Seven Saints of Marrakesh

Seven Saints of Marrakesh

‘Saints’ in Morocco have a very different interpretation than those in Europe.  In Morocco saints can be ordinary people who had a lifetime of ‘doing good’.  Saints can be either rich or poor,  educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed,  living within a home or homeless.  They are considered to have ‘ lights of guidance because of the blessings that Allah showered upon them’.

The whole notion of wandering saints in Morocco fascinated me when I first visited Morocco.  A vision of marabouts walking the countryside,  giving solace to the poor and medicinal aid to the unwell,  and then eventually dying and having a tomb built over their resting place was intriguing.  Further reading,  predominantly Realm of the Saint : Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism by Vincent J Cornell has replaced that idea with a more accurate picture of what the evidence suggests;  Moroccan ‘saints’ had a spiritual role,  that of “substitute of the prophets” (known as walaya),  though not entirely representative of traditional Islamic interpretation .  Their other role comprised that of political and local ‘fixers’ (wilaya),  settling disputes and often representing the poor against rapacious Shas and tribal chiefs,  treading a delicate line between influencing powerful landowners and doing what was possible for the disadvantaged.

Many were fortunate enough to travel and enjoy a good education,  spending time either in el Andalus or the wider Islamic community, before returning and living a life of relative isolation, though often within a Sufi social and spiritual framework of a specific community.  Rarely did they ‘wander’ across Morocco. (more…)