Muslim Rule in Andalusia (Spain and Portugal)
Compiled by: Syed Ali Shahbaz
The Muslim historian and historiographer, Ibn Khaldun
On May 27 in 1332 AD, the Muslim historian and historiographer, Abdur-Rahman ibn Mohammad Ibn Khaldun, was born in Tunis into an affluent Spanish Arab family that had settled in North Africa because of Christian onslaughts. He is regarded as one of the forerunners of modern historiography, sociology, and economics. He travelled widely around Egypt, North Africa and Spain, where the Sultan of Granada sent him on a mission to the Christian King of Castile, Pedro the Cruel.
He returned to Egypt, whose Mamluk ruler sent him to negotiate with the fearsome Turkic conqueror, Amir Timur, during the siege of Damascus. In his autobiography, Ibn Khaldun has written on his discussions with Timur, who asked him in detail about North Africa and Spain. Among his many works is a voluminous universal history, but his fame rests on the "Muqaddemah", which is considered a unique work. He died in Cairo in 1406 at the age of 74 years.
The famous Spanish Muslim philosopher and mystical figure, Mohi od-Din Ibn al-Arabi
On 27th of the Islamic month of Ramadhan in 560 AH, the famous Spanish Muslim philosopher and mystical figure, Mohi od-Din bin Mohammad Ibn al-Arabi was born in Andalusia, southern Spain. He was a child prodigy and after acquiring the sciences of the day, left Spain at the age of 30 to travel over the Islamic world, acquiring further knowledge and writing books during his journeys, which took him on pilgrimage to Mecca and to far off places like Baghdad in Iraq and Konya in what is now Turkey.
He took up residence in Damascus as 620 AH, and started to lecture and write books. Among his well-known books are “Fosous al-Hekam” (Bezels of Wisdom), and “Futuhaat al-Makkiyya”. He passed away in Damascus in 638 AH.
Christopher Columbus was guided by Spanish Muslim sailors
On August 3, 1492 AD, the Italian Navigator, Christopher Columbus, commissioned by Spain to find a route to India through the Atlantic Ocean, commenced his journey. Columbus set sail with three ships and 120 sailors from the Spanish Port of Palos and after 33 days of voyage landed on Salvador Island in the Caribbean Sea, thinking he had reached India. He thus accidentally discovered the American continent, and was guided to the New World by Spanish Muslim sailors.
The Spanish Muslim lexicographer, geographer and historian, al-Bakri
On 11th of the Islamic month of Shawwal in 487 AH, the Spanish Muslim lexicographer, geographer and historian, Abu Obayd Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Bakri, passed away at the age of 82. Born in Huelva, the son of the ruler of the short-lived principality of the same name, he was a polymath in most of the sciences of the day.
When his father was deposed, he shifted to Qurtuba (Cordoba) where he studied with the geographer Ahmad Ibn Omar al-Udhri and the historian Hayyán Ibn Khalaf Ibn Hayyan al-Qurtubi. He spent all his life in his native Spain, mostly in Seville and Almeria, writing about Europe, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Only two of his works have survived – the “Mu'jam ma Ista'jam” and “Kitab al-Masalek wa’l-Mamalek (Book of Ways and Lands). The latter work was based on writings and the reports of merchants and travellers, including Mohammad Ibn Yusuf al-Warraq and the Arabicized Jew, Abraham ben Jacob. It is an important source for the history of West Africa and gives crucial information on the Ghana Empire, the Almoravid Dynasty and the trans-Saharan trade.
Al-Bakri mentions the earliest urban centers in the trans-Saharan trade to embrace Islam such as Gao along the River Niger which had native Muslim inhabitants. Soon other kingdoms along the serpentine bends of River Niger eventually embraced Islam, such as Takrur (Senegal); Songhay (Mali); Kanem-Bornu (Chad); and Hausa-territories (Nigeria).
His works are noted for the objectiveness with which they are presented. For each area, he described the people, their customs, as well as the geography, climate, and main cities. He also included anecdotes about each area. Unfortunately, parts of his main work have been lost, and of the surviving parts, some have never been published. In lexicography al-Bakri wrote the book “Amsaal al-Obayd”.
The famous Spanish Muslim poet, Ahmad ibn Mohammad Ibn Darraj al-Qastalli
On 16th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 421 AH, the famous Spanish Muslim poet, Ahmad ibn Mohammad Ibn Darraj al-Qastalli, passed away at the age of 74 in his native Spain. He was from Castile as is clear from his surname 'Qastalli', and played a vital role in promotion of Arabic poetry in the Iberian Peninsula with his new style. His poems, in addition to their high literary and artistic value, are a reliable source of the developments in Islamic Spain. Today these poems have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, English and other languages, as the Arabic heritage of Europe.
The renowned Spanish Muslim poet and hadith scholar S̲h̲ehab od-Din al-Is̲h̲bili ash-S̲h̲afei
On 9th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 699 AH, the renowned Spanish Muslim poet and hadith scholar S̲h̲ehab od-Din Abu’l-Abbas Ahmad bin Farah al-Is̲h̲bili ash-S̲h̲afei, passed away in Syria at the age of 74 years. He was born in Seville, which the Arabs used to call Is̲h̲biliya and was taken prisoner in 646 AH at the age of 21 years by the Christian forces of Ferdinand III of Castile. He, however, managed to escape and afterwards went to Egypt. In Cairo he attended the classes of prominent ulema and later left for Syria to continue his studies. In Damascus, he lectured as a hadith scholar and groomed numerous students. He has left behind numerous poems and books of hadiths including Mukhtasar Khilafiyat al-Bayhaqi, which is a summary of the work of Iranian Sunni Hadith compiler al-Bayhaqi.
The founder of the Muwahhedeen or Monotheists' State in Morocco and Andalusia
On 10th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 558 AH, Abdul-Mo'men ibn Ali Al Koami, the founder of the Muwahhedeen or Monotheists' State in Morocco and Andalusia, died. His capital was Marrakesh and he made relentless efforts to expand his territories in Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, and in the east till the borders of Egypt.
The Spanish Muslim Arabic grammarian and Islamic law expert, as-Suhayli
On 25th of the Islamic month of Shawwal in 681 AH, the Spanish Muslim Arabic grammarian and Islamic law expert, Abdur-Rahman bin Abdullah as-Suhayli, died at the age of 73 in Marakesh, three years after coming to Morocco on the invitation of the Almohad sultan, Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur. He was born in Fuengirola, which was known as Suhayl during Muslim rule in Spain. He wrote books on Arabic grammar and Islamic law. He is especially well known as an Islamic scholar by his commentary on the Prophet's biography by Ibn Hisham.
The Spanish Muslim poet Abul-Waleed Ahmad bin Abdullah, Ibn Zaidoun
On 1st of the Islamic month of Rajab in 463 AH, the Spanish Muslim poet Abul-Waleed Ahmad bin Abdullah, Ibn Zaidoun, died. Born in Qortoba (Cordova) into the Arab tribe of al-Makhzoum, he brought into Spanish Arabic poetry the rhetorical command, the passionate power, and grandeur of style that marked contemporary poetry in the Islamic east. He was also involved in politics and was opposed to the ruling Omayyad regime.
Yusuf bin Tashfin defeats Spanish Christians
On 12th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 479AH, Spanish Muslims led by Yusuf bin Tashfin defeated Spanish Christians under command of Alphonse VI in the glorious battle of "az-Zalaqa". This decisive battle halted for over two-and-a-half centuries the bid by the Christian powers to drive out Spanish Muslim from the Iberian Peninsula.
The hadith scholar of Spanish Muslim origin, Ibn Khayroun
On 16th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 539 AH, the hadith scholar of Spanish Muslim origin, Mohammad ibn Abdul-Malik ibn Khayroun, passed away. Among his extant works is the book “al-Miftah”.
The Battle of Toulouse
On June 9, 721 AD, the Arab army suffered a setback at the Battle of Toulouse in southern France against Odo of Aquitaine. Faulty planning by the Omayyad governor of Islamic Spain, Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, made the huge Muslim force almost immobile against the lightly armed Christians. This, however, did not end the Muslim march into the heart of Europe which continued for another decade, as far as northwestern France, until the decisive defeat at the Battle of Tours in 732.
The Spanish Muslim mathematician, astronomer, and physician, Ibn Samh al-Gharnati
1007 lunar years ago, on this day in 426 AH, the Spanish Muslim mathematician, astronomer, and physician, Asbagh ibn Mohammad Ibn Samh al-Gharnati, passed away at the age of 56 years. He wrote his "Kitab az-Zaij" in astronomy mainly based on the Iranian Islamic scientist, Mohammad ibn Musa Khwarezmi's book "Sindhind". He also wrote a treatise on the construction of the astrolabe and another on its use. This Spanish Muslim scholar also extensively quotes in his "Kitab al‐Amal", another Iranian Islamic astronomer, Ahmad ibn Abdullah Habash al‐Haseb al-Mervazi of Merv, Khorasan, which is evident of the profound influence of the Islamic east on Europe.
The Spanish Muslim scholar Ibn Khalaf Maleki
On 19th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 474 AH, the Spanish Muslim scholar Abul-Waleed Suleiman ibn Khalaf Maleki, passed away in Spain. He was a memorizer and exegete of the Holy Qur'an, as well as a poet. He lectured theology in Andalusia and thereafter in Mecca and Baghdad. Among his valuable works are “Tafsir al-Qur’an” and “al-Ishara”.
The Spanish Muslim hadith scholar, botanist, and pharmacist, Ibn Mufarraj an-Nabati
On 8th of the Islamic month of Sha’ban in 561 AH, the Spanish Muslim hadith scholar, botanist, and pharmacist, Abu Abbas Ahmad Ibn Mohammad Ibn Mufarraj an-Nabati, was born in Seville. He is often called Ibn Rumiya, which means son of a lady who was Christian before her conversion to Islam. Initially, he studied in Andalusia, learning the features of different plant species, and later traveled to various lands such as Egypt, Iraq, and Hijaz, to study plants, while also acquiring the science of Hadith. He wrote an account of his journey “Kitab ar-Rehla”, which deals primarily with his observations of plants and their medicinal properties. He has left behind numerous books in botany, theology, and hadith. Some of his works are still used by researchers.
The al-Muwahhedeen ruler, Yakqoub Ibn Tashfeen al-Mansour
On 9th of the Islamic month of Sha'ban in 591 AH, the al-Muwahhedeen ruler, Yakqoub Ibn Tashfeen al-Mansour crossed from Morocco into Spain to defeat King Alfonso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Alarcos, following raids by Christians on the territories of Spanish Muslims.
Some two decades later, when Ibn Tashfeen was no more, the Pope in Rome called for a crusade against Muslims in Spain, and Alfonso VIII heading an alliance of Christian rulers defeated the al-Muwahhedeen ruler to occupy large parts of Andalusia.
The famous Spanish Muslim hadith scholar and physician, Hassan ibn Hafez Andalusi
On 12th of the Islamic month of Sha’ban in 498 AH, the famous Spanish Muslim hadith scholar and physician, Hassan ibn Hafez Andalusi, passed away. He was a prominent scholar of Arabic literature, and among his works, mention could be made of “at-Taqeed al-Mohmil”, which is a biography of prominent figures of his era.
The renowned Spanish Muslim hadith scholar and exegete of the Holy Qur’an, Ibn Atiyyah
On 25th of the Islamic month of Ramadhan in 541 AH, the renowned Spanish Muslim hadith scholar and exegete of the Holy Qur’an, Abdul-Haqq Ibn Ghaleb Ibn Abdur-Rahman, popularly known as Ibn Atiyyah, passed away at the age of 60. His father was a well-known scholar of Fiqh and Hadith, who traveled to the eastern parts of the Muslim world to learn under many scholars of repute. He was later appointed a judge in Granada, Ibn Atiyyah initially studied under his father and later under other scholars. He was a meticulous scholar, and did not confine himself to Islamic studies, but read in all fields, feeling that this would give him a better understanding of the holy Qur’an. He also traveled to all centers and cities in Islamic Spain, meeting a large number of scholars and learning from them. He later became a judge in Muria. At a time when Muslims in Spain were under attack by Christians, he joined the army and fought in several battles, in addition to writing to rulers and reminding them of their duty to Islam. Ibn Atiyyah wrote several books, including “al-Ansaab”. A short book called “al-Barnamaj”, which contains biographies of a number of his teachers. He wrote poetry as well, but his main and voluminous work is a commentary on the holy Qur’an, entitled “al-Muharrar al-Wajeez”, which reflects his broad knowledge in a variety of disciplines.
Fall of Cordoba (Qurtuba), the former capital of the Omayyad state of Andalusia or Islamic Spain
On 23rd of the Islamic month of Shawwal in 633 AH, Cordoba (Qurtuba), the former capital of the Omayyad state of Andalusia or Islamic Spain, fell to King Ferdinand III of Castile after a 7-month siege, thus ending 520 glorious years of Muslim rule, which the saw the city win worldwide acclaim as the centre of science and civilization at a time Christian Europe was immersed in darkness.
Although Cordoba's political and administrative decline had begun half-a-century earlier when the Almohad Dynasty shifted the capital to Seville after defeating the Almoravid Dynasty, it was still the cultural centre of Andalusia, with its libraries and schools that over the centuries produced outstanding scholars in various fields such as Ibn Hazm the poet and grammarian, Ibn Saffar the mathematician, al-Bakri the historian and geographer, al-Ghafiqi the botanist, az-Zahrawi the physician, al-Qurtubi the exegete of the holy Qur'an, and Abbas ibn Firnas, the polymath who experimented with a flying machine some thousand years before the airplane was invented.
The decline of Muslims in Spain was the result of fratricide and treachery. The death of Yusuf II in 621 led to a crisis of succession, providing the Christian rulers an opportunity for intervention, especially when the claimant, Abdullah al-Adel, began to ship the bulk of his forces across the straits to Morocco to contest the succession with his rival there, leaving Andalusia undefended.
At this, al-Adel's cousin, Abdullah al-Bayyasi appealed to Ferdinand III for military aid and with the help of the Christian army was installed as Amir in Cordoba, in return for surrendering strategic frontier strongholds. Soon, when al-Bayyasi was killed by a popular uprising the people of Cordoba, Ferdinand occupied more Muslim territory.
In 625 AH when the Almohad ruler in Seville, Abdul-Ala Idris I, made the fatal mistake of abandoning Spain, and left with the remnant of the Almohad forces for Morocco, Andalusia was left fragmented in the hands of local strongmen, led loosely by Mohammad ibn Yusuf ibn Houd al-Judhami.
At this, the Christian kings - Ferdinand III of Castile, Alfonso IX of Leon, James I of Aragon and Sancho II of Portugal - immediately launched a series of raids. Houd's army was destroyed and the Christian armies romped through the south virtually unopposed, as Muslim cities fell one by one, with little or no prospect of rescue from North Africa. Ferdinand seized Badajoz and Mérida, followed by Cazorla, Ubeda and Cordoba, from where he continued his march over the next 12 years to occupy Murcia, Cartagena and finally Seville, the Almohad capital, leaving only a rump Andalusian state, the Emirate of Granada, unconquered.