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Almohads (Yarmuk)

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The Almohads were a sect of similar shamanist ideals to their Almoravid brethren. Founded by Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf, from the armies of his former ally Sheikh Merin in the year 1136, the Almohads dominated the Central Maghreb for the next two centuries. The Muwahhid dynasty was crucial to the history of the Maghreb after it converted to Christianity, which subsequently dominated the whole of North Africa.

The Rule of Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf

No one was more modest about his achievements than Muwahhid Abdul Yusuf, having dismembered the Almohad empire in just four years. He was the first to admit that he was no financial mind - and after a reign of just two years (1140-42), he abdicated in favour of Muwahhid Jeheba Ali. During his short reign, he had brought a great degree of peace to the war torn Maghreb.

War in the Maghreb

King Jeheba ruled peacefully for 13 years, during which he established trading links with all of the neighbouring nations and developed a strong economy. However, during the latter part of his reign, the Eastern nations of the Maghreb began to fall to Byzantine influence; Carthago in 1154 and Thapsus in 1155. The outrage caused by the annexation of Thapsus permeated throughout the Maghreb. Oddly, it also coincided with King Jeheba's death.

Jeheba's successor was the weak-minded Muwahhid Mehmet Ali, who failed in anyway to keep control over the peoples subject to his rule. Civil war tore through the kingdom in response to his reaction to the Byzantine annexation of Thapsus - and an invasion from Fez was only stopped by a call to arms from Mehmet's father's ally, Sheikh Abu Saed of Kairuoan, who was marching against the Byzantines in response to their illegal action. The Moroccan government felt they needed a more appropriate excuse than the pettyness of interfering with a war torn neighbour.

The moderate government in Bougie, however, realised that prolonged war with Byzantium would unquestionably end in defeat, particularly with Algeria in such a poor state of affairs. Quickly they took over the kings adminstrative duties, whilst leaving Mehmet still nominally in control. It was clear to everybody, however, that he wasn't, which gave the war party the pretext it needed to march on Bougie, to save the king. This they did, causing the moderates to wisely flee to neighbouring Cirta, where they met up with the bulk of their armies under the leadership of Sheikh Masood Wad, their elderly but experienced commander - and a distant relative of both the current monarch and Sheikh Merin (through the line of his brother Abu Wad). In this state, the Almohad stated resided for another 6 months.

By 1156, the war between Constantinople and Kairuoan was over, the offending parties having made peace and returned to their peaceful affairs. The war party in Bougie however, was adamant that something had to be done to stop the Byzantine advance. However, their time was running out: first, their appeal to Murabit Abu Wad in Kairuoan was ignored and secondly, most importantly, their royal support was gone; Mehmet Ali had fled to Southern Spain. Moreover, the moderate party had found their own heir, in the form of Muwahhid Masood Ali, a cousin of Jeheba's - and a close friend of Sheikh Masood Wad.

Re-establishing the Monarchy

Despite this obvious advantage, the moderate party in Cirta were disastrously defeated in their attempt to seize Bougie, which was held by the chief Generalissimo of the war party, Merin Gulassa, son of Sheikh Merin's nephew Merin Haseem Abu, and a formidable opponent. A series of marches and counter marches were exchanged between him and his opponent Masood Wad, and then at Wad's death in 1159, the 'heir to the throne' Muwahhid Masood Ali. This is known as the War of Civil Differences and lasted formally until 1162. Ironically, this was also when Muwahhid Masood Ali fell ill and died.

Just when civil war looked at its worst, Merin Gulassa backed down. In a speech given to his troops at Bougie, he nobly assented that the kingdom could not profit from internal strife. Rumour had it that Gulassa, a Christian sympathiser, had agreed on condition that the new ruler, Muwahhid Murad Masood Ali, converted to the true faith. The official story goes that Masood Ali was visited by a Frankish missionary and was impressed by the stories of Christianity. However, pressure from Gulassa - and also from Byzantium - are more likely stories. Whatever really happened, for the first time in 7 years - a monarch was firmly instated on the throne.

Religious Conflict

Conversion from the age old shamanist religion was not going to be bloodless, but the reconciled Almohad government had been aware of that fact and had their soldiers on alert. Rebellion in Algeria was quelled in under 2 months; Merin Gulassa being particularly vigourous in his persecution of the shamanists. However, outside influences were more significant. Murabit Yusuf Tariq Abdullah II, the Almoravid incumbent in Fez, threatened war and lead his forces to the border with Algeria. In this he was assuming the support of his distant relative in Kairouan. This, originally assured by Sheikh Abu of Kairouan, was withheld by the cunning Abu at the last moment - an old emnity with Tariq Abdullah in Fez still wrangled, which appeared to be stronger in the mind of the Sheikh than the bonds of religion. Almost purely for the pleasure of seeing his rival put down, Abu announced his conversion to Christianity. With that, the war was off; Tariq Abdullah knew he couldn't fight the Almohads alone and had to apologise to them publicly, in a ceremony publicly requested by Masood Ali of Algeria. Gleefully in attendance were King Masood Ali and Sheikh Abu - accompanied by their entourages. Present also were dignitaries from Byzantium.

Tariq Abdullah had been thoroughly humiliated in the debacle. Politically he was also isolated; his state was the only non-Christian kingdom in a sea of Christian allies; namely Algeria, Kairouan and Byzantium.

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