Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Jacob Abadi. 2013. Tunisia since the Arab Conquest: The Saga of a Westernized Muslim State

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Jacob Abadi. 2013. Tunisia since the Arab Conquest: The Saga of a Westernized Muslim State

Article excerpt

Jacob Abadi. 2013. Tunisia Since the Arab Conquest: The Saga of a Westernized Muslim State. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press and Southern Court. 586 pp.

This book is a general review of the history of Tunisia, which is a tumultuous, rich, and varied history. Tunisia is a country that has managed to forge an identity that distinguishes it from other Arab countries and North Africa. In his introduction, Jacob Abadi discusses Tunisia's bibliographic sources, which contain all the great names in the history of Islam in North Africa and Ifriqiya. These sources are rich and varied. This means that Abadi's study is scientifically based, and can be seen as an accurate window on the history of Tunisia and its Mediterranean environment, an environment that encompasses the northern Mediterranean (Sicily, Sardinia, Spain) and southern Mediterranean, both to the east (Libya, Egypt) and the west (Algeria, Morocco).

Abadi begins his history with the Arab conquest of Ifriqya but fails to discuss that the past of this region, as an autonomous entity, dates back to the Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines. Located in the center of the Mediterranean, Ifriqya played a major role in trade. It was a target for all Mediterranean civilizations. It was the center of all the Punic Wars that induced the destruction of Carthage. It was a refuge for Christian sects considered heretical by Catholic Rome. When it was under Byzantine rule, its inhabitants were the subject of taxation and abuse. This explains the ease with which they welcomed the Arab conquerors when they arrived in the country. The latter brought with them their new religion, Islam. But they also brought their language, Arabic.

The Arab conquerors arrived from Egypt and founded the city of Qayraouan, which became for many centuries one of the most important intellectual centers of the Islamic world and the seat of power for Muslim emirates even though Byzantines and Europeans continued to be present in the country. But the Arab and Muslim character of Ifriqiya also began to be imprinted upon the country at that time. Tunisia never ceased to be the object of envy by Muslims and Europeans (Umayad, Abbasid, Ottoman, Almohad, French) who at one point or another sought to rule the country due to its strategic locale in the ongoing struggle for dominance in the Mediterranean.

The book is organized into fifteen chapters, each one corresponding to the reign of a dynasty (Aghlabids, Fatimids, Zirids, Hafsids, Muradites, Husseinis) or the colonial and post-colonial eras. …

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