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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Connecting the Ibāḍī Network in North Africa with the Empire (2nd–3rd/8th–9th Centuries)

From the book Volume 1 Transregional and Regional Elites – Connecting the Early Islamic Empire

  • Cyrille Aillet


At first sight, North African Ibāḍism emerged during the Berber uprisings against Umayyad and ʿAbbāsid rule and stayed at the margins of the empire. The imamate of Tāhart even stood, in the posthumous memory of the school, as an ideal counter-model of the caliphate. In fact, during the 8th and 9th centuries western Ibāḍism remained under the influence of its eastern strongholds, in particular Baṣra where the sectarian elite was well integrated into ʿAbbāsid culture. Intense scholarly exchange linked west and east thanks to intermediary meeting points like Mecca and Fusṭāṭ. The Ibāḍī political opposition of ‘Berber’ and ‘Arab’ ethnicity certainly worked against the imperial discourse, but the Persian shuʿūbiyya shaped it. The Rustamid imamate came to be the symbol of a Persian state in a Berber milieu and its capital and state apparatus underwent a gradual orientalization. Trade also played a key role in connecting the Ibāḍī network with the empire. Baṣra was a notorious emporium and Ibāḍī merchants circulated widely between the ʿAbbāsid realm and its western fringes. The Maghribīs owned stores in Fusṭāṭ and traveled as far as Baghdad and Sāmarrāʾ. Trans-Saharan trade, including slaves and gold, also presumably saw its first development thanks to imperial demand.

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