Marabout

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A marabout (Arabic: مَربوط‎ [marbūṭ] or Arabic: مُرابِط‎ [murābiṭ], one who is attached/garrisoned) is an Islamic religious leader and teacher [1] in West Africa, and (historically) in the Maghreb. The marabout is often a scholar of the Qur'an, or religious teacher. Others may be wandering holy men who survive on alms, Sufi Murshids ("Guides"), or leaders of religious communities. Still others keep alive syncretic pre-Islamic traditions, making amulets for good luck, presiding at various ceremonies, telling the future, and in some cases actively guiding the lives of followers. The common practice of receiving gifts or money for this service is disapproved of by orthodox Muslims.[1]

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The Maghreb

The term Marabout appears during the Muslim conquest of North Africa. It is derived from the Arabic word "Mourabit" or "mrabet" (one who is garrisoned)[2]: religious students and military volunteers who manned the Ribats at the time of the conquest.[3] Today marabout means "Saint" in the Berber language, and refers to Sufi Muslim teachers who lead lodge or school called a zaouïa, associated with a specific school or tradition, called a Tariqah (طريقه Ṭarīqah: "way", "path").

The pronunciation of that word may vary according the spoken Berber dialect, for example it is pronounced as "Amrabadh" in the Riff dialect. The "marabout" is known as "Sayyed" (سيد) to the Arabic speaking Maghribians. Many cities in Morocco got their names from local "marabouts", and the name of those cities does usually begin with "Sidi" (سيدي) followed with the name of the local "marabout." The standard Arabic for "saint" would be "Waliy" (ولي).

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