Zirid dynasty

Zirid dynasty
The Zirid territory (green), max. extent (end of 10th century)[1] · [2]
Capital Achir (before 1014), Kairouan (from 1014 to 1057)
Mahdia (after 1057)[1] · [3] · [2]
Languages Berber, Arabic, African Romance, Hebrew
Religion Islam (Sunni, Ibadi)
Christianity (Catholicism)
Government Monarchy (Emirate)
   973–984 Buluggin ibn Ziri
  1121–1148 Abu'l-Hasan al-Hasan ibn Ali
   Established 973
   Disestablished 1148
Currency Dinar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Fatimid Caliphate
Hammadid dynasty
Kingdom of Sicily

The Zirid dynasty (Berber: ⵉⵣⵉⵔⵉⴻⵏ (Izirien), Arabic: زيريون (Zīryūn)), also called banu ziri, was a Sanhaja Berber dynasty, from the central Maghreb (Algeria) which ruled in cental Maghreb from 972 to 1014 and Ifriqiya (eastern Maghreb) from 972 to 1148.[1][4]

Descendants of Ziri ibn Menad, a military leader who rallied the Fatimids and gave his name to the dynasty, the Zirides are emirs who ruled in the name of the Fatimid caliphs settled in Egypt. In fact they reinforce their independence until officially break with the Fatimids from the middle of the 11th century. Transmitting power by hereditary means, they constitute a true dynasty. It is the first dynasty of Berber origin of the medieval period of the Maghreb. It opens the way to a period of Maghreb's history where political power will be held by Berber dynasties (Almoravids, Almohades, Zianids, Merinids and Hafsids).[5]

Continuing their conquests to Fez and to all of Morocco in 980, they encountered the resistance of the local Zenetes who made allegiance to the Caliphate of Cordoba[2][6][7] Various Zirid branches will reign over the central Maghreb, but also on the Taifa of Granada in Al-Andalus. Thus, at the beginning of the 11th century, following various family disputes, the branch of the Hammadids seceded and took control of the territories of the central Maghreb. The Zirids proper are then designated as Badicides and occupy only Ifrikiya (current Tunisia and east Algeria) between 1048 and 1148.[8] A part fled to Al-Andalus and later founded, in 1019, the Taifa of Granada on the ruins of the Caliphate of Cordoba.[4] The Zirides of Granada are defeated by the expansion of the Almoravids, who annex their kingdom in 1090,[9] while the Badicides and the Hammadids remain independent. Following the recognition of the Abbasid sunni caliphate and the assertion of Ifriqiya and the Central Maghreb in independent kingdoms of sunni obedience in 1048, the Fatimids caused 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 weaken the Zirid power. The Almohads achieve to conquer the central Maghreb and Ifriqiya in 1152, thus unifying the whole of the Maghreb and ending the two zirids dynasties: Badicide and Hammadide.[6]


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 base 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 the 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.[3][10]

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.[11] Management of the area by later Zirid rulers was neglectful as the agricultural economy declined, prompting an increase in banditry among the rural population.[11]

When the Zirids renounced Shia Islam and recognized the Abbasid Caliphate, the Fatimids sent the Arab tribes of Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym to Ifriqiya. The Zirids were defeated, and the land laid waste by the Bedouin. 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.[3]

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 Almohads.


The Zirid period is a time of great economic prosperity. The departure of the Fatimids for Cairo far from ending this prosperity will see its amplification under the zirid and hammadid emirs. Referring to the government of the emir al-Mu'izz, the historian Ibn Khaldun describes: " It never seen by the Berbers of that country a kingdom more vast and more flourishing than his own." The land of the north produces wheat in quantity, the region of Sfax cultivates the olive tree in abundance, the cultivation of the date is develloped in Biskra. Other crops such as sugar cane, saffron, cotton, sorghum, millet and chickpea are grown. The breeding of horses and sheep is flourishing and fishing is active, providing plentiful food. The Mediterranean is also an important stake, even though it was for a time abandoned after the departure of the Fatimids where the priority of the Zirid emirs is to terrestrial and internal conflicts. Their maritime policy enabled them to establish trade links, in particular for the importation of timber necessary for their fleet, and enabled them to conclude an alliance and very close ties with the Emirs Kalbites of Sicily. They must, however, face blockade attempts by the Venetians and Normans who seek to reduce their wood supply.[12]

The Arab chronicler Ibn Hawqal visited and described the city of Algiers under the Zirid era: "The city of Algiers, is built on a gulf and surrounded by a wall. It contains a large number of bazaars and a few sources of good water near the sea. It is from these sources that the inhabitants draw the water they drink. In the outbuildings of this town are very extensive countryside and mountains inhabited by several tribes of the Berbers. The chief wealth of the inhabitants consists of herds of cattle and sheep grazing in the mountains. Algiers supplies so much honey that it forms an export object, and the quantity of butter, figs and other commodities is so great that it is exported to Kairouan and elsewhere ".[12]

Zirid rulers

Offshoots of the Zirid dynasty

Zirids of Granada

Map of the Taifa of Granada in the first half of the 11th century

The Zirids are also known as a dynasty of the Taifa of Granada, a Berber kingdom centered in Al-Andalus. The founder was the brother of Bologhine, Zawi ben Ziri, a general of the Caliphate of Córdoba army under the orders of Caliph Hisham II.

After his death of Hisham II in Medinaceli on 12 August 1002 (25 Ramadan 392), a civil war spreads in Al-Andalus. Zawi ibn Ziri takes part as General of one of the Armies and destroys several cities, as Medina Azahara in 1011 and Córdoba in 1013. He founds of Taifa of Granada, and he declares himself as first Emir. He died poisoned in Algiers in 1019.

History tells that art and civil construction made under the rule of Zirids governors and emirs in Al-Andalus, mainly in the Taifa of Granada, were very important. An example is the Cadima Alcazaba in Albayzin, Granada and part of the old wall surrounding Granada.

Hammadid dynasty

Main article: Hammadid dynasty

Succession timeline

Royal house
Zirid dynasty
Direct Fatimid rule over central Maghreb and Ifriqya Emir of Maghreb
vassal of the Fatimids

972 – 1048
Independence from the Fatimid Caliphate
Maghreb under Zirds (972-1048) Emirs of Ifriqiya
(loss of central Maghreb to the benefit of Hammadids)
Badicid branch

1048 – 1148
Norman conquest
Secession from the Zirid Emirate of Ifriqiya Emirs of central Maghreb
Hammadid branch

1014 – 1152
Almohad conquest
New title Emirs of Granada[13]
Zawid branch

1013 – 1090
Almoravid conquest
Preceded by
Hammudid dynasty
Emirs of Malaga[13]
Zawid branch

1058 – 1090

Photo gallery

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Zirid Dynasty | Muslim dynasty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  2. 1 2 3 Julien, Charles-André (1994-01-01). Histoire de l'Afrique du Nord: des origines à 1830 (in French). Payot. p. 295.
  3. 1 2 3 Idris H. Roger, L'invasion hilālienne et ses conséquences, in : Cahiers de civilisation médiévale (43), Jul.-Sep. 1968, pp.353-369.
  4. 1 2 "Qantara - Les Zirides et les Hammadides (972-1152)". www.qantara-med.org. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  5. Hrbek, Ivan; Africa, Unesco International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of (1992-01-01). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. J. Currey. p. 172. ISBN 9780852550939.
  6. 1 2 Meynier, Gilbert (2010-01-01). L'Algérie, coeur du Maghreb classique: de l'ouverture islamo-arabe au repli (698-1518) (in French). La Découverte. p. 158. ISBN 9782707152312.
  7. Simon, Jacques (2011-01-01). L'Algérie au passé lointain: de Carthage à la régence d'Alger (in French). Harmattan. p. 165. ISBN 9782296139640.
  8. Idris, Hady Roger. "L'invasion hilālienne et ses conséquences". Cahiers de civilisation médiévale. 11 (43): 353–369. doi:10.3406/ccmed.1968.1452.
  9. Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2004-01-01). The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 9780748621378.
  10. Berry, LaVerle. "Fatamids". Libya: A Country Study. Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  11. 1 2 Brill, E.J. "Fatamids". Libya: Encyclopedia of Islam. Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  12. 1 2 Sénac, Philippe; Cressier, Patrice (2012-10-10). Histoire du Maghreb médiéval: VIIe-XIe siècle (in French). Armand Colin. p. 150. ISBN 9782200283421.
  13. 1 2 "Zirid Dynasty - Muslim dynasty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 5 February 2016.


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