The Sharifate of Fez was a coastal enclave that formed the core remnant of the Almoravid Empire after its collapse in 1140. After the collapse of the Sheikdom of Kairuoan in 1181, it was the sole surviving fiefdom of the Murabit family.


Murabit Yusuf Tariq Abdullah found himself outmanoeuvred, outnumbered and outclassed by his enemies, when his arch rival Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf launched his attack from the desert in 1138. With his own forces tied up against Songhai incursions and his ally and relation, Murabit Yusuf Abu Saed, watching the forces of the Byzantine Empire, there was no way of summoning up the forces required for a counter-offensive. Tariq Abdullah was forced to watch, idle, as Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf's forces took first Bougie in 1138, then Constantine and Algiers in 1139. Come 1140, the Almohad Kingdom was firmly established.

Reformation of the Almoravid Successor State - The Sharifate of Fez

Left with only his westernmost provinces, Tariq Abdullah's run of failure came to an end. A stroke of fortune manifested itself in a rebellion in the Malian heartland of the Songhai, causing the Berber Emperor to recall such soldiers as were still in his service. His principal foe, Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf, was a man content to rest on his laurels. He signed a lenient peace agreement with Fez at the close of the year.

Changes to administration

Complacency was no longer one of Tariq Abdullah's weaknesses. He appreciated the need for a strong economic hub as his centre of government, and consequently abandoned Marrakesh in favour of Fez, the Sharifate's wealthiest town. Whilst Marrakesh diminished in size and importance, Fez and neighbouring Tingis boomed in response to this astute move. In 1145, Tariq Abdullah launched his mercantile marine. It was a comparatively small enterprise compared to the golden days of Murabit Yusuf Khalifah, but it was something to be cherished.

Comparative Diplomatic Isolation

Tariq Abdullah still retained a good deal of his former pride, however, and whilst dedicating his energies to the amelioration of his diminished fiefdoms, he had neglected to foster relations with neighbouring states. Though he existed comfortably alongside the Almohad incumbent, Muwahhid Jeheba Ali, little negotiation took place between the courts of Fez and Bougie, in stark contrast to the friendliness that existed between Algeria, Kairuoan and Thapsus. Resentment fostered itself between Tariq Abdullah and Murabit Yusuf Abu Saed, who had always been mistrustful of Tariq Abdullah's ambition. This was to be significant in years to come.

Dual Crises - The Thapsus Incident and the Death of the King of Algeria

1155 was a year of much upheaval in the Maghreb. The death of Murabit Bomilcar Abu Saed, Sheikh of Thapsus, was entirely unexpected by all. Least of all his brother, the Sheikh of Kairuoan, who was caught unawares and failed to take the initiative. This went to the Byzantines, who marched their troops into Thapsus to 'restore order'. Days later, crisis hit the Almohad Kingdom; their own king, Jeheba Ali, went to his grave.

Tariq Abdullah saw his opportunity in the form of the weakness of the new Almohad monarch, Muwahhid Mehmet Ali, and prepared his forces to intervene in the oncoming civil war in the Muwahhid lands. A call to arms from Sheikh Abu to his fellow Berber rulers, in aid of his efforts to reclaim his inheritence from the Byzantine Empire, was badly timed for Tariq Abdullah's manouevre. His decision was as follows: either to continue in his attack on the Muwahhid's and cause a diplomatic rift between Fez and the rest of the Berber world, to support his fellow ruler against the Byzantine oppressors - and potentially squander his well maintained forces on an unwinnable gamble, or to do nothing. Begrudgingly, Tariq Abdullah chose the latter choice, and pulled his forces away from Algeria's borders. This apathy was infuriating to Sheikh Abu, who had to conclude an unsatisfactory peace with Byzantium. He never forgave Tariq Abdullah for this 'betrayal'.

The coming of Christianity

The War of Civil Differences in Algeria had some interesting political effects on the Maghreb, which would cause more than a little bit of a diplomatic shake-up for Tariq Abdullah's government. One of the conditions on which the stability of Muwahhid Murat Masood Ali depended was his conversion to Christianity. This political manouevre, which appeased rebel general Merin Gulassa to demobilise his army, caused political outcry elsewhere. Tariq Abdullah in particular, as a stern adherent of the old religion (a last remnant of the age old Almoravid hegemony), voiced his objections volubly.

So too initially did Abu Saed, in an attempt to maintain the religion that characterised the legacy of the Almoravid empire. However, his calculating mind was constantly considering other alternatives. It was a month later when he made a shock decision to publicly announce his conversion to Christianity. His popularity as a leader drew many people in Kairuoan to follow his lead. This decision improved relations between Kairuoan and Byzantium. Moreover, it left the Sharifate of Fez diplomatically isolated. The Sheikh of Kairuoan had implemented his revenge for the lack of support shown at Thapsus.

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