DECLINE OF MUSLIM SPAIN, THE RECONQUISTA AND THE RISE OF CHRISTIAN SPAIN

DECLINE OF MUSLIM SPAIN


El Cid with the head of an enemy

Muslim rule in Spain declined after the Cordoba-based Umayyad caliphate fell apart in 1031 and ended completely in 1492 when Christian Spaniards completed their Reconquista and claimed Granada, the last Muslim territory in Spain. According to the BBC: “The collapse of Islamic rule in Spain was due not only to increasing aggression on the part of Christian states, but to divisions among the Muslim rulers. The rot came from both the centre and the extremities. [Source: BBC, September 4, 2009 |::|]

“Early in the eleventh century, the single Islamic Caliphate had shattered into a score of small kingdoms, ripe for picking-off. The first big Islamic centre to fall to Christianity was Toledo in 1085. The Muslims replied with forces from Africa which under the general Yusuf bin Tashfin defeated the Christians resoundingly in 1086, and by 1102 had recaptured most of Andalusia. The general was able to reunite much of Muslim Spain. |::|

“It didn't last. Yusuf died in 1106, and, as one historian puts it, the "rulers of Muslim states began cutting each other's throats again". Internal rebellions in 1144 and 1145 further shattered Islamic unity, and despite intermittent military successes, Islam's domination of Spain was ended for good. The Muslims finally lost all power in Spain in 1492. By 1502 the Christian rulers issued an order requiring all Muslims to convert to Christianity, and when this didn't work, they imposed brutal restrictions on the remaining Spanish Muslims.” |::|

Websites and Resources: Islam Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; Islam 101 islam101.net ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/islam ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; Patheos Library – Islam patheos.com/Library/Islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Islam from UCB Libraries GovPubs web.archive.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline ; Discover Islam dislam.org ; Islamic History: Islamic History Resources uga.edu/islam/history ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ; Islamic History friesian.com/islam ; Islamic Civilization cyberistan.org ; Muslim Heritage muslimheritage.com ; Brief history of Islam barkati.net ; Chronological history of Islam barkati.net

Al Mansur

Cordoba's most powerful ruler,Al Mansur (Almanzor) was not even a caliph but the first minister of he court in the closing decades of the 10th century. The descendant of early Arab conquerors, he lead an estimated 50 military campaigns against Christian states in Spain. His greatest conquest was the sacking of the major pilgrimage site, Santiago de Compostela, in A.D. 997. He destroyed the church and took the church bells back to Great Mosque in Cordoba.

When Hisham II, grandson of Abd al Rahman, inherited the throne in 976 at age twelve, the royal vizier, Ibn Abi Amir (known as Al Mansur), became regent (981-1002) and established himself as virtual dictator. For the next twenty-six years, the caliph was no more than a figurehead, and Al Mansur was the actual ruler. Al Mansur wanted the caliphate to symbolize the ideal of religious and political unity as insurance against any renewal of civil strife. Notwithstanding his employment of Christian mercenaries, Al Mansur preached jihad, or holy war, against the Christian states on the frontier, undertaking annual summer campaigns against them, which served not only to unite Spanish Muslims in a common cause but also to extend temporary Muslim control in the north. [Source: Library of Congress]

Sacking of Cordoba


Al-Mansur

The caliphate of Cordoba did not long survive Al Mansur's dictatorship. Rival claimants to the throne, local aristocrats, and army commanders who staked out taifas (sing., taifa), or independent regional city-states, tore the caliphate apart. Some taifas, such as Seville (Spanish, Sevilla), Granada, Valencia, and Zaragoza, became strong amirates, but all faced frequent political upheavals, war among themselves, and long-term accommodations to emerging Christian states. [Source: Library of Congress]

In 1000, Al Mansur launched a campaign of terror across Castile and plundered Burgos. He died on horseback in 1002 on his way back to Cordoba after a campaign in La Rioja. In the process of making Muslim Spain a superpower the Muslim rukers of Spain compromised the sources of prosperity and this contributed to conflicts between Arabs and Berbers.

In 1010, Cordoba was sacked by Catalan mercenaries. The following year there was a terrible flood after the Guadalquivir River overflowed its banks. In 1013, rebellious Berbers invaded the city and slaughtered scholars and plundered villas. Many people fled. By the 11th century the Abd al-Rahman dynasty had collapsed and Muslim Spain was divided into petty Muslim kingdoms, not unlike the petty Christian kingdoms that covered most of Europe at that time.

The period after the collapse of Cordoba is known as “mulak al-tawa'if” — the time of warlords — and pretenders and small dynasties ruled Arab and Berber “party kings.” Muslim Spain was divided in numerous feuding states with ta least 30 ministates laying claim to the once unified kingdom.

Almoravids

The Almoravids (1056-1147) are a Berber group that emerged in the deserts of southern Morocco and Mauritania. They embraced a puritanical form of Islam and were popular among the dispossessed in the countryside and the desert. Within a short time they became powerful. The Almoravid movement initial impetus was religious, an attempt by a tribal leader to impose moral discipline and strict adherence to Islamic principles on followers. But the Almoravid movement shifted to engaging in military conquest after 1054. By 1106 the Almoravids had conquered Morocco, the Maghrib as far east as Algiers, and Spain up to the Ebro River. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2008 **]


Almoravid Empire

The Almoravid (“those who have made a religious retreat”) movement developed early in the eleventh century among the Sanhaja Berbers of the western Sahara, whose control of trans-Saharan trade routes was under pressure from the Zenata Berbers in the north and the state of Ghana in the south. Yahya ibn Ibrahim al Jaddali, a leader of the Lamtuna tribe of the Sanhaja confederation, decided to raise the level of Islamic knowledge and practice among his people. To accomplish this, on his return from the hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) in 1048-49, he brought with him Abd Allah ibn Yasin al Juzuli, a Moroccan scholar. In the early years of the movement, the scholar was concerned only with imposing moral discipline and a strict adherence to Islamic principles among his followers. Abd Allah ibn Yasin also became known as one of the marabouts, or holy persons (from al murabitun, "those who have made a religious retreat." Almoravids is the Spanish transliteration of al murabitun. [Source: Helen Chapan Metz, ed. Algeria: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The Almoravid movement shifted from promoting religious reform to engaging in military conquest after 1054 and was led by Lamtuna leaders: first Yahya, then his brother Abu Bakr, and then his cousin Yusuf (Youssef) ibn Tashfin. Under ibn Tashfin, the Almoravids rose to power by capturing the key Saharan trade route to Sijilmasa and defeating their primary rivals in Fez. With Marrakech as their capital, the Almoravids had conquered Morocco, the Maghrib as far east as Algiers, and Spain up to the Ebro River by 1106.

At its height the Berber Almoravid empire stretched from the Pyrenees to Mauritania to Libya. Under the Almoravids, the Maghrib and Spain acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, reuniting them temporarily with the Islamic community in the Mashriq.*

Almoravid Rule

Although it was not an entirely peaceful time, North Africa benefited economically and culturally during the Almoravid period, which lasted until 1147. Muslim Spain (Andalus in Arabic) was a great source of artistic and intellectual inspiration. The most famous writers of Andalus worked in the Almoravid court, and the builders of the Grand Mosque of Tilimsan, completed in 1136, used as a model the Grand Mosque of Córdoba. [Source: Helen Chapan Metz, ed. Algeria: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1994 *]


siege of Aledo

The Almoravids established Marrakesh in A.D. 1070. The city began as a rudimentary camp of black wool tents with a kasbah called "the Castle of Stones." The city prospered on the trade of gold, ivory and other exotica that traveled by camel caravans from Timbuktu to the Barbary Coast.

The Almoravids were intolerant of other religions By the 12th century the Christian churches in the Maghreb had largely disappeared. Judaism, however, managed to endure in Spain As the Almoravids became rich they lost their religious zeal and military cohesion that marked their rise to power. The peasants that supported them regarded them as corrupt and turned against them. They were overthrown in revolt led by the Berber Masmuda tribes from the Atlas mountains.

Almohads

The Almohads (1130-1269) displaced the Almoravids after capturing the strategic Sijilmasa trade routes. They relied on support that came from the Berbers in the Atlas mountains. The Almohads took control of Morocco by 1146, captured Algiers around 1151, and by 1160 had completed the conquest of the central Maghrib. The zenith of Almohad power occurred between 1163 and 1199. Their empire at its greatest extent included Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the Muslim part of Spain.


La Torre del Oro in Seville

Like the Almoravids, the Almohads (“unitarians”) found their initial inspiration in Islamic reform. Their spiritual leader, the Moroccan Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart, sought to reform Almoravid decadence. Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis on the unity of God, his followers were known as Al Muwahhidun (unitarians, or Almohads). [Source: Helen Chapan Metz, ed. Algeria: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Although declaring himself mahdi, imam, and masum (infallible leader sent by God), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted with a council of ten of his oldest disciples. Influenced by the Berber tradition of representative government, he later added an assembly composed of fifty leaders from various tribes. The Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities, including Sus and Marrakech.*

Upon Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart's death in 1130, his successor Abd al Mumin took the title of caliph and placed members of his own family in power, converting the system into a traditional monarchy. The Almohads entered Spain at the invitation of the Andalusian amirs, who had risen against the Almoravids there. Abd al Mumin forced the submission of the amirs and reestablished the caliphate of Córdoba, giving the Almohad sultan supreme religious as well as political authority within his domains. The Almohads took control of Morocco in 1146, captured Algiers around 1151, and by 1160 had completed the conquest of the central Maghrib and advanced to Tripolitania. Nonetheless, pockets of Almoravid resistance continued to hold out in the Kabylie for at least fifty years.*

Almohad Rule

The Almohads established a professional civil service—recruited from the intellectual communities of Spain and the Maghreb—and elevated the cities of Marrakesh, Fez, Tlemcen and Rabat into great centers of culture and learning. They established a powerful army and navy, built up the cities and taxed the population based on productivity. They clashed with local tribes over taxation and the distribution of wealth.

After Abd al Mumin's death in 1163, his son Abu Yaqub Yusuf (r. 1163-84) and grandson Yaqub al Mansur (r. 1184-99) presided over the zenith of Almohad power. For the first time, the Maghrib was united under a local regime, and although the empire was troubled by conflict on its fringes, handcrafts and agriculture flourished at its center and an efficient bureaucracy filled the tax coffers. In 1229 the Almohad court renounced the teachings of Muhammad ibn Tumart, opting instead for greater tolerance and a return to the Maliki school of law. As evidence of this change, the Almohads hosted two of the greatest thinkers of Andalus: Abu Bakr ibn Tufayl and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). [Source: Helen Chapan Metz, ed. Algeria: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The Almohads shared the crusading instincts of their Castilian adversaries, but the continuing wars in Spain overtaxed their resources. In the Maghrib, the Almohad position was compromised by factional strife and was challenged by a renewal of tribal warfare. The Bani Merin (Zenata Berbers) took advantage of declining Almohad power to establish a tribal state in Morocco, initiating nearly sixty years of warfare there that concluded with their capture of Marrakech, the last Almohad stronghold, in 1271. Despite repeated efforts to subjugate the central Maghrib, however, the Merinids were never able to restore the frontiers of the Almohad Empire.*

For the first time, the Maghrib was united under a local regime, but the continuing wars in Spain overtaxed the resources of the Almohads, and in the Maghrib their position was compromised by factional strife and a renewal of tribal warfare. The Almohads were weakened by their inabilty to create a sense of statehood among the warring Berber tribes and by incursions from Christian armies in the north and rival Bedouin armies in Morocco. They were forced to divide their administration. After being defeated by the Christians in Las Nevas de Tolosa in Spain their empire collapsed.



Rise of Castile and Aragon

Even when the Muslims were at the height of their power, small Christian enclaves managed to endure in northern Spain. After the collapse of Cordoba, these kingdoms became larger and more powerful. The most powerful of these kingdoms were Castile and Aragon. Others included Asturias, Catalonia, Leon, Navarre and Valencia.

Resistance to the Muslim invasion in the eighth century had been limited to small groups of Visigoth warriors who took refuge in the mountains of Asturias in the old Suevian kingdom, the least romanized and least Christianized region in Spain. According to tradition, Pelayo (718-37), a king of Oviedo, first rallied the natives to defend themselves, then urged them to take the offensive, beginning the 700-year Reconquest (Spanish, Reconquista), which became the dominant theme in medieval Spanish history. What began as a matter of survival in Asturias became a crusade to rid Spain of the Muslims and an imperial mission to reconstruct a united monarchy in Spain. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Pelayo's successors, known as the kings of Leon, extended Christian control southward from Asturias, tore away bits of territory, depopulated and fortified them against the Muslims, and then resettled these areas as the frontier was pushed forward. The kingdom's political center moved in the direction of the military frontier. *

In the tenth century, strongholds were built as a buffer for the kingdom of Leon along the upper Rio Ebro, in the area that became known as Castile, the "land of castles." The region was populated by men--border warriors and free peasants--who were willing to defend it, and were granted fueros (special privileges and immunities) by the kings of Leon that made them virtually autonomous. Castile developed a distinct society with its own dialect, values, and customs shaped by the hard conditions of the frontier. Castile also produced a caste of hereditary warriors whom the frontier "democratized"; all warriors were equals, and all men were warriors. *


Castillo de Zafra


In 981 Castile became an independent county, and in 1004 it was raised to the dignity of a kingdom. Castile and Leon were reunited periodically through royal marriages, but their kings had no better plan than to divide their lands again among their heirs. The two kingdoms were, however, permanently joined as a single state in 1230 by Ferdinand III of Castile (d. 1252). *

The most significant of the counties in Catalonia was that held by the counts of Barcelona. They were descendants of Wilfrid the Hairy (874-98), who at the end of the ninth century declared his fief free of the French crown, monopolized lay and ecclesiastical offices on both sides of the Pyrenees, and divided them--according to Frankish custom--among members of the family. By 1100 Barcelona had dominion over all of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands (Spanish, Islas Baleares). Aragon and the Catalan counties were federated in 1137 through the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV, count of Barcelona, and Petronilla, heiress to the Aragonese throne. Berenguer assumed the title of king of Aragon, but he continued to rule as count in Catalonia. Berenguer and his successors thus ruled over two realms, each with its own government, legal code, currency, and political orientation. *

Almoravids and Almohads Rule Southern Spain

The loss of Toledo provoked the Muslim leaders to call for help from the powerful and puritanical Muslim dynasties in North Africa. Muslim Spain was then ruled by fundamentalist Almoravids and later the Almohads, whose power was weakened over by incursion from Christian armies in the north and rival Muslin armies in Morocco.

When Toledo was lost in 1085, the alarmed amirs appealed for aid to the Almoravids, a militant Berber party of strict Muslims, who in a few years had won control of the Maghreb (northwest Africa). The Almoravids incorporated all of Al Andalus, except Zaragoza, into their North African empire. They attempted to stimulate a religious revival based on their own evangelical brand of Islam. In Spain, however, their movement soon lost its missionary fervor. The Almoravid state fell apart by the mid-twelfth century under pressure from another religious group, the Almohads, who extended their control from Morocco to Spain and made Seville their capital. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The Almohads (1130-1269) were a Sunni dynasty that attempted to reform North Africa and Spain according to the principals of al-Ghazali. The Almohads shared the crusading instincts of the Almoravids and posed an even greater military threat to the Christian states, but their expansion was stopped decisively in the epic battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), a watershed in the history of the Reconquest. Muslim strength ebbed thereafter. The Almohads abandoned Spain in 1225. Ferdinand III took Seville in 1248, reducing Al Andalus to the amirate of Granada, which had bought its safety by betraying the Almohads' Spanish capital. Granada in far souther Spain remained a Muslim state, but as a dependency of Castile. [Source: Library of Congress]

El Cid


El Cid

El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Bivar), the famous Spanish knight, lead the Spanish in several battles against the Moors and established an independent kingdom in Valencia.

According to some scholars El Cid was more of a mercenary than a hero. He fought for Spaniards against the Muslims and for the Muslims against Spaniards. According to legend he killed the Count of Gormaz so that he could marry his daughter.

Mortally wounded during a battle in 1099, El Cid made a final request that his body be embalmed and placed on his horse, Babieca. During the next the battle when it looked as if the Spanish forces were going to be routed by the army of King Bucar of Morocco, the preserved corpse of El Cid was paraded before the Spanish army, energizing the stroops, and they defeated the Moors.

Import Victories in the Reconquista

Cordoba fell in 1236 to the Christian Ferdinand III of Castile who held "purification" ceremonies to transform mosques into churches. In 1248, the Christian Spaniards captured the Almohad capital of Seville in a Christian victory that one chronicler called "one of the greatest and noblest that was ever...accomplished in the whole world."

Christian rulers had pushed the Moors southeastward until they occupied only the Kingdom of Granada, a 250-mile-long swath of land on the southern coast of Spain across the Mediterranean from North Africa and south of the Sierra Nevada mountains. A succession of sultans from the Arab-descended Nasrid dynasty set up a stronghold in Granada that endured for another 254 years mainly through treaties with the Christian kingdoms that bordered Granada.

Spain at one time had 10,000 castles now it has only 2,000. What happened them all. Most were “quarried”; people used the castle stones to build new homes and barns. During the 1960s it was possible to buy a castle in Jaén for $13,000.

Christian Attacks and Spanish Muslim Weaknesses in the 13th Century


Reconquista

Ibn Said wrote in “Book of the Maghrib” in the 13th century: “No, it is by no means to be wondered at, especially when proper attention is paid to the manner in which the Andalusian Muslims have come to their present state of weakness and degradation. The process is this: the Christians will rush down from their mountains, or across the plain, and make an incursion into the Muslim territory; there they will pounce upon a castle and seize it: they will ravage the neighbouring country, take the inhabitants captive, and then retire to their country with all the plunder they have collected, leaving, nevertheless, strong garrisons in the castles and towers captured by them. In the meanwhile the Muslim king in whose dominions the inroad has been made, instead of attending to his own interests and stopping the disease by applying cauterization, will be waging war against his neighbours of the Muslims; and these, instead of defending the common cause, the cause of religion and truth,-instead of assisting their brother, will confederate and ally to deprive him of whatever dominions still remain in his hands. [Source: Ibn Said, “Book of the Maghrib,” in “Ahmed ibm Muhammad al-Makkari, The History of the Muhammadan Dynasties in Spain,” translated by Pascuual de Gayangos s, (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1840), 1, 95-102. Ibn Said was a 13th century Spanish Muslim writer who describes the richness of Moorish culture of Spain and the divisions within that culture which were to allow the Christian conquest of the areas. =|=]

“So, from a trifling evil at first, it will grow into an irreparable calamity, and the Christians will advance farther and farther until they subdue the whole of that country exposed to their inroads, where, once established and fortified, they will direct their attacks to another part of the Muslim territories, and carry on the same war of havoc and destruction. Nothing of this, however, existed at the time when Ibnu Haukal visited Andalus; for although we are told by Ibnu Hayyan and other writers that the Christians began as early as the reign of 'Abdu-r-rahman 11 (912-961) to grow powerful, and to annoy the Muslims on the frontiers, yet it is evident that until the breaking out of the civil wars, which raged with uncommon violence throughout Andalus, the encroachments of the barbarians on the extensive and unprotected frontiers of the Muslim empire were but of little consequence. =|=

Decay of Muslim Spain

Ibn Said wrote in “Book of the Maghrib” in the 13th century: “But when this salutary awe and impartial justice had vanished, the decay of their empire began, and it was followed by a complete ruin. I have already observed that the princes of that dynasty were formerly styled Omard-bnci-l-khalafa (Amirs, sons of the Khalifs), but that in latter times they assumed the title of Omara-l-mumenin (Princes of the believers). This continued until the disastrous times of the civil war, when the surviving members of the royal family hated each other, and when those who had neither the nobility nor the qualities required to honour the Khalifate pretended to it and wished for it; when the governors of provinces and the generals of armies declared themselves independent and rose every where in their governments, taking the title of Moluku-t-tawdyif (Kings of small estates), and when confusion and disorder were at their highest pitch. [Source: Ibn Said, “Book of the Maghrib,” in “Ahmed ibm Muhammad al-Makkari, The History of the Muhammadan Dynasties in Spain,” translated by Pascuual de Gayangos s, (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1840), 1, 95-102. Ibn Said was a 13th century Spanish Muslim writer who describes the richness of Moorish culture of Spain and the divisions within that culture which were to allow the Christian conquest of the areas. =|=]


Crusade against the Moors in Granada

“These petty sovereigns, of whom some read the khotbah [Friday sermon] for the Khalifs of the house of Merwan-in whose hands no power whatsoever remained-while others proclaimed the Abbasid Sultans, and acknowledged their Imam, all began to exercise the powers and to use the appendages of royalty, assuming even the titles and names of former Khalifs, and imitating in every thing the bearing and splendour of the most powerful sovereigns,-a thing which they were enabled to accomplish from the great resources of the countries over which they ruled,-for although Andalus was divided into sundry petty kingdoms, yet such was the fertility of the land, and the amount of taxes collected from it, that the chief of a limited state could at times display at his court a greater magnificence than the ruler of extensive dominions. However, the greatest among them did not hesitate to assume, as I have already observed, the names and titles of the most famous Eastern Khalifs; for instance, Ibnu Rashik Al-kairwini says that 'Abbad Ibn Muhammad Ibn 'Abbad took the surname of Al-mu'atadhed, and imitated in all things the mode of life and bearing of the Abbasid Khalif Al-mu'atadhed-billah; his son, Muhammad Ibn 'Abbad, was styled Almu'atamed; both reigned in Seville, to which kingdom they in process of time added Cordova and other extensive territories in the southern and western parts of Andalus, as will hereafter be shown. =|=

“As long as the dynasty of Umeyyah occupied the throne of Cordova, the successors of 'Abdurrahman contrived to inspire their subjects with love of their persons, mixed with reverential awe; this they accomplished by surrounding their courts with splendour, by displaying the greatest magnificence whenever they appeared in public, and by employing other means which I have already hinted at, and deem it not necessary to repeat: they continued thus until the times of the civil war, when, having lost the affections of the people, their subjects began to look with an evil eye at their prodigal expense, and the extravagant pomp with which they surrounded their persons. Then came the Benf Hamud, the descendants of ldris, of the progeny of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib, who, having snatched the Khalifate from the hands of the Benf Merwin, ruled for some time over the greatest part of Andalus. These princes showed also great ostentation, and, assuming the same titles that the Abbasid Khalifs had borne, they followed their steps in every thing concerning the arrangements of their courts and persons; for instance, whenever a munshid wanted to extemporize some verses in praise of his sovereign, or any subject wished to address him on particular business, the poet or the petitioner was introduced to the presence of the Khalif, who sat behind a curtain and spoke without showing himself, the Hajib or curtain drawer standing all the time by his side to communicate to the party the words or intentions of the Khalif. So when Ibnu Mokond Al-lishboni (from Lisbon), the poet, appeared in presence of the Hdjib of ldris Ibn Yahya Al-hamyudi, who was proclaimed Khalif of Malaga, to recite the kassidah of his which is so well known and rhymes in min, when he came to that part which runs thus-

“The countenance of ldrfs, son of Yahya, son of Alf, son of Hamild, prince of the believers, is like a rising sun; it dazzles the eyes of those who look at it. — Let us see it, let us seize the rays of yonder light, for it is the light of the master of the worlds- The Sultan himself drew the curtain which concealed him, and said to the poet-"Look, then," and showed great affability to Ibn Mokena, and rewarded him very handsomely.” =|=

Break Up of Muslim Spain Into Small Kingdoms


Battle of Cantigas

Ibn Said wrote in “Book of the Maghrib” in the 13th century: “But when, through the civil war, the country was broken up into sundry petty sovereignties, the new monarchs followed quite a different line of politics; for, wishing to become popular, they treated their subjects with greater familiarity, and had a more frequent intercourse with all classes of society; they often reviewed their troops, and visited their provinces; they invited to their presence the doctors and poets, and wished to be held from the beginning of their reign as the patrons of science and literature: but even this contributed to the depression of the royal authority, which thus became every day less dreaded; besides, the arms of the Muslims being employed during the long civil wars against one another, the inhabitants of the different provinces began to look on each other with an evil eye; the ties by which they were united became loose, and a number of independent states were formed, the government of which passed from father to son, in the same manner as the empire of Cordova had been transmitted to the sons and heirs of the Khalifs. [Source: Ibn Said, “Book of the Maghrib,” in “Ahmed ibm Muhammad al-Makkari, The History of the Muhammadan Dynasties in Spain,” translated by Pascuual de Gayangos s, (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1840), 1, 95-102. =|=]

“Thus separated from each other, the Muslims began to consider themselves as members of different nations, and it became every day more difficult for them to unite in the common cause; and owing to their divisions, and to their mutual enmity, as well as to the sordid interest and extravagant ambition of some of their kings, the Christians were enabled to attack them in detail, and subdue them one after the other. However, by the arrival of the Beni 'Abdu-l mumen all those little states were again blended into one, and the whole of Andalus acknowledged their sway, and continued for many years to be ruled by their successors, until, civil war breaking out again, Ibn Hud, surnamed Almutawakel, revolted, and finding the people of Andalus ill-disposed against the Almohads, and anxious to shake off their yoke, he easily made himself master of the country. Ibn Hud, however, followed the policy of his predecessors (the kings of the small states); he even surpassed them in folly and ignorance of the rules of good government, for he used to walk about the streets and markets, conversing and laughing with the lowest people, asking them questions, and doing acts unsuitable to his high station, and which no subject ever saw a Sultan do before, so much so that it was said, not without foundation, that he looked more like a performer of legerdemain than a king. =|=

“Fools, and the ignorant vulgar seemed, it is true, to gaze with astonishment and pleasure at this familiarity, but as the poet has said- These are things to make the fools laugh, but the consequences of which prudent people are taught to fear. These symptoms went on increasing until populous cities and extensive districts became the prey of the Christians, and whole kingdoms were snatched from the hands of the Muslims. Another very aggravating circumstance added its weight to the general calamity, namely, the facility with which the power changed hands. Whoever has read attentively what we have just said about the mode of attaining and using the royal power in Andalus, must be convinced that nothing was so easy, especially in latter times, as to arrive at it. The process is this: whenever a knight is known to surpass his countrymen in courage, generosity, or any of those qualities which make a man dear to the vulgar, the people cling to him, follow his party, and soon after proclaim him their king, without paying the least regard to his ascendancy, or stopping to consider whether he is of royal blood or not.

“The new king then transmits the state as an inheritance to his son or nearest relative, and thus a new dynasty is formed. I may, in proof of this, quote a case which hasjust taken place among us: a certain captain made himself famous by his exploits, and the victories he won over the enemy, as likewise by his generous and liberal disposition towards the citizens and the army; all of a sudden his friends and partisans resolved to raise him to the throne, and regardless of their own safety, as well as that of their families, friends, and clients residing at court, and whose lives were by their imprudence put in great jeopardy, they rose in a castle, and proclaimed him king; and they never ceased toiling, calling people to their ranks, and fighting their opponents, until their object was accomplished, and their friend solidly established on his throne. Now Eastern people are more cautious about altering the succession, and changing the reigning dynasty; they will on the contrary avoid it by all possible means, and do their best to leave the power in the hands of the reigning family, rather than let discord and civil dissensions sap the foundations of the state, and introduce dissolution and corruption into the social body. =|=


fragmentaion of the entire Muslim Caliphate in the late Abbasid era


“Among us the change of dynasty is a thing of frequent occurrence, and the present ruler of Andalus, Ibnu-1-ahmar, is another instance of what I have advanced. He was a good soldier, and had been very successful in some expeditions a ainst the Christians, whose territories he was continually invading, sallying out at the head of his followers from a castle called Hisn-Aijanah (Aijona), where he generally resided. Being a shrewd man, and versed in all the stratagems of war, he seldom went out on an expedition without returning victorious, and laden with plunder, owing to which he amassed great riches, and the number of his partisans and followers were considerably increased. At last, being prompted by ambition to aspire to the royal power, he at first caused his troops to proclaim him king; then sallying out of his stronghold he got possession of Cordova, marched against Seville, took it, and killed its king Al-baji. After this he subdued Jaen, the strongest and most important city in all Andalus, owing to its walls and the position it occupies, conquered likewise Malaga, Granada, and their districts, and assumed the title of Amiru-1-moslemin (Prince of the Muslims); and at the moment I write he is obeyed all over A-ndalus, and every one looks to him for advice and protection.” =|=

Final Chapter of the Reconquista

Portugal united with Castile and Aragon to drive the Muslims out. The last Muslim ruler of Granada, Boabdil, had received help from Christian armies in battles against his Muslim rivals and even had received a letter of congratulations from the Catholic monarchs when he won an important battle in Malaga. But when Christians began raiding the farmlands that supplied Granada, Boabdil was forced to attack Christian fortresses, which in turn provoked Ferdinand and Isabella to march southward to attack Granada.

Boabdil was captured twice by Ferdinand. He renounced his throne and then changed his mind and decided to resist in 1490. In the end Ferdinand essentially turned Boabdil into a Spanish puppet.

The Christians and Muslims never fought a battle for Granada. Knowing that any attempt to fight back was doomed, Boabdil negotiated a treaty with Ferdinand and Isabella in which the Muslims living in Granada could keep their faith and customs in return for the relinquishing of power to the Christians.

Third wave of devastation of Muslim resources, lives, properties, institutions, and infrastructure. End of Muslim rule in Spain (1492). More than one million volumes of Muslim works on science, arts, philosophy and culture was burnt in the public square of Vivarrambla in Granada.

Surrender of the Moors: Muslims Leave Spain

Columbus was an eyewitness to the surrender of the Moors at Granada in 1492. He wrote: "On the second day of January...in the great city of Granada, I saw the royal banners of Your Highness placed by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, the citadel of the city, and I saw the Moorish King come to the city gates and kiss the royal hand of Your Highness."

According to legend, as Boabdil headed south to exile in North Africa he looked back and started to cry. His mother, who had helped Boabdil attain the throne, snarled at her son, "You do well to weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man."

Cardinal Mendoza of Spain took the silver cross that Ferdinand had carried across Spain and placed on a tower of the Alhambra. One chronicler wrote, "It was the most notable and blessed day that there ever was in Spain."


Expulsion of the Moriscos (Christained Mulsims) from Spain


Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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