Zirid dynasty

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Zirid dynasty

Zirid territory (green) at its maximum extent around the year 980
Zirid territory (green) at its maximum extent around the year 980
StatusVassals of the Fatimid Caliphate (972–1048)
Independant (1048–1148)
CapitalAchir (before 1014), Kairouan (from 1014 to 1057),
Mahdia (after 1057)[1][2][3][4]
Common languagesBerber (primary), Maghrebi Arabic, African Latin, Hebrew
Islam (Shia Islam, Sunni, Ibadi), Christianity (Roman Catholicism), Judaism
GovernmentMonarchy (Emirate)
• 973–984
Buluggin ibn Ziri
• 1121–1148
Abu'l-Hasan al-Hasan ibn Ali
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Fatimid Caliphate
Hammadid dynasty
Kingdom of Africa
Khurasanid dynasty
Today part of

The Zirid dynasty (Arabic: زيريون‎ /ALA-LC: Zīryūn; Banu Ziri) was a Sanhaja Berber dynasty from modern-day Algeria which ruled the central Maghreb from 972 to 1014 and Ifriqiya (eastern Maghreb) from 972 to 1148.[2][5]

Descendants of Ziri ibn Menad, a military leader of the Cairo-based Fatimid Caliphate and the eponymous founder of the dynasty, the Zirids were Emirs who ruled in the name of the Fatimids. The Zirids gradually established their autonomy in Ifriqiya through military conquest until officially breaking with the Fatimids in the mid-11th century. The rule of the Zirid emirs opened the way to a period in North African history where political power was held by Berber dynasties such as the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Zayyanid dynasty, Marinid Sultanate and Hafsid dynasty.[6]

Continuing their conquests to Fez and much of modern-day Morocco in 980, the Zirids encountered resistance from the local Zenata Berbers, who gave their allegiance to the Caliphate of Cordoba.[4][7][8] Various Zirid branches did however rule the central Maghreb. This branch of the Zirids, at the beginning of the 11th century, following various family disputes, broke away as the Hammadids and took control of the territories of the central Maghreb. The Zirids proper were then designated as Badicides and occupied only Ifriqiyah between 1048 and 1148.[9] Part of the dynasty fled to al-Andalus and later founded, in 1019, the Taifa of Granada on the ruins of the Caliphate of Cordoba.[5] The Zirids of Granada were again defeated by the expansion of the Almoravids, who annexed their kingdom in 1090,[10] while the Badicides and the Hammadids remained independent. Following the recognition of the Sunni Muslim Abbasid Caliphate and the assertion of Ifriqiya and the Central Maghreb as independent kingdoms of Sunni obedience in 1048, the Fatimids reportedly masterminded the migration of the Hilalians to the Maghreb. In the 12th century, the Hilalian invasions combined with the attacks of the Normans of Sicily on the littoral weakened Zirid power. The Almohad caliphate finally conquered the central Maghreb and Ifriqiya in 1152, thus unifying the whole of the Maghreb and ending the Zirid dynasties.[7]


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 capital to Egypt in 972, Ziri's son Buluggin ibn Ziri (971-984) was appointed viceroy of Ifriqiya.[11] 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.[11]

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

The relationship with their 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.[3][12]

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, especially in their capital, Kairouan.[13] Management of the area by later Zirid rulers was neglectful as the agricultural economy declined, prompting an increase in banditry among the rural population.[13]

When the Zirids renounced Shia Islam and recognized the Abbasid Caliphate in 1048, the Fatimids sent the Arab tribes of the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym to Ifriqiya. The Zirids were defeated, and the land laid waste by the Bedouin conquerors. 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, as well as being the last holdout of the Zirids.[3]

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 Almohad Caliphate.


The Zirid period is a time of great economic prosperity. The departure of the Fatimids to Cairo, far from ending this prosperity, saw its amplification under the Zirid and Hammadid rulers. Referring to the government of the Zirid Emir al-Mu'izz, the historian Ibn Khaldun describes: "It [has] never [been] seen by the Berbers of that country a kingdom more vast and more flourishing than his own." The northern regions produced wheat in large quantities, while the region of Sfax was a major hub of olive production and the cultivation of the date is an important part of the local economy in Biskra. Other crops such as sugar cane, saffron, cotton, sorghum, millet and chickpea are grown. The breeding of horses and sheep was flourishing and fishing was active, providing plentiful food. The Mediterranean is also an important part of the economy, even though it was, for a time, abandoned after the departure of the Fatimids when the priority of the Zirid Emirs turned to territorial and internal conflicts. Their maritime policy enabled them to establish trade links, in particular for the importation of timber necessary for their fleet, and enabled them to begin an alliance and very close ties with the Kalbid Emirs of Sicily. They did, however, face blockade attempts by the Venetians and Normans who sought to reduce their wood supply and thus their dominance in the region.[14]

The Arab chronicler Ibn Hawqal visited and described the city of Algiers under the Zirid era: "The city of Algiers, is built on a gulf and surrounded by a wall. It contains a large number of bazaars and a few sources of good water near the sea. It is from these sources that the inhabitants draw the water they drink. In the outbuildings of this town are very extensive countryside and mountains inhabited by several tribes of the Berbers. The chief wealth of the inhabitants consists of herds of cattle and sheep grazing in the mountains. Algiers supplies so much honey that it forms an export object, and the quantity of butter, figs and other commodities is so great that it is exported to Kairouan and elsewhere".[14]



Surat Al-An'am of “The Nurse’s Quran” (مصحف الحاضنة), executed in fine Kufic script and reportedly commissioned by a nursemaid named Fatima serving an unidentified Zirid sultan in the early 11th century.[15]

Abd al-Aziz ibn Shaddad was a Zirid chronicler and prince.[16] He wrote Kitab al-Jam' wa 'l-bayan fi akhbar al-Qayrawan (كتاب الجمع والبيان في أخبار القيروان) about the history of Qayrawan.[16]

Zirid rulers[edit]

The regnal dates of rulers are indicated first according to the Islamic calendar and then with the corresponding Gregorian dates in parentheses.

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 were also the ruling dynasty of the Taifa of Granada, a Berber kingdom in Al-Andalus. The founder was the brother of Buluggin, Zawi ben Ziri, a general of the Caliphate of Córdoba under Caliph Hisham II.

After the death of Almanzor in Medinaceli on 12 August 1002 (25 Ramadan 392), a civil war broke out in Al-Andalus, and General Zawi ibn Ziri destroyed several cities, such as Medina Azahara in 1011 and Córdoba in 1013. He founded the Taifa of Granada, and declared himself its first emir. He died of poison in Algiers in 1019.

The arts and civil construction under the rule of the Zirid 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]

Succession timeline[edit]

Royal house
Zirid dynasty
Direct Fatimid rule over central Maghreb and Ifriqya Emir of Maghreb
vassal of the Fatimids

972 – 1048
Independence from the Fatimid Caliphate
Maghreb under Zirids (972-1048) Emirs of Ifriqiya
(loss of central Maghreb to the benefit of Hammadids)
Badicid branch

1048 – 1148
Norman conquest
Secession from the Zirid Emirate of Ifriqiya Emirs of central Maghreb
Hammadid branch

1014 – 1152
Almohad conquest
New title Emirs of Granada[18]
Zawid branch

1013 – 1090
Almoravid conquest
Preceded by
Hammudid dynasty
Emirs of Malaga[18]
Zawid branch

1058 – 1090

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillip C. Naylor (15 January 2015). North Africa, Revised Edition: A History from Antiquity to the Present. University of Texas Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-292-76190-2.
  2. ^ a b "Zirid Dynasty | Muslim dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Idris H. Roger, L'invasion hilālienne et ses conséquences, in : Cahiers de civilisation médiévale (43), Jul.-Sep. 1968, pp.353-369. [1]
  4. ^ a b Julien, Charles-André (1 January 1994). Histoire de l'Afrique du Nord: des origines à 1830 (in French). Payot. p. 295. ISBN 9782228887892.
  5. ^ a b "Qantara - Les Zirides et les Hammadides (972-1152)". www.qantara-med.org. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  6. ^ Hrbek, Ivan; Africa, Unesco International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of (1 January 1992). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. J. Currey. p. 172. ISBN 9780852550939.
  7. ^ a b Meynier, Gilbert (1 January 2010). L'Algérie, coeur du Maghreb classique: de l'ouverture islamo-arabe au repli (698-1518) (in French). La Découverte. p. 158. ISBN 9782707152312.
  8. ^ Simon, Jacques (1 January 2011). L'Algérie au passé lointain: de Carthage à la régence d'Alger (in French). Harmattan. p. 165. ISBN 9782296139640.
  9. ^ Idris, Hady Roger (1968). "L'invasion hilālienne et ses conséquences". Cahiers de civilisation médiévale. 11 (43): 353–369. doi:10.3406/ccmed.1968.1452.
  10. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1 January 2004). The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 9780748621378.
  11. ^ a b Tibi 2002, p. 514.
  12. ^ Berry, LaVerle. "Fatamids". Libya: A Country Study. Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  13. ^ a b Brill, E.J. (1987). "Fatamids". Libya: Encyclopedia of Islam. Library of Congress. ISBN 9004082654. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  14. ^ a b Sénac, Philippe; Cressier, Patrice (10 October 2012). Histoire du Maghreb médiéval: VIIe-XIe siècle (in French). Armand Colin. p. 150. ISBN 9782200283421.
  15. ^ "Islamic art from museums around the world". Arab News. 18 May 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  16. ^ a b Talbi, M. (24 April 2012). "Ibn S̲h̲addād". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition.
  17. ^ Idris, H.R. (1962). Le berbérie orientale sous les Zīrīdes: Xe-XIIe siècles. Paris: Librarie d'Amérique et d'Orient. pp. 831–833.
  18. ^ a b "Zirid Dynasty - Muslim dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 February 2016.