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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: October 2014

8 - Issues in contemporary Islam



On Saturday, 17 January 1846, an official party of Moroccans stood solemnly on the Champs-de-Mars in Paris. They were reviewing a display of the French military forces put on by King Louis-Philippe to honor a special mission of the Moroccan ambassador. A member of the party was Muhammad al-Saffar. Born in Tetuan, he was educated there and in the highly respected university-mosque of Qarawiyin in Fez, where he acquired the traditional knowledge of a Muslim scholar. He returned to Tetuan to work as a notary in the law court and to teach Traditions and jurisprudence in the city's main mosque. Owing to his abilities and character, he was later appointed to the service of the governor of Tetuan. The sultan of Morocco chose this governor, ʿAbd al-Qadir Ashʿath, as his ambassador extraordinary to France, and Muhammad al-Saffar joined his entourage as the one in charge of religious matters, conducting prayers and reading from the Qurʾan. His self-appointed task was to write an account of their travels to France, which, including the sea voyage to and from Marseilles, lasted eighty-five days.

The spectacle of the French cavalry, artillery, and infantry parading past in splendid order stunned the Moroccan visitors.