The Almohads
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Ibn Tumert comes from the tribe of Sanhadja more precisely of the group of Hargha in the Atlas Mountains, in the village of Igilliz. He is sent by his parents to make his studies initially with Marrakech then in Spain then in the East. He adopts the doctrines of Al Ach'ari founder of Kalam which he will make triumph in the Maghreb on his return. Ibn Tumert becomes Mahdi. He meets in the town of Bougie his future caliph in the person of the Abd-el-Mumin, a young man. The doctrines of Ibn Tumert rest on the return to the origins, i.e. Koran and the prophetic tradition of Medina without resorting to interpretation (Raď). He preaches an extreme rigour of manners and religious practices. The essential base of his theology is founded on an essential principle: God is single (tawid) from where the name of almohad (the unit ones). The ach’arit doctrines exclude literal interpretation from the malikits. His theology is widely diffused in the people in Berber language by simple means. It is only after his arrival in Morocco that the political principle Shiite centred on the person of Mahdi and the impeccable Imam will appear. Of return to Morocco, Ibn Tumert runs up against the Almoravid authority which is based on the malikit doctrines.
He thus leaves Kabylia and gains the extreme Maghreb. He engages of the debates with the malikits doctors in Marrakech and the sovereign `Ali ibn Yussuf sees in him a disturber and plans to continue it. The Mahdi is prevented and flees. He preaches in its tribe of origin during three years. He is recognized like a Mahdi and an Imam then settles in Tinmel in the middle of the Masmuda tribe. He organized himself on the model of the Prophet and tries to federate tribes jealous of their independence. He melts the “house” of the Mahdi which constitutes a staff and creates the council of the Ten and the council of the Fifty. The tribes are treated on a hierarchical basis. He organizes a State in the Atlas with resources and troops. Abd-el-Mumin is adopted and becomes chief of war. After the death of the Mahdi, about 1127, Abd-el-Mumin takes the title of Caliph and launches out to the attack of Almoravids starting from the mountain which protects it. Marrakech is taken in 1146. Almohads crush the revolt of Beghwata and Dukkala towards 1148.
Before the catch of Marrakech, Almohads are called for the aid in Spain. They are initially satisfied to send some troops in order not to multiply the faces but the Christian threat oblige them with a stronger intervention. The Moslems of Spain recognize Abd-el-Mumin like sovereign in 1150. This last turns to Tlemcen then Bougie. He crushes the hammanid kingdom then Hilalians towards Tebessa in 1152.
Then, he attacks Ifriqiya (current Tunisia) to reject the Norman ones which settled since the collapse of the Zirids and to reduce the power of the Arab tribes. He off-sets of force Hilalians towards the area of Dukkala depopulated since the repression of 1148.
The Maghreb is thus unified with Andalusia.
`Abd-el-Mumin organizes its conquests. He creates a land register in order to ensure of the tax resources. He does not hesitate to use the force. The Makhzen tribes are exempted of Kharaj.
After his death, he leaves the capacity to his son Abu Ya'Kub (1163-1184) who must face rebellions in the Maghreb before launching the holy war to Spain. He dies there. His son, Abu Yusuf Ya'kub, known as el Mansur succeeds to him. It is under his reign that the empire is more brilliant.
Concerning the official structure, it is advisable to speak more about the State concept of Makhzen. With the origin, the makhzen is a place of accumulation of the richness, reserves. In Morocco, Makhzen indicates the culture of State as much as a structure. One distinguishes the “bled el Makhzen” (country placed under the authority of the State) from the “bleb el Siba” (country which refuses the authority and the tax). The bled el siba, corresponds to the Berber mountain. However this opposition between Makhzen and Siba is very relative bus within Makhzen there are phenomena of insubordination in particular to the moment of the successions at the head of the States.
The Almohads have the concern of creating a strong central capacity. They try an original operation by integrating at the same time the tribes and the central authority.
First of all, there is a hierarchisation of the tribes according to the anteriority of their rallying to start with Hargha (tribe of origin of the Mahdi Ibn Tumert) and Hintata.
The references to the Revelation are used. For example, the rejoined tribes are “Ansars”.
Certain companions close to the Mahdi plays a part of foreground like Abd-el-Mumin.
Each tribe is equipped with a kind of governor, Mizwal, representing the central capacity.
The installation of this organization is not done without difficulties. The force is often used. The capacity carries out the elimination of the opponents, makes the “sorting” (Tamiz). Two important tamiz take place in 1125 and 1149.
Specialized groups are made up with the service of the central capacity. They constitute the wheels of Makhzen:
- Abid el Makhzen: constituted members of the tribes but organized in such a way that they are more devoted with the capacity with the tribes.
- Muhtasib.
- a group charged to strike the money.
- Hafiz: wire of dignitaries trained with administrative tasks.
- Talabas: charged with diffusing the doctrines of the Mahdi and formed with the doctrinal debates in particular with the philosophers.
- soldiers…
The religious reference of the names given to these bodies always does not make it possible to know the exact mission because there is not correspondence between the title and the role. It is a historical field still badly known. The Almohads are not at the origin of the concept of Makhzen but they are first one that who push its construction so far. This balance of power will hold until the years 1230.
The Almohad art marks the artistic apogee of the Maghreb. It is characterized by a purification of the forms translating the religious rigour. It is the assertion of the geometrical forms. The buildings are massive but they are reduced by many decorations. The whole gives an effect of majesty. They introduce the “Zelliges” (mosaics of earthenware squares).
They are builders of towns like Ribat el Fath. The Almohad period constitutes a strong point of the cultural union between the Maghreb and Andalusia.
To a great religious rigour an astonishing deployment of sciences corresponds. The elites open with the Andalusian culture (poetry, medicine, philosophy…) before coming to the reign in Marrakech. The difference between town culture of the elites and the culture more frustrates of tribes is real.
A culture of brilliant court is spread under the reigns of Abu Yakub Yussuf and Abu Yakub el Mansur.
It is at that time that live Ibn Tufayl (1110-1185), Ibn Ruchd (death in 1198) and Maimonide or Mussa Ibn Ibymum (death in 1204).
Ibn Tufayl begins his career as particular secretary then becomes doctor of the Caliph. He is the author of a famous philosophical novel: Hayy ibn Yaqzam.
Ibn Ruchd succeeds to him as doctor of el Mansur. Part of works of Plato and Aristote passes in the European cultural field thanks to him. Maimonide is a Jew of Cordoba. He contributes to nourish the debate on the relation between philosophy and religion.
In the religious plan, the Almohad period coincides with the appearance of a Moslem mystic like the Sufism (2sd half of the 12th century). Several great saints of the Maghreb live and die at that time as Abu Madyan (his tomb is located close to Tlemcen) which is the main saint, and Abu Ya'za (death in 1176), a Berber of African origin. The biographical writings of the saints appear (manaquib). They do not treat doctrines and teaching of the saint but of the character, exemplarity of his faith, his miracles...
The saints and mystics diffuse their teaching with the margin of the Almohad capacity in a kind of peaceful coexistence.
The religious practices related to the existence of the saints will create a social bond extremely (devotion, pilgrimages, hermitages…).
Ibn Arabi writes his work in the East after having left the Maghreb. The first forms of institutionalization of the diffusion of mystical works will appear in Moslem Occident only starting from the 15th and 16th centuries (zawiya, inheritance, sheik, ritual…).
The collapse of the empire is primarily of interns origins even if the defeats in front of the Christians (in 1212) give the signal.
The Zenâta are nomads which travel between Zab and Rif. In the absence of forces and of Almohad authority, they arrive at the North of the Maghreb and settle in the valley of Muluyya. They will put a term at Almohads in the era of current Morocco. The Merinid dynasty results from Zenâta. The weakening of the capacity makes it possible to the chiefs of the tribes to re-occupy the area.
of it Moreover, the caliph Al My'mun rejects the Almohads doctrines (1227-1232). He is surrounded Christian mercenaries and tries to get rid of the sheiks carrying the doctrines. He changes the formulas on the currencies and carries out purification. The tensions are strong. The State is dislocated. The governor of Ifriqiya, Abu Zacharia, profits from it to claim the independence (1236) and will found the Hafsid dynasty. The legitimacy of this dynasty rests on the reference to the doctrines of the Mahdi but that is not any more that one question of form because we attend a return in strength generalized of the malikit school. Tlemcen is declared independent in 1236.
Grenade and Murcia are detached from the empire. The Nasrid dynasty settles at grenade in 1237.
Marrakech falls in front of the Merinids (Zenâta) in 1269. The Caliphate of Baghdad collapses in 1258.
The Almohad empire disappears after having constituted the apogee of an original culture between the arts of the Berbers, the Arabs and the people of Andalusia. Home page