BECK index

North Africa to 1700

by Sanderson Beck

North Africa to 900
North Africa 900-1300
Egypt 1300-1700
Tunisia and Algeria 1300-1700
Morocco 1300-1700
Ibn Khaldun on History

North Africa to 900

Ancient Egypt

Western North Africa was colonized by Phoenicians from Tyre about the 8th century BC, and Carthage was said to have been founded in 814 BC by the Tunis Lake. Carthage was infamous for practicing human sacrifices called molk (Moloch in the Bible). Gradually more families were allowed to purchase from the priests the right to substitute animals for children. Carthage was also resented for exacting excessive tribute on conquered peoples. In the 6th century BC religious reforms purified the culture somewhat and transformed the autocratic monarchy to an aristocratic oligarchy. Using African mercenaries, the Carthaginians invaded more of North Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia; but they made a treaty with Rome in 508 BC. Carthage tried to intervene in Sicily with 300,000 men in 480 BC; when Hamilcar learned of their defeat, he sacrificed many of his men and himself. Carthaginians fought the Numidians. Hannibal died in a pestilence while besieging Acragas on Sicily in 406 BC, and a second Himilco eventually abandoned Syracuse in 396 BC because of an epidemic that killed 10,000 Carthaginian soldiers. Himilco returned to Carthage, did public penance, and then starved himself to death. Syracuse defeated Carthage again in 379 BC; but the next year Syracuse had to pay Carthage a thousand talents, and western Sicily remained under Punic control. Carthage made another treaty with Rome in 338 BC. Carthage fought three Punic Wars against Rome, 264-241 BC, 218-201 BC, and 149-146 BC, ending in the destruction of Carthage and Roman hegemony.

For nearly eight centuries North Africa was dominated by the Roman empire, and from the second to the sixth centuries it became a Christian culture. Use of camels began about the first century CE and made crossing the Sahara practical as North Africans traded salt and other goods to the Sudan for gold and slaves.

More information on North Africa can be found in Volume 4 Greece and Rome to 30 BC and in Volume 5 Roman Empire 30 BC to 610.

In 610 CE African exarch Heraclius challenged the tyrannical Emperor Phocas and negotiated with the Senate. His son Heraclius organized forces in Alexandria and the Pentapolis; he sailed to Constantinople and had Phocas put to death. The Byzantine empire had become so weak by then that young Heraclius considered moving the capital to Carthage; but Patriarch Sergius and the people of Constantinople changed his mind. By 619 the Persians had conquered Egypt. Heraclius organized the eastern provinces into military themes and began requiring men to serve in the army as at Carthage. In 622 Heraclius led his army in a campaign to the east and drove the Persians out of Asia Minor and Armenia. Visigoth King Suinthila conquered Spain about 624. Although Constantinople was attacked by Persians and Avars in 626, the Byzantine navy held the capital. The next year Heraclius defeated the Persian army near Nineveh, and Khusrau II was deposed in 628 by his son, who agreed to give up Syria, Palestine, and Egypt to Heraclius.

‘Amr led the Muslim invasion of Egypt in 640, besieging Misrah (Memphis) for seven months. Egyptian Governor Muqawqis disagreed with the Greek orthodox theology anyway and agreed to pay two gold pieces for every man, not counting old men and monks. Alexandria was besieged for fourteen months and succumbed in 642; but leaving it without an adequate garrison, the Muslims had to conquer the metropolis again in 645. The city was said to contain 4,000 palaces, 4,000 baths, 400 theaters, 12,000 vegetable gardeners, and 40,000 tributary Jews. The Muslim warriors were prevented from pillaging and wasting the wealth so that it could be used to pay for the expenses of the war. The annual taxes imposed were estimated at 12,000,000 dirhams. The grain of Egypt was sent by caravan to Arabia to alleviate the famine. John the Grammarian asked for the valuable books in the library. ‘Amr sent his request to Caliph ‘Umar, who reasoned that the Qur’an is sufficient because those books agreeing with it are useless and those disagreeing are pernicious; thus they should be destroyed. The precious manuscripts supplied the fuel to heat the city’s baths for the next six months. Since no contemporary account of the library being destroyed at this time exists, this story may have been fabricated by the Baghdad historian Abdul Latif several centuries later.

In 647 ‘Abd-Allah ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Sarh led an army of 40,000 west of Egypt across North Africa. Tripoli’s prefect Gregory rejected the usual options of converting to Islam or paying tribute, choosing to fight. After a few days Gregory offered his daughter’s hand in marriage and 100,000 gold coins to anyone who killed the Muslim commander. Ibn Abi Sarh withdrew from the combat but was reprimanded upon the arrival of Zubayr, who suggested they offer the same daughter to anyone who killed Gregory. Zubayr himself killed Gregory but gave up his daughter for the right to tell his story of conquest in the mosque at Medina.

During Ali’s caliphate Mu‘awiya sent an army to take control of Egypt and made ‘Amr ibn al-‘As Governor again. ‘Amr’s nephew ‘Uqba ibn Nafi‘ explored opening a trade route to Lake Chad and invaded the Berbers of Tunisia with an Arab army in 670, founding Qairawan. Abul-Mujahir Dinar replaced ‘Uqba in 674 and came to an accommodation with the Berber King Kusayla. A year after ‘Uqba was reinstated in 681, he took Abul-Mujahir and Kusayla as captives on his campaign west that reached the Atlantic Ocean. After Kusayla escaped from his camp, ‘Uqba was attacked and killed near Biskra. ‘Uqba’s deputy Zuhayr ibn Qays abandoned Qairawan, which became Kusayla’s Berber capital. Zuhayr ibn Qays returned with an Arab army, defeating and killing Kusayla; but by 689 Zuhayr had been killed by Byzantine forces reoccupying Cyrenaica.

Caliph ‘Abd-al-Malik’s brother ‘Abd al-Aziz governed Egypt from 685 to 704. After their garrison at Qairawan was massacred by Berbers, he sent Hassan ibn al-Nu‘man in 693, and in seven years his forces reconquered Qairawan and, aided by the Muslim navy, captured and destroyed Carthage, founding Tunis. Berber Queen al-Kahina in Algeria fought the Arabs but was defeated and killed in 697. When Hassan went to Damascus and was made Governor of Barca, ‘Abd al-Aziz replaced him with Musa ibn Nusayr. Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik objected; but Musa sent so much expropriated treasure to him that he changed his mind and made Musa Governor of Africa. Musa founded dock-yards and by 703 had built up the Muslim fleet at Tunis. He campaigned for three years in Morocco and conquered Tangier by 709.

The conquering Arabs imposed both the poll tax (jizya) and the land tax (kharaj) on the resisting Berbers, and often “human tribute” in slaves was demanded as well. Even those converting to Islam were considered inferior to Arabs as clients (mawali). During the enlightened caliphate of ‘Umar (717-20) enslaving Berbers was outlawed; but the new emir Yazid ibn Abi Muslim in 720 reversed this and even had his name tattooed on slaves’ arms, causing angry Berber warriors to kill him. Widespread Berber rebellion began in 739 during the emirate of ‘Ubayd Allah ibn al-Habbab (r. 734-41) after he and his son conducted slave raids in Morocco. The rebels were joined by Sufrite Kharijites, who were challenging Umayyad rule. They occupied Tangier, and led by the Zanata Berber Khalid ibn Hamid, they defeated an Arab army in 741 in the “Battle of the Nobles.” Kharijite rebels marched on Qairawan but were defeated twice by an army sent from Egypt. A Fihrid descendant of ‘Uqba named ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Habib returned from Spain in 745 to Tunisia and took power away from Hanzala ibn Safwan, who fled in 747.

In the west Spain fell quickly into the hands of Muslim invaders. In 709 Roderick usurped the Spanish crown. According to legend repeated by Arabic and Spanish historians, Roderick raped Florinda, the virgin daughter of Count Julian, who ruled Ceuta across the strait on the northwest tip of Africa. For revenge Julian betrayed his religion and country by assisting the Muslim General Jebel Tariq, who sent 500 Berbers the next year. In 711 Jebel Tariq landed with 7,000 men across the Straits of Gibraltar named after him. The Muslims conquered Andalusia, taking Malaga, Granada, and Cordoba. Toledo was betrayed by Jews, who had been unfairly treated by the Christians, and Tariq’s forces defeated Roderick’s army in July. African Governor Musa ibn Nusayr became jealous and crossed over with an army of 10,000 Arabs the following year and conquered Medina Sidonia, Seville, and Merida. By the end of 713 all of Spain was controlled by the Muslims as the Gothic rulers fled across the Pyrenees to their provinces in Gaul. The Caliph accused Musa of exceeding orders, just as Musa had reprimanded Tariq. Musa was summoned to Damascus and brought with him tremendous spoils, including 18,000 of the finest men and women captured.

During Sulayman’s reign (715-17) Muslims crossed the Pyrenees and settled in the Garonne valley of southern France. There a Frank army led by Charles Martel defeated the invading Muslims, killing Spain’s Governor Abdul Rahman in 732. The Arabs continued to attack French cities, seizing Avignon two years later and looting Lyons in 743; but the tide had turned, and the Franks gradually pushed most of the Muslims back across the Pyrenees into Spain. In 746 the Fihrid Yusuf ibn Abdul-Rahman ruled Spain independently of the caliphs until he was replaced by the fugitive Umayyad prince ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Marwan in 756.

In Tunisia the militaristic Fihrids were led by ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Habib, who raided Sicily and Sardinia in 752. He was assassinated in 755 for refusing to submit to the new ‘Abbasid Caliph. The Warfajuma tribe of Berbers united with Sufrite leaders and defeated the Fihrids, taking over Qairawan and killing Habib ibn ‘Abdul-Rahman. By then the Ibadites had gained control in Tripolitania following the instructions of Abu ‘Ubayda from Basra. He sent as imam Abul-Khattab, who led the Ibadite tribes and drove the Sufrites from Qairawan in 758. However, three years later Ibn al-Ash‘ath led an ‘Abassid army that invaded Tunisia, overcoming the Ibadites and killing Abul-Khattab. The Arab military caste (jund) continued to resist and forced Ibn al-Ash‘ath to leave in 765. His successor al-Aghlab ibn Salim was campaigning in Algeria against Sufrites led by the Banu Ifran chief Abu Qurra, who governed in Tlemcen (Tilimsan), when the jund in Qairawan revolted and killed Salim in 768. For the next quarter century the Muhallab family governed in relative peace. However, the Kharijite revolt against the ‘Abbasids in Tripolitania failed when their leader al-Malzuzi was killed in 772.

After 776 the Banu Ifran supported Abdul-Rahman ibn Rustam, whom the Ibadite tribes declared their imam. He established the Rustamid capital at Tahart. Idris ibn ‘Abdulla, great grandson of Imam Husan, founded in 788 the independent Idrisid dynasty in Morocco and conquered Sufrite Tlemcen in 790; but he was murdered the next year by an assassin sent by Caliph Harun al-Rashid. His posthumous son Idris II was born three months later. The Aghlabid rebellion began at Tunis in 797 and then occupied Qairawan. In 800 Harun allowed Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab to usurp power, founding the Aghlabid dynasty that controlled the region between Morocco and Egypt. Idris II (r. 803-28) struggled against the influence of the Awraba tribes and the Aghlabids and established his capital at Fez in 809. For a century the Aghlabids recognized the ‘Abassid caliphs but were autonomous. The Ibadite imam ‘Abdul-Wahhab led an attack on Tripoli in 812, as Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab died and was succeeded by his son ‘Abdullah.

Malikites, following the ideas of Malik ibn Anas of Medina, condemned the new taxes imposed by Ibrahim I (r. 812-17), and the Arab military class (jund) rebelled during the reign of Ziyadat Allah I (r. 817-37), gaining Tunis and occupying Qairawan in 824; but three years later the Ibadite Berbers helped the Aghlabids defeat the rebels and regain power. The Malikite Sahnun was persecuted by the emir Abu Ibrahim Ahmad (r. 841-56) for rejecting Mu‘tazilite dogma. Fez flourished under the Idrisids and became a religious center during the reign (849-63) of Yahya ibn ‘Umar.

During their century of rule the Aghlabids raided the coasts of France, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily, which they conquered in 831. Many slaves were imported from the Sudan. During this century the North Africans converted to Islam, and Catholic culture practically disappeared there. Ibrahim II (r. 875-902) governed Qairawan during the extravagant reign (864-75) of Muhammad II and succeeded him. Ibrahim II tried to help the poor by treating the rich despotically. He had the qadi Ibn Talib tortured to death in 889, and five years later he ordered the massacre of the jund leaders at the Balazma castle. His tyranny was opposed by Isma‘ilis, and he abdicated in 902; but his successor ‘Abdullah II was assassinated a year later. His son Ziyadat Allah III also ordered his own brother murdered to secure his power; but his forces suffered a series of defeats by the conquering Fatimids, who took over in 909.

North Africa 900-1300

Descendants of the prophet’s daughter Fatima and ‘Ali gained Berber support after the Shi‘i Abu ‘Abdullah met the Kutamas at Mecca in 892. Ten years later Abu ‘Abdullah made Tazrut the capital of his Isma‘ili state in Kutama territory. The Fatimids conquered the Aghlabids, taking Qairawan in 909 with ‘Ubaydalla proclaiming himself the expected mahdi and the living imam. Two years later ‘Ubaydalla had Abu ‘Abdullah and his brother assassinated, and by 913 they had taken over Sicily and quelled an ‘Abassid rebellion. In 915 he began building a fortified capital at Mahdiyya in eastern Tunisia. The Kutama Berbers became the paid militia, and slaves from Africa and Europe were recruited for the army. He tried to force the Malikites to accept Shi‘i doctrines as the Malikites remained critical and tried to uphold the rights of the poor. Fatimid attacks against Egypt in 914 and again 919-21 failed to capture more than Cyrenaica, though they conquered Nukur in Morocco in 917. That year the Miknasa tribe led by Masala ibn Habus besieged Fez and forced the Idrisid ruler Yahya ibn Idris to accept the Fatimid mahdi, deposing him in 921.

The Fatimids imposed heavy taxes, not to live in luxury like the Aghlabids, but for their wars of conquest against Egypt and Morocco. They also corrupted government by selling offices. ‘Ubaydalla was succeeded by his son al Qa’im (r. 934-46), who persecuted the Sunnis even more than his father had. Their Shi‘i intolerance toward the orthodox Malikites provoked a revolution led by the Kharijite Berber Abu Yazid, who took over most of Ifriqiya from 944 until he was defeated by al Qa’im’s son Isma‘il al-Mansur three years later. In 951 the Fatimids persuaded the Qarmatians to return the black stone to the Ka‘ba, and they subdued the tribes in Morocco by 958. In Egypt the rich merchant Ahmad ibn Nasr spread Fatimid propaganda. After Egypt’s Governor Kafur died in 968, the Fatimid General, the ex-slave Jawhar, led an army of 100,000 with Berber cavalry but used diplomacy to take over Egypt, which he governed for four years until the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu‘izz (r. 953-75) arrived. Jawhar built the new capital al-Qahira (Cairo), named after the planet Mars to propitiate its feared malevolent influence. In 973 Umayyads from Spain led by General Ghalib invaded Morocco and won over the Banu Gannum. In 974 the Qarmatians invaded Egypt; but they were defeated, and 1,500 prisoners were executed at Cairo.

Al-Mu‘izz was succeeded by his son Nizar called al-‘Aziz, who sent his large army to defeat Alptakin and the Qarmatians in southern Palestine in 978. His Vizier Ibn Killis arranged for Alptakin and his Turks to serve the Fatimids. Led by the Turk General Baltakin, the Fatimid army eventually took Damascus, allowing its citizen Governor Qassam to continue his administration under their Berber Governor. As the Hamdanid state of Aleppo declined, Syrians began supporting the Fatimids, and the Caliph al-‘Aziz appointed Bakjur Governor. An inadequate Nile flood caused a famine and riots in Egypt, and the cruel Bakjur was removed in 989. Al-‘Aziz was planning to invade the Byzantines when he died in 996.

Al-Hakim became the next Fatimid Caliph, and in 999 a ten-year truce was negotiated by the Jerusalem patriarch with the Byzantine Emperor. Al-Hakim was only 15 when he had his guardian and tutor Barjuwan murdered so that he could rule himself. This erratic Caliph had many of his senior officials put to death, and Christians and Jews were persecuted. He banned alcohol along with watercress and fish without scales, playing chess and killing dogs. At first Christian crosses were banned, and then Christians were required to wear large crosses. He founded the school Dar al-‘lim but later had many of the teachers he appointed murdered. His random brutality culminated in the burning of Fustat. Despite his misrule, a Sunni invasion in 1006 was not supported by the local Sunnis and was defeated. He offended Christians by destroying the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem in 1010. The Firids governed Tunisia and eastern Algeria for the Fatimids, but Sunnis resisted and killed about 20,000 Shi‘ias in the riots of 1016 that started in Qairawan. Al-Hakim was ordered killed by his sister Sitt al-Mulk in 1021; but his body was never found, and the Druze sect believes he will come again at the end of the world.

While al-Zahir was Caliph (r. 1021-36), Sitt al-Mulk effectively ruled Egypt until she died in 1024. For eighteen years after 1027 the Vizier Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Jarjar’i governed a fairly peaceful empire even though his hands had been cut off by al-Hakim. Berbers defeated the Turks in civil strife at Cairo in 1029. The same year al-Jarjar’i sent a force led by Anushtakin to defeat a Bedouin uprising at a battle near the Sea of Galilee. Anushtakin then governed Syria; he captured Aleppo in 1038 and died in 1041. Al-Zahir’s son al-Mustansir (r. 1036-94) became the next Fatimid Caliph and sent missionaries to Iran and Transoxiana. The Fatimids countered the rebellion in the Zirid west by sending about 50,000 warriors of the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym tribes to invade the Maghrib (northwest Africa) in 1050. Historian Ibn Khaldun blamed the economic decline in Ifriqiya on these nomadic invasions. Gold from Nubia added greatly to the Fatimids’ wealth, helping trade to flourish. The Fatimid empire reached its greatest expansion when the Turk General Arslan al-Basasiri defected at Mosul in 1057 and even took Baghdad for a year; but the Seljuqs drove him out of Baghdad in 1059.

When the Nile flood was low, famines occurred in Egypt during the years 1023-25 and 1054-55. The Caliph appealed to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachus for food then and from 1065 to 1072. Turks led by Atsiz seized Jerusalem and most of Palestine in 1071 and five years later defeated the Fatimids’ Berber garrison at Damascus. Civil war in Egypt broke out between the Turks and the Sudanese soldiers, and in 1073 the Caliph appealed to Acre’s Governor Badr al-Jamali, who took power the next year by executing Turkish generals and Egyptian officials in Cairo. Badr died in 1094 and was succeeded as army commander by his son al-Afdal, who chose the next Caliph, al-Musta‘li. The Isma’ilis supported the previous Caliph’s elder son an-Nizar and were called Assassins (literally “hashish-users”) by their adversaries for murdering their political enemies.

In 1036 Guddala chief Yahya ibn Ibrahim went on pilgrimage to Mecca; learning more about Islam from jurist Abu ‘Imran al-Fasi in Qairawan, he asked for a teacher to be sent. The controversial Malikite scholar ‘Abdulla ibn Yasin brought Sunni doctrine to the Sanhaja in Guddala, had dogs killed so that they would not be eaten anymore, abolished illegal taxes, and distributed booty according to Islamic law. Ibn Yasin lived an ascetic life and taught repentance and purification, but his extremism led to his being expelled from Guddala. Ibn Yasin’s retreat from a resisting society was compared to the hijra of Muhammad. He gathered followers inspired by his teachings and united the larger Guddala and Lamtuna tribes with other Sanhaja tribes of the Sahara through holy war (jihad) in the Almoravid movement. Ibn Yasin appointed Lamtuna chief Yahya ibn ‘Umar military commander and even flogged him for an unstated sin. Ibn ‘Umar led the Almoravid attack that conquered Sijilmasa in 1053 and Awdaghust the next year.

When the Zanata rebelled in Sijilmasa, Ibn Yasin drove the Maghrawa from southern Morocco. In 1056 the first Sudanese kingdom to convert to Islam, Takrur, aided the Almoravids against the Guddala, who had withdrawn from the movement. Yahya ibn ‘Umar was killed, and according to al-Bakri the Almoravids made no more attempts against the Guddala. His brother Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar became Lamtuna chief and invaded the Barghawata because of their heretical beliefs. Abu Bakr married Zaynab in 1060; but when she refused to go into the desert with him, he divorced her and told her to marry his cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin, who took over the Almoravid forces in Morocco in 1061. He fought the Zanata in northern Morocco and took Fez in 1069, massacring many. The next year the Almoravids started building their capital at Marrakesh. Ibn Tashfin established an executive council of legal consultants (fuqaha). He acquired Ceuta by 1083, and in 1086 Ibn Tashfin sent an army to help the Muslims in Spain.

Almoravid Yusuf ibn Tashfin began the conquest of the western Maghrib (Morocco and part of Algeria) in 1061, and by the time he died in 1106 they had also taken over Muslim Spain except for Zaragoza, which the Almoravids gained in 1110. He was succeeded by his son ‘Ali (r. 1106-43), who led campaigns in Spain; but after 1110 the Christians began winning back territory. Like his father, ‘Ali was guided by Malikite counselors who followed their scholastic theology rather than the Qur’an and traditions. After philosopher al-Ghazali criticized their narrow dogmatism, ‘Ali ibn Yusuf ordered al-Ghazali’s books burned, and he threatened anyone keeping this writing with death. Sufism spread even though they were persecuted by the Malikites. Ibn Tumart was said to have met al-Ghazali in Baghdad, and he became an effective religious preacher. By 1121 he was criticizing the use of musical instruments and pleasures in Marrakesh. After Ibn Tumart threw ‘Ali ibn Yusuf’s sister off her horse, he was banished and fled to the mountains.

Ibn Tumart was proclaimed the prophesied mahdi and infallible imam by his followers in 1122. Thus he founded the Almohad movement among mountain people based on the oneness of God and emphasizing the Qur’an, traditions, and the consensus of the prophet’s companions. He consulted two councils—his ten original supporters and another of fifty. He made attending spiritual activities compulsory, and on a “day of sorting” he purged unbelievers from the tribe by executing them. In 1128 an Almoravid attack against the Almohad fortress at Tinmel failed, and then the Almohads besieged Marrakesh. About that time Ibn Tumart died; but ‘Abdul-Mumin kept it secret for over two years while he purged his community and led them to victory before taking the title Caliph (Successor) of Ibn Tumart. He ruled for 33 years, gradually overcoming the Almoravids and uniting the Maghrib under the Almohads. Tashfin ibn ‘Ali succeeded his father in 1143, but he died fighting the Almohads near Oran two years later. The next year the Almohads took Fez after nine months’ siege, and in 1147 Marrakesh fell after a siege of eleven months. By 1148 the Almohads had taken over Andalusian Spain also from the Almoravids.

Meanwhile Norman King Roger II from Sicily had invaded and taken Djerba in 1134, and by 1148 the Normans had control of Tripoli and Mahdiyya. After the Genoese attacked the declining Hammadid kingdom at Bougie, the Almohads took over that city in 1152 as Hammadid King Yahya ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz (r. 1122-52) fled. They defeated Tunisians the next year, and in 1154 Almohad Caliph ‘Abdul-Mumin appointed his sons governors with a shayk to advise each. In 1159 he led a strong army east and with a naval blockade forced Mahdiyya to surrender in January 1160, making the Normans leave Africa. ‘Abdul-Mumin removed rebellious tribes to the western Maghrib, where they caused more trouble. The Almohads began a geographic survey in 1159 to exclude one-third of the land as deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes, and roads so that they could tax the rest. Those who did not accept Almohad doctrine could have their property confiscated. Makhzan (governing) tribes were exempt from the land tax (kharaj) and enforced payment on the settlers and owned slaves. The Muminid family also took much more of the revenue. These inequities eventually led to the decline and fall of the Almohads.

After ‘Abdul-Mumin died in 1163, his son Muhammad was replaced after 45 days by his brother Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf, who was chosen as more capable. He liked to converse with the philosopher Ibn Tufayl, who urged Ibn Rushd (Averroes) to write commentaries on Aristotle. Abu Ya‘qub suppressed rebellions by the Ghomara and Sanhaja by 1167 and fought the Christians on the Iberian peninsula until he was killed by the Portuguese during the siege of Santarem in 1184. That year the Almoravid ‘Ali ibn Ghaniya, who had been ruling in the Balearic Islands, invaded and took over Bougie with 4,000 masked warriors. They were joined by other tribes opposing the Almohads. They captured Mahdiyya and made Gabés their capital. The Almohad Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub (1184-99) rejected the belief that Ibn Tumart was infallible and urged the scholars to go back to the Qur’an and the traditions of Muhammad. Sufism spread during this era. Ya‘qub used 20,000 cavalry to win back Tunis in 1188 from ‘Ali ibn Ghaniya, who died that year; but his brother Yahya ibn Ghaniya took his place, and by 1203 they had conquered Qairawan and Tunis.

Almohad Caliph al-Nasir (r. 1199-1214) led an invasion of the Balearic Islands and then was able to defeat the Banu Ghaniya in Tunisia by 1206. The next year he appointed ‘Abdul-Wahid, son of Tumart’s companion Abu Muhammad Hafs ‘Umar, as viceroy of Ifriqiya, starting the Hafsid dynasty. In 1209 the nomadic Almoravids suffered a devastating defeat at Djebel Nefousa, and a large Christian army defeated the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Almohad Caliph al-Mustansir (r. 1214-24) was preoccupied with his own pleasures. Abu Muhammad died in 1221, but Yahya ibn Ghaniya survived and turned to raiding in his last ten years before dying in 1237.

Rivalries between shaykhs weakened the Almohad kingdom, and caliphs were assassinated in 1224 and 1227. During civil war Castilians intervened, helping Caliph al-Mamun to enter Marrakesh in 1228. He appointed the Hafsid Abu Zakariya (r. 1229-49) viceroy of Ifriqiya. Yahya ibn Ghaniya captured Marrakesh, and Caliph al-Mamun died on his way back there in 1232. His young son al-Rashid (r. 1232-42) had a rival assassinated to regain the capital. The Hafsids in Ifriqiya broke free of the Almohads, and Abu Zakariya signed trade agreements with Venice in 1231, Pisa in 1234, and Genoa in 1236. He established his capital at Tunis, which developed a thriving urban culture. Abu Zakariya compelled Tlemcen, Sijilmasa, and Sabta to recognize his sovereignty, and he was succeeded by his son al-Mustansir (r. 1249-77). He tolerated Christians, and in 1250 the Dominicans founded the Studium Arabicum, where missionaries could study Muslim beliefs. The Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258 made al-Mustansir the most respected Muslim monarch, and the next year the Governor of Mecca sent a letter recognizing him as Caliph. During the reigns of al-Sa‘id (1242-48) and ‘Umar al-Murtada (1248-66) the Hafsids and the Marinids encroached on Almohad territory, and in 1269 the Almohad kingdom was extinguished when they lost Marrakesh to the Marinids.

The Marinid tribes fought with the Almohads against Christians in Spain; but after the Muslim defeat in 1212 ‘Abdul-Haqq ibn Muhya led them into northeastern Morocco, where they battled an army of 10,000 Almohads in 1217; ‘Abdul-Haqq was killed, but his son ‘Uthman led the tribes to victory near Fez. Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Haqq succeeded his brother ‘Uthman in 1239. After the Almohads led by al-Sa‘id defeated the Marinids and killed Muhammad in 1244, the Marinids went back south; but the next year Abu Yahya Abu Bakr, another son of ‘Abdul-Haqq, led the Marinids and took Miknasa from the Almohads. After al-Sa‘id was killed fighting the Marinids and Zayyanids in 1248, the Marinids captured Fez, Taza, and Sala. By the time Abu Yahya died in 1258 they occupied most of Morocco including Sijilmasa, and Abu Yahya’s brother Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub (r. 1258-86) consolidated Marinid control.

The Banu ‘Abdul-Wad became prominent when al-Mamun appointed their chief Jabir ibn Yusuf Governor at Tlemcen in 1230. The Banu Zayyan clan of this tribe took over the position in 1233, though Zaydan ibn Zayyan was killed three years later and was succeeded by his brother Yaghmurasan, founder of the Zayyanid dynasty. They withstood invasions by the Hafsids in 1242 and the Almohads in 1248. The Marinids and Hafsids introduced madrasas, where students could live and study Islamic law. These urban theologians countered the mystical popularity of the Sufis in the countryside.

The Marinid siege of the Almohad capital at Marrakesh led by Abu Yusuf failed in 1262, and his son was killed. Sijilmasa had been conquered by the Marinids in 1255; but it became independent and then was captured by the Zayyanids in 1263. Abu Yusuf finally evicted the last of the Almohads from Marrakesh in 1269. That year the missionary Ramon Marti (Raymond Martin) urged France’s Louis XI to crusade against Tunis, arguing that Caliph al-Mustansir might convert to Christianity, though the main reasons probably were unpaid debts and tribute to Charles of Anjou. Al-Mustansir quickly made peace with both Louis and Charles and also a commercial treaty with Aragon in 1271. The Marinids defeated Yaghmurasan in 1272 and, led by Abu Yusuf, captured Sijilmasa two years later by a siege said to have employed the first artillery. A truce with the Zayyanids enabled Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub to lead four campaigns into Spain to defend Muslims there. The Marinids built a new city at Fez.

After the death of al-Mustansir in 1277 the Hafsid state split between rulers in Tunis and Bijaya as Aragon’s Pedro III interfered by demanding tribute from Bijaya. Several rulers fought for power until the Hafsid Abu Zakariya captured Bijaya in 1285. Abu Hafs (r. 1284-95) captured Tunis and agreed to pay Pedro tribute as King of Sicily. However, that year Marinid Abu Yusuf campaigned in Spain for the fourth time and made a peace treaty with Don Sancho that returned thirteen mule-loads of Arabic manuscripts to the Muslims. These efforts were continued by his successor Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf (r. 1286-1307), who then spent the last twelve years of his life at war with the Zayyanids, whose expansion continued under Yaghmurasan’s son ‘Uthman (r. 1282-1303).

Egypt 1300-1700

Ancient Egypt

By 1275 the Mamluk empire in Egypt had annexed the northern part of the Nubian kingdom that was Christian. When Sanbu became King of Nubia at Dongola, Mukurra officially converted to Islam and made the cathedral a mosque in 1317. After 1320 the Manfalut province paid tribute to the Egyptian Sultan, and it became a slave market. Despite Nubian efforts to regain their independence led by Kanz al-Daula (d. 1323) and Banu ’l-Kanz, Dongola was destroyed. In 1365 Kenuz and Ikrima Arabs ravaged southern Egypt and murdered the Nubian King, and the capital was moved to Du. The monarchy collapsed in 1397 when the King of Du fled to Cairo. Islam replaced Christianity in Nubia, and in the next century ‘Alwa was also overrun by pastoral Egyptian Arabs.

Mamluk means slave, and this dynasty rose in Egypt during the later crusades through military discipline and by seizing the throne of Egypt in 1250. Al-Nasir Muhammad, the son of Kala‘un (r. 1279-90), became Sultan and was deposed twice before his third long reign (1310-41). In 1316 he implemented military feudalism with his cadastral survey that redistributed lands as fiefs and taxed agricultural products. A hundred thousand workers lengthened the Alexandria canal so that more land could be irrigated by a dozen new dams. Karimi merchants helped the Sultan and his governors endow madrasas and waqfs for charitable purposes and to patronize poets and scholars, who often criticized the luxurious lives of the ruling class. During this era Egypt produced and gave hospitality to several outstanding historians. In mid-century the black plague killed about 900,000 people in Cairo. Christians were persecuted, and the Coptic patriarch Marcos was imprisoned in 1352. For forty years after al-Nasir’s death his eight sons, two grandsons, and two great-grandsons struggled for power. In 1365 Cypriots, Venetians, and Genoese attacked and plundered Alexandria. Turkish slaves were being replaced by Circassians, and a Circassian named Barquq (r. 1382-99) became Sultan; but the Mamluks in Syria revolted against his son Faraj, who was finally killed in 1411.

Then two Mamluk’s named al-Mu‘ayyad (r. 1412-21) and Barsbay (r. 1422-38) tried to restore order. Barsbay gained wealth by monopolizing sugar and by taxing the spice trade from India that passed through Egypt to Europe. He also banned the use of European gold coins in his realm. Karimi and European merchants protested and explored other routes. Egypt’s navy fought corsairs in the Mediterranean, and in 1425 they captured Cyprus’s King James of Lusignan, who became a vassal and promised tribute; but later attempts to conquer Rhodes failed. Mamluk sultans Jaqmaq (r. 1438-1453) and Inal (r. 1453-61) used diplomacy to fend off an invasion from the Ottoman Turks; but in 1481 Sultan Qait Bay (r. 1467-96) made the mistake of giving refuge to the Ottoman prince Jem, who was challenging his brother, Sultan Bayezid II. In 1485 the Ottomans invaded Cilicia, but the Mamluks fought them off for five years. Conflicts with Europeans caused the two Muslim empires to get along for a while. Qait Bay levied a tax on the sale of wheat that oppressed the people.

In 1501 the Mamluks elected Qansuh al-Ghuri, and he complained to Pope Alexander VI about the Portuguese navy that had rounded Africa and entered the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Qansuh had a fleet built that defeated a Portuguese squadron off the coast of Malabar in 1508; but the following year the Egyptian fleet was destroyed by the Portuguese navy at Diu. The Mamluks built another navy and with help from the Ottomans were able to defend Aden from a Portuguese attack in 1513. Selim had become Ottoman sultan in 1512 and attacked the Mamluks in Asia Minor four years later before invading Syria. The Mamluk cavalry was no match for the Turks’ use of firearms, and the aged Qansuh died in the battle near Aleppo. Khayrbay, the former Mamluk Governor of Aleppo, defected to the Ottomans. The Mamluks elected Tumanbay Sultan in 1516 at Cairo, but the governors would not let him be viceroy under the Ottoman rule. In January 1517 the Ottoman army defeated the Mamluks near Cairo; Tumanbay fled but was captured and hanged. Egypt became a part of the Ottoman empire with Khayrbay as Viceroy. He abolished fiefs (iqta) and had provincial treasuries pay fixed salaries, enabling grain to be sent to Mecca and Medina. He got Janissaries and Azabs to guard Cairo and died in 1522.

Ahmad Pasha claimed the sultanate of Egypt and demanded money from Jews; but he was killed as a traitor in 1524. The next year Turkish Vizier Ibrahim Pasha inspected Egypt and codified a new administrative policy (Qanun Name) mandating an Ottoman military government with a viceroy (wali) advised by a council four times a week and dividing Egypt into fourteen districts with officers to regulate irrigation and collect taxes. The Egyptian treasury had to send 16 million paras annually to Istanbul. Sulayman Pasha (r. 1525-38) became Viceroy of Egypt. In 1538 he seized Aden in Yemen on his way to attacking the Portuguese at Diu in Gujarat, where the Ottomans were defeated because local Muslims did not support them. He returned by way of Kusayr and Aswan, building a fortress at Say in Upper Egypt. While the Ottomans were fighting Zaydi tribes in Yemen, Imam Ahmad Gragn led a jihad in Ethiopia; but he was defeated by the Christian Ethiopians and the Portuguese in 1543. Da’ud Pasha ruled Egypt for eleven years (1538-49) and died in office. Ozdemir Pasha was Yemen’s Governor, and in 1555 he occupied Massawa on the Red Sea and conquered part of Ethiopia to establish the province of Habesh. Dugakin-Oglu Muhammad Pasha (r. 1554-56) was considered so wanton that he was recalled by Sultan Sulayman and executed for having violated Islamic law.

Zaydi Shi’a revolted and by 1567 had driven the Ottomans out of Yemen except in Zabid. Two years later Egypt’s viceroy Sinan Pasha reconquered Yemen, and this became an unpopular outpost for soldiers from Egypt. In 1574 the Viceroy wrote to Istanbul complaining that Arab shaikhs embezzled tax money and protected bandits. This led to the reform of hiring government agents for a fixed salary to collect taxes in Egypt, except for the Buhayra province where the Arab shaikhs were needed. In 1580 Khadim Hasan Pasha ordered Jews to wear conical red hats and Christians black hats; but these decrees were not generally obeyed, and Sharif Muhammad Pasha (r. 1596-98) changed the color of the Jews’ hats from red to black. Upper Egypt became a province in 1583 when the Hawwara chiefs yielded to an official sent from Cairo.

When Viceroy Sinan Pasha investigated why tribute for Istanbul was lacking in 1586, the military revolted. Three years later the officers killed some of the Viceroy’s retinue and forced Uveys Pasha (r. 1587-91) to meet their demands. Troop mutinies accelerated in 1598 as Turkish officers attacked Arabs. The Sufi Ibrahim Pasha tried to stop illegal levies (tulba) in rural areas and was murdered by cavalry officers (sipahis) in 1605. Four years later Muhammad Pasha suppressed a revolt and became known as “the breaker of soldiers” when he abolished the tulba. The Viceroy gained the support of Bedouins and executed 250 disloyal soldiers while the chief judge (qadi) got 300 others sent to Yemen.

In 1623 when the Ottoman Sultan appointed ‘Ali Pasha to replace Mustafa Pasha, the troops demanded more pay and got Mustafa reinstated. Viceroy Musa Pasha tried to stop the illegal taxation that gave the soldiers himaye (protection charges), and in 1631 he had a Bey assassinated. When he would not turn over the assassin, the officers got Musa temporarily replaced by Ridwan Bey al-Fiqari, who traced his ancestry back to Sultan Barsbay (r. 1422-38). In 1636 the Zaydi Shi‘a finally threw the Ottoman imperialists out of Yemen for two centuries. When Ridwan was assigned to govern Habesh in 1639, he refused to go; but the next year Sultan Ibrahim (r. 1640-49) put him in charge of the pilgrimage. In 1647 an attempt to remove Ridwan and Upper Egypt’s Governor ‘Ali Bey Fiqari backfired on Qansuh Bey and Mamay Bey when they and many Qasimi were killed, causing a vendetta between the Fiqari and Qasimi families.

When Ridwan died in 1656, Viceroy Abu’l-Nur Muhammad Pasha appointed a Qasimi from Bosnia named Ahmad Bey Boshnagi as governor of the pilgrimage. The Fiqari faction forced the Viceroy to step down and sent Ahmad Bey into exile, replacing him with Hasan Bey Fiqari. Ahmad Bey went to Istanbul and returned as Treasurer of Egypt. When Muhammad Bey refused to leave his governorship of Upper Egypt for Habesh so that Ahmad Bey could have his job, Viceroy Shahsuwaroghlu Ghazi Muhammad Pasha marched against Muhammad Bey and put him to death in 1659. The quarrels continued, and many Fiqari beys were killed before the Viceroy ordered Ahmad Bey assassinated in 1662. Viceroy Kara Ibrahim Pasha implemented fiscal reform in the early 1670s and doubled the treasury, but he had to give the Janissaries and Azabs benefices.

The Fiqari revived, and in 1692 Ibrahim Bey persuaded Kuchuk Mehmed and the Janissaries to abolish some of the protection charges and illegal taxes. In 1694 Kuchuk was shot while riding through Cairo, and Mustafa Katkhuda al-Qazdagli was held responsible. The increase in food prices caused a famine in 1695, followed by an epidemic. The soldiers profited from devalued coins and blocked the reform demanded by the Ottoman rulers.

‘Alwa in the eastern Sudan was destroyed in 1504 when ‘Amara Dunkas (d. 1534) became the first Funj king of Sennar, replacing the Christian kings. After the Turks defeated the Funj at Hannak in 1520, the Nubians asked Ethiopia for Christian priests. The Funj struggled against Arab tribes who settled where the Blue Nile and White Nile meet, and they became dominant by 1608. The ‘Abdallabi dynasty ruled the northern part of Funj until 1820. Sultan ‘Abd al-Qadir (r. 1550-57) expanded Funj power to the west. Funj’s King Daqn ibn Nail (r. 1569-86) granted Shaikh Ajib the right to appoint his own judges, and in 1606 Ajib deposed Funj’s King ‘Abd al-Qadir II for being religiously unorthodox. The Funj army killed Ajib in 1611 and put ‘Abd al-Qadir’s brother ‘Adlan on the throne, but he was quickly overthrown by ‘Abd al-Qadir’s son Badi I Sid al-Qum. He declared independence from Ethiopia’s Susenyos and died in 1616. His successor Rubat had to fight an alliance of Ethiopia and the ‘Abdallabi. Sultan Badi II Abu Daqn (r. 1644-92) fought the Shilluk and gained Alays on the White Nile. He captured slaves and took them to Sennar, where they became a military caste loyal to the King.

Spanish Hapsburgs occupied Tripoli in 1510, and in 1528 Fernando V gave it to the Knights of Saint John of Malta. In 1534 the pirate Khayr al-Din, known as Barbarossa, captured Tripoli, and the area was called the Barbary Coast. The Ottoman empire conquered Tripoli in 1551, and they tolerated piracy and shared in its profits for more than two centuries. About 1550 Sharif Awlad Muhammad founded a trading state in the Sahara Desert south of Tripoli known as Fazzan. In 1639 that state was recognized by the Ottoman army in exchange for paying an annual tribute in gold and slaves. In 1682 Sultan Najib M. Jhaym stopped paying the tribute. The Ottoman army attacked Murzaq and killed the Sultan. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad al-Nasir who paid the tribute until 1689. Governor Muhammad Sha‘ib al-‘Ain sent another army, but they were defeated. Al-Nasir did not pay tribute until 1715. Ja‘far Pasha (r. 1586-1631) was succeeded in Tripoli by Muhammad (r. 1631-49) and ‘Uthman (r. 1649-72) of the Saqizli family, continuing Ottoman sovereignty over the Cyrenaican tribes.

Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1700-1950

Tunisia and Algeria 1300-1700

North Africa 900-1300

Hafsid ibn al-Lihyani was Vizier for Sultan Abu ‘Asida (r. 1295-1309) of Tunis and made a treaty with Aragon in 1301 that gave them half the customs of Catalonian merchants in Tunis. He also made an agreement that whichever ruler of Tunis and Bijaya lived longer would reunite the Hafsid state. However, the brother of Bijaya’s Sultan Abul-Baqa rebelled against him in 1311, and so ibn al-Lihyani invaded Tunisia with Tripolitanian tribes. Ibn al-Lihyani won over Jaime II of Aragon by suggesting he might become a Christian; Ramon Llull taught in Tunis for two years, but he did not convert. In 1317 Abul-Baqa’s brother Abu Bakr of Bijaya invaded and took over Tunis the next year, reunifying the Hafsid state, removing Aragonese influence, and ruling until his death in 1347.

When Khayr ad-Din conquered Tunis in 1534, Muhammad’s son al-Hasan turned to the Spanish for protection and was reinstated the next year. While he was in Spain in 1542, his son Ahmad deposed him. The Turkish corsair Turghut (Dragut) fought Tunisia’s Ahmad Sultan (r. 1543-69) and the Spaniards for several years. Turghut captured Tripoli in 1551, driving out the Knights of St. John, who had been there since 1535. Turghut governed Tripoli for the Ottomans. He and Piyale Pash led the Ottoman fleet to victory over the Spanish navy and exterminated their garrison at Djerba in 1560. Turghut died fighting the Knights of St. John with Turkish troops from Algeria at Malta in 1565. A sequence of many pashas ruled Tripoli for the Ottomans. Ja‘far Pasha (r. 1586-1631) governed for an exceptionally long time and put down a rebellion with the help of the Mhamid tribe.

Tunisia’s ‘Uthman Dey (r. 1598-1610) reduced the pasha to a ceremonial figurehead and only used the divan (council) to ratify his own decisions. He relied on the head (qaptan) of the navy and the military commander (bey) to subdue the tribes and collect taxes. His son-in-law Yusuf (r. 1610-37) protected privateers, sponsored building, and fought Arab insurrections and Algerian invasions. ‘Uthman Dey and Yusuf Dey did not indulge in luxuries and brought law and order to Tunisia, though piracy at sea brought in revenue for the state. When the Ghadames refused to send the Ottoman commander in Tunis five young eunuchs and eight pretty girls in 1609, he forced them to pay their tribute by cutting down their palm trees. Moors expelled from Spain came to Tunisia and improved the economy. Using revenue from privateering, Yusuf Dey sponsored construction of a mosque, a fortress, army barracks, and aqueducts. The Hanafite qadi was the supreme judge, but the Malakites remained influential.

The beys increased their power, and Murad Bey (r. 1612-31) gained the title Pasha and made his office hereditary, being succeeded by his son Humada Bey (r. 1631-66). The Muradists increased their revenues by opening up trade with Europe and monopolizing the sale of agricultural produce. Murad Bey II (1666-75) suppressed an army mutiny and moved into the palace of the Bardo. He arrested a dey for insanity in 1670 but was defied by the successor Sha‘ban Dey. Murad also replaced him; but the Janissaries refused to obey his puppet and appointed their own dey while Murad Bey was visiting Tripolitania in 1673. His supporters in the divan were slaughtered; but Murad Bey had the forces to overcome the revolt. When Murad Bey II died in 1675, his two sons and brother fought for power. The civil war lasted more than twenty years and was complicated by Moroccan Mawlay Isma‘il’s Algerian invasions of 1691 and 1701.

Marinid ruler Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf besieged Tlemcen in northwestern Algeria for eight years, building a new town; but in May 1307 one of his eunuchs involved in a harem intrigue assassinated him. His army retreated, and the new town was destroyed. After that, the Marinids under Sulayman (r. 1308-10) and Abu Sa‘id ‘Uthman (r. 1310-31) left the Zayyanids alone, and Tlemcen prospered. Abu Sa‘id had to put down revolts by his son Abu ‘Ali, who was governor of Sijilmasa. The Marinids tried to help the Nasrids of Granada fight the Christians in Spain. Zayyanid ruler Abu Hammu I (r. 1308-18) annexed Algiers and established the first madrasa at Tlemcen for renowned Malakite scholars.

Abu Sa‘id’s son Abul-Hasan (r. 1331-48) defeated his brother Abu ‘Ali and exerted greater control over his realm. After a defeat in 1333 at Tarifa, Abul-Hasan invaded Zayyanid territory in 1335 and captured Tlemcen two years later, killing their King Abu Tashfin (r. 1318-37). Abul-Hasan married the sister of Hafsid ruler Abu Bakr, but she died during his defeat in Spain in 1340. The fall of Algeciras to the Castilian army in 1344 ended Marinid efforts in Spain. In 1346 Abul-Hasan arranged to marry Abu Bakr’s daughter. After Abu Bakr died, his heir Abul-‘Abbas was killed in Tunis by his brother ‘Umar, who became Sultan. Abu Bakr’s chamberlain from an Almohad family joined Abul-Hasan, who then invaded the Hafsids in 1347 and took over Tunis, Tripoli, Qairawan, Susa, and Mahdiyya, uniting the Maghrib under his Berber dynasty. Loss of the feudal privileges caused the Arabian chiefs and the Zanata tribes in Tunisia and eastern Algeria to rebel. His son Abu ‘Inan also revolted at Tlemcen and declared himself Sultan in 1348, defeating at Taza his nephew Mansur, Governor of Fez. Abul-Hasan returned to Tlemcen, which had been taken over by the Zayyanids, who defeated his small army. Abul-Hasan fled to Marrakesh, but Abu ‘Inan drove him from there into the mountains, where he died in 1351.

Abu ‘Inan invaded Zayyanid territory the next year, capturing and killing their Sultan Abu Sa‘id ‘Uthman. Then Abu ‘Inan overcame the Sanhaja at Bijaya in 1353, took Constantine in 1356, and occupied Tunis the next year as the Hafsid Sultan fled to Mahdiyya. However, his troops compelled Abu ‘Inan to leave Tunis and return to Morocco. The Marinid Vizier wanted the Sultan’s son Abu Bakr Sa‘id to succeed. When 31-year-old Abu ‘Inan recovered from an illness, he had him strangled in 1358 so that he could rule for the boy. For the next century of Marinid rule the viziers dominated the sultans. In 1366 another Vizier killed Sultan Abu Zayyan, but then Abu Faris ‘Abdul-‘Aziz (r. 1366-72) had the Vizier assassinated. After he died, the Nasrid Muhammad V of Granada interfered in Morocco by supporting the rebellions of two Marinid princes. Increased trade with the Sudan made Tlemcen and Tunis more important. Zayyanid Abu Hammu II (r. 1359-89), who was advised by the historian Ibn Khaldun, had to flee Tlemcen four times from Marinid attacks; after trying to move his capital to Algiers, he eventually submitted to Marinid sovereignty in 1388. After Abu Hammu was deposed by his son Abu Tashfin II (r. 1389-94), Tlemcen declined and was dominated by Aragon.

The Hafsid state was reunified by Abul-‘Abbas (r. 1370-94), who ended the hegemony of the Banu Hamza, regained Susa, and pacified the southern tribes by taking Gabis in 1380. He countered piracy from Mayorca by supporting privateers at Bijaya and Mahdiyya, and he made peace treaties with Genoa and Venice in 1391. His successor Abu Faris (r. 1394-1434) ruled in Tunis and gained authority over cities such as Tuzar and Tripoli. After his brother died, Hafsid ruler Abu ‘Amr ‘Uthman (r. 1435-88) overcame a rebellion by his uncle, who was driven out of Bijaya in 1439. Abu ‘Amr ‘Uthman ruled over the Maghrib for a half century, making the Zayyanids and Wattasids accept his sovereignty. His grandson succeeded but was killed in 1489 after he put to death his relatives. After two other sultans died, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (r. 1494-1526) managed to keep tribal leaders under control in Tunisia.

After conquering the last Muslims on the Iberian peninsula at Granada in 1492, the Spaniards led by Pedro Navarro invaded the Maghreb, taking Oran in 1509, killing 4,000 and capturing 8,000, and the next year conquering Bijaya, Bougie, and Tripoli. In 1510 the crown of Spain authorized the selling of Africans in America, and the first shipload of slaves from the Guinea Coast directly to America was made in 1518. Algerians gained the military aid of the Muslim corsairs, brothers ‘Aruj and Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa. ‘Aruj got permission from the Hafsid Sultan to use the island of Djerba as a base. He captured Jijelli in 1514 and took over Algiers in 1516 when he defeated the Spaniards. ‘Aruj suppressed a local rebellion by having Shaykh Salim strangled, and his soldiers proclaimed ‘Aruj Sultan. When Zayyanid Abu Hammu III succeeded at Tlemcen in 1517, prince Abu Zayyan rebelled against him and gained the help of ‘Aruj to overthrow Spanish domination. ‘Aruj defeated Abu Hammu and took over Tlemcen but was driven out by the Spaniards and killed in 1518.

‘Aruj’s brother Khayr ad-Din founded the Algiers Regency and was appointed beylerbey by Ottoman Sultan Selim. In 1520 Kuku tribal leader Ahmad ibn al-Qadi and the Hafsids attacked Algiers and defeated Khayr ad-Din, who moved to Jijelli and increased his privateering. He took over Constantine and reconquered Algiers in 1525, massacring Arabs and Kabyles who resisted him. In 1527 Algeria accepted the overlordship of the Ottoman empire with its Turkish governors. Khayr ad-Din fought the Hafsids and extended his domain, occupying Tunis in 1534 and sponsoring piracy; but the next year a Spanish navy of 300 ships and 30,000 men led by Carlos V liberated thousands of Christian slaves from Tunis as Khayr ad-Din and the Turkish garrison fled to Algiers. Khayr ad-Din made a treaty with France, and the next year he went to Istanbul to command the Ottoman navy. Spanish count Alcaudete was put in charge of Oran in 1534, and the next year he joined with tribal chief Ibn Radwan to help Zayyanid prince ‘Abdulla overthrow his older brother Mawlay Muhammad at Tlemcen; but the Banu Rashid tribe defeated them and nearly wiped out all of Alcaudete’s 600-man force. Yet probably because the Spaniards had taken Tunis, Sultan Muhammad agreed to pay tribute to Oran in exchange for Spanish protection.

After negotiations with Khayr ad-Din failed, in 1541 Spain’s Carlos V led an attack on Algiers with 516 ships; but a storm destroyed 140 vessels, and Carlos retreated. The next year Hasan Agha (r. 1536-43) attacked the port by Oran. Alcaudete used new recruits to replace Mawlay Muhammad with ‘Abdulla at Tlemcen; but Banu Rashid chief Ibn Ghani, fearing the Turks, invaded Tlemcen with Spanish aid, putting on the throne Mawlay Muhammad’s brother Ahmad in 1545. However, Mawlay Muhammad was restored by Khayr ad-Din’s son Hasan Pasha (r. 1544-52) of Algiers, making Tlemcen a military fortress for the Turks. Alcaudete attacked Mustaghanim in 1541 and 1547, but the Turks drove him back to Spain. When the Wattasids of Fez turned to the Turks, Arab Sa‘diyans in 1545 defeated and captured Wattasid Sultan Ahmad. Four years later the Sa‘diyans drove out of Fez the Wattasid prince ‘Ali Abu Hassan, who took refuge in Algiers. In 1551 Sa‘diyan Muhammad al-Shaykh (al-Mahdi) sent his son Muhammad al-Harran with 30,000 men, and they took over Tlemcen; but al-Harran died of illness as the Turks led by agha Hasan Quru dispersed the cavalry coming from Fez, ending three centuries of Zayyanid rule in Tlemcen.

The next Algiers beylerbey, Salah Ra’is, took over Fez in 1554 and let ‘Ali Abu Hassan rule it with Janissaries; but Muhammad al-Shaykh reconquered Fez the same year and formed an alliance with Alcaudete. Salah Ra’is attacked Oran in 1556 but was killed, allowing the Sa‘diyans to occupy Tlemcen. When the Janissaries tried to install their own beylerbey, Ottoman Sultan Sulayman sent Hasan Pasha back to govern Algiers, and Turkish spies assassinated the resisting Muhammad al-Shaykh in 1557. Having lost this ally for an attack on Algiers, Alcaudete marched on Mustaghanim the next year; but tribes and the Turkish forces of Hasan Quru surrounded them. Alcaudete died, and 10,000 of his men were killed or captured. Hasan Pasha besieged Oran in 1563 but gave up after four months when Spanish reinforcements arrived. Spain retained control of Oran in Ottoman Algeria until 1708. In 1563 makhzan (governing) tribes were appointed to collect taxes in the countryside. In 1567, like his father, Hasan Pasha went to Istanbul to command the Ottoman navy. Algiers was governed by Turkish Janissaries, and unlike Tunis they held a state monopoly over privateering. The growing city of 60,000 acquired an additional 25,000 Christian captives. About 5,000 Jews in a ghetto had to wear special clothes and pay higher taxes, but some excelled at business.

 ‘Eulj ‘Ali (r. 1568-87) was the last beylerbey of Algiers. He captured Tunis in 1569 when Ahmad Sultan fled to Spain for help. Spaniards reinstated Ahmad in 1573; but he was sent into exile in Sicily and was replaced by his brother Muhammad. In 1574 the Turks conquered Tunis and ended the Hafsid dynasty by sending Muhammad to Istanbul. Vizier Sinan Pasha established 4,000 Janissaries with an officer (dey) over each hundred troops. The Pasha was assisted by a commander called a bey, who maintained peace and collected taxes. In 1581 Felipe II of Spain relinquished his claims in Africa when he made a truce with the Ottomans. After ‘Eulj ‘Ali died in 1587, the Ottoman Sultan Murad III made Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripolitania regencies governed by pashas he could periodically replace; but in 1591 the Tunisian officers revolted and forced the Ottoman pasha to accept an elected dey as the supreme authority.

By 1615 the state of Algeria was taking in between two and three million livres annually from its naval piracy, enriching many from this merchandise and slave trafficking. Many Christians worked in the galleys, but other slaves found their way into the society in a variety of roles. Europeans raised money to pay ransoms, and Lazarists led by Vincent de Paul tried to intervene on behalf of the captives’ relatives. In 1628 Corsican Sanson Napallon distributed baksheesh (bribes) to secure a monopoly on coral fishing at the French Bastion, but he was caught and killed by the people of Tabarka five years later. In 1637 the Bastion was destroyed for having shipped contraband grain.

French merchants established a funduq at Tunis in 1659 and tried to exclude English and Dutch competitors, both of whom traded arms for grain. In 1663 Algiers made a treaty with the de Ruyter of Holland and increased privateering attacks on French ships. Seven years later their treaty with France’s Louis XIV disrupted Dutch and English shipping, and the Algerian treaty with the English in 1682 led to war with France. After 1685 many Protestant religionaires sought refuge in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. In 1689 French navy commissioner Guillaume Marcel signed a hundred-years’ treaty with Algiers excluding the merchants from meddling in politics and renouncing holy war; in the first half of the 18th century this convention was confirmed fourteen times.

In 1659 Ottoman pasha Ibrahim tried to levy a tithe on the subsidies sent from Istanbul for the Algerian fleet. A riot broke out, and the Janissary commander (agha) took over the government of Algeria, accusing the Pasha of corruption. The next four Janissary chiefs were assassinated. After the fourth, Agha ‘Ali (r. 1664-71), died, the officers elected a dey, meaning “maternal uncle,” a title used in Tunisia since Ottoman soldiers rebelled there in 1591. Algeria thus became a military republic in 1671, but fourteen of the thirty deys in the next century and a half were removed by assassination. Yet deys worked hard for the state on public business, spending only one afternoon and one night per week in private with their family.

Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1700-1950

Morocco 1300-1700

North Africa 900-1300

The Marinid dynasty ruled Morocco from 1258 to 1465. After the Portuguese invaded Morocco in 1415, the Nasrids tried to help Marinid ruler Abu Sa‘id ‘Uthman III (r. 1398-1420) to evict the Portuguese in 1419; but this effort failed. After this Sultan was assassinated the next year, Marinid control fell into the hands of the Wattas family. Abu Zakariya Yahya al-Wattasi ruled as regent for the one-year-old sultan ‘Abdul-Haqq, who came of age in 1437, the year a Portuguese invasion was defeated. Abu Zakariya Yahya died in 1448 but was succeeded as Vizier by another Wattasid until 1457, when Abu Zakariya’s son Yahya became Vizier. Yahya became unpopular by removing the qadi (judge) of Fez, enabling ‘Abdul-Haqq to take control as Sultan. After the Portuguese conquered at Qasr al-Kabir in 1458, religious agitation erupted in Fez when the Jewish advisor Harun ended the tax exemptions of the marabouts (Sufis) and sharifs.

In 1465 a riot broke out in Fez after a Jewish tax collector mistreated a sharifian woman. Harun and ‘Abdul-Haqq were killed, and Muhammad al-Juti was proclaimed ruler. He lasted until 1472. During this era al-Sayyaf led a rebellion against the Marinids for twenty years because he believed they had poisoned his Sufi teacher al-Jazuli. Wattasid Muhammad al-Shaykh (r. 1472-1505) conquered Fez from the Marinid sharifs; but he surrendered the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the Portuguese invasion. In a 1479 treaty the Wattasids recognized Castile’s rights over the Atlantic coast of Africa and the kingdom of Fez.

Wattasid Muhammad al-Burtughali (r. 1505-24) could not stop the Portuguese invasion of Morocco as they took Safi in 1508 and Azemmour in 1513. The Portuguese had reached Marrakesh by 1515, but Sharif Ahmad al-A‘raj entered Marrakesh in 1524 and gained allegiance. Al-Burtughali’s son Abu’l-‘Abbas Ahmad (r. 1524-48) made a truce with the Portuguese in 1528 and besieged Marrakesh, but his army was defeated by the Sharif’s forces in 1537. Ahmad al-A‘raj was deposed by his brother Muhammad al-Mahdi, who defeated the Portuguese at Agadir in 1541, the same year Spain attacked Algiers and was defeated. The Portuguese then withdrew from Safi and Azemmour. In 1548 Shadhiliya marabouts supported al-Mahdi’s siege of Fez while the Qadiriyya marabouts sided with the Wattasids and Turks. Al-Mahdi was victorious and ruled Morocco for eight years. His son al-Harran captured Tlemcen the next year, but al-Harran ventured east and was defeated by the Ottomans and their Berber allies, who reconquered Tlemcen.

When the marabouts objected to the taxes of al-Mahdi, the Ottoman army took over Fez and set up the Wattasid Abu Hassun as their vassal. He was supported by the people even though he had to pay off the Ottomans. Abu Hassun formed an alliance with Ahmad al-A‘raj to attack Marrakesh; but when Abu Hassan was killed battling the Sa‘diyans in September 1553, his army fled, enabling al-Mahdi to reconquer Fez a year later. He had two hundred wealthy people executed and confiscated their property, taking over religious endowments also. Three years later al-Mahdi was murdered by his Turkish commander, who had been hired by Hassan.

Al-Mahdi’s son al-Ghalib (r. 1557-74) made an alliance with the Spaniards to take Tlemcen and was succeeded by his son Muhammad al-Mutawakkil, who was overthrown at Fez two years later by ‘Abdul-Malik but later returned with the Portuguese. ‘Abdul-Malik declared a jihad and wrote a letter to Portugal’s King Sebastian asking him not to wage war against his country and even offering to appear in his court of law to argue for justice. ‘Abdul-Malik was able to destroy the Portuguese army of 20,000 in 1578. Yet he, al-Mutawakkil, and Sebastian died in this famous “battle of the three kings” that was called the Battle of Wadi al-Makhazin by Muslim historians and the Battle of Alcazarquivir by Europeans. Thousands died on both sides, and 14,000 Christians were captured. Mawlay Ahmad was crowned al-Mansur, meaning the Victor.

Al-Mansur (r. 1578-1603) gained wealth by ransoming the Portuguese prisoners and reigned over Morocco with an extravagantly rich court, patronizing poets, musicians, and religious scholars. Al-Mansur suppressed opposition by the zawiyas and the Berbers, developed agriculture and the sugar industry, and used force to collect taxes. In 1580 the Portuguese took control of Tangier, but they gave it to England when Catarina of Braganza agreed to marry Charles II in 1661. In 1581 England’s Queen Elizabeth approved the export of naval timber to Morocco for saltpeter, which was used in gunpowder. Al-Mansur gave Jews concessions for running the state monopolies on sugar and saltpeter, and they also controlled the imported English cloth. In 1583 he captured the oases at Garara and Tuat, and in 1589 al-Mansur drove the Europeans out of Arzila. He defeated the Songhay empire south of the Sahara Desert in 1591 with the help of firearms he gained from the Turks. Gold and slaves were imported from the south, but the Sultan prohibited exporting gold. Religious teachers debated the new habit of smoking tobacco. Barani Berbers revolted in 1596 but were crushed. Al-Mansur’s son Muhammad al-Shaykh al-Mamun had been recognized as his heir in 1581; but his scandals and rebellions were so numerous that his father put him in prison in 1602.

A civil war followed the death of Mawlay Ahmad (al-Mansur) in 1603. His son Zaydan gained control of Marrakesh by 1609 while another son Abu Faris held Fez until he was assassinated by al-Mamun’s son ‘Abdullah in 1610. Al-Mamun helped the Spaniards take al-‘Ara’ish that year but was assassinated himself in 1613. This betrayal to Spain tarnished his son ‘Abdullah’s reputation, though he managed to rule Fez until 1627. Zaydan was driven out of Marrakesh in 1612 by Ahmad Abu Mahalli from Sijilmas; he claimed to be the mahdi and led a religious rebellion because of the betrayal of al-‘Ara’ish. He married Zaydan’s mother; but Yahya ibn ‘Abdullah al-Hahi, the religious chief of Mount Daran, and his tribe helped Zaydan win back Marrakesh in 1613.

Zaydan (r. 1609-28) ruled Morocco from Marrakesh but faced much opposition and was driven out and restored three times. Fez was governed independently by his nephew ‘Abdullah ibn al-Shaykh until 1627. The Dala’iya from the middle Atlas mountains were the strongest opponents; but Abu al-Hassun al-Simlali in Sousse and refugees from Andalusia in Bu Ragrag also challenged Sa‘diyan authority. Abu al-Hassun organized the Berbers of the Jazula tribe and attacked Zaydan’s protector Yahya al-Hahi over Sousse. After Yahya died in 1626, Abu al-Hassun made Iligh his capital of Sousse and conquered Sijilmasa in 1631. After the Spanish built a fortress at al-Ma‘mura, Muhammad al-‘Ayashi led Arabian tribes and Andalusian Moriscos in holy wars against Spaniards from 1615 for a quarter century, attacking al-Ma‘mura, al-‘Ara’ish, and Tangier. Eventually the Moriscos turned against him, denying him scaling ladders in 1631 and helping the Dala’iya army to defeat and kill al-‘Ayashi in 1641.

The Dala’iya shaikhs were influenced by Sufi teacher al-Qastali of Marrakesh, and Abu Bakr built hostels for students and the poor. His son Muhammad led the community 1612-36 and constructed a new zawiya for scholars that fed 7,000 people a day. The third Dala’iya chief Muhammad al-Hajj (r. 1636-68) organized a Berber army and built a fortress. He criticized the Sa‘diyan rule of Muhammad al-Shaykh and defeated his army in 1638. Muhammad al-Hajj occupied Miknasa in 1640 in al-‘Ayashi’s territory, defeating him the next year. Andalusians were allowed to control Sala for the next decade until al-Hajj sent his son ‘Abdulla as governor in 1651. That year ‘Abdulla signed a treaty with the Dutch. In 1653 Arabian army chief al-Khadr Ghailan led a rebellion against the Dala’iya. Al-Hajj’s son Muhammad governed Fez 1653-59 until he was poisoned. In 1660 Fez revolted, and Ghailan and the Andalusians defeated the Dala’iya army at Sala. ‘Abdulla left a captain in charge of his Sala castle, but in 1664 the Andalusians began paying their taxes to Ghailan.

‘Alawid sharifs had lived in Sijilmasa since the 13th century. In 1635 ‘Alawid Mawlay al-Sharif tried to expel Abu Hassan’s Dala’iya garrison from the Tabu‘samt oasis and was banished to Sousse, where a black slave-girl bore him two sons, including Mawlay Isma‘il. Another son, Muhammad al-Sharif drove the Dala’iya out of the oasis by 1641, but they defeated him in 1646. After Mawlay al-Sharif died in 1659, his son Rashid left Sijilmasa to avoid his brother Muhammad and gained the support of the Banu Ma‘qil Arabs and the Ait Yaznasin Berbers in 1663. Muhammad tried to reassert his authority in Angad against his brother Rashid, but he was defeated and killed in battle. Rashid captured Fez in 1666 and two years later took over Marrakesh from the last Sa‘diyan ‘Abbas.

Rashid was succeeded by his half brother Mawlay Isma‘il (r. 1672-1727), who put down a revolt by his nephew and claimed religious authority as a sharif. Sharifs were descendants of the prophet Muhammad and were believed to have baraka (divine power). ‘Ali ibn Haidar had gathered several thousand blacks in the Sudan but disbanded them after Rashid died. Isma‘il recruited these for his guard. He defeated and killed Ghailan, forcing Fez to submit in 1673. After two years of siege, Isma‘il captured and plundered Marrakesh. The last Dala’iya, Ahmad al-Dala’i, was defeated in 1678. The ‘Alawids drove the Spaniards out of al-Ma‘mura (al-Mahdiyya) in 1681. Morocco made a treaty of peace and commerce with France the next year, and the English left Tangier in 1684. After twelve years of fighting, Isma‘il’s brother al-Harran and Ahmad ibn Mahriz were killed. The last resistance in Morocco was put down when the inhabitants of Taroudant were massacred in 1687. Moroccans retook Larache in 1689 and Arzila in 1691.

Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1700-1950

Ibn Khaldun on History

Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunisia on May 27, 1332 into an aristocratic and political family that had migrated from Seville in 1248. Brought up in the Hafsid court life of Bone and Tunis, he was well educated in Islamic traditions. In 1354 Ibn Khaldun went to serve Marinid Sultan Abu ‘Inan at Fez, where he became a prominent scholar. He was suspected of disloyalty and imprisoned for 21 months just prior to Abu ‘Inan’s invasion of Tunisia; he was released when Abu ‘Inan died in 1358. Then he served Vizier al-Hassan ibn ‘Umar and Abu ‘Inan’s successor Abu Salim. In 1362 Ibn Khaldun went to Granada and helped Ibn al-Ahmar Muhammad V to find refuge at the court of Abu Salim with the renowned scholar Ibn al-Khatib. Two years later he headed a diplomatic mission for Castile’s King Pedro to negotiate a peace treaty with the Arabs in Seville. He declined a generous offer from Pedro to restore his family estate and in 1365 went to Bougie to serve as prime minister for Hafsid ruler Abu ‘Abdallah, who had been his companion in prison. After Abu ‘Abdallah fell, Ibn Khaldun raised a force of Arabs for the Sultan of Tlemcen.

A few years later young ‘Abd-al-‘Aziz became the ruler of Fez, defeated the Sultan, and arrested Ibn Khaldun for one night. He went into a monastery to do scholarly work but was soon enlisted to serve ‘Abd-al-‘Aziz for two years. After his death in 1372 Ibn Khaldun was not allowed to move his family to Spain, and they took refuge in Oran. In the next seven years he wrote his History with its lengthy Introduction (Muqaddimah). In 1373 he returned to Tunis but soon moved on to Cairo, where the ruler appointed him a professor and then a judge. In 1384 the wife and five daughters of Ibn Khaldun died in a shipwreck. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1387, was appointed to an academic position in Cairo, and in 1399 resumed being a Malekite judge. He was removed from that high office and reinstated five times. Ibn Khaldun visited Damascus and reported his interviews with the famous Timur. The conqueror requested information on the Maghrib (northwest Africa) from the historian. Ibn Khaldun died in Cairo on March 17, 1406.

After a prayer Ibn Khaldun in his Introduction (Muqaddimah) suggested that the meaning of history is to explain the causes and origins of events; thus it is rooted in philosophy. He warned against the blind trust of traditions and advised being critical of suspect accounts. He gave the example that Moses could not have had 600,000 Israelites in the desert and explained why. He also doubted the story of Harun al-Rashid and his Vizier Ja‘far as uncharacteristic of their family traditions. He noted that changes in institutions and customs often result from changes in the rulers because the common people follow the rulers. He observed how Islamic society was transformed as its intellectual culture developed because professional men and artisans seek power and authority. He asserted his faith that God guides and helps weak and fallible men.

The first book of Ibn Khaldun’s History on the nature of civilization is also considered part of the Muqaddimah. He warned that partisanship for a particular opinion or sect can obscure the critical faculty and allow falsehoods to be accepted. Relying on transmitters is another reason for untruth appearing in histories. Praising powerful and high-ranking people also causes distortions; but the biggest problem is being ignorant of the various conditions in civilization. Ibn Khaldun agreed with jurists that adultery confuses pedigrees, murder destroys the human species, and injustice leads to the destruction of civilization. Humans are distinguished from other animals by their ability to think in sciences and crafts, by the restraining influence of authority, by using various means of making a living cooperatively, and by living in cities for companionship and to satisfy human needs.

Ibn Khaldun noted that a single individual is not capable of providing enough food to live but must cooperate with other human beings. Individuals also need help from their fellows for defense. Manual skill and crafts enable people to procure instruments for defense. Humans also need some authority to restrain their aggressive instincts and prevent injustice; Ibn Khaldun called this mulk (royal authority). Religious law ordained by God and revealed by a human being also helps people restrain themselves. Ibn Khaldun discussed different geographical zones and their influence on human character. Humans by spiritual perception can be inspired, and prophets usually recommend prayer, charity, and chastity. Others he called kahanah (psychics) may be faulty in their perceptions.

In the second chapter Ibn Khaldun discussed Bedouin civilization. Paradoxically, he described them as being more savage but having better habits and more courage than sedentary (hadara) civilizations that follow laws. Governmental authority can prevent injustice except what comes from the ruler himself. Ibn Khaldun observed powerful group feeling in the desert tribes that often enabled them to overcome sedentary civilizations. He described four generations that begins with the builder of the family’s glory. In the second generation the son learns by study from the practical experience of his father. The third generation’s imitation of that son becomes tradition, which is another inferior step. Finally the fourth generation despises those and destroys what was built. The development of luxuries and a life of ease is often a prelude to the inevitable destruction of the group feeling.

Ibn Khaldun credited group feeling or solidarity (‘asabiyya) with developing such good qualities as generosity, forgiveness of error, tolerance of the weak, hospitality to guests, support of dependents, maintaining the indigent, patience in adverse situations, faithfully fulfilling obligations, liberal spending to preserve honor, respecting religious law and teachers, and avoiding fraud, cunning, and deceit. Everyone is fairly assigned their proper station, resulting in justice. The ruler is followed as children imitate their parents; students learn from their teachers. Ibn Khaldun also noted that the Bedouins live without laws, caring only for the property they take, and that such anarchy ruins civilization.

Ibn Khaldun described the stages he observed in the history of Muslim civilization from the rise of the Bedouin tribes to the powerful ‘Abbasid empire, which became luxurious and was replaced by rising tribal groups. In the long third chapter he discussed the Muslim dynasties and their government. Group feeling enables power to be won because of their “affection and willingness to fight and die for each other.”1 Once a royal family has established a dynasty, the group feeling tends to fade, though the religious propaganda usually maintains its power for a while. People are offered divine rewards for cooperating and being virtuous as laws prohibit evil practices. At first the zealous group feeling enables expansion, but later the empire reaches the limits of what it can conquer militarily. The size of the empire depends on the number of its supporters. The royal family claims all glory for itself; but as its wealth succumbs to luxury it loses its discipline. When its income no longer covers its expenses, the decline begins. High taxes and the army must be reduced. Luxury also brings corruption and eventually the ruination of the ancestral prestige.

Ibn Khaldun defined five stages of a dynasty. First, opposition is successfully overthrown as the royal authority gains power, becomes a model for the people, collects taxes, and defends property with a strong military. In the second stage the ruler claims all authority for himself and his clients but prevents others from sharing it. Third, the fruits of royal authority are enjoyed in leisure and tranquility as property is acquired and more taxes are collected. The ruler becomes famous and is still independent. In the fourth stage the ruler is complacent and follows the traditions established. Finally in the fifth stage the ruler wastes treasures on pleasures and amusements by being too generous to his inner circle. Important matters are handled by those less qualified, and senility sets in. Sometimes the ruler loses control to his vizier. Ibn Khaldun warned that excessive harshness damages royal authority and leads to destruction. Like Aristotle, he recommended a moderate path between extremes. When royal authority becomes tyrannical and unjust, it goes against religious law and will be held accountable on the day of judgment. People are restrained either by the authority of religious laws or by the rational means of political power. Every individual should realize that injustice is forbidden by the authority of the intellect.

Ibn Khaldun observed that at first the caliphate had great religious authority; but when the group feeling declined, it was replaced by royal authority. He described the offices of the mufti (religious jurist), judges, police chief, official witnesses, and market supervisors, who handle lesser cases. The vizier began as the “helper” of the ruler but often gained the greatest power. The main purposes of their government are to protect the community with a military, communicate with distant people, and collect taxes and pay expenses. A doorkeeper was assigned to keep people from disturbing the ruler with requests. The ‘Abbasid empire overthrew the Umayyad dynasty, which survived only in Spain, where the doorkeeper (hajib) became the most powerful vizier. The Umayyad ruler was eventually replaced by local governors (reyes de taifas). The ‘Abbasid vizier often had more control than the caliph preoccupied with luxuries. They were eventually overcome by the Seljuk Turks, who were overthrown later by the Mongol invasion of Hulagu. The Shi‘a dynasty of the ‘Ubaydid-Fatimids arose in Egypt. In the Maghrib desert tribes of the Berbers had strong solidarity, and group feeling enabled the Almohad dynasty, the Hafsids, and the Marinids to govern.

Ibn Khaldun wrote that war was caused by a desire for revenge that comes from jealousy or envy. Competing families and tribes often go to war. A second kind of war is the raiding done by desert tribes to gain property. A holy war called by religious authorities is a third kind. The fourth type of war is a dynastic war against those disobeying or attempting to secede. Ibn Khaldun considered the first two kinds unjust but believed that the latter two types were holy and just. He also noted that in luxurious dynasties which are declining, custom duties are increased to meet rising expenses. Ibn Khaldun advised the government against engaging in commercial activities that force farmers and merchants to sell things at low prices to the government and then buy its products for high prices. He explained that this ruins the economy and decreases tax revenues. He noted that the Persians did not allow their rulers to interfere with private property so that capital could grow and be taxed.

When the ruler starts to spend accumulated treasure on efforts to restore his dynasty, the decline begins. As the ruler needs more money, his authority shrinks because he cannot pay his officials and soldiers. Attacking people’s property is the injustice that ruins the dynasty. People stop doing business, and civilization decays. If the ruler gives tax breaks to friends and fiefs to sluggards, they do not produce. Such civilizations are ruined because those with authority and power are allowed to get away with injustice. Ibn Khaldun complained about the injustice of forced labor also. Religious law may allow cunning in trading, but at least it forbids depriving people of their property illegally. He concluded that political norms are a combination of religious laws and ethical rules.

Then the jurist and philosopher of history quoted a long letter that Tahir ibn al-Husain wrote in 821 to his son, who was appointed a governor in Egypt by al-Ma’mun. The Caliph was so impressed by its good advice that he had copies sent to all his officials. His main duties are to be just, to see that rights are observed, and to make sure that families are protected. He advised praying regularly and not being swayed from justice by likes and dislikes. Moderation leads to right guidance and success. Do not be suspicious of those who work for you, but inquire and investigate them if necessary. Work on improving yourself, and love good and just people; yet be friendly with the weak. Control your anger with dignity and mildness. Do not be greedy but invest your treasure in the welfare of the people. Do not justify or support vices. Consult with jurists and the wise. Do not be lenient when judging the noble or wealthy or friends and do not impose excessive fines. Help the poor and indigent. Learn from the affairs of the world and the history of rulers.

Ibn Khaldun considered large cities products of royal authority. Cooperation raises the standard of living and increases prices. Addiction to the crafts that provide elegance leads to diversified luxury. Government bureaucracy and customs duties cause more inflation. People have to increase their profits and spend them, or they fall into poverty. The many desires and pleasures that result from luxury cause immoral habits, including obscenity, fraud, and deceit. Diversifying the pleasures of sex leads to adultery and homosexuality. Individuals by nature seek superiority and domination, and so they compete with each other and form groups that compete.

Ibn Khaldun defined profit as the gain achieved by making a living, whether it be from agriculture, crafts, or commerce. Merchants must buy at low prices and sell at high ones, and so they inevitably use trickery; but it is legal. He observed that rank is useful for securing property because of the respect it gives. Many are obsequious or flatter those with rank in order to succeed in business. In commerce one must dispute, be clever, and persist despite quarrelling. Those who are too proud to stoop to this must depend on their own labor and are often poor, such as poets and artists. He also noted that religious authorities and teachers are usually not wealthy either. Ibn Khaldun did observe that there were many crafts in China, India, among the Turks, and in Christian nations. The most necessary crafts are agriculture, architecture, carpentry, tailoring, and weaving; but he also considered midwifery, writing, book production, music, and medicine to be noble crafts. He believed that most diseases come from food and suggested dieting as the main medicine.

God distinguished humans by giving them the ability to think, and Ibn Khaldun discussed various sciences. He observed that thinking starts with what comes last in the causal chain, and then action begins with what comes first. He described the experimental intellect that is developed by learning from experience. He quoted the famous saying that whoever does not learn from one’s parents will have to be educated by time. Prophets can gain knowledge from angels. Teaching is also a craft. Ibn Khaldun believed that theology is based on the oneness of God; but the cause of perceptions in the soul is not known. He described the mystical methods of Sufism.

The approach is based upon
constant application to divine worship,
complete devotion to God,
aversion to the false splendor of the world,
abstinence from the pleasure, property, and position
to which the great mass aspires,
and retirement from the world
into solitude for divine worship.2

He lamented that very few people practice the self-scrutiny of the Sufis; even the pious only are obedient.

Ibn Khaldun outlined the intellectual sciences as logic, physics, metaphysics, and the mathematical sciences of geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. He observed that learning arithmetic helped give one the discipline to be truthful. He noted that philosophers learned how to distinguish the spiritual essence from the corporeal perceptions. Ibn Khaldun suggested that scientific subjects be taught gradually. He warned that using severe punishment could harm a student because it causes bad habits and makes students and servants feel oppressed, inducing them to be lazy, deceitful, and insincere. The same is true of nations that fall under the yoke of tyranny and experience injustice. Ibn Khaldun completed his study of civilization by discussing language and speech. In his conclusion he hoped that other scholars would take up this new science of civilization and improve on what he had started.

Sub-Saharan Africa to 1700


1. The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun, tr. Franz Rosenthal, Volume 1, p. 313.
2. Ibid., Volume 3, p. 76.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book Mideast & Africa to 1700.
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MIDEAST & AFRICA 1700-1950

Prehistoric Cultures
Sumer, Babylon, and Hittites
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Israel
Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian Empires
Muhammad and Islamic Conquest
Abbasid, Buyid, and Seljuk Empires 750-1095
Islamic Culture 1095-1300
Ottoman and Persian Empires 1300-1700
North Africa to 1700
Sub-Saharan Africa to 1700
Summary and Evaluation

Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1700-1950
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1700-1950

Chronology of Mideast & Africa to 1950
World Chronology
Chronology of Asia & Africa


BECK index