Updated: Jun 28
The Almoravids, also known as the al-Murabitun, were an Islamic Berber dynasty that founded an empire in Morocco and eventually expanded it to include modern-day Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, and a portion of Algeria. The empire extended from modern-day Senegal to the Iberian Peninsula in the north (modern Spain and Portugal). The Almoravids wanted to spread Islamic practices throughout Northern Africa and Al-Andalus, which at the time was Islamic Spain.
Map by Omar-Toons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
In 1040, Yahya ibn Ibrahim of the Lamtuna tribe of the Sahara founded and led the dynasty for the first time. Yahya attempted to preach the orthodox traditions of Islam (Sunnah) to his tribe after returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca with a missionary named Abdallah ibn Yasin, but he was opposed and forced to flee to the Saharan, where he started to gather followers.
In the same year, Yahya died, and ibn Yasin was expelled from the Gudala tribe due to his harsh beliefs and punishments, but he was treated better in Lamtuna. They started to spread their religious ways across the Saharan desert region with the aid of Lamtuna chieftain Abu Bakr ibn Umar and viceroy Yusuf ibn Tashufin, and eventually took possession of the entire western desert trade route. By 1062, they had invaded Morocco, Mauretania, and the Western Sahara, and Marrakech had become their new capital.
Muslim leaders in southern Iberia enlisted Ibn Tashufin's aid in repelling the Christian armies of Northern Spain in 1086. Despite defeating Alfonso VI, King of Leon and Castile, in the same year, ibn Tashufin went to Africa to resolve some disputes and returned in 1090 when the Almoravids took control of Muslim Spain. By 1094, ibn Tashufin had seized possession of nearly all of what is now Spain and Portugal, and three years later, in 1097, he was given the title of Amir al Muslimin, which means "commander of the Muslims." He was said to be one hundred years old when he died in 1106, according to legend.
While ibn Tashufin's successor, Tamim Al Yusuf, led the empire to a few more victories, including the Battle of Ucles in 1108 and the Battle of Fraga in 1134, the dynasty began to decline after ibn Tashufin's reign. After a defeat in combat with the Almohads, a newly emerging Berber Muslim force, the dynasty came to an end in 1147 when Ali ibn Yusuf, Al Yusuf's grandson and the current ruler, was killed while attempting to flee Marrakech.