Timeline: Sharifian (Morocco) {from 1517}

Sharifian dynasties derive their legitimacy from prophetic descent. The first Sharifian dynasty was the Idrisid dynasty in the 8th c./ 2nd c. AH, but for our purposes the term refers to the two most recent ruling dynasties in Morocco, the Sa'di and Alawi dynasties, both of which trace their lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad.

The Sa’adi dynasty first comes to prominence as a militant religious movement opposing the Portuguese presence in Agadir on the southern coast of Morocco, and the Wattasid dynasty, an offshoot of the Maranids, that had resigned itself to a policy of coexistence with Europeans in the Maghreb.

    They first occupied Marrakech in 1525/931 AH, and by 1550/957 AH had taken Fes from the Wattasids. The Sa’dis then consolidated their control over what is today the modern state of Morocco, and defended the territory against Ottoman conquest. Ahmad al-Mansur (1578–1603/986-1011 AH) expanded the dynasty’s territory to its greatest extent by conquering the West African state of Songhai in present-day Mali. After his death the kingdom broke into principalities, and there was a marked rise in piracy along the coastline.

    The territory was once again reunited by the Alawites, the dynasty that currently rules the kingdom of Morocco. The founder of the dynasty, Mawlay al-Rashid, mobilized Arab tribes against the powerful Berber principality of the Dila marabouts in the Middle Atlas and northern Morocco. He was succeeded by his half brother, Mawlay Ismail, who used a professional army, drawn from the descendants of the many sub-Saharan Africans brought back to Morocco after the conquest of Songhai. He made the city of Meknes his capital, thus pushing this small town into the foreground of Morocco’s architectural history. His death caused a 50 year period of instability and conflict, due to struggles over succession between his sons, who are said to have numbered around 500, and the intrigues and split loyalties of his army officers.

    Recovery began during the reign of Sultan Muhammad ibn Abd Allah (Muhammad III, 1757–90) and Sultan Mawlay Sulayman (1792–1822/1206-1237 AH) who took steps to solidify central control of the government and to assert Maliki orthodoxy over maraboutic influence. Some of the most important measures he took were the foundation of the port of Essaouira in 1767/1181 AH to place the foreign trade under government control and the development of patronage networks. Nonetheless, increasing dependence on foreign trade made the state vulnerable to foreign intervention and opened the doors for European meddling in the kingdom’s internal affairs.

    From 1912/1330 AH to 1956/1375 AH Morocco came under protectorate status. The Spanish occupied the northern territories along the Mediterranean coastline, thus reinforcing their existing presence in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, while the French controlled the rest of the country. The sultans Mulay Youssef (1912 – 1927/1330-1345 AH) and Muhammad V (1927 – 1961/1345-1380 AH) maintained figurehead status, while real power was held by the French colonial administration.  


    In 1946 Muhammad V broke ranks with the French colonial powers and assumed leadership of the nationalist movement that sought independence. Since 1956, independent Morocco has continued to be governed by the Alawite dynasty. The present sultan, Muhammad VI, assumed power in 1999/1420 AH upon the death of his father Hassan II.

--Michael A. Toler, Archnet Content Manager

Related Resources:

North African Gardens

Sa'adi Patrons on Archnet 

Muhammad al-Shaykh Sâadi (r. ca. 1517–1549/951-956 AH)

Sultan Sidi Abdallah al-Ghalib (r. 1557-1574/ 965-982 AH)

Ahmad al-Mansur Dahbi (r. 1578-1603 / 968-1012 AH)

Alawi Patrons on Archnet:

Mawlay al-Sharif (founder, r. 1631-1636/1041-1045 AH)

Mawlay Ismail Ibn Sharif (r. 1672-1727/1083-1139 AH)

Sidi Muhammad ibn 'Abdallah al-Khatib (r. 1757-1790/1170-1204 AH)

Moulay Sulayman (r. 1792-1822/1206-1238 AH)

Mohamed V (r. 1927-1961/1327-1380 AH)

Hassan II (r. 1961-1999/1380-1420 AH)

Mohammed VI (r. 1999-present /1420 AH- present)

Additional Archnet Resources:

See, also:

  • Bloom, Jonathan M. 2020. Architecture of the Islamic West. North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, 700–1800. Yale University Press.
  • Castéra, Jean-Marc., Françoise. Peuriot, and Philippe. Ploquin. Arabesques : art décoratif au Maroc Courbevoie: ACR, 1996.
  • Marçais, Georges. 1955. L'architecture musulmane d'occident: Tunisie, Algérie, Maroc, Espagne et Sicile
  • Miller, Susan Gilson. 2013. A History of Modern Morocco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rosenberger, Bernard. Le Maroc au XVIe siècle : au seuil de la modernité Deuxième édition. Rabat: Editions et Impressions Bouregreg, 2018.
  • Sālim, Saḥar al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz. Madīnat al-Rabāt fī al-tārīkh al-Islāmī : mundhu inshāʼihā ḥattá nihāyat ʻaṣr Banī Marīn al-Iskandarīyah: Muʾassasat Shabāb al-Jāmiʻah, 1996.
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