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History of the Muslim States
Religious mouvement of kharijism card in North Africa. Greatest Extent

The Rustamid (or Rustumid, Rostemid) dynasty of Ibāḍī Kharijite imām that ruled the central Maghreb as a Muslim theocracy for a century and a half from their capital Tahert in present Algeria until the Ismailite Fatimid Caliphs destroyed it. The dynasty had a Persian[1][2][3] origin. The exact extent of its dominions is not entirely clear, but it stretched as far east as Jabal Nafusa in Libya.



The Ibādiyya reached North Africa by 719, when the missionary Salma ibn Sa'd was sent from the Ibādī jama'a of Basra to Kairouan. By 740, their efforts had converted the major Berber tribes of Huwwara around Tripoli, Nafusa in Jabal Nafusa and Zenata in western Tripolitania. In 757 (140 AH), a group of four Basra-educated missionaries (including Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rustam) proclaimed an Ibādī imamate, starting an abortive state led by Abul-Khattab Abdul-A'la ibn as-Samh which lasted until the Abbasids suppressed it in 761, and Abul-Khattab Abdul-A'la ibn as-Samh was killed. On his death, the Tripolitanian Ibādiyya elected Abul-Hatim al-Malzuzi as imām; he was killed in 772 after launching a second unsuccessful revolt in 768.

After this, the center of power shifted to Algeria, and ˤAbd ar-Rahmān ibn Rustam, a Tunisian-born convert to Ibadiism, who was likewise of Persian[4] origin (already noted as one of the four founders of this imamate), was elected imām; after this, the post remained in his family, a practice which the Ibādiyya justified by noting that he came from no tribe, and thus his family had no bias towards any of the tribes of which the state was formed.

The new imamate was centered on the newly built capital of Tahert; several Ibādī tribes displaced from Tunisia and Tripolitania settled there and strong fortifications were built. It became a major stop on the newly developing trade routes with sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. It is described by visitors such as the Sunni Muslim Ibn as-Saghir as notably multi-religious, with a significant and loyal Christian minority and a substantial number of Sunnis and Jews, and open religious debate was encouraged.

Genealogy of Iranian Persian Rustamid dynasty.

Ibn as-Saghir also describes the imām as notably ascetic, repairing his own house and refusing gifts; the citizens sharply criticized him if they considered him derelict in his duty. Religious ethics were strictly enforced by law.

The Rustamids fought the Aghlabids of Ifriqiyya (based in Qairawan) in 812, but otherwise reached a modus vivendi; this displeased the Ibādī tribes on the Aghlabid border, who launched a few rebellions.

After Abdu l-Wahhāb, the Rustamids grew militarily weak; they were easily conquered by the Ismaili Shiite Fatimids in 909, upon which many Ibādiyya - including the last imām - fled to the Sedrata tribe of Ouargla, whence they would ultimately emigrate to Mzab.

The Rustamid dynasty, "developed a cosmopolitan reputation in which Christians, nonKharijite Muslims, and adherents of different sects of Kharijism lived".[5]

Rustamid Imams


  1. ^ Britannica Encyclopedia, Retrieved on 18 December 2008.
  2. ^ "The Places where Men Pray Together", pg. 210.
  3. ^ Based on Britannica 2008: The state was governed by imams descended from ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān ibn Rustam, the austere Persian who founded the state.
  4. ^ Britannica Encyclopedia, Retrieved on 18 December 2008.
  5. ^ John P. Entelis, Algeria: The Revolution Institutionalized, page 14.




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