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Ibn Tumart
Berber: amghār
Arabic: ibnu tuwmart



Almohads: The mosque at Tin Mal, well protected in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco.
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The mosque at Tin Mal, well protected in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco.

Almohads: Inside the mosque at Tin Mal in Morocco.
Almohads: Inside the mosque at Tin Mal in Morocco.

(Ijili-n-Warghan, Morocco between 1077 and 1088-Tin Mal, Morocco 1028 or 1030). Muslim reformer of Morocco, called the Mahdi of the Almohads.
The name Ibn Tumart comes from the Berber language and means "son of little Umar." Ibn Tumart was a man of strong religious conviction, holding a conservative view of Islam. Both his views, and possibly his style caused him to make a large number of enemies. Still, his persistence would be crowned with success, since he became the actual founder of the group later known as the Almohads, which would replace the Almoravids for the political leadership of North Africa and Spain.
Ibn Tumart begins his activity in a period which, it is said, was characterized by moral decay and few intellectual achievements. Studies of the time were confined to the books known as furū¢, and did not include the Koran or the Hadiths.
Ibn Tumart would discover the teachings of Ibn Hazm during a longer stay in Spain, and later in his life he became influenced by the teachings of al-Ghazzali, but he never met him, even if this has been asserted.
Ibn Tumart would later travel to Mecca to perform the hajj. His studies came to include stays in Baghdad and in Damascus as well.
He would return to North Africa by Tunisia. He made the journey from the Levant by ship, and while out on the sea, Ibn Tumart started to preach to the sailors and passengers, who responded by reciting the Koran and performing prayers.
But it was while preaching around Tunisia, that he came to formulate the core of his reform program, which stated:
The one who sees anything wrong, should act to change it by his hand. If he cannot do it with his hand, he shall do it with his tongue. If he cannot do it with his tongue, he shall do it in his own heart. This is what the religion demands you to do.
Ibn Tumart would not make new friends with this doctrine, and the local rulers felt their authority threatened. As a result, Ibn Tumart had to seek refuge with a Berber tribe in the region. While hiding, Ibn Tumart met the man who came to be his foremost disciple, Abd al-Mu'min.
After Tunisia, returned overland to Morocco. For spreading his message along the way, he came to be banished by the governor of Tlemcen. After receiving little success in Fez and Meknes, he ended up in Marrakech, where he raised his voice against the moral standards of the women.
Ibn Tumart was called upon to meet with the learned men of Marrakech, who belonged to the court of the Almoravid emir. The learned elite wanted him executed, but his life was spared by the emir.
Away from Marrakech and finding a new audience, Ibn Tumart soon began preaching both Koranic doctrines as well as his own ideas, which were a mixture of Ash'ari theology and Shi'i Islam, and he attacked the dynasty for living according to false teaching. He went so far in his own teaching as to declare jihad on all who disagreed with him, and he proclaimed himself Mahdi, fashioning for himself a genealogy originating with Ali.
At this time, Ibn Tumart was able to achieve power by military action. In one instance, he had the population of Tin Mal in the High Atlas Mountains destroyed, ordering 15,000 massacred.
In 1123, he sent an army under the leadership of Abdu l-Mu'min against the Almoravids, but they lost, and Ibn Tumart had to seek refuge in Tin Mal.
But the number of followers continued to increase. This coincided with the weakening position of the Almoravids. Ibn Tumart would not see the fruit of his struggle, and it was not until 17 years after his death, that the Almohads managed to defeat the Almoravids.
Ibn Tumart published a number of works in the Berber language, of which the Tawhid survives, though in Arabic translation.




By Tore Kjeilen