Ibn Tumert was a religious reformer who desired to enforce his puritanical doctrine over the Muslim community. A Chleuh Berber, he was born in one of the small villages on the northern slopes of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and travelled east towards Mecca to study in the intellectual centres of the Islamic word. He was a well-known and controversial figure before his return to Morocco, ad by 1124 he had selected Tin-Mal to be the citadel of his theocratic state.
It became a place of total obedience where he trained the mountain tribes for war against all who would not accept his authority. Dancing, music and singing were banned, art placed under his severe direction and codes of dress established which denied any ornamentation. Ibn Tumert lectured the Berber tribes in their own dialect, but taught them the Arabic Koran in a characteristically authoritarian manner. Long lines of warriors would each be given a word of the Koran as their name and obediently calling out their new names in turn could learn whole suras of the Koran. As a capstone to his authority, Ibn Tumert gradually led his community to recognize thet he was the Mahdi, the prophesied successor of Mohammed.
After two years at Tin-Mal he led a series of expeditions that enforced his authority in the valleys of the High Atlas, and consolidated these victories in 1128 by a bloody forty-day purge of the tribes. In 1129 three Almoravid armies attempted a joint assault on Tin-Mal. Though these were beaten off, Ibn Tumert’s own siege of Marrakech that same year ended in a costly defeat.
The death of Ibn Tumert in 1130 was kept a secret from his followers for three years while his chosen successor, Abdel Moumen, consolidated his authority. In 1148 he captured Marrakech, which became the administrative capital of the empire while Tin-Mal degenerated into the Almohad cult centre, secure treasury and favoured burial ground.
In 1145 Abdel Moumen subtly shifted the Almohads from a movement of religious reform to a dynasty invested in his own family. The great mosque of Tin-Mal was finished as a triumphant cult centre in the same year that Ibn Tumert’s own children, grandchildren and cousins were quietly disposed of.