History : Zaydana, Moulay Ismail’s manipulative wife

Behind every strong man is an even stronger woman, a saying that applies to Zaydana. Known as a black, tall and manipulative woman, Lalla Aisha Mubarka was the chief spouse of Moulay Ismail who managed to sow seeds of mistrust between the sultan and his favorite son.

Zaydana, Moulay Ismail’s manipulative wife./Ph. DR
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Love can indeed do miracles, and for Lalla Aisha Mubarka it was more than a miracle. Known as Zaydana, the woman was the chief spouse of the strongest sultan in the history of Morocco. Sold to Moulay Ismail as a concubine, Aisha Mubarka was notorious for her strength and influence. Throughout history, the Sultan’s wife who died in 1716 was mother to Moulay Zaydan who fought for survival in a harem full of women.

It all started for Zaydana when she was purchased and sold as a slave. In an account provided by a Dominican priest called Dominique Busnot who traveled to Meknes three times to redeem Christian captives, he described the Sultan’s wife as : «a black woman of an enormous height and size. She was a slave to Moulay ar-Rashid, from whom Moulay Ismail bought her for sixty ducats».

The Sultan's favorite wife

What was surprising about Zaydana’s story and relationship with Moulay Ismail is that she has been able to interfere in the political matters of the State and influence some of the Sultan’s decisions. This was confirmed by Busnot who added saying :

«No-one can conceive by what means she has endeared herself to the Sultan, that she has power over his mind, and often manages him as she pleases».

Zaydana’s reputation had invaded the whole Kingdom, as reported by the priest who insisted that some Moroccans attributed her influence on the Sultan to magic.

As a mother trying to secure her son’s right to succession, Lalla Aisha Mubarka, was reputed for sowing seeds of mistrust between the ruler and one of his dearest sons. And as her husband was father to an enormous amount of sons, Zaydana felt challenged and engaged in a vicious plot against one of the Sultan’s sons. According to the book «Black Morocco : A History of Slavery, Race and Islam» (2012), by Chouki El Hamel, Zaydana «was a powerful woman who held great influence with the Sultan. She was the mother of one of the sons whom she designated as Ismail’s successor, named Moulay Zaydan, the first of the Sultan’s sons».

Sowing seeds of mistrust between the Sultan and his son

In fact, the ambitious woman did everything she could in order to seize power in the palace. Based on the account provided by the same book, Zaydana plotted against Moulay al-Alim, son of Sultan Ismail and an Irish lady called Mrs. Shaw. «The Sultan appointed his son al-Alim governor of Marrakech for his natural leadership qualities. This visibility made him a strong potential future Sultan but caused envy in the Sultan’s intimate circle», said El Hamel.

Indeed, Zaydana was one of the first individuals to feel challenged by this appointment. With the help of her son, she successfully managed to convince the sovereign that his al-Alim was a traitor. This was confirmed by the aforementioned book, stating that Moulay al-Alim «was removed from his position as governor of Marrakech».

«As soon as he realized al-Alim’s innocence the Sultan appointed him governor of Taroudant, though three years later the Sultan once again dismissed him».

Having had enough of his father’s treatment, al-Alim eventually rebelled against and claimed the governorate of Marrakech. As a result, the Sultan tasked Zaydana’s son with defeating his brother and taking his position in 1706.

Zaydana’s influence did not stop there, as the Sultan captured his son and «ordered to amputate his opposite hand and leg in order to send a message that any disobedience would mean severe punishment or death, even for his favorite son». Al-Alim died later on due to his injuries.

Avenging her son Zaydan

Despite her vicious plots, Zaydana’s son was not as wise as she expected. According to the same account, «Moulay Zaydan, unlike his brother, was not fit to rule; he showed contemptuous behavior against his father and gave himself to drunkenness».

Moulay Zaydan ended up being killed by his father in a secret fashion in order not to anger his beloved wife.

«Moulay Ismail sent two beautiful young women as a present to his son and instructed then to kill him but he kept it as a secret from Zaydana in order to avoid her resentment».

However, the strong woman knew about her husband’s plan and avenged her son her way. Zaydana later passed away in 1716 and was buried in Moulay Mohammad al-Alim Mausoleum at Meknes leaving behind a Sultan who outlived her for a decade.

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