Abd al-Mu'min

Abd al-Mu'min
Caliph of Morocco
Reign 1147–1163
Predecessor Ishaq ibn Ali (Almoravid)
Successor Abu Yaqub Yusuf
Born 1094
Died 1163
Full name
Abd al-Mu'min ibn Ali al-Gumi
Dynasty Almohad
Father Ali ibn Makhluf al-Gumi
Religion Islam

Abd al-Mu'min (1094–1163) also known as Abdelmoumen al-Goumi (Berber: ⵄⴰⴱⴷ ⵍⵎⵓⵎⵏ ⵍⴳⵓⵎⵉ;Arabic: عبد المؤمن بن علي or عبد المومن الــكـومي) was a prominent member of the Almohad movement. As a leader of the Almohad Movement (since 1130), he became the first Caliph of the Almohad Empire (reigned 1147–63). Having put his predecessor's doctrinal blend of Zahirite jurisprudence and Ash'arite dogmatics into practice, Abd al-Mu'min's rule was the first to unite the whole coast from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean along with Spain under one creed and one government.[1] 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 1147.

Early life

Abd al-Mu'min was born near the village of Tadjra, in the Tlemcen area, in present-day Algeria,[2] then belonging to the Almoravid empire.

Abd al-Mu'min belonged to the Goumia tribe, which in turn, was part of the larger Berber Zenata tribe. The Almohad biographers traced his descent as Abd al-Mu'min ben Ali ben Makhlouf ben Yali ben Merwan ben Nasr ben Ali ben Amer ben Al-Amir ben Musa ben Abdellah ben Yahya ben Ourigh ben Setfour (ben means son of).[3] Ibn Khaldun, however, argued that this was a fabricated lineage, since Abd al-Mu'min was a Berber from a well known tribe and the names reported were, for the most part, Arab.[3]

While young, Abd al-Mu'min went to Tlemcen to learn the Fiqh. His tutor died before he could complete his study. He then was made aware of a learned and pious Faqih called Feqih Soussi (later known as Ibn Tumart) who was travelling from the east on his way to his native land in Tinmel, Morocco. 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.[4] Ibn Tumart turned down the invitation, but Abd al-Mu'min stayed with him and they continued the journey together to Morocco.[4]

Rise to power

Some time around 1117, he became a follower of Ibn Tumart,[5] leader of Masmudas (Berber tribe of western Morocco), a religious leader of renowned piety who had founded the Almohads as a religious order with the goal of restoring purity in Islam. His group had long been at odds with the Almoravids and had been forced into exile in the mountains. He stayed with him as he journeyed slowly towards Marrakesh. It was there that his mentor declared himself the Mahdi (divinely guided one) and that he was opposed to the Almoravid Dynasty.[5] After this pronouncement, the group moved to the Atlas Mountains and gathered followers there. In time they created a small Almohad state. During an attack on Marrakesh, al-Bashir the second in command, was killed and Abd al-Mu'min was named to that position.[5]

When Ibn Tumart died in 1128 at his Ribat in Tinmel, after suffering a severe defeat at the hands of the Almoravids, Abdelmoumen and the council of ten kept the death of Ibn Tumart secret for 3 years,[6] since the Almohads were going through a difficult time in their fight against the Almoravids. He also feared that the Masmuda (the Berber tribe of Ibn Tumart) would not accept him as their leader since he was an outsider. He did eventually lead the Almohads when a family relationship was arranged between him and Cheikh Abu Hafs, the leader of the Masmuda.[4] 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.

Abd al-Mu'min created his empire by first winning control of the high Atlas Mountains, then the Middle Atlas, into the Rif region, eventually moving into his homeland north of Tlemcen.[5] In 1145, after the Almoravids lost the leader of their Catalan mercenaries, Reveter, the Almohads defeated them in open battle. From this point the Almohads moved west onto the Atlantic coastal plain. After laying siege to Marrakesh, they finally captured it in 1147.[5] After the capture of Marrakesh, to quell any open rebellions, he ordered the elimination of 30,000 Almoravids in a purge.[5]

By establishing his capital at Marrakesh, Abd al-Mu'min created a dilemma in that the Almohads considered that it was a city of heretics. He contented himself with the destruction of their palace and all of their mosques. At this point he decided to concentrate his empire building on North Africa and Abdelmoumen expanded his empire beyond Morocco eastwards to the border of Egypt. By 1151, he had reached Constantine where he confronted a coalition of Arab tribes that had been marching through Berber lands. Rather than the destruction of these tribes, he utilized them in his next phase, Spain and also to quell any internal opposition from the family of Ibn Tumart.[5] He reached the furthest east by 1158/9 by which time he had conquered Tunisia and Tripolitania.

Final years

The last years of Abd al-Mu'min's 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 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. He established a central government that would control North Africa for more than a half century after he died. He added to the traditional clan organizations of the Berbers the concept of Makhzan, a central administration staffed by Spanish Muslims. To keep the revenue flowing, he created a land registry. Abd al-Mu'min also supported the arts, but in keeping with the founders' wishes when mosques were built he kept them simple and plain.[5]

See also


  1. Kojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
  2. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/686/Abd-al-Mumin
  3. 1 2 Ibn Khaldun, Abderahman (1377). تاريخ ابن خلدون: ديوان المبتدأ و الخبر في تاريخ العرب و البربر و من عاصرهم من ذوي الشأن الأكبر. Volume 6. دار الفكر. p. 166.
  4. 1 2 3 Ibn Khaldun, Abderahman (1377). تاريخ ابن خلدون: ديوان المبتدأ و الخبر في تاريخ العرب و البربر و من عاصرهم من ذوي الشأن الأكبر. Volume 6. دار الفكر. p. 167.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "'Abd al-Mu'min". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  6. Ibn Khaldun, Abderahman (1377). تاريخ ابن خلدون: ديوان المبتدأ و الخبر في تاريخ العرب و البربر و من عاصرهم من ذوي الشأن الأكبر. Volume 6. دار الفكر. pp. 305–306.


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Abd al-Mu'min
Preceded by
Ishaq ibn Ali (end of Almoravid dynasty)
Almohad dynasty
Succeeded by
Abu Ya'qub Yusuf
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