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Berbers and Islam
Berbers and Islam
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Berbers and Islam
TheBerbers(Imazighen) are an ethnic group that had, until recently, few links to theArabs. They have existed in ancient
Mauretania,Numidia,IfriqiyaandTripolitania, (present-dayMorocco,Algeria,TunisiaandLibyarespectively) for thousands of
years. Most Berbers have converted toIslamover the course several centuries.
The region of North Africapracticed many religions including various forms of pagan rituals,Judaism, andChristianity. The first
Islamic forcesencountered fierce opposition by the various city-states resulting from the departure of theByzantines. The
weakest of them in the southern and southwestern parts of the Amazigh territory were the first to fall to the Islamic troops under the Egyptian Caliph in a locally initiated attempt of expansion westward. This first attempt in late 7th century (660 A.D.) resultedin a decisive defeat of the Islamic troops. In 750 the caliphs centralized their command inDamascusand a coalition of Islamicforces fromMedina, Damascus,BaghdadandEgyptreturned in a second attempt following successive defeats inGreece. The
Islamic forces in a coalition resumed their conquest of theMediterranean Seafrom the south, throughNorth Africa. A more
diplomatic second attempt resulted in a successful alliance with the mainly desert-based Mauritanian tribes (south and west of modern Algeria)thenNumidia. The new Muslim northwest African tribes in turn became ambassadors of the Muslim Caliphs,
and brokers on their behalf in an attempt to assemblea coalition of forces to engage their common enemy Rome. The new
approach was better received by the Numidian tribes of the highlands and were successfully recruited for a joint military ventureinto Europe and ultimately to Rome and around the Mediterranean Sea. A Numidian chief Tariq ibn Ziyad headed thesestronger forces under the green flag of Islam and embarked for Europe, taking over most of theIberian Peninsula. It is thenthatNorth Africawest of Egypt was referred to as "al-Maghreb" or the "West" by the peoples of theMiddle East.
In 670, the Islamic coalition under the command of Uqba ibn Nafiestablished its camp on the Tunis peninsula and founded thecity of Kairouan, about 160 kilometers south of present-dayTunis. The Muslims used the city as a base for further operations
against Numedians in the West and along the highlands of modern Algeria. Successive and repeated attacks on the villages of the lower Numedian agricultural valleys byAbu al-Muhajir Dinar , Uqba's successor, forced the uncoordinated Numidian tribes toeventually work out a
throughKusaila, a converted Numidian chief on behalf of an extensive confederation of Christian Imazighen. Kusaila, who had been based inTilimsan(Tlemcen), converted to Islam and relocated his headquarters toTakirwan, near Kairouan.The harmony between the Imazighen and the Muslims was short-lived, however. The tolerance of Islamic preachers among theImazighen did not guarantee their support for the Ummayad Dynasty - which held control over most of theIslamic Caliphate.Their ruling proxies alienated the Imazighen by taxing them heavily; treating converts as second-class citizens; and enslavingthe southern and weaker nomadic tribes. As a result, widespread opposition took the form of open revolt in 739-40 under thebanner of Kharijite Islam. The Kharijites objected toAli, the fourth caliph - and made peace with the Umayyads in 657 and leftAli's camp (khariji means "those who leave"). The Kharijites had been fightingUmayyadrule in the East, and many Imazighenwere attracted by the sect's egalitarian precepts. The issue at hand is the same Numidians had fought against with the Romans(State Religion) whereby the control of the faith is an inherited right of the those in control of the state. Accordingly, a new sectknown as Kharijism was born on the premise that any suitable Muslim could be elected caliph without regard to race, station, or descent from the ProphetMuhammad.After the revolt, Kharijites established a number of tribal kingdoms in the North African highlands - most of which simplyabandoned and rejected Islam altogether and remained separate thereafter. Their safety was purchased with taxation withoutrepresentation. A set of Islamic representatives and tax collectors were established as attache's, and known as the
from theArabicword "mourabitoun" or attaches whose role was restricted to that of a relay between local tribal council of elders of the tribes Aarch and the central authority in Tunis. They had neither mosquss nor authority. Their houses served astheir quarters and were commonly constructed with a dome above whose Abavic term is qoba and Amazigh one ta qobe-tt(littledome).Other regions and tribes, however, likeSijilmasaandTilimsan- which straddled the principal trade routes - proved more viable
and prospered. In 750, the Abbasids - who succeeded the Umayyads as the rulers of the Caliphate, moved the caliphatecapital to Baghdad and reestablished Islamic authority inIfriqiya, appointing Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab as governor of Kairouan.
Although nominally serving at the caliph's pleasure, al-Aghlab and his successors, theAghlabids, ruled independently until 909,
Berbers and Islam