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The spiritual and worldly incentives which, during the last years of the Holy Prophet’s life (PBUH) and the early days of the reigns of the first few caliphs, had impelled Muslims to gravitate toward the outer reaches of the Arabian Peninsula continued to gather momentum throughout the course of the conquests. In the collision course with this movement of armies was the Byzantine Empire which dominated the various components of the Mediterranean basin and which was thus one of the two major powers neighboring the nascent Islamic state. The religious fervor, together with the political and security concerns of the new state, had trained the sights of the Islamic rulers of the frontier provinces on farther and more ambitious objectives, ambitions that at times overwhelmed the cautious considerations of the caliphs. The conquest of Egypt and the need to tighten the grip on Alexandria focused the attention of the conquerors on the coastal regions lying to the west. The fact that the lands abutting the western borders of Egypt belonged to the Romans and that the Muslims had locked horns with them in Syria and Palestine, together with the natural congruity of Egypt with the areas lying to the west, made the country a base for further expansion into northern Africa. Following his capture of Alexandria, `Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, next, set out for Barqah and Zawilah, both of which conceded to pay jizyah. It was in Baraqah that the Muslims first encountered the Berbers, belonging to the tribe of Lawatah, who were compelled to pay jizyah. In 22 AH (642 AD) `Amr conquered Atrabulus (Tripoli) through force and negotiation, in the course of which he came into a vast amount of booty. He asked the caliph for permission to push on into Ifriqiyyah, but was turned down. At the time, Ifriqiyyah, or Maghrib, was referred to the lands west of Burqah all the way to Tanjah (Tangiers) on the Atlantic coast, which was divided into the three sections of Ifriqiyyah proper, or Near Maghrib (eastern), Middle Maghrib, and Far Maghrib. `Abd Allah b. Sa`d b. Abi Sarh, the brother of Shiri, the third caliph, who had taken part in the invasion deep into the western territories as a means of supplying Burqah and Tripoli, was made the kharaj officer of Egypt, early in the caliphate of the latter. In 25 AH (646 AD), `Abd Allah, who held a grudge against `Amr, was made the governor of Egypt; a position he held but for a short while before `Amr was reinstated. During his second term, he sent several expeditions into the vicinity of Ifriqiyyah, which managed to net some spoils. It was at this time that `Uthman, after some consultation with his companions, finally decided to give the go-ahead for an attack on Ifriqiyyah and sent a huge contingent to `Abd Allah (27 – 29 AH). In the meantime, a Roman, or foreign, bishop, called Jurjir, incited a revolt against the Roman authority in the region and took control of the area from Tripoli to Tanjah. `Abd Allah launched an attack against Jurjir, which resulted in the latter’s death and the offer of a large sum of tribute by the leaders of Ifriqiyyah through which the Muslim forces were dissuaded from making further advances in the area. The compromise and the subsequent retreat of the Islamic army appears to have been an indication of the indecision of Muslim officials with regard to the conquest of Ifriqiyyah and its settlement, which would characterize their initial expeditions into the region as moves intended to test the water as well as to gather spoils and slaves. The internal strife and domestic conflicts at the close of the caliphate of `Uthman and throughout that of Imam `Ali (PBUH) took Muslims’ focus off Ifriqiyyah, providing the Romans with he opportunity to regain control of the region. However, the accession of Mu`awiyah, who was well versed with regard to Roman policies, to caliphate, the disarray which befell the Roman government in Maghrib, and the appeal made by the people of the region to Mu`awiyah, once again, redirected Muslims’ attention to the issue of Ifriqiyyah. The history of naval clashes with the Byzantine forces in Syria and Egypt had early convinced Muslims that the only means of dealing a definitive blow to the Roman power was through an equal or superior naval force, a point well understood and put to practice by them. 

The definitive conquest of Ifriqiyyah and the lands of the western frontier was the most challenging and, at the same time, the most significant achievement of the expansionist policies of the Umayyads and their agents in Egypt and Maghrib, an enterprise spanning some five decades. In 45 AH (665 AD), the governor of Egypt, Mu`awiyah b. Hudayj Sakuni, who was engaged in scattered military engagements in the region, was given the command of a ten-thousand strong army by Mu`awiyah b. Abi Sufyan in order to deflect an assault by the Byzantine naval forces. He vanquished the invaders while capturing the cities of Susah and Banzart, along with considerable booty, after which he returned to Egypt. He was succeeded by `Uqbah b. Nafi`, who became the governor of Ifriqiyyah in 46 AH. `Uqbah advanced to Surt, after which he moved on to the interior regions, such as Waddan and Fazzan, and reduced their fortifications. Five months later, he trained his sights further west and proceeded through the main route toward Maghrib, while dispatching an expedition to Ghudamis, which rejoined the main army after fulfilling its mission. Next, `Uqbah marched to Qastiliyyah, after whose conquest he moved toward a region in which a site was chosen for the foundation of the future city of Qayrawan. In the meantime, the Muslim forces had laid siege to Constantinople, thus depriving Rome from sending reinforcements to Ifriqiyyah. On the other hand, the conversion of certain Berber tribes had further bolstered `Uqbah’s army. Some Muslim historical sources contain references to `Uqbah as the founder of the city of Qayrawan, in 50 AH (670 AD), which seems to indicate that the idea of establishing a base in Qayrawan was contemplated from the time of Ibn Hudayj and was realized by `Uqbah in the form of construction of mosques, houses and other facilities. It also appears that Mu`awiyah had concluded that the integrated approach to the administration of Egypt and Ifriqiyyah, the dependence of the armies active in Ifriqiyyah on the financial resources of Egypt, and the lack of a permanent base in Ifriqiyyah, so that the Muslim forces would be freed from the need to return to Egypt, were among the major factors preventing a definitive conquest of the region as well as further advancement toward more westerly areas. Thus, he established Ifriqiyyah as an independent province with its own system of administration, while tasking the military forces in the region with providing for their needs through their own conquests. It was thus that, during the reign of `Uqbah, Qayrawan became a base for the Muslim forces in Maghrib, through which the commanders in Ifriqiyyah achieved greater independence and initiative. This, however, did not spell the full independence of Ifriqiyyah. With the coming of Maslamah b. Makhlad Ansari as the governor of Egypt and Ifriqiyyah, `Uqbah was dismissed from his post as the administrator of Ifriqiyyah and replaced by Abu ’l-Muhajir, who joined battle with Kusaylah b. Lamzam, a Berber leader who had turned from Islam, but who reconverted as a result of the encounter. 

During the caliphate of Yazid, `Uqbah was reinstated, upon which he resumed his development activities in Qayrawan as well as his expansionist designs for Maghrib. He routed the Roman army at Baghayah and came to a considerable amount of booty. He pushed on to Zab and Tahart in Middle Maghrib, where he defeated the combined Roman and Berber forces. Next, he focused on the Far Maghrib and Tanjah, whose Roman bishop, Yalyan (Yulyan, Yulyanus), caved in and guided `Uqbah toward the powerful and heathen Berbers of Sus, who were promptly broken by the Muslim commander. 

In the course of these engagements, the newly converted Berbers of Zananah aided `Uqbah in his defeat of the Berbers of Masamidah, who had apostatized. It appears that `Uqbah’s campaign brought him to the very shores of the Atlantic Ocean (Bahr al-Muhit), which would imply that the complete conquest of Maghrib, including its interior regions, was accomplished by `Uqbah. It is reported that `Uqbah inquired from Yulyan about Andalus, but deemed its conquest as too challenging. `Uqbah’s harsh treatment of Kusaylah, in spite of Abu’ l-Muhajir’s advice to the contrary, antagonized Kusaylah who thus forced his tribe of Awrbah to side with the Romans. In 62 AH, `Uqbah and his small contingent, which included Abu ’l-Muhajir, were all massacred by an army of Berbers, headed by Kusaylah, who continued to march toward Qayrawan. The commander of the Muslim army at Qayrawan, Zahir b. Qays Balawi, saw no option but to abandon the city, which was taken control of along with the rest of Ifriqiyyah. Kusaylah provided Muslims with freedom, while Maghrib became awash in apostasy. A setback of such immense dimensions is rarely recorded in the history of the Islamic conquests. Kusaylah’s dominion over Ifriqiyyah lasted some five to seven years, up until the early years of the caliphate of `Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. 

Upon his accession, `Abd al-Malik appointed his brother, `Abd al-`Aziz, to the governorship of Egypt. He also put Zahir b. Qays in charge of Ifriqiyyah, sending him to the region at the head of a huge army. Upon the hearing of this news, Kusaylah departed from Qayrawan and took up position at Mamash, some distance west of Qayrawan. After a major battle, Kusaylah was killed, along with a group of his companions. In 69 AH (688 AH), the Romans took advantage of the conflict between Zahir and Kusaylah and attacked Baraqah, with a huge naval force sailing from Sicily. Zahir rushed to the defense of Baraqah, but was killed in the encounter, after which the Romans sailed back to Constantinople with much spoils. `Abd al-Malik was much angered by this event and dispatched Hassan b. Nu`man Ghassani to Ifriqiyyah, at the head of a huge army. Hassan captured Qayrawan and moved on to Qartajannah (Carthage), where he broke the Roman and Berber forces and wrecked much havoc in the region. After defeating another combined force of Roman and Berber soldiers at Satfurah and Banzart, he returned to Qayrawan. However, soon he was forced to encounter a kahinah (sorceress) named Dahya from the Berber tribe of Jarawah, who had assumed the leadership of the forces of Kusaylah, stationed in the mountains of Awaras. A decisive battle was joined near the Nini River, in which the Muslim forces suffered a major defeat. Hassan retreated to Baraqah and remained there on the orders of `Abd al-Malik. His stay at Baraqah lasted for five years, during which the kahinah remained in charge of Ifriqiyyah. In the meantime, the Romans sent a naval force to Qartajannah, led by a bishop named Yuhanna, and took control of the city with ease, after which they engaged in massacring the last remaining Muslims. Thus, once again, Muslims lost control of Ifriqiyyah, while the Romans dominated the coastal areas and the kahinah ruled the interior regions. In 74 AH, `Abd al-Malik sent troops and supplies to Hassan, tasking him with the recapturing of Ifriqiyyah. The native Berbers and Romans, who had been disaffected with the destruction wrought by the kahinah, sided with Hassan, who managed to kill her after a major clash. The Berbers were given safe conduct, provided they offered twelve thousand fighting men to the Muslim army. Hassan gave the command of this Berber contingent to the two surviving sons of the kahinah. This gesture resulted in the spread of Islam among the Berbers. Having accomplished the reconquest of Ifriqiyyah, Hassan returned to Qayrawan in the Ramadhan of 74 AH (January 694 AD). He stayed there until the death of `Abd al-Malik in 86 AH (705 AD), looking after administrative affairs of the region. He forgave kharaj payments of the Berbers in possession of lands of bayt al-mal (fay’), while collecting it from those of Christian orientation and the non-Berbers (`ajam). Hassan was replaced by Musa b. Nusayr, after a relatively long period, toward the close of the caliphate of `Abd al-Malik or the early days of that of Walid `Abd al-Malik. The rule of Musa coincided with a resurgence of Berber uprisings. Musa and his sons, `Abd Allah and Harun, embarked on a large-scale military campaign throughout the Maghrib region. The Berbers from Tripoli to Tanjah, who had previously apostatized and reconverted some twelve times, were severely punished by Musa. He pursued them to Tanjah and then to the Far Sus and continued to cut them off until they asked for clemency, and thus the consolidation of Islam was brought to completion in Maghrib. Musa appointed one of his commanders, Tariq, as governor of Tanjah and put under his control a large force of Berbers. He also designated groups to teach them the Qur’an and religious rules, and himself returned to Ifriqiyyah. Thus, the conquest of Ifriqiyyah and Maghrib which had initiated some fifty years prior to the arrival of Musa was accomplished by his capable hand. The Berbers put behind them their bouts of apostasy and Maghrib was transformed into an integral part of the Islamic world, with all the social, religious, political and military vicissitudes to which was subjected any major Islamic province, the accounts of which came to belong to the history of the Islamic state.

* source: Rahimlou , Yousef "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.526 - 529

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