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Stephen Cory

sixth sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, seized power in 1286 after his father, Abu Yusuf Yaʿqub, had consolidated Marinid authority throughout Morocco. With this seemingly secure base, ʿAbu Yaʿqub spent most of his reign engaging in external battles. The Moroccan sultan was involved in the numerous struggles of southern Spain for several years, seeking to strengthen the Marinid position in that key area. In the final twelve years of his reign, ʿAbu Yaʿqub sought to expand Marinid rule throughout the Maghreb by bringing down the neighboring Zayyanid dynasty, which had often been a thorn in the side of earlier Marinid sultans. Although he initially made some progress on these two fronts, in neither case was ʿAbu Yaʿqub fully able to achieve his aims.

Like his father before him ʿAbu Yaʿqub spent his first two years as sultan putting down revolts within Morocco His main opponents were family members who ...

Article

fifth sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, took over from his brother, Abu Yahya, in October 1258 Abu Yahya brought the Marinids to the brink of controlling all of Morocco and eliminating the Almohad caliphate which had ruled over much of North Africa for the previous 150 years During the twenty eight years of his reign Abu Yusuf Yaʿqub finished the job begun by his predecessor and established Marinid predominance throughout Morocco However he was unable to reestablish Moroccan authority either in the central and eastern Maghreb or over Islamic Spain as the Almohads had done Like his brother Abu Yusuf accepted the nominal sovereignty of the Hafsids of Tunis in order to establish religious legitimacy for ruling Morocco The Hafsids claimed to be the true successors of the Almohads and to have remained faithful to the original doctrines of Almohad founder Ibn Tumart Since the Hafsids were far ...

Article

Stephen Cory

eleventh sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, claimed the sultanate by rebelling against his father, Abu al-Hasan ʿAli, in 1348 while the latter was fighting a rebellion in Tunisia. Reassembling his forces in Algiers, Abu al-Hasan faced off against a larger army led by Abu ʿInan in 1349. Following a crushing defeat, Abu al-Hasan retreated to the desert town of Sijilmasa, where he was welcomed by the tribal leader Ouenzemmar. But his ally soon abandoned him when Abu ʿInan’s troops descended upon Sijilmasa, so Abu al-Hasan fled to Marrakech. There, he recruited supporters from among Masmouda Berbers and local Arabs. In May 1350 the army of Abu al Hasan battled the forces of Abu ʿInan near the Umm al Rabia River where Abu ʿInan was again victorious After being rescued by one of his soldiers Abu al Hasan was provided refuge among the Hintata peoples of the High ...

Article

fourth sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, took over leadership in the aftermath of a significant military defeat in 1244 when his predecessor Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Haqq was killed. Ibn Khaldun states that Abu Yahya divided Morocco between the Marinid clans, assigning each a specific portion of land in perpetuity, even before he conquered the country. With this motivation, the leading families of the Marinid alliance increased the number of troops that they contributed to the army, thus augmenting their forces for the struggle against the Almohads, the de jure rulers over Morocco.

The Almohads had allied with the Banu Asker a dissident Marinid clan along with Yaghmurasan chief of the Banu ʿAbd al Wad rulers of Tlemcen But at a critical moment these forces switched sides and joined the Marinid army against the Almohads who were then defeated in battle The Banu Asker then submitted to Abu Yahya while ...

Article

Aybak  

Allen J. Fromherz

first Mamluk Sultan of Egypt in the Bahri line of Mamluks, or slave rulers. His name is also given as Al Malik al Mu’izz Izz al Din. Although he ruled for a short seven years from 1250 to 1257, Aybak’s rule built the system of military slave rulership that characterized government in Egypt for centuries. Originally known as Turkmani, he spoke Turkish as his native tongue. He had been bought from the region of Turkish-speaking tribes hundreds of miles form Cairo. Slave soldiers from these lands were favored over conscripted troops from Egypt because of their distance from local political and tribal obligations.

Creating a disciplined army that was expressly subject to the Sultan however resulted in a military that knew no loyalties except its own when the Sultan fell out of power It was almost inevitable that these foreign regiments would eventually not only serve the ruler but ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

a Bandia paramount chief (or “sultan”) of the Nzakara kingdom, a precolonial polity spanning the Mbali River in the southeastern region of what is now the Central African Republic. Named Kpangba at birth, he adopted the name Bangassou (“blazing sun”). According to Nzakara oral history, his father was Mbali/Bali (Mbari/Bari) “the gazelle,” son of Gwendi (or Boendi) “the taciturn,” son of Beringa “the drunkard,” son of Dunga “the quarrelsome,” son of Gobenge, son of Pobdi, son of Bwanda “the healer,” son of Agungu, son of Pongiet, son of Bongumu. These ancestors of Bangassou were members of the Bandia clan who left their Ngbandi homeland on the Ubangi River and conquered the Nzakara people.

The Bandia rulers participated in the growing slave trade of the nineteenth century and incorporated women and children into their polity thus prospering while nearby peoples in stateless societies were raided by slave traders The Nzakara often ...

Article

Barsbay  

Allen J. Fromherz

whose full name was al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu an-Nasr Barsbay, was one of the more ruthless and tragic of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt. He ruled the Mamluk Empire from Cairo between 1422 and 1438, a time of increasing external pressure on the sultanate. His early life, like that of many a Mamluk or slave soldier, was brutal. Years of imprisonment hardened his character and his resolve for power.

Upon his succession to the sultanate Barsbay immediately banned Jews and Christians from participating in government service despite centuries of tradition that kept Jewish and Christian families firmly inside the Mamluk power network There is some debate about the reasons for Barsbay s ban It may have been paranoia over the increasing influence of European pirates and merchants on Mamluk shores Indeed the property of all European traders many from Genoa and Venice was confiscated by the sultan as an immediate ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Muhammad Bello was born in Gobir, in what is now Niger. He helped his father, Usuman dan Fodio, overthrow the Hausa states and build the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled over the northern half of present-day Nigeria. In the early nineteenth century Bello’s father, a Fulani Muslim religious leader, called on the rulers of the Hausa states to abandon their corrupt ways. He organized a popular movement among the Fulani and among Hausa peasants and merchants, advocating a purer form of Islam and the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law. Usuman first tried peaceful means, but his peaceful movement only provoked repression from the Hausa rulers. In 1804 Usuman and his followers called for a jihad, or holy war, to overthrow resistant rulers. Among those who led the military campaign was Usuman’s 23-year-old son, Muhammad Bello A capable military leader and administrator Bello was crucial ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

sultan of the kingdom of Mali, was born sometime in the late fifteenth century. He became king around 1496. Unfortunately for him, his reign is best known for a range of internal and external problems. These problems greatly weakened the kingdom.

To the west, Mahmud III struggled with the rise of Koly Tengella, the leader of the Denianke Peul-speaking community. The Denianke moved into the Peul kingdom of Futa Toro and into western provinces long part of the Mali empire, like Futa Jallon. Futa Toro also attacked Mali in the mid-sixteenth century. Mali’s old vassals of Songhai now controlled much of the old territory to the east. While Mali managed to hold onto the valuable Bambuk gold mines, Songhai’s reach deep into the Sahara placed Mali’s eastern neighbor in a much better position to control trans-Saharan trade. Songhai’s sultan, Askia Muhammad, defeated Mahmud III’s general, Fati Quali, in 1502 ...

Article

Kurt J. Werthmuller

sultan of the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria during the time of the Fifth and Sixth Crusades (r. 1218–1238), was born in Syria as Muhammad Ibn al-ʿAdil. He was the son of the sultan al-Malik al-ʿAdil I (r. 1200–1218), nephew of the famed Muslim conqueror Saladin, and father of his immediate successors al-Adil II Abu Bakr (r. 1238–1240) and al-Salih Nijm al-Din Ayyub (r. 1240–1249). While his early life remains obscure, al-Malik al-Kamil (an honorific title meaning “the perfect king”) entered public life in 1208 when his father al Malik al ʿAdil then sultan of the Ayyubid lands appointed him to serve as governor of Egypt This post clearly made a tremendous impact on the young prince who quickly completed work on Saladin s citadel which loomed above Cairo and moved his family into residence there While the interests of most of the Ayyubid family revolved around ...

Article

Aomar Boum

Wattasid Sultan of Fez, was born in Asila around 870/1465, the son of Muhammad al-Shaykh ibn Yahya. He is also known as Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Yahya. Banu Wattas were a subclan of Banu Marin (Marinids), their tribal kinsmen. As a political regency, the Wattasids had emerged mainly in northeast Morocco with virtual autonomy from the Marinids to whom they were tied ethnically and politically. In the 1420s Morocco fell into anarchy and the Marinids began to lose their control over the whole country especially after the murder of the Marinid Sultan Abu Saʿid ʿUthman III. The Marinids were not only weakened by family feuds over power control but also targeted by Iberian powers. By 1415 Portugal captured the port city of Ceuta The failure of the Marinids to extend their authority throughout the coastal communities led to the emergence of religious brotherhoods that would threaten not only ...

Article

George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur from 1801 to 1838, was born about 1787 to his father Sultan ʿAbd al-Rahman, and his mother Umm Buza, described as a slave-concubine from the Beigo ethnic group. Sultan ʿAbd al-Rahman chose his son Muhammad al-Fadl as his successor and arranged with Muhammad Kurra, a powerful eunuch at court, to ensure a smooth succession. When ʿAbd al-Rahman died in 1801, Muhammad al-Fadl was about 14 and still living in the royal household. Muhammad Kurra out-maneuvered the rival candidates by passing the trappings of power, including the sultanic seal, to Muhammad al-Fadl and presented him as the new sultan. Under Kurra’s three-year regency, the awlad al-salatin the rival sons of earlier sultans strongly opposed the new ruler and regent After a major battle Kurra executed sixty of them near al Fashir Soon resentment of his harsh rule led to a new ...

Article

Ness Creighton

ninth Mamluk sultan of Egypt, was born in Cairo at Qalʿat al-Jabal to a mother of Mongol origin. He was the youngest son of Sultan Qalawun. He is also known as al-Nasir Muhammad (al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al-Din Muhammad ben Qalawun). One of his brothers would come to be Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil, who would reign from 1290 until his assassination in December 1293 Upon his brother s death al Nasir was installed as sultan while still a child with Zayn ad Din Kitbugha as regent and Emir Sanjar al Shujaʿi as vizier As such al Nasir was only nominally considered the ruler with Kitbugha and al Shujaʿi acting as the major political forces and rulers of Egypt during this time This was complicated by the fact that the two men were fierce rivals and their conflict would lead eventually to the Burji Mamluks with whom al Shujaʿi was allied planning ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

one of the most important Mamluk sultans of Egypt and Syria, was a Circassian whose full name was Al-Malik al Ashraf abu al Nasr Sayf al-Din Al Mahmudi al Zahiri Qaʾit Bay. Circassia is a region in the Caucasus hundreds of miles from Cairo, in the mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. As with many Mamluk Sultans purchased as slaves, the precise date of his birth is difficult to decipher. He was probably born between the years 1416 and 1418 and, showing great promise, was purchased by the Sultan Barsbay. Being purchased as a slave of the Sultan was considered an honor, and sources indicate that many Circassians actively groomed their sons for a chance to work as Mamluks (slave–soldiers). In exceptional circumstances these boys would advance through the ranks to become rulers of Egypt and Syria.

After several promotions in the Mamluk army and having proved his mettle ...

Article

Qalawun  

Allen J. Fromherz

, sultan of Egypt (r. 1279–1290), was the fifth of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt and Syria. His full name was Al-Malik Al-Mansur Sayf al Din Qalawun al Alfi. Known for his military campaigns, he inherited many of the policies of his predecessor Baybars I.

Like most Mamluk Sultans, Qalawun was purchased as a slave in a region north of the Black Sea. He was sold to the Mamluk, or slave soldier, named al-Saki, for one thousand dinars, hence his sobriquet “al-Alfi,” or “one (purchased for) a thousand” in Arabic. After passing through several owners and completing his military training, Qalawun was manumitted and given the title of amir, or prince. He witnessed the overthrow of the Ayyubid dynasty after the death of Turan Shah in 1249 Once the servants of the Ayyubids the Mamluks took control in the name of order and stability Aybak the first Mamluk ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

ruled the Mamluk slave sultanate from Egypt and was the penultimate ruler of the Mamluks. Another form of his name is Qansawh al Ghawri. His able leadership slowed what could have been a more rapid decline of Mamluk power. A slave, or Mamluk, of the Sultan Qaʿitbay, Qansuh was trained in the Mamluk system of military schools of his predecessors. Proving himself in battle and in administration, Qansuh rose through the elite ranks of the Mamluks. He became governor of Upper Egypt in 1481. He campaigned against the Ottomans, increasingly the main threat to the Mamluks in the north. He learned, early on, to forcefully deal with revolts in the provinces, suppressing a rebellion of townsfolk in Aleppo in 1491 His elevation to the sultanate may not have been completely voluntary A group of high Mamluk princes virtually forced him into accepting the position Unaffiliated with the many ...

Article

Saladin  

Kurt J. Werthmuller

ruler and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria and famed Muslim conqueror who decimated the Crusader Army of Jerusalem and recaptured the city of Jerusalem in 1187, was born in Tikrit, Iraq. Also known as Salah al-Din, his personal name was Yusuf al-Malik al-Nasir Ibn Ayyub. He was the younger son of the Kurdish governor Ayyub Ibn Shadi, in the service of Imad al-Din Zangi, the first Muslim commanders to begin the long process of turning back some of the victories of the First Crusade; Ayyub presided over the regions of Tikrit and Baalbek and eventually the prestigious city of Damascus in 1146, where Saladin spent much of his childhood and for which he retained a lifelong affection.

We know relatively little of Saladin s youth largely because his various biographers and contemporary chroniclers were only interested in his renowned exploits as a general and ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

ruler of Dar al-Kuti, a Muslim state in what is now northeastern Central African Republic (CAR), was born in Wadai. Al-Sanusi was the son of Abu Bakr and a descendant of Umar Jugultum, who reputedly founded Dar al-Kuti in c. 1830. Umar, in turn, was the son of Aden Burgomanda, the mbang (ruler) of Baguirmi. Al-Sanussi’s mother was the daughter of Salih, a sultan (c. 1850–c. 1870) of Dar Runga. Al-Sanusi was named in honor of the Islamic Sanusiya brotherhood. While still young, he want sent to Sha, the capital of Dar al-Kuti, to live with his father’s brother Muhammad Kobur, a merchant leader of the Muslim community in the region.

Dar al Kuti was threatened in the 1880s by the slave raider Rabih a lieutenant of Zubayr Pasha who ruled the Bahr el Ghazal in southern Sudan Rabih raided into Dar al Kuti and attempted to draw Kobur ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

ruler of Oman and the East African colonies of Zanzibar and its East African mainland dependencies, was born on 5 June 1790. He was the son of the Omani ruler Sultan bin Ahmad, who died in 1804. Sayyid and his older brother Salim were expected to share power, but their cousin Bedr bin Seif seized the throne almost immediately after Ahmad’s death. When Bedr was assassinated on 31 July 1806, perhaps with Sayyid’s knowledge, court notables backed the return of the young man to head the Omani empire. Selim soon acceded to his younger brother’s authority.

Until 1815 Sayyid was too preoccupied with eliminating rivals and consolidating his hold over Oman to concern himself much with Oman s East African territories but he soon became more interested in these colonies for several reasons First the British government had begun to pressure Sayyid to ban the lucrative ...