Timeline: Hafsid {1229-1574}

The Hafsid dynasty (Banu Hafs) was founded by Abu Zakariyya Yahya (1229-1249/626-647 AH) Almohad governor of Ifriqiya when he broke away declared independence. By the end of his 20 year reign he had expanded his territory into Béjaïa (Bougie) and Constantine and Algiers and became the recognized overlord of the Abdalwadides of Tlemcen He also expanded his power into Granada and Marinid territories of Morocco.


His son, al-Mustansir (1249–77/626-675 AH), assumed the title of caliph, and his rule saw continued prosperity. He reached an agreement with Louis IX to end the VIII Crusade, and his death brought about a period of internal dissension and struggles for power. Unity was achieved by Abu Hafs (1284–95/683-694 AH), then by Abu Yahya Abu Bakr (1318–46/718-747 AH), but the kingdom faced a number of threats in the 14th century, including major Marinid invasions, the plague, and a crippling financial crisis. Abu al-ʿAbbas (1370–94/771-796 AH), managed to restore the glory of the early Hafsid era.


The 14th and 15th centuries were prosperous under the Hafsid dynasty. The Saharan caravan trade was well developed, and commerce with Europe was increasing. So too was piracy. Funding from all three sources was used to finance public works in art and architecture. Piracy also provoked the anger of Aragon and Venice, which attacked coastal cities in retaliation. After the reign of Uthman (1435–88/838-893 AH), dynastic struggles weakened the Hafsids to the point that their fall became inevitable. They became increasingly caught up in imperial struggles between Spain and the Ottomans. These powers managed to each conquer Tunis for a period. The Hafsid dynasty came to an end after they agreed to become Spanish vassals in 1574/982. Muhammad IV, the last Hafsid Caliph, was subsequently captured, brought to Constantinople, and executed. Under the Hafsids, Tunis was established as the capital, and the Maliki school of law was established as the foundation for religious and social life.


Michael A. Toler

architectural history
history of architecture
Islamic architecture