Morocco’s Alaouite Dynasty

Morocco’s Royal Family are descendants of the Alaouite Dynasty, which has been ruling since 1631 when its founder, Moulay Ali Cherif, became Prince of Tafilalt. At this time authority to rule the region was passed from the Saadi Dynasty to the Alaouite Dynasty, both of which are believed to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband the 4th Caliph Ali, who was a cousin of the prophet. With common ancestry, the transfer of power from the Saadi Dynasty to the Alaouite Dynasty, while not being without conflict, had a sense of continuity, adding a strong case of legitimacy enabling the Royal Family to endure through colonial rule, a period when the country was divided between Spanish and French authorities, and subsequent independence.

Legend has it that in the 13th century inhabitants of Tafilalet persuaded Al Hassan Addakhil to move from his hometown of Yanbu in Hijaz (modern-day western Saudi Arabia) to reside in the Moroccan oasis town as the community’s imam. The reasoning behind this request was that, as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, Al Hassan Addakhil possessed a blessing, or divine presence, which would help the community to thrive, and even have a beneficial effect on their date palm crops. The descendants of Al Hassan Addakhil prospered in the region, increasing their status and power.

Following the conquest of Marrakech by Al-Rashid and the ousting of the last sultan of the Saadi Dynasty, the Alaouite Dynasty began to take shape with Ismail Ibn Sharif as its leader. History reveals that Ismail Ibn Sharif (1672-1727) ruled the region with the military might of an army of black slaves from sub-Saharan Africa that came to be known as the ‘Black Guard’, driving the British from Tangiers in 1684, and later driving the Spanish from the harbor town of Larache. Following this dauntless leader’s death, disunity set in among Morocco’s tribes once again until Muhammad III (1757-1790) appeased the restless tribes by allowing them autonomy.

Under the leadership of Muhammad IV (1859-1873), followed by Hassan I (1873-1894), the Alaouite Dynasty promoted trade with the United States and European countries, while modernizing the army and administrative infrastructure to control Berber and Bedouin tribes. Increased contact with European countries took a turn during the war against Spain (1859-1860), with the Conference of Madrid in 1880 guaranteeing Moroccan independence. However, in two incidents which became known as the First and Second Moroccan Crisis in 1905 and 1911, Germany resisted attempts by France and then Britain to take control of Morocco. Between 1912 and 1956, Morocco was a French Protectorate, with the country obtaining its current independent status in 1956 during the rule of King Mohammed V (1955-1961). King Mohammed V was followed by King Hassan II (1961-1999), with King Mohammed VI being the current head of Morocco’s Royal Family, thereby continuing the lineage of the Alaouite Dynasty in Morocco.