A Brief History of Al Andalus 

Islam on the Iberian Peninsula 711-1492

Al Andalus was the name given to the territory under Muslim control on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages between the Muslim invasion in 711 and their expulsion in 1492.

Led by Tàriq ibn Ziyad and Mussa ibn Nussayr, the Muslim forces disembarked on April 27th 711 Gibraltar and on July 19th defeated the Visigoth King Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete.

Between 711 and 716, the Muslims took control of the whole of the Iberian Peninsula apart from the mountainous Pyrenean and Cantabrian regions.

This was often achieved through pacts with the leaders of the collapsing Visigoth settlements, who, unable to offer much resistance, came to agreements with invading forces in return for privileges.


The Emirate of Cordoba

In 773, Abd-al-Rahman I proclaimed the Emirate of Cordoba, which although politically and administratively independent, remained spiritually and morally connected with the rest of Islam.

The veritable organiser of the independent emirate, however, was Abd-ar-Rahman II, who delegated power to the visirs, and imposed Islam on the local population to such an extent that the number of Mossarabs, Cristians living in Muslim territory, reduced considerably.

By the arrival of Abd-ar-Rahman III in 912, the emirate was in decline due to internal fighting, attacks from the Christian kingdoms in the north and threat to maritime trade.

Despite this, Abd-ar-Rahman III managed to push back against the Christian and force them to pay taxes and also established military bases on the Straits of Gibraltar.

Caliphate of Cordoba

Abd-ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself Caliph of Cordoba in 929 and consequently, religious independence from the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad.

The reason for the proclamation of the Caliphate by the Umayyads was firstly, in order to reinforce their position and secondly, to consolidate the Mediterranean trade routes with Byzantium and so insure their gold supply.

After the conquest of Melilla in 927, by the middle of the 10th century, the Umayyads controlled a triangle of territory formed by Algeria, Sijilmasa and the Atlantic Ocean.

By 950, the power of the Caliphate of Cordoba had pushed north gaining significant over influence the small Christian kingdoms in the north of the Iberian Peninsula and was even exchanging ambassadors with the Holy Roman Empire.

Although short lived, this was period was the high point of the Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula and came to an end 1010 with fitna or civil war over the throne between supporters of the last legitimate caliph Hixam II and the successors of his prime minister Almansor.

The Taifas

The consequence of the civil war was the creation of the Taifas, which were a number of small independent states, each with a city as its main economic centre.

Although the Taifas lived a period of economic splendour, they were beleaguered by problems caused by heavy taxes needed to continually fight wars against the Christian kingdom to the north and push back against invasions from North Africa, such as the Almoravids (1090-1102), the Almohads (1145-1146) and the Marinids (1224).

This constant pressure led to a progressive decline of Al Andalus as the Taifas divided, subdivided and were eventually conquered.

The Reconquest

Between 718 and 1230 the main Christian kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Portugal, Navarre and the Crown of Aragon became the main points of resistance against the Muslim domination of the Iberian peninsula.

The main advances came in the 13th century as Leon and Castile united and the Crown of Aragon began pushing out into the Mediterranean.

The so-called Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula was completed in 1492 with the fall of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada to the Catholic Kings.

The Nasrid Kingdom or Emirate of Granada

In 1238, Muhàmmad I al-Ghàlib entered Granada and founded the Nasrid Dynasty, whose sultans ruled the Kingdom of Granada for fifteen generations.

The Nasrids were on good terms with the Castilians from the beginning but over time were increasingly forced to pay higher tributes in order maintain their independence.

The Nasrid Kingdom covered a large territory, which included the current provinces of Malaga, Almeria, Granada and part of Cadiz making a long stretch of coastline with important ports and prosperous agricultural lands.

The last sultan was Boabdil (Abu-Abd-Al·lah), when the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada fell and became part of the Kingdom of Castile.

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