Casablanca - Despite the fact than Moroccan women in the past could not easily win their entrance ticket to the public sphere, they have always looked for acceptable alternatives to have their share of power.
Casablanca – Despite the fact than Moroccan women in the past could not easily win their entrance ticket to the public sphere, they have always looked for acceptable alternatives to have their share of power.
Zainab Nafzaouia is one of those women who challenged the patriarchal hegemony maliciously with the two weapons she mastered the best: Beauty and her wits.
While the Idrissid dynasty was incrementally surrendering its power base, the nomadic tribes Lamthuna and Gudala coming from the heart of the desert were making the first skirmishes to take over power.
The Almoravids extended their hegemony over the Maghreb and Al-Andalus. They built a political and economic system independently from the caliphate in the East.
Zainab Nafzaouia was a legendary woman who could cast her spell on the most powerful leaders in the Almoravids dynasty.
Known for her beauty and whimsical manners, Zainab was often courted by tribes’ leaders. Her wisdom and her acquaintance with politics enhanced considerably her appeal.
Zainab Nafzaoui belongs to an Amazigh family whose origins can be traced back to East Ifriquia (current Tunisia). Her father was a tradesman who travelled between Qairawan and Aghmat.
Despite her modest origins, Zainab Nafzaouia was an enterprising young woman who expressed explicitly that her ambition is to “marry the man who will govern all the Moroccan territory”. Obviously, she was waiting for a prestigious match that would propel her to the highest spheres of power.
Indeed, Zainab Nafzaouia had fulfilled her wish by marrying the commander in chief of the Sahraoui tribe Sahnaja Abou Bakr Ibn Omar.
It is said that Aintab offered all her wealth to Abu Bakr to impress him. Nevertheless, the modest warrior was fond of Jihad and could not indolently relish the comfort of marital life.
Indeed, Abu Bakr chose the desert hardships as soon as he received a request to offset a revolt against Al Moravides in the desert.
Before leaving to the Sahara, Abu Bakr divorced Zainab and suggested that she marries Yusuf Ibn Tachfin who held the position of a deputy at that time. Their union was celebrated three months after her divorce from Abu Bakr Ibn Omar.
Zainab used gracefully her talent and wits to avoid an unwarranted bloodshed between Yusuf Ibn Tachfin and her ex husband.
Zainab was praised for her matchless beauty as well as her skills in governance matters. Though many women lived in the shadow of their husbands at that time, historians report that Zainab Nafzaouia was highly influential in the process of decision making especially in public affairs.
Lotfi Bouchentouf de Zamane reports that Zainab Nafzaouia has repeatedly intervened in politics. For instance she urged her husband Yusuf Ibn Tachfin to change his status from a mere deputy of Abu Bakr to the title of “Amir al Mouminin”, the prince of believers.
Women living under the Almoravids rule were relatively emancipated in public life. They held a prominent role in society as they were entrusted with governance issues in their households.
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