Category: Muslim Spain

5 Muslim Inventions That Changed The World

Coffee

About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily routines. And yet, very few people are aware of the Muslim origins of this ubiquitous drink.

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Disunity in al-Andalus: The Taifa Period

One of the recurring themes of Islamic history is that disunity in the Muslim world has consistently led to weakness and the decline of one-powerful empires. One of the most clear examples of this was the taifa period of al-Andalus – Muslim Spain – in the 11th century. In the 700s, al-Andalus was established as a powerful and prosperous province under the Umayyads. After the Abbasid revolution of 750, al-Andalus became an autonomous state under the sovereignty of what remained of the Umayyad dynasty.

Al-Andalus reached its peak around the year 1000. The Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba was the most powerful state in Western Europe politically as well as economically. The artistic, academic, and social achievements of al-Andalus rivaled that of any other part of the Muslim world at that time, including the advanced civilizations in Iraq, Egypt, and Persia. However, within 50 years, all that would change. Al-Andalus would go from being one powerful united state, to one that is divided, vulnerable to invasion, and politically dependent on outsiders. This time, known as the Taifa Period, sowed the seeds for the decline of al-Andalus and its eventual fall in 1492.

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Christianity and the Muslim Conquest of Spain

Few wars in Islamic history have been as decisive or as influential as the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 710s. A small Muslim army arrived on the southern shores of Iberia in the year 711 and by 720, almost the entire peninsula was under Muslim control. Some people like to frame this conquest as one of imperialistic and aggressive Muslims conquering and subjecting a Christian populace with terror and force.

The truth, however, is far from that. It is a very complex conflict that cannot be easily framed in “Islam vs. Christianity” or “East vs. West” terms. The story of the Muslim invasion of Spain is one of justice, freedom, and religious toleration. Understanding the truth behind the Muslim invasion of Iberia is critical to understanding the subsequent history of religious pluralism seen throughout the history of Muslim Spain – al-Andalus.

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Imam Malik – The Scholar of Madinah

The collection and codification of Islamic law has historically been one of the most important, and challenging, tasks that the Muslim community has undertaken in 1400 years of history. To be considered a faqih (an expert in Islamic law – fiqh), one must have mastery of the Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, other sources of law, as well as other subjects such as grammar and history.

One of the giants of Islamic law was the 8th century scholar of Madinah, Malik ibn Anas. At a time when the Muslim community desperately needed the sciences of fiqh and hadith (sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) to be organized, Imam Malik rose to the occasion. His legacy is manifest in his continued influence throughout the Muslim world, both through his own works and the works of those he helped guide on a path of scholarship and devotion to Islam.

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Granada – The Last Muslim Kingdom of Spain

In 711, Islam made its entrance into the Iberian Peninsula. Having been invited to end the tyrannical rule of King Roderick, Muslim armies under the leadership of Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the straits between Morocco and Spain. Within seven years, most of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) was under Muslim control. Parts of this land would remain Muslim for over 700 years.

By the mid 900s, Islam had reached its zenith in the land known as al-Andalus. Over 5 million Muslims lived there, making up over 80% of the population. A strong, united Umayyad caliphate ruled the land and was by far the most advanced and stable society in Europe. The capital, Cordoba, attracted those seeking education from all over the Muslim world and Europe. However, this golden age of politics and society would not last forever. In the 1000s, the caliphate broke up and divided into numerous small states called taifas. The Muslim taifas were disunited and susceptible to invasion from Christian kingdoms in the north. For the next 200 years, the taifas fell one by one to the Christian “Reconquista”. By the 1240s, one kingdom remained in the south: Granada. This article will analyze the fall of this final Muslim kingdom in Iberia.

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The Cultural Icon of al-Andalus

Culture is often a difficult topic to study historically. How did present-day cultures develop? What other regions and times have affected our modern-day cultures? How were ancient cultures different from our own? One of the best ways to address such questions is to look at some of the cultural giants of the past. One of these giants was a Muslim man who lived in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) in the 800s. He was affectionately known as Ziryab and he revolutionized everything from fashion, to dining, to music, to hairstyles, to hygiene. He was one of the greatest cultural icons of the Middle Ages and the impact he had is still felt in the world today.

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Al-Zahrawi – The Pioneer of Modern Surgery

It has often been stated on this website that the Muslim period of Spain’s history (also known as al-Andalus) was a Golden Age of Islamic civilization and society. Almost utopian harmony between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism prevailed, great advancements were made in the sciences, and wealth and stability were the rule rather than the exception.

One of the great figures of Muslim Spain was Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, Islam’s greatest medieval surgeon. He revolutionized how surgery was performed by inventing new methods and tools to help heal patients. His thirty-volume encyclopedia of medicine was used as a standard text for medicine throughout Europe for centuries. The impact he had on how medicine was practiced was truly revolutionary.

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Spain’s Forgotten Muslims – The Expulsion of the Moriscos

One of the truly tragic events in Islamic history is the loss of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula was a Muslim land with Muslim rulers and a Muslim population. At its height, Iberia had over 5 million Muslims, a majority of the land’s people. Muslim rulers built an advanced civilization based on faith and knowledge. In the 900s, the capital of Muslim Spain, Cordoba, had paved roads, hospitals, and street lights throughout the city. At the time, Christian Europe’s largest library had only 600 books, while Cordoba’s calligraphers were producing 6000 books per year.  The society was a peaceful mixture of European and African cultures, represented by Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in harmony side by side.

This almost utopian society did not last forever. As the so-called Reconquista, or Reconquest, of Spain by Catholic monarchs progressed through the 11th to the 15th centuries, Spain’s Muslims became a marginalized group. In 1492, when the last Muslim state of Iberia, Granada, fell, Spain’s Muslims faced a new reality: genocide.

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