Tuesday, January 29, 2013

'Abd al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali

‘Abd al-Mu’min ibn ‘Ali (b. c. 1094, Tagra, Kingdom of the Hammadids - d. 1163, Rabat, Almohad Empire) was the successor of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart in the leadership of the Almohad movement. His tenure lasted from 1133 to 1163. In 1147, he conquered the Almoravid capital of Marrakesh. In Spain, Granada and Seville surrendered to him.

'Abd al-Mu'min was a member of a group of Kumia, a Berber tribe living in the area of Tlemcen (Algeria). Some time around 1117 he became a follower of Ibn Tumart, a religious leader of renowned piety who had founded the Almohads as a religious order with the goal of restoring purity in Islam. When Ibn Tumart died in 1130 al-Mu'min became the leader of the movement. He subsequently forged it into a powerful military force and under him the Almohads swept down from the mountains destroying the power of the faltering Almoravids by 1147. When 'Abd al-Mu'min conquered Ifriqiya (Tunisia) in 1151, he gave the Jews and Christians there the option of conversion to Islam or death.

Establishing his capital at Marrakech, al-Mu'min expanded his empire beyond Morocco eastwards to the border of Egypt. He also was a prodigious builder of monuments and palaces. One of the monuments he caused to be erected was a substantial fortress at Chellah to prepare the site as a base for attacks against Iberia. The last years of his life were spent campaigning in the Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia) first conquering the Muslim kingdoms and then campaigning inconclusively against the Christian states.

'Abd al-Mu'min was the Berber caliph of the Almohad dynasty (r. 1130–63), who conquered the North African Maghrib from the Almoravids and brought all the Berbers under one rule.

ʿAbd al-Muʾmin came from a humble family.  His father was a potter.  'Abd al-Mu'min seems to have been well instructed in the Muslim faith and must have had a good knowledge of Arabic, for he wished to continue his studies at one of the centers of Muslim learning in the East. A chance meeting with Ibn Tumart, a Berber religious reformer, made him abandon this idea and begin his brilliant career.

Around 1117, Ibn Tumart, the founder of the Almohad movement, was returning from a long stay in the East. He landed at Mahdīyah in Tunisia and began a journey to southern Morocco, his native country. Wherever he stopped along the way, he proclaimed a twofold message: strict adherence to the doctrine of the oneness of God (hence the name Almohads or al-Muwahhidūn, -- Unitarians) and scrupulous observance of Islamic law. ʿAbd al-Muʾmin heard Ibn Tumart preach at Mellala, near Bejaia, Algeria. He was an attentive listener and from that time attached himself to the man who had revealed to him the true doctrine.

ʿAbd al-Muʾmin does not seem to have played any special role among Ibn Tumart’s disciples during the slow journey that took them to Marrakech. But when his master declared his opposition to the ruling Almoravid regime, proclaimed himself the mahdi (“divinely guided one”), and took refuge in the remote High Atlas region, ʿAbd al-Muʾmin went with him. Ibn Tumart won a following in the mountains and founded a small Almohad state there, centered on the village of Tinmel. When al-Bashir, the reformer’s second in command, was killed in an attack on Marrakech, ʿAbd al-Muʾmin took his place and became Ibn Tumart’s designated successor. The mahdī died in 1130. His death was kept secret at first to allow ʿAbd al-Muʾmin — a stranger to the High Atlas — time to win support from the Almohad leaders. When he was proclaimed leader of the Almohads, he assumed the prestigious title of caliph.

'Abd al-Mu'min's first task was to carry on the struggle against the Almoravids. Learning from the failure at Marrakech, he realized that he must conquer Morocco from the mountains. On the plains, the Christian knights who served the Almoravids could easily repulse the Almohads’ Berber infantry. He spent the next 15 years winning control of the High Atlas, Middle Atlas, and Rif regions, finally moving into his native country, north of Tlemcen.

Near Tlemcen, the Almoravids, having suffered the loss of Reverter, the leader of their Catalan mercenaries, were defeated by ʿAbd al-Muʾmin in open battle in 1145. The Almohad forces then moved west, subjugating Morocco’s Atlantic coastal plain. They then laid siege to Marrakech and took it by storm in 1147, slaughtering the Almoravid inhabitants.

Arab historians have left a description of the man who had now become master of Northwest Africa. He was a sturdy Berber of medium height, with dark hair and regular features. A good soldier, with great courage and endurance, he was at the same time learned in Islam and a gifted orator. Although he had personal charm and could, when necessary, show patience and moderation, he was at times as harsh as his master, Ibn Tumart. When a revolt broke out in the Atlantic plain area following the capture of Marrakech, he conducted a methodical purge there in which more than 30,000 people were executed.

ʿAbd al-Muʾmin left neither memoirs nor a political testament.  His ideas must be deduced from his actions. However, his newfound power and his very success raised problems that demanded immediate solutions.

The capture of Marrakech posed the moral question of whether to abandon this city founded by the Almoravid heretics, whom he had exterminated without pity. He contented himself with the destruction of their palace and mosques and retained Marrakech as the capital of his new empire.

Soon 'Abd al-Mu'min had to choose between two imperial policies: to complete the conquest of North Africa or to concentrate his energies on Spain, where the Christians were threatening the former Almoravid domains. Showing good judgment as well as feeling for his native country, he gave priority to North Africa.

In 1151, 'Abd al-Mu'min subjugated the area around Constantine and on his way home fought a battle near Setif against a powerful coalition of Arab tribes that had been wandering over the Berber country for a century, gradually destroying its simple, pastoral, and sedentary way of life. ʿAbd al-Muʾmin was victorious, but instead of punishing these people who had showed themselves to be the worst enemies of the Berbers and the Almohad government, he came to rely on them to strengthen his dynasty against internal opposition from the family of Ibn Tumart. He also wished to use the Arab cavalry in his holy war against the Christians in Spain.

In 1158–59 ʿAbd al-Muʾmin conquered Tunisia and Tripolitania. This marked the zenith of Berber power in Islam: a Berber caliph reigned over all of North Africa west of Egypt, and his authority was acknowledged by most of Muslim Spain as well.

Even while he was pursuing his conquest, ʿAbd al-Muʾmin had established a central government for his empire. To the traditional clan organization of the Masmudah and other Berber peoples supporting the Almohads he added an organization to promote the spread of Almohad doctrine and a central administration (the makhzan) modeled on those of Muslim Spain, which was staffed largely by Spanish Muslims. A government land registry was improvised to assure the dynasty regular revenue. ʿAbd al-Muʾmin fully accepted the responsibilities of an art patron, but remembering the puritanical austerity of Ibn Tumart, he sometimes imposed on the mosques built for him by Andalusian artisans a plainness that became more precious than the prevailing elaborate ornamentation.

ʿAbd al-Muʾmin died in 1163. His work, faithfully carried on by his successors Abu Yaʿqub Yusuf (r. 1163–84) and Abu Yusuf Yaʿqub al-Mansur (r. 1184–99), was maintained for more than half a century. Disturbances caused by the rebellious Arab tribes impoverished the country without endangering the dynasty. After their defeat by the Spanish Christians at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, however, the Almohads began to decline, and their empire soon disintegrated.

Though in the long run ʿAbd al-Muʾmin’s successors proved unable to perpetuate his achievements, he himself had written one of the most glorious chapters in the history of the Muslim West.

'Abd al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali was a Zenata Berber and prominent member of the Almohad movement. As a leader of the Almohad Movement, he became the first Caliph of the Almohad Empire.
'Abd al-Mu'min was born near Tagra, in the Tlemcen area, present day Algeria.  He belonged to the Goumia tribe, which in turn, belongs to the larger Berber Zenata tribe. The Goumia originated from Tagraret.  Ibn Khaldun wrote that 'Abd al-Mu'min was from a noble family (The Banu Abed) of the Zenata.
'Abd al-Mu'min went, as a youngster, to Tlemcen to learn the Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). However, his tutor died before he could complete his study.  At that time he learned about the existence of a well learned and pious Faqih (expert in Islamic jurisprudence) then known as Feqih Soussi but who would later be known as Ibn Tumart.  At the time, Ibn Tumart was coming from the east on his way to his native land in Tinmel. 'Abd al-Mu'min and his peers wanted to convince Ibn Tumart to settle in Tlemcen, so he was sent to Ibn Tumart with a letter from the students inviting him to come to their land. The two met at Mellala near Bejaïa. Ibn Tumart turned down this invitation, but  'Abd al-Mu'min stayed with him and they continued the journey to Morocco. A strong friendship developed between the two during this period.  Ibn Tumart declared 'Abd al-Mu'min his best companion, to the point that he nominated him as his successor in leading the Almohads. {Later, 'Abd al-Mu'min and the council of ten kept the death of Ibn Tumart secret for 3 years, since the Almohads were going into a difficult time in their fight against the Almoravids.  Additionally,  'Abd al-Mu'min feared that the Masmuda (the Berber tribe of Ibn Tumart) would not accept him as their leader since he was an outsider. 'Abd al-Mu'min would eventually lead the Almohads when an in-law relationship occurred between him and Cheikh Abu Hafs the leader of the Masmuda.}

Some time around 1117, 'Abd al-Mu'min became a follower of Ibn Tumart, the leader of the Masmudas (Berber tribe of western Morocco) and a religious leader of renowned piety who had founded the Almohads as a religious order with the goal of restoring purity in Islam. Ibn Tumart's group had long been at odds with the Almoravids and had been forced into exile in the mountains. Between 1130 and his death in 1163, 'Abd al-Mu'min not only defeated the Almoravids, but extended his power over all northern Africa as far as Egypt, becoming Caliph of the Almohad Empire in 1149.

When Ibn Tumart died in 1128 at his Ribat in Tinmel, after suffering a severe defeat by the Almoravids, 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, became the leader of the movement, and forged it into a powerful military force. Under him the Almohads swept down from the mountains, eventually destroying the power of the faltering Almoravid dynasty by 1147.

Establishing his capital at Marrakech, al-Mu'min expanded his empire beyond Morocco eastwards to the border of Egypt.

'Abd al-Mu'min was a prodigious builder of monuments and palaces. One of the monuments he caused to be erected was a substantial fortress at Chellah to prepare the site as a base for attacks against Iberia.

The last years of his life were spent campaigning in the Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia) first conquering the Muslim kingdoms and then campaigning inconclusively against the Christian states.

Alternative names include:

'Abd al-Mu'min
'Abd al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali
'Abd al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali al-Gumi
Abdelmoumen El Goumi
Al-Mu'min, 'Abd
Al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali
Al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali, 'Abd
Al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali al-Gumi
Al-Mu'min ibn 'Ali al-Gumi, 'Abd
El Goumi
El Goumi, Abdelmoumen
Goumi, Abdelmoumen El
Goumi, El
Ibn 'Ali
Ibn 'Ali, 'Abd al-Mu'min
Ibn 'Ali al-Gumi
Ibn 'Ali al-Gumi, 'Abd al-Mumin
Mu'min, 'Abd al-
Mu'min, Al-
Mu'min ibn 'Ali, 'Abd al-
Mu'min ibn 'Ali, Al-
Mu'min ibn 'Ali al-Gumi, Abd al-
Mu'min ibn 'Ali al-Gumi, Al-


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