Abu Al-Hasan 'Ali ibn 'Othman (c. 1297 - May 24, 1351) (Arabic: أبو الحسن علي بن عثمان) was a sultan of the Marinid Dynasty who reigned in Morocco and Al-Andalus (r. 1331 - 1351). The son of Marinid ruler Abu Sa'id Uthman II and an Abyssinian mother, Abu al-Hassan had a dark complexion, and was known as the 'Black Sultan' of Morocco.
He succeeded his father Abu Sa'id Uthman II in 1331. Abu al-Hassan married Fatima, daughter of the Hafsid ruler Abu Bakr of Ifriqiya, sealing an alliance between the Marinids and Hafsids against the Abdalwadids of Tlemcen.
In June, 1333, responding to the appeal of Nasrid ruler Muhammad IV of Granada, Abu al-Hassan landed a Moroccan army in Algeciras. After a two month siege, he recovered Gibraltar from Castile (which had been taken by the Castilians in 1309). The very success of the Gibraltar campaign stoked fears that the Marinids would become too influential in the Granadan court, and provoked the assassination of Muhammad IV by resentful Granadan nobles only a few months later. In spite of this, Muhammad IV's brother and successor, Yusuf I of Granada maintained the alliance with the Marinid ruler.
In 1334, Abu al-Hassan received an appeal from his father-in-law, the Hafsid ruler Abu Bakr of Ifriqiya, then fighting off an new invasion by the Abdalwadid ruler Abu Tashufin of Tlemcen. In early 1335, Marinid forces under Abu al-Hassan invaded Tlemcen from the west and dispatched a naval forced to assist the Hafsids from the east. The Abdalwadids were rolled back into the city of Tlemcen. The Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan laid a three-year siege of Tlemcen, turning his siege camp into a veritable adjoining city.
In 1336 or 1337, Abu al-Hassan suspended the siege of Tlemcen to campaign in southern Morocco, where his troublesome brother, Abu Ali, who ruled an appanage at Sijilmassa, was threatening to divide the Marinid dominions.
In May, 1337, after a two-year siege, Tlemcen finally fell to a Marinid assault led by Abu al-Hassan. The Abdalwadid sultan Abu Tashfin and his brothers were captured and killed and the sultanate of Tlemcen (covering roughly modern western half of Algeria) was promptly annexed by the Marinids.
Flush from these victories, in 1339, Abu al-Hassan received an appeal from the Nasrid ruler Yusuf I of Granada to help roll back the Castilians. The assembly of a large Marinid invasion force in Morocco prompted the Castilian king Alfonso XI to wrap up his quarrel with Afonso IV of Portugal.
In April 1340, a Castilian fleet of some 32 galleys under admiral Alonso Jofre Tenório set out against the Marinid invasion fleet being outfitted at Ceuta. The Marinid fleet, under the command of Muhammad ibn Ali al-Azafi destroyed the Castilian fleet at the naval battle of Gibraltar (April 5, 1340). The Castilian admiral Tenorio was killed in battle and only five Castilian galleys managed to make it safely out.
With the sea now clear for an invasion, Abu al-Hassan spent the rest of the summer calmly ferrying his troops and supplies across the straits to Algeciras, crossing himself with the bulk of the Marinid forces in August, 1340. The Marinid invasion force made junction with Granadan forces under Yusuf I in September, and proceeded to lay siege to Tarifa together.
A desperate Alfonso XI appealed to his father-in-law, the Portuguese king Afonso IV for assistance. In October, a Portuguese fleet under Manuel Pessanha, supplemented by a leased Genoese fleet, managed to move into position off Tarifa and cut off the besiegers' supply line to Morocco. In the meantime, Afonso IV of Portugal led an army overland to join Alfonso XI of Castile near Seville, and together moved against the besiegers at Tarifa. The Marinid-Nasrid forces were defeated at the battle of Rio Salado (October, 1340), and Abu al-Hassan forced to retreat back to Algeciras. After this defeat, Al-Hasan ended his campaigns in the Iberian Peninsula. A few years later, Alfonso XI of Castile had only a little difficulty taking Algeciras (March, 1344)
The death of Abu al-Hassan's father-in-law, the Hafsid sultan Abu Bakr of Tunisia in 1346, provoked a succession crisis in Ifriqiya. Several Ifriqyian parties appealed to the Marinid ruler for assistance. In a campaign in early 1347, Abu al-Hassan's Moroccan army swept through Ifriqiya and entered Tunis in September, 1347. By uniting Morocco, Tlemcen and Ifriqiya, the Marinid ruler Abu al-Hassan effectively accomplished the conquest of dominions as great as the Almohad empire of the Maghreb, and the comparison was not lost on contemporaries.
However, it was not to last. Wary of the nomadic Bedouin Arab tribes of the south, Abu al-Hassan attempted to relieve their chieftans of feudatory rights and transform them into state functionaries, a move which they resisted. In April, 1348, a confederacy of rebel Arab tribes defeated Abu al-Hassan in a pitched battle near Kairouan. Marinid authority in both Tunisia and Tlemcen collapsed in the aftermath. The sons of the late Abdalwadid sultan Abu Tashufin recovered Tlemcen, while a collection of Hafsid princelings staked out strongholds in Constantine, Bona and Bougie. The Marinid empire disintegrated with stunning rapidity, Abu al-Hassan's recent dream of recreating the Almohad empire became a dead letter.
In late 1349, Abu al-Hassan was compelled to leave Tunis. The overland road to Morocco blocked, he had to take a sea-route home. But the homeward fleet got wrecked by a tempest off Bougie, and the once-mighty sultan was left stranded in the heart of enemy territory. Abu al-Hassan escaped capture and made his way to some of his partisans in Algiers. He managed to gather enough forces to attempt a march to recover Tlemcen, but was defeated by the resurgent Abdalwadid princes near the Chelif river.
By now, Abu al-Hassan's own son, Abu Inan, whom he had left as regent in Fez back in 1347, rebelled against his father and declared himself sovereign ruler of the Marinid empire. As many of his former supporters defected, Abd al-Hassan was forced to proceed to Sijilmassa, in southern Morocco, which he hoped to use as a base to recover his sultanate. But Abu Inan's armies descended on the area, forcing Abu al-Hassan to flee with what remained of his supporters to Marrakech. In May 1350, Abu Inan defeated Abu al-Hassan by the banks of the Oum er-Rebia. With Abu Inan on his heels, Abu al-Hassan fled into the high Atlas mountains, taking refuge among the Hintata tribes. Broken, ill and without resources, the once-mighty Abu al-Hassan, finally agreed to abdicate in favor of Abu Inan in late 1350 or early 1351.
Abu Sa'id Uthman II
Abu Inan Faris