Al-Murabitun Order of Battle

The Al-Murabit leaders were all from the Banu Turgut of the Lamtuna tribe of the Sanhaja Berbers (Kennedy, 1996). Originally the men were from the Lamtuna tribe, these and the Guddala and Massufa (also Sanhaja) remained the mainstay of the armies throughout the period. Other groups were assimilated including the other Sanhaja tribes (Gazzula, Lamta, Banu Warith), Masmuda tribesmen of the Atlas and Zanata of northern Morocco.

The armies appear to be comprised of various groups (Kennedy, 1996): Al-Murabitun, Mercenaries, Slave soldiers, Andalusian Volunteers, Guards.

  • Al-Murabitun. Probably Berbers of the Lamtuna, Guddala and Massufa, but possibly any Sanhaja.
  • Mercenaries (Hashm). I suspect these are non-Al-Murabitun Berbers.
  • Black slave soldiers (Abid). Nicolle (1988) mentions larges numbers of black Africans and I presume these are the Abid mentioned by Kennedy (1996). Most were recruited form Senegal, and they used bamboo spears, long leather shields, bows, and massed drums. A slave soldier sparked the Cordoban rebellion in 1121, and many black slaves were in the army the Aragonese defeated in 1129.
  • Andalusian Volunteers (Muttawia).
  • Christian. The Murabitun employed Christian mercenaries and converted prisoners (Nicolle, 1988).
  • Guards. Ibn Tashfin formed a guard of slave soldiers – 2,000 blacks, 500 uluj, and Andalusian horsemen (Kennedy, 1996; Nicolle, 1988). Nicolle says the blacks were horsemen, but Kennedy only says the Uluj were. Nicolle also says the uluj were non-Berber including Arabs, Turks and Europeans, but Kennedy suggest they were probably of Frankish origin. .

The Murabitun used camels – later armies had 30,000 available – although as time when on they relied more on cavalry (Nicolle, 1988).

The mercenaries and slave soldiers adopted the veil in imitation of the Al-Murabitun (Kennedy, 1996).

Most Al-Murabitun fought on foot with a front rank of long spears and javelinmen behind (Kennedy, 1996; Nicolle, 1988). The commander of each unit carried a flag that was used to direct his men: stand when the banner is up and kneel when the banner is lowered. Under Ibn Tashfin and subsequently Murabitun made use of war drums (Nicolle, 1988).

From 1132 to 1144 a Catalan renegade called Reverter – the one time viscount of Barcelona – lead the elite corps of the Al-Murabitun army (Kennedy, 1996). This may have been the Uluj mentioned as part of the guards ??.

The Al-Murabitun armies could reach 20-30,000, but were usually smaller, for example, in 1058 Abu Bakr led a force of 400 horsemen, 800 camel men and 2,000 foot (Kennedy, 1996). The invasion force of 1086 had 12-20,000 men. 4,000 men were sent to the siege of Aledo. Even provincial forces were up to 5,000. In 1102 the Al-Murabitun had 17,000 horsemen in Al-Andalus: 4,000 in Seville, 1,000 in Cordoba, 1,000 in Granada, 4,000 in the Levante, and the remaining 7,000 distributed along the frontier. These figures are for horse only and it is unclear how many foot were maintained although it is worth remembering that foot considerably outnumbered horse in Al-Murabitun armies.

Although powerful in the field, the Al-Murabitun were reliant on their Andalusian allies for expertise in siege work (Kennedy, 1996).


Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.

Heath, I. (1980). Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1982). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1989). Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Nicolle, D. (1998). The Fall of Granada 1481-1492: The twilight of Moorish Spain (Campaign Series 53). Osprey.

Kennedy, H. (1996). Muslim Spain and Portugal: A political history of al-Andalus. London: Longman.

Oman, C. (1987). A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Greenhill Books. Originally published 1937.

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