Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Was a Nazi Flag Flying from a Jerusalem Hotel FAST in the 1930's? - Jerusalem Pearl Hotel - Draiman

Why Was a Nazi Flag Flying from a Jerusalem Hotel FAST in the 1930's? - Jerusalem Pearl Hotel - Draiman

Why Was a Nazi Flag Flying from a Jerusalem Hotel FAST in the 1930's? - Jerusalem Pearl Hotel - Draiman

It was replaced by The Jerusalem Pearl Hotel in 1995 by the Draiman family. See picture at the bottom.
Posted: 30 Aug 2015 11:11 AM PDT
We recently published pictures from the British Library's Endangered Archives Programincluding this incredible picture of Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City which we have dated to the mid-1890's. Only in 1898 was the wall near Jaffa Gate breached so that carriages could drive into the city.

Jaffa Gate and A(braham) Fast's restaurant.  (Debbas Collection, British Library)

We wanted to know more about the store on the left with the sign "A Fast. Restauranteur."  Was this a tourist establishment of Abraham Fast, who in 1907 took over a large hotel several hundred meters to the west of the building pictured above and renamed it "Hotel Fast?"

German troops marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday, 

April 6, 1917. The building on the left is
the Fast Hotel. (Imperial War Museum, UK)

It was a leading hotel with 100 rooms, built around a court yard with Ionic, Corinthian and Doric columns.

Hotel Fast and its kosher restaurant was a well-known establishment in Jerusalem for decades, and was probably considered by many to be a Jewish-owned establishment because of its Jewish clientele.
Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Fasts were German Templers.

The German consulate in the Fast Hotel, 1933.
(Wikimedia, Tamar Hayardeni)

They lived in Jerusalem's German Colony and were exiled by the British after World War I and during World War II because of their support for Germany.

We recently uncovered pictures of German troops marching in Jerusalem streets on Good Friday 1917. Readers were able to identify the building on the left as the Fast Hotel.

Our biggest surprise was finding this picture of the German consulate in the Hotel Fast with the German Swastika flag flying from the building. 

During World War II, the hotel was taken over by the British army command and turned into the Australian army club. 

The Hotel Fast housed
 Australian soldiers in World War II. 
 Here they are greeting the Australian 
Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the commander of the Australian troops in Australia, 
Lt. Gen. Thomas Blamey in February 1941. The Matson Photo Service, shown on the ground floor, was run by Eric Matson, originally from the American Colony Photographic Department. 
 Matson left Palestine in 1946 for the United States.  His collection of photos were bequeathed to the Library of Congress where many of the pictures in this 
website were found.  (Library of Congress

The Hotel Fast building was abandoned in 1967 and torn down in 1976 to make way for the Dan Pearl Hotel - Built by the Draiman family in 1995.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Arabs expelled the Jews from all their Countries – Confiscated their assets including land - YJ Draiman

Arabs expelled the Jews from all their Countries – Confiscated their assets including land

DECEMBER 23, 2014, 12:53 PM


The Jewish exodus from Arab lands refers to the 20th century persecution and expulsion or mass forced departure of Jews, primarily of Sephardi and Mizrahi background, from Arab and Islamic countries. The forced migration started in the late 19th century, but accelerated after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. According to official Arab statistics, over 995,000 Jews and their families were forced out of their homes in Arab countries from 1946 until the mid 1970’s. Some 670,000 resettled in Israel, forced to leave behind the Arab confiscated the Jewish personal property, businesses, homes and 120,400 sq. km. of Real estate property 6 times the size of Israel valued today in the trillions of dollars.

The campaign to sheds light on a little-discussed aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: In the wake of the War of Independence and the establishment of Israel, two major population movements took place in the Middle East. The one that is frequently mentioned is the Palestinian exodus, but at the same time almost one million Jews were forced to leave Arab countries where they had lived for over 2,500 years. According to official Arab statistics, due to persecution and violence, some 995,000 Jews and their families were forced to leave those Arab countries from 1948 to the mid of the 1970’s, and about 670,000 of them were absorbed in Israel. For the sake of comparison, the United Nations data estimate the original population of Arab-Palestinian refugees at 585,000.
Because we had no home for nearly two thousand years, Israel made itself independent of its Arab-British oppressors in 1948. In that year, another great Jewish Exodus occurred, leading to a large increase in the population of Israel and the decimation by the Arabs of some of the oldest Jewish communities on earth.
Jews have lived in the countries now occupied by Arabs since the destruction of the first Temple in 586 B.C.E. Yet, the descendants of these original inhabitants of so many Middle Eastern lands were driven out of their ancestral homes by the religious bigotry and racial animosity of the Arab invaders.
In 1945 there were more than 995,000 Jews and their families living in Arabic speaking countries. Today, there are less than 6,000. Some Arab states like Libya are completely judenrein, i.e., cleansed of Jews, as the Arabs’ best friend, Hitler, liked to say.
About 670,000 of these Jews were absorbed by Israel. Another 360,000 went to Europe, America or Australia. Evidently, then, the refugee problem in the Middle East consists of the failure of the Arab states to compensate these 995,000 Jewish refugees for the property and assets they were forced to leave behind.
Examples are Iraq, which once had a Jewish population of 197,000 and now only has less than one hundred Jews left. A good number of Jews left Egypt in 1948. Egypt is the country where Yasser Arafat was born (Arafat is an Egyptian. His real name is Husseinei). There were 91,000 Jews in Egypt in 1948. Yet, in connection with the Egyptian aggression of 1957, more than 27,300 Jews were forced to leave Egypt. Today, the Jewish community in Egypt amounts to only 180. These Jews were forced to leave assets of $200 billion, for which they should now be compensated.
There are no Jews in Algeria today. That country is also Judenrein. In 1948 there were 190,000 Jews in Algeria. In Morocco, which was the home of 298,000 Jews before 1948, there are today only 5,700 Jews. Similar decimation occurred in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab states. The governments of the these countries forcibly expelled all Jews, who then increased the Israeli population. These Jews from Arab countries consist today over half the population of Israel. From the Arab point of view that was indeed as stupid a policy as the Arab incitement of the Russian population against the Jews in that country. That anti-Jewish campaign by the Arab agitators led to the arrival in Israel of over a million Russian Jews. Many of the Jews were engineers and scientists of the first order. This helped Israel a great deal. Now the Arabs are making life miserable for the Jews of France and Belgium. There are over 790,000 Jews in France. If the Arabs keep up their attacks on these European Jews then Israel will again absorb a large contingent of Jews forced to flee from France (and Belgium).
The Jewish exodus from the Arab lands was dramatic. Many Jews fled on foot and died on the way while others were rescued by “Operation Magic Carpet.” This consisted of bringing 58,000 Yemeni Jews to Israel by plane.
It is evident, therefore, that the “refugee problem” in Israel consists of the failure of the Arabs to pay compensation to the one million Jews and their families who were forcefuly and violently driven out of their homelands by the Arab hate mongers.
And There were riots prior to Israel existing. Simply wounding or killing Jews because there was a chance that Israel would exist.
Go on . Tell me that 6 Times the land of Israel taken from Jews in Arab countries plus personal assets, businesses and homes and Jewish-owned real-estate forced to leave behind in Arab lands has been estimated at 120,000 square kilometers or 75,000 sq. miles (six times the size of the State of Israel). Valued today in the trillions of dollars isn’t “Abusing ” them . Its just your regular old nationalizing right? No racial hatred at all I am sure. Not to mention they were productive citizens who had no interest in moving to Palestine-Israel or they would have already done so (and wouldn’t have been so wealthy)
“If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Text of Law drafted by Political Committee of Arab League
  1. Beginning with November 28, 1947, all Jewish citizens of (Name of Arab Country) will be considered as members of the Jewish minority State of Palestine and will have to register with the authorities of the region wherein they reside, giving their names, the exact number of members in their families, their addresses, the names of their banks and the amounts of their deposits in these banks. This formality is to be accomplished within seven days.
  1. Beginning with (November 28, 1947), bank accounts of Jews will be frozen. These funds will be utilized in part or in full to finance the movement of resistance to Zionist ambitions in Palestine.
  1. Beginning with (November 28, 1947), only Jews who are subjects of foreign countries will be considered as “neutrals”. These will be compelled either to return to their countries, with a minimum of delay, or be considered as Arabs and obliged to accept active service with the Arab army.
  1. Jews who accept active service in Arab armies or place themselves at the disposal of those armies, will be considered as “Arabs”.
  1. Every Jew whose activities reveal that he is an active Zionist will be considered as a political prisoner and will be interned in places specifically designated for that purpose by police authorities or by the Government. His financial resources, instead of being frozen, will be confiscated.
  1. Any Jew who will be able to prove that his activities are anti-Zionist will be free to act as he likes, provided that he declares his readiness to join the Arab armies.
  1. The foregoing (para.6) does not mean that those Jews will not be submitted to paragraphs 1 and 2 of this law.
  2. It is time to balance and remedy the tragedies of the Jews and the Arab-Palestinians and stop the hostilities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chronology, Photos and Maps of Islamic Spain (Al-Andalus) - Muslim Spain 711 - c1232 - 1492

Chronology, Photos and Maps of Islamic Spain

(and a cathedral)

The logistics of a visit to now little town of Cordoba from our Andalusian  base at Carmona could not have been easier.  As soon as you cross the river there is a convenient car park by the walls of the old Porta Sevilla, looked after by the usual helpful villainous looking Romany car space finder and (in our experience reliable) custodio.  Then it's just a quiet stroll through the attractive streets to the Mosque.  There are not even many people around until you close in on the coach dumping ground close to the Mosque.  Inside the great building the early crowds thin dramatically as American lunch time and tight tour schedules call (Cordoba is not a tour company overnighter), and by 2 the mosque is almost empty - time for serious photography. 

Then after 3 it's time to enjoy another great Spanish luxury - the late lunch (without tourists).  For the second time in Spain the Dom risked a restaurant next to the main event (José Garcia Marín's "El Caballo Rojo" -The Red Horse), and for the second time it worked brilliantly - an aperitif of cold dry sherry, cold white garlic soup (a superior cousin of gazpacho - made with ground almonds, bread and ?? as well as lots of garlic - and one of the gastronomic discoveries of the trip), a local dry white wine, and melt in your mouth poached fish.  The sort of day  that would make anyone want to be a Paradox.

If we were to revisit Andalucia we would spend 2 or three nights in Cordoba - there is more to experience and enjoy than can be done in a day trip.

784 AD, and Abd al-Ramin I gets going with the first phase of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, using columns, capitals and bases recycled from the previous site occupant, the Visigoth Church of  San Vincente, and the ruins of other Visigothic and Roman buildings.  As most of these components were different sizes, their incorporation into what comes across as a coherent whole, was in itself a major major architectural achievement.  For example, look at the way the bases on the columns above have been adjusted for height, or how the capital further below is clearly not sitting on the column it started its life with.

The need for height and lightness is achieved through the equally brilliant idea of double arches.  Just how critical the height is to the space's aesthetic is apparent when you go through to the "new" (= late 900s) al-Mansur part which superficially looks the same but feels more cramped because it is a foot or two less high.  Some of the double arches like those in the middle ground below are semi circle above over circle (horse-shoe), whereas others are semicircle above semicircle (see top photo), again designed around the requirements dictated by the recycled columns et al.

Today this is one of the oldest places of worship still intact, and it was so big that even the decision by the medieval church to build a large cathedral in the middle of it has not destroyed it's essential feel.

A closer look at how each footing / column / capital / arch structure had to be individually designed with appropriate spacers / joins to accommodate whatever recycled material was being used.  

From the orange treed courtyard, the cathedral structure - parachuted into the middle of the mosque - becomes more apparent, but inside it can be ignored, so large is the unaffected section of the columned mosque.

On the north side of the courtyard, a few modifications and height extensions converted a minaret into a bell tower.  After his sack of Santiago de Compostela in 997, Al-Mansur had had Christian slaves carry the cathedral bells from Compostela to the Great Mosque of Cordoba.  240 years later, in 1236, Fernando III ("The Saint"), King of León and Castile (1198 -  1217 (King of Castile) - 1230 (King of León) - 1252 (54)) had Muslim slaves carry the bells back to Santiago after he captured Cordoba.

The western facade gives one some idea of the size of the space inside.  There are also some attractive features on the East wall - which we will get to, along with the ghetto,  when we stay overnight in Cordoba one day. 

For other Paradoxplace links visit the home page

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Vandals (briefly) then the Visigoths fill the vacuum left on the Iberian peninsular.  Visigoth King Leovigildo establishes his court in Toledo in 569, and in 589 Toledo becomes the political and religious capital of Hispania, after the abandonment of Arianism and conversion to Catholicism by the Visigoth king Recaredo.

The Visigoth administrations are generally shambolic and riven with intrigue (and indeed there are only a couple of hundred thousand Visigoths around anyway compared to a few million Hispano-Romans), and they only survive for just over a hundred years before a competitor higher up the organizational food chain arrives in 711.  The Visigoths do, however, leave the world the architectural legacy of the horseshoe arch and the intellectual legacies of the encyclopaedias of San Isidoro.

Muslim Spain    711 - c1232 - 1492 (only Nasrid Grenada from c1232)


Berber Tarik-ibn-Zeyad crosses the straits of Gibraltar (jabal Tariq - the mountain of Tariq) into Iberia and, meeting no effective resistance, heads north and ends up taking over the Visigoth capital of Toledo.


A larger force of Arabs joins in and within a few years (around 719) Arabs and Berbers are rampaging overland through the West of France.  They suffer a big defeat at the hands of Duke Odo of Aquitaine near Toulouse in 721, but even this does not stop their advance into central France.  Some even get as far as Burgundy (Autun to be exact, which fell to Umayyad forces on 22 August 725).  But they eventually have the misfortune to encounter Charles Martel, the most competent and ruthless of the Frankish / French commanders (and grandfather of the Emperor Charlemagne the Great), who establishes his authority in a series of skirmishes in the area between Tours and Poitiers in 732 (called the Battle of Poitiers if you came from Aquitaine, or the Battle of Tours if you were a Frank, but either way it was not the big set piece battle it is often portrayed as) and then further south, after which the Muslim threat fades away back across the Pyrenees into Al-Andalus.

c718 - 737

Pelayo - first King of the Asturias is elected by the tribes-people of the Asturias and Visigoths who had escaped Tariq.  His victory over the Moors at Covadonga sometime between 718 and 725 marks the beginnings of Christian resistance to the Moorish conquerors.  Alfonso I (King of the Asturias 739 - 757 and the first of numerous Alfonsos to King the Spanish Kingdoms) was Pelayo's son-in-law.  Rebellious frictions between Berbers and Moors in 740 enable Alfonso to expand the frontiers of his fledgling Kingdom into Galicia and León.


Back in Damascus, the Umayyads fall victims to a palace coup by the Abbasids, who take over the Muslim world and set up capital in Baghdad, which they soon make into the happening world glittering court.


Just one member of the otherwise exterminated Umayyad "royal family" escapes to Spain, where he settles in Cordoba, proclaims himself Emir Abd al-Ramin I ( ? - 756 - 788), and welds together (until he dies anyway) the disparate Arab (Moor) and Berber forces into the Kingdom of al-Andalus, aka the Emirate of Cordoba.


The Baghdad based Abbasid Caliph pays the Emperor Charlemagne to invade Spain.  The Emperor's nephew Roland unsuccessfully lays siege to Zaragoza, then sacks the Basque town of Pamplona before retreating messily through the Roncesvalles Pass on 15 Aug 778, where he gets taken apart by angry Basques (not Moors as  several accounts tell you) - a battle which gives rise to the famous epic "Song of Roland" some 300 years later.


Abd al-Ramin I gets going with the first phase of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, using columns, capitals and bases recycled from the previous site occupant, the Visigoth Church of  San Vincente, and the ruins of other Visigoth and Roman buildings.  Today this beautiful space is one of the oldest European places of worship still intact.


Vikings start attacking ports down the Atlantic coast, and eventually round the bottom of Spain and reach Seville where they are beaten up big time by the local Muslim forces and retire, never to return.


Abd al-Ramin III (912 - 929 - 961 (49)) takes over what is by now the glittering court of Europe and declares Cordoba a Caliphate, naturally with his good self as Caliph.  There are now 3 Caliphs in the Moslem world.

976 - 1002

Abd al-Ramin's son, Caliph Al-Hakam II, dies in 976, and the awful Arab Al-Mansur (c938 - 1002 (64))  takes over as regent for the child Caliph Hisham II.  All hell breaks loose across the Christian north and east of the Iberian Peninsula as Al-Mansur locks up young Hisham in the new Palace of Al-Medina and takes to the road.  During the course of some 57 military campaigns  (that's about 2 a year) he destroys (like burns to the ground), among other things, Barcelona (985), Santiago de Compostela (997), Leon,  and numerous churches, abbeys and monasteries.   This counterproductively (for him) leads the disparate Christian Kingdoms to unite, and eventually his army is crushed in 1002 by a coalition of Christian forces at the Battle of Calatañazor.  Mansur, unable to resist the temptation of destroying the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla whilst retreating home, is wounded and dies. 

And that's basically it for the Umayyads of Al-Andalus - the dynasty finally dies out in 1031.

Postscript story:  After the sack of Santiago de Compostela in 997, Al-Mansur had had relays of Christian slaves carry the cathedral bells to the Great Mosque of Cordoba.  Fernando III, King of León and Castile ("The Saint" 1198 -  1217 (King of Castile) - 1230 (King of León) - 1252 (54)) had Muslim slaves carry the bells back to Santiago in 1236 after he recaptured Cordoba.  Fernando was a great-grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine through his mother Berenguela and her mother Queen Leonora, one of the Plantagenet Kids.


Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1040 – 1099 (59)), aka el Cid Campeador or just el Cid, starts off in the Royal Court of Castile but is later exiled and goes mercenary - generalling for both Christian and Moors until finally capturing and ruling Valencia until his death in 1099.  On the way he generates material for the first great Spanish epic poem (El Cantar del Mio Cid (1140)), and numerous writers, poets, composers and film producers over the next thousand years.  You will hear that officially el Cid's tomb is in Burgos Cathedral (and indeed his and Mrs Cid's bones were moved there in the 1920s), but make sure to see the much earlier and more interesting (and now boneless) sarcophagus in the Benedictine (now Cistercian) Abbey of San Pedro de Gardina, just outside Burgos.


Moorish Toledo falls to the forces of the Reconquista led by King Alfonso VI of León and Castile.


As the first Crusaders take over Jerusalem, the whole of Muslim Spain has fragmented into warlordships - known as Taifa Kingdoms.  One of the most important of these is based on Seville (Isbilya), and it is said that the embroidered lining of the St Isidore reliquary casket which Seville gave to King Ferdinand I's new monastery in León in the mid 1000s, is made from the mantle of Isbalyan ruler al-Mutadid (ruler 1042 - 1068). 

Christian Kingdoms of the north and east have taken advantage of this disunity to speed up the roll-back of the borders of Al-Andalus. The arrival of a new (austere Muslim) player - the Almoravids - gets Muslim Spain back into a sort of order for 100 years, then yet another group - the (more austere) Almohads, takes over until the early 1200s, by which time the borders of Al-Andalus have shrunk even further.


Alfonso Henriques breaks from Leon and Castile, proclaims the establishment of an independent Portugal with himself as King, and sweeps south capturing Santarem and then laying siege to and capturing Lisbon with the help of a crusader fleet.  As a token of thanks for the victory at Santarem, the new King gives a large amount of land and money for the establishment of a daughter house of Saint Bernard's Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux - to become the magnificent Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria de Alcobaça.


The last Muslim group to gain power is the Nasrid family.  By this time the Arab presence is on its way to being pushed back by "La Reconquista" - the forces of the Christian Monarchs - to the Kingdom of Granada.  Seville falls in 1248, but the Nasrids manage to wheel and deal another 260 years of co-existence, and though they are an irrelevant civilization by comparison with the Cordoba Caliphate, they do bequeath to the world the glory of the Nasrid Palaces on the Alhambra in Granada


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 (72)).  The 781 year Muslim presence in Spain is over.  Later in the year Columbus sets sail from Huelva and Lorenzo de' Medici dies in Florence - it is "the end of the Middle Ages".

The Muslim Conquest of Spain (711-1492)

The Muslim Conquest of Spain


Contributed by Prof. Dr. Nazeer Ahmed, PhD
The conquest of Spain was the beginning of a new era in world history. It was the first interaction of Islamic civilization with the Latin West. For centuries, Muslim Spain was a beacon of knowledge to a European continent that was shrouded in the stupor of the Dark Ages. It was Spain, along with southern Italy, that was destined to act as a conduit for learning to the West. It played a central role in the reawakening of Europe.
The very name Andalus conjures up images of a bygone golden age of a brilliant civilization. Spain, as Andalus is known today, is situated in the northwestern corner of the Mediterranean. It is a peninsula, bound to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Mediterranean Sea. To the north the Pyrenees Mountains separate it from France and the rest of Europe. To the south the narrow Straits of Gibraltar connect the waters of the Atlantic with the Mediterranean. Geographically, it is a part of the Mediterranean world, although topographically, the rugged mountains of the Peninsula make it more a part of North Africa than southern Europe.
The Atlantic Ocean had arrested the westward advance of Muslim armies. But the narrow straits separating Morocco from Spain were not wide enough to stop their inexorable march northward into Europe. They were propelled by the vision of a world order wherein tyranny was abolished and freedom of religion guaranteed. The early Muslims considered Tawhid(meaning, a God-centered civilization) to be a Divine trust and the establishment of Divine patterns on earth, a mission. Neither the ocean nor the desert was an insurmountable barrier in their drive to establish a just order on the globe.
Faith was the driver for centralization of power during the first centuries of Islamic rule, just as today economics is the driver for centralization of power in the world. Faith cements civilization, advances knowledge and brings prosperity. Absence of faith destroys civilization, fosters ignorance and invites poverty. When the human soul is motivated by faith, nothing in this world—not greed, nor passion nor even glory—can detract it from the single-minded pursuit of a higher goal. People with faith work together and create civilizations. It is only when faith is weak that greed and passion win, co-operative struggle becomes impossible and civilization crumbles.
In the 5th century, the Visigoths conquered Spain and established a kingdom there with Toledo as their capital. Not noted for their skills in administration and statecraft, the Visigoth monarchs invited the Latin Church in 565 to manage the affairs of state. In return, the church obtained official sanction to propagate its faith. The economic condition of the Spanish peasant improved little under this arrangement because he was now subject to double taxation, one from the despotic monarchs and the other from the local monasteries. The rich lived in opulence while the farmers suffered abject poverty. The condition of the Jews was even worse. They were precluded from owning land and prohibited from openly practicing their religion. When they protested, the Church came down hard on them. In 707, when the Visigoth king Vietza slackened in the persecution of the Jews, the clergy promptly deposed him and installed a playboy army officer, Rodriguez, as the new king. The Jews were forced into slave labor and their women condemned to servitude.
The contrast between Spain and North Africa at the beginning of the 8thcentury was as marked as it can be between two geographically adjacent areas. The Muslims had arrived on the scene with a new creed and a new mission, preaching the freedom of man and justice before the law. The openness of the Muslims was not unknown in Spain and many of the serfs and the Jews had escaped and found a new home in Maghrib al Aqsa (Morocco).
North Africa was seething with vibrant energy. The Berber revolts had been overcome. The Berbers were enlisting in the Muslim armies with the newfound zeal of faith. In Damascus, Waleed I had ascended the Omayyad throne. A skillful administrator and shrewd statesman, he had successfully crushed a rebellion in far-away Khorasan and had even outmaneuvered the Chinese emperor into a stalemate in Sinkiang. Waleed is known in history as the Emir who gathered around himself the most capable generals of any Omayyad. Noteworthy among these generals were Muhammed bin Qasim (the conqueror of Sindh and Multan), Qutaiba bin Muslim (the conqueror of Sinkiang), Musa bin Nusair and Tariq bin Ziyad (conquerors of Spain). The Omayyad governor of the Maghrib, Musa bin Nusair, waged a constant struggle with the Visigoths for the control of Maghrib al Aqsa (The western frontier, today’s Morocco). One by one, the Visigoth strongholds on the Mediterranean had been captured. Only Ceuta remained under Visigoth control and Count Julian, a Visigoth deputy, governed it.
It was customary among the Visigoth nobles to send their daughters to the royal palace so they could learn the etiquette of the court. In accordance with this custom, Count Julian sent his daughter Florinda to the court in Toledo. There, the profligate Rodriguez raped her. Julian was outraged and sought to take revenge on Rodriguez for this act of dishonor. Besides, Julian’s wife was the daughter of Vietza, whose throne Rodriguez had usurped. At this time, the area around Ceuta was governed by Tariq bin Ziyad, a deputy of Musa bin Nusair. Julian traveled to Kairouan to confer with Musa and ask him to invade Spain and humble Rodriguez. The timing was right. Musa ordered Tariq to cross the straits with a contingent of troops.
According to Ibn Khaldun, there were three hundred Arab and 10,000 Berber troops in the army of Tariq bin Ziyad. The towering rock near which Tariq landed is called Jabl al Tariq, the mountain of Tariq ( in English Gibraltar), and the straits separating North Africa from Spain are called the Straits of Gibraltar. Tariq was an outstanding soldier, a brilliant general, a man of faith and determination. He burned the boats that had brought his forces across the straits and extolled his men to march forward in the name of Tawhid or perish in the struggle. A skirmish ensued with the local Visigoth lord, Theodore Meier, in which the latter was soundly defeated. The year was 711.
Rodriguez heard of the invasion and collecting a force of 80,000, advanced to meet the Muslim force. Tariq called for reinforcements and received an additional contingent of 7,000 cavalrymen under the command of Tarif bin Malik Naqi (after whom Tarifa inSpain is named). The two armies met at the battlefield of Guadalupe. The Muslims were fighting to establish a just political order whereas the Visigoths were fighting to protect and preserve an oppressive scheme. The Arabs were superior in the art of mobile warfare. They were superb horsemen and had mastered the art of rapid enveloping movements in their advance from the desert across Asia and . The Visigoths were accustomed to fighting in static, fixed positions. There was no contest. Even though the Muslims were outnumbered, the Visigoths were cut to pieces. Rodriguez was slain in battle.
The defeated Visigoths retreated towards Toledo, the ancient capital of Spain. Tariq divided his troops into four regiments. One regiment advanced towards Cordoba and subdued it. A second regiment captured Murcia. A third advanced north towards Saragossa. Tariq himself moved swiftly towards Toledo. The city surrendered without a fight. Visigoth rule in Spain came to an end.
Meanwhile, Musa bin Nusair landed in Spain with a fresh contingent of Berber troops. His first advance was towards Seville. The defenders closed the city gates and a long siege ensued. The offensive capability of the Arabs, backed by military engineering and technology, was superior to the defensive capabilities of the Visigoths. Musa had brought his Minjaniques (machines) with him, which threw heavy projectiles at the city ramparts demolishing them. After a month, the city surrendered. The Umayyad armies now fanned out across the Spanish peninsula. In rapid succession, Saragossa, Barcelona and Portugal fell one after another. The Pyrenees was crossed and Lyons France was occupied. The year was 712.
Musa was ready to continue his drive into France and Italy. But in the meantime, CaliphWaleed I fell ill in Damascus. In the power struggle that ensued, Musa was called back to take his oath to the next Caliph Sulaiman. Musa appointed his son Abdel Aziz as the Emir of Spain, left another son Abdallah in charge of North Africa and hastened to the Umayyad Capital. During their conquest of Spain, the Muslims had captured an enormous amount of booty. Musa was eager to hurry up and bring the conquered booty to Walid I so that the dying Emir would appreciate the services rendered by Musa. Meanwhile, Sulaiman, the heir-apparent, wrote to Musa to slow down his return so that by the time the war booty arrived in Damascus, Walid I would be dead and the booty would belong to Sulaiman. However, Musa, out of courtesy to the dying Emir, did not oblige Sulaiman. He arrived before Walid died. Sulaiman was very upset at losing his chance to claim the war booty. So, when he ascended the throne, he stripped Musa of all rank, accused him of misappropriating war funds and reduced him to stark poverty. Musa lived the rest of his life as a beggar, half blind and at the mercy of public charity.
The Jews and the peasants in Spain received the Muslim armies with open arms. The serfdoms were abolished and fair wages were instituted. Taxes were reduced to a fifth of the produce. Anyone who accepted Islam was relieved of his servitude. A large number of Spaniards became Muslim to escape the oppression of their former masters. The religious minorities, the Jews and the Christians, received the protection of the state and were allowed participation at the highest levels of the government.
Spain, under Muslim rule, became a beacon of art, science and culture for Europe. Mosques, palaces, gardens, hospitals and libraries were built. Canals were repaired and new ones were dug. New crops were introduced from other parts of the Muslim empire and agricultural production increased. Andalus became the granary of the Maghrib. Manufacturing was encouraged and the silk and brocade work of the peninsula became well known in the trading centers of the world. Andalus was divided into four provinces and efficient administration was established. Cities increased in size and prosperity. Cordoba, the capital, became the premier city of Europe and by the 10th century had over one million inhabitants.

FC46B: Muslim civilization in Spain (711-1492)

FC46B in the Hyperflow of History.
Covered in multimedia lecture #6877.

The coming of the Moors

In the seventy years after the death of Mohammed in 632, the Arab Muslims conquered an empire that stretched from the borders of India in the East to the Atlantic coast of North Africa in the West. In 711, an Arab general, Tariq, was sent into Spain with a force of unruly North African Berbers (from the Roman word for barbarians). Tariq, after whom the Rock of Gibraltar was named (from Jebel Tariq, the Rock of Tariq), decisively defeated the Visigoth king Roderic in 712, after which the Moors, as the Arab-led Berbers were called, overran the rest of the peninsula by 720.
Several factors aided the rapid Muslim conquest of Spain.  First, despite the hilly and fragmented nature of Spain's geography, the Romans had succeeded in creating a tightly knit and romanized province (both politically and culturally). Rome's Visigothic successors carried on these traditions, thus giving the Moors a fairly unified state whose government largely fell into their hands after one decisive battle, much as England fell to the Normans after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A very different, but complementary factor was the de-centralized nature of Roman (and Visigothic) rule, where local nobles who copied Roman culture and showed loyalty to the empire, were allowed to run their cities or regions for Rome. There is evidence the Moors avoided prolonged sieges by confirming these local officials in their positions in return for their loyalty. Therefore, there was often little more than a change of management at the top that many people might not have even noticed.
By the same token, the Moorish conquest and its aftermath to c.800 seem to have been a fairly destructive and chaotic period in Spanish history for several reasons. For one thing, there was some resistance by the king and his nobles who lost their lands to Tariq's followers. Secondly, the Berbers who made up the bulk of the conquering army, were still unruly tribesmen and, for the most part, only superficially Muslim. Thus they often plundered and destroyed at will. Finally, although all Muslims were supposedly equal, the Arab rulers and officers treated the Berbers as second class citizens, taking the best lands and lions' share of the plunder for themselves. This triggered a Berber revolt and period of turmoil (c.740-90).
This anarchy allowed the survival of the Christian states in the north, the most prominent of which would evolve into Portugal and Leon in the west, Castile in the middle, and Aragon in the east. Likewise, the Franks, who had turned back the Moors at Tours in 733, entered northern Spain in 778 under Charlemagne, supposedly to help the city of Sargasso. Although this expedition failed, Charlemagne's son, Louis I established a more permanent Frankish presence and military frontier, the Spanish March, in the northeast. This helped knit strong cultural ties with Catalonia, centered around Barcelona, which has maintained its own Catalan culture and language (a mixture of French and Spanish) and still harbors designs for political independence, much like the Basques do in the north-west.

The Ummayad Caliphate of Cordoba (c.800- 1008)

During this time, Abd al-Rahman, the lone survivor of the Ummayad Dynasty in the East after the Abassid Dynasty's bloody coup, had escaped to Spain and gradually extended his control there (756-88). The Ummayads always had trouble maintaining firm control of their frontier regions, which were remote, turbulent, less wealthy and sparsely populated. This forced them to give more freedom and power to their military governors so they could defend the frontiers against the constant raiding that created a virtual no-man's-land between the Christian and Moorish realms.
However, under Abd al-Rahman III (912-61), al-Hakem II (961-76) and the viziers al-Mansur and his son Abd al-Malik ruling for the weak Hisham II (976-1009), the Ummayads established some degree of control over the frontiers and presided over the height of Muslim power in Spain. In 929, they even took the title of Caliph, spiritual and secular ruler of the Islamic world, most likely in reaction to the Shiite Fatimids in North Africa claiming that title by right of descent from Mohammed's daughter, Fatima. The Ummayads also moved their capital from the old Visigothic center, Toledo, to Cordoba, where they built one of the Islamic world's most splendid mosques and a magnificent palace complex. This palace had 140 Roman columns sent from Constantinople, a menagerie, extensive fishponds, and a room with a large shallow bowl of mercury that, upon shaking, reflected light wildly around the room like lightning in order to impress and terrify visitors. The court was also a flourishing center of culture, especially after the renowned Arab musician, Ziryab was attracted there from the East, bringing with him the latest in fashionable foods, clothing, and personal hygiene, most notably toothpaste. Cordoba was famous for its extensive library with 400,000 books and may have had a population of 100,000, making it one of the most splendid cities in the world at the time.
At this time, a growing number of Christians started coming from Northern Europe to absorb the growing body of knowledge stored in Cordoba, taking back such things as the abacus, astrolabe, Arab math and medicine, and translations of Aristotle. This transmission of Arab learning from Spain would be the basis for the revival of learning in Western Europe in the following centuries.
By 950, the population of Moorish Spain was largely Muslim, since as many as one million Berbers may have migrated to Spain and many Spanish Christians converted to Islam, either out of conviction, the influence of friends and family, or the improved opportunities such conversion might bring. Evidence for these conversions comes from the large number of Arab genealogies, which often show a point where Christian names are replaced by Arabic ones, indicating their conversion to Islam. Another source of converts was slaves, largely Slavs brought from Eastern Europe by Viking traders. These were often converted to Islam and trained as slave bureaucrats or bodyguards (although slaves with much higher status than the average subject). The caliphs in Cordoba had as many as 60,000 such recruits in their army, which largely freed them from dependence on unreliable Berber recruits.
Maintaining such a splendid court, capital, and army required a vibrant economy, which seems to have recovered in general across the Mediterranean after 750 and particularly in Spain after the turmoil of the 700s. Spain's agriculture especially flourished, from such new crops as rice, hard wheat for pasta (which required less water and stored better as a result), sorghum, sugar cane, cotton, oranges, lemons, limes, bananas, pomegranates, figs, watermelon, spinach, and artichokes. Figs, which were a Byzantine monopoly, supposedly reached Spain by smuggling seeds wrapped in a book past the customs agents. Making this "green revolution" possible were extensive irrigation and waterwheel systems copied from Syrian models, the largest being around Valencia. There were reportedly 5000 waterwheels along the Guadalquivir River alone by 1200.
Better agriculture produced a healthier and more numerous population, which allowed the government to lower tax rates, which in turn promoted more innovation, thus creating even better agriculture, and so on. This, of course, allowed and encouraged urban growth and more industries, such as metals, ceramics, glass, silk, ivory carving, paper and book making, woolens, and dying with dyes imported from as far away as India. One indication of Moorish Spain's prosperity at this time was government revenue, which reached 6,500,000 gold dinars a year.

Fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba and rise of the Taifa, or "Party kings" (1008-c.1080)

After the death of the powerful vizier, Abd al-Malik, a period of civil wars and strife known as the Fitnah broke out (1008-31). Various claimants to the throne had to rely on Berber mercenaries, who claimed lands and provinces for their services. As a result, a string of caliphs rapidly followed one another, one supposedly reigning for only forty-seven days. In 1013 Cordoba was sacked and its library destroyed by Berber troops who, resenting their inferior status under the Arabs, saw no reason to preserve their culture. While the government disintegrated at the center, Christian princes in the north raided and conquered Muslim lands or extorted tribute from local rulers.
This chaos led to a fragmentation of power into some three dozen city-states known as the Taifa (literally party or factional rulers, although our other meaning for party might also apply). Gradually, the smaller taifas were gobbled up by the larger ones, leaving six main ones: Seville and Granada in the south, Badajoz, Toledo, and Valencia in the middle, and Zaragoza in the northeast. Once affairs settled down and stabilized, there was a rapid revival of the economy and culture. However, rather than being concentrated at one central court, culture was dispersed and localized in a number of taifa states. Taifa rulers' status, much like that of princes in Renaissance Italy, rested as much on which scholars and artists they could attract to their courts as it did on warfare and conquest.
The richest of the taifa states was Seville in the lower valley of the Guadalquivir River, specializing in its olive oil, crimson dye made from a beetle, sugarcane, and musical instruments. Its rulers, al-Mu'tadid (1042-69) and his grandson, al-Mu'tamid, took Seville to the height of its cultural prestige and political power (even recapturing Cordoba from the Christians in 1069), and were themselves accomplished poets.
Meanwhile, the Christian states of Aragon-Catalonia in the east, Castile-Leon in the middle, and Portugal in the west were attacking and extorting tribute from the various taifa states. Such tribute was a major, if not the main, source of revenue for these princes who, in turn, passed it on to their soldiers, nobles, churchmen, and merchants, making it a vital part of their economies. Joining in this were Muslim and Christian mercenaries who would fight for either side, depending on the pay and circumstances. The most famous of these was Rodrigo Diaz, known as El Cid (from the Arabic word for boss). During his very active career, Diaz served Castile (until he was exiled from there), the Muslim ruler of Zaragoza (fighting both Christians and Muslims), and Castile again until another falling out with its ruler. Having built up his own fortune, reputation and following, he fought, plundered, and extorted tribute from both Christians and Muslims until he took Valencia in 1094, where he ruled until his death in 1099.

Islamic resurgence from North Africa: the Amoravids & Almohads (1080-1250)

Just as the Moors had originally come from North Africa and constantly drawn upon its Berber tribesmen for settlers and soldiers, so they drew renewed strength from two more North African groups to stem the tide of Christian conquest. The first of these, the Almoravids, were led by ibn Yasin, who had founded a ribat, a frontier religious community with a strong military character since it must be able to defend itself, and spread Islam through preaching and charity. As ibn Yasin's movement grew, it came to be called the Almoravids (from al-Murabitun, meaning people of the ribat). They founded Marrakech as a base in 1060 and took over Morocco by 1083.
They then turned toward the taifas in Spain which they saw paying tribute to non-Muslims, not recognizing the authority of the caliph in Baghdad, and failing to abide by the Muslim ban on drinking wine. In 1085 when the ruler of Castile took over Toledo, several alarmed taifas called the Almoravids into Spain for help. In 1086, the Almoravids crushed Castile's forces and embarked on a series of campaigns (c.1100-1125) to recover lands recently lost to the Christians. If the Almoravids were intolerant of any breaches of Islamic law by fellow Muslims, they were even less tolerant of Jews and Christians. From this point on we see growing hostility between Christians and Muslims who used to tolerate each other. Add to this aggressive Christian princes desperate to recover the lost revenue from tributes cut off by the Almoravids and a Church reform movement that wanted to channel the military energies of Europe's nobility into campaigns, such as the wars in Spain and the Crusades, to serve its own interests, and one can see a growing strain of intolerance that would plague Spain for centuries.
Arrogance toward other Muslims, growing indulgence in the very luxuries they had originally condemned, and the re-emergence of Berber tribal loyalties led to Almoravide decline after 1125. However, a new group of North African reformers emerged to take their place, the Almohads (from al-Muwahhidun, upholders of divine unity). Founded by Muhammed ibn Tumart, their career seemed to parallel that of the Almoravids, starting with a ribat and winning over the local tribes with their own brand of religious fervor. One major difference between the two movements was that the Almohads believed in a more mystical unity of God in which all of us are immersed. In 1121, ibn Tumart was declared the Mahdi (rightly guided one) by his followers to restore righteousness in the final days before the Last Judgment. At this time, the Christian princes were taking advantage of a new period of turmoil (sometimes referred to as The Second Fitnah) by conquering more lands. In 1146, Alfonso VII of Castile briefly took Cordoba before losing it again. The following year, Alfonso I of Portugal took Lisbon with the help of an English navy, marking the start of a long friendship between those two countries. Consequently, a Sufi leader, ibn Qasi, called in the Almohads who took over the Almoravids and attacked the Christian states, inflicting a crushing defeat on them at Alcaros in 1195. This served as a wakeup call to the Christian states, which united against the Almohads and stopped them decisively at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212.
In the ensuing forty years (1212-52) nearly all the Iberian Peninsula came under the three Christian states of Portugal, Aragon, and Castile. Fernando III of Castile took Cordoba in 1236, and Seville fell to him in 1248 after a grueling siege. In the latter case, he ejected the surviving population and replaced it with Christians. A later elegy on the fall of Seville by the poet ar-Rundi seemed to bemoan the fate of Muslim Spain in general:
Ask Valencia what became of Murcia,
And where is Jativa, or where is Jaen?
Where is Cordoba, the seat of great learning,
And how many scholars of high repute remain there?
And where is Seville, the home of mirthful gatherings
On its great river, cooling and brimful with water?
These cities were the pillars of the country:
Can a building remain when the pillars are missing?
The white wells of ablution are weeping with sorrow,
As a lover does when torn from his beloved:
They weep over the remains of dwellings devoid of Muslims,
Despoiled of Islam, now peopled by infidels!
Those mosques have now been changed into churches,
Where the bells are ringing and crosses are standing.
Even the mihrabs weep, though made of cold stone,
Even the minbars sing dirges, though made of wood!
Oh heedless one, this is fate's warning to you:
If you slumber, Fate always stays awake.

Nasrid Granada and the end of Moorish power in Spain (c.1250-1492)

By the mid thirteenth century, Moorish power in Spain was confined to a thin mountainous strip of land in the south that was never more than sixty miles wide. In the 1230's and 1240's, Muhammed ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr established a state centered around the city of Granada, thus giving his name to its ruling dynasty (Nasrid). Granada's strength was undercut by two main factors. First of all, it suffered from a good deal of internal disunity caused by tribal divisions, the ever-troublesome Berber mercenaries from North Africa, and an influx of Muslim refugees from the north. Second, it had a weak economy caused by its poor soil, forcing it to import much of its food, while its trade was largely controlled by Genoese merchants. Also, heavy tribute to the Christian states in the north forced the amirs (rulers) of Granada to charge high taxes, which made them unpopular.
Granada's survival depended on several factors: an excellent army consisting largely of Berber light cavalry, an extensive system of castles every five or six miles along its frontier and as many as 14,000 watchtowers scattered across the countryside, strong support from the Merinid dynasty in North Africa, generally capable rulers until the early 1400s, and some luck, such as the intervention of the Black Death (1349), Castilian involvement in the Hundred Years War in the 1300s, and turmoil both within and between the various Christian states.
Despite its problems, culture flourished in Nasrid Granada, especially in the fields of poetry, architecture, and art. The most remarkable example of this is the Alhambra, probably the best surviving example of a medieval Muslim palace. Much of its beauty lies in its elegant gardens, fountains, and courtyards that provided a serene setting for meditation, reading, or romance. The rooms of the palace itself show Islamic decorative art at its peak, with intricate geometric designs gracing the walls, doorways, and ceilings. According to the poet, Ibn Zamrak:
“...The Sabika hill sits like a garland on Granada's brow,
In which the stars would be entwined,
And the Alhambra (God preserve it)
Is the ruby set above that garland.
Granada is a bride whose headdress is the Sabika, and whose adornments are its flowers.”
In the 1400s, Granada's luck ran out in several ways. Genoese control of its trade tightened, which further aggravated resentment caused by the high tax rates (three times that paid by the people in Castile) to pay tribute to the Christians. The Merinids in North Africa went into decline and could no longer provide Granada their support. Tribal strife within Granada increased while the Christian states of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon resolved their own internal problems. In 1469, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married, thus uniting Spain into one powerful state when they ascended their respective thrones in 1474. The only missing piece of the puzzle, in their minds, was Granada, which they attacked in 1482. The war boiled down to a series of sieges, as one city after another fell to the Christian artillery. In 1492, after an eight-month siege, Granada fell to Ferdinand and Isabella, who accepted the surrender dressed in Moorish clothes. After nearly 800 years, Spain was again united under Christian rule.
For Spain's Jewish and Moorish subjects, Christian rule was anything but pleasant. Almost immediately, the Jews were expelled from Spain, thus depriving it of some of its most productive population. Despite Ferdinand and Isabella's promise to tolerate their religion, the Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity or leave Spain in 1502. Since emigration was so costly, most converted in name while secretly maintaining their own beliefs and practices. In 1568, Philip II, increasingly concerned about his image as a strict Catholic monarch and support the Moriscoes (Moors supposedly converted to Christianity) might give to the Ottoman Turks and his other Muslim enemies, tried to stamp out their Muslim customs, which triggered a revolt. After brutally suppressing this uprising Philip dispersed the Moriscoes across Spain. However, since they still refused to assimilate into Christian society, Philip III took the final step of expelling some 300,000 Moriscoes from Spain in 1609. Aside from the suffering it caused the Moriscoes, this also substantially hurt Spain, by ridding it of much of its most productive population just when its power and wealth in other quarters were going into decline. This only accelerated Spain's decline into the rank of a second rate power by the mid 1600s.

Moorish Spain's legacy

As discussed previously, many Christian scholars during the Middle Ages came to Spain to absorb its learning, helping trigger a revival of learning in Europe. Very simply, this was the single most important legacy of Moorish Spain to Europe. One of its most significant contributions came from the philosopher, ibn Rushd (known in Europe as Averroes), who devoted his life to reconciling faith and reason (in particular that of Aristotle). The Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, whose book, Summa Theologica, similarly reconciled faith and reason, quoted ibn Rushd no less than 503 times in his works. It was Aquinas' work that laid the foundations for the Renaissance and the birth of Western science in the centuries to come, but in a very real sense, it was the work of an Arab scholar, ibn Rushd, that was the real foundation.


In 711, Islam made its entrance into the Iberian Peninsula. Having been invited to end the tyrannical rule of King Roderick, Muslim armies under the leadership of Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the straits between Morocco and Spain. Within seven years, most of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) was under Muslim control. Parts of this land would remain Muslim for over 700 years.
By the mid 900s, Islam had reached its zenith in the land known as al-Andalus. Over 5 million Muslims lived there, making up over 80% of the population. A strong, united Umayyad caliphate ruled the land and was by far the most advanced and stable society in Europe. The capital, Cordoba, attracted those seeking education from all over the Muslim world and Europe. However, this golden age of politics and society would not last forever. In the 1000s, the caliphate broke up and divided into numerous small states called taifas. The Muslim taifas were disunited and susceptible to invasion from Christian kingdoms in the north. For the next 200 years, the taifas fell one by one to the Christian “Reconquista”. By the 1240s, one kingdom remained in the south: Granada. This article will analyze the fall of this final Muslim kingdom in Iberia.

Emirate of Granada

The seal of the Emirate of Granada, declaring "There is no victor except for Allah"
The seal of the Emirate of Granada, declaring “There is no victor except for Allah”
During the Reconquista, Muslim states fell one by one to Christian kingdoms invading from the North. The major cities of Cordoba, Seville, and Toledo fell from the 1000s to the 1200s. The Murabitun and Muwwahidun (Almoravid and Almohad) movements from North Africa helped slow the Christian tide, but disunity among the Muslims eventually led to continued loss of land.
One Muslim state – Granada – was able to escape conquest by Christians in the 1200s. After the fall of Cordoba in 1236, the rulers of the Emirate of Granada signed a special agreement with the Kingdom of Castile, one of the most powerful Christian kingdoms. Granada had agreed to become a tributary state to Castile. This meant they were allowed to remain independent as the Emirate of Granada, but in exchange for not being invaded by Castile, they had to pay a yearly sum (usually in gold) to the Castilian monarchy. This created a detrimental situation for the Muslims of Granada as they paid regularly to strengthen their enemies.
Despite this, one of the reasons Granada was able to maintain its independence was its geography. It lies high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain. The mountains created a natural barrier for any invading armies. Thus, despite being militarily weaker than Castile, the mountainous terrain provided a huge defensive advantage.

The Granada War

For over 250 years, Granada remained as a tributary state to the stronger Kingdom of Castile. But surrounded by unfriendly Christian nations, Granada was constantly at risk of being exterminated. In the early 1400s, a Muslim scholar wrote of al-Andalus’ last kingdom, “Is Granada not enclosed between a violent sea and an enemy terrible in arms, both of which press on its people day and night?”
The impetus for the conquest of Granada occurred in 1469, when King Ferdinand of Aragon of Queen Isabella of Castile married. This united the two most powerful Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. With a united front, now the Christians set their sights on removing the last Muslim state from the peninsula.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sought to destroy the last Muslim emirate of al-Andalus
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sought to destroy the last Muslim emirate of al-Andalus
In 1482, war began between the new Kingdom of Spain and the Emirate of Granada. Despite being in a much weaker position, the Granadans fought valiantly. One Spanish chronicler expressed his respect for the Muslim soldiers, “the Moors [Muslims] put all their strength and all their heart into the combat, as a courageous man is bound to do when defending his life, his wife, and his children.” The ordinary Muslim civilians and soldiers were fighting for their existence and the survival of Islam in al-Andalus, and fought very bravely. The Muslim rulers, on the other hand, were not as chivalrous or brave.
Throughout the war, the Christians remained unified and did not break up into separate warring factions, as they had commonly in the past. In contrast, Granada experienced huge political upheaval. Muslim leaders and governors were commonly at odds and scheming different plans to undermine each other. Many of them were even secretly working with the Christian kingdoms in exchange for wealth, land, and power. Worse than all of that, in 1483, one year into the war, the sultan’s son, Muhammad, rebelled against his father and sparked a civil war in Granada, just as Spanish forces began to attack from outside.
King Ferdinand planned to use the civil war to his advantage. He supported Muhammad in his fight against his father (and later, his uncle) in an effort to weaken Granada as a whole. Muhammad was supported with arms and soldiers by Ferdinand in the fight against other members of his family, and thus was able to take power over Granada. Throughout this armed struggle, Christian armies slowly pressed further into Granadian lands, so that by the time Muhammad took power in 1490, he only ruled the city of Granada and nothing of the surrounding countryside.

Granada’s Last Stand

Right after solidifying his rule over Granada, however, Muhammad was sent a letter by King Ferdinand that demanded he immediately surrender the city. Muhammad was very surprised by this demand as Ferdinand had given him the impression that he would be allowed to rule over Granada with Ferdinand’s support. Clearly, Muhammad realized too late that he had been just a pawn used by Ferdinand to weaken Granada.
Muhammad decided to resist the Christians militarily and sought help from other Muslim kingdoms throughout North Africa and the Middle East. No help came besides a small Ottoman navy that raided the Spanish coast and did not cause much damage. By the end of 1491, the city of Granada was surrounded by Ferdinand and Isabella’s army. From the towers of his palace, Alhambra, Muhammad could see the huge Christian armies assembling and preparing to conquer the city. With this depressing future in sight, Muhammad was forced to sign a treaty which gave over control of the city in November 1491.
Christian banners and crosses were hung from the Alhambra on January 2nd, 1492
Christian banners and crosses were hung from the Alhambra on January 2nd, 1492
On January 2nd, 1492, the treaty took effect and the Spanish army entered Granada and officially took possession of the last Muslim state of al-Andalus. Christian soldiers occupied the legendary Alhambra palace that morning. They hung the banners and flags of Spain’s Christian monarchs from the walls, signifying their victory. At the top of Alhambra’s tallest tower, they erected a giant silver cross, telling the terrified people of Granada below that the forces of Christendom had been victorious over the Muslims of al-Andalus. Muslims were too fearful to venture outdoors, and the streets were deserted.
Sultan Muhammad was exiled, and on his way out of Granada, he stopped at a mountain pass to look back at Granada and began to cry. His mother was unimpressed with his sudden remorse and scolded him, “Do not cry like a woman for that which you could not defend as a man.”
Although the victorious Christians promised religious freedom and generally favorable terms to the people of Granada, these promises were soon broken. In 1502, Islam was officially outlawed in Granada and hundreds of thousands of Muslims had to either immigrate to North Africa or hide their beliefs. By the early 1600s, not a single Muslim was left in all of Spain.
The story of al-Andalus’ decline from one of the Muslim world’s leading political and social powers in the 1000s to a rump state that was conquered in the late 1400s is one that has no match in Islamic history.  The constant infighting among Muslims, the lack of support from other Muslim empires, and the focus on personal power instead of Islamic unity all led to this downfall. And with the loss of Granada in 1492, that story ended.

Carr, Matthew. Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain. New York: The New Press, 2009. Print.
Najeebabadi, Akbar Shah. The History of Islam. 3. Riyadh: Darussalam, 2001. Print.
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