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Lessons derived from The Rise and Fall of the Muslim Spain


"To become green at the end of the summer" is referred to as Al-Andalus which is the southern Spain occupied by the Muslim territories. Muslims rules for 130 years in Sicily until they lost to the Normans in 1091. Muslims conquered parts of France but were defeated in no time by Charles Martel in 756. Moors is a term used to refer to Muslims that settled in andalus which is a bad term referring to people from morocco.

Moorish Iberia was a nation referred to as ‘Al-Andalus’. It describes parts of Septimania and Iberian Peninsula which was under the governorship of Muslims even though the period had undergone series of constant attacks from Christians. Andalus was divided into 5 areas under the Umayyad leader; Caliph Al-Walid who was the leader of Cordoba. From inception, governors appointed by caliphs ruled Andalus but over the years, there was civil war outrage and Yusuf Al fihri became the winner. Over the years, the Abbasids took over from the Umayyads. Abd-al-Rahman the third restored the Umayyad and extended it to western North Africa and he later became a caliph. This period was called the golden age of andalus here both Muslims and non-Muslims travel to the country to study in their famous university and library of andalus.

Andalus split into many states called taifas.

The three main religion of andalus were: Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Muslims were united under religion but had severe division particularly between the Berbers and the Arabs. The Christians were called the Mozarabs in that they still practice their Christian rituals but have adopted a lot of Arab customs. In 1100, lots of Christians converted to Islam and Muslims occupied 80% of Andalus. The Christians were named ‘ahl al dhimma (the people under protection)’

‘Rise and fall of Muslim Spain’

Non-Muslims were treating differently at different times. They were tolerated at a greater length during the period of Abd-ar-Rahman III and his son, Al-Hakam II in which Jews prospered, they engaged in commerce and trading. Muslims entered Spain as liberators and not oppressors. The Muslim rule in andalus is a perfect example of the model of tolerance which indicates how great Islam is. There has never been a time where the 3 faiths had a good relationship like this period.

"Some Mozarabs took issue with the tolerance Muslim authorities displayed toward them and the Jews, a tolerance based on two Qur'anic verses: "No compulsion is there in religion" (2:256) and "If thy Lord had willed, whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together. Wouldst thou then constrain the people until they are believers?" (10:99)"

Many Christians converted as a result of this tolerance exhibited by Muslims. The tolerance was much that the official language in literature used was the Arabic, the language of Muslims.

Muslims had achieved a lot during this rule, they made Spain the center of learning math, Arabic, Quran etc. People travelled from far to learn under Muslims. So this produced vey intellectual philosophers, doctors, artists such as Ibn Sina and Ibn Zuhr, including martin Luther. There were endless contributions made by Muslims in Spain.

By 1100 the number of Muslims in Spain reached its peak at 5.6 million. Because of their need for ablution, there was increase in public toilets, mosques, hospitals. Libraries grew significantly while the rest of the Europe became stagnant and illiterate. Muslims introduced paper, soap, salt, satin etc. and the area became the most unique in the whole world.

There were Muslim artists in Spain hat were prohibited from making images because of the importance of tauheed and oneness of Allah. The paintings could result to idolatory.Praising of the artist could also make him forget that it was Allah that gave him the talent to draw, he will start having episodes of self-importance and arrogance. This causes rivalry which Allah the sole creator of everything. However paintings of non-living objects were permitted. The Muslims also turned the calligraphy into art.

There were many dynasties that ruled Muslim Spain. After the decline of the Umayyad Empire having ruled for 300 years, the Almoravides and the Almohades emerged consecutively. This unfortunately paved way for the Christians to start gaining control in Toledo, Cordoba and Peninsula. In 1942, the last Nasrid ruler in Granada fell and was overthrown by the christain troops Isabella and Ferdinand. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile united and married so as to occupy Spain. Castile and Seville took over Cordoba and this left only Granada in the hands of the Muslims until Isabella and Ferdinand finally took it. Even though Granada was surrendered, this didn’t bring Islam to an end. The religion remained strong for 8 centuries. However the christain military became stronger and more powerful and as such the andalus started to shrink. Few centuries later the Islam in Spain disappeared in its totality. Mosques were converted into churches and Muslims were forbidden from praying, some Muslims were converted to Christians.

During the time led by Isabella, Muslims and Jews were forced to give up their rights. Later onwards, there were some internal divisions among Muslim leaders which brought to the end of Muslim rule in the hands of the crusaders.


By analyzing the tragedy of Islam in Andalus, we find that the Muslims of Spain disregarded the fact that Allah indeed blessed them with Islam, and therefore went astray. They were so successful that as a result, Muslims believe that they treasured the wealth they accumulated so much so that they became arrogant and deviated from the practice of Al-Islam; disregarding the commandments of Allah, and the Sunnah (imitating his actions, and way of life) of the Prophet (PBUH). They failed to remember their prosperity and wealth came from Allah and Him alone.

Therefore, Allah took away the abundance of wealth, power, supremacy, and favors that He bestowed upon them so that they would remember. Allah says in the Qur'an, "Remember Me, and I will remember you. Give thanks to Me and never deny Me" (2:152). When the Muslims in Spain neglected Allah, He therefore neglected them. Allah asks mankind repeatedly in chapter 55, Surah Rahman, of the Qur'an, "Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?" --All praise and glory is due to Allah, and Him alone!

Historian L.P. Harvey stated that we must not dwell on the failure of the Muslims in Spain, and instead admire the stubbornness put forth by the Muslims in defense of their land.

The legacy of al-Andalus serves as a lesson for Muslims. The persecution of Muslims in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries was a great trial of their faith, as is the entire life of a Muslim; this was a great challenge from Allah. Many died fighting for Islam aware of the rewards for such a death. 41

For those Muslims who were driven out of Andalus or were slain for their unwavering faith, Allah reassures mankind, "...I will forgive all the shortcomings and remove the evil deeds of those who were expelled from their homes or were persecuted for My sake and who fought for My cause and were slain. I shall admit them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow. This is their reward from Allah, and with Allah alone is the richest reward!" (Qur'an, 3:195) Allah humma Ameen!

"Spain and the West stand forever in their debt." 42 The Muslims were instrumental in making Spain a "Paradise on Earth," and issuing forth the Renaissance. I've observed that professors of philosophy, theology and history will agree with you concerning the greatness of Muslim Spain, yet they only speak of it once you've initiated the conversation! Muslim Spain is hardly spoken of, while the works of Muslims in Al-Andalus until this day remain unknown and underappreciated. "The intellectual community which the northern scholars found in Spain was so far superior to what they had at home that it left a lasting jealousy of Arab culture, which was to color Western opinions for centuries." 43

The 1.2 billion plus Muslims of the world today have the same potential as of the Muslims of the past. One of our great many challenges today is to recreate the dynamic legacy which existed in Al-Andalus. In the example of the main character, 'Isabella,' (a REAL Queen!) in Dehlvi's book, the Andalusian Muslimah (female Muslim) who lived and died for Islam, we must remind the world that Al-Andalus was a supreme example of tolerance and justice because of the religion of Spain's people, not the fact that they were Arab or Spanish by race. By its outstanding example, Muslim Spain proves to the world that as a melting pot of religious faiths and races, we can, in reality, live and prosper with one another.


Roger Collins, "The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–797", pp. 113–140 & 168–182

Alfonso, Esperanza, 2007. Islamic Culture Through Jewish Eyes: al-Andalus from the Tenth to Twelfth Century. NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-43732-5

Al-Djazairi, Salah Eddine 2005. The Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation. Manchester: Bayt Al-Hikma Press

Jayyusi, Salma Khadra. 1992. The Legacy of Muslim Spain, 2 vols. Leiden–NY–Cologne: Brill [chief consultant to the editor, Manuela Marín].

Kennedy, Hugh. 1996. Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus, Longman

O'Callaghan, Joseph F. 1975. A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

Alfonso, Esperanza, 2007. Islamic culture through Jewish eyes: al-Andalus from the tenth to twelfth century. NewYork, NY: Routledge.

Collins, Roger. 1989. The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–797, Blackwell.



Sources Cited

Charafi, Abdellatif. Once Upon a Time in Andalusia. University of Portsmouth: Nov. 1998.

Hume, Martin A. S.The Spanish People: Their Origin, Growth andInfluence. New York: D. Appleton&Co., 1901.

Diaz-Mas, Paloma. Sephardim: The Jews from Spain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Epstein, Isidore. Studies in the Communal Life of the Jews of Spain. New York, NY: Hermon Press, 1968.

Holy Qur'an. Trans. M. H. Shakir. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, n.d. 1990

Lane-Poole, Stanley. The Story of the Moors in Spain. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press, 1990.

Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam. PrincetMeyrick, Fredrick. The Doctrine of the Church of England on the Holy Communion.on, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

London, 1891. Sachar, Howard M. Farewell Espana: The World of the Sephardim Remembered. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1994.

Watt, Montgomery. A History of Islamic Spain. Edinburgh: University Press, 1967

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