Tariq Ibn Ziyad

Tariq ibn Ziyad
طارق بن زياد


Tariq ibn Ziyad (Arabic: طارق بن زياد‎, died 720) was a Muslim general who led the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711-718 A.D. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Iberian history. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army from the north coast of Morocco, consolidating his troops at a large hill now known as Gibraltar. The name “Gibraltar” is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Tāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “mountain of Tariq”, named after him.

Tariq ibn Ziyad | طارق بن زياد

  • Nickname: Tarek
  • Born: 670  Algeria[citation needed]
  • Died: 720  Damascus, ash-Sham
  • Buried at: Damascus , Syria
  • Allegiance: Umayyad Caliphate
  • Rank: General
  • Battles/wars:  Conquest of Hispania
  • Other work:  Governor of Al-Andalus


Most medieval historians give little or no information about Tariq’s origins or nationality. Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam, Ibn al-Athir, Al-Tabari and Ibn Khaldun do not say anything, 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 Tariq’s time. These are that:

  • He was a Persian from Hamadan.
  • He was an Arab member, or freedman of the Sadif clan of the Kindah.
  • He was a Berber from North Africa.

Even here there are several different versions, and modern workers who accept a Berber origin tend to settle on one version or another without giving any reason for so doing. The Berber tribes associated with these ancestries (Zenata, Walhāṣ, Warfajūma, Nafzā) were, in Tariq’s time, all resident in Tripolitania. The earliest reference seems to be the 12th-century geographer al-Idrisi, who referred to him as Tariq bin Abd ‘Allah bin Wanamū al-Zanātī, without the usual bin Ziyad.

The 14th-century historian Ibn Idhari gives two versions of Tariq’s ancestry (the differences may be caused by copyist errors). He is referred to as Tāriq bin Zīyād bin Abd ‘Allah bin Walghū bin Warfajūm bin Nabarghāsan bin Walhāṣ bin Yaṭūfat bin Nafzāw (Arabic: طارق بن زياد بن عبد الله بن ولغو بن ورفجوم بن نبرغاسن بن ولهاص بن يطوفت بن نفزاو‎) and also as Tāriq bin Zīyād bin Abd’ Allah bin Rafhū bin Warfajūm bin Yanzghāsan bin Walhāṣ bin Yaṭūfat bin-Nafzāw (Arabic: طارق بن زياد بن عبد الله بن رفهو بن ورفجوم بن ينزغاسن بن ولهاص بن يطوفت بن نفزاو‎).

Most historians, Arab and Spanish, seem to agree that he was a slave 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 Musa’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.

Tariq’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.


Musa bin Nusayr appointed Tariq governor of Tangiers after its conquest in 710-711, 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 Arabs bring down the Visigothic kingdom. Accordingly he entered into a treaty with Tariq (Musa 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 Tariq, composed of recent converts to Islam, was landed at Gibraltar by Julian.(the name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal at Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq).

Tariq’s army contained about 7000 men, and Musa is said to have sent an additional 5000 reinforcements. Roderic, to meet the threat, assembled an army said to number 100,000. Most of the army was commanded by, and loyal to, the sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had brutally deposed. Tariq won a decisive victory when the Visigothic king, Roderic, was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete.

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

Both Tariq and Musa were simultaneously ordered back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in 714, where they spent the rest of their lives.

Tariq vs. Musa

In the many Arabic histories written about the conquest of Spain, there is a definite division of opinion regarding the relationship between Tariq and Musa bin Nusayr. Some relate episodes of anger and envy on the part of Musa, that his freedman had conquered an entire country. Others do not mention, or play down, any such bad blood.

The most extreme episode is in the earliest Arabic history, that of Ibn Abd al-Hakam (9th century). He stated that Musa was so angry with Tariq that he imprisoned him, and was going to execute him, were it not for the intervention of Mugith ar-Rumi, a freedman of the caliph Al-Walid I. It was for this reason that the caliph recalled Tariq and Musa. And in the Akhbār majmūa (11th century) it states that after Musa arrived in Spain and met up with Tariq, Tariq dismounted from his horse as a sign of respect, but Musa struck him on the head with his horsewhip.

On the other hand, another early historian al-Baladhuri (9th century) merely states that Musa wrote Tariq a “severe letter” and that the two were later reconciled.

Solomon’s Table

The most widespread story regarding the enmity between Tariq and Musa concerns a fabulous piece of furniture, reputed to have belonged to the Biblical Solomon. Said to have been made of gold, and encrusted with precious gems, this important relic was noted even in pre-Islamic times to be in the possession of the Spanish Visigoths.

Tariq took possession of the table after the surrender of one of Roderic’s nephews. Most stories say that, fearing duplicity on the part of Musa, he removed one leg of the table and (in most accounts) replaced it with an obviously inferior one. The table was then added to Musa’s collection of booty to be taken back to Damascus.

When both men appeared before the caliph, Musa gave out that he was the one who had obtained the table. Tariq drew the caliph’s attention to the inferior (or missing) leg, for which Musa’s only explanation was that he had found it like that. Tariq then produced the real leg, leading to Musa’s disgrace.

There is none of the above story in al-Baladhuri’s account, which simply mentions the table being presented to the caliph.

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy | TIZA

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) was an elementary school (K-8) in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota named after Tarek ibn Ziyad, the Berber general of medieval Morocco who entered Gibraltar in 711 CE on behalf of the Umayyad Caliphate and defeated the Visigoths. The school is sponsored by Islamic Relief USA. The school has a primarily Muslim student body and has been embroiled in a number of controversies regarding the separation of church and state.

The school has a waiting list of 1,500 students. Around 80% of students are English language learners. Despite this, the school has one of the highest reading scores on standardized tests in the state. As of July 2011 TiZA has been shut down by order of the Minnesota Education Department, due to lack of an approved charter school sponsor.


Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy opened in the fall of 2003 for the 2003–2004 school year. The school was founded by its current principal, Asad Zaman and Hesham Hussein, both local imams and leaders of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN). The school opened with an enrollment of 215 students in grades K-5. The school was very popular and had 765 applicants in the first year.


As of the 2006–2007 school year, 302 students attended TIZA. The majority were Black (83%), with Asian (14%) and White (2%) being the other major ethnic groups. Seventy-seven percent of students qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch, an indicator of poverty, and the majority (81%) have had limited English proficiency. Four percent of students qualify for special education. The school’s math proficiency was 23 percentage points higher than the state average and the school’s reading proficiency was 3 percentage points higher than the state average, at 67 percent. Principal Asad Zaman estimates that 80 to 90 percent of students are Muslim.


The school’s curriculum focuses on historical civilizations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and teaches the Arabic language in addition to English. The school curriculum places an emphasis on the Arabic language. After the school day ends, several optional extracurricular activities are offered. The teaching of Islamic studies after school has generated controversy. The Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN), which shares the building with TIZA offers the classes.


In January, 2009, describing the Academy as “in essence, a private religious school”, Charles Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota ACLU, announced that the ACLU would file a lawsuit alleging that the Academy promotes the Muslim religion and that its directors illegally use a holding company to channel taxpayer dollars to a religious organization.

The suit accuses the school of holding group prayers during school hours, including a 30 minute prayer session on Fridays, allowing teachers to post religious material on classroom bulletin boards, and enforcing Islamic rules on modesty of dress – including sleeves and skirts or trousers of a certain length, on female but not male students and teachers.

The lawsuit also named the Minnesota Department of Education and Islamic Relief, the charter school’s authorizer, as co-defendants. A settlement reached in February 2011 between the ACLU and the other defendants included an agreement that Islamic Relief would not to seek to incorporate in Minnesota; under a new state law, this effectively means the out-of-state organization may no longer continue serving as TiZA’s authorizer. A separate settlement with the school has not yet been reached.


Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten spurred an inquiry into TiZA by the Minnesota Department of Education after her column suggested the school had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by teaching religion in the schools. The accusation was made by Republican Party activist Amanda Getz, who closely collaborated with Katherine Kersten as part of her ongoing efforts to close down the school.

The Department of Education found that the school had violated some lesser statutes, involving seat time and busing, but that it was not teaching Islam to students.

When a news crew from KSTP-TV entered the school grounds to ask for a comment about the MDoE findings, school director Asad Zaman and another school official grabbed the crew’s camera. Police were already in the area at the time of the incident. No charges against KSTP (for trespassing) or the school officials (for assault) were pursued.

Asad Zaman claims that the school has received threatening telephone and e-mail messages after a newspaper journalist questioned whether the school promotes Islam. CAIR, an Islamic advocacy group, has filed a complaint with police. Authorities were investigating the messages as possible hate crimes as of April 2008.