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The Almohad Caliphate (ئموحّدن (Imweḥḥden), from Arabic الموحدون (al-Muwaḥḥidun), "the monotheists" or "the unifiers") is a Moorish Berber Muslim movement founded in the 12th century. Almohad Caliphate rules over territories of Morocco, Al-Andalus, Argelia, Ifriqiya, Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and Eternal Islands in the Atlantic. It limits to the south with the various Sahel policies and barber tribes. Its main rivals, and sometimes allies, are to the east the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and to the north the Christian Kingdoms of Spain.
The Almohad movement was started by Ibn Tumart among the Masmuda tribes of southern Morocco. The Almohads first established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120 (513–514 AH). They succeeded in overthrowing the ruling Almoravids in governing Morocco by 1147 (541 AH), when Abd al-Mu'min al-Gumi conquered Marrakech and declared himself Caliph. They then extended their power over all of the Maghreb by 1159 (553/554 AH). Al-Andalus followed the fate of North Africa and all Islamic Iberia was under Almohad rule by 1172 (567/568 AH).
The 12th and 13th century was characterized by the attention paid to crushing rebellions and resistance in Ifriqiya and Maghreb. For example the Marinids (1215-1218) and Berber rebellion. Also the campaigns against the Spanish kingdoms. These continuous campaigns did not represent problems since from the three regions the Almohads could obtain armies and pay then: Al-Andalus (Christian mercenaries and Andalusians), Ifriqiya (Arabs) and Maghreb (Berbers). However resistance to both the rule and doctrine of the Almohad presented a constant source of internal weakness and rebellion in all regions until the 13th century.
The Almohad Caliphate controls the territories of:
- Morocco (Maghreb al-Aqsa)
- Argelia (Maghreb al-Awsat, Central Maghreb)
- Ifriqiya (Maghreb al-Adna, Eastern Maghreb)
- Balearic Islands
The Caliphate was organized in governorates. The governorates had as basic unit the kora (pl. koras) subdivided in Iqlīm (pl. aqālīm). The thagr was the military mark of the governorates near the frontiers. The governors named by the Caliph had civil powers in their territories. A separate official in charge of military affairs (Soldiers and castles) the Qaid, was named by the Caliph. The frontiers the military command was in hand of an Amir named by the Caliph. The quaid and emir were highly dependent and supervise by the Caliph due to the fear of independence of the governors or local oligarchies.
The Almohad Caliphs used the title Prince of the believers (Amīr al-Mu'minīn). The Almohad caliphs are to be elected. However by 1184 (580 AH) it was de facto by direct line of succession (father to son) with the election being a mere formality that legitimized the designated heir apparent. From that date the Caliphate was held by members of the Al-Mu'min dynasty (1133/527 AH)
- Muhammad al-Nasir. Reign 1199-1230 (595-627 AH)
- Yahya al-Mu`tasim (Abū Zakarīyā' Al-Mu`taṣim Yaḥyā ibn An-Nāṣir). Reign 1230-1238 (627-635 AH)
- Yusuf II (Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf al-Mustanṣir) Reign 1238-1241 (635-639 AH)
- Abd al-Wahid I (Abu Muhammad ar-Rashid Abd al-Wahid) Reign 1241-... (639-... AH)
The orthodoxy of the Almohad Caliphate was not the primary tools that guaranteed the legitimacy and control of their dominions. Quite early it became obvious that not all accepted their religious reform and numerous rebellions break out (Marinids (1215-1218), Berber rebellion and Western Miḥnah Consolidation).
So the power and control of the Almohad rested in four pillars: A powerful army, a passive justice (quaid), control of the trans-saharan commerce and effective direct tax recollection methods. Controlling the four pillars allowed variable degrees of self rule in and within the provinces. The acknowledgement of Almohad rule and supremacy was easily recognizable in the mentioning of the Caliph’s name in the Friday prayer.
The Almohad Caliph as Amir al-Mu'minin (Arabic: أمير المؤمنين "Commander of the Believers") as the duty of defending Muslim faith and the community of believers (ummah) and bring prosperity and peace. Therefore he has important religious and secular powers. In the case of the Almohad decades of fighting the Christian Kingdoms in their Reconquista of Al-Andalus has elevated its position to one akin of a emperor in the European tradition. Some late Spanish chroniclers wrote of an Islamic Holy Emperor due to the territorial extent of the Almohad realm and later the variety of tributaries and vassals it had under its aegis. The Friday invocation of the name of the Almohad Caliphs was kept in all the lands under their control regardless of the degree of political autonomy they had.
Although the Almohad are Sunni Muslim they have adopted certains tenants in their religious, judicial and philosophical practice that clearly established as a unique Caliphate. The so called Almohad orthodoxy compromise acknowledgement of Ibn Tumart as the Mahdi, Unitarianism (Tawhid), Zahirite jurisprudence and Ashʿari theology. Also the self declared Jihad against Spanish Kingdoms was a common political practice.
The first Almohad Caliphs were fanatical intolerant thereby eradicating the formalist practices of their predecessors the Almoravids, banning and burning of all religious books written by non-Zahirites, promoting ulama and quaids from their circle, crushing dissents of their tenets of belief and the driving away Jewish and Christian subjects. Ultimately they became less fanatical and promoted acceptable levels of tolerance for Jews and Christian. In keeping as it was traditional in Umayyad rule non Maliki jurists were expelled.
However despite all this laxness in some norms the Almohad Caliphate was not too keen in having religious tolerance and always upheld its orthodoxy in detriment of other practices. Rebellions in the Maghreb and Algeria were common in the 13th and 14th centuries due to this.
Economy and Trade
The economy of the caliphate was diverse and successful, with trade predominating. Muslim trade routes connected al-Andalus with the outside world via the Mediterranean. Industries revitalized during the caliphate included: textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalwork, and agriculture. The Arabs introduced crops such as rice, watermelon, banana, eggplant and hard wheat.
In Al-Andalus fields were irrigated with water wheels and after decades of decay of public works the peace, stable government and income from taxes allowed for extensive repairs and improvements and to be escalated by the construction of reservoirs. It followed that the valley of the Guadalquivir (Wad al-Kabir) gained inhabitants in the beginning of the 14th century. The river ports up to Córdoba became busy with the trade of grains, oil, wool, leather, cheese, honey, wax, dried fruit, salted fish, metal, silk and linen. The lands of Algarve absorbed migration from the west and promoting its agriculture. The basin of Guadiana was subject to irrigation improvements, becoming after Guadalquivir the second most important agricultural region of Al-Andalus. The lands of the governorate of Valencia also became an important agricultural region and after the 14th century important pole for migration and settlement once the borders with the Crown of Aragon had been settled.
The Atlantic ports of Silves, Faro, Moguer and Huelva had thriving fishing fleets and commerce with the western coast of Morocco.
The Mediterranean trade is made with Genoa, Florence and Venice.
Culture, Science and knowledge
Initially the Almohads were suspicious of scholars but Caliphal patronage and later extended by wealthy rulers and merchants encourage its development. Almohad universities continued the knowledge of Greek and Roman ancient writers. The Almohads Zahirite-Ash'arism gave rise to a complicated blend of literalist jurisprudence and esoteric dogmatics. Added to the emphasis in methodology, it allowed inquiring in natural sciences and phenomena.
Military science was encouraged and provided means to built siege machinery, manufacturing of gunpowder and metallurgy to built cannons, arquebus and muskets. It also provided advances in the construction of a new type of alcanzars that could resists gunfire in the frontier of the Tagus river.
- ↑ High court official, equivalent to a chamberlain, later it denoted the chief minister in Maghreb, Al-Andalus and Ifriqiya.
- ↑ Arabic: أمير المؤمنين; latinized as Miramolinus, hence Italian Miramolino, French Miramolin, Spanish Miramolín and Portuguese Miramolim, in Byzantine Greek: ἀμερμουμνῆς amermoumnês)