BECK index

North Africa to 1700

by Sanderson Beck

Nubia and Ethiopia to 1500
Sub-Saharan Africa to 1500
Traditional African Ethics
North Africa to 900
North Africa 900-1300
North Africa 1300-1500
Ibn Khaldun on History

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa to 1700.
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Nubia and Ethiopia to 1500

Ancient Egypt

The earliest Egyptian dynasty attacked Nubia before 3000 BC and occasionally after that. In the eighth century BC the Kushite civilization was led by princes who made Napata their capital. King Piankhi reversed the trend by attacking Memphis and seizing Thebes and most of Upper Egypt. In 716 BC his brother Shabaka even brought the Nile delta within the Kushite kingdom. His successor Taharqa (r. 690-664 BC) ruled Egypt peacefully but was driven out of Memphis by the imperialist Assyrians led by Esarhaddon in 671 BC; although Kushite Tanutamen invaded Egypt in 664, ten years later the Kushites were back in Napata.

The Kushites were defeated by an invasion of Egyptians and Greek mercenaries in 593 BC. As the Sahara got drier, the grazing land around Napata deteriorated, and Meroe became the new center of the Kushites led by King Aspelta from 593 to 568 BC. Meroe was further away from possible Egyptian attacks and had developed the use of iron, which was more plentiful there. Iron weapons had given the Assyrians a military advantage, but now this was no longer the case. The Kushites, like the Egyptians, also built pyramids.

During the reign of Kushite king Nastasen from 328 to 308 BC the Meroites began to use their own hieroglyphs, which were soon followed by a Meroitic alphabet and script. The religion, which was derived from the Egyptians, changed also in the reign of Ergamenes in the last quarter of the third century BC from the worship of the Egyptian ram to a lion god depicted with three faces and four arms. Elephants were domesticated and used for royal prestige and in war. The Kushites traded extensively with the Egyptians but also through Red Sea ports with Arabia, East Africa, India, and perhaps even China. The multi-faces and arms of their lion god seem to reflect the influence of India's Shiva cults.

Although the Greeks used their term meaning "dark-skinned" to refer to the Kushites as Ethiopians, they were not what became Ethiopia. The civilization which did develop in Ethiopia was at Axum, where many Semitic people from Yemen congregated by the third century BC. They were ruled by kings claiming to be descendants of the son of Solomon and Sheba, who was supposed to have brought the Ark of the Law from Jerusalem to Axum. Although they sometimes called themselves Israelites, their religion was actually more Arabian in origin. Nubians controlled Thebes from 203 to 187 BC.

Strabo wrote that Ethiopia was so peaceful that the Romans only needed three cohorts there. However, when the Roman army in Egypt was busy with a war in Arabia, the Ethiopians (Kushites) took over Syene, Elephantine, and Philae, pulling down statues of Augustus Caesar. In retaliation for this raid near the Nile's first cataract, a Roman army led by Petronius plundered the Kushite city of Napata in 23 BC, sending a thousand prisoners to Caesar. In the next generation Kushite king Netekamani and his queen Amanitare built temples at Naga, and King Sherkarer, probably their son, commemorated a military victory with an inscription. Ethiopian civilization founded a new dynasty of kings at Axum soon after 50 CE.

About two thousand years ago the spread of iron-working gradually brought Africa south of the Sahara desert out of the stone age. Farming could be done more easily, although the tsetse fly in central Africa prevented the use of draft animals for plowing. Population began to increase, especially among those speaking Bantu languages. The coast around the horn of eastern Africa was described by a Roman official from Alexandria in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea about 75 CE. Goods were traded for ivory and tortoise shells at Adulis, the port city for Axum; slaves, incense, and Indian cinnamon could be obtained along the coast to the south. Natives at Rhapta were described as pirates of great stature ostensibly under Arab rule. Bananas and yams were brought to Africa by Indonesian traders, who settled on the island of Madagascar about the second century CE. With the exception of Bushmen and a few others in central and southern Africa who continued to hunt and herd, by the 8th century CE the iron age had spread throughout Africa.

In the 4th century CE the Axumites conquered Kush. After Himyari king Dimnos massacred some Greek merchants in revenge for the Roman empire's ill treatment of Jews, Abyssinian king Andas invaded Yemen and killed Dimnos. Andas had vowed if he were victorious, he would become a Christian; in response the Roman emperor sent a bishop from Alexandria. Christianity was made the state religion when his successor King Ezana was converted by the captured Syrian Frumentius, who had become his tutor and later was appointed bishop of Axum by the bishop of Alexandria. Axum king Ezana devastated the once powerful empire of the Meroitic Kush. Apparently the royal family and military class of Meroites, which exploited the masses of workers, had not proved stable. Desiccation caused by over-grazing and soil erosion was another factor in the decline of Meroe, as the desert expanded. The army of Axum under Ezana made the caravan trade routes safer, destroying his enemies by sacking cities, taking prisoners, ruining crops, and confiscating livestock. Ezana was succeeded by his son Elesboas.

Another Jewish Himyari named Dhu Novas overcame the Ethiopian garrison and proclaimed himself king in 519. He persecuted Christians and tried to exterminate all Ethiopians who would not accept Judaism. In 523 a siege of Nejran resulted in the massacre of 280 Christians. Two years later Axum king Ela Atzbeha led a large army of Abyssinians to defeat and kill Dhu Novas, establishing a tributary Christian king named Esimiphaios. In 531 Roman emperor Justinian sent Julian to ask the two Red Sea kingdoms of Ela Atzbeha and Esimiphaios for help against the Persians, but they did little.

As Isis worship at the Philae temple had been ended by imperial decree, Christianity grew rapidly in Nubia after Byzantine empress Theodora sent the Monophysite Julian there in 543; she and the Egyptians made sure that the rival Melkite mission was delayed even though her husband Emperor Justinian opposed the Monophysites. Thus the Nobadae (Nubians) and their king Silko became Monophysite Christians, and with the help of a Byzantine general they made the Blemyes adopt the same faith. Julian's work in Nubia was continued by Philae bishop Theodoros; Longinus went as far as 'Alwa, where he baptized the king and his people in 580. The Ethiopian church followed the Egyptian Copts in adhering to the Monophysite doctrine. When their trade routes to Yemeni, Jewish, and Greek merchants were cut off by Muslim invaders in the 7th century CE, the Ethiopian economy stagnated.

The Mukurra kingdom was attacked by Arabs in 641, and in the peace treaty of 651 the Nubians agreed to tolerate a Muslim mosque and provide 360 slaves annually to the Muslim imam in exchange for some supplies not mentioned in the treaty, which enabled Nubians to co-exist next to Muslim Egypt peacefully for six centuries. The Nubian church was greatly strengthened when Merkurios became king in 697. When Copts were persecuted in Egypt about 745, Nubian king Kiriakos demanded that imprisoned Alexandrian patriarch Khael be released and, according to a Christian author, invaded. In 836 Nubians made a treaty with the caliph of Baghdad, and they occupied southern Egypt in 962. At the end of the 10th century the Ethiopian king, because of a conflict with the patriarch of Alexandria, asked Nubian king George II to send a bishop, while many Christians from Egypt fled to Nubia.

In 1171 Nubians attacked Egypt and were counter-attacked two years later by Saladin's brother Turan-Shah. A century later in 1272 Nubian king Dawud captured the Arab trading post at 'Aydhab; this also resulted in attacks by Mamluk Egypt which captured prominent Nubians and helped Shakanda defeat Dawud II in a struggle over the Nubian throne. Shakanda agreed to pay annual tribute to the Egyptian sultan; Nubians not becoming Muslims had to pay a poll tax; and it was reported that 10,000 captives were sent to Egypt as slaves. Conflicts in Mukurra with Mamluk troops engaged 40,000 tribesmen seeking booty, and in 1290 Nubian king Shamamun captured the Mamluk garrison at Dunkula; Sultan Kalavun, busy with the last crusaders, agreed to a treaty.

Ethiopian expansion led to conflicts in the 10th century, and forces of a queen in Damot even defeated and killed the Christian king. Late in the 10th century the Agau revolted and slaughtered Christian clergy. The Ethiopian monarchy subdued them eventually; but local Agau religious customs were made part of church rituals. As an isolated Christian community, practices such as circumcision and polygamy justified by the Old Testament persisted, as the Ethiopians identified with the tribes of Israel surrounded by enemies.

In the 12th century the Agau gained control of the Ethiopian monarchy as the Zagwe dynasty and ruled for 133 years, building impressive churches with gigantic sculptures. King Lalibela ruled for at least twenty years in the early 13th century and used his army of more than 60,000 to invade pagans to the west and south. A chronicle reported that Lalibela had ten churches built and that he donated all his worldly possessions to the poor before he died of illness at age 70 in 1220.

Opposition to the Zagwe dynasty came from a monastic school on an island of Lake Hayq in Amhara led by Yekunno-Amlak. After winning a dynastic struggle, Zagwe king Yitbarek arrested Yekunno-Amlak; but he broke out of jail and led a revolt that defeated and killed Yitbarek. The last Zagwe king Dilanda donated land to another monastic stronghold in 1268, but two years later Yekunno-Amlak must have been in control, as he was giving them land then. Thus in 1270 Yekunno-Amlak claimed to be restoring the ancient Solomonid dynasty. When he died fifteen years later, struggle for the throne caused a civil war and led to the practice for two centuries of imprisoning his descendants on Mount Gishen until each was chosen to rule or died. To the northwest of Ethiopia was the Jewish community of Falasha. Muslim settlers in the sultanate of Shoa came into conflict with Ethiopia in 1128. The Muslim merchants often fought each other too, and in 1285 Ifat king 'Umar Walasma defeated and annexed the sultanate of Shoa, controlling the trade route from Zeila.

Monastic schools like the one at Lake Hayq founded in 1248 by Iyesus-Mo'a (d. 1292) did much to educate clerics and Christians. The monasteries spread along with the Ethiopian empire. Tekla-Haymanot (1215-1313) was trained at Hayq by Iyasus Mo'a and started the important monastic community of Debre Asbo in Shoa. The Asbo abbot Filippos criticized Amda-Siyon and Sayfa-Ar'ad for their polygamy; for this Filippos and others were flogged and exiled, stimulating many monks to move into the highlands. Monastery leaders were elected democratically and managed considerable property.

After attacking and annexing Damot, Hadya, Gojjam, and Falasha, Ethiopian emperor Amda-Siyon (r. 1314-44) invaded Ifat, defeating and killing its king Haqedin I. Dawaro and Sharka made treaties with this growing Christian empire; but ruling from a mobile camp, Amda-Siyon had to quell Christian rebellions in Tigray and along the Eritrean coast. In 1332 Ifat king Sabredin revolted by attacking Christian garrisons, burning churches, enslaving and forcing clergy to accept Islam, and arresting even Muslim merchants doing business for Amda Tseyon. Ifat formed an alliance with Dawaro, Sharka, Bali, and Adal, but they were all defeated and forced to submit to the forces of Amda-Siyon. His son and successor as emperor of Ethiopia, Sayfa Ar'ad (r. 1344-72), managed to divide the Muslims of Ifat by cooperating with some of them. In retaliation for the persecution of Copts in Egypt, in 1352 Sayfa Ar'ad imprisoned Egyptian merchants and executed those refusing to become Christians.

The Muslim ruler of Zeila, Sa'ad-ad-Din (r. 1373-1403), attacked the Christian army in Dawaro and Bali, taking many slaves and cattle as booty; but he was eventually driven back to Zeila and executed by Ethiopian emperor Dawit (r. 1382-1411). Conflicts continued as Dawit's sons and successors, Tewodros and Yeshaq (r. 1414-29), were killed fighting Adal princes. Adal ruler Ahmad Badlay (r. 1432-45) led a jihad against the Christian highlands and recaptured Bali; but in an attack on Dawaro he was killed. His Muslim army was badly defeated by the forces of Ethiopian emperor Zara Ya'qob (r. 1434-68), who centralized power at the new capital Debre-Birhan. In 1453 Zara Ya'qob persecuted Stephanists who refused to worship the Virgin. His son Ba'eda Maryam (r. 1468-78) pardoned the political prisoners and relaxed the strict controls of his father that had led to rebellions. Empress Eleni continued to exert considerable influence well into the next century.

A second monastic movement was led by Ewostatewos, who encouraged his students to produce their own food; he prohibited accepting gifts from the wealthy or those in authority. He denounced the slave trade some Christian chiefs practiced, and he urged people to follow the teachings of Christ, refusing to deal with those who would not. He insisted on observing the Sabbath and eventually went to Palestine, Cyprus, and Armenia, where he died in 1352. Followers of Ewostatewos were excommunicated by Egyptian bishops in Ethiopia and in fleeing persecution spread to the frontiers; their main monastery in the Eritrean plateau was founded in 1390. Conflicts between the two monastic groups finally led Emperor Zara Ya'qob in 1450 to call a council, which managed to resolve the differences by accepting the Sabbath. Zara Ya'qob sent a letter to Egyptian sultan Jaqmaq protesting the demolition of the Coptic church of Mitmak, and not liking the reply, he detained an Egyptian diplomat for four years. He formed a relationship with Rome, and he also instituted an inquisition against heresy that killed innocent people falsely accused, including members of the royal family.

Thriving Mogadishu had a mosque in the 13th century and supported Adal's efforts against Christian Ethiopia a century later; by then the people in Mombasa and Kilwa were staunchly Muslim. Based on Bantu with strong Arabic influences, Swahili was the main language in East Africa. The Book of the Zanj tells how Arab merchants had a Zanj patron (sahib), who with his tribe would support them in disputes with another Zanj. If an Arab stole Zanj goods, the debt was paid by taking goods of another Arab. In the region of the great lakes the Kitara empire was established by the warrior king Ndahura and his son Wamara in the 14th century. However, a famine, followed by a plague that devastated cattle, spread dissatisfaction, and Wamara's military commander Kagoro massacred the Bachwezi, ending their empire. By the 15th century the ports of Sofala and Kilwa were becoming prosperous, trading ivory and gold for Arab, Indian, and Chinese goods.

Sub-Saharan Africa to 1500

Prehistoric Cultures

Africa was the birthplace of the human species, and the Nile River nurtured the long and ancient history of Egypt. However, most of the continent, as with most of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, did not develop urban civilization until the last two thousand years. Before it began to dry up about four thousand years ago, the Sahara was occupied by hunters who left marvelous rock paintings at Tassili and domesticated sheep and wild cattle. About 1500 BC horses were introduced in the Sahara from Egypt; about a thousand years later the camel was imported from Arabia, and soon after that the desert was too dry for horses and was increasingly abandoned by people as well.

Use of camels began about the first century CE and made crossing the Sahara practical as North Africans traded salt and other goods to the Sudan for gold and slaves. Starting in the 7th century, Islam gradually spread in Africa. Early Muslim travelers were astonished at the liberty the African women enjoyed. In Walata though devout, their beauty was far from veiled, and they could take lovers as they pleased. In the many matrilineal societies kings were succeeded by a son of a sister.

In 772 CE al-Fazari in Baghdad called Ghana the land of gold. Ghana's kings controlled the Wangara gold and competed with the Sanhaja Berbers, who held Awdaghust until Sanhaja strife enabled the Soninke of Ghana to capture that city in 990. The city of Kumbi Saleh became a commercial and intellectual center in the Sudan. Legends told of this region anciently called Wagadu, of which Kumbi was the capital, saying that Wagadu was blessed with much gold that was replenished annually thanks to a snake that guarded the kingdom. Every year they sacrificed a virgin to the snake until the year a lover of the chosen virgin killed the snake. The dying snake cursed Wagadu, causing the land to dry up and the gold to cease there and move to the upper Niger River area.

Ghana's rulers maintained their ancestral religion and resisted Islam. In 1068 al-Bakri wrote that Ghana king Tunka Menin had great power and was respected for his love of justice and kind treatment of Muslims. Kumbi fell to the Almoravids in 1076, and many were forced to convert. Almoravid military leader Abu-Bakr ibn 'Umar, whom Mauritanian oral traditions held responsible for dispossession of the blacks in the Sahara by the Berber nomads, was killed in Tagant in 1087. Plundered and with its trade disrupted, Ghana declined.

East of Ghana, the Kanuri Sefawa dynasty was established in Kanem about the 9th century and lasted a millennium. Gao king Kossoi became a Muslim in 1010 but did not change his court ceremonies. About 1085 the second Sefawa king, Dunama ibn Hummay, was converted to Islam; he made two pilgrimages to Mecca and died on a third.

Declining Ghana was finally destroyed in 1203, when Soso chief Sumaguru Kante of the Kaniaga, which had been a vassal state of Ghana, sacked Kumbi. Sumaguru also conquered the Mandinkas to the south by the upper Niger and put to death all the ruler's sons except a cripple named Sundiata, who raised a guerrilla army and eventually defeated and killed Sumaguru in 1235. In a few years the Mandinkas took over what had been Ghana and controlled the gold trade from Wangara. Though essentially an agricultural community, this kingdom of Mali also traded the Saharan salt of Taghaza and copper of Takedda, as Jenne and Timbuktu became commercial centers. Sundiata was succeeded in 1255 by his son Wali, who went on pilgrimage to Mecca; during his 15-year rule the Mali kingdom included Songhay. Wali was succeeded by two brothers; the second, Khalifa, having killed people with arrows for sport, was deposed and killed. During these troubles Songhay became an independent kingdom under 'Ali Kolon. Incompetent Mali kings were controlled by court officers, though a freed slave named Sakura usurped the throne in 1285 and expanded his power with his Mandinka army so that by the end of the 13th century Mali sovereignty stretched from Takrur in the west to Goa and Songhay in the east. Sakura died on his way back from Mecca, and the legitimate line resumed.

In the first half of the 13th century under Dunama Dibalami the Kanuri Sefawa dynasty expanded from east of Lake Chad to the north to take Kawar and the Fezzan and west to include Bornu, establishing the first Kanuri empire by military forces that included 41,000 horses. At the end of this century king Ibrahim Nikale killed one of his sons and was assassinated. A civil war in the next reign lost the Fezzan, where a Banu Nasur dynasty lasted a century before it was destroyed by Arabs from the Maghrib.

The Mali kingdom was divided into three provinces with many local chiefs. Sons of vassal kings were often held hostage at court, and local chiefs ruled under appointed governors. Farming, the army, and administration depended on serfs and slaves, though some slaves could become officials, even a provincial governor. The cavalry consisted of free men; horses were expensive and were often purchased with slaves. Property was respected so much that when a foreigner died in Mali, the property remained until the heir was sent for to recover it, according to Ibn-Battuta. This Arab traveler also complained that female servants and slaves in the court were naked.

In the forests of West Africa farmers and some pastoralists, like the Ibo and Tiv, had egalitarian societies based on family kinship and tribes that were free of tribute, tax, and rent. Elders administered justice and communal activities in small groups. The Akan people were matrilineal but had a king with attending ministers. A council could remove the king, who might be obligated to commit suicide; they could stop the king from going to war if they believed it was unjust. Wolof and Serer kings of Senegambia were elected by the nobility but were considered divine and had more power, appointing local chiefs to collect taxes. Women could hold powerful positions, and in Walo could even be chief of state. Wolof and Serer societies were very hierarchical with defined classes of royalty, nobility, warriors, peasants, servants, and many slaves, some of whom held privileged positions, even advising the king. Society was also graded by age, and secret societies enforced customs and standards of behavior, promoting virtue in women and honor among men. Kola nuts were chewed as a stimulant and were often given in friendship. The art of Ife indicated it was an important center in the 11th century. Oyo was the primary state of those later called the Yoruba people. The Oyo king had to work with the council representing seven wards or face suicide. The secret society of the Ogboni was a check on the council. Tradition held that the Benin line of kings to the east was started by an Oyo king about the 14th century.

Mali king Mansa Musa (r. 1312-37) was celebrated by Muslim historians for making a famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324; his spending about 30,000 pounds of gold in Cairo depreciated the precious metal there. In choosing between gold production or proselytizing the Muslim faith in Wangara, Musa abandoned the latter. The Mossi pillaged and reduced Timbuktu to ruin by about 1330 and again in 1338. Musa broke tradition by leaving the kingdom to his son instead of the oldest male in the family, Sulayman, who took the throne four years later and maintained the Mali empire for twenty years. Ibn Battuta visited Mali in 1353 and noted a failed plot to overthrow the king. After Sulayman's death a civil war over the succession was won by Mari-Djata II, who ruled so oppressively from 1360 to 1374 that he depleted the treasury and almost ruined the kingdom. In the next reign the chief minister carried out military expeditions against rebellions in Gao and beyond. In the fifteenth century Mali's royal power declined, as the Mossi raided the subject state of Macina.

The Songhay royal house at Gao on the Niger River had converted to Islam by the 11th century; in the 14th century the Sonni dynasty gained strength, and in 1420 Songhay's Sonni ruler Muhammad Da'o raided Mali territory. In 1433 the Tuareg chief Akilu-ag-Malwal occupied Timbuktu and Walata, and in 1450 Macina became independent. Two hundred miles up the Niger River, the fishing village of Jenne had grown into a center of Islamic learning and trade. When Mali lost control of Timbuktu, Jenne also became independent for a half century. Sonni 'Ali (r. 1464-92) of Songhay continued to practice his native religion but gave contributions to mosques. Yet he mistrusted Muslims and often persecuted them. He recaptured Timbuktu in 1468 and conquered Jenne about four years later. Naba Nassere invaded Baghana and Walata in 1477, but in 1483 Sonni 'Ali drove his army out of the region. The Songhay army also pushed the Mossi south of the Niger and raided their territory. Arab historians criticized Sonni 'Ali for tyrannically oppressing Muslims, but for the Songhay empire he was its founding hero. Both the Mali and Songhay empires traded slaves for horses in order to field a professional cavalry. Jews were resented for having become prominent, and in 1492 the qadi al-Maghili incited a massacre of Jews in Tuat.

In the early 14th century four Kanuri kings, all sons of 'Abd Allah ibn Kaday, were killed fighting the So, though Idris ibn Ibrahim Nikale managed to get along with the Bornu people and ruled for about 25 years. The second half of the century was filled with wars against the pastoral Bulala, again killing four Kanem kings in a row and forcing the next mai (divine king) Umar ibn Idris to move the capital to Bornu west of Lake Chad. In 1391 mai Bir ibn Idris complained to the Egyptian sultan Barquq of Arab raids on his Kanem people, but he ruled a third of a century. In the late 14th century nomadic Arabs came in to the western Sahara and raided caravans so much that trade shifted to Timbuktu in the east. In the 15th century the Kanuri revived in a second empire.

Some political history of Kano survived in "The Song of Bagauda." Population increased in this fertile land as others suffering famine migrated to Kano. Larger territory was conquered by a series of kings called sarki. Gijimasu (r. 1095-1134) had established the city of Kano, and his son Tsaraki (r. 1136-94) subdued most of the chiefdoms in the area except Santolo. Muslims helped Yaji (r. 1349-1385) conquer the Santolo and destroy its religious center of traditional sacrifices. The 15th sarki Kananeji (r. 1390-1410), using horse armor, iron helmets, and coats of chain-mail, invaded and occupied Zaria (Zazzau). The wealthy war-chief Dauda (r. 1421-38) brought a more sophisticated administration with Bornu titles. When a deposed Bornu ruler took refuge in Kano about 1425, the Bornu mai made the Hausaland towns pay tribute to Bornu during the reign of Kano sarki Abdullahi Burja (r. 1438-52). Katsina had to send a hundred slaves each year to the Bornu capital at Ngasargamu. In the 15th century the most powerful states in the Hausaland were Katsina, Kano, Zaria, and Gobir. The spread of Islam put more emphasis on the higher Hausawa god Ubangiji rather than possession by the oskoki spirits that were subordinated as jinn.

During the Kano reign (1452-63) of Ya'qub, kola nuts were introduced into Hausaland. The Kano sarki Muhammad Rumfa (1463-99) made Kurmin Jakara into a market, built mosques, and consulted a council of nine, letting trusted slaves handle finances. His conversion to Islam was marked by his cutting down the sacred tree and replacing it with a mosque. During his reign the series of wars between the Kano and Katsina began. Sarki Muhammad Korau (r. 1445-93) founded the walled city of Katsina at the site of an iron mine. His successor Ibrahim Sura (r. 1493-98) imprisoned his subjects who refused to pray.

In 1415 the Portuguese captured Ceuta on the Moroccan side of the Gibraltar Straits. After their fleet was destroyed at Tangier, they abandoned it in 1437; but they began colonizing the Azores two years later. In 1441 Antam Gonçalves seized two Africans on the coast of Rio d'Oro and took seven captives back to Lisbon. Two years later Nuno Tristao took captives from the Senegal region, and the next year a company was set up in Lagos to exploit the African slave trade. A fort was built at Arguin in 1445, and the next year Portuguese explorers arrived in western Malinke. Ten years later a Venetian reported that the Portuguese were stealing about a thousand people a year from the west African coast, and plantations were established on the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, and on Sao Tomé, using African slaves.

The Portuguese attacked Tangier in 1471, also taking Arzila and Larache. That year the expedition led by Fernao Gomes discovered the lucrative region they called the "Mine" (El Mina) that became known as the Gold Coast. In a 1480 treaty Portugal gave up the Canary Islands to Spain, and the Spanish promised not to interfere in the Guinea trade. Portuguese led by Azambuja began building the Sao Jorge da Mina fortress in 1482, and the next year Portuguese captain Diogo Cao reached the Kongo; missionaries tried to convert the natives to Christianity while ambassadors and goods were exchanged with Lisbon. In 1485 d'Aveiro began trade and diplomatic relations with the Benin empire.

Bantu flourished in the Kongo and crossed south of the Limpopo by the 11th century. Kikuyu entered the eastern highlands during the 13th and 14th centuries. Family, clan, community, and age group were important to the Kikuyu. District councils of elders were formed, and from these were chosen a national council. Group discussion and public opinion made government responsive. In central Africa in the 16th century Tutsi and Hima rulers had vassals or clients similar to the feudal system.

In east Africa according to the Kilwa Chronicle, Sulayman al-Hasan ibn Daud (r. 1170-88) developed the gold trade into a rich empire. They built a stronger citadel, and many Arabs and Persians settled there. Ibn Battuta visited in 1331 and was impressed by the piety of the Muslims. The Pate Chronicle recorded that Omar ibn Muhammad Fumo Mari (d. 1392) conquered Lamu, Manda, and Malindi and that he went to war with Kilwa to expand the Nabhani kingdom.

The impressive buildings of the Great Zimbabwe were started about 1300. In the 14th century Zimbabwe culture south of the Zambesi was governed by the Mbire, Bantus from the Lake Tanganyika area who revitalized the Shona kingdom. Although about 1425 Karanga king Mutota attempted to conquer the plateau between the Zambesi and the Limpopo, usually the spread of the Bantu seems to have been based on their knowledge of working iron more than on military conquest. A village chief with a council of elders usually governed. Spiritual beliefs and respect for ancestors helped sustain traditions and strengthen sanctions. Mutota's son Matope became a powerful ruler, gaining the title mwanamutapa (lord of the plundered lands), which the Portuguese later took over, calling it Monomotapa. Matope moved his capital from the Great Zimbabwe to the north; deforestation and grazing had exhausted the region, though oral tradition blamed a lack of salt. Changa and Togwa rebelled against his empire. After Matopa died about 1480, Changa was able to establish an independent kingdom in the southern region that is now Zimbabwe. Inland the Zambezi kingdom of Urozwi was beyond Portuguese influence; but in the north Portuguese gold-seekers established military authority and markets in Monomotapa near Mount Darwin.

Traditional African Ethics

For many centuries African culture has been primarily oral, and thus few written sources can provide us with information about comprehensive ethical systems. Yet these oral traditions have been carried on by each generation through teaching, folklore, proverbs, and customs. Most of sub-Saharan Africa seems to have similar beliefs and ethical traditions. Traditional African philosophy perceives that spirits are what cause good and evil, that these spirits are not only in living humans but in all life and in the invisible presence of the ancestors. For Africans, the community of the tribe, clan, and family is more important than the individual, because the individual depends on the group. The actions of individuals affect not only themselves but the group. Thus African ethics is more social than personal and more pragmatic than theoretical. Most Africans believe that the guilt of one person can affect the entire household, including the animals and property. Those who do wrong will eventually be punished by God. To avoid worse effects, most traditional African tribes punished sorcery, witchcraft, murder, incest, and adultery severely (often with death), but minor crimes were punished by fines paid in cattle, sheep, or money. Believing everything is interrelated, whenever misfortunes, illnesses, and accidents occur, Africans search for the evil intentions that originally caused them.

Taboos are based on moral considerations, and so they avoid doing wrong in order to prevent harm from occurring. The community may punish people for their wrong actions with physical ordeals or fines. Africans make a distinction between witchcraft and sorcery. Witchcraft comes from the inner self and may operate without one even being consciously aware of its effect, but sorcery is a technique that is consciously used to do harm, possibly for a price. However, Africans generally believe that only those who desire evil, have bad consciences, or are emotionally unstable are susceptible to sorcery. The function of the medicine-man, medicine-woman, or witch doctor is to prevent the negativity of witchcraft or sorcery from harming people by sending the magic back to its source. The witch doctor cures those who are bewitched and attempts to check the powers of witches and sorcerers. The Azande medicine-man cures the sick and warns of danger, because in the African belief the negativity (or evil) is what causes both illness and moral harm. Ill will from jealousy or hatred may cause wishing someone harm (witchcraft) or a more overt bad action. Thus the healer seeks to discover the psychological cause of the illness. Africans believe witches are morose, anti-social, and easily offended. To become a witch doctor or diviner, the person must hear the call and undergo apprenticeship with a diviner or medicine person, who is usually an herbalist.

The Hausa people believe that being a good person (mutumin kirki) depends on character (hali), which is manifested in various ways. Being truthful (gaskiya) is perhaps the most important, and a Hausa proverb suggests that a lie can cause more pain than a spear. Trust (amana) goes along with keeping one's word, and terrible shame can result from breaking a promise. Generosity (karama) is another Hausa virtue, and the giving spirit also implies cheerfulness. Patience (hakuri) is so essential in Hausaland that a common greeting is "How is the patience?"1 Hankali is described as common sense, prudence, and correct behavior. The communitarian nature of African ethics is indicated by the concept of kunya or shame. Ladabi can be understood as courtesy or propriety. Mutunci is the aspect of goodness that respects the feelings of others. Hikima means wisdom and maturity, and adalci implies justice and honesty.

For the Yoruba the community is more important than the individual. Their economic life was communal and based on the common ownership of land. Cooperative endeavor (owe) is essential to the Yoruba way of living. Another Yoruba saying indicates how they believe ethics affects their community. If someone in the house is eating poisonous insects and is not warned, the neighbors may lose sleep. This proverb also implies that each person is responsible for helping one's neighbors stay on the right path. The Yoruba believe that God is the one who executes judgment in silence. The Yorubas are concerned whether their behavior will bring honor or shame on their family and group. Mutual helpfulness is essential to the survival of the kin-group. The Yoruba also place great emphasis on character (iwa), saying that gentle character is what keeps the rope of life unbroken, or that good character is the best protection. That they believe the soul resides in the heart is indicated by their using the same word (okan) to mean either the soul or the physical heart. The Yoruba could consult the Ifa oracle to find out if a death was caused by witchcraft. Ifa was a legendary sage with healing power who founded the sacred city of Ife-Ife. The Ifa oracle is similar to the Chinese Yi Jing, except that it has 256 permutations of two basic symbols in eight places instead of 64 in six places.

The Akan people believe that all humans are children of God and that no one is a child of the earth. The Asante instruct their future priests and require the neophytes to follow a discipline that forbids them to drink alcohol, gossip, quarrel or fight, pray to kill anyone, attend the chief's court without being summoned, or go out at night with other men. They are also required to salute their elders with respect. The women could be trained to be mediums, but the male priests usually did not allow themselves to be possessed. The Asante believe that their ancestors are watching them and will hold them to account when they depart from this life to the world of the spirits. The ancient tradition of human sacrifice continued to be perpetrated by powerful rulers who ordered servants to accompany them in their transition from this life to the next. Such sacrifices were ordered by kings in Abomey, Kumasi, and Benin. Also victims might be sent to carry a message to the land of the dead. Usually those sacrificed were convicted criminals or war captives, who might even prefer this fate to being sold into slavery. Such messengers were often well treated prior to their execution.

Secret societies such as the Oro acted as vigilantes, condemning evil-doers and then executing them in Oro's grove. Leopard societies might mark murdered bodies as though they had been mauled by leopards, and some practiced cannibalism. In addition to these judicial murders, some male secret societies exploited and bullied women. Often Christian missionaries or Muslims attempted to reform these abuses by teaching their religions. Secret societies may accept Christians and Muslims, and they may become a parallel government working at night to maintain ethical standards for the community.

Rites of passage are performed for birth, puberty, marriage, and death. The naming of children often seemed to imply an understanding of reincarnation. During initiations males were usually circumcised, and females often suffered clitoridectomy. The courage needed to undergo this pain marked a passage toward adult life. Although circumcision does not have negative effects, clitoridectomy has been criticized because it reduces the pleasure a woman experiences in sexual intercourse. Africans generally have open and healthy attitudes about sexuality, which is considered a gift of the ancestors from God. Everyone is expected to marry, and fertility is strongly valued. Because of this, adultery, incest, and homosexuality are usually considered taboo. For social Africans marriage is between families as well as individuals, and polygamy is allowed in order to produce more children. Africans are often suspicious of those who remain single or eat alone. During initiations the Bantu would teach the youngsters that friendship is always better than possessions and that a man should tell people not to quarrel and stop people from hurting each other. The Bantu language was widespread in southern and central Africa, and their term for God (Njambi) only exists in the singular, implying monotheism. The spiritual philosophy of Africans recognizes that souls continue to exist after they leave the body at death. Thus they continue to respect their ancestors and may aim to please them. Mediums are trained to be channels for departed spirits and may bring their messages from the other world.

Traditional African ethics includes such qualities as community loyalty, helpfulness, sharing, living in harmony, respecting people, and self-control. Africans believed in increasing their power but are leery of anyone having unlimited power. When things go wrong, the community works together to restore peace. They believed that much human evil comes from envy. The Dogon say that the patient person has peace and refreshes like water. The humanism of African culture is contained in Nguni concepts such as ubuntu, which implies community, reciprocity, solidarity, and social harmony. A famous humanistic Nguni saying is that a human becomes human through other humans. The Venda say that a person is born for others. Another old South African saying is "Your pain is my pain; my wealth is your wealth; your salvation is my salvation."2

North Africa to 900

Prehistoric Cultures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Tunisia the militaristic Fihrids were led by 'Abdul-Rahman ibn Habib, who raided Sicily and Sardinia in 752. He was assassinated in 755 for refusing to submit to the new 'Abbasid caliph. The Warfajuma tribe of Berbers united with Sufrite leaders and defeated the Fihrids, taking over Qairawan and killing Habib ibn 'Abdul-Rahman in 757. By then the Ibadites had gained control in Tripolitania following the instructions of Abu 'Ubayda from Basra. He sent as imam Abul-Khattab, who led the Ibadite tribes and drove the Sufrites from Qairawan in 758. However, three years later Ibn al-Ash'ath led an 'Abassid army that invaded Tunisia, overcoming the Ibadites and killing Abul-Khattab. The Arab military caste (jund) continued to resist and forced Ibn al-Ash'ath to leave in 765. His successor al-Aghlab ibn Salim was campaigning in Algeria against Sufrites led by the Banu Ifran chief Abu Qurra, who governed in Tlemcen (Tilimsan), when the jund in Qairawan revolted and killed Salim in 768. For the next quarter century the Muhallab family governed in relative peace. However, the Kharijite revolt against the 'Abbasids in Tripolitania failed when their leader al-Malzuzi was killed in 772.

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

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

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

North Africa 900-1300

The Nubians occupied southern Egypt in 962. At the end of the 10th century the Ethiopian king, because of a conflict with the patriarch of Alexandria, asked Nubian king George II to send a bishop, while many Christians from Egypt fled to Nubia. Ethiopian expansion led to conflicts in the 10th century, and forces of a queen in Damot even defeated and killed the Christian king. Late in the 10th century the Agau revolted and slaughtered Christian clergy. The Ethiopian monarchy subdued them eventually; but local Agau religious customs were made part of church rituals.

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

The Fatimids imposed heavy taxes, not to live in luxury like the Aghlabids, but for their wars of conquest against Egypt and Morocco. They also corrupted government by selling offices. 'Ubaydalla was succeeded by his son al Qa'im (r. 934-46), who persecuted the Sunnis even more than his father had. Their Shi'i intolerance toward the orthodox Malikis provoked a revolution led by the Kharijite Berber Abu Yazid, who took over most of Ifriqiya from 944 until he was defeated by al Qa'im's son Isma'il al-Mansur three years later. In 951 the Fatimids persuaded the Qarmatians to return the black stone to the Ka'ba, and they subdued the tribes in Morocco by 958. In Egypt the rich merchant Ahmad ibn Nasr spread Fatimid propaganda. After Egypt's governor Kafur died in 968, the Fatimid general, the ex-slave Jawhar, led an army of 100,000 with Berber cavalry but used diplomacy to take over Egypt, which he governed for four years until the Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz (r. 953-75) arrived. Jawhar built the new capital al-Qahira (Cairo), named after the planet Mars to propitiate its feared malevolent influence. In 973 Umayyads from Spain led by general Ghalib invaded Morocco and won over the Banu Gannum. In 974 the Qarmatians invaded Egypt; but they were defeated, and 1500 prisoners were executed at Cairo.

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

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

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

When the Nile flood was low, famines occurred in Egypt during the years 1023-25 and 1054-55 when the caliph appealed to the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus for food, and 1065-72. Turks led by Atsiz seized Jerusalem and most of Palestine in 1071 and five years later defeated the Fatimids' Berber garrison at Damascus. Civil war in Egypt broke out between the Turks and the Sudanese soldiers, and in 1073 the caliph appealed to Acre's governor Badr al-Jamali, who took power the next year by executing Turkish generals and Egyptian officials in Cairo. Badr died in 1094 and was succeeded as army commander by his son al-Afdal, who chose the next caliph, al-Musta'li. The Isma'ilis supported the previous caliph's elder son an-Nizar and were called Assassins (literally "hashish-users") by their adversaries for murdering their political enemies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Africa 1300-1500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the Portuguese invaded Morocco in 1415, the Nasrids tried to help Marinid ruler Abu Sa'id 'Uthman III (r. 1398-1420) to evict the Portuguese in 1419; but this effort failed. After this sultan was assassinated the next year, Marinid control fell into the hands of the Wattas family. Abu Zakariya Yahya al-Wattasi ruled as regent for the one-year-old sultan 'Abdul-Haqq, who came of age in 1437, the year a Portuguese invasion was defeated. Abu Zakariya Yahya died in 1448 but was succeeded as vizier by another Wattasid until 1457, when Abu Zakariya's son Yahya became vizier. Yahya became unpopular by removing the qadi (judge) of Fez, enabling 'Abdul-Haqq to take control as sultan. After the Portuguese conquered at Qasr al-Kabir in 1458, religious agitation erupted in Fez when the Jewish advisor Harun ended the tax exemptions of the marabouts (Sufis) and sharifs. In 1465 a riot broke out in Fez after a Jewish tax collector mistreated a sharifian woman. Harun and 'Abdul-Haqq were killed, and Muhammad al-Juti was proclaimed ruler. He lasted until 1472. During this era al-Sayyaf led a rebellion against the Marinids for twenty years, because he believed they had poisoned his Sufi teacher al-Jazuli. Wattasid Muhammad al-Shaykh (r. 1472-1505) conquered Fez from the Marinid sharifs; but he surrendered the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the Portuguese invasion. In a 1479 treaty the Wattasids recognized Castile's rights over the Atlantic coast of Africa and the kingdom of Fez.

Africa and Slavery 1500-1800

Ibn Khaldun on History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ibn Khaldun described the stages he observed in the history of Muslim civilization from the rise of the Bedouin tribes to the powerful 'Abbasid empire, which became luxurious and was replaced by rising tribal groups. In the long third chapter he discussed the Muslim dynasties and their government. Group feeling enables power to be won, because of their "affection and willingness to fight and die for each other."3 Once a royal family has established a dynasty, the group feeling tends to fade, though the religious propaganda usually maintains its power for a while. People are offered divine rewards for cooperating and being virtuous, as laws prohibit evil practices. At first the zealous group feeling enables expansion, but later the empire reaches the limits of what it can conquer militarily. The size of the empire depends on the number of its supporters. The royal family claims all glory for itself; but as its wealth succumbs to luxury it loses its discipline. When its income no longer covers its expenses, the decline begins. High taxes and the army must be reduced. Luxury also brings corruption and eventually the ruination of the ancestral prestige.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The approach is based upon
constant application to divine worship,
complete devotion to God,
aversion to the false splendor of the world,
abstinence from the pleasure, property, and position
to which the great mass aspires,
and retirement from the world into solitude for divine worship.4

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

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


1. "Mutumin Kirki: The Concept of the Good Man in Hausa" by Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene in African Philosophy: An Anthology, p. 124.
2. "Ubuntu: Reflections of a South African on Our Common Humanity" by Barbara Nussbaum in Reflections, Volume 4, Number 4, p. 26.
3. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah tr. Franz Rosenthal, Volume 1, p. 313.
4. Ibid., Volume 3, p. 76.

Copyright © 2004 by Sanderson Beck

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

Prehistoric Cultures
Sumer, Babylon, and Hittites
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Israel
Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian Empires
Muhammad and Islamic Conquest
Abbasid, Buyid, and Seljuk Empires 750-1095
Islamic Culture 1095-1300
Ottoman and Persian Empires 1300-1730
Ottoman and Persian Empires 1730-1875
Africa to 1500
Africa and Slavery 1500-1800
Africa and Europeans 1800-1875
Summary and Evaluation


Chronological Index

BECK index