Marinid Sultanate

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Marinid Sultanate
المرينيون al-marīniyyūn (ar)
Emblem of Marinids
The Marinid Sultanate in 1360
The Marinid Sultanate in 1360
StatusRuling dynasty of Morocco[1][2]
Official languagesArabic[3]
Common languagesMaghrebi Arabic, Berber languages
Sunni Islam
• 1215–1217
Abd al-Haqq I
• 1420–1465
Abd al-Haqq II
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Almohad Caliphate
Wattasid dynasty
Banu Abd al-Haqq
Marinid emblem of Morocco.svg
Parent houseBanu Marin
Country Morocco
FounderAbd al-Haqq I
Current headnone
Final rulerAbd al-Haqq II
TitlesSultan of Morocco
Style(s)Amir al-Muslimin
Cadet branchesWattasid dynasty
Ouartajin dynasty

The Marinid Sultanate was a Berber empire from the mid-13th to the 15th century which controlled present-day Morocco and, intermittently, other parts of North Africa (Algeria and Tunisia) and of southern Spain around Gibraltar. It was named after the Banu Marin (Arabic: بنو مرين, Berber: Ayt Mrin[4]), a Zenata Berber tribe.[1][5] The sultanate was ruled by the Marinid dynasty (Arabic: المرينيون al-marīniyyūn), founded by Abd al-Haqq I.[1][6]

In 1244, after being at their service for several years, the Marinids overthrew the Almohads which had controlled Morocco.[7] At the height of their power in the mid-14th century, during the reigns of Abu al-Hasan and his son Abu Inan, the Marinid dynasty briefly held sway over most of the Maghreb including large parts of modern-day Algeria and Tunisia.[5] The Marinids supported the Emirate of Granada in al-Andalus in the 13th and 14th centuries and made an attempt to gain a direct foothold on the European side of the Strait of Gibraltar. They were however defeated at the Battle of Río Salado in 1340 and finished after the Castilians took Algeciras from the Marinids in 1344, definitively expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula.[8] Starting in the early 15th century the Wattasid dynasty, a related ruling house, competed with the Marinid dynasty for control of the state and became de facto rulers between 1420 and 1459 while officially acting as regents or viziers. In 1465 the last Marinid sultan, Abd al-Haqq II, was finally overthrown and killed by a revolt in Fez, which led to the establishment of direct Wattasid rule over most of Morocco.[5][9]

In contrast to their predecessors, the Marinids sponsored Maliki Sunnism as the official religion and made Fez their capital.[10][5] Under their rule, Fez enjoyed a relative golden age.[11] The Marinids also pioneered the construction of madrasas across the country which promoted the education of Maliki ulama, although Sufi sheikhs increasingly predominated in the countryside.[5] The influence of sharifian families and the popular veneration of sharifian figures such as the Idrisids also progressively grew in this period, preparing the way for later dynasties like the Saadians and Alaouites.[12]



Although the Marinids claimed Arab ancestry[13] through a North Arabian tribe,[14] they were of Berber origin. Following the arrival of the Arab Bedouins in North Africa in the middle of the eleventh century, the Marinids were obliged to leave their lands in the region of Biskra, in present-day Algeria.[15][16] They first frequented the area between Sijilmasa and Figuig, present-day Morocco,[17][18] at times reaching as far as the Zab [fr], present-day Algeria.[19] They would move seasonally from the Figuig oasis to the Moulouya River basin.[20] Following the arrival of Arab tribes in the area in the 11th-12th centuries, the Marinids moved to the north-west of present-day Algeria,[17] before entering en-masse into Morocco by the beginning of the 13th century.[21]

The Marinids took their name from their ancestor, Marin ibn Wartajan al-Zenati.[22]


After arriving in present-day Morocco, they initially submitted to the Almohad dynasty, which was at the time the ruling regime. Their leader Muhyu contributed to the Almohad victory at Battle of Alarcos in 1195, in central Spain, though he died of his wounds.[17][21] His son and successor, Abd al-Haqq I, was the effective founder of the Marinid dynasty.[6] Later, the Almohads suffered a severe defeat against Christian kingdoms of Iberia on 16 July 1212 in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. The severe loss of life at the battle left the Almohad state weakened and some of its regions somewhat depopulated.[23] Starting in 1213 or 1214,[17] the Marinids began to tax farming communities of today's north-eastern Morocco (the area between Nador and Berkane). The relationship between them and the Almohads became strained and starting in 1215, there were regular outbreaks of fighting between the two parties. In 1217 they tried to occupy the eastern part of present-day Morocco but were defeated by an Almohad army and Abd al-Haqq was killed.[21] They were expelled, pulling back from the urban towns and settlements, while their leadership passed on to Uthman I and then Muhammad I.[9] In the intervening years, they regrouped and managed to establish their authority again over the rural tribes in the regions around Taza, Fez, and Ksar el-Kebir.[21] Meanwhile, the Almohads lost their territories in Al-Andalus to Christian kingdoms like Castile, the Hafsids of Ifriqiya broke away in 1229, followed by the independence of the Zayyanid dynasty of Tlemcen in 1235. The Almohad caliph Sa'id nonetheless managed to defeat the Marinids again in 1244, forcing them to retreat back to their original lands south of Taza.[21]

It was under the leadership of Abu Yahya, whose reign began in 1244, that the Marinids re-entered into the region on a more deliberate campaign of conquest.[4][21] Between 1244 and 1248 the Marinids were able to take Taza, Rabat, Salé, Meknes and Fez from the weakened Almohads.[24] Meknes was captured in 1244 or 1245,[17][21] Fez was captured in 1248, and Sijilmassa in 1255.[17] The Almohad caliph, Sa'id, managed to reassert his authority briefly in 1248 by coming north with an army to confront them, at which point Abu Yahya formally submitted to him and retreated to a fortress in the Rif.[25] However, in June of the same year the caliph was ambushed and killed by the Zayyanids in a battle to the south of Oujda. The Marinids intercepted the defeated Almohad army on its return, and the Christian mercenaries serving under the Almohads entered the service of the Marinids instead.[26] Abu Yahya quickly reoccupied his previously-conquered cities the same year, and established his capital in Fes.[26] His successor, Abu Yusuf Yaqub (1259–1286) captured Marrakech in 1269, effectively ending Almohad rule.[27][5]


After the Nasrids of Granada ceded the town of Algeciras to the Marinids, Abu Yusuf went to Al-Andalus to support the ongoing struggle against the Kingdom of Castile. The Marinid dynasty then tried to extend its control to include the commercial traffic of the Strait of Gibraltar.

It was in this period that Iberian Christians were first able to take the fighting across the Strait of Gibraltar to what is today Morocco: in 1260 and 1267 they attempted an invasion, but both attempts were defeated.

After gaining a foothold in the city of Algeciras in the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, the Marinids became active in the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Iberia. To gain absolute control of the trade in the Strait of Gibraltar from their base at Algeciras, they conquered several nearby Iberian towns: by the year 1294 they had occupied Rota, Tarifa and Gibraltar.

In 1276 they founded the north African city of Fes Jdid, which they made their administrative and military centre. While Fes had been a prosperous city throughout the Almohad period, even becoming the largest city in the world during that time,[28] it was in the Marinid period that Fes reached its golden age, a period which marked the beginning of an official, historical narrative for the city.[29][30] It is from the Marinid period that Fes' reputation as an important intellectual centre largely dates, they established the first madrasas in the city and country.[31][32][33]

Despite internal infighting, Abu Said Uthman II (r. 1310–1331) initiated huge construction projects across the land. Several madrasas were built, the Al-Attarine Madrasa being the most famous. The building of these madrasas were necessary to create a dependent bureaucratic class, in order to undermine the marabouts and Sharifian elements.

The Marinids also strongly influenced the policy of the Emirate of Granada, from which they enlarged their army in 1275. In the 13th century, the Kingdom of Castile made several incursions into their territory. In 1260, Castilian forces raided Salé and, in 1267, initiated a full-scale invasion, but the Marinids repelled them.

At the height of their power, during the rule of Abu al-Hasan Ali (r. 1331–1348), the Marinid army was large and disciplined. It consisted of 40,000 Zenata cavalry, while Arab nomads contributed to the cavalry and Andalusians were included as archers. The personal bodyguard of the sultan consisted of 7,000 men, and included Christian, Kurdish and Black African elements.[34] Under Abu al-Hasan another attempt was made to reunite the Maghreb. In 1337 the Abdalwadid kingdom of Tlemcen was conquered, followed in 1347 by the defeat of the Hafsid empire in Ifriqiya, which made him master of a huge territory, which spanned from southern present-day Morocco to Tripoli. However, within the next year, a revolt of Arab tribes in southern Tunisia made them lose their eastern territories. The Marinids had already suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a Portuguese-Castilian coalition in the Battle of Río Salado in 1340, and finally had to withdraw from Andalusia, only holding on to Algeciras until 1344.

In 1348 Abu al-Hasan was deposed by his son Abu Inan Faris, who tried to reconquer Algeria and Tunisia. Despite several successes, he was strangled by his own vizir in 1358, after which the dynasty began to decline.


After the death of Abu Inan Faris in 1358, the real power lay with the viziers, while the Marinid sultans were paraded and forced to succeed each other in quick succession. The county was divided and political anarchy set in, with different viziers and foreign powers supporting different factions. In 1359 Hintata tribesmen from the High Atlas came down and occupied Marakesh, capital of their Almohad ancestors, which they would govern independently until 1526. To the south of Marakesh, Sufi mystics claimed autonomy, and in the 1370s Azemmour broke off under a coalition of merchants and Arab clan leaders of the Banu Sabih. To the east, the Zianid and Hafsid families reemerged and to the north, the Europeans were taking advantage of this instability by attacking the coast. Meanwhile, unruly wandering Arab Bedouin tribes increasingly spread anarchy, which accelerated the decline of the empire.

In the 15th century, it was hit by a financial crisis, after which the state had to stop financing the different marabouts and Sharifian families, which had previously been useful instruments in controlling different tribes. The political support of these marabouts and Sharifians halted, and it splintered into different entities. In 1399 Tetouan was taken and its population was massacred and in 1415 the Portuguese captured Ceuta. After the sultan Abdalhaqq II (1421–1465) tried to break the power of the Wattasids, he was executed.

Marinid rulers after 1420 came under the control of the Wattasids, who exercised a regency as Abd al-Haqq II became Sultan one year after his birth. The Wattasids however refused to give up the Regency after Abd al-Haqq came to age.[35]

In 1459, Abd al-Haqq II managed a massacre of the Wattasid family, breaking their power. His reign, however, brutally ended as he was murdered during the 1465 revolt.[36] This event saw the end of the Marinid dynasty as Muhammad ibn Ali Amrani-Joutey, leader of the Sharifs, was proclaimed Sultan in Fes. He was in turn overthrown in 1471 by Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya, one of the two the surviving Wattasids from the 1459 massacre, who instigated the Wattasid dynasty.

Chronology of events[edit]

The Marinid Tombs in Fes, Morocco
Coin minted during the reign of Abu Inan Faris (1348–1358)
Remnants of the city of al-Mansoura constructed by the Marinids during their siege of Tlemcen.
  • 1215: The Banu Marin (Marinids) attacks the Almohads when the 16-year-old Almohad caliph Yusuf II Al-Mustansir comes to power in 1213. The battle takes place on the coast of the Rif. In the reign of Yusuf II Al-Mustansir a great tower is erected to protect the royal palace in Seville.[37]
  • 1217: Abd al-Haqq I dies during victorious combat against the Almohads. His son Uthman ibn Abd al-Haqq (Uthman I) succeeds to the throne. Marinids take possession of the Rif and seem to want to remain there. The Almohades counterattack in vain.
  • 1240: Uthman I is assassinated by one of his Christian slaves. His brother Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Haqq (Muhammad I) succeeds him.
  • 1244: Muhammad I is killed by an officer of his own Christian mercenary militia. Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq, the third son of Abd Al-Haqq, succeeds him.
  • 1249: Severe repression of anti-Marinid forces in Fes.
  • 1258: Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq dies of disease. His uncle, Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd Al-Haqq, fourth son of Abd Al-Haqq, succeeds to the throne.
  • 1260: The Castilians raid Salé.
  • 1269: Seizure of Marrakesh and the end of Almohad domination of the western Maghreb.
  • 1274: The Marinids seize Sijilmassa.
  • 1276: Founding of Fes Jdid ("New Fes"), a new city near Fes, which comes to be considered a new district of Fes, in contrast to Fes el Bali ("Old Fes").
  • 1286: Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd Al-Haqq dies of disease in Algeciras after a fourth expedition to the Iberian Peninsula. His son Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr replaces him.
  • 1286: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr combats revolts in and around the Draa River and the province of Marrakesh.
  • 1288: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr receives in Fes the envoys of the king of Granada, to whom the town of Cadiz is returned.
  • 1291: Construction of the mosque of Taza, the earliest preserved Marinid building.
  • 1296: Construction of Sidi Boumediene mosque, or Sidi Belhasan, in Tlemcen.
  • 1299: Beginning of Tlemcen's siege by the Marinids, which will last nine years.
  • 1306: Conquest and destruction of Taroudannt.
  • 1307: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr is assassinated by a eunuch in connection with some obscure matter related to the harem. His son Abu Thabit Amir succeeds to the throne.
  • 1308: Abu Thabit dies of disease after only one year in power in Tetouan, a city which he has just founded. His brother, Abu al-Rabi Sulayman succeeds him.
  • 1309: Abu al-Rabi Sulayman enters Ceuta.
  • 1310: Abu al-Rabi dies of disease after having repressed a revolt of army officials in Taza. Among them is Gonzalve, chief of the Christian militia. His brother Abu Said Uthman succeeds him to the throne.
  • 1323: Construction of the Attarin's madrasa in Fes.
  • 1325: Ibn Battuta begins his 29-year journey across Africa and Eurasia.
  • 1329: The Marinids defeat the Castilians in Algeciras, establishing a foothold in the south of the Iberian peninsula with the hope of reversing the Reconquista.
  • 1331: Abu Said Uthman dies. His son Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman succeeds him.
  • 1337: First occupation of Tlemcen.
  • 1340: A combined Portuguese–Castilian army defeats the Marinids in the Battle of Rio Salado, close to Tarifa, the southernmost town of the Iberian peninsula. The Marinids return to Africa.
  • 1344: The Castilians take over Algeciras. The Marinids are definitively ejected from Iberia.
  • 1347: Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman destroys the Hafsid dynasty of Tunis and restores his authority over all the Maghreb.
  • 1348: Abu al-Hasan dies, his son Abu Inan Faris succeeds him as Marinid ruler.
  • 1348: The Black Death and the rebellions of Tlemcen and Tunis mark the beginning of the decline of the Marinids, who are unable to drive back the Portuguese and the Castilians.
  • 1350: Construction of Bou Inania madrasa in Meknes.
  • 1351: Second seizure of Tlemcen.
  • 1357: Defeat of Abu Inan Faris in front of Tlemcen. Construction of another Bou Inania Madrasa in Fes.
  • 1358 Abu Inan is assassinated by his vizir. A time of confusion starts. Each vizir tries to install weak candidates on the throne.
  • 1358: Abu Zian as-Said Muhammad ibn Faris is named sultan by the vizirs, just after the assassination of Abu Inan. His reign lasts only a few months. Abu Yahya abu Bakr ibn Faris comes to power, but also reigns only a few months.
  • 1359: Abu Salim Ibrahim is nominated sultan by the vizirs. He is one of the sons of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman and is supported by the king of Castille, Pedro.
  • 1359: Resurgence of the Zianids of Tlemcen.
  • 1361: Abu Umar Tachfin is named the successor to Abu Salim Ibrahim by the vizirs, with the support of the Christian militia. He reigns only a few months.
  • 1361: The period called the "reign of the vizirs" ends.
  • 1362: Muhammad ibn Yaqub assumes power. He is a young son of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman, who had taken refuge in Castile.
  • 1366: Muhammad ibn Yaqub is assassinated by his vizir. He is replaced by Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali, one of the sons of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman who until this time had been held locked up in the palace of Fes.
  • 1370: Third seizure of Tlemcen.
  • 1372: Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali dies of disease leaving the throne to his very young son Muhammad as-Said, beginning a new period of instability. The vizirs try on several occasions to install a puppet sovereign.
  • 1373: Muhammad as-Said is presented as the heir to his father, Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali, but being only five years old cannot reign, and dies in the same year.
  • 1374: Abu al-Abbas Ahmad, supported by the Nasrid princes of Granada, takes power.
  • 1374: Partition of the empire into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Fes and the Kingdom of Marrakech.
  • 1384: Abu al-Abbas is temporarily removed by the Nasrids. The Nasrids replace him with Abu Faris Musa ibn Faris, a disabled son of Abu Inan Faris. This ensures a kind of interim during the reign of Abu al-Abbas Ahmad from 1384 to 1386.
  • 1384: Abu Zayd Abd ar-Rahman reigns over the Kingdom of Marrakech from 1384 to 1387 while the Marinid throne is still based in Fes.
  • 1386: Al-Wathiq ensures the second part of the interim in the reign of Abu al-Abbas from 1386 to 1387.
  • 1387: Abu Al-Abbas begins to give vizirs more power. Morocco knows six years of peace again, although Abu Al-Abbas benefits from this period to reconquer Tlemcen and Algiers.
  • 1393: Abu Al-Abbas dies. Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ahmad is designated as the new sultan. The troubles which follow the sudden death of Abu Al-Abbas in Taza make it possible for the Christian sovereigns to carry the war into Morocco.
  • 1396: Abu Amir Abdallah succeeds to the throne.
  • 1398: Abu Amir dies. His brother, Abu Said Uthman ibn Ahmad, takes power.
  • 1399: Benefitting from the anarchy within the Marinid kingdom, king Henry III of Castile arrives in Morocco, seizes Tetouan, massacres half of the population and reduces the rest to slavery.
  • 1415: King John I of Portugal seizes Ceuta. This conquest marks the beginning of overseas European expansion.
  • 1418: Abu Said Uthman besieges Ceuta but is defeated.
  • 1420: Abu Said Uthman dies. He is replaced by his son, Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq, who is only one year old.
  • 1437: Failure of a Portuguese expedition to Tangier. Many prisoners are taken and the infant Fernando, the Saint Prince is kept as a hostage. A treaty is made with the Portuguese enabling them to embark if they return Ceuta. Fernando is kept as a hostage to guarantee the execution of this pact. Influenced by Pope Eugene IV, Edward of Portugal sacrifices his brother for national trade interests.
  • 1458: King Afonso V of Portugal prepares an army for a crusade against the Ottomans in response to the call of Pope Pius II, but he instead uses the army to attack a small port located between Tangier and Ceuta.
  • 1459: Abu Muhammad Abd Al-Haqq revolts against his own Wattasid vizirs. Only two brothers survive, who will become the first Wattasid sultans in 1472.
  • 1462: Ferdinand IV of Castile takes over Gibraltar.
  • 1465: Abu Muhammad Abd Al-Haqq appoints a Jewish vizir, Aaron ben Batash, provoking a popular revolt. The sultan dies in the revolt when his throat is cut. The Portuguese king Afonso V finally manages to take Tangier, benefitting from the troubles in Fes.
  • 1472: Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya, one of the two Wattasid vizirs surviving the 1459 massacre, installs himself in Fes, where he founds the Wattasid dynasty.


Intellectual life and education[edit]

The Marinids were eager patrons of Islamic scholarship and intellectual culture. It was in this period that the Qarawiyyin, the main center of learning in Fes, reached its apogee in terms of prestige, patronage, and intellectual scope.[38][39][40]: 141  Additionally, the Marinids were prolific builders of madrasas, a type of institution which originated in northeastern Iran by the early 11th century and was progressively adopted further west.[41] These establishments served to train Islamic scholars, particularly in Islamic law and jurisprudence (fiqh). The madrasa in the Sunni world was generally antithetical to more "heterodox" religious doctrines, including the doctrine espoused by the preceding Almohads. As such, it only came to flourish in Morocco under the Marinids that followed them.[41] To the Marinids, madrasas played a part in bolstering the political legitimacy of their dynasty. They used this patronage to encourage the loyalty of Fes's influential but fiercely independent religious elites and also to portray themselves to the general population as protectors and promoters of orthodox Sunni Islam.[41][42] The madrasas also served to train the scholars and elites who operated their state's bureaucracy.[42]

Sculpted decoration, including muqarnas, around the courtyard of the Bou Inania Madrasa in Fes

The majority of documented madrasa constructions took place in the first half of the 14th century, especially under the reign of Sultan Abu al-Hasan (ruled 1331–1348).[43] Many of these madrasas were built near the major mosques which had already acted as older centers of learning, such as the Qarawiyyin, the Mosque of the Andalusians, and the Grand Mosque of Meknes. One of their most important functions seems to have been to provide housing for students from other towns and cities – many of them poor – who needed a place to stay while studying at these major centers of learning.[44]: 137 [39]: 110 [45]: 463  In Fes, the first madrasa was the Saffarin Madrasa built in 1271, followed by the Sahrij Madrasa founded in 1321 (and the Sba'iyyin Madrasa next to it two years later), the al-Attarine in 1323, and the Mesbahiya Madrasa in 1346.[46] Another madrasa, built in 1320 near the Grand Mosque of Fes el-Jdid, was less successful in contributing to the city's scholarly life.[45][39]: 114  These madrasas taught their own courses and sometimes became well-known institutions in their own right, but they usually had much narrower curriculums or specializations than the Qarawiyyin.[39]: 141 [47] The last and largest Marinid madrasa in Fes, the Bou Inania, was a slightly more distinctive institution and was the only madrasa to also have the status of a Friday mosque.[41][42] Surviving Marinid madrasas built in other cities include the Madrasa of Abu al-Hasan in Salé and the Bou Inana Madrasa of Meknes.[48] Many more were built in other cities but have not been preserved, or only partially preserved, including in: Taza, al-Jadida, Tangier, Ceuta, Anfa, Azemmour, Safi, Aghmat, Ksar el-Kebir, Sijilmasa, Tlemcen, Marrakesh (the Ben Youssef Madrasa which was rebuilt in the 16th century), and Chellah (near Rabat).[43]

Part of Al-Manhaj al-Faaiq wa al-Manhal al-Raaiq fi Ahkam al-Wathaaiq by al-Wansharisi, Mufti of Fes.

Literary production under the Marinids was relatively prolific and diverse. In addition to religious texts such as treaties of fiqh (jurisprudence), there was also poetry and scientific texts. Geographies and, most of all, histories were produced, partly because the dynasty itself was eager to use these to legitimize its rule.[49] Ibn Khaldun was the most famous manifestation of this intellectual life which was also shared with the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, where many of the intellectuals of this period also spent time. Ibn al-Khatib, the Andalusi poet and writer from Granada, also spent time in Fes and North Africa when his Nasrid master Muhammad V was there in exile between 1358 and 1362.[50][51] The historian Ibn Idhari was another example, while the famous traveler Ibn Battuta also passed through Morocco in the 14th century and described it in his writings.[52] Not only grand regional histories but also local histories were composed by some authors for cities and towns.[49]


Marinid art continued many of the artistic traditions previously established in the region under the Almoravids and Almohads.[53]


The enormous Marinid chandelier in the Great Mosque of Taza

Many Marinid religious buildings were furnished with the same kind of bronze chandeliers that the Almohads made for mosques.[53] The Marinid chandelier in the Great Mosque of Taza, with a diameter of 2.5 metres and weighing 3 tons, is the largest surviving example of its kind in North Africa. It dates to 1294 and was commissioned by Sultan Abu Yaqub Yusuf. It is closely modeled on another large chandelier in the Qarawiyyin Mosque made by the Almohads. It is composed of nine circular tiers arranged in an overall conical shape that could hold 514 glass oil lamps. Its decoration included mainly arabesque forms like floral patterns as well as a poetic inscription in cursive Arabic.[54][55]

A number of other ornate metal chandeliers hanging in the Qarawiyyin mosque's prayer hall also date from the Marinid era. Three of them were made from church bells which Marinid craftsmen used as a base onto which they grafted ornate copper fittings. The largest of them, installed in the mosque in 1337, was a bell brought back from Gibraltar by the son of Sultan Abu al-Hasan, Abu Malik, after its reconquest from Christian forces in 1333.[56][42]: 462 

Textiles and banners[edit]

The banner of Sultan Abu al-Hasan, dated to 1339–1340, now housed at the Cathedral of Toledo

Not many Marinid textiles have survived, but it is assumed that luxurious silks continued to be made as in previous periods. The only reliably-dated Marinid textiles extant today are three impressive banners which were captured from Sultan Abu al-Hasan's army in the Battle of Rio Salado in 1340 by Alfonso XI.[53][57] Today they are housed at the Cathedral of Toledo. Ibn Khaldun wrote that Abu al-Hasan possessed hundreds of silk and gold banners which were displayed in palaces or on ceremonial occasions, while both the Marinid and Nasrid armies carried many colourful banners with them into battle. They thus had great symbolic value and were deployed on many occasions.[57]

The oldest of the three banners is dated, according to its inscription, to May or June 1312 (Muharram 712 AH).[57] It was made in the "kasbah" (royal citadel) of Fes for Sultan Abu Sa'id Uthman (father of Abu al-Hasan). The banner measures 280 by 220 cm and is made of predominantly green silk taffeta, along with decorative motifs woven in blue, white, red, and gold thread. Its visual layout shares other general similarities with the so-called Banner of Las Navas de Tolosa from the earlier Almohad period (13th century). The central part of the banner is filled with a grid of sixteen green circles containing short religious statements in small cursive inscriptions. This area is contained in turn within a large rectangular frame. The band of the frame is filled with monumental and ornamental inscriptions in white Kufic letters whose style is similar to the Kufic inscriptions carved into the walls of the Marinid madrasas of Fes, which in turn are derived from earlier Kufic inscriptions found in Almohad architecture. These inscriptions feature a selection of Qur'anic verses very similar to those found in the same positions in the Banner of Las Navas de Tolosa (mainly Qur'an 61:10-11). At the four corners of the rectangular band are roundels containing golden cursive letters against a deep blue background, whose inscriptions attribute victory and salvation to God. The whole rectangular band is in turn lined on both its inner and outer edges by smaller inscription bands of Qur'anic verses. Lastly, the bottom edge of the banner is filled with two lines of red cursive script detailing the titles and lineage of Abu Sa'id Uthman and the date of the banner's fabrication.[57]

The second banner was made for Abu al-Hasan and is dated, according to its inscriptions, to Jumada II 740 AH (corresponding to either December 1339 or January 1340). It measures 347 by 267 centimeters.[57] It is made with similar weaving techniques as its older counterpart and uses the same overall visual arrangement, although this time the predominant colour is yellow, with details woven in blue, red, gold thread, or different shades of yellow. It features a grand Arabic inscription in cursive letters along its top edge which calls for the victory of its owner, Abu al-Hasan. The central part of the banner once again has sixteen circles, arranged in a grid formation, each containing a small Arabic cursive inscription that repeats either the words "Eternal power and infinite glory" or "Perpetual joy and infinite glory". These circles are in turn contained within a large rectangular frame whose band is occupied by four more cursive inscriptions, of moderate size, which again call for Abu al-Hasan's victory while attributing all victory to God. Four more small inscriptions are contained within circles at the four corners of this frame. Finally, the bottom edge of the banner is occupied by a longer inscription, in small cursive letters again, which gives the full titles and lineage of Abu al-Hasan.[57]

A third banner, undated and less well-preserved, is also believed to date from Abu al-Hasan's time. It is curious for the fact that its inscriptions are painted onto the fabric instead of woven into it, while the orientation of its inscriptions is inversed or "mirrored". Some scholars have suggested that it may have been a cheaper reproduction of Abu al-Hasan's banner intended for the use by soldiers or that it was intended as a template drawn by the calligrapher from which artisans could weave the real banner (and as weaving was done from the back, the letters would have to appear reversed from the weaver's perspective during production).[57]


Pages from a Qur'an commissioned by Abu Yaqub Yusuf and dated to 1306 (now kept at the Bavarian State Library, Munich.)
Page from a manuscript of al-Muwatta' by Malik ibn Anas, copied in Salé in 1326

A number of manuscripts from the Marinid period have been preserved to the present-day. One outstanding example is a Qur'an manuscript commissioned by Sultan Abu Yaqub Yusuf and dated to 1306. It features a elaborately illuminated frontispiece and is written in a broad Maghrebi script using brown ink, with headings written in golden Kufic letters and new verses marked by small labels inside gold circles.[58][59] Like most other manuscripts in this time and region, it was written on parchment.[59][60]

Many of the sultans were themselves accomplished calligraphers. This tradition of sovereigns practicing calligraphy and copying the Qur'an themselves was well-established in many Islamic elite circles by the 13th century, with the oldest surviving example in this region dating from the Almohad caliph al-Murtada (d. 1266).[61] According to Ibn Marzuq and various other Marinid chroniclers, Sultan Abu al-Hasan was particularly prolific and skilled, and is recorded to have copied four Qur'ans. The first one appears to have been started following several years of military successes and was finished in 1339, at which point it was sent to Chellah (where he was later buried). The next copy was sent to the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina in 1339–40 via the intermediary of Sultan Qalawun in Egypt, and a third one a couple of years later went to the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The fourth copy, one of the finest preserved Marinid manuscripts, is a thirty-volume Qur'an which he donated to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1344–45 and is now kept at the Islamic Museum of the Haram al-Sharif. While in Bijaya (Bougie) he began a fifth copy intended for Al-Khalil (Hebron), but he was unable to finish it following his military defeats in the east and subsequent dethronement. It was instead finished by his son Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz and eventually brought to Tunis by Ibn Marzuq. Abu al-Hasan's son and immediate successor, Abu Inan, for his part, is known to have copied a collection of hadiths with letters written in a mix of blue and brown ink, with gold flourishes.[61]

Aside from Qur'an manuscripts, many other religious and legal texts were copied by calligraphers of this time, especially works related to the Maliki school such as the Muwatta' by Malik ibn Anas. They range from volumes written in plain Maghrebi script to richly-illuminated manuscripts produced by the Marinid royal libraries. Preserved in various historic Moroccan libraries today, these manuscripts also show that, in addition to the capital of Fes, important workshops for production were also located in Salé and Marrakesh.[60]


The minbars (pulpits) of the Marinid era were also following in the same tradition as earlier Almoravid and Almohad wooden minbars. The minbar of the Great Mosque of Taza dates to the mosque's expansion by Abu Yaqub Yusuf in the 1290s, much like the mosque's chandelier. Like other minbars, it takes the shape of a mobile staircase with an archway at the bottom of the stairs and a canopy at the top and it is composed of many pieces of wood assembled together. In spite of later restorations which modified its character, it still preserves much of its original Marinid woodwork. Its two flanks are covered with an example of the elaborate geometric decoration found in the artisan tradition dating back to the 12th-century Almoravid minbar of the Kutubiyya Mosque (in Marrakesh). This geometric motif is based on eight-pointed stars from which interlacing bands spread outward and repeat the motif across the whole surface. Contrary to the famous Almoravid minbar in Marrakesh, however, the empty spaces between the bands are not occupied by a mix of pieces with carved floral reliefs but are rather occupied entirely by pieces of marquetry mosaic decoration inlaid with ivory and precious woods.[55][62][63][54]

The original minbar of the Bou Inania Madrasa, which is housed today at the Dar Batha museum, dates from 1350-1355 when the madrasa was being built.[43] It is notable as one of the best Marinid examples of its kind.[64][43] The Bou Inania minbar, made of wood – including ebony and other expensive woods – is decorated via a mix of marquetry and inlaid carved decoration.[64][43] The main decorative pattern along its major surfaces on either side is centered around eight-pointed stars, from which bands decorated with ivory inlay then interweave and repeat the same pattern across the rest of the surface. The spaces between these bands form other geometric shapes which are filled with wood panels of intricately carved arabesques. This motif is similar to that found on the Kutubiyya minbar, and even more so to that of the slightly later Almohad minbar of the Kasbah Mosque in Marrakesh (commissioned between 1189 and 1195).[64] The arch above the first step of the minbar contains an inscription, now partly disappeared, which refers to Abu Inan and his titles.[43]


Minaret of the Marinid-era Ben Salah Mosque in Marrakesh

The Marinid dynasty was important in further refining the artistic legacy established under their Almoravid and Almohad predecessors. Particularly in Fes, their capital, they built monuments with increasingly intricate and extensive decoration, particularly in wood and stucco.[41] They were also the first to deploy extensive use of zellij (mosaic tilework in complex geometric patterns), which became standard in Moroccan architecture afterwards.[65] Their architectural style was very closely related to that found in the Emirate of Granada, in Spain, under the contemporary Nasrid dynasty.[41] The decoration of the famous Alhambra is thus reminiscent of what was built in Fes at the same time. When Granada was conquered in 1492 by Catholic Spain and the last Muslim realm of al-Andalus came to an end, many of the remaining Spanish Muslims (and Jews) fled to Morocco and North Africa, further increasing the Andalusian cultural influence in these regions in subsequent generations.[48]

The ruins of the Mosque of Mansourah near Tlemcen

Notably, the Marinids were the first to build madrasas in the region.[41] The madrasas of Fes, such as the Bou Inania, al-Attarine, and Sahrij madrasas, as well as the Marinid madrasa of Salé and the other Bou Inania in Meknes, are considered among the greatest architectural works in western Islamic architecture of this period.[66][48][41] While mosque architecture largely followed the Almohad model, one noted change was the progressive increase in the size of the sahn or courtyard, which was previously a minor element of the floor plan but which eventually, in the subsequent Saadian period, became as large as the main prayer hall and sometimes larger.[67] Notable examples of Marinid mosque architecture are the Grand Mosque of Fes el-Jdid (founded in 1276, one of the earliest Marinid mosques), the expansion of the Great Mosque of Taza in 1294, the Mosque of al-Mansourah near Tlemcen (1303), and the Mosque of Sidi Abu Madyan (1338-39).[68] The Ben Salah Mosque in Marrakesh also dates from the Marinid period, one of the few monuments from this period in the city.

The main gate of Chellah, near Rabat, which became a Marinid necropolis

Of the Marinid royal palaces in Fes el-Jdid little has survived, with the current Royal Palace of Fes dating mainly from the later Alaouite period. Likewise, the former Marinid Royal Gardens to the north have disappeared and the Marinid Tombs on the hills overlooking Fes el-Bali are largely ruined.[69] Excavations in Aghmat, in southern Morocco, have uncovered the remains of a smaller Marinid palace or mansion which has profound resemblances, in terms of its layout, to surviving Nasrid-era palaces in Granada and al-Andalus, demonstrating yet again the shared architectural traditions between the two kingdoms.[70] Further clues about domestic architecture of the period are provided by a few Marinid-era private houses that have been preserved in Fes. They are centered around inner courtyards surrounded by two-story galleries and feature architectural forms and decoration that are highly reminiscent of those found in Marinid madrasa, showing a certain consistency in the decorative techniques across building types.[41]: 313–314 [71] Some Marinid monumental gates, such as the gate of the Chellah necropolis near Rabat and the Bab el-Mrissa in Salé, are still standing today and demonstrate resemblances with earlier Almohad models.[41]

List of Marinid rulers[edit]

The following is the sequence of Marinid rulers from the founding of the dynasty to its end.[72][6]

1215–1269 : leaders of the Marinids, engaged in a struggle against the Almohads, based in Taza from 1216 to 1244

After 1244 : Marinid Emirs based in Fez

1269–1465 : Marinid Sultans of Fez and Morocco

See also[edit]


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Royal house
Banu Marin
Preceded by Ruling house of Morocco
Succeeded by