Yaqub Al-Mansur: The Greatest Moor in African History


In popular culture, several historians lie on explaining more on the greatest kings and queens or rulers of Africa in African history, particularly the Egyptian rulers such as Pharaoh Khufu. However, they neglect the contributions of the Moorish Dynasties and its Moorish rulers. Despite their negligence, there is one Moorish name that will keep ringing bells in peoples’ minds. According to history, he might be the greatest Moor in African history due to his achievements or accomplishments. The man came from the Almohad Sultanate or the Almohad Empire.

Brief Description of the Moor

The term Moor is an exonym which Christian Europeans 1st used to designate the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Sicily, the Iberian Peninsula, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors were originally or initially the local Maghrebine Berbers. The Moors are not self-defined or distinct people. The term has also been in use in Europe to refer to the Muslims in general, particularly those of Berber or Arab descent. During the colonial period or era, the Portuguese introduced the names Ceylon Moors and Indian Moors in S. Asia and Sri Lanka, and the Bengali Muslims were also known as Moors.

In 711, troops that the Moors mostly formed from the African continent’s Northern region led the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. In 827, the Moors occupied Mazara on Sicily, developing it as a port. They finally went on to consolidate the rest of the island.

Brief Description of the Almohad Caliphate

The Almohad Caliphate was a North African Berber Muslim Dynasty founded in the 12th century. At its height, it controlled or dominated much of North Africa (the Maghreb) and the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus). Ibn Tumart founded the Almohad Movement among the Berber Masmuda ethnic groups or tribes in the South of Morocco. Around 1120, the Almohads established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains. They successfully overthrew the ruling Almoravid Empire governing the Moroccan state by the 12th century (1147) when Abd al-Mu’min al-Gumi took over Marrakesh and declared himself a Caliph. They extended their control or power over all of the Maghreb by 1159. Al-Andalus followed, and all Muslim Iberia was under the Almohad rule by the late 12th century (1172).

The turning point of their presence in the Iberian Peninsula came in 1212 when an alliance of the Christian forces from Aragon, Castile, and Navarre defeated Muhammad the 3rd (al-Nasir) at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

The Almohads continued to rule in the African region until the piecemeal loss of territory through the rebellion or revolt of tribes and districts enabled the rise of their most effective foes (the Marinids) from Northern Morocco in 1215.


More on Who ibn Tumart is

Abu Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Tumart was a Moroccan Muslim Berber religious scholar, teacher, and political leader from the Sous area in Southern Morocco. As mentioned earlier, ibn Tumart founded and served as the spiritual and 1st military head of the Almohad Sultanate.

More Description on Abd al-Mu’min

Abd al-Mu’min was born in the village of Tagra and belonged to the Kumiya ethnic group or tribe. While young, Abd al-Mu’min went to Tlemcen to learn the Figh. His tutor passed on before he could finish or complete his study. He then knew of a learned and pious Faqih known as Feqih Soussi, later called ibn Tumart, who moved from the East to his indigenous land in Morocco.

Abd al-Mu’min and his peers wanted to convince ibn Tumart to settle in Tlemcen, so he went to ibn Tumart with a letter from the students inviting him to come to their land. The 2 met at Mellala. Ibn Tumart rejected the invitation, but Abd al-Mu’min stayed with him and continued the Morocco journey.


Abd al-Mu’min’s Rise to Power

Briefly, as mentioned earlier, sometime around 1117, Abd al-Mu’min became a follower of ibn Tumart, the founder of the Almohads, as a religious order to restore purity in Islam faith. His group had been at odds with the Almoravid Empire and had been forced into exile in the mountains. He stayed with him as he moved or journeyed towards Marrakesh. It was there that his mentor pronounced himself the Mahdi. After this pronouncement or declaration, the group moved to the Atlas Mountains and assembled followers there. In time, they established the Almohad state. During an attack on Marrakesh, al-Bashir died, and Abd al-Mu’min got named to his position, he became 2nd in command.

When ibn Tumart lost his life in 1128 at his Ribat after suffering a defeat at the hands of the Almoravid Dynasty, Abd al-Mu’min and the council of 10 kept Tumart’s death a secret for more than two years since the Almohads were going through a hard time in their combat against the Almoravid Empire. He also feared that the Masmuda would not accept him as their leader since he was an outsider. Eventually, he led the Almohads when there was a family relationship between him and Cheikh Abu Hafs. He then came forward as the lieutenant of Ibn Tumart became the head of the Movement and forged it into a mighty military force. Under him, the Almohad Sultanate swept down from the Mountains, eventually destroying the Almoravid Dynasty by 1147.

Abd al-Mu’min created his Kingdom by 1st winning control of the high Atlas Mountains, then the Middle Atlas, and into the Rif area, finally moving into his homeland.

The final years of this 2nd Caliph, Abd al-Mu’min, were spent campaigning in the Al-Andalus, 1st taking over or conquering the Muslim Empires and then campaigning against the Christian states.

In 1184, his grandson, Yaqub al-Mansur (the greatest of all Moorish leaders), took control of the Almohad Sultanate.

Who is Yaqub al-Mansur?

Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Yusuf ibn Abd al-Mu’min al-Mansur, the greatest Moor in African history, commonly known as Jacob Almanzor or Moulay Yacoub, was the 3rd Almohad Caliph. Succeeding his dad, al-Mansur reigned from 1184-1199. His rule was distinguished by the prospering of trade, philosophy, architecture, sciences, and by victorious military campaigns in which he was successful in repelling the Christian Reconquista tide in the Iberian Peninsula.

Yaqub-Dynastic and Iberian Wars

Al Mansur’s father lost his life in Portugal on 29th July 1184. Upon reaching Seville with his dad’s body in August, he became the new Caliph. Yaqub vowed revenge for his dad’s demise, but fighting with the Banu Ghaniya delayed him in Africa. After defeating the Banu Ghaniya, he went to the Iberian Peninsula to avenge his dad’s death.

His 1190 siege of Tomar failed to capture the fortress. However, in 1191, he recaptured a major fort (Paderne Castle) and the surrounding territory near Albufeira. Having defeated the Christians and captured major towns, he went to Morocco with over 2345 Christian captives. Upon Yaqub’s return to the continent, Christians in the Iberian Peninsula resumed the offensive capturing several Moorish cities. When he heard the news, he returned to the Iberian Peninsula and defeated the Christians again.

While al-Mansur was away in Africa, the Christians assembled a large army to defeat Yaqub. Upon hearing this, he returned to Iberia again and defeated king Alfonso the 8th army, in the Battle of Alarcos in 1195. After this victory, he took the title Al-Mansur Billah which means made victorious by the Most High.

His Internal Policy

During his rule, he undertook many construction projects. He added a gate to the Kasbah of the Udayas, and he may have been accountable for completing the establishment of the Kutubiyya Mosque. Yaqub al-Mansur also established a vast royal citadel and palace complex. Al-Mansur also embarked on the establishment or construction of a more significant fortified capital in Rabat.

Yaqub al-Mansur, the greatest Moor in African history, lost his life on 23rd January 1199 in Marrakech. The city of Moulay Yacoub, outside Fez, Morocco, is named after Yaqub al-Mansur and is famous for its therapeutic hot springs.


What was the Battle of Alarcos all about?

The Battle of Alarcos was between the Almohads, in which Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur led, and King Alfonso of Castile. It resulted in the defeat of the Castilian forces and their subsequent retreat to Toledo while the Almohads reconquered Montanchez, Talavera, and Trujillo.


Its Aftermath

The battle’s outcome shook the stability of the Empire of Castile for a long time. All nearby castles Malagon, Benavente, Calatrava, Caracuel and Torre de Guadalferza were abandoned or surrendered and the way to Toledo was open. However, Yaqub al-Mansur returned to Seville to make his considerable losses right.

For the next 2 years, al-Mansur’s forces devastated Extremadura, La Mancha and even the region around Toledo. They moved in turn against Montanchez, Trujillo, Plasencia, Talavera, Maqueda and Escalona. Renegade Pedro Fernandez de Castro led some of these expeditions.

In conclusion, we might agree that Yaqub al-Mansur was the greatest of all Moorish rulers in African history. From the evidence given above and considering the aspects that ancient Africans looked at to conclude that an African ruler is great, Yaqub al-Mansur seems to fit the criteria. This is because we see that there was flourishment of trade, philosophy, architecture, and sciences during his reign. Moreover, Yaqub al-Mansur was successful in his battles.



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