Rise of the Sharifian Alawite Empire: The Role of the Sultan Mawlay Ismail
Although sharifism attained its own glory under the rule of the Imam Moulay Idriss II, the Idrissid dynasty did not stay in power for long (788-974). As a result Morocco entered into ciaos and rule of shattered states notably the ones of Barghwata, Maghrawa and Bani Yafran. The age of the Berber dynasties was soon to be launched. The heyday of Moroccan history corresponds to the rule of the three Berber dynasties that succeeded to the throne from the fifth/eleventh to the eighth/fourteenth centuries: the Almoravids (“al-Murabitun”; 1061-1147), the Almohads (“al-Muwahhidun”; 1130-1269), and the Marinids (“al-Mariniyun”; 1244-1398) corresponding to the three major Berber tribes Sanhaja, Masmuda, and Zenata. Political authority of these dynasties were characterised by three main factors: religious allegiance and fervour, group feelings (‘asabiyya), and a strong royal power. The consolidation of ‘asabiyya contributes to the rise to a new civilization, and their subsequent diffusion into a more general civilization gives way for the rise of a new ‘asabiyya and ultimately a new civilization. After the demise of the Marinid dynasty at the end of the eight/fourteenth century, Sufi masters appeared on the political scene to compensate for the absence of a central government, decline of the cultural influence of the cities and moral uncertainties. This period spanned the entire ninth/fifteenth century and is generally referred to as the maraboutic crisis.
HM King Sidi Mohammed VI pays a visit of respect to thetomb of his grandfather Moulay Ali Sharif at Risani in company of his Crown Prince Mawlay El Hassan and his brother Prince Mawlay Rachid
The early rise of sharifism in Fez took place again under the Marinids (1269-1465), with the Idrissids still playing an important role and with a pronounced mythical dimension that was symbolized by the miraculous discovery of the body of Moulay Idriss in Fez and the extension of his sanctuary. In Ramadan 869 (May 1465), the Marinid dynasty, which has represented governmental authority in Morocco for than two centuries had come to a humiliating end. Sultan Abdellhaqq II, who despised the elite of Fez for their pro-Wattasid (former governors of Fez) sympathies, instructed his Jewish ministers to collect taxes from the previously exempt categories of the sharifs and the ulama. Infuriated at this revocation of their prerogatives, a scholar from the al-Qarawiyyin mosque named Sidi Abdellaziz al-Waryaghili (d. 880/1475) incited the inhabitants of Fez against the sultan, who had his throat cut. Next al- Waryaghili selected a new sultan –the leader of Fez’s community of sharifs, the Idrissid Sidi Mohammed al-Hafid al-Imrani al-Juti.
For the first time since the downfall of the Idrissids, a sharif assumed power in Fez. This time however he was chosen by an alliance of urban notables and was not beholden to any tribally based power behind the throne. Although the sharifian state of Sidi Mohammed al-Hafid was to last for only six years, his assumption of power marked the beginning of the end for tribally based rule in Morocco. In the following century, political reestablishment of the principle of sharifism as a means of legitimising rule has continued after the rise of the Saadian dynasty (1510-1659) and their successors the Alawid (1659-present), both Alid dynasties from the bloodline of Sidna Mohammed Nafs Zakiyya. The Saadid dynasty, first of the two sharif dynasties, established themselves with a close connection to the militant Jazouliya Sufi order, while sharifism solidified itself through the course of the Alawid rule with sultanian kingship that created a distinct identity for Morocco and laid the ideological foundation of the country’s present constitutional monarchy.
The new style of Islam which evolved in Morocco was marked by a much heavier emphasis upon sharifian Islam practices that had previously been the case in the Idrissid era. This symbolic weight of sharifism has accumulated throughout and reached its climax for the first time when the grand Shadhilite Shaykh Sidi Mohammed ibn Slimane Jazouli (himself a descendent of Sidna Mohammed Nafs Zakiyya; d. 869/1454) promoted descent from the Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him and his family) as a political ideology in order to pull the sate out of its crisis,
Reputation is not gained through possessions or sons. Instead, reputation comes from one's repute before the Lord of Lords. One is not great because of the glory of wealth and children. Rather, one is great because of the glory of God and His attributes. One is not great because of the greatness of his tribe or his love of high rank. Instead, one is great because of the greatness of nobility (sharaf) and lineage (nasab). I am noble in lineage (ana sharifun fi-n nasab). My ancestor is the Messenger of God (peace and blessing be upon him and his family) and I am nearer to him than all of God's creation. My reputation is eternal, dyed in gold and silver. O you who desire gold and silver, follow us, for he who follows us dwells in the heights of 'illiyyun in this world and the Hereafter! Past nations (umam) have asked to be included in our polity (dawlatuna). Yet no one can be included in it unless he has already attained salvation (sa'ada). Our polity is the state (dawla) of those who strive (mujtahidin) and struggle (mujahidin) in the path of Allah—fighters against the enemy of Allah. The sultans of the earth are in my hands and under my feet!
It is significant for the strength and political relevance of the Jazouli order in Morocco at that time that the dominant power centre in the state before the rise of the Alawid sharifs (after the Allama Moulay Ali Shrif b. al-Hassan b. Mohammed b. al-Hassan al-Qadim; d. 847/1432) was based on the Dilaiya headquarters in central Atlas. Founded in the late tenth/sixteenth century by the Qutb Sidi Abu Bakr Majjati Dilai (d. 1021/1620), this was the centre of an order based on the Jazouliya order, and exclusively concentrated among the Sanhaja Berbers. When succeeded by his son Sidi Mohammed ibn Abi Bakr (d. 1046/1631), the Dilai Zawiya became more politically-motivated. From around 1640 to the late 1660's it controlled most of northern Morocco, including Fez, with which it had an ambivalent relationship. However, the might of Dilai rulers did not last. Their power was impaired by been neither sharifs nor even Arabs, like the Saadians and Wattasis they replaced. At the end of 1660's, the Alawi Imam and admirable warrior Moulay Rachid I ibn Mohammed II (d. 1087/1672) was able to seize power. He completed the conquest of the major part of today's Morocco and Mauritania and the Eastern Desert of today’s Algeria (including Tuwat) and organised the administration of this immense empire after he raised the Jazoulite headquarters of Dilaiya and that of Tazrerwalt headed by Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa in 1668 and 1670 respectively. He also repeatedly threatened the prominent Sufi Sidi Ahmed Ben Nasir Dar'i (d. 1129/1714), though he did not live long enough to carry out these threats.
Historical sources abound on the strong ties that existed between Alawi Sultans and Sufi masters. The Alawi dynasty, which brought this dynasty to power was originally a coalition of central Moroccan pastoral peoples under the leadership of Sufi reformers. The advent of the dynasty of Alawi sharifs was a good omen according to a vision by a Sufi Master called Sidi Ben Taher Hassani Sijilmasi. The fact that Shaykh Sidi Ibrahim al-Luwati Sabti's (Ibn al-Fasi d. 513/1098) grandson Sidi Abu Abdellah al-Luwati rallied to Sultan Moulay Rachid. The Alawites, however, rose to power without the help of powerful brotherhoods. This was a factor of quite differential importance not only politically, but it also had profound repercussions on the future of orthodoxy in Morocco. The Maraboutic explosion that swept away two dynasties, a Berber one and a Sharifian, was about to be thwarted. From its inception, the Shurafa' of Tafilalt strove to frustrate the political ambitions of the powerful Zawiyas. The advent of the 'Alawite Dynasty, particularly under the energetic and ruthless Mawlay al-Rashod (1040/1631-1083/1672), signaled the beginning of the end to the Berber hegemony on spiritualism as well as to their temporal ambitions. Until this point, the Zawiyas that operated beyond the control of the Makhzan had acted as a force for decentralization and instability. In turn the central government was often too weak to control any of them on a permanent basis. The dynasties that preceded the Alawites since the dislocation of the Almohad Empire remained extremely vulnerable and very much dependent not only on the political succor of the Maraboutic powers, but also on foreign trade which played an important role in the consolidation of many of the local dominions, Maraboutic or otherwise.
However, by the time the Shurafa' of Tafilalt had moved to the political arena, foreign trade, particularly English and Dutch, had declined, leaving the various contenders deprived of an important source of arms and revenues. Consequently, the 'Alawites were well aware of the significance of trade and actively sought French help. Moreover they made some astute alliances with certain tribes which had been begrudged by the Dila'iyya, thus enabling them to weaken the awesome authority of the latter. By the late 1650's, the 'Alawites were in a position to contest the Dila'iyya's supremacy, especially in the field of Jihad.
In 1061/1650 the people of Fez revolted against Mohammed al-Hajj al-Dila'i (d. 1072/1661) and called upon Mahammad b. al-Sharif to come to their rescue, but the 'Alawite was too weak to press his initial success and was eventually driven out of Fez by the Dila'iyya. But the Dila'iyya respite was short-lived. The Mujahid al-Khidr Ghaylan pursued mercilessly his aim to chastise them. In 1063/1652 he captured al-Qasr al-Kabir and Arzila followed soon after. With the loss of Bu-Ragrag and Tetuan, the Dila'iyya were completely crippled, for they no longer had any access to the sea. When Mohammed al-Hajj died in 1032/1662, Mahammad b. al-Sharif moved once more against Fez. Two years later he was proclaimed Sultan. However his brother al-Rashld, whose adventurous career destined him to play a leading role in the firm establishment of the 'Alawite Dynasty, hastened to have himself proclaimed Sultan by a confederation of Arab tribes. The clash between the two brothers was inevitable. Having first eliminated his nephew Mohammed b. al-Sharif in Sijilmasa in 1075/ 1664, thereby securing the cradle of the nascent Dynasty, Mawlay al-Rashid moved against his brother. After killing his brother Mahammad, al-Rashid made two unsuccessful attempts against Fez. In 1076/1666 he finally stormed the city (Fez al-Jadid), where the people swore their allegiance to him (Bay'a); Fez al-Bali followed suit.
According to al-Wafrani, soon after the conquest of Fez Mawlay al-Rasild showed a deep desire to revive the Sunna and to make the authority of traditional scholarship scrupulously respected. His action is said to have enhanced his prestige among the disillusioned Fasis. Mawlay al-Rashid turned then against al-Khidr Ghaylan who had just signed an agreement with Spain. After forcing him out of the country, al-Rashid was free to face his greatest challenge: the Dila'iyya. On 8 Muharram 1079/18 June 1668, al-Rashid was able to crush the brotherhood at the battle of Batn al-Rumman, thus freeing northern and central Morocco from their tutelage. The defeat of the Dila’iyya ended any hope for a Berber Makhzan' to rule Morocco. The Dila'iyya "Fondatrice avortée d'un état national," lacked the necessary Baraka or charisma to aspire to a universal rule. It is also significant that none of the Berber Maraboutic principalities managed to create a viable dynasty. They perhaps overlooked the importance of formulating an ideology capable of bypassing local regionalism. Moreover, they also failed to muster enough support to their cause either through incompetence or because of limited ambition.
The Brotherhoods' extensive influence in matters of religion, their ability to mediate in the endemic conflict between nomads and sedentary all of which resulted in the formation of dynamic communities, inheritors of the Baraka [charisma] of their founders), has not translated itself into a new dynasty capable of cementing together the disparate groups m the country. Interestingly enough, Sharifism, which had already sealed the country's destiny under the Idrissids, later reintroduced by the Sa’adis, became "the principal of legitimation of sovereign authority." The Sa’adis were successful because they had the power and the qualifications required to lead a Muslim "state." Power alone could not and did not propel to leadership anyone lacking prophetic descent. It is true that the Sa’adis were in the end overthrown, but it only occurred because their Sultans did not live up to their duties as commander of the faithful. Once stripped of their "undeserving" title, the Sa’adis could be regarded as just another passing dynasty that had terminated its Khaldunian cycle.
But Sharifism as a 'legitimizing principal survived and was taken over by a more worthy dynasty, the 'Alawites. It survived because it represented a synthesis of Arab-tribal genealogy mixed with impeccable saintly lineage, giving birth to a hereditary aristocracy. But more importantly, Sharifism was to represent a symbol of the social order, or better a "physical manifestation" (in this case the Sultan) of a set of values and beliefs grafted to Islam. Sharifism, or prophetic descent, became a 'legalized fiction which the 'Alawites in particular utilized as a religious ideology to modify the nature of things to their own benefit, and to the advantage of Sunnism. Another puzzling aspect of the al-Rashld/Dila'iyya conflict is the redoubtable ferocity with which al-Rashid annihilated the Zawiya while exiling its leadership to Tlemcen. Was it to put an end to what Clifford Geertz called "two centuries of molecular politics"? Or was it simply to limit the explosion of 'religious populism'? At any rate it represented the triumph of the Prophetic prestige over the prodigious. Mawlay al-Rashid did put an end to the Maraboutic crisis; the work of pacification he undertook however proved to be of short duration. Moreover, al-Rashid like many of his predecessors found himself often paralyzed because of the unreliability of his tribal contingents, and became entangled in their bickering.
When Mawlay al-Rashid's half-brother Mawlay Ismail b. al-Sharif al-Hassani (1972/1672-1139/1727) assumed power, he soon resolved the Makhzan’s dependence on unreliable tribal forces by substituting for them a professional black army ('Abid); the 'Abid were made to swear allegiance to their Sultan using al-Bukhari's book, hence their name 'Abid al-Bukhari. This method of recruitment was by no means revolutionary, since it had already been adopted by Ahmad al-Mansur al-Sa’adi.But a dynasty's complete reliance on African troops to govern was certainly new. Nonetheless, the creation of the black slave army, was certainly a 'coup de génie' in the Makhzan's efforts to assuage refractory tribes. With his new army, which by some exaggerated accounts reached 150,000 men, Mawlay Isma'il was able to reduce drastically the subversive influence of the Brotherhoods. In spite of this he ran into serious opposition from the 'Ulama, particularly Fasis 'Ulama', concerning the legality of forced 'military slavery.' The point of dispute was the compulsory incorporation into the 'Abid army of Moroccan subjects who happened to be of negroid ancestry (Harratin). The 'Ulama' argued that any subject whose slave status could not be lawfully demonstrated could not be impressed into the Diwan of 'Abid. Mawlay Isma'il never fully reconciled the 'Ulama' to his views. As Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Muminin), legitimized by his 'natural' as well as 'earned' Baraka, Mawlay Ismail exhibited an uncompromising devotion. He made it a point to remind his subjects of his moral superiority by an ostentatious display of religiosity at his court in Meknes ("the exemplary center"), reminiscent of the later 'Abbasid period. It was designed to project a daunting image of a cosmic order personified in the Sultan. Concurs Mohammed El-Fasi: "C'est (Mawlây Ismâ'il) ... qui a veillé à l'extension de la loi musulmane dans toutes les contrées du Maroc, afin d'assurer à ce pays l'unité religieuse." Mawlay Ismail was aided in his task by pro Makhzan 'Ulama, particularly the Qadi of Meknes, Ahmad b. Abd al-Wahhâb al-Wazir al-Ghassâni", and by his vizir Abu al-'Abbis Ahmad al-Yahmadi".
After all, the seat of Ismail's government was in the market town of Meknes, traditionally in competition with Fez and away from the inquisitive eyes of the Fasis. With a minimal administrative apparatus, Mawlay Ismail delegated power to hand picked Quwwâd (S. Qâ'id) or governors (themselves representing "Makhzan sub-dynasty"), with a handful of 'Abid whose task was the collection of taxes; their presence was enough to remind the recalcitrant that the Sultan's authority was vigilant. Mawlay Isma’il attempted also to limit the number of claimants to Sharifism by training Kuttâb (S. Katib) specialized in genealogy. This in turn led later to the office of Naqib al-Shurafa'. In his drive toward centralization, Mawlay Isma'il summoned all Marabouts to transfer their headquarters to Fez and required them to put their services at his disposal. Like his brother al-Rashld, Isma'il endeavored to curb the Zawiyas' politico-religious ambitions. However, in the case of the Idrissid Shurafa', who remained a potential threat to the Makhzan, the Sultan did his utmost to win their support by including some of them in his court and also by protecting their privileges. But he did not hesitate to persecute them when the security of the 'Alawite Dynasty was at stake.
Mawlay Ismail’s attitude toward the Zawiyas was not characterized by systematic persecutions. If his major aim was to limit their influence in the Siba, he allowed many of them to enjoy their prerogatives, as soon as their loyalty to the -Makhzan was established. As a matter of fact the pacified Zawiyas, which had outgrown their local character, came to play a political role, principally by serving the Makhzan as intermediaries. With time, these Zawiyas were reduced to depend solely on Makhzan generosity (Futuhat [revenues from lodges], 'Azib, Hubus land, tax exoneration) so much that they became, in effect, part of the central administration.
Panorama: Moulay Ismail's Shrine - Meknes
Mawlay Isma’il successful campaigns against foreign encroachment and his strong emphasis on Jihad further weakened the prestige of the Brotherhoods, which until now possessed the monopoly over the Holy War. Jihad against the 'Infidels' was often done peacefully by way of argumentation (witness the numerous letters written by the Sultan to various European monarchs, urging them to convert to Islam). His letters to Louis XIV and to Jacques II are particularly indicative of Isma’il quasi 'apostolic' ardor. However, Mawlay Isma’il aggressive policy, his military expeditions and fortifications, proved to be disastrous to the Makhzan's coffers. The heavy taxations he extracted from the population soon became insufficient. The country could no longer support a heavily centralized government. The weakening of the Empire's economic base led to regression and disintegration. The temporary decline in European commercial activities, partly due to the uncertainties created by the policy of Jihad pursued by the Sultan, further aggravated the problem. Last but not least, the 'Abid, who had played such a crucial role in the consolidation and centralization of the 'Alawite Empire, became, following Isma’il death, a thorn in the Makhzan's heel. Bound by no loyalty other than to their master, the Sultan himself, they soon found themselves solicited by various pretenders and involved in the struggle for leadership. Their politicization enabled them to 'make and unmake' sultans. It has been reported that the devastation caused by the ‘Abids led to the displacement and starvation of 80,000 people. It was now the army and not the Brotherhoods that were responsible for the turmoil the country was witnessing.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that Mawlay Ismail had dealt a severe blow to the Maraboutic nobility in Morocco, while strengthening the politico-religious authority of the Sultan-Amir al-Muminin. The Marabouts saw their control whittled away by the 'Alawite "licensing of Charisma." Both tribal leaders and Marabouts were in agreement as to the sultans: supreme role, and even when in dissidence, they still supported a rival from within the 'Alawite dynasty. Concurs Coissac de Chavre-bière: "Moulay Ismaîl compris mieux que les autres sultans que son titre de Prince des croyants devait servir à l'unité des consciences religieuses des Marocains, base de leur unité politique." Ismail’s creation, the 'Abid, could still be seen as the main reason behind the popular uprising. Most of the country's internal forces, tightly suppressed under Ismail’s military machine, exploded all at once ("décrochage") against what was perceived as an intolerable tyranny. The task of reformulating a better suited ideology, capable of stabilizing the Empire was left to Sidi Mohammed. As a charismatic Sultan, Sidi Mohammed succeeded in rallying all the country's antagonistic forces under the mantle of the Baraka-regained Alawite Makhzan.
Certainly the fact that the Alawid sultan of Morocco claimed to be a sharif greatly enhanced his positions in the eyes of his subjects. The sharifian baraka of the sultan has a spiritual aspect as he tempers the show of force by promoting an ideology that is centred around his person as a descendent of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him and his family). The sharifian sultan makes use of a number of symbols and rituals to assert his religious authority, consolidate faith in his sharifian baraka, and indirectly legitimize his temporal power. In popular culture, the moral grace of the sharifian sultan’s baraka is responsible for blessing the inhabitants of his dominion with good crop and earth. Furthermore, the sultan has to answer for his title as “commander of the faithful” (Emir al-Mouminin) by promoting religiosity and overseeing that the Islamic tradition thrives in the abode of Islam. As shown above, the Idrissid concept of Imamate has long considered the Moroccan sharifian sultan himself the caliph of Western Islamdom. A strong government and a well-faring, religiously observant society are signs of the strong baraka of the sultan and the benediction of God.
Sharifian baraka is an inconstant power, then, in the sense that it can diminish, lose its effectiveness, or even turn into its opposite if the conditions of its operation are not maintained. The sultan was especially unfortunate for having a far more difficult task of preserving his baraka than the sharifian saint had. He had to maintain the territorial integrity of a country that was object to the expansionist aspirations of both the Europeans to the North and the Ottomans to the East. He also had to keep the recalcitrant Berber tribes in control in order to avoid fitna, and to secure social welfare in a country that was frequently inflicted with both plague and drought. Conversely, the sharifian saint had an easier task maintaining the prosperity of his descendents, zawiya and community, and curing the sick. While it would seem that the inherited baraka of the sharifian sultan in whose veins runs the blood of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him and his family) is more resistant, indeed perfect, it in fact proves to be more prone to deterioration. This is the case not only because of the aforementioned reasons but also because sharifism itself has spread out from its primary genealogical denotation to become a legitimizing ideology.
However, this symbolic capital was not the only aspect of sharifism on which the Alawite sultans capitalized. As a post-maraboutic-crisis political ideology, sharifism solved one of the thorniest problems in Moroccan history; namely, the conflict between the Islamic/Arab and the Berber conceptions of government. The Islamic conception of government, which came to be identified by Berbers as the Arab conception, relies on the religious bond of the Islamic community Ummah, whereas the Berber conception relies upon the bond of kinship within the context of the tribe. The sharifian sultan, then, rules by virtue of his blood descent from the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him and his family), and his title as Emir al-Mouminin and protector of the creed (‘aqida). From the Berber conception sharifism retained the bond of blood as a principle of government and merged it with the Islamic conception to create a distinctly Moroccan form of government.
What was left out of the Berber conception, however, was the tribe, a landmark of Berber cultural and political identity prior to the rise of the sharifian state. Throughout a significant part of its history, Morocco was divided into the so-called blad s-siba and blad al-makhzen, the former referring to the recalcitrant Berber tribes, and the latter to central government. By superseding the tribe and the Berber/Arab opposition in the name of Ummah ruled by a blood descendent of the Prophet, the sharifian sultan aspired to the exclusive management of power.
Nevertheless, the tribes responded through their local saints who claimed sharifian origin and thus contested the sharifian sultan’s authority. Claiming sharifian descent became a common practice among Moroccan saints who aspired to consolidate their personally acquired baraka through the additional capital of sharifism. Indeed, sharifian saints represented a kind of nobility of blood who exercised their influence at all levels of the society. Unlike any other Muslim country, Moroccan sharifian saints assumed a political significance to accompany its religious one. In the seventeenth century, the sultan Moulay Ismail proceeded against the influential Idrissid Sufi Moulay Tuhami b. Mohammed b. Ali Wazzani (d. 1127/1721), who was based in the mountainous region of Wazzan. The Idrissid hagiographer Sidi Mohammed b. Jaafar Kattani (d. 1345/1930) reports in Salwat al-anfas that a saint from Fez called Sidi al-Haj Mohammed al-Khayyat (d. 1115/1700), a disciple of Moulay Ali Sharif Wazzani Shadhili (d. 1089/1674), appeared after his death to the sultan to prevent the further maltreatment of the Wazzaniya order:
The Sultan Moulay Ismail, issued a search order for Moulay Tuhami. Moulay Tuhami however came from Wazzan to Meknes (the residence of the Sultan) and there entered the Green Mosque, so that the people feared for his safety. When, one morning, the Sultan had just breakfast, the Shaykh al-Khayyat stepped into the bay with a sharp sword in his hand, held it over the Sultan's head, and said: 'if a single hair of my Shaykh' son is harmed, I shall cut you in pieces with this!' The Sultan asked: "Who are you?' and he replied: 'Al-Khayyat'. The Sultan asked further: 'And who is the son of your Shaykh?' He replied: 'Moulay Tuhami who even now is in the Green Mosque.' Thereupon he disappeared. The Sultan stood up and called for the guards on the doors; they maintained, however, that no one had got past them. Everyone in the castle said the same: no one had seen the man with the sword. The Sultan became angry, called for his horse, and wanted to ride to the mosque. But the horse went backwards and would on no account allow itself to be driven forwards. At that the Sultan had Moulay Tuhami informed that he could returned home, with God's peace. The Sultan called for Abdellah ar-Rwisi, the governor of Fez, and asked him: 'Is there in your city a man named al-Khayyat?' 'Yes' replied ar-Rwisi, he is buried in the Zrabtana district and is called the lord of the valley.'
The sharifian sultan’s authority was also contested by urban saints, especially those belonging to prestigious sharifian families like the Idrissids. The shrine of Moulay Idriss II in Fez and the Idrissite sharifs who were associated with it constituted a pervasive force in Fez society. Since the Idrissite sharifs were the most numerous and most deeply rooted of all the sharifian groups in Morocco, they were a political check upon all centralising ambitions of all Alawi sultans. Since many of the members of the saints and scholars of Fez and the other major cities of Morocco claimed sharifian decent, their position was thereby strengthened. Their example is best described in the observations of Berque (1949) in his book entitled “Ville et Université: Apercu sur l'histoire de l'École de Fés”,
The scholar walks along the street, his eyes lowered, his prayer rug under his arm. Unctuous, his step expresses disdain for the sights of the world about him. Rather it seeks and obtains the advantageous veneration of the masses. The devoted teacher has been attached always, by a thousand years tradition, to the affairs of the city. Only rarely has he given himself over to the brutal asceticism or ill-bred pedantry. The master of religious science is at the same time the master of the right tone. His slippery courtesy, his nerves of old city dwellers, his ruse of an old courtier, his attachment to ornamental velvets and the fashioned display of magnificent houses, make him the intellectual champion of a culture that expresses itself equally well by the erudition of scholastic, the fine hand of the craftsman, or the moistness of its cuisine. Everything beyond is no more that barbarism. The personality was shaped within the horizons of the city. It became so expressive of a distinctive character—one on the defence and under the attack of time—that it became almost unintangible to the outsider.
If baraka then is a power, sharifism is what best legitimizes power in Moroccan society. Yet, however distinct baraka and sharifism might be at the theoretical level, they actually overlap. Sharifism confers baraka, and the possession of baraka warrants claims to sharifism. Neither of the two, however, not even both of them, guarantee that a certain Moroccan would be either sultan or saint. It is how one deploys them and puts them to use in specific historical conditions that raises one to the status of either sultan or saint. Baraka and sharifism are best read, at least for the purpose of analyzing the relationship between saint and sultan, as highly malleable concepts that have a constant symbolic capital in Moroccan history, but whose content and operation are highly versatile. The content and operation of baraka and sharifism are negotiated among sultan, saint, and the historical conditions which offer a range of possibilities that the saint and sultan must exploit.
Panorama: Moulay Ismail's Hri Swani - Meknes