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Slaves and Silver across the Strait of Gibraltar: Politics and Trade between Umayyad Iberia and Khārijite North Africa

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Abstract Iberian Umayyad relations with the Ibāḍī Rustumids and the Ṣufrī Midrārids have not been well understood. After an initial period of Khārijite rebellion against the Umayyads in the 120s/740s, in which Khārijite revolutions in North Africa spilled over into the Iberian Peninsula, profound ties developed between the Umayyad amīrs, and the Midrārid and Rustumid imāms. In the far Maghrib, where ‘Abbāsid power did not reach, trade—especially the trade in human beings—brought these erstwhile political and religious enemies together. Relationships between these groups lasted well beyond the destruction of the Midrārid and Rustumid dynasties in the early fourth/tenth century. This paper re-examines the textual and numismatic evidence for Ibāḍī, Ṣufrī, Iberian Umayyad (and even early ‘Abbāsid) relations in order to propose that strong economic interests based primarily in the slave trade underlay the political ties that developed in the late second/eighth century between these groups.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion, Florida State University 641 University Way, Dodd Hall, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520 USA


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