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How was Tunis city in Islamic era?

World 07 Feb 2021
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Tunisia is one of the richest countries in North Africa. It was once known as the capital of the Maghrib Muslim Caliphate. Located in the northeastern part of the North African state of Tunisia, Tunis city is currently the capital and largest city.

During the Islamic rule, the city underwent extensive economic, cultural, and social development.

History of the  Tunis city 

The city of Tunis city was rebuilt in the first century AD under the supervision of the Roman Emperor Augustus. But Carthage was not given much importance at that time. The Muslims re-established it in 720 AD and built the Zaitouna Mosque. The city was then used as an administrative center.

Its main role was to provide Muslim armies on an emergency basis to protect the settlements of Sicily and southern Italy. At that time, the religious teachers of the Zaitouna Mosque and University were being prepared to preach the religion and to give proper Islamic education to the new converts. Other teachers were sent to Andalusia, Cordoba, and Sicily. From the reign of the Aghlabids (ninth century), the city of Tunis became the capital of the province of Tunisia (then known as Africa), replacing Kirwan.

Before becoming the guardian of the whole country, Tunisia had an area of 260 hectares and a population of 90,000.

It was surrounded by a two-tiered wall and three types of special protection layers. The heart of the city was central Medina and there were special security arrangements for it. That security was further strengthened in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

Tunisian city planning, especially city structure and land use, perfectly reflects the social and cultural values of Islam. The features of the city built around the main mosque are:

Central Mosque in Tunis city

This main mosque was located in the heart of the Tunis city. In Tunisia, there was a connection between the Zaitouna Mosque and the University, originally famous for its religious education and public library. The path of mosques and universities started from 732 AD.

At that time, a Tunisian scholar was sitting in the shade of an “olive tree” teaching Islam to his students. Later, after graduating from the University of Zaitouna, several great scholars and reformers became well-established in their respective fields. Notable among them are the eminent Ibn Khaldun, Abdul Aziz, Muhammad Tahar Ibn Asur, and the poet Abul Qasim al-Shabi. In 1981, the Tunisian government incorporated it into the University of Tunis.

Tunisian commercial center

In the vicinity of the Zaitouna complex, there was a network of streets lined with souks, markets, and shops. These were the backbone of the city’s economy.

Dignified merchants and craftsmen, such as booksellers, perfumers, dried fruit sellers, and cloth merchants, sat together near the mosque. Even today many people see the traces of this tradition in the perfume lobby. Traditional clothing stores and nuts and spice sellers still sit on one side of the mosque walls. And the kind of industry that causes pollution or noise, such as cloth dyeing and pottery, has shops near the entrance gate.

Tunisian residential quarters

The local name of the residential quarters here was ‘Humate’, they are built around a local mosque. Citizens used to go there to pray five times a day. Every ‘Huma’ enjoyed a great deal of freedom.

Each had its own bathroom, bakery, main shops, Quran academy, and charity premises where shelter, aid, and religious instruction were given. Each of them had its own gate, and in case of any problem, if that gate was closed, that particular ‘Humate’ could be completely cut off from the rest of the city.

The cemetery was built near the sea on the outside of the outer walls on the east side of the city.

Tunis city street network

The Humates of Tunis were connected by a narrow network of streets, mainly used by pedestrians, horsemen, and carrying animals. There are basically two sections of roads. The first is the private road. They were called ‘Durub’.

The network of these narrow roads ended in front of one or another house, so the road was mostly used by the residents. The second type of road was the government, which surrounded the residential ‘Humate’. Bakeries, wheat mills, bathrooms, and other essentials were available here.

This Muslim city was arranged according to the socio-cultural and economic values of the time. And it is for this reason that the city of Tunisia, like other Muslim cities of the Middle Ages, has not lost its popularity in this present age.