In This Article Almohads

  • Introduction
  • Specific Studies on the Almohads
  • Sources
  • Origins of the Movement
  • Foundation of the Caliphate
  • Building Political and Religious Legitimacy
  • Political and Military History
  • Administration and Diplomacy
  • Society, Economy, and Numismatics
  • The Situation and Treatment of Jews and Christians
  • The End of the Almohads
  • Almohad Influence in and outside the Islamic World

Islamic Studies Almohads
by
Maribel Fierro
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0217

Introduction

The Almohads (al-muwahhidun) were the followers of the Masmuda Berber Ibn Tumart (d. 524/1130) who claimed to be the Mahdi (the rightly guided one) and started a political and religious movement against the Almoravids (Sanhaja Berbers). The Almoravids were accused of being anthropomorphists and of promoting blindless adherence to Maliki doctrine (taqlid). The Almohad Empire stretched from Tripoli (Libya) to the Atlantic, including al-Andalus (Muslim Spain and Portugal), under the rule of Ibn Tumart’s disciple ʿAbd al-Muʾmin (Zanata Berber) (r. 524/1130–558/1163), who proclaimed himself caliph adopting an Arab genealogy. ʿAbd al-Muʾmin transformed the Berber tribal army, incorporating the Arab tribes (Sulaym, Hilal) defeated at Sétif in 548/1153 during the expansion toward Ifriqiya (Tunisia). He also started the formation of new religious and political elites known as talaba. Abu Yaʿqub Yusuf (r. 558–580/1163–1184) and Abu Yusuf Yaʿqub (r. 580–595/1184–1199) had to face the Almoravid Banu Ghaniya and Ayyubid intervention in North Africa, and a number of internal opponents, while in the Iberian Peninsula they fought both against local independent rulers and the Christians. In the first half of the 7th/13th century, the Muʾminid dynasty was weakened by internal splits, by the loss of major Andalusi towns to the Christians, and by autonomous rule in Tunisia under the Hafsids (descendants of one of Ibn Tumart’s companions). The Marinids (Zanata) entered Marrakesh in 668/1269, putting an end to the Almohad caliphate, while the ʿAbd al-Wadids took control in Algeria. Until recently, studies on the Almohads were scarce and many aspects still largely unexplored, in spite of the pioneering work of I. Goldziher, F. Codera, É. Lévi-Provençal, R. Brunschvig, A. Huici Miranda and D. Urvoy. Since the 1990s there has been a growing interest on Almohad political history and state formation (Y. Benhima, A. Fromherz, M. Ghouirgate, P. Guichard, J.-P. Molénat, M. J. Viguera), doctrine (M. Brett, M. Fletcher, T. Nagel), numismatics (R. Benhsain-Mesmoudi, S. Fontenla, P. Guichard, S. Peña, M. Vega), epigraphy and art (P. Cressier, M. A. Martínez Núñez), intellectual and religious developments (A. Akasoy, M. Aouad, H. Ferhat, M. Fierro, M. Forcada, M. Geoffroy, M. Marín, D. Serrano, S. Stroumsa), internal organization (A. al-ʽAzzawi, H. El Allaoui, M. Benouis, P. Buresi, E. Fricaud), and other issues, such as the origins of the movement in southern Morocco (J.-P. van Staevel and A. Fili). There are still many areas in need of study, such as the Almohad impact on both the Islamic Eastern lands and Christendom. Most of the available scholarship has been published in Arabic, French, and Spanish, with important contributions in German. It is only recently that there is a growing body of studies in English.

General Overviews

General histories of North Africa include appropriate sections on the Almohads, but the same cannot be said regarding general histories of the Islamic world, where the information provided is scarce and often outdated. This is a problem that more generally affects the treatment of the Islamic West, still scarcely integrated in general discussions concerning the history of Islamic societies.

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