jarirat Ahmadiyya followed by the Alawiyyah and Shadhili orders. 

Attacks began in 2011 

Terrorist attacks against Sufi orders began in 2011 when explosions targeted shrines in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. Five other shrines were blown up in 2013 and 2016. Four of these shrines where in the town of Mazar, near Al-Rawda, and the fifth was in Maghareh, in central Sinai. 

Egypt has struggled to quash attacks led by ISIS, whose local branch is based in North Sinai. (AFP)

Egypt has struggled to quash attacks led by ISIS, whose local branch is based in North Sinai. (AFP)



Many Sinai residents refuse to acknowledge the link between targeting the Sufis and their participation in tribal wars against the terrorist organization. Many noted that army forces did not resort to the Sufis or to other tribes for help but rather sought the help of Bedouins, against whom sentences in absentia have been issued.

Although the Sinai Tribal Union declared war on Wilayat Sinai and began to set barricades on some towns’ entrances to avenge for Al-Rawda’s victims, the Sufis do not care much about these developments in terms of confronting extremists.

An Egyptian army soldier looks on from his postion at a checkpoint in Al Arish city, the troubled northern part of the Sinai peninsula, July 8, 2015. (Reuters)

An Egyptian army soldier looks on from his postion at a checkpoint in Al Arish city, the troubled northern part of the Sinai peninsula, July 8, 2015. (Reuters)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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