Lalla's Love Tale

History is rarely forged in peace, and can be relatively violent at times, so for a change of pace, how about an epic love story from history. Such was the tale of Lalla, and the Sultan's son. 

Execution of a Moroccan Jewess, by Alfred Dehodencq

Execution of a Moroccan Jewess, by Alfred Dehodencq

Lalla Suleika came from humble beginnings, a Jewish girl from Morocco that is forever captured in African history. In the early 19th century she went to visit her parents in the town of Fez in Morocco, travelling from her home in Tangiers. While she was there she caught the eye of the Sultan's son Tahar, to which he immediately fell in love with her.

Once he informed the palace of his desire to marry Lalla, they sent officials to visit Lalla's parents to ask for her hand on marriage. Unfortunately Lalla's parents said they could not as Tahar was a Muslim and Lalla was Jewish. This was initially accepted but Tahar wouldn't give in, and within a short amount of time the Sultan decreed that all Jews in Morocco had to convert to Islam or face beheading. Most of the Jewish population agreed to convert rather face death.

Did I mention this was a love tale? Perhaps not.

Lalla was one Jew that refused the Sultan's wish to convert and she was swiftly beheaded. Her head was placed on top of the highest wall as a warning to all others that refused to convert. A prominent Jewish family in the region later purchased Lalla's head and gave it a proper burial.

Now this is a tale that differs from which side you hear it, the following is the Jewish account of the story which history now tells us is most likely the more accurate version of events.

In the Jewish account, Lalla was called Solica Hatchouel. One day after a heated argument with her mother, Solica fled her parents home and ran to her friends house, and after some time consoling her, her friend suggesting converting to Islam to be rid of her parents stranglehold.

When Solica refused the suggestion of her friend to abandon her Jewish faith, her friend falsely stated to the neighbourhood that she had converted to Solica to Islam.

Once the authorities heard of Solica's conversion and sudden recanting back to Judaism, the authorities came to arrest her but only found her mother and she was subsequently arrested. Once Solica heard of her mother's arrest, she surrendered herself to the authorities.

Solica was soon brought before a Sharia judge who accused her of converting to Islam and the converting back to Judaism, an act punishable by death, and ordered her to adopt her new Islamic faith. Solica remained resolute however and stated that she never converted, and would always accept her Jewish faith.

After languishing in prison for some time she continued to remain resolute in not converting to Islam, despite to the many attempts to lure her to do so, and she was transferred to Fez and brought before the Sultan.

The Sultan and his men went through many attempts at extracting the truth from Solica who still refused to convert, and even engaged the local Rabbi's to try and persuade her for the sake of the safety of all other Jew's in Morocco who could meet a disastrous fate if the Sultan didn’t get his way. Solica still refused and wanted to remain Jewish until the end.

The Sultan had no choice but to accept the position of the Muslim community in light of her commitment to not convert, despite the Sultan and the Sharia court pleading with her to save her life. She was however prepared to die for her religion, and her execution was ordered.

Following her death, her head was placed above the wall as a warning to other Jewish women, her head was purchased back by the Jewish community for a proper burial.

Whichever version is to be true, and whatever the story may be, Lalla or Solica, or by whichever name you wish to remember her by, will forever by remembered in Moroccan history. Today, the Jewish and Muslim community's both pay tribute at Solica's grave.