Female Saints in Morocco: The virgin dove of Marrakech Zahra Kouch

Her name is Zahra daughter of the martyr Abdellah Kouch, the descendant of the old and prestigious family of ‘’Kouch’’ known as a family of devoted religious and courageous warriors. She was born in Marrakech during the reign of ‘’Saadiyine’’ dynasty: the late XVI century and early XVII century. Her family owned a house near Kutubiya mosque (booksellers mosque), it was an abode of science and religion, they were all Sufis, her father taught her all she needed to know about the Islamic religion and her mother-daughter of a well-known family from Fes- raised her and was responsible of the biggest part of her education till she became a maiden, a devoted maiden to God. She was used to gathering women to discuss religion and also talk about ‘’Jihad’’, the religious war that was against the Portuguese on the coasts. Her reputation went to Sultan Zaidan Ibn Mansour, he wanted to marry her and add her to his Harem but she simply refused. She refused the Sultan himself in a time that women weren’t allowed to say no to any groom. It didn’t go well naturally; she was taken from her house to the prison where she saw different kinds of pain and suffering, even her family lived in misery but she didn’t surrender and had faith in her God who freed her after a while. Some sources said that the sultan freed her after he came to terms with the fact that she wouldn't accept and preferred misery to his demand. When she was set free, people saw in her a devoted maiden to God, a virgin Saint. Some went far and started creating myths around her struggle, the most known one is that God transformed her into a dove when the Sultan was about to marry her. The legend continues and says that since then Zahra spent her last days worshiping God and writing Sufis poems in her room till she died but her soul stayed as a white dove who spreads peace, every night, in all the Red city of Marrakech, then she returns to her tomb, the white Kubbah near the Kutubiya mosque, where doves spend the day. Zahra is a symbol of an independent woman who chose God and was free and strong enough to say no.

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