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The link between the present and the past is established through the reading and understanding of ‘History’.


History teaches us invaluable lessons from which we can avoid mistakes and seek wisdom.


The rise and fall of power in Muslim Spain holds many lessons for us. Throughout history we see that as long as the Muslims were united, they constituted the largest empire in history; when they fell victim to disunity and developed differences among themselves in the name of religion they fell from power. When the rulers ruled with justice, peace and prosperity prevailed and when they went against the teachings and example of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and the Khulafaa Raashideen, they lost everything.

This work is a brief history outlining the main events. It is a compilation (with the help of Allah subhaanahu wata’ala) of the history of Muslim Spain from the following books:

“History of Islam” by Professor Masudul Hasan

“The Story of Islamic Spain” by Syed Azizur Rahman


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The Iberian Peninsula


iberian penensula.png 


The two sovereign states of Spain and Portugal was in fact a single geographical entity. This part of the world has been known as Iberia to the Greeks, Hispania to the Romans and Al-Andalus to the Muslims. The fertile valleys and mineral wealth attracted wave after wave of invaders, colonisers and conquerors.

After the Greeks, the Celts and the Carthaginians, this area came under the power of the Romans and the coming of the Romans was a great civilising influence. Apart from setting up a strong government, they constructed walled towns, elegant villas, theatres, baths etc. and they built aqueducts for irrigation as well as a network of roads. They introduced Latin out of which the Spanish of today emerged. Eventually the Romans lost their warlike spirit and tenacity and the aristocracy sank into luxury while the subjects groaned under heavy taxation.

Spain then fell prey to the Goths who also abandoned themselves to luxury and vice and the economic and social conditions for the subjects worsened under the Goths.


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Muslims in Northwest Africa


At the time the Goths were in power in Spain, the Muslims were firmly established in the whole of northwest Africa except the coastal city of Ceuta, which commands the entrance to the Iberian peninsula, (at this time held by Count Julian on behalf of the Byzantine Emperor). Musa bin Nusair was the governor of North Africa and he was invited to conquer Spain by Count Julian. The reason for Julian approaching the Musa bin Nusair was that he wanted to avenge Roderick the king of Spain for ill-treating his daughter who had been sent to the court of Roderick at Toledo where young women were schooled in courtly etiquette.

In the meantime the Spanish people had also invited Musa bin Nusair due to the oppression of the Vasi Goths of Spain. The Spanish people were poor, discontented and oppressed. They wanted change.

The Muslims established peace and order wherever they went. They did not act as parasites of a conquered land and in fact they planned and set up new cities, developed agriculture and commerce, set up educational institutions and introduced learning. Spain (Andalusia) is an excellent example of this. After the Muslims conquered Spain it soon became a utopia of poets and scientists and in a short space of time it became the centre of the then civilised world. History, Geography, Islamic jurisprudence, philosophy and architecture took on a new dimension and new cities sprang up wherein were built such structures of beauty as the Mosque of Cordova and Alhambra of Granada.

With Count Julian’s invitation to Musa bin Nusair, and the discontentment of the Spanish people with their rulers, the stage was set for a Muslim conquest.

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Taariq bin Ziyaad Lands on the Spanish Coast

Musa bin Nusair wrote to the Caliph Al Waleed for permission and on receiving it he first sent Tarif ibn Malluk to conduct a preliminary reconnaissance of the Spanish coast. Count Julian supplied the boats and Tarif landed in July 710 A.D. After his return, the man commissioned to lead the historic expedition was Taariq bin Ziyaad who had risen to high positions in the army due to his bravery and loyalty.

In 711 AD with an army of 12000, men Taariq bin Ziyaad crossed the narrow straits from Africa to the Spanish coast, barely eleven miles apart, in a flotilla supplied by Count Julian and he landed near the rock (Al- Jabal which dominates the Spanish coast) and thereafter became known as Jabal Taariq (later became Gibraltar). Count Julian accompanied Taariq as a guide.


map closeup gibraltar.jpg   gibraltar250__250x149.jpg


Note the narrow strait between Africa and the Spanish coast which Taariq bin Ziyaad crossed.


When the news of Taariq’s landing reached Roderick, he immediately left for Cordova. Taariq’s army arrived at the banks of the Salado River with Roderick converging in the same direction with a formidable army. Near the Lagoon of La Junda, the two armies were within sight of each other.

History records that Taariq bin Ziyaad delivered a long speech which began.... “Ye Muslims, where can you flee? The sea is behind you and the enemy is in front of you. By Allah, only your courage and patience can now help you.” He then set fire to all the boats which had brought them to this land.

The battle began in July 711 AD (Ramadhaan 92 AH) and lasted a week. The right and left wings of Roderick’s army collapsed when the commanders deserted their posts and the centre led by Roderick himself from his gilt chariot could not hold on and eventually collapsed. The battle ended in a disastrous rout of the Gothic army and Roderick escaped in a panic. His sandles were found on the bank and he was never heard of again.

Musa bin Nusair commanded Taariq to halt his advances however Taariq pursued his advance in the direction of Toledo, the capital of the Gothic Kingdom. On his way he laid siege to Ecija where some of Roderick’s army had taken shelter. The Governor of Ecija was captured and the city capitulated by mutual agreement.

On the advice of Count Julian, Taariq sent out some columns of his soldiers toward other cities. Cordova was captured by Mughith al-Rumi who decided to take the city by nocturnal surprise. A soldier climbed up a city wall by taking a bold leap from the top of a nearby tree. With the help of his scarf he pulled up a large number of soldiers and they descended into the city, surprised the guards and opened the city gate for their comrades.

Toledo offered little resistance as many had left for Rome. The Jews opened the gates while the Christians who had remained behind had no spirit to fight. Taariq stayed in Toledo for a short time and after appointing a governor he marched on to reach as far as Alcala de Henares from where he returned to Toledo to receive Musa bin Nusair who had already landed in Spain.

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The Jews in Spain

Regarding the Jews in Spain of whom there was a substantial number, their en mass desertion was one of the reasons of the rapid success of the Muslims. Their lot was a miserable one in Spain. They were not permitted to occupy any public office to employ slaves. A Gothic King had ordered compulsory baptism of the Jews which resulted in their migration to Africa. When they planned a revolt with the help of their brethren across the Straits their plan leaked out and their property was confiscated and their children sold in slavery. Thus the Muslims were seen as God-sent deliverers. They collaborated with the Muslims who put their trust in them and this opened doors to many cities. Certain cities like Cordova, Granada etc. were actually left in charge of the Jews as the Muslims proceeded further.

“The Jews had much cause to complain of the Christian rule under which they had been grieviously oppressed and plundered. They not unnaturally regarded with favour an invasion headed by Semitic warriors of their own kindred, which promised to avenge them on their oppressors and increase their influence” (The History of Islamic Spain, Syed Azizur Rahman)

In 712 CE Musa bin Nusair (with 18000 men) joined Tariq in Spain. Within two years, between them they had conquered the whole of Spain. They had crossed the Pyrenees and began carrying out campaigns in the South of France.

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The Fate of the Conquered

Biased historians have bemoaned the ruin of Spain, however historians with an unbiased approach think otherwise. Dr J.A. Conde, has stated: “The conditions imposed on the conquered nation were such that the people found consolation rather than oppression in the presence of the conquerors.”

The conquered were not forced to live in ghettos nor were they taken as slaves. They were not prevented from following their faiths and were not forced to convert. Their churches and places of worship were safe as were their possessions and properties. They were not banned from earning a living and could work in the civil service of the Muslim rulers. Jews and Christians were able to contribute to society.

Dr. J. A. Conde says, “ But there was yet more: the fidelity of the Arabs in maintaining their promises, the equal handed justice which they administered to all classes without distinction of any kind secured them the confidence of the people in general, as well as of those who held closer intercourse with them: and not only in these particulars, but also in generosity of mind, and in amenity of manner, and in hospitality of their customs, the Arab were distinguished above all other people of those times.”

It has to be mentioned that in some campaigns a few churches used for military purposes were either damaged or destroyed, however they isolated instances because the Muslim leaders were quick in controlling lawlessness, arson and pillage. Many cities were submitted voluntarily and they were treated with consideration and even generosity.

The Christians and Jews were permitted to have their own district governors and judges who administered their own laws. However as subjects of the Muslim government they were required to pay Jizia (tax) and this tax was levied on all able-bodied male adults. The women and children, the old, the sick, the blind, the beggars and the priests were exempt from it. As for the Jews, Muslim rule was a haven of security and prosperity.

The Gothic nobility were treated with generosity. The Serfs who were exploited for centuries by the Romans and the Goths continued to work in the fields; not as bounded labour but as free tenants. The slaves bought their redemption from slavery by embracing Islam.

All Historians are unanimous in their acknowledgement of the unique cultural role of the Spanish Muslims. While the rest of Europe was shrouded in darkness, Muslim Spain was a shining example of an enlightened civilisation. Many cities sprang up. Agriculture with sophisticated irrigation systems, architecture, science and literature were all advanced in Spanish cities. While the rest of Europe’s cities were filthy and wreaking with diseases, the Spanish cities were hygienic and healthy places to live with many public baths scattered around cities. Muslim craftsmen in Spain were talented. They excelled in the craftsmanship of leather and in making fine textiles. In the late 800’s glassmakers in Cordova discovered how to make crystal and exclusive jewellery was crafted.

Spain became a centre of secular knowledge with scholars in every Spanish city. Universities were set up in Granada and many libraries were opened around Spain.

Stanley Lane-Poole says, “Whatsoever makes a kingdom great and prosperous, whatsoever tends to refinement and civilisation was found in Muslim Spain.” (The Story of Islamic Spain, page 34)


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Conquerors of Spain Recalled

Having consolidated the Muslim rule in Spain, Musa proposed to cross into Europe, and return to Damascus after conquering Europe. However Caliph Al Walid did not approve of such an ambitious plan.

The Caliph Al Walid died in 715 C.E. after a rule of ten years. He ranks high among the empire builders of Islam. Under him the Muslim empire had come to extend from Sind to Spain, spread over three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Sulaiman (715-717 C.E.)

Sulaiman, the new Caliph had differences with Al Walid. When he attained power he reversed the policies of Al Walid and those who had found favour with Al Walid came under cloud, while those who were out of favour with Al Walid came into power.

Musa and his brilliant lieutenant Taariq, the conquerors of Spain, were summoned to Damascus and there disgraced, humiliated and condemned to live in obscurity and poverty. In 716 C.E., Abdul Aziz, the son of Musa who was appointed as the Governor of Spain, was busy in his dawn prayer when he was stabbed to death by a hired assassin.

Even though Taariq bin Ziyaad and Musa bin Nusair were recalled, Muslims were rulers in Spain for a further 750 years.


MAP andalus 711-1031 A.D..jpg

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Muslim Spain was not a single period, but a succession of different rules. As we have seen, Spain was conquered during the rule of Caliph Al Waleed (of the Umayyad dynasty)and he was succeeded by his brother Sulaiman who recalled the conquerors back and Abdul Aziz, the son of Musa and governor of Spain, was killed.

In the year 750 C.E. the Umayyad rule came to an end and the Abbasid Dynasty took control with Abu Abbas As-Safah as Caliph. The Abbasid period lasted from 750 to 1258 C.E. and is divided into two periods, the Early Abbasids and the Later Abbasids.

Spain (a greater part of it) also came under the rule of the Al Moravids and the Al-Mohads before Muslim rule declined and finally ended in 1492.

What will follow (insha Allah) will be highlights of the history of Muslim Spain under the various rules. Insha Allah the next post will cover Muslim Spain during the Caliphate of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, one of the most pious and inspiring of the Umayyad Caliphs.

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Umar b Abdul Aziz 717-720 C.E.

He was the cousin of Sulaiman. His mother was the grand daughter of Umar bin al Khattab, the rightly guided Caliph and Umar bin Abdul Aziz aspired to follow the footsteps of his illustrious great grandfather. He was a devoted Muslim and he set the example of living the Islamic way of life. He enjoined simplicity and austerity in all the affairs of the state and he was very particular in the use of the money from the “bait-ul-maal”. He returned all the property which had been confiscated by his predecessors to the rightful owners.


During the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the Muslim forces led by As-Samh crossed the Pyrennese, and overran the southern province of France.  The following map shows Spain and France with the Pyrenees mountain range forming a natural border between the two countries.


map - pyrenees.gif


The Muslim forces advanced to Toulouse, the capital of Aquittaine, where a bloody battle was fought in which As-Samh was killed and the Muslims were defeated. Thereafter the command was taken over by Abdur Rahman, who evacuated the Muslim forces from France.

He was poisoned to death at the age of thirty-nine. In spite of his rule lasting barely three years, he lives in history as the ideal Muslim ruler.

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From Spain, into France

After the death of As-Samh and the defeat at Toulouse, the next offensive into France was in 725 C.E. The Muslims carried out raids up to Rhone and Saone however they stopped there when Anbasa, the governor was killed and his deputy withdrew the army from France.

After the death of Anbasa, a state of anarchy prevailed in Spain and there were five governors in less than five years.

Hisham was appointed governor in 730 C.E. and Muslims once again resumed the conquest of France. This time they penetrated deep into France and their conquests included Lyons, Macon etc however in the counter attack by the French the Muslims had to withdraw from these cities.

Abdur Rahman al- Ghafiqi was appointed as the next governor and he was next to march into France. After the capture of the city of Arles and then Bordeux, the Muslims overran Burgundy and finally the cities of Lyons and Sens.

The French asked the aid of Charles Martel of Germany and they assembled a large force to oppose the Muslims. In 732 C.E. the Muslims suffered defeat and Abdur Rahman fell fighting. The Western Historians regard this defeat as the turning point in the history of Europe which halted the advance of Islam.

In 734 C.E. the Muslims once again crossed into France and this time took Aragon and Navarre and thereafter the city of Avignon was taken after a short siege. Other campaigns followed under the next governor, Uqba, before the French forces advanced and fought the Muslims. The French resorted to “scorched earth policy” which destroyed many cities which had prospered under the Muslims.

In the meantime civil war broke out in Spain and the administration was paralysed. The French launched an offensive in 751 C.E. and they took cities held by the Muslims. There was no help forthcoming from Spain and only the city of Narbonne was left to the Muslims. The French besieged it with all the sources at their command, and captured the city which ended the Muslim occupation of France. According to “The Story of Islamic Spain” by Syed Azizur Rahman, “The invasion of France was an exercise of futility as it left no impact of any significance.”

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Back To Spain

Unfortunately squabbles within the Arabs surfaced and instead of the Arabs putting a united front against the enemy, started fighting amongst themselves.

Animosity rooted from pre Islamic times between the Kelbites/Yemenites and the Qaisites or the Northern and Southern Arabs was contained during the time of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ’alayhi wasallam and the four Caliphs. However it surfaced under the Umayyadsa and it was taken to whichever countries were conquered and Spain was no exception.

Then there were the Berbers who revolted in North Africa which had its repercussions in Spain. The Berbers in Spain also rose in revolt against the Arabs. The Berbers were successfully routed however the Syrians with whose help the Berbers were defeated rose against Abdul al-Malik the governor and took power in 741. Civil war broke out. In 747 the bloody Battle of Secunda was fought between the Qaisites and the Yemenites.

Fall of the Umayyads

The years 743 and 744 C.E. were years of anarchy. In less than two years three princes sat on the throne. Where before the Umayyads were a united family, now they began to fight among themselves and this weakened the foundation of the Umayyad rule. Coupled with the anarchy, the end of the Umayyad rule was near.

The Battle of the Zab in 750 C.E. between the Ummayads and the Abbasids where the Umayyad forces were defeated saw the end of the rule of the Umayyad Dynasty. Power was transferred to the Abbasids with Abu al Abbas as the new Caliph. He claimed descent from Abbas, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam.

He began his reign by a virtual genocide of the Umayyads. Many were hounded out and killed. The idea was to create an atmosphere of non tolerance of any opposition. One of the lucky ones to escape was Abdur Rahman, a grandson of Hisham. He founded the Umayyad Kingdom of Cordova and insha Allah details will follow.

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Abdur Rahman (756-788 C.E.) and the Umayyad Kingdom of Cordova

The story of Abdur Rahman has to be told! (Unfortunately not in as much detail as i would have liked). It runs more like an epic if read in detail with his dramatic flight from Syria, his narrow escapes, long travels through the Libyan sands, perilous sojourns through North Africa and finally his arrival in Spain in 755 C.E. where he founded the Umayyad Kingdom of Cordova – much to the annoyance of the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. (The Abbasids had moved their capital from Damascus to Baghdad). Even the Abbasid Caliph Mansur admired the youthful Abdur Rahman who eluded his enemies, traversed jungles and seas, raised armies and founded a kingdom.

After meeting many adventures Abdur Rahman sought shelter in Morocco with the Berber tribe, Banu Nafoosa, to which his mother belonged. From Morocco, Abdul Rahman sent an emissary to Spain to win support in his favour. The Muslim Arabs in Spain were divided into two warring camps, the Qaisites who supported the government, and the Yemenites who were opposed thereto. The Yemenites decided to support Abdul Rahman. There were some Umayyads in Spain, and they declared for Abdul Rahman. Some Berbers in Spain also decided to espouse the cause of Abdur Rahman. The Yemenites and the Umayyads invited Abdur Rahman to Spain. In 756 C.E. with a Berbers force, Abdur Rahman landed on the shore of Spain at the port of Almonicar. Here he was joined by the Muslims of Spain who had promised to support his cause.

After his arrival in Spain the battle which gave him the sceptre of royalty was fought near Cordova. He entered Cordova in triumph and occupied the official residence of the governor-general. Abdur Rahman was publicly declared “Amir” of Muslim Spain at a brief ceremony in the mosque at Cordova.

His position however was precarious. The Abbasid Caliph claimed Spain to be part of his empire and he ordered the governor of Africa to annex Spain on his behalf. Abdur Rahman himself took to the field and despite the fact that his fate looked grim, he did not loose heart and after a long siege he retaliated with a desperate attack on the Abbasid supporters and won. After this he was firmly established but there was no end to revolts and his army was constantly on the march from one place to another.

It has to be clear at this stage that though Abdur Rahman was the undisputed master of the kingdom, his authority did not extend over the whole of Spain. A part of the Northern territory was already taken back by the Christians before Abdur Rahman’s arrival.

Abdur Rahman died in 788 C.E. after an eventful reign of thirty-two years. As the ruler of Spain, Abdur Rahman assumed the title of “Amir”. He was a wise and enlightened ruler, a man of great determination and strong will. He possessed an impressive personality. He was highly eloquent and was a fine poet. He was a skilful General; a just ruler; and a wise statesman. The way in which he became the ruler of Spain reads like a romance. He had to struggle against heavy odds, but through his courage, perseverance and iron will he succeeded in carving out a kingdom for himself and his successors in distant Spain across the seas. The Umayyad lost the empire in the east, but Abdur Rahman built an Umayyad state in the west.

He organised the administration on sound lines. He established educational institutions throughout the length and breadth of the country. He constructed hostels where free boarding and lodging was provided to the students. Inns were established in all cities. Public baths were provided in all cities. He established a mint at Cordova to manufacture coins.

He reconstructed the city walls of Cordova, and access of the city was provided through seven gates. Outside Cordova he built a garden place called “Muawiyat-ul-Rusafa” after the villa of his grandfather Hisham at Damascus. He constructed a mosque at Cordova, which had 193 pillars of white marble, 19 arches, and 19 big gates. A lamp made of pure gold burned permanently at the pulpit. He built an aqueduct for the supply of water to Cordova. He built canals, improved agriculture, and sponsored other beneficent activities. He introduced exotic plants in Spain for the first time. He constructed a huge bridge on the Guadelquiver river.

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The Umayyad rule in Spain came to an end in 1031 C.E.


With the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in Spain the country fell prey to anarchy. Muslim Spain came to be split up into numerous small kingdoms, each going its own way and fighting each other. This period is known as “Muluk-ul-Tuwaif” (petty states). The split up kingdoms fought among themselves which weakened the Muslim hold on Spain. This provided opportunities for Christian aggression.


This fragmentation of Muslim Spain paved the way for the disintegration of Muslim rule in Spain.




The Al-Moravid Rule in Spain

Towards the close of the eleventh century, while Muslim Spain was falling to pieces, a new power of the Al-Moravids rose to power in Morocco.

With the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in Spain the country fell prey to anarchy. The split up kingdoms fought among themselves which weakened the Muslim hold on Spain. This provided opportunities for Christian aggression and in order to prevent the Christians some of the Muslim princes of Spain sought the help of Yusuf bin Tashfin, the ruler of Morocco. He responded to the call, crossed over into Spain and defeated the Christians powers.

The divided kingdoms were unable to forge a union and Yusuf annexed Muslim Spain to his empire and thus a greater part of Muslim Spain became the province of the Al-Moravid empire. He was able to reunite much of Muslim Spain.

While he was alive the Christians were pushed back. He enforced Shari’ah law and was very popular with the Scholars. After years of anarchy Spain once again came to enjoy a spell of prosperity under his strong and beneficent rule. However after his death in 1106 C.E. the Al Moravid hold on Spain became weak and Saragossa was captured by the Christians in 1118 C.E.

The Al Moravid rule came to an end in Spain by 1145 as the Al Mohads came to power in Africa and Spain was once again split up into petty states. The Christians raised their heads again and they pillaged and burnt many towns and the Muslim Scholars of Spain appealed to the Al Mohad ruler who came to their aid.




The Al- Mohads

The Al-Mohad rule was founded in North Africa in the early twelfth century. The Muslim Scholars of Spain appealed to the Al Mohad ruler Abul Mumin, for help. He sent an army under Abu Amr Musa whose brilliant campaigns led to many towns being captured. A year later Abul Mumin sent another force under his son, Abu Saeed who conquered Cordova, Almeria, Nibela and finally Granada. By 1148 C.E. the Al Mohads were masters of the whole of Muslim Spain.

In the Thirteenth Century, the Al Mohad ruler Abu Yusuf Yaqub was succeeded by Muhammad Al Nasir. In 1212 C.E. the kings of Castile, Aragon, Portugal, Leon and Navarre joined by the crusaders from France, Italy and Germany marched against the Al Mohads. The Al Mohads were defeated in the battle of Hisa Al-Uqab. This battle marked the beginning of the end of the power of the Al Mohads and also the beginning of the end of Muslim rule in Spain. Al Nasir escaped to Morocco leaving Spain in a state of utter confusion.

The Al Mohad rule lasted till 1269. After the Al Mohads numerous principalities sprang up in Muslim Spain and the Muslims ceased to be the dominant power in Spain.




The Decline and Fall

As long as the Muslims were united, they constituted the largest empire in history; when they fell victim to disunity and developed differences among themselves in the name of religion they fell from power.


When the Abbasid Caliphate fell in Baghdad in 1258 C.E., the glory of Muslim rule in Spain was also over. The great Muslim empire had crumbled and split up into a number of petty principalities which lacked the strength to defend themselves and one by one, succumbed to the advance of the Christian powers until only the south of Spain remained under Muslim rule. Even then the Muslims had not learnt their lesson from history. They made no effort to unite and face the enemy. They fought amongst themselves in spite of the heavy pressures from the Christian powers who launched the “Reconquest” campaign aimed at the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain.

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Timeline Maps of the History so far


200BC - 30BC

The Romans have gradually conquered most of present-day Spain and Portugal

map-spainportugal30bc romans.jpg




30BC - 200AD

The whole of the Iberian Peninsula is thoroughly Romanized

map spainportugal200ad romanised.jpg




200AD - 500AD

Visigoths control most of the peninsula

map -spainportugal500ad visigoths.jpg





The majority of present-day Spain and Portugal now belong to the vast Muslim Caliphate, ruled from far-off Damascus.

map - spain 1.jpg




750AD - 979AD

With the replacement of the Ummayad caliphs by the ‘Abbasids in the Middle East, an Ummayad prince fled to Muslim Spain in 756 and, after a civil war, established an independent state here, commonly called the Caliphate of Cordoba (after its capital).

map - spain979ad 2.jpg




979AD - 1215AD

The Muslim Caliphate descended into civil war after 1000, and fragmented into a number of independent emirates. These small states were unable to hold back the Christian tide, and so they invited the Almovarids, an Islamic movement from North Africa, to come to their aid (1080's). The Almoravids controlled Muslim Spain until the Almohads, another North African Islamic movement, replaced them (1147).

map - spain1215ad 3.jpg

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Granada the Last Muslim State


During this period of decadence and disintegration of Muslim rule in Spain when many minor lords ruled over petty principalities, Muhammad bin Yusuf bin Nasr, a lord of such a principality himself, founded the rule of the Nasrid dynasty which ruled Southern Spain for 262 years. Instead of fighting the Christians he cultivated their friendship and with their help captured Granada and the adjoining territories.


During the period of 1238 to 1260, Ferdinand III of Castile and James I of Aragon liquidated the Muslim principalities of Valencia, Cordova, Seville and Murcia and after 1260, Granada was the only Muslim state left in Spain. However in spite of their patronage the Christians invaded Granada and Muhammad saved himself and his state by becoming a vassal of Castile. Thus independent Muslim rule came to an end in 1260 though Granada survived for more than 200 years as a nominal Muslim state under the vassal of a Christian state. The Muslims expelled from other parts of Spain migrated to Granada.


His son and successor, Abu Abdullah (Muhammad II) enforced shari’ah law as he was a jurist. He had to face rebellion of some of the Arab chiefs and when the Christian powers once again invaded Granada, he sought the help of Abu Yusuf Yaqub, the ruler of Morocco. He landed with his forces and with his help the Christian attack was repulsed.


During the reign of Muhammad III, the son and of Abu Abdullah, the Christians invaded and this time captured Gibraltar and other towns. He made a truce with them with unfavourable terms for Granada which made him unpopular. To increase his prestige he conquered Ceuta in Morocco with the help of the Christians and this in turn made Morocco incite a revolt against Muhammad III and his uncle dethroned him and took control in 1309. He in turn was overthrown by his nephew, Abul Wahid Ismail who proved to be a good ruler. During his reign he took the initiative and attacked the Christians and defeated them. Though this was big triumph for the Muslims and during his eleven years rule Granada enjoyed a spell of prosperity. He was killed in a palace revolution just three days after his victory over the Christians. The Christians had resorted to underhand means of fostering a conspiracy through their agents in Granada.


Granada continued to be under Muslim rule with the Christians constantly attacking. The court of Granada had become a hotbed of intrigues and conspiracy. When Muhammad V came to power in 1354, he purged the court of all suspects by executing, imprisoning or exiling the suspects. He however himself fell prey to the conspiracy led by his stepmother. There was a palace revolution and he saved his life by flight to Morocco. His step brother, Ismail bin Yusuf occupied the throne though his mother was the real power behind the throne. He too fell victim to a conspiracy and met with a violent death.


The next ruler was a tyrant and very unpopular. The Nasrid chiefs invited Muhammad V, who was in Morocco to come back and resume the throne. Thus Muhammad V’s second reign began in 1362 in the midst of rejoicing of the people. He made a peace treaty with Castille. He was a just ruler who encouraged education, established hospitals and schools and developed trade and industry. After him, his son continued the treaty with Castille however he too fell prey to a conspiracy.



1215AD - 1453AD

In 1229 the Almohads abandoned Spain, and Muslim Spain became divided amongst several small emirates. This allowed the Christian kingdoms to make good progress in their "Reconquesta", and the Muslims are now confined to one state, Granada.

map - spain1453ad 4.jpg



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The Fifteenth Century & The End of Muslim Rule in Al Andalus


At the dawn of the fifteenth century Muhammad VII was the Amir of Granada. He was a warrior and he strengthened his army and garrisoned the border forts. The Christians viewed this with concern and in 1404 they summoned a council of war and decided to end Muslim Kingdom of Granada. An indecisive battle followed and a truce was called. After his death other rulers followed amongst intrigue and conspiracies and the Christians constantly intensifying pressure.


The fifteenth century saw the frontiers of the kingdom of Granada shrinking progressively as the Christians continued to attack and wrestle away border towns. The kingdom itself was always under civil strife. Muhammad VII was the Amir in the beginning of the fifteenth century, followed by others. Abul Hasan was one of last rulers of the dying state of Granada.


He was brave and courageous, he reorganised the civil and military administration, strengthened the army and prepared for a show down with the Christians. He recaptured some of the border towns which had been captured by the Castilians. Meanwhile the Christians gained strength with the unification of two states as Ferdinand (the ruler of Castile) and Isabella (the ruler of Aragon) married.


The war between Granada and the Christians broke out in 1482 and lasted ten years with both sides gaining and loosing territory. At this critical time the court of Granada came to be rocked by family feuds.




Boabdil (Known as Ex-Zogoiby – The Unlucky): The Last Ruler of Muslim Spain

Abul Hasan had two wives, a Nasrid princess, Aisha and a Christian lady, Isabelle. Abul Hasan was attached to Isabelle and under her influence he decided that his successor should be his younger son from his Christian wife in preference to his older son, Abu Abdullah (or Boabdil, as commonly know to the world) who was the son of Aisha. Through the incitement of his mother Boabdil staged a revolt against his father. He won the support of the Arab tribes and he captured the capital. Abul Hasan fled to Malaga where his brother was the ruler and with his help recaptured the throne. Boabdil then sought refuge with the Christians and now Granada was in a state of anarchy and confusion. Abul Hasan could not cope and he abdicated in favour of his brother, Muhammad al Zaghal (Muhammad XI). He was a valiant and gallant warrior, a firm ruler and a resolute opponent of the Christians. In normal times he would have been a successful ruler, however the process of disintegration had proceeded too far.

Baobdil was with the Christians and he fought against his uncle when they attacked. The Fort of Losca fell in 1486 followed by the Fort of Valez in the next year. Muhammad XI felt that resistance was useless and he fled to Morocco while Baobdil took the throne. He took the official name of Muhammad XII though unfortunately he was the very last ruler of Spain (or what little remained of it).

Despite being a tool of the Christians they gave him no peace. They were determined to annex the state of Granada. They continued their attacks and captured city after city while the refugees from these cities poured into Granada creating discontentment and unrest. The Christians also provoked insurrections within Granada till finally Baobdil tried to come to terms with the Christians. The Christians however would not agree to any terms and finally Baobdil had no option but to capitulate though the terms agreed upon were kept secret. The Christians marched to Granada and occupied it in January 1492. Baobdil had to leave for Morocco and he bade farewell to Granada with tears trickling down. His mother Aisha turned to him and said, “Do not weep like a woman over what you could not hold like a man.”

With him Muslim rule in Spain extending about eight centuries came to a close. The place where he bid his sad farewell came to be known as “Last sigh of the Moor”.

The fall of Granada in 1492 C.E. was a tragedy of the same magnitude as the fall of Baghdad in 1258 C.E., however the tragedy of Granada was more poignant for while Muslim rule was restored in Baghdad after a short interim, Muslim rule in Spain disappeared totally. Muslims were allowed religious freedom for a few years but by 1502, Muslims had to choose either to convert to Christianity or leave Spain.




1453AD - 1648AD

The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 united Spain, and the two monarchs set about creating a strong centralized state. Within a few years the last Muslim state, Granada, had been conquered (1492), and the Spanish government installed the Inquisition to bring about the Christianization of the conquered territory.

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This is a brief history outlining the main events.

For the complete history the  books mentioned in the opening post are recommended though I’m sure there are many more.

All praises are for Allah subhaanau wata’ala. I’m sure this work will not be free from mistakes. If found please do not hesitate to post for the benefit of all of us.



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Muslim influence in Spain still felt in daily life

By Habeeb Salloum (The Milli Gazette - Indian Muslims' English Newspaper -2001)




No one who has been so fortunate as to be invited to an Andalusian farmer's home will ever forget the hospitality of his hosts. This hospitality has historical roots. It goes back to the 900 years of Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

When a Spanish host smiles and makes his guest feel at home with the phrase, Esta casa es su casa, he is translating the words of his Muslim ancestors, who would say Al-bayt baytak (this home is your home). Similarly, Hasta manana, si Dios qiuere on departure is an echo of the words of Muslims, who said, Ila'l-liqa, insha'Allah (until we meet again, if Allah wills). These and other Muslim inherited phrases in the Spanish way of life are a testimony to the influence the Muslims left on the culture of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Muslims poured out of their homelands with the zeal of their faith and spread far and wide. From the heart of China to the borders of France, Arabic became the language of intellectual and scientific expression. This is attested to by the countless Arabic words which were borrowed by other languages in all fields of human activities.

This impact of Arabic is best exemplified in the Iberian Peninsula where the sons of Islam built a dazzling civilization that bequeathed to Europe the basis of its future development. According to WJ Entwistle in The Spanish Language, the Mozarabs, arabized Spanish Christians under Muslim rule, were responsible for the easy passage into Spanish of a considerable Arabic vocabulary. The administrative, intellectual and scientific language in Spain was Arabic, and a large number of words dealing with administration, agriculture, architecture, crafts, commerce, industry, science and place names are today of Arabic origin. The Spanish Christians, in turn, gave these words, along with the associated technology, to other countries in Europe.

To this day the influences of this Muslim Spanish State, called by the Arabs Al-Andalus, permeates all aspects of Spanish life-best reflected in the agricultural sector, the pillar of Muslim Spain. In its days of glory, farmers in Muslim Andalusia produced more, and were more prosperous, than in most of the other Islamic countries, which , in their turn, were the most advanced in the medieval world. In his book, The Splendour of Moorish Spain, Joseph McCabe states that the Arabs described Al-Andalus as a glorious garden of terraced hills where every acre of cultivable land was tilled.

Muslim Spain reached its zenith in the tenth century. Ibn Hawqal wrote that the major part of AL-Andalus was fertile and was watered by many rivers, the cost of living was reasonable and the people lived a happy and prosperous life. It is said that during its golden age in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Al-Andalus had 12,000 town and villages along the banks of the Guadalquiver alone-a density unknown in any other part of the world.

What made this westernmost country in the Muslim world flourish was the hard work of the peasants, rendering the countryside fertile. Estates tilled by slaves were very few. The land was almost all owned by small landowners. Tilling the soil was a proud profession and a person was not looked down upon if he was a farmer. Work was a moral duty and an Islamic ideal.

Agriculture was greatly developed by this attachment to the soil, which led to the introduction of new crops, advanced techniques of cultivation, preservation of fruits and vegetables, and the use of fertilizers. These were complemented by an excellent irrigation system with a tight control of inspection and enforcement-still followed in parts of the Iberian Peninsula.

A wide variety of foods were cultivated, of which the people in the rest of Europe had no conception. Among the important crops, many in Spanish still carrying their Arabic names, were: sugar (azucar / al-sukkar), saffron (zafaran / al-zafran) rice (arroz / al-ruzz), and many citrus fruits and vegetables, including lemon (limon / laymun), orange (naranja /Naranj) and spinach (espinaca- / sbanikh).

In addition, the Muslims increased on a large scale the production of almonds, asparagus, dates, figs, grapes, strawberries, wheat and olives: the last still called aceitunas in Spanish from its Arabic name al-zaytun, and its oil is acetic from al-zayt. Today Spain produces half the world’s supply of olive oil.



Besides the food crops, the Muslim brought to the Iberian Peninsula the cotton plant, which in Spanish is called algodon from the Arabic alqutn. They also developed the silk industry, to make Al-Andalus one of the major silk manufacturing countries of the medieval world. The fine fabrics of which Europe was to be proud in later centuries had their origin in this land of the Moors.

The wealth generated by agriculture would have been insignificant were it not for the excellent irrigation system the Muslim constructed throughout Al-Andalus. When these former sons of the desert first came to the peninsula, they found a primitive form of a Roman irrigation network. After making a scientific study of the land, they improved this network greatly, completing many hydraulic projects for irrigating their whole domain.

There is little doubt that the intricate canal network was responsible for producing the thriving crops in the Muslim era. The lush huerta surrounding Valencia has fascinated engineers and historians for centuries. The Moorish irrigation system, which made this garden full of orchards and rice fields possible, is still regulated by a thousand-year-old tribunal established by the Moorish khalifah Al-Hakam II. Every Thursday at midday it holds its sessions to adjudicate land disputes among the farmers. The code laid down by the Muslims is still the basis of judgement by this Tribunal of the Waters.

The Valenican huerta was only one of the areas in Spain which benefited from the agricultural techniques of the Muslims. In the southern part of the country, they created what some historians have called an earthly paradise. M Defourneaux in his book, Daily Life in Spain in the golden Age, wrote: The most admirable area is around Granada, where the Moors for a long time occupied the kingdom. They brought water from the snowcapped Sierras, by means of canals and tunnels, to fertilize the plains and the blossoming hills which surround them to make it one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

The excellent land-watering system constructed by the Muslims throughout Al-Andalus is attested to by the Spanish language, rich in Arabic loan words in the field of irrigation from names of the waterways to the laws and administration of the system irrigation ditch (acequia-al-saqiya), pool (alberca-al-birka) and irrigating duty (alfarda or farda-alfarda). More than the pen of any historian, these words tell the story of the Arab impact on the irrigation system in Spain. They are a living testimony to the Muslims' technical achievement in the agricultural field.

The introduction of new crops with the accompanying irrigation generated a great deal of wealth. This gave rise to an affluent society which appreciated the beauty of nature and that created by man. The forests were protected, new types of trees and flowers were cultivated and number of wild flowers, grasses and shrubs were identified and named. Many of these still carry their Arabic-derived names: safflower (alazor-al-asfur), alfalfa (al-fasfasa) and acorn (bellota-balluta).

The famous botanists of Muslim Spain, Ibn Bassal, Ibn al-Wafid, Ibn al-Hajjaj and Ibn al-Awwam, have left us a great deal of material on the productivity and fertility of plants and general agricultural practices. In the twelfth century Ibn al-Awwam wrote a treatise on agriculture which was translated into the Romance languages of the Middle Ages. It lists 584 species of plants and gives precise instructions regarding their cultivation and use. He also wrote about methods for grafting trees and how to produce hybrids, stop the blight of insects, and create floral essences of perfume.

With flowers, shrubs and trees, the Muslims built gardens to a grand artistic perfection. The passion for gardens and flower-filled courtyards was a deep love in the heart of every Muslim. This is reflected in the words of chroniclers who have left us first hand and precise knowledge about the Moorish courtyards during the Muslim era. As a result of this legacy, Spain today has some of the most charming homes and gardens in the world. Flowers dripping down from window-boxes against walls which beautify the streets and plazas are a true leftover form the days when the sons of Islam ruled.

Next of importance to the produce of the land in the Muslim age was sheep raising and the wool industry it generated. The head-shepherd (rabadan-rabb al-da'n), a flock of sheep with different owners (rehala-rahata), a head of cattle (res-ra's), and a young shepherd playing his flute (zaga playing his alboque-zaghlul playing his al-bug ) are Spanish words directly taken form the Arabs.

Perhaps even more interesting are the names and words derived form Arabic which permeate Spanish rural life. These tell their own story of how great the imprint the Muslims left in the land of EI-Cid (Al-sayyid). From the 8,000 basic Spanish words derived from Arabic, a large number relate to farming and the countryside: village aldea-al-day's), flour-mill (tahona-tahuna) and mule-driver (almocrebe-al-mukari), for example.
Of all the facets of country life in which one sees the mark of the Muslims, the home is the place where they left their greatest imprint. The beauty and comfort of the Andalusian abode of today is no different than that of the Muslim home in Arab Spain. A Spanish housewife goes about her tasks (tarea-tarihah) cleaning the tiles (azulejos-al-zulayj) and door-knocker (aldaba-al-dabba. As the masons (albaniles-al-banna toil, they drink from a water-jug (jara-jarrah) by letting a stream from the spout fall through the air into their mouths- a method of drinking brought into Spain by the Muslims.

The Spanish words of Arabic origin relating to rural life and the home are only one side of the coin. The countryside, especially in southern and eastern Spain, is dotted with place names of Arab origin: Medinas (medina-city), Alcalas (al-qasr-the palace). There are well over a thousand names of Arab origin found in every part of the country. They have become as Spanish as bullfighting, which is also believed to have been initiated by the Moors.
The expulsion of the Muslims from Spain deprived the land of its prosperity and led to a huge drop in agrarian production. This was especially true in the Valencia region and the last Moorish heartland of the Alpujarrs Mountians edging Granada. According to A Boyd in The Road from Ronda, when Philip II expelled the Moriscos (Muslims forced to convert to Christianity) from the Alpujarras, and repopulated it with Christians from the north, he ordered that two Morisco families must stay in each village to show the newcomers how to irrigate the land. In the Valencian huerata, after the expulsion of the Muslims, the cultivation of sugarcane was almost extinguished and the yields of citrus fruits declined drastically.

Muslim Spain, which covered a little more than 50 percent of the Iberian Peninsula, by its advanced farming techniques supported a population of 30 million-more than the inhabitants of all the European countries in that era. It was many years before that remainder of Europe reached the affluence once found in AL-Andalus. In that earthly paradise the Muslims had created the flower of the medieval world. Today what they left behind tells its own story. Not only the flourishing, rich Spanish countryside of our times, but the magnificent Mosque of Cordova, the Alcazar of Seville, and the majestic Alhambra of Granda all still stand-glorious examples of visual splendour attesting to the greatness of the Muslim civilization of Spain.

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Impact of Muslim Rule in Spain


It remains evident today that the period of Moorish rule, particularly in the region of Andalucía, has profoundly impacted Spain as a nation. The Moors, who derived largely from Arabia and Northern Africa, ruled huge swathes of Southern Spain for seven centuries, and had a widening impact on Spanish culture. The Muslim rule of Medieval Iberia (modern-day Spain) has heavily influenced Spain’s language, intellectual culture, and architecture. Although, the peace which existed at the beginning of the reign became increasingly challenged by the crusading Christian invaders. This blog will go on to demonstrate the lasting elements of the Islamic culture on Medieval Spain.


Religious tolerance

During their long reign over a large part of medieval Iberia, the Muslims were known to be a rather accepting group, tolerating and welcoming Jews who had been made outcasts by the ‘…northern invaders…’ of Spain. Indeed, one source suggests that the Jews were so highly valued by the Moors that they became ‘…merchants and ambassadors and were often taken into the leaders’ confidence.’ Islamic rule in Spain from the early eighth to the late fifteenth century featured ‘…a multi-cultural mix of the people of three great monotheistic religions: Muslims, Christians, and Jews.’ Furthermore, it is implied, that despite the restrictions imposed on Jews and Christians, such as higher taxes, this overall unity of the three faiths became an immensely successful settlement, ‘…that matched the heights of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance.’ What is more, Blockmans argues that ‘…of course, there was a shrinking Christian majority who, like the Jews, were also treated with reasonable tolerance by the new rulers.’ It is not clear why the Christians were treated so well by the Muslim settlers, but Blockmans suggests that the Jews welcomed Islamic rule after being oppressed by the Christian Visigoth settlers. However, the centuries leading up to the taking over of Spain by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, were not free from wars, even, it seems, amongst the Moors themselves. Although, the events of post 1492, when the last of the Muslim kingdoms in Spain was claimed by the Christian crusaders, certainly highlight the acceptance of the Muslim leaders, as opposed to the persecution of the Christian Inquisition.



Although it is often assumed that the language of Spain derives from Latin alone, closer inspection of many words also reveals Arabic roots. Indeed, it has been argued that; ‘More than 4,000 words of Arabic origin are used in modern Spanish.’ Examples include words beginning with al, such as álgebra (algebra) or Allá (Allah) and other words relating to scientific or mathematical knowledge, as well as exotic words like azúcar (sugar). MacKay also points out that: ‘In the late 1940s …poetic fragments were discovered which, dating back to the tenth century, were composed in Mozarabic – that is, the dialect of Spanish which was spoken in al-Andalus.’ and goes on to emphasise the significance of Arabic poetry in al-Andalus during the Middle Ages. The effect on modern-day Spain is that even some existing place names also derive from Arabic.



The architectural influence of the Moors remains perhaps the most recognisable in modern-day Spain, since it has remained largely untouched for several hundred years. MacKay argues that; ‘…the fact that the Mudejars virtually monopolised the crafts associated with building and ornamentation meant that they left their imprint on buildings all over Christian Spain.’ Indeed: ‘Moorish architecture can be found throughout Spain, with its slender columns, horseshoe arches, cupolas, and airy, colorful buildings.’ An example of a Moorish building (later altered after the Reconquista) is the Alcázar (palace) of Seville, which is believed to date back to the tenth century.



The following book review by Titus Burckhardt entitled ‘Moorish Culture in Spain’ is a great demonstration of just how brilliantly influential the Moorish reign of medieval Iberia was upon the nation:


‘The Arab contribution to human progress—astronomy, mathematics, cosmology, the variety and magnificent wealth of architectural form—is a remarkable legacy of a people who entered the land as conquerors and became peaceful masters. From the establishment of the first mosque in Cordova in 785 until the time of their expulsion by the Catholic kings in 1492, the Moors dominated the intellectual life of the area and had a profound impact on European civilization, which assimilated many of their ideas.’ Indeed, it seems that MacKay is more than justified in saying that ‘…the Islamic world improved a scientific tradition of which Latin Europe was largely ignorant.’ Therefore, it can be argued that without the Islamic conquest of Spain, Europe may have remained ignorant of a great many things.


Overall, it is clear that ‘Islam was a bridging civilisation.’ and became ‘…a transmitter of culture to Europe. Islam also provided a cultural bridge linking Latin Europe with certain aspects of its Greco-Roman past…’ and can even be linked to the argument about the impact of the Islamic language. As MacKay explains how the majority of the scholarship supplied by the Moorish leaders, such as the learning of Greek science and philosophy, was ‘…within an Islamic and Arabic-language setting.’


In conclusion, for the majority of their period of rule, the Moors profoundly impacted the culture of Medieval Spain much of which remains recognisable today. However, this is, to some extent, overshadowed by the gradual process of the Christian Reconquista. Although, it can be argued that Muslim influence was good for Spain as it modernised knowledge/learning in Europe and encouraged a wider cultural awareness through its introduction of different architectural designs, style of religion and language structure. Finally, although the Moorish leaders no longer rule over Spain, the fact that they did so for seven hundred years is, alone, sufficient grounds for their success. Indeed the end was only an inevitable part of their rule, as it is for the existence of any Empire or regime.




Angus MacKay, Spain in the Middle Ages: From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500 (Hampshire, 1977), pp 82, 83, 91 & 201

W.I. M. Blockmans and Peter Hoppenbrouwers, Introduction to Medieval Europe 300-

1550 (Abingdon, Oxon, 2010), p 102

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