Tunisia - The Past - Arab


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Tunisia - The Past


It was as much the resurgent Berbers as the declining Byzantines that stood in the path of the Muslim conquest.

The rise of Islam is a success story no other religion can match. Yet it was in Tunisia that Muslim warriors - mujahhidin - met their first serious resistance.

In AD 647, Abdallah ibn Saad's first incursion reached Sbeitla, where the patrician-bishop Gregory had defied Byzantium by declaring independence the previous year.

A second Arab raid took place in 665 but only in 668-670 did 150,000 Muslims invade and stay.

They founded Kairouan, which was to be their base for the conquest of the West, the later Arab capital (Carthage was ignored) and the religious centre in modern times.

There was a mass conversion of the Berbers to Islam and many joined the Arab army. They were, however, treated as second class citizens, and consequent dissatisfaction led to their secession as Kharijites, Islamic 'outsiders'.

Kharijite Berbers took Kairouan in 745 and were in and out of what little power there was till 800.

An Arab governor names Ibrahim ibn el Aghlab then introduced what Tunisians consider to be their Golden Age.

During their 109 years in power his descendants, the Aghlabites, built fortified medinas, ribats (monastery barracks), great mosques and waterworks (of which only the pools at Kairouan remain).

They also pacified the country, conquered Sicily in 827 and took back from Spain the idea of metal money.

In 909 the Aghlabites were evicted from Kairouan by the Fatimites, who transferred the capital to Mahdia.

From here they quashed the still-beligerent Berbers and proceeded to conquer a Tunisian empire that stretched from Egypt in the east to the Atlantic in the west.

They left this empire of Ifriqia in the hands of their allies the Zirites, who led the country through another artistic, commercial and agricultural heyday.

In 1048 the Zirites repudiated the Fatimite caliphs in Cairo and gave their allegiance to the Sunnite regime in Baghdad, this finally rejecting the unorthodox, Shi'ite beliefs of the Fatimites.

They paid for it dearly.

The Fatimite caliph el Mustansir, having two troublesome Arabian tribes on his hands, sent them westward.

There Beni Hilal and Sulaim wreaked havoc and some 1,700 years of progress was undone within a decoade.

With the Berbers held in check, the Normans settled on Djerba in 1134.

The Almohads, a Moroccan religious force, attacked Tunisia and the country became part of the Almohads' vast Mediterranean empire.

After harrassment of the Almohad's from west and east. the Hafsite dynasty established itself in the new capital of Tunis in 1236.

The expanding town became more cosmospolitan with allotted quarters for European envoys and merchants and Andalusian refugees from Spain.


Well-Known Member
Ok so showing my ignorance here, but who were the "Fatimites"? Is this related to the Fatima hand design we see everywhere and the Fatima fingers we've been munching on?


All I know is that they were part of the Shi`ite movement. Fatima also part of Portuguese worship as well, got to think why as the Moors weren`t there were they?