Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), the Lost Paradise

At the end of the Eighth Century, Spain was the most populous cultured and industrious land of all Europe, and remained so for centuries. Its trade with the outside world was unrivaled, and in this time of economic expansion, the Jews, who had been virtually eliminated from the peninsula in the seventh century by the Christians, grew once more in numbers and flourished.

Andalus, how it was called, flourished not only in economic terms but it also was known to be one of the great centers of learning, science, architecture, poetry and arts. This was at a time when much of Europe was in a "Dark Age". It was largely through al-Andalus that the knowledge held by the Muslims would be passed on to Europe and start the European "Renaissance" or rebirth.

A great tolerance of the Jews and Christians by the Muslims, characterized the centuries of Islam in Spain. All the Jews and Christians who accepted the Muslims as the rulers of the country were allowed to retain their possessions and their beliefs and religious practices.

The Muslims moved first with an army of 30,000 into Spain in 711 C.E. under command of Tarik bin Ziyad. They took power from the Visigoths who had taken over from the Romans. In 715 already they crossed the Pyrenees and controlled an area of 4 million people. Within only seven years four fifth of the peninsula had been conquered and the Islamic caliphate established. In 733 the Christian army stopped the Muslims from going further into Europe.

Especially from the beginning of the 9th Century the Christians entered Islam in masses. At the same time the Muslims were also doing "futuhat" (conquests) in the Sindh area, which is now Pakistan. This means that in less than 150 years, Islam expanded from a small movement of a handful of desert inhabitants to the greatest power of the world.

This success could only happen, because these people practiced their religion like they were supposed to do. Their intention, while doing Jihad, was primarily to spread the word of Islam and not to gain properties and war booties. Wherever they came, they established a system based on justice which replaced the dictatorships and monarchies present at this time.

The people were free to chose Islam or to keep their religions. They just had to pay a special tax which exempted them from the military service. Many of them embraced Islam just because they watched the good behaviors and characters of their conquerors.

From the tenth century on, the capital of the caliphate Andalus was Cordoba with a population of 600,000. It later developed into a city with 200,000 buildings, 1500 mosques and nearly 1000 public bathhouses. There were more than half a million manuscripts stored in its libraries. The center of the city had a canalization system and at night the plastered streets even had light.

In short, this city had an infrastructure not to be found in any other European city. Christian kings even sent their children to study in Andalus because of the excellent universities. Arabic was the main world language.

Nowadays it is reverse. Many cities in Muslim countries are entire slums and far away from having an infrastructure and the population is suffering from poverty, war, diseases and bad education.

The Muslim caliphate in Spain fell in 1492 when Granada was conquered by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. These were the same rulers who gave Christopher Columbus three ships to initiate the colonization, genocide and slave trade in the Americas.

The remaining Muslims and Jews at that point had three options. First: To keep their religion but to leave the country. Second: to convert to Christianity. Third: to be killed!

It is easy to analyze, why the Muslims, after eight centuries, lost Western Europe to the Christians. It was because they did not practice Islam like they were supposed to do. With all the prosperity came decadence. Andalus became divided into many emirates fighting amongst each other. Sometimes they even took the Catholic militias as helpers against their own people!

Out of the Andalus experience we can learn a lot of things. We Muslims have to realize that Allah, the Most High, helps us, if we help Him in His cause. This means that if the Muslims practice their religion then success is programmed, not only in the next life, but also in this life.

The Muslims lost Andalus, the Balkans, India and a lot more because it was their own fault. There was not big resistance when colonialism destroyed the Muslim unity and put secular regimes into power to divide and govern the Muslim lands.

Friday 24/01/2003