My people used to call me Moulay Elhassan or Sidi Hassan. “Moulay” means lord, and “Sidi” means master. I was given these names because my father is “Sharif”, which means in some people’s thinking “a descendant of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra.” My father originated from a small village called Wamast in the Atlas mountain in a region called Idnasen. People in that region were either Shorfa (nobles) called “Igwerramen” (in the Amazigh language) or non-shorfa (regular people) called “Iaamiyen”. The Shorfa in that region are the “descendants” of Sidi Ali Asbtayer who was a marabout or a Muslim religious leader and teacher. According to my father, Sidi Ali Asbtayer is a descendent of the Idrisids, a Shia Islamic Dynasty that ruled Morocco between the years 788 and 974. The Idrisid Dynasty was founded by Idris I the great grandchild of Hasan ibn Ali. Hasan ibn Ali’s spouse was Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Muhammad.
In my childhood, I was always bothered by people calling me “Moulay” or “Sidi”. Since a young age, I believed that people are born equal and that there was no reason for such division into “Shorfa” (nobles) and non-shorfa (regular people). Many people believed in our nobility. We get so much respect for that. Some people fear “Tagat” or our curse if they say or do something bad to us. People brought gifts and animals as a sacrifice asking for our benediction “baraka”. We received chicken, goats, eggs, sugar, flour, oil, kindles, and sometimes money from those who seek the Shorfa’s benediction. My father used to perform the first haircut for babies to bless them.
In the beginning of 1980s, my father wanted to change his family’s “Identity and Civil Status Booklet.” He was told he could no longer give his children the names of Moulay, Sidi, or Lalla because the government did not allow it anymore. I was happy for my name will no longer remain Moulay Elhassan. I found out later that those appellations were reserved for the Alaouites and their descendants in Morocco. The Alaouite dynasty was founded in 1631, and like the Idrisids, they also claim that they are “Shorfa” and descendants of the founder of Islam Muhammad ibn Abdullah.
Last year, 2018, I performed my DNA test through AncestryDNA. The test results showed the opposite of what my people believe about “Shorfa.” I’m 72% Northern African, 24% Portuguese, and 4% others. I’m not Arab and it’s not possible for me to be a descendant of Muhammad. I found out that my family members are not “shorfa” (nobles).
The objective of this article in not to discuss the historical origins of “shorfa” or how this ideology was used to govern and dominate people and resources. “Tasherfit” (noblesse) is a lie, at least in the case of my family and my ancesters. I predict that more Moroccans are going to test their DNA and find out that they are not “shorfa” and certainly not Arabs. The question now is, will the Alaouites be able to prove that they are “shorfa” by testing their DNA?
I’m also 24% Portuguese. We know that the Northern Africans invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD and ruled it for about 5 centuries. The Portuguese also invaded parts of Morocco starting from Ceuta in 1415 AD. They reached Marrakech, the region where I’m from, by 1514. This might provide an explanation for me having Portuguese ancestors.
New York, June 16, 2019.