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Al-Andalusia … Decline of a Plural Culture

mahmood Mahmood January 1, 2008

Tags: Spain , civilizations , history

Sociological Analysis of decline of Muslims in Al-Andalusia (Spain) and its implication for World

1st January 2008 is the 516th Anniversary of fall of Al-Andalusia’s last plural place Granada

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.

This 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 cultural innovation.

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 intellectual excellence.

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 others had.

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 hall mark.

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 Al-Andalusia.

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 borders.

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 imaginative thinking.

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 of Al-Maghreb.

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 women.

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 Al-Andalusia

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 of resources.

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 stability.

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 Andalusia.

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!

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