Martial incompetence of Islam (vs. cultural power of Islam?)

Sep 2016
1,362
Georgia
Abbasid Persia was an Arab dynasty; that's why they fought a bit better than the later medieval dynasties.

As for Nader Shah; not only was he of Turkish extraction, this wasn't really the golden age (either culturally or militariy) of Persia.
Safavid Persia ? What about Abbas I ? You completely ignored him. I guess you've never heard of him.
 
Nov 2013
739
Texas
I can only really go by the work of Ambrosio Huici Miranda on this. Who has examined the sources and is quoted by nearly all authors.

Nothing mediocre about the war or the administration. Not until the 'decline' as with every empire!
How can you claim they (the almohads) were militarily or administratively in the same league as the Ottomans, the Timurids, the Arabs prior to the crusades, or even the first few centuries of Sassanid Persia?
They could not even defeat a 2nd rate high medieval kingdom (for a comparative example, the Mongols, and arguably, the Egyptian Mameluks could; whatever the caveats and counterpoints to the contrary.)

The principle merit of high medieval Morrocco was cultural (merchants, scholars, major cities), not warfare.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
8,008
Cornwall
How can you claim they (the almohads) were militarily or administratively in the same league as the Ottomans, the Timurids, the Arabs prior to the crusades, or even the first few centuries of Sassanid Persia?
They could not even defeat a 2nd rate high medieval kingdom (for a comparative example, the Mongols, and arguably, the Egyptian Mameluks could; whatever the caveats and counterpoints to the contrary.)

The principle merit of high medieval Morrocco was cultural (merchants, scholars, major cities), not warfare.
Because I've read a lot about them, unlike you it seems with a rather infantile argument above. I wonder who the 'arabs prior to the crusades' are?
 
Nov 2013
739
Texas
Because I've read a lot about them, unlike you it seems with a rather infantile argument above. I wonder who the 'arabs prior to the crusades' are?
Not the best example I admit; but let us say the ARabs of the RAshidun caliphate (or even the Omeya, or even the Abbasids). Setting the bar too high? So what? (you also cherry picked the worst example; almost purposefully missing the overall point about how Almohad Morrocco probably wasn't as strong as the ARabs in their prime, or the OTtoman, or the Timurids, or even the Persians.)

Infantile argument? Uninformed admittedly, but what source would claim that Almohad dynasty Morrocco would be in the same league of (martiall) power as the Timurids or even the first few centuries of SAssanid Persia? I doubt even yours.. This is a dynasty that (whatever the caveats) is often caricatured as fanatical, incompetent, and mediocre at it's supposed role (defeating the Khafir.).

LEt us compared examples; the Mongol empire (a bit disputably but not indecisively) defeat several high medieval European kingdoms (even Hungary)

The Egyptian Mameluks (whatever the caveats) drive out the Crusader kingdoms

The Timurids bust every army they come across; including quite formidable ones such as the Ottomans

The Ottomans are arguably on the offensive until their botched siege of Vienna (1683)

Sassanid Persia is Persias toughest dynasty for 3 whole centuries; and ruled a larger empire than the Almohads, surrounded by tougher foes (Turks, Indians, ARabs, byzantines and so on)

The Almohads misrule Al-Andalus and lose to a second rate high medieval kingdom (Castille). Are often caracatured as a fanatical dynasty; even evidence that the golden age of both Morrocco and Al-Andalus had long ended.


I admit to making relatively uninformed arguments; but hardly strawman ones.
 
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johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
8,008
Cornwall
The Almohads misrule Al-Andalus and lose to a second rate high medieval kingdom (Castille). Are often caracatured as a fanatical dynasty; even evidence that the golden age of both Morrocco and Al-Andalus had long ended.


I admit to making relatively uninformed arguments;
I think you would need to read Huici Miranda's works on the Almohads to understand it all really. From after Las Navas it was just a case of decline and fall, dynastic turmoil, collapse. But prior to that, prior to Al Nasr, they ruled with an iron rod from Tripoli to the Atlantic to Lisbon to southern Catalonia - a very strict state with enforcement of severe laws where it was said a woman could walk alone in safety from one end to the other - an exaggeration obviously but giving the meaning.

Big battles are few and far between. Many of the fortifications or improvements you see around Spain are Almohad built. The Almohad army only went to Al Andalus periodically (plenty of trouble in Ifriqiya), the most notable being the Alarcos campaign where the Castillians were thrashed so hard that they went into truce for 12 years. All the Christian kingdoms were at some point in truce/treaty with the Almohads against each other. Alarcos was followed by 2 summers of the Almohad army - still in Spain - wandering around all Spain unchallenged

I'm not sure how old you are so I'll be careful - but when you say they were 'thrashed by a second rate kingdom' - I presume you mean las Navas de Tolosa in 1212? That is one battle in one small part of the Empire and 'playing away' as it were. The Almohad army - which did include some Leonese knights - under Al Nasr was not the same as the one of Yaqub 15 years earlier and he was no where near the inspirational leader Yaqub was.

As a battle Las Navas is over-played. But what it did was destroy confidence in the rather unpopular Al Nasr - he was poisoned within a year leading to the gradual collapse over 40 years. It also destroyed confidence of Andalus subjects in the Almohads and over time there elite 'Almohad' berber forces got weaker and weaker as the arabs got stronger

Yet in Spain Castille was broke and beset by plague and Alfonso VIII died. The death of Pedro of Aragon at Muret also meant that both kingdoms had children on the throne and there could be no immediate advantage. Many Castillian and Aragonese knights subsequently sought employment fighting for the Almohads in North Africa as their troubles increased, believe it or not. Simon Barton wrote an excellent paper - Traitors to the Faith - covering 'Spanish' knights in the employ of the North African empires.

One of the bizarre paradoxes of the Almohads was their employment of Christian heavy cavalry - even at the height of their fanaticism. There are others - papal mission to the Almohads, trade with Genoa from Carthage and noble acts such as inviting the Count of Barcelona to Marrakesh for the funeral of Ali B Reverter (Almohad hero murdered in Ifriqiya and son of Almoravid Catalan general Reverter), and allowing free passage back to Sicily to the Norman garrison at Mahdia after an epic siege resistance - one of wars great ironies is that they were shipwrecked off Sicily and nearly all died
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,520
Portugal
Many Castillian and Aragonese knights subsequently sought employment fighting for the Almohads in North Africa as their troubles increased, believe it or not. Simon Barton wrote an excellent paper - Traitors to the Faith - covering 'Spanish' knights in the employ of the North African empires.
Don’t forget the Portuguese, among them Geraldo Geraldes is certainly a good example.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
8,008
Cornwall
Don’t forget the Portuguese, among them Geraldo Geraldes is certainly a good example.
Ah yes - what was his nickname again - Sempavor? - didn't he come to a rather sticky end after double (or triple)-dealing once too often between Leon, Portugal and the Almohads?? Lost his head in the wrong sort of way!?
 
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Nov 2013
739
Texas
I'm not sure how old you are so I'll be careful - but when you say they were 'thrashed by a second rate kingdom' - I presume you mean las Navas de Tolosa in 1212? That is one battle in one small part of the Empire and 'playing away' as it were. The Almohad army - which did include some Leonese knights - under Al Nasr was not the same as the one of Yaqub 15 years earlier and he was no where near the inspirational leader Yaqub was.

As a battle Las Navas is over-played. But what it did was destroy confidence in the rather unpopular Al Nasr - he was poisoned within a year leading to the gradual collapse over 40 years. It also destroyed confidence of Andalus subjects in the Almohads and over time there elite 'Almohad' berber forces got weaker and weaker as the arabs got stronger
PErhaps; but even/especially in the context of this discussion; there seems to be issues your downplay of Las Navas

A: The battle was a major, or at least notable battle in the downfall not only of Al-Andalus (as Cordoba would be taken in 1236; you may downplay that as a seperate even in though it arguably intertwines with the Almohad period, the earlier battles and so on), but in the downfall of Almohad dynasty altogeter

B: Pretending that Iberia, or even the Iberian frontier was somehow fringe territory in the least falls apart once you consider that it was the capital of Almohad dynasty

C: Feudal armies were small enough to losing to them is attributable to factors besides a decline in leadership. Multiple causes should be analysed regardless; and IMO one other cause was the high medieval Islam (especially in the case of Persia, Morrocco, and Al-Andalus) was more of a cultural power than a martial one; and that the Islamic golden had ended (Especially in Al-Andalus) with the fall of the Cordoba CAliphate in 1009
 
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