The name "Tumart" comes from the Berber language and means "earth" or "happiness. The name "ibn Tumart" would mean then "son of the earth" or "son of happiness".
As a youth, ibn Tumart first travelled to Córdoba, then he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, whence he was expelled on account of his severe strictures on the laxity of others. He then moved to Baghdad, where he attached himself to al-Ash'ari. 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 Ghazali.
Ibn Tumart's main principle was a rigid unitarianism which denied the independent existence of the attributes of God as incompatible with his unity and therefore a polytheistic idea. Ibn Tumart represented a revolt against what he perceived as anthropomorphism in the Muslim orthodoxy, but he was a rigid predestinarian and a strict observer of the law. He also laid blame in these "theological flaws" of the nation upon the ruling dynasty, and declared a Holy War against them. He also blamed them for the public sale of wine in the markets, something the Qur'an forbids.
Ibn Tumart, who had been driven from several other towns for exhibitions of reforming zeal, now took refuge among his own people, the Masmuda, in the Atlas. Although persecuted by the authorities, he enjoyed a wide popularity on account of his ascetic life style, and his one-minded zeal in destroying every jug of wine in sight. His popularity soon affected his mind, and he developed subtle signs of megalomania, as often occurs among popular religious leaders. He declared himself a descendant of Muhammad and set himself up as Mahdi, calling his followers to arms.
It is highly probable Ibn Tumart's influence would not have outlived him if he had not found a lieutenant in Abd al-Mu'min, another Berber, from Algeria, who was undoubtedly a soldier and statesman of a high order. When Ibn Tumart died in 1128 at Ribat which he had founded in the Atlas at Tin Mal, after suffering a severe defeat by the Al-Murabitoon, Abd al-Mu'min kept his death secret for two years, until his own influence was established. He then came forward as the lieutenant of Ibn Tumart. Between 1130 and his death in 1163, Abd al-Mu'min not only defeated the Al-Murabitoon, but extended his power over all northern Africa as far as Egypt, becoming emir of Morocco in 1149. Al-Andalus followed the fate of Africa, and in 1170 the Muwahhids 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 Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur. From the time of Yusuf II, however, they governed Al-Andalus and Central North Africa through lieutenants, their dominions outside Morocco being treated as provinces.
The Almohad princes had a longer career than the Al-Murabitoon. Yusuf II or "Abu Ya'qub" (1163-1184), and Ya'qub I or "al-Mansur" (1184-1199), the successors of Abd al-Mumin, 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. Ya'qub al Mansur was a highly accomplished man, who wrote a good Arabic style and who protected the philosopher Averroes. His title of al-Mansur, "The Victorious," was earned by the defeat he inflicted on Alfonso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Alarcos . But the Christian states in Iberian Peninsula were becoming too well organized to be overrun by the Muslims, and the Muwahhids made no permanent advance against them. In 1212 Muhammad III, "al-Nasir" (1199-1214), the successor of al-Mansur, was utterly defeated by the allied five Christian princes of Castile, Navarre and Portugal, at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena. All the Moorish dominions in the Iberian Peninsula were lost in the next few years, partly by the Christian conquest of Andalusia, and partly by the revolt of the Muslims of Granada, who put themselves under the protection of the Christian kings and became their vassals.
The orthodoxy of the Almohads 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 Al-Murabitoon, 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 Bani Marin who founded the next Moroccan dynasty. The last representative of the line, Idris II, "El Wathiq"' was reduced to the possession of Marrakech, where he was murdered by a slave in 1269.
Auteur: Abū Abd Allāh Muhammad b. Abd Allāh Ibn Tūmart (1092-1130); Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), 1903
Publications about Ibn Tumart
García, Senén A. / In: Ufahamu, Ufahamu : A Journal of African Studies, ISSN 0041-5715, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 3-24 1990