Yusuf ibn Tashfin
THE MARCH OF CONQUEST OF YUSUF B. TAFSIN:
BIRTH OF THE LAMTUNA-BANU TURJUT EMPIRE
I. Yusuf ibn Tashfin, Lieutenant of Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar
When Yusuf ibn Tashfin assumed power and became the lieutenant of the Amir of the Murabitun, Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar, he was 40 or 50. There is no reliable source for his date of birth.
The kunya of Yusuf ibn Tashfin ibn Ibrahim ibn Turghut was Abu Ya’qub. He had a brownish complexion and medium height. He was thin, had a straggly beard, soft voice, black eyes, aquiline nose, hair which came down to the top of the ears, eyebrows which joined together, frizzy hair – according to the description of Ibn al-Athir, Ibn Khallikan and Ibn Abi Zar’. He was a man who was austere and even-handed, and one who disdained the pleasures of this world. He dressed exclusively in wool and nothing else. He ate barley, meat and camel milk, and kept strictly to this diet until he died. He dressed in black nomad clothes and never abandoned the clothes, food and way of life of the Saharans. Nonetheless he adapted himself to the life and mentality of a country which was basically foreign to him, at least in its material conditions, which allowed him to become its ruler and to implement his religious and political ideas in it.
When the amir, Abu Bakr, left for the Sahara in Rabi’ II 463 AH (Jan/Feb. 1071), Yusuf was ordered to continue building Marrakech and he made his camp under the walls of Qasr al-Hajar. The tribes supported him and backed up his lieutenancy and he attached them to himself through gifts. He wrote to Abu Bakr to inform him about all he had done.
Abu Bakr had divorced his wife Zaynab bint Ishaq al-Nafzawiyya when he left for the desert and advised Ibn Tashfin to marry her. In the same year 463, in Sha’ban (May 1071) after the legal waiting period (‘idda) was over, Yusuf married her. According to the dating of the chronicles, he was 63 at the time. They had a number of sons and daughters. We know of at least nine sons and four girls: Abu Bakr, Abu Tahir al-Mu’izz, Tamîm, ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Yahya, Ibrahim, Muhammad, al-Fadl, Fannû, Tamîma, Kût, Ruqayya. Zaynab bore al-Mu’izz bi’llah in 464 h (1072), al-Fadl in 469 h. Abu Bakr died in 478 (1086) and ‘Ali was born around 477 h.
Up to that point, all the ties of the Murabitun had been in the Sahara. It was there that they found their reserves and their basic support. When Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar transferred leadership to Yusuf ibn Tashfin, they directed all their efforts towards the Maghrib.
II. Strengthening of the authority of Yusuf ibn Tashfin
a) The structure and strengthening of Yusuf ibn Tashfin’s military power
Zaynab was a wealthy and influential woman and gave her backing to Yusuf ibn Tashfin. She had predicted that he would dominate Maghrib, and Yusuf took the necessary steps to reinforce his power. The Bayan tells us that she him all her fortune for him to use to equip soldiers and to organise his troops.
According to the testimony of Ibn al-Qattan in Nazm al-Juman, which is quoted by Ibn ‘Idhari, in 464 AH (29 Sept. 1071 – 16 Sept. 1072) Yusuf left the Gharb [the West] and went to Watat, in the direction of the Mouluya and in the region of the Jarawa tribe. He made all the tribes he met submit to him. Having returned to Marrakech, he decided to provide himself with the financial means to achieve his ends by setting up in the new city the mint (Dar as-Sikka) where he minted round dirhams which weighed one dirham, and another coin weighing 1 1/4 dirhams, at the rate of 20 dirhams for one ounce (uqiya) which was called the jawhari dirham, and was well-known by 706 AH, the date in which Ibn ‘Idhari wrote his Bayan. He also minted dinars in the name of Amir Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar.
In Rabi’ II 464 (Dec/Jan 1071-1072) Yusuf sent an army under the command of Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Lamtuni against some Zanata tribes and others who had rebelled in the south of Sijilmassa. He defeated them, killed the rebels and returned to Marrakech.
After this expedition, Yusuf no longer put himself at the head of his troops – up until the time of the events in Andalusia. He ordered his generals to conquer the Maghrib and devoted himself to his capital and the organisation of the new state which was so different from the rudimentary tribal structure where he had lived.
Having his finances well in hand. Yusuf then established the diwans, or administrative offices, to manage the country. He reorganised his troops and restructured them around his clan.
When his power and fame grew and spread to the point where the country completely obeyed him, he decided to take a new step in giving himself an army which was not only larger than the number which had followed Abu Bakr to the desert, but was also capable of resisting any possible confrontation between the two parties.
He purchased 2000 black slaves, and also brought from Andalusia 250 non-Arabs whom he equipped with horses and made his personal guard (hashâm) at his own expense, following the tradition of the Umayyad khalifs of Cordoba. This Hasham remained in the direct service of the Amir, and played an important role during his reign.
Yusuf was now acting as Amir and not as a lieutenant. He became more rigorous in the etiquette and course of his receptions. Having need of a lot of money to achieve his objectives, he had recourse to an arbitrary imposition on the Jews who were living under his authority which brought him about 103,000 ‘ashari dinars.
To round it all off, in this same year 464 h, Zaynab gave birth to his first-born,who was named al-Mu’izz bi’llah (according to the Bayan).
b) The return of Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar and his meeting with Yusuf ibn Tashfin
All his reforms and preparations did not go unnoticed by Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar, who was informed about the rise of Yusuf in the country where he had made him lieutenant. Yusuf ibn Tashfin felt he had cause for concern when he received a message that his cousin, Amir Abu Bakr, was on his way back to the Maghrib. The announcement of the return of Abu Bakr plunged Yusuf ibn Tashfin into great sorrow. Zaynab noticed it and said, “I see that you are preoccupied and saddened by the arrival of your cousin.”
He admitted to her that Abu Bakr and delegated him and entrusted him with power, and if he were not for that fact that he was his cousin, he would probably execute him. She advised him on what course to follow, saying, “Your cousin is much too pious to spill blood. When you meet him, leave out all marks of deference and humility which he expects from you. Pretend to be full of pride and to have a taste for autocracy as if you wished to be his rival. Nevertheless, flatter him by giving him rich gifts, robes of honour and other precious gifts of the Maghrib. Offer him a lot of these, because he lives in the Sahara and thinks of all that is brought to him from here are rare and curious items.” (Bayan, 57-58)
When the Amir approached and sent the vanguard of his army to him, Yusuf did not go out to receive them. Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar arrived in Aghmat the 5 Rabi’ 465 AH (19 Nov 1072) and camped near it. Most of his companions had gone ahead to Marrakech to see the buildings and to greet Yusuf since they had heard talk of the grandeur of his kingdom and his generosity towards his co-tribalists and his relatives, He made splendid gifts to all of these, according to their rank.
Abu Bakr, having grasped the independence of Yusuf, his love of power and the fact that all Maghrib obeyed him, thought about handing over command to him. On his side, Yusuf had seen the good nature and piety which animated the Amir. Abu Bakr wrote to Yusuf to announce his arrival and to fix a date with him to meet.
Yusuf left Marrakech with his troops of slaves, and arrived midway between Marrakech and Aghmat. He greeted the Amir without descending from his mount, which was not his habit, and then dismounted alone and at the invitation of Abu Bakr. They sat face to face under a burnoose which had been set up against the sun.
Abu Bakr remarked on the number of soldiers and the equipment of his troops. He talked with him and said, ÒYusuf, you are my cousin and my brother, and I do not know of anyone more worthy than you to govern the Maghrib. I cannot be absent from the desert and have come only to greet you and to hand over the power to you, and to speak with you before returning to the desert, the home of my brothers and the seat of our power.Ó (Bayan 58-59)
A document of the transfer of power was drawn up in the presence of two witnesses (‘udul) and the important men of the various tribes. Then Abu Bakr returned to Aghmat and Yusuf to Marrakech and sent a number of gifts to Abu Bakr.
Abu Bakr returned to the Sahara where he remained fighting the neighbouring tribes of Lamtuna until his death in 480 AH (8 March 1088). Zaynab’s advice had the hoped for result: Abu Bakr, a pious, sincere man, attached to his desert life, went to devote himself to jihad against the African tribes, while Yusuf became responsible for the confederation of the Murabitun.
[The results of this jihad were the end of the Juddala revolt, the re-opening of the salt route towards Aulil, the eviction of the Zanata Ibadites from the commercial routes of Sijilmassa – Audaghust – Ghana – and finally the conquest of Ghana and access to the gold mines of the region. Abu Bakr is reported to died from a poisoned arrow while fighting.]
III. The Conquering advance of Yusuf b. Tashfin to the Maghrib
a). Expedition in the region of Salé and against the Zanata of the Gharb: the conquest of Meknes
His position assured, Yusuf sent out an army under the command of his cousin, Mazdali ibn Banlunka, which left Marrakech on the 2 Safar 466 (7 Oct 1073) and made for the region of Salé where its tribes submitted without fight or siege. Mazdali gave them the amân [assurance of protection] and returned to Marrakech on 25 Rabi’ II (28 Dec) of the same year.
Then Yusuf ibn Tashfin sent out another army commanded by Yati (Bati) ibn Isma’il towards the Gharb. Reaching the river Baht, he sent a courier to the Amir of Meknes, al-Khayr ibn Khazar az-Zanati, offering him pardon if he surrendered without fighting. The Amir consulted with his people who proposed that he fight until he had expelled the Murabitun from the land. Al-Khayr did not accept their suggestion and opted for negotiation. He sent Munghafad ibn ‘Abdu’l-’Aziz to Yati, and he was well received. He indicated that the Zanata Amir would accept the entry of the Murabitun into the city under certain conditions which Yati accepted. Therefore the Murabitun general entered into the city which had been evacuated by al-Khayr and the Zanata, who re-grouped in a place called al-Qanatir (the bridges). The new governor of the city was al-Afdal al-Lamtuni.
Yati ibn Isma’il and his army returned to Marrakech with al-Khayr whom Yusuf received with great honour and he gave him permission to remain in the region of Meknes until his death.
In view of the growing power of Yusuf ibn Tashfin, in the same year, 466 AH, the chiefs of the tribes of the confederation of the Murabitun wanted to give him the title of Amir al-Mu’minin, stating that he was the khalif of the Maghrib. However, he refused to take the title which properly belonged to the khalifs of Baghdad. Faced with a general insistance, he had to take a distinctive title and chose that of Amir al-Muslimin.
b) The conquest of Fes
After having gained Meknes without a fight and deciding to follow up his conquests, Yusuf gave command of the army to another of his relatives, the Amir Yahya ibn Wasinu, and told him to lay siege to Fes. He arrived before the city at the end of Rajab 467 (March 1075).
The Murabitun attacked the city for seven days before taking it on the eighth. There was a great loss of life among the inhabitants whose houses were sacked. The two amirs, al-Futuh and Dawnâs, the sons of al-Hamâma, the governors of the two parts of the city, had closed themselves up in their respective fortresses. They were forced to surrender to obtain the Amân. Yahya ibn Wasinu wrote to Yusuf to inform him of the conquest and the surrender of the two Amirs. He ordered him to let them go where they wanted. Al-Futuh chose to live at Magila.
Yusuf devoted particular attention to the city of Fes. He ordered the destruction of the wall which separated the Qayrawanis from the Andalusians, thus making a single city which was surrounded by a rampart. He ordered the construction of mosques in the various quarters, as well as baths, funduqs and mills.
Fes occupied a crucial and important point and provided an excellent base for future campaigns towards the north and east of the Maghrib. When the region had surrendered, he began to subdue the populations in the area of the Strait and the entire Mouluya valley.
c) The capture of Tlemcen
Following his adavance into the Maghrib, in 468 AH Yusuf ibn Tashfin organised another powerful army under the command of his cousin Mazdali and sent it against Tlemcen, where the Amir was al-’Abbas ibn Yahya az-Zanati. The Amir al-Muslimin wrote to this Zanata governor, offering him pardon if he surrendered without fighting. The army left Marrakech at the beginning of Muharram 468 AH (16 August 1075) and arrived before Tlemcen at the end of Safar (mid-Oct). Mazdali sent a messenger to convey the letter of Yusuf to the Amir al-’Abbas. When he read it, he emerged from Tlemcen and surrendered.
Mazdali entered the city peacefully and without fighting. He named his son Yahya as governor of the city and returned to Marrakech, accompanied by al-’Abbas. The army returned home in the middle of Rabi’ II (27 Nov). Yusuf received the Amir with respect and permitted him to return to his own country.
d) Ibrahim b. Abi Bakr ibn ‘Umar attempts to reclaim power
When Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar had conceded power to his cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin and had returned to fight the pagans, his son Ibrahim, who was Amir of Sijilmassa, did not approve of his father’s decision. After getting together an army, he decided to go and demand back his rights from Yusuf.
According to the Bayan, in 469 AH, Ibrahim ibn Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar arrived in the region of Aghmat, accompanied by a large number of Lamtuna. Learning of that, Yusuf sent Mazdali to him, and Ibrahim told him that he had come to reclaim the kingdom which his uncle had taken. Mazdali, with great eloquence, let him know that he was exposing himself to a great danger by undertaking such a claim and suggested to him that if he remained reasonable in his claims, he could receive great gifts from Yusuf and return to his home.
Ibrahim accepted as his father had done, and left the business in the capable hands of Mazdali who asked him to stay put until he returned. On his return from Aghmat, Mazdali informed Yusuf of his interview, and he was satisfied with the method he had used in the negotiation. Yusuf sent Ibrahim silver, horses and robes of honour via Mazdali. Satisfied with that, Ibrahim thanked him and returned to the Sahara and never again returned to Maghrib al-Aqsa. This took place whole Yusuf was concentrating his efforts on the Rif to achieve a final submission of the Banu Ya’la and to seek that of central Maghrib.
e) The Mouluya campaign: Taza, Ajarsif, Melilla, Nakur
It is likely that it was in order to secure the possession of Tlemcen that Yusuf decided to seek the submission of central Maghrib. His armies penetrated into the Rif and occupied various groupings in the Mouluya valley.
Passing through the Taza corridor in this year 469 AH, as Ibn ‘Idhari tells us, Yusuf’s soldiers were resisted by those of the Amir of Taza who was supported by his ally, al-Qasim ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Abi’l-’Afiya. The encounter took place in the Mouluya valley at Agharsif and was a defeat for the Lamtuna. However, it is probable that Yusuf managed to carry Agharsif in a second expedition.
Following the lower course of the Muluya as far as Za’, where the populations of the region submitted, he took a north-east direction and penetrated into the Rif and his army all of the region between the Mouluya and Wadi Ghis, which was peopled by the tribes of Zuwaja, Matmata, Marnis and others. He took the city of Melilla and razed that of Nakur, which had fiercely resisted him. Backtracking, he returned to Agharsif and from there to Sa, a town located at the crossing of the roads from Ujda to Sijilmassa and to Fes. He subdued and occupied all the territory of the Banu-Iznasan to the east of the Muluya and deployed his forces across the plain of Angad, the entrance to Ujda.
Tlemcen and Ujda were the key points of entry into eastern Maghrib, especially Tlemcen, which was the head of a bridge established between the kingdom of the Banu Hammad of Qal’a [in Tunis] and the Maghrib of the Murabitun. Capital of the Zanata empire of central Maghrib, meeting point of the tribes of area and merchants of all regions, it was a strategic location of the first order. The establishment in this area of a garrison with offensive and defensive aims which could also serve as a reserve force, was certainly something which Yusuf had in mind following the territorial expansion of his empire.
The same year 469 AH, Zaynab bore Yusuf his second son whom he named al-Fadl.
f) The fight against the Ghumara, the Zanata and the Tangier region: the capture of Dimna
After the loss of Fes, the Zanata who had been expelled from the city had regrouped at Dimna at the top of the plain of the Maghrib, near the territory of the Jumara tribe and next to Tangier. Yusuf sent an army against them which attacked the city in 471 AH. The Zanata, defeated, wanted to surrender, but as these events took place near the territory of the Suqüt al-Barghawati, he also thought of surrendering and going to the Amir of the Murabitun, but the anti-Murabitun party led by his son refused to entertain any dealings whatsoever. Seeing his peace offer rejected, Yusuf ibn Tashfin occupied Dimna, taking possession of many forts in the land of the Jumara. This expedition aimed at reducing various rebel cores of the rebel Jumara and achieving the surrender of the Maghrawa. Then Yusuf undertook the conquest between Fes and Taza of the mountains of Ghayata, Banu Makud and Banu Rahina, established parties south of wadi Innawan, who put up a tenancious resistance.
Then Yusuf sent all his forces against Tangier. The entire region was under the authority of Suqut ibn Muhammad al-Barghawati whose name was invoked in many mosques. Accordingly, he combined all his forces to defend his prerogatives and his land, swearing to go as far as possible towards the Murabitun so that the sound of their drums would not be heard in the territory of Tangier.
The Murabitun troops found themselves near the city of Tangier and Suqut came out to meet them after having left the government of the city in the hands of his son, Diya’ al-Dawla. But the Murabitun fell upon his troops like a raging torrent. The battle was fierce and lasted for two days during which Suqut managed to resist, protected by his cavalry. But he fell eventually on 28 Rabi’ I 471 AH (8 Oct 1078), the day of a total eclipse.
On the same day Tangier was attacked and the son of Suqut who had remained in the city while his father went out to fight, fled to Ceuta. Al-Mu’izz Diya’ al-Dawla ibn Suqut remained in Ceuta for five years, surrounded by poets, abandoning himself to luxury and the pleasures of the Taifa kings. He took the greatest care to reinforce his naval squadron and his coastal defences which allowed him to block the efforts of Murabitun during this period.
g) Reorganisation of the governance of the conquered provinces
In view of the continual advance of the Murabitun, Yusuf ibn Tashfin realised the necessity of organising a system of governance by which each of the regions of his new empire would remain attached to him by one means or another.
Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar had installed as governors over the important towns he had conquered, personalities who were mostly close members of the clan of the Banu Turghut, and military chiefs who were very attached to his person and his tribe. Yusuf ibn Tashfin faithfully followed this political administration begun by his predecessor, although on certain occasions, in order to maintain the union of the Murabitun federation, he would give command to members of other tribes who had obtained his confidence through their actions and loyalty.
Following the conquest of Fes in 467 AH, (1074-1075) he began to effectively put together a Makhzan. The multitude of tribes and parties conquered, and especially the disappearance of the Zanata-Maghrawa power, made it necessary to reorganise command and allowed him to impose a political system and authority which was able to incorporate these tribes into a great political and territorial unity which had been gradually coming into being. Around 470 AH (1077-1078), he sent new messengers to the Sahara, to the chiefs of Lamtuna, Massufa, Juddala and others to let them know that he had conquered the Maghrib and to encourage them to come and take part in his administration. At the same time, he summoned the princes of the Maghrib as well as the Shaykhs of the tribes of Zanata, Ghumara and Masmuda and other Berber tribes who had surrendered. He asked them to offer him the pledge of allegiance publically in recognition of his authority. He gave them robes of honour and gifts, and then questioned them about the situation of the tribes and parties in the new state.
It was necessary not to hold the submitted populations by force, but to win them over by a good policy, which was centred on the suppression of illegal taxes, and on an administration without abuses.
Yusuf made a new division of Maghrib al-Aqsa, appointing in each region or important city a governor with jurisdiction over the diverse tribes. These governors, assisted by the qadis, undertook civil and military functions. They were almost always, given the character of the conquest, military leaders or members of the Banu Turghut. He divided Maghrib al-Aqsa into four great provinces, two in the northern half and two in the southern half.
h) Expansion towards eastern Maghrib: Oran, Tenes, Algiers
After taking Tlemcen, Yusuf decided to concentrate his troops in the area and to give command to Muhammad ibn Tinaghmar al-Massufi, who was governor of the city. In the spot where the troops had camped at the time when Tlemcen had been taken, to the north of the city, he decided to build the fortress of Tagrart which was destined to be the point of the concentration of the troops who launched themselves into the conquest of Ténès, Oran and Algiers. Yusuf launched his troops around 475 AH (1082-1083), and without difficulties, and perhaps without fighting, they occupied the city of Oran, Ténès, and the massif of Wansharis (Ouasrenis), and then the entire region of Wadi Chélif as far as Algiers which was mainly peopled by the tribes of Zuwagha, Matmata and other Zanata tribes.
Algiers was to be the easternmost limit of Murabitun expansion.
i) The siege and capture of Ceuta
While Yusuf ibn Tashfin considered Algiers as his furthest conquest in eastern Maghrib, Ceuta was the only place in 476 AH which remained to be taken in the north of Maghrib al-Aqsa. The son of Suqut al-Barghawati, Diya’ al-Dawla had taken refuge there with his partisans. Well fortified, Ceuta could only be provisioned by sea because it was surrounded by an army of Murabitun. Yusuf was aware that he could only take this place by a sea and land blockage, but he had no navy.
Now it happened by a happy coincidence that in Seville al-Mu’tamid ibn ‘Abbad was building a huge ship, which resembled a great fort and could resist the batterings the sea. He was going to send it to Tangier for commercial purposes. When Yusuf learned of it, he wrote to al-Mu’tamid to ask him earnestly for its use against Ceuta and its port fortifications while he attacked the city with a strong squadron.
Al-Mu’izz Diya’ al-Dawla ibn Suqut sallied out on Thursday, Safar 476 AH (1083) with his squadron. The Murabitun navy appeared to have the advantage up until the moment of the seizure of a large ship full of soldiers. Seeing that, the attacking army which was blocking Ceuta on the ground, was seized by a great fear, to such an extent that they thought of retreating. Some of them even took down some tents.
The Amir al-Muslimin became furious and ordered that the enormous ship of al-Mu’tamid with other available ships should advance on Friday night, 4 or 11 Safar.
Seeing himself lost, al-Mu’izz ibn Suqut made an attempt to flee by sea with some of his companions, but he did not have the time to embark and had to hide in a house which was known as Dar Tanwir to which the Murabitun lay siege. There were violent fights at the site. The situation became critical and his companions abandoned him. Seeing that, he entrusted his jewels and his treasure, part of which was the seal of Yahya ibn ‘Ali ibn Hamud al-Fatimi, to one of his loyal people who was taken prisoner and could not save them. At the beginning of that Friday, al-Mu’izz ibn Suqut was taken and questioned about his wealth. Not willing to disclose anything, he was put to death immediately.
IV. Intervention in Andalus
a) The reasons for the jihad in Andalus
Shortly before the intervention of the Yusuf b. Tashfin, the situation of the Taifa kings could not have been more desperate.
The policy of Alphonso VI shortly before Toledo fell into his hands was, according to ‘Abdullah, the Zirid king of Granada, to play off the Muslim princes against one another and to continually exact tribute from them to deter his intervention. Once they had reached this extremity, they had no other possibility than to submit. This is what the cause of the dispersion of Toledo’s inhabitants and the flight of its ruler, al-Qadir. It was occupied without hardship thanks to its impoverishment.
The Taifa kings adapted themselves to circumstances, letting the days pass and saying according to the correct avowal of ‘Abdullah, “Allah will save us and give the Muslims victory.” No one could have foreseen how this help would arrive. During this time, the power of the Murabitun was consolidated in the Maghrib and moved northwards.
A delay in the payment of the annual tribute by the amir of Seville, al-Mu’tamid, provoked the violent anger of Alphonso who flew into a passion and went so far as to demand the delivery of a certain number of strong castles on top of the money itself, blaming his tributary with the most untrue accusations. He also made many outrageous demands. Overcome with indignation, al-Mu’tamid killed the ambassador.
Al-Mu’tamid was conscious of the gravity of his situation and foresaw its consequences, and so he wrote to Yusuf ibn Tashfin, asking for his help and urging him to advance in jihad. The scholars and other important Andalusians did the same.
After having conquered a goodly part of the east of the Maghrib, Yusuf received the urgent appeal of al-Mu’tamid, and replied. “If Allah lets me take Ceuta, I will join you and gather my strength to attack the enemy with all my soul.”
In the spring of 1083, Alphonso VI, who had sworn to take the war right to Seville and to lay siege to al-Mu’tamid in his own palace, invaded Muslim territory with two armies according to Rawd al-Mi’tar. Both armies pillaged Muslim territory and wreaked ruin and devastation and then they joined together at the stipulated place, on the bank of the Guadalquiver opposite the palace of l-Mu’tamid b. ‘Abbad. Alphonso remained three days outside Seville, ravaging its vicinity. He did the same in the region of Medina Sidonia until he reached Tarifa. Guiding his horse towards the sea, he said, “This is the border of Andalus.”
No one could resist the great expedition of Alphonso VI, but al-Mu’tamid, who had taken a firm decision to have Yusuf intervene and who had already got a formal promise from him, sent his squadron to complete by sea the siege which Yusuf had undertaken by land at Ceuta. The key to the Strait was taken by storm on Rabi’ II or Safar, 476/1083.
b) The first crossing: the occupation of Algeciras
The occupation of Algeciras
In preparing to make the crossing, Yusuf sent the qadi ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Ibn al-Ahsan to Seville, for the final preparations. Al-Mu’tamid kept them for a time while Yusuf was impatiently awaiting them. Finally he let them leave with a delegation of Sevillans who were to say, “Remain at Ceuta for thirty days until I evacuate Algerciras for you.”
They insisted that he confirm his agreement in writing, but his advisors warned Yusuf against that and said, “Al-Mu’tamid is only making that demand so that he can warn Alphonso VI of your arrival.”
The Sevillan ambassadors returned to Ceuta, convinced that they could count on thirty days to effect the evacuation of Algerciras. But Yusuf prepared a vanguard detachment of 500 soldiers whom he sent after the departure of the ambassadors. The ambassadors had hardly arrived at nightfall before the Murabitun soldiers crossed the Strait and disembarked near the arsenal. They set up their camp without anyone knowing when they had arrived.
At daybreak, another group came to augment the first and the disembarkations continued until the entire army was reunited at Algerciras under the command of Dawud ibn ‘A’isha. The city was surrounded and Dawud summoned the governor, al-Radi, the son of al-Mu’tamid to say to him, “You promised us Algerciras and we have not come to take cities nor to act to the detriment of any ruler. We have only come for jihad. So we ask you to evacuate it in the day, or do what you like.”
The Amir al-Muslimin wrote to al-Mu’tamid to inform him of what he had done and said, “We will spare you provisioning the galleys and sending victuals for our troops as you promised.”
Al-Mu’tamid ordered his son to evacuate Algerciras and Dawud occupied the city. Yusuf then crossed the Strait and entered the city to inspect it and then returned to Ceuta until his final passage. Meanwhile, he ordered Dawud to move towards Seville where he was to concentrate the allied forces.
When Yusuf embarked for the first time, on a Thursday in Rabi’ I 479 (3 July 1086), he raised his hands and called on Allah, saying, “O Allah! If you know that my passage will be beneficial for the Muslims, then make it easy for me. If it is the opposite, then make it difficult for me so that I do not cross over.”
Yusuf had a good crossing and when he arrived in Algerciras, the inhabitants opened their doors to him and came out to meet him with provisions and presents.
Al-Mu’tamid prepared a number of splendid gifts for Yusuf and ordered the peasants of the region to take food and gifts to the troops. But Yusuf suspected a certain lack of sincerity in these demonstrations, and repaired the walls of Algerciras and its decaying towers. He had a trench dug around the city, filled with provisions and weapons, and established a chosen garrison from his best soldiers.
When Yusuf had fortified Algerciras, he was ready to set out for Seville, Al-Mu’tamid sent his son to meet him and came out himself, encircled by the notable men of his court and an escort of a hundred horsemen. He arrived in Yusuf’s camp who came with his escort. The two rulers came towards one another apart from their followers. They had a meeting head to head, shaking hands and embracing with affection.
After having prayed for divine favour, al-Mu’tamid distributed splendid gifts to the troops and reviewed the Murabitun army. Then they parted and Yusuf returned to his camp.
Christians and Muslims in front of Badajoz
When Yusuf left Seville, he was only accompanied by king ‘Abdullah of Granada. He stopped near Badajoz, at Jerez de los Caballoros. Al-Mu’tamid had remained behind to sort out some problems, but he soon set out and followed behind Yusuf at the head of an army composed of the best March fighters and lords of Andalusia. He put his son ‘Abdullah in charge of his vanguard.
Ibn Sumadih of Almeria did not respond to Yusuf’s call and preferred to wait and see the course of events and the result of the meeting with Alphonso. He pleaded his age and weakness and sent his son to make his excuses. Finally, the king of Badajoz, al-Mutawakkil, came out to meet the leaders of the expedition and made every effort to welcome them the best he could, bringing them food and gifts of hospitality.
The Muslims camped in the area of Badajoz without crossing the Guadiana River and the Christians were in the plain of Zallaqa. Al-Mu’tamid busied himself with guarding the camp, so well, it is said, that a Saharan could not go out without meeting ibn ‘Abbad making a tour of the camp in person.
Following his custom, Yusuf wrote to Alphonso, to invite him to convert to Islam, or to accept the jizya, or to fight. When Alphonso received this letter, he was filled with rage and fury and said, “How can me send me such a letter when my father and I have imposed tribute on the people of his religion for the past 80 years!”
He swore that he would not leave the place where he had camped and said, “Let Yusuf advance towards me, because it will not please me to meet him near a city which could protect him, since it would delay me from seizing him, killing him and assuaging my hatred of him!”
The Battle of Zallaqa
Their camps were three miles apart. The two armies made an agreement on the day the fight would start, but al-Mu’tamid warned that it was a trick of Alphoso to surprise the Muslims and asked Yusuf to remain on the alert throughout Friday. The troops spent the night on a war footing. It reports in Rawd al-Mi’tar, that during the night, the faqih and ascetic Abu’l-’Abbas Ahmad ibn Rumayla of Cordoba, who was in the camp of al-Mu’tamid, got up in joy, saying that he had seen the Prophet who had announced to him victory and his martyrdom on the following morning. He made ready for it, praying and perfuming his hair. When al-Mu’tamid was informed, he let Yusuf know.
On 12 Rajab 479 (23 Oct 1086) Alphonso advanced heavily armed and confidently, unused to much resistance from the Taifa kings. Al-Mu’tamid sent his secretary, Abu Bakr ibn al-Qasira, to inform the Amir that Alphonso was attacking. Yusuf ordered one of his generals to go with a detachment to burn the Christian camp while Alphonso was busy with Al-Mu’tamid ibn ‘Abbad. The fight was furious. Alphonso and his soldiers tried to surround al-Mu’tamid who was hemmed in on all sides.
Yusuf had established his defensive line following his usual strategy and was able to count on the fighting spirit of the Murabitun who had greater numbers than the Christians. Once the troops of Ibn ‘Abbad had taken the first shock and they began to weaken and fall back, Yusuf then undertook his classic enveloping movement and attacked the camp of Alphonso. In the course of the fight, al-Mu’tamid received a blow to the head which reached the top of his temple, a wound to the right hand, a lance blow to the head, and three horses were killed under him.
The Murabitun sent a first column, perhaps under the command of Dawud ibn ‘A’isha, which attacked the camp of Alphonso in a turning movement while Yusuf charged the Christians at the same time. This allowed the troops of Ibn ‘Abbad to reform. Then Ibn ‘Abbad returned to Yusuf. The Christian king was forced to retreat and routed, receiving a lance wound in the knee which later made him lame. At sunset, Alphonso decided to decamp.
Before returning to his own country, the Amir al-Muslimin gathered together the Taifa kings and ordered them to work together and to make a common cause against their enemy, having shown that the only reason the Christians had been victorious had been the divisions between the Muslims. He told them that their infighting had caused their own ruin and weakness. Moved by the recent and unhoped for victory, they all promised to forget their differences and to unite in the face of their comon enemy. But this was not to be.
For two years, the situation remained calm on both sides of the Strait, Yusuf building his administrative system and consolidating his conquests. On his return from Zallaqa, he learned of the death of Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar in Sha’ban, 480 AH.
Yusuf left Marrakech in Rabi’ II 480 AH to make an inspection of Maghrib and to learn of the conduct of his various governors and military leaders in the country.
c) The second crossing: the new appeal of Andalus
The new appeal of Andalus
Meanwhile Christian Spain was preparing a grand coalition to resume the fight against the Muslims. Al-Mu’tamid crossed the Strait and met Yusuf and asked him to intercede on behalf of Andalusian Islam against the fort of Alédo which was harassing the Muslims in the west. Other western Muslim leaders also requested his help after al-Mu’tamid had tried and failed to take Alédo. Yusuf began to prepare an expedition. Al-Mu’tamid invited the other Taifa kings to take part in the campaign to make preparations.
In Rabi’ I 481AH (May-June 1088), Yusuf embarked for the second time to Algerciras, preceded by Sîr ibn Abi Bakr and sent messages to the Taifa kings to warn them of his arrival. Al-Mu’tamid met him with provisions for his troops. They began their march towards Alédo. They passed by Malaga and Tamim ibn Buluggin ibn Badis, who joined them with his small army. At the frontier of the kingdom of Granada, ‘Abdullah met Yusuf and gave him welcome gifts befitting his rank, and then went to rejoin him with his troops. Al-Mu’tasim ibn Sumadih of Almeria also provided troops. Ibn Rashiq of Murcia, in spite of his enmity towards Mu’tamid, contributed men and weapons to the expedition.
The siege of Alédo (Lîyît)
Arriving at Alédo, they tried various means of attack without any result and decided to lay siege to it. Meanwhile the hostilities between the Taifa kings were manifesting themselves. Ibn Rashiq was trying to gain the favour of the Murabitun to the detriment of al-Mu’tamid, trying to win their sympathy with gifts. Meanwhile, al-Mu’tamid continued to accuse him to usurpation and favouring the Christians in some of their incursions.
The accusations of the master of Seville against Ibn Rashiq were soon verified. The fuqaha’ met to examine the rights of al-Mu’tamid on Murcia and recognised them against Ibn Rashiq, Yusuf ibn Tashfin decided to integrate Murcia into Seville. He ordered Sîr ibn Abi Bakr to arrest Ibn Rashiq who was loaded down with chains. Then the inhabitants of Murcia refused to provision the besiegers, and the siege was doomed to failure.
Disillusioned by the lack of cohesion between the Taifa kings, Yusuf decided to decamp, retire and cross the Strait.
The consequences of Alédo
The second expedition of Yusuf b. Tashfin in Andalus was a failure, but at least it served to awaken the Amir al-Muslimin to the disunion and the rancour raging in the Andalusian courts, even when faced with a common danger of rising Christian power.
Alphonso then forced ‘Abdullah of Granada to resume paying tribute and sign a treaty and eventually to declare himself against both Yusuf and al-Mu’tamid.
d) The third crossing: the capture of Granda and Malaga
After Zallaqa, the dual between Yusuf and Alphonso had begun. The Amir was aware that there could be no advance if the Muslims of Andalusia did not make a common cause, but that seemed hopeless. However, the fuqaha’ of Andalusia did not share the political orientation of their rulers and most of them sympathised with the Amir of the Murabitun. Yusuf was assured of the support of the Maliki party, led by men who could not accept this submission to a Christian ruler. Such a situation could not last.
The capture of Granada and Malaga
Yusuf embarked for the third time at Algeciras in 483 (1090/1091). This time he had not been summoned by any of the Muslim princes. He arrived in Algeciras with a precise plan: to put an end to the Andalusian lords who had abandoned their proper governance, lost their spirit of solidarity and courage to resist the reconquest, and had abandoned themselves to pleasure and a dissolute life, along with their crushing administration of taxes and illegal impositions.
From Algeciras Yusuf and his men made towards Cordoba where they arrived in July 1091. Before he left for to Andalusia, Yusuf had obtained fatwas from the Moroccan fuqahaÕ which declared ‘Abdullah and his brother Tamim unworthy of ruling since they had allied themselves with the Christians and had played a double game against the defenders of Islam. The faqihs of Granada, Abu Ja’far Ahmad al-Qulay’i and Abu Bakr ibn Musakkan were among those most eager to justify this intervention.
By this fatwa, Yusuf was therefore authorised to demand of the Andalusian lords that they carry out their precepts and abolish those taxes which were not prescribed by the QurÕan and the Sunna. This would particularly affect the economies of those kingdoms which relied on all sorts of taxes and impositions to maintain their courts and pay off Alphonso.
Yusuf sent emissaries to demand the submission of ‘Abdullah. ‘Abdullah asked for the help of Alphonso and other Taifa kings. He got lots of verbal encouragement, but no troops or other material help. Fearing the reprisals of Yusuf, the other lords left him to Yusuf’s forces. ‘Abdullah realised he was lost.
8 Sept 1090, Yusuf arrived before Granada. ‘Abdullah came out and humbled himself, admitting his mistakes and asking for his pardon. When he arrived before Yusuf, ‘Abdullah dismounted and said he had been unfortunate to displease him and asked for his pardon. Yusuf reassured him that if he had any grievances against him, he had forgotten them and asked him to go to a tent where he would receive honours that suited him. When he was in the tent, he was loaded down with chains. Then Yusuf received the important people of the city and welcomed them and told them that they should have no fear of him. He received their homage and published an edict which abolished all taxes not prescribed by the QurÕan. Then he entered the city.
‘Abdullah and his family were exiled to Maghrib al-Aqsa and installed in Aghmat. He was well treated and received a pension for his needs.
A short time later, in October, Yusuf deposed Tamim ibn Buluggin from Malaga, and, like his brother ‘Abdullah, he was sent to Maghrib al-Aqsa and confined to Baziaf.
Before returning to the Maghrib, Yusuf received the visits of al-Mu’tamid and al-Mutawakkil in Granada who came to congratulate him. Yusuf received them coldly, having been persuaded of their double game and the falseness of their words. The two princes left having received from Yusuf the command to abolish all illegal taxes and to employ themselves in fighting against the Christians.
Returning to the Maghrib, he left Sîr ibn Abi Bakr, his cousin, in charge of the affairs of Andalusia.
The lieutenancy of Sîr ibn Abi Bakr in Andalus
Yusuf still had religious doubts which kept him from taking decisive action against the other kings of Andalusia, and so required furhter fatwas condemning their conduct. The faqihs [of Andalusia} declared that the Andalusian princes were libertines and impious and that they had corrupted the people by their bad example and made them indifferent to their religious duties. Furthermore, they had levied illegal taxes and, although Yusuf had commanded their abolition, they had maintained them. They had also concluded an alliance with Alphonso VI and so they were unworthy of ruling the Muslims any longer.
To finish, they said, ÒWe take it on ourselves to answer for this action before Allah. If we are in error, we agree to pure the penalty of our conduct in the Next world. We declare that you, Amir al-Muslimin, are not responsible. But we firmly believe that if you leave the Andalusian princes in peace, they will deliver our country to the unbelievers and if that is the case, then you will have to render an account to Allah of your lack of action.Ó
This fatwa was dear to Yusuf, but he still was not completely satisfied until the faqihs of Africa had approved of it and he also sent to the famous scholars of Egypt and Asia and they had confirmed the opinion of the scholars of the Maghrib. Thus al-Ghazzali and al-Turtusi approved this fatwa and acknowledged that Yusuf had the right, as defender of Muslim law, to depose the Taifa kings.
Al-Mu’tamid was unable to respond to the demands of economy and character which Yusuf had imposed on him and declared himself in rebellion against the Murabitun and asked for the assistance of Alphonso.
Therefore Sîr ibn Abi Bakr had the mission of reducing the kingdom of Seville. He divided his forces into several groups, one of which, under the command of Abu Zakariyya ibn Wasinu, lay siege to Almeria, governed by Ibn Sumadih and others made for the various fortresses of al-Mu’tamid.
Tarifa was taken in December 1090. One group under the command of Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn al-Hajj was sent to besiege Cordoba, where ‘Abbad al-Fath al-MaÕmum, the son of al-Mu’tamid, was in charge
A fourth group was sent under the command of Jarrur al-Hashimi to reduce Ronda, governed by the eldest son of al-Mu’tamid, AbuÕl-Hasan ‘Ubaydullah ar-Radi.
Having moved against Seville, Sîr suggested to Ibn ‘Abbad that he recognise the sovereignty of Yusuf and abdicate, but he refused. His situation was critical and his only hope was the assistance of Alphonso.
During the first months of 1091, the fortresses and palaces of the kingdom of Seville fell one after another without resistance. The siege of Cordoba did not last because its inhabitants handed it over to the Murabitun. Fath tried to cut his way out with his sword, but fell. The city fell to Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn al-Hajj on 27 March 1091 (3 Safar 484 AH).
The loss of Cordoba and the death of his son al-Fath had a profound effect on the prince of Seville and removed his hopes of saving his kingdom. The troops of Sir ibn Abi Bakr advanced in entire Guadalquivir valley, conquering cities and fortresses: Baeza, Ubeda, Albalate, Almodovar, as-Sukhayrat and Segura, and by the end of Safar 484 AH (April 1091), all that remained were Seville, Carmona, Ronda and Mertola.
Carmona fell on 9 May 1091, taken by assault by Sir ibn Abi Bakr, Al-Mu’tamidÕs position further deteriorated as the help sent by Alphonso ran into troops commanded by Ibrahim ibn Ishaq al-Lamtuni who had been sent out by Sîr. He fell into a profound depression and told his son al-Rashid to take charge of the defence of the city.
But sedition hatched in the city and certain inhabitants were in contact with the besiegers and helping them to make a breach. On 2 Sept. some Murabitun penetrated the city, but Al-Mu’tamid repelled them and had the breach repaired. But the danger increased. The Sevillan fleet was burned, annihilating any possibility of flight and an air of panic took over in the city. On 7 or 9 Sept, Sir ordered the assault and the Murabitun entered the city which was plundered. Al-Mu’tamid was taken prisoner as well as the rest of his family. He was deported to Maghrib al-Aqsa by the order of Yusuf ibn Tashfin and given a residence in Aghmat where he remained until his death in 488/1095.
Capture of Alméria and Badajoz
The entire valley of the Guadalquiver was under the Murabitun, In November an army under Muhammad ibn ‘A’isha (a son of Yusuf ibn Tashfin) occupied Murcia and Alédo. Almeria was abandoned to them by al-Mu’tasim.
Only al-Mutawakki, ruler of Badajoz, l maintained his kingdom for a while in the south of the peninsula until he also reversed alliances and asked for the protection of Alphonso, and was defeated by Sir. By the end of 1094, all of Andalusia, with the exception of Valencia, was under the Murabitun.
Jihad against Valencia
While the Cid Campeador, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivas [the mainstay of the ruler, al-Qadir] was absent in October 1092, the Valencians had met in the house of the qadi Ibn Jahhaf and agreed to appeal to Muhammad ibn ‘A’isha to come and occupy Valencia. He sent them a troop under the command of Ibn Nasr. Al-Qadir secured himself and sent an urgent message of the Cid.
When Ibn Nasr arrived, the qadi Ibn Jahhaf led the people in admitting the Murabitun into the city. The Christians in the city took flight. Al-Qadir left his palace disguised in women’s clothes with his wives and took refuge in a poor house. Ibn Jahhaf had a search made for him. When he was found, he was sentenced to death. 24 Ramadan 485 (29 Oct 1092) Ibn Jahhaf was proclaimed governor of Valencia. People welcomed al-Qadir’s death with joy as he was considered to be a traitor to the Muslim cause and had imposed hateful taxes for the benefit of the Christian troops stationed there.
When the Cid and his troops returned, Ibn Jahhaf expelled the contingent of Ibn Nasr and agreed to pay tribute to the Cid. The Cid agreed to recognise him as ruler if he would not give the city to the Murabitun. However, under impetus of the Banu Wajib, the people sent messages to Yusuf ibn Tashfin while putting off the Cid.
Eventually the Murabitun army arrived under Abu Bakr ibn Ibrahim ibn Tashfin. They withdrew, however, despite the orders of Yusuf b. Tashfin, without fighting, leaving the Valencians to their fate. The Cid resumed to the siege of Valencia where the people divided into the followers of the Banu Wajib, who were determined to defend Islam and wait for the Murabitun, and the defeatist followers of Ibn Jahhaf. Ibn Jahhad made a secret agreement with the Cid and surprised the Banu Wajid and handed them over to the Cid. Negotiations were not concluded, and the siege lasted for nineteen months. Ibn Jahhaf obtained from the Cid a treaty which was not observed for very long.
Yusuf ibn Tashfin came finally to Ceuta to organise the mobilisation of his troops before crossing the Strait. He gave command of the new expedition to his nephew, Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad. The delay had been due to the fact that he was away in Maghrib al-Aqsa and did not have a standing army. He had to mobilise the troops, convey them across the Strait and reinforce the garrisons of Andalusia before marching to Valencia which had fallen to the Cid.
The Battle of Cuart de Poblet
The African contingents landed at the end of Sha’ban 487 (13 Sept 1094) and were joined by Andalusian reinforcement from Granada and elsewhere, camping at Cuart de Poblet, a few kilometres from Valencia. Valencia was now well-provisioned. Seeing the great army, the Valencian Murabitun partisans thought deliverance was at hand. However, Abu ‘Abdullah was rather too confident of victory and had not noticed that there was a certain slackness in the troops and did not take steps to rectify it. The Cid asked Alphonso for help. When this bit of news was known in the Muslim camp, the spirit of the besiegers began to break to the point where there were many desertions. The Cid decided to exploit the lack of spirit without waiting for help.
He made a sortie at night at the head of a group of his cavalry and his another party near the Muslim camp. In the morning he advanced, following a plan, and the Muslim soldiers, thinking themselves secure, had relaxed their watch. When the alarm went up in the camp, there was tumult and shouting. Soldiers mounted and attacked the Cid who pretended to retreat before them towards Valencia. Then the hidden soldiers came out and moved towards the Muslim camp. Amir Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad could not sustain the shock and there was a shocking rout.
The Murabitun army dispersed before the troops of the Cid who had a great victory and a lot of booty. This reinforced the Cid in Valencia and delayed the Murabitun expansion.
The defeat at Valencia made an unfavourable impression on Yusuf ibn Tashfin. His nephew, Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad, had shown himself inexperienced in the command of his troops and had lacked skill and energy. The Murabitun army made for Dénia and then Jativa and its leaders hastened to write to the Amir al-Muslimin in an attempt to justify themselves. It was difficult to convince Yusuf ibn Tashfin that the disaster had only been due to the will of Allah.
Hearing the facts, he accepted the explanations and ordered Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad to remain in Jativa.
The rout of Bairen
The Cid had Ibn Jahhaf burned alive in the city centre. This aroused the partisans of the Murabitun against the Cid. Meanwhile Yusuf ibn Tashfin had noted the failure of Abu ‘Abdullah to take an active role against the Cid and relieved him of command and sent him back to the Maghrib. He appointed Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali al-Hajj. He was not successful against the Cid either.
The Murabitun army under the command of ÔAli al-Hajj went to camp in the valley of Marina (today Walldigna) at Gebalcobra, between Jativa and the sea and seriously threatened the castle of Péna Cadiella. Faced with such a threat, the Cid, accompanied by reinforcements sent by King Pedro of Aragon, marched to the aid of this fortress. He reinforced the garrison, stored up food and war machines, and then returned towards Valencia via the coast.
On the way, he set up his camp on the hill of Bairen. In the gorges located between the Sierra and the sea, the army of ÔAli b. al-Hajj fought with him at the foot of the Mondubés. After a moment of surprise, the Christians reacted and plunged all the forces at their disposal into the battle, routing the Muslims and forcing them to retreat in a general rout.
Yusuf b. Tashfin would not remain indifferent to this state of things, so he decided to again devote himself personally to the Jihad in Andalus.
e) The fourth crossing: the jihad against Alphonso VI and the Cid
The Maghrib was completely quiet, so Yusuf thought he could go personally to Andalusia to organise the jihad against the Christian lands, especially the kingdom of Castille. In the middle of 1097, he crossed the Strait for the fourth time and made for Cordoba where he prepared the expedition to send against the Toledo region, with the object of distracting the attention of Valencia and concentrating the Christian forces towards the centre.
An armed corps, composed of Africans and Andalusians under the command of Muhammad ibn al-Hajj, moved towards the capital of Tage. Alphonso was warned of the danger while moving towards Saragossa and turned back with a forced march to Toledo, asking for reinforcements from the Cid, who sent troops under his son Diego.
The Murabitun had hardly invaded the land of Alphonso when they met him 15 August 1097, in front of Consuegra. The two armies met in a battle where the Murabitun were able to display their superior tactics. The vanguard of Alphonso’s army was thrown into disarray, entailing the rout of the rest of the army and the death of the son of the Cid. Some Christians took refuge with Alphonso in Consuegra to which the Murabitun lay siege for eight days before abandoning it.
Valencia still pressured the Murabitun. The Cid knew that he could not leave Valencia without risking a revolt.
Yusuf intensified expeditions against the Christians and ordered his son, Muhammad ibn ‘A’isha, governor of Murcia, to advance in the summer against Cuenca and the fortresses of Zorita and Santaver, which were held by Alvar Fañez, the Cid’s cousin, who was in command of the region. The two armies met near Cuenca, to the disadvantage of Alvar Fañez who was routed and had his camp sacked by the Murabitun who withdrew with important booty.
The Murabitun threatened the defences of Toledo south of the Tage, but were unable to occupy the fortresses of Consuegra, Cuenca and Huelva. After his victorious campaing against Alvar Fañez, Muhammad ibn ‘A’isha moved towards the east, razing the domains of the Cid. He moved towards Alcira and met the Cid’s army and it caused great losses to it. When the fugitives of Alcira reached Valencia, the Cid was grieved.
Judging that the Murabitun, encouraged by these victories, could do without him, Yusuf ibn Tashfin returned to Maghrib al-Aqsa at the end of 1097. From the Maghrib, Yusuf prepared in 1099 a new offensive against the east of Andalusia. This year without military activity was a prelude to new campaigns.
The capture of Valencia
The Cid’s life ended prematurally on 10 July 1099. In the same year, Yahya ibn Abi Bakr, the nephew of Yusuf ibn Tashfin, crossed the Strait to proceed with the jihad. He joined up with Sîr ibn Abi Bakr and Muhammad ibn al-Hajj before moving towards Toledo. This time they took Consuegra, but could not take Toledo from Alphonso’s hands.
Learning of the disappearance of the Cid, Mazdali set up a new army and crossed the Strait in 494h /1100, and arrived before the walls of Valencia at the end of August, 1100, governed since the death of the Cid by his wife Chimena. Mazdali began the siege of the city and Chimena asked for Alphonso’s help.
The siege lasted seven months. Alphonso arrived with a large army and Mazdali moved his troops to Cullera. Alphonso stayed in Valencia for a month and the Christian inhabitants tried to convince him to remain in the city. Wanting to explore the terrain and learn Mazdali’s positions and the resistance he could offer. Alphonso therefore went out with his army towards Cullera. Mazdali barred the way with a cavalry detachment. The two parties had a bitter fight which lasted the entire day. At sunset, Alphonso returned to Valencia with the firm intention of abandoning it. The Christians abandoned the city, taking their good furniture, and setting fire to the Great Mosque, the palace and a number of houses. Mazdali entered Valencia in Rajab (21 April-2 May 1102).
We do not know how long Mazdali remained in Valencia. Two months after taking the city on 18 July 1102, Yusuf ibn Tashfin named Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Fatima, surnamed Balanyulân, as the city’s first governor. In the same year, thanks of his extraordinary diplomatic gifts which had taken Tlemcen without fighting in 1075, Mazdali was required to be governor of that city to solve the conflict which existed between the preceding governor, Tashfin ibn Tinaghmar and the master of the Qala’ [in Tunis].
Thus the Murabitun had total control of Valencia and dominated the east.
Having repaired the damage caused by the Castillans, ‘Abdullah ibn Fatima decided to annex the kingdom of Saragossa which was governed by the Banu Hud and to put an end to their dynasty. Without asking for instructions from Yusuf ibn Tashfin, he left a lieutenant in Valencia and moved towards Saragossa with a corps of cavalry of 1500, determined to dethrone al-Musta’in and to incorporate his domains into the Murabitun empire.
To celebrate the great triumph of the reconquest of Valencia, Yusuf ibn Tashfin decided to proclaim his son ‘Ali as his heir. The king of Saragossa, al-Musta’in, who up to that point thought himself in danger of being invaded by the Murabitun, took note of the danger which the occupation of Valencia constituted for his independence and took advantage of this occasion to offer his allegiance to the Amir al-Muslimin and his son, and to sign a treaty of friendship with them.
In the summer of 1102, without being aware of the journey which the heir to the throne of Saragossa had made to Marrakech and the negotiations which were in progress, ‘Abdullah ibn Fatima arrived before Saragossa, hoping that the Muslims would open the gates of the city to him and allow him to dethrone the reigning dynasty. But his arrival coincided with the return of the heir ‘Imad ad-Dawla, who hastened on 26 Sept 1102 to show him the friendly letter which Yusuf ibn Tashfin had addressed to his father and the treaty of friendship and peace between the two kingdoms. ‘Abdullah ibn Fatima had to return to Valencia.
The quarrel with the Hammadites of Qala’
While the Murabitun were incorporating Valencia in their possessions in Andalusia, Maghrib al-Aqsa remained calm and prosperous. The only cause for unrest was in Tlemcen. After having conquered it, Yusuf ibn Tashfin had installed Muhammad ibn Tinaghmar as governor. He undertook military activities against the cities and fortresses of the Banu Hammad al-Mansur. The master of Qala’, after marching against him and having devastated the territory of Mahuh, kept Muhammad ibn Tinaghmar so confined that Yusuf ibn Tashfin had to make peace, calm things down and put things in order. Some time later, the Murabitun resumed their hostile moves. Al-Mansur sent an army troop and defeated them. Following one expedition, Muhammad ibn Tinaghmar died and was replaced by his brother, Tashfin ibn Tinaghmar. However, the hostilities against the Banu Hammad increased to the point where, in the last months of 1102, Tashfin entered the territory of Qala’ and took the city of Ashir.
Then al-Mansur reacted violently and led an armed force towards Tlemcen. En route, he met Tashfin ibn Tinaghmar and inflicted a grave defeat on him. Al-Mansur’s army entered Tlemcen and pillaged it. Then Hawwa’, the wife of Tashfin, came out before the Hammadi ruler and begged for his mercy, referring to the kinship between the Sanhaja of Maghrib al-Aqsa and those of middle Maghrib. Deeply touched by this step, al-Mansur ordered the atrocities of his troops to stop and he retired.
f) The final crossing of Yusuf b. Tashfin: proclamation of ÔAli as heir apparent
After sorting out the differences in the region of Tlemcen, Yusuf decided to proclaim his son ‘Ali heir apparent in 495/1102, and to organise the first pledge of allegiance at which the main governors and military leaders of the Murabitun gathered. To complete the pledge of allegiance made by Maghrib al-Aqsa to his son ‘Ali, Yusuf decided to add those of the Andalusians possessions, and to do so, once more crossed the Strait. He was accompanied by his two sons, Abu’t-Tahir Tamim and Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali.
They went first to Granada where the governor ‘Ali ibn al-Hajj came out to meet them with the generals of Andalusia to recognise the heir apparent. Arriving in Cordoba, there was a solemn proclamation of ‘Ali as heir and the pledge of allegiance of the princes and governors in front of the notable men of the city and the representatives of the recently annexed countries. Also at this ceremony was the son of al-Musta’in of Saragossa, ‘Abdu’l-Malik, who preserved magnificent gifts which included 14 rub’ of enbossed silver on which figured the name of al-Muqtadir ibn Yusuf, his grandfather. Yusuf ibn Tashfin did not keep these objects. He ordered that they be melted down and turned into qirats which were distributed to the people in the night of the ‘Id al-Adha, 13 Sept 1103. in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Malik.
On the Cordoba road, Yusuf passed by Lucena, a very fortirfied city inhabited only by Jews on whom he imposed a tribute of 10,000 dinars.
He did not stay long in Andalusia. The same year 497 (5 Oct 1103-22 Sept 1104), he decided to return to Maghrib, after having put things in order in Andalus.
He named the governors and then made for Alcegeras, after having ordered the governor of Granada, Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn al-Hajj, to move towards the east. Obeying his orders, he arrived in Valencia in Safar-November 1103 and remained there for six months until Ramadan -June 1104. Learning that Alphonso was besieging Medianaceli, he moved towards him with an enormous number of horsemen and foot soldiers. He camped at Calatayud where he asked Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Fatima for reinforcements which he hastened to provide. They decided to attack enemy territory and to reach Toledo. Pursuing their advance, they approached Talavera, but Amir ‘Ali ibn al-Hajj died suddenly and the expedition stopped.
After the proclamation of ‘Ali, Andalus was definitively part of the Murabitun state. The Taifa kingdoms has been absorbed and only Saragossa remained.
The illness and death of Yusuf b. Tashfin
Yusuf fell ill on his return to Maghrib al-Aqsa. In 498/ 25 Sept 1104- 12 Sept 1105, he was so ill that his entourage were worried and informed the responsible people of the kingdom. Alphonso tried to exploit this, thinking that the Murabitun would not intervene against him, as he thought that they were in a critical situation beause of the Amir’s illness. With an army of 300,000 soldiers he moved towards the region of Seville which he pillaged. Seeing that, Sîr ibn Abi Bakr left Seville and installed himself in a fort with his soldiers to bar the way and wait for reinforcements from Granada. When the Murabitun troops joined up, they attacked Alphonso, who was defeated and lost many men.
In 499 AH, Yusuf’s illness worsened, and his son Tamim who was fighting in the east of Andalus, decided to go to Marrakech where he found ‘Ali receiving his final instructions from his father. The first was not to trouble the people of Daran nor to attack the Masmuda of the Atlas or any orthodox Muslims. The second was to maintain peace with the Banu Hud of Saragossa. The third was to treat the people of Cordoba well.
‘Ali was charged with managing the affairs of Maghrib and Andalus. He dismissed the governor of Granada, Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn al-Hajj and replaced him with Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Lamtuni. He also dismissed a qadi in Seville. The same year he sent a fleet of 70 ships to Palestine, but they were sunk in a storm.
After a few months of suffering, Yusuf ibn Tashfin died in 500/1106, at the moment when the new moon of Muharram appeared, Monday, 2 September 1106.
So Yusuf ibn Tashfin, at the age of 80 or 90, died surrounded by his two sons, Abu Tahir Tamim and Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali, friends of Sanhaja and his Banu Lamtuna relatives. He was buried in the qasr of Marrakech.
Born somewhere in the western Sahara arround 1010 or 1020, Yusuf ibn Tashfin had grown up amid the dunes, palm trees and camels, like a true nomad. During his childhood and youth, he had followed the vicissitudes of his Lamtuna tribe. Raised in the desert, he lived a life with few luxuries or variety of food, and he maintained his nomad spirit throughout his life. He was a virtuous man, according to the chronicles, good, pious, intelligent, clever, generous, inclining to good and justice, fearing Allah. The worst punishment which he imposed was incarceration for a certain time. He had a fondness for men of knowledge and of religion, whom he respected and consulted in the affairs of the country. He restored the jurisdiction of the territories to the qadis and abolished all non-Shari’a laws. He travelled through his lands himself in order to examine the situation of his subjects at first hand. He loved the jurists as well as the people of knowledge and worth. He treated them generously and followed their advice.
Endowed with a clear intellect, he possessed great qualities of organisation. Extremely clever and astute, he knew out to reconcile one faction with another of contradictory views, and to draw to him the warring tribes of Maghrib al-Aqsa, either by force of arms or by the force of his personality. A man of enormous energy and prodigous activity, he was always the initiator of military campaigns and the founder of the great empire which administered the Murabitun.
Following the teachings of ‘Abdullah ibn Yasin and his cousin, Abu Bakr ibn ‘Umar, in the political and religious life of his empire, he gave a preeminent place to the fuqaha’ and the ‘ulama’ of the Maliki school, and their advice and authority always prevailed.
Yusuf ibn Tafshin was an incarnation of the prototype of a Muslim, brave and devout, and of a Sahara Berber who, moved by profound religious belief, launched himself into the jihad, after having reinforced the spirit of the Banu Turghut clan, the cornerstone of his enterprise.