Almohad Empire

Jun 30, 2023 | Almohads

The Almoravid Empire

1150-1212

In 1125 the Almohads, a new Berber dynasty began a rebellion in the Atlas Mountains of  Africa and after 22 years of fighting emerged victorious. Marrakech fell in 1147, and thereafter Almoravid leaders survived only for a time in Spain and the Balearic Isles.  By 1150, the Almohads had taken Morocco as well as Seville, Córdoba, Badajoz, and Almería in the Iberian Peninsula. The Almohads made Seville their capital in al-Andalus, while retaining Marrakesh as their center of power in North Africa.

This political and religious movement had an architect: Muhammad Ibn Tumart. He was born in a village in the African Atlas around 1082. In his youth he traveled for more than ten years through the main cities of the time, obtaining a remarkable formation in philosophy and religion. With this knowledge, a deep reforming zeal was born in Ibn Tumart and he soon began to preach his ideas and to combat the practices that he understood as contrary to Islam. He had no easy beginning, for he was rejected in many places where he preached his reformist ideas. But far from surrendering, Ibn Tumart initiated a rebellion from Tinmal, which would become the spiritual capital of the Almohad empire. Around 1121, Ibn Tumart began to be taken by a growing group such as the mahdi, “the envoy”, the leader guided by divine inspiration. He was promoted to the rank of military and religious leader, although the divine inspiration seems to have lasted him for a short time. He died in battle in 1130.

Ibn Tumart was succeeded by Abd al-Mumin. In 1145 he crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with his army and took control of Tarifa and Algeciras. Two years later, he took Seville and Marrakech, ending the Almoravid era and initiating the Almohad rule, which would soon extend to the rest of the empire. As for al-Andalus, the peninsular population welcomed the arrival of the Almohad to get rid of the fiscal and military oppression of the Almoravids. At the death of al-Mumin in 1172, the Almohads dominated the entire southern half of Toledo of the Iberian Peninsula.

Al-Mumin’s successors continued to increase Almohads power in al-Andalus, with a peak moment in 1195, when they defeated the Castilians at the Battle of Alarcos. After this victory, the Almohads lived their era of greatest splendour. The development of philosophy and sciences had exponents such as Ibn Tufail and Averroes. The impulse of art could be felt in the Andalusian capital: in Seville the aljama mosque and minaret was erected that, after the Christian conquest, would end up reformed in cathedral and the bell tower of the Giralda. But the golden age could not last long. Various threats loomed over the Almohads.

In North Africa raids were going on against the Almohads. In 1198 they agreed a ten-year truce with Castile. The intention was to prepare a large army to face the Christians. But the northern peninsular kingdoms had the same time to prepare, and they did better, spurred by the defeat at Alarcos. The fall of the Almohads was not delayed after the truce: In July 1212 a joint army of Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon advanced south from Toledo and faced the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa. The Almohads suffered such a defeat that their power in Spain was practically annihilated. Al-Andalus once again fractured into tribute-paying principalities, vulnerable to the depredations of christians kingdoms. These principalities, except for Nasrid-ruled Granada soon lost their sovereignty

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