Overview of the unit
1. The call of Islam
In order to understand how Muslim rule began in the Iberian Peninsula, we review the beginnings of Islam in Arabia in the seventh century. We learn about the revelation of the Islamic message to Prophet Muhammad, and how his teachings were received in Mecca and Medina. We also learn about the formation of the Shia and Sunni communities, and the rise of the Umayyad dynasty.
2.A land called al-Andalus
The text explains how Muslim rule began in Spain during the Umayyad period. We follow the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by Arab and Berber troops from North Africa, and the defeat of the Visigoths who ruled in this region. We study an example of a treaty that reveals what kind of agreement was reached between the Muslim amir and the former rulers of Spain. The new empire that was created in the Iberian Peninsula came to be known as al-Andalus.
3. A new empire in the West
In this section, we study the position of al-Andalus in relation to Muslim and Christian civilisations that formed the Mediterranean world. Among these civilisations was the Fatimid state ruled by Ismaili Imam-caliphs. We review how the Fatimid empire arose in North Africa and Egypt to become an important part of the region called the Maghrib (the West).
4. Linked by an ancient sea
To help us extend our understanding of al-Andalus, we compare the Mediterranean world of the tenth century with what it is today we become aware of the different sense that people of that period had about the boundaries between lands around them. One of the aspects we examine is what it might have been like to travel from one place o another in those times?
2.1 The call of Islam
In another part of the world, in the seventh century, a different story is unfolding which will affect the Iberian Peninsula and many other parts of the world. This story is taking place in the deserts of Arabia, and in the towns of Mecca and Medina.
The Arab Bedouins have lived a nomadic life for many centuries, but now their life is beginning to change. Some of the tribes have left the desert and started to lead a settled way of life in the towns. The trade routes that pass through Mecca and Medina have brought great wealth to these towns. Tribes, like the Quraysh have become very wealthy and powerful as a result of this trade.
However, there are many people in these towns who are neglected or ill- treated — the widows, the slaves, the orphans and the poor. ‘Not all of them can hope for the protection of the rich and the powerful.
The Messenger of Allah
In this time of change, a man by the name of Muhammad ibn Abdallah is teaching to the Arabs of Mecca a different message. It is a; message which has been revealed to him by Allah. Prophet Muhammad has been chosen to be the final Messenger of God and to call the people to the faith of Islam. The Prophet begins by preaching Allah’s message to the Meccans.
Prophet Muhammad calls the Meccans to give up their many idols and to worship one God only. He encourages them to reflect on the grandness and majesty of Allah’s creation and on their own place in it. The Prophet asks the wealthy to think of those around them who need help and to be mindful of the sick, the aged and the poor.
The Messenger of Allah urges his people to reflect on their deeds in this life and to prepare for the life that is to come.
At first, Prophet Muhammad has only a small following, among them are his wife, Khadija, his cousin, Hazrat Ali, and his close companion, Abu Bakr. Slowly, more! of the Meccans listen to him and become Muslims.
At the same time, some of the Meccan leaders become very concerned about what Prophet Muhammad is teaching. Unless he stopped, he could threaten their power, their wealth, and their whole way of life.
What were some of the key events that took place in the early history of Muslims?
WORDS TO LOOK UP
570-632 CE: Life of Prophet Muhammad.
632-660 CE: Period of the first four caliphs.
661-750 CE: The Umayyad dynasty in Syria.
Events in Arabia and surrounding areas in the seventh century led to the spread of Muslim rule in parts of the continents we now call Asia, Africa and Europe.
After failing to persuade the Prophet, the Meccan leaders decide that the only course open to them is to kill him. But before they can carry out their plot, the Prophet decides to leave Mecca and migrate to Medina.
In Medina, the Prophet continues his teachings as the small community of Muslims begins to grow. Several battles are fought between the Muslims and the Meccans, until the Prophet’s opponents are finally defeated. When Prophet Mohammad dies in 632 CE, much of Arabia is under the control of the Muslims.
The shias and the sunnis
Now a new problem arises for the Muslim community; the successor of Prophet Muhammad and the new leader of the Muslims?
One group of Muslims believe that, on Allah’s command the Prophet appointed Hazrat Ali to be the leader of the Muslim community. This group, which recognises Hazrat Ali as its first Imam, comes to be known as Shias. They see the role of the Imam as providing spiritual and moral guidance to his followers according to the times.
Other Muslims claim that the Prophet did not appoint any leader to succeed him and that it was up to them to choose one. They selected Abu Bakr, a close companion of the Prophet to be their first caliph. This group of Muslims comes to be known after a period of time as the sunnis.
The Four caliphs
Hazrat Ali does not wish to divide commurii1y and accepts Abu Bakr as the first caliph. The Shia Muslim who believe that Hazrat Ali is their leader continue to look to him for guidance.
Following the death of Abu Bakr, Umar becomes the second caliph, followed by Uthman. Then Hazrat Ali is selected as the fourth caliph of the Muslims. During the time of the four caliphs, Muslim rule spreads speedily from Arabia to Syria, Egypt and Persia.
When Hazrat All dies, a Syrian governor by the name of Müawiya captures power and makes himself the new caliph. Muawiya becomes the first of several caliphs who form the Umayyad dynasty and who rule from Damascus.
During the rule of the Umayyad caliphs, Islam continues to spread beyond Persia to Central Asia and India, and beyond Egypt to North Africa. In these places, the Umayyad caliphs appoint amirs (governors) to rule over the new lands.
Using the information in this section draw a map of the regions which came under Muslim rule in the early history of Islam. Show on your map the location of the Iberian Peninsula. How far is it from Arabia?
Try to find out about the history of other empires that existed in the seventh century, such as the Byzantines and the Persians, How were these empires affected by the spread of Muslim rule? What events were taking place in other lands in the seventh century
The message of Islam reached people of many different lands and cultures in the past. Compare examples of two Muslim countries today. Discuss whether the place and time in which people live affects the way in which they understand religion.
2.2 A land called al-Andalus
It is now the early part of the eighth century. The Umayyad caliph in Damascus receives a message from his amir in far-away North Africa. The amir is seeking advice from the caliph on whether his troops should cross the Mediterranean Sea and invade the Iberian Peninsula.
The caliph grants him permission but directs him to proceed with caution. He does not want the troops to be exposed to the dangers of crossing a stormy sea.
The amir has waited long to receive this permission from the caliph. He selects a general by the name of Tariq ibn Ziyad to carry out an initial expedition. Several thousand soldiers are chosen to accompany Tariq. Some of them are Arabs, but the majorities of them are Berbers, a people who live in North Africa.
The mount of Tariq
It is the year 711 CE. Tariq sets out with his army and lands on a bay near a large rock on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. From this time onwards, the rock is called Jabal Tariq (Gibraltar), which means the ‘Mount of Tariq’.
The general then marches on with his troops to another place near the coast where he defeats the Visigoth king in a short battle. Within a few years, most of the peninsula is under the rule of the Muslims. This area comes to be known to the Muslims as al-Andalus.
The new rulers
In the middle ages, it is common for one group of people to conquer the land of another. In some cases, the conquerors destroy the way of life of the people they have defeated and replace it with their own. In other cases, the conquerors adopt the way of life of those whose land they have occupied.
The Muslims have begun their rule in al-Andalus, but Visigoth lords and nobles continue to rule large areas of the land. The Muslim Amir has a choice of replacing them with his own men or keeping the Visigoths.
The amir, whose name is Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, has recently captured a large area of land belonging to a Visigoth noble called Theodemir. Here is a treaty that the amir has agreed with the noble.
In the name of Allah, the most kind, the most merciful, …. (This Treaty) is written-by Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa ibn Nusair to (Theodemir) ibn Abdush
Theodemir obtains peace and receives a pledge, guaranteed by Allah and His Prophet;
That nothing in his situation or in that of his family will be changed
That his claim to rule will not be challenged;
That his people will not be killed, nor taken as captives,
nor separated from their children or their wives;
nor separated from their children or their wives;
That they will not be troubled in the practice of their religion; that their churches will not be burned nor plundered of religious objects;
And that this guarantee will last as long as he satisfies the duties required of him.
Peace is granted on condition of:
The surrender of the.. seven cities [ruled by Theodemir]
Moreover, he will not grant safety. to anyone fleeing from us or who is our enemy, neither will he wrong anyone any one to whom we have granted safety, nor will he keep secret information that may come to him concerning our enemies.
He and each of his subjects must pay each year a tax of one dinar in currency, four bushels of wheat, and four of barley, four measures of new wine, four of vinegar, two of honey, and two of oil.
This tax will be reduced to half for servants.
Muslim rule in a1-Andalus
The amir has introduced similar conditions in other parts of al-Andalus. He is repeating what Muslim rulers have done in other conquered areas. Thy have allowed
People to lead their own lives as long as they pay tax and do not rebel against their new rulers. In the Middle Ages, this method of rule is considered quite fair.
Worst things have happened in other lands where the conquered people have had their property taken away from them, and many of them have been turned into slaves.
Some of these things have also happened in al-Andalus, as very few conquests in these times take place without bloodshed or destruction. This is the way of the world in the middle Ages. However, the above treaty shows us that rulers may avoid violence whenever they can.
When and how did Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula begin?
WORDS TO LOOK UP
711 CE: Arab and Barber troops land near Gibraltar.
732 CE: Battle of Tours — Muslim troops reach the region now called France and are defeated.
Muslim rule began in the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century. The region which the Muslims ruled came to be known as al-Andalus.
Draft a new treaty between the Muslim amir and the Visigoth noble. What changes will you make to the original treaty? Why?
Find out about other empires in the past that were involved in the conquest of neighbouring lands, What were some of the reasons why these empires tried to exercise their power on people of other lands?
What might have been some of the reasons; why people of different lands came to accept Islam as their faith as Muslim rule spread?
2.3 A new empire in the West
The Muslims have just started their rule in al-Andalus, but it is a time of great upheaval in Damascus. The Umayyad rule has ended and a new dynasty of rulers, the Abbasids, has taken over. The Abbasids have killed almost all the male members of the Umayyad dynasty because they do not want the Umayyads to challenge their rule.
One of the Umayyad princes has managed to escape and made his way to al-Andalus. Here, he has set up a new rule of the Umayyads, far away from the reach of Abbasid agents. The new amir’s name is Abd al-Rahman I.
The Shia Imams
The Abbasid rulers are not only worried by the Umayyads. They also fear that the Shia Imams from the family of Hazrat Mi and Hazrat Fatima will challenge their rule. The lives of the Imams, who live in Medina at this time, are in great danger. After the death of lmam Jafar al-Sadiq, the Imams descended from Mawlana Ismail make Salamiyya, in Syria, their new home.
At the beginning of the tenth century, Imam al-Mahdi leaves Syria and settles in North Africa. Here, he sets up the Fatimid state and becomes its first caliph. Imam al-Mahdi founds a new capital called al-Mahdiyya on the coast of North Africa.
The rule of Imam al-Mahdi is followed by that of Imam al-Qaim and Imam al-Mansur, the second and third Fatimid caliphs.
During the time of the fourth caliph, Imam al-Muizz, the Fatimid army captures Egypt. Here, the Imam-caliph founds a new city called Cairo by the banks of the River Nile. Cairo grows from a small palace-city into one of the most important capitals in Muslim lands. It becomes famous for its palaces, mosques and markets, a city where people from different lands in Europe. Asia and Africa meet trade and live together.
Centres of learning
Scholars and scientists find their way to Cairo to study at the mosque of al-Azhar and the Dar al-llm, the House of Knowledge. They hear that Cairo has some of the biggest libraries where ancient books as well as the most recent ones can be found. They also hear about scholars and scientists being supported by the Imam-caliphs to study a wide range of subjects.
The Fatimid empire is located in a part of the world that the Muslims call Maghrib (the West). For Muslims of this time, the West means those parts of North Africa which are under Muslim rule. Some people also include al-Andalus in this region.
The Maghrib is an important part of the Muslim world. Here, great empires and rulers have arisen, and new cities have been founded. Here, some of the most famous of scholars, poets and scientists have lived their lives.
There is another reason why the Maghrib is important. It forms part of the Mediterranean world which consists of several large empires. Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula ruled by the Umayyads. In North Africa and Egypt, there is the Fatimid empire under Ismaili Imam-Caliphs. The eastern part of Mediterranean lands is controlled by the Abbassids, while in the north-east is the Byzantine Empire. In Western Europe is the Holy Roman Empire.
Muslim and Christian empires
Al-Andalus, the Fatimid state and the Abbasid lands are ruled by Muslim caliphs and amirs while Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire are led by Christian kings and emperors. In some periods, there is co-operation between these empires, while at other times they engage in warfare. Sometimes, a Muslim caliph and a Christian emperor will seek each other’s help to control rival Muslim or Christian rulers.
On the whole, a great amount of exchange takes place between these empires. Much of it is in the form of trade, with- goods being transported from one land to another. Some of this exchange is in the form of knowledge and ideas, with scholars travelling between major centres of learning. Al-Andalus is very much a part of the wider Mediterranean world of this time.
750 CE: Umayyads overthrown in Syria by Abbasids.
756 CE: Abd al-Rahman I restores Umayyad rule in al-Andalus.
909 CE: Imam al-Mahdi founds the Fatimid state in North Africa.
969 CE: Fatimid rule extended to Egypt under Imam al-Muizz.
Al-Andalus and the Fatimid state were two of the empires that were an important part of the Mediterranean region in the tenth century
Find out more information about some of -the empires that ruled in the. Mediterranean region. In the tenth century, such as Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire. What role did the Mediterranean Sea play in the relations that existed among the empires in this region?
Think of the relations that exist between people of Muslim and other countries today. What are some of the issues that arise from these relations? How are these issues being addressed?
2.4 Linked by an ancient sea
We open a large map of the modern world and peer closely at the Mediterranean Sea. We are amazed by the number “of countries around the sea:
On the northern side of the sea are countries like Spain, France, Italy and Greece. On the eastern side, we notice, among other countries, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The southern side is bordered by Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
There must be over fifteen countries that have their shores washed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea! All these countries are connected by the sea to form the Mediterranean region in modern times.
The Mediterranean world in the past
The Mediterranean world in the tenth century was quite different from the one we know today. The lands surrounding the sea were not divided into numerous countries, each with its own sharply marked border. Instead, there were large empires whose borders were never clearly known. These boundaries shifted constantly with time, depending on who gained or lost territory.
Travelling in the past
Partly due to these vague borders, people were able to move more freely between different lands than is now possible. Today we require a passport before we can travel from one county to another. Before we can enter a foreign country officials at airports or at border points check our passports. They may refuse us entry for various reasons.
In the past too, foreigners were looked upon suspiciously and sometimes stopped by guards and officials. But they were usually allowed to proceed to their destination, even if they did not have any official letters from their rulers.
The fear of the unknown
While people could travel more freely in the past, most did not travel very far. It would be quite normal for people never to venture beyond their town or village. Their whole lives would be spent in the surroundings of their village or town.
One of the reasons for this was the beliefs and attitudes common people held about foreign lands. They had a deep suspicion of people who were different from them: They carried fearful images of what lay beyond the next hill or mountain. The world was not as well charted as it is today.
Lands brought together by the sea
There was more travel, however, in the Mediterranean world than in other areas. Unlike other parts of the world that are divided by high mountains or vast oceans, the Mediterranean Sea did not separate people of different lands. It brought them into greater contact with one another.
We would therefore find ambassadors, traders, scholars, priests and even ordinary people setting off on ships from one port to another. Some ships failed to arrive at their destination because of heavy storms at sea, but many travellers were prepared to take the risk.
Yet another difference between the present and the past is the meaning we give to the words ‘the West’. In. modem times, Spain and Portugal arc considered to be part of’ ‘the West’, while Morocco and Algeria are located in ‘North Africa’. Some countries belong to the West and others elsewhere.
In the past, people of the Mediterranean region did not divide their world in this way, as we have learned. Southern Europe and North Africa were not two different parts of the world—they formed one large Mediterranean region.
In what ways was the Mediterranean different from what it is today?
Write a travel account that describes what it might have been like for a visitor to travel through the Mediterranean region in the tenth century
The lands in the Mediterranean region in the tenth century had fewer boundaries than those today People of different cultures interacted across the Mediterranean Sea
Find out about the relations that exist between people of different countries around the Mediterranean Sea today. How are these countries grouped in terms of what divides them and what unites them?
Today there is greater interaction between people of different religions, cultures and backgrounds than in the past. To what extent has our understanding of other people increased or decreased? What are the reasons for this?
Review of Unit 2
1. The call of lslam
What kinds of changes were taking place in Arabia at the time the Prophet started teaching the Meccans about Islam?
What were some of the teachings of Islam that called the people to reform their way of life?
What impact did the question of who was to succeed the Prophet have on the early Muslims?
Who were the Umayyads and how did their rule in Muslim history begin?
2. A land called al-Andalus
What kind of communication took place between the Umayyad caliph and the amir in North Africa before the invasion of the Iberia Peninsula?
Who was Tariq ibn Ziyad, arid why was Gibraltar named after him? What does Gibraltar mean?
What name did the Muslims give to the land they conquered in the Iberian Peninsula?
What were some of the conditions thatwere agreed betweexj the Muslim amir and the Viigoth noble?
3. A new empire in the West
How did the Fatimid state come into being in North Africa?
What importance did it gain in the Mediterranean region?
What did the term ‘Maghrib’ mean to Muslims in the past?
What kind of relations existed between Christian and Muslim states in the Mediterranean region in the tenth century?
4. Linked by an ancient sea
In what ways was the Mediterranean world of tenth century different from what it is today?
Why did most people in the Middle Ages never travel beyond their village or town?
What kinds of hazards did travellers face in those times? Why did some people travel to distant lands despite these dangers?
What role did the Mediterranean Sea play in the way people of different cultures interacted in that region?