History of medieval Tunisia

The present day Republic of Tunisia, "al-Jumhuriyyah at-Tunisiyyah", has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab-Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west. Tunis is the capital; it is located near the ancient site of the city of Carthage. Throughout its recorded history the physical features and environment of the land of Tunisia have remained fairly constant. Weather in the north is temperate, enjoying a Mediterranean climate, with mild rainy winters and hot dry summers, the terrain being wooded and fertile. The Medjerda river valley (Wadi Majardah, northeast of Tunis) is currently valuable farmland. Along the eastern coast the central plains enjoy a moderate climate, less rainfall but with heavy dew; these coastlands are currently used for orchards and grazing. Near the mountainous Algerian border rises "Jebel ech Chambi", the highest point at 1544 meters. In the near south, an east-west belt of salt lakes cuts across the country. Further south lies the Sahara desert, including sand dunes of the "Grand Erg Oriental". [Kenneth J. Perkins, "Tunisia. Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds" (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 1986) at 1-5.] [Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 1-6.] [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] .]

The medieval era opened with the arrival of the Arabs who brought their language and the religion of Islam, and its calendar. [The Islamic calendar starts on July 16, 622 A.D., an estimated date for Muhammad's flight (Hijra) from Mecca to Medina. Years in this calendar are designated A.H. for "Anno Hegira" or the Hijri year. Since the Islamic calendar is strictly lunar, it runs about eleven and one-quarter days shorter than a solar year; hence calculation of dates between this lunar and a solar calendar are complicated. The calendar used in this article is a solar calendar, the traditional western calendar, or the Gregorian, with the years dating from an approximate birth date of Jesus, designated either B.C. for "Before Christ", or A.D. for "Anno Domini". Alternatively the western calendar can be renamed to sanction a secular modernism, a nominal neutrality, or otherwise, the years being called B.C.E. and C.E., for "Common Era".] The first local Islamic ruling house, the Aghlabids, consisted primarily of rule by leading members of this Arab tribe. Next came the Shia Fatimids, who later were to expand their rule and found a dynasty in Egypt. The Almohades followed, a religious movement founded by a Berber religious leader in the western Maghrib, whose empire spread to include Ifriqiya (Tunisia). After them, their heir in Tunis was the local Berber dynasty, the Hafsid, whose rule would continue for centuries with varying success until the Ottoman era.

Umayyad Caliphate in Ifriqiya

After the initial period of the four rightly-guided caliphs (632-661) following the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632), the ruling family of the Umayyads took firm control of the new Muslim state. The Umayyad Caliphate (661-750) ruled from the city of Damascus; their first Caliph Mu'awiya (602-680, r.661-680) directed Muslim forces in their on-going contest with the Byzantine Empire. Under Mu'awiya the Caliphate could see how the foreign figured in the "geo-political" and military strategy of this struggle. Hence there began the decades-long undertaking resulting in the Umayyad conquest of North Africa. [Charles-André Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payot 1952), translated as "History of North Africa. Tunisia Algeria Morocco. From the Arab Conquest to 1830" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970)at 1-3. Julien discusses the "scanty information" available on the Arab Conquest, basically four "traditions" about this "heroic and legendary age" (by Waqadi, at Medina and Bagdad, end of 8th century; by Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, at Cairo, 871; an Andalusian (Spanish Moor) tradition of the 13th; and, a Tunisian tradition from Kairouan also of the 13th). Later annalist (including the Ibn Khaldun of Tunis) seem to improve on these early traditions by applying their literary skill to coax out further details; not an approved or satifactory method. Julian relies on the work of historians William Marçais and Emile Gautier.]

Islamic conquest

In 670 an Arab Muslim army under Uqba ibn Nafi, who had commanded an earlier incursion in 666, entered the region of Ifriqiya (Arabic for the prior Roman Province of Africa). Marching overland the Arabs by-passed Byzantine fortified positions along the Mediterranean coast. In the more arid south of Ifriqiya, the city of Kairouan ["stronghold" in Arabic] was established as their base, and the building of its famous Mosque begun. From 675 to 682 Dinar ibn Abu al-Muhadjir directed the Arab Muslim army. [H. Mones, "The Conquest of North Africa and Berber resistance" in I. Hrbek (ed.), "General History of Africa" (Univ.of California/UNESCO 1992) at 118-129, 122-123.] In the late 670s, this Arab army defeated the Berber forces who constituted the main resistance. Apparently these Berbers were primarily composed of sedentary Christians from the Awreba tribe and perhaps the Sanhadja confederation; they were led by Kusaila, who was taken prisoner. [Charles-André Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payot 1952), translated as "History of North Africa. Tunisia Algeria Morocco. From the Arab Conquest to 1830" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970)at 7, map at 9.] [Cf., H. Mones, "The Conquest of North Africa and Berber resistance" in I. Hrbek (ed.), "General History of Africa" (Univ.of California/UNESCO 1992) at 118-129. Prof. Mones at 118-120 provides a description of the various Berber tribes of this period, their locations and alliances.]

In 682, Uqba ibn Nafi reassumed command. He defeated an alliance of Berber forces near Tahirt (Algeria), then proceeded westward in a long military triumph, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast, where he lamented that before him lay no more lands to conquer for Islam. Episodes from his campaigns became legend throughout the Maghrib. Yet Kusaila, the Berber leader held prisoner, escaped. Later Kusaila led a fresh Berber uprising, which interrupted the conquest and claimed the Arab leader's life. Kusaila then formed an enlarged Berber kingdom. Yet Zuhair b. Qais, the deputy of the fallen leader Uqba ibn Nafi, enlisted Zanata tribes from Cyrenaica to fight for the cause of Islam, and in 686 managed to overrun and terminate the kingdom newly formed by Kusaila. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 67-69.] [John K. Cooley, "Baal, Christ, and Mohammed" (New York: Holt Rinehart Winston 1965) at 64-69.] [A slightly different view of Kusaila (Kusayla) is given by H. Mones, in his "The Conquest of North Africa and Berber resistance" in I. Hrbek (ed.), "General History of Africa" (Univ.of California/UNESCO 1992) at 118-129, 123-124. Mones relates that Kusayla converted to Islam at first but turned against Islam due to a perceived injustice, i.e., Islamic Arabs marching against Berber converts.]

Under the Caliph 'Abd al-Malik (685-705), the Umayyad conquest of North Africa was to advance close to completion. In Egypt a new army of forty thousand was assembled, to be commanded by Hassan ibn al-Nu'man (known to Arabs as "the honest old man"). Meanwhile, the Byzantines had been reinforced. The Arab Muslim army crossed the Cyrene and Tripoli without opposition, then quickly attacked and captured . The Berbers, however, continued to offer stiff resistance, then being led by a woman of the Jarawa tribe, whom the Muslims called "the prophetess" ["al-Kahina" in Arabic] ; her actual name was approximately "Damiya". [Three citations may be given as follows: Muhammed Talbi, "Un nouveau fragment de l'histoire de l'Occident musulman: l'épopée d'al Kahina" in "Cahiers de Tunisie" 19: 19-52 (1971); Abdelmajid Hannoum, "Post-Colonial Memories. The Legend of Kahina, a North African heroine" (2001); Yves Modéran, "Kahena" in "Encyclopédie Berbère" 27: 4102-4111. By a prior interpretation of Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), al-Kahina was seen as Jewish; yet this is now being understood as a misreading of his text.] ["Contra": André Chouraqui presents Kahina as Jewish in his "Les Juifs d'Afrique du Nord. Entre l'Orient et l'Occident" (Paris: Foundation Nat. de Sciences Politiques 1965), translated as "Between East and West. A History of the Jews of North Africa" (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 1968; reprint New York: Atheneum 1973) at 34-37. " [T] he warrior-priestess Kahena... was the chief of the Jerawa tribe." "Later historians [were] unanimous in regarding [the Jerawa] as Jews." In telling of the color and controversy surrounding Kahena, Chouraqui cites Ibn Khaldun, and other and modern authors. "Ibid." at 34, and notes 2-10 (at 328-329).] On the river Nini, an alliance of Berbers under "Damiya" defeated the Muslim armies under al-Nu'man, who escaped returning to Cyrenaica. Thereupon, the Byzantines took advantage of the Berber victory by reoccupying Carthage. Unlike the Berber Kusaila ten years earlier, "Damiya" did not establish a larger state, evidently being content to rule merely her own tribe. Some commentators speculate that to "Damiya" the Arabs appeared interested in booty primarily, because she then commenced to ravage and disrupt the region, making it unattractive to raiders looking for spoils of war; of course, it also made her unpopular to the residents. Yet she did not attack the Muslim base at Kairouan. From Egypt the Caliph 'Abdul-Malik had reinforced al-Nu'man in 698, who then reentered Ifriqiya. Although she told her two sons to go over to the Arabs, she herself again gave battle. She lost; al-Nu'man won. It is said that at "Bir al-Kahina" [well of the prophetess] in the Auras, "Damiya" was killed. [Brett & Fentress, "The Berbers" (1996) at 85.] [Cooley, "Baal, Christ, and Mohammed" (1965) at 69-72.] [Welch, "North African Prelude" (1949) at 189-194.] [Chouraqui, "Between East and West. A History of the Jews of North Africa" (Atheneum 1973) at 34-37.]

In 705 Hassan b. al-Nu'man stormed , overcame and sacked it, leaving it destroyed. A similar fate befell the city of Utica. Near the ruins of Carthage he founded Tunis as a naval base. Muslim ships began to dominate the Mediterranean coast; hence the Byzantines made their final withdrawal from al-Maghrib. Then al-Nu'man was replaced as Muslim military leader by Musa ibn Nusair, who substantially completed the conquest of al-Maghrib. He soon took the city of Tangier and appointed as its governor the Berber Tariq ibn Ziyad. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 69-70.]

Berber role

The Berber people, also known as the "Amazigh", "converted en mass as tribes and assmilated juridically to the Arabs," writes Prof. Hodgson; he then comments that the Berbers were to play a rôle in the west parallel to that played by the Arabs elsewhere in Islam. [cite book|last=G. S. Hodgson|first=Marshall|year=1958, 1961, 1974|title="The Venture of Islam"|publisher=University of Chicago|pages=Volume I: 308] For centuries the Berbers had lived as semi-pastoralists in or near arid lands at the fringe of civilization, sustaining their isolated identity somewhat like the Arabs. "The Maghrib, islanded between Mediterranean and Sahara, was to the Berbers what Arabia... was to the Arabs." [cite book|last=Hodgson|year=1958, 1961, 1974|title="The Venture of Islam"|pages=Volume I: 308] Hodgson explains: although the Berbers enjoyed more rainfall than the Arabs, their higher mountains made their settlements likewise difficult to access; and though the Imperial cities were more proximous, those cities never incorporated the countryside with a network of market towns, but instead remained aloof from the indigenous rural Berbers. [cite book|last=Hodgson|year=1958, 1961, 1974|title="The Venture of Islam"|pages=308-309]

A counter argument would be that the Berbers merely imitated the success of the Arab Muslims; the better historical choice would be more uniquely ethnic and authentic, i.e., to articulate their own inner character and fate. [Cf., Abdallah Laroui, "L'Histoire du Maghreb" (Paris 1970), translated by Ralph Manheim as "The History of the Maghrib" (Princeton Univ. 1977) at 98-101, who distills this argument from modern French academics, e.g., Stephane Gsell, Charles-Andres Julien, and Gabriel Camps. Laroui presents this argument, then mocks it and penetrates it, taking the discussion through various points of view: positive, negative, neutral, other. "If a Maghribi were to rewrite the history of France and England from the point of view of the Celts, stressing their negativity and inauthenticity... ." Laroui, "Ibid., at 101.] [Perkins pointedly discusses the seeming preference of earlier French historians for the Berbers over the Arabs because it was considered that a Berber ascendancy was good for French interests. Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 54, n1 (to text at 41), discussing the Arab Bani Hilal.] Prof. Abdallah Laroui interprets the North African panorama as indicating that the Berbers did in fact carve out for themselves an independent rôle. "From the first century B.C. to the eighth century A.D. the will of the Berbers to be themselves is revealed by the continuity of their efforts to reconstitute the kingdoms of the Carthaginian period, and in this sense the movement was crowned with success." [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" at 100.] By choosing to ally "not" with nearby Europe, familiar in memory by the Roman past, [Although then it was the Byzantines who were rivals of the Arabs, both foreign powers coming from the east. Yet, of course, the Byzantines shared with the Romans their civil traditions and the Christian religion.] but rather with the newcomers from distant Arabia, the Berbers knowingly decided their future and historical path. "Their hearts opened to the call of Islam because in it they saw a means of national liberation and territorial independence." [cite book|last=Allal al-Fasi|title=Al-Harakat al-Istiqlaliya|pages=introduction, cited by Laoui (1970, 1977) at 101, n.19.]

Environmental and geographic parallels between Berber and Arab are notable, as Hodgeson adumbrates. In addition, the languages spoken by the semitic Arabs and by the Berbers [See above, "Early History" section.] are both members of the same world language family, the Afro-Asiatic, although from two of its different branches. [Joseph Greenberg, "The Languages of Africa" (Indiana Univ. 1966) at 42, 50.] [David Crystal, "Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language" (1987) at 316.] [I. M. Diakonoff, "Semito-Hamitic Languages" (Moscow: Nauka Publishing House 1965).] Perhaps this linguistic kinship shares a further resonance, e.g., in mythic explantions, popular symbols, and religious preference, [As to such possible linkages, cf. Julian Baldick, "Black God. Afro-Asiatic roots of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions" (1998).] [Cf., H.T.Norris, "Saharan Myth and Saga" (Oxford Univ. 1972).] [Cf., "Moorish Literature", introduction by René Basset (New York: Collier 1901).] in some vital fundamentals of psychology, [Carl Gustav Jung suggests an unconscious symbolism shared universally by human beings, C.G.Jung, "Über die Archetypen des kollektiven Unbewussten" (1954), translated as "Archetypes of the collecive unconscious" in "Collected Works", volume 9,i (Princeton Univ. [Bollingen] 1959, 1969) at 3-41.] [Jolande Jacobi, "Die Psychologie von C.G.Jung" (Zürich: Rascher 1939), translated by Ralph Manheim as "The Psychology of C.G.Jung" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1942; Yale Univ. 1943, 6th ed. revised 1962) at 30-49. Jacobi abstracts several cultural and civilizational implications, "Ibid." at 33-35.] and in the media of culture and the context of tradition. [Ira Progoff, "Jung's Psychology and its Social Meaning" (New York: The Julian Press 1953, 2nd ed. 1969; reprint 1955, The Grove Press; reprint 1973, Doubleday Anchor). Progoff draws out the inferences: " [S] ince the archetypes involve the most fundamental meanings, they appear on a psychic level that is prior to individuality, and are expressed in the core belief that underlies major cultural units." The archetypes are the source for "the formation of the various social symbols in history" that then "provide the figures and images which fill the collective level of the unconsicous in the individual psyche." Accordingly, "it is not abstractly but in their historical forms that they come forth in the ever-changing psychic contents of social life." "The motifs of the original founding myth of the people form the basis of a continuity in the psyche, a continuity which is a group phenomenon, but which nevertheless is expressed and experienced by the individual." Progoff (1973) at 242-245.]

Evidently, long before and after the Islamic conquest, there was some popular sense of a strong and long-standing cultural connection between the Berbers [See above, "Early History" section.] and the Semites of the Levant, naturally with regard to Carthage [The Phoenicians of Tyre who founded and settled in Carthage spoke and wrote in a Canaanite language, a division of Northwest Semitic, called Punic (Lancel, "Carthage. A history" (1992, 1995) at 351-360), and transplanted their culture to Africa.] [See above "Carthage" section.] and in addition with regard to links yet more ancient and genetic. [Chouraqui, "Between East and West" (1952, 1968) at 3-5, who cites a variety of sources, e.g., Flavius Josephus (37-c.100), "Antiquities of the Jews" I:15 (that the Libyans were invaded by Ophren, grandson of Moses, whose descendants multiplied in Africa); Tacitus (56-c.117), "Annals" V,2 (that the Jews were originally Libyans, i.e., Berbers); St. Augustine (354-430), "Epistolae ad Romanos Inchoata Exposition" 13 (P.L. 34, 2096), who reported a widespread belief by local Berbers (or mixed Punic-Berbers) of their Canaanite origins; Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), "Histoire des Berberes", as translated by Slane (Algiers 1852-1856) at 177, who stated that the Berbers are descendants of Canaan, yet which he contradicts later, at 183; and a pilgrimage site at Nedromah (near Tlemcen, Algeria), believed to be the tomb of Joshua the biblical conqueror, successor to Moses.] These claims of a remote ancestral relationship perhaps facilitated the Berber demand for equal footing with the Arab invaders within the religion of Islam following the conquest. [Cf., H. Mones, "The conquest of North Africa and the Berber resistance" at 118-129, 128-129, in "General History of Africa", volume III, edited by I. Hrbek (Univ.of California/UNESCO 1992).]

From Cyrenaica to al-Andalus, the somewhat-Arabized Berbers continuously remained in communication with each other throughout the following centuries. As a group their distinguishing features are easy to discern within Islam; e.g., while the ulama in the rest of Islam adopted for the most part either the Hanafi or the Shafi'i school of law, the Berbers in the west chose the Maliki madhhab, developing it in the course of time after their own fashion. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" at 71.] [Marshall G. S. Hodgson, "The Venture of Islam", at volume I: 226, and 308-312.]

Also inducing the Berbers to convert was the early lack of rigor in religious obligations, as well as the prospect of inclusion as warriors in the armies of conquest, with a corresponding share in booty and tribute. A few years later, in 711, the Berber Tariq ibn Ziyad would lead the Muslim invasion of the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania. Additionally, many of the Arabs who came to settle in al-Maghrib were religious and political dissidents, often Kharijites who opposed the Umayyad rulers in Damascus and embraced egalitarian doctrines, both popular positions among the Berbers of North Africa. [H. Mones, "The Conquest of North Africa and Berber resistance" in I. Hrbek (ed.), "General History of Africa" (Univ. of California/UNESCO 1992) at 118-129, 127-129. The Berbers particularly resented Arab ethnic discrimination against Berber converts to Islam.] Also, to locate its historical and religious context, the Arab conquest and Berber conversion to Islam followed a long period of polarization of society in the old province of Africa, in which the Donatist schism within Christianity proved instrumental, with the rural Berbers prominent in their dissent from the urban orthodoxy of the Roman church. [Cf., Laoui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 54-57. See above, "Roman Province of Africa", per "Christianity, its Donatist schism". Too, the Vandals (see above, "Vandal Kingdom") also religiously polarized the society by the forcing on the urban centers their Arian Christianity (which did parallel at least to some extent Islamic theology about the rôle of Jesus).] The Berbers were initially attracted to the Arabs because of their "proclivity for the desert and the steppes". [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 29-30.] [Cf., Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 65-66.]

After the conquest and following the popular conversion, Ifriqiya constituted a natural and proximous center for an Arab-Islamic regime in North Africa, the focus of culture and society. It was then the region with the most developed urban, commercial and agricultural infrastructure, essential for such a comprehensive project as Islam.

Aghlabid emirate under the Abbasids

During the years immediately preceding the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus (661-750), [One of the few surviving members of the Umayyad family, Abd-ar-Rahman I fled Syria as a fugitive, made his way west, hiding for a time in a Berber camp near Ifriqiya; later, he became the Emir of Cordoba (756-786) and founder of another Umayyad dynasty there in al-Andalus(756-1031). Richard Fletcher, "Moorish Spain" (New York: Henry Holt 1992) at 28.] revolts arose among the Kharijite Berbers in Morocco which eventually disrupted the stability of the entire Maghrib (739-772). [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris, Payot 1952; London: Routledge, Kegan Paul 1970) at 21-24.] The Kharijites failed to establish strong lasting institutions, yet the small Rustamid kingdom persisted (which controlled southern Ifriqiyah); also the impact of the Berber Kharijite revolt changed the political landscape. Direct rule from the East by the Caliphs over Ifriqiya became untenable, even following the rapid establishment of the new Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad in 750. Also, after several generations a local Arab-speaking aristocracy emerged in Ifriqiya, which became resentful of the distant caliphate's interference in local matters. [Especially after the rise of the Persianizing 'Abbasids and the move of the capital further to the east, to Baghdad.]

Political culture

The Arab Muhallabids (771-793) negotiated with the 'Abbasids a wide discretion in the exercise of their governorship of Ifriqiya. One such governor was al-Aghlab ibn Salim (r. 765-767), a forefather of the Aghlabids. Decades later Muhallabid rule came undone. A minor rebellion in Tunis took a more ominous turn when it spread to Kairouan. The Caliph's governor was unable to restore order.

Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, a provincial leader (son of al-Aghlab ibn Salim), led a disciplined army; he did manage to reestablish stability in 797. Later he proposed to the 'Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, that he be granted Ifriqiya (as the Arabs called the former Province of Africa) as a hereditary fief, with the title of "amir"; the caliph acquiesced in 800. [Julien, Charles-André Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payor 1931; revised by de Tourneau 1952), translated as "History of North Africa" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970) at 41: " [Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab] made skillful use of the insurrections in Ifriqiyah to set himself up as mediator and in turn to secure the title of Amir in 800."] [Perkins, "Tunisia" (Boulder: Westview 1986) at 30.] Thereafter, although the 'Abbasids caliphs received an annual tribute and their suzerainty was referenced in the "khubta" at Friday prayers, [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 116.] their control was largely symbolic, e.g., in 864 the Caliph al-Mu'tasim "required" that a new wing be added to the Zaituna Mosque near Tunis. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 77.]

From 800 to 909, Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab (r.800-812) and his descendants, known as the Aghlabids, ruled in Ifriqiya, as well as in lands to the west (eastern Algeria) and lands to the east (Tripolitania). The Aghlabids were predominantly of an Arab tribe the Bani Tamim. At that time there were perhaps 100,000 Arabs living in Ifriqiya, but of course the Berbers constituted the majority. [Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payor 1931; revised by de Tourneau 1952), translated as "History of North Africa" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970) at 42.] The Aghlabid military forces were drawn from: (a) Arab immigrant warriors (those recently sent against the Kharajite revolts, and descendants of earlier Arab invasions), (b) Islamized and bilingual natives ("Afariq") who were predominantly Berbers, and (c) black slave soldiers. It was on their black soldiery that the rulers often relied in crises. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 118.] [Julien defines "Afariq" as Christians of Ifriqiya, including Berbers and Romans. Charles-André Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payor 1931; revised by de Tourneau 1952), translated as "History of North Africa" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970) at 43.]

Despite the political peace and stability, followed by an economic expansion and prosperity, and despite a blossoming culture including grand construction projects, dissent was rife. Many in the Arabic-speaking elite developed an increasingly contrary attitude toward the Aghlabid regime, for several reasons.

First, in the army the Arab officer class was dissatisfied with the legitimacy of the regime (or used this as a pretext for disloyal ambition). [At origin, Aghlabid rule was based on their effective use of negotiations and military force to control the populace and secure civil order. In theory the Aghlabids came to rule on behalf of the 'Abbasid Caliphate in Bagdad, whose prestige naturally enhanced Aghlabid authority among the locals of Ifriqiya. Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 41-42.] A general attitude of insubordination meant that internal quarreling within the military from time to time spilled over into public and violent struggles. Their latent hostility also surfaced when factions began making extortionist demands directly on the population. A dangerous revolt from within the Arab army (the "jund") broke out near Tunis and lasted from 824 until 826. The Aghlabids retreated to the south and were saved only by enlisting the aid of Berbers of the Kharajite Jarid. Another revolt of 893 (said to be provoked by the cruelty of Ibrahim II Ibn Ahmad (r. 875-902), the ninth Aghlabid amir), was put down by the black soldiery. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 118.]

Second, the Muslim ulema looked with reproach on the ruling Aghlabids. Aggravation in religious circles arose primarily from the un-Islamic lifestyle of the rulers. Disregarding the strong religious sentiments held by the many in the emerging community, the Aghlabids often led lives of pleasure and, e.g., were seen drinking wine (against Islamic law). Another issue was Aghlabid taxation not sanctioned by the Maliki school of Islamic law. Other opponents criticized their contemptuous treatment of mawali Berbers who had embraced Islam. The Islamic doctrine of equality regardless of race was a cornerstone of the Sunni movement in the Maghrib, and also of the Maliki school of law as developed in Kairouan; these principles formed the core of the hostility of Ifriqiya toward rule by the Caliph from the East. [Cf., Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 30-31.]

As recompense, the Aghlabid rulers saw that mosques were constructed or augmented, e.g., at Tunis (the "Zaituna" [Olive Tree] Mosque, as well as its famous university, Ez-Zitouna); at Kairouan (Mosque of the Three Doors), and at Sfax. Also a well known ribat or fortified military monastery was built at Monastir, and at Susa (in 821 by Ziyadat Allah I); here Islamic warriors trained. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 77.]

In 831 Ziyadat Allah I (r. 817-838), son of the founder Ibrahim, launched an invasion of Sicily. Placed in command was Asad ibn al-Furat, the qadi or religious judge; the military adventure was termed a "jihad". [Kenneth J. Perkins, "Tunisia. Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds" (Boulder: Westview Press 1986) at 31-32.] This expedition proved successful; Palermo was made the capitol of the region captured. Later raids were made against the Italian peninsula; in 846 Rome was attacked and the Basilica of St. Peter sacked. In orchestrating the invasion of Sicily, the Aghlabid rulers had managed to unite two rebellious factions (the army and the clergy) in a common effort against outsiders. [Charles-André Julien, "History of North Africa" (1931, 1952, 1970) at 49-50. The observer may recognize this social pattern as being all too common in human societies no matter the age nor the locale.] Later Islamic rulers in Sicily severed connections with Ifriqiyah, and their own Sicilian Kalbid dynasty (948-1053) governed the Emirate. [In 1061 the Normans under Roger I of Sicily arrived on the island and eventually brought it under their rule. Charles Homer Haskins, "The Normans in European History" (Houghton Mifflin 1915, reprint Norton 1966) at 208-211.]

The invasion of Sicily had worked to stabilize the political order in Ifriqiya, which progressed in relative tranquility during its middle period. In its final decline, however, the dynasty self-destructed, in that its eleventh and last amir, Ziyadat Allah III (r. 902-909) (d. 916), due to insecurity stemming from his father's assassination, ordered his rival brothers and uncles executed. This occurred during the assaults made by the Fatimids" Sh'ia Caliphate, and the Zirids">Fatimids against the Aghlabid domains. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 33.]

Institutions and society

In the Aghlabid government generally, the high positions were filled by "princes of the blood, whose loyalty could be relied on." The judicial post of Qadi of Kairouan was said to be given "only to outstanding personalities notable for their conscientiousness even more than their knowledge." [cite book|last=Julien|first=Charles Andre|year=Paris: 1931, 1952; London: 1970|title="History of North Africa"|pages=48-49] On the other hand, the administrative staffs were composed of dependent clients (mostly recent Arab and Persian immigrants), and the local bilingual "Afariq" (mostly Berber, and which included many Christians). The Islamic state in Ifriqiya paralleled in many respects the government structure formed in Abbasid Baghdad. [In turn, the 'Abbasid Caliphate owed much to the governing institutions of the antecedent Sasanian Persians. Hodgson, "The Venture of Islam" (Univ.of Chicago 1958, 1961, 1974) at I: 380-384.] Aghlabid offices included the "vizier" [prime minister] , the "hajib" [chamberlain] , the "sahib al-barid" [master of posts and intelligence] , and numerous "kuttab" [secretaries] (e.g., of taxation, of the mint, of the army, of correspondence). Leading Jews formed a small elite group. As in an earlier periods (e.g., under Byzantine rule), the majority of the population consisted of rural Berbers, distrusted now because of Kharajite or similar tendencies. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 117.]

Kairouan (or Qayrawan) had become the cultural center of not only of Ifriqiya but of the entire Maghrib. A type of volume then current, the "tabaqat" (concerned with the handling of documents), indirectly illuminates elite life in Aghlabid Ifriqiya. One such work was the "Tabaqat 'ulama' Ifriqiya" ["Classes of Scholars of Ifriqiya"] written by Abu al-'Arab. [Muhammad Ben Cheneb (ed. & transl.), "Classes des savants de l'Ifriqiya" (Alger: Publications de la Faculte de lettres d'Alger 1914-1920), cited by Julien (1970) at 43 n.12 and 75.] [Cf. Laroui (1970, 1977) at 119 n.19.] Among the Sunni Muslim ulema, two learned professions then came to the fore: (a) the "faqih" (plural "fuqaha") or the jurist; and (b) the "'ābid" or the ascetics.

The "fuqaha" congregated at Kairouan, then the legal center of al-Maghrib. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 30-31.] The more liberal Hanafi school of law at first predominated in Ifriqiyah, but soon a strict form of the Maliki school came to prevail, becoming in fact the only widespread madhhab, not only in Tunisia but throughout North Africa, a situation which continues (despite several interruptions) to be the norm today. The Maliki school was introduced to Ifriqiya by the jurist Asad ibn al-Furat (759-829), who nonetheless wavered between these two schools of law. The "Mudawanna", written by his disciple Sahnun ('Abd al-Salam b. Sa'id) (776-854), provided a "vulgate of North-African Malikism" during the period in which this madhhab won the field against its rival, the Hanafi. [Laroui, "History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 120-121. Laroui suggests that the Ifriqiya victory by the Maliki partisans was aided by linking the Hanafi school to the rationalist doctrines of the Mu'tazili, which later became discredited. "Ibid." at 120.] Abu Hanifa (700-767) (founder of the Hanafi school) drew out fiqh that was perhaps better suited to its origin in Baghdad, a sophisticatd imperial capital; Malik ibn Anas (716-795) initiated the school bearing his name in the smaller and more rural city of Medina. [Knut S. Vikor, "Between God and the Sultan. A History of Islamic Law" (Oxford Univ. 2005) at 94-100.] [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 120.] By choosing the Maliki school, Ifriqiya obtained more discretion in defining its legal culture. The Maliki jurists were often at odds with the Aghlabids, e.g., over their personal immorality, and over issues of taxation regarding agriculture (i.e., of a fixed cash levy instead of a tithe in kind). [The offending tax on crops payable in cash being the act of the second amir, 'Abdullah ibn Ibrahim (812-817). Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 77.] Also the Maliki fuqaha was understood to act more in the interests of the Berbers, i.e., for a local autonomy, by filtering out potential intrusions into Ifriqiya by Arab power and influence from the East. [Julien, "History of North Africa" (1931, 1952, 1970) at 45-46.] [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 30-31.]

Foremost of the "'ābid" scholars or ascetics was Buhlul b. Rashid (d. 799), who reputedly despised money and refused the post of grand judge; his fame spread throughout the Islamic world. By virtue of their piety and independence, the "abid" won social prestige and a voice in politics; some scholars would speak on behalf of the cities, criticizing the regime's finance and trade decisions. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 121.] Although substantially different, the status of the 'ābid relates somewhat to the much later, largely Berber figure of the Maghribi saint, the "wali", who as keeper of "baraka" (spiritual charisma) became the object of veneration by religious believers, and whose tomb would be the destination of pilgrimage. [Julien, "History of North Africa" (1952, 1970) at 43, 338.] [Such a role was present among the Berbers from earliest recorded times.] [The role is similar to the Ancient Hebrew "ro'é" [seer] and "nabi" [ecstatic or prophet] , which two roles later became combined. T.H.Robinson, "Prophecy and the Prophets of Ancient Israel" (London: Duckworth ) at 28-38. Cf., William Robertson Smith, "The Religion of the Semites. Second and Third Series" [1890-1891] (Sheffield Academy Press 1995), edited by John Day, at 56-58.]

Ifriqiya flourished under Aghlabid rule. Extensive improvements were made to the pre-existing water works in order to promote olive groves and other agriculture (oils and cereals were exported), to irrigate the royal gardens, and for livestock. Roman aqueducts to supply the towns with water were rebuilt under Abu Ibrahim Ahmad, the sixth amir. In the Kairouan region hundreds of basins were constructed to store water for the raising of horses. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 121-125.]

Commercial trade resumed under the new Islamic regime, e.g., by sea, particularly to the east with the Egyptian port of Alexandria. Also, improved trade routes linked Ifriqiya with the continental interior, the Sahara and the Sudan, regions regularly incorporated into the Mediterranean commerce for the first time during this period. Evidently camels on a large scale had not been common to these regions until the fourth century, and it was not until several centuries later that their use in the Saharan trade became common. [Richard W. Bulliet, "The Camel and the Wheel" (Harvard Univ. 1975) at 113, 138.] [A. Bathily, "Relations between the different regions of Africa" at 348-357, 350, in "General History of Africa, volume III, Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century" (UNESCO 1992).] Now this long-distance overland trade began in earnest. The desert city of Sijilmasa near the Atlas mountains in the far west [maghrib al-aqsa] served as one of the primary trading junctions and entrepôts, e.g., for salt and gold. Regarding Ifriqiya Wargla was the primary desert link to Gafsa and to Kairouan; also Ghadames, Ghat, and Tuat served as stops for the Saharan trade to Ifriqiya. [E. W. Bovill, "The Golden Trade of the Moors" (Oxford Univ. 1958, 1968) at 68-74, 87, 239.]

A prosperous economy permitted a refined and luxurious court life and the construction of the new palace cities of al-'Abbasiya (809), and Raqada (877) for the residences of the ruling amir. The architecture was later imitated in Fez, Tlemcen, and Bougie. The location of these Aghlabid government centers was outside of Kairouan, which city was dominated by Muslim clerical institutions.

Ifriqiyah during the era under the Aghlabid Dynasty (799-909) for the most part continued its leading rôle in the Maghrib, due generally to its peace and stability, recognized cultural achievements, and material prosperity. [Abdallah Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (Paris 1970, Princeton Univ. 1977) at 115-121] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 76-78.] [Charles-André Julien, "Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord" (Paris: Payor 1931; revised by de Tourneau 1952), translated as "History of North Africa" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970; New York: Praeger 1970) at 41-50.]

Rustamid Berber kingdom

The origins of the Rustamid state can be traced to the Berber Kharijite revolt (739-772) against the new Arab Sunni power that was being established across North Africa following the Islamic conquest. Originating in Mesopotamia, the Kharijite (Ar: Khawarij) movement had begun in protest against the fourth caliph Ali, who consented to negotiate druing a Muslim civil war (656-661) despite his superior army in the field; as a result some of his armed forces left the camp, hence the movement of the Khawarij ["those who go out"] . Originally puritan in outlook, being of the ummah of Islam for a believer indicated a perfection of the soul, yet sin constituted a schism, a split from other believers, the sinner becoming an apostate. The leader must be above reproach, yet could be non-Arab. [Never attaining lasting success, but persisting in its struggles, the Kharijite movement remains today only in its Ibadi branch, with small minorities in isolated locales throughout the Muslim world (including the Maghrib), although the Ibadis predominate in Oman. Glassé, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1991) at 222-223, 165. Kharijite origin is not connected to that of the Shi'a, the party of Ali.]

In the Maghrib the un-Islamic tax policies imposed on the Muslim Berbers by the new Arab Islamic regime (levying the "kharaj" [land tax] and the "jizya" [poll tax] meant only for infidels) provoked a widespread armed resistence, which came to be led by Kharijite Berbers. [Julien, "A History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 21.] Although divided and evenutally defeated after some decades, [Arab historians remark that the 772 defeat of the Kharijite Berbers by an Abbasid army in battle near Tripoli was "the last of 375 battles" the Berbers had fought for their rights against armies from the East. Julien, "A History of North Africa" (1952, 1970) at 24.] a Kharijite remnant established a state (776-909) under the Rustamids, whose capital was at Tahert (located in the mountains southwest of modern Algiers). Apart from the lands surrounding Tahert, Rustamid territory consisted of largely the upland steppe or "pre-Sahara" that forms the frontier between the better watered coastal regions of the Maghrib and the arid Sahara desert. As such, its territory extended in a narrow climatic strip eastward as far as Tripolitania (modern Libya), and included southern Ifriqiya and the island of Djerba. As a neighboring state, the Aghlabid emirate was soon obliged to recognize Rustamid rule. On the other hand, the Umayyad Emirs of Córdoba welcomed the presence of the Rustamids Berbers as natural allies against the Aghlabids, Abbasid agents. [Jamil m. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 71-76, 74-76.]

Tahert was economically well situated, as it formed an entrepot for trade between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara. During the summer Tahert became the market place where the pastoralist of the steppe exchanged their animal produce for the local grains harvested by sedentary farmers. As the most prominent Khawarij center, it attracted immigrants from across the Islamic world, including Persia the home of its founder, and as well Christians. Yet "life at Tahert was conducted in a permanent state of religious fevor." [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 27-28, 30-31.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 75.]

The founder Ibn Rustam (r.776-784) took the title of Imam. While in theory elected by elders, in practice the Imam was an hereditary office. The consitution was theocratic. The Imam was both a political and a religious leader. [E.g., the Sufrite Kharijites who ran the independent government in nearby Sijilmasa at times paid tithe to the Rustamid Imam. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 75.] Islamic law was strictly applied. " [A] dulterers were stoned, the hands of thieves were cut off, and in war pillage and the massacring of non-warriors was not permitted." The Imam managed the state, law and justice, prayers and charity. He collected zakah ["alms"] at harvest and distributed it to the poor and for public works. He appointed the qadi, the treasurer, and the police chief. The Imam was expected to lead an ascetic life and be an able theologian and astute, as civic disputes could easily develop into religious schism. Yet opposing parties in disputes often submitted to mediation. The Khawarij was tolerant toward unbelievers. [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 29-32.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 75.]

The Rustamids endured about as long at the Aghlibid emirate; both states fell to the Fatimids during 909. Kharijites surviving from the Rustamid era eventually became Ibadis, and for the most part reside currently in the Djebel Nefousa, in the Mzab and at Wargla in Algeria, and on Djerba island in Tunisia. [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 32-33.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 76.]

Fatimids: Shi'a Caliphate, and the Zirids

As the Fatimids grew in strength and numbers nearby to the west, they began to launch frequent attacks on the Aghlabid regime in Ifriqiya, which of course contributed to its political instability and general unrest. [Ifriqiya continued to endure strife between the orthodox Sunnis of the Malikite madhhab, and the remnants of the Kharijite Berbers to south and east. I. Hrbek, "The emergence of the Fatimids" in "General History of Africa," volume III, at 163 (Paris: UNESCO; Berkeley: Univ.of California 1992, abridged edition).] The Fatimids eventually managed to capture Kairouan in 909, forcing the last of theb Aghlabid line, Ziyadat Allah III, to evacuate the palace at Raqadda. On the east coast of Ifriqiaya facing Egypt, the Fatimids built a new capital on top of ancient ruins, calling the seaport Mahdiya after their "mahdi". [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 130-132.]

Maghribi Origin of the Fatimids

The Fatimid movement had originated locally in al-Maghrib, among the Kotama Berbers in Kabylia (Setif, south of Bougie, eastern Algeria). However, both founders of the movement were recent immigrants from the Islamic east, religious dissidents: Abu 'Abdulla ash-Shi'i, originally from San'a in al-Yemen; and, coming from Salamiyah in Syria, 'Ubaidalla Sa'id (who claimed descent from Fatima the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, and who was to proclaim himself the Fatimid Mahdi). Their religious affiliation was the Ismaili branch of the Shia.

By agreement, the first founder to arrive (circa 893) was Abu 'Abdulla, the Ismaili "Da'i" or propagandist, who found welcome in the hostility against the Caliphate in Baghdad freely expressed by the Kotama Berbers. [Glasse, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" re "Fatimid" at 123-125, remarks on the pre-Islamic Berber connections to Gnostic doctrines, and to Manichaean leadership near Baghdad, as further reasons for their resonance with the Ismaili "Da'i", at 124.] After his success in recruitment and in building the organization, Abu 'Abdulla was ready in 902 to send for 'Ubaidalla Sa'ed, who (after adventures and imprisonment) arrived in 910, proclaimed himself Mahdi, and took control of the movement. Abu 'Abdulla was killed in a dispute over leadership. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 80-81.]

From the start the Mahdi was focused on expansion eastward, and he soon attacked Egypt with a Fatimid army of Kotama Berbers led by his son, once in 914, and again in 919, both times quickly taking Alexandria but then losing to the Abbasids. Probing for weakness, the Mahdi then sent an invasion "westward", but his forces met with mixed results. Many Sunnis, including the Umayyad Caliph of al-Andalus and the Zenata Berber kingdom in Morocco, effectively opposed him because of his Ismaili Shi'a affiliation. The Mahdi did not follow Maliki law, but taxed harshly, incurring further resentment. His capital Mahdiya was more a fort than a princely city. The Maghrib was disrupted, being contested between the Zenata and the Sanhaja favoring the Fatimids. [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 56-60.] [The Sanhaja Berbers were associated with the Kotama. H. Mones, "The conquest of North Africa and the Berber resistance" in "General History of Africa" (1992), volume III, at 118-119.]

After the death of the Mahdi, there came the Kharijite revolt of 935, which under Abu Yazid (nicknamed "the man on a donkey") was said by 943 to be spreading chaos far and wide. [This view of the revolt has been questioned. Cf., Aziz al-Azmeh, "Ibn Khaldun in Modern Scholarship" at 215-218.] The Mahdi's son, the Fatimid caliph al-Qa'im, became besieged in Mahdiya. Eventually Abu Yazid was defeated by the next Fatimid caliph, Ishmail, who then moved his residence to Kairouan. Fatimid rule continued to be under attack from Sunni Islamic states to the west, e.g., the Umayyad Caliphate in Al Andalus. [Perkins, "Tunisia" at 36 & 39; Julian, "History of North Africa" at 66-67.]

In 969 the Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz sent his best general Jawhar al-Rumi leading a Kotama Berber army against Egypt. He managed the conquest without great difficulty. The Shi'a Fatimids founded al-Qahira (Cairo) ["the victorius" or the "city of Mars"] . In 970 the Fatimids also founded the world famous al-Azhar mosque, which later became the leading Sunni theological center. [I. Hrbek, "The emergence of the Fatimids" in "General History of Africa," volume III, at 163-175, 171 (Paris: UNESCO; Berkeley: Univ.of California 1992, abridged edition).] Three years later al-Mu'izz the caliph left Ifriqiyah for Egypt, taking everything, "his treasures, his administrative staff, and the coffins of his predecessors." [Laroui, "History of the Maghrib" at 133.] Once centered in Egypt the Fatimids expanded their possessions further, northeast to Syria and southeast to Mecca, while retaining control of North Africa. From Cairo they were to enjoy relative success; they never returned to Ifriqiyah. [Meanwhile the Kotama Berbers, wornout from their conflicts on behalf of the Fatimids, disappeared from the life of al-Maghrib. Julien, "History of North Africa" at 54-55.]

Zirid Berber succession

After removing their capital to Cairo, the Fatimids withdrew from direct governance of al-Maghrib, which they delegated to a local vassal, namely Buluggin ibn Ziri a Sanhaja Berber of the central Magrib. As a result of civil war following his death, the Fatamid vassalage split in two: for Ifriqiya the Zirid (972-1148); and for the western lands [present day Algeria] : the Hammadid (1015-1152), named for Hammad, Buluggin's son. [Perkins, "Tunisia" at 36 & 39.] Civic security was chronically poor, due to political quarrels between the Zirids and the Hammadids, and attacks from Sunni states to the west.

Although the Maghrib was liable to become submerged in political confusion, the Fatimid province of Ifriqiya at first continued relatively prosperous under the Zirid Berbers. Soon however the Saharan trade began to decline, caused by changing consumer demand, as well as by encroachments by rival traders from the Fatimids to the east and from the rising power of the al-Murabit movement to the west. This decline in the Saharan trade caused a rapid deterioration to the prosperity of Kairouan, the political and curltural city of the Zirid state. To compensate, the Zirids encouraged the commerce of their coastal cities, which did begin to quicken; however, they faced tough challenges from Mediterranean traders of the rising city-states of Genoa and Pisa. [Perkins, "Tunisia" at 40-41, 42. Later, Normans from Sicily invaded coastal Ifriqiya. "Ibid.", at 43.]

In 1048, for both economic and popular reasons, the Zirids dramatically broke with the Shi'a Fatimid suzerainty from Cairo; instead the Zirids chose to become Sunni (always favored by most Maghribi Muslims) and declaring their allegiance to the moribund Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad. Many shia were killed during disturbances throughout Ifriqiya. The Zirid state seized Fatimid coinage. Sunni Maliki jurists were reestablished as the prevailing school of law. [Perkins, "Tunisia" at 39-40, 41.] In retaliation, the Fatimids sent against the Zirids an invasion of nomadic Arabians who had already migrated into Egypt; these bedouins were induced by the Fatimids to continue on westward into Ifriqiya. [cite book|last=Julien|first=Charles-Andre|year=1931, 1952, 1970|title=History of North Africa|pages=68, 72-74] Toward Ifriqiya came the Arab tribe Banu Hilal, as well as the Banu Sulaym, both then pasturing their animals in upper Egypt. [I. Hrbek, "The emergence of the Fatimids" in "General History of Africa," volume III, at 163-175, 173-174 (Paris: UNESCO; Berkeley: Univ.of California 1992, abridged edition).]

The arriving Bedouins of the Banu Hilal defeated in battle Zirid and Hammadid Berber armies and sacked Kairouan in 1057. It has been said that much of the Maghrib's misfortunes to follow could be traced to the chaos and regression occasioned by their arrival, although opinion is not unanimous. [Negative view of the Banu Hilal has been challenged; cf., Aziz al-Azmeh, "Ibn Khaldun in Modern Scholarship" at 218-222.] In Arab lore Abu Zayd al-Hilali the leader of the Banu Hilal is a hero, as in the folk epic Taghribat Bani Hilal. The Banu Hilal originated from the tribal confederacy of the Banu 'Amir, located generally in southwest Arabia. [Cf. Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" at 147-156.] As the Banu Halali tribes took control of the plains, the local sedentary populace were forced to take refuge in the mountains; in prosperous central and northern Ifriqiya farming gave way to pastoralism. Even after the fall of the Zirids, the Banu Hilal were a source of disorder, as in the 1184 insurrection of the Banu Ghaniya. [Julien, "History of North Afirca", at 116.] [Ibn Khaldun viewed the Banu Hilal as destroying locust. Perkins, "Tunisia" at 41-42.] These rough Arab newcomers did constitute a second large Arab immigration into Ifriqiya, and accelerated the process of Arabization, with the Berber languages decreasing in use in rural areas as a result of this Bedouin ascendancy. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" at 80-86.]

Substantially weakened, the Zirids lingered on, while the regional economy declined, with civil society adrift.

Perspectives and trends

The Fatimids were Shi'a (specifically, of the more controversial Isma'ilis branch), whose leadership came from the then unpopular east. Today, of course, the majority of Tunisians now identify as members of the opposing Sunni. The Fatimids did initially inspire the allegiance of Berber elements. Yet once installed Fatimid rule greatly disrupted social harmony in Ifriqiya; they imposed high, unorthodox taxes, leading to the Kharijite revolt. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 83-84.] Later, the Fatimids relocated to Cairo. Although originally a client of the Fatimid Shi'a Caliphate in Egypt, eventually the Zirids expelled the Fatimids from Ifriqiya. In return, the Fatimids managed to send the destructive Banu Hilal to Ifriqiya, which led to chaotic, ragged social conditions, during a period of economic decline. The Zirid dynasty has been viewed historically as a Berber kingdom, essentially founded by a Sanhaja Berber leader. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 39-40.] Also, from the far west of al-Maghrib, the Sunni Ummayyad Caliphate of Córdoba long opposed and battled against the Shi'a Fatimids, whether based in Ifriqiya or in Egypt. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 134, 138, 141, 147.] Accordingly, Tunisians may evidence faint pride in the great extent and relative endurance, the peace and prosperity that Fatimid rule brought to Egypt, and in the Fatimid Caliphate in Islamic history.

During the interval of Shi'a rule, the Berber people appear to have moved ideologically, from a popular antagonism to the Sunni east, toward an acquiescence to its orthodoxy, though of course mediated by their own Maliki law (viewed as one of the four orthodox madhhab by the Sunni). In addition to the above grivences against the Fatimids, during the Fatimid era the prestige of exercizing cultural leadership within al-Maghrib shifted decisively away from Ifriqiya and instead came to be the prize of al-Andalus. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 90.]

Almohads (al-Muwahiddin)


Berber Islamic Movements

In the medieval Maghrib from among the Berbers, two strong Muslim religious movements arose one after the other: the Amoravids (1056-1147), and the Almohads (1130-1269).

The Almoravids [Arabic "al-Murabitum", from "Ribat", e.g., "defenders"] had also been a Berber Islamic movement of the Maghrib, [Predominantly of the Sanhaja confederacy of Berbers (then located across the far west Sahara), led particularly by the Lamtuna tribe. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 92-96, 101.] [Abun-Nasr compares the earlier Kharijites (since localized near Jerba in southern Tunisia), the Almoravids, and the Almohads, each a Berber movement rebellious against a lax Arab orthodoxy, each movement seeking to achieve "leading the Muslim good life [as] the professed aim of politics". Abun-Nasr (1971) at 119.] which had run its course and since become decadent and weak. [Cyril Glassé, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1989) at 39-40.] Although the Almoravids had once ruled from Mauritania (south of Morocco) to al-Andalus (southern Spain), Almoravid rule had never reached to Infriqiya. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 94.]

Mahdi of the Unitarians

The Almohad movement [Arabic "al-Muwahhidun", "the Unitarians"] ruled variously in the Maghrib starting about 1130 until 1248 (locally in Morocco until 1275). [Cyril Glassé, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1989) at 38-39.] [Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (Princeton Univ. 1969) at 3, 41, 48-49, 92.] ["Almohad" is from the Spanish for the Arabic "al-Muwahhidun". Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 105 n.1.] This movement had been founded by Ibn Tumart (1077-1130), a Masmuda Berber from the Atlas mountains of Morocco, who became the mahdi. After a pilgrimage to Mecca followed by study, he had returned to the Maghrib about 1218 inspired by the teachings of al-Ash'ari and al-Ghazali. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 103, stating that although Ibn Tumart was clearly influenced by al-Ghazali, the two never personally met (citing Goldziher).] A charismatic leader, he preached an interior awareness of the Unity of God. [Roger Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement in North Africa in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries" (Princeton Univ. 1969) at 3-11, 25-26.] A puritan and a hard-edged reformer, he gathered a strict following among the Berbers in the Atlas, founded a radical community, and eventually began an armed challenge to the current rulers, the Almoravids (1056-1147). [Le Tourneau reports (and criticizes) the story that the Almoravids (with Maliki legal backing) burned the book "Revival of Religious Sciences" by Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), which was said to have antagonized Ibn Tumart. Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement in North Africa" (1969) at 6-8, 14]

Ibn Tumart the Almohad founder left writings in which his theological ideas mix with the political. Therein he claimed that the leader, the mahdi, is infallible. [An idea some sunni condemn as unorthodox, i.e., as similar to the shi'a. Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 28-29.] [His writing are contained in "Le Livre de Mohammed Ibn Toumert" [The Book of M. ibn Tumart] , edited by Jean-Dominique Luciani (Algiers 1903), introduced by Ignaz Goldziher.] Ibn Tumart created a hierarchy from among his followers which persisted long after the Almohad era (i.e., in Tunisia under the Hafsids), based not only on a specie of ethnic loyalty, ["Every member of the community had to belong to a tribe" under the control of their chief. Too, only Berbers of the Masmuda tribe could claim the title "muwahiddin" (Almohad). Abun-Nasr "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 105, 110.] such as the "Council of Fifty" ["ahl al-Khamsin"] , and the assembly of "Seventy" ["ahl al-Saqa"] , but more significantly based on a formal structure for an inner circle of governance that would transcend tribal loyalties, namely, (a) his "ahl al-dar" or "people of the house", a sort of privy council, (b) his "ahl al-'Ashra" or the "Ten", originally composed of his first ten forminable followers, and (c) a variety of offices. Ibn Tumart trained his own "talaba" or ideologists, as well as his "huffaz", who function was both religious and military. There is lack of certainty about some details, but general agreement that Ibn Tumart sought to reduce the "influence of the traditional tribal framework." Later historical developments "were greatly facilitated by his original reorganization because it made possible collaboration among tribes" not likely to otherwise coalesce. [Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 31-34.] [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 178-179.] These organizing and group solidarity preparations made by Ibn Tumart were "most methodical and efficient" and a "conscious replica" of the Medina period of the prophet Muhammad. [Laroui "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 179-180.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 105-106.]

The mahdi Ibn Tumart also had championed the idea of strict Islamic law and morals displacing unorthodox aspects of Berber custom. [Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 20.] [E.g., Ibn Tumart condemned unveiled women and musical instruments. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 104.] At his early base at Tinmal, Ibn Tumart functioned as "the custodian of the faith, the arbiter of moral questions, and the chief judge." [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 106.] Yet because of the narrow legalism then common among Maliki jurists and because of their influence in the Almoravid regime, [In Al-Andalus the Maliki school had turned inward to develop only those issues already present in its own fiqh; this had led to the burning of al-Ghazali's book. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 99.] [Laroui, "A History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 169.] [Le Tourneau "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 14.] Ibn Tumart did not favor the Maliki school of law; nor did he favor any of the four recognized madhhabs. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 104.] [Compare: Marshall Hodgson states that the Almohads did follow the Zahiri madhhab. "The Venture of Islam" at II:269. The Zahiris, not one of the recognized four, taught a "literal" interpretation of the sources of law.]

Empire of a unified Maghrib

Following Ibn Tumart's death, Abd al-Mu'min al-Kumi (c.1090-1163) became the Almohad caliph, cerca 1130. [Abd al-Mu'min was the first non-Arab to take the caliphal title "amir al-mu'minin" [commander of the faithful] . Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 111.] Abd al-Mu'min had been one of the original "Ten" followers of Ibn Tumart. [Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 25-26.] He immediately had attacked the ruling Almoravids and had wrestled Morocco away from them by 1147, suppressing subsequent revolts there. Then he crossed the straits, occupying al-Andalus (in Spain). [Unfortunately, as a result of the Almohad invasion, whose zealots forced many of the conquered to choose between conversion or flight, the family of the Jewish philosopher and talmudist, Moshe ben Maimon, then thirteen, had to flee Córdoba in 1148, eventually finding safety in Fatimid Egypt. Isaac Husik, "A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy" (Macmillan 1916, reprint Philadelphia 1940) at 238.] [ Many Jews eventually entered España. Yitzhak Baer, "A History of the Jews in Christian Spain" translated from Hebrew (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 1961) at I:46-49.] [Seventy years later in 1212 defeat at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa proved to be a turning point not only for the Almohads (then under Muhammad an-Nasir), but also for Muslim rule in Andalucia, España. Joseph Callaghan, "A History of Medieval Spain" (Cornell Univ. 1975) at 234, 245-249.] In 1152 he successfully invaded the Hammadids of Bougie (in Algeria). His armies intervened in Zirid Ifriqiya, removing the Christian Sicilians by 1160. [Roger Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement in North Africa in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries" (Princeton Univ. 1969) at 48-57, 92.] Yet Italian merchants from Genoa and Pisa had already arrived, continuing the foreign presence. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 186-187.] [Italian merchants, as well as those of Aragon, came to predominate in the western Mediterranean trade of the Maghrib starting in the Almohad era. Laroui (1977), at 201, 217.]

Anarchy in Ifriqiya (Tunisia) made it a target for the Norman kingdom in Sicily, [The Normans ruled Sicily for over one hundred years, until in 1197 and the Hohenstaufens. Hearder, "Italy. A Short History" at 55, 58.] which between 1134 and 1148 seized Mahdia, Gabes, Sfax, and the island of Jerba. The only strong Muslim power then in the Maghreb was that of the newly emerging Almohads, led by their caliph a Berber Abd al-Mu'min. He responded in several military campaigns which by 1160 compelled the Christian retreat back to Sicily. [Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge Univ. 19) at 109.] [Cf., Haskins, "The Normans in European History" (New York 1915, reprint Norton Library 1966) at 192.]

"Abd al-Mu'min briefly presided over a unified North African empire--the first and last in its history under indigenous rule". [Perkins, "Tunisia. Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds" (1986) at 44.] It would be the high point of Maghribi political unity. Yet twenty years later, by 1184, the revolt by the Banu Ghaniya had spread from the Balearic Islands to Ifriqiya (Tunisia), causing problems for the Almohad regime for the next fifty years. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 114-118.]

Empire of the Maghrib

In practice, however, the Maliki school of law survived and by default eventually functioned in an official fashion (except during the reign of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur (1184-1199) who was loyal to Ibn Tumart's teachings). After of century of oscillation, the caliph Abu al-'Ala Idris al-Ma'mun broke with the narrow ideology of prior Almohad regimes (first articulated by the mahdi Ibn Tumart) that had continued to function on and off, and for the most part, at the end, poorly; circa 1230, he affirmed the reinstitution of the then-reviving Malikite rite, perennially popular in al-Maghrib. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 111, 114.] [Cf., Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement" (1969) at 94-96.] [Abdallah Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (Princeton Univ. 1977) at 188-189.]

The Muslim philosophers Ibn Tufayl (Abubacer to the Latins) of Granada (d.1185), and Ibn Rushd (Averroës) of Córdoba (1126-1198), who was also appointed a Maliki judge, were dignitaries known to the Almohad court, whose capital became fixed at Marrakech. The Sufi master theologian Ibn 'Arabi was born in Murcia in 1165. Under the Almohads architecture flourished, the Giralda being built in Seville and the pointed arch being introduced. [Cyril Grasse, "A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (San Francisco 1991) at 174-175, 176-177, and 38-39.]

"There is no better indication of the importance of the Almohad empire than the fascination it has exerted on all subsequent rulers in the Magrib." [Abdallah Laroui, "L'Histoire du Maghreb" (Paris: Librairie François Masero 1970), translated as "The History of the Maghrib" (Princeton Univ. 1977) at 201.] It was an empire Berber in its inspiration, and whose imperial fortunes were under the direction of Berber leaders. The unitarian Almohads had gradually modified the original ambition of strictly implementing their founder's designs; in this way the Almohads were similar to the preceding Almoravids (also Berber). Yet their movement probably worked to deepen the religious awareness of the Muslim people across the Maghrib. Nonetheless, it could not suppress other traditions and teachings, and alternative expressions of Islam, including the popular cult of saints, the sufis, as well as the Maliki jurists, survived. [Cf., Abdallah Laroui, "L'Histoire du Maghreb" (Paris: Librairie François Masero 1970), translated as "The History of the Maghrib" (Princeton Univ. 1977) at 186-192.] [Sufis mystical orders spread after the collapse of the Almohad regime. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 119.]

The Almohad empire (like its predecessor the Almoravid) eventually weakened and dissolved. Except for the Muslim Kingdom of Granada, Spain was lost. In Morroco, the Almohads were to be followed by the Merinids; in Ifriqiya (Tunisia), by the Hafsids (who claimed to be the heirs of the unitarian Almohads). [Cyril Grasse, "A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (San Francisco 1989, 1991) at 38-39.]

Hafsid dynasty of Tunis

The Hafsid dynasty (1230-1574) succeeded Almohad rule in Ifriqiya, with the Hafsids claiming to represent the true spiritual heritage of its founder, the Mahdi Ibn Tumart (c.1077-1130). For a brief moment a Hafsid sovereign would be recognized as the Caliph of Islam. Tunisia under the Hafsids would eventually regain for a time cultural primacy in the Maghrib.

Political chronology

Abu Hafs 'Umar Inti [Or: Abu Hafs 'Umar al-Hintati. Not to be confused with Abu Hafs 'Umar, son of the first Almohad caliph 'Abd al-Mu'min (r.1132-1163), his vizier, and brother of the next caliph Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (r.1163-1184). Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement in North Africa" at 67-68; cf., Julien, "History of North Africa" at 114-115.] was one of the "Ten", the crucial group composed of very early adherents to the "Almohad" movement ["al-Muwahhidun"] , circa 1121. These "Ten" were companions of Ibn Tumart the Mahdi, and formed an inner circle consulted on all important matters. Abu Hafs 'Umar Inti, wounded in battle near Marrakesh in 1130, was for a long time a powerful figure within the Almohad movement. His son 'Umar al-Hintati was appointed by the Almohad caliph Muhammad an-Nasir as governor of Ifriqiya in 1207 and served until his death in 1221. His son, the grandson of Abu Hafs, was Abu Zakariya. [Le Tourneau, "The Almohad Movement in North Africa" (Princeton Univ. 1969) at 24, 27, 32-33, 41, 65-66; Julien, "History of North Africa" at 102, 108, 115, 120, 141; Laroui, "History of the Maghrib" at 179-180, 183-184, 188.]

Abu Zakariya [Abu Zakariya later was also known as Yahya I.] (1203-1249) served the Almohads in Ifriqiya as governor of Gabès, then in 1226 as governor of Tunis. In 1229 during disturbances within the Almohad movement, Abu Zakariya declared his independence, having the Mahdi's name declared at Friday prayer, but himself taking the title of Amir: hence, the start of the Hafsid dynasty (1229-1574). [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris: 1952; London: 1970) at 141.] In the next few years he secured his hold on the cities of Ifriqiya, then captured Tripolitania (1234) to the east, and to the west Algiers (1235) and later Tlemcen (1242). He solidified his rule among the Berber confederacies. Government structure of the Hafsid state followed the Almohad model, a rather strict hierarchy and centralization. Abu Zakariya's succession to the Almohad movement was acknowledged as the only state maintaining Almohad traditions, and was recognized in Friday prayer by many states in Al-Andalus and in Morocco (including the Merinids). Diplomatic relations were opened with Frederick II of Sicily, Venice, Genoa, and Aragon. Abu Zakariya the founder of the Hafsids became the foremost ruler in the Maghrib. [Abdallah Laroui, "L'Histoire du Maghreb: Un essai de synthese" (Paris: Librairie Francois Maspero 1970), translated as "History of the Maghrib. An interpretive essay" (Princeton Univ. 1977) at 178, 182, 195.] [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 141-142, 154.]

For an historic moment, the son of Abu Zakariya and self-declared caliph of the Hafsids, al-Mustansir (r.1249-1277), [The honorific surname of al-Mustansir was given to Abu 'Abd Allah, son of Abu Zakariya. (In Tunisian history there was earlier another Abu 'Abd Allah, namely the Isma'ili "dai" who prepared the way for the Fatimid Mahdi; and there was also another Fatimid caliph known as al-Mustansir.)] was recognised as Caliph by Mecca and the Islamic world (1259-1261), following termination of the Abbasid caliphate by the Mongols in 1258. Yet the moment passed as a rival claimant to the title advanced; the Hafsids remained a local sovereignty. [Hodgson, "The Venture of Islam" 2: 291-292, 477. In 1261 Baybars had become sultan of Egypt and he revived the Abbasid Caliphate.] [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 142-143.]

Since their origins with Abu Zakariya the Hafsids had represented their regime as heir to the Almohad movement founded by the Mahdi Ibn Tumart, whose name was invoked during Friday prayer at emirate mosques until the 15th century. Hafsid government was accordingly constituted after the Almohad model created by the Mahdi, i.e., it being rigorous hierarchy. The Amir held all power with a code of etiquette surrounding his person, although as sovereign he did not always hold himself aloof. The Amir's counsel was the "Ten", composed of the chief Almohad shaiks. Next in order was the "Fifty" assembled from petty shaiks, with ordinary shaiks thereafter. The early Hafsids had a censor, the "mazwar", who supervised the ranking of the designated shaiks and assigned them to specified categories. Originally there were three ministers ["wazir", plural "wuzara"] : of the army (commander and logistics); of finance (accounting and tax); and, of state (correspondence and police). Over the centuries the office of "Hajib" increased in importance, at first being major-domo of the palace, then intermdiary between the Amir and his cabinet, and finally de facto the first minister. State authority was publicly asserted by impressive processions: high officials on horseback parading to the sound of kettledrums and tambors, with colorful silk banners held high, all in order to cultivate a regal pomp. In provinces where the Amir enjoyed recognized authority, his governors were usually close family members, assisted by an experienced official. Elsewhere provincial appointees had to contend with strong local oligarchies or leading families. Regarding the rural tribes, varius strategies were employed; for those on good terms their tribal shaik might work as a double agent, serving as their representative to the central government, and also as government agent to his fellow tribal members. [Julien, "History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 154-156. Julien draws on the "Masalik", a 27-volume Arabic encyclopedia of the 14th century written by al-'Umari.]

In 1270 King Louis IX of France, whose brother was the king of Sicily, landed an army near Tunis; disease devastated their camp. [Steven Runciman, "History of the Crusades" (Cambridge Univ. 1954; Harper reprint 1967) at 291-292.] Later, Hafsid influence was reduced by the rise of the Moroccan Marinids of Fez, who captured and lost Tunis twice (1347, and 1357). [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 229-231.] Yet Hafsid fortunes would recover; two notabe rulers being Abu Faris (1394-1434) and his grandson Abu 'Amr 'Uthman (r. 1435-1488). [Julien, "History of North Africa" (1952, 1970) at 147-151.]

Toward the end, internal disarray within the Hafsid dynasty created vulnerabilities, while a great power struggle arose between Spaniard and Turk over control of the Mediterranean. The Hafsid dynasts became pawns, subject to the rival strategies of the combatents. By 1574 Ifriqiya had been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 48-52.]

Commerce and trade

Tunisia under the early Hafsids, as well as the entire Maghrib, enjoyed a general prosperity due to the rise of the Saharan-Sudanese trade. Perhaps more important was the increase in Mediterranean commerce including trade with Europeans. [Cf., E. Ashtor, "A Social and Economic History of the Near East in the Middle Ages" (London: Collins 1976). Trade had quickened in the Mediterranean after the Fatimids in Egypt took over the trade to India from the Persian Gulf ports. In 996 there were said to be at least 160 Italian merchants in Cairo. Tunis was a major center of this east-west Mediterranean trade, which continued for four hundred years. "Ibid." at 195-196. While Cairo sent west the spices of India and raw flax, Tunis chiefly sent silk, olive oil, and soap east. "Ibid. at 197-198.] Across the region, the repetition of buy and sell dealings with Christians led to the eventual development of trading practices and structured shipping arrangements that were crafted to ensure mutual security, customs revenue, and commercial profit. It was possible for an arriving ship to deliver its goods and pick-up the return cargo in several days time. Christian merchants of the Mediterranean, usually organized by their city-of-origin, set up and maintained their own trading facilities (a "funduq") in these North African customs ports to handle the flow of merchandise and marketing. [Two commercial letters originally in Arabic sent from Tunis and addressed to merchants of Pisa, dated 1201, can be found in Robert S. Lopez and Irving W. Raymond, "Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World. Illustrative documents translated with introductions and notes" (Columbia Univ. 1955, 2001) at 384-388 'Solidarity of Muslim and Christian Merchants,' docs. no. 190 and no. 191.]

The principal maritime customs ports were then: Tunis, Sfax, Mahdia, Jerba, and Gabés (all in Tunisia); Oran, Bougie (Bejaia), and Bône (Annaba) (in Algeria); and Tripoli (in Libya). At such ports generally, the imports were off loaded and transferred to a customs area from where they were deposited in a sealed wharehouse, or "funduq", until the duties and fees were paid. The amount imposed varied, usually five or ten percent. The Tunis customs service was a stratified bureaucracy. At its head was often a member of the ruling nobility or "musharif", called "al-Caid", who not only managed the staff collecting duties but also might negotiate commercial agreements, conclude treaties, and act as judge in legal disputes involving foreigners. [Wm. Spencer, "Algeirs in the Age of the Corsairs" (1976) at 8-11.]

Tunis exported grain, dates, olive oil, wool and leather, wax, coral, salt fish, cloth, carpets, arms, and also perhaps black slaves. Imports included cabinet work, arms, hunting birds, wine, perfumes, spices, medical plants, hemp, linen, silk, cotton, many types of cloth, glass ware, metals, hardware, and jewels. [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 158-159.]

Islamic law during this era had developed a specific institution to regulate community morals, or "hisba", which included the order and security of public markets, the supervision of market transactions, and related matters. The urban marketplace [Arabic "souk", pl. "iswak"] was generally a street of shops selling the same or similar commodities (vegetables, cloth, metalware, lumber, etc.). [In the villages and rural areas, there was generally a market day each week at a fixed location for trading and bartering] The city official charged with these responsibilities was called the "muhtasib". [Knut S. Vikor, "Between God and the Sultan. A History of Islamic Law" (Oxford Univ. 2004) at 195-198. Vikor points out that "hisba", which means "balance" in Arabic, also has the sense of "achieving the common good and acting against evil," duties required of all Muslims, but especially of the Sultan. In some current Islamist movements, it can be viewed as license to vigilante action, e.g., breaking into homes to smash bottles of alcohol. Such private initiative also challenges the legitimacy of the government to keep public order.] [John L. Esposito, "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam" (Oxford Univ. 2003) at 114, 213.]

To achieve public order in the urban markets, the "muhtasib" would enforce fair commercial dealing (merchants truthfully quoting the local price to rural people, honest weights and measures, but not quality of goods nor price "per se"), keep roadways open, regulate the safety of building construction, and monitor the metal value of existing coinage and the minting of new coin (gold dinars and silver dirhems were minted at Tunis). [Julien, "A Hisotyr of North Africa" (1952, 1970) at 158.] The authority of the "muhtasib", with his group of assistants, was somewhere between a "qadi" (judge) and the police, or on other occasions perhaps between a public prosecutor (or trade commissioner) and the mayor (or a high city official). Often a leading judge or "mufti" held the position. The "muhtasib" did not hear contested litigation, but nonetheless could prescribe the pain and humiliation of up to 40 lashes, remand to debtor's prison, order a shop closed, or expel an offender from the city. However, the civic authority of the "muhtasib" did not extend into the countryside. [Knut S. Vikor, "Between God and the Sultan. A History of Islamic Law" (Oxford Univ. 2004) at 197-198.]

Beginning in the 13th century, from al-Andalus came Muslim and Jewish immigrants with appreciated talents, e.g., trade connections, agricultural techniques, manufacture, and arts (see below, "Society and culture"). Yet unfortunately general prosperity was not steady over the centuries of Hafsid rule; there was a sharp economic decline starting in the mid-fourteenth century due to a variety of factors (e.g., agriculture, and the Sahara trade). [E.g., Laroui, "History of the Maghrib" at 221.] Under the amir Abu al-'Abbas (1370-1394), Hafsid participation in the Mediterranean trade began to decline, while early corsair raidng activity commenced. [Julien, "A History of North Africa" (Paris 1952; London 1970) at 148. Abu al-'Abbas was the father of the celebrated amir Abu Faris (1394-1434).]

ociety and culture

After an hiatus under the Almohads, [Ibn Tumart is said not to have followed any recognized madhhab [see the "Almohads or al-Muwahiddin" era, the "Rule over the Maghrib" section, above] ; yet the Almohads may have followed the Zahiri school of law (Hodgson, "Venture of Islam" at II:269), which is now extinct.] the Maliki school of law resumed its full traditional jurisdiction over the Maghrib. During the 13th century, the Maliki school had undergone substantial liberalizing changes due in part to Iraqi influence. [Maghribi students were drawn to Iraq by the teachings left by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.1209). By the end of the 13th century, Ibn Zaytun Haskuni Mishaddali had introduced transformations in Maliki fiqh which were incorporated in the Hafsid restoration. Mahsin Mahdi, "Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy of History" at 30-31.] Under Hafsid jurisprudents the concept of "maslahah" or "public interest" developed in the operation of their madhhab. This opened up Maliki fiqh to considerations of necessity and circumstance with regard to the general welfare of the community. By this means, local "custom" was admitted in the Sharia of Malik, to become an integral part of the legal discipline. [Hodgson, "Venture of Islam" at II:478.] Later, the Maliki theologian Muhammad ibn 'Arafa (1316-1401) of Tunis studied at the Zaituna library, said to contain 60,000 volumes. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 150.]

Bedouin Arabs continued to arrive into the 13th century. [The new arrivals being the Banu Suaim. As to the Banu Hilal, most had by this period moved on to Morocco. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 129, 144-145.] With their tribal ability to raid and war still intact, they remained problematic and influential. The Arab language came to be predominant, except for a few Berber-speaking areas, e.g., Kharijite Djerba, and the desert south. An unfortunate divide developed between the governance of the cities and that of the countryside; at times the city-based rulers would grant rural tribes autonomy ('iqta') in exchange for their support in intra-maghribi struggles. [Laroui, "History of the Maghrib" at 211-212 (Banu Hilal), cf. 216.] [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 145-146 (Beni Sulaim).] Yet this tribal independence of the central authority meant also that when the center grew weak, the periphery might still remain strong and resilient. [Cf., Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 53.]

From al-Andalus Arab Muslim and Jewish migration continued to come into Ifriqiya, especially after the fall of Granada in 1492, the last Muslim state ruling on the Iberian peninsula. These newly arriving immigrants brought infusions of their highly developed arts. [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 151-153.] The well-regarded Andalusian traditions of music and poetry are found discussed by Ahmad al-Tifasi (1184-1253) of Tunis, in his "Muta'at al-Asma' fi 'ilm al-sama"' [Pleasure to the Ears, on the Art of Music] , in volume 41 of his encyclopedia. [Benjamin M. Liu and James T. Monroe, "Ten Hispano-Arabic Strophic Songs in the Modern Oral Tradition" (Univ.of Califonia 1989) at 2 & 35; al-Tifasi's text translated at 36-69.]

As a result of the initial prosperity, Al-Mustansir (r.1249-1277) had transformed the capital city of Tunis, constructing a palace and the Abu Fihr park; he also created an estate near Bizerte (said by Ibn Khaldun to be without equal in the world). [ Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 141.] Education was improved by the institution of a system of madrasah. Sufism, e.g., Sidi Bin 'Arus (d. 1463 Tunis) founder of the "Arusiyya" tariqah, became increasingly prominent, forming social links between the city and countryside. [Trimingham, "The Sufi Orders in Islam" (Oxford Univ. 1971) at 87] The Sufi "shaikhs" began to assume the religious authority once held by the unitarian Almohads, according to Abun-Nasr. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 119.] Poetry blossomed, as did architecture. For the moment, Tunisia had regained cultural leadership of the Maghrib. [Julien, "History of North Africa" at 159-161.]

Ibn Khaldun

A major social philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) is recognized as a pioneer in sociology, historiography, and related disciplines. Although having Yemeni ancestry, his family enjoyed centuries-long residency in al-Andalus before leaving in the 13th century for Ifriqiyah. As a native of Tunis, he spent much of his life under the Hafsids, whose regime he served on occasion.

Ibn Khaldun entered into a political career early on, working under a succession of different rulers of small states, whose designs unfolded amid shifting rivalries and alliances. At one point he rose to vizier; however, he also spent a year in prison. His career required several relocations, e.g., Fez, Granada, eventually Cairo where he died. In order to write he retired for awhile from active political life. Later, after his pilgrimage to Mecca, he served as Grand Qadi of the Maliki rite in Egypt (he was appointed and dismissed several times). While he was visiting Damascus, Tamerlane took the city; this cruel conquorer interviewed the elderly jurist and social philosopher, yet Ibn Khaldun managed to escape back to his life in Egypt. [Muhsin Mahdi, "Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy of History" (London: George Allen & Unwin 1957; reprint Univ. Chicago 1964) at 53-62 (in Egypt), at 58-60 (Timur); Cyril Glassé, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (HarperSanFrancisco 1991), "Ibn Khaldun" at 171-172. Ibn Khaldun lost his wife and children at sea (on their journey to Egypt) in 1384. Simon, "Ibn Khaldun's Science of Human Nature" at 33.]

The history and historiography written by Ibn Khaldun was informed in theory by his learning as a "faylasuf" [philosopher] . [Muhsin Mahdi ("Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy of History" (1957) at 30-33) understands that he was influenced directly by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.1209) of Iraq, and at least indirectly by al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Ibn Rushd. Erwin Rosenthal ("Political Thought in Medieval Islam" (1958) at 104-105) states that he favored and shared the views of al-Ghazali.] Yet it was his participation in the small unstable governments of the region that inspired many of his key insights. His history seeks to account for the apparent cyclical progression of historical states of the Maghrib, whereby: (a) a new ruling association comes to power with strong loyalties, (b) which over the course of several generations fall apart, (c) leading to the collapse of the ruling strata. The "social cohesion" necessary for the group's initial rise to power, and for the group's ability to maintain it and exercise it, Ibn Khaldun called "Asabiyyah". [Heinrich Simon, "Ibn Khalduns Wissenschaft von der Menschlichen Kultur" (Leipzig 1959), translated by Fuad Baali as "Ibn Khaldun's Science of Human Culture" (Lahore: Ashraf 1978) at 68-88, presents a discussion of this key concept, wherein "asab" means "to bind", "asabatun" means "the group", "asabah" means the "paternal relationship" in the law of inheritance [at 68 and 68n1] , and "asabiyah" means "the nature of the group" [68-69] .]

His seven-volume "Kitab al-'Ibar" [Book of Examples] [Muhsin Mahdi, in his "Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy of History" at 63-71, discusses the subtleties of this title. "Ibar" can mean "instructive examples" [64] , "bridge" or medium of explanation [66] , or "bridge between meanings" [71] .] (shortened title) is a telescoped "universal" history, which concentrates on the Persian, Arab, and Berber civilizations. Its lengthy prologue, called the "Muqaddimah" [Introduction] , presents the development of long-term political trends and events as a field for the study, characterizing them as human phenomena, in quasi-sociological terms. It is widely considered to be a gem of sustained cultural analysis. Unfortunately Ibn Khaldun did not attract sufficient interest among local scholars, his studies being neglected in Ifriqiyah; however, in the Persian and Turkish worlds he acquired a sustained following. [Muhsin Mahdi, "Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy of History. A study in the philosophic foundations of the science of culture" (London: George Allen & Unwin 1957); Heinrich Simon, "Ibn Khalduns Wissenschaft von der Menschlichen Kultur (Leipzig 1959), translated by Fuad Baali as "Ibn Khaldun's Science of Human Culture" (Lahore: Ashraf 1978); Erwin I. J. Rosenthal, "Political Thought in Medieval Islam" (Cambridge Univ. 1958), Chapter IV, "The Theory of the Power-State: Ibn Khaldun's study of civilization" at 84-109; Hodgson, "The Venture of Islam" at volume II: 476, 478-484 (at 481 n.13, Hodgson criticizes the translation of the "Maqaddimah" by Franz Rosenthal); Abdullah Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 218-223; Cyril Glassé, "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam" (HarperSanFrancisco 1991), "Ibn Khaldun" at 171-172; R. Idris, "Society in the Maghrib after the disappearance of the Almohad" in J.KiZerbo & D.T.Niane (editors), "General History of Africa" (Univ. of California/UNESCO 1997) volume IV: 44-49, 48-49.]

In the later books of the "Kitab al-'Ibar", he focuses especially on the history of the Berbers of the Maghrib. The perceptive Ibn Khaldun in his narration eventually arrives at historical events he himself witnessed or encountered. [There is said to be danger in contemporary use of his local histories, because Ibn Khaldun reluctantly employed highly nuanced "folk Maghribi archetypes" that conflate Berber and Arab tribal identities with static "genres de vie" (socio-economic life styles), creating "mythological entities" and a chaos of meaning. Aziz al-Azmeh, "Ibn Khaldun in Modern Scholarship" (London 1981) at 215-222. Compare: Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" at 218-223.] As an official of the Hafsids, Ibn Khaldun experienced first hand the effects on the social structure of troubled regimes and the long term decline in the region's fortunes.

Reference notes

ee also

*History of ancient Tunisia
*Umayyad conquest of North Africa
*Aghlabid dynasty
*Fatimid Caliphate
*Zirid dynasty
*Almohad dynasty
*Hafsid dynasty
*Ibn Khaldun
*History of modern Tunisia

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • History of ancient Tunisia — The present day Republic of Tunisia, al Jumhuriyyah at Tunisiyyah , has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west. Tunis is the… …   Wikipedia

  • History of early Tunisia — History of Tunisia ANCIENT HISTORY OF TUNISIA …   Wikipedia

  • History of Ottoman-era Tunisia — Eyalet i Tunus Eyalet of the Ottoman Empire …   Wikipedia

  • History of Tunisia — The History of Tunisia is divided into three articles:*History of ancient Tunisia **Early Berber history **City state of Carthage **Roman Province of Africa **Vandal, Berber, and Byzantine*History of medieval Tunisia **Umayyad Caliphate in… …   Wikipedia

  • History of Angola — This article is part of a series Precolonial history (Prehistor …   Wikipedia

  • History of Africa — Pre Colonial African States …   Wikipedia

  • Tunisia — Tunisian Republic الجمهورية التونسية al Jumhūriyyah at Tūnisiyyah …   Wikipedia

  • History of Islam — This article is about the history of Islam as a culture and polity. For the history of the Islamic faith, see Spread of Islam. For Islamic civilization, see Islamic civilization (disambiguation). For military conquests, see Islamic conquests. For …   Wikipedia

  • Medieval art — Byzantine monumental Church mosaics are one of the great achievements of medieval art. These are from Monreale in Sicily from the late 12th century. The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of… …   Wikipedia

  • History of art — This article is an overview of the history of the visual arts worldwide. For the academic discipline of art history, see Art history. The Creation of Adam (1508 1512), by Michelangelo, in the Sistine Chapel (Vatican) …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.