The jewsof Morocco under the marinides -David Corcos


By David Corcos, Jerusalem (continued from JQR, LIV [1964] 271-287)

The reign of Abu-Yussef Yakub

The Emir Abu-Iyhya died in 1258. The Marinide 'Shiukh' named his brother Abu-Yussef, who was governor of Taza and of the fortresses of the Muluya, to take his place. All of Marocco, with the exception of Marrakesh and the region around it, recognised the authority of the new Emir. The last Almohad surrendered in 1269 and his capital, Marrakesh lost. The political union of Morocco was thus restored.

In order to make the activities against the Almohads ap­pear legitimate, the Marinides had asked that prayers be said in the name of the Hafgide Sultans of Tunis. But once Marrakesh was in his hands, Abu-Yussef maintained only superficial relations with the Hafcide court and styled himself 'Amir al-Muslimim' (Emir of the Moslems). He even granted asylum to a certain Al-Miliani, a dangerous enemy of the Hafgide Al-Mostancir, and gave him the town of Aghmat in fief.

After the death of Al-Mostancir, Abu-Yussef became the most powerful ruler in the Moslem West. His numerous military interventions in Spain made him feared and res­pected. The twenty-eight years of his reign represent a period of calm and prosperity for Morocco.

In the very first years of Abu-Yussef's rise to power, the

 Jews again figure in the accounts of the Arab chronicles, wherein they had not been mentioned for nearly a century. They appeared in the urban centres of Morocco and, as in the distant past when Idris II had made Fez his capital,they once more were attracted to this city. They appeared also in Marrakesh where Rabbi Yehuda Djian was the leader of the community. Although it is not possible to as- certain their number, they clearly belonged to three distinct groups

former Zenata nomads who were clients of the Marinides; foreigners, Spanish and oriental; and, finally, autochthonous groups converted to Islam under the Almohads and now returned to Judaism, encouraged by the new spirit of tolerance of their present masters. No specific documents exist confirming this return to Judaism. But this has long been accepted as a fact and is corroborated by events of a religious, social, political and economic nature which took place immediately after the Almohad era.

All indications lead us to suppose that the Marinides to some extent ignored the state of affairs which constituted a most serious crime according to malekite and sunnite law. Yet the Marinides championed this law, partly as a reaction against the rationalist ideas of the Almohads, partly because Malekite Islam, at one time imposed by the Almorávides, had indeed taken fertile roots in Morocco.

  • Fez was founded by Idris I before 790 . His son Idris II established his capital there and attracted al large number of Jews to the town, both autochthonous and Oriental. It is accepted that many of these Jews were Jerawa-Zenata, driven from Ores by the Arab armies. In any case there were no Spanish Jews in Fez, as has been suf- gested because they were expected to figure among the insurgents at Cordova who were driven from Spain in the year 198 of the Hegira (814) The majority of them in fact settled in Idris' capital. According to Qirtas, Beaumier, p. 55, this ruler allowed the Jews to settle in Fez on condition of an annual tribute (jezia) of 30,000 dinars. As the dinar was worth nine golden francs, the new community had to pay the equivalent of 279.000 golden francs per year, which gives an indication of its importance. Under Marinide rule, at various times, the Jewish community was comparable to what it had formerly been both in size and quality.
  • The Djian family still exists in Morocco and Algeria. Rabbi Yhouda (ben) Djian, as his name shows, was Spanish. Djian is the Arabic name of the town of Jaen in Spain. He is believed to have died in Marrakesh around 1310 He was chief Rabbi of that town, which proves that the community of Marrakesh was able to reorganize itself as soon as Abu-Yussef captured the town. Rabbi Yhouda Djian is quoted by Rav Hida (Azulai) שם הגדולים I, p. 45, also Toledano, op. cit. o. 41 and Youssef Benaim מלכי רבנן Jerusalem, 5690, p. 100.

These recently sedentary Jews suffered the same tribulations as the Marinides as we have stated (see p. II 2) They settled with them in Morocco. Another Zenata tribe, non-Marinide was not har- assed when the Jews were driven away by the persecutions of the Toowat Oasis see p. I, 2 n. II). The 'Kunta', a Moslem Zenata tribe, was to follow them on the Moroccan border of the Western Sahara (cf. F. de la Chapelle, Histoire du Sahara Occidental, Hesperis, .

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