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Banu Hilal

The Hilalians or Bani Hilal (Arabic: بنو هلال) were a confederation of Arab tribes of the Hejaz and Najd who emigrated to North Africa in the eleventh century. Masters of the vast plateaus of Najd, the Bani Hilal had a very bad reputation. Recent converts to Islam, they were known for their depredations on the borders of Iraq and Syria. With the revolutionary movement of the Ismaili Qarmatians in Bahrain and Oman, the Bani Hilal participated in 930 pillage of Mecca in their fight against the Fatimids. Thus the latter soon becoming masters of Egypt and founders of Cairo in 969, hastened to confine the unruly Bedouin in the south before sending them to the Maghreb.


According to Ibn Khaldun, the Banu Hilal were accompanied by their wives and their children, when they came to the Maghreb. They settled in North Africa after winning battle against the Berbers repeatedly and going on to cohabitate with the Berber tribes. Ibn Khaldun describes their genealogy, two mothers tribes, the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym. Bani Hilal lived on the Ghazouan near Taif, and Banu Sulaym attended nearby Medina. The Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym had in common cousin Al Yas that a branch of the Quraysh tribe. Hilalians from their immigration were formed of three families: Athbaj, Riyah and Zughba. Since their immigration today, it is almost impossible to have an essentially Arab lined as there were marriages between Arabs and Berbers. Now it matters as to some historians the Maghrebian society within the Greater Maghreb.


From the region of Najd in Arabia, they first migrated to the south of Egypt before heading to the Maghreb. Led by Abu Zayd, the number of Hilalian to have landed in North Africa between 200,000 and 250,000 people. There would have been more than 50,000 soldiers and 200,000 Bedouins. They were used by the Fatimids to punish the Zirids first allies and vassals of the first who abandoned their power after the conquest of Egypt and the foundation of Cairo, but became increasingly independent and abandoned Shiism. The Fatimids, in turn, were clearing their territory of Upper Egypt of a particularly difficult to control tribe. The Zirids were defeated quickly and their neighbors Hammadids and Zénètes were greatly weakened. Many Berbers lost control of where they lived.

The Banu Hilal quickly defeated the Zirids, and deeply weakened the neighbouring Hammadids. Their influx was a major factor in the linguistic, cultural and ethnic Arabization of the Maghreb, and in the spread of nomadism in areas where agriculture had previously been dominant.[1] Ibn Khaldun noted that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.[2]

Hilalians were under the orders of the various Berber dynasties (Almohads, Hafsids, Marinids, etc.) The Almohads could hardly unite all ethnic groups in the Maghreb. Upon arrival of the Turks, Hilali rose against the Ottoman Empire alongside the Berbers in the Aures region and South.

Social organisation

Several tribes living in arid and desert areas. They are endowed for rearing cattle and sheep. They are experts in the field of agriculture. Hilalians do not convey any ideology and are not very conservative but the religion of Islam is the doctrine of the majority of the population. Initially, they were Shia, but after their conquest of the Maghreb, Hilalians converted to Sunni Maliki regime. Other tribes Arabized Berbers much in Algeria. Several marriages between Arabs and Berbers took place in contemporary history.

Originally Hilalians are nomads and live in tents.

Famous people

  • Hassan bin Sarhan : His brother Badr ibn Fadl ibn Nahad Sarhan and derived their name Dora'id, a descendant Athbaj.
  • Salama bin Rizq : Coming of Khatir branch from a subdivision of Athbaj.
  • Diab bin Ghanim : Their served as a scout during the invasion of Ifriqîya which earned him the nickname Abu Mukhaybar (man information)

All characters are mentioned in the poems of the Arabs.


  1. ^ The Great Mosque of Tlemcen,
  2. ^ Populations Crises and Population Cycles, Claire Russell and W. M. S. Russell