Zirid dynasty

Zirid dynasty

973–1148
Zirid territory (green) at its maximum extent at the end of the 10th century[1][2]
Zirid territory (green) at its maximum extent at the end of the 10th century[1][2]
CapitalAchir (before 1014), Kairouan (from 1014 to 1057),
Mahdia (after 1057)[3][4][5]
Common languagesBerber (primary), Maghrebi Arabic, African Latin, Hebrew
Religion
Islam (Shia Islam, Sunni, Ibadi), Christianity (Roman Catholicism), Judaism
GovernmentMonarchy (Emirate)
Emir 
• 973–984
Buluggin ibn Ziri
• 1121–1148
Abu'l-Hasan al-Hasan ibn Ali
History 
• Established
973
• Disestablished
1148
CurrencyDinar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Fatimid Caliphate
Hammadid dynasty
Kingdom of Africa
Khurasanid dynasty
Today part of

The Zirid dynasty (Berber languages: ⵉⵣⵉⵔⵉⴻⵏ Tagelda en Ayt Ziri, Arabic: زيريون‎ /ALA-LC: Zīryūn; Banu Ziri) was a Sanhaja Berber dynasty from modern-day Algeria which ruled the central Maghreb from 972 to 1014 and Ifriqiya (eastern Maghreb) from 972 to 1148.[3][6]

Descendants of Ziri ibn Menad, a military leader of the Cairo-based Fatimid Caliphate and the eponymous founder of the dynasty, the Zirids were Emirs who ruled in the name of the Fatimids. The Zirids gradually established their autonomy in Ifriqiya through military conquest until officially breaking with the Fatimids in the mid-11th century. The rule of the Zirid emirs opened the way to a period in North African history where political power was held by Berber dynasties such as the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Zayyanid dynasty, Marinid dynasty and Hafsid dynasty.[7]

Continuing their conquests to Fez and much of modern-day Morocco in 980, the Zirids encountered resistance from the local Zenata Berbers, who gave their allegiance to the Caliphate of Cordoba.[5][8][9] Various Zirid branches did however rule the central Maghreb. This branch of the Zirids, at the beginning of the 11th century, following various family disputes, broke away as the Hammadids and took control of the territories of the central Maghreb. The Zirids proper were then designated as Badicides and occupied only Ifriqiyah between 1048 and 1148.[10] Part of the dynasty fled to al-Andalus and later founded, in 1019, the Taifa of Granada on the ruins of the Caliphate of Cordoba.[6] The Zirids of Granada were again defeated by the expansion of the Almoravids, who annexed their kingdom in 1090,[11] while the Badicides and the Hammadids remained independent. Following the recognition of the Sunni Muslim Abbasid Caliphate and the assertion of Ifriqiya and the Central Maghreb as independent kingdoms of Sunni obedience in 1048, the Fatimids reportedly masterminded the migration of the Hilalians to the Maghreb. In the 12th century, the Hilalian invasions combined with the attacks of the Normans of Sicily on the littoral weakened Zirid power. The Almohad caliphate finally conquered the central Maghreb and Ifriqiya in 1152, thus unifying the whole of the Maghreb and ending the Zirid dynasties.[8]

History

The Zirids were Sanhaja Berbers originating from the area of modern Algeria. In the 10th century this tribe served as vassals of the Fatimid Caliphate, defeating the Kharijite rebellion of Abu Yazid (943-947), under Ziri ibn Manad (935-971). Ziri was installed as the governor of central Maghreb and founded the gubernatorial residence of Ashir south-east of Algiers, with Fatimid support.

When the Fatimids moved their capital to Egypt in 972, Ziri's son Buluggin ibn Ziri (971-984) was appointed viceroy of Ifriqiya. The removal of the fleet to Egypt made the retention of Kalbid Sicily impossible, while Algeria broke away under the governorship of Hammad ibn Buluggin, Buluggin's son.

The Zirid realm (dark green) after the secession of the Hammadids (1018) and before the influx of Banu Hilal tribes (1052)

The relationship with their Fatimid overlords varied - in 1016 thousands of Shiites lost their lives in rebellions in Ifriqiya, and the Fatimids encouraged the defection of Tripolitania from the Zirids, but nevertheless the relationship remained close. In 1049 the Zirids broke away completely by adopting Sunni Islam and recognizing the Abbasids of Baghdad as rightful Caliphs, a move which was popular with the urban Arabs of Kairouan.[4][12]

The Zirid period of Tunisia is considered a high point in its history, with agriculture, industry, trade and learning, both religious and secular, all flourishing, especially in their capital, Kairouan.[13] Management of the area by later Zirid rulers was neglectful as the agricultural economy declined, prompting an increase in banditry among the rural population.[13]

When the Zirids renounced Shia Islam and recognized the Abbasid Caliphate in 1048, the Fatimids sent the Arab tribes of the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym to Ifriqiya. The Zirids were defeated, and the land laid waste by the Bedouin conquerors. The resulting anarchy devastated the previously flourishing agriculture, and the coastal towns assumed a new importance as conduits for maritime trade and bases for piracy against Christian shipping, as well as being the last holdout of the Zirids.[4]

After the loss of Kairouan (1057) the rule of the Zirids was limited to a coastal strip with Mahdia as the capital, while several Bedouin Emirates formed inland. Between 1146 and 1148 the Normans of Sicily conquered all the coastal towns, and in 1152 the last Zirids in Algeria were superseded by the Almohad Caliphate.