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Abd Allah ibn Yasin

Encyclopedia of Africa

Elizabeth Heath

Abd Allah ibn Yasin died 1059? Islamic scholar and one of the founders of the Almoravids movement; also known as Abdullah b. Yasin al-Gazuli and Abdallah ibn Rasin. 

The Almoravids movement of Abd Allah ibn Yasin conquered parts of northwestern Africa and later Spain during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and converted the defeated populations to Malekite (Maliki) Sunni Islam. Little is known of Abd Allah ibn Yasin's life prior to 1035, when as a student he was visited by a Sanhadja Berber chieftain and invited to return home with him to teach his people the true faith of Islam. A devout Muslim, Abd Allah ibn Yasin was scandalized by the lax and immoral practices of the Sanhadja Berbers. He encouraged them to convert to Malekite Sunni Islam, imposing a strict interpretation of Qur'anic law. Eventually he even restructured the Berber's military to conduct jihads (holy wars) in accordance with the Qur'an. By 1041, however, the Berber chieftains resented the religious scholar's rule and sent him away. Abd Allah ibn Yasin and a group of followers spent a year at a coastal ribat (religious retreat) and then returned and launched a series of attacks on Berber communities, marking the beginning of the Almoravid movement. Under Abd Allah ibn Yasin, the Almoravids conquered the Gadala, Lemtuna, and Messufa Berber clans in the southern part of present-day Morocco and brought Islam to the kingdom of Ghana. They also captured several important Saharan market towns, such as Aoudaghost and Sijilmasa. In 1059 Abd Allah ibn Yasin died in a battle against Gadala Berbers. He was succeeded by Abu Bakr ibn Omar and his cousin Yousuf ibn Tasfin, who led the movement throughout Morocco and into northern Spain.

See also Ghana, Early Kingdom of; Sahara.

Elizabeth Heath