Almohad Empire

Almohad Empire (1130-1269) was an empire founded on the teachings of Ibn Tumart, in opposition to Almoravid ideology.The term almohad comes from the arabic word al-Muwahhidun or unitarian.


In 1120, Ibn Tumart initiated a rebellion against the Almoravid, which found willing ears among the Zenata Berbers, mortal enemy of the Sanhaja Berbers, the dominant group in the Almoravid movement. He later declared himself Mahdi. He fled Marrakech, for his own safety. Tumart established himself at Tin Mal, in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where he preached his unique brand of Islam. Tumart's teaching caught on among the Masmuda Berbers, another enemy of the Sanhaja Almoravids. By 1124, a small Almohad ribat grew in the region, but by 1130 Tumart died. Abd al-Mumin assumed control of the Almohad movement and proceeded to conquer the Maghrib. In 1147, he conquers Marrakech, with support of the Zenata Berbers, and later brought the entire northwestern Maghrib under Almohad control. Black soldiers were a major component of the victorious army. Almoravid hegemony came to an abrupt end. 

By 1154, southern Spain and Portugal fell, with actual control being solidified in 1172. A few decade later, Christian kingdoms began asserting themselves. By 1212, at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosqa, Almohad troops were defeated by a Christian coalition of Aragon, Leon, and Navarra, the beginning of the end of the Almohad Empire. 


Ibn Tumart was opposed to the Malikite Jurist or fuqaha ideology of the Almoravid and the power they yield. Tumart wanted to bring about an Islam that referenced Islamic fundamental laws, laws from the Koran and Sunnah. Tumart combined various islamic ideologies-particularly Asharite and Shia. His belief system came to be known as Tawid (unitarianism or oness of God). He also declared himself Mahdi, adding a messianic element to the Almohad movement. Talaba or huffa, doctors, spread the Almohad beliefs.

Political Organization

Almohad Empire was ruled by a caliph. Abd al-Mumin was the first to use the title, instituting a break from Abbasid authority. The caliph received legitimacy and authority, within a hierarchical system. The Sayyid from the Mu'minid Clan occupied top status. Ashyakh, dignitaries from other Masmuda Berber tribes occupied favored status.

Almohad Empire retained a civil service, from conquered territories. Land was excavated and levies and taxes were applied based on estimated land productivity. These levies were used to support Almohad armies and navy.

tags: berber empire sultanate north africa