The Marinide Berbers—Zenata-David Corcos

David Corcos-marinidesThe Marinide Berbers—Zenata

Ibn-Khaldun distinguishes two branches of the Berber people, Branes and Botr. The main group within the Botr is the Zenata, in turn subdivided by the historian into a first and second race, or first and second period. The Jerawa, the Meghrawa, the Miknasa and the Beni-Ifren, for example, belong to the Zenata of the first race, while the Marinides are of the second race.

The Zenata, among whom, as has been established, some Judaization took place, at any rate in the early stages of their history, opposed the first Arab invasion of the Maghrib was more successfully than did other Berbers. The leading tribe of the Maghrib more successfully than did the other Berbers. The leading tribe of the Zenata was formed by the Jerawa of Ores. These Jerawa, Ibn Khaldim, explicitly states were Jews. It was their Queen, Kahina, that 'Deborah of the Berbers', who not only symbolized but herself led African opposition to Islam and to Arab influence in the Maghrib. After she had been beaten and finally killed, the Zenata, no longer able to organise their resistance, had to bow before the conqueror. Yet not all were prepared to bend the knee. Many took the road to the desert steppes, to the Sahara itself or to the Eastern side of the Atlas range in Morocco. Under pressure from the Moslem army, the majority were finally converted to Islam. Arab officialdom then, sought to make these convert Berbers pay the capitation tax (Jezia) imposed by law only on infidels, whether Jewish or Christian. This policy has been seen as simply an irritating measure taken by the contemptuous and greedy Arab con­querors : It can, of course, also be explained by the persistence of many Jewish and Christian features, or by the fact that a large number of Branes and Zenata Berbers remained at­tached to Christianity and to Judaism respectively. In any case, this threat combined with the well known Berber spirit of independence making them adopt the Kharijite heresy imported from the East, was for the purpose of preventing the newcomers from dominating them. The African disciples of Kharajism were almost all Zenata. The new converts, once admitted to Kharijism, accepted their brethren who had remained Jews or Christians providing they said the Sahada with the following modification: "Mohammed was sent by God to the Arabs but not to us".

By dint of great effort and the dispatch of troups from the East, the Arabs succeeded in strangling Kharijism for a while, but were finally beaten; the heresy then flourished and its disciples were able to form independent states.

In the far West, on the Atlantic coast of Safi, at Salee, a state was constituted among the Bergwata, a tribe of the most authentically autochthonous group in Morocco, the Masmada. It was a Zenata, a Jew, who laid the foundations of the new state. His name was Tarif and he was thought to the tribe of Simeon; he was therefore called Tarif ibn Simaun ibn Yakub ibn Ishaq. According to the source of information El-Bekri, the geographer, he exercized royal power over the Zenata. His son and heir, Salih, founded an entirely new religion, strongly marked by Judaism, doubtless in accordance with the aspirations of his Bergwata subjects, who had been joined by a large number of Zenata. We know the essential features of this religion from El-Bekri, and other details from Ibn Adhara, Ibn-Abi-Zar, and Ibn Khaldun. The Judaized kingdom of the Bergwata created about 740 C.E. was brought to an end by the attacks of the Almohads in the second half of the nth century.

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