Mohammed ben Abdallah

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Mohammed bin Abdallah
محمد بن عبد الله
Sultan of Morocco
PredecessorAbdallah bin Ismail
SuccessorYazid bin Mohammed
Fes, Morocco
Died9 April 1790 (aged 80)
Meknes, Morocco
WivesLalla Fatima bint Suleiman[1]
Lalla Dawiya
House'Alawi dynasty
FatherAbdallah bin Ismail
ReligionSunni Islam

Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah al-Khatib (Arabic: سيدي محمد بن عبد الله الخطيب), known as Mohammed III (Arabic: محمد الثالث), born in 1710 in Fes and died on 9 April 1790 in Meknes,[2] was the Sultan of Morocco from 1757 to 1790 as a member of the 'Alawi dynasty. He was the governor of Marrakesh around 1750. He was also briefly sultan in 1748. He rebuilt many cities after the earthquake of 1755, including Mogador, Casablanca, and Rabat, and Abdallah Laroui described him as "the architect of modern Morocco."[3][4] He also defeated the French in the Larache expedition in 1765[5] and expelled the Portuguese from Mazagan (al-Jadīda) in 1769. He is notable for having been the leader of one of the first nations to recognize American independence[6][7][8] in his alliance with Luis de Unzaga 'le Conciliateur' through correspondence and Unzaga's secret intelligence service and led by his brothers-in-law Antonio and Matías de Gálvez from the Canary Islands. He was the son of Mawlay Abdallah bin Ismail.


Mohammed bin Abdallah employed the French architect Théodore Cornut to build the model city of Essaouira.
Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship (Treaty of Marrakesh), 1786
Letter of George Washington to Mohammed bin Abdallah in appreciation of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed in Marrakech in 1787.

Early reign[edit]

Upon the accession of Sidi Mohammed, peace and stability were restored. Aware of the disastrous 'Abid al-Bukhari, he restored the significance of the Arab guich. He also pacified the Berber tribes of the mountains who attacked the plains during the succession crisis, while the power of the 'Abid declined as they abandoned their military positions. Mashra' al-Raml, the former town built for the 'Abid, was pillaged and placed in ruins by the neighbouring tribes.[9]

Restoration of authority[edit]

In 1760, Sidi Mohammed witnessed a revolt by the Wadaya against his authority, who had supported his father. Sidi Mohammed then marched with an army to Fes where he defeated the Wadaya contingents and arrested their leaders. After this, the Wadaya were split up and were garrisoned in Meknes instead.[10] Later in 1775, he tried to distance the 'Abid al-Bukhari from power by ordering their transfer from Meknes to Tangier in the north. The 'Abid resisted him and attempted to proclaim his son Yazid as sultan, but the latter soon changed his mind and was reconciled with his father. After, Sidi Mohammed dispersed the 'Abid contingents to garrisons in Tangier, Larache, Rabat, Marrakesh and the Sus, where they continued to cause trouble until 1782. These disturbances were compounded by drought and severe famine between 1776 and 1782 and an outbreak of plague between 1779 and 1780, which killed many Moroccans and forced the sultan to import wheat, reduce taxes, and distribute food and funds to locals and tribal leaders in order to alleviate the suffering. By now, however, the improved authority of the sultan allowed the central government to weather these difficulties and crises.[10] He was interested in scholarly pursuits and also cultivated a productive relationship with the ulama, or Muslim religious scholars, who supported some of his initiatives and reforms.[11]


The present city of al-Ṣawīra was developed by Sidi Mohammed in 1769, with an estimated population of about 12,000.[12] It was developed as the principal port for external trade to strengthen central authority to limit the intervention of Europeans.[13] Rabat was also built to become an imperial city during Sidi Mohammed's reign, who built a palace and a mosque there.

The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 which destroyed most of Casablanca led to the Portuguese evacuating it. Sidi Mohammed rebuilt the town and renamed it al-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ (الدار البيضاء). Abdallah Laroui described him as "the architect of modern Morocco".[3]

Conflicts with the Europeans[edit]

On 25 June 1765, a French fleet of 16 warships and several vessels arrived in front of Larache,[14] however due to heavy seas and conditions, the attack was delayed until the next day.[15] The next day, the French fleet bombarded Moroccan fortifications and batteries which could not retaliate. The bombardments continued throughout the next day, however by 28 June, several Moroccan vessels encircled the French fleet and inflicted heavy losses upon it, defeating the French expedition.[16] The Moroccans only had casualties of 30 men,[17] while the French had casualties of 200 killed, 49 captured,[18] and 300 lost.[19]

Coins of Sidi Mohammed bin Abdallah, 1760–67 (Hijra 1182–1189), minted in Essaouira.

In 1769, threatened by an invasion by Sidi Mohammed, the Portuguese governor of Mazagan received orders from Lisbon to immediately evacuate the city. The city was renamed al-Jadīda (الجديدة; "the new") soon after. The later sultan Abd al-Rahman (1822–1859) restored the city.[20]

On 9 December 1774, Sidi Mohammed assembled an army of 30,000 to 40,000 men and powerful artillery and began a bombardment of Melilla.[21] Spanish reinforcements disembarked in Melilla, and 117 new guns and mortars were installed.[22] Part of the civilian population of Melilla was escorted on 16 December by a French ship which brought reinforcements from Iberia.[23] With Britain's promise of subsidies, two Spanish squads blocked the Strait of Gibraltar to prevent any British support from aiding the Moroccan troops.[22] In 1775, a British convoy carrying war material on the way to Melilla was intercepted and captured by the Spanish Navy. At the same time, the troops of the Ottoman Empire began to encroach on Morocco's eastern borders.[21] Spanish troops resisted the attack over a period of 100 days, over which time some 12,000 projectiles were lobbed onto the city.[21] Sherlock began to break the siege, a situation exacerbated by the desertion of Sidi Mohammed's Algerine mercenaries. The siege ended on 19 March with the Spaniards suffering casualties of 600 killed or wounded.[21] With the Treaty of Aranjuez in 1780, Morocco recognised Spanish rule over Melilla, however Spain ceded territories to Morocco in return.[24]

Relations with the United States[edit]

On 20 December 1777, Morocco became the first nation to recognize the United States of America as an independent nation.[8] On the same day, the Dutch consol in Salé was instructed by the Sidi Mohammed to write letters on his behalf to the European merchants and consuls in Tangier, Salé, Larache, and al-Sawira, declaring that any vessel sailing under the American flag can freely enter Moroccan ports.[25]

Due to the continued delays of the American government in negotiating a treaty with Morocco, Sidi Mohammed issued an order to seize an American ship, and on 11 October 1784, the Moroccans captured the Philadelphia merchant ship Betsey after it left Cádiz on its way back to the United States.[25] The ship and crew was captured and taken hostage to Tangier. Shortly after, the sultan announced that he did not confiscate the ship nor cargo, and that the ship, the cargo, and the men would be released once a treaty was concluded with the United States. The seizure of the ship led to the Americans having to take action and preparing for negotiations with Morocco.[25]

The Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship, also known as the Treaty of Marrakesh, was signed on 28 June 1786. It was the first treaty signed between the United States and any Muslim, Arab, or African country.[25] It was signed first by American diplomat Thomas Barclay and the sultan, then by Jefferson and Adams, and was ratified by the Congress of the Confederation in July 1787.[26] The treaty has withstood transatlantic stresses and strains for more than 234 years, making it the longest unbroken treaty relationship in the history of the United States.[27]


Mohammed bin Abdallah died on 9 April 1790 in Meknes,[28] and was buried in the Dar al-Makhzen of Rabat. He was succeeded by his son Yazid, who besieged Ceuta from 1790 to 1791. Yazid eventually died in 1792 and was succeeded by his brother Sulayman.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lalla Fatima bint Sulaiman of Morocco BINT SULAYMAN". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2022-04-13.
  2. ^ Abitbol 2009.
  3. ^ a b LAROUI, ABDALLAH; Manheim, Ralph (1977). The History of the Maghrib: An Interpretive Essay. Princeton University Press. p. 276. JSTOR j.ctt13x12zg.
  4. ^ Blondeau, Mathilde; Ouzzani, Kenza Joundy (2016). Casablanca courts-circuits. ISBN 978-9954-37-750-5. OCLC 1135744090.
  5. ^ Maurville, Bidé de (1775). Relation de l'affaire de Larache (in French).
  6. ^ "History of the U.S. and Morocco". U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Morocco. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  7. ^ News, Morocco World (2012-03-20). "Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah's Diplomatic Initiatives towards the United States 1777-1786: Direct Reasons". Morocco World News. Retrieved 2020-04-18. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ a b Capitalizing on the Morocco-US Free Trade Agreement: A Road Map for Success. 2009. ISBN 9780881325812. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  9. ^ Gray 1975, p. 164.
  10. ^ a b Abun-Nasr 1987, p. 240.
  11. ^ Abun-Nasr 1987, p. 241.
  12. ^ The Anglo American. E.L. Garvin & Company. 1844. p. 521.
  13. ^ Gray 1975, p. 147.
  14. ^ Maurville 1775, p. xii.
  15. ^ Maurville 1775, p. xiii.
  16. ^ Maurville 1775, p. 7.
  17. ^ Maurville 1775, p. 25.
  18. ^ Monaque 2009, p. 89.
  19. ^ Lewis 1980, p. 43.
  20. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  21. ^ a b c d Rezette 1976, p. 42.
  22. ^ a b Domínguez 1993, p. 144–148.
  23. ^ Fernández 2017, p. 1.
  24. ^ "Siege of Melilla, 1774 (Morocco-Spain)". Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  25. ^ a b c d United States. Dept. of State. Office of Media Services; United States. Dept. of State. Office of Public Communication (1939). The Department of State bulletin. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. [Washington, D.C.?] : Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O. pp. 214–219.
  26. ^ Roberts, Thomas Barclay (1728–1793)..., pp. 195–223
  27. ^ Ogot, General History of Africa, pp. 231–232.
  28. ^ Abitbol 2009, p. 278.
  29. ^ Bennison, Amira K. (2007). "ʿAlawī dynasty". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition. Brill. ISBN 9789004150171.



Preceded by Sultan of Morocco
Succeeded by