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The Articulation of Power in Medieval Iberia and the Maghrib$

Amira K. Bennison

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265697

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265697.001.0001

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ʿAzafid Ceuta, Mawlid al-Nabī and the Development of Marīnid Strategies of Legitimation*

ʿAzafid Ceuta, Mawlid al-Nabī and the Development of Marīnid Strategies of Legitimation*

(p.126) (p.127) 7 ʿAzafid Ceuta, Mawlid al-Nabī and the Development of Marīnid Strategies of Legitimation*
The Articulation of Power in Medieval Iberia and the Maghrib

James A. O. C. Brown

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter assesses the development of mawlid al-nabī as a public ceremony in Morocco in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries, from its origin in Ceuta to its subsequent adoption by the Marīnids. Although it is often assumed that the Marīnids adopted existing religious norms to achieve greater religiopolitical credibility, in this case the meaning and significance of mawlid were contested, showing that the development of understandings of legitimacy are not transferred simply from one group to another, but are formed by the process of interaction. Although the adoption of the mawlid is often associated with the growth of Sufism and sharīfism, the development of the festival was also closely related to the reassertion of Mālikī orthodoxy around this period, and was therefore useful for the Marīnids to symbolise their support for a spectrum of religious tendencies. It also allowed for a symbolic assertion of Islamic identity when the reality of growing Christian power created increasing challenges for Muslim rulers.

Keywords:   mawlid, Ceuta, ʿAzafids, Marīnids, sharīfism, Mālikism, Morocco


IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT DURING THE Marīnid period the celebration of mawlidal-nabī — the festival of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad held on 12 Rabīʿ I — became an important phenomenon in Morocco. This development was related to the sponsorship of its public celebration by the Marīnid dynasty itself. Possibly less well known, but still well established, is the fact that the practice of holding public celebrations in honour of the mawlid originated in the Maghrib not with the Marīnids themselves, but with the ʿAzafids of Ceuta — a dynasty of jurists and governors who ruled the city during a period of independence and semi-independence lasting from 647/1250 until the 720s/1320s.

Prior to its establishment by the ʿAzafids, there are no attested public celebrations of the mawlid in the Maghrib or al-Andalus — that is, none sponsored by a political authority, which therefore bears directly on the question of political legitimacy in the region. There were precedents under the Fāṭimids in Cairo and in Zangid Syria, but whether these directly influenced the establishment of the festival in the Islamic west, and if so how, is unclear. There is also some evidence that the commemoration of the mawlid had already become established among some Suficircles in al-Andalus by the mid-seventh/thirteenth century, which may also have influenced the ʿAzafids’ innovation.1

(p.128) The exact origins of the mawlid in the Islamic west are not, however, the main concern here. This chapter will focus on its subsequent significance in the public sphere as an element of dynastic legitimation. The ʿAzafids not only instituted this public celebration but explicitly advocated its wider adoption, with the result that it was taken up, first, by the Almohad caliph al-Murtaḍāʾ (r. 646–65/1248–66), and some decades later at the Marīnid court, where it became a regular and significant event. At least partly in imitation of the Marīnids, the festival was also taken up by the Naṣrids and Zayyānids, and by the mid-ninth/mid-fifteenth century it was a firmly entrenched feature of popular religious life in Morocco and the Islamic west generally. Although it apparently declined as an official festival under the later Marīnids and Waṭṭāsids, its popularity and the potency with which it had become invested in relation to the projection of dynastic legitimacy was evident in its reemergence as an important public event at the Saʿdī court and thereafter, even up to our own day.2

This spread makes clear, therefore, that the institutionalization of the mawlid was a significant aspect of the development of the political and religious culture of the Islamic west in the post-Almohad period. Explaining how and why this was the case will be the focus of this chapter. Previous work that specifically discusses the promotion of the mawlid by the ʿAzafids has focused primarily on the perceived need to reinforce Muslim unity and morale in the face of growing Christian power in the western Mediterranean at that time, and also to reverse the syncretic adoption of Christian festivals by Muslims in al-Andalus, Ceuta and elsewhere.3 In scholarship with a wider focus, the Marīnids’ relationship to the mawlid is generally assumed to be a manifestation of the dynasty's general policy of sharīfism and/or their sponsorship of organized Sufism — proof of their ‘choix d’une politique “populo-religeuse” prenant en compte la force du mysticisme’.4 Both of (p.129) these are important factors to consider here, but the issue of the mawlid as a dynastic ritual must be considered more fully in the context of the Marīnids’ attempts to appropriate and reformulate pre-existing institutions and practices as a ‘successor dynasty’ to the Almohads.

It is particularly revealing to relate the ʿAzafid and Marīnid experiences to one another in order to see this process at work more specifically. Not only was the example of the former an important factor among the causes of the latter adopting the mawlid, but Ceuta seems in several respects to have anticipated on a smaller scale many of the developments in Morocco that related more widely to the institutionalization of the festival. This chapter will therefore make three main arguments about the Marīnids’ sponsorship of public mawlid celebrations, in order to explain both the nature of this process and its significance — in other words, both how and why this policy developed. First, this policy was not a simple case of the dynasty adopting pre-existing norms: rather, dynastic patronage was one of several interdependent elements in a process of generating notions of legitimacy. Thus, although it may be true in a sense that ‘[i]n Morocco, power usually means royal authority’,5 this cannot obscure the extent to which the development of that authority depends — certainly in the Marīnid case — on the royal response to and engagement with structures and practices already existing in society.

Second, the Marīnids’ promotion of the mawlid cannot be seen narrowly in relation to the development of a ‘populist’ religious policy focusing on sharīfism or Sufism. The mawlid was in fact an important meeting ground for both charismatic and legalistic models of authority. This can be seen clearly in the origins of the festival in Ceuta under the ʿAzafids, themselves noted fuqahā ʾ (scholars) in a city at the forefront of the revival of Mālikī orthodoxy against the messianic and mystical currents circulating in the Islamic west during and after Almohad rule. The mawlid must therefore be seen not simply as a sop to religious populism, but as a symbol also of the Marīnids’ attempts to gain the support of the ʿulamāʾ and defend legal authority, and to co-opt as wide a spectrum as possible of different groups into support for their rule. Ideologically as much as politically, the Marīnids developed ‘un système hétérogène’.6

(p.130) Finally, the mawlid must be understood in the context of the apparent paradoxes of a ceremony developed to demonstrate an Islamic identity at exactly the time that the Moroccan state and society were becoming more closely intertwined with the Christian kingdoms of Iberia and elsewhere. For both the ʿAzafids and Marīnids, the mawlid was part of an assertion of their religious identity and credibility intended in part to balance the potentially problematic associations of their economic and diplomatic co-operation with Christian powers.

The establishment of the mawlid in Ceuta and beyond

The context and events of the rule of the ʿAzafid family at Ceuta have been documented in some detail elsewhere, so it is only necessary here to outline some relevant points.7 The recorded history of the family's role as ʿulamāʾ begins in the midsixth/twelfth century with Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad alʿAzafī, recorded to have been a jurist, traditionist and judge, possibly connected through his grandfather to the great centre of Mālikī scholarship at Qayrawān. His son, Abū’lʿAbbās Aḥmad alʿAzafī (557–663/1162–1236), was likewise a faqīh (jurist), muḥaddith (Ḥadīth specialist) and qāḍī (judge), who taught at the Great Mosque of Ceuta, and it was he who first called for the public celebration of the Prophet's birthday in his work Al-durr almunaẓẓam fī mawlid al-nabī al-mu ʿaẓẓam (The strung pearls regarding the birth of the exalted Prophet). Exactly when Abū’lʿAbbās began this work is not known, but events in and around Ceuta towards the end of his life clearly influenced its message. The growing influence of the Christian kingdoms of Iberia was becoming more and more evident.

In 627/1229, for example, following the alliance of the caliph al-Maʾmūn (r. 624–29/1227–32) and Ferdinand III of Castile (1217–52), Castilian troops were transported through the port on their way to Marrakesh. The same alliance also introduced new freedoms for Christians in Morocco, including the right to proselytize and to accept converts from Islam, while Christians were forbidden from converting to Islam. The following year, the Aragonese conquered Mallorca, completing their capture of the entire Balearics by the middle of the decade. In 631/1234, a Catalan fleet besieged Ceuta, which was only relieved with the assistance of the Genoese. As the leading commercial (p.131) centre linking the trans-Saharan trade of the Maghrib with the Mediterranean region, Ceuta was also exposed to the increasing commercial reach of the Iberian kingdoms and other Christian mercantile powers, Marseille and Genoa in particular.8

In al-Durr almunaẓẓam, alʿAzafī was sharply critical of this growing Christian influence among the Muslims of al-Andalus and some nearby parts of the Maghrib like Ceuta. He lamented in particular the celebration by Muslims of some Christian festivals, which he saw as a cause of weakening faith and morale at just the time the Muslims were becoming increasingly vulnerable.9 He therefore dedicated the book to promoting the public and ritual celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad as an alternative festival that would replace such Christianized practices and bolster Muslim unity. Although he allowed that it was an innovatory practice, he justified it as acceptable precisely on the grounds that it is obligatory for Muslims to differentiate their practices from those of non-Muslims.10

This discussion suggests that alʿAzafī, while working clearly within the framework of scholarly orthodoxy, was also responding to changing religious practices — trying, as it were, to separate unacceptable popular innovations such as the celebration of Christian festivals from another which could be legitimately brought within an orthodox paradigm. Celebrations of the mawlid, particularly associated with growing Sufiinfluence, and other related practices emphasizing devotion to the Prophet and the commemoration of his birth were already circulating on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar by this time. The mawlid narrative attributed to Kaʿab al-Aḥbār was certainly known in al-Andalus by the sixth/twelfth century, widely enough to have come to the attention of Peter the Venerable, who commissioned its translation, among the other works he collected on Islam, as Liber generationis Mahumet et nutritia euis (The book of Muḥammad's conception and suckling).11 It is also reported that the well-known Andalusī SufiAbū Marwān al-Yuḥānisī (d. 667/1268– 9) celebrated the mawlid with his disciples — from both Morocco and al- Andalus — in Guadix some time after 639/1241–2.12 Al-Yuḥānisī probably adopted the practice of the mawlid during his travels in the east, but he also regularly visited Ceuta and knew Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī by reputation at the (p.132) least.13 He continued to celebrate the mawlid with numerous disciples at his zāwiya (Sufilodge) on the outskirts of Ceuta after settling there permanently to escape the insecurity of al-Andalus.14 Whichever way the practice spread, however, it is clear that the accommodation and integration of refugees from al-Andalus was a major concern for the rulers of Ceuta in the mid-seventh/ thirteenth century, and equally that the related evolution of religious practices in the city was a major concern to scholars like alʿAzafī.15

Abū’lʿAbbās died in 633/1236, before finalizing his composition of al- Durr almunaẓẓam and apparently before his aim of establishing the mawlid as an official public ceremony was realized. It was left to his son, Abū’l- Qāsim Muḥammad alʿAzafī (c.606–77/1209–79), to complete and transmit the work, and to put it into action. As well as being a respected ʿālim and faqīh in his own right, Abū’l-Qāsim had a significant political career, ruling Ceuta from 647/1250 until his death in 677/1279. He came to power as head of the shūra council after several decades of political uncertainty in the city related to wider regional insecurity and the absence of a strong central power in the Maghrib.16 Ceuta formally recognized Almohad rule after the uprising that brought alʿAzafī to power, but maintained an effective independence which continued into the first decades of the following century after the Marīnid rise to power.

This political context adds an important dimension to understanding the significance of the establishment of the mawlid. Abū’l-Qāsim's rule was to last almost three decades, but the establishment of the public mawlid in Ceuta was one of his first acts. When the day of the festival arrived — 12 Rabīʿ I 648/14 June 1250 — a little more than six months after he came to power, he arranged a banquet for the people of the city and distributed specially minted coins to its children. Odes in praise of the Prophet were recited publicly throughout the day.17 Thus was the mawlid inaugurated as an annual event in Ceuta under ʿAzafid rule. The scholarly justifications offered by Abū’l-Qāsim (p.133) in al-Durr almunaẓẓam of course suggest a genuine religious motivation, but the celebration also had a clear political dimension. The act of introducing a new public festival in itself manifested a particular set of religious attitudes and values on the part of the city's new ruler, the understandings of which by the populace had implications for the relationship between ruler and ruled. The most obvious of these was — in accordance with his explicit aims — to position alʿAzafī as an opponent of Christianizing influences, but there were others which will be discussed below. The distribution of gifts and patronage added another level to the political dimension of the festival, symbolizing the ruler's capacity to guarantee the material well-being of the city. In both these respects — public perception and material interest — the Marīnid mawlid would have a similar political dimension.

As well as establishing the mawlid in Ceuta, Abū’l-Qāsim made efforts to propagate it more widely by transmitting the ijāza (permit) to teach al-Durr almunaẓẓam to other scholars.18 Even more significantly for our subject here, he also encouraged other political authorities to adopt and promote the festival. The chronicler Ibn ʿIdhārī reports that al-Murṭadāʾ took up celebrating the mawlid after receiving a copy of al-Durr almunaẓẓam from Abū’l-Qāsim, most probably in 654/1256 or shortly thereafter.19 Towards the end of his life, as Marīnid power became more firmly established in northern Morocco, Abū’l-Qāsim also wrote an open letter to the scholars (fuqahā ʾ) and ‘righteous people’ (ṣulaḥā ʾ) of the Maghrib celebrating the successful raids carried out in al-Andalus by the sultan Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb (r. 656–85/1258–86) during Rabīʿ I 674/August–September 1275, describing this as proof of the particular merits and blessings associated with the month of the Prophet's birth.20

It is unclear, however, what the exact status of the mawlid was at this stage as far as the Marīnids themselves were concerned. The sources include several mentions of the mawlid in relation to battles and other events such as that just mentioned, but it is not until 691/1292 that Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf (r. 685–706/1286–1307) is reported to have ordered an official celebration of the festival in Fes and throughout the Marīnid territories.21 One manuscript (p.134) of the source of this report includes an addendum which also suggests that this was undertaken at the suggestion of ‘al-faqīh alʿAzafī’, who has been identified on the basis of the date of the report as Abū’l-Qāsim's son and successor as governor of Ceuta, Abū Ṭālib ʿAbd Allāh alʿAzafī (c.647– 714/1249–1314).22 Whether or not there was this direct connection, there are several factors suggesting that the Marīnid adoption of the mawlid was closely related to the example of the ʿAzafids and their efforts to propagate the practice, which will be discussed below.

In any case, it seems clear that the mawlid became established as a regular event at the Marīnid court from around this time onwards. The holding of the festival in Fes, accompanied by the distribution of money to the local population, was one of the first acts of Abū’l-Rabīʿ Sulaymān (r. 707–9/1308– 10) when he succeeded to the throne.23 In the reigns of Abū’lḤasan ʿAlī (r. 731–52/1331–51), his son and usurper Abū ʿInān Fāris (r. 749–59/1348– 58), Abū Sālim Ibrāhīm (r. 760–2/1359–61) and Abū Fāris ʿAbd alʿAzīz (r. 767–74/1366–72), the mawlid was celebrated at court with increasing splendour.24 Further evidence of the entrenchment of this practice can be seen in the large number of mawlidiyyāt, poems in honour of the Prophet recited during the mawlid celebrations, written by many leading intellectuals at the Marīnid court, including Ibn Khaldūn, Ibn Marzūq and Ibn al-Khaṭīb, as well as by Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā alʿAzafī (c.699–767/1300–66), the penultimate ʿAzafid ruler of Ceuta before the city finally came under direct Marīnid rule in 728/1327–8, who later served as a court official in Fes.25

The influence of the Marīnids also helped spread the practice more widely in the region, which encouraged its adoption by other ruling dynasties. Abū’lḤasan organized a mawlid at Tunis during his occupation of the city in 750/1349, while Abū ʿInān made the organization of its celebration one of the measures marking the establishment of Marīnid rule at Constantine in 758/1357.26 It was soon after the Zayyānid expulsion of the Marīnids from Tlemcen in 760/1359 that Abū Ḥammū Mūsā II (r. 760–91/1359–89) established the mawlid in the city, a practice he recommended to his son in his book of statecraft, Kitāb wāsiṭat al-sulūk fī siyāsat al-mulūk (The book of recommended conduct in the policy of kings); it continued at the (p.135) Zayyānid court until at least the 820s/1420s.27 The Naṣrid ruler Muḥammad V (r. 755–69/1354–9 and 763–93/1362–91) also experimented with the mawlid as discussed by Cynthia Robinson and Amalia Zomeño in Chapter 8 of this volume. Given the high level of cultural exchange between Granada and the kingdoms of the Maghrib around this time — not least the exile at the Marīnid court of Muḥammad V himself — it is not surprising that this process on the north side of the Straits of Gibraltar shares a great deal with that on the south.28

Mawlid and the process of generating legitimacy

It is clear therefore that the public celebration of mawlid became politically significant in Morocco and the wider region, and that this was at least in part initiated by the example, and with the encouragement, of the ʿAzafids in Ceuta. It remains to explain how and why it was taken up in this way. To answer the first of these questions, it is important to appreciate the extent to which the institutionalization of the mawlid was a process that depended on the dynamic and mutually affective interaction of different sources of authority within Moroccan society. In other words, it was not a practice that the Marīnids, or for that matter the ʿAzafids, adopted simply in order to demonstrate their legitimacy, because its very meaning and significance was an open question.

In light of this, it must be admitted that the model favoured by some scholarship influenced by older historiography — which views the Marīnids as acculturating themselves to pre-existing urban religious norms to acquire an external veneer of religious and political credibility — is too simplistic.29 The history of the ʿAzafids and their novel festival shows in fact the extent (p.136) to which urban norms were dynamic and evolving, and also the significance of dynastic sponsorship as a creative — rather than simply passive — force in developing shared understandings of religion and religious legitimacy. In other words, while it is no doubt true to say that the Marīnids’ understanding and practice of Islam changed as they came into increasingly sustained contact with the urban centres of Morocco during the seventh/thirteenth century, this did not mean simply the adoption of urban norms, nor even a synthesis between two sets of religious attitudes, between ‘l’Islam de ville’ and ‘l’Islam de campagne’.30 In as far as we can think of categories such as ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ religion, they are best understood as definable in relation to one another and, crucially, as products of that relationship, rather than pre-existent objective categories.31 Marion Holmes Katz has highlighted the significance of this kind of reciprocal dynamic between different levels of discourse, specifically in relation to the establishment of the mawlid across the Muslim world, and her remarks certainly apply to the process in Marīnid Morocco: the festival's origins ‘can be traced not to a single innovative act of some identifiable authority, but to the slow coalescence of a constellation of devotional narratives and practices’ arising from the ‘complex relationship between “popular” and “normative” modes of religiosity’.32

This process can be seen first in the establishment of the mawlid in Ceuta. To serve their explicit purpose of diverting people away from un-Islamic practices, Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī and his son Abū’l-Qāsim were naturally directed to some extent by the responses of the wider population and, as we have already seen, the celebration of the mawlid and related devotional practices were already developing in the region. As we have also already suggested, however, the ʿAzafids were concerned to bring such popular practices within the framework of scholarly authority. It is clear in al-Durr almunaẓẓam that the authors were keenly aware that their advocacy of the mawlid was open to the criticism that it was an illegitimate endorsement of an ignorant popular innovation. A significant portion of the work is directed to the question of how to regulate ignorant practices among the people and whether the celebration of the mawlid itself is an acceptable practice. The whole work in a sense turns on these questions, because its raison d’être was ostensibly the suppression of an unacceptable innovation (bid ʿa) — the (p.137) celebration of non-Islamic festivals — yet it also promotes a new practice which could itself be considered a bid ʿa. Abū’lʿAbbās therefore has to clarify carefully what should be considered an innovation, how to distinguish between praiseworthy and blameworthy innovations, and the reasons for introducing a new practice, and he specifically addresses the criticism of an imagined interlocutor that the mawlid is a bid ʿa.33 Obviously he resolves these questions to his own satisfaction, yet it is clear that this remained a crucial, and controversial, point. Despite the spread of the festival, many Moroccan scholars did actually consider it unacceptable, a debate which in fact remains unresolved even today.34

We can see the ʿAzafids, therefore, at the interface of popular and dynastic approaches to religion in the regulatory role of the ʿulamāʾ, but not simply as neutral arbiters of acceptable or unacceptable practice; rather they were responding creatively to the circumstances and trends around them in a way that subsequently redefined that environment. As we have seen, this influence manifested itself directly in the active efforts of Abū’l-Qāsim and Abū Ṭālib alʿAzafī to promote the celebration of the mawlid at the Almohad and Marīnid courts.

However, the response of the Marīnids was likewise not simply to stamp their approval on an existing practice. Before their actual establishment of a ritual celebration of the mawlid in the manner recommended by the ʿAzafids — which, as we have seen, only occurred in 691/1292 — they contributed to the gradual evolution of a shared sense of the sanctity and significance of the festival by associating it with their military and political activities. The reports of successful military actions on the day of the mawlid suggest only a generalized sense of it as an auspicious and significant occasion rather than a fully developed festival, although this is not dissimilar to Abū’l-Qāsim's description of the day's particular merits and blessings in his open letter.35 A more striking use of the festival in a political context was Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb's ceremonial designation of his son Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf as heir on the day of the mawlid in 671/1272.36 This highlighted Abū Yaʿqūb's sharīfian descent through his mother, but Herman Beck has also suggested that an additional motive was to conciliate the inhabitants of Ceuta. It was around this time that the sultan was trying to secure the city as the final element of Marīnid control over the country's major trade routes, and he did indeed send (p.138) his new heir to complete the eventual negotiated submission of the city soon thereafter.37

During this period, therefore, just as they were forging more sustained credentials as a ruling dynasty in the final quarter of the seventh/thirteenth century, the Marīnids imbued the mawlid with an additional dimension of political meaning and resonance more directly connected with their own dynastic concerns. The institutionalization of the mawlid as a feature of public religious life in Morocco in the decades after 648/1250 must consequently be seen as a multivalent process. Neither the festival's popular appeal, nor the exhortation of particular ʿulamāʾ, nor the endorsement of a political authority alone explains it: these factors were interdependent and mutually affective. The process by which the Marīnids attempted to generate a perception that their power was legitimate — what has been described as ‘une véritable obsession du légitimisme’38— depended not on their adoption of this or that objective phenomenon in the form of a ritual, practice or symbol, but on their response to and participation in the development of understandings of religious and political legitimacy shared across different sections of Moroccan society. Despite the attempts of many dynasties, state power in Morocco has never defined authority alone, and there has been a consistent tension between power and sanctity.39 As Jocelyne Dakhlia has noted, some scholars of Morocco have probably over-emphasized the credulity of the people and the efficacy of the meaning imposed on particular rituals from above, whereas in fact those rituals are subject to multiple interpretations by various groups and individuals, which are not necessarily resolved or effectively arbitrated by royal power.40

The religiopolitical significance of the Mawlid

The establishment of the mawlid, then, sheds important light on the process of generating legitimacy in Morocco during this period. Beyond explaining the process itself, however, we must consider the nature of its outcome, (p.139) and ask why the mawlid specifically came to be invested with political and religious significance. Certainly, this must be explained in part with reference to the wider development of sharīfism under the Marīnids and the dynasty's attempts to attach itself to the prestige of the prophetic lineage. However, although there is an obvious link in a general sense between the celebration of the Prophet's birth and the cultivation of a particular respect for his lineage, the intensity and political significance of this connection changed over time as the shurafā ʾ emerged as a more distinct political force during the Marīnids’ rule.41

The explanation of the development of the mawlid, therefore, is somewhat more complex. Two main reasons will be discussed here. The first was the capacity of the festival to symbolize the Marīnids’ attempt to build a coalition of religious support to underpin the legitimacy of their rule. The second was that it offered a means of projecting a clear Islamic identity at just the time that the military and economic dominance of Muslim states in the western Mediterranean was in sustained and apparent decline. From this perspective, the mawlid helped substitute to some extent for earlier tools of dynastic legitimation, particularly the successful performance of jihād, which were no longer so viable.

First, then, the initial impulse behind the dynasty's association with the mawlid was derived not only from its connection to a nascent sharīfism. It arose from the capacity of the festival to signal their support for (or perhaps we should say, desire to be supported by) a wide range of religious sympathies at this time of relative doctrinal uncertainty and fragmentation in Morocco. Among the most politically significant elements within this was the effort of the ʿulamāʾ to reassert legal authority and Mālikī orthodoxy, a process strongly associated with Ceuta and to which the ʿAzafids’ sponsorship of the mawlid must be related. As we will see, the figure of the Prophet provided particularly fertile ground on which the Marīnids could cultivate the renewal of religious unity in the country.

During the transitional decades of the mid- to late seventh/thirteenth century — the decline of Almohad power and the eventual firm establishment of the Marīnids — the new dynasty had to respond to a religious landscape of perhaps unprecedented diversity and innovation in the region, compounding the fragmentation created by the rise of Almohadism itself a century earlier. This had obvious political implications, because of the circulation of very different understandings of both political and religious authority. Among the manifestations of these were the persistence in some areas of Almohad (p.140) sympathies, quasi-Shīʿī messianic movements in both al-Andalus and Morocco, and the early development of the type of Sufi-oriented social and political activism which would later become such a potent challenge to dynastic authority in Morocco.42

This fragmentation of authority was also related to the development of an increasingly localized focus for religious practice in the Islamic west around this time. Earlier phases of the Islamization of the region — from the early Arab conquests and the Idrīsid and Khārijite kingdoms to the Almoravid and Almohad reform movements — had been largely defined by the transfer of ideas from the Islamic east to the Maghrib, whether through pilgrimage, trade or the influence of refugees.43 The insecurity created by both the decline of Almohad authority and the fall of the ʿAbbāsid empire to the Mongols in 656/1258, however, had severed these connections to a large extent. This fuelled the rise of religious practices and beliefs that in various ways translated the sanctity of the holy sites of the Hijaz and the authority of the intellectual centres of the east to the Islamic west. In such conditions, the mawlid, with its attendant poetry and descriptions of the Prophet's biography and character, was particularly resonant as a kind of compensation for the difficulty of visiting the actual sites of his life. A related phenomenon was the development in the sixth/twelfth and seventh/thirteenth centuries of a genre of devotional letters to the Prophet, intended as a kind of alternative devotion for people in the Maghrib who were unable to make the visit to his tomb in Medina. Among the authors of these letters were both Abū’l-Qāsim alʿAzafī himself and the famous qāḍī ʿIyāḍ b. Mūsā (475–544/1088–1149), another notable Ceutan whose significance in this context will be further discussed below.44

These trends in the decades leading up to and during the establishment of Marīnid rule required the dynasty to develop a broad-based religious approach, so that ‘la politique mérinide a dû intégrer un certain nombre de forces, parfois concurrentes’.45 They had to deploy a legitimatory discourse drawing on a number of different sources and appealing to groups across the spectrum of religious tendencies in Morocco, while also accommodating the development (p.141) of new, localized forms of religious devotion. Although to a certain extent it was disturbed by the eventual shift of the later Marīnids to a narrower sharīfism, the importance of this policy of integration is clear throughout ‘the first Marīnid age’ of 656–731/1258–1331 or so, in which the characteristic features of the dynasty emerged.46 These included moves to align themselves with the growing importance of the shurafā ʾ the sponsorship of madrasa s, promoting the dynasty as the defenders of a renewed Mālikī orthodoxy, and engagement with Sufism.47 Within a spectrum of Sufimovements and figures, they tried to accommodate both those with a broadly urban, literate, scriptural focus — which will be discussed further below — and those with more charismatic, populist tendencies. During the formative decades of the dynasty, these attempts included the depiction of ʿAbd alḤaqq b. Maḥyū (d. 614/1217) himself as not only a pious and learned leader, but the possessor of saintly and miraculous power (baraka).48 As Amira Bennison points out in this volume, the inclusion of a zāwiya at the Marīnid necropolis of Chellah similarly indicates how the dynasty tried in its earlier years to claim charismatic power for itself.49

It was in the context of these attempts to promote religious integration that the public celebration of the mawlid proved particularly resonant. It provided common ground on which groups across a wide section of Morocco's religious spectrum could meet, even if the meaning and significance they attributed to the festival varied. It also allowed for the translatio of the sacred presence of the Prophet from the holy sites of the Hijaz. This integrative and localizing capacity made it an attractive institution for the Marīnids in their efforts to build up a general sense of their legitimacy, but this capacity had its origins to a large extent in the context of the development of the mawlid under the ʿAzafids.

The mawlid resonated with both mystically and charismatically oriented groups, but as we have seen, the ʿAzafids approached the festival primarily through a scholarly framework. By providing a popular focus for devotion to the Prophet, they made the mawlid part of the wider scholarly push to reassert the authority of the prophetic sunna and the sharī ʿa which derived from it. This was part of a wider process of renewing religious scholarship (p.142) in the Islamic west as a means of resisting religious controversy and fragmentation, a process in which Ceuta was to the fore. This renewal emphasized the dissemination of reliable and accessible religious knowledge, often in the form of abbreviated texts summarizing longer scholarly works (mukhtaṣarāt), in order to entrench popular support for Mālikī orthodoxy and stem the appeal of rival religious claimants. Ceuta's role in this was embodied by Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ, who not only famously led the city in rebellion against the Almohads but wrote popular works — particularly al-Shifā ʾ bi-taʿrīf ḥuqūq al- Muṣṭafā (The remedy of knowing the rights of the Chosen One) and al-I ʿlām biḥudūd qawāʾid al-islām (Advice regarding the definition of the tenets of Islam) — designed to resist ‘heretical doctrine (bid ʿa) and the disintegration of Muslim society in Spain and the Maghrib by forging a return to the basics of faith’.50 Throughout the Almohad period, Ceuta remained ‘profondément malikite’, and it was in the city that the first madrasa in Morocco was founded in 635/1238, another indication of its role as a springboard for the renewal of Mālikī influence in the first decades of Marīnid rule.51This Ceutan madrasa is particularly notable because otherwise the development of this institution was ‘exclusively official’, and it is often argued that there was ‘a complete absence of privately founded madrasa s’.52

Nevertheless, Ceuta was not immune to the changes in the religious landscape of the region in the sixth/twelfth and seventh/thirteenth centuries, and as a result the ʿAzafids also faced the challenge of integrating new religious practices brought by refugees and travellers like al-Yuḥānisī noted above. Ceuta was an important city for the early development of Sufism in Morocco itself, and this was evident in the life of Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī himself, who was also close to the prominent early Sufi, Aḥmad b. Ibrāhīm al-Qanjāyrī (d. 627/1230), to the point that his son Abū’l-Qāsim married al-Qanjāyrī's only daughter.53 Even more significantly, alʿAzafī was a devotee of one of the most significant figures in the development of early Moroccan Sufism, the Berber saint Abū Yaʿzā Yalannūr b. Maymūn (d. 572/1177), writing a biography of him entitled Di ʿāmat al-yaqīn fī zaʿāmat al-muttaqīn (The pillar of certainty in the leadership of the faithful).54 However, although these elements of Abū’l- ʿAbbās's career indicate the changing religious outlook of some among even (p.143) the orthodox Mālikī ʿulamāʾ, they also identify him strongly with a strand of Sufism that would become increasingly clearly defined as pietistic or ethical, as opposed to mystical or charismatic. Al-Qanjāyrī, for example, was strongly identified with loyalty to the legal authority of the Almohad state, while in Di ʿāmat al-yaqīn, Abū’lʿAbbas seeks to bring the charismatic figure of the illiterate saint Abu Yaʿzā within the fold of what the fuqahā ʾ deemed properly constituted legal and scholarly authority.55 In one particularly telling story, Abū’lʿAbbās describes Abū Yaʿzā's examination by ʿAbd al-Muʾmin b. ʿAlī (r. 527–58/1133–66), during which the saint accepted Almohad authority, advising his disciples to give up their resistance to it.56

The ʿAzafids, therefore, tried to balance certain aspects of the new localized, charismatic religious authority in the Islamic west with the renewal of the traditional orthodoxies of the Mālikī ʿulamāʾ. Specifically with respect to their promotion of mawlid — first as a scholarly concern, then as a practical matter of governance, and eventually as servants of Marīnid power — they made some accommodation with the more charismatic and mystical elements of Morocco's religious spectrum, but simultaneously defended the importance of formal religious scholarship and legal authority. This was true not just in Abū’lʿAbbās and Abū’l-Qāsim's discussion of the permissibility of the festival, discussed above, but in the ongoing, public reassertion of the Prophet's unique authority through the celebration itself. The commemoration allowed for the translatio of the sacred event of the Prophet's birth to the Islamic west, as we have noted, but it also reiterated his incomparable status and therefore the authority of his sunna, the ultimate bulwark of formal legal authority against the potential or actual claims of the alternative messianic or charismatic tendencies evident in Morocco in the seventh/thirteenth century. As Vincent Cornell among others has noted, the categorical distinctions of modern scholarship between Sufis and scholars very often risk obscuring the interdependencies and overlaps between the two groups.57 Yet what remained a crucial point of distinction was the determination of the fuqahā ʾ not to permit the acceptance of any charismatic authority in the political sphere which could threaten the routinized authority of the Prophet's original charismatic authority as interpreted by them through the sharī ʿa.58 The potency of the ʿAzafid mawlid was in its capacity to symbolize both what the scholars did share with more populist movements and what they could not.

(p.144) With this precedent, the adoption of the mawlid by the Marīnids similarly offered the dynasty a number of elements to strengthen their attempts to develop a sense of legitimacy that would appeal across the spectrum of Moroccan society. It demonstrated their respect for the Prophet and his family, and their acceptance — within limits — of emergent forms of spiritual devotion related to it, while at the same time indicating their support for legal and scholarly authority. As in al-Andalus under the Naṣrids, the festival achieved the universal religious appeal of the canonical feasts of ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā and ʿĪd al-Fiṭr, bringing together different social and religious groups.59This was manifested in the court ceremony developed by the Marīnids for the celebration of the mawlid. As reported by Ibn Marzūq, ‘the shurafā ʾ, judges (quḍā), scholars (fuqahā ʾ) and preachers (khuṭabā ʾ) came to be present at [the mawlid]’. Once the ceremony was ready to begin, the sultan would ‘summon the people in order (ʿalā tartībihim) and order them to enter the majlis according to their rank’.60

The attendance of these various groups, representing different sections of society, also made the mawlid a useful occasion for the distribution of patronage and an indication of favour at court, providing a way to reinforce the place of the groups attending within the wider structure of the Marīnid patronage that fundamentally underpinned their rule.61 This type of largesse in a ceremonial or festive setting was not only about sharing material wealth, however; it was also an opportunity for the ruler to demonstrate the respected quality of generosity associated with piety.62

The mawlid, therefore, was part of an integrative approach to ameliorating the fissiparous tendencies of Moroccan religious and political life in the transition from Almohad to Marīnid rule. This integrative impulse was, as mentioned above, typical of many other aspects of the Marīnids’ religious policy. Despite their reputation as a dynasty without a da ʿwa, the Marīnids oversaw some of the most important and long-lasting developments of Moroccan religious life. As a whole these developments can perhaps be summarized as a new Mālikī spirituality, grounded in the sharī ʿa but infused with a marked devotion to the Prophet and his family and a deep respect for the reality of sainthood. The transfer of the mawlid from the city-state of the ʿAzafids to the kingdom of the Marīnids symbolized many of the elements on which this development was founded, as the energies of Ceuta as a wellspring of the new Mālikism were incorporated in the religious florescence (p.145) of the Marīnid capital, Fes.63As Serge Gubert has documented, the Marīnid administration was heavily influenced by the recruitment of scholars from Ceuta or those who had studied there.64 The resulting intellectual culture of the Marīnid court was thoroughly rooted in the scholarly discipline of uṣūl al-fiqh and the spiritual discipline of an ethical Sufism.65 Although the permissibility of the mawlid remained a controversial question among some scholars, it was well entrenched in this courtly culture, a fact illustrated by the defence of it offered by one of the most prominent Marīnid scholars and statesmen, Ibn Marzūq al-Jadd (711–81/1311–79), in his work Janī aljannatayn fī faḍl al-laylatayn (Fruits of the two gardens regarding the merit of the two nights).66

The second point to consider in the development of the mawlid is the significance of its spread as a public ceremony in relation to the changing dynamics of economic and military power in the western Mediterranean during this period. As Maya Shatzmiller highlights in this volume, any analysis of cultural change must be connected to the impact of material factors, something which is unfortunately overlooked all too often in studies of the Islamic west and indeed the Muslim world in general.67 In the case of the mawlid, this approach can help clarify the apparent paradox of a practice adopted to assert a distinct Muslim identity at the very time that Moroccan society — and in particular its political and economic elites — were becoming more closely intertwined with the development of Christian power in the western Mediterranean. As well as the military successes of the Iberian (p.146) kingdoms around this time, economic power in the region was increasingly shifting from Muslim to Christian hands.68 In this respect, as in the others already discussed, the example of the ʿAzafids helps explain the Marīnid approach.

It is important here to understand Ceuta's position as the major trading port of the western Maghrib in the seventh/thirteenth century, and that the cultivation of commercial revenues was a major factor in the governance of the ʿAzafids, chosen to rule, of course, by and from among the notables of the city itself.69 On the one hand, the context of the city's significant commercial connections helps to explain the spread of the Christianizing practices in Ceuta which provoked Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī to promote the public celebration of the mawlid. On the other hand, it also makes any explanation of the festival as a device to resist Christian influence seem at the least simplistic, because this was a city and a dynasty that depended very heavily on maritime trade, including with the Christian powers of Iberia, the Italian states and elsewhere.

Abū’l-Qāsim alʿAzafī both adopted and implemented his father's ideas about the mawlid, and simultaneously oversaw the entrenchment of the commercial Christian presence in his city. After his elevation as governor by the shūrā, he quickly took steps confirming their pro-trade position: by 650/1252, Catalan merchants were trading freely in Ceuta; by 651/1253, relations and trade with Genoa were flourishing; in 653/1255, the establishment of a consulate of Marseilles in the city was agreed. Under his rule, Ceuta also built a large new funduq with extra grain storage to facilitate its export to Barcelona and elsewhere in the region. Later on in his reign, the city also agreed the establishment of a new Genoese consulate-general in 665/1267 and signed a treaty with the kingdom of Aragon in 667/1269. The early years of alʿAzafī's rule also highlight the continued vulnerability of Ceuta to Iberian military pressure, shown for example by the terms of the truce signed between the city and Castile in 649/1251, which included the payment of 50,000 dīnār s and the release of Christian prisoners.70

The introduction of the mawlid itself, therefore, must be seen in the context of some apparently conflicting impulses underlying Ceuta's relationship with the developing Christian influence in the region. As a public festival, it provided Abū’l-Qāsim and his successors a means to demonstrate their (p.147) commitment to resisting any social effects of this influence, but in a way that did not risk disrupting the economic and diplomatic realities of the city's foreign alliances and commercial relationships. In other words, it enabled the clarification and reinforcement of social and religious boundaries between Muslim and Christian at the same time as the physical boundaries between them were being reformulated and becoming more porous.

In this respect, the development of the mawlid was part of the wider localizing trend in the religious life of the Islamic west that we have already noted. It was similarly conditioned by the physical and material consequences of the collapse of Almohad power, the subsequent slow decline of Muslim power in the region and the growing influence of the Christian powers of the western Mediterranean. The results of these changes were of course not restricted to Ceuta. In the complex diplomatic and military landscape of the region during the period of their rule, the Marīnids also had to resolve the apparent ambiguities of their relationship to the Christian powers of Iberia. The economic and political rivalries of the region ‘converted the western Mediterranean into a political, military and commercial web of alternately co-operating and competing forces, in which Castilians, Aragonese, Marīnids, Naṣrids, Ceutans, Genoese and ʿAbd al-Wādids were all involved, resulting in battles, betrayals and pacts — the latter as often as not between Muslims and Christians’.71

As for the ʿAzafids, promoting the prestige of the mawlid in this context provided the Marīnids with a symbolic means of reinforcing the projection of a clear, unambiguous religious identity when the reality of their position on a political level was much more complex. To some extent, this was related to the shifting economic realities of the region as in Ceuta. The state in medieval Morocco was symbiotically related to the control not of territory per se, but of economic and military resources such as troops, mines and trade routes.72 Consequently, the gradual shift toward a regional commercial system that was increasingly dependent on the Christian powers of Europe would have profound consequences. The conquest of Sijilmāsa in 672/1273 and the submission of Ceuta soon after were a crucial achievement for the Marīnids, finally bringing the entirety of the most important trade route of the country under their control, but, as we have already seen, control over access to Ceuta and the security of the Straits of Gibraltar in general was no longer (p.148) truly in Moroccan hands but dependent on Aragonese sea power. The great overland trade, not least in gold, that had linked the Mediterranean to Africa across the Sahara and had sustained the Almoravids and Almohads was in any case beginning an irreversible decline. Slowly but surely, the commercial influence of the maritime powers of Europe would marginalize the economic power of the Moroccan sultanate.73Although this process was still in its early stages, it was already clearly underway, with Christian merchants advancing into the Atlantic ports of Morocco for the first time around the turn of the seventh/thirteenth century.74

These processes, however, were slow and perhaps not so clearly evident in the country as a whole compared with in Ceuta itself. At a diplomatic and military level, however, the relative weakness of the Marīnids was increasingly obvious, bringing their status as inheritors of the jihād — and, crucially, the legitimacy that this conferred — into question. The most relevant example of this here relates to the acknowledgement of Marīnid sovereignty by Ceuta itself in 673/1275. This was in large part made possible by the alliance of the previous year between Abū Yūsuf and James I of Aragon (r. 1213–76), which allowed the Marīnids to cut off Ceuta's access to the sea and enforce their otherwise unsuccessful siege of the city.75

From one perspective, the reign of Abū Yūsuf — his repeated expeditions to the Iberian peninsula rewarded with the establishment of permanent Marīnid territory from which to launch future attacks — was a highpoint of the Marīnids’ pursuit of jihād. This had underpinned the gradual development of their perceived legitimacy as potential rulers ever since their role at the battle of Alarcos in 591/1195.76 However, the complexities of these campaigns and the shifting alliances among both Muslim and Christian rulers meant that the potential potency of this unarguable symbol of religious credibility was already being diluted by the end of Abū Yūsuf's reign in 685/1286 — perhaps to Ceutans this was particularly obvious. After the treaty with Aragon, ‘la (p.149) dynastie ne pouvait prétendre à la légitimité qu’en appelant au djihad ’.77 As Mercedes García-Arenal has concluded, jihād as a means of dynastic legitimation had become problematic in this period precisely because of the uncertainties of religious leadership.78 The Marīnids’ credibility would become further compromised in following decades until their eventual effective withdrawal from any Iberian intervention after defeat at the battle of Río Salado in 741/1340 and the subsequent loss of Algeciras four years later.79

It is not possible to draw a direct causal link, but it is nevertheless very suggestive that it was in these decades that the Marīnids — after a delay of some decades from the introduction of the practice by Abū’l-Qasim alʿAzafī and its adoption at the Almohad court — established the mawlid as a regular public ceremony. Ahmed Khaneboubi has asked in passing whether it was in part a compensation for the failures of jihād, and it is clear why he would pose such a question.80 The complexities and compromises of regional diplomacy were not just matters of perception either, but were gradually manifesting themselves in the practicalities of Moroccan life. The arrival of large numbers of refugees from al-Andalus in the mid-seventh/thirteenth century and onwards has already been noted, for example. The Marīnids themselves also engaged in trade with Christian merchants for arms.81 The waves of the Reconquista also began to lap on the shores of Morocco itself for the first time in the form of Christian raids.82 In these circumstances, the mawlid was a potent symbolic tool for ritually asserting the Marīnids’ commitment to an Islamic identity when they were starting to fail other, more established tests of religiopolitical legitimacy.


We have seen, therefore, that the spread of the mawlid al-nabī as a public ceremony was shaped by processes working at various levels of Moroccan society. It depended on not only the religious legitimacy ascribed to it by fuqahā ʾ such as Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī, but also its sponsorship by political power and popular attitudes conditioned by the development of Sufism and the growing prestige of the shurafā ʾ. The mawlid was not associated narrowly (p.150) with the evolution of these popular modes of religiosity, however, but was an important symbol also — through the figure of the Prophet himself — of the reassertion of the authority of the sharī ʿa and Mālikī orthodoxy amidst the doctrinal uncertainties of the post-Almohad Islamic west. Consequently, it offered a useful tool for the Marīnid dynasty as part of the integrative religious policy that characterized the formative phase of their rule from the mid-seventh/thirteenth to mid-eighth/fourteenth century. It also helped to contain the ambiguities arising from the shifting balance of power in the western Mediterranean in the same period, when the public demonstration of religious credibility was increasingly necessary for the Marīnids to obscure the complex reality of the decline of Muslim military and economic power.

During this period the mawlid was definitively established as a popular celebration, but the dynastic sponsorship of the festival declined markedly under the later Marīnids and their successors, the Waṭṭāsids.83 With the onset of the decline of Marīnid power during and after the reign of Abū ʿInān, the integrative religious policy that had previously characterized the dynasty's rule — and of which the Marīnid mawlid was particularly symbolic — began to break down in the face of an increasingly ubiquitous and influential sharīfism. The religious coalition they had stitched together was not ultimately durable enough to overcome the persistent and awkward problem of establishing their religious and political authority in the long term. As is well known, the Marīnids increasingly depended on the indirect prestige generated by the protection and privileges they afforded to the shurafā ʾ, but this ultimately made them more vulnerable to the rival claims of legitimacy manifesting themselves in various ways through this group: ‘cette promotion allait leur être fatale’.84

Although from the perspective of the state in Morocco a sharīfian model of power would ultimately offer a new type of stability, it crucially undermined the Marīnids themselves.85 Appropriately enough in the context of this discussion, the implications of this shift were strikingly anticipated in Ceuta once again, where the ʿAzafids were eventually ousted as the leaders of the city in 728/1327–8 by a family of Ḥusaynid shurafā ʾ.86 The prestige of this family and its head, Abū’lʿAbbās alḤusaynī, made them crucial allies to Abū ʿInān during his coup against his father, Abū’lḤasan, in 749/1348, (p.151) giving the new sultan ‘une suprématie morale incontestable’ finally to assert Marīnid power in the city.87 The prestige of this association could as equally cast doubt on royal power as confirm it, however. Although Abū ʿInān made a point of honouring ‘the sharīf of Ceuta’ with an invitation to the annual mawlid in Fes, on at least one occasion the order to attend the sultan was met with a fierce rebuke: Abū’lʿAbbās alḤusaynī is reported to have replied, ‘You may think me a servant (khadīm), but I am not — we are of the House of the Prophet, who are intercessors (shufa ʿāʾ) in this world and the next.’88

Thus, as Ferhat has observed: ‘[c]’est à Sabta qu’apparaît la première famille de Ŝurafā qui bénéficie de prérogatives suis generis et aspire, à ce titre, au pouvoir. Ces Ŝurafā ont réussi à éliminer les Banū al Azafi, soutenus par les dynasties en mal de légitimité, les Banu Naṣr de Grenade et les Banū Marīn de Fes’ (It was at Ceuta that the first family of shurafā ʾ appeared who benefited from unique prerogatives and aspired as such to power. These shurafā ʾ managed to eliminate the Banū’lʿAzafī, supported by dynasties themselves in need of legitimacy, the Banū Naṣr of Granada and the Banū Marīn of Fes).89The nature of mawlid could not be separated from this process, its emphasis shifting away from an attempt to assert the authority of the sunna of the Prophet, and consequently of the ʿulamāʾ, toward the growing political significance of the lineage of the Prophet, and therefore of the shurafā ʾ. As an expression of political legitimacy, therefore, it no longer suited the Marīnids, who abandoned it, but it was perfectly suited to the Saʿdīs, who would go on to revive it.90


(*) I would like to extend my gratitude to the Leverhulme Trust which funded the two-year postdoctoral research position at the University of Cambridge from 2010 to 2012 which enabled me to carry out the research for this chapter.

(1) The most useful and detailed history of the spread of the festival of the mawlid is N. Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival: Early History in the Central Muslim Lands and Development in the Muslim West until the 10th/16th century (Leiden: Brill, 1993). On the role of the ʿAzafids specifically, see pp. 76–96.

(2) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, 97–166; Yoshua Frenkel, ‘Mawlid al-Nabī at the Court of Sulṭān Aḥmad al-Manṣūr al-Saʿdī’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 19 (1995): 157–72; Marion Holmes Katz, The Birth of the Prophet Muḥammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam (New York and London: Routledge, 2007).

(3) See F. de la Granja, ‘Fiestas cristianas en al-Andalus. (Materiales para su estudio). I: ʻAl-durrʻAl-durr almunaẓẓamʼ de alʿAzafī’, Al-Andalus 34 (1969): 1–54; Halima Ferhat, ‘Le culte du prophète au Maroc au XIIIe siècle: organisation du pèlerinage et célébration du mawlid’, in La religion civique à l’époque médiévale et moderne (Chrétienté et Islam), ed. André Vauchez (Rome: Ecole Française, 1995), pp. 89–97; J. D. Latham, ‘The Rise of the ʿAzafids of Ceuta’, Israel Oriental Studies 2 (1972): 263–87, p. 267; M. Cherif, Ceuta aux époques almohade et mérinide (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996), pp. 168–70.

(4) Serge Gubert, ‘Pouvoir, sacré et pensée mystiques: les écritures emblématiques Mérinides (VIIe/ XIIe–IXe/XVe siècles)’, Al-Qantara 17 (1996): 391–427, p. 401. See also Mohamed Kably, Société, pouvoir et religion au Maroc à la fin du Moyen Age (XIVe–-XVe siècle) (Paris: Editions Maisonneuve et Larose, 1986), pp. 285–302; Hermann L. Beck, L’image d’ Idrīs II, ses descendants de Fās et la politique sharīfienne des sultans marīnides (656–869/1258–1465) (Leiden: Brill, 1989), pp. 100–1, 112–13; Mercedes García-Arenal, Messianism and Puritanical Reform: Mahdis of the Muslim West (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 229–31; Fernando Rodríguez Mediano, ‘The Post-Almohad Dynasties in al-Andalus and the Maghrib (Seventh/Ninth–Thirteenth/Fifteenth Centuries)’, in The New Cambridge History of Islam, 6 vols. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2010), vol. II, pp. 106–43, esp. 125–6.

(5) Rahma Bourqia and Susan Gilson Miller, ‘Introduction’, in In the Shadow of the Sultan: Culture, Power, and Politics in Morocco, ed. R. Bourqia and S. Gilson Miller (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 1–16, esp. 1.

(6) Kably, Société, p. 222.

(7) See Cherif, Ceuta, pp. 39–72; Halima Ferhat, Sabta des origines aux XIVème siècle (Rabat: Ministère des Affaires Culturelles, 1993), pp. 203–69; Latham, ‘The Rise’; J. D. Latham, ‘The Later ʿAzafids in Ceuta’, Revue de l’Occident Musulman et la Méditerranée 15–16 (1973): 109–26; María del Carmen Mosquera Merino, La señoria de Ceuta en el siglo XIII (Historia política y económica) (Instituto de Estudios Ceuties: Ceuta, 1994).

(8) On the trade of Ceuta in this period, see Ferhat, Sabta, pp. 328–44; Cherif, Ceuta, pp. 133–52; Mosquera Merino, La señoria, pp. 396–476.

(9) De la Granja, ‘Fiestas’.

(10) Kaptein, Muhammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 80–6.

(11) See Holmes Katz, The Birth of the Prophet Muḥammad, p. 20.

(12) Aḥmad Al-Qashtalī, Milagros de Abū Marwān al-Yuḥānisī, ed. Fernando de la Granja (Madrid: Instituto Egipcio de Estudios Islámicos, 1974), pp. 76–8, 108–9. On al-Yuḥānisī, see also Bárbara Boloix-Gallardo, Prodigios del maestro sufí Abū Marwān al-Yuḥānisī: estudio crítico y traduccíon de la Tuhfat al-mugtarib de Aḥmad al-Qaštālī (Madrid: Alquitara, 2010).

(13) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 130–1.

(14) ʿAbd alḤaqq b. Ismāʿīl al-Bādisī, Al-maqṣad al-sharīf wa-l-manza ʿ al-laṭīf fī’l-taʿrīf biṣulaḥāʾ al- Rīf (The noble intention and the pleasant objective of knowing the saints of the Rif), ed. Saʿīd Aḥmad Aʿrāb (Rabat: al-Matbaʿa al-Malikiyya, 1982), pp. 100–1.

(15) See Latham, ‘The Rise’, p. 275; Rachel Arie, L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides (1232– 1492) (Paris: De Boccard, 1990), p. 425.

(16) For details of this period of instability, see Cherif, Ceuta, pp. 31–38; Ferhat, Sabta, pp. 203–29. For a detailed account specifically of the uprising that brought Abū’l-Qāsim to power and the question of the city's submission to the Almohads, see Latham, ‘The Rise’, pp. 270–4.

(17) Aḥmad b. Muḥammad Ibn ʿIdhārī, Al-bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār al-Andalūs wa-l-Maghrib (The book of the amazing story of the history of al-Andalus and the Maghrib), ed. Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Kattānī (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1985), p. 398. On the development of devotional mawlid poetry, see Ahmad Salmi, ‘Le genre des poèmes de Nativité (maulûdiyya-s) dans le royaume de Grenade et au Maroc du XIIIe au XVIIe siècle’, Hespéris 43 (1956): 335–435.

(18) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, p. 93.

(19) Ibn ʿIdhārī, Al-bayān, p. 446. On question of this dating, see Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, p. 93.

(20) Anonymous, al-Dhakīra (al-durra) al-saniyya fī ta ʾrīkh al-dawla al-Marīniyya alʿAbd alḤaqqiyya (The resplendent treasure (pearl) regarding the history of Marīnid rule in the [lineage of] ʿAbd al- Ḥaqq) (Rabat: Dār al-Manṣūr, 1972), p. 155.

(21) ʿAlī b. ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Abī Zarʿ al-Fāsī, Al-anīs al-muṭrib bi-rawḍ alqirṭās fī akhbār mulūk al- Maghrib wa-ta ʾrīkh madīnat Fās (The delightful companion in the garden of paper concerning the affairs of the kings of the Maghrib and the history of the city of Fes) (Rabat: Imprimerie Royale, 1972), pp. 383, 409.

(22) Mu?ammad al-Man?n?, Waraq?t ?an al-?a??ra al-Maghrib?yya f? ?a?r Ban? Mar?n (Rabat: Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, 1979), p. 268.

(23) Ibn Ab? Zar?, Qir??s, p. 393.

(24) Mu?ammad b. A?mad Ibn Marz?q, Al-musnad al-?a??? al-?asan f? ma??thir wa-ma??sin Mawl?n? Ab?’l-?asan (An authentic narration of the deeds and virtues of Mawl?n? Ab?’l-?asan), ed. M. J. Viguera (Algiers: Société Nationale d'Edition et de Diffusion (SNE D), 1981), pp. 152–4.

(25) Salmi, ‘Le genre’; see also Kaptein, Mu?ammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 111–12.

(26) See Kaptein, Mu?ammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 106, 109.

(27) Yaḥyā Ibn Khaldūn, Histoire des Beni ʿ Abd al-Wād, rois de Tlemcen, ed. and trans. A. Bel, 2 vols. (Algiers: Imprimerie Orientale, 1904–13), vol. II, pp. 40–59. On the mawlid at the Zayyānid court, see Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 141–52.

(28) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 131–40.

(29) The older strand of this scholarship is typified, for example, by Alfred Bel, who argued that the Banū Marīn were barely Islamized before their first city conquests, and that to overcome this Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb ‘organise sa capitale, ses États, son administration sur les conseils des hommes de science et de religion, selon une norme strictement musulmane’. Alfred Bel, ‘Les premiers émirs mérinides et l’Islam’, in Mélanges de géographie et d’orientalisme (offerts à E. F. Gautier) (Tours: Arrault, 1937), pp. 33–44, esp. 43. This view is still accepted as the basic starting point for understanding the development of the Marīnids’ religious sensibilities, for example in the article on the dynasty in the EI2, which emphasizes their initial ambivalence towards any religious motivation: ‘they did… as a result of their encounters with jurists and city dwellers, cultivate a sense of mission which had a religious element, wishing to provide the Muslims with just and prosperous government’; Maya Shatzmiller, ‘Marīnids’, EI2. See also Ahmed Khaneboubi, Les premiers sultans mérinides (1269– 1331). Histoire politique et sociale (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1987), pp. 37–8.

(30) See also Maya Shatzmiller, The Berbers and the Islamic State: The Marīnid Experience in Pre- Protectorate Morocco (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2000), pp. 43–52.

(31) In as much as ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ are to a certain extent synonymous with other terms — ‘popular’ and ‘scholarly’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘scriptural’ — a very useful discussion of the type of analysis I am advocating here is that by Vincent Cornell, ‘Faqīh versus Faqīr in Marinid Morocco: Epistemological Dimensions of a Polemic’, in Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics, ed. Frederik de Jong and Bernd Radtke (Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 207–24.

(32) Holmes Katz, The Birth of the Prophet Muḥammad, p. 208.

(33) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 80–9.

(34) See ibid., pp. 112–20; Sato Kentaro, ‘SufiCelebrations of Muḥammad's Birthday (al-Mawlid al- Nabawī) and the Ulama's View on it in al-Andalus and al-Maghrib, 1300–1400’, Journal of Sophia Asian Studies 24 (2006): 7–15; Holmes Katz, The Birth of the Prophet Muḥammad, pp. 169–206.

(35) Ibn Abī Zarʿ, Qirṭās, pp. 323, 334, 348.

(36) Al-Dhakīra, p. 135.

(37) Beck, L’image, pp. 101–1. On the submission of Ceuta to the Marīnids, see Latham, ‘The Rise’, pp. 282–3.

(38) Kably, Société, p. 66.

(39) See, for example, Halima Ferhat, ‘Souverains, saints, fuqahāʾ: le pouvoir en question’, Al-Qantara 18 (1996): 375–90; Abdelfattah Kilito, ‘Speaking to Princes: Al-Yusi and Mawlay Ismaʿil’, in In the Shadow of the Sultan, ed. Bourqia and Gilson Miller, pp. 40–8; Mohamed El Mansour, ‘The Sanctuary (Hurm) in Precolonial Morocco’, in In the Shadow of the Sultan, ed. Bourqia and Gilson Miller, pp. 49–72.

(40) Jocelyne Dakhlia, ‘Du sacré duel au sacré débattu: la légitimité en écho des souverains maghrébins’, Al-Qantara 17 (1996): 341–74, esp. 361–2.

(41) See Beck, L’image; Mercedes García-Arenal, ‘The Revolution of Fas in 869/1465 and the Death of the Sultan ʿAbd al-Haqq al-Marini’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 41 (1978): 43–66.

(42) See Kably, Société, pp. 285–302; García-Arenal, Messianism, pp. 193–245; M. A. Makki, ‘Altashayyuʿ fī l-Andalus’, Revista del Instituto Egiptico de Estudios Islamicos 2 (1954): 93–149; Vincent Cornell, ‘Mystical Doctrine and Political Action in Moroccan Sufism: The Role of the Exemplar in the Tarîqa al-Jazûliyya’, Al-Qantara 13 (1992): 202–31; Cornell, ‘The “Sovereignty of the Imamate” (Siyâdat Al-Imâma) of the Jazûliyya-Ghazwâniyya: A SufiAlternative to Sharîfism?’, Al-Qantara 17 (1996): 429–52.

(43) See Michael Brett, ‘The Islamisation of Morocco: From the Arabs to the Almoravids’, Morocco: Journal of the Society for Moroccan Studies 2 (1992): 57–71, reprinted in Brett, Ibn Khaldun and the Medieval Maghrib (Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, 1999).

(44) See Ferhat, ‘Le culte’, pp. 90–2.

(45) Gubert, ‘Pouvoir’, p. 398.

(46) See Manūnī, Waraqāt, pp. 192–211.

(47) On the development of Sufism, see Vincent J. Cornell, Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism (Austin: University of Texas, 1998); Halima Ferhat, Le Maghreb aux XIIème et XIIIème siècles de la foi (Casablanca: Wallada, 1993). On the development of the madrasa and Mālikism, see Shatzmiller, The Berbers, pp. 85–94; David Stephan Powers, Law, Society and Culture in the Maghrib, 1300–1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). On sharīfism, see Beck, L’Image.

(48) Al-Dhakīra, pp. 29–31; Ibn Abī Zarʿ, Rawḍ al-Qirṭās, pp. 372–3.

(49) See Amira K. Bennison, chapter 10 in this volume, p. 202.

(50) See Hanna Kassis, ‘ʿIyāḍ's Doctrinal Views and their Impact on the Maghreb’, Maghreb Review 3 (1988): 49–52. On the influence of al-Shifā ʾ, see Ferhat, ‘Le culte’, p. 92. On the development of religious scholarship in Ceuta in general, see Ḥasan al-Warāgalī, Shuyūkh al- ʿilm wa-kutub al-dars fī Sabta (Tetouan: Jamīʿat al-Baʿth al-Islāmī, 1984).

(51) Cherif, Ceuta, p. 170. See also Ferhat, Sabta, p. 421; Manūnī, Waraqāt, pp. 200–1.

(52) Rodríguez Mediano, ‘The Post-Almohad Dynasties’, p. 126.

(53) On al-Qanjāyrī, see Cherif, Ceuta, pp. 172–4; Ferhat, Sabta, pp. 403, 408–9.

(54) Abū’lʿAbbās alʿAzafī, Di ʿāmat al-yaqīn fī zaʿāmat al-muttaqīn, ed. Aḥmad Tawfīq (Rabat: Maktabat Khidmat al-Kitāb, 1989).

(55) See F. Rodriguez-Mañas, ‘Charity and Deceit: The Practice of the Iṭʿām alṭaʿām in Moroccan Sufism’, Studia Islamica 91 (2000): 59–90, pp. 67–9.

(56) AlʿAzafī, Di ʿāmat al-yaqīn, pp. 50–2.

(57) Cornell, ‘Faqīh ’, pp. 207–8.

(58) Maribel Fierro, ‘Opposition to Sufism in al-Andalus’, in Islamic Mysticism, ed. De Jong and Radtke, pp. 174–206, esp. 206.

(59) See Robinson and Zomeño, Chapter 8 this volume. See also Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 133–4.

(60) Ibn Marzūq, Al-musnad, pp. 152–4.

(61) See Kably, Société, pp. 222–3.

(62) See Rodriguez-Mañas, ‘Charity’.

(63) Characteristic of this ‘juridically oriented’ Sufism, which might equally be called ‘Sufi-oriented’ Mālikism, is the famous axiom of Aḥmad Zarrūq (846–99/1442–93), ‘There is no Sufism except through fiqh, because God's exoteric laws (ahkām Allāh alẓāhira) can only be known through it; and there is no fiqh except through Sufism, for praxis (ʿamal) is only carried out through truthfulness (siḍq) and an orientation toward the divine (tawajjuh).’ See Cornell, ‘Faqīh ’, p. 207. On Zarrūq, his career and the development of this type of Sufism in Morocco, see in particular Scott Kugle, Rebel between Spirit and Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Sainthood and Authority in Islam (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).

(64) Serge Gubert, ‘Pratiques diplomatiques mérinides (XIIIe–XVe siècle)’, Oriente Moderno, new series 2 (2008): 435–68, esp. 450–68.

(65) For example, the repudiation by Ibn Khaldūn of mystical dimensions of Sufism such as knowledge of the unseen (ʿilm al-mukāshafāt) and his definition of sainthood as being the internalization of the Qurʾān and the Sharīʿa. See Ibn Khaldūn, Shifā ʾ al-sāʾil li-tahdhīb al-masāʾil, ed. and trans. R. Perez, La voie et la loi, ou Le maître et le juriste (Paris: Sindbad, 1991), pp. 180, 211.

(66) Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Wansharīshī, Al-mi ʿyār al-muʿrib (The manifest measure), ed. Muḥammad Ḥajjī, 13 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Maghrib al-Islāmī, 1981), pp. 279–89. On the question of the permissibility of the mawlid, see Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 112–24; Kentaro, ‘SufiCelebrations’; Holmes Katz, The Birth of the Prophet Muḥammad, pp. 169–206.

(67) See Maya Shatzmiller, Chapter 2 in this volume. For a fuller discussion of this point, see James A. O. C. Brown, Crossing the Strait: Morocco, Gibraltar and Great Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries (Brill: Leiden, 2012), pp. 5–14.

(68) See Olivia Remie Constable, ‘Muslim Trade in the Late Medieval Mediterranean World’, in The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol. II, pp. 633–47.

(69) Latham, ‘The Rise’, p. 275. For more details of Ceutan trade, see also Ferhat, Sabta, pp. 328–44; Cherif, Ceuta, pp. 133–52; Mosquera Merino, La señoria, pp. 396–476; J. Caillé, ‘Les Marseillais à Ceuta au XIIIe siècle’, in Mélanges d’histoire et d’archéologie de l’Occident musulman, 2 vols. (Algiers, Imprimerie Officelle, 1957), vol. I, pp. 21–32.

(70) Latham, ‘The Later ʿAzafids’, pp. 109–10.

(71) Rodríguez Mediano, ‘The Post-Almohad Dynasties’, p. 119.

(72) See Yves Lacoste, ‘General Characteristics and Fundamental Structures of Medieval North African Society’, Economy and Society 3 (1974): 1–17; James L. Boone, J. Emlen Myers and Charles L. Redman, ‘Archeological and Historical Approaches to Complex Societies: The Islamic States of Medieval Morocco’, American Anthropologist 92 (1990): 630–46; Mohamed Kably, Variations islamistes et identité au Maroc médiéval (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1989), pp. 65–78.

(73) For a fuller discussion of this process as it evolved over the longer term, see Brown, Crossing the Strait, pp. 21–54.

(74) On the changing economic structures of the Maghrib and their relationship to trans-Saharan and Mediterranean trade, see J. Devisse, ‘Routes de commerce et échanges en Afrique occidentale en relation avec la Méditerranée’, Revue d’Histoire Économique et Sociale 50 (1972): 42–73; B. Rosenberger, ‘L’histoire économique du Maghreb’, in Wirtschtsgeschichte des vorderen Orients in islamischer Zeit (Brill: Leiden, 1977), pp. 205–38; J. Heers, ‘Le Sahara et le commerce méditerranéen à la fin du moyen âge’, Annales de l’Institut d’Études Orientales 16 (1958): 247–55.

(75) The date of Ceuta's submission is debated. Some sources report that it was in 672/1273, a date which some modern historians also accept (see Ferhat, Sabta, pp. 244–63). However, other evidence points to 673/1275, which seems much more likely given the strength of Ceuta's naval power, and the unlikely prospect of it submitting without the pressure created by the Marīnid–Aragonese alliance. See Latham, ‘The Rise’, pp. 280–5.

(76) See García-Arenal, Messianism, pp. 227–9.

(77) Ferhat, Sabta, p. 246.

(78) García-Arenal, Messianism, p. 216.

(79) On the Marīnids in Iberia, see M. A. Manzano Rodríguez, La intervención de los Benmerines en la península Ibericá (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1992).

(80) Khaneboubi, Les premiers sultans, p. 203.

(81) ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khaldoun, Histoire des Berbères et des dynasties musulmanes de l’Afrique septentrionale, trans. Baron de Slane, 4 vols. (Paris: Geuthner, 1925–56), vol. IV, p. 48.

(82) Ibid., p. 131.

(83) See Kaptein, Muḥammad's Birthday Festival, pp. 97–8, 122.

(84) M. García-Arenal and E. Manzano Moreno, ‘Idrīssime et villes idrīssides’, Studia Islamica 82 (1995): 5–33, p. 13.

(85) See García-Arenal, ‘The revolution of Fas’; Stephen Cory, ‘Breaking the Khaldunian cycle? The Rise of Sharifianism as the Basis for Political Legitimacy in Early Modern Morocco’, Journal of North African Studies 13 (2008): 377–94.

(86) For full details of ʿAzafid rule after Abū l-Qāsim's death, their rivalry with the Husaynids and their eventual fall from power, see Latham, ‘The Later ʿAzafids’.

(87) Cherif, Ceuta, p. 62.

(88) Aḥmad b. Muḥammad, al-Tilimsānī Al-Maqqarī, Azhār al-riyāḍ fī akhbār ʿ Iyāḍ (The flowers of the garden in the history of [the Qāḍī] ʿIyāḍ), ed. M. Saqqā et al., 3 vols. (Cairo: Matbaʿat Lajnat al-Taʾlīf wa’l-Tarjama wa’l-Nashr, 1939–42), vol. I, p. 39. On the prestige of AbūʾlʿAbbās and the Ḥusaynids of Ceuta, see ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khaldūn, al-Ta ʿrīf bi-Ibn Khaldūn wa-riḥlatihi gharban wa-sharqan (The life of Ibn Khaldūn and his travels west and east), ed. Muḥammad alṬanjī (Cairo: Lajnat al-Taʾlīf wa’l-Tarjama wa’l-Nashr, 1951), pp. 80–1. See also Beck, L’image, pp. 174–90.

(89) Ferhat, Sabta, p. 467.

(90) See Frenkel, ‘Mawlid al-Nabī ’.