views updated


This movement, which was to make Muslims in the Sahara and Spain more conscious of the distinctiveness of their religion, and which began a tradition of the Muslim scholar as militant reformer. The Moravid movement had its origins in the western Sahara in the 1030s when several tribes of camel breeding Sanhaja nomads broke their return journey from the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca to study in Cairouan—then the intellectual center of North Africa outside of Egypt. Greatly inspired by the teachings of the Sufi (mystic) and Maliki jurist, Abdullah b. Yasin, and by those of a former pupil of his, Abdallah Ibn Yasin al-Jazuli (henceforth: Ibn Yasin), they decided, once back in the western Sahara, to establish a house of retreat (Ar. al-Murabitun) where they studied and trained to become scholars and efficient warriors in the name of Islam.

By the mid-1050s a militant Almoravid movement swearing allegiance to the caliphs of Baghdad, and under the leadership of Abu Bakr ibn ˓Umar, who took the title of emir (supreme leader, c. 1055–1108), rapidly extended its control outward from its new capital Marrakesh, over much of Morocco and modern Algeria. Sections of the movement pushed further southward across the Sahara and waged jihad, possibly unsuccessfully, against the Soninke of the kingdom of Ancient Ghana. Some historians believe that these incursions laid the foundations of a tradition of jihad that was to become a marked feature of Senagambian Islam in centuries to come and particularly from the late seventeenth century to the present. The Almoravid movement is also thought to have made its way eastward across the Sahel to Aier.

Invited to Spain in 1086 by the Muslim rulers of al-Andalus, the Almoravids, led by Yusuf ibn Tashufin, defeated the army of Alphonso VI at Zalaqa. Yusuf returned to Spain in 1090 and took control of al-Andalus before extending Muslim rule further north over the important Christian strongholds of Badajoz (1094), Valencia (1102), and Saragossa (1112).

Almoravid success in Spain was short-lived. By 1118 Saragossa had been retaken by Alfonso I of Aragon and this was followed by successful excursions further south. Popular rebellions in 1144 and 1145 ended Almoravid rule in Spain.

See alsoAndalus, al- .

Peter B. Clarke