Tariq ibn Ziyad was a Muslim commander of Amazigh origin from present day Algeria, who led the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) between 711–718 AD. He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in North African and Iberian history.
Amazighs (or Berbers) are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, and Tariq was a freed slave and a new convert to Islam who governed the city of Tangier, in present day Morocco, on behalf of his former master, Musa ibn Nusayr. Musa was the North African governor of the Umayyad Caliphate – one of the largest empires in history.
In 711 AD, under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph, Al-Walid I, Tariq led the conquest of Iberia, which was then under the rule of King Roderick of the Visigoths (a nomadic tribe of Germanic people). Tariq led a large army of 7,000 Amazigh horsemen across the Strait of Gibraltar from the North African coast of Morocco. In July of 711 AD, Tariq and his army fought and defeated King Roderick’s forces of 100,000 men at the Battle of Guadalete.
Tariq went on to conquer the capital of the Visigothic kingdom, Toledo, and eventually two thirds of the Iberian Peninsula. Tariq became de facto governor of Iberia until Musa joined him a year later, and Iberia remained under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492.
The Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow waterway that separates Europe and Africa between Spain and Morocco, is named after Tariq. The word “Gibraltar” is the Spanish derivation of “Jabal Tariq”, which in Arabic means mountain of Tariq.
By Edel Were
(Photo: Atlanta Black Star)