Muley Ismael and Blacks in early Modern Morocco
When Muley Ismael pretended to be sick, he entrusted his black wife Sultana Zidana (Laila Ajakah) to govern the empire in his absence which caused the Moroccan citizens to protest.
"The citizens of Mequinez were ripe for revolt, when Lela Zidana, who governed despotically, under the pretense of the emperor’s illness, sallied from the palace with a lance in her hand, attended by a guard of armed soldiers, to re-establish tranquility, and even arrogantly commanded some Negroes, whom she encountered as she passed, to be punished.
An event so singular, among a people where the women never appear in public, and under a government in which they are supposed to have no right to empire, astonished the citizens, who, believing the king dead, imagined that this ambitious princess, whom they secretly detested, intended to seize on the sovereign authority. This supposition spread so quickly, and excited so great an alarm, that Lela Zidana was obliged to re-enter the palace.” Pg 221
The Present State of the Empire of Morocco. Its Animals, Products ..., Volume 2
Zidana was the freest woman in his empire.
“Only Sultana Zidana, either on account of her age, or favor she is in with the king. Has the privilege to go abroad into the city and into all parts of the Alcassava (Kasbah) as often as she pleases.”pg 32 A description of the nature of Slavery among the Moors; and the cruel sufferings of those that fall into it. 1721
The Black soldiers picked Muley Ismael's successor to the throne of Morocco.
Immediately after this, Muley Ishmael’s death was proclaimed, and Bashaw Empsael (Pasha Msahil), a chief Negro, with the Negroes of the court, and guards, seated Muley Hamet upon the throne of his father, adored him, and declared him king. The city of Mequinez (Meknes) is immediately commanded by the palace, where all the cannon are kept, and for fear of being plundered by the blacks was obliged readily to submit. Pg 6-7 The History of the Revolutions in the Empire of Morocco
Muley Hamet Debi was in a intense war with his brother Muley Abdmelek in a kind of race war.
"We have full confirmation of the tragical catastrophe of the two contending brothers for the Empire of Morocco, &c. viz. Muley Hamet Debi, who favored and supported by the blacks and Muley Abdmeleck who favored the whites."
The Historical Register: Containing an Impartial Relation to All ..., Volume 14 pg 89
Muley ismael's sons by different races of women caused the down fall of the Moroccan empire
Ginnaeghel king of Egypt and Ethiopia
(Some scholars believe this is a propaganda portrait of Muley Rashid to emphasize his African ancestry)
Ginnaeghel is a play on Senegal with the first part Ginnae coming from Guinea and last part Ghel being used as a equivalent to Gal.
Muley ismael ordered his Moroccan citizens under the pains of death to educate the wives of the black soldiers.
“Our servant al-Tahir Ma’ninu and all the people of Sale, peace be on you…The slave girls we sent to you through our good servant al-haj Muhammad Ma’ninu in order that they may be educated and taught reading, good manners, sewing, embroidery, cooking etc…we order you to treat them well and take the responsibility of their education seriously . Do not neglect them or let any one of them stay idle .If it comes to our knowledge that anyone entrusted with the education of one of these girls has neglected them or let them roam about without educating them or teaching them good manners and a useful (craft), we will cut his head”
Quoted by Ibn Zaydan, op.cit ., pp.136-137. It is a personal translation (Muley Ismael stressed education)
This contradicts the the beliefs of John Braithwaite that Muley Ismael's government was uneducated.
"The Late Emperor, Muley Ismael himself, was so ignorant of all learning he could not write or read: and his government being altogether found on the sword, made none but military men be encouraged: and his reign lasting near 60 years, I look upon it to be the principal reason why all manner of learning is almost abolished in the country, and in the room of it nothing introduced, but rapine, violence, oppression, and all manner of villainy. And this I take to be the chief and only reason, why these western moors, who are actually nearer Europe, and have had more intercourse with Europeans, yet are so much less polished and civilized than they of Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis, or the Turks: for what less can be expected from a Negro Government?"
The History of the Revolutions in the Empire of Morocco: Upon the Death of ... By John Braithwaite pg 351
Voltaire (a contemporary of Muley Ismael) in his Candidus, tells the story of a European princess being kidnapped by the Moroccan corsairs. (This tale is European propaganda aimed at painting African men as sexual predators of white women.)
“I need not tell what a disagreeable thing it is to a young princess to be carried as a slave, with her mother, to Morocco; your own sense will inform you of all that we might expect on board the vessel of the corsair. My mother was still very handsome; our maids of honor, nay our very waiting-maids, had more charms than anyone could boast of through Africa. As for myself, I was nothing but attraction; I was all beauty, and all charms; and, what was still more, I was a maid. However, I was not one long. This flower, which was reserved for the charming prince of Mussa Carrara, was tore from me by the captain of the corsairs. He was a most frightful Negro, but yet thought he did me a great honor. Indeed her highness the princess of Palestrina, must have been very strong to have been able to resist the violence that was shewn us till our arrival at Morocco. But we will pass over that; for it is so common, that it is scarce worthwhile mention it. “ pg 44-45
Candidus, Or, The Optimist
Illustration from umberto bruneschelli
Corsairs chasing a galleon. Illustration for The Barbary Rovers by John Finnemore
Muley Ismael skillfully disarmed the vast majority of the Moroccan population, while at the same time he armed the black population of the country.
"The sultan had not left a single tribe of the Moroccan Maghreb with either horses or weapons. Only the Black Guard, the Oudaias, the Ait Imour (a guich tribe) and the Rifans"
1906, p. 109
Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri al-Salawi
Kitab al-Istiqsa li-Akhbar duwal al-Maghrib al-Aqsa
William Lempriere mentions in passing how powerful the blacks of Morocco became.
"The Negroes, though they form a large proportion of the emperor's subjects, are now by no means so numerous as in the reign of Muley Ishmael, who first introduced them into the country. They are better formed than the Moors, and as they are more lively, daring, and active, they are entrusted with an important share in the executive part of government. They constitute in fact the most considerable part of the emperor's army, and are generally appointed to the command of provinces and towns. This circumstance naturally creates a jealousy between them and the Moors, the latter considering the Negroes as usurpers of a power which they have no right to assume.
OF THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, &c. of the INHABITANTS of MOROCCO. By WILLIAM LEMPRIERE
Literary and Biographical Magazine, and British Review, Volume 12 pg 209
Francis brooks describes the equipment of Muley ismael's black soldiers.
"Every one of his black Guard have a Piece (Gun), and he has three or four Launces (Lances) carried after him, and several Pieces ready charged, to kill with at his Pleasure either the Christians or his own Natives."
Barbarian cruelty being a true history of the distressed condition of the Christian captives under the tyranny of Mully Ishmael, Emperor of Morocco, and King of Fez and Macqueness in Barbary by francis brooks
(Francis Brooks exaggerates the violence of Muley Ismael and his Black soldiers.)
The dress of an African woman in fez under Muley Ismael.
from Thomas Jefferys, 'A Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations, Antient and Modern'
(African women like this were well educated under the reign of Mulay Ismael)
According to tradition, Muley ismael was said to have fought a noble woman from the Sudan (West Africa) for her hand in marriage.
"In the year 1690, before he was master of Sahra(Sahara), there came a woman from that people to him, who, hearing of her coming, went to meet her on horseback, at the head of twenty thousand men. She told him that the people of Sahra (Sahara) were desirous to put themselves under his protection, but that he must fight her at lance play, if he had a mind to have her, at once the pledge of their fidelity and the prize of his victory. She set him hard at first, but afterward suffered herself to be overpowered, was put among the rest of his women, and troops were sent to protect the frontier of the Sahra (Sahara)." pg 140 The Adventures of Thomas Pellow by Thomas Pellow
The inhabitants of Mali did not resist Muley ismael's occupation because it offered protection from the desert Arabs who were roaming the African Sahara.
"The sultan ismael also seized this opportunity of establishing his authority at Timbuktu, and he met with little or no opposition for putting that place under contribution. Having sent fresh troops to occupy that Moorish garrison there, the inhabitants were glad to make a contribution, in exchange for protection and power which afforded them; for previous to this, they had been subject to continual depredations, from the Arabs of the adjacent country, to whom they had been compelled to pay tribute, as a security for their caravans, which were constantly passing the country of these Arabs, who were of the race of brabeesh. in the year 1727 a.c. when ismael died it is reported that he possessed an immense quantity of gold, of the purity of which, his gold coins, to be seen at this day at Timbuktu, bear testimony ; it is also said, that the massive bolts of his palace were of pure gold, as well as the utensils of his kitchens." pg 522
An account of Timbuctoo and Housa, territories in the interior of Africa, by ...
By ʻAbd al-Salâm Shabînî
Bernard de st. pierre in his play "Empsael and Zoraid" gives a dialogue between two black commanders under Muley Ismael which highlight their views about whites and interracial marriages. (Empsael the highest ranking general of Mulay Ismael was a black man and according to this play he is married to a white woman named Zoraid)
Hannibal- I am going to send a detachment of negro guards towards the town, and I am now making my circuit along the sea-side. these confounded whites give us a great deal of trouble.
Balabou- In what respect? Have you seen any European ship of war on the coast?
Hannibal- No. they are not bold enough to come; I complain only of our white slaves; this morning they sent us one belonging to the Spanish prize; he was forthwith put to labor of the works, and disappeared this afternoon. He is followed by a black, who they say is a slave, and never quits him; I have given notice of all this to our renegado Achmet.
Balabou- Nothing is so deceitful as these whites.
Hannibal- This one I am told is a gentleman; what is meant by a gentleman in Europe?
Balabou- Gentlemen in Europe are men of a cast who perform no labor, and who hardly trouble themselves with business of any kind.
Hannibal- at that rate I should think them on the high road to starvation.
Balabou- so far from it, it is they who have the chief wealth and the greatest places.
Hannibal- The other whites are then their slaves?
Balabou- Yes, they are made likewise for slavery; you know, my son, that the kinder we are to them, the greater the abuse they make of it.
Hannibal- It is Zoraid who is the cause of the disorders that take place among our slaves; every day she obtains for them some new favors from Empsael. I cannot conceive why our great general married a wife of that color; she must, I think, have gained him over by some magical charm. Our black women are prettier, better made, more discreet, more lively, and withal more submissive to their husbands than the white.
Balabou- We must not despise Zoraid because she is white: God has given a soul to her as well as to you and me.
Hannibal- I do not despise her on that account; that she is our general's wife is enough for me to respect her. At the same time i cannot help asking how he has had so little taste. We often see whites become enamored of black women; but very seldom a black enamored of white women.
Balabou- you are right, black is the natural color of man and woman, it is the sun that gives it, and it is never effaced. White on the other hand is a sickly color, which is kept up only in the shade; all the whites of europe have effeminate countenances.
pg 417-419 Harmonies of Nature, Volume 3 By Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
The Character of Muley Ismael (Mawlay Ismail)
"As to his person he is a Molatto,(Mulatto) of a dark complexion, and of a very lean and thin body, exceeding amorous, and as eminent for sports of Venus as for his martial exploits. He is now about 55 or 56 years of age, and yet as nimble and active as anyone in his dominions; and can leap or mount a horse with the greatest agility imaginable. but yet nature seems manifestly decayed, and he is forced to eat the greatest incentives to provoke his lust, and to enable him to continue his lewd and voluptous courses." pg 88-89
An Account of South-west Barbary: Containing what is Most Remarkable in the ...
By Simon Ockley
As late as 1860 blacks in morocco still held high positions.
"Indeed, the present emperor, Muley abd Errahman (Moulay Abd al-Rahman ibn Hisham), is of very dark complexion, though his features are not at all of the negro cast. But he has sons quite black, and with negro features, who, of course, are the children of Negresses. One of these, is governor of Rabat. In no country is the color of human skin so little thought of. There is no objection to the skin and features of the negro; it is only luxury of having slaves, or their usefulness for heavy work, which weighs in the scale against abolition." pg 95-96
Travels in Morocco, by the late James Richardson: Edited by his widow. In ... By James Richardson vol 1
Portraits of Moulay Abd al-Rahman ibn Hisham (His dark complexion without a doubt comes from his African ancestry)
"His Moorish majesty, who is advanced in life, is a man of middle stature. He has dark and expressive eyes, and, as already observed, is a mulatto of a fifth caste. Color excites no prejudice either in the sovereign or in the subject." pg 30 ibid vol 2
The Sultan Of Morocco And His Entourage paintings by Eugène Delacroix
This is the same sultan who ordered the president of the united states to release Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori of Timbo from slavery.
According to Dominique Busnot, Muley Ismael had 4 wives and 500 concubines of different races. (The majority of his wives and concubines were black)
"Car réduisantle nombre de ses principales femmes à quatre, elle ne donne aucun terme au nombre de ses concubines ou femmes moins principales, son Serail à present en renferme environ cinq cens de toutes Nations."
"Because reducing the number of his (Muley Ismael) main wives to four, it gives no term to the number of his concubines or less main women, his Seraglio at present contains about five hundred of them from all Nations." pg 50 Histoire du règne de Mouley Ismael roy by Dominique Busnot
"For his Women I think he knows not the number of them, he hath so many, both Whites, Blacks, Mollatoes, and Copper-colour'd; and for Apparel they have a piece of Silk of a Red or Yellow Colour, which they wear over their Heads. They wear Shifts or Smocks made of fine Linnen, big enough to make two Shifts, and fine Drawers that will reach down to their Heels, which are open or slit in the middle; and their upper Garment is fine Flannel, and a Silk Girdle about their middle: upon each of their Breasts they wear Silver or Gold Pins, with which they fasten their upper Garment; and upon the Wrists of their Hands they wear on each a Silver Shackle, and likewise upon the Small of their Legs; and on their Feet red Slippers. He hath store of Children of several Colours. He hath built within his Castle fine Dwellings for himself to live and lodge in; and for his Women he hath built very fine Houses, two Courts very sumptuous; in the bigger of them are seventy two Marble Pillars, each at least three foot thick, to support the fine painted Works above; in the middle of the greater Court is a Marble Cistern with curious Spring-Water, which springs or boils up in the middle thereof, and comes from a Fountain about two Miles from the Castle." A True History of the Distressed Condition of the Christian Captives under the Tyranny of Mully Ishmael Emperor of Morocco, and King of Fez and Macqueness in Barbary by francis brooks
It is estimated that Muley Ismael fathered 800 to 1000 sons and daughters which is the most children ever produced by a single man in recorded history.
Muley Ismael is said to have asked Marie Anne de Bourbon's (daughter of louis XIV) hand in marriage but was turned down.
(Old French writers liked to pretend that Muley Ismael fell in love with Marie anne de bourbon, but this is false because his intentions were strictly political)
Marie Anne de Conti refusing the marriage proposal on behalf of Moulay Ismaïl, King of Morocco
The Sallee sea rovers used to dominate a significant part of the Mediterranean. These so called pirates were responsible for a large part of the revenue of Muley ismael's Empire. The pirates supplied him with weapons, ships, clothing, precious metals, and European slaves.
"Sallee was a kind of republic, feudatory to Muley Ishmael, the people of which addicted themselves to trade and piracy. The Sallee rovers became formidable to the merchants of Europe, and their very name still preserves some impression of the fears they at that time inspired, but which now daily weaken. Muley Ishmael received ten per cent. on each prize from the corsairs of this regency, and also ten slaves from every hundred. The gallies that cruised in the straits wholly appertained to the emperor." The European Magazine, and London Review vol 14 pg 340
Salé cité corsaire
Admiral John Benbow warred with these Rovers early in his career and defeated them.
"In the Year 1686, captain Benbow, in his own vessel The Benbow Frigate, was attacked in his passage to Cadiz, by a sally rover, against whom he defended himself, though very unequal in number of men, with the utmost bravery, till at last the moors boarded him; but were quickly beat out of their ship again, with the loss of thirteen men, whose heads captain Benbow ordered to be cut off, and thrown into a tub of pork-pickle." Lives of the Admirals and Other Eminent British Seamen vol 4 pg 262
in the index it is pointed out that these thirteen moors were black.
"A humorous story of his cutting off thirteen blacks heads, and pickling them." Lives of the Admirals and Other Eminent British Seamen vol 4 index
Benbow in 1701, by Sir Godfrey Kneller.
Sallee Rover by Edmund Aubrey Hunt
It is an Irony that the same people who enslaved Africans would be themselves slaves in Africa. Many of the White Europeans who were enslaved by the Barbary sea rovers were slave traders or slave owners who were on their journey to the Caribbean plantations. Francis Brooks an English slave of Muley Ismael mentions a ship headed to Barbados being captured by the Sallee sea rovers. These very people who sought to be the overlords of Black people were themselves enslaved by Black people (Muley Ismael and his black soldiers)
"In the Year 1685, a Ship being bound from London to Barbadoes, in which were four Women, two of them being Mother and Daughter; one of those Heathenish Pirates meeting them, gave them Chase, and coming up to them, examined them strictly from whence they came, and whither bound? who told them as afore, From London to Barbadoes; (the Pirate was Venetia the younger, who had 300 Men, and 18 Guns) after the Commander had enquired the same of them, he understood what they were, they telling him, that they came from Algier; so they demanded of him to shew his Pass, and said he must hoist out his Boat; they seeing him not provided with Guns to defend himself, could make no Resistance, which being done, the Captain of the Pirate took them into his Cabin, and would shew himself kind to them, treating them, and giving them Dates. In the mean while the Lieutenant and Moors girded their Pistols and Cutlasses on their Wastes, and with the English-man's Boat went aboard his Ship, and took all that were aboard him, with the four Women. And the Captain asked who the young Woman was, and whether she was ever married? Account being given him concerning her, he ordered her to be put in the Cabin, lest any of his own barbarous Crew should offer to lie with her, and so sailed away for Sally. Being come there, the Captain of the Pirate brought them they had taken to Macqueness, and the Women were carried before the Eunuchs. The Captain giving an account to the chief Eunuch, that one of those Women was a Virgin; but for the Men, they were driven by the Negroes to hard Labour. And afterwards all the Christians of the Ship and the 4 Women were brought up to Macqueness; the Women were brought before the Emperor's Eunuchs, and an account given to the Chief of them by the Moors Captain, that one of them was a Virgin, and she was immediately sent to the Emperor's Women: and the Eunuch sent to the Vice-Roy, acquainting him how he had disposed of the Virgin, who ordered the other Women to be brought to his House, and ordered the Negroes to drive the poor Christians to hard Labour, who at Night were lock'd up amongst the other Christian Captives, having no Sustenance allowed them for that day; and what their poor Brethren offered them, they could not eat, being such Bread as I have already described, so bad, that the Beasts in that place refused to eat it: and what betwixt their Diet and Lodging on the cold ground, together with the Negroes hard Usage, many of them fell sick. And to add to their Extremity, were threatened and abused by the Negroes to turn Moors; but they daily prayed to God to strengthen them in their Afflictions, and in his great Mercy work some way for their Deliverance out of this dreadful Bondage." A True History of the Distressed Condition of the Christian Captives under the Tyranny of Mully Ishmael Emperor of Morocco, and King of Fez and Macqueness in Barbary by francis brooks
Some of the Blacks in Muley Ismael's army were themselves former slaves to the Europeans who when captured by the sea rovers joined Muley Ismael and the Black Moroccans. Thomas Pellow mentions a Black Man who was a former slave in Brazil.