Conquest of Andalusia, rise of Islamic civilization in Europe
When the entire Europe was immersed in absolute ignorance and war, Islam came to Spain bringing knowledge and a splendid civilization not just to the region but the European continent at large.
Andalusia or Iberian Peninsula is a land in southwest Europe which includes Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar. For 800 years, this land was part of the Islamic civilization acting as a bridge to connect the East and West in political, economic, social and cultural spheres.
The old inhabitants of Andalusia were the Iberian people whose name has been put on the peninsula. But other people like Phoenicians, and after them Greeks and Carthaginians came to this land and resided there. The Romans also ruled over this land for a long time. The Iberian Peninsula was very important for the Roman state because it was located on the southwestern tip of Europe and linked the continent with Africa through a strait. The Romans ruled over Andalusia till the 5th century when the Goths assaulted the peninsula and expelled the Romans. Thus Andalusia was occupied by Goths in the 6th century. Gothic kings were very despotic and oppressive to the extent that they would inflict every kind of torture against the peoples of the captured lands. The Goths would almost exterminate the subjects. Therefore, during the Muslim conquest of Andalusia in 714 AD, most of the cities opened their gates to the liberating army. In an expression of relief from their corrupt rulers, the people took refuge in the Islamic slogans.
Although the arrival of Muslims in Spain took place in 89 AH. A certain Musa ibn Naseer was appointed as the ruler of North Africa which had recently been conquered by Muslims. He was seeking to occupy other regions and invite its people to Islam. Therefore, he set out for Spain. Musa ibn Naseer ordered one of his commanders by the name of Tareq ibn Ziyad to conquer Spain. With a small army of warriors, he crossed Gibraltar strait and landed in 92 AH in a place which came to be called by his name as Jabal al-Tareq (Tareq Mount). The Latinized corruption of the name came to be known as Gibraltar. They conquered the entire Andalusia within 4 years.
When Tariq landed in Spain, Europe was immersed in utter darkness and opposition to any scientific research. During the medieval ages, the church was hell bent on probing into people’s beliefs. Many people, especially scientists, were accused of apostasy, polytheism and witchcraft in the so-called Inquisition Courts. These people were initially sentenced to torture and, ultimately, to execution in very inhumane forms. With the arrival of Muslims, the fate of this region changed.
After the conquest of Andalusia, Muslims guaranteed the freedom of Christians and Jews and by taking Islamic tribute granted them refuge. The clemency and good conduct of Muslims with Christians and Jews was such that during the rule of Muslims they had freedom and security more than ever. They were the owners of their property, their churches and synagogues; and, in cases of violations of Islamic law, they were tried in accordance with their own laws.
This religious freedom made Christians close to Muslims so that there were marriages between Muslim men and Christian women. Moreover, some Christians chose Islamic names and attended the ceremonies of their Muslim neighbors. Christians freely followed the customs and manners of Muslims. The Andalusian Muslims also treated the Jews peacefully. When the killing of Jews began in some parts of Europe, some of them left for Andalusia as refugees, and Muslims granted shelter to them.
Following the Islamic liberation of Andalusia, art and culture flourished in this region. According to Henry Stephen Lucas, writer of the book “A Short History of Civilization", the great achievements of Muslims in Sprain are of a great importance to European culture. After the opening of Spain’s gates to Muslims, Muslim rulers blended this area with Islamic culture, teaching and thought. With the acceptance of Islamic values and traditions, people’s life changed. The cities of Cordoba, Toledo and Granada became centers of scientific, cultural and artistic thriving, and Islamic education was exported to European Christian lands, especially France and Germany.
The scientific movement that came to Andalusia with the arrival of Islam, caused the flourishing of famous scholars such as Ibn Rushd, ibn Arabi, Ibn Seyyed Batlamyusi, Hayyan ibn Khalaf Cordobi, Abdul Hamid ibn Abdoun Andalusi and others. There were 400,000 books in Córdoba Library. This was the case in the Islamic Andalusia, whereas the largest Christian libraries in Europe before the 12th century had just a few hundred books.
Islam in Andalusia became the source of progress, flourishing, formation of social systems and development of this land. Therefore, cities, public services, and communication affairs advanced rapidly. With the development of economic activities in different sectors of industry, spinning and weaving also enjoyed dramatic growth. Granada textile is so famous that its fabrics were exported to various parts of Europe. The arrival of high-quality fabrics to the European markets resulted in the dressing of Christians in the manner of Muslims.
Glass work increasingly flourished in Andalusia. Abbas ibn Firnas was the first person who made glass from stone. A man from Cordoba, he invented spectacles and thermometer with complicated mechanism and a flying machine in the 9th century AH.
By transferring a modern agricultural method, Muslims developed the rural life of this land. Mohammad Ibn Awwam known as Ibn Awwam studied about 600 plants in his Book on Agriculture. The value of this book often lies in the new views on new topics and types of soils, fertilizers, ligaments, plant diseases and the manner of their treatment and the manner of fruit conservation technique.
Furthermore, the Europeans benefited from the initiatives of Andalusian Muslims in developing agriculture and techniques of agriculture. Thus, plants such as saffron were sent from this region to Europe and their cultivation was promoted.
The flourishing of agriculture affected commerce and the ports of Malaga and Almeria turned into the hubs of exporting commercial commodities. The Spanish commodities were exported to other parts of Europe and some of Andalusia’s goods could even be seen in the markets of Mecca, Baghdad and Damascus.
The presence of huge buildings in Andalusia indicated the power, taste and initiative of Muslims. The large pillars, curving arches, minarets, domes and gypsum decorations represented the art of Muslim architecture in Andalusia. The Cordoba Mosque is one of the great works of this era. Part of this splendid mosque was damaged during the Christian invasion of Andalusia in a bid to build a church in its place but a large part of it remained almost as it was at the end of the ninth century. The German Researcher Sigrid Hunke in her book writes “Spain is the full realization and pinnacle of Islamic art. If there was a growth in the world, it was founded in Andalusia. The richest growth and development and the highest prosperity came true where no indigenous civilization had ever grown. In Cordoba, there was a great church which the Christians were allowed to repair and use it for their worship whereas the Muslim conquerors had built simple mosques for themselves around the city. After the population of Cordoba increased, construction of a Jame' mosque in the city, was needed. So then ruler Abdul Rahman bought the church from the Christians and turned it into a great mosque."
What was said was a small part of the rise and spread of the great Islamic civilization in Europe. But the most important thing is that, with all its splendor, Islamic Andalusia was thoroughly destroyed by the spread of promiscuity among Muslims after 800 years of glorious rule. This rise and fall of Islam in a European country gives many lessons for Muslims today. The great thinker of late 20th century, Martyr Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, wrote: "Human history shows that whenever the ruling powers want to dominate and exploit a society, they try to corrupt the spirit of society and encourage the people towards debauchery. An admonishing example of this ugly method was the disaster that occurred in Muslim Spain for Muslims. Christians used this method to take Spain out of Muslims' hand and they succeeded in removing the determination, resolve, bravery, faith and purity of Muslims and turn them into humble, weak, promiscuous, drunk and womanizing people. It's obvious that overcoming such people is not a difficult task.”