Decline of a Plural Culture
Mahmood January 1, 2008
Tags: Spain , civilizations
Sociological Analysis of decline of Muslims in Al-Andalusia (Spain)
and its implication for World
2008 is the 516th Anniversary of fall of Al-Andalusia’s last plural place
1st January 1492 is the day which has far reaching implications for the
landscape of the world from discovery of Americas to destruction of a plural
civilization in Al-Andalusia.
civilization was based upon the mutual respect and co existence of three major
religions of those times Jews, Christian and Muslims.
The events of 1st January 1492 culminated in the final down fall of Muslims in
Grenada (Gharnata) and it opened up new phase of a modern historical element of
destruction and creative disorder which plagues our world till now. The seeds
of present disorder and confusion were perhaps grown by King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella in the plains of Al-Andalusia. The Reconquesta was accomplished
on this date, this date is not mere dislodging of a dynasty of Arabs or mere
elimination of a certain people from the Iberian Peninsula, it was the defeat
of ideas of human dreams, human endurance and fertility of ideas to overtake
the distances and cultural differences to develop new citadels and laboratories
for creative synthesis and synergy at practical and cultural level.
Al-Andalusia is the forgotten place of our ideals and visions and it is the
place where the Muslim ideas and ideology created the newest ideals of culture
and civilization. Our modern present civilization of present times owes its
Creative tradition to Al-Andalusia’s intellectual and liberal heritage. Let us
briefly look what was Al-Andalusia at its peak and how it contributed to the
renaissance of Europe.
European Renaissance ‘s roots are in Italy , not in France, Germany or England
or Scandinavian countries , and even Americas which had already been discussed
and colonized by the adventurous Columbus and his partners.
Spain’s architectural experimentation is an excellent combination of
synthesizing Gothic architectural techniques with Islamic architectural legacy as
a uniquely Muslim imprint on human history.
In age of Abdur Rehman III , Madinat-Al Zehra ( City of Purity) was built as
landmark of Muslim presence in Andalusia and it was architectural wonder of
amazing proportions and scale and grandeur. (See Fig.3)
The golden age of Al-Andalusia was 10th century when the Umayyads of
Al-Andalusia had developed Cordova as Jewel of the World, when the best swords,
pearls, cultural artifacts and other items ranging from clocks to intellectual
items were the distinguishing aspect of Al-Andalusia. This age was age of
stability and cultural culmination and it was doen under the peacefulrule of
Abdur rehman III. In mid 10th century all the European looked towards
Al-Andalusia for the cultural ideals and all the luxuries and even defense
material to be imported from Al-Andalusia.
Salon Rico in Madinaet Al Zahra Fig.3
Cordoba was city of scholars, libraries , public baths , street lights and
The most enduring legacy of Al-Andalusia is in the field of History where great
names like Ibn-e Hazam , Ibn-e-Khaldun and many others were born to reshape and
permanently change our outlook to look at historical events. Ibn-e-Khaldun’s
Muqaddamah (Prolegomena) is the first book which laid the foundations of
Philosophy of History and gave shape of ideas to the already tradition of
history writing in the Muslim culture . Muqaddamah was the part of his Kitab-Al
Aber which has influenced the human thought to such an extent that all modern
historians, like Spengler, Toynbee and many other use Ibn-e –Khaldun’s ideas to
study history and interpret it in a scientific and objective way. It was
Ibn-e-Khaldun who systematically laid the foundations of objective analyses of
history writing, although the bases had already been laid after the
revolutionary attitude and outlook of Holy Quran adopted towards history and
sciences after advent of Islam.
Nadim’s Kitab-al Fehrist (The Index) is the book which shows the glimpses of
the glorious, fertile, and creative and breath taking civilization and culture
developed and nurtured in Al-Andalusia in the Dark Ages of Europe! This book
shows that how versatile, diverse, balanced, cultural rich were the persons who
enriched human heritage and laid foundations of newer and newer horizons of
Al-Andalusia through Sicily gave knowledge, literature, art, science,
philosophy, modernity and chivalry for the times to come, the seeds of
modernity were sown in Al-Andalusia which were taken to Italy and later unleashed
one of the most creative phase and experimentation in human history which was
precursor of present age of modernity!
The classic literary book Robinson Crusoe was inspired by Hai Ibne- Yazqan an
original and creative book written by Ibn-e-Tufail , who was a genius in fields
of literature, philosophy and physical sciences.
In Italy De Vinci, the famous genius of renaissance published many books
translated from Arabic in Latin word by word, along with greatest “intellectual
plagiarism” in human history without acknowledging any reference to its source.
Works of Ibn-e-Rushd named Averroes in European languages were banned in France
to save the common masses and people from his Heretic views! Ibn-e-Rushd was
the person who raised the issue of women liberty and her position in society in
12th century … he was indeed fart far ahead of his times!
For Jews Al-Andalusia was golden period and after persecution and destruction
by roman empire in early centuries , it was Al-Andalusia which gave them high
place in society . The Royal Physicians of Umayyads( Ibn-e Ishaq family), for
more than 125 years was the Jews. There was a Jew Samuel who became
Vice-President in Spain and it was an indication of the rising influence of
Jews and further details can be seen in Naffah-al- Tayyab a classic book on
Muslim Spanish culture.
In Sicily the royal Ministers and administrators were Muslims who played very
constructive role in synthesizing a cultural wonder in Sicily for times to come
and produced a rich architecture and cultural bonanza!
In Sufism ideas of Ibn-e Al Arabi were the c4reative pinnacle of philosophical
abstract thought with deep attachment and relationship with the social and
cultural times of Al-Andalusia.
In Al-Andalusia of those over 6 centuries the civil amenities were of highest
standard there were street lights, public baths, public libraries,
universities, hospitals and a plural environment with equal opportunities for
male and female in all the fields of cultural realm.
Al-Andalusia was flowering of idea of chivalry and peaceful co-existence in the
age of darkness in Europe and it was a plural experience which had blue print
for future generations to come. Understanding decline of such a culture and
civilization is understanding humanity and in present age of hatred,
international violence4 and religious extremism and brutal use of state power
Al-Andalusia has lessons for us both positive –at the time of its peak.. and
negative – in its decline—so Al-Andalusia is a human heritage and human experience
worth emulating in its plural, tolerant and chivalrous development and an idea
to be shunned and avoided in its times of decay and decline.
Muslims in Al-Andalusia and World Fig.4
Eventually in January 1492 the Nasrids are forced to surrender to the recently
united forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, "Los Reyes Cathólicos" (the
"Catholic Monarchs" - blessed as such by the Spanish Borgia Pope
Alessandro VI (1431 - 1492 - 1503 ). The 781 year Muslim presence in
Al-Andalusia is over. Later in the year Columbus sets sail from Huelva and
Lorenzo de' Medici dies in Florence -
In nutshell Al-Andalusia was an experimentation of a plural society which took
the human imagination to new heights by introducing concepts of dynamic and
powerful culture, genetic engineering in agriculture, unique architecture,
scientific ideology, philosophical enrichment and was the real foundation of
renaissance which was spiritual and plural in its spirit and action in its
heydays. the Middle Ages".
There is a verse in Urdu translated as;
Time shapes up things for many years
Events don’t crop up suddenly!
The Decline of Al-Andalusia was also not a day’s work and it was not only
Reconquista which was the reason of decline of Muslims and ultimately
elimination of Muslims from Al-Andalusia, the malaise was deeper and it had
deep roots. Let us explore the reasons;
1. Vanishing Asabiyah
The concept of Asabiyah is the original contribution of Spanish Historian Ibn-e
-Khaldun and its roots are deeply ingrained in the history of Al-Andalusia as
Ibn-e Khaldun’s major portion of life was spent actively in Al-Andalusia. This
idea describes the bases and reasons of cohesion in the society which keeps the
society stable and in order. Asabiyah is basically an equivalent of ideology
which binds people together to work and keep united for a certain agreed goal.
In modern times Nationalism is the best example which tries to keep intact the
regional and national ideology on the bases of shared history, language, vision
of life, develop the Asabiyah of a people to work for collective cause and
survival in diverse field of ideas and issues.
Establishment of independent Umayyads Caliphate in Al-Andalusia was spearheaded
by Abdurrahman Al Dakhil was the person who established the Umayyad state which
endured for centuries.
He laid the foundations of a polity based upon the cohesion and Asabiyah of
Arabs with ingredients and attributes of Islam led by Umayyads under the active
support of Berbers moving intermittently from across the Mediterranean. This
was one factor which solely depended upon the Asabiyah of religion and presence
of Christians and Jews also sharpened the religious preponderance in developing
the concept of religious Asabiyah.
The presence of these contrasting elements was a very important factor in
evolution of society as a plural society in the long run and it had also the
attributes of downfall when the mutual fundamental hostility of Christian and
other religion’s Asabiyah was gradually and ultimately taken over by Christian
Reconquesta in January 1492.
The elite are the bastions and torch bearers of Asabiyah in any society which
keeps the society going and stable. It sees the challenges to the society and
then responds to threats emanating from around its geographical and ideological
boundaries. These elite are the reference point which helps to guide the
society, this is the way as the societies are able to keep their balance and
sustain the pressures of ever changing social and cultural scenarios. This
leadership of elite is not restricted to mere political power and attached
institutions its basic ingredients are state institutions coupled with a strong
and vibrant civil society which are not at loggerheads to each other but
supporting and reinforcing each other’s ideas. This process may not always be
hostile and smooth as it seems from surface, and internal tensions and
differences are natural and they sustain and if these differences are out of
control then they take on shape of chaos and disintegration of the society. But
we can merely know the threshold level at which the things become
disintegrative instead of playing a role in integrating the society, despite
the same tendencies and intentions of the different sections of the society and
culture of the society.
Asabiyah is the force which makes to harmonize and balance these divergent
forces and creeds working in the society. The Asabiyah of Al-Andalusia was
inspired basically by Islamic and Umayyad Arabian leadership coupled with
active partnership of Berbers (of same religion) , Jews and some Christians (
disgruntled form past Christian powers due to myriad of reasons). These
fundamental factors kept the situation in always a danger of being explosive
especially between Muslims and Christians due to inherent conflict as to holding
power and as to difference of religious ideas , which ultimately led to success
of Christian Asabiyah in 1492.This conflict was continuous and its presence was
controlled merely by the benevolent and patient understanding of Christian
factor in society by the elite of Muslim Al-Andalusia , but it was always under
stress from papacy and extremist elements within the ruling elite inspired by
religious zeal .
The Asabiyah between Muslims’ major factions was affected by Berber and Arab
relationships and in that the superiority of Arabs was challenged many times by
Berbers due to cultural differences and the result was chaos, the major factor
in disintegrating the social fabric and gluing Asabiyah of Islam. The number of
people or total population structure also played a role in developing the mind
of in developing their relationships with each other and themselves. In Muslims
there were further sub-divisions of Arabs, Berbers, and Muladies .
Jews had smaller presence but it was very effective, for Jews it was the most
fertile period for their religious and cultural survival and evolution.
Maimonides is the person who laid the foundations of legal thought within Jews
and is considered to be the one o the greatest intellectuals of Jewish history.
Their rooting out from Al-Andalusia gave them another place in Ottoman Turks
and a future foothold in England where they were able to lay the foundations of
modern interest based banking in London.
The interplay of these forces and other factors was always exasperating or
sustaining the tumults of hold of Muslims in Al-Andalusia as the social,
cultural and political position of society adjusted with the ensuing changes of
social and cultural pace.
Introduction of religious exclusion by many groups of Muslims sustained and
ultimately this religious diversity weakened the Asabiyah to such an extent
that the result was end of Nasirid in Grenada on 1st January 1492.
2. Religious Extremism
Religious ideas and their relationship with the elite and governing authorities
has played very important role in the evolution and development of the polity
and culture of Muslim societies. This became more important in Al-Andalusia as
here the intellectual sense of the religious differences was acute and it has
to face the Christian insistence at that time of retaining supremacy of Papacy
and it was proved by later events when Christians took over the political and
cultural hold of society in Al-Andalusia. Here the religious extremism played
its negative influences and here Maliki Fiqh was implemented and other Fiqhas
were not accepted of importance, although here was another scholar of great
eminence namely Ibn-e – Hazm ( God bless him) but it could not get currency as
Here the control of Maliki Fiqh was supreme and it is to be noted that here the
Muslim civilization was dominantly urban and based in major cities of
Al-Andalusia but the Maliki Fiqh had a town streak in it and it was a bit rigid
and static as compared to other Fiqhs. This had vey negative and retrogressive
impact on the cultural and civilization evolution in Al-Andalusia.
Another issue of Maliki rigidity and its structural limitation was its too much
reliance on literal interpretation and adherence on Quran and Hadith, which
hindered the legal and cultural evolutionary process of Ijtehad and forward
looking development of legal process with social development.
These differences many times prompted the Ulema to take the control of power at
centre and to impose the interpretation of religion as understood and liked by
the Ulema. This was a serious cause of disturbance in Muslim Al-Andalusia and
once scholars and Ulema gathered in royal area and demanded the control of
power and implementation of religious ideas as expounded by them. This was
dealt severely and tactfully by the Caliph at that time stormed them and
treated this as rebellion crushing them with full power and putting to rest the
issue. But this temporary control could not root out the deep rooted issue of
religious control over the power under the garb of religious authority. This
had also affect of nearness to Papacy on the ideas of Ulema as they could see
the status and hold exercised by them at that time.
After the fall of Umayyad power in 1031 the Muslim power was restored by Al-
Muawhedeen and they were extremists in their outlook and least tolerant to
difference of opinion on religious issues and beliefs. They treated their
opponents with contempt and implemented narrow and strict interpretation and
application of religious decrees over the populace. This was a very negative
aspect fro social and cultural cohesion in society and weakened the plural
bases of the society. This also resulted in many small kingdoms established fro
their personal benefits and ignored the central authority which made the
Christian rise possible and religious differences led to decline of power and
civilization in Al-Andalusia. Under the extremist and rigid hold of Muawhedeen
the books of great scholar of Islam Al-Ghazali were burnt in Al-Andalusia , and
another great philosopher of his times Ibn—e-Rushd has to bear discrimination
and bias under the hands of those in power.
3. Legal Compromises
The legal structure of a society plays very important role in sustaining the
cultural and economic development and evolution of the society over a long
period of time and its durability and strength determines the sustenance and
survival of the society, under emergency and trying circumstances being its
The religion was driving force of Asabiyah no doubt in strengthening and
persevering the Islamic culture and civilization in Al-Andalusia, but in back
ground and in reality it was its legal structure based upon Shariah which had
to face the burden of ever changing and complicated social and economic changes
ingrained within the complex plural society of Al-Andalusia. This complexity
and diversity determined that the role of law will become very important while
deciding about the controversies and issues of mutual interest to all segments
of society as mere personal laws were not adequate for answering the newly
arising questions of cultural development and evolutionary life in
This exciting and challenging environment was not used as a creative experience
in a constructive way to develop new horizons in Al-Andalusia to lay the
foundations of durable, liberal and forward looking legal system in
Al-Andalusia. It was Maliki Fiqh which ruled supreme and its inherent
limitation and bias of its practicing Ulema closed the doors of creative
experiments although they had also scholars of high stature like Ibn-e- Hazm (
God Bless Him ) who could have been an alternative or side by side legal
structure to develop on further. But it was not to be so and legal structure
and environment of Al-Andalusia adopted idea of Masaleh which sapped the
energies of Ulema and legal minds on power mongering and search fro internecine
tussle and personal glory as it was easier to adjust or implement many things
as per traditions instead of relying on creative synthesis and analysis of the
situation and issues in a free, rational and open way.
It seems to be a paradox that for Judaism their greatest legal scholar
Maimonides was in Al-Andalusia, as the plural attitude of Muslims had a fertile
ground for Jews at that time.
Legal compromise was the tactical adjustment between the Al Maghreb’s diverse
and varied cultural traditions of Berbers, Arabs, and Christians embracing
Islam. This compromise limited the scope and evolutionary development of the
new traditions and cultural traditions of plurality developed in Al-Andalusia.
4. Internecine Fighting
The internal cohesion and strength of a society is the greatest asset of a
society in times of test. This sustains and enhances the life of a certain
society. This internecine fighting has many complicated and internally
connected reasons and dynamics which weakened the Asabiyah over the longer
period of time and also encouraged the Christian powers of South to embark on
Reconquista under the fiery zeal and enthusiasm of Papacy and their resolve to
take back the power lost.
The control of Umayyad Power in late 10th century was overtak3n by Ibn-e -Abi
Amer and he held the de-facto control of the centr4al government and it was the
time when the Berber rebellions were ravaging with its extreme intensity in
border areas of Mediterranean and also in other parts of Al-Maghreb . This
internecine fighting was exacerbated by the religious differences and the
rising tide of extremism and strict adherence and observance of ritualistic
aspect of the religious ideas and practices. This strictness opened up schism
and loathing for rival groups to such an extent that books of rival ideas and
intellectuals were banned and in many cases these books which differed with the
ideology were burnt in public to show hatred for the difference of opinion , it
was the worst danger and paramount enemy of the plural culture and Muslim
society and civilization in Al-Andalusia , This culture of hatred dealt severe
blows to the polity and unity of Muslims and resulted in annihilation of
Umayyad power in 1031 and later on it were small principalities and small
kingdoms which were the torch bearers of the cultural pluralism of Al-Andalusia
after the decline of central government and power in Cordoba.
These states had localize4d and restricted control over certain areas under
their suzerainty and their bases was not any broad based consensus, but usually
the sway of power under the control of swords. These Party Kings as they are
called in context of Spanish history can be seen in Fig.2 and their respective
This internecine infighting was brutal to such an extent that Muslims forged
alliances with Christians and power struggle was the supreme goal to attain the
reigns of power at the cost of Asabiyah and longevity and consistency of power
and hold of Muslim power of Al-Andalusia. This selfish attitude of elite and
Party Kings destroyed the seeds of plural culture and to garner new ideas and
support initiated the rooting of Berber conservatism and extremism on Spanish
soil, this was also reactionary influence of raging crusades initiated by
Christians and associated with Reconquista in Al-Andalusia. This volatile
environment of Spanish history was followed soon after decline of Umayyad power
in 1031 A.D and here came the paradox of Al-Andalusia’s history that it was
politically fragmented and distorted times of Al-Andalusia but intellectually
and culturally the greatest names of Al-Andalusia lived in those tiems .
Ibn-e-Al Arabi, Ibn-e- Rushd , Ibn-e-Khaldun, Ibn-e Khalqan and many other
names. This is most amazing testimony to the cultural standards of those times
set by Muslims in Al-Andalusia which were kept on rolling despite the fall and
decay of central authority, and despite the power centered creed of Party Kings
the cultural freedom was still a cherished ideal.
Despite the Al.Murabitins and Al Mauwheeden’s extremist hold , there were many
cultural enlightened Party Kings who supported and nurtured intellectual
freedom and followers of ideas with great care and love.. Ibn-e –Rushd is the
case in example.
In Andalusia the inherent fault line was difference of Berber and Arabs. This
was kept under control when Asabiyah was strong and religious affiliations
played a positive role, but due to increased role of Asabiyah based upon
religious ideas this created tensions and conflicts between Ulema and elite at
different stages and some times it developed into deep rooted and continuous
conflicts. This active role of Ulema also gave ideas to Papacy to assert for
its supremacy and restoration of old power on the masses and resources of
Andalusia in collaboration with ruling elite.
Rebellions of Berbers were a constant sore point for elite and authorities in
Cordoba and they were different and difficult people to placate due to their
inherent tribal traits. Their love for freedom and independence also caused
problems fro authorities many times and their inclination was more towards
warrior activities instead of other cultural and less physical pursuits.
Peace and development of middle 10th century under Abdur Rehman III was a
challenge to nomadic culture and attitude of Berbers which resulted in raising
their arms against authorities under influence of local chiefs and tribal
affiliations of Berbers. In peace they were able to develop a marvelous culture
but at war also they were expert and this led to gradual drain of Asabiyah and
economic crisis. Berbers were the front runners of many new party Kings who
sprang up after end of umayayd power in 1031A.D.
Party Kings Fig.5
5. Christian Reconquista
In Al-Andalusia the official and cultural language was Arabic and along with
Baghdad 100 years ago it was the Lingua Franca of the world. The language
Arabic has rage and the priests of Christians used to say , it is strange that
now Christian youth speak Arabic and even write poetry in Arabic! This was the
basic difference and although describing the roots of rift coming from the
power bastion of past. --Papacy. This was Papacy which played the role in
initiating the Crusades and later Reconquista in Al-Andalusia. Papacy developed
the image of Muslims as idolaters and enemies to Christ and the propaganda was
fed continuously to the Spanish Christians and it was used as source of hatred
to speed up Reconquista.
For example papacy said about Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him as an idol
named Mahomet in a cave near Mecca. It speaks volumes about their knowledge and
inherent bias about Muslims. This ignorance and hatred created a zeal and
enthusiasm which gave impetus to violence, war, and a struggle to restore
Christian glory under the leadership of Kings and Papacy. This was clash of
Asabiyah and after a long, protracted and bitter fight it culminated in events
of 1st January 1492 and King Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were
able to wipe out the last relic of a plural culture in Al-Andalusia… this began
age of colonialism and greed also beginning of modern age of self
aggrandizement and resource control. Although previously it also happened but
it was not a cruel ruthless exploitation, it was not absentee power holding---
but age of Discovery was age of Slavery and age of destruction for cultures of
past as witnessed in destruction of Latin American civilization, Red Indians in
USA and the most shameful acts of slavery from Africa as after math of this
human tragedy in Al-Andalusia. Death of Al-Andalusia was death of plurality and
Chivalry! This Reconquista was not triumph of values it was of power, hatred
and retrogression against values of openness and progress despite its
restricted scope in 15th century Al-Andalusia.
This event was beginning of age of Slavery, Colonialism and permanent scar on
the tolerance and plurality of humanity as now things were to be seen from
distorted angles of Christian non-Christian, White, non, White Blacks and
Whites Colonizers and Colonized and as a paradox of civilization and plunder!
This zeal of religious exclusion and narrow cultural base destroyed the already
fragile balance of world at cross roads, this Age of Discovery was not of discovery
it was of plunder, hatred and retrogression, it was the development of
hypocrisy and double standards on the name of great ideals couched for the
personal glory and also a n attempt to burden the world with a religious narrow
ideology not as by choice but under the force of swords and naked power! It was
age of exclusion, replacing age of inclusion; it was another setback to forces
of plurality, tolerance and chivalry! And this setback needs to be reversed now
after more than 6 centuries! Not in capturing lands or proselytizing but in our
ideas and imagination as all destruction and hatred flows from ideas and then
is supported with brute power!
Ion European history Reconquista is considered a successful example of
territorial gains and usually celebrated as a moment of pride but it has
destroyed the soul of plurality in the Iberian Peninsula. Success of
Reconquista was triumph of Inquisition aimed at Jews and Muslims. This was
initiation of the darkest periods in European history in particular and fro
humanity in general. Reconquista unleashed forces of hatred and violence
sanctioned by religious decrees and state authorities. This Inquisition
severely damaged the economic prosperity of Andalusia and of its masses.
Muslims were murdered , driven out at a large scale and many Muslims were sent
to Latin America as slaves and their generations still live in that continent .
6. Lack of Fresh Blood in Elite
Ruling elite in Al-Andalusia was Arab at its head and it was supported
militarily by Berbers and official work was done by local Spanish people and
this was a practical solution and a result of plural ethos and traditions of
Spanish Umayyads .As Muslim Al-Andalusia was on the peripheries of Muslim lands
at that time so it has the inherent limitations of people and ideas to reach
here and develop in scope and range. But when we see that it was not less than
to Baghdad in its heydays and rather in many fields it created many names which
are still pride of their respective fields and then we come to know the role
played by intellectual and cultural plurality of Al-Andalusia to enhance the
diversity of human thought.
This diversity was possible mainly to the liberal and friendly behavior fo
Kings and elite to actively support, nurture and encourage intellectual
activities and it was love of knowledge and books which created the galore and
highly developed Urban culture of Muslims in Al-Andalusia despite being less in
resources in material and immaterial terms if compared to Abbasids of Baghdad .
Welcoming Ziryab in Al-Andalusia shows this spirit of patronizing intellectuals
and ideologues as the culminating spirit of plurality … was encouraging fresh
and new talent without any restrictions. Hakm III was named Bibliophile as he
was lover of the book and he has reputation of paying the highest price for the
books which were written at first and some times it was like this that the book
reached first in Library of Al-Andalusia despite the author being in Baghdad
and this attitude was in 100th century when Cordoba attained the status of the
Jewel of World.
This trend was overturned when the internecine infighting, religious strife and
Christian Reconquista created hostile and insecure environment, and the flow of
intellectuals and ideas was blocked for times to come and it was time when
local intellectuals took on the torch of ideas to move forward against all the
odds of social and cultural restrictions placed due to rising intolerance on
the name of religion and power.
This was intellectual field but balance was also disturbed in military field as
previously Berbers were the military linchpin at functional and active force
level occupying majority of Army due to low ratio of Arabs and locals in forces
due to strategic and national priorities of Muslims of Al-Andalusia. But
rebellions due to their inherent tribal nature and later religious extremism
checked the flow of forces from Tunis, Morocco and other areas of North Africa
to mainland Al-Andalusia. This created a severe bottle neck in evolution and
development of strategic and practical cultural progress of Al-Andalusia and as
it also was a strengthening factor previously, now it developed into a factor
of stability which played havoc with the stable bonds and Asabiyah of cultural
plurality. This proved a decisive factor in tearing apart the besieged Muslims
in Al-Andalusia. Besieged as Reconquista had begun and Muslims instead of
fighting with their rivals fought among themselves thus speeding up decline and
downfall of a marvelous urban culture in medieval Europe. This reversal of
intellectual flow and its resultant stagnation was a great blow to future
prospects of peace and stability of Al-Andalusia and instead of nurturing and
encouraging plurality it returned back to savages of religious extremism and power
mongering of elite irrespective of their religious leanings and ideas.
7. Status of Women
Women are the barometer which tells the level of civilization and attitude of
the culture towards its fundamental and basic attributes and outlook towards
the over all changes being wrought in the polity and society at large. In
Al-Andalusia in its heydays women were having their day and for many years
personal secretary of Abd-al Hakam and enjoyed unprecedented freedom and high
level of cultural superiority and social status and space in the civil society
of that time. The freedom and liberality enjoyed by women was unprecedented in
the Spanish history in those times and also for times to come.
The poetry describes their freedom to act, choose and openly show their hidden
and open talents without any fear of rebuke and different issues attached with
the personality of women in those times irrespective of any religious
affiliation in those times.
Women enjoyed economic and cultural freedom and its reach was of diverse and
innovative. Ziryab’s success in Al-Andalusia when he migrated from Baghdad and
made Al-Andalusia his destination is the most remarkable cultural event of
Al-Andalusia.. He was the person who introduced use of forks while eating,
developed new hair designing, developed new perfumes. He was a celebrity in
Al-Andalusia and his legacy is the epitome of Spanish Muslim culture and his
contribution to human heritage in his individual capacity and refinement of
taste is unparallel and it shows the vitality and freedom of that society which
thrived on innovation and plurality… Ziryab was a black African but he was the
most renowned person among elite and especially women due to his innovative and
Women’s poetry in Al-Andalusia shows the ups and downs of the society in
Al-Andalusia. This poetry has very diverse and deep experiences to stir the
soul of persona and show the depth and range of experience of women of Muslim
Al-Andalusia in a plural and multi cultural environment.
Ibn-e- Hazam’s Dove’s Necklace on topic of love is a classic of its type its
intellectual canvass and impact on its age is a marvelous study of iconic
cultural liberality and freedom of Al-Andalusia. This had great links and
cultural synthesis of ideas of Chivalry reaching to its zenith in Al-Andalusia.
The luxury, art, culture, beauty, music, sophistication, reigns supreme in
Al-Andalusia of heydays and women have a glorious place in that Al-Andalusia
and it was their position in Al-Andalusia that in 13-14th century in present
day Senegal Songhi dynasty was led by a woman and it was extension of culture
Women’s role in a society is of utmost importance and it is a very pertinent
saying of an intellectual that if you want to determine the level and sophistication
of development of a civilization, then observe and analyze the role of women in
that society… it is the single most important idea which can lead us directly
to weakness and strength of the society and civilization.
Women had a driving influence on the major cultural activities of Andalusia;
Ibn-e-Arabi’s inspiration was a daughter of his teacher. The songs of Andalusia
were extrapolation of Chivalry of Arabia ingrained in beauty and delicacy of
The legal compromise also affected the status of women directly as Berbers
insisted upon following their traditional codes instead of Islamic legal code
which hurt their status to great extent. This legal compromise was kept in
abeyance when the society was peaceful and cultural vibrant and conscious of
its rights but when it was threatened by security issue then its negative
implications played in full swing. Marriage, inheritance, property and related
issues of women were highly compromised by this in nomadic and rural society of
Berbers at popular level. But it conferred great power and status if it was at
tribal chief leader as magic queen of North Africa’s events show. Women were
excluded from cultural and social circles and restricted to home when religious
extremists took power in Andalusia and also times of trouble and insecurity.
This was a threat and constant limitation for women despite presence of ideas
of chivalry in the ethos and cultural moors of Andalusia.
In Al-Andalusia this factor was of utmost importance and declining status of
women was due to continuous hold of conservative and extremist forces led by
Berber resurgence and ritualized following of religion. After the decline of
Umayyad power in 1031 A.D in Al-Andalusia the hold of Party kings also weakened
the exalted and cultured space occupied by women of Al-Andalusia, Queen
Isabella’s rise in Christian Reconquista shows the rising influence of women
freedom and liberation in that society. Although it was also influenced by the
8th century tradition of exhorting men to embrace martyrdom by insulting Islam
under influence of beautiful nuns of Christians.
This decline of women’s status was noted as a prime cause of declining fortunes
of Muslim society by Ibn-e-Rushd .His ideas in 12th century were far ahead of
his times in all regards but with respect to women it was a great and practical
insight which shows his unique understanding of the issue from unbiase4d and
gender free perspective. This is the true indication of plural society of
8. Economic Downfall
Economy is the engine which moves the society in new directions and a poor
society is always on loggerheads with itself and its neighbors. Prosperity is
bases of a developing and progressive society. A poor society can never be
progressive as its structural issu4es and inherent limitation can not let it
rise above the fundamental struggle of subsistence and survival instinct which
is based upon constant struggle and fighting. This is borne by historical facts
that poor, the periods of wealth are periods of peace and development.
Spain is a classic example of a Public Friendly Development Model which is
basically driven by mega development projects aimed at public welfare with
labor intensive stress. This model was raised to its apogee in 10th century
Andalusia and it took Cordoba to its highest level of cultural development and
progress which was never witnessed again in Spain and in its past also.
In this age the abandoned aqueducts were repaired, new roads were constructed,
hospitals, universities, libraries, and public welfare systems were developed
at rapid pace and economic activities were given impetus by signing peace
agreements with all its hostile neighbors .This resulted in drastic changes in
economic structuring of Andalusia. The late 9th century Andalusia was a war
economy busy in diverting its major resources towards war efforts as it had
many wars going on its borders but peace gave dividends and within a generation
Andalusia was host to Cordoba a Jewel of World.
The expansion of roads and development of new market places was hall mark o f
10th century Andalusia, but it was over taken by continuous economic decline
due to political and regional issues. As the age of Reconquista began the
resources were diverted to fight the enemies and it was also an age when
internal rebellion spearheaded by Berbers were also at its peak thus energies
attained in the times of peace were destroyed and decayed in battle field.
These battles diverted the resources to destruction instead of productive utilization
Lack of governmental interest in developing projects of public welfare and
development was major source of declining economic activity. The aqueducts were
not repaired and maintained to strengthen the agricultural output and it also
affected condition of roads and markets to move further although it was
Andalusia from which the concept of modern banking check was developed. Its
root was word Seeq’n and it was used extensively from Andalusia to China’s port
Canton. This economic prosperity was disturbed by Crusades, Reconquista and
internecine fighting .
But this development and prosperity also created unease among the mercenaries
of Berber origin who failed to reconcile to changing times of prosperity and
peace and took to arms against the central government and there was same scale
of war and insecurity as in late 9th century. This exhausted the country and
resulted in diversion of resources from productive economic activities to war
activities which drained country of investment and capital. The public welfare
projects were abandoned and due to Berber threat many productive hands had to
join to fight this rebellion.
Economic prosperity of Andalusia was basically overturned by the wars and
Berber rebellions and its attached uncertainty, and it contributed to downfall
of cultural and civilization progress. The glory of 10th century and its scope
and level was never restored despite glimpses of Granada and other Party Kings.
This war economy took away the central place of Cordoba in the Mediterranean
trade and exports and resulted in its gradual decline over a larger scale
although it kept its spark of regional grandeur. Instead of exporting the
swords, arrows and related defense gadgetry now Andalusia used it for itself ,
which deprived it of considerable source of capital and productive impetus
resulting in lower efficiency and productivity during the troubled times of
11th century thus striking a severe blow to its prosperity and economic
The decline in economy proved to be fatal over a long period of time and it
resulted in gradual elimination of culture of plurality and tolerance.
9. Role of Ibn-e-Abi Amer (Al-Mansur… The Hajib )
Al. Mansur (978-1002) is the most enigmatic character of Al-Andalusia and his
place at the historical juncture makes him of utmost importance in
understanding plurality and also at the twilight of Umayyad Power in Andalusia.
He appeared on the horizon of Andalusia in late 10th century and gradually
attained all powers till his death in early years of 11th century and also the
active beginning of Reconquista. As it was the time when the elite of Cordoba
were weakened to such an extent that Al.-Mansur was able to exercise hold
without any supportive Asabiyah and a big clan to his credit. It also showed
the flexibility, plurality, inherent motile and dynamic nature of polity in
Al Mansur the Hajib’s hold on power was able to pose terror in the hearts of
Christians but it also generated the threat element of reactionary elements
from Christian forces. This was not due to role of wars that things collapsed
after a successful reining of hostile powers but due to less capable successors
of elite in Andalusia .In the absence of a healthy elite and active support of
Berber forces to fight this policy of Al-Mansur after his death, the façade
crumbled rapidly. If Al-Mansur would have generated support and created a new
Asabiyah to continue his power then things would have been very different, but
it never happened and after Hajib al –Mansur their was no one to carry forward
the consolidation of the work as done by him.
Hajib’s seizure of powers was able to control rebellions and even defeat and
humiliate hostile powers but it also re-directed the economic activity towards
war activities with less productive results. His crushing of rebellions later
also pushed the Berbers towards schism and rebellions towards Cordoba. But it
is very complex issue whether he would have been successful or not to control
the menace of rebellions and hostile forces on his frontiers if he would have
resorted to peace instead of fighting? This can be answered if we see the early
10th century Andalusia when this policy of peace was capable to develop Cordoba
in the Jewel of World but there was no person like Abdur Rehman III to
strengthen the polity and Asabiyah to ensure the sustainability of social and
political development. Mansur’s personal goals clashed with the broader goals
of polity and it resulted in chaos, this policy would have not been fatal if
there would have been capable elite to march on restructuring and
reinvigorating the declining fortunes of State. This was exacerbated by
resurgence of Reconquista and it was ultimately successful to drive out Muslims
and Jews from Andalusia . This was birth of a new times and death of an era
marked by plurality and chivalry of humanity!
Synthesis of the reasons of Decline
As a token of respect to unique and unparalleled Master and pioneer of
Sociology and philosophy of history Ibn-e-Khaldun , the idea of Asabiyah as
bases of understanding history in the place he lived his times is used. This
idea of Asabiyah is the most original idea in human history as to its
application and rational placement in the issue of human affairs. The declining
Asabiyah of Andalusia elite increased centrifugal forces in society resulting
in gradual decline of plural culture. Conflicting religious Asabiyah
contributed to increased wars and reduced economic activity and tolerance in
society which gave opportunity to rivals to take over reigns of power in
Andalusia., Reconquista in the presence of internecine fighting proved to be
successful in wresting power from Muslims and also last nail in the coffin of
plurality in Spain and also from world for times to come! Declining Economic
activity drastically altered the structure of economy and also increased
structured unemployment which contributed to rising extremism and religious
intolerance in the new ideologies of al-Maghreb, Decreasing role of women
encouraged retrogressive forces to instill fear and marginalization in the
hearts of society at large and among women in particular and this restricted
women to mere houses thus depriving the society an active partner in developing
an urbane and urban culture based upon tolerance , plurality and chivalry,
Internecine fighting contributed to gradual decline in the regional hold of
Muslims and also encouraged active interference of Christians in internal
issues of remaining states , collaborating with rival groups to develop new
balance of power. This initially was not able to disturb the cultural
activities of society but this increased the uncertainty which gave impetus to
survival instinct instead of accommodation, pluralism and chivalry.
Declining capacity of fresh ideas to cushion elite resulted in rise of Hajib Al
Mansur’s temporary rise but it showed the bankruptcy of elite to sustain the
tradition of their forefathers in a new and dynamic way.
In conclusion the decline of Muslims in general and in particular decline of
plural society was a complex process which had internal and external causes as
explained above. But the basic factors responsible for decline were diminishing
Asabiyah, Religious Extremism, Legal inertia, internecine fighting coupled with
declining status of women and economy weakened the society from inside which
was dealt last and severe blow to its existence by Reconquista which sealed the
fate of Muslims in Andalusia and rooting out of a great experience of plural
and chivalrous society in Andalusia!