A monument commemorating the Seven Saints of Marrakesh, erected in 2005 just outside Bab Doukkala (the northeastern gate of the medina)
A monument commemorating the Seven Saints of Marrakesh, erected in 2005 just outside Bab Doukkala (the northeastern gate of the medina)

The Seven Saints of Marrakesh or Patron Saints of Marrakesh (Arabic: سبعة رجال, romanizedSab'atu Rijāl, lit.'Seven Men') are seven historical Muslim figures buried in Marrakesh, Morocco. Each of them was a famous Muslim judge, scholar or Sufi saint (wali) venerated for their piety or other mystical attributes. Their tombs form the basis of a centuries-old annual pilgrimage, a ziyara, during which visitors pray at each of their tombs over the course of seven days.

Historical background

The tradition of the pilgrimage, or ziyara, to the tombs of the Seven Saints of Marrakesh was created on the initiative of the Alaouite sultan Moulay Isma'il (ruled 1672–1727) in the late 17th century. The motivation for this act was a political desire to exploit the popular influence of the zawiyas (Sufi brotherhood institutions) and to counter the popularity of the "Seven Saints" of the Regraga Berber tribe, which were the basis of another pilgrimage at Djebel al-Hadid near Essaouira at the time.[1]: 571–575 [2] There were also other examples of "Seven Saints" elsewhere in Morocco, including in Fes, which in turn may have had a precedent in the legend of the Seven Sleepers mentioned in the Qur'an.[1] It may also have been significant that the "saints" selected for the new pilgrimage were mostly of Arab background, in opposition to the Berber saints of the Regraga-sponsored pilgrimage.[1] Moulay Isma'il charged an influential religious figure called Abu 'Ali al-Hasan al-Yusi, a man of Berber origin who was familiar with the country's zawiyas, with instituting the pilgrimage in Marrakesh.[1]

The pilgrimage was ultimately beneficial to Marrakesh by enhancing the city's spiritual reputation (though the city was already home to the tombs of many other awliya) and attracting travelers to boost its economy.[1] It became so well known that the "Seven Men" (Sab'atu Rijal) became another name for Marrakesh itself.[1] Even later sultans like Muhammad ibn Abdallah who were known for being inclined to Wahhabism, a more puritan school of thought opposed to heterodox practices such as the veneration of saints, nonetheless patronized the zawiyas and tombs of the Seven Saints and expanded or restored their shrines.[1]

Today the practice is not as widely followed as it once was, but the tombs and zawiyas are nonetheless important shrines in the city.[3] In 2005 the mayor of Marrakesh inaugurated a monument outside Bab Doukkala (the northeastern gate of the old city), known as Place des Septs Saints (Seven Saints' Square or Plaza), which commemorates the Seven Saints.[4]

Description of the pilgrimage

The mausoleum Sidi Abu al-Abbas as-Sabti, the most important patron saint of Marrakesh. The mausoleum is part of a major zawiya dedicated to him in the northern part of the old city.
The mausoleum Sidi Abu al-Abbas as-Sabti, the most important patron saint of Marrakesh. The mausoleum is part of a major zawiya dedicated to him in the northern part of the old city.

The pilgrimage takes place over most of a week, starting on Tuesday and ending on Monday. It also proceeds in a circular fashion around the city, starting in the southeast and finishing in the southwest, mimicking the counterclockwise direction of the circumambulation of the Kaaba in Mecca. Each day the pilgrims would stop and pray at a different tomb. The first stop was the tomb of Sidi Yusuf ibn 'Ali Sanhaji near Bab Aghmat (the southeastern gate of the city) on Tuesday. On Wednesday they entered the city and stopped at the tomb of Qadi 'Iyyad. On Thursday they exited the city via Bab Aylan and passed by Bab el-Khemis to visit the mausoleum of Sidi Bel Abbes as-Sabti (which was outside the city walls up until the 18th century). On Friday they moved to the mausoleum of Sidi Ben Sliman al-Jazuli, then to the tomb of Sidi Abd al-'Aziz at-Taba'a (a disciple of al-Jazuli) on Saturday, and then to the mausoleum of Sidi Abdallah al-Ghazwani (a disciple of at-Taba'a) on Sunday. Lastly, on Monday, they ended at the tomb of Sidi al-Suhayli near Bab er-Robb (the southwestern gate of the city).[1][2][3]

The Seven Saints and their shrines

The Seven Saints of Marrakesh are listed below in chronological order of their deaths — as opposed to the order in which their tombs are visited during the pilgrimage (see previous section).[3][1] Note that there are many alternate spellings of the saints' names (due to varying transliterations of Arabic names). The name "Sidi" is an honorific common in the Maghreb.

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Deverdun, Gaston (1959). Marrakech: Des origines à 1912. Rabat: Éditions Techniques Nord-Africaines.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wilbaux, Quentin (2001). La médina de Marrakech: Formation des espaces urbains d'une ancienne capitale du Maroc. Paris: L'Harmattan. ISBN 2747523888.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Allilou, Aziz (2014-12-14). "Who Are the Seven Immortalized "Saints" of Marrakesh?". Morocco World News. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  4. ^ "Les sept Saints de Marrakech - les sept Tours de Bab Doukkala". Marrakech City Guide (in fr-FR). 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2020-05-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  5. ^ Allain, Charles; Deverdun, Gaston (1957). "Les portes anciennes de Marrakech". Hespéris. 44: 85–126.