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George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur from 1785 to 1801, was born to Sultan Ahmad Bukr and an unknown woman. The youngest of four sons of Ahmad Bukr who ruled Darfur, many thought him a weak choice. He became a very successful monarch, after overcoming internal opposition. During his reign Darfur’s system of sultanic estates (hakuras) flourished, and the sultanate became Egypt’s main supplier of trans-Saharan goods, including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves.

After a series of wars and intrigues involving internal factions, the rival Musabbaʾat dynasty in Kordofan, and Wadai, sultan Muhammad Tayrab ibn Ahmad Bukr made peace with Wadai to the west and successfully invaded Kordofan. This war took the Fur armies far from home (reputedly to the Nile), and the sultan was forced to turn back in 1786 By the time the army reached Bara the sultan was dying and the succession ...

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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

tenth sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, came to power in the aftermath of the long and largely peaceful reign of his father, Abu Saʿid Uthman (r. 1310–1331). The greatest builder of the Marinids, Abu al-Hasan constructed mosques in Fez and Tlemcen, as well as madrasas in numerous Moroccan cities and a hospital in Fez. The accomplishments of his reign are chronicled in a history written by his secretary, Ibn Marzuq, making Abu al-Hasan the best known of the Marinid sultans.

With Marinid power firmly established in Morocco Abu al Hasan sought to expand the dynasty s influence first in southern Spain and then throughout the Maghreb His attempt to reconstitute the former Almohad Empire though seemingly successful at first proved to be disastrous in the long run Abu al Hasan s reign ended with his eastern possessions in rebellion and his son Abu ʿInan usurping his power in ...

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

thirtieth and final sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, became titular head of the state at the age of one, after his father, Abu Saʿid Uthman III, was murdered. This development allowed ʿAbd al-Haqq’s regent, Abu Zakariyya Yahya al-Wattasi, to rule the state in his name. Upon Abu Zakariyya’s death in 1448, his nephew, ʿAli ibn Yusuf, took power, once again in the name of ʿAbd al-Haqq, whom the Wattasids kept excluded from real authority. Ten years later, in 1458, ʿAli ibn Yusuf al Wattasi died, and Abu Zakariyya’s son, Yahya, took over the all-powerful position as ʿAbd al-Haqq’s regent.

It was at this point that ʿAbd al-Haqq rebelled against Wattasid dominance in order to exercise his authority independently. After executing every member of the Wattasid family living in Fez, ʿAbd al-Haqq proceeded to punish Fezzi ulama who had countenanced the Wattasid co optation of power His ...

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

George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur (c. 1682–1722) was born in Jabal Marra to Sultan Musa and an unknown woman; his full name was Ahmad Bukr bin Musa bin Sulayman. He built up Darfur as a regional power, energetically worked to expand the role of Islam, and invited new ethnic groups to settle in the sultanate.

As the youngest of his father s eight sons Ahmad Bukr came to power after his oldest brother proved unfit There are few fixed dates in his history but he was very successful in his military campaigns routing such local rivals as the Gimr in a seven year campaign and driving the invading forces of Wadai out of his territory They had reached the Kabkabiyya region north of Jabal Marra and he countered by sending to Egypt for firearms and to Bagirmi a sultanate west of Wadai for allies To consolidate his ...

Article

'Ali B. Ali-Dinar

the last sultan of Darfur in western Sudan, was born between 1865 and 1870 in the village of Shawaya northwest of al-Fashir, the capital of northern Darfur. His mother’s name was Kaltouma and his father, Zakariya, was the son of Sultan Mohammad al-Fadul (1801–1839). ʿAli Dinar had six sisters: Nur Alhuda, Taga, Gusura, Tibaina, and Umsalama. Very little is known about the early days of ʿAli Dinar before he rose to prominence during the Mahdist rule in Darfur (1882–1898). When his cousin Sultan Abulkhairat was killed in 1889, some suspected Ali Dinar’s role in this, but he denied the accusation in his published autobiography (Diwan Al madih fi Madh Al Nabi Al Malih; “Poetry in Praise of the Handsome Prophet,” 1913). In 1890 ʿAli Dinar was inaugurated a sultan in Jebel Marra home place of the Fur ethnic group The new sultan ...

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

Elizabeth Heath

After his father, Sayyid Sa’id ibn Sultan, died in 1856, Barghash tried to usurp the throne from his older brother, Majid ibn Sa’id. His attempt failed, however, and Barghash was exiled to Bombay. He returned to Zanzibar two years later and ascended the throne peacefully after his brother’s death in 1870.

In 1872 a hurricane destroyed Zanzibar s navy and many of the island s valuable clove and coconut plantations In order to recover from this disaster Barghash allied himself with British forces in the region and signed antislavery treaties in exchange for funding and military equipment This support enabled Barghash to consolidate his hold on the coastal mainland By the late 1870s the tariffs and tributes he collected from mainland possessions substantially increased his revenue and compensated for the loss of the slave trade Although his power never extended far inland agreements with Arab Swahili traders ...

Article

Barquq  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian sultan, was the first of a new dynasty of Mamluks or “slave” sultans of Egypt. Purchased in Crimea, Barquq, whose full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Sayf al-Din Barquq, was a Circassian. The previous series of Mamluks, starting with Baybars, were Kipchak Turks. Bought as a slave soldier, Barquq quickly rose through the ranks of the Burji regiment of soldier slaves. Unlike the Bahri regiment that supplied previous sultans, the Burji regiment had their barracks near the dungeons (burj of the citadel in Cairo It appears that Barquq s father a man of some stature named Anas may have willingly given his son up for sale In fact after Barquq came to power he invited his father to come to Cairo and join his court Indeed Anas would have been pleased to learn that his son was first purchased by the powerful marshal of the army Yalbogha al ...

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

Allen J. Fromherz

fourth of the Bahri dynasty of Mamluk sultans of Egypt, was born a slave. His full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din al-Salihi al-Bundukdari. Although his date of birth is uncertain, most scholars agree he was born around 1233 far away from Egypt in the steppes of the Kipchak Turkish nomads. Before being purchased by the sultan, he took the name of his first immediate master, a relatively minor character named Aydakin Bundukdar. After demonstrating exceptional qualities as a youngster, Baybars was purchased by the Ayyubid sultan and successor to Saladin, Malik Salih. He started as only one of many fellow Kipchak slaves who served the Ayyubids. In fact, there were so many Kipchak soldiers in Egypt that it stimulated the creation of Kipchak-Arabic dictionaries such as the thirteenth-century Codex Cumanicus Soon after being purchased by Malik Salih he would have been subjected to the code of strict military ...

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 ...

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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 ...