Tariq ibn Ziyad

Ṭāriq bin Ziyād
طارق بن زياد
Died Damascus, Syria
Buried at Damascus
Allegiance Umayyad Caliphate
Rank General
Battles/wars Conquest of Hispania
  Battle of Guadalete
Other work Governor of Al-Andalus

Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād (Arabic: طارق بن زياد) was a Muslim commander who led the Islamic Umayyad conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711–718 A.D. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from the North African coast, consolidating his troops at what is today known as the Rock of Gibraltar. The name "Gibraltar" is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Ṭāriq",[1] which is named after him.


Medieval historians give little or no information about Ṭāriq's origins or nationality. Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, Ibn al-Athir, Al-Tabari and Ibn Khaldun[2] do not say anything on the subject, and have been followed in this by modern works such as the Encyclopedia of Islam and Cambridge History of Islam.There are three different accounts given by a few Arabic histories which all seem to date from between 400 and 500 years after Ṭāriq's time. These are that:

Most historians, Arab and Spanish, seem to agree that he was a slave[11] of the emir of Ifriqiya (North Africa), Musa bin Nusayr, who gave him his freedom and appointed him a general in his army. But his descendants centuries later denied he had ever been Mūsā's slave.

The earliest reference to him seems to be in the Mozarab Chronicle, written in Latin in 754, which although written within living memory of the conquest of Spain, refers to him erroneously as Taric Abuzara.[12]

Ṭāriq's name is often associated with that of a young slave girl, Umm Ḥakīm, who is said to have crossed to Spain with him; but the nature of their relationship is left obscure.[13]


The Moorish Castle's Tower of Homage, symbol of the Muslim rule in Gibraltar.

Musa bin Nusayr appointed Ṭāriq governor of Tangiers after its conquest in 710-711,[14] but an unconquered Visigothic outpost remained nearby at Ceuta, a stronghold commanded by a nobleman named Julian.

After Roderic came to power in Spain, Julian had, as was the custom, sent his daughter to the court of the Visigothic king to receive an education. It is said that Roderic raped her, and that Julian was so incensed he resolved to have the Muslims bring down the Visigothic kingdom. Accordingly, he entered into a treaty with Ṭāriq (Mūsā having returned to Qayrawan) to secretly convey the Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar, as he owned a number of merchant ships and had his own forts on the Spanish mainland.

About April 29 711, the army of Ṭāriq, composed of recent converts to Islam, was landed at Gibraltar by Julian.[15]

Ṭāriq's army contained about 7,000 Berber horsemen, and Mūsā is said to have sent an additional 5,000 reinforcements after the conquest.[16] Roderic, to meet the threat of Berbers, he assembled an army said to number 100,000.[17] Most of the army was commanded by, and loyal to, the sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had brutally deposed.[18] Ṭāriq won a decisive victory when Roderic was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete.

On the advice of Julian, Ṭāriq split his army into various divisions which went on to capture Córdoba, Granada and other places, while he remained at the head of the division which captured Toledo and Guadalajara. Ṭāriq was de facto governor of Hispania until the arrival of Mūsā a year later.

Both Ṭāriq and Mūsā were simultaneously ordered back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in 714, where they spent the rest of their lives.[19] In the many Arabic histories written about the conquest of southern Spain, there is a definite division of opinion regarding the relationship between Ṭāriq and Musa bin Nusayr. Some relate episodes of anger and envy on the part of Mūsā, that his freedman had conquered an entire country. Others do not mention, or play down, any such bad blood. On the other hand, another early historian al-Baladhuri (9th century) merely states that Mūsā wrote Ṭāriq a "severe letter" and that the two were later reconciled.[20]


The 16th-century historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari, in his The Breath of Perfume, places the following speech to the troops in Tariq's mouth before Guadalete:

"Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves. Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you."


New title Governor of Al-Andalus
Succeeded by
Musa bin Nusayr


  1. "History of Gibraltar". Government of Gibraltar. Archived from the original on January 3, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  2. al-Maqqari, p. 255 of English translation by Gayangos, states that Ibn Khaldun referred to Ṭāriq as al-Laythī but this does not appear in modern editions of Ibn Khaldun's works.
  3. Akhbār majmūa, p. 20 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text. al-Maqqari, see p. 266 of English translation by Gayangos.
  4. Akhbār majmūa, p. 20 & 21 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text.
  5. See also Ibn Taghribirdi, p. 278 of French translation, and Ibn Khallikan, vol. 3 p. 476 of English translation (which also refers to him as a Berber). Also mentioned by al-Maqqari, p. 253 & 266 of English translation, together with a possible Lakhmid origin.
  6. Alexander Mikaberidze (31 July 2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 880. ISBN 978-1-59884-336-1.
  7. e.g. M. De Slane, in an editorial note to the French translation of Ibn Khaldun's Kitab al-Ibar, vol. 1 p. 215 opines that he belonged to the Walhāṣ tribe. Numerous more recent works give his tribe as Warfajūma, e.g. van Sertima's Golden Age of the Moor p. 54. Both these opinions derive from Ibn Idhari, whose text (quoted above) does not single out one tribe.
  8. Yves Modéran, Les Maures et L'Afrique Romaine (IVe-VIIe Siècle). École Française de Rome, 2003. ISBN 2-7283-0640-0.
  9. al-Idrisi, Arabic text fasc. 5 p. 539-540; vol. 2 p. 17 of French translation. "Wanamū" is uncertain, as the various manuscripts differ in spelling this name.
  10. Ibn Idhari, Arabic text vol. 1 p. 43 & vol. 2 p. 5 respectively.
  11. Ibn Khallikan, vol. 3 p. 81 of English translation, even refers to him as "Târik Ibn Nusair", but as De Slane says in a footnote, this is probably caused by accidental omission of the words "freedman of Mūsā".
  12. Para. 34 of the Chronicle. There is some confusion with Tarif ibn Malik, as noted by al-Maqqari. For a recent discussion see the article by Enrique Gozalbes Cravioto cited below.
  13. See, for example, numerous references in Ibn Abd al-Hakam, and some in Akhbār majmūa
  14. Alternatively, he was left as governor when Mūsā's son Marwan returned to Qayrawan. Both explanations are given by Ibn Abd al-Hakam, p. 41 of Spanish translation, p. 204 of Arabic text.
  15. There is a legend that Ṭāriq ordered that the ships he arrived in be burnt, to prevent any cowardice. This is first mentioned over 400 years later by the geographer al-Idrisi, fasc. 5 p. 540 of Arabic text (Arabic: فٱمر بإحراق المراكب), vol. 2 p. 18 of French translation. Apart from a mention in the slightly later Kitāb al-iktifa fī akhbār al-khulafā (English translation in Appendix D of Gayangos, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain) this legend was not sustained by other authors.
  16. Akhbār majmūa, p. 21 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text.
  17. Akhbār majmūa p. 8 of Arabic text, p. 22 of Spanish translation.
  18. According to some sources, e.g., al-Maqqari p. 269 of the English translation, Wittiza's sons by prior arrangement with Ṭāriq deserted at a critical phase of the battle. Roger Collins takes an oblique reference in the Mozarab Chronicle par. 52 to mean the same thing.
  19. Reilly, Bernard F. (2009). The Medieval Spains. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-521-39741-4.
  20. P. 365 of Hitti's English translation.
  21. Falk, Avner (2010). Franks and Saracens: Reality and Fantasy in the Crusades. p. 47.
  22. McIntire, E. Burns, Suzanne, William (2009). Speeches in World History. p. 85.


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