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Barghawata Confederacy

Barghawata Confederacy (green).
Capital Not specified
Language(s) Berber
Religion Islam
Government Monarchy
 - 744 Tarif al-Matghari
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Established 744
 - Disestablished 1058
Barghwata in 800 AD, along with its neighbors.

The Barghawata (also Barghwata or Berghouata) were a medieval Berber tribe confederation of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, belonging to the Masmuda group of tribes. After allying with a failed Sufri Kharijite rebellion in Morocco against the Abbasids, they established a kingdom (744 - 1058) in the area of Tamesna on the Atlantic coast between Safi and Salé under the leadership of Tarif al-Matghari.



Some historians believe that the term Barghawata is a phonetic deformation of the term Barbati, a nickname which Tarif carried. It is thought that he was born in the area of Barbate, near Cádiz in Spain[1]. However, Jérôme Carcopino and other historians think the name is much older and the tribe is the same as that which the Romans called Baquates, who up until the 7th century lived near Volubilis[2].


After the conversion to Islam at the beginning of the 8th century and the Maysara uprising (739-742), the Barghawata Berbers formed their own state on the Atlantic coast between Safi and Salé.

The Barghawata kingdom followed a syncretic religion inspired by Islam (perhaps influenced by Judaism)[3] with elements of Sunni, Shi'a and Kharijite Islam, mixed with astrological and heathen traditions. Supposedly, they had their own Qur'an in the Berber language comprising 80 suras under the leadership of the second ruler of the dynasty Salih ibn Tarif who had taken part in the Maysara uprising. He proclaimed himself a prophet[4]. He also claimed to be the final Mahdi, and that Isa (Jesus) would be his companion and pray behind him.


Few details are known about Barghawata. Most of the historical sources are largely posterior to their rule and often present a contradictory and confused historical context. However, one tradition appears more interesting. It comes from Córdoba in Spain and its author is the Large Prior of Barghawata and the Barghawata ambassador to Córdoba Abu Salih Zammur, around the middle of the 10th century. This tradition is regarded as most detailed concerning Barghwata[5]. It was reported by Al Bakri, Ibn Hazm and Ibn Khaldun, although their interpretations comprise some divergent points of view. The Barghawatas allied with the Kharijite Muslim sect who embraced a doctrine representing total egalitarianism in opposition to the aristocracy of the Quraysh which had grown more pronounced under the Umayyad Caliphate. After the defeat of the Kharijites in Kairouan, Tunisia in 741, the Barghawatas in Morocco retreated to the Tamesna region where they founded their kingdom.

The Barghawatas ruled in the Tamesna region for more than three centuries (744 - 1058). Under the successors of Salih ibn Tarif, Ilyas ibn Salih (?792-842); Yunus (842-888) and Abu Ghufail (888-913) the tribal kingdom was consolidated, and missions sent to neighbouring tribes. After initially good relations with the Caliphate of Cordoba there was a break at the end of the 10th century with the ruling Umayyads. Two Umayyad incursions, as well as attacks by the Fatimids were fought off by the Barghawata. From the 11th century there was an intensive guerilla war with the Banu Ifran. Even though the Barghawata were subsequently much weakened[6], they were still able to fend off Almoravid attacks - the spiritual leader of the Almoravids, Ibn Yasin, fell in battle against them (1058). Only in 1149 were the Barghawata eliminated by the Almohads as a political and religious group.

Barghawata kings

  • Tarif al-Matghari
  • Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf, who declared himself prophet[4] in 744 and went away at the age of 47, promising to return.
  • Ilyas ibn Salih (?792-842)[7], who is said to have professed Islām publicly but Ṣāliḥ's religion secretly, and died in the 50th year of his reign.
  • Yunus ibn Ilyas (?842-888), who made Ṣāliḥ's religion official and killed all those who would not convert (killing 7770 people, according to Ibn Khaldun's sources, some at a place called Tamlukeft). Curiously enough, he is also said to have performed the Hajj. He died in the 44th year of his reign.
  • Abu Ghafir Muhammad (?888-917), who may also have been called a prophet (according to a poem Ibn-Khaldun cites) and who had 44 wives and more sons. He died in the 29th year of his reign.
  • Abu al-Ansar Abdullah (?917-961), buried at Ameslakht. He died in the 44th year of his reign.
  • Abu Mansur Isa (?961-?), who was 22 when he became king.

See also


  • Ulrich Haarmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Welt. C.H. Beck München, 2001.
  • John Iskander, Devout Heretics: The Barghawata in Maghribi Historiography, in The Journal of North African Studies Volume 12, 2007, pages 37–53.
  • Stephan und Nandy Ronart, Lexikon der Arabischen Welt. Artemis Verlag, 1972.
  • Mohammed Talbi, Hérésie, acculturation et nationalisme des berbères Bargawata, in Premier congrès des cultures Méditerranéennes d'influence arabo-berbère, Alger 1973,217-233.


  1. ^ Tarif, el conquistador de Tarifa by Enrique Gozalbes Cravioto - (Spanish)
  2. ^ see e.g. this article originally published in Hesperis and for a contrary view the reference by Mohammed Talbi cited above
  3. ^ It is believed that Salih Ibn Tarif was a Jewish born in the Iberian Peninsula - Kitab Al-Istibsar, transl. of E. Fagnan, L'Afrique Septentrionale au XII siécle de notre Ere, Argel, 1900, p. 157.
  4. ^ a b Talbi (ref. cited above) notes that in fact there is no contemporary record of him being anything other than a Sufri Kharijite, and that it may have been a myth propagated by Yunus
  5. ^ Talbi (ref. cited above) believes, however, that it contains a certain amount of myth or propaganda
  6. ^ Al Bakri even states they were annihilated in 1029, although this is inconsistent with what he himself states elsewhere regarding their battles with the Almoravids
  7. ^ Dates with question marks are calculated on the basis of a secondary source[1]. Other info is from Ibn Khaldun.


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