The Berbers under religious avalanches

Tunisia was originally named Ifriqiya by the Muslims, a name later given to the entire continent of Africa. That massive continent now, as I write this, using has a population of 1,273,897,847 with a landmass of 30.37 million km². 

We can compare China at a population of 1,412,611,539 and a landmass of 9.597 million km². 

The Sahara Desert is about the same size as the whole of China. 

The Sahara, covering the same land area, is home to just two million. That’s a population density of just 1/150th of that of the U.S. The Sahara used to be rich, fertile farmland and was not always this big, or as poorly populated. As recently as 6,000 BC, grains and millet were grown across much of what is now the Sahara. In fact, prehistoric cave drawings have been discovered in parts of the Sahara that actually depict the flora as green and thriving. Parts of the Sahara are still rich and fertile. However, the Sahara generates some of the hottest temperatures on the planet. In fact, the all-time hottest temperature ever recorded was 136 degrees F, in Azizia, Libya, in 1922.

A few thousand years ago, a mighty river flowed through the Sahara across what is today Sudan. The Wadi Howar—now just a dried-out riverbed for most of the year—sustained not just fish, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses, but also agriculture and human settlement. As late as 1,000 B.C., a powerful fortress stood on its shores. See

Image of fortress

But then the Sahara dried out, turning from a green savannah into an inhospitable desert. The culprit: climate change. According to desert geologist Stefan Kröpelin, who has studied geological data for the eastern Sahara going back 6,000 years, the desert spread as temperatures dropped. Global cooling meant that the air had less capacity to hold moisture from the oceans, leading to fewer rains and more arid climes.

Now, that same process is happening in reverse. As temperatures rise, the Sahara and other dry areas are greening on the edges. 

The Sahara (Arabic: ‫الصحراء الكبرى‬‎, al-ṣaḥrāʼ al-kubrá, ‘the Greatest Desert’) is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic.[1] Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi)is comparable to the area of China or the United States. The countries within the Sahara Desert comprise much of North Africa, excluding the fertile region on the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan. It stretches from the Red Sea in the east and the Mediterranean in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, where the landscape gradually changes from desert to coastal plains. To the south, it is bounded by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna around the Niger River valley and the Sudan Region of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Sahara can be divided into several regions including: the western Sahara, the central Ahaggar Mountains, the Tibesti Mountains, the Aïr Mountains, the Ténéré desert, and the Libyan Desert.

The name ‘Sahara’ is derived from ṣaḥārá (‏‫صحارى‬‎, pronounced /ˈsˤaħaːraː/), the plural of the Arabic word for “desert”. 

Africa is divided into countries, as with Europe. There are 54 countries in Africa,(see unlike China which is a sovereign state. China has 34 provincial-level administrative units: 23 provinces, 4 municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing), 5 autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang) and 2 special administrative regions (Hong Kong, Macau).

The people who have been considered indigenous to North Africa are called Amazigh (Berbers). 

Genetic evidence

In general, genetic evidence appears to indicate that most northwest Africans (whether they consider themselves Berber or Arab) are predominantly of Berber origin, and that populations ancestral to the Berbers have been in the area since the Upper Paleolithic era. The genetically predominant ancestors of the Berbers appear to have come from East Africa, the Middle East, or both—but the details of this remain unclear. However, significant proportions of both the Berber and Arabized Berber gene pools derive from more recent human migration of various Italic, Semitic, Germanic, and sub-Saharan African peoples, all of whom have left their genetic footprints in the region.

This blog is focused on their experience since they became under Roman rule, then Islamic rule. Swirling around them were major religious earthquakes which meant their way of life would be impacted forever onward.

Egyptian influence

The Pharoahs ruled from c. 3150 BCE until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BC.

In Egyptian society, religion was central to everyday life. One of the roles of the pharaoh was as an intermediary between the gods and the people. The pharaoh thus deputised for the gods; his role was both as civil and religious administrator. He owned all of the land in Egypt, enacted laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt from invaders as the commander-in-chief of the army. Religiously, the pharaoh officiated over religious ceremonies and chose the sites of new temples. He was responsible for maintaining Maat, or balance and justice, and part of this included going to war when necessary to defend the country or attacking others when it was believed that this would contribute to Maat, such as to obtain resources.

During the early days prior the unity of the lower and upper kingdoms of ancient Egypt, a Deshret, the red crown, was a representation the Kingdom of lower Egypt; while the Hadjet, a white crown, was worn by the kings of the kingdom of upper Egypt. After the unification of both kingdoms into one united Egypt, the Pschent, the combination of both the red and white crowns was the official crown of kings. With time new headdresses were introduced during different dynasties like Khat, Nemes, Atef, Hemhem, and Kepresh. At times, it was depicted that a combination of these headdresses or crowns would be worn together.

As related in the previous blog, Thonis-Heracleion was in existence during the reign of the Pharoahs. From beneath the sea, divers brought to the surface The Decree of Sais, a magnificent black stele that stands two metres high and is carved with perfectly preserved hieroglyphics from the early fourth century BC. It was unearthed on the site of a temple to supreme god of the Egyptians, Amun-Gereb, at Thonis-Heracleion. The stele reveals some of the intricacies of contemporary taxation in Egypt: “His Majesty [Pharaoh Nectanebo I] decreed: Let there be given one-tenth of the gold, of the silver, of the timber, of the processed wood and of all things coming from the sea of the Hau-Nebut [the Mediterranean] … to become divine offerings to my mother Neith,” reads its edict.

The Egyptians seem to be the first to refer to the ‘Berbers’ in 3000 BC, and will have influenced their belief system. 

The traditional Berber religion is the ancient and native set of beliefs and deities adhered to by the Berber autochthones of North Africa. The concept of autochthones (from Ancient Greek αὐτός autos “self,” and χθών khthon “soil”; i.e. “people sprung from earth itself”) means the original inhabitants of a country as opposed to settlers, and those of their descendants who kept themselves free from an admixture of foreign peoples.

In mythology, autochthones are those mortals who have sprung from the soil, rocks and trees. They are rooted and belong to the land eternally.

It is most likely this belief system was a natural and sustaining one which evolved as nomadic humans were trying to place themselves in the environment which they considered was their territory.

Many ancient Berber beliefs were developed locally, whereas others were influenced over time through contact with other traditional African religions (such as the Ancient Egyptian religion), or borrowed during antiquity from the Punic religion, Judaism, Iberian mythology, and the Hellenistic religion. The most recent influence came from Islam and pre-Islamic Arab religion during the medieval period. Some of the ancient Berber beliefs still exist today subtly within the Berber popular culture and tradition. Syncretic influences from the traditional Berber religion can also be found in certain other faiths.

An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, successfully recovered and analyzed ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE, they found ancient Egyptians genetics were most closely linked to the Near East peoples. According to the National Geographic Society, the terms Near East and Middle East denote the same territories and are “generally accepted as comprising the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey”. Over the last 1500 years the modern Egyptian genetics are most closely linked to those living south of the Sahara, which covers a current expanse of 9.2 million km². This demonstrates the flow of peoples toward the north.

A timeline of the swirling events over the centuries is here. I hope you try and imagine what it must have been like for these nomadic Amazigh people to be overwhelmed by Romans, with their version of Christianity, and then Vandals, with their version, followed by the Islamists with their religious ardour.

ca 3000 BC – first Egyptian references to the people who are now called Berber but known as the Amazigh. Due to Phoenecians establishing trading ports around the North African coasts, ca 1100 BC – Their relationship with the Amazigh (Berber) influenced their language and they are credited with preserving the Phoenician language till the time of Saint Augustine in the 5th century & traces of the Phoenician alphabet are evident in the Tamazight (Berber) alphabet called Tifinagh. 

The Phoenecians founded Carthage around ca 800 BC which became a thriving trading centre. 

The first Numidian king was Masinissa, (Masinissa, or Masensen, (Berber: Masensen, ⵎⵙⵏⵙⵏ; c.238 BC – 148 BC, also spelled Massinissa.

Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom located in the region of North Africa in what is now northern Algeria and parts of Tunisia and Libya. The Kingdom existed from the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE. The Kingdom of Numidia was established as a client kingdom by Rome following the Second Punic War. It was annexed by Rome in 46 BCE and, after a brief period of restored independence, again in 25 BCE.

The Berber-Roman general Lusius Quietus, was instrumental in defeating the major wave of Jewish revolts of 115–117. 

One famous Berber was Apuleius (/ˌæpjʊˈliːəs/; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170 AD) who was a Latin-language prose writer, Platonist philosopher and rhetorian. He was a Numidian who lived under the Roman Empire and was from Madauros (now M’Daourouch, Algeria). He studied Platonism in Athens, travelled to Italy, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and was an initiate in several cults or mysteries. The most famous incident in his life was when he was accused of using magic to gain the attentions (and fortune) of a wealthy widow. He declaimed and then distributed a witty tour de force in his own defense before the proconsul and a court of magistrates convened in Sabratha, near ancient Tripoli, Libya. This is known as the Apologia.

When the Romans destroyed Carthage and all evidence of the Phoenecians’ artefacts in c.146 , the Romans established the province Mauritania Tingitana (the origin of the word Moor) in North Africa/Tamazgha — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

The first record of Christians in Africa is a document known as the “Acts of the Martyrs Scillitans” dating from 180 AD, during the Roman empire era. The Acts document is related to the martyrdom of a dozen Christian (known as Scillitan Martyrs) in a Berber village of Africa Proconsularis, in front of the proconsul of Africa (Africa Proconsularis was a Roman province on the north African coast that was established in 146 BC following the defeat of the Phoenecians).

By ca 200 – the Berbers had become Christians under the rule of the Romans 

Pope Constantine secured the Vandals in Pannonia in 330 CE, and they co-existed with their Roman neighbors except in terms of religion. The Vandals were Arian Christians, while the Romans were Trinitarian (or Nicean) Christians.

By ca 350 – North Africa/Tamazgha — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya — had become hotbeds for “heretic” Christian cults in the Christian Roman Empire.

The Berber, St Augustine was born 13 November 354 in Thagaste.

Thagaste, Roman province of Africa (now Souk Ahras, Algeria). Thagaste was originally a small Numidian village in the Roman province of Africa, inhabited by a Berber tribe into which Augustine of Hippo was born. His mother Saint Monica was a Christian and his father Patricius (with Roman roots) was at first a pagan who later adopted Christianity. Aurelius Augustinus (St. Augustine) lived in the Roman Empire from 354 to 430 A.D. In 386 he converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, depending on the context, resembles Iranian and Indian religions, Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism. At its core, Manichaeism was a type of Gnosticism—a dualistic religion that offered salvation through special knowledge (gnosis) of spiritual truth. As a questioning, spiritual young man, Augustine had joined this religious cult from Persia that had planted itself in the Roman world as a rival of Christianity.


He was a teacher of rhetoric and became the Bishop of the city of Hippo. … Augustine’s most profound impact, however, comes from his interpretation of Christianity. Augustine applied philosophical analysis and reasoning to the issues of religion. 

Church scholar and historian Diarmaid MacCulloch writes “his impact on Western Christian thought can hardly be overstated; only his beloved example Paul of Tarsus, has been more influential, and Westerners have generally seen Paul through Augustine’s eyes.”

Image of St Augustine

355: After removing a Roman temple from the site (possibly the Temple of Aphrodite built by Hadrian), Constantine I has the Church of the Holy Sepulcher constructed in Jerusalem. Built around the excavated hill of the Crucifixion, legend has it that Constantine’s mother Helena discovered the True Cross here.

The Vandals, an East Germanic tribe or group of tribes, first appear in history as inhabiting present-day southern Poland, but later moved around Europe, successively establishing kingdoms in Spain and in North Africa in the 5th century. They invaded.

North Africa/Tamazgha — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya in 429. In 430, St Augustine was terminally ill and died (aged 78) as the Vandals, believers of the Arian Christianity invaded Hippo Regius, Roman province of Africa (now modern-day Annaba, Algeria).

It took another 100 years for the Byzantine Empire to drive out the Vandals (in 533) and take control – religious conflicts between Berber Christian “heretics” and Byzantine church began.

The Visigoths (UK: /ˈvɪzɪˌɡɒθs/; US: /ˈvɪzɪˌɡɑːθs/; Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, or Wisi; Italian: Visigoti) were the western branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths. These tribes flourished and spread throughout the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or what is known as the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups (possibly the Thervingi) who had invaded the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. Relations between the Romans and the Visigoths were variable, alternately warring with one another and making treaties when convenient. The Visigoths invaded Italy under Alaric I and sacked Rome in 410. After the Visigoths sacked Rome, they began settling down, first in southern Gaul and eventually in Spain and Portugal, where they founded the Visigothic Kingdom and maintained a presence from the 5th to the 8th centuries AD. The still-sizeable Byzantine Empire survived in the east and remained a major power. 

Muhammad was born approximately 570 CE (Year of the Elephant) in the Arabian city of Mecca. The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born and lived in Mecca for the first 52 years of his life (570–622 A.D.). He was born into the elite Quraysh (Arabic: قريش ) who were a mercantile Arab tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and its Ka’aba. He was of the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. Orphaned early in life, he became known as a prominent merchant, and as an impartial and trustworthy arbiter of disputes.

594: Muhammad became the manager of the business of Lady Khadija, a year later they were married. She was 40 and he was 25.

610: Muhammad had a religious experience on Mount Hira that changed his life. He said the Angel Gabriel had spoken with him, and he told those who could write (Muhammad was illiterate) to note down what he had been told. Notes were taken on anything to hand, bits of papyrus, cloth, even shoulder blades of sheep. These were all kept together and were the precursor for the Qur’ān, the pieces assimilated and the whole edited by Uthman around 40 years after Muhammad related his religious experiences.

613: Persians capture Damascus and Antioch.

614: Persians sack Jerusalem, damaging the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the process.

615: Muhammad invited the Hashemites to adopt Islam. The Hashemites were and are the ruling royal family of Jordan. The House was also the royal family of Syria, Hejaz and Iraq. Decades later, the Hashemites claim descent from Ali ibn Abi Talib (Rashidun caliph in 656-661) and his wife, Fatima, daughter of Muhammed. Their base was in the Hijaz region of Arabia, along the Red Sea coast, which was mostly seized by the Al-Saud family in 1932. During the seventh century, the Hashemites and the Umayyads, separate clans of the same Quraish tribe, vied for control of the Islamic empire, but it was the latter who won that struggle.

615: Persecution of Muslims by the Quaraish in Mecca intensified and a group of Muslims leave for Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia).

621: Abu Jahl became leader of a mounting opposition to Muslims in Mecca and organized a boycott of merchants in Mohammad’s clan, the Hashim.

622: About 75 converts from Medina took the two Pledges of al-Aqaba, professing to Islam and to protect Muhammad from all danger.

622: The Hijra: emigration of Muhammad and his followers to Yathrib (now: Madinat al-Nabi, “the city of the Prophet,” or simply, al-Madina). Foundation of the first Islamic community; social and economic reforms. Starting point of the Islamic calendar.

624: Muhammad broke with his Jewish supporters because they refused to recognize him as a prophet and adopt Isalm. He chose now to emphasize the Arabness of the new religion and has his followers face Mecca when praying instead of Jerusalem. In the end, all the Jews were either banished or executed. March 15, 624: At the Battle of Abdr, Muhammad and his followers defeated an army from Mecca. Muhammad’s chief rival in Mecca, Abu Jahl, was executed.

627: Meccan leader Abu Sufyan (c. 567 – c. 655) laid siege to Muhammad’s forces in Medina during the battle of the Trench. Even with 10,000 men he was unsuccessful for the 15 days he was there. Muhammad suspected the Banu Quraiza Jews of helping the Meccans and had all the men killed.

627: A confederation was created between Muhammad’s followers in Mecca and the eight Arab clains in Medina with the Constitution of Medina.

628: Muhammad led about 1,600 men on a pilgrimage to Mecca where their passage was blocked by citizens of Mecca. Fortunately they agreed to negotiate with Muhammad and then later agreed to the Pact of Hudaibiya, ending hostilities and allowing for Muslim pilgrimages.

629: After a group of Muslims was attacked, Muhammad dissolved the Pact of Hudaibiya and prepared to attack Mecca.

630: An army of 30,000 Muslims marched on Mecca which surrendered with little resistance. Muhammad took control of the city and made it the spiritual center of Islam.

632: Death of Muhammad. His father-in-law, Abu-Bakr, and Umar devised a system to allow Islam to sustain religious and political stability. Accepting the name of caliph (“deputy of the Prophet”), Abu-Bakr begins a military exhibition to enforce the caliph’s authority over Arabian followers of Muhammad. Abu-Bakr then moved northward, defeating Byzantine and Persian forces. Abu-Bakr died two years later and Umar succeeded him as the second caliph, launching a new campaign against the neighboring empires.

632-34: Widespread tribal rebellion on the death of Muhammad. Abu Bakr, the first caliph (khalifa) reimposes the authority of the Islamic government throughout Arabia and sends Arab armies of conquest against Mesopotamia and Syria.

633: Muslims conquer Syria and Iraq.

634: Victory against the Byzantines in Palestine (Ajnadayn).

634-644: Umar (c. 591-644) reigns as the second caliph. The Muslims subjugate Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia. Garrisons established in the conquered lands, and the Muslim rulers begin to take control of financial organisation.

635: Muslims begin the conquest of Persia and Syria.

635: Arab Muslims capture the city of Damascus from the Byzantines.

August 20, 636: Battle of Yarmuk (also: Yarmuq, Hieromyax): Following the Muslim capture of Damascus and Edessa, Byzantine Emperor Heraclius organizes a large army which manages to take back control of those cities. However, Byzantine commander, Baänes is soundly defeated by Muslim forces under Khalid ibn Walid in a battle in the valley of the Yarmuk River outside Damascus. This leaves all of Syria open to Arab domination.

c636: The Arabs under Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas defeat a Sassanian ( The Sasanian Empire, also known as the Sassanian, Sasanid, Sassanid or Neo-Persian Empire, known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr in Middle Persian, was the last period of the Persian Empire) army in the battle of Qadisiyya (near Hira), gaining Iraq west of the Tigris. A second victory follows at Jalula, near Ctesiphon.

637: The Arabs occupy the Persian (now called Iran) capital of Ctesiphon. By 651, the entire Persian realm would come under the rule of Islam and continued its westward expansion. 637: Syria is conquered by Muslim forces. 637: Jerusalem falls to invading Muslim forces.

638: Caliph Umar I enters Jerusalem.

639-42: Conquest of Egypt: 4th September, 639 AD, a commanding force of four thousand (4,000) Muslims captured the ancient city of Egypt that was for so long known as one of the greatest provinces under the Byzantine Empire. The invasion was led by an Arab military general called Amr Ibn-al-As. 641: Islam spreads into Egypt. The Catholic Archbishop invites Muslims to help free Egypt from Roman oppressors. 641/2: Under the leadership of Amr ibn al-As, Muslims conquer the Byzantine city of Alexandria in Egypt. Amr forbids the looting of the city and proclaims freedom of worship for all. According to some accounts, he also has what was left of the Great Library burned the following year. Al-As creates the first Muslim city in Egypt, al-Fustat, and builds there the first mosque in Egypt.

The Arab conquest of Egypt was completed in 642, but they began to raid the Berbers (Amazigh) territory to its west, which they called Bilād al-Maghrib (“Lands of the West”) or simply the Maghreb. Subsequent Arab conquest of the Maghreb and its effects on the Maghrebians established a solid Islamic culture in North Africa. 

Muslims capture the sea port of Caesarea in Palestine, marking end of the Byzantine presence in Syria.

641: Under the leadership of Abd-al-Rahman, Muslims conquer southern areas of Azerbaijan, Daghestan, Georgia, and Armenia.

Split between Uthman followers and Ali followers creating Sunnites and Shiites

644: Muslim leader Umar dies and is succeeded by Caliph Uthman, a member of the Umayyad family that had rejected Muhammad’s prophesies. Rallies arise to support Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, as caliph. Uthman launches invasions to the west into North Africa.

649: Muawiya I, a member of the Umayyad family, leads a raid against Cyprus, sacking the capital Salamis-Constantia after a short siege and pillaging the rest of the island.

652: Sicily is attacked by Muslims coming out of Tunisia (named Ifriqiya by the Muslims, a name later given to the entire continent of Africa).

653: Muawiya I leads a raid against Rhodes, taking the remaining pieces of the Colossus of Rhodes (one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world) and shipping it back to Syria to be sold as scrap metal.

654: Muawiya I conquers Cyprus and stations a large garrison there. The island would remain in Muslim hands until 0966.

655: Battle of the Masts: In one of the few Muslim naval victories in the entire history of Islam, Muslim forces under the command of Uthman bin Affan defeat Byzantine forces under Emperor Constant II. The battle takes place off the coast of Lycia and is an important stage in the decline of Byzantine power.

Uthman was responsible for the final version of the Qur’ān.

656 ……when there were active revolts in both Iraq and Egypt. Armed groups set out from both these areas for Medina to make their demands forcefully. Arriving at the capital, they found the old man [Uthman] effectively defenceless, having been abandoned by all the leading members of the Muslim elite, including, crucially, Alī. He was murdered as he sat alone in his house reading the Qur’ān and his blood dripped on the open pages of the Holy Book. The murder of Uthmān was a major trauma for the early Islamic community and continues to reverberate down to the twenty-first century.

From the book, The Caliphate, by Hugh Kennedy:

In the spring and summer of 657 Alī led his Iraqi forces up the Euphrates valley to invade Syria. At the same time Mu‘āwiya mobilized his Syrian supporters and came to meet them. The two armies faced each other at a place called Siffin, just up the river from Raqqa. They did not immediately engage in an all-out battle. Despite all the issues which divided them, there was a profound reluctance among many to fight their fellow Muslims if it could be avoided. There were a number of bloody skirmishes, notably over access to water in the burning heat of the Syrian summer, and there were contests of poetry as the propagandists on both sides tried to inspire their fellows and denigrate their enemies, but there were also negotiations. In July or August a real battle seemed to be developing, but the Syrian troops attached copies of the Qur’ān to their lances, demanding that there be an arbitration according to the book of God, and Alī felt that he had no option but to accept. An arbitration date was set for the next year and it was agreed that the two arbitrators, one from each side, should meet in the small town of Udhruh, now a ruined archaeological site in southern Jordan. So far so clear. What was much less clear was the question of what exactly was going to be arbitrated. Was it a debate about whether Alī or Mu‘āwiya was going to be caliph, a sort of two-man shūra , or was the issue simply that of the punishment of Uthmān’s killers and the circumstances under which Mu‘āwiya might accept Alī as caliph? By the time the two arbitrators did meet, events had moved on so quickly that any discussions they may have had were rendered irrelevant. 

The Kharijite Alternative 

Many of Alī’s supporters were dismayed by what had happened, seeing their leader as a victim of a Syrian trick or, even worse, as having agreed to put his God-given authority to the judgement of two men. When he returned to Iraq, his uneasy coalition began to break up. Some of the tribal nobles began to enter into negotiations with the Syrian leader. Much more threatening than that, at the other end of the political spectrum, many of his more radical supporters abandoned him and went out to camp in a separate place, announcing that arbitration belonged only to God and implying that the issue should have been decided on the battlefield. These dissenters became known as Kharijites (Ar. khawārij ). They have survived as a sect down to the present day, notably in Oman and parts of southern Algeria. How the name originates is quite unclear. The word khārijī means literally one who goes out, but the often quoted explanation that they went out from Alī’s camp seems feeble. More attractive is the historian Andrew Marsham’s suggestion that it related to the verses in the Qur’ān which urge Muslims to ‘go out’ (on the jihād ) rather than stay at home. 6 Kharijites were associating with the militant activists among the earliest Muslims. They have never constituted more than a small percentage of the Muslim population. but they are important in the history of the caliphate because they developed theories of the office, how the caliph or imam (they used both terms to describe their leaders) should be chosen and what they should do, which were radically different from the concepts of both Sunni and Shi’i. The Kharijites split from the emerging consensus over two main issues. The first was that they believed the caliph should be chosen from all the Muslims as the most pious and meritorious of them. Quraysh descent was absolutely not required and any Muslim, no matter how humble his social origins, could be considered for office. Some said that even a slave could be chosen, and it is alleged that a few even argued that women were eligible, though this point of view never seems to have been widely accepted. They generally agreed that Abū Bakr and Umar were lawful caliphs, but only because they were the best men of their time, not because of any Qurashi descent, and they completely rejected Uthmān and all subsequent claimants. When others had their doubts, the Kharijites were proudly unrepentant of the role some of them played in the murder of Uthmān, seeing it as entirely justified, even necessary, because of his deviation from proper Islamic behaviour. Quite how the choosing of the new leader was going to take place was not really specified: certainly there was no discussion of the practicalities of either election or shūra. It was sort of taken for granted that the most meritorious would emerge and be accepted by the community. If the caliph they chose went astray or proved to be corrupt and tyrannical then he should be corrected, first by being warned that his conduct was unacceptable and, if this failed, by being deposed or killed.

661 Kharijites assassinated Ali.

661-680: Mu’awiya, founder of the Umayyad dynasty, becomes the caliph and moves the capital from Mecca to Damascus. The Umayyad family rules Islam until 750. Ali’s followers form a religious party called Shiites and insist that only descendants of Ali deserve the title of caliph or deserve any authority over Muslims. The opposing party, the Sunnites, insist on the customs of the historical evolution of the caliphate rather than a hereditary descent of spiritual authority.

662: Egypt fell to the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates until 868 A.D. A year prior, the Fertile Crescent and Persia yielded to the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, whose rule lasted until 1258 and 820, respectively.

667: The Arabs occupy Chalcedon, threatening Constantinope. Sicily is attacked by Muslims sailing from Tunisia.

668: First Siege of Constantinople: This attack lasts off and on for seven years, with the Muslim forces generally spending the winters on the island of Cyzicus, a few miles south of Constantinople, and only sailing against the city during the spring and summer months. The Greeks are able to fend off repeated attacks with a weapon desperately feared by the Arabs: Greek Fire. It burned through ships, shields, and flesh and it could not be put out once it started. Muawiyah has to send emissaries to Byzantine Emperor Constans to beg him to let the survivors return home unimpeded, a request that is granted in exchange for a yearly tribute of 3,000 pieces of gold, fifty slaves, and fifty Arab horses.

669: The Muslim conquest reaches to Morocco in North Africa. The region would be open to the rule of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates until 800.

672: Muslims under Mauwiya I capture the island of Rhodes.

672: Beginning of the ‘seven year’ Arab siege of Constantinople.

674: Arab conquest reaches the Indus River.

677: Muslims send a large fleet against Constantinople in an effort to finally break the city, but they are defeated so badly through the Byzantine use of Greek Fire that they are forced to pay an indemnity to the Emperor.

674-700 – Muslim Arabs drive out the Byzantines and conquer North Africa/Tamazgha — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya –. Conversion to Islam begins
Dihya al Kahina was a religious and military leader, a warrior queen, who led a fierce Berber resistance against the Arab-Muslim expansion in Northwest Africa, the Maghreb, the region known as Numidia. 

Dihya succeeded Caecilius as the war leader of the Berber tribes in the 680s and opposed the encroaching Arab Islamic armies of the Umayyad Dynasty. Hasan ibn al-Nu’man marched from Egypt and captured the major Byzantine city of Carthage and other cities (see Muslim conquest of North Africa). Searching for another enemy to defeat, he was told that the most powerful monarch in North Africa was “the Queen of the Berbers” (Arabic: malikat al-barbar) Dihyā, and accordingly marched into Numidia. The armies met near Meskiana[11] in the present-day province of Oum el-Bouaghi, Algeria. She defeated Hasan so soundly that he fled Ifriqiya and holed up in Cyrenaica (Libya) for four or five years. Realizing that the enemy was too powerful and bound to return, she was said to have embarked on a scorched earth campaign, which had little impact on the mountain and desert tribes, but lost her the crucial support of the sedentary oasis-dwellers. Instead of discouraging the Arab armies, her desperate decision hastened defeat.

Kusaila was a seventh-century leader of the Awraba tribe of the Berber people and King of the Sanhadja confederation.

Kusaila or Caecilius was a seventh-century leader of the Awraba tribe of the Berber people and King of the Sanhadja confederation.

Caecilius had suffered much at the hands of the Muslims. He was captured by Uqba, put in chains and paraded throughout North Africa. But in AD 683 he succeeded in escaping and raised against his tormentors a large force of Christian Berber and Byzantine soldiers. Up a was near Biskra. After Uqba’s death, his armies retreated from Kairouan which Caecilius took as his capital and for a while he seems to have been, in name at least, the master of all North Africa. But the respite was to be short-lived. Five years later Caecilius was killed in battle against fresh Arab forces led by a Muslim general from Damascus. That same Muslim general was himself later ambushed and put to death by Byzantine sea-raiders shortly afterwards. For a while confusion reigned, but the Awraba recognized the weakness of their position and eventually capitulated to the newly re-organized and reinforced Arab army. With the death of Caecilius, the torch of resistance passed to a tribe known as the Jerawa, who had their home in the Aurès mountains.

Image of Kusaila (Caecilius)

711-713 – Spain conquered by Moslem Arabs and Berbers. Al-Andalus established in Spain. Berber Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād (Arabic: ‫طارق بن زياد‬‎) was a Muslim commander who led the Islamic Umayyad conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711–718 A.D. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from the North African coast, consolidating his troops at what is today known as the Rock of Gibraltar. The name “Gibraltar” is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “mountain of Ṭāriq”,[1] which is named after him.

Arab and Berber Islamic forces had conquered Spain (711), crossed the Pyrenees (720), seized a major dependency of the Visigoths (721–725), and after intermittent challenges, under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, the Arab Governor of al-Andalus, advanced toward Gaul and on Tours, “the holy town of Gaul”; in October 732, the army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by Al Ghafiqi met Frankish and Burgundian forces under Charles in an area between the cities of Tours and Poitiers (modern north-central France), leading to a decisive, historically important Frankish victory known as the Battle of Tours (or ma’arakat Balâṭ ash-Shuhadâ, Battle of the Palace of Martyrs), ending the “last of the great Arab invasions of France,” a military victory termed “brilliant” on the part of Charles.

Charles further took the offensive after Tours, destroying fortresses at Agde, Béziers and Maguelonne, and engaging Islamic forces at Nimes, though ultimately failing to recover Narbonne (737) or to fully reclaim the Visigoth’s Narbonensis. He thereafter made significant further external gains against fellow Christian realms, establishing Frankish control over Bavaria, Alemannia, and Frisia, and compelling some of the Saxon tribes to offer tribute (738).

H. G. Wells says of Charles Martel’s decisive defeat of the Muslims in his “Short History of the World:

“The Muslim when they crossed the Pyrenees in 720 found this Frankish kingdom under the practical rule of Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace of a degenerate descendant of Clovis, and experienced the decisive defeat of Poitiers (732) at his hands. This Charles Martel was practically overlord of Europe north of the Alps from the Pyrenees to Hungary.”

Berber Abu al-Qasim Abbas ibn Firnas ibn Wirdas al-Takurini (810–887 A.D.), also known as Abbas ibn Firnas (Arabic: عباس بن فرناس‎), was an Andalusian polymath: an inventor, physician, chemist, engineer, Andalusian musician, and Arabic-language poet. Of Berber descent, his name’s root is AFERNAS, which is fairly widespread today in Morocco and Algeria. He was born in Izn-Rand Onda, Al-Andalus (today’s Ronda, Spain), lived in the Emirate of Córdoba, and is reputed to have attempted flight. see

The crater Ibn Firnas on the Moon is named in his honor, as well as the Ibn Firnas Airport in Baghdad and one of the bridges over the Guadalquivir river in Cordoba.

1085-1258 – Berber Almoravid and Almohad dynasties rule Al-Andalus and North Africa/Tamazgha — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya —

Yusuf ibn Tashfin also, Tashafin, Teshufin; or Yusuf (full name: Yûsuf bnu Tâšfîn Nâçereddîn bnu Tâlâkâkîn aç-Çanhâjî, Arabic: ‫يوسف بن تاشفين ناصر الدين بن تالاكاكين الصنهاجي‬‎; reigned c. 1061 – 1106) was leader of the Berber Moroccan Almoravid empire. He co-founded the city of Marrakesh and led the Muslim forces in the Battle of Zallaqa/Sagrajas. Ibn Tashfin came to al-Andalus from Africa to help the Muslims fight against Alfonso VI, eventually achieving victory and promoting an Islamic system in the region. He was married to Zainab al-Nafzawiyya, whom he reportedly trusted politically.
Image of coin

Berber, Ibn Battuta

All that is known about Ibn Battuta’s life comes from the autobiographical information included in the account of his travels, which records that he was of Berber descent, born into a family of Islamic legal scholars in Tangier, Morocco, on 25 February 1304, during the reign of the Marinid dynasty. He claimed descent from a Berber tribe known as the Lawata. As a young man he would have studied at a Sunni Maliki madh’hab (Islamic jurisprudence school), the dominant form of education in North Africa at that time. Maliki Muslims requested Ibn Battuta serve as their religious judge as he was from an area where it was practised.

In June 1325, at the age of twenty-one, Ibn Battuta set off from his hometown on a hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, a journey that would ordinarily take sixteen months. He would not see Morocco again for twenty-four years. He travelled further than any of his peers and gathered knowledge made available to others through his writings.

Ibn Battuta’s itinerary gives scholars a glimpse as to when Islam first began to spread into the heart of west Africa.
Some of the above timeline taken from: and

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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