Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman

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Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman bigraphy, stories - Moroccan Sultan

Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman : biography

1297 – 1351

Abu Al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn ‘Othman (c. 1297 – May 24, 1351) () was a sultan of the Marinid dynasty who reigned in what is now Morocco between 1331 and 1348. In 1333 he captured Gibraltar from the Castilians, although a later attempt to take Tarifa in 1339 ended in fiasco. In North Africa he extended his rule over Tlemcen and Ifriqiya, which together covered the north of what is now Algeria and Tunisia. Under him the Marinid realms in the Maghreb briefly covered an area that rivaled that of the preceding Almohad Caliphate. However, he was forced to retreat due to a revolt of his troops, was shipwrecked, and lost many of his supporters. His son Abu Inan Faris seized power in Fez. Abu Al-Hasan died in exile in the High Atlas mountains.

Early years

Abu al-Hassan was the son of Marinid ruler Abu Sa’id Uthman II and an Abyssinian mother. He had a dark complexion, and was known as the ‘Black Sultan’ of Morocco. He succeeded his father Abu Sa’id Uthman II in 1331. Abu al-Hassan married Fatima, daughter of the Hafsid ruler Abu Bakr of Ifriqiya, sealing an alliance between the Marinids and Hafsids against the Abdalwadids of Tlemcen.

Campaigns

Gibraltar

In 1309, Castillian troops under Ferdinand IV of Castile captured Gibraltar, then known as the Medinat al-Fath (City of Victory), from the Muslim-ruled Emirate of Granada. In 1333, responding to the appeal of Nasrid ruler Muhammad IV of Granada, Abu al-Hassan sent a Moroccan army to Algeciras under the command of his son Abd al-Malik Abd al-Wahid. A force of 7,000 men was transported across the Strait of Gibraltar to rendezvous with the forces of Muhammad IV of Granada at Algeciras in February 1333. The Castillians were distracted by the coronation of King Alfonso XI and were slow to respond to the invasion force, which was able to lay siege to Gibraltar before much of a response could be organised.

The situation in Gibraltar was desperate by mid-June. The food had run out and the townspeople and garrison had been reduced to eating their own shields, belts and shoes in an attempt to gain sustenance from the leather from which they were made. On 17 June 1333, Vasco Perez surrendered Gibraltar after agreeing terms with Abd al-Malik. The defenders were allowed to leave with honour as a mark of respect for their courage in defending the town for so long. The fall of Gibraltar was rapturously received back in Morocco; the Moorish chronicler Ibn Marzuq recorded that while he was studying in Tlemcen, his teacher announced to his class: "Rejoice, community of the faithful, because God has had the goodness to restore Gibraltar to us!" According to Ibn Marzuq, the jubilant students burst out into cries of praise, gave thanks and shed tears of joy.

The success of the Gibraltar campaign stoked fears in the Granadan court that the Marinids would become too influential, and provoked the assassination of Muhammad IV by resentful Granadan nobles only a few months later. However, Abu l-Hasan was not ready to invade the Iberian peninsula since he was engaged in hostilities with Tlemcen. Muhammad IV’s brother and successor, Yusuf I of Granada maintained the alliance with the Marinid ruler. A peace treaty was signed at Fez on 26 February 1334 between Castile, Granada and Morocco with a four year duration.

Tlemcen

The ruler of Tlemcen, Ibn Tashufin (r. 1318-1337), initiated hostilities against Ifriqiya, besieged Béjaïa, and sent an army into Tunisia that defeated the Hafsid king Abu Yahya Abu Bakr II, who fled to Constantine while the Zayyanids occupied Tunis. Abu al-Hassan was married to a Hafsin princess, and in 1334 the Hafsids appealed to him for help, giving him a welcome excuse for invading his neighbor.

In early 1335, Marinid forces under Abu al-Hassan invaded Tlemcen from the west and dispatched a naval force to assist the Hafsids from the east. The Abdalwadids were rolled back into the city of Tlemcen. The Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan laid a three-year siege of Tlemcen, turning his siege camp into a veritable adjoining city.