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IDRISID DYNASTY. This important early ruling family in North Africa owes its name to Mulay Idris ibn `Abd Allah. In 788 CE Idris became involved in an anti`Abbasid revolt near Mecca and was forced into exile to escape the persecution of Harun al-Rashid, the ‘Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. Idris sought refuge in present-day Morocco, which some fifty years earlier had shaken caliphal rule. There he was welcomed by a recently converted Berber tribe, the Banu Awrabah. These Berbers were impressed with the idea of having a descendant of the Prophet to lead them and soon made Idris their chief. He rapidly united the Berber tribes of the area into a confederacy, and from this union emerged the first independent Islamic dynasty in Morocco.

Idris’s rule was shortlived; he was poisoned in 791 by an agent of Harun al-Rashid. Idris left no male heir at the time of his death, but he did leave behind a pregnant concubine, and it was her child, Idris II, who was to continue his father’s work.

Idris II was the true founder of the modern Moroccan state. Although his father had subjugated and converted many tribes adhering to Christianity, Judaism, or indigenous religions, he still remained dependent on the Awrabah tribe. Idris II stressed the Islamic-Arab character of Morocco in an attempt to detach himself from the Awrabah, inviting Arab chiefs and warriors from Spain to his court. In 8o9 Idris II achieved what could be considered one of the most durable and important results of the dynasty-the refounding of the city of Fez. Originally founded in 789 by Idris I, Fez was still a Berber market town when Idris II decided to establish his authority independently from the Awrabah and make Fez his capital city. The arrival of several waves of immigrants, first from Cordoba and later from Tunisia, gave Fez a definitive Arab character.

Among his political achievements, Idris II managed to consolidate under his rule most of what is today northern Morocco. To stabilize the government he organized Morocco’s first true makhzan (central government), an Arabic concept hitherto unknown to the Berber tribes of the region. In addition, the construction of the Qarawiyin and Andalus mosques as well as the Qarawiyin University, the oldest in the Muslim world, helped make Fez an important cultural and religious center.


Idris II was succeeded by his son Muhammad II. While retaining the title of imam and rule over the capital, Muhammad divided his father’s kingdom among his brothers, demonstrating a departure from the political sagacity that had been evident in both his father and grandfather. This also effectively undermined centralized control held by the Idrisids, as sections of the royal family and tribal groups engaged in a long struggle for power that characterized later Idrisid rule. Although a strong centralized state was not established in the Idrisid era, the political role of the sharifs was confirmed and has remained a significant element in Moroccan politics ever since. The rise of the Fatimid dynasty in North Africa brought an end to Idrisid pretensions, and the last successor to the throne was killed in 985. The Idrisid legacy was a foundation for independent Moroccan monarchic rule and sharifian political power.

[See also Cordoba, Caliphate of; Fatimid Dynasty; Fez; and Morocco.]


Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period. Cambridge and New York, 1987. Includes an extensive bibliography.

Ion Azzuz, Mohammad. Historia de Marruecos hasta la dominacion Almoravide. Madrid, 1955. Excellent and detailed history of Morocco up to the Almoravid reign.

Julien, Charles-Andri. History of North Africa: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, from the Arab Conquest to 1830. Translated by John Petrie. London, 1970. Standard survey by a prominent French scholar with a helpful introduction to the dynasty’s history and broader historical context.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/idrisid-dynasty/

  • writerPosted On: April 16, 2014
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