MARINIDES


THE JEWS OF MOROCCO UNDER THE MARINIDES By David Corcos

THE JEWS OF MOROCCO UNDER THE MARINIDES By David Corcos, Jerusalem

Introduction

In the last years of his reign, cAbd al-Haq ben Abu Sa'id, who was king of Morocco from 824 (1421) until 869 (1465), had a Jewish Vizir, Harun ben Batas. In a revolt which broke out in Fez, instigated by the religious party, a party of fanatic ascetics, both the Sultan and his Vizir were assassinated. Abd al-Haq was the last sovereign ruler of the Beni-Merin, Marinides, as European historians term them, who occupied the throne of Morocco without interruption for about two centuries. The murder of Abd al-Haq and of Harun brought in its train a massacre of the Jews not only in the capital but also in other towns of Morocco. This was one of the few pogroms in which the Jews of the Maghrib suffered. It was however the most significant, taking place at the end of a dynasty under whose rule Jews had been unus­ually favored, in striking contrast to the policy of the pre­ceding fanatic Almohads. The downfall of the dynasty, as was to be expected, was particularly harmful to urban Jewry in Morocco. The important event which led to the catastrophe is itself symbolic of the nature of the ties which existed between Berbers and Jews. Yet the rare studies and even rarer full works, often of a relative value, which are concerned with the past history of the Jews in Morocco, give to the period of the Marinides only a passing notice. We do not pretend to fill in this gap. We merely seek to call the attention of Jewish scholars and historians of Judaism to a geographical area to a period which for most people, it must be admitted, is like virgin soil in a terra incognita.

Many of the facts referred to in this study are doubtless well known. Yet in order to demonstrate their full signifi­cance they ought, we feel, to be set into their true context. Some information still lies buried in the numerous texts of Arab, Jewish and Christian writers and even then it appear in such isolated scraps that perhaps specialists have not found it of great interest. If we now wish to link the events to, one another and bring out their full significance, they must be explained within the history of Morocco itself and, above all, established in their exact sequence. We should, however, stress that the limitation of an article is not sufficient for a true or complete picture of the position of the Jews under the rule of the Marinide dynasty. In spite of our desire to enter into all aspects, we, must be content to clarify in particular the political and social picture. Even this cannot be exhaustively studied as, according to our method, the chronology of events must be followed to the end of the dynasty, which exterminated the Jews in a bloodbath by its royal representative and his loyal subjects. Our study, however, concludes with the death of ABU-YAKUB.

The rise and establishment of the Marinide dynasty cover a period of sixty years, from about 1250 until 1307. It is during this period that the Jews, having survived the Almohad storm, reappear, by apparently inexplicable routes, first in the far West of the Maghrib, where they later formed unusually active communities. In order to shed light on the period and explain this strange event, we must not only look farther back into the past but also take note of Moroccan history after the end of the Marinide era. Indeed, here more than ever it is true to say that the present explains the past and vice versa. Many aspects of the way of life which the Marinides introduced into Morocco persist to-day, particularly in regard to the attitude of the Moslem governments towards Jews. Here, too, the Marinide period has much to offer that is interesting and instructive.

The jewsof Morocco under the marinides -David Corcos

david-corcosTHE JEWS OF MOROCCO UNDER THE MARIN IDES

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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