Ibn Tumart

Ibn Tumart

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Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Tumart (Berber: Amghar ibn Tumert, Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد ابن تومرت, b. 1080 – d. 1130 or 1128[1]) was a Berber religious Muslim scholar, teacher and later a political leader from the Masmuda tribe federation. He founded the Berber Almohad dynasty. He is also known as El-Mahdi (المهدي) in reference to his prophesied redeeming. In 1125 he began open revolt against Almoravid rule.

The name "Tumert" comes from the Berber language and means "delight" or "happiness", while "ibn" is the Arabic word for "son". The name "ibn Tumert" would then mean "son of happiness".[2]



Ibn Tumert was a member of the Masmuda (Berber: imesmuden), a major Berber tribe of the Atlas Mountains. Ibn Tumart was the son of a lamplighter in a mosque and had been noted for his piety from his youth. He would light many candles at the tombs of saints and earned the appellation "lover of light."[citation needed]

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 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. He also forbade the sale or consumption of pork. Another reform was the destruction or hiding of any type of religious art in mosques. His rule and the rule of the Almohads after were full of reforms that attempted to turn the area under his control to the times of Mohammad.

Political activities

At the age of twenty-eight, Ibn Tumart returned to the Maghreb. After touching at Tripoli, he landed in Mahdia and proceed on to Tunis and then Bougie, preaching a puritan, simplistic Islam along the way. Waving his puritanical staff among crowds of listeners, Ibn Tumart complained of the mixing of sexes in public, the production of wine and music, and the fashion of veiling men unveiling women (a custom among the Sanhaja Berbers that had spread with the Almoravids). He found particular fault with the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, which was dominant in the Maghreb under the Almoravids, which he accused of departing from Sunnah and Hadith (traditions and sayings of the Prophet and his companions) and relying too much on Ijma (consensus of the jurists). The writings of al-Ghazali had been recently proscribed by Almoravid authorities precisely on account of its attacks on the Malikites on the same point. Ibn Tumart openly accused the Almoravids of impiety and obscuratism.

Hurried out of towns by nervous authorities, Ibn Tumart set himself up at an encampment in Mallala (the outskirts of Béjaïa), where he began receiving his first followers and adherents, notably Abd al-Mu'min and al-Bashir, and forging a plan of political action.

In 1120, Ibn Tumart and his small band of followers headed west into Morocco. The Almoravid Amir at that time, Ali ibn Yusuf, put him to test through a debate with the scholars of Fez. The result of the debate was that the scholars reached the conclusion that ibn Tumart's views were radical and that he should be put in jail. The Amir, however, allowed him to escape unpunished.

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. He also was one of the first to bring a radical reforming message to the Muslims in the Atlas mountains. 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. He believed that it was his job as Mahdi to purify the Muslim faith by forcing those he met to follow his ways or be killed.

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 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. 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 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 Council of Ten

Around 1120-21, Ibn Tumart organized an inner 'Council of Ten' (al-Jama'a al-'Ashara) composed of the ten who had first borne witness to Ibn Tumart as mahdi. Several of them were drawn from the core of followers that Ibn Tumart had picked up in Ifriqiya (esp. while holding camp at Mallala, outside of Bougie, in 1119-20); others were local leaders drawn from the local Masmuda Berbers of the High Atlas and Little Atlas. Although the list has some variations and there is some dispute in names, the Council of Ten if frequently identified as follows:

Name Notes
Abd Allah ibn Muhsin al-Wansharisi (known as al-Bashir) Scholar from Oran, prob. adhered at Mallala,

Became Ibn Tumart's early right-hand-man and strategist, known as 'the Herald' (al-Bashir) Killed in 1130 battle of al-Buhayra

Abd al-Mu'min ibn Ali originally of Kumiya (near Tlemcen), adhered at Mallala,

Zenata Berber, known as 'the Lamp of the Almohads' (Siraj al-Muwahhidin) Became Almohad emir and caliph after Ibn Tumart in 1130

Abd Allah ibn Ya'la (known as Ibn Malwiya)

prob. adhered at Mallala, later appointed to the Ganfisa, rebelled against Abd al-Mu'min at succession, defeated and executed 1132

Omar ibn Ali al-Sanhaji (known as Omar Asanag) Prob. adhered at Mallala, a Senhaja Berber.

Died c. 1142 of natural causes.

Abu al-Rabi'a Sulayman ibn Makhluf al-Hadrati (known as Ibn al-Baqqal or simply Sulayman al-Hadrati) Arab or Arabized Berber secretary of Ibn Tumart,

Killed in 1130 battle of al-Buhayra

Abu Muhammad Abd al-Wahid ash-Sharqi From Bougie,

not much is known. Possibly killed in 1130 battle of al-Buhayra?

Abu Ibrahim Ismail Ibn Yasallali al-Hazraji (known as Ismail Igig or Ismail al-Hazraji) chieftain of Hazraya Berbers, who spirited Ibn Tumart from Aghmat to the High Atlas in 1120, later appointed to lead Ibn Tumart's own Haghra tribe of the Anti-Atlas
Abu Hafs Omar ibn Yahya al-Hintati (known as Omar Inti or Omar Hintata) chief of the Hintata Berbers of the High Atlas,

major military leader and right-hand-man of Abd al-Mu'min, stem of the later Hafsids of Tunisia

Abu Yahya Abu Bakr Ibn Iggit Not much known.

Killed in 1130 battle of al-Buhayra Son would briefly serve as Almohad governor of Cordoba.

Abu 'Imran Mussa Ibn Tammara al-Gadmiyuwi chieftain of the Gadmiwa Berbers of the High Atlas,

Killed in 1130 battle of al-Buhayra

Of the Council of Ten, five were killed at al-Bahira in 1130, two died in subsequent years, and only three survived well into the height of the Almohad empire (Abd al-Mu'min, Omar Hintata and Ismail al-Hazraji)

Outside the Council of Ten, there was a wider Council of Fifty drawing from sheikhs of the major Masmuda Berber tribes (Hargha, Haskoura, Hintata, Gadmiwa, Ganfisa, Hazraya) of the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas.

The Almohads after Ibn Tumart

The Almohad princes had a longer career than the Almoravids. 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[citation needed]. 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 Almoravids, 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.

External links

  • Understanding Is the Mother of Ability: Responsibility and Action in the Doctrine of Ibn Tumart, by

Vincent J. Cornell, in: Studia Islamica, No. 66 (1987), pp. 71–103, JSTOR: [1]

  • Biography on 'Muslim philosophy': [2]
  • Introduction to "Livre de Mohammed Ibn Toumert, Mahdi des Almohades", text arabe, ed. Goldziher, 1903 (PDF-file, in French)[3]
  • The Almohad Tawhid: Theology Which Relies On Logic by Madeleine Fletcher. Numen, Volume 38, Number 1, 1991, pp. 110–127. [4]


Writings by Ibn Tumart

  • Le livre de Mohammed Ibn Toumert, mahdi des Almohades / [Ed.] p. I. Goldziher ; [Avant-propos de J.D. Luciani]

Auteur: Abū Abd Allāh Muhammad b. Abd Allāh Ibn Tūmart (1092–1130); Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921), 1903

  • Documents inédits d'histoire almohade : fragments manuscrits du "Legajo" 1919 du fonds arabe de l'Escurial / publ. et trad. avec une introduction et des notes par E. Lévi-Provençal (Kitāb Akh-bār al-Mahdī Ibn Tūmart wa'-btidāʾ Dawlat al- Muwaidīn li-Abī Bakr a-anhāğī al-Bai.aq), ed. by Évariste Lévi-Provençal (1894–1956), 1928

Publications about Ibn Tumart

  • Allen J. Fromherz, The Almohad Mecca locating IGLI and the cave of Ibn Tumart, in Al-Qantara (Al-Qantara) ISSN 0211-3589, 2005, vol. 26, no1, pp. 175–190
  • A propos de la date de naissance d’Ibn Tumart, Revue d’Histoire et de Civilisation du Maghreb (Alger, Faculté des Lettres, 1 January 1966), pp. 19– 25.
  • The Masmuda Berbers and Ibn Tumart : an ethnographic interpretation of the rise of the Almohad movement

García, Senén A. / In: Ufahamu, Ufahamu : A Journal of African Studies, ISSN 0041-5715, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 3-24


  1. ^ Ibn Khaldun, Abderahman (1377). تاريخ ابن خلدون: ديوان المبتدأ و الخبر في تاريخ العرب و البربر و من عاصرهم من ذوي الشأن الأكبر. 6. دار الفكر. p. 305. 
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia of the Orient - Ibn Tumart

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ibn Tumart — Ibn Tumart, voller Name Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Tumart / ‏أبو عبدالله محمد بن تومرت‎ / Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Tūmart (* 1077; † 1130), genannt al Mahdi, war ein vom Sufismus beeinflusster islamischer Reformer und Begründer der Bewegung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ibn Tumart — Ibn Tûmart Pour les articles homonymes, voir Al Mahdi. Ibn Tûmart ou Al Mahdī Muḥammad ben Tūmart (arabe : المهدي محمد بن تومرت), est né dans l Anti Atlas marocain, entre 1075 et 1097[1]. Réformateur musulman d inspiration soufiste, il meurt …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ibn Tûmart — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Al Mahdi. Ibn Tûmart ou Al Mahdī Muḥammad ben Tūmart (arabe : المهدي محمد بن تومرت), est né dans l Anti Atlas marocain, entre 1075 et 1097[1]. Réformateur musulman d inspiration soufiste, il meurt en 1130… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • IBN TUMART — IBN T 樓MART MU ムAMMAD IBN ‘ABDALL H (1080 1130) Le mahd 稜 des Almohades. Né dans l’Anti Atlas marocain, d’une famille de la tribu berbère des Ma ルm da, il va à Cordoue, puis part pour l’Orient. Il rencontre à Alexandrie Ab Bakr al ヘur レ sh 稜, qui …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Ibn Tumart — Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Tumart (c. 1080 1128) (en árabe أبو عبدالله محمد أبو عبدالله محمد ابن تومرت), fue el líder religioso de la tribu bereber Masmuda y el fundador del movimiento religioso de los almohades, que dominaría la región de Al… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Ibn Tumart — (1078/1098 1130)    He was a religious reformer and the founder of the Almohad movement, which was at the core of one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Maghrib. Mohammed Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Tumart was born in the Hargha tribe… …   Historical dictionary of the berbers (Imazighen)

  • Ibn Tūmart — ▪ Berber Muslim leader in full  Abū ʿabd Allāh Muḥammad Ibn Tūmart   born c. 1080, Anti Atlas Mountains, Mor. died August 1130       Berber spiritual and military leader who founded the al Muwaḥḥidūn confederation in North Africa (see Almohads).… …   Universalium

  • Ibn Tumart — Ịbn Tumạrt,   Mohammed, religiöser Reformer des Islams, * im Antiatlas um 1080, ✝ bei Marrakesch um 1130; von berberischer Abstammung; Begründer der Bewegung der Almohaden, wurde als der erwartete Mahdi verehrt. Theologisch, philosophisch und… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Mohammed ibn Tûmart — Mohammed ibn Tûmart, s. Almoraviden und Almohaden …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tumart — Ibn Tumart, voller Name Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Tumart / ‏أبو عبدالله محمد بن تومرت‎ / Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Tūmart (* 1077; † 1130), genannt al Mahdi, war ein vom Sufismus beeinflusster islamischer Reformer und Begründer der Bewegung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia