Today in Middle Eastern/North African history: the Battle of Fakhkh (786)

There were so many minor Alid uprisings (the term “Alid” simply refers to descendants of Ali, and is often used to describe early revolts made in the name of his family, because the conceptual framework of Shiʿism wasn’t really in place yet so it’s a little confusing to apply that term to these events) against the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates that it would drive you all crazy if I tried to catalogue each one of them. The uprising that was quickly dispatched at the Battle of Fakhkh, a valley near Mecca, on (give or take) June 11, 786, was no different from any of the others, except in one respect: one of the rebel leaders, a great-great grandson of Ali named Idris b. Abdullah (d. 791), survived the battle and fled west, as far west as he could go.

I can practically hear you all saying “so what” at this point, but here’s what: Idris b. Abdullah, once he’d fled all the way to the westernmost part of North Africa, established a new city, married the daughter of a Berber chieftain, and became the founder and namesake of a brand new dynasty, the Idrisids, which conquered much of western North Africa. Through the dynasty he fathered, Idris is credited with founding, and Islamizing, the region we know today as the kingdom of Morocco.

Idrisid Dynasty at its largest extent (Wikimedia | Omar-Toons)

The Idrisids ruled Morocco as a Zaydi Shiʿa dynasty for almost two centuries, and under their rule Morocco joined al-Andalus as two of the first regions to slide out of the caliphate. Under Idris I’s successor, Idris II (d. 828), they began a deliberate Arabization policy, bringing in Arab settlers and filling the highest ranks of the bureaucracy with Arabs, in order to counter the dominance of the Awraba Berber tribe that had taken Idris I in and made him their client. This was never entirely successful but it did ensure that the dynasty wasn’t completely dependent on the Awraba for its survival. Eventually the Idrisid kingdom broke into autonomous principalities, and by the 970s it was hounded out of existence altogether under external pressure from the Fatimids and the Umayyads of Cordoba.

There’s really little to say about the actual Battle of Fakhkh, which was apparently a complete rout, and about the revolt, which was quashed when the rebels lost the battle. But the idea that a suppressed rebellion in Arabia could lead, more or less, to the establishment of modern Morocco is one of my favorite bits of randomness in the entire course of Islamic history.

Hi, how’s it going? Thanks for reading; attwiw wouldn’t exist without you! If you’ve enjoyed this or any other posts here, please share widely and help build our audience. You can follow this site (and like, share, etc. its content) on lots of social media outlets. Most critically, if you’re a regular reader I hope you’ll read this and consider helping this place to stay alive.

Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.