Marrakech is a city with a rich history and the neighbourhood where our riad is located – Sidi Ben Slimane – is named after Mohamed Ben Slimane al-Jazouli, an Islamic scholar and Imam, designated one of the seven saints of Marrakech. Sidi ben Slimane al Jazouli is considered a patron saint not just in Morocco but throughout the Islamic World.
Originally from Souss in the south of Morocco, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains, Mohamed ben Slimane al-Jazouli was an Islamic scholar, studying hadiths at the Médersa Essaffarine in Fez. There is conflicting information on his career and life, so tracing the exact timeline of events proves somewhat difficult.
It is known that after his initial studies in Fez he was involved in defending Tangier against invasion, that he travelled to Mecca and Medina and then studied in Cairo, and that he completed the prayer book he is most famous for, “Dala’il al-Khayrat“.
Sidi Mohamed ben Slimane al-Jazouli went on to found the al-Jazouliya Sufi order and established himself in Safi. He amassed a following of some 12,000 and was a leading figure in the struggle against Portugual, who had invaded Essaouira and many coastal cities along the Atlantic.
Expelling the Portuguese invaders became of lesser importance as the locals grew to see the monetary benefits of trading with them, and the powers that be gradually became disenchanted with al-Jazouli and he was ultimately expelled from the city of Safi by the governor.
According to the testimony of his closest disciples, he collapsed and died while making his Subh prayer on 28 June, 1465. Because of the suddenness of his death and the fact that he gave no sign of illness beforehand, it was immediately assumed that someone had poisoned him.
As a result of tribal infighting amongst the Sufis, his body was initially kept in a mobile ark and taken on campaigns as a talisman of victory. When not in the field, the ark was placed on the summit of a hill and guarded 24 hours a day. Later he was buried, but fearing his body would be dug up by restive tribespeople, it is claimed that in 1541, seventy-seven years after his death, his body was exhumed to be transferred to Marrakech.
The Saadi sultan Ahmad al-Araj (1517–1544) had a mausoleum built for Sidi Ben Slimane al-Jazouli in the northern part of the Medina of Marrakech and the area was subsequently named in his honour.
Even at his final burial place the intrigue continued – Sidi Ben Slimane’s body was not buried underneath the tomb as is customary, but deep beneath the wall behind it, and it is here that people stoop to pay their respects.