Who was Abdelkrim and what did he stand for? Dispassionate historical inquiry provides a complex picture. As a qadi (a judge ruling in accordance with Islamic law) who studied in Fez’s Islamic institute of higher learning, al-Qarawayn, Abdelkrim strongly preferred reformist Islam over the traditional Sufi maraboutic practices of the illiterate tribes of the Rif and attempted to impose strict Islamic practices in his domain. Yet he was also a great admirer of the avowedly secularist Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In that vein, Abdelkrim also sought to build the trappings of modern state institutions. At the same time, his tribe provided the core backing needed to impose his leadership on the rest of the region. As for his political and territorial aspira tions, did they extend beyond the Rif region into other parts of Morocco? Was Abdelkrim imbued with Moroccan nationalist sentiment even before there was an organized Moroccan national movement? For the modern Amazigh movement, the answers to these questions are less important than the fact that Abdelkrim provides a powerful example of Amazigh agency and strength at a time when the rest of Morocco lay prostrate before colonial supremacy.
Moroccan leader of the Rif Rebellion and Islamic reformer. Eldest son of a notable family in a Berber-speaking tribe of northern Morocco, Abd el-Krim and his Moroccan troops soundly defeated Spanish forces under General Silvestre at the Battle of Anual ( 1921 ), initiating the Rif Rebellion. Influenced by Salafi ideas, he declared a republic based on Islamic law ( 1923 ) and sought to eliminate Sufism. At its zenith, the Rifian state included most of the Spanish protectorate and a portion of the French protectorate. In 1926 Spanish and French armies defeated Abd el-Krim’s forces and disbanded the republic.