In 800, the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid
appointed Ibrahim I ibn al-Aghlab
, son of a Khurasanian
Arab commander from the Banu Tamim
as hereditary Emir
of Ifriqiya as a response to the anarchy that had reigned in that province following the fall of the Muhallabids
. At that time there were perhaps 100,000 Arabs living in Ifriqiya, although the Berbers still constituted the great majority.
Ibrahim was to control an area that encompassed eastern Algeria
Although independent in all but name, his dynasty never ceased to recognise Abbasid overlordship. The Aghlabids paid an annual tribute to the Abbasid Caliph and their suzerainty was referenced in the khutba
at Friday prayers.
After the pacification of the country Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab established a residence at a new capital, al-Abbasiyya
, which was founded outside Kairouan
, partly to distance himself from the opposition of the Malikite
jurists and theologians, who condemned what they saw as the luxurious life of the Aghlabids (not to mention the fact that the Aghlabids were mu'tazilites
in theology, and Hanafis
), and disliked the unequal treatment of the Muslim Berbers
. Additionally, border defenses (ribat
) were set up in Sousse
. The Aghlabids also built up the irrigation of the area and enhanced the public buildings and mosques of
al-'Abbāsiyya. It was recorded that 5,000 black Zanj
slaves were used which were supplied via trans-Saharan trade
One unique feature of the Aghlabids is that despite the political differences and rivalry between Aghlabids, who served under the Abbasid Caliphate
, and the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba
, the Muslims in Spain also sent a fleet under Asba' ibn Wakil to aid the Aghlabid conquest of Sicily
(see Muslim conquest of Sicily
). Ibn Kathir recorded that a joint force of 300 Umayyad and Aghlabid ships were present.
The Aghlabid garrison at Mineo managed to get into contact with the Andalusian Umayyads, who immediately agreed to the alliance, provided that Asbagh was recognized as the overall commander, and, together with fresh troops from Ifriqiya, they marched on Mineo. Theodotus retreated to Enna and the siege of Mineo was broken in July or August 830.
The combined Ifriqiyan and Andalusian army then torched Mineo and laid siege to another town, possibly Calloniana (modern Barrafranca
). However, a plague broke out in their camp, causing the death of Asbagh and many others. The town fell later, in autumn, but the Arabs' numbers were depleted to the point where they were forced to abandon it and retreat west. Theodotus launched a pursuit and inflicted heavy casualties, and, thereafter, most of the Andalusians departed the island. However, Theodotus too was killed at this time, possibly in one of these skirmishes.
Under Ziyadat Allah I
(817–838) came a revolt of Arab troops in 824, which was not quelled until 836 with the help of the Berbers. The conquest of Byzantine Sicily
from 827 under Asad ibn al-Furat
was an attempt to keep the unruly troops under control – it was only achieved slowly, and only in 902 was the last Byzantine outpost taken. Plundering raids into mainland Italy
, which included the sack of Rome
, Naples and Bari by Muhammad Abul Abbas of Sicily
took place until well into the 10th century. Gradually the Aghlabids lost control of the Arab forces in Sicily and a new dynasty, the Kalbids
, emerged there.
The Aghlabid kingdom reached its high point under Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Aghlabi
(856–863). Ifriqiya was a significant economic power thanks to its fertile agriculture, aided by the expansion of the Roman
irrigation system. It became the focal point of trade between the Islamic world and Byzantium and Italy, especially the lucrative slave trade. Kairuan (Kairouan
) became the most important centre of learning in the Maghreb
, most notably in the fields of theology
, and a gathering place for poets. The Aghlabid emirs also sponsored building projects, notably the rebuilding of the Mosque of Uqba
and the kingdom developed an architectural style which combined Abbasid
Decline of the Aghlabids
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Last edited on 4 May 2021, at 11:44
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