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Agriculture, Ṣūfism and the State in Tenth/Sixteenth-Century Morocco1

  • Francisco Rodriguez-Manas (a1)


The tenth/sixteenth century was undoubtedly one of the most turbulent periods in the history of Morocco. Throughout the century the country was ravaged by civil strife, foreign occupation of some of its coastal regions and widespread social turmoil. Dynastic conflict between the two main contenders for the throne—the Wattasid vizierate and the Saՙdiyans—did not cease until the middle of the century. The prolonged warfare drained the economic resources of the country and crippled commercial activity. The crisis was especially acute in the countryside where the protracted political unrest disrupted agricultural activity. Sizable tracts of farmland were left uncultivated or were ruined by marauding gangs of brigands who plundered the peasants of their crops and cattle. As well as man-made damage, agricultural output was hit by a series of natural calamities (drought, plagues and scarce harvests), while intermittent outbreaks of epidemic decimated the population of certain districts. The results were catastrophic: famine became endemic in certain regions; previously fertile lands were abandoned and their soils became unsuitable for cultivation; trade in agricultural produce gradually ebbed; the price of foodstuffs rose to exorbitant levels and traders resorted to speculative practices, hoarding grain and other agricultural produce to inflate their value. The stagnation of agriculture led to a sharp demographic decline in the rural population and a substantial influx of migrant peasants into urban centres or rural areas less affected by scarcity. Entire rural communities were uprooted. Pauperism and mendicity proliferated in many regions as scores of impoverished peasants and herdsmen abandoned their indigenous lands and roamed the countryside in search of food.



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2 l'Africain, J.-Léon, Description de l'Afrique, French transl. by Epaulard, A. (Paris, 1981), 2 vols.; Rosenberger, B. and Triki, H., ‘Famines et épidémies au Maroc aux xvie et xviie siècles’, Hespéris-Tamuda, 14, 1973, 109175 and 15, 1974, 5–103.

3 The earliest manāqib written in Morocco reproduce narrative techniques and literary motifs popularized by oriental authors since the fourth/tenth century. Abū Yaՙqūb al-Tādilī (d. 627/1229), one of the first Maghribi hagiographers whose works have been preserved, includes in his book numerous passages and poems ‘borrowed’ from Ṣūfi dictionaries such as Abū Nuՙaym's Ḥilyat al-awliyā' and al-Sulamī's Ṭabaqāt al-ṣūfiyya. See al-Tashawwuf ila rijāl al-taṣawwuf, ed. al-Tawfiq, Ahmad (Rabat, 1984), passim.

4 For a survey of the main hagiographical sources available in Morocco up to the eighth/fourteenth century, see Ferhat, H. and Triki, H., ‘Hagiographie et religion au Maroc médiéval’, Hespéris-Tamuda, xxiv, 1986, 1751.

5 See Kably, M., ‘Ḥawla baՙḍ muḍmarāt 〈al-Tashawwuf〉’, in al-Ta'rīkh wa-adab al-manāqib (Rabat, 1989), 6380, pp. 75–76.

6 See Garcia-Arenal, M., ‘En Marruecos: arabes, bereberes y hombres de religion’, Al-Qanṭara, xi, 1990, 489508. See also l'Africain, J.-Léon, Description, I, 98.

7 The first results have been published in various collective works, mostly the proceedings of seminars or colloquia. See Al-Ta'rīkh wa-adab al-manāqib/Histoire et Hagiographie (Rabat ed. Okad, , 1989), esp. the contribution by Ferhat, H. and Triki, H., ‘Kutub al-manāqib ka-mādda ta'rīkhiyya’, 5162; Abū Muḥammad Sāliḥ. Al-Manāqib wa-'l-ta'rīkh (Rabat, 1990). See also Ferhat, H., Le Maghreb aux xiieme et xiiieme siècles: les siècles de la foi (Casablanca, 1993).

8 ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥat al-nāshir li-maḥāsin man kāna bi-'l-Maghrib min mashā'ikh al-qarn al-ՙāshir, ed. Hajji, M. (Rabat, 1977).

9 al-Fasī, Muhammad al-Mahdī, Mumtiՙ al-asmāՙ fi dhikr al-Jazūlī wa-'l-Tabbāՙ wa-mā la-humā min al-atbāՙ, ed. al-ՙAmrawi, ՙA. al-Hayy and Murad, ՙA. al-Karim (Fez, 1989).

10 See al-Shadhili, ՙAbd al-Latif, al-Taṣawwuf wa-'l-mujtamaՙ; namādhij min al-qarn al-ՙāshir al-hijrī (Sale, 1989).

11 See Hajji, M., al-Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya wa-dawru-hā al-dīnī wa-'l-ՙilmī wa-'l-siyāsī (Casablanca, 1988 [2nd ed.]).

12 See Bukari, A., al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya: zāwiyat Abī'l-Jaՙd (Casablanca, 1989), 2 vols.

13 al-Bādisī, ՙAbd al-Ḥaqq, al-Maqṣad al-sharīf wa-'l-manzaՙ al-laṭīf fī l-taՙrīf bi-ṣulaḥā’ al-Rīf, ed. Aՙrab, S. A. (Rabat, 1982), 5152, 60–61, 95–6, 141 (French transl. by Colin, G. S., El-Maqsad (Vies des saints du Rif), in ‘Archives Marocaines,’ xxvi, Paris, 1926), 2223, 35–6, 83–4, 160).

14 Garcia-Arenal, M., ‘En Marruecos: arabes, bereberes y hombres de religion’, al-Qanṭara, xi, 1990, 489508.

15 al-Badisi, al-Maqṣad al-sharīf, 115–16/112–13, 120/121.

16 ՙAqīdat al-watī al-ṣāliḥ Muḥammad b. Sulaymān al-Jazūlī, apud Cornell, V. J., ‘Mystical doctrine and political action in Moroccan Sufism: the role of the Exemplar in the Ṭarīqa al-Jazūliyya’, Al-Qanṭara, XIII, 1992, 201231; see pp. 206–7.

17 Such training of Ṣūfī novices in agricultural labour became a common feature at the zāwiya which Abū Fāris ՙAbd al-ՙAzīz al-Ḥarrār (known as al-Tabbāՙ), al-Jazūlī's successor, founded in Marrakech in around the year 880/1475. See ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥat al-nāshir li-maḥāsin man kāna bi-'l-Maghrib min mashā'ikh al-qarn al-'āshir, ed. Hajji, M. (Rabat, 1977), 96.

18 See Ibn ՙAskar, 97; al-Fasī, Muhammad al-Mahdī, Mumtiՙal-asmāՙfi dhikr al-Jazūlī wa-'l-Tabbāՙ wa-mā la-humā min al-atbāՙ, ed. al-ՙAmrawi, ՙA. al-Hayy and Murad, ՙA. al-Karim (Fez, 1989), 97 and ibid., Tuḥfat ahl al-ṣadīqiyya bi-asānīd al-ṭā'ifa al-Jazūliyya al-Zarrūqiyya, MS jīm 76, Bibliothèque Générale (Rabat) (biog. of al-Ghazwani); Ibrahim, al-ՙAbbas b., al-I'lām bi-man ḥalla Marrākush wa-Aghmāt min al-aՙlām, ed. Mansur, ՙAbd al-Wahhab b. (Rabat, 19731983), 10 vols., VIII, 256.

19 See al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ 46.

20 See ibid., 42; ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, 96.

21 ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, 97.

22 al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 43.

23 ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, 105.

24 ibid., 106.

25 See Pascon, P., Le Haouz de Marrakech (Rabat, 1983), 2 vols., I, 268269, 275 ff.

26 ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, 106.

27 ibid., 104.

28 See Bukari, A., al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya: zāwiyat Abī'l-Jaՙd (Casablanca, 1989), 2 vols., I, 76.

29 See al-Fāsī, Muḥammad al-ՙArbī, Mir'āt al-maḥāsin min akhbār al-shaykh Abī 'l-Maḥāsin, lithographed ed. (Fez, 1324/1907 [biog. of al-Sharqi]); al-Fasi, Mumtiՙ, 131.

30 apud al-Shadhili, ՙAbd al-Latif, al-Taṣawwuf wa-'l-mujtamaՙ: namādhij min al-qarn al-ՙāshir al-hijrī (Sale, 1989), 184.

31 al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 87.

32 See A. Bukari, al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya, passim; ibid., Dawr al-zāwiya al-maghribiyya fī tad ՙīm al-madhhab al-sunnī’, Daՙwat al-ḥaqq, 257, 1986, 113117.

33 See al-Fāsī, biogs. 48, 74, 110, 142, 143; Ibn ՙAskar, Dawha, biog. 65; al-Tāmanārtī, Fawā'id, 75. In other regions of the Maghrib, such as Western Algeria in the second half of the ninth/fifteenth century, the bestowal of offerings or gifts to Ṣūfī shaykhs in return for spiritual guidance or as a prerequisite to enrolment as disciple in a mystical fraternity, raised strong criticism among judicial circles on the grounds that they constituted ‘camouflaged’ forms of extortion. See Berque, J., L'intérieur du Maghreb, 59.

34 See ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawha, 62; al-Fasi, , Mumtiՙ, 68.

35 See al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 44.

36 ibid., 87, 145.

37 ibid., 87.

38 See ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, biog. 19; al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 8183.

39 Muḥammad al-ՙArbī al-Fāsī, Mir'at (biog. of al-Dilā'ī); al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 149.

40 See Berque, J., Ulemas, fondateurs, insurges du Maghreb (XVIIe siècle), Paris, 1982), 87.

41 al-Ḥawwāt, Sulaymān, al-Budūr al-ḍāwiyya fī taՙrīf bi-'l-sadāt ahl al-zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya, MS 26 dāl, Bibliothèque Générate (Rabat), f. 46. See also Hajji, M., al-Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya wa-dawruhā al-dīnī wa-'l- ՙilmī wa-'l-siyāsī (Casablanca, 2nd ed., 1988), 33.

42 See al-Shadhili, ՙAbd al-Latif, al-Taṣawwuf wa-'l-mujtamaՙ, 205.

43 See Hajji, M., al-Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya, 45.

44 ibid., 45.

45 ibid., 44.

46 Al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 149; al-Ḥawwāt, , al-Budūr al-ḍāwiyya, 39; Hajji, M., al-Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya, 45.

47 M. Hajji, 33.

48 See Pascon, P., Le Haouz, 275.

49 See, for instance, A. Busharb, Dukkāla wa-'l-isti ՙmār, 467–8 (granting of iqṭaՙāt to the ribāṭ of Safi, founded by Abū Muḥammad Ḥāliḥ (d. 631/1234) some time before 617/1221. The earliest decree dates back to the reign of Muḥammad al-Shaykh (d. 1557), second sultan of the Saՙdi dynasty).

50 A. Bukari, al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya, II, 70–71 (from al-ՙAbdūsī's Yatīma); M. Hajji, al- Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya, 269 (from al-Ḥawwāt's Budūr); ՙAbd al-Latif al-Shadhili, al-Taṣawwuf wa-'l-mujtamaՙ, 205 (on the zāwiya of Ibn Nāṣir or Nāṣiriyya, founded by the shaykh ՙUmar b. Muḥammad al-Anṣārī in the Darՙa valley in 983/1575).

51 The examples are legion. Among the most emblematic see, for instance, Al-Fāsī, Mumtiՙ, 39 (a man from the region of al-Shāwiya donates a plot of land and a spring to a group of disciples of al-Tabbāՙ, successor of al-Jazūlī, so that they can build a zāwiya on that site), 42; Ibn ՙAskar, Dawḥa, 105 (on the zāwiya of Tāmeṣluḥt); al-Tāmanārtī, Abū Zayd, al-Fawā'id al-jamma fi isnād ՙulūm al-umma (French transl. by Justinard, , Chartres, 1953), 77, 88.

52 See al-Fāsī, , Mumtiՙ, 4243; al-Tāmanārtī, , al-Fawā'id al-jamma, 70.

53 See al-Ḥawwāt, Budūr, apud J. Berque, Ulemas, fondateurs, 92. Similar arguments were put forward by Ṣūfī shaykhs from other parts of the Maghrib to defend their right to levy the zakāt on the grounds that the money thus collected reverted to local communities in the form of relief measures (iṭՙām, etc.). See, for instance, Touati, H., ‘En relisant les Nawazil Mazouna, marabouts et chorfa au Maghreb central au xve siècle’, Studia Islamica, 69, 1989, 7594; see p. 79; J. Berque, ‘Les Hilaliens repentis …’, Annales ESC, 1346 and ibid., L'intérieur du Maghreb, 55–6.

54 apud Bukari, A., al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya, I, 7071.

55 See al-Darՙī al-Nāṣirī, Mazāyā, apud ՙAbd al-Latif al Shadhili, Al-Taṣawwuf wa-'l-mujtamaՙ, 205.

56 See ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawha, 106.

57 See al-Shadhili, Al-Taṣawwuf …, 215, n. 148. On the wealth of the zāwiya of Tamgrout in the eleventh/seventeenth century, see Hammoudi, A., ‘Sainteté, pouvoir et société: Tamgrout aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles’, Annales ESC, mai-aout 1980, 615641; see 626 ff.

58 See al-Shadhili, 214.

59 See Dawḥa, 75; Mumtiՙ, 37 (an eloquent passage—a group of Ṣūfīs from the Jazūliyya order are metaphorically described by a village woman as ‘the razor blade that shaved off (kashatū-hā) her beard’, meaning that they stripped her of her possessions.

60 The main traits of this policy are delineated, for instance, in the panegyric composed by Ibn al-Qādī (d. 1029/1616) in honour of the caliph al-Mansur, the al-Muntaqā al-maqṣūr ՙalā ma'āthir al-khalīfa Abī l-ՙAbbās al-Manṣūr, ed. Razzuq, M. (Rabat, 1986), 2 vols. See introduction.

61 See Bukari, A., al-Zāwiya al-Sharqāwiyya, 70.

62 See Hajji, M., al-Zāwiya al-Dilā'iyya, 269. The right of the zāwiya of Tamesluht to retain the tithe and the zakāt levied in its vicinity was acknowledged in a decree issued by al-Walīd b. Zaydān (reg. 1631–36) in 1041/1632. In the meantime, the decree confirms, Tamesluht continued to levy taxes on local peasants—although ‘unofficially’—as had been customary since the time of its founder, ՙAbd Allāh b. Ḥusayn al-Amghārī. See Pascon, P., Le Haouz, I, 272273.

63 See ՙAskar, Ibn, Dawḥa, 6 (ՙAbd al-Wārith al-Yaṣlūtī, fearing reprisals from the sultan Muḥammad al-Shaykh, declines to attend a meeting at the royal court and is proscribed from entering Fez); al-Fāsī, Mumtiՙ, biog. 59 (Abu ՙAmr al-Qastallī's ordeal; he is ‘muzzled’ by the authorities of Marrakech and condemned to house arrest); al-ՙAbbas b. Ibrahim, Iՙlām, I, biog. 96.

64 See al-Ifrānī, , Nuzhat al-ḥādi bi-akhbār mulūk al-qarn al-hādi, ed. [Houdas, O.], (Paris, 1888), 41 (a number of zāwiyas in the agricultural hinterland of Fez and Marrakech closed down by Muḥammad al-Shaykh in 958/1551. These lodges, part of a network of Ṣūfī establishments founded by followers of the Jazūlī shaykh ՙAbd al-Karīm al-Fallāḥ, played an important role as soup-kitchens for impoverished farm labourers); al-Fāsī, Mumtiՙ, biog. 60; Ibn ՙAskar, Dawḥa, 110 (the zāwiya of ՙAbd Allāh al-Kūsh in Marrakech was closed down and its properties seized in 960/1552; although formally an urban lodge, this zāwiya relied on others situated in the countryside for corn, supplies and other agricultural produce; the sources highlight its prominent role in the distribution of food among the urban poor); al-Nāṣirī, , Kitāb al-istiqṣā' li-akhbār duwal al-Maghrib al-aqṣā (Casablanca, 19541956), 9 vols., v, 48 (ՙAbd Allāh b. Ḥusayn al-Amghārī, founder of Tamesluht, expelled from Marrakech at the behest of sultan al-Ghālib).

1 Dr. Michael Brett (SOAS) read several drafts of this article. I wish to thank him for his comments and suggestions.

Agriculture, Ṣūfism and the State in Tenth/Sixteenth-Century Morocco1

  • Francisco Rodriguez-Manas (a1)


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