From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Beniznassen)
Iznaten, Zenata, Zanata
Berber tribal confederation
BranchesMaghrawa, Banu Ifran, Banu Wasin, Djarawa
LanguageZenati languages (Berber languages)
ReligionIslam (predominantly)

The Zenata (Berber languages: Iznaten; Arabic: زناتة) are a group of Berber tribes, historically one of the largest Berber confederations along with the Sanhaja and Masmuda.[1][2] Their lifestyle was either nomadic[3][4] or semi-nomadic.[5]


Guanche collections: Stone of Zanata (El Tanque, Tenerife) with alphabetiform inscription.

The 14th-century historiographer Ibn Khaldun reports that the Zenata were divided into three large tribes: Jarawa, Maghrawa, and Banu Ifran. Formerly occupying a large portion of the Maghreb, they were displaced to the south and west in conflicts with the more powerful Kutama and Houara.[citation needed]

The Zenata adopted Islam early, in the 7th century. While other Berber tribes continued to resist the Umayyad Caliphate conquest well into the 8th century, they were quickly Islamized.[6] They also formed a substantial contingent in the subsequent Muslim conquest of Iberia.[1]


As Berbers, the Zenata spoke one of the Berber languages. Ibn Khaldun wrote that their dialect was distinct from other Berber dialects.[7] French linguist Edmond Destaing in 1915 proposed "Zenati" as a loose subgrouping within the Northern Berber languages, including Riffian Berber in northeastern Morocco and Shawiya Berber in northeastern Algeria.[8]

Political history[edit]

Before the Arab conquests, the Zenata ranged between present-day Tunisia and Tripolitania in present-day Libya, before moving steadily west where they settled in western Algeria near Tiaret and Tlemcen, while some of them moved still further west to Morocco.[1] They dominated the politics of the western Maghreb (Morocco and western Algeria) in two different periods: in the 10th century, during the decline of the Idrisids, as proxies for either the Fatimid Caliphs or the Umayyad Caliphs of Cordoba, and in the 13th to 16th centuries with the rise of the Zayyanid dynasty in Algeria and the Marinids and Wattasids in Morocco, all from Zenata tribes.[7] Today, most of the Berbers of the Rif region are believed to be of Zenata ancestry.[1]

8th-10th centuries[edit]

In the early Islamic period of Morocco, Berber groups and tribes dominated the politics of the region well after the Arab conquests. The Zenata confederation did too. A Zenata chieftain, Khalid ibn Hamid al-Zanati, was a leading figure in the Berber revolt of 740 against the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, and led Berber rebels to major victories in the Battle of the Nobles and the Battle of Bagdoura.[9]: 38 [10]: 212  While the Umayyads managed to defeat the rebels eventually and reassert some of their authority, the westernmost parts of the Maghreb, including what is now Morocco, remained outside of Arab caliphal rule.[9][10]: 207  In this vacuum, various principalities arose in the region, such as the Midrarid Emirate in eastern Morocco, led by a Zenata Miknasa tribe,[11] to which the foundation of the city of Sijilmasa is attributed.[12][9]: 49 

In 868, under the leadership of the Abd al-Razzaq, the Berber Khariji Sufri tribes of Madyuna, Ghayata and Miknasa formed a common front against the Idrisids of Fes. From their base in Sefrou they were able to defeat Ali ibn Umar and occupy Fes. The city's inhabitants refused to submit, however, and the Idrisid Yahya III was able to retake the city.[9]: 52 [13] Starting in the early 10th century, however, the Fatimids in the east began to intervene in present-day Morocco, hoping to expand their influence, and used the Miknasa as proxies and allies in the region. In 917 the Miknasa and its leader Masala ibn Habus, acting on behalf of their Fatimid allies, attacked Fes and forced Yahya IV to recognize Fatimid suzerainty, before deposing him in 919[13][11] or 921.[9]: 63  He was succeeded by his cousin Musa ibn Abul 'Afiya, who had already been given charge over the rest of the country. The Idrisid Hassan I al-Hajam managed to wrest control of Fez from 925 but in 927 Musa returned, captured Hassan and killed him, marking the last time the Idrisids held power in Fes.[13] Thereafter Fes remained under Zenata control.[14]: 50  The Miknasa pursued the Idrisids to the fortress of Hajar an-Nasr in northern Morocco, but soon afterwards civil war broke out among the Miknasa when Musa switched allegiance to the Umayyads of Cordoba in 931 in an attempt to gain more independence. The Fatimids sent Humayd ibn Yasal (or Hamid[9]), the nephew of Masala ibn Habus, to confront Musa, defeating him in 933 and forcing him to fall back into line.[13][9]: 63  Once the Fatimids were gone, however, Musa once again threw off their authority and recognized the Umayyad caliph. The Fatimids sent their general Maysur to confront him again, and this time he fled. He was pursued and killed by the Idrisids.[13] The latter preserved a part of their realm in northern Morocco until the Umayyads finally ended their rule definitively in 985.[13] The Umayyads in turn kept control over northern Morocco until their caliphate's collapse in the early 11th century. Following this, Morocco was dominated by various Zenata Berber tribes.[15]: 91 [9]: 82  Until the rise of the Sanhaja Almoravids later in the century, the Maghrawa controlled Fes, Sijilmasa and Aghmat while the Banu Ifran ruled over Tlemcen, Salé (Chellah), and the Tadla region.[15]: 91 

13th-16th centuries[edit]

In the 13th century the Banu Marin (Arabic: بنو مرين), a Zenata tribe, rose to power in Morocco.[16][17] Starting in 1245 they began overthrowing the Almohads who had controlled the region.[9]: 103  At the height of their power in the mid-14th century, during the reigns of Abu al-Hasan and his son Abu Inan, the Marinid dynasty briefly held sway over most of the Maghreb including large parts of modern-day Algeria and Tunisia.[17] They supported the Emirate of Granada in al-Andalus in the 13th and 14th centuries; an attempt to gain a direct foothold on the European side of the Strait of Gibraltar was however defeated at the Battle of Río Salado in 1340 and finished after the Castilians took Algeciras from the Marinids in 1344, definitively expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula.[18] In contrast to their predecessors, the Marinids sponsored Maliki Sunnism as the official religion and made Fez their capital.[19][17] Under their rule, Fez enjoyed a relative golden age.[20] The Marinids also pioneered the construction of madrasas across the country which promoted the education of Maliki ulama, although Sufi sheikhs increasingly predominated in the countryside.[17]

Starting in the early 15th century the Wattasid dynasty, a related ruling house, competed with the Marinid dynasty for control of their state and became de facto rulers of Morocco between 1420 and 1459 while officially acting as regents or viziers. In 1465 the last Marinid sultan, Abd al-Haqq II, was finally overthrown and killed by a revolt in Fez, which led to the establishment of direct Wattasid rule over most of Morocco. The Wattasid sultans in turn lasted until the mid-16th century, when they were finally overthrown by the Saadians, who inaugurated the beginning of Arab Sharifian rule over Morocco (which continues under the present-day Alaouite dynasty).[17][21]

Meanwhile, around the same time as the Marinids, the Zenata[22][23][24] Zayyanid dynasty (also known as the Abd al-Wadids) ruled over the Kingdom of Tlemcen in northwestern Algeria, centered on Tlemcen. The territory stretched from Tlemcen to the Chelif bend and Algiers. At its zenith, the kingdom reached the Moulouya river to the west, Sijilmasa to the south, and the Soummam river to the east.[25][26] The Zayyanid dynasty's rule lasted from 1235 until 1556, when their rule, under pressure from the Spanish in Oran and the Saadians in Morocco, was finally ended by the Ottomans.[27][11][9]: 157 

Zanata tribesmen also played a role as light cavalry in the armies of the Emirate of Granada. This gave rise to the Spanish term jinete (derived from the name 'Zenata'), which denoted this type of light cavalry.[28][29] They formed the backbone of the Granadan army, serving both in crucial battles as well as in regular raids inside Christian territory.[30][28] They were highly mobile on the field, armed with lances, javelins, and small round shields known for their flexibility, and used their own characteristic set of tactics.[28][31][32] They were recruited and led by exiled members of the Marinid family and settled within the kingdom of Granada. Their Marinid commander was known as the shaykh al-ghuzāt ('chief of the ghazis'), but in 1374 Muhammad V suppressed this office due to their political interference, after which they were commanded by a Nasrid or Andalusi general.[28] They also served as mercenaries in the armies of Christian kingdoms such as Castile[31] or as auxiliaries sent by the Nasrid emirs of Granada to aid their Castilian allies.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ilahiane, Hsain (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen). Scarecrow Press. pp. 91–92, 145. ISBN 9780810864900.
  2. ^ Nelson, Harold D. (1985). Morocco, a country study. Area handbook series. Washington, D.C.: The American University. p. 14.
  3. ^ Ilahiane, Hsain (2004). Ethnicities, Community Making, and Agrarian Change: The Political Ecology of a Moroccan Oasis. University Press of America. p. 44. ISBN 9780761828761.
  4. ^ Wright, John (2012). A History of Libya. Hurst. p. 48. ISBN 9781849042277.
  5. ^ Romey, Alain (1998). Perception de la limite et de la frontière au Maghreb de l'Antiquité à la contemporanéité nomade (PDF) (in French). Cahiers de la Méditerranée. pp. 29–38.
  6. ^ "The disappearance of Zenata to the eighth century, them covering a quarter of North Africa, is one of the most extraordinary facts the Tamazgha has ever known." Les oasis du Gourara (Sahara algérien) Par Rachid Bellil, (1999), p.77
  7. ^ a b Hamès, C. (2012). "Zanāta". In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill.
  8. ^ Edmond Destaing, "Essai de classification des dialectes berbères du Maroc Archived September 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine", Etudes et Documents Berbères 19-20, 2001-2002 (1915). Edmond Destaing, "Note sur la conjugaison des verbes de forme C1eC2", Mémoires de la Société Linguistique de Paris, 22 (1920/3), pp. 139-148
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Abun-Nasr, Jamil (1987). A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521337674.
  10. ^ a b Blankinship, Khalid Yahya (1994). The End of the Jihâd State: The Reign of Hishām ibn ʻAbd al-Malik and the Collapse of the Umayyads. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-1827-7.
  11. ^ a b c Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2004). The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748621378.
  12. ^ Pellat, Ch. (1991). "Midrār". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume VI: Mahk–Mid (2nd ed.). Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 1038–1042. ISBN 978-90-04-08112-3.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Eustache, D. (1971). "Idrīsids". In Lewis, B.; Ménage, V. L.; Pellat, Ch. & Schacht, J. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume III: H–Iram (2nd ed.). Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 1035–1037. OCLC 495469525.
  14. ^ Le Tourneau, Roger (1949). Fès avant le protectorat: étude économique et sociale d'une ville de l'occident musulman. Casablanca: Société Marocaine de Librairie et d'Édition.
  15. ^ a b Rivet, Daniel (2012). Histoire du Maroc: de Moulay Idrîs à Mohammed VI. Fayard.
  16. ^ "Marinid dynasty (Berber dynasty) - Encyclopædia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  17. ^ a b c d e Abun-Nasr, Jamil (1987). A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 103–118. ISBN 0521337674.
  18. ^ Niane, D.T. (1981). General History of Africa. Vol. IV. p. 91. ISBN 9789231017100. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  19. ^ Ira M. Lapidus, Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History, (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 414.
  20. ^ Le Tourneau, Roger (1949). Fès avant le protectorat: étude économique et sociale d'une ville de l'occident musulman. Casablanca: Société Marocaine de Librairie et d'Édition.
  21. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2004). The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748621378.
  22. ^ "Algeria - Zayanids". countrystudies.us. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  23. ^ "Abd al-Wadid Dynasty | Berber dynasty". Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  24. ^ Appiah, Anthony; Gates, Henry Louis (2010-01-01). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195337709.
  25. ^ The Abdelwadids (1236–1554), on qantara-med.org
  26. ^ Simon, Jacques (1 August 2017). L'Algérie au passé lointain: de Carthage à la régence d'Alger. Harmattan. ISBN 9782296139640 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ Phillip Chiviges Naylor, North Africa: a history from antiquity to the present, (University of Texas Press, 2009), 98.
  28. ^ a b c d e Kennedy, Hugh (1996). Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus. Routledge. pp. 282–283. ISBN 9781317870418.
  29. ^ Fletcher, Richard (1992). Moorish Spain. University of California Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-520-24840-3.
  30. ^ Harvey, L.P. (1990). Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500. University of Chigaco Press. p. 230. ISBN 0226319628.
  31. ^ a b Echevarria, Ana (2009). Knights on the Frontier: The Moorish Guard of the Kings of Castile (1410-1467). Brill. pp. 99, 114. ISBN 978-90-47-42441-3.
  32. ^ O'Callaghan, Joseph F. (2011). The Gibraltar Crusade: Castile and the Battle for the Strait. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-8122-0463-6.

External links[edit]