There is a famous letter from the then English king to Hisham Ibn Abdul Rahman who was the ruler of Cordoba from 788 to 796 to Al Andalus.
The King of England, in the letter, requested permission for his daughter and members of her royal court to study at the University of Cordoba – the most advanced university in the West – rivaled only with the University of Baghdad in the East under the Abbasid regime.
Cordoba was an intellectual hub in the West and a peaceful country where the king’s daughter would be safe. And the letter was signed, as historians mention: Your faithful subject, the King of England.
The most prosperous advanced Muslim domination and civilization of Muslim Spain contrasted sharply with Christian Europe as it passed through the dark ages of its history. Europeans were constantly at daggers drawn with each other and waged endless wars. They lived in the most unsanitary and pitiful conditions.
It was customary for aristocrats and ruling families from European countries to send their wards and nobles to learn modern sciences like chemistry, physics, medicine, history, geography, astronomy and philosophy to Cordoba, Tolerado and many other Muslim universities in Al Andalus.
Charles Marie Gustave Le Bon, a French social psychologist said: âIf only the Muslims had conquered Paris too. Because if they had, it would have been like Cordoba. For 600 years, we have depended on Muslims to translate the Great Greek Philosophy to us. Le Bon continues: âYou walk through the streets of Cordoba, you find that people can read and they can write and some of them even know poetry. At a time when the kings and princes of Europe could not spell their names in their own language. 700 years before Paris had its first hospital, Cordoba had fifty hospitals.
Islamic Spain (711-1492)
In 711, Muslim forces invaded Spain and in seven years conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula.
The traditional story is that in the year 711 an oppressed Christian leader, Julian, went to Musa ibn Nusair, the governor of North Africa, with a cry for help against the tyrannical Visigoth ruler of Spain. , Roderick.
Musa responded by sending young General Tariq bin Ziyad with an army of 7,000 soldiers. The name Gibraltar is derived from Jabal At-Tariq which means in Arabic “Rock of Tariq”, the name of the place where the Muslim army landed.
The Muslim army easily defeated the Visigoth army, and Roderick was killed in the battle.
After the first victory, the Muslims conquered most of Spain and Portugal with little difficulty, and in fact with little opposition. In 720 Spain was largely under Muslim control.
One of the reasons for the Muslims’ rapid success was the generous surrender terms Muslims offered to the conquered people, which contrasted with the harsh conditions imposed by previous Visigoth rulers.
Islamic Spain became one of the great Muslim civilizations, reaching its peak with the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba in the 10th century. It rivaled the great Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad in the east in terms of cultural and economic prosperity and educational activities.
Islamic Spain was a multicultural mix of people from three major monotheistic religions: Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The three groups managed to get along and benefited from each other’s presence. âHe brought a degree of civilization to Europe that corresponded to the heights of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance,â Le Bon wrote.
Stability in Muslim Spain came with the establishment of the Andalusian Umayyad dynasty, which lasted from 756 to 1031.
The credit goes to Amir Abd al-Rahman, who founded the Emirate of Cordoba, and managed to bring together different Muslim groups who had conquered Spain to rule it.
The Muslim period in Spain is often described as a âgolden ageâ of learning where libraries, colleges, public baths were established and where literature, poetry and architecture flourished.
Islamic Spain has also been described as a âgolden ageâ of religious and ethnic tolerance and interfaith harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Jews and Christians maintained their freedom under Muslim rule and they were treated much better than the conquered peoples might have expected during this period of history, as they were not required to live in ghettos or other special places. They were neither enslaved nor prevented from following their faith. Jews and Christians were given full freedom to contribute to society and culture.
As Bernard Lewis puts it: âThere were many reasons why Muslim rulers tolerated rival religions and the main reason was that Judaism and Christianity were monotheistic religions, so their members arguably worshiped the same God.
Many Christians in Spain have assimilated parts of the Muslim culture. Some learned Arabic, others adopted the same clothes as their Muslim rulers, and some Christian women even began to wear the veil and some took on Arabic names.
There were also cultural alliances, especially in architecture – the 12 lions in the courtyard of the Alhambra are heralds of Christian influences. The Mosque of Cordoba, now converted into a cathedral, is still, somewhat ironically, known as La Mezquita or literally, the mosque. The construction of the Mosque of Cordoba, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, was started at the end of the 8th century by the Umayyad prince Abd al Rahman ibn Muawiyah.
During the reign of Abd al Rahman III (rule 912-961), Spanish Islam reached its greatest power as it was also the cultural peak of Islamic civilization in Spain.
In the tenth century, Cordoba, capital of Umayyad Spain, was a great rival in the West to greater Baghdad, capital of the Abbasid caliphate in terms of wealth, education and civilization. A Western author wrote of Cordoba: âThere were half a million inhabitants, living in 113,000 houses. There were 700 mosques and 300 public baths spread throughout the city and its 21 suburbs. The streets were paved and lighted. There were bookstores and over seventy libraries.
Muslim scholars served as a major link in bringing Greek philosophy, of which Muslims were previously the main custodians, to Western Europe. There have been exchanges and alliances between Muslim and Christian leaders such as the legendary Spanish warrior El-Cid, who fought both against and alongside Muslims. This period is the golden age of religious coexistence.
Decline and fall
The collapse of Islamic rule in Spain was due not only to increased aggression from Christian states, but also to divisions among Muslim rulers.
By the beginning of the 11th century, the only Islamic caliphate had broken up into some twenty small kingdoms. The first major Islamic center to fall to Christianity was Toledo in 1085.
The Muslims responded with African forces which, under the famous General Yusuf bin Tashfin, defeated the Christians resoundingly in 1086 and, by 1102, had recaptured most of Andalusia. The general was able to reunite a large part of Muslim Spain.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last long as Yusuf died in 1106.
Internal rebellions in 1144 and 1145 further shattered Islamic unity, and despite intermittent military successes, Islam’s rule over Spain ended for good in Spain in 1492.