Uqba Ibn Nafi - Historical Accounts

Historical Accounts

Most of the accounts which describe Arab conquests of North Africa in general and Uqba's conquests in particular date back to at least two centuries after the conquests have happened.

One of the earliest reports come from the Andalucian chronicler Ibn Idhari Al-Marrakushi in his Al-Bayan al-Mughrib fi akhbar al-Andalus. In it, Ibn Idhari describes the moment when Uqba reached the Atlantic coast saying "Oh God, if the sea had not prevented me, I would have galloped on for ever like Alexander the Great, upholding your faith and fighting the unbelievers!."

Edward Gibbon, referring to Uqba ibn Nafi as Akbah, gives him the title "conqueror of Africa," beginning his story when he "marched from Damascus at the head of ten thousand of the bravest Arabs; and the genuine force of the Moslems was enlarged by the doubtful aid and conversion of many thousand Barbarians." He then marched into North Africa. Gibbon continues: "It would be difficult, nor is it necessary, to trace the accurate line of the progress of Akbah." On the North African coast, "the well-known titles of Bugia, and Tangier define the more certain limits of the Saracen victories." Gibbon then tells the story of Akbah's conquest of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.

"The fearless Akbah plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fez and Morocco, and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert. . . . The career, though not the zeal, of Akbah was checked by the prospect of a boundless ocean. He spurred his horse into the waves, and raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: Great God! if my course were not stopped by this sea, I would still go on, to the unknown kingdoms of the West, preaching the unity of the holy name, and putting to the sword the rebellious nations who worship another gods than Allah."

It should be pointed out that although much scholarship on the life and conquests of ibn Nafi are available, most have not been translated from their original Arabic into English or French.

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