The Alawi Dynasty


The Alawi (or Alaoui) dynasty represent the Filali line of Sharifs, descended from the Prophet Muhammad, through his daughter Fatima and her husband 'Ali. They established themselves at Rissani, in Morocco, becaming Sultans of Sijilamasa in the seventeenth century. During the second half of the century, the head of the family, Mulay al-Rashid gained control over the rich cities of Fez and Marrakesh. His brother, Mulay Ismail, founded a slave army of 150,000 souls, induced the English to abandon Tangier, drove the Portuguese from Mamora, Mahdiya and Arsilah, and expelled the Spanish from Larache. All Morocco fell under his control during a record reign that lasted fifty-five years. He was reputed to have maintained a harem of 500 women, and fathered an enormous family. His many sons quarrelled about the succession, immediately after Ismail's death. Seven of them succeeded each other in a round of warfare, assassination and revolt, lasting half a century. The disruption and lawlessness it caused came to influence the administration of the country, or lack of it, for almost two centuries. Local magnates and warlords controlled and vied for power in the provinces, leaving the Sultans to exercise effective control only in the towns and cities they held.

The lawless nature of much of the country increased the attention of the European powers. Initially, they aimed to end piracy and slavery. Treaties were imposed, but these had little effect. By the middle of the nineteen-century, Spain, France and Britain were vying with each other to establish their influence. The French inflicted a crushing defeat on Mulay 'Abdu'l Rahman in 1844, forcing him to conclude a treaty granting preferential trade concessions. The Spanish did the same in 1860, occupying Tetuan in ransom. Soon, the powers were controlling the customs and ports, postal services, even health and sanitary works in the coastal cities.

Sultan Mulay Hassan, who reigned 1873-1895, succeeded in re-organising the administration, taxation, the currency and the army. His son and successor, Mulay 'Abdu'l Aziz, proved to be a weak and frivolous ruler. Nevertheless, he tried to modernise his realm by separating his spiritual and temporal functions, instituting cabinet government and a salaried civil service, liberalised trade and prohibiting discrimination. The reforms not only stirred tensions amongst powerful provincial families and religious groups, but they also proved costly. Forced to appeal to the European powers for a huge loan, he was required to sign the Act of Algeciras, surrendering control over large parts of the economy, the military and financial administration to France, Spain, and other countries. The tribes erupted in revolt and lawlessness returned. Soon America and Germany joined in the scramble. The latter apparently moved to defend the independence of Morocco, but actually in resentment at the Anglo-French Entente, which gave France a free hand in Morocco in return for British paramountcy over Egypt. Although Emperor Wilhelm II attempted to thwart their designs by visiting Tangiers in 1905, he had little effect. Mulay 'Abdu'l Hafiz deposed his brother and usurped the throne in 1909, but failed to stem the tide. The assassination of a French physician and philanthropist prompted France to pour in troups and to exact further concessions. After agreement with Spain over her "historic rights", France proclaimed a protectorate in the south in 1912. A Spanish zone was established around Tetuan and the northern coast. Tangier became an "international" city, controlled by a multinational municipal council. The Sultan thereafter "shared" power with a Resident-General. Although a Moroccan government remained, France controlled appointments to the cabinet, administration and the army. However, much of the country remained in revolt. The rebellion of Abd-el Krim alone lasted from 1919 to 1926.

The arrival of the Americans and British, and their defeat of the French Vichy forces during the Second World War, transformed thinking in the kindom. President Roosevelt secretly promised freedom to Sultan Muhammad V in 1943. Emboldened by his approval, an independence movement, led by the Istiqlal Party, came into being in 1944. But the French refused to accede to Moroccan aspirations and preferred to rule though their nominee, the Grand Vizier Muhammad al-Muqri, who had ruled for most of the century. They attempted to force the Sultan to repudiate the independence movement, but he did so only in nominal terms. Frustrated by his prevarication and urged on by Muqri, they deposed him and exiled the Royal family to Madagascar.

A new nominee, Sultan Muhammad bin Arafa, failed to inspire the people. Riots, strikes and demonstrations persisted for two years and forced him to withdraw to Tangiers. His abdication on 30 October 1955 signalled the start of military operations against the French, led by the Moroccan Army of Liberation. Achieving successes against isolated French units in the Rif and Middle Atlas, together with the civil disobedience campaign in the cities, they forced the French to conciliate. Sidi Muhammad V was permitted to return from exile and restored as Sultan in November. Negotiations for independence ensued and full recognition followed on 20 March 1956. The Spanish followed suit and rescinded control over Tetuan on 7 May following, retaining the "ancient Spanish towns", the Spanish Gibraltas of Ceuta and Melilla. The international conventions over Tangier were also rescinded and the city returned to Moroccan administration on 29 October.

Independence did not bring stability and attempts at establishing a constitutional monarchy failed. King Muhammad V, and his successor King Hassan II, both firmly controlled the government, administration and army. Despite the existence of a written constitution, both kings assumed the offices of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence several times during their reigns. King Hassan II endured several attempted military coups and numersous assassination attempts. International condemnation followed when he annexed the former Spanish Sahara against the wishes of his neighbours, then fought a long drawn-out war against the Polisario guerrillas. Nevertheless, he survived all-comers, reigned for thirty-eight eventful years and died peacefully in 1999. Although he closely controlled affairs in his country to the end of his days, and political opponents suffered greatly under his rule, the country survived as a haven of peace and tolerance in social, religious and cultural terms. The success of a thriving Jewish community are a beacon of hope and reason against the stresses and strains of Middle Eastern and Arab politics. Great hopes of liberalisation attach to King Hassan's young son and successor, King Muhammad VI.

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The Sovereign: Sahib al-Jalalah al-Malik (personal name) (regnal numeral), Amir al-Mu’minin, Nassarahu’-Illah, i.e. King of Morocco, and Commander of the Faithful, with the style of His Majesty.
The consort of the Sovereign: Princess Lalla (personal name), with the styled of Her Royal Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Sahib Sumuw al-Malaki Wali al Aahd al-Amir Mulay (or Sidi), i.e. Crown Prince, with the styled of His Royal Highness.
The other sons of the King: Sahib Sumuw al-Maliki al-Amir Mulay (or Sidi) (personal name), i.e. Prince Mulay/Sidi (personal name), with the style of His Royal Highness.
The daughters of the King: Sahibat Sumuw al-Maliki al-Amira Lalla (personal name), i.e. Princess Lalla (personal name), with the styled of Her Royal Highness.
The grandsons of the King, being sons of sons: Sahib Sumuw al-Amir Mulay (or Sidi) (personal name), i.e. Prince Mulay/Sidi (personal name), with the style of His Highness.
The granddaughters of the King, being daughters of sons: Sahibat Sumuw al-Amira Lalla (personal name), i.e. Princess Lalla (personal name), with the styled of Her Highness.
Other, more distant male members of the Alawi clan: Sharif Mulay (personal name) Alaoui.
Other, more distant male members of the Alawi clan: Sharifa Lalla (personal name) Alaoui.

* The sons of a Sultan: al-Amir al-Jalil Sidi/Mulay
(personal name), or Prince Sidi/Mulay (personal name), with the style of His Highness
(frequently styled His Sharifan Highness or His Imperial Highness in many contemporary European sources).
** The daughters of a Sultan: al-Amira Jalila
Lalla (personal name), or Princess Lalla (personal name), with the style of Her Highness.

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'alim: religious scholar.
Al Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah: 'the Maghrib Kingdom', the official title of Morocco.
Amin al-Umana (or Oumana): Minister for Finance.
Amir al-Mu'minin: Commander of the Faithful, one of the titles of the sovereign.

: oath of allegiance given to a ruler on his accession by the principal temporal, religious and regional powers of the realm.
blad al-makhzan: the lands of the government, the area of the country over which the ruler exercised effective control and where his writ ran.
blad al-siba: the lands of no authority, where the ruler was unable to exercise power or control over local magnates and warlords.
dahir: decree.
dar: abode, house, residence, palace, or mansion.
Dar al-Makhzin: 'the abode of treasure', the usual term for the official residence of the sovereign, and thus the centre of government. Frequently, but imperfectly, translated as 'the royal palace'.

Diwan al-Alaf
: 'ministry of war'.
Diwan al-Bar: 'ministry of the sea', i.e. foreign ministry.
Diwan al-Shikayat (or Chikayat): ministry of complaints.

: (non slave) wives.
Kaid: title and a rank inferior to Pasha and conferred on a person charged with Royal authority, military commander or local governor.
Kaid al-Marsa: captain of a port.
Khadim: female slaves.
Khalifa (or chalife): 'deputy', a term usually applied to the successors of the Prophet as head of the Islamic community. In Morocco, also used for the Sultan's Viceroy in major towns or cities, particularly the former capitals of Marrakesh, Fez and Meknes.
Lalla: 'Lady', title borne by female members of the Royal family and also high ranking noblewomen.
Mahalla: military force sent to impose law or levy taxes in the interior.
Makhzin: 'treasury', a term applied to indicate either 'the government' or the authority of the Sultan.
Mazwar: head or chief executive of a section of the Alawi Sharifan family in a particular locality.
Mulay (or Moulay): 'Master', the title borne by the male members of the Alawi dynasty, especially those who did not bear the name of the Prophet.
Pasha: originally a Turkish title, used in Morocco to designate a Khalifa of important cities, such as Tangier.
Wissam (or Ouissam): order of chivalry or decoration of honour.
Sadr al-A'zam: Grand Vizier, chief minister.
Sharif (or Cherif): 'honourable', a title enjoyed by male descendants of the Prophet, through his daughter Fatima.
Sharifa (or Cherifa):  feminine form of Sharif, a title enjoyed by female descendants of the Prophet, through his daughter Fatima.
Sharifat (or Chrifat): belonging to the Alawi Sharifan family.
Sidi: 'Lord', the title used in substitute for Mulay for those male members of
the Alawi dynasty sharing the name of the Prophet, Muhammad.
Smiyit Lalla: a title of respect used for a daughter bearing the same name as her mother or grandmother.

Smiyit Sidi
: a title of respect used for a son bearing the same name as his father or grandfather.
: the company of scholars dedicated to the study and interpretation of religious law, and thus capable of legitimating the actions or decisions of the ruler.
Vizier: minister of state.

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Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique, Justes Perthes, Gotha, 1900-1944.
J. D. Brethes. Contribution à l'histoire du Maroc par les recherches numismatiques. Imprimerie les annales Marocaines, Casablanca (no date).
Burke's Royal-Families of the World, Volume II: Africa & The Middle East, Burke's Publications Ltd., London 1980.
Norman Cigar. The Bodleian Version of Muhammad al-Qadri's Nashar al-Mathani: The Chronicles, 1981.
Ignace Dalle. Le regne d'Hassan II, 1961-1999: une espérance briseé. Maisonneuve et Larose, Casablanca, Morocco, 2001.
Eugène Fumey. "Chronique de la dynastie Allaouie du Maroc", Archives Marocainnes. Publication de la mission scientifique du Maroc. Volumes IX and X, Paris, 1906.
Marthe et Edmond Gouvion. Kitab Aâyane al-Marhrib 'l-Akça. Paris, 1939.
Gavin Maxwell, Lords of the Atlas, The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956. Arrow Books Limited, London, 1991.

Stephen O. Hughes. Morocco under Hassan II. Ithaca, Reading, 2002.
Mohamed El Mansour. Morocco in the Reign of Mawlay Sulayman. Middle East & North African Studies Press, Wisbech, Cambs., 1990.
Gavin Maxwell. Lords of the Atlas, The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956. Arrow Books Limited, London, 1991.
Who's Who in the Arab World, Publitec Publications, London, 1966-1999.

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Moulay Anass ben Abdelmalek Alaoui.
Moulay Larbi Belabbes Alaoui.
Dr Morris L Bierbrier, FSA.
Eric Molineris.
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
Antonio Prieto Barrio.
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