Last updated
The taifas (green) in 1031 Taifas2.gif
The taifas (green) in 1031

The taifas (singular taifa, from Arabic : طائفةṭā'ifa, plural طوائف ṭawā'if, a party, band or faction) were the independent Muslim principalities and kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain), referred to by Muslims as al-Andalus, that emerged from the decline and fall of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba between 1009 and 1031. They were a recurring feature of al-Andalus history.


The taifas were eventually incorporated by the Almoravid dynasty in the late 11th century and, on its collapse, many taifas re-appeared only to be incorporated by the Almohad Caliphate. The fall of the Almohads resulted in a flourishing of the taifas, and this was the case despite constant warfare with Christian kingdoms. [1] Taifa kings were wary of calling themselves “kings,” so they took the title of hajib, presenting themselves as representatives for a temporarily absent caliph. [2] The taifa courts were renowned centres of cultural excellence in which poets, scientists, and other scholars were able to thrive. [3]

Wars between the taifas were common and rulers of Muslim taifas were known to ally with the Iberian Christians (and the North African kingdoms) against European or Mediterranean Christian rulers from outside of al-Andalus. These alliances frequently included payments of large tributes in return for security. [4] Eventually, the taifas of Badajoz, Toledo, Zaragoza, and even Sevilla paid tribute to Alfonso VI. [5] By the end of the 13th century one remained, Granada, the rest being incorporated into the Christian states of the north.


The Arabic term mulūk al-ṭawāʾif, meaning "kings of the territorial divisions" [6] or "party kings", [7] was originally used for the regional rulers of the Parthian Empire. This period was treated as an interlude between Alexander's conquest of Persia and the formation of the Sasanian Empire. The negative portrayal of the Parthian period by Muslim historians may have been inherited from Sasanian propaganda. In the 11th century, Ṣāʿid al-Andalusī first applied the term to the regional rulers who appeared after the collapse of Umayyad power in Spain, "whose condition was like that of the mulūk al-ṭawāʾif of the Persians". The phrase implied cultural decline. [6]

The corresponding term in Spanish is reyes de taifas ("kings of taifas"), by way of which the Arabic term has entered English (and French) usage. [8]


The origins of the taifas must be sought in the administrative division of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba, as well in the ethnic division of the elite of this state, divided among Arabs, Berbers, Iberian Muslims (known as Muladíes – a significant majority) and the Eastern European former slaves. [2] The most secure rulers were governors of frontier provinces, such as the “Farthest Frontier” of Zaragoza; since these regions had been ruled by families for generations prior to the fall of the caliphate, there was minor immediate impact when the caliphate fell. [2]

During the late 11th century, the Christian rulers of the northern Iberian peninsula set out to retake the lands of the former Visigothic Kingdom that had been conquered by Muslims. By this time the caliphate of Cordova, among the richest and most powerful states in Europe, had suffered a civil war, known as the Fitna of al-Andalus. As a result, it "broke into taifas, small rival emirates fighting among themselves". [9]

However, the political decline and chaos was not immediately followed by cultural decline. To the contrary, intense intellectual and literary activity grew in some of the larger taifas.[ citation needed ]

There was a second period when taifas arose, toward the middle of the 12th century, when the Almoravid rulers were in decline.[ citation needed ]

During the heyday of the taifas, in the 11th century and again in the mid 12th century, their emirs (rulers) competed among themselves, not only militarily but also for cultural prestige. They tried to recruit the most famous poets and artisans.[ citation needed ]


Observers in al-Andalus in the 1080s did not see a decline as likely, much less imminent or probable. However, by the 1090s, popular revolt became a real possibility as the ulama accusations against taifa kings gained popularity. [2]

Reversing the trend of the Umayyad period, when the Christian kingdoms of the north often had to pay tribute to the Caliph, the disintegration of the Caliphate left the rival Muslim kingdoms much weaker than their Christian counterparts, particularly the Castilian–Leonese monarchy, and many had to submit to them, paying tributes known as parias . [4]

Due to their military weakness, taifa princes appealed for North African warriors to come fight Christian kings on two occasions. The Almoravid dynasty was invited after the fall of Toledo (1085), and the Almohad Caliphate after the fall of Lisbon (1147). Warriors of the taifas took part in the Battle of Sagrajas, which resulted in the defeat of the Christians. Nevertheless, the Almoravids and the Almohads did not help the taifa emirs but rather annexed their lands to their own North African empires. [10]

In the 1100s, the remnants of the taifa dynasties in al-Andalus would join forces with Christian powers as a last attempt to shift momentum back in their favor against the Almoravids. [2]

Certain taifas hired Christian mercenaries to fight neighbouring realms (both Christian and Muslim). The most dynamic taifa, which conquered most of its neighbours before the Almoravid invasion, was Seville, which ironically was also the first of the major taifas to fall, followed (somewhat quickly) by Badajoz, Valencia and Zaragoza. [2] Zaragoza was also very powerful and expansive, but inhibited by the neighbouring Christian states of the Pyrenees. Zaragoza, Toledo, and Badajoz had previously been the border military districts of the Caliphate.[ citation needed ]

List of taifas

The taifas in 1080 Reinos de Taifas 1080.png
The taifas in 1080

First period (11th century)

After the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031 about 33 independent taifas emerged out the civil war and conflict in al-Andalus. Many of the less tenable taifa kingdoms had disappeared by the 1030s, having been taken over by more powerful neighboring taifas. [2] The strongest and largest taifas in this first period (11th century) were the Taifa of Zaragoza, Taifa of Toledo, Taifa of Badajoz and the Taifa of Seville. The most notable taifa to conquer most of its weak neighbours was the Taifa of Seville under the Abbadid dynasty. [2]

Al-Tagr al-Adna (Central Portugal)

This region includes the Central and Lisbon region of Portugal and Extremadura region of Spain.

  • Badajoz 1013–1022/1034–1094 (Aftasid Dynasty); 1027–1034 (to Seville): 1094 (to Almoravids)
  • Lisbon 1022–1034 (Banu Sabur Dynasty); 1034–1093 (Aftasids Dynasty)

Al-Garb (Southern Portugal)

This region includes the Alentejo and Algarve region of Portugal.

  • Mértola 1033–1044 (Tayfurid Dynasty); 1044–1091 (to Seville)
  • Saltés and Huelva 1012/1013–1051/1053 (Bakrid Dynasty); 1051–1091 (to Seville)
  • Santa Maria do Algarve 1018–1051 (Harunid Dynasty); 1051–1091 (to Seville)
  • Silves: 1027–1063 (Muzaymid Dynasty); 1063–1091 (to Seville)

Al-Tagr al-Awsat (Central Spain)

This region includes the Madrid region and the provinces of Toledo and Guadalajara of Spain.

Southern Spain

This region includes the autonomous region of Andalucia in Spain

Al-Tagr al-A'la (Aragon and Catalonia)

This region only includes the provinces of Huesca, Lleida, Teruel, Zaragoza and Tarragona of Spain.

Al-Xarq (Eastern Spain)

This region includes the region of Valencia, Murcia and Baleares.

Second period (12th century)

Third period (13th century)

Additionally, but not usually considered taifas, are:

Related Research Articles

<i>Reconquista</i> Medieval Christian military campaign

The Reconquista is the historical term used to describe the military campaigns that Christian kingdoms waged from the 8th century until 1492, in order to retake the Iberian territories which were lost due to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. The beginning of the Reconquista is traditionally dated to the Battle of Covadonga, in which an Asturian army achieved the first Christian victory over the Arab-Berber forces of the Umayyad Caliphate since the beginning of the military invasion. Its culmination came in 1492 with the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the united Spanish Crown of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

The Abbadid dynasty or Abbadids was an Egyptian Arab Muslim dynasty which arose in al-Andalus on the downfall of the Caliphate of Cordoba (756–1031). After the collapse, there were multiple small Muslim states called taifas, each ruled by a different family or tribe: the Hammudids, the Zayrids, the Jahwarids, the Dhul-Nunids, the Amirids, the Tojibids, and the Hudids. Of all of these small groups, the Abbadid were the strongest and before long absorbed most of the others. Abbadid rule lasted from about 1023 until 1091, but during the short period of its existence it exhibited singular energy and typified its time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Al-Andalus</span> Territories of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim rule between 711 and 1492

Al-Andalus was the Muslim-ruled area of the Iberian Peninsula. The term is used by modern historians for the former Islamic states in modern Spain and Portugal. At its greatest geographical extent, it occupied most of the peninsula and a part of present-day southern France, Septimania. For nearly 100 years, from the 9th century to the 10th, al-Andalus extended its presence from Fraxinetum into the Alps with a series of organized raids. The name describes the different Muslim states that controlled these territories at various times between 711 and 1492. These boundaries changed constantly as the Christian Reconquista progressed, eventually shrinking to the south and finally to the Emirate of Granada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yusuf ibn Tashfin</span> Ruler of Almoravid Dynasty (r. 1061–1106)

Yusuf ibn Tashfin, also Tashafin, Teshufin, was leader of the Berber Almoravid empire. He co-founded the city of Marrakesh and led the Muslim forces in the Battle of Sagrajas. Yusuf ibn Tashfin came to Al-Andalus from the Maghreb to help the Muslims fight against Alfonso VI, eventually achieving victory in Sagrajas and promoting an Islamic system in the region. In 1061 he took the title “Amir al-Muslimeen” recognising the suzerainty of the Abbasid Caliphate. He was married to Zaynab an-Nafzawiyyah, whom he reportedly trusted politically.

This is a timeline of notable events during the period of Muslim presence in Iberia, starting with the Umayyad conquest in the 8th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Banu Hud</span> Arab Muslim dynasty of Zaragoza (1039–1110) and ruled al-Andalus from 1228–1237

The Banu Hud were an Arab dynasty that ruled the taifa of Zaragoza from 1039 until 1110.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gharb al-Andalus</span> 711–1249 region of southern Portugal under Muslim rule

Gharb al-Andalus, or just al-Gharb, was the name given by the Muslims of Iberia to the region of southern modern-day Portugal and part of West-central modern day Spain during their rule of the territory, from 711 to 1249. This period started with the fall of the Visigothic kingdom after Tariq ibn-Ziyad's invasion of Iberia and the establishment of the Umayyad control in the territory. The present day Algarve derives its name from this Arabic name. The region had a population of about 500,000 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ibn Hud</span>

Abū ’Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf ibn Hūd al-Judhamī, commonly known as Ibn Hud, was a taifa emir who controlled much of al-Andalus from 1228 to 1237. He claimed to be a descendant of the Hudid dynasty which ruled the Taifa of Zaragoza until 1118.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Sagrajas</span> 1086 battle of the Spanish Reconquista

The Battle of Sagrajas, also called Zalaca or Zallaqa, was a battle between the Almoravid army led by their King Yusuf ibn Tashfin and an army led by the Castilian King Alfonso VI. The Almoravids responded to the call of Jihad by the taifas which commonly fought amongst themselves however they had united to battle the powerful Christian states to the north. The Taifas aided the Almoravids during the battle with troops, favoring the battle for the Muslim side. The battleground was later called az-Zallaqah because of the poor footing caused by the tremendous amount of bloodshed that day, which gave rise to its name in Arabic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Seville</span> Muslim State ruled by Abbadids (1023–1091)

The Taifa of Seville was an Arab kingdom which was ruled by the Abbadid dynasty. It was established in 1023 and lasted until 1091, in what is today southern Spain and Portugal. It gained independence from the Caliphate of Cordoba and it expanded the territory it ruled in the mid-11th century. The emerging power of Castile led Seville to ask military assistance from the Almoravids, who then occupied Seville.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kingdom of Toledo (Crown of Castile)</span> Former country

The Kingdom of Toledo was a realm in the central Iberian Peninsula, created after the capture of Toledo by Alfonso VI of León in 1085. It continued in existence until 1833; its region is currently within Spain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Mértola</span> Medieval emirate in Portugal

The Taifa of Mértola was a medieval Islamic Moorish taifa that existed in what is now southeastern Portugal. It existed during three distinct periods: from 1033 to 1044, from 1144 to 1145, and from 1146 to 1151. From 1044 until 1091 it was under the forcible control of the Taifa of Seville, by Abbad II al-Mu'tadid. Its short-lived history ended in 1151, when it was finally conquered by the Almohad Caliphate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Toledo</span>

The Taifa of Toledo was an islamic polity (taifa) located in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula in the high middle ages. It was ruled by the Dhulnunids, a Hawwara Berber clan. It emerged after 1018 upon the fracturing of the Caliphate of Córdoba, when the Dhulnunids, already strong in the lands of Santaver, Cuenca, Huete and Uclés, seized control over the city of Toledo, the capital of the Middle March of Al-Andalus. Upon later territorial conquest, the taifa also expanded to the land of Calatrava. It lasted until the Christian conquest of Toledo in 1085.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Valencia</span> Moorish (i.e. medieval muslim) state in eastern Iberia from 1010 to 1238

The Taifa of Valencia was a medieval Moorish taifa kingdom which existed, in and around Valencia, Spain during four distinct periods: from 1010 to 1065, from 1075 to 1099, from 1145 to 1147 and last from 1229 to 1238 when it was finally conquered by the Aragon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Silves</span> Medieval emirate in Southern Portugal

The Taifa of Silves was an Arab taifa kingdom that existed in what is now southern Portugal for two distinct periods: from 1027 to 1063, and again from 1145 to 1150, when it was finally conquered by the Almohad Caliphate.

<i>Parias</i> Tribute in medieval Iberia

In medieval Spain, parias were a form of tribute paid by the taifas of al-Andalus to the Christian kingdoms of the north. Parias dominated relations between the Islamic and the Christian states in the years following the disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba (1031) until the reunification of Islamic Spain under the Almoravid dynasty. The parias were a form of protection money established by treaty. The payee owed the tributary military protection against foes both Islamic and Christian. Usually the original exaction was forced, either by a large razzia or the threat of one, or as the cost of supporting one Islamic party against another.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Murcia</span>

The Taifa of Murcia was an Arab taifa of medieval Al-Andalus, in what is now southern Spain. It became independent as a taifa centered on the Moorish city of Murcia after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba. The Moorish Taifa of Murcia included Albacete and part of Almería as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taifa of Badajoz</span> Emirate in Iberia (1009–1150)

The Taifa of Badajoz was a medieval Islamic Moorish kingdom located in what is now parts of Portugal and Spain. It was centred on the city of Badajoz which exists today as the first city of Extremadura, in Spain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Murcia</span> History of Murcia

The documented history of Murcia traces back at least to the Middle Ages, after Madinat Mursiya was built by Andalusi Emir Abd al-Rahman II in the 9th century, while it is suggested the city was erected over a previous settlement of Roman origin.


  1. Davies, Catherine (May 2014). The Companion to Hispanic Studies. ISBN   9781444118810.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Catlos, Brian (2015). Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad. New York, NY, USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN   978-0374535322.
  3. Barton, Simon (30 June 2009). A History of Spain. ISBN   9781137013477.
  4. 1 2 O'Connell, Monique; Dursteler, Eric R. (2016). The Mediterranean World: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Napoleon. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN   978-1-4214-1901-5.
  5. "taifa | Spanish history | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  6. 1 2 M. Morony (1993). "Mulūk al-Ṭawāʾif, 2. In Pre-Islamic Persia". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Volume VII: Mif–Naz. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 551–552. ISBN   978-90-04-09419-2.
  7. D. J. Wasserstein (1985), The Rise and Fall of the Party-kings: Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002–1086, Princeton University Press.
  8. D. J. Wasserstein (1993). "Mulūk al-Ṭawāʾif, 2. In Muslim Spain". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Volume VII: Mif–Naz. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 552–554. ISBN   978-90-04-09419-2.
  9. Tolan, John (2013). Europe and the Islamic World: A History. Princeton: Princeton University press. pp. 40, 39–40.
  10. Encarta Winkler Prins Encyclopaedia (1993–2002) s.v. "Almoraviden §2. Verbreiding", "Almohaden §2. Machtsuitbreiding". Microsoft Corporation/Het Spectrum.