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Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (died 732; Arabic: عبد الرحمن الغافقي‎), also known as Abd er Rahman, Abdderrahman, Abderame, and Abd el-Rahman, led the Andalusian Muslims into battle against the forces of Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours on October 10, 732 A.D.[1] for which he is primarily remembered in the West. His full name was Abu Said Abdul Rahman ibn Abdullah ibn Bishr ibn Al Sarem Al 'Aki Al Ghafiqi.


Early years

From the Yemeni tribe of Ghafiq, he relocated to Ifriqiya (now Tunisia), then to the Maghrib (now Morocco), where he became acquainted with Musa Ibn Nusair and his son Abdul Aziz, the governors of Al-Andalus.

Governor of Al Andalus

After Al Samh ibn Malik was killed at the Battle of Toulouse in 721 (102 A.H.) by the forces of Duke Odo of Aquitaine, Abdul Rahman took over the command of Eastern Andalus. He was briefly relieved of his command, when 'Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kalbi was appointed in 721 (103 A.H.). After 'Anbasa was killed in battle in 726 (107 A.H.) in Gaul, several successive commanders were put in place, none of whom lasted very long.

Invasion of Gaul and Tours

In 730 (112 A.H.) the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik appointed Abdul Rahman as governor/commander of Al Andalus. He prepared to invade Gaul, and called for recruits from Yemen and the Levant. Many arrived, and he crossed the Pyrenees range, with an army of approximately 50,000 cavalry [1] [2]) composed primarily of Arabs and Berbers. Emir Abdul Rahman made his way through Gascony and Aquitaine, according to one unidentified Arab, "That army went through all places like a desolating storm," sacking and capturing the city of Bordeaux, after defeating Duke Odo of Aquitaine in battle outside the city, and then again defeating a second army of Duke Odo of Aquitaine at the Battle of the River Garonne—where the western chroniclers state, "God alone knows the number of the slain." [3] Odo, with his remaining nobility, fled to Charles Martel, seeking help. Unlike Toulouse, where Odo had won by achieving complete surprise over the Muslim forces when he relieved the city in 721, this time his forces were forced to face the Muslim cavalry in open battle and were utterly destroyed. Also, the Muslim forces he had faced at the Battle of Toulouse were primarily light infantry, and while good fighters, were not remotely close to the caliber of the Arab and Berber cavalry brought by the Emir in this invasion.

However, the Frankish Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Charles Martel, had a core of seasoned professional infantry who had campaigned with him for many years, in addition to the levies of militia the Franks normally called up to buttress their forces, .[2] he formed an army of Gauls and Germans approximately 30,000 strong. The invading forces, having no reason to believe the Franks were anything more than one of the various barbarian tribes that had ravaged Europe after Rome's fall, failed to scout their strength in advance. They also misjudged Charles Martel, who was determined to prevent the expansion of the Caliphate over the Pyrenees into the heart of Christian Europe. This was a disastrous mistake which led to the defeat of Abdul Rahman in 732 (114 A.H.) near Poitiers, south of the Loire River.[4]

Abdul Rahman was killed in this battle. One reason for the defeat of the Muslim army was their preoccupation with war booty; another was the squabbles between various ethnic and tribal factions, which led to the surviving generals being unable to agree on a single commander to take the Abdul Rahman's place, (he alone had a Fatwa from the Caliph, and thus absolute authority over the faithful under arms). Political factions, racial and ethnic rivalries, and personality clashes arose following his death. The varied nationalities and ethnicities present in an army drawn from all over the Caliphate, and the surviving generals, bickered among themselves, unable to agree on a commander to lead them the following day. The inability to select anyone to lead certainly contributed to the wholesale retreat of an army that possibly could have defeated the Franks. Additional reasons for the defeat were found in the strategy employed by Charles Martel. He trained his men specifically to fight in a large square, similar to the ancient Greek phalanx formation, to withstand the dreaded Muslim heavy cavalry. The Frankish leader chose the battlefield. Moving his army over the mountains and avoiding the old Roman roads, he escaped detection until positioning his men on a high, wooded plain. For seven days, the two armies skirmished and maneuvered, with the Islamic forces recalling all their raiding parties, so on the seventh day, their army was at full size. Martel also received some reinforcements, though most historians still believe he was badly outnumbered at the onset of the battle. The Franks held their defensive formation all day, and repulsed repeated cavalry charges. The charges of the Arab and Berber cavalry were impeded by the sloping and wooded terrain. Late on the first day of battle, according to most sources, Martel sent his scouts to slip into Abdul Rahman's camp and free prisoners held by the Arab forces. Believing that their booty was being stolen, a large contingent of Abdul Rahman's forces broke away from battle to save their property. Abdul Rahman was exposed to the Frankish forces and killed while he attempted to stop his men from leaving the field.


Arab historians unanimously praise Abdul Rahman as a just and able administrator and commander, and bestow on him the honor of being the best governor of Al-Andalus. Also, he did not take sides in the ethnic and tribal divisions that plagued Al-Andalus under other rulers. Evidence of his fairness and importance as a ruler was demonstrated in the aftermath of his death at the Battle of Tours. Without his leadership and guidance, the other commanders were unable to even agree on a commander to lead them back into battle the following morning. The effect of the death of Abdul Rahman on both Islamic and world history was profound.

His son attempted another invasion of Gaul under the Caliph's instructions in 736, this time by sea. This naval invasion landed in Narbonne in 736 and moved at once to reinforce Arles and move inland. Charles again descended on the Provençal strongholds of the Muslims. In 736, he retook Montfrin and Avignon, and Arles and Aix-en-Provence with the help of Liutprand, King of the Lombards. Nîmes, Agde, and Béziers, held by Muslims since 725, fell to him and their fortresses were destroyed. He crushed one Muslim army at Arles, as that force sallied out of the city, and then took the city itself by a direct and brutal frontal attack, and burned it to the ground to prevent its use again as a stronghold for Muslim expansion. He then moved swiftly and defeated a mighty host outside of Narbonnea at the River Berre, but failed to take the city. In five short years, he had incorporated Muslim heavy cavalry equipment and tactics into his forces, and was able to crush the invading armies, and leave the Muslim forces isolated in Narbonne, which his son Pippin would retake in 759.

Preceded by
Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani
Governor of Al-Andalus
Succeeded by
Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kalbi
Preceded by
Muhammed ibn Abd al-Malik al-Ashja'i
Governor of Al-Andalus
Succeeded by
Abd al-Malik ibn Katan al-Fihri


  1. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 2
  2. ^ Davis, Paul K. “100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present
  • History of Abdul Salam Al Termanini (in Arabic)
  • The New Century Book of Facts, King-Richardson Company, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1911
  • A list of historical rulers in what is now Spain (in Spanish)
  • "Early Andalusian Politics", by Richard Greydanus
  • Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (New York, 1974), 6:16.
  • Watson, William E., "The Battle of Tours-Poitiers Revisited", Providence: Studies in Western Civilization, 2 (1993)
  • Poke,The Battle of Tours, from the book Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World From Marathon to Waterloo by Sir Edward Creasy, MA
  • Richard Hooker, "Civil War and the Umayyads"
  • Arabs, Franks, and the Battle of Tours, 732: Three Accounts from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook
  • Tours,Poiters, from "Leaders and Battles Database" online.
  • Robert W. Martin, "The Battle of Tours is still felt today", from
  • Santosuosso, Anthony, Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels ISBN 0-8133-9153-9
  • Medieval Sourcebook: Arabs, Franks, and the Battle of Tours, 732 at
  • Bennett, Bradsbury, Devries, Dickie and Jestice, Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World
  • Reagan, Geoffry, The Guinness Book of Decisive Battles , Canopy Books, NY (1992) ISBN 1-55859-431-0
  • Early Andalusian Politics, Richard Greydanus
  • History of Abdul Salam Al Termanini (Arabic)
  • The New Century Book of Facts, King-Richardson Company, Springfield, 1911


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