The Muwahhids (1125-1269)
Muhammad ibn-Tūmart, the founder of the Muwahhid movement, was a Masmūda Berber from the Atlas mountains in Morocco. He studied in Baghdad, Jerusalem and Cairo. On returning to Morocco in 1121, he disputed with the Murābits, over theological matters.
He called his followers Muwahhids (or "Almohads" after the Spanish spelling), that is, those who profess the unity of God.
Ibn-Tūmart and his assistant Abd al-mu'min set about taking power among the Berbers of the High Atlas. The struggle with the Murābits began in 1129. In 1130 Ibn-Tūmart died and Abd al-mu'min took over. By 1147 he completed the conquest of Morocco and western Algeria. establishing his capital at Marrākish. In 1146 he entered Spain and within two years took over most of it. In 1152 he moved to the eastern Maghrib and took Bujāya, but instead of going on to take Tunisia he retired to consolidate his power and prepare his son to take over.
The Normans, who had re-conquered Sicily by 1091, began to take over the coast of Tunisia, until then held by the Zīrids and the Hilālian Arabs, taking Jerba in 1134 and Tripoli in 1146. Between 1159 and 1160 Abd al-mu'min drove them out. The remainder of Muslim Spain was added by 1172.
The Muwahhid conquest marked the end of the indigenous Christianity in the Maghrib because everywhere the conquerors went they forced Jews and Christians to adopt Islam or die. Judaism, however, revived after the Muwahhid period.
In spite of the Muwahhids' hostility to European occupiers and indigenous Christians and Jews, they cultivated trade relations with Europe and exploited their political monopoly in the Maghrib and European divisions to secure favourable trade terms. Settlements of merchants from Pisa, Venice, Genoa, Marseilles and elsewhere were found in all the major towns of the Maghrib. One of the major Maghrib exports was gold brought across the desert, which enabled Europe to go back to the gold standard in the first half of the 14th century.
Christian resistance in Spain turned the tide against the Muwahhids at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Christian forces quickly retook all the Iberian peninsula except Granada.