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Alawite Caliphate / Alaouites

Recent Alawite Monarchs
Sultan Slimane of Morocco17921822
Sultan Abderrahmane 18221859
Sultan Mohammed IV18591873
Sultan Muley Hassan I18731894
Sultan Abdel Aziz18941908
Sultan Abdel Hafid19081912
Sultan Yusef19121927
King Muhammad V19271953
Mohammed Ben Aarafa19531955
King Muhammad V19551961
King Hassan II19611999
King Muhammad VI1999
The Alawite sultans and kings of Morocco boast an impeccable religious lineage with the titles of caliph and "commander of the believers". Under the Moroccan monarchial tradition of power, the king is both caliph (religious leader) and zaim (national leader), directly linked to his people. The title Sharif (lit. 'noble') implies descent from the Prophet Mohammad, from whom the Sharifs of Morocco trace their lineage through Hasan the elder son of Fatima by 'Ali. The Sultan was the unrestricted spiritual ruler, having no Ulema to guide him, such as exists in other Mohammedan states, and the absolute head of the state, although, in civil affairs, the predecessors of the present Sultan have usually taken the advice of the Vizier and other ministers.

Descended from the prophet Mohamed, the Alaouites had arrived from Arabia some three centuries earlier to settle near Rissani in the Tafilalet region in the south (they are referred to as Filali). Unlike preceding dynasties they did not move and seize power but were formally invited by the people of Fez to come to the capital and take over the throne of Morocco.

The Sharifs possessed themselves of Tarudant in 1515, and Morocco and Fez soon afterwards, but their formal assumption of sovereignty dates from 1544 (951). The series falls into two divisions, Hasani and Filali Sharifs, and a period of anarchy for six years occurred between the two. Their boundaries have always remained much as they are in the present day, but there has frequently been a rival Sharif at Fez in opposition to the Sharif of Morocco.

The first Alaouite ruler, Moulay Ali Cherif [Moulay Rachid], reigned from 1631. He restored order with a firm hand, revived the life of all mosques and drove out all the pretenders. Under the reign of Moulay Ismael( 1672-1727) Morocco was made again a great country. He exchanged ambassadorts with many leading Powers. Meknes was chosen by Moulay Ismael as the imperial city which he made his capital. Today, the miles of ruined walls, palaces and stables bear witness to his energy and ambition and also to the scale of his success.

The Sharifs claim to be inheritors of the title of Caliph and Prince of the Faithful. Morocco was never part of the Ottoman Empire. As spiritual ruler, the Sultan stood quite alone, his authority not being limited, as in Turkey and other countries following the religion of Mahomet, by the expounders of the Koran, the class of 'Ulema,' under the 'Sheik-ul-Islam.' With the advent of the Sherifian dynasties, which coincided with this religious reform, and was in fact brought about by it, Morocco became a closed country, as fiercely guarded as Japan against European penetration. Cut off from civilizing influences, the Moslems isolated themselves in a lonely fanaticism, far more racial than religious, and the history of the country from the fall of the Merinids till the French annexation is mainly a dull tale of tribal warfare.

In 1757, another wise and strong Alaouite ruler came to the throne. He was Mohamed ben Abdellah. He built the city of Essaouira and invited the English, the French, and the jewish people to settle and to trade there.

Moulay el Hassan succeeded his father, Sidi-Mohammed, in 1873, at the age of forty-two. Sultan Muley-Hassan, belonged to the Hachan family, Shrifs of the Tafilali tribe, of the Aliweein branch of the Shereefian family, being the direct descendant, in the thirty-fifth generation, of Ali, uncle of the Prophet, and of Fatima, the Prophet's daughter. He had the task of pacifying the tribes and was the first monarch to enter the wild Souss Area, where the tribes never acknowledged the authority of the state. During his reign, the European governments suggested ways of reforming administration, such as fixed salaries, civil servants and a more structured method tax collection.

The Sultan, as the successor of the Caliphs of Cordova, did not acknowledge the superiority of the Sultan of Turkey, but considers himself the head of the faithful. His spiritual character enables him to exercise absolute despolic power over the Berbers and Arabs, which the present Sultan and his predecessors hnve so abused that the laws are simply instruments of pillage and oppression, and every person seeks to hide his property lest ho should lose both it and his life or liberty. The authorities of the state, from the Sultan down, plunder those beneath them. Muley Hassan is said to have amassed enormous wealth.

The officials received no pay, but were at liberty to extort as much as they like from those under them, while they were obliged to deliver large sums to the Sultan. Every officer, from the Minister of State down to the sheikh of a village, paid for his appointment, end must pay to continue in office. Their exactions and arbitrary assessments were the cause of frequent revolts. No one took pains to make the ground more productive, because its produce would be seized by the Government. The merchants were compelled to carry on their trade secretly, to conceal their stock, and to bury their savings. When a pasha was suspected of having amassed great wealth, it is no uncommon occurrence for the Sultan to invite him to the capital and after his arrival cast him into prison and load him with chains until he parts with his gains. The inmates of the prisons die in great numbers, from bad air, cruel treatment, and starvation.

The law required every man to give a tenth part of his goods to the poor, but the tithes are collected by the Sultan's officers, and the greater part of them is retained in their hands or diverted into the imperial treasury. Slavery existed without restrictions, and slave markets were held in the public streets. The slaves were brought from the Soudan, having originally been kidnapped or taken in war. They were well treated by their masters as a rule, and some were set free. There were no roads in Morocco.

Attacks on foreigners were frequent and the tribes took power into their own hands. At that time, the French occupied Morocco, The Spaniards, for historical reasons, insisted on sharing the influence on Morocco. In 1906, the Conference of Algeciras (in which 30 nations were present) took place and had the effect of internationalizing the whole affair. Tangier was an international free port, and the whole country was under the protectorate of the French government.

In 1912, Sultan Moulay Hafid signed the Treaty of Fez. He was relieved from the power to govern. The country was under the controle of a French Resident-General called Lyauty. He aimed to pacify and to construct. He also built the ports of Casablanca and Kenitra, the new towns of Rabat, Fez, Meknes and Marrakech, while the old medina of theses cities remained untouched. A modern educational system was introduced, the administration was modernised and the legal system reformed. Still the tribes in the south of Morocco were very rebellious.

By 1920, there was a more structured rebellion and resistance in the Rif Mountains, led by Abdelkarim Khattabi. The French began by driving a wedge between Berbers and Arabs. The Sultan, at that time, signed a beber decree in 1930, which on the contrary of what the French calculated, brought the two parties even closer. Then, a serious movement of national independance was born especially formed by young intellectuals from Rabat and Fez.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:39:15 ZULU