Moulay Idriss el Akhbar was a great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad: his grandparents were Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and Muhammad’s cousin Ali.
Idriss was heir to the caliphate in Damascus, but after the civil war and Umayyad victory that led to the Shia-Sunni divide, he fled to Morocco. Arriving in 787, Moulay Idriss founded Morocco’s first Arab dynasty.
He first came to power in Volubilis, the ancient Roman city that was then the main center of the north. He built his capital city on a nearby site that was more easily defended, which was later named Moulay Idriss after him. He also began construction on the city of Fez.
Word of Idriss’ success reached the Umayyads in the east, and in 792 they had him poisoned. But his efforts and his kingdom lived on. His conversion of Morocco’s mostly pagan Berber tribes to Islam and the support of many Arab Shiites loyal to the successors of the Prophet brought unity to the region.
After Moulay Idriss’ assassination, his servant Rashid took over as regent until 807, when his son Idriss II was old enough to assume the throne of the Idrissid Dynasty.
Today, the tomb of Moulay Idriss, which was rebuilt by Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), is still much revered. It is the object of constant pilgrimage and hosts an important summer mousseum (festival) in the second week of August. Moulay Idriss town is situated some 30 km north of Mecknes.
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