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Tariq ibn Ziyad

Tariq bin Ziyad
طارق بن زياد
Born 670
Died 720 (aged 50)
Damascus, ash-Sham
Buried at Damascus, Syria
Allegiance Umayyad Caliphate
Rank General
Battles/wars Conquest of Hispania
 • Battle of Guadalete
Other work Governor of Al-Andalus

Tariq ibn Ziyad (Arabic: طارق بن زياد‎, died 720) was a Muslim general 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 from the north coast of Morocco, consolidating his troops at a large hill now known as Gibraltar. The name "Gibraltar" is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Tariq",[1] which is named after him.


  • Origin 1
  • History 2
  • Tariq's sermon 3
  • Solomon's Table 4
  • Notes 5
  • Literature 6
  • External links 7


Most medieval historians give little or no information about Tariq's origins or nationality. Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, Ibn al-Athir, Al-Tabari and Ibn Khaldun[2] do not say anything on the subject, and have been followed in this by modern works such as the Encyclopedia of Islam and Cambridge History of Islam. There are three different accounts given by a few Arabic histories which all seem to date from between 400 and 500 years after Tariq's time. These are that:

  • He was a Persian from Hamadan.[3]
  • He was an Arab member, or freedman[4] of the Sadif clan of the Kindah.[5]
  • He was a Berber from North Africa. Even here there are several different versions, and modern workers who accept a Berber origin tend to settle on one version or another without giving any reason for so doing.[6] The Berber tribes associated with these ancestries (Zenata, Walhāṣ, Warfajūma, Nafzā) were, in Tariq's time, all resident in Tripolitania or/and in the Maghreb.[7]
    • The earliest reference seems to be the 12th-century geographer al-Idrisi, who referred to him as Tariq bin Abd 'Allah bin Wanamū al-Zanātī, without the usual bin Ziyad.[8]
    • The 14th-century historian Ibn Idhari gives two versions of Tariq's ancestry (the differences may be caused by copyist errors). He is referred to as Tāriq bin Zīyād bin Abd 'Allah bin Walghū bin Warfajūm bin Nabarghāsan bin Walhāṣ bin Yaṭūfat bin Nafzāw (Arabic: طارق بن زياد بن عبد الله بن ولغو بن ورفجوم بن نبرغاسن بن ولهاص بن يطوفت بن نفزاو‎) and also as Tāriq bin Zīyād bin Abd' Allah bin Rafhū bin Warfajūm bin Yanzghāsan bin Walhāṣ bin Yaṭūfat bin Nafzāw (Arabic: طارق بن زياد بن عبد الله بن رفهو بن ورفجوم بن ينزغاسن بن ولهاص بن يطوفت بن نفزاو‎).[9]

Most historians, Arab and Spanish, seem to agree that he was a slave[10] of the emir of Ifriqiya (North Africa), Musa bin Nusayr, who gave him his freedom and appointed him a general in his army. But his descendants centuries later denied he had ever been Musa's slave.

The earliest reference to him seems to be in the Mozarab Chronicle, written in Latin in 754, which although written within living memory of the conquest of Spain, refers to him erroneously as Taric Abuzara.[11]

Tariq's name is often associated with that of a young slave girl, Umm Ḥakīm, who is said to have crossed to Spain with him; but the nature of their relationship is left obscure.[12]


The Moorish Castle's Tower of Homage, symbol of the Muslim rule in Gibraltar.

Musa bin Nusayr appointed Tariq governor of Tangiers after its conquest in 710-711,[13] but an unconquered Visigothic outpost remained nearby at Ceuta, a stronghold commanded by a nobleman named Julian.

After Roderic came to power in Spain, Julian had, as was the custom, sent his daughter to the court of the Visigothic king to receive an education. It is said that Roderic raped her, and that Julian was so incensed he resolved to have the Muslims bring down the Visigothic kingdom. Accordingly he entered into a treaty with Tariq (Musa having returned to Qayrawan) to secretly convey the Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar, as he owned a number of merchant ships and had his own forts on the Spanish mainland.

About April 29 711, the army of Tariq, composed of recent converts to Islam, was landed at Gibraltar by Julian.[14]

Tariq's army contained about 7,000 Berber horsemen, and Musa is said to have sent an additional 5.000 reinforcements after the conquest.[15] Roderic, to meet the threat of Berbers, he assembled an army said to number 100,000.[16] Most of the army was commanded by, and loyal to, the sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had brutally deposed.[17] Tariq won a decisive victory when Roderic was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete.

On the advice of Julian, Tariq split his army into various divisions which went on to capture Cordoba, Granada and other places, while he remained at the head of the division which captured Toledo and Guadalajara. Tariq was de facto governor of Hispania until the arrival of Musa a year later.

Both Tariq and Musa were simultaneously ordered back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in 714, where they spent the rest of their lives.[18] In the many Arabic histories written about the conquest of southern Spain, there is a definite division of opinion regarding the relationship between Tariq and Musa bin Nusayr. Some relate episodes of anger and envy on the part of Musa, that his freedman had conquered an entire country. Others do not mention, or play down, any such bad blood. On the other hand, another early historian al-Baladhuri (9th century) merely states that Musa wrote Tariq a "severe letter" and that the two were later reconciled.[19]

Tariq's sermon

The early modern historian al-Maqqari, in his The Breath of Perfume, places the following long sermon to the troops in Tariq's mouth before Guadalete:

"Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but vou, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freelv to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves. Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you."

Solomon's Table

The most widespread story regarding the enmity between Tariq and Musa concerns a fabulous piece of furniture, reputed to have belonged to the Biblical Solomon. Said to have been made of gold, and encrusted with precious gems, this important relic was noted even in pre-Islamic times to be in the possession of the Spanish Visigoths.[22]

Tariq took possession of the table after the surrender of one of Roderic's nephews. Most stories say that, fearing duplicity on the part of Musa, he removed one leg of the table and (in most accounts) replaced it with an obviously inferior one. The table was then added to Musa's collection of booty to be taken back to Damascus.

When both men appeared before the caliph, Musa gave out that he was the one who had obtained the table. Tariq drew the caliph's attention to the inferior (or missing) leg, for which Musa's only explanation was that he had found it like that. Tariq then produced the real leg, leading to Musa's disgrace.[23]

There is none of the above story in al-Baladhuri's account, which simply mentions the table being presented to the caliph.[24]

New title Governor of Al-Andalus
Succeeded by
Musa bin Nusayr


  1. ^
  2. ^ al-Maqqari, p. 255 of English translation by Gayangos, states that Ibn Khaldun referred to Tariq as al-Laythī but this does not appear in modern editions of Ibn Khaldun's works.
  3. ^ Akhbār majmūa, p. 20 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text. al-Maqqari, see p. 266 of English translation by Gayangos.
  4. ^ Akhbār majmūa, p. 20 & 21 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text.
  5. ^ See also Ibn Taghribirdi, p. 278 of French translation, and Ibn Khallikan, vol. 3 p. 476 of English translation (which also refers to him as a Berber). Also mentioned by al-Maqqari, p. 253 & 266 of English translation, together with a possible Lakhmid origin.
  6. ^ e.g. M. De Slane, in an editorial note to the French translation of Ibn Khaldun's Kitab al-Ibar, vol. 1 p. 215 opines that he belonged to the Walhāṣ tribe. Numerous more recent works give his tribe as Warfajūma, e.g. van Sertima's Golden Age of the Moor p. 54. Both these opinions derive from Ibn Idhari, whose text (quoted above) does not single out one tribe.
  7. ^ Yves Modéran, Les Maures et L'Afrique Romaine (IVe-VIIe Siècle). Ecole Française de Rome, 2003. ISBN 2-7283-0640-0.
  8. ^ al-Idrisi, Arabic text fasc. 5 p. 539-540; vol. 2 p. 17 of French translation. "Wanamū" is uncertain, as the various manuscripts differ in spelling this name.
  9. ^ Ibn Idhari, Arabic text vol. 1 p. 43 & vol. 2 p. 5 respectively.
  10. ^ Ibn Khallikan, vol. 3 p. 81 of English translation, even refers to him as "Târik Ibn Nusair", but as De Slane says in a footnote, this is probably caused by accidental omission of the words "freedman of Musa".
  11. ^ Para. 34 of the Chronicle. There is some confusion with Tarif ibn Malik, as noted by al-Maqqari. For a recent discussion see the article by Enrique Gozalbes Cravioto cited below.
  12. ^ See, for example, numerous references in Ibn Abd al-Hakam, and some in Akhbār majmūa
  13. ^ Alternatively, he was left as governor when Musa's son Marwan returned to Qayrawan. Both explanations are given by Ibn Abd al-Hakam, p. 41 of Spanish translation, p. 204 of Arabic text.
  14. ^ There is a legend that Tariq ordered that the ships he arrived in be burnt, to prevent any cowardice. This is first mentioned over 400 years later by the geographer al-Idrisi, fasc. 5 p. 540 of Arabic text (Arabic: فٱمر بإحراق المراكب‎), vol. 2 p. 18 of French translation. Apart from a mention in the slightly later Kitāb al-iktifa fī akhbār al-khulafā (English translation in Appendix D of Gayangos, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain) this legend was not sustained by other authors.
  15. ^ Akhbār majmūa, p. 21 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text.
  16. ^ Akhbār majmūa p. 8 of Arabic text, p. 22 of Spanish translation.
  17. ^ According to some sources, e.g., al-Maqqari p. 269 of the English translation, Wittiza's sons by prior arrangement with Tariq deserted at a critical phase of the battle. Roger Collins takes an oblique reference in the Mozarab Chronicle par. 52 to mean the same thing.
  18. ^
  19. ^ P. 365 of Hitti's English translation.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Noted, for example, by the 6th-century Byzantine historian Procopius.
  23. ^ Ibn Abd al-Hakam, p. 50 of Spanish translation, pp. 210–211 of Arabic text.
  24. ^ P. 366 of Hitti's English translation.


  • Roger Collins: The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–797 (Oxford and Cambridge Mass.: Blackwell, 1989). Revised reprint (in paperback) published in 1994, reprinted 1995, 1998.
  • Pascual de Gayangos y Arce, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain. vol. 1. 1840. English translation of al-Maqqari.
  • al-Baladhuri, Kitab Futuh al-Buldan, English translation by Phillip Hitti in The Origins of the Islamic State (1916, 1924).
  • Anon., Akhbār majmūa fī fath al-andalūs wa dhikr ūmarā'ihā. Arabic text edited with Spanish translation: E. Lafuente y Alcantara, Ajbar Machmua, Coleccion de Obras Arabigas de Historia y Geografia, vol. 1, Madrid, 1867.
  • Anon., Mozarab Chronicle.
  • Ibn Abd al-Hakam, Kitab Futuh Misr wa'l Maghrib wa'l Andalus. Critical Arabic edition of the whole work published by Torrey, Yale University Press, 1932. Spanish translation by Eliseo Vidal Beltran of the North African and Spanish parts of Torrey's Arabic text: "Conquista de Africa del Norte y de Espana", Textos Medievales #17, Valencia, 1966. This is to be preferred to the obsolete 19th-century English translation at: The Islamic conquest of SpainMedieval Sourcebook:
  • Enrique Gozalbes Cravioto, "Tarif, el conquistador de Tarifa", Aljaranda, no. 30 (1998) (not paginated).
  • Muhammad al-Idrisi, Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq (1154). Critical edition of the Arabic text: Opus geographicum: sive "Liber ad eorum delectationem qui terras peragrare studeant." (ed. Bombaci, A. et al., 9 Fascicles, 1970–1978). Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples. French translation: .
  • Ibn Taghribirdi, Nujum al-zahira fi muluk Misr wa'l-Qahira. Partial French translation by E. Fagnan, "En-Nodjoum ez-Zâhîra. Extraits relatifs au Maghreb." Recueil des Notices et Mémoires de la Société Archéologique du Département de Constantine, v. 40, 1907, 269-382.
  • Ibn Khallikan, Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān. English translation by M. De Slane, Ibn Khallikan's Biographical dictionary, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1843.
  • Ibn Idhari, Kitāb al-bayān al-mughrib fī ākhbār mulūk al-andalus wa'l-maghrib. Arabic text ed. G.S. Colin & E. Lévi-Provençal, Histoire de l'Afrique du Nord et de l'Espagne intitulée Kitāb al-Bayān al-Mughrib, 1948.

External links

  • Christianity and the Muslim Conquest of Spain
  • . vol. 1. 1840. Authoritative English translation of al-Maqqari available from Google eBooksThe History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain.Pascual de Gayangos y Arce, . This is the translation still cited by modern historians.
  • The Breath of PerfumesTarik's Address to His Soldiers, 711 CE, from . A translation of al-Maqqari's work included in Charles F. Horne, The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 241–242. Horne was the editor, the translator is not identified. NB: the online extract, often cited, does not include the warning on p. 238 (download the whole book from other sites): "This speech does not, however, preserve the actual words of Tarik; it only presents the tradition of them as preserved by the Moorish historian Al Maggari, who wrote in Africa long after the last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. In Al Maggari's day the older Arabic traditions of exact service had quite faded. The Moors had become poets and dreamers instead of scientists and critical historians."
  • Ibn Abd al-Hakam, rather outdated English translation in The Islamic Conquest of SpainMedieval Sourcebook:
  • Article: Tariq ibnu zeyad in tha mazight(Berber: Rif)
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