Uqba ibn Nafi (born 622, died 683 in Sidi Uqba, Algeria) was an Arab general who participated in Jihad under Muawiya radhiallahu anhu. He began the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb (North Africa), including present-day Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.
He was the nephew of Amr ibn al-Aas radhiallahu anhu, the general who led the conquest of Egypt. Uqba is linked to the Banu Fihri, a clan connected to the Quraysh. He founded the cultural city of Kairouan in Tunisia. Uqba accompanied Al-Aas radhiallahu anhu in his initial raids and capture of cities in North Africa starting with Barca, then proceeding to Tripolitania in 644 CE.
In 670, now the commander, Uqba led an Arab army to North Africa, crossing the Egyptian deserts, and setting up military posts at regular intervals along his route.
When Uqba reached the Atlantic coast he rode his horse into the sea and said:
‘Oh God, if the sea had not prevented me, I would have galloped on for ever like Alexander the Great, upholding your faith and fighting the disbelievers.’
Uqba led the conquest of the Roman provinces in North Africa such as Mauretania Tingitana. His descendants can be found in the area stretching from the Lake Chad region to Mauritania’s coast. The trans-sahel Arab tribe of Kounta traces its origins to Uqba. In Algeria, Tunisia and Libya some of his descendants are known as Ouled Sidi Ukba.
In 683, Uqba was ambushed and killed near Biskra by Kusaila.
“The fearless Akbah plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fez and Morocco, and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert….
The career, though not the zeal, of Akbah was checked by the prospect of a boundless ocean.
He spurred his horse into the waves, and raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed:
‘Great God! if my course were not stopped by this sea, I would still go on, to the unknown kingdoms of the West, preaching the unity of the holy name, and putting to the sword the rebellious nations who worship another gods than Allah.’”
– Uqba “Akbah” bin Nafi (622-683) on his conquest to the westernmost of Africa and being the first Muslim who reached it
Excerpts from the writings of historian Edward Gibbon