Tawfiq, Ahmad at- (1943–)

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Tawfiq, Ahmad at-

A Moroccan historian and novelist, Ahmad at-Tawfiq (Tawfiq, al-Taoufik) held various positions before he was appointed Minister of Habous (Religious Endowments) and Religious Affairs in 2003. At-Tawfiq also directs the King Abd al-Aziz Al-Saoud Institute for Islamic Studies and Humanities in Casablanca. He taught history at Muhammad V University in Rabat from 1970 to 1989, and was director of the Center for African Studies at the same university. In 1995 he became director of the National Library. He has published four novels and a collection of historical essays.


At-Tawfiq was born at Mrabda, in the High Atlas mountains near the city of Marrakesh in 1943. In 1976 he earned a Ph.D. from the College of Literature and Humanities in Rabat in the social history of Moroccan rural societies in the nineteenth century. He publishes in the field of social history and works on the verification of manuscripts dealing with the literature of fatwas (religious rulings) and glorious deeds.

At-Tawfiq is the author of four novels written in Arabic. The first to be published, Jarat Abi Musa (1997) was made into a film in Morocco a few years later. It was published in English translation under the title Abu Musa's Women Neighbors in 2006. The Arabic version of the book received the Morocco Award in 1997. In 1998, at-Tawfiq published his second novel, al-Sayl (The Flood); Shujayrat Hinna' wa Qamar followed in the same year. It was translated into French as L'Arbre et la lune (The Tree and the Moon) in 2002. The latest novel to appear is Gharibat al-Husayn, in 2000.


With a bilingual education and an equal command of Arabic and French, at-Tawfiq is well prepared to contribute to his country's strong Franco-Arabic culture. His novels have benefited from his vast knowledge of his country's history, which gave him a profound understanding of the Moroccan society, especially the rural regions which are often neglected.

A reader of his novels is quite struck by the strength of the feminine characters he depicts. Women are a powerful presence in his works and it is clear that the author has a special affection and respect for them, a feeling that goes back to his childhood. He grew up in a household with a large number of women who cared for him and shaped his outlook. He has a special affection for his mother and he evokes her memory fondly. He is particularly touched by the capacity of mothers to love their children in a way that a father cannot achieve.

There is in at-Tawfiq's novels an underlying Sufi (Islamic mystical) trend that gives his fiction a certain halo of religiosity without it serving as a platform to promote religion. The cause that is clearly dear to his heart is the coexistence of the various ethnic groups in Morocco. Though he is deeply attached to his Berber roots, he sees the future happiness of his country depending on it being a place where the various ethnic groups, Berbers and Arabs, can interact peacefully.


Name: Ahmad at-Tawfiq (Tawfiq, al-Taoufik)

Birth: 1943, near Marrakesh, Morocco

Family: Married with children

Nationality: Moroccan

Education: Ph.D., history, College of Literature and Humanities in Rabat, 1976


  • 1970: Teaches at Muhammad V University, Rabat
  • 1995: Director, National Library
  • 1997: Publishes Jarat Abi Musa
  • 1998: Publishes al-Sayl and Shujayrat Hinna' wa Qamar
  • 2000: Appointed minister of Habous and Religious Affairs; publishes Gharibat al-Husayn

There is an aura of mystery and mysticism that surrounds his characters in three of his novels, Jarat Abi Musa, al-Sayl and Shujayrat Hinna' wa Qamar, leaving them in a poetic haze that strips them of materiality. They seem to oscillate between fiction and reality, their personalities being of an ephemeral nature. At-Tawfiq's most recent novel, Gharibat al-Husayn, took a totally different direction, though not perhaps a surprising one for a historian. It is concerned with the Moroccan national struggle for independence.


A late bloomer as a fiction writer, at-Tawfiq was already known as an academician and a respected researcher in his field. His renown led him to a visiting position at Princeton University, where he taught Islamic studies. His message of dialogue and coexistence in Morocco, a country where ethnic divisions between Berbers and Arabs have long torn society, cannot but earn him national and international respect and appreciation. Both his novels and his public speeches as Minister of Habous convey a positive message about the need for a stable and harmonious Morocco.

With his novels, at-Tawfiq has attracted the attention of readers in his own country and beyond. He is invited to international literary conferences, and two of his novels have been translated into Western languages. The production of a film based on Jarat Abi Musa reflects the prominent place he holds for Moroccan readers.


At-Tawfiq's greatest message is that of coexistence, dialogue, and appreciation of the diversity of society. His novels are platforms for ideas of reconciliation and an expression of his Sufi inclinations. The reception of his novels testifies to the deep respect and appreciation his readers have for his message.

Few Moroccan writers who write in Arabic have received the warm response he has encountered. Many Moroccan writers in Arabic complain of lack of publicity, even the absence of it, while Francophone novels benefit from the well-organized publicity machine of the French (government-sponsored) cultural centers and generous subventions that their counterparts do not receive. An extreme example is the novelist Ahmad Bou Zfur, who turned down a national fiction award in 2004, to protest the sad state of the Arabic novel in Morocco.

The respect and the consideration that at-Tawfiq has acquired through his academic career, and his services to his country, certainly work in his favor. They provide him with a visibility that other writers do not achieve on their own. However, the interest that readers have shown in his books is motivated by the positive message they provide. At-Tawfiq's choice of Arabic as a language of expression for his novels, despite his knowledge of French, is a significant statement for future generations of Moroccan writers.


The popularity of Muhammad Shukri (1935–) was first established as a result of a controversy raised by tahar ben jelloun, who first published the realistic novel al-Khubz al-Hafi in a French translation titled Le pain nu (1997), as a slap in the face of Arab publishers who turned it down because of its shocking content, including open references to sexual experiences and crude descriptions of poverty and depravity. This opened the way for Shukri's other publications to find publishers and readers in Morocco. The American writer Paul Bowles translated the novel into English as For Bread Alone (1973).


In his dream, the shepherd saw himself transformed into a woman with Lomy's breasts and his mother's eyelashes. He saw the mountain above his head split into two and let out a huge, naked man carrying a sword and threatening him. As the man hit a big rock with his sword, the shepherd saw springs of water open up and turn into a rapid moving flood that almost drowned him. He cried for help but no one came to his rescue. He woke up at this moment to discover that he was carried away by a real flood pushing him to the bottom of the valley and hitting him against trees and stones. He became quickly aware that this was reality not a dream … It all happened as he was deep asleep, as he never did before in the forest, but this is fate, it hits us when it wants and surprises us unaware. We only wake up when it is too late.



Kalby, Muhammed, Abdelkadir Khatibi, and Muhammed B. Touimi, eds. Ecrivains marocains du Protectorat à 1965. Paris: Sindbad, 1974.


Tashawauf (Tashawwuf) ila Rijal al-Tasawwuf (1984; Regard sur le Temps des Soufis [The Age of the Sufis], 1995).

Jarat Abi Musa (1997; Abu Musa's Women Neighbors, 2006).

Al-Sayl (The Flood, 1998).

Shujayrat Hinna' wa Qamar (1998; L'Arbre et la lune [The Tree and the Moon], 2002).

Gharibat al-Husayn (2000).

                                          Aida A. Bamia