Archetypes / History / Philosophy / Religion

al-Andalus – a failed Renaissance

Last fall, I travelled all over Al-Andalus in the footsteps of philosophers, poets, warriors and great mystics Sufi’s like Ibn-Arabi. If you are interested in philosophy, science history and intercultural transmission of knowledge, Al- Andalus is your place and I invite you to read further. Al-Andalus represents a singular, tragic and wonderful moment of cultural history, however, also a warning, despite being obscured by its Western romanticized view.

Andalusien_2015_09_06_22_25_53Being an outpost, al-Andalus did give more freedom to outstanding thinkers, but they were a minority. A transmission of knowledge existed, but that was filtered and soon tolerance stopped by fundamentalists from North Africa invited to help out against the Christians advances.

It was the very autumn, when CNN sent those images from Munich of a welcomed mass immigration in the world. Influenced and attracted by the history of Al-Andalus, I remember seeing those strange pictures with rather mixed emotions. Indeed this “German Fall” would on New Years Eve turn into a winter like the “Arab Spring” did.

Anyway, Al-Andalus is one of many icons of Europe’s cultural diversity. It is also a visible warning, despite it’s history has been heavily obscured by a Western romanticized view.

Please be aware, this is just an essay, written to collect my  memories of al-Andalus. In first two main chapters I want to connect history and culture with an emphasis on Sufism. In the last chapter this essay presents al-Andalus’ beauty in art and architecture and last but not least its great people.

For those in a hurry, who just want a quick powerpoint intro to the history of al-Andalus:

al -Andalus an anticipated Renaissance

Medivial Spain

Medivial Spain

“al-Andalus” is the historical and also geographical term for the epoch, when Islam dominated from the eighth to the fifteenth century Southern Spain. It refers to the cities of Almeria, Malaga, Cadiz, Seville, Cordoba, Jaen and Granada. The contact of Islam with all the good and evil of the West created the unique culture of Al Andalus. The culture shock of the invaders anticipated a (failed) Islamic Renaissance, with great thinkers of secular philosophical and mystical Islam.

It is a fact that al-Andalus developed a unique frontier society. Cordoba, at one time the capital city of Al-Andalus, was the center of a sophisticated and rich civilization. In its heyday, Cordoba is often praised for its intellectually advanced culture, its centers of learning and its great libraries. In those years, there were about one million people, 200,000 houses, 60 palaces, 600 mosques, 700 baths, 17 universities and 70 public libraries in the city.

Cordoba The Mezquita

Cordoba The Mezquita

al-Andalus and Andalusia are different two terms and even opposed. The ambiguity, of course, based on the phonetic similarity. In Arabic, al-Andalus refers to any Muslim Hispania (that is to say up to Duero River, the northern border in the tenth century, or only the kingdom of Granada in the XIV century). The word Andalucia (Andalusia) is used in Spanish that in the course of the thirteenth century.

The Moorish era is so regarded as the golden age of cultural prosperity and religious tolerance among Muslims, Christians and Jews. The myth of al-Andalus – too good to be true. Every time, every culture, indeed every society creates myths in which they reflect themselves. This is different to living mythology as defined by C.G. Jung. Every discipline – temporal or spiritual –  in the world has among its practitioners, those who engage the faith beyond the common boundaries of doctrine and dogma, seeking an unmediated relationship with reality and self realization. Myths load the cold randomness of existence with meaning,  to organize the  world into good and evil. Myths are like magical mirrors the viewer reflect the picture that he and his peers have of themselves. One of the favorite myths of the educated classes of the West is the one from Splendor and the decline of Moorish Spain considered as the golden age of science and the arts and Christian-Jewish-Muslim harmony – under the protection of a tolerant, mild, of reason through the Islam on European soil.



The Alhambra, Granada @fallenangel

The Muslim Spain as a place superior humanity was invented 250 years ago in the period of Enlightenment and has been renewed in countless versions. Political myths always serve these interests at the appropriate time. At that time French ideology based on radicalized revolutionary ideals wanted to contrast the sclerotic rigid Catholic Church with an idealized, almost deistic purified Islamic alternative. A world without Pope, dogma or inquisition (which indeed has strong Spanish roots). As  Rousseau’s noble savage, also the figure of the noble Muslim or noble Orientals of Pierre Bayle,  and later Karl May and others form a critical “model of virtue and self shame” towards the European culture and civilization. Jean-Jacques appeared the cultural activist and champion of the opressed; but he also provided arguments which served the purposes of the Jacobine terror in contrast to Montesquieu and Voltaire.
In Herder’s humanity utopia, it finally appears as the Hispano-Arabs act as “Teacher of Europe”, who bring the light of the “oriental Genius”, to end the culture occidental “darkness” of the Medieval Age. The romantic turnings with their longing for the past and an enchanted place in the Moorish traditions and legends are an ideal decor for tales of chivalry, honor and selfless love. Washington Irving (“Tales of the Alhambra”, 1832) started this with his book an Alhambra cult” and as a result the cultural tourism with relevant travel reports  – as mine.
The famous Rainer Maria Rilke wrote 1912 in a letter from Spain: “By the way, you need to know, since I’m from Córdoba an almost rabid Antichristianity, I read the Quoran, often it creates a voice so I feel all it strengths, as the airflow inside an church organ.

Ibn al-‘Arabi – al-Andalus seen from Jungian view

Sufi House Córdoba

Little private Museum Córdoba dedicated to mystics an philosophers

There is no better biography (to me), which relates the greatness of  al-Andalus and the offer the Islam rejected, than that of the Sufi master, poet and philosopher Ibn al-‘Arabi . The reason, that I am attracted or at least fond of Sufism, is Ibn al-‘Arabi. His Sufism is more of a secular, almost a pantheist like Taoism and approachable for Westeners even from C.G. Jung.

Some say Sufism, or Tasawwuf as it is known in the Muslim world, is Islamic mysticism; others say it is the primordial mystical tradition, much older than Islam, using Islam as a structural frame as Gnostics usually did. Perhaps Sufism is best defined as an universal path to union with God through self reflection – individuation. In Jungian psychology there are many concepts that illumine the relationship between soul and Absolute, human and God: the ego as the center of consciousness and the Self as a path to god; the individuation process whereby the ego increasingly realizes its source and dependence upon the Self; the alchemical conjunction of ego and Self.  See here another of my essay about Sufism: Sufism the Gnostic chameleon – muscle and brain of Islam.

Sufis understand themselves as the only heir of a spiritual heritage, which had been split in many religions and sects.  Like Tao, Sufi is eternal, and uses  words like “drunkenness” or “grape” or “heart” … As Rumi puts it: Before garden, vine or grape were in the world Our soul was drunken with immortal wine. 

To Ibn al-‘Arabi Sufism is best defined as a universal path to union with God through self reflection – individuation in Jungian terms. In Jungian psychology there are many concepts that illumine the relationship between soul and Absolute, human and God: the ego as the center of consciousness and the Self as a communication path to God or even rather gnostic, a part of god.

Everything that exists is a part of and a manifestation of the Oneness of God. Humans are part of God. The idea of ones Ego is the result of ignorance.

IMG_9942Ibn al-‘Arabi was born in a Taifa called Murcia, one of the many petty-kingdoms in al-Andalus, in AD 1165. At the age of twenty he was initiated into Sufism.His father Ali Ibn al-Arabi was a man of influence as he considered Cordoba‟s chief judge Ibn Rushd. When Ibn Arabi was 8 years old, Murcia was occupied the family moved to Seville, the great intellectual centre. This is where Ibn Arabi spent the next 30 years of his life. Seville was also an important centre of Sufism, with a record number of Sufis living in the city. He met two women saints here who had a strong influence on him,Yasamin of Marchena, and Fatimah of Cordoba. Due to Ibn Arabi‟s extraordinary scholarship and spiritual insights, his fame spread throughout Andalus.
Cordoba‟s Qazi Ibn Rushd, also the master interpreter of Aristotle, requested Ibn „Arabi’s father for a meeting with Ibn Arabi.This meeting is important in that of the two illustrious men, one was a follower of the edicts of reason, who became the most influential thinker in the West. The other was almost a Gnostic for whom knowledge meant “vision”, who became a towering personality in Sufism. From the 1190s he engaged in three decades of travels as a wandering scholar, poet and mystic, visiting the Maghreb, Egypt, Arabia, Syria and Asia Minor. In 1223 he finally settled in Damascus.

Ibn al-‘Arabi applies Sufism  rigorously. To associate anything at all with God would be shirk. Therefore, nothing can exist except God.
However, Ibn al-‘Arabi believed that God had a transcendental as well as an immanent aspect. God was manifested in, but also extended beyond the material universe. Ibn al-‘Arabi had a hidden, non-religious side. In the Juderia, the Jewish quarter of Cordoba, I visited a peaceful little museum to Sufism with a little bookshop. A poem of Ibn al-‘Arabi on rough, self-made paper caught my eye, so tourism or not, I bought it. This is one of my favorite poem by him:

My heart has become capable of taking on all forms.
A pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaa’ba,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever route Love’s caravans shall take,
that path shall be the path of my faith.

The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq by Ibn al-Arabi, translated by Reynold A. Nicholson, 1911

Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, or the ‘Interpreter of Desires,’ the first edition of which was completed in 1215 A.D.When the poems were later criticized by religious scholars as being to sensous, he had to add an explaining comment. There are other statements from The Bezels of Wisdom and The Treatise on Being, which go in the same direction.

Identity of self and God.
Thou art not thou: thou art He. Thou never wast nor wilt be, Thou art neither ceasing to be nor still existing. Thou art He. [TB]

God is all things.
The Cosmos is His form. The forms of the Cosmos are the manifest Reality, He being the manifest. He is also their inner essence, being also the unmanifest. He is the first, since He was when they were not, and also the Last, since in their manifestation He is the Essence. [BW X]

God is essentially all things. He permeates through all beings created and originated. [BW X]

He is Being itself, the Essence of Being, He is the Preserver of all. In preserving all things, He is preserving His form, lest anything should assume a form other than His Form, which is not possible. [BW X]

One of the most prolific of the medieval Sufi writers, al-Arabi wrote over 150 books. Unfortunately, very little of this output was translated, up to the early 20th century.

His texts are of great interest, aside from its literary merits as delightful (but highly encoded) Sufi love poetry. Reynold A. Nicholson supplied extensive commentary for each poem. This is key to disentangling the Sufi narrative from the exterior form of the work. At this level, Sufi love poems may actually be interpreted a philosophical treatise with profound insights.
The whole of the spiritual life begins, Ibn ‘Arabi would say, in the realization of  transcendence, and Ego ends in it Jung would say. What lies between is the discovery of the intimate heart of each individual being the self. So the discovery of God is equally the self-discovery of the individual. The world is no longer static, but the dynamic theatre of the Divine manifestation, and every movement in it is essentially a movement in love of God. It is simultaneously “He and not He”, as Ibn ‘Arabi says, just like the image of a person in a mirror. The particular quality that he often employs in his writings is that of the constant interplay of paradox, similar to the Zen koan, a Taoist poem, to force the mind to reach its limit so that the truth may be seen without limitation.

al-Andalus Myths and Reality

al-Andalus war and peace

The reality is, that al-Andalus has seen numerous religious and ethic fights and many revolts and revolutions. In short, it was also blunt Islamic imperialism. It is the fact, that 800 years of Islamic rule of Al-Andalus were a permanent war and inner-Islamic struggle between ethnics, sects, Islam fractions, fiefdoms, or dynasties of Islam. There were also constant fights with uprisings of the non-Muslims, slaves, or against Christian intruders and Muslim raids or failed expansions into Christian territory. Furthermore the Renaissance was primarily not defeated by the Christians, but destroyed by “Islamist” fundamentalists (the second wave of Berbers), who viewed Al-Andalus decadent. From al-Andalus from Arab troops and gangs launched regular raids (al-ghazw, Arab. ” the rampage”) deep into the backcountry of the Christian barbarians. They plundered repeatedly  the Rhone Valley, terrorizing southern France, occupied Arles, Avignon, Nîmes, Narbonne, which they set on fire 793, devastated 981 Zamora and deported 4,000 prisoners. Four years later, they burned down Barcelona, ​​killed or enslaved all the inhabitants, 987 they devastated the Portuguese Coimbra, which then seven years remained uninhabited. León along with surroundings was destroyed by the Amiriden ruler al-Mansur, “the Victorious” (981-1002), known for burning all philosophical books, which he got hold of. He led during his reign about fifty vampaigns, one regularly in the spring and one in autumn.

al-Andalus Islamic tolerance

The Orientalist Bernard Lewis has pointed out, that the “myth of Spanish-Islamic Tolerance was particularly promoted by Jewish scholars for a very good reason: “One of the main reasons was the prolonged refusal of Christian Europe, in regards of emancipation and recognition of Jews. To offset this, Jewish intellectuals led the historic case of al-Andalus in the battle, “those beautiful and unmatched Civilization “, as the English statesman Disraeli  wrote: “During this blessed centuries it was difficult to distinguish the followers of Moses  the followers of Mohammed. Both they built palaces, gardens and Wells, sided equal the highest offices of state, competed in an ambitious and enlightened in the distance trade and vied together at famous universities.”
Also in recent years al-Andalus evocative sound soothes confused elites of Europe scared and offended by unending violence and war in the Middle Easte and by the advance of Islamist terror in their own cities. Just opening the borders is and contact is fruitful, isolation and struggle is seen as deadly.True, Christians and the Jews enjoyed under Muslim rule limited religious freedom. Nobody was forced to convert, there, but there were numerous penalties and executions of real or alleged religious violation. Apostasy was like today atoned with the death. Christians as well as Jews were granted a Dhimmi status, an Arabic term that refers to its non-Islamic embracing population living in Islamic conquered lands and subject to special tax. The Dhimmi is a distinctly subjugated second class non-citizen. Granted, this status also brought a certain degree of security and even participation. Influential Christians, as well as Jewish, made a good living as scholars, administrators, even run petty kingdoms called Taifas and were integrated into this rich culture. The attempt of a tiny minority of Islamic scholars to reconcile Islam with Greek philosophy proved ultimately unsuccessful due to persistent religious resistance. Philosophers were banned and their books burned by the orthodox majority. Now, that’s not what I really wanted to focus on. I am interested in the historical and cultural dimension of that period and in particularly Sufism.

Rise and fall of al-Andalus


Al-Andalus history is one of invasion and immigration; they came over the Pyrenees or over the sea, warriors or merchants. The blessed Iberian Peninsula at the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic was an attractive place for Carthaginians, Romans, Phoenician and Greeks. Carthage the trade city at the North African coast had its branches in Andalusia. After the Punic wars the Romans valued this piece of country for approximately 700 years. Very important Roman personalities were originally from Andalusia, so the philosopher Seneca to whom a monument is dedicated in Córdoba and Emperor Trajan and Hadrian. After the Fall of the West Roman empire the Visigoths reigned briefly 3 million inhabitants. Visigoths believed to a Christian heresy called Arianism so they were never entirely comfortable with the Church of Rom nor with the Byzantine East Rom. They saw their legitimization from their noble descent.

Andalusia was soon conquered by the Arabs and mostly Berbers, the Moors. They dominated almost 800 years the south of Spain. Unlike the Visigoths, the Islamic rulers did interact with the Roman, Greek and Hispanic culture, which created the uniqueness of Al-Andalus I want to focus on the cultural aspects of that historical period Al-Andalus. If the Arab were conquerors of the Iberian Peninsula or created by the interaction of cultures the identity of Spain is still a hotly debated topic, which has been controversially discussed by two historians Americo Castro and Claudio Sanchez-Albarnoz.

According to Claudio Sanchez-Albarnoz the signs of the Roman and Visigoth culture in Andalusia must not to be discarded and the influence of the Iberian Romans culture to the Muslim Invaders not to be overlooked. Also, it is fact that Islam interacted not only close with the two religions of the book, but also Greek philosophy. This has influenced deeply the history of Spain, also Europe, but not the orthodox Islam in its core constituency.

Rough overview over the Muslim Period

After a passible betrayal of the Byzantine Exarch (viceroy) Julian, the count of Ceuta, an army under the leadership of Berber commander Tariq Gibraltar (Jabal al-Tarik, the Rock of Tarik) invaded 711 AD and short time later controlled, large parts of Spain.It was the most western part of the Islamic Empire, which itself stretched from Lisbon to the Indus. The Muslim rule in al-Andalus can be divided in five major phases:

  • 711-756: Dependent Emirate of Damascus. Al-Andalus is ruled by the Umayyads.
  • 756-929: Independent Emirate after the Abbasids replaced Umayyad dynasty in Damascus and Abd-al-Rahman I takes refuge in Cordoba.
  • 929-1031: Caliphate of Córdoba with Abd-al-Rahman III  first proclaimed caliph.
  • 1031-1261: Taifa Kingdoms. Political division of al-Andalus inidependent petty kingdoms called Taifa. Later  the Almoravids and then the Almohads took power.
  • 1238-1492: Kingdom of Granada. Last stronghold of the Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

During the whole epoch also Islamic sailors and pirates crossed the Coasts of southern France, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Greece on. Their devastating raids resulted in the depopulation as many contemporary accounts document. Crete, recorded in a chronicle, was looted 827 for twelve days, and the inhabitants of 29 cities were driven into slavery. Another chronicle tells of the case of Syracuse after a nine month siege in 878: “Thousands of people were killed, and it was there booty like never before in another city. Only a few managed to escape. ”
The troops of the emirs and caliphs consisted partly of large contingents of non-Muslims. The raids presented – in addition to the filling of the rulers treasury – the supply of fighting slaves, but also those of working slaves or women in the harem. And it had yet another purpose, according to the historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari from the North African. Because of the terror, he wrote, which the Arab horsemen and sailors spread, the later conquest was easier: “Allah, on this manner sows fear among the infidels, so that they are not there  dared to stir, and to fight against the invaders; only as a supplicant they approached, begging for peace. ”
To be clear, raw brutality, enslavement, pillage were the practice of all armies of the in the past. But the “excess, the regularity and the systematic nature of devastation », says the British-Egyptian Historian Bat Ye’or, distinguish the Islamo-Arab expansion of military operations of the then Greek, Slavic, Latin armies, and make them to “perhaps the greatest of lootings of history”.
The Muslim combatants were inspired by the idea of ​​jihad, the holy war, a central concept in Islam until today.  Islam divides the world into the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam), in which the law Allah prevails, and in the Dar al-Harb (House of War), residence of the Infidels, meaning all non-Muslims. The goal of jihad is to bring the people of the world under the law of Allah, to bring under the Sharia. “The jihad is a sacred duty” , wrote 14 in the century the famous Ibn Khaldun, a politician, sociologist and descendant of a noble Arab family from al-Andalus, “because of the Universality of the Islamic mission and the obligation to anyone to convert to Islam , either by persuasion or by force”.

Arab Invasion

Routes taken by Tariq and Musa for the conquest of the Peninsula.pngThe invasion seemed to happen like an accident, more like a private enterprise than centrally ordered. After the brief 710 exploratory raid led by a Tarif bin Malluq (remembered in the town of Tarifa, where it happened), Tariq ibn Ziyad, governor of Tangier, sent 711 an expedition of 7,000 Berbers to the Iberian Peninsula through the Strait of Gibraltar. Tariq ibn Ziyad conquests swiftly Algeciras (Portus Vandalusius) and defeats the Visigoth king Rodrigo at the Battle of Guadalete. The location of the battle has been described at various but was probably thirty-five kilometers to the north-west of. The Visigoth troops were decisively defeated and fled northwards, spreading terror and despair, because the invaders triumphed over the Visigoth army and eliminated their king.

Musa, the Arab governor of Tunisia and Tariq’s superior, follows 712 to incorporate the Berber conquests to the Arab Empire. It is often claimed that religious convulsions and resentments to the Visigoths, may have favored the quick surrender of many cities like Cordoba, Malaga, Seville and Toledo (capital of the Visigoths) In 713 Merida fell, this has been a refuge for many Goths in the region of Murcia. It is true, that the Spanish-Roman population disliked their Visigoth leaders and the Jewish community the treatment of the Christian majority. The existing network of roads laid down by the Romans and the standard pragmatic approach, giving treaty on favourable terms to surrenders have helped. But in any case there is a lack documentation of Arab conquest. The first Arab chronicle that relates the event, that of Ibn’Abd al-Hakam is in effect after a century and a half. Maybe, it is due to the fact, that the first three major actors vanished quickly. In 713 Musa’s son Abd al-Aziz, who was appointed Governor of al-Andalus as Musa had been recalled to Damascus 712 and never heard of. Musa’s deputy Tariq also fades out of history. Musa’s son Abd al-Aziz, married in kingly ambitions Egilona, the widow of Roderic, but got murdered in Seville in 715.

Myth of Visigoth King Rodrigo

With the Islamic conquest a myth is connected. The Visigoth Count Julian sent his daughter Florinda Cava to the Visigoth court of Toledo. King Rodrigo (Roderic) raped her and the enraged Count turned to the Islamic conquerors. This development is said to have led to the rapid demise of the Visigoth kingdom and has probably a historical core. In Spain, the figures of the lecherous King Rodrigo, of Count Julian and his beautiful daughter Cava Florinda were themes of folk romance songs. In those romances the king must pay for his lust, through a two-headed snake, which eats both his heart and his private members as a kind of symbolic punishment for the rape and the destruction of the Visigoth kingdom in southern Spain.

Emirate of Dependent Damascus

Caliphate of Córdoba

Caliphate of Córdoba


It took a while, until the spoils of the victory were divided, and the Berber grumbled, since they counted for the majority in the army, but got short changed by the Arabs, who saw them inferior. Córdoba became the capital a few years after the invasion.

There were numerous uprising of the Berbers. On one occasion the Arabs called in a Syrian relief army in, which, after quelling the Berber unrest turned against the Arabs. The Syrian were given some fertile lands and settled, fractionizing al-Adalus even more. A pattern we will see more often later in the history of al-Andalus. The invasion was brought further, as Arab army crossed the Pyrenees at the eastern end and took Narbonne in 720. In an attack on Toulouse in 721, the Arabs suffered a defeat. A defeat through Charles Martel ended the France adventure, logistically over-extended, and up against an equally powerful force. They continued raiding Christian possessions and got rich by tributes an looting, until fragmented Muslim states weakened under the Taifa period. Muslim petty kingdoms got invaded in return, raided or had to pay tribute.

In 750 the Umayyad Caliph was overthrown by the Abbasid clan. Only one young man, Abd al-Rahman an Umayyad prince fled from Damascus and established the Iberian branch of the dynasty in 756. Only with this establishment of the Emirate of Cordoba Uma by Abdel Al Rahman I, Southern Spain was brought in a solid and permanent form Islamic rule.

Umayyad Emirate and Caliphate

As described above, the Umayyad conquest of Hispania established the dependent Emirate of Cordoba. The situation changed after the Umayyad caliphs in Damascus were defeated by the Abbasids. Al- Andalus and Cordoba became an independent Umayyad outpost of the Abbasids rule in Baghdad. The independent Emirate of Cordoba was established by Abd al-Rahman I, which marks the westernmost expansion of both the Muslim rule in Europe.

Later Abd al-Rahman III, called al-Nasir (or Victorious), succeeded in 912 his grandfather as emir and ruled until 961 for almost 50 moon years. An astute politician, Abd al-Rahman adopted the supreme title of Caliph in 929, to legitimize his imperial pretensions over the claims of Abbasid and Fatimid rivals. Cordoba became during his reign the greatest metropolis of Western Europe, rivaling Constantinople. He had pacified the realm, dealt aptly with his Fatimid rivals, and stabilized the frontier with Christian Spain.

Almoravids 1086 until 1147

Almoravids 1086 until 1147

His son Al Hakam II brought Cordoba to the height of its power. He expanded the Mosque of Córdoba and a library which included 400,000 books and manuscripts from religion to philosophy and rule book subsidence. His successor was less successful, their period is called in Arabic the time of confusion. Invasion, civil wars and complex ethnic conflicts between newly arrived Berbers from North Africa against Arabs and the already assimilated first wave Berbers brought the caliphate down. On the death of al-Mansur finally internal struggles reappeared and Al-Andalus disintegrated 1031 into numerous kingdoms called Taifa. The caliphate disappeared and the aftermath was a patchwork of petty Taifa kingdoms fighting each other sometimes of religious lines.


The fragmented Taifa Kingdoms of Al-Andalus

1031-1261 Taifa Kingdoms

1031-1261 Taifa Kingdoms

Al-Andalus fragmented 1031 into numerous kingdoms, the most powerful were those of Seville, Toledo, Zaragoza and Badajoz.

Abdallah ibn Buluggin, a contemporary explained the rise of the Taifas:

“When the ‘Amirid dynasty [of al-Mansur] came to an end and the people were left without an imam [leader], every military commander rose up in his own town and entrenched himself behind the walls of his own fortress, having first secured his own position, created his own army and amassed his own resources. These persons vied with one another for worldly power, and each sought to subdue the other.”

Those Taifa kings were not from the Umayyad family, nor did they have any traditional claims to authority, so their ability to exert authority was limited to their ability to militarily conquer lands. With dozens of commanders rising up in the mid-11th century, conflict was bound to happen. Later the Almoravids and then the Almohads halted momentarily the Christian domination, but also incorporated it in their Berber empire.

Almoravids came to Spain in the eleventh century to stop the inexorable advance of the Reconquista, but their rigid understanding of Islam marked also end of tolerance in al-Andalus. Almoravids were a Berber dynasty controlling an empire stretching from Morocco to al-Andalus, so it lost its independence and became merely a province. Almohades replaced in the twelfth century Almoravids. They were even more literal interpreting the Koran. Almohad (al-Muwahhidun) means ‘monotheistic’.

Defeat at Las Navas de Tolosa (1212)

This fragmented situation obviously favored the advance of the Christian kingdoms of the North which was slowed down by Berber armies from North African kingdoms. This Almoravids dominance 1086 until 1147 and the Almohad dominance from 1172 until 1212 proved more a curse than a blessing. During the Reconquista, Muslim states fell one by one to the Christian kingdoms invading from the North. The major cities of Cordoba, Seville, and Toledo fell from the 1000s to the 1200s. Eventually the Almohades suffered a major defeat at Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) until 1261 all but one Taifa Kingdoms had vanished.

Granada – last stand of Islam in Al-Andalus

1238-1492 Kingdom of Granada

1238-1492 Kingdom of Granada

In the days following the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) years, the Spaniards conquered the Guadalquivir valley. One Muslim state – Granada – was able to escape conquest by Christians in the 1200s. After the fall of Cordoba in 1236, the rulers of the Emirate of Granada signed a special agreement with the Kingdom of Castile, one of the most powerful Christian kingdoms. It became the only Muslim kingdom of Granada territory, ruled by the Nasrid dynasty. 1238-1492 the Kingdom of Granada represented the last stronghold of the Arab presence.

Its territory was mountainous, which facilitated the defense. Furthermore, the extent of its coasts facilitated trade. The kingdom of Granada achieved great cultural and artistic splendor, though their kings often were forced to pay tribute to the Christian monarchs of Castile.

Culture of Al-Andalus

We hear that the Spanish are the heirs of the Arab-Muslim culture that has been present in Spain for more than seven centuries. Some even say that the Spanish are “half-Arab”, anxious to find exotic origins, distinct from those of all other Spaniards. The existence of a Spanish vocabulary whose root is Arabic is not a strong argument in favour of the thesis of the Arab-Muslim legacy, as the phonetics, prosody, morph syntax of Spanish Arabs are few, while the Latin affiliations Germanic and Christian are absolutely predominant. There were many languages spoken in al-Andalus.

  • High Arabic used by Mozarabics and rulers
  • Latin, the high language used by Christians
  • Hebrew used by Jews
  • Mozarabic language a continuum of Romance dialects was spoken by many groups in the territory of al-Andalus.there are preserved documents written in Mozarabic.
  • Andalusia Arabic, or Hispano-Arabic, was a variety or were varieties of the Arabic dialects spoken by all groups in the territory of al-Andalus
  • Berber dialects spoken by the new Berber of al-Andalus

Al-Andalus was the birthplace of important philosophers and religious scholars and some of then played a pivotal role in the Jewish history. In Roman times the Stoic philosopher Seneca needs to be mentioned.

Sufi Mystics



Sufism is a continuity of Near Eastern tradition using any religion as a vessel and structure. It may be at the same time indigenous to Islam. You may read more about Sufism in my other essays. Muslim mystic-philosopher gave the esoteric, mystical dimension of Islamic thought its first full-fledged philosophic expression, but they were called into doubt by many scholars, who were suspicious of the monastic tendencies of their metaphysical teaching and often allegorical interpretation of the Qur’an. Ibn ‘Arabi, the most well known Sufi in the West, faced fierce theological controversy over the great Muslim mystical thinker. Even during his lifetime, Ibn ‘Arabi’s conformity with the Muslim dogma was called into doubt by many scholars. Following Ibn ‘Arabi’s death, these misgivings grew into an outright condemnation of his teachings by a number of influential thirteenth through fifteenth century theologians who portrayed him as a dangerous heretic bent on undermining the foundations of Islamic faith and communal life. Ibn ‘Arabi’s advocates, however, praised him as the greatest saint of Islam who was unjustly slandered by the bigoted and narrow-minded critics. Ibn ‘Arabi was rejected by many in Islam, for example, Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), the Wahhabi movement as a pantheist who leads people into heresy with are heretical innovations. But supporters see him until today as a saint who explained reality in the most profound way. His writings are not for the layman, but rather in the spiritual and scholarly elect.

The Near Eastern Tradition is based on Christian desert ascetics & monks of Syria and Gnostic Tradition, i.e. salvational knowledge to escape the prison of the material world and reunite with God. In the 9th century those Gnostic themes appeared in Sufism: a model of emanation and return. There were l‘Sober’ (later ‘Orthodox) Sufis prominent in Baghdad and Iran like Junayd (d. 910), al-Sarraj (d. 988), al-Qushayri (d. 1072) who attempted to portray Sufism as thoroughly ‘Islamic’. Early Sufis like Ibn Hanbal were portrayed as Sufis and Gnostics and got even mainstream acceptance.

Ibn al-ʿArabī, in full Muḥyī al-Dīn Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad, also called Al-Sheikh al-Akbar or “Magister Magnus born July 28, 1165, Murcia, Valencia—died November 16, 1240, Damascus), His major works are the monumental Al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyyah (“The Meccan Revelations”) and Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam (1229; “The Bezels of Wisdom”).  Educated at Sufi school of Ibn al-Arif in  Almería (Taifa of Murcia), moved to Sevillia and later Damascus.  Father friend of Philosopher Averroes. Human beings as manifestation of God’s attributes God: “I was a hidden treasure….”
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali Born     c. 1058
Tus Persia, Great Seljuq Empire
Died     1111
 Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Phas been referred to by some historians as the single most influential Muslim

God is ‘Light of all Lights’ – Gnostic model


Jalal al-Din Rumi born c., 1207, Balkh [now in Afghanistan]—died  1273), l the greatest Sufi mystic and poet in the Persian language, famous for his lyrics and for his didactic epic Mas̄navī-yi Maʿnavī (“Spiritual Couplets”) the cry of the reed-flute

Neo-platonic philosophers



In Islamic times, the attempt to reconcile Islam with Greek philosophy was to last for several centuries, but ultimately proved unsuccessful due to persistent religious resistance.

Jews were given high positions as something more reliable than Christians who were under latent suspicion to be a treacherous partisan of the enemy Christians States. And towards Muslim dignitaries they had the advantage, that they could never be a threat to the Caliph or Sultan. Without tribal or family connections to the courtyard, infidels never hope itself to gain power, and owed their by sharia in prohibited position only because of the arbitrary decision of their ruler created a strong loyalty.
After Samuel Ibn Nagrella died 1056 under unclear circumstances was followed by his son Josef, also a gifted scholar in his official post. At 1066, there was an anti-Jewish pogrom. The thousands of members of the Jewish community of Granada were slain, with them also the Jewish Vizier. Pamphlets and poems as that of pious jurist Abu Ishaq had the mood prepared: “These Jews, who earlier in the Middens a scrap of colored cloth sought to bury their dead, […]
Granada has now divided among themselves […]. Drag a Tribute and dress up elegant […], and the monkey Josef has his house with marble designed […]. Hasten to cut his throat; He is a fat Hammel, take him off his money, because you deserve it more than him! ”
Dishonored intolerably the most famous Jew of Moorish Spain and Cordoba, the great philosopher and doctor Maimonides wrote his works in Cairo in exile. When he fled in 1149 with his family before the persecution of the Jews from Córdoba, already existed hardly any Christian or Jewish communities existed anymore in al-Andalus. He later wrote in a much-quoted letter to the Jews of Yemen, us he had reported the local pogroms: “Remember, my coreligionists that God gives us our great burden of sin because in the midst of this people, the Arabs, has thrown […]. Never us a nation has so complained, humiliated, Humiliated and hated as they […], we were of them in intolerable Way dishonored.”
Al-Andalus has left a rich legacy of lyrical. In Arabic and Hebrew is celebrated nature, the enjoyment of wine, the love Youths, the transience of life. The sophistication, the beauty, and frivolity of poems testify to the intellectual freedom and libertinism a narrow urban and courtly elite, which is rigid from the
Whose rules too strict doctrine of God far away. It is striking, however, also the highest percentage of lobby poetry: Almost all poets have written to the mighty many hymns. This refers to another feature of their life. Not only the court Jews, but also poets and Scholar, science and art were generally part of an Oriental clientele system.
The ruler patron gave the order, and he had the power, the artists in throwing the dungeon, if he did not like the result. Only he could before he protects the snares of a fanatical theology or before vindictiveness another patron. What he chose depended on his mood or his current interests. The artist or scholar was his master dependent to death, and he had every reason to keep these in a good mood.



Even more precarious the status of the scholar was the unstable political ratios. The era of al-Andalus was marked by riots, semi-anarchy, civil war, progroms, throne struggles, conquests and reconquests. Times of peace were rare. The protective patron could be suddenly gone, murdered by the brother, expelled from another competitor tribal. The biographies of many Moorish scholars reflect this situation. They tell of escape, a new beginning, banishment, of adjustment. List of a deeper meaning. As that of the great scholar Averroes (1126-1198), the modern European philosophy owes so much.
From his audience with the Almohad Sultan Yusuf I Averroes reported: “After the Commander of the Faithful had asked me my name, just after my origins, he began the conversation by saying: ‘What they think (the philosopher) across the sky and the world? Think of them as forever or created?. It came over me, a mixture of shame and fear. […] I found my composure back, so in the end, I took the floor and he could find out what I thought about. For the goodbye, he order a gift of money, a precious robe of honor and to hand over a horse.”
Averroës was personal physician to the sultan and commented on whose behalf the works Aristotle. When the Sultan died, issued his successor Sultan Jakub”Al-Mansur» 1195 a decree, in which the philosophy and the “Greek”
Studies were sentenced. The books of Averroes were the fire thrown, asked the philosopher in front of the Mosque of Cordoba in the pillory and subsequently banned for three years. Shortly after his release he died.


Ibn Khaldun Born 1126, Córdoba [al-Andalus]—died 1198 He developed one of the earliest nonreligious philosophies of history, contained in his work the Muqaddimah (“Introduction”) where he sought to explain the basic factors in the historical development of the Islamic countries. Yet he was limited by his traditional Islamic contempt for non-Muslim cultures.
Yaʿqūb ibn Isḥāq aṣ-Ṣabāḥ al-Kindī
(ca. AD 801-870), flourished in Iraq under the caliphs al-Maʾmūn (813–833) and al-Muʿtaṣim (833–842). First notable Muslim philosopher, although his reputation in the Middle East was eventually eclipsed by that of al-Farabi (ca. AD 878-950). Al-Kindi flourished in Baghdad in the ninth century where he wrote on many subjects ranging from medicine, optics, mathematics, Indian arithmetic and basic cryptography to the manufacture of swords.
Averrhoës Ibn Rushd,  medieval Latin Averrhoës, also called Arabic in full Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Rushd    ,  born 1126, Córdoba [Al-andalus]—died 1198 His attempts to integrate Islamic traditions with neoplatonic Greek thought and Aristotelian philosophy were largely ignored in the Islamic world but were ironically thoroughly studied in Latin Christian Europe. He faced trouble for his work, was expelled and books burned. He is today hailed as a beacon of “tolerance,” yet he was also an orthodox jurist of Makati law and served as an Islamic judge in Seville. He approved, without reservation, the killing of heretics in a work that was entirely philosophical in nature.
Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi (ca. 936-1013), born in Cordoba He combined Middle Eastern and Greco-Roman Classical teachings with his own innovations and became “Islam’s greatest medieval surgeon.” As a matter of fact he was “virtually the only significant physician in the Islamic world who had practical experience with surgery. Surgery was neglected also by Rhazes and Avicenna.” His surgical treatise had again tremendous influence in Christian Europe.
Avempace, Ibn Bâjja or Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya, Baddscha, Badjdja, Ibn Badj, Ibn Bagga, Ibn Bajja, Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Sa’igh Ibn Baggain (ca. 1085 – 1138) Medieval Andalusian: his writings include works regarding astronomy, physics, and music, as well as philosophy, medicine, botany, and poetry
Ibn Ḥazm, in full Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd Ibn Ḥazm  (born November 7, 994, Córdoba, Caliphate of Córdoba—died August 15, 1064, Manta Līsham, near Sevilla) Muslim writer, historian, jurist, and theologian of Islamic Spain, and leading exponents of the Ẓāhirī (Literalist) school of jurisprudence, he produced some 400 works, covering jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology, and The Ring of the Dove, on the art of love.
Other Islamic Scholars Abd Allah al-Qaysi, an early jurist spreading the Zahirite school

Mundhir bin Sa’īd al-Ballūṭī, a prominent judge for the Caliph of Cordoba,

Ibn Maḍāʾ, the first linguist to write about dependency grammar,

al-Qurtubi, a leading jurist of the Maliki school

Moses Maimonides Cordoba A rabbi who radically changed Jewish philosophy.

Andalusian religious groups

2 Ways to see it

2 Ways to see it – Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla, Alcazar de Seville

Like in all Islamized countries, also in al-Andalus, the Dhimma law applied. Although less contractual and more like blackmail arrangement- tribute or death – Dhimma methods exerted a civilizing effect on dominated states. Jihad was the tradition of a predatory economy where the migrant Bedouin formed the main forces of the united Islamic occupations. The idea of a binding agreement with the vanquished not to exercise the usual plundering, massacres and enslavement moderated the cruelty of the Bedouins” (Bat Ye’or). A Dhimma law made the Jihad efficient. The modern lovers of Moorish occupation in Spain, with amazing logic see in the Dhimma a striking proof of al-Andalus’ tolerance. “The new Islamic policy, “writes, for example, the Yale professor María Rosa Menocal in her book “The Ornament of the World,” “not only has permitted the survival of the Christians and Jews but according to the Koranic order protected on them as a whole. “But the protection contract obeyed the secular principle of Utilitas, with pragmatic sly usefulness. The protection agreement is also called Pact of Umar, after Umar (634-644), the second Caliph, who urged his followers to protect the Dhimmi, because it is the will of the prophet and because “it for the livelihoods of your families to care”. And one of the companions of the Prophet was asked, so the
Tradition, including the tributaries of the Muslims were good. “They help you, “the answer,” to escape poverty.”The system of tribute, takes the form of Cash, or kind of work, too, “was because the first (and most important) Source » (Bat Ye’or) of economic welfare of the Umma, the Islamic Community.
The sheer demographic reality forced the Muslims to bureaucratization and legalization of raising funds. They stood as foreign conquerors for a long time against huge majority local Christian and Jewish faith. The transfer of resources and makes locking
Knowledge was ensured by the Caliph, the head of the Dhimmi communities, the rabbis and bishops with high positions in business and administration entrusted. As a command receiver and privileged beneficiaries of the Islamic Power were those prepared to squeeze their own people even if the tribute demands had long exceeded the tolerable measure.
At the same time provided a theological, political and everyday rules for permanent humiliation and “ritual humiliation” (Bernard Lewis) of non-Muslim population. The highly respected scholar Ibn Abdun wrote, for example, in 1100 in Seville a long legal appraisal as the representative of the Maliki school of law, which had prevailed in al-Andalus. It states: “A Muslim must not massage a Jew, not a Christian. He is allowed to not eliminate their waste and do not clean their latrines; it is reasonable that Jews and Christians to exercise this trade, because it is the work of the most despised “(n. 153).
“We must not allow a tax collector, policeman, lawyer or a rich Jew a Christian, to dress like a noble. Sincerely, because Satan has taken possession of them and forget the remembrance of Allah. Satan has gained mastery over them and has made them neglect remembering Allah. They are the party of Satan. Behold, the party of Satan will be the losers. (Sura 58:19). You must wear a badge on which one recognizes that you shame enough “(n. 169).
“One must sell the Jews and the Christians no scientific book sell, unless the author confess to their religion, because they translating scientific books and write their trailers and Bishops, while their authors are bishops “(n. 206).

The society was divieded in religous groups:

  • Muladíes (<muwalladín ‘non-Arab mother’) were the Christians during the Islamic domination embraced the new faith of Muhammad.
  • Mozárabes (<musta’rabí ‘Arabized): Christians who lived in Muslim Spain until the late eleventh century, preserving their Christian religion and even ecclesiastical and judicial organization
  • Mudejares (<muwalladín ‘non-Arab mother’) were the Moslems under the Christian domination
  • Moriscos were the Moslems embraced christianity in reality or deceiving
  • Jews

Andalusian ethnic groups

Bernard Lewis and before him, Ignaz Goldziher showed from many Arab texts of the time that ethnic criteria were commonly used: Arab north against southern Arabs, Berbers against Arabs against Arabs and Slavs against Muslims of Hispanic origin (who were the most numerous) and, obviously vice versa.

  • Visigoths noble ruling until conquest
  • Hispanic-Romans
  • Jews
  • Few families of Arab origin ruling the army (Berber and Slaves)
  • Old Berber, Islamized native inhabitants of North Africa, predominant in invasion army
  • New Berber, Mercenaries of Caliphs or Berber dynasties
  • Moriscos, crypto muslims after 1500

The religious “apartheid” continued in a sharp social stratification . At the top of the social hierarchy al-Andalus’ was the
Master race of Arab tribes. Set out from the most inhospitable parts of the world, they had the fertile river valleys of Spain
possession. In constant rivalry with each other for the most lucrative positions in new kingdom, they were united in their contempt for the North African Berber. This, forcibly Islamized by the Arabs and them as clients assumed had the dry mountain and steppe regions make shift and looked down at the turn Muwallad, converted to Islam Locals. The condescension of all turn hit the unbelievers who in theCities in ghettos lived, whose testimony was inalid in court, where it was forbidden to ride on a noble animal like a horse or to have sexual relations with Muslim women and marry them, and had to live constant fear, denigrated for blasphemy and for death sentenced to be. Social deeper were only Cities and Taifas.

The following is an overview of the most important cities.


Cordoba was founded by the Romans, with its mighty bridge “El Puente Romano” over the Guadalquivir River. But Cordoba’s hour of greatest glory was when it became the Moorish formal capital of the independent Emirate and later Caliphate. A brief period of one-off and relative religious tolerance witnessed al-Andalus in the second half of the 10th century under Abdurrahman III. (912-961), the Caliph of Córdoba, and his successor al-Hakam a bibliophile, who is said to have created the mentioned library of 400,000 volumes. With ruthlessness Abdurrahman had united the disintegrated rich country again and organized it with prudence.The economic boom – not least caused by the peacefulness Christian principalities, which lowered the cost of the army, and by a exceptional series yielding crops – took some pressure off the dhimmi away, helped unprecedented lavish tour of the farm and attracted large European ambassadors and the heads of the international intelligence and Art by Córdoba. Luxury and cosmopolitanism produced a “sham boom multicultural tolerance “as the Orientalist Hans-Peter Raddatz writes, “Whose existence depended less from the spirit of Islam but of its ability to maintain the flow of tribute.

The city’s most famous landmark, The Great Mosque, or “Mezquita” became, after several centuries of additions and enlargements one of the largest in all of Islam.  The Romans had built a pagan temple earlier on this site, which was replaced by the Visigoths by a church for St. Vincent which, in turn, was razed by the victorious Moors. The spectacular landmark took more than 200 years to complete and more than 1,000 pillars of granite, onyx, marble and jasper support its arches. When the Christians seized the city in 1236 they built a cathedral in the midst of it, creating today’s extraordinary church-mosque. The juderia is a charming entirely white district, filled with patios and flowers that state the testimony of the Jewish nucleus that already existed at Roman and Wisigoth times. In 1965, in the small Tiberias square, after over 800 years, the Cordobans finally erected a monument in honor of Maimonide, born in 1135 right there in the juderia. Persecuted and expelled from his homeland by the Moors when very young, he traveled the world studying medecine and philosophy becoming the illustrious and wise thinker we known today. Also in its western part, amongst ponds and gardens, a tribute to two others great Cordoban figures: Seneca, Roman writer and philosopher, whose statue is located in a charming square neighbouring the Door of Almodovar, and the statue of Averroes in the street of the Muralla. Another famous monument is the Alcazar, or Fortress, which was constructed by the Christians in 1326.


The Giralda of the Cathedral in Seville, Spain. It was originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period

The Giralda of the Cathedral in Seville, Spain. It was originally built as a minaret during the Moorish periodb

During the period of Al-Andalus the Arabs arrived under the command of General Musa ibn Nusayr, and made Sevilla one of the most beautiful cities of Al-Andalus. She was known as the Isbiliyya. From 1013 on the town became one the of the Taifas kingdoms.
The Almoravids ruled it from 1086 on, and the Almohads from 1144 on. From that time on Sevillia experienced an economic boom through trade with North Africa . The Great Mosque is built, whose towers the Giralda belongs. During the Christian conquest it was taken by Ferdinand III. 1248


Founded as Gadir or Agadir by Phoenicians from Tyre, Cádiz may be the most ancient standing city still standing in Western Europe.Under Moorish rule between 711 and 1262, the city was called Qādis.  The Moors were finally ousted by Alphonso X of Castile in 1262.



View From Moorish Castle Fortress Of Coastal City Almeria …

In 955   it became the principal harbour of Abd-ar-Rahman III of Córdoba in his extensive domain to strengthen his Mediterranean defences. In this period, the port city of Almería reached its historical peak. Its Moorish castle, the Alcazaba of Almería, is the second largest among the Muslim fortresses of Andalusia, after the Alhambra.

After the fragmentation of the Caliphate of Córdoba in 1031, Almería continued to be ruled by powerful local Muslim Taifa emirs like Jairan and Almotacin, the poet emir. Contested by the emirs of Granada and Valencia, Almería experienced many sieges, including that of Alfonso VII and it was occupied in October 1147. Within a decade, however, Almería had passed to the control of the puritanical Muslim Almoravid emirs. The city surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando and Isabel, on December 26, 1489.


The castle of Gibralfaro, Malaga

The castle of Gibralfaro, Malaga

After the Moors invaded Spain Málaga became a major Moorish city and port – it was the main port for Granada tooe. Moorish ruler Yusuf I built the Gibralfaro as a defence against the Christian conquerors. Málaga fell to the Christians in 1487. It was one of the last cities to be taken by the Christian conquerors,


Ronda was part of the Visigoth reign until 713, when it fell to the Arabs, who named it Izn-Rand Onda (“city of the castle”) and made it the capital of the Takurunna province.
After the disintegration of the caliphate of Córdoba, Ronda became the capital of a small kingdom ruled by the Berber Banu Ifran, the taifa of Ronda. During this period Ronda received most of its Islamic architectural heritage. In 1065 Ronda was conquered by the taifa of Seville led by Abbad II al-Mu’tadid.
The Islamic domination of Ronda ended in 1485, when it was conquered by the Marquis of Cádiz after a brief siege.  Shortly after 1492, when Granada, was conquered, the Spanish decreed that all Muslims and Jews must either vacate the peninsula or convert to Christianity. Muslims who converted were called Moriscos  (“Little Moors”). The term later became a pejorative applied those who had outwardly converted but secretly continued to practice Islam.  The Spanish Inquisition  investigated suspected secret Muslims.  Systematic suppression forced the Muslims to seek refuge in mountainous regions; Ronda was one such refuge. Both the poet Salih ben Sharif al-Rundi (1204–1285) and the Sufi scholar Ibn Abbad al-Rundi (1333–1390) were born in Ronda.It was the hometown of  Abbas Ibn Firnas (810–887), an inventor, engineer, aviator, physician, Arabic poet, and Andalusian musician.


Myth & Reality

Myth & Reality

A myth will not be primarily recognized for its upscale, anthemic sound, but especially at the obstinacy with which it resists reality and time. So the transfiguration of of the Islamic rule in Spain and its accompanying complaints of Christian intolerance systematically ignored the Arab military invasion and violent domination in Spain.

Al-Andalus is not only for a the intellectuals a mythical desired country. In one of the apartments of the Islamist bombers who  killed 191 people on 11th March 2004 in Madrid trains and injured hundreds more, the police found a video claiming responsibility. The terrorist Islamists justified it by referring to al-Andalus, the land which was once belonged to the Dar al-Islam.

Fact is, there was no permanent confrontation in al-Andalus, but there was also no harmony or tolerance without limits: everything depended on the specific circumstances. The Moriscos, Jewish and Christian communities saw some of their rights (not all, of course) recognized as groups. Jews and Christians practice their religions with restrictions and with the greatest possible discretion. In the middle of the ninth century, there was an anti-Christian persecution in Cordoba, with many martyrs. The largest anti-Jewish pogrom in Granada occurred in 1066. But the situation worsened even further from the twelfth century, after the Almohad took over.

Serafín Fanjul is one of the most prestigious Spanish Arabists and written books and numerous articles denouncing the myth of al-Andalus “the most advanced civilization of the High Middle Ages,” symbol of the peaceful and tolerant coexistence of the three cultures. He refutes a homogeneous historical process of nearly eight centuries. In the eighth century, the society of al-Andalus was different from the tenth century, a time when Muslims were the majority, and Arabic cultural hegemony was a fact and Christianity in full decline. The kingdom of Granada, which lasted two and a half centuries (1238-1492), was not identical to the al-Andalus in the prior period. It was a monoculture society, with one language, one religion and often a terribly intolerant society.

The contribution of scientists of al-Andalus was undoubtedly important, especially in transmitting knowledge of Persian, Indian and Greek antiquity that reached Europe through various channels including that of al-Andalus. However the medievalist Sylvain Gougenheim questioned the claim that the Muslim world has played a single and a fundamental role in the transmission of Greek science and philosophy to the West in the Middle Ages. In his book, Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel: The Greek roots of Christian Europe, he showed the importance of filiations Latin translations was widely underestimated thus incurring the reproach.


For those who wish to explore further the world that was al-Andalus, the following are recommended in the first instance:

Bernard Lewis. The Arabs in History, 1993 edition
Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East 2002 edition
Georg Bossong, Das Maurische Spanien: Geschichte und Kultur (Beck’sche Reihe)– 25. Juni 2011
Michael B. Barry Homage to al-Andalus: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, ebook . Andalus Press 2014
Washington Irving Tales of the Alhambra – 2009
Claudio. SANCHEZ ALBORNOZ ESPAÑA, UN ENIGMA HISTORICO. (English Translation) Madrid – 1975
Barrucand, M. and Bednorz, A., Maurische Architektur in Andalusien Gebundene Ausgabe – 1991
Stanley Lane-Poole The Moors in Spain – ebook Published by Didactic Press 2013
Fletcher, R., ‘Moorish Spain’, University of California Press, Berkley, 1993.
Guichard, P., ‘From the Arab Conquest to the Reconquest, The Splendour and Fragility of al-Andalus’, Legado Andalusí, Granada, 2006.
Karoline Gimpel, DuMont Kunst-Reiseführer Andalusien: Kathedralen, maurische Paläste und Gärten im Süden Spaniens – 2012

For those who wish to explore Sufism and transmission of cultures, the following were helpful for me:
Idries Shah The Sufis – 1971 An exellent introduction of Sufism interest in philosophical Sufi aspects
Annemarie Schimmel, Mystische Dimensionen des Islam – 1992
Sylvain Gouguenheim Aristoteles auf dem Mont Saint-Michel: Die griechischen Wurzeln des christlichen Abendlandes – 2012
Bat Ye’or, Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate – 2011
Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam by Bat Ye’or – 1985
Idries Shah Tales of the Dervishes – 1993
Idries Shah Caravan of Dreams – ebook 2015
Idries Shah und Doris Lessing Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way – 1996
Sigrid Hunke, Le Soleil d’Allah brille sur l’Occident : Notre héritage arabe 1. German 1961

Internet ressources