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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XIII: Moslem North Africa, 1049-1394,   pp. 457-485 PDF (25.3 MB)

Page 463

Ch. XIII MOSLEM NORTH AFRICA, 1049—1394 463 
between Egypt and Tunisia, al-Mu'izz in 1049 removed the name of Ma'add from
the coinage and the Friday invocation, thus formally renouncing allegiance
to the Shi'ite.4 He went further, placing a Sunnite legend on his coins and
mentioning in public prayer the ' Abbäsid caliph, al-Qa'im, who responded
with a diploma of investi ture. Needless to say, this was a mere formal approbation,
as no effective power was wielded in North Africa by any ' Abbãsid
after Harun ar-Rashid. 
 Resenting this insurrection on both personal and religious grounds, Ma'add
at Cairo, counseled by his vizir al-Yazuri, hit upon one of the most overwhelmingly
effective revenges on record. It happened that in the fringes of the desert
east of the Nile there were large groups of nomad Arabs who were disturbing
the Fatimid's subjects by raids and similar incivilities. By the simple device—ingenious
but unorig inal—of bestowing upon their leaders the titular governorship
of all North Africa, he persuaded them to attack al-Mu'izz on his behalf.
 This swarm of locusts, consisting of the great tribes Banu-Hilal and Banti-Sulaim
with their hangers-on, descended on Tripolitania and Tunisia during 1052,
occupied Tripoli, defeated the Zirid army in battle, besieged al-Mu'izz in
Kairawan, and ravaged the countryside. Since this last phrase occurs frequently
in history, further comment is necessary in this instance: North Africa,
and particularly Tunisia, had been one of the most fertile areas of the known
world, the granary of the Roman empire; the Arabs, scorning all cultivators
of the soil, systematically devastated the whole province so that famine
became endemic and agriculture has even today, over nine hundred years later,
not been restored to its ancient level. 
 Al-Mu'izz tried every possible method of preserving his kingdom; he fought
battles, he married his daughters to the least hostile chieftains, he bribed
and threatened, he urged the Arabs to attack Algeria, which they cheerfully
did, but nothing succeeded. He was forced to slip out of his capital to take
refuge in the strongly fortified port of Mahdia, while the Arabs looted Kairawan
with unusual thoroughness. The historians do not mention it, but al Mu'izz
and his son Tamim, who succeeded him in 1062, apparently went to the extreme
of attempting to propitiate the Fatimid Ma'add, as the Sunnite coins give
way between 1057/8 and 1065 to Shi'ite 
 4. Although the Arab historians differ on this date, it is firmly established
by numismatic evidence (Hazard, Numismatic History, pp. 52—56, 90—94).
It is noteworthy that the Hammãdids, who had renounced Shi'ism and
Fatimid allegiance in 1014, resumed them following the Zirid rupture and
derived some momentary benefit from their opportunism (ibid., pp. 56—57,

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