The Aghlabids (Arabic: الأغالبة‎) were a dynasty of emirs, members of the Arab tribe of Bani Tamim, who ruled Ifriqiya, nominally on behalf of the Abbasid Caliph, for about a century, until overthrown by the new power of the Fatimids.


In 800, the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid appointed Ibrahim I ibn al-Aghlab as hereditary Emir of Ifriqiya as a response to the anarchy that had reigned in that province following the fall of the Muhallabids. He was to control an area that encompassed eastern Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania.[1] Although independent in all but name, his dynasty never ceased to recognise Abbasid overlordship.

A new capital, al-Abbasiyya, was founded outside Kairouan, partly to escape the opposition of the Malikite jurists and theologians, who condemned what they saw as the godless life of the Aghlabids, and disliked the unequal treatment of the Muslim Berbers. Additionally, border defenses (Ribat) were set up in Sousse and Monastir. The Aghlabids also built up the irrigation of the area and enhanced the public buildings and mosques.[1]

Under Ziyadat Allah I (817-838) came the crisis of a revolt of Arab troops in 824, which was not quelled until 836 with the help of the Berbers. The conquest of Byzantine Sicily from 827 under Asad ibn al-Furat was an attempt to keep the unruly troops under control - it was only achieved slowly, and only in 902 was the last Byzantine outpost taken. Plundering raids into mainland Italy took place until well into the 10th century. Gradually the Aghlabids lost control of the Arab forces in Sicily and a new dynasty, the Kalbids, emerged there.

The Aghlabid kingdom reached its high point under Ahmad ibn Muhammad (856-863). Ifriqiya was a significant economic power thanks to its fertile agriculture, aided by the expansion of the Roman irrigation system. It became the focal point of trade between the Islamic world and Byzantium and Italy, especially the lucrative slave trade. Kairuan became the most important centre of learning in the Maghreb, most notably in the field of Theology and Law, and a gathering place for poets. The Aghlabid Emirs also sponsored building projects, notably the rebuilding of the Mosque of Uqba and the kingdom developed an architectural style which combined Abbasid architecture and Byzantine architecture.[2]

Decline of the Aghlabids

The decline of the dynasty began under Ibrahim II ibn Ahmad (875-902). An attack by the Tulunids of Egypt had to be repelled and a revolt of the Berbers put down with much loss of life. In addition, in 893 there began amongst the Kutama Berbers the movement of the Shiite Fatimids to overthrow the Aghlabids. Ubaydalla Said captured the cities of Qairawan and Raqqada and took an oath of allegiance from the people. By 909, the Aghlabid Dynasty was overthrown and replaced with the Fatimids.[3]

Aghlabid rulers

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See also



  • Georges Marçais, "Aghlabids," Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed., Vol. I, pp. 699–700.
  • Mohamed Talbi, Emirat Aghlabide, Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1967.
  • Madeleine Vonderheyden, La Berbérie orientale sous la dynastie des Benoû l-Aṛlab, 800-909, Paris: Geuthner, 1927.