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Friday, 23 March 2018 12:00 AM

History of Religion in Morocco

Below we discuss the History of Islam in Morocco. We will discuss in a later article the Religious Communities in Morocco Today and the effect of Islam on your Morocco Holiday,

Introduction of Islam to Morocco

Islam has been part of Morocco since around 670 AD when the Umayyads, under their general Uqba idn Nafi, conquered most of the Maghreb, which includes modern Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Lybia. Following that conquest the indigenous Berber population slowly converted to Islam.

In 788 AD Idris I (Moulay Idris) is credited as founding the first Islamic dynasty in Morocco, the Idrisid dynasty (although it was not until the 11th century that the Almoravids created an empire that included almost all of modern Morocco and making the Maliki school of Islam predominate). From that time most of the region covering modern Morocco was ruled by Islamic dynasties (either Berber or Arab), despite Portuguese Christian incursions in the 16th century, other than the French and Spanish Christian protectorates of the early 20th century.

European protectorates

Under the treaty of Fez signed on 30 March 1912, Morocco became a protectorate of France, and from 27 November 1912 Spain became the protecting power for the northern and southern parts of Morocco. The protectorate left Morocco as a sovereign state under the reign of the sultan with the European powers assuming control of Morocco, which they did until Moroccan independence on 7 April 1956 when a constitutional monarchy was formed under Mohammed V.

Islam - the State religion

Today Islam is the constitutionally established state religion and the king claims his legitimacy as head of state and religion - in part his legitimacy is supported by the claim that he is a descendent of the prophet Mohammed. Around 2/3rds of the population are Sunni and 30% are non-denominational muslims; Shia are a very small minority of the population. The constitution gives rights and protections to Islam as opposed to other religions, including making it illegal to try to convert a Muslim to another faith.

The Kingdom of Morocco is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with an elected government. The current king, King Mohammed VI, holds a position of secular political leader and “Commander of the Faithful” (part of his official title) – hence he holds some executive powers of governance and legislative powers and is the religious head of state with all religious leaders being subordinate to him.

King Mohammed VI is the current of the Alaouite dynasty’s rulers who were first brought to Morocco in the 13th century as imam, being direct descendent of the prophet Mohammed. The Alaouites have held power in Morocco since the 17th century, other than the period of European protectorates.

Caveat to this summary

Naturally Morocco is a specialist in bespoke travel to Morocco, not an expert in religion or history – the notes above are meant as an overview for interested parties, we apologise if there are any errors and we welcome any corrections sent to our main e-mail address.