Like the Almoravids, the Almohads found their initial inspiration
in Islamic reform. Their spiritual leader, the Moroccan Muhammad
ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart, sought to reform Almoravid decadence.
Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda
tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis
on the unity of God, his followers were known as Al Muwahhidun
(unitarians, or Almohads).
Although declaring himself mahdi, imam, and masum (infallible
leader sent by God), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted
with a council of ten of his oldest disciples. Influenced by the
Berber tradition of representative government, he later added
an assembly composed of fifty leaders from various tribes. The
Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities,
including Sus and Marrakech.
Upon Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart's death in 1130, his successor
Abd al Mumin took the title of caliph and placed members of his
own family in power, converting the system into a traditional
monarchy. The Almohads entered Spain at the invitation of the
Andalusian amirs, who had risen against the Almoravids there.
Abd al Mumin forced the submission of the amirs and reestablished
the caliphate of Córdoba, giving the Almohad sultan supreme religious
as well as political authority within his domains. The Almohads
took control of Morocco in 1146, captured Algiers around 1151,
and by 1160 had completed the conquest of the central Maghrib
and advanced to Tripolitania. Nonetheless, pockets of Almoravid
resistance continued to hold out in the Kabylie for at least fifty
After Abd al Mumin's death in 1163, his son Abu Yaqub Yusuf (r.
1163-84) and grandson Yaqub al Mansur (r. 1184-99) presided over
the zenith of Almohad power. For the first time, the Maghrib was
united under a local regime, and although the empire was troubled
by conflict on its fringes, handcrafts and agriculture flourished
at its center and an efficient bureaucracy filled the tax coffers.
In 1229 the Almohad court renounced the teachings of Muhammad
ibn Tumart, opting instead for greater tolerance and a return
to the Maliki
(see Glossary) school of law. As evidence of this change, the
Almohads hosted two of the greatest thinkers of Andalus: Abu Bakr
ibn Tufayl and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
The Almohads shared the crusading instincts of their Castilian
adversaries, but the continuing wars in Spain overtaxed their
resources. In the Maghrib, the Almohad position was compromised
by factional strife and was challenged by a renewal of tribal
warfare. The Bani Merin (Zenata Berbers) took advantage of declining
Almohad power to establish a tribal state in Morocco, initiating
nearly sixty years of warfare there that concluded with their
capture of Marrakech, the last Almohad stronghold, in 1271. Despite
repeated efforts to subjugate the central Maghrib, however, the
Merinids were never able to restore the frontiers of the Almohad
Data as of December 1993