ARABIC HISTORICAL SOURCES
Given the shortage of archive documents, epigraphic and archaeological documents, we are reduced to second-hand literary information since most of the great Murabitun chronicles have not reached us. The critical examination which follows will stress the fundamental distinction between primary works and works which are compilations. We will deal with the lost Murabitun chronicles from which some extracts have reached us by means of later works.
I. The Lost Murabitun Chronicles
1. Kitâb al-anwâr al-jaliyya fî akhbâr ad-dawla al-Murâbitiyya. (The Book of Splendid Lights concerning the history of the Murabitun Dynasty) by Ibn as-Sayrafî.
An Andalusian poet, historian and traditionalist, born in Cordoba in 467 /1074, Ibn as-Sayrafî was the secretary of the Murabit prince Abu Muhammad b. Tashfin, who ruled Spain from 520 to 531 AH. His work retraced the history of the Lamtuna. Ibn al-Khatib says that it contained the accounts of the great events which took place in Spain up until 530 /1135-6. It first stopped at that year, and then was continued by its author up until his death in 557/1162 or 570/1174-1175. There are only some extracts left which are found in the Bayân of Ibn 'Idhâri, al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya and the works of Ibn al-Khatib.
2. Kitâb al-muqtabis fî akhbâr al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus wa Fâs. (The Book of the one who desires to know the history of the Maghrib and Andalus and Fes) by Abu Marwan 'Abd al-Malik b. Musa al-Warrâq.
We know nothing about this author which cannot be confused with Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Warraq (904-973), the informant of al-Bakri. This work must have been a history of the Maghrib and Andalusia of the genre of the Muqtabis of Ibn Hayân (d/460/1070).
Some passages of this work are quoted in Mafakhir al-Barbar (pp. 53, 81), which gives us two long extracts: the first deals with the activities of Yusuf b. Tashfin against the Zanata; and the second gives a detailed list of the various Lamtuna governments which administered Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Saragossa, from the conquest of Yusuf b. Tashfin up to the disappearance of the movement under Muwahhid pressure.
3. Kitâb al-Bayân al-wadih 'an al-mulimm al-fâdih by Ibn Alqama about which we have no information whatsoever.
4. Kitâb al-muftariq which is anonymous, or the Majmû' al-muftariq which is mentioned by Ibn 'Idhâri (Bayan, 48), but we know nothing more about its subject.
5. It is the same with the Kitâb Ansâb al-Barbar by Abu 'Abdullah b. Abi al-Majd al-Majili, quoted by in Mafakhir al-Barbar (pp. 57-58).
II. The Muwahhidun Chronicles
6. Nazm al-jumân fî akhbâr az-zamân by Ibn al-Qattân (d. 628 /1230), who was the qadi of Sijilmassa. He was a famous traditionalist who enjoyed great fame. Ibn 'Idhâri quotes him among his sources and uses him for information long before the arrival of the Muwahhidun and information about the Murabitun. This work is divided into seven parts. The part which has reached us covers the Murabitun and Muwahhidun period, the end of the fifth century to the beginning of the sixth century of the hijra, particularly regarding the events dealing with the reign of Yusuf b. Tashfin and his son 'Ali.
7. Kitâb al-mu'jib fî talkhîs akhbâr al-Maghrib of 'Abd al-Wahid al-Marrakushi who, in 621 h/1124, managed to abridge the history of the Muslim West. Born in Marrakech on 7 Rabi' II 581/8 July 1185, this bard of the Muwahhid dynasty does not report the activities of Yusuf b. Tashfin other than his battles with the Taifa kings and the Christian princes.
8. Al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya is an anonymous chronicle by a Spanish author living in the time of Muhammad V of Granada, whom he praises in the introduction of his book. It was attributed to Ibn al-Khatib and to Ibn Battuta. Completed in 793 /1381-1382, it was a compilation of the various historical sources borrowed from better informed authors, like Ibn as-Sayrafi, Ibn Sahib as-Sala, Abu Yahya b. al-Yasa', al-Baydhaq, Ibn al-Qattan and others, but it also includes official letters whose authenticity is doubtful as well as various legends.
Contrary to what the complete title of the book implies, it is not a history of Marrakech, the capital of Morocco, but actually a résumé of the facts concerning the reign of the Murabitun and the beginning of the Muwahhid empire up until the reign of 'Abd al-Mu'min. This chronicle, written at the time of the Crusades when Islam saw itself violently attacked in the East as well as in the West is marked by the desire to exalt the feats of arms of the Muslim princes to the point of exaggeration.
III. Maghribi and Eastern Compilations
9. Kitâb al-Iktifâ' fî akhbâr al-Khulafâ' of Ibn al-Kardabus recounts the historical facts up to the reign of the Muwahhid khalif Abu Ya'qub Yusuf b. 'Abd al-Mu'min (558-580 /1184-1185). The part of this history which deals with the history of the Murabitun is to be used with caution because, most of the time, the chronology is in disagreement with the majority of other sources.
10. Bayân al-Mughrib fî akhbâr al-Maghrib. These annals of the Maghrib and Spain, compiled by Ibn 'Idhari, qa'id of Fes, which were still being written in 712 /1312-1313, are a basic source for the history of the Maghrib and Andalusia because it gathers together chronicles which are mostly lost.
The third part deals with the history of the Murabitun and Muwahhid empires, the dynasties of the Hafsids in Ifriqiya, the Banu Hud and the Nasrids in Andalusia, and the Banu Marin of Morocco.
The Bayan is of great interest for the Murabitun period. Ibn 'Idhâri deals with contemporary sources of events on the genesis and development of this movement.
The acephalous manuscript of the Bayan concerning this period, published by A. Huici Miranda, begins with a conversation between the amir of the Juddala, Yahya b. Ibrahim, and Abu 'Imran Musa al-Fasi at the Qayrawan, his visit to Wajjaj in Malkus, the selection of 'Abdullah b. Yasin, and follows the course of the history of Yahya b. Ibrahim, following a very different chronology from that of the Rawd al-Qirtas. Moreover, it is unfortunate that a large gap in the manuscript deprives us of the account of the events which took place between 451 /1059 and 460/1067-1068. But it also relates to us events which are absolutely unpublished.
11. Kitâb Mafâkhir al-Barbar, a work compiled in 712 h/1312, by an anonymous author, provides interesting information about 'Abdullah b. Yasin, Yahya b. 'Umar, Abu Bakr b. 'Umar and Yusuf b. Tashfin, in particular the same date of the foundation of Marrakech as Ibn al-Athir, Ibn 'Idhâri and al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya, i.e. 462/1070. Sometimes he uses the quotations of the Dhakhira of Ibn Bassam about the capture of Tangier and Ceuta, from the Kitâb al-muqtabis fî akhbâr al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus of Ibn Khamado of Ceuta, from Mizân al-'amal fî ayyâm ad-duwal of Ibn Rashiq, of the Muqtabis fî akhbâr al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus wa Fâs of Abu Marwan al-Warraq, of the Kitâb Ansâb al-Barbar of Abu 'Abdullah b. Abi al-Majd.
12. Kitâb al-anis al-mutrib bi-rawd al-qirtas. Drafted during the first third of the 14th century, 726/1326 by Ibn Abi Zar', this history of Fes and Morocco is a plagiarism of the Bayân of Ibn 'Idhâri. Inspired by al-Bakri, the Rawd al-Qirtas and the Bayân tally in their description of the nomadic life of the Saharans and the facts relating to Yahya b. Ibrahim. Subsequently, the Rawd al-Qirtas begins by confusing the chronology and leading us astray by imaginary facts and silence on the events related by the Bayân and al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya.
13. Kitâb al-'Ibar by Ibn Khaldun (732-784/1332-1382), a well-known historian, sociologist, and philosopher. This author devotes a large place to the history of the Murabitun movement. He also concentrates a lot on the contribution of the works of al-Bakri, Ibn Abi Zar', Mafakhir al-Barbar as well as the Bayân of Ibn 'Idhâri. For the chronology of the first period of the movement up until the death of 'Abdullah b. Yasin and his successor Ibn 'Abbu, he adopts the chronology of al-Bakri, Ibn 'Idhâri, al-Hulal al-Mawshiyya, and Mafakhir al-Barbar. Subsequently, after 452 AH, he followed the presentation of events presented by the Rawd al-Qirtas, differing from the other sources and allowing himself to be drawn into an account which seems to err about events, especially concerning the government of Abu Bakr b. 'Umar and the lieutenancy of Yusuf b. Tashfin. He does not return to the primary sources until after the capture of Ceuta in 476 AH and the first crossing of Yusuf b. Tashfin to Andalusia. To describe the activity of the Murabitun in Andalusia, he uses both categories of sources which we are going to discuss, as well as Ibn Kardabus up until the death of Yusuf b. Tashfin.
14. Kitâb A'mâl al-a'lam by Ibn al-Khatib, wazir and historian of Granada. It is an unfinished history of Islam. Its first part is devoted to the east and the second to Muslim Spain, with an appendix on the Christian kings of the Reconquest, and the third part is about North Africa and Sicily.
Written around 776/1374, this work is especially useful for learning about the policy followed by Yusuf b. Tashfin in Andalusia and the situation of the Taifa kings vis-à-vis the king of Castille, Alphonso VI. However, his information is very condensed and must have been borrowed from Ibn 'Idhâri. It is certain that he did not take into account Ibn Kardabus, because the dates which he gives us do not coincide with those given by that writer. It is possible that he did not possess the Rawd al-Qirtas of Ibn Abi Zar', the first third of which was written in 726 h. But it is difficult to recognise his sources for the period which concerns us because he does not name them.
15. Kitâb al-kâmil fî't-tarîkh of Ibn al-Athir who was born 4 Jumada I 555/12 May 1160. He spent most of his life in Mosul.
Volumes ix and x include some chronicles which deal with the beginnings of the Murabitun movement , the reign of Abu Bakr b. 'Umar and that of Yusuf b. Tashfin, whose role in Andalusia seems to have caught the interest of our author who quotes long passages on this subject from Ibn al-Labbana, the poet and friend of the prince of Seville, al-Mu'tamid. But it must be said that the chronology given is not always satisfactory. Moreover, this book strongly influenced Ibn Khallikan in his composition of the article of the Wafayât which deals with Yusuf b. Tashfin.
16. Kitâb al-Mughrib fî dhikr bilâd Ifriqiya wa'l-Maghrib, or Kitâb al-Masâlik wa'l-Mamâlik. Abu 'Ubayd al-Bakri, died in 487/1094, composed this work in 461 h/1068 assisted by literary and oral information, from his residence in Spain which he never left.
His worth is inestimable for enabling us to grasp the religious context which gave birth to the Mulaththimun movement. A contemporary of the events which concern us, he provides a narrative of the events in which 'Abdullah b. Yasin and the first amirs of Juddala, Yahya b. Ibrahim, Yahya b. 'Umar, and his brother Abu Bakr b. 'Umar, participated. One can state, in view of his account, that he did not conceive of the happy fortune of this burgeoning movement, so his information is all the more objective and worthy of credence.
Elsewhere he paints a very interesting picture of the religious situation of Maghrib al-Aqsa and the powerful sects of the Bajaliyya and Barghawata which were well entrenched in these regions, not to mention the economic information which one can extract from this book which enables us to grasp the nature of the exchanges which existed at this period. It is unfortunate that as he was a witness of the military and political intervention of Yusuf ibn Tashfin in Spain and to the successive dethronement of the Taifa kings, we do not find an echo of this in his work. He was above all a geographer, but his historical digressions are invaluable.
17. Kitâb nuzhat al-mushtâq fî ikhtirâq al-afâq. Al-Idrisi owes his fame to this work of descriptive geography. This book was written at the command of Roger II, the Norman king of Sicily, to illustrate a large silver planisphere which the author himself had built. It is for this reason that the work was called Kitâb Rujâr (The Book of Roger). This book was completed in 548/1154. It does not give hardly any historical elements about the birth of the Murabitun movement, but it gives an understanding of the economic activity in the 11th and 12th centuries. His contribution is useful for us in the description of the fortresses and fortified towns of Maghrib al-Aqsa, and the allusion to some illegal taxes imposed on merchandise, and the economic characteristics of each area of the Sahara, Sus and Maghrib al-Aqsa. He nevertheless owes a lot to Ibn Hawqal.
18. Kitâb al-Istibsâr. This work, compiled in 587 /1191, whose author is unknown, is a description of Egypt and the Maghrib. Certain passages suggest that its author lived during the reign of the Muwahhid Ya'qub al-Mansur, and that his patron was a high dignitary, Shaykh Abu 'Imran b. Abi Yahya b. 'Uqtin, a patron to whom he dedicated his book and whose favours he sought. It seems that he wrote this book in 587 /1191 in the month of Ramadan/September-October.
The details which he gives on Meknes, Fes and Marrakech show a deep familiarity with these towns. He certainly lived there. When he dealt with the Sudan, he says that he consulted official letters sent in the name of Gana, king of one of these countries and destined for Yusuf b. Tashfin, which is to say that he had in his possession the ancient Murabitun archives.
IV. Historico-biographical sources
19. We should mention the Memoirs of 'Abdullah, the last Zirid of Granada (460-483 /1076-1091). He wrote them at Aghmat after having been deposed by Yusuf b. Tashfin in 483 /1090. There we have a first-hand description of the Andalusian policy of the Murabitun. But he remains silent on the events which preceded the first crossing of the Amir al-Muslimin to Andalusia.
20. In dealing with the resistance of Suqut al-Barghawati, the king of Tangier and Ceuta, to the invasion of the Murabitun, we have used some extracts from the Dhakhira fî mahâsin ahl al-Gazira of Ibn Bassam (d. 542 /1147). Information on the political life and administrative organisation has been collected in the Kitâb as-Sila of Ibn Bashkuwal (d. 578/1183); Bughyat al-multamis fî ta'rikh rijâl al-Andalus by ad-Dabbi (d. 599/1203); al-Hulla as-Siyarâ of Ibn al-Abbar (d. 658 /1260), the Analects (Nafh at-Tîb) of al-Maqqari (d. 1061 h/1651) and the Wafayât which Ibn Khallikan finished in 673 /1274.
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