Muslim Countries of the World: Libya
Libya is a state in the north of Africa with the longest Mediterranean coastline of any Mediterranean country. The entire territory of the country, with the exception of the coastal strip in the region of Tripoli (Tripolitania), is occupied by the Sahara Desert. The desert goes further north, into the territory of Niger and Chad, occupying almost the entire territory of these countries and ending in the area of Lake Chad. The Sahara occupies both the territory of the eastern neighbour of Libya, Egypt, and the territory of its western neighbours Tunisia and Algeria, leaving only the coastal regions for people to live.
Islam is the state religion of Libya. The Sunni Islam of the Maliki madhhab is professed by 95% of the country’s population. In 1977, in the Declaration on the Establishment of the People’s Socialist Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, it was said that the Constitution of the country is the Holy Quran. Islam has deep roots, traditions and influence in the country.
Islam came to Libya with the Arab conquest. In ancient times, Libya was part of the Carthaginian Empire along with Tunisia (the city of Tunisia was built on the site of Carthage destroyed by the Romans), then came under the control of Byzantium. The country was inhabited by Berbers and nomadic peoples of the desert. The Second Righteous Caliph Umar began the conquest of Africa with the capture of Egypt. Under the Third Caliph Uthman, the troops of the Caliphate, under the command of his foster brother Abdullah ibn Sad, advanced along the African coast and in 647 captured the lands of former Carthage, including Tripolitania. The Byzantine governor agreed to pay tribute to the Caliphate and the Arab troops left Tripolitania. Half a century later, the Caliphate, having settled internal conflicts and the change of dynasties, returned to North Africa under the new Umayyad caliphs. The Arab commander Uqba ibn Nafi conquered Tripolitania for the second time in 685. And finally, the commander Hassan ibn Numan finally broke the resistance of Byzantium and annexed Carthage to the Caliphate in 695. Over the next ten years, the Berbers rebelled against the Caliphate on several occasions. The new governor of North Africa, Musa ibn Nusayr, succeeded in suppressing their resistance. Having put an end to the unrest of the Berbers, he moved on and conquered the Maghreb (Morocco) and the Iberian Peninsula.
In the Middle Ages, the territory of Libya became an arena of struggle between the Caliphate (Umayyads and Abbasids), the Fatimids of Egypt, the Almohads of the Maghreb, switching allegiance from one state to another, until in 1551 it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. In the 20th century CE, Libya was a colony of Italy, after the proclamation of independence it became a kingdom (whose monarch Idris belonged to the Sufi clan of dervishes of the Libyan national Senussi tariqa). In 1969, power in the country passed to Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi introduced a unique form of governance in the country, echoing the anarcho-communist ideas of Peter Kropotkin, which he called “Jamahiriya” (for this reason, the historian Said Gafurov suggested translating the term “Jamahiriya” by the term “Popular rule” used by Kropotkin).
Islam played an important role in the Gaddafi system. Gaddafi believed that it was necessary to “purify Islam”, returning it to the strictness and purity that it had during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), to restore the political and moral authority of the Holy Quran. Sharia law was introduced in the country, a strict Muslim dress code was introduced, bars and nightclubs were closed, as well as any entertainment establishments that violate the norms of Islamic morality. The Muslim calendar was officially introduced replacing the European calendar. Gaddafi believed that the Holy Quran does not need “modernization” and is fully suitable for modern life in its original form.
At the same time, Gaddafi was tolerant towards Christians, remembering the covenants of religious tolerance of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Gaddafi considered Christians to be “Muslims who lost their way” and was willing to patiently explain their mistakes to them.
At the moment, Libya is going through a transitional period and a new formation of statehood after the removal of Gaddafi and the abolition of the Jamahiriya. Sheikh Sadiq al-Ghariani was appointed the new Grand Mufti of Libya.