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The al-Fihri were originally an Arabian clan Banu Fihr attached to the Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet. Probably the most illustrious of the Fihrids was Oqba ibn Nafi al-Fihri, the Arab Muslim conqueror of North Africa in 670-680s, and founder of Kairouan. Several of his sons and grandsons participated in the subsequent conquest of Hispania in 712.
As spearheads of the western conquest, the al-Fihris were probably the leading aristocratic Arab family of Ifriqiya and Al-Andalus in the first half of the 8th century. They produced several governors and military leaders of those provinces. After the Berber Revolt of 740-41, the west fell into a period of anarchy and disorder. The Umayyad Caliph in Damascus, facing revolts in Persia, did not have the resources to re-impose their authority in the west. In the vacuum, the Fihrids, the pre-eminent local Arab family, seized power in the west. Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib al-Fihri in Africa (745-755) and Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri in Al-Andalus (747-755) ruled their dominions virtually independently of the Caliphate.
For a moment, it seemed as if the Fihrids might succeed in turning the western half of the Islamic world into a private family empire. The Fihrids greeted the fall of the Umayyads in 749-50 with delight, and sought to reach an accommodation with the new Abbasid Caliphs of the east to allow them to continue. But when the Abbasids rejected their offer of nominal vassalship and demanded full submission, the Fihrids broke with the Abbasids and declared independence.
In a decision that would prove fatal, Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib invited the remnants of the fugitive Umayyad clan to take refuge in his dominions. He soon regretted his decision. The arriving Umayyad princes, as the sons and grandsons of caliphs, were of more illustrious blood than the Fihrids themselves, and became a focal point of conspiracies among the Arab nobles of Kairouan, resentful of Ibn Habib's autocracy. Ibn Habib set about persecuting the exiles. One of them, the young Abd al-Rahman, would flee to Al-Andalus, depose the Fihrids there and erect the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba in 756.
While the Iberian branch was eclipsed by the Umayyads, the African branch of the Fihrids descended into a bloody family quarrel in 755, that threw Ifriqiya into chaos, and ended with them being overrun and extinguished in a Kharijite Berber uprising in 757-8.
The al-Fihri name continued to have a magical effect in Al-Andalus, and pretenders drawn from that family continued to challenge Umayyad rule until the end of the century.
The genealogy of the Fihrids:
- 1. Nafi al-Fihri
- 2. Oqba ibn Nafi al-Fihri (son of 1.), founder of Kairouan, conqueror of the Maghreb, emir of Ifriqiya (666-674, 681-683)
- 3. Abu Obeida ibn Oqba al-Fihri (son of 2.), participated in conquest of Hispania, 712.
- 4. Habib ibn Abi Obeida al-Fihri (son of 3.), conqueror of Sous, military commander of Ifriqiyan army, fell at Bagdoura in 741.
- 5 Khalid ibn Abi Habib (son of 3. (probably)), fell at Battle of the Nobles in 740.
- 6. Muhammad ibn Abi Obeida (son of 3.), may have been complicit in murder of 7, killed in conflict with (11).
- 7. Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib (son of 4.), emir of Ifriqiya (745-755)
- 8. Ilyas ibn Habib (son of 4.), murdered 7, wali of Tripolitana, emir of Ifriqiya (755-56)
- 9. Abd al-Wareth ibn Habib (son of 4), complicit in murder of 7
- 10. Amran ibn Habib (son of 4.), opposed to murder of 7, joined with 11.
- 11. Habib ibn Abd al-Rahman (son of 7), wali of Cyrenaica, killed 8 and 6 in combat, emir of Ifriqiya (755-57)
- 12. Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri (son of 7 (probably)), emir of Al-Andalus (747-756), wali of Toledo (756-759)
- 13. Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib, 'al-Saqaliba' (son of 11), united with Berber rebel Abu Ha'tem, led Iberian revolt in 778-779.
- 14 Abd al-Rahman ibn Yusuf al-Fihri (son of 12), gov of Saragossa in 740s.
- 15 Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Fihri (son of 12), led Iberian revolt in 785.
- H. Fournel, 1857, Étude sur la conquête de l'Afrique par les Arabes, Paris, Impermerie Imperiale, p.95