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At the end of the Eighth Century, the whole of Andalusia was the most populous, cultured and industrious land of all Europe, and remained so for centuries. Its trade with the outside world was unrivaled, and in this time of economic expansion, the Jews, who had been virtually eliminated from the peninsula in the seventh century by the Christians, grew once more in numbers and flourished. The following description of their position is to be found in Hume's ‘Spanish People’:

Side by side with the new rulers lived the Christians and Jews in peace. The latter rich with commerce and industry were content to let the memory of their oppression by the priest-ridden Goths sleep, now that the prime authors of it had disappeared. Learned in all the arts and sciences, cultured and tolerant, they were treated by the Moors with marked respect, and multiplied exceedingly all over Spain; and, like the Christian Spaniards under Moorish rule - who were called Mozarabes - had cause to thank their now masters for an era of prosperity such as they had never known before.

This tolerance of the Jews and Christians by the Muslims, characterized the early centuries of Islam in Spain. All the Jews and Christians who accepted the Muslims as the rulers of the country were allowed to retain their possessions and their beliefs and religious practices, and to continue their way of life within the framework of the society despite the fact that both these communities denied the continuance of the prophetic tradition beyond their respective prophets, Moses and Jesus, on whom be peace. The Muslims gave the Christians the freedom to make up their own minds. As long as the Muslims of Spain followed the guidance they had been given, they did not molest the Christians and, writes Gibbon:

In a time of tranquillity and justice, the Christians have never been compelled to renounce the Gospel or to embrace the Qur'an.

As in the time of the reign of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, in Italy, however, the Catholic Church was not content with this arrangement. Its members felt bound to impose the official religion on anyone who would not accept their point of view. In the guidance of Islam, there are provisions for the tolerance and acceptance of the Christians and the Jews, the 'people of the Book'. In the religion of the Official Church there was only intolerance and rejection of any religion other than the one it had formulated. By claiming that God had become man, and died for humanity so that everyone who believed this would go straight to 'heaven', it logically followed that there was no longer any need for a prophet on earth. A man could do what he pleased and still go to heaven provided that he bowed before the cross and said he believed in Christ. The appearance of another prophet after Jesus (pbuh), the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was therefore very embarrassing for the Official Christians, especially when so many people accepted his guidance. In its attempts to fulfill its claims and aspirations, the Church was bound to try and subvert Islam, and to eradicate the Muslims, in the same way that it had eliminated the Unitarian followers of Jesus before them.

While the Muslims held to the guidance they had been given, they were protected. As with the Arian Goths, the Muslims became vulnerable to the activities of the Catholic Church, once they began to wander from the guidance they had been given; the dynamic process of flowering in which the community of Cordoba bloomed during the ninth and tenth centuries, inevitably meant that the original simplicity of its first Muslim inhabitants was lost. The richer it became the further it departed from the blue-print of the first community in Madina al-Munawwara, which had been richest when its members were most poor. The Prophet said that he did not fear poverty for his community but riches. He also said that every nation has its trial, and that the trial of the Muslims would be wealth.

Those who fought to maintain or restore the practice of Islam in all its aspects thus found themselves fighting not only the Christians, but also the so-called Muslims. It was a hopeless struggle. They found themselves in a process of collapse and decay which could not be reversed. As long as the Muslims of Andalusia had remained united in their practice of Islam, they had continued to expand. As soon as they divided, their numbers began to diminish, and the Christians were able to commence the business of taking over the country. Furthermore, because of the unfortunate split between the East and the West within the Ummah of Islam, no help from the Muslims in the East was forthcoming. This disunity was one of the fundamental factors which contributed towards the eventual elimination of Islam from Spain, for it was a weakness of which the Christians took full advantage.

Once the Muslims in Andalus had divided, the armies of the Church gained a foothold in the country and, aided by the Christians living within the Muslim domains, who had grown in numbers and flourished under the tolerant Muslim rule, their hold over the country continued to grow. As in the case of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, the atrocities committed by the advancing Christian armies moved the Muslims to take revenge on the Christians within their kingdoms. This only weakened their position in the land, and increased the determination of the Christians to conquer them. Retaliation brought about retaliation. Intolerance bred intolerance. Revenge stimulated revenge....

Commencing with the Burgundian Crusades of 1017, the precursors of the more notorious crusades to the east, the Christians began to make significant inroads into the Iberian peninsula. The taking of Barbastro in 1064, in which thousands of Muslims were slaughtered immediately upon a long siege having been lifted after the two sides had signed a peace treaty, set off a grim pattern for the reconquest of Andalusia by the Christians:

It was an invariable custom with the Christians, whenever they took a town by force of arms, to ravish the daughters in the presence of their fathers, and the women before the eyes of their husbands and families. But on the taking of Barbastro the excesses of this kind committed by thorn pass all belief; the Muslims had never before experienced anything like it. In short, such were the crimes and excesses committed by the Christians on this occasion that there is no pen eloquent enough to describe them.

Allah: Allah is the proper name in Arabic for The One and Only God, The Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is used by the Arab Christians and Jews for the God (Eloh-im in Hebrew; 'Allaha' in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, pbuh). The word Allah does not have a plural or gender. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and He does not beget nor was He begotten. SWT is an abbreviation of Arabic words that mean 'Glory Be To Him.'
s or pbuh: Peace Be Upon Him. This expression is used for all Prophets of Allah.


E-Books on Islam and Muslims

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Dr. A. Zahoor
All Rights Reserved
Excerpts from Ahmad Thomson's book on the subject of Islam in Spain, 1989.
"Islam in Andalus," Revised Edition by A. Thomson and M. Ata'ur-Rahim, Ta-Ha Publishers, London, 1996.

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