At the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705), the Arabs were advancing in their conquest westward through North Africa. The caliph’s army, led by his general Hasan ibn-Nu’man, captured Carthage and marched west to impose Islam on the free Berber tribes. Led by their queen, the tribes resisted fiercely on the slopes of the Aures, using a powerful army of camelry. Hasan was defeated (688) and the Kahina took many prisoners, whom she released, with the exception of one youth, Khalid ibn Yazid. The Kahina adopted Khalid and treated him like her two other sons.
The defeated general, Hasan, retreated and settled at Barca to await the caliph's instructions. Five years later, Abd al-Malik sent reinforcements and orders to attack the Kahina.
In the meantime, the Kahina had devastated the fertile coastal region and cities to discourage the Arabs whom she thought coveted the riches of the country. Her policy created internal dissension that undermined her popularity among the people. Furthermore, Hasan received information from Khalid, her adopted son, who had become a double agent. Before the battle took place, the Kahina foresaw that she would be killed and the Berbers defeated. She said she had seen her head cut off and brought to her enemies. She made Khalid return to the Arabs and take along her two sons to save them. She herself resisted the conquerors to the end and was killed in battle in 695 at a place later called Kahina’s Well. .
The Kahina ruled with an iron hand for thirty-five years and blocked the Muslim invasion of North Africa for several years, leading her own tribe and other tribes of the region in battle. After her death the Arabs were able to complete the conquest of all North Africa to the Atlantic and Islantize the Berber tribes, then invading Spain with Berber troops.
According to one tradition, her sons, following her dying instructions, surrendered, were converted to Islam, and were given a military command, helping in the subsequent conquest and Islamization of the region.