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“As Numerous as the Stars in the Mountains of Ghomara’s Sky”: Visions, Sharifianism, and Contemporary Local Understandings of Sainthood in Northern Morocco

AuthorsGonzález-Vázquez, Araceli
KeywordsOral accounts
Saint Sidi Ikhlef
Northwestern Morocco
Issue Date2017
PublisherUniversidad Complutense de Madrid
CitationInternational Workshop “Of Prophets and Saints: Literary Traditions and "convivencia" in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia”, Madrid, 22-23 February 2018
AbstractIn present-day oral accounts on the life and wanderings of the saint Sidi Ikhlef, who is said to be buried among the Ghzawa (province of Chefchaouen, Jbalan mountains, Morocco), we might find interesting contemporary discourses on Idrisid expansion, Sharifianism, and Sainthood. Sidi Ikhlef is presented as a descendant of one of the twelve sons of Idrīs II (d. 828), and he is said to be the founder of an Idrisid Sharifian family which would settle down both in rural and urban localities of Northwestern Morocco: the Ulad Baqqal. This Sharifian family is also said to have played a relevant role in early modern jihād against both the Iberian and Ottoman powers, mainly through the actions of two of their members, who are addressed primarily as mujāhidīn, and who are relevant Sufi saints in present-day Northern Morocco. In this paper, I will present different oral traditions related to Sidi Ikhlef’s life which have been collected through ethnographic fieldwork carried out in rural localities of the province of Chefchaouen in the past years. On the one hand, I will examine those Jbalan oral traditions which speak of Sidi Ikhlef’s origins, his arrival at the mountains of Ghomara, and his conflicts with the local qabāʾil of Beni Mesguilda and Ghzawa. These accounts speak mainly of the Islamization of the Ghomaran and Senhajan territory. On the other hand, I will present the accounts which stress the role of the vision in dreams (ruʾyā) in the quest for the North, particularly one in which God announces that Sidi Ikhlef must head northwards because there, “in the mountains of Ghomara,” his descendants “will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.” Interestingly, as they are transmitted in present-day rural settings, these discourses collaborate on the legitimization of the aforementioned Idrisid Sharifian genealogical line and their Sufi practices. Thus, oral traditions transmitting local knowledge of past events stand as mnemonic items in the (re)actualization of Sharifianism and sainthood.
DescriptionOrganizers: Benito Rial Costas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) Dagmar Anne Riedel (CSIC - Columbia University)
Appears in Collections:(IMF) Comunicaciones congresos
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