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.

Muslim Berber movement developed into the leading political power in North Africa and Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Its teachings were based upon Ibn Tumart‘s interpretation of Islam, and its success was not only a result of its own power so much as it was due to the downfall of the preceding Almoravid empire.

The central core of the Almohad movement – it could be called a rebellion against the Almoravids, actually – was the opposition to the position of the leaders of Almoravids as jurists. While large parts of its theology were rather unclear, one principle stood out: tawhid, the uniqueness of God.

All through their 122 years of forming an empire, the Almohads were based upon a ruling elite, coming from the Masmuda tribe. This elite came from the founders of the Almohads, and continued through their descendants. However, the puritanical ideas of the founder Ibn Tumart did not last long.

Already his successor, Abdu l-Mu’min excelled in building expensive palaces and monuments, rich in ornamentation. Famous Moroccan structures, like the Kutubiyya mosque in Marrakech and the old mosque in Taza, are from his period in power.

The Almohad crusade to purify Islam did not succeed as intended. Traditional Islam as Ibn Tumart perceived it, was equally diluted by mystical movements of Sufism as well as the philosophical schools of Ibn Tufayl and Averröes as before.

1117: Ibn Tumart returns to Morocco after performing hajj. He calls for a return to the principles of Islam: the Koran and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad.
1121: Ibn Tumart declares himself Mahdi.
1122: Ibn Tumart flees Marrakech, as he realizes that his life is in danger.
1124: A small Berber state grows up around the village of Tin Mal in the High Atlas Mountains (centre of what is today’s Morocco), where Ibn Tumart has installed himself.
1130: Ibn Tumart dies, and is succeeded by Abdu l-Mu’min.
1147: The Almohad leader Abdu l-Mu’min conquers Marrakech, and brings an end to Almoravid rule. Now, the Almohads suddenly find themselves in control of northwestern Maghreb, but Spain is still outside their control.
1154: al-Mu’min secures control over southern Spain and Portugal.
1172: The Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf forces Sevilla to surrender. Following this, more Spanish Muslim states are forced under Almohad control.
1212: With the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the Almohad forces are seriously defeated by a Christian coalition from Leon, Navarra and Aragon. With this, the Almohads were forced back to Africa.
1236: Tunis is lost to the Hafsids.
1239: Tlemcen is lost to Abdu l-Wadid.
1269: The last Almohad stronghold, Marrakech, is conquered by the Merenids. This ends of the Almohad empire.


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