The Berber Marinid dynasty was founded by a clan of one the nomadic Zanata branches that had its territory on the fringe of the Sahara Desert between the oases of Tafilalet and Figuig. They refused to be fitted into the politicoreligious order of the Almohads state, were defeated by the Almohads in 1144, and were driven back into the desert. In 1245, in alliance with other Zanata groups, they pressed northward again as far as the Rif Mountains. By 1258, the Marinids had control of most of eastern and northern Morocco from the Drâa to Sijilmassa to Salé, Taza, and Fès. For a while, however, they were forced into obedience by the Almohads, the Hafsids, and the Zayyanid dynasty of `Abd al-Wadid in Tlemcen. The al-Wadid dynasty was led by Yaghmurasan, and they seem to have been threatened and so supported the Almohads. In the 14th century, the Marinids briefly conquered much of Algeria (including Tlemcen in 1337) and Tunis in 1347, but their hold was ephemeral except for parts of Algeria. The probable motive behind pressing eastward was to obtain the profits from the trans-Saharan trade, which had moved largely east with the decline of Ghana and the Empire of Mali in the 14th century. During the last century of the Marinid period, the state was ruled by Wattasid vizirs (1420-1458) followed by Wattasid sultans (1465-1549).
   One of the major limitations of the Marinid dynasty was that it was not founded on a religious doctrine and its rulers could not claim special religious status to legitimize their leadership. They encountered difficulties in Fès, where the local elites considered Marinid claims to rule inferior claims to legitimacy than their own, Idrisid ancestry. To thwart local opposition and close the religious deficit, the Marinids promoted Islamic education (Maliki School of law) and a legalistic scholarly approach to religion through a madrasa system in major urban centers. They were also tolerant of Jews, maybe because the Muslim elite was so antagonistic, and the Marinid period is viewed as a golden era for Moroccan Judaism. Architecture, commerce, and culture flourished during the Marinid tenure. The tolerance of non-Muslims and the inability to claim special religious status damaged their claims to power and enabled the Wattasid takeover, the development of autonomous states such as the town of Chefchaouen established by Sharifs, and the subsequent Sa`diyin invasion. In the years of the dynasty's fall, a Marinid branch established in the northeastern region of Morocco an independent emirate with its seat in the mountainous fortress of Dabdou. It maintained itself until the first quarter of the 16th century largely with the help of the Muslim and Jewish refugees from Spain to whom it offered asylum after the fall of Granada in 1492. By the beginning of the 16th century, the Wattasid sultan Mohammed al-Sheikh (1472-1505) peacefully incorporated the emirate into Moroccan territory.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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