The History of the Grand Zawiyah of Fez

Mawlana Sidi Ahmed Tidjani arrived in Fez on 6 Rabi’ Thani 1213H, and settled there. On his arrival he stayed in the house of his caliph Sidi Ali Harazim (R.A.A.). Latter, he moved to Dar-el-Miraya, in Zugag Er-Rawah district, on permission from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). On the doorway of this house he started to perform the Wazifa and Hailalah of Friday evening with his Companions. By time, it became so crowded. He consulted his grandfather, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), who instructed him to build a zawiyah by saying to him, “Choose it from this shiny town, in the best of places, and make it spacious, and abundant in water”. Accordingly, Sidi Ahmed Tidjani started to look for a place that satisfies these conditions. He found it in the Bilaidah district, which was known, then, as Ed-Dardass district. People used to hear as if a group of people performs dhikr (remembrance of Allah) in this place; the dervishes of Fez usually visited it. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) gave him permission to buy it and build the Zawiyah on it. Thus he (R.A.A) bought it purely from his own money.

Sidi Ahmed Tidjani started building the Zawiyah in the month of Rabi’ Awal 1214H. He finished construction in 1215H. The area built by Sid Ahmed Tidjani consisted of two sections: the first is the area where the holy tomb is, now, located, and it extended to the door of the soma’a; the second section is the area at the west of the first section and extended to the old gate. In addition, wells were built. Thus, the Zawiyah became abundant in water, as described by mawlana the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

Expansion of the grand zawiyah, refurbishment and decoration started in 1302H in different phases as follows:

1. In 1302H two sections were added: the section towards the Qibla, and the section that now consists of the mihrab (prayer niche). The inside of the mihrab and around it to the right and left were covered with ceramic; and on the top and inside of it was decorated with inscribed gypsum, in 1308H. the following verses were written inside the honorable mihrab:

“Visit this sacred tomb and pray at its mihrab”

“Thereat the deeds of doers, the more so, acceptable”

“And remember, therein, thy Lord, read His Book”

“And abide with what has been ordained by Him”

“And recite prayers upon the Prophet, and”

“Upon his noble family and his Companions”

“And make thy intermediary the one, whose nobility”

“Makes this tomb, excels over the rest”

“The Tidjani, Ahmed the Magnate of guidance”

“The ocean of generosity & kindness to his visitors”

“By his rank & prestige ask thy Lord, thee wilt be granted”

“For thou art at the gate of His grace & favor”

"And make thy everlasting retreat"

"Devotedly worshipping Allah in its mihrab"

2. In 1316H, another section to the west was added. Therein a watering area was built, and to the end, towards the left side, a second gate was opened. The watering area was decorated with ceramic and incised gypsum. And a number of verses of poetry were inscribed on the ceramic and gypsum. Incised arcs of wood, which added more grace and splendor, decorated the top of it. This watering area has now become part of the carpeted areas of the grand Zawiyah.

3. In 1322H, the wall, facing the sacred tomb, near the door of the minaret, has been decorated by colorful ceramic and gypsum inscribed by poetry verses.

4. In 1340H, an extension was added, to the right of the tomb at the side where the present mihrab is located, up to the current Zawiyah limit to the west, with a new yard that exists today. A third gate was added. Moreover a guesthouse was built on top of the ablution area.

5. In 1353H, the inside of the holy tomb was decorated with ceramic and gypsum, and writings on the walls and pillars. In addition, the old wooden windows were replaced with new iron windows.

6. In 1355H, water in the grand Zawiyah has been increased by digging three new wells. Water was supplied to the second watering area through two big hoses and an electric pump. The Tidjani disciples used to take the Zawiyah water for treatment and blessings, especially by visitors from far regions.

7. In 1370H and afterwards, a guesthouse consisting of two apartments were built. Then, another guesthouse on top of the new third gate was built on permission from the sheikh of the Zawiyah, then, Sidi Allal, the head of the Tidjani family in morocco. This guesthouse was made especially for the visitors from Ain Madhi. In addition, the walls and pillars of the grand Zawiyah were decorated with ceramic and gypsum, and inscriptions of some chapters of Quran, such as Yasin and El-fat'h. Thus, the grand zawiyah became renowned for its ornamented wooden ceilings, embellished walls & pillars, and its abundance in water.

8. In 1418H, a full and complete refurbishment commenced. All the roofs, ceilings and domes were renovated with wood, green tiles and bricks and yellow brass. Then, the renovation of the inside started by changing the gypsum works of all the walls and pillars with new pargets. The floor has been reinforced with concrete and covered with white marble. The nave (yard) has been decorated with carvings. Three watering areas were set and decorated with ceramic tiles.

This great effort is still ongoing; the work has not finished yet.

That is the outwardly description. Inwardly, however, the grand zawiyah comprises of lots of virtues, merits and attributes that are incomprehensible or fathomable except by Allah who bestowed all these favors thereupon.

Indeed the greatest attribute of the zawiyah is the presence of the Sheikh inside it.

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