1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Almohades

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ALMOHADES (properly Muwāḥḥadis, i.e. “ Unitarians, ” the name being corrupted through the Spanish), a Mahommedan religious power which founded the fifth Moorish dynasty in the 12th century, and conquered all northern Africa as far as Egypt, together with Moslem Spain. It originated with Mahommed ibn Tūmart, a member of the Maşmūda, a Berber tribe of the Atlas. Ibn Tūmart was the son of a lamplighter in a mosque and had been noted for his piety from his youth; he was small, ugly, and misshapen and lived the life of a devotee-beggar. As a youth he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, whence he was expelled on account of his severe strictures on the laxity of others, and thence wandered to Bagdad, where he attached himself to the school of the orthodox doctor al Ashāri. But he made a system of his own by combining the teaching of his master with parts of the doctrines of others, and with mysticism imbibed from the great teacher Ghazāli. His main principle was a rigid Unitarianism which denied the independent existence of the attributes of God, as being incompatible with his unity, and therefore a polytheistic idea. Mahommed in fact represented a revolt against the anthropomorphism of commonplace Mahommedan orthodoxy, but he was a rigid predestinarian and a strict observer of the law. After his return to Morocco at the age of twenty eight, he began preaching and agitating, heading riotous attacks on wine-shops and on other manifestations of laxity. He even went so far as to assault the sister of the Murābţi (Almoravid) amir `Ali III., in the streets of Fez, because she was going about unveiled after the manner of Berber women. `Ali, who was very deferential to any exhibition of piety, allowed him to escape unpunished.

Ibn Tūmart, who had been driven from several other towns for exhibitions of reforming zeal, now took refuge among his own people, the Maşmūda, in the Atlas. It is highly probable that his influence would not have outlived him, if he had not found a lieutenant in 'Abd-el-Mūmin el Kūmi, another Berber, from Algeria, who was undoubtedly a soldier and statesman of a high order. When Ibn Tūmart died in 1128 at the monastery or ribāţ which he had founded in the Atlas at Tīnmāl, after suffering a severe defeat by the Murābţis, `Abd-el-Mūmin kept his death secret for two years, till his own influence was established. He then came forward as the lieutenant of the Mahdi Ibn Tūmart. Between 1130 and his death in 1163, `Abd-el-Mūmin not only rooted out the Murābţis, but extended his power over all northern Africa as far as Egypt, becoming amir of Morocco in 1149. Mahommedan Spain followed the fate of Africa, and in 1170 the Muwāḥḥadis transferred their capital to Seville, a step followed by the founding of the great mosque, now superseded by the cathedral, the tower of which they erected in 1184 to mark the accession of Ya`ķūb el Manşūr. From the time of Yūsef II., however, they governed their co-religionists in Spain and Central North Africa through lieutenants, their dominions outside Morocco being treated as provinces. When their amirs crossed the Straits it was to lead a jehad against the Christians and to return to their capital, Marrākesh.

The Muwāḥḥadi princes had a longer and a more distinguished career than the Murābţis or “ Almoravides ” (q.v.). Yūsef II. or “ Abu Ya`ķub ” (1163-1184), and Ya`ķub I. or “ El Manşūr ” (1184-1199), the successors of Abd-el-Mūmin, were both able men. They were fanatical, and their tyranny drove numbers of their Jewish and Christian subjects to take refuge in the growing Christian states of Portugal, Castile and Aragon. But in the end they became less fanatical than the Murābţis, and Ya`ķub el Manşūr was a highly accomplished man, who wrote a good Arabic style and who protected the philosopher Averroes. His title of El Manşūr, “ The Victorious, ” was earned by the defeat he inflicted on Alphonso VIII. of Castile at Alarcos in 1195. But the Christian states in Spain were becoming too well organized to be overrun by the Mahommedans, and the Muwāḥḥadis made no permanent advance against them. In 1212 Mahommed III., “ En-Nāşir ” (1199-1214), the successor of El Manşūr, was utterly defeated by the allied five Christian princes of Spain, Navarre and Portugal, at Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena. All the Moorish dominions in Spain were lost in the next few years, partly by the Christian conquest of Andalusia, and partly by the revolt of the Mahommedans of Granada, who put themselves under the protection of the Christian kings and became their vassals.

The fanaticism of the Muwāḥḥadis did not prevent them from encouraging the establishment of Christians even in Fez, and after the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa they occasionally entered into alliances with the kings of Castile. In Africa they were successful in expelling the garrisons placed in some of the coast towns by the Norman kings of Sicily. The history of their decline differs from that of the Murābţis, whom they had displaced. They were not assailed by a great religious movement, but destroyed piecemeal by the revolt of tribes and districts. Their most effective enemies were the Beni Marīn (“Merinides”) who founded the next Moroccan dynasty, the sixth. The last representative of the line, Idrīs IV., “ El Wāthik, ” was reduced to the possession of Marrakesh, where he was murdered by a slave in 1269.

The amirs of the Muwāḥḥadi Dynasty were as follows:- `Abd-el-Mūmin (1145); Yūsef II., “ Abu Ya`ķub ” (1163); Ya`ķub I., “ Abu Yūsef el Manşūr ” (1184); Mahommed III., “ En-Nāşir ” (1199); Yūsef III., “ Abu Ya`ķub el Mustanşir ” (1214); 'Abd-el-Wāhid, “ El Makhlūwi ” (1223); 'Abd-Allah II., “ Abu Mahommed ” (1224); Yaḥya V., “ El Mu`tāşim ” (1226); Idrīs III., “ El Māmūn ” (1229); Rashīd I., “ 'Abd-el-Wāhid II.” (1232); 'Ali IV., “ Es-Sa`id el Mu`tādid ” (1242); Omar I., “ El Mortada ” (1248);, Idrīs IV., “El Wāthik” (1266-1269).  (B. M.*; D. H.)