“Ibn Yasin”

True story. Before Morocco or the Moroccan Flag ever existed, in the mid-11th century, a group of Sanhadja chieftains returning from a Hâjj to Mecca invited the theologian Ibn Yasin to preach among their tribes. Ibn Yasin, proving to be a stern disciplinarian in the Maliki tradition, insisted that the Berbers abide by the letter of Islamic law in such matters as marriage, taxation, and punishment of criminals. But rather than give up their traditional practices, the Berbers denounced Ibn Yasin and his preaching.

Fleeing from persecution, discouraged by this failure, Ibn Yasin sought sanctuary in the Senegal Valley where he recruited with a small group of loyal followers to a Senegal Island. From here his teachings emphasized the need for a Jihad. He established a monastery-fortress, [a Ribat], whose inhabitants became known as “al-Murabi-tun” (in English, “Almoravids”).

Ibn Yasin felt his forces were strong enough to conquer southern and northern Mauritania. So Ibn Yasin turned over the leadership of the armies to one of his earliest followers, Yahya ibn Umar, commanding attacks on Sijilmasa in the north and Aoudaghost in the south.

His combination of religious instruction, military discipline, and communal life directed from the Island was superior. Over time he built up a number of followers and Almoravids rules were strict and the corporal punishment for infractions were severe but these recruits were loyal and dedicated enough to subdue the very Berbers who had rejected his teachings.

Before his death in battle in 1059, he had created a base for the military expansion of the Almoravid empire into North Africa and Spain and laid down the guidelines by which it was to be governed. So inherently, expansion was continued in northern Mauritania, in all of which Ibn Yasin attempted to impose the Maliki code of Islamic law.

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