Tourism & travel, Venue

Seven Saints of Regraga: A history lesson

HISTORY It’s been about 300 years since Sultan Moulay Ismaïl de Marrakech came up with a way to deal with the growing influence of the seven saints of Regraga from the Essaouira region. Seven Saints were chosen, with only one thing in common: they’re all buried in the Red City. So Made in Marrakech decided to take a look at who they were and why they were named saints. Because then in 2005, at Bab Doukkala, seven towers were built to honour these seven men, who are part of the history and culture of the City of Marrakech.

Who are the seven saints of Regraga ?

These seven men were Christians who, after a trip to Mecca where they met Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who taught them about Islam.  Converts to this new religion, they returned to the Maghred to spread the message.  They were located in the Essaouira region where they started their mission.  The seven saints are: Sidi Ouasmine, Sidi Said Essabek, Sidi Aissa Boukhabiya, Sidi Yaala, Sidi Saleh, Sidi Boubker Achemasse and Sidi Aissa Mouloutad. The Regraga pilgrammage perpetuated the Daour, the visit to the tombs of the Seven Saints, founders of the Chiadma brotherhood, located in the back-country of Essaouira.

Who are the seven saints of Marrakech?

All of the saints were well-verse in Islamic theology or great Sufi mystics.  One of them is quite distinguished in the minds of the people: Sidi Bel Abbès Sebti, considered one of the patron saints of the city.  (This man is the most invoked and venerated: donut vendors gave him the first fruits of their labour as well as to the peasants, and their first sheaf.)

So let us introduce you to the seven saints of the city:

Sidi Youssef Ben Ali:

Also known as: Abou Yaakoub Youssef ben Ali.

Origins: Yéménite, in Marrakech.

Education: He was a brilliant student of Cheikh Abou Asfour.

Distinguishing features: Leprosy stricken, he remained immensely faithful to God until his death.

Death: 1196 (593 in Hegira ).

Buried: Bab Ghmat.

Cadi Ayyad Ben Moussad :

Also known as: Abou Al Fadl Ayyad ben Amer Ben Moussa Ben Ayyad Ben Mohamed Ben Abdellah Ben Moussa Ben Ayyad Al Yahsob or “Cadi de Grenade”.

Origins: Yéménite, originally from Sebta.

Education: Student of Abou Abdellah ben Issa, from Imam Abou Abdellah ben Hamdine, Abou Al Hassan ben Siradj and Imam Abou Al walid Ibn Rochd.

Distinguishing features: He’s best known for learning Maleksime in the Muslim West. His love for the Prophet is evident in his work   Al-Chifaa and his orthodox rigor earned him his saint title.

Death: 1149 (544 in Hegira )

Buried: Near Bab Aïlen.

Sidi Bel Abbes :

Also known as: Abou el Abbas Ahmed ben Jaafar el Khazraji.

Origins: Originally from  Sebta.

Education: Disciple of Cadi Ayyad, Sidi Bel Abbas also struck up a close friendship with Averroes, with whom he shared his ideas.

Distinguishing features: He lived for 40 years in a grotta under a hill in Gueliz, without ever entering the city.  He spent his life caring for and protecting the weak and the blind.  His Zaouïa is part of the Regraga pilgrammage.

Died: 1205 (601 in Hegira)

Buried: Buried at Sidi Marouk cemetary, near Bab Taghzout.

Sidi Ben Slimane :

Also known as: Sidi Mohammed ben Slimane ben Said al Jazouli.

Origins: Originally from Souss.

Education : Il fut inscrit à la Médersa Essaffarine de Fès où il excellait dans les hadiths.

Distinguishing features: He’s the founder of Moroccan Sufism and moved againsts an Iberian invasion. He’s the author of the famous collection of prayers Dala’il al-Khayrat .  He died while praying.

Death: 1465 (870 in Hegira )

Buried: At the zaouïa Jazoulia in the north end of the medina, near Dar-el-Glaoui.

Sidi Abdelaziz Tebbaâ :

Also known as: Abou Fares Abdelaziz.

Origins: Silk merchant originally from Fes.

Education: Key disciple of Sidi Ben Slimane.

Distinguishing features: He spread spread Sufi morals through the artisan guilds.

Death: 1508 (914 in Hegira )

Buried: Buried near Ben Youssef Mosque.

Sidi Abdellah El Ghazouani :

Also known as: Moul El Ksour

Origins: Originally from the Gazoune tribe.

Education: After having completed his studies in Fes, he went on to study in Grenada, before relocating to Marrakech to complete his training under Sidi Abdelaziz Tabaa.

Distinguishing features: Sultan Sidi Mohamed Cheikh, incarcinated him in Marrakech, jealous of his positive reputation with the people.  He was freed several years later.

Death: 1528 (934 in Hegira )

Buried: He’s buried near Mouassine Mosque.  

Imam Souheili:

Also known as: Abou el kassim, Abou zaid Abderrahmane ibn al Khatib Abou

Amer ben Abi al Hassan Asbagh ben Houssine ben Saadoun ben Redouane ben Fattouh Souhaili.

Origins: Originally from Souhail, near Malaga.

Education: Yacoub El Mansour brought him from Spain.

Distinguishing features: He’s known for his Sufi poetry and his openness during a time of strong religious censureship. Students often gather around his grave.  He’s written two masterpieces: one about the names of the Prophets cited in the Koran and the other a biography of Sidna Mohammed.

Died: 1186 (582 de l’Hégire)

Buried: He’s buried near Bab Robb.

How did the pilgrammage come to be?

The pilgrammage is a circular route around the Kaaba during the Hajj in Mecca.  The devotional curcuit follows a static route through the medina, from the south-east to the south-west, passing by the north.  The ziara starts on Tuesday and continues until the following Monday, each day dedicated to a wali (saint).

The ziara is done in the following order:

Sidi Youssef Ben Ali -> Tuesday

Cadi Ayyad -> Wednesday

Sidi Bel Abbès -> Thursday

Sidi Ben Slimane -> Friday

Sidi Abdelaziz Tebbaâ -> Saturday

Sidi Abdellah El Ghazouani -> Sunday

Imam Souheili -> Monday

Elisa F.