From New World Encyclopedia
Marinid region

The Marinid dynasty or Benemerine dynasty') was an Arabized Berber dynasty formed in 1244. They were largely concentrated in present-day Morocco and Spain. They overtook the Berber Almohad Dynasty in controlling most of the Maghreb from the mid-1300s to the fifteenth century, and also supported the Kingdom of Granada, in Al-Andalus, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The last Marinid fortress in the Iberian Peninsula fell to Castile in 1344, and they were in turn replaced by the Hafsid dynasty in 1465. Lack of established rules of succession seriously weakened the dynasty, which faced internal rebellions. Patrons of culture, the Marinids continued to develop Fez, their capital, as a center of Islamic learning, building schools and mosques and establishing a new city alongside the old one. Their rule was characterized by a policy of religious toleration. Jews and Christians were employed and prospered; the latter dominated the Marinid army. At times, the Marinids entered alliances with Christian rulers.

Their goal was not to conquer Andalusia but to maintain the balance of power there to protect their Maghribian base. The Marinid period shows the complexity of Christian-Muslim relations at this time, indeed throughout the Moorish period; from the first Muslim conquests to the end of Muslim presence in Iberia, all Muslims were rarely if ever at odds with all Christians; inter-marriage occurred at the highest levels, Christians employed Muslims and Muslims Christians; alliances and peace-treaties were almost as common as open war. From ancient times, people on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea have regarded the far-shore as an extension of their own land, which they have attempted to claim. Any historical reconstruction of relations between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean that represents the reality as one of continual civilizational and inter-religious clash is a biased narrative. The Marinid legacy, alongside others, challenges the assumption that hostility not harmony is inevitable between people of different faiths.



Court of the medersa Bou Inania in Meknes (Morocco)

The Marinids originally came from Ifriqiya, through the southeast of present-day Morocco, from which they were expelled in 1224 by another tribe, the Hilali.[1] As early as 1145 the Marinids engaged in battles with the Almohads, who defeated them until 1169.

The Marinid, or the Beni Marin, Arabic]]: مرينيون marîniyûn or بنو مرين banû marîn; Spanish Mariní/Mariníes) were an Arabized tribe of Zenata Berber heritage.

They were a pastoral, nomadic tribe "until they became involved in political conflicts with the Almohads" (Abun-Nasr 1987, 103). Since they were not proponents of "any particular religious doctrine they were probably first attracted to the Maghrib by the "prospect of good pasturage and booty" (Abun-Nasr 1987, 103). In 1169, the Marinids began their pursuit of taking Morocco from the Almohads, the ruling dynasty at the time. Following their expulsion from the south, they moved northwards under the command of Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq and took Fez in 1248, making it their capital. This marked the beginning of the Marinid dynasty. Unlike the Almohads and the dynasty that they had conquered, the Almoravids it would be inaccurate to depict the Marindis as reformers. However, they did claim to have Islam on their side, regarding the Almohads as too lax in prosecuting their duty of defeating the Christians in Spain, citing the obligation of jihad; "the Muslim successor states of the Almohads, the Nasrids of Granada and the Banu Marin of Morocco, both stressed their performance in the holy war or jihad against Iberian Christian powers to rally supporters to their cause and bolster their legitimacy" (Clancy-Smith 2001, 15).


The Marinid leadership installed in Fez declared war on the Almohads with the aid of Christian mercenaries (Fage and Oliver, 1975, 364). After defeats in 1217 and 1244, their leader, Abu Yusuf Yaqub (1259-1286) nominally submitted to the Almohads in 1248. When the Almohad caliph was killed later the same year, Yaqub's troops regrouped, captured Marrakech in 1269, then took control of most of the Maghreb towards the end of 1268, including present-day Morocco, Algeria and part of Tunisia. After the Nasrids cession of Algeciras to the Marinidas, Abu Yusuf went to Andalusia to support them in their struggle against the Kingdom of Castile. In the mid 1300s, Castile made several incursions into Morocco and in 1267 a full-scale invasion. Having successfully defended Morocco, Abu Yusuf followed thus up by taking the offensive. He first crossed to Iberia in 1275, and did so four times before his death. Abun-Nasr surmises that he did not intend to conquer Iberia but to maintain the balance of power there to curb Castilian ambitions in Morocco (Abun-Nasr 1987, 108).

The effort of fighting off the Marinids impoverished Alfonso X of Castile, who in 1282 "concocted an alliance - unbelievingly- with the very same ... dynasty that had brought him such grief by invading Spain, occasioning his son Fernando's premature death, butchering hundreds if not thousands of Christian knights." Alfonso mortgaged his crown as collateral for a "massive loan" (Lowney 2006, 212). In fact, Alfonso employed a large number of Muslims and Jews at his court, so entering an alliance with the Marininds may not have been out of character. In return, however, the Marinids did little to secure Alfonso's borders but proceeded to extend their own territory. They occupied the cities of Rota, Algiers and Gibraltar successively, surrounding Tarifa for the first time in 1294. In 1285, when Alfonso's rebellious son, Sancho succeeded, Abu Yusuf again invaded Spain this time defeating the Castilian fleet. However, on October 22 he signed a peace treaty with Sancho "and exchanged gifts" (Abun-Nasr 1987, 108). In 1286, the King of Aragon attempted to forge an alliance with the Marinids in his war with Castile (Abun-Nasr 1987, 108).

Internal power struggles among the Marinids followed, which did not, however prevent Abu Said Utman II (1310-1331) from substantial construction work in Fez. Several madrassas for the education of public servants were founded, in order to support the centralization of administration and to reduce the influence of Sufi teachers.

Alliance with Granada

The Marinids also strongly influenced the policy of the Kingdom of Granada, from which they enlarged their army in 1275. In 1309, a formal alliance with Granada was by a marriage between a Nasrid princess and Sultan Sulayman.

Under Abu Hasan (1331-1348) another attempt to reunite the Maghreb was made. In 1337, the empire of the Abdalwadids in (what is now called) Algeria was conquered, followed in 1347 by the empire of the Hafsids in Ifriqiya (Tunisia). However in 1340 the Marinids suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a Portuguese-Castilian coalition at the Battle of Rio Salado, and finally had to withdraw from Andalusia. Abu l-Hasan was deposed by his son Abu Inan Faris (1348-1358), who tried to reconquer Algeria and Tunisia. Despite several successes, the dynasty began to decline after the murder of Abu Inan Faris, strangled by his own vizier in 1358.

Unruly Bedouin and Berber tribes increasingly spread anarchy in Morocco, which accelerated the fall of the empire. The support of the Marabuts also declined, after the Merinids reduced their financial support in the fifteenth century due to a financial crisis. The empire became fractured into multiple small kingdoms and city-states, such as the Kingdom of Fez, which partitioned from the Marinid dynasty in 1374, and opposed the Kingdom of Marrakech. The Kingdom of Fez covered a vast area in today's eastern Algeria to the gates of Tlemsen, Spanish Plaza de soberanía and northern Morocco.

Decline and Fall

After 1358, real power was exercised by the Wattasids, who technically were vizies. They rotated Marinid sultans, often still children, in quick succession to ensure a strong viziership. The Wattasids, however, were equally unable to consolidated the empire; that in 1415 Portugal occupied the town of Ceuta and by 1513 had occupied all important harbors on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. After Abdalhaqq II (1421-1465) tried in vain to break the power of the Wattasids, they finally toppled the dynasty of the Marinids.

Two factors contributed to the decline of the Marinids. First, "lack of religious ideology as a source of legitimacy and for mobilizing popular support" left "force as the principal means of securing political authority" (Fage and Oliver, 1975, 364). The fact that they relied on Christians to exercise this force also alienated some their Muslim subjects. Various rebellions led by leaders who claimed descent from Muhammad also challenged their rule (Gerber 1980, 17). Although Sunni, unlike their predecessors, the Almohads, who had advocated a reformist ideology, the Marinids did not support a particular form of Sunni Islam although they appear to have regarded Sufi Islam as problematic, probably due to the independence of Sufi teachers. Nor could they claim descent from Muhammad, which, although not technically necessary for Sunni rulers, has often been used to legitimize rule. Disputes about succession began as early as 1258. Sultans constantly faced revolt from family members; "not only brothers and cousins challenged the reigning sultan, but also sons revolted against fathers." The succession was complicated by "lack of established rules of succession." Of the seventeen sultans who ruled from 1358 until 1465, three were children, succeeding at the ages of four, five and ten (Fage and Oliver 1975, 365). While the Viziers exercised real power during these sultanates, they were also vulnerable to threats from "other ambitious politicians" and "held office for periods which were almost as short as those of the sultan's reigns" (Fage and Oliver 1975, 365).

Chronology of events

  • 1215: Banu Marin (Marinids) attack the Almohads when the 16-year-old Almohad caliph Yusuf II Al-Mustansir took power in 1213. The battle took place on the coast of Rif. Under the reign of Yusuf II Al-Mustansir, a great tower to protect the royal palace in Seville was erected.
  • 1217: Abd al-Haqq I dies during a victorious combat against Almohads. His son Uthman ibn Abd al-Haqq (Uthman I) succeeds to the throne. Marinids take possession of Rif. The Almohad counter-attack.
  • 1240: Uthman I is assassinated by one of his Christian slavess. His brother Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Haqq (Muhammad I) succeeds him.
  • 1244: Muhammad I is killed by an officer of his own Christian mercenaries' militia. Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq, the third son of Abd Al-Haqq, succeeds him.
  • 1249: Severe repression of anti-marinids in Fez.
  • 1258: Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq dies of disease. After a period of abandonment of the ancient city of Chellah, a necropolis is built and Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq is buried there. His uncle Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd Al-Haqq, fourth son of Abd Al-Haqq succeeds to the throne.
  • 1260: Raid of the Castilians over Salé.
  • 1269: Seizure of Marrakech and the end of the Almohad domination in Western Maghreb. The Marinids build a new city Fez Jdid, alongside the old city of Fez that replaces Marrakech as capital city (1276).
  • 1274: The Marinids seizure of Sijilmassa.
  • 1286: Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd Al-Haqq dies of disease in Algeciras (in modern Spain) after a fourth expedition to the Iberian Peninsula. His son Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr replaces him.
  • 1286: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr fights against the revolts which took place around Draa River and the province of Marrakech.
  • 1296: Construction of Sidi Boumediene mosque, or Sidi Belhasan in Tlemcen (modern Algeria).
  • 1299: Beginning of Tlemcen's siege by the Marinids which will last nine years.
  • 1288: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr receives envoys of king de Granada in Fez, to which it returned the town of Cadiz (in modern Spain).
  • 1291: Construction of the mosque of Taza, the first preserved Marinid building.
  • 1306: Conquest and destruction of Taroudant
  • 1307: Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr is assassinated by an eunuch. His son Abu Thabit Amir succeeds him.
  • 1308: Abu Thabit dies of disease in Tetouan, a city which he had just founded, after one year in power. His brother, Abu al-Rabi Sulayman succeeds him.
  • 1309: Abu al-Rabi Sulayman enters Ceuta. Marriage between Sulayman and a Nasrid princess, forming an alliance with Granada.
  • 1310: Abu al-Rabi dies of disease after having repressed a revolt of army official in Taza led by Gonzalve, chief of the Christian militia. His brother Abu Said Uthman succeeds him to the throne.
  • 1323: Construction of the Attarin's madrassa in Fez.
  • 1329: Victory against the Castilians in Algeciras, re-establishing a foothold in the south of the Iberian peninsula with the hope of reversing the Reconquista.
  • 1331: Abu Said Uthman dies. His son Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman succeeds him.
  • 1337: First occupation of Tlemcen.
  • 1340: A combined Portuguese-Castilian army defeats the Marinids at the battle of Rio Salado close to Tarifa, the southernmost town of the Iberian peninsula. At that point the Marinids move back to Africa.
  • 1344: The Castilians take over Algeciras. Marinids ejected from Iberia.
  • 1347: Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman destroys the Hafsid dynasty of Tunis and restores his authority over the Maghre but this success was of short duration.
  • 1348: Abu al-Hasan dies, his son Abu Inan Faris succeeded him as Marinid ruler.
  • 1348: The Black Death and the rebellions of Tlemcen and Tunis mark the beginning of the decline of Marinids.
  • 1350: Construction of Bou Inania's Madrassa in Meknes.
  • 1351: Second seizure of Tlemcen.
  • 1357: Defeat of Abu Inan Faris in at Tlemcen. Construction of another Bou Inania's madrassa in Fez.
  • 1358: Abu Inan is assassinated by his vizier. Each vizier tries to install the weakest candidate on the throne.
  • 1358: Abu Zian as-Said Muhammad ibn Faris was named a Marinid Sultan by the vizier, just after the assassination of Abu Inan. His reign only lasted for a few months. Abu Yahya abu Bakr ibn Faris comes to power. He also reigned for only a few months.
  • 1359: Abu Salim Ibrahim is nominated a Sultan by the vizier. He is one of sons of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman. He is supported by king of Castille Pedro the Cruel.
  • 1359: Resurgence of the Zianids of Tlemcen.
  • 1361: Abu Salim Ibrahim is replaced by Abu Umar Tachfin. This one was supported by the Christian militia and was named successor of Abu Salim Ibrahim by the vizier. He also only reigned for a few months.
  • 1361: The period called the "reign of the viziers" ends.
  • 1362: Muhammad ibn Yaqub takes power. He is the infant son of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman who had taken refuge in Castille.
  • 1366: Muhammad ibn Yaqub is assassinated by his vizier. He is replaced by Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali, one of the sons of Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman who until this time, had been held locked up in the palace of Fez.
  • 1370: Third seizure of Tlemcen.
  • 1372: Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali dies of disease, leaving the throne to his very young son Muhammad as-Said. This led to a new period marked by instability. The viziers try on several occasions to impose a puppet sovereign.
  • 1373: Muhammad as-Said is declared Sultan. Five-years-old, he died the same year.
  • 1374: Abu al-Abbas Ahmad, supported by the Nasrid princes of Granada takes power.
  • 1374: Partition of the empire into two Kingdoms; the Kingdom of Fez and the Kingdom of Marrakech.
  • 1384: Abu al-Abbas is removed temporarily by the Nasrids after 10 years on the throne. Nasrids replace him with Abu Faris Musa ibn Faris, a disabled person and son of Abu Inan Faris, which was a kind of interim during the reign of Abu al-Abbas Ahmad from 1384 to 1386.
  • 1384: Abu Zayd Abd ar-Rahman reigns over the Kingdom of Marrakech from 1384 to 1387 while the Marinid throne is still based in Fez.
  • 1386: Al-Wathiq rules during the second part of the interim in the reign of Abu al-Abbas from 1386 to 1387.
  • 1387: Abu Al-Abbas begins to give viziers more power. Morocco knows six years of peace, although Abu Al-Abbas benefits from this period to reconquer Tlemcen and Algiers.
  • 1393: Abu Al-Abbas dies. Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ahmad is designated as the new Sultan. The troubles which followed the sudden death of Abu Al-Abbas in Taza made it possible for the Christian sovereigns to carry war into Morocco.
  • 1396: Abu Amir Abdallah succeeds to the throne.
  • 1398: Abu Amir dies. His brother Abu Said Uthman ibn Ahmad takes power.
  • 1399: Benefiting from the anarchy within the Marinid kingdom, the king Henry III of Castile invades Morocco, seizes Tetouan, massacres half the population and reduced it to slavery.
  • 1415: King John I of Portugal seizes Ceuta. This conquest marks the beginning of European expansion in Africa.
  • 1420: Abu Said Uthman dies. He is replaced by his son Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq at the age of one.
  • 1437: Failure of a Portuguese expedition to Tangier. Many prisoners are taken and the infant Fernando, the Saint Prince is kept as a hostage. He dies in captivity.
  • 1458: The king Afonso V of Portugal prepares an army for a crusade against the Ottomans at the call of Pope Pius II. He finally preferred to turn over his force against a small port located between Tangier and Ceuta.
  • 1459: Abu Muhammad Abd Al-Haqq revolts against his own Wattasid viziers. Only two brothers survived. They will become the first Watassids sultans in 1472.
  • 1462: Ferdinand IV of Castille takes over Gibraltar.
  • 1465: Abu Muhammad Abd Al-Haqq has his throat cut in Fez when a popular revolt breaks out against him after he had appointed a Jewish vizier, Aaron ben Batash who is said to have abused his office. The Portuguese king Afonso V finally manages to take Tangier while benefiting from the troubles in Fez.
  • 1472: Abu Abdallah sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya, one of the two Wattasid viziers who survived the 1459 massacre, installed himself in Fez where he founded the Wattasid dynasty.

List of Marinid rulers

  • Abd al-Haqq I (1195-1217)
  • Uthman I (1217-1240)
  • Muhammad I (1240-1244)
  • Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq (1244 - 1258)
  • Umar (1258 - 1259)
  • Abu Yusuf Yaqub (1259 - 1286)
  • Abu Yaqub Yusuf (1286 - 1306)
  • Abu Thabit (1307 - 1308)
  • Abu l-Rabia (1308 - 1310)
  • Abu Said Uthman II (1310 - 1331)
  • Abu al-Hasan 'Ali (1331 - 1348)
  • Abu Inan Faris (1348 - 1358)
  • Muhammad II as Said (1359)
  • Abu Salim Ali II (1359 - 1361)
  • Abu Umar Taschufin (1361)
  • Abu Zayyan Muhammad III (1362 - 1366)
  • Abu l-Fariz Abdul Aziz I (1366 - 1372)
  • Abu l-Abbas Ahmad (1372 - 1374)
  • Abu Zayyan Muhammad IV (1384 - 1386)
  • Muhammad V (1386 - 1387)
  • Abu l-Abbas Ahmad (1387 - 1393)
  • Abdul Aziz II (1393 - 1398)
  • Abdullah (1398 - 1399)
  • Abu Said Uthman III (1399 - 1420)
  • Abdalhaqq II (1420 - 1465)

Chronology of Marinid viziers

  • 1344: Askar Ibn Tahabrit
  • 1420-1448 : Abu Zakariya Yahya
  • 1448-1458 : Ali ibn Yusuf
  • 1458-1459 : Yahya ibn Abi Zakariya Yahya


The explorer Ibn Battuta (1304-1368 or 1377) traveled through Marinid territory. The Marinids patronized education, including science and the arts further developing Fez as a major center of Islamic learning. The famous al-Attarin Madrasa, near the University of Al-Karaouine, was commissioned by the Marinid Sultan, Uthman II b. Ya'qub, Abu Sa'id (r. 1310-31) in 1323. It was completed in 1325. In what was probably part of a systematic an effort to counter the influence of Sufi teachers, the Marinids sponsored many madrassas. Their new capital, known as the White City, "was lavishly endowed with urban structures and ornate mosques" and has been described as "an Analusian city on North African soil" (Gerber 1980, 15).

Several Roman Catholic diocese existed in Marinid territory. Their employment of Christian troops and occasional alliance with Castile as well as periods of hostility suggests that the history of Christian-Muslim relations at this time complex. The period between the first Muslim conquests and the end of Muslim presence in Iberia rarely if ever saw all Muslims at odds with all Christians; inter-marriage occurred at the highest levels, Christians employed Muslims and Muslims Christians; alliances and peace-treaties were almost as common as was open war. According to Gerber, the Marinids also practices a "pro-Jewish policy." The Jews of Fez were protected from "anti-Jewish outbursts" and "admitted to Marinid official circles as scientists, financial advisers and personal stewards." Ibn Khaldun suggested that the Marinids saw Jews as fellow Zanata tribesmen (Gerber 1980, 15-16). Gerber says that the Marinids also used Jews, who were in communication with their co-religionists in Spain, to negotiate alliances there (Gerber 1980, 16, N70). The Marinids also encouraged Jews to develop trans-Saharan trade, since "various religious scruples prevented Muslims from the exportation of gold dust and animal feathers (Gerber 1980, 18, N77). The Jewish quarter in Fez remains well-preserved, although now almost entirely non-Jewish in population (Dumper and Stanley 2007, 153). The 1645 revolt was less because the vizier was a Jew than because of his behavior; "he used his position to further the fortunes of his family and indulged in certain prerogatives of office" including "riding a mount and carrying a sword with Qur'anic inscriptions, which were proscribed for dhimmis even in periods of religious quiescence and political stability" (Gerber 1980, 20).


Gerber says that the Marinid practice of using the Jewish community to "cement alliances between the Kingdom of Fez and the Kings of Spain repeats itself in the sixteenth century with greater vigor and frequency" (Gerber 1980, 16). If the lack of Sharifian[2] bone fides hindered the Marinids, this became a main feature of kingly authority in Morocco, as it had been under the Idrisids. Both dynasties that have ruled Morocco from the sixteenth century have sharifian credentials (Abun-Nasr 1987, 207). While the Marinds appear to have been anti-Sufi, too, their successors also had "Sufi affiliations." Under the Marinids, Morocco had fractured into smaller units; under their successors, unifying the realm was a priority. Rulers used both their sharifian identity and their Sufi affiliations to become symbols of Moroccan unity (Abun-Nasr 1987, 208). as symbols of national unity, future kings found it easier to maintain power. The revival of sharifianism began towards the end of Nasridid rule, when the tomb of Idris II was discovered in Fez and it was claimed that his body was intact (Gerber 1980, 19).

The cultural legacy of the Marinids continues in the madrassas they built, many of which still function and in the impressive architecture of the city of Fez. Perhaps the most significant aspect of their legacy remains their relative religious toleration, allowing Judaism to thrive, employing and entering alliances with Christians. As O'Shea argues, eras of "coexistence and commingling" as well as of "epochal battles" characterize encounter between the European and Muslim spaces and only a narrative that combines these can give "a clear picture of the complex encounter of Christianity and Islam, one that combats the selective, agenda-driven amnesia that" often informs historical reconstruction (O'Shea 2006, 9).


  1. The Anglicized name used for this article derives from the Arabic Banu Marin (also Benī Merīn, which is the source of the Spanish name).
  2. Descent from Muhammad.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. 1987. A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521331845.
  • Clancy-Smith, Julia Ann. 2001. North Africa, Islam, and the Mediterranean world: from the Almoravids to the Algerian War. Cass series—history and society in the Islamic world. London, UK: Frank Cass. ISBN 9780714651705.
  • Dumper, Michael, and Bruce E. Stanley. 2007. Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: a historical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576079195.
  • Fage, J.D., and Roland Anthony Oliver. 1975. The Cambridge history of Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521209816.
  • Gerber, Jane S. 1980. Jewish society in Fez 1450-1700: studies in communal and economic life. Studies in Judaism in modern times, vol. 6. Leiden, NL: Brill. ISBN 9789004058200.
  • Lapidus, Ira M. 2002. A history of Islamic societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521770569.
  • Lowney, Chris. 2006. A vanished world: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in medieval Spain. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195311914.
  • O'Callaghan, Joseph F. 1983. A history of medieval Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801492648.
  • O'Shea, Stephen. 2006. Sea of faith: Islam and Christianity in the medieval Mediterranean world. New York, NY: Walker. ISBN 9780802714985.
  • Shillington, Kevin. 2005. Encyclopedia of African history. New York, NY: Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 9781579582456.


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