The History of the Almohad Caliphate

No items found.
Le Califat Almohade à son apogée.
The Almohad Caliphate at its peak.
No items found.

The Almohad movement, having emerged around 1120CE, established a regime which, in the form of a vast empire and Moroccan caliphate, would extend for more than a century throughout the Muslim West, including Andalusia and central and eastern Maghreb (today Algeria, Tunisia and part of Libya).
The founder of the movement, Muhammad Ibn Tumart, is a preacher from the Berber tribe of Hargha, themselves belonging to the Masmoudas tribal group. He is originally from Igiliz, a small village in the middle of the Moroccan Anti-Atlas.

As early as 1120, he'd blame the Almoravids, ruling at the time over the Empire of Morocco, for their corruption, heresy and their anthropomorphism. He'll take refuge in Igiliz, his native hamlet, near Taroudant which will be considered his first Hijra and the moment during which he'll proclaim himself Imam and Mahdi.

The Atlas will constitute his main base through which he'll organize his troops in preparation for his conquest and removal of Almoravid power, while setting up his unique Tawhid ideological system, learning several Islamic concepts together to form the Almohad doctrine. Four years later, he'll move along with his followers to Tinmel in the High Atlas, which would eventually become the cradle and the first capital of the movement.

No items found.
The Tinmel Mosque.

The Tinmel Mosque rallies the Hargha tribes and a large part of the Masmoudas, including the Hintata, Gadmiwa, Ganfisa, Haskoura and Hazraja, all from the Grand Atlas. These tribes would form the backbone of the Almohad political-religious movement.

Ibn Tumart will make the people of the Gharb or the West pass off as the chosen Muslim people, promoting by the same stroke the Berber language. The Eastern Maghreb was considered a different civilizational pole according to him, with a companion of his from Béjaïa being referred to as Sharqi (oriental) by the Masmoudas in opposition to Gharb (Morocco).

After Ibn Tumart's passing and burial in Tinmel 1129, Abd al-Mumin rose up as the proclaimed successor to the Mahdi. Abd al-Mumin was a disciple of Ibn Tumart from the Nedroma region, formerly part of the Almoravid Empire.

Abd Al Mumin was therefore elected in 1132 in the Tinmel Mosque by the 10 companions of the Mahdi and the 50 Almohad sheikhs, who proclaimed him in order to avoid any conflict between Masmoudas tribes, given he was Zeneta. This political genius was mainly the work of Abu Hafs, at that time leader of the Hintata.

Abd al-Mumin will then channel his efforts to seize the Almoravid Empire by taking over the Moroccan part first. Leaving Tinmel in 1139 with his Atlassian troops, he continued to travel the country until 1147 with his capture of Marrakech, causing the official fall of the Almoravid dynasty.

Having become master of Morocco, whose capital was Marrakech, he'll set out to conquer the Eastern part of the Maghreb by gradually seizing Algiers, Bejaia, Constantine and then Tunis, Kairouan and Tripoli. During his conquest, he committed some notable massacres, such as in Tlemcen (his region of origin) and in Bejaia.

Abd al-Mumin considered the Central Maghreb and Ifriqya (modern day Algeria and Tunisia) as conquered lands whose inhabitants were subject to taxes.

Thus, his Empire will extend as far as Tripoli and Andalusia. Besides the Caliph's family, the families of Ibn Tumart's former companions, originally from the Atlas, will equally handle the empire's political affairs.

No items found.

Marrakech, still the capital of the Empire, was its most radiant city, both in terms of size and beauty.
Below is an excerpt from a 13th century Christian song describing the kingdom of Morocco, of which Marrakech was a great and glorious city.

Abd al-Mumin had a fortress built called Ribat el-Fath, which would become Rabat throughout history. This city served as a base for Moroccan armies heading towards Andalusia.

Many other landmarks were built, especially in Morocco, the westernmost part of the Almohad Caliphate. Among others, we can mention the Koutoubia, the Grand Mosque of Taza or the iconic Tinmel Mosque.

The Almohad Empire was directly named Kingdom of Morocco (or in Spanish Reino de Marruecos) by Westerners. The word Morocco derives from Marrakech, capital of the Empire, which itself takes its name from Amur N Akuch, meaning Land of God in Berber.

You can see the name “Marruecos” accompanied by the Almohad flag on the “Libro del Conocimiento de Todos los Reinos”, dated 1385CE.

In 1162, with the aim of forming war fleets, he commissioned the construction of 400 ships, including 220 in Morocco (el-Mamoura, Tangier, Ceuta, Badis and other ports in the Rif).

Abd al-Mumin died in Salé and was taken to Tinmel, where he'll be buried near the tomb of his predecessor, Ibn Tumart.

No items found.

He was succeeded by his son, Abu Yaqub Yusuf (born in Tinmel from a union between Abd al-Mumin and the daughter of a Hintata chief). It was proclaimed after an agreement among all the Almohad chiefs and in particular with Sheikh Abu Hafs, leader of the Hintata, containing himself the functions of vizier.

Abu Yaqub Yusuf concluded the war against the Christians of Andalusia and faced a revolt in Gafsa (present-day Tunisia). He's also known for having built the Seville Mosque (now La Giralda) and for having begun work on the famous Hassan Tower in Rabat. He died fighting in Portugal and was also buried in Tinmel.

Yaqub al-Mansour will be brought to power by the Almohad sheikhs. He sent a fleet against the crusaders to take Jerusalem. Several Moroccans will participate in the repopulation of the holy city, establishing a neighborhood and a gate called “Portal of Morocco”. In fact, he'll even ambition to take over Constantinople long before the arrival of the Ottomans. (For the full article on this part of the Almohad Empire's history, follow this link.)

The Portal or the Gate of Morocco in Jerusalem.

Under his rule, the Almohad army inflicted a great defeat on the king of Castile at Alarcos in 1195, which won him the title of al-Mansur (the Victorious). The army was mainly composed of tribes from the Maghreb al-Aqsa: the Haskoura, Ghomara, Beni Marin, Hintata, Banu Hilal but also Andalusians and some tribes from the Central Maghreb.

No items found.

Yaqub al-Mansur will commission the construction of two mosques in Marrakech and will also be the architect behind the development of the city of Rabat. He died in 1199 and was buried in Marrakech.

The Almohad Empire in its decline.

The bustling Empire will start to decline in the 13th century, suffering various defeats from the Christians who were victorious in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 and suffering internally from revolts across the Almohad domain. This will reduce its area to its birthplace: present-day Morocco, the conquered regions therefore each gaining their independence.

Among the kingdoms created after the fall of the Almohads were those of the Zianids of Tlemcen and the Hafsids of Tunis. Gradually, the Zenatian Marinids of northern Morocco will gradually gain territory until taking over the former empire's domain in its entirety in 1269.

No items found.
Références :