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The Rise of the Rustomid Caliphate in Tiaret, Algeria

Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
Algiers, Algeria

It was not an easy task to determine the exact date of the rise or establishment of the Rustomid Caliphate in Tahert in Algeria, as such after deep probing research on many historical manuscripts; at last we reached with a certain effort of interpretation that the most probable date is the one shown above (04th of October 777AD -27 of Dul Hijja 160AH).
It would be important to stress that the Rustamid or Rustumid Caliphate were a dynasty of Ibadi Kharijite Imams that ruled the central Maghreb (present Algeria) as a Muslim Caliphate for a century and a half from their capital Tahert or Tiaret in present Algeria, until the Fatimid Caliphs destroyed it.
The dynasty had a Persian origin. The exact extent of its dominions is not entirely clear, but it stretched as far east as Jabal Nafusa in Libya, the Ibadi Muslim school of thought reached North Africa by 719, when the missionary Salma ibn Sa'd was sent from the Ibadi Jam’aa of Basra to Kairouan, and by 740, their efforts had converted the major Berber tribes of Huwwara around Tripoli, Nafusa in Jabal Nafusa and Zenata in western Tripolitania.
In 757 (140 AH), a group of four Basra-educated missionaries (including Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rustam) proclaimed an Ibadi Imamate, starting an abortive state led by Abul-Khattab Abdul-A'la ibn as-Samh which lasted until the Abbasids suppressed it in 761, and Abul-Khattab Abdul-A'la ibn as-Samh was killed. On his death, the Tripolitanian Ibadiyya elected Abul-Hatim al-Malzuzi as imām; he was killed in 772 after launching a second unsuccessful revolt in 768.
In the aftermath of such event the centre of power shifted to Algeria, and, in 777, ʻAbd ar-Rahmān ibn Rustam, a Tunisian-born convert to Ibadiism, who was likewise of Persian origin (already noted as one of the four founders of this imamate), was elected Imam; after this, the post remained in his family, a practice which the Ibadiyya justified by noting that he came from no tribe, and thus his family had no bias towards any of the tribes of which the state was formed.
The new imamate was centered on the newly built capital of Tahert; several Ibadi tribes displaced from Tunisia and Tripolitania settled there and strong fortifications were built, thus it became a major stop on the newly developing trade routes with sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. It is described by visitors such as the great Historian Ibn As-Saghir as notably multi-religious, with a significant and loyal Christian minority and a substantial number of Sunnis and Jews, and open religious debates were encouraged.
Moreover, Ibn As-Saghir also describes the Imam as notably ascetic, repairing his own house and refusing gifts; the citizens sharply criticized him if they considered him derelict in his duty. Religious ethics were strictly enforced by law, also during their reign ,The Rustamids fought the Aghlabids of Ifriqiyya (based in Qairawan) in 812, but otherwise reached a modus vivendi; this displeased the Ibadi tribes on the Aghlabid border, who launched a few rebellions.
Furthermore, during Abdu Al Wahab ‘s reign, the Rustamids grew militarily weak; they were easily conquered by the Ismaili Fatimids in 909, upon which many Ibadiyya including the last Imam fled to the Sedrata tribe of Ouargla, whence they would ultimately emigrate to the Mzab valley where it is known as the city of Ghardaya or Ghardaia.
Sooth to say that during the reign of the Rostemid caliphate, there was a great flourishment of sciences and other religious and intellectual studies as Tahert was nick named as Basra of North Africa in comparison to the great learning centre of that time in the city Basra in Iraq.
The many Historians are unanimous that this Islamic state encouraged education and authoring and libraries and not least because of the presence of public libraries containing around 300.000 manuscripts on the different topics of sciences and Religious research.
Within the context of proclaiming truth in terms of bearing witness to others, and in undoubtedly assertion, the “Ibadi Muslim School of Thought” has significantly contributed to the enrichment and flourishment of the Muslim Jurisprudence in all fields and pinpointing to one of the many “Samples” of this School of thought, the late Sheikh Mohamed Bin Youssef Tfayyech was endowed with such wide attributes ,that made him serve Islam and Muslims with total humility, modesty and self-sacrifice for the sake of enjoining good and reprimanding evil.
Nowadays, the Great Mufti of Oman “Sheikh Ahmad Bin Hamad Al Khalili “who is a leading Scholar in the Ibadi school of thought stands as a stalwart in terms of knowledge acquiring and a very high profile interlocutor who always takes into account the sad plight of Muslims throughout this universe and always trying to find out the appropriate means and tools to secure their safety and well being.

The Rustamid Imams
Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rustam ibn Bahram (776-784)
Abd al-Wahhab ibn Abd ar-Rahman (784-832)
Aflah ibn Abd al-Wahhab (832-871)
Abu Bakr ibn Aflah (871)
Muhammad Abul-Yaqzan ibn Aflah (871-894)
Yusuf Abu Hatim ibn Muhammad Abil-Yaqzan (894-897)
Yaqub ibn Aflah (897-901)
Yusuf Abu Hatim ibn Muhammad Abil-Yaqzan, again (901-906)
Yaqzan ibn Muhammad Abil-Yaqzan (906-909)

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