Islam: Islam in Andalusia

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Al-Andalus was the name used by the Muslim population of the Iberian Peninsula for the territory that was under Muslim rule from the times of the conquest in 711 ce until the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1492. That territory varied through the centuries. During the Umayyad period (eighthtenth centuries), Muslims ruled most of the regions of the Iberian Peninsula, with the exception of part of the lands situated north of the river Duero and south of the Pyrenees, where Christians managed to establish small independent kingdoms. A major shift in the balance of power between Muslims and Christians occurred in 1085, when Toledo, the former Visigothic capital, was lost forever to the Muslims when it fell into the hands of the king of Castile, Alfonso VI.

The Muslim conquest of al-Andalus had taken place during the Umayyad caliphate, with its seat in Damascus, and some of the settlers in the Iberian Peninsula were clients of the Umayyads. When the latter's rule was put to an end by the new dynasty of the Abbasids (who moved their capital to Baghdad), a member of the fallen dynasty, ʿAbd al-Ramān I (r. 756788), escaped from the massacre of his family and with the help of the Umayyad clients managed to establish himself as ruler of al-Andalus. The new Umayyad emirate had Cordova as its capital. During the ninth century, the Umayyads fought hard to maintain their power in the Iberian Peninsula, shaken by the attempts of Arabs, Berbers, and local converts to establish autonomous political governments. The eighth Umayyad ruler, ʿAbd al-Ramān III (r. 912961), succeeded in regaining control of al-Andalus and proclaimed himself caliph in order to give a firmer basis to his rule and to counteract the danger represented by the establishment of a Fāimid (Shīʿī) caliphate in North Africa, while taking advantage at the same time of the decline of the Abbasid caliphate in the East. Political unity, general stability, economic flourishing, and cultural achievements were some of the traits of the tenth century, although the minority of the third Umayyad caliph and the military reforms carried out by his powerful chamberlain, al-Manūr ibn Abi ʿAmir, eventually opened the door to civil war.

The conquest of Toledo in 1085 was partly the result of the political fragmentation of al-Andalus that took place during the eleventh century. The administrative centralization achieved during the tenth century disappeared with the collapse of the (second) Umayyad caliphate. It was abolished in 1031, but before that date independent Muslim kingdoms had already arisen, the most important being those of Seville, Toledo, and Zaragoza. With different ethnic backgrounds, the rulers of the so-called Party or Taifa kingdoms were engaged in a complex internal political game of war and peace, in which the intervention of the Christian kingdoms played a major role. Muslim military weakness led to the payment of tribute to those Christian kingdoms. This situation was novel in al-Andalus and almost exceptional in the Muslim world, as the predominant historical experience of Muslims had been until then one of conquest and rule, not of submission to non-Muslims. But money was not a deterrent to Christian military expansion, as became clear when Barbastro and Coimbra fell into Christian hands in the years 10631064, followed by Coria in 1079 and Toledo in 1085.

By this time, the need to seek military help outside al-Andalus had become acute and an appeal was made to the Almoravids by some of the Taifa rulers. Of Berber origin, the Almoravid dynasty had succeeded in establishing a unitary kingdom in the Maghreb (nowadays Morocco), having as its capital Marrakech. The powerful Almoravid army crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and defeated the Christians in the battle of Zallaqa (1086), although they were unable to regain most of the territory already lost to the Christians or to retain some major towns (Valencia was in Christian hands from 1094 to 1102, Zaragoza was taken in 1118, Lisbon in 1147, Tortosa in 1148). Almoravid political legitimization revolved around the abolition of illegal taxes and the pursuit of holy war (jihād). As this program failed, the support the Almoravids had attracted both among the elites and the masses of al-Andalus declined and by the third decade of the twelfth century, political and religious movements aiming at autonomous government had begun in several towns, shaking Almoravid rule in al-Andalus. The Almoravids were facing, at the same time, a new religious movement in their Maghrebi territory, that of the Almohads, who threatened Almoravid power both politically and ideologically.

The Almohad movement was founded by the Berber Messianic reformer Ibn Tumart; his successor as political leader was also a Berber who adopted an Arabic genealogy in order to proclaim himself caliph. The movement started in the south of Morocco in the first decades of the twelfth century, expanding from there to dominate the whole of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) and al-Andalus. Aiming at a radical political and religious revival, the Almohads found support among disparate groups in Andalusi society who shared some of their puritanical reformist policies, although it was mostly the use of violence that helped them suppress, at least for some time, the opposition of those groups and individuals that either disagreed with their program or were against its more extremist aspects. Although the Almohads were able for some time to check Christian military advance, their armies suffered a major defeat in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the year 1212. This defeat had been preceded and was followed by the loss of major towns in what was left of al-Andalus: Silves was conquered in 1190, Cordova in 1236, Valencia in 1238, Murcia in 1243, and Seville in 1248.

While Almohad rule collapsed both in the Maghreb and in al-Andalus, there were attempts at replacing it with local forms of government. This happened in al-Andalus according to a pattern that had been followed before during the collapse of Umayyad and Almoravid rules. Military men, urban elites, and charismatic leaders aimed at creating viable political and military entities in order to ensure the maintenance of the remaining territory under Andalusi rule. Only one such attempt succeeded, that founded by Ibn al-Ahmar in Granada and the surrounding area. From the middle of the thirteenth century until 1492, the Nasrid kingdom of Granada managed to survive by taking advantage of the internal dissensions both among the Christian kingdoms and those Muslim states that had been created in North Africa after the demise of the Almohad empire. The political unity achieved by Isabel of Castille and Fernando de Aragón signaled the end of the small Muslim kingdom of Granada. In the same year that Christopher Columbus disembarked in America and Jews were expelled from Spain, Granada was conquered and al-Andalus as a political entity ceased to exist. But the term survived in the form of Andalucía, the name given to the southern regions of Spain, this being the area where Muslim rule had lasted longest.

Arabization, Islamicization, and the Religious Minorities of Al-Andalus

The Muslim armies that conquered the Iberian Peninsula were formed mostly of Berbers, with small groups of Arabs. The number of the Arabs increased when a Syrian army sent by the Umayyad caliph in Damascus to suppress a Berber revolt in North Africa sought refuge in al-Andalus. The first Umayyad ruler, ʿAbd al-Ramān I, attracted other members of his family to his capital. The number of Arabs also increased by intermarriage with the local population, as their descendants became Arabs due to their strict patrilineal genealogical system, and also through the establishment of patronage ties with other ethnic groups. Arabic tribal affiliations (nisba s) became a distinguishing feature of the Andalusi population, in contrast to that of the Maghreb (Morocco), where Arab settlement was scarce. Arabic ethnicity and language were cultivated and praised by men of letters and poets, and also by historians, both under Umayyad rule and during the eleventh century, when the legitimization of some of the Taifa kings, such as the Abbasids of Seville, was grounded on their Arab ancestry.

It is difficult to establish for how long the Berber conquerors and first settlers of al-Andalus managed to preserve their own language, which has left very few traces. When ʿAbd al-Ramān III proclaimed himself caliph in 929, one of his policies was the consolidation of an Andalusi identity which, while not suppressing the Arab component, stressed the Islamic unifying factor. This Andalusi identity was felt to be under threat when new groups of Berbers, maintaining their language and tribal organization, settled in al-Andalus and seized political power in the eleventh century. The possibility (that many saw as a danger) of a Berberization of al-Andalus increased when the Iberian Peninsula became part of the Berber Maghrebi empires of the Almoravids and the Almohads. The complex dynamics at play between Arab and Berber ethnicities through the history of al-Andalus still await a monographic study.

Muslim Arabs substituted the Visigoths as rulers over the local Hispano-Roman population, who were (even if only nominally) Christians and whose languages were Latin and Romance. They, together with the Jews, became "protected peoples" (dhimmis ), being allowed to preserve their religion and their community life, although always in a position of subordination to the Muslims. The Christians of al-Andalus are commonly referred to as Mozarabs, although this term (not found in the Arabic sources) should be limited to the Arabized Christians in order not to obscure the complex linguistic and cultural situation of the Christian communities living under Muslim rule.

The language, culture, and religion, often inextricably linked, of the new rulers had a deep attraction for those Christians who were more directly in contact with the Muslims. Latin culture was still predominant in the ninth century, but in the tenth century the Christians of al-Andalus started to translate their religious literature (the Psalms, the canons of the Visigothic church) into Arabic. The bishop Recemundo (also known as Rabiʿ ibn Zayd) took part in the translation into Arabic of Latin and Greek works (such as Orosius's historical work, Dioscorides's treatise, and the famous Cordovan Calendar) that was carried out during the Umayyad caliphate. This trend towards acculturation had been harshly fought in the previous century by two Cordovan Christians, Eulogius and Alvarus, who promoted the movement of the so-called voluntary martyrs. These were Christian men and women, some of them born from religiously mixed marriages, who voluntarily sought martyrdom by publicly insulting Islam in reaction to what was perceived as the increasing loss of their identity. The church hierarchy did not favor their movement, which eventually faded away.

The linguistic and cultural Arabization of the Christian population took place with different rhythms and characteristics according to location and social and economic status. The issue of Romance-Arabic bilingualism of the indigenous population of the Iberian Peninsula has been hotly debated in spite of, or more precisely, because of the scarcity of available sources and the contradictory interpretations to which those sources have been subject. Even if demography was in principle favorable to the Romance language spoken by the local population, Romance monolingualism survived only among those sectors who were rural, poor, illiterate, and Christian. Bilingualism was characteristic of the urban settings, while Arabic was the dominant language among the literate groups of society. In the tenth century, Arabic became the predominant written language and in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the predominant spoken language. Arabic monolingualism (with diglossia between written Arabic and the spoken dialects) became the norm from the thirteenth century onward. The experience of al-Andalus thus differed from that of Iran, where the local language survived the process of Islamicization. Also in contrast to Iran, there was no cultural shuʿubiyya in al-Andalus, that is, the glorification and preservation of the pre-Islamic culture as part of the struggle of the convert local populations to achieve equality with the new rulers.

In opposition to what happened with Latin and Romance language and culture, the Jews of al-Andalus were able to maintain Hebrew as their religious and literary language and it became pivotal in the defence of their cultural identity, while at the same time they carried out a deep absorption of Arabic language and culture. In this context, a golden age was made possible. As David Wasserstein (1997) has put it, almost all the greatest poets writing in Hebrew in the Middle Ages were Iberian (Judah ha-Levi, Ibn Gabirol, Samuel Ha-Nagid, Moses Ibn Ezra), and some of the most important works of Jewish thought are also the product of Iberian Jewry (the Kuzari, the Guide for the Perplexed).

With the general exception of the Jews, Arabization was closely linked to the process of conversion to Islam. An early majority of Muslims in the population of al-Andalus was achieved in the first half of the tenth century and from that time onward, Christians lost the demographic battle.

The Hegemony of Malikism and Its Alternatives

The main distinguishing feature of Andalusi Islam is its lack of the religious pluralism expressed by the co-existence of the four legal schools (Malikism, anafism, Shafiʿism, and Hanbalism) recognized within the Muslim Sunnī world from the tenth century onwards. While Malikism reigned supreme in al-Andalus, anafism seems to have been banned, while the attempts at introducing Shafiʿism and Traditionalist trends akin to Hanbalism failed. The main alternatives to Malikism were locally produced: the Cordovan Ibn Hazm's Zahirism, a legal school generally considered too radical for Sunnīsm, and the Almohad program of religious revival and reform.

The early Muslim settlers of al-Andalus were soldiers. Their religious and legal needs were catered for by their leaders, acting as judges and directors of prayer. The legal doctrine associated with a Syrian jurist, al-Awzaʿi (d. 773), is generally considered to have been followed by those judges, until it was replaced by Medinan (from Medina, the town in the Arabia Peninsula where the Prophet ruled and died) jurisprudence at the time when a new scholarly class was being formed. The emergence and consolidation of a scholarly milieu can be documented from the late eighth and early ninth century onwards. The first scholars (ʿulamāʾ ) came mostly from the army milieu, which they left in what seems to have been a process of professional diversification on the part of the ruling elites. Soon, local converts devoted themselves to learning as a means to social advancement. By traveling to the central lands of Islamdom for commerce, in search of knowledge, and to carry out the pilgrimage, Andalusis became aware of and integrated themselves into the Muslim world of scholarship.

Umayyad rule had lasting consequences in how this world was shaped in the Iberian Peninsula. As the tenth-century geographer al-Muqaddasi noted, among the early schools of law, the one associated with Abū anīfah (d. 767) and later known as anafism was rejected. The Abbasids, the dynasty that had put an end to Umayyad rule, had generally favored this legal trend that was also supported by the Aghlabids, their representatives in Ifrīqiyah, so that the Umayyads of al-Andalus could only view it with suspicion. Furthermore, anafism was associated with ʿAlī and the town of Kufa and some of its doctrines were considered to be pro-Shīʿah. This again could only favor its rejection on the part of the Umayyads, whose rise to power had taken place by fighting against ʿAlī's party. The other major legal trend in the eighth century was that associated with Medina and more specifically with Mālik ibn Anas (d. 796). It has been said that Andalusi scholars adopted the latter's legal doctrine because their travels took them to Egypt and the ijāz, where they studied with Mālik's pupils. But if geography certainly had a role, it was associated with politics, as the first Andalusi scholars did not travel to Iraq, the center of Abbasid power. Also, some aspects of Medinan-Mālikī doctrine were seen as being congenial with Umayyad history and legitimacy.

An Andalusi scholar of Berber origin, Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, had a crucial role in bringing together Mālik's and his pupils' doctrines and the Umayyads of al-Andalus. A revolt against al-Hakam I (r. 796822) that took place in Cordova during the year 817 and in which Yahya ibn Yahya took part made it clear to the Umayyad emir that the emerging group of scholars could channel either popular opposition or support to the ruler and that without them Umayyad power could be put in jeopardy. For his part, Yahya ibn Yahya realized how advantageous the ruler's support was in getting the upper hand for his own followers in the struggle among the emerging factions of scholars. A pattern of collaboration between the ruler and the scholars was established and Māliki ʿulamaʾ started serving the Umayyads as judges, legal experts and advisers, and in other legal charges. A rapidly growing body of legal literature began to be transmitted in al-Andalus and soon also to be authored by Andalusi scholars, such as ʿAbd al-Mālik ibn Habib (d. 852853), al-ʿUtbi (d. 868869) and others.

By the tenth century, Andalusi jurists belonged, with few exceptions, to the Mālikī legal school. Andalusi Mālikīs were well integrated in chains of teachers and pupils, whose relationships, achievements, and social practices started to be recorded in biographical dictionaries. A number of legal treatises were used for the training of pupils. The proclamation of the Umayyad caliphate in 929 consolidated Malikism as an "official" legal school, making it a crucial element of the Andalusi identity promoted by both rulers and scholars, and thus separating al-Andalus from heterodox Fāimid North Africa and also marking it within the Sunnī world. The Umayyad caliphs of Cordova stressed the association of Malikism with Medina, the town where the Prophet had acted as ruler, thus implying that by following this legal school, Medina had been relocated in the Iberian Peninsula and that it was as if the Prophet himself was ruling again over the Muslims.

But even if al-Andalus was Mālikī and only Mālikī, this does not mean that it was monolithic. There were always discrepancies within the school, most of them deriving (or said to derive) from the various interpretations of Mālik's teachings by his pupils and also from the latter's own contributions to the body of legal doctrines and practices. The existence of such legal differences (ikhtilaf) was accepted, as it was the inevitable result of the human effort at understanding (fiqh ) the revealed law (sharīʿah ), but it also led to polemics and sometimes to harsh attacks against those jurists with whom one disagreed, attacks which could even become accusations of religious deviation. One of the main areas of disagreement was how to carry out the process of traditionalizing the early body of Mālikī literature, which contained very little reference to Prophetic tradition (adīth ).

During the ninth century, "the conviction became absolute that law is justified only if it can be related hermeneutically to Prophetic exempla, and not if it is presented discursively as emanating from an ongoing juristic tradition" (Calder, pp. 1819). The Eastern jurist al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820) devoted himself to the science of the fundaments of law (usul) and forcefully argued that law had to be derived from both Qurʾān and adīth, and that the methodology for such derivation had to be strictly regulated. At the same time, great effort was made in the central lands of Islamdom to make available compilations of adīth to the jurists.

These tendencies would soon echo in al-Andalus. Andalusis started traveling to Iraq by the second half of the ninth century and brought back the doctrines of the Traditionalists. Some of those Andalusis won to Traditionalism were radicals, who rejected Malikism and tried to introduce Shafiʿism. The Cordovan Baqi ibn Makhlad (d. 889), who wrote a voluminous compilation of adīth (now lost), excelled among them. But his extremism provoked the legal establishment and he was accused of heterodoxy. The ruler, who saw the advantage of scholarly infighting, saved his life. Eventually, those Mālikīs who were receptive to the new trends managed to Traditionalize their legal doctrines with out becoming Shāfiʿī. This was a long process and its complete story still needs more study. The most prominent jurists along this road were Ibn Waddah (d. 900), al-Asili (d. 1002), Abū ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 1071), Abu-1-Walid al-Baji (d. 1081), Ibn Rushd al-Jadd (d. 1126), Abū Bakr ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 1148), and al-Shatibi (d. 1399). In their writings dealing with adīth literature, Qurʾān commentary, and legal methodology, they carried out the adaptation of Malikism to the new legal trends. Of crucial importance were the commentaries written by Ibn Rushd al-Jadd of the two founding texts of Western Malikism, Sahnun's Mudawwana and al-ʿUtbi's Mustakhraja, as his effort was directed at connecting the legal doctrine found in those two early texts with the Qurʾān, the Prophetic Tradition, the consensus and analogical reasoning (qiyas ), the four legal sources established by al-Shāfiʿī. In other words, Ibn Rushd al-Jadd was able to insert early Mālikī legal opinion (raʾy ) within the context of usul methodology, without much substantial change being introduced in traditional Andalusi Maliki practice.

The endeavor of these reforming Mālikī jurists from the time of Abū ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-Barr onwards was greatly influenced by the challenge posed by Ibn Hazm's doctrines to Andalusi Malikism. Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) left Malikism to become a āhirī, thus adhering to a very literal interpretation of the religious sources (Qurʾān and adīth ), limiting consensus to that of the companions of the Prophet and rejecting analogical reasoning. After abandoning an unsuccessful career in the dangerous waters of Taifa politics, Ibn Hazm dedicated his life to producing a complete alternative to the Mālikī legal system. According to Ibn Hazm, Mālikīs considered it wrong to act according to the contents of a adīth if the practice of the community was contrary to it. He put all his considerable intellectual gifts to work to reverse that trend, making adīth the basis for practice. Had he succeeded, it would have meant the disruption of the Andalusi scholarly milieu and a complete renovation of the urban elites, closely associated, as in any other Islamic region, to the world of scholarship. Ibn Hazm's aims probably included this social, and eventually political, disruption, in which he might have seen a solution for the problems he denounced in Andalusi society under the Taifa kings. But Ibn Hazm did not succeed in making al-Andalus adhere to his legal vision. Nevertheless, he left an enduring legacy. Mālikīs were forced to react to the formidable challenge represented by his writings and his doctrines, so that the most able of Mālikī scholars devoted their energies to refuting Ibn Hazm. And by doing so, Malikism was inevitably changed.

Part of Ibn Hazm's vision can be found in the religious and legal policies of the Almohads. Their struggle for radical reform was formulated as a return to the times of the prophet Muammad, whose teachings had been revived by their Messianic founder, the Mahdi Ibn Tumart. The latter's successor, the Almohad caliph, was to ensure correct interpretation of the religious sources and the disappearance of diversity of opinion through his acting as the vicar of God or caliph, and through the training of a body of scholars, the talaba, charged with the diffusion and control of Almohad theological and legal doctrines. In many ways, this version of Almohadism was closer to Shiism than to Sunnīsm, so that the proposal has been made to name this experiment of radical reform the "Sunnīticization of Shiism" (Fierro, 1999, p. 232, note 23). It eventually failed, not only because of the political and military collapse of the Almohads, but also because Malikis soon reacted against those aspects of Almohadism that represented a departure from the Sunnī understanding that, as important as revelation is, the historical experience of the Muslim community has always to be taken into account. Those with totalitarian leanings who try to dismiss that historical experience put themselves in the margins of Sunnism.

Religious Doctrines and Practices

Legal and law-related writings constitute the main body of the Muslim literature written and transmitted in al-Andalus. Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh ) regulated the relations among men and also between man and God, and Andalusi scholars, like their colleagues in the rest of the Islamic world, devoutly engaged in the search of God's norms to humankind, an effort that at the same time allowed them gaining a livelihood as qadis, jurists, notaries, and teachers.

A special feature of this endeavor is the rich tradition of fatawa literature, where the legal opinions on a variety of issues formulated by Andalusi jurists were collected. As Hallaq has pointed out, whether in his capacity as a private legal expert or as an advisor to the court, the jurisconsult determined the law. The fatawa literature thus represents a privileged vantage point from which to analyze the interplay between law, society, and religion. Studies devoted to it in the past decades have opened new and promising venues of research on many aspects of Andalusi social and religious practices. This literature gives information mostly on urban areas. The possibility of learning about what was going on in rural areas is limited, although archaeology (which has greatly developed in the last decades) has made them better known, while the incorporation of anthropological knowledge has also opened new perspectives, as in the case of the function of holy men and charismatic leaders among the Berbers.

Qurʾanic and adīth literature, as well as theology, have not been paid as much attention as law. Recent interest on the Almohad period might give more impulse to the study of theology, as correct belief became one of the fundaments of Almohad religious policies (the population ruled by the Almohads was supposed to learn by heart the Almohad profession of faith). This trend was related to developments taking place in the rest of the Islamic world and in it the impact of the famous thinker and reformer al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) can be detected. The reception of al-Ghazālī's works and ideas in the Islamic West has been subject to many studies, mostly related to the issue of the spread of Sufism that took place in the twelfth century with figures such as Ibn al-ʿArif, Ibn Barrajan (both died in 1141) and Ibn Qasi (d. 1151), who did not limit himself to the study and teaching of ūfī doctrines, but also engaged in a political career as a charismatic ruler in the troubled times that preceded the Almohad caliphate. The most famous Andalusi ūfīs are Ibn Masarra (d. 931), better understood now thanks to the publication of his works that were thought to be lost by Asín Palacios in his often quoted monograph; Ibn Sabʿin (d. 1269); and especially Muhyi al-din Ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 1240). The latter, like many other Andalusi ūfīs, spent much of his life outside al-Andalus. In fact, ūfīs did not find in the Iberian Peninsula an atmosphere as congenial to their presence as that existing elsewhere, especially in the Maghreb, where ūfīs and more generally holy men accomplished a variety of functions for which there were competing figures or arenas in al-Andalus. The twelfth century, especially in the Almohad period, witnessed not only the flourishing of Sufism, but also that of philosophy. The career and written production of Ibn Rushd (Averroës) is closely linked to the Almohads's religious and intellectual program. Although Averroës's philosophical work transcended that program, Averroës's most lasting influence is to be found not in Islamdom but in Christian Europe.

Andalusis were keen in portraying their religious history as an unbroken tradition of orthodoxy, without heretical sects, and on the few occasions in which they appeared they were soon annihilated. This image evokes historical developments that supported religious uniformity in al-Andalus, but it also reflects the powerful capacity of Andalusi scholars of assimilating the changes taking place in their milieu and therefore making them almost invisible.

Muslims under Christian Rule

The religious experience of Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula also had a specific trait: that of the Mudéjares, the Muslims who had neither migrated nor converted when their lands were conquered by the Christians but who continued to live as Muslims under Christian rule. They were able to temporarily maintain the use of Arabic, while progressively acquiring the language of the conquerors. This bilingualism was short-lived in some areas, such as Castile, where Arabic was lost, while in the Kingdom of Valencia it lasted longer. A curious form of linguistic survival was to use Arabic letters to write Romance (the so-called aljamiado or aljamía ), not because those who used aljamiado wanted to ignore the Romanic script but because they sought to keep themselves linked to the sacred language of the Qurʾān. The use of aljamía was a profession of faith, a sign that indicated the users' belonging to the Muslim community.

The status of the Mudéjares came progressively under threat after the conquest of the last Muslim kingdom. The Mudéjares of Granada and Castile were forced to convert to Christianity in 1501 and 1502, those of Valencia in 1521 and 1522, those of Aragon in 1524, in a process that by 1526 signaled the end of Islam as a permitted religion in the Iberian Peninsula. These forced converts are known as Moriscos. Efforts for the Christianization of the Moriscos were carried out according to policies closely intertwined with contemporary debates about the conversion of the Indians of America. In spite of the inevitable, but slow, process of religious and cultural assimilation, the new Christians were suspect in their religion and often denounced as a potential fifth column for the Muslim enemies of the Spanish crown. Also, there was rejection on the part of some sectors of Christian society of their cultural difference. After their rebellion in Granada in 1568, the persecution of the Moriscos at the hands of the Inquisition increased and the remaining communities grew weaker. Their expulsion was discussed in 1582, the first decree was promulgated in 1609, and between 1610 and 1614 the Moriscos were forced to leave the Iberian Peninsula. With them, the small amount of Arabic that still survived disappeared as a spoken language. The dispersion of the Moriscos in Muslim lands and their eventual acculturation to the new context also meant the disappearance of the Andalusi dialectal bundle. For a while, they preserved the Romance language in the new lands where they settled, even producing works in Castilian in Tunis.

Surviving legal opinions dealing with the issue of whether Muslims were allowed to live under Christian rule, mostly formulated by jurists who did not live in the Iberian Peninsula, show a powerful tendency to reject this possibility, arguing that residence in a non-Muslim territory precluded following fundamental tenets of the Islamic religion and was thus equated with religious and cultural corruptions such as eating carrion, blood, or pork. This attitude must have been demoralizing for the religious elites of Mudéjares and crypto-Muslim Moriscos who did not emigrate (emigration to Muslim lands was economically difficult, if not impossible, for the more humble members of the community). Even so, they managed to develop varied and fruitful strategies for religious and cultural survival, the study of which has offered and is still offering new perspectives on the general issue of the interplay between normative and local Islam. Aljamiado literature preserved the fundamentals of religion and law, as well as Muslim sacred history, and made them available to the community at large. Sophisticated forgeries such as the Gospel of Saint Barnabas and the Lead Tablets of the Sacromonte of Granada tried to demolish the distinction between "old Christian" and "new Christian" as a rationale for the elimination of the Moriscos, in an attempt to ensure the physical permanence in the Iberian Peninsula of the descendants of its former Muslim inhabitants.

The Legacy of al-Andalus

As in other Islamic societies, in al-Andalus Muslim rulers allowed the existence of Christian and Jewish communities as dhimmis, although there were episodes of persecution under certain political and religious circumstances, such as the pogrom of Granada in 1066, the expulsion of the Christians to North Africa in 1126, and the forced conversion of the Jews under the Almohads. Eventually, both non-Muslim communities either disappeared from al-Andalus or saw their numbers greatly diminished, although their Arabo-Islamic acculturation had lasting consequences.

But before exploring them, what was their contribution to Andalusi cultural and intellectual achievements? Echoes of the Latin tradition in astrology, medicine, geography, history, and perhaps agronomy have been identified in early Andalusi culture. The most famous example is the Cordovan Calendar. But there was nothing comparable to the impact of Hellenistic culture in the Eastern Islamic civilization and thus Saʿid of Toledo, writing in the eleventh century, stated that the scientific development of al-Andalus was not indebted to any indigenous tradition. The related issues of the possible influence of Romance lyrics in the appearance of new poetical forms (muwashashat and azjal) in al-Andalus and of the possible influence of such forms in Western poetry have been (and still are) widely and ardently debated. The muwashashat encapsulate verses in Romance called kharjas. They have attracted a passionate interest from Arabists, Hebraists, and Romanists, giving rise to hugely divergent interpretations and becoming one of the cornerstones of the presentation of al-Andalus as the land of the three cultures or the land of religious convivencia (living together). This largely mythical presentation has had a recent flourishing, owing once again more to contemporary needs than to historical accuracy.

Less open to debate is the impact that Andalusi Christians and Jews had in Latin Christendom and in Jewish culture. In the case of the Christians, those who emigrated to Christian lands brought with them artistic skills that modern scholarship has analyzed as representing a specific Mozarabic art, unique to the Iberian Peninsula. The Christians who lived in Muslim lands conquered by the northern Christians kept for some time the use of Arabic, as shown by the rich collection of Arabic documents from Christian Toledo (eleventh to thirteenth centuries), and they also preserved the old Visigothic church ritual.

But it was mostly the highly Arabicized Jews who played a crucial role in the transmission of Arabic culture and science to Christian Spain and Europe. They are closely associated with the so-called school of translators of Toledo, a label which is merely a way to express in a simple manner the complex linguistic and intellectual process through which Arabic works were translated into other peninsular languages (Latin, Romance languages, Hebrew). The need to translate arose mainly for two reasons.

On the one hand, knowledge of the "other" was necessary in order better to confront the Muslims or to convert them, especially when Christian expansion led to the presence of Muslim communities inside Christian territory. In the twelfth century, Latin Christendom started the serious study of Islam, thanks mainly to the encouragement given by Peter the Venerable of Cluny to the translation of Muslim religious texts. Raymond Lull (12321316), who called himself Christianus Arabicus, developed a philosophical-apologetical system with the aim of convincing the infidel Muslims of the truth of the Catholic faith, arguing not against, but rather from their own faith, which he had deeply studied. On the other hand, translation was needed to take possession of the knowledge achieved by the Muslims in philosophy, science, and other fields. For example, Christian historical works written in the thirteenth century, like those produced under the patronage of Alfonso X the Wise, were highly indebted to Arabic chronicles, in the same way that the Arab geographers had learned about the Iberian Peninsula from Latin sources. But the translation effort concentrated mostly on the field of the "sciences of the ancients."

The Greek and Latin legacy was sought where it was known to have been preserved, in those Arabic works containing translations from that legacy, but also the original contributions made by Muslims themselves. In fact, in searching for the scientific and technical knowledge of antiquity, the Christians had to acknowledge the importance of the additions made in the Arabo-Islamic civilization. That search started early, as shown by the manuscripts of Ripoll monastery (in Catalonia). The main impulse took place in the twelfth century, when Hermann of Carinthia and Robert of Ketton worked in the Ebro valley, while Dominicus Gundisalvus and Gerard of Cremona centered their activities in Toledo. The exact sciences, linked to astrology and magic, attracted the first translating efforts, but philosophical and medical treatises were soon incorporated. Andalusi Aristotelianism had a lasting influence in Latin and Hebrew philosophy.

Averroës's works were already translated in the first half of the thirteenth century, shortly after having been written, provoking the well-known reaction of both attraction and rejection in Christian Europe. Alfonso X the Wise promoted the translation from Arabic into the vernacular, employing mostly Jews, of a wide range of works dealing with magic, astrology, astronomy, games, and literature. Arabic vocabulary penetrated into these vernacular languages, mainly in the fields of agricultural products and techniques, building crafts, clothing, and food. Mudéjar art, like its counterpart Mozarabic art, singles out Spain from the rest of western Europe with the exception of Sicily. Spanish medieval literature is indebted in both contents and form to Arabic literature. The Muslim religious influence on peninsular Judaism has acknowledged manifestations in the fields of mysticism and theology, while its influence on Christianity is less widely accepted. This reflects the tensions that have existed (and continue to exist) in the construction of a Spanish Catholic national identity, while similar debates (such as that on the debt of Dante's Divine Comedy to Muslim eschatology) show that the study of religious interaction has been, and still is, a contested field.

The al-Andalus cultural and intellectual legacy should not be sought only in what is now known as the West. Andalusi Islam produced works and developed doctrines and practices that had a lasting influence in the Muslim world at large. Following Christian expansion in Muslim lands, Andalusi intellectual elites started a process of emigration to other regions of Islamdom. Its rhythm and peculiarities are not yet well known, but it helped disseminate Andalusi cultural achievements among Muslims. Any look at the contents of extant Muslim libraries reveals that the list of Andalusi "best-sellers" in Muslim religious literature is substantial and that in certain areas, such as North and Central Africa, Islam cannot be understood without reference to the thought and works of Andalusi scholars.


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Lagardère, Vincent. Les almoravides. Le djihad andalou (11061143). Paris, 1998.

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Marín, Manuela. "Learning at mosques in al-Andalus," In Islamic Legal Interpretation. Muftis and Their Fatwas, edited by Muhammad Khalid Masud, Brinkley Messick, and David Powers. Cambridge, Mass., 1996.

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Marín, Manuela. Mujeres en al-Ándalus. Madrid, 2000. Includes a study of women's religious practices.

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Menocal, Rosa María. The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage. Philadelphia, 1989.

Menocal, María Rosa, Raymond P. Scheindlin, and Michael Sells, eds. The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: The Literature of al-Andalus. Cambridge, U.K., 2000.

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Nirenberg, David. "Muslims in Christian Iberia, 10001526: Varieties of Mudejar Experience." In The Medieval World, edited by Peter Linehan and Janet L. Nelson, London, 2001. An evaluation of the different perspectives on Mudéjar Islam.

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Rubio, Luciano. El "ocasionalismo" de los teólogos especulativos del Islam: su posible influencia en Guillermo de Ockam y los "ocasionalistas" de la Edad Moderna. El Escorial, Spain, 1987. An important contribution to the history of theology and philosophy in al-Andalus.

Sáenz-Badillos, Angel, and Judith Targarona Borrás. Diccionario de autores judíos (Sefarad. siglos XXV). Cordova, Spain, 1988. A useful guide to the literary production of Andalusi Jews.

Samsó, Julio. Las ciencias de los antiguos en al-Andalus. Madrid, 1992. A good introduction to the Andalusi contribution in the "rational" sciences.

Scales, Peter C. The Fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba: Berbers and Andalusis in Conflict. Leiden, 1994.

Simonet, Francisco Javier. Historia de los mozárabes de España (18971903). Amsterdam, 1967. In spite of its shortcomings, still offers a complete overview to date on the Christians living under Muslim rule.

Urvoy, Dominique. Pensers d'al-Andalus. La vie intellectuelle à Cordoue et Sevilla au temps des Empires Berberes (fin XIe siècle début XIIIe siècle). Toulouse, France, 1990. An overview of intellectual trends during the Almoravid and Almohad periods.

Urvoy, Dominique. Averroès: Les ambitions d'un intellectuel musulman. Paris, 1998. A useful presentation of Averroës's life and work.

Van Ess, Joseph. Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam. 6 vols. Berlin, 19911997. It contains valuable analyses of developments in al-Andalus.

Vernet, Juan. La cultura hispanoárabe en Oriente y Occidente. Barcelona, 1978. New ed., Lo que Europa debe al Islam de España, Barcelona, 1999. French translation by Gabriel Martinez Gros, Ce que la culture doit aux arabes d'Espagne, Paris, 1985. Overview of Christian and Jewish contributions to Andalusi scientific culture and Andalusi contributions to Europe.

Viguera, María Jesús. Los Reinos de Taifas y las invasiones magrebíes. Madrid, 1992.

Wasserstein, David. The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings: Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 10021086. Princeton, N.J., 1986.

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Wiegers, Gerard. Islamic Literature in Spanish and Aljamiado: Yça of Segovia (d. 1450), His Antecedents and Successors. Leiden, 1994. A good presentation on Aljamiado literature.

Zwartjes, Otto. Love Songs from Al-Andalus: History, Structure and Meaning of the Kharja. Leiden, 1997. Balanced presentation of the issue of poetical borrowings between Arabic and European vernacular languages.

Maribel Fierro (2005)

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