Zirid dynasty

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Zirid dynasty
The lands ruled by the Zirid dynasty (green), max. extent c. 1000.[1][2]
Capital Kairouan (before 1057)
Mahdia (after 1057)[3][4]
Languages Berber, Arabic, African Romance, Hebrew
Religion Islam (Sunni, Ibadi)
Christianity (Catholicism)
Government Monarchy (Emirate)
 •  973–984 Buluggin ibn Ziri
 •  1121–1148 Abu'l-Hasan al-Hasan ibn Ali
 •  Established 973
 •  Disestablished 1148
Currency Dinar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Fatimid Caliphate
Hammadid dynasty
Kingdom of Sicily

The Zirid dynasty (Arabic: زيريون‎‎ Zīryūn) was a Sanhaja Berber dynasty, which ruled Ifriqiya in the Maghreb from 973 to 1148.[5]

Initially governing on behalf of the Fatimid Caliphate, the Zirids became independent in 1048. An invasion by the Banu Hilal tribes in the second half of the 11th century weakened their control, and Sicilian Normans finally took over their rule in 1148.[4][5]

The Hammadids of the central Maghreb and the Zawids of Granada constituted offshoots of this dynasty.[6]


The Zirids were Sanhaja Berbers originating from the area of modern Algeria. In the 10th century this tribe served as vassals of the Fatimid Caliphate, defeating the Kharijite rebellion of Abu Yazid (943-947), under Ziri ibn Manad (935-971). Ziri was installed as the governor of central Maghreb and founded the gubernatorial residence of Ashir south-east of Algiers, with Fatimid support.

When the Fatimids moved their base to Egypt in 972, Ziri's son Buluggin ibn Ziri (971-984) was appointed viceroy of Ifriqiya. The removal of the fleet to Egypt made the retention of Kalbid Sicily impossible, while Algeria broke away under the governorship of Hammad ibn Buluggin, Buluggin's son.

The Zirid realm (dark green) after the secession of the Hammadids (1018) and before the influx of Banu Hilal tribes (1052)

The relationship with the Fatimid overlords varied - in 1016 thousands of Shiites lost their lives in rebellions in Ifriqiya, and the Fatimids encouraged the defection of Tripolitania from the Zirids, but nevertheless the relationship remained close. In 1049 the Zirids broke away completely by adopting Sunni Islam and recognizing the Abbasids of Baghdad as rightful Caliphs, a move which was popular with the urban Arabs of Kairouan.[4][7]

The Zirid period of Tunisia is considered a high point in its history, with agriculture, industry, trade and learning, both religious and secular, all flourishing.[8] Management of the area by later Zirid rulers was neglectful as the agricultural economy declined, prompting an increase in banditry among the rural population.[8]

When the Zirids renounced Shia Islam and recognized the Abbasid Caliphate, the Fatimids sent the Arab tribes of Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym to Ifriqiya. The Zirids were defeated, and the land laid waste by the Bedouin. The resulting anarchy devastated the previously flourishing agriculture, and the coastal towns assumed a new importance as conduits for maritime trade and bases for piracy against Christian shipping.[4]

After the loss of Kairouan (1057) the rule of the Zirids was limited to a coastal strip with Mahdia as the capital, while several Bedouin Emirates formed inland. Between 1146 and 1148 the Normans of Sicily conquered all the coastal towns, and in 1152 the last Zirids in Algeria were superseded by the Almohads.

Zirid rulers[edit]

Offshoots of the Zirid dynasty[edit]

Zirids of Granada[edit]

Map of the Taifa of Granada in the first half of the 11th century

The Zirids are also known as a dynasty of the Taifa of Granada, a Berber kingdom centered in Al-Andalus. The founder was the brother of Bologhine, Zawi ibn Ziri, a general of the Caliphate of Córdoba army under the orders of Caliph Hisham II.

After his death of Hisham II in Medinaceli on 12 August 1002 (25 Ramadan 392), a civil war spreads in Al-Andalus. Zawi ibn Ziri takes part as General of one of the Armies and destroys several cities, as Medina Azahara in 1011 and Córdoba in 1013. He founds of Taifa of Granada, and he declares himself as first Emir. He died poisoned in Algiers in 1019.

History tells that art and civil construction made under the rule of Zirids governors and emirs in Al-Andalus, mainly in the Taifa of Granada, were very important. An example is the Cadima Alcazaba in Albayzin, Granada and part of the old wall surrounding Granada.

Hammadid dynasty[edit]

Main article: Hammadid dynasty

Succession timeline[edit]

Royal house
Zirid dynasty
Direct Fatimid rule over Ifriqiya Governors of Ifriqiya
on behalf of the Fatimids

972 – 1048
Independence from the Fatimid Caliphate
Ifriqiya under the Fatimid Caliphate Emirs of Ifriqiya
Badicid branch

1048 – 1148
Norman conquest
Secession from the Zirid Governorate of Ifriqiya Emirs of Western Ifriqiya
Hammadid branch

1014 – 1152
Almohad conquest
New title Emirs of Granada[6]
Zawid branch

1013 – 1090
Almoravid conquest
Preceded by
Hammudid dynasty
Emirs of Malaga[6]
Zawid branch

1058 – 1090

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Qantara". Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Euratlas. "Euratlas Periodis Web - Map of Ifriqiya in Year 1000". Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  3. ^ "The Zīrids, forced to abandon al-Qayrawān, retreated to Mahdīyah" The Zirid dynasty, on Britannica.com
  4. ^ a b c d Idris H. Roger, L'invasion hilālienne et ses conséquences, in : Cahiers de civilisation médiévale (43), Jul.-Sep. 1968, pp.353-369. [1]
  5. ^ a b "Qantara - The Zirids and the Hammadids (972-1152)". Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c "Zirid Dynasty - Muslim dynasty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Berry, LaVerle. "Fatamids". Libya: A Country Study. Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Brill, E.J. "Fatamids". Libya: Encyclopedia of Islam. Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 March 2011.