Thursday, 18 August 2016

llisha Spreads Myths about Islamic Spain

   Now I will address the rest of llisha's ignorant comments about Islamic Spain. llisha responded to some comments about Islamic colonisation and imperialism
Then as we remember from my previous post she wrote:

Then she continues...

    The most ignorant and absurd part of  her rant which had more to do with apologetics than history is when she says the following nonsense:

     Now, I have numerous problems with these comments, especially since they propagate many popular myths about Islamic Spain which are simply not true. Her claim that the Umayyads were not prone  to "subjugating and plundering" is absolutely false, they constantly did that, as I will prove. Similarly, her comments about Umayyad Spain's wealth, ignore the fact that a lot of that wealth was generated from their thriving slave trade. Also, her comments about Umayyad intellectualism conviently ignores the fact that the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Spain paved the way for 150 years of intellectual stagnation and destroyed pre-existing  intellectual traditions of the Visigoths.

   Not to mention that her comments reek of anachronisms, comparing Umayyad Spain to Western colonialism  is comparing two very different points in history. I don't think llisha is interested in doing  honest history, rather she is  spreading ideological propaganda over which religion was worse historically. Yes, Western Empires did numerous terrible things such as slavery and massacring the indigenous populace. Nobody is going to deny that, what I take issue with, is her distorting of Islamic history to always present Muslims as being better historically, that is simply not the case. She complains about opponents of Islam rummaging through the archives pointing out that Islamic powers "did it too". I find this Ironic because she in fact introduced that to this thread when she previously tried to justify hatred towards Middle-Eastern Christians because of Western Imperialism. llisha forgets that the Islamic conquerors of Spain did not have to build colonies, they simply conquered pre-existing cities ruled by the  Visigoths, many of which had existed since roman times. Secondly, while she boasts of how the Umayyads ruled directly from Cordoba rather  than having Spain as an indirect colony, she has forgotten exactly why that is the case. 

 The Conquest of Visigothic Spain:

      llisha's claims that Muslims in Spain were " not so inclined to subjugate the locals and plunder the land" is absolutely false, they frequently did that. She is regurgitating the popular myth that Islamic Spain was a utopia of tolerance, peace and learning. All of which is ahistorical nonsense. This is far from the case. As we see, when the Umayyads conquered Visgothic Spain  from 711 to 718 it was a bloody  and brutal conquest, just like all conquests. It was not exceptionally bloodless. The invading Arabs massacred, pillaged, enslaved and used women as sex slaves. The earliest source we have for the period is The Anonymous Latin Chronicle of 758  which  records widespread destruction caused by the Umayyad General Ibn Musa Nusayr.

The Anonymous Latin Chronicle of 758
"Musa himself approached this wretched land across the straights of Cadiz and pressing on to the pillars of Hercules... entered the long plundered and godlessly invaded Spain to destroy it. After forcing his way to Toledo, the royal city, he imposed on the adjacent regions a fraudulent peace. He decapitated on a scaffold those noble lords who remained, arresting them in their flight from Toledo. Thus he devastated  not only Hispania Ulterior but Hispania Citerior up to and beyond the ancient and once flourishing city of Zaragosa. Now by the judgement of God, openly exposed to sword, famine, and captivity. He ruined beautiful cities, burning them with fire, condemned lords, and powerful men to the cross and butchered youths and infants with the sword. While he (Musa) terrorised everyone in this way, some cities that remained sued for peace under duress and after persuading and mocking them with certain craftiness, the Saracens granted requests without  delay. When the citizens rejected what they had accepted out of fear and terror, they tried to flee to the mountains where they risked hunger and various forms of death. Then Saracens set up their savage Kingdom of Spain specifically in Cordoba"
Medieval Iberia(ed. Constable p.30-31)

Furthermore, according to primary sources Abd al-Aziz, the first governor of Islamic Spain, actually forced the Visigothic Queen Egilona to marry him after her husband King Roderick was killed in battle. He also treated the daughters of other  Visigothic nobles as sex slaves.

The Anonymous Latin Chronicle of 758 
"He ( Abd al-Aziz) had taken all the riches and positions of honour in Seville as well as the queen of Spain whom he joined in marriage and the daughters of Kings and princes whom he treated as concubines"
Medieval Iberia(ed. Constable p.31 -32)

Ibn Abd al-Hakam records
"Abd al-Aziz married a Christian princess, daughter of a King of al-Andalus. It is said that she was the daughter of Roderick, king of Al-Andalus whom Tariq Killed."
Medieval Iberia p.36

Subjugated Christians were forced to pay money and goods to their new  Muslim overlords

"Christian towns were forced to pay 1 dinar for every person in the city, four measures of wheat, four measures of barely, four liquid measures of concentrated fruit juice, four liquid measures of vinegar, four of honey, four of olive oil"
Medieval Iberia p.37-88

     According to the primary sources, the Islamic conquest was brutal resulting in massacres of nobles, youths and infants. Entire cities were burnt and destroyed by the conquering Arabs. According to these sources the invasion caused  famine and captivity. Similarly noble Visigothic women were used as sex slaves. Also the Arabs forced Christians were forced to pay their conquerors tribute. How any one can have the audacity to claim that the Umayyads were not prone to  "plundering and subjugating." either stems from an active attempt to decieve or ignorance.

Umayyad Spain

   llisha wrote "Think harder. And perhaps pick up a history book. Make sure you study Muslim-ruled Spain which ended up extremely wealthy, both materially and intellectually when the Muslim ruled (and not from "colonies")."

Let's take her advice and see what Roger Collins, a leading  Scholar of Medieval Iberia  from the University of Edinborough has to say about Umayyad Spain (711 -1031 )  and see whether the Umayyads  were truly not  prone to " subjugate the locals and plunder the land."

Historian Roger Collins writes
 " In recent years to bring up the Umayyad period of Spanish history in casual conversation with friends, colleagues and complete strangers often raises the issue of whether this was indeed that golden age of tolerance in which  members of the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexisted in harmony and mutual respect. To which question there can be a quick answer and that wholly is a negative one. If a fuller or more nuanced reply is required, then it  would involve saying if there were any truth in such a notion then it only applied for a very limited period of forty years or fewer in the mid-tenth century, in just one location, the city of Cordoba,  and to a very small sector of society, the intellectual elite attached to the caliphal court. Beyond these chronological, geographical and social confines, life  Umayyad al-Andalus as recorded in our far from insubstantial records looks more like Thomas Hobbes war of all against all, than a realisation of the prophetic vision if the wolf dwelling with the lamb and the lion lying down with the goat.

  The Arab conquest created the conditions for a state of almost perpetual warfare in the Iberian peninsula that put special emphasis on destruction and display of dead enemies, with a lively slave trade as an additional incentive. This continued throughout the period covered in this book and in  scale and intensity that exceeded anything to be found elsewhere in Western Europe in these centuries. Even in Cordoba at its cultural apogee, it will have been hard to escape the reek of decomposing  flesh from the decapitated heads displayed on the gates and the bodies of those publically crucified left to rot in front of the palace.
  Quite why this roseate image of an age of mutual toleration has taken so  strong a hold  on the popular imagination both in the United States and  throughout Europe is not easy to say. Perhaps we would like to believe  that  something we wish to achieve today, existed in the past and therefore can seem an attainable goal. Worthy as the ideal may be , it needs to stand on its own two feet and not be made to rely on the overly optimistic and thus anachronistic, readings of the past. If there was a brief flicker of such mutual toleration in the Umayyad period, it was not something that was consciously intended or recognised at the time.
  More generally the ninth and tenth centuries present particular problems in the compass of a book such as this. While the Visigothic period can be seen in single focus,  and even the eighth century can be treated from the standpoint of just two protagonists Islamic al-Andalus and the infant Asturian Kingdom, from the very start of the of the ninth century new players enter the game in the form of the Basque kingdom of Pamplona (Navarre) and the Frankish counties of Catalunya which multiply their number and extent over time. Castile although formally a component of the Austurian  and then Leonese kingdom demands separate treatment from the later ninth century onwards, as does Galicia, while fractures in al-Andalus result in the rise and fall of several regional regimes engaged in complex conflicts with the Ummayad state. There are also divergent cultural bodies within political ones, for example, the Christian  population of al-Andalus, the Jewish communities in Cordoba and many other parts of the peninsula and the Basque and Galician elements within the Austurian-Leonese monarchy."
Caliphs and Kings: Spain 796 - 1031, p.1-2

Historian Roger Collins later continues 
 " There were other benefits to the Ummayad regime from such a system. Successful raids resulted in loot and captives for sale in the slave markets. They also helped to promote a justification for Ummayad rule over and above the need to satisfy the expectations of the jurists. The expeditions across the frontiers also provided a ready means to make their presence felt within their own lands as well as beyond. Lacking the complex bureaucratic and administrative structures of the former Roman Empire, such peripheral Islamic monarchies such as that of the Umayyads had limited means of supervising the conduct of their more powerful subjects and of obliging them to pay heed to commands, including the payment of tax that  they might prefer to ignore. Because when it comes down to it, there was not a lot else that the Ummayads did, that was much practical use to the majority of there subjects (apart from raiding). As we shall see, their attention was almost entirely devoted to their capital city of Cordoba, which benefited economically from the permanent presence of their court and whose great mosque they built and expanded but the Ummayads are not  otherwise recorded as founding institutions of learning or as sponsoring public works other than the construction of defensive walls and fortresses. While few functioning Roman aqueducts still survived elsewhere from the Visigothic period, in Cordoba, Merida, Toledo and Sevilla, they were preserved under Ummayad rule for private rather than public advantage. They fed the fountains, garden and baths of the Umayyad palaces but no longer the public bathing and sanitation facilities of Roman times. The Umayyads did not follow the earlier Roman emperors in endowing the main cities of their state with new religious and recreational buildings or try to enhance their amenities. Their existence was justified by the success of their claim to be good Islamic rulers, repressing dissent and evildoing  within the Dar al-Islam and conducting Jihad effectively in the Dar al-Harb. Hence the emphasis in our sources which derive from official records on the numbers of heads of infidels sent back for display on the gates and the walls of Cordoba and the salutary crucifixion of heretics and rebels. For such ends they took the taxes and tolls due from both Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants of the towns and districts of al-Andalus. It is therefore not surprising in the course of these centuries their activities beyond their frontiers were frequently hampered by the need to restore and reimpose their authority within them. Such problems are hardly unique , Western Christian rulers faced similar difficulties in periods in which the ready rewards of territorial expansion were not available. Theirs more than most Muslim states were deficient in the apparatus of government and they depended instead on a combination of ideological factors and the shrewd manipulation of factional politics both in their own courts and in the provinces. The Franks had long used their annual military expeditions for such purposes, gathering the leaders of regional society to discuss not just military objectives but also new laws and the making of crucial appointments. The securing of consensus amongst the more powerful landed interests and care in the distribution of patronage were essential to successful rule. The Umayyads did not have equivalents of such assemblies but they had to be equally cautious in allowing their representatives to build up too much local power in the frontier areas."
Caliphs and Kings: Spain 796 - 1031  p. 26-27 

     So to summarise Roger Collins, assessment of Ummayad Spain, The Ummayads constantly pillaged and raided Christian lands where they got slaves to feed their thriving slave trade. In fact,  Cordoba was actually a large centre of the slave trade at the time.  Frankish Christians  were actually heavily involved in supplying the Umayyads with Slavic  slaves as were the Vikings. The slave trade generated a lot of wealth for the Ummayads but  given that it was gained in such a way, I'm surprised llisha boasts of Ummayad wealth  so. The Umayyads  praised their own efforts to  behead non-believers, heretics, and rebels and displayed their heads on the gates.  In fact , according to Roger Collins, the brutality within the Caliphate of Cordoba exceeded anything found in Western Europe.  Similarly, he also points out the Islamic conquest of Iberia paved the way for hundreds of years of constant warfare. The Umayyads claimed to be good rulers for repressing heresy and dissent in the Dar al-Islam and conducting jihad against the Dar al-Harb, not for public works.  How llisha can claim the Umayyads were not prone to "subjugating or pillaging", and say that this is  so superior to Western Imperialism? I really don't know but prejudice always finds a way to distort history.

    Also  far from Islamic Spain   being more developed than anything Spain had ever seen before, the Umayyads were far less developed than the Romans had  been. As Roger Collins points out the Ummayads  did not build any public buildings for the public good. Apart from the Grand Mosque, in Cordoba, no religious buildings were built. Neither did they improve the amenities in cities, nor did they build institutions of learning. They  preserved Roman aqueducts but  converted them for private use . The Umayyads mainly devoted their efforts to Cordoba whilst ignoring other cities in their realm. The rest of their efforts were focused on building defensive structures. All this completely contradicts the myths we are frequently told about Umayyad Spain, which Collins demolished with ease.

 The Myth of Islamic Spain's Tolerance

    llisha doesn't really go into detail about the utopian myths surrounding Islamic Spain but she alludes to them when she claims that the rulers of Islamic Spain were not so "incined to subjugate the locals or plunder the land." As far as Islamic Spain being a golden age of Utopian co-existence, as Roger Collins points out there possibly was Umayyad tolerance but that it was  limited to a period of 40 years in the mid-tenth century, only among  elites, in Cordoba and it was not something planned or recognised at the time. It is true that the Umayyads did appoint Christians and Jews to positions of power but  the myth overgeneralizes things.This does not constitute  a golden age of tolerance in Islamic Spain which lasted for 700 years. Similarly, the myth of "a tolerant utopia" conveniently ignores numerous instances of intolerance by the Umayyad's themselves as well as their successors the Almoravids and Almohads. In 1013 AD, after the  siege of Cordoba ,Sulayman ibn al-Hakam , a rival Ummayad claimant put 2000 Jewish inhabitants of the city to the sword. Similarly, in 1033 in Fez, Morrocco after  the chaos caused by the Ummayads deposing the Idisids for aligning with the Fatimids, there was a power vacuum and tribal warfare over the city of Fez.  During these tribal wars over Fez, local tribesman massacred 6000 jews. 

Historian Paul B. Fenton notes
 "The letter informs us that towards the end of the 10th century amidst fighting between Zenata Berbers and the Umayyad's of  Cordoba, the Jewish community famous for its scholars was wiped out in a terrible massacre. Misfortune again  visited  Fez in 1032 when it fell to the Shaykh of a  Berber tribe who reportedly slaughtered 6000 of the city's Jews"
Exile in the Maghreb: Jews under Islam, Sources, and Documents, 997–1912 p.2

  Also in  1066, in the  taifa of Granada, Abu Ishak of Elvira  was an opponent of the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela. He desired his office so he spread numerous  rumours about Joseph, being a killer and planning to kill to kill the ruler  Badis al-Muzaffar and hand the taifa of Granada to their enemies. He  also spread anti-semitism in a hateful poem he authored which whipped  a local Muslim mob  into a frenzy that they massacred 4000 Jews. This actually was the biggest  pogrom  against the Jews to ever to take place on European soil until a pogrom by  renegade Crusaders in 1096  that killed more than 8000  Jews in the Rhineland.

The anti-Semitic poem which so inflamed the Muslim mob reads as follows:

"  Go, tell all the Sanhaja,the full moons of our time, the lions in their lair. The words of one who bears them love, and is concerned and counts it a religious duty to give advice. Your chief has made a mistake which delights malicious gloaters. He has chosen an infidel as his secretary when he could, had he wished, have chosen a Believer. Through him, the Jews have become great and proud and arrogant --- they, who were among the most abject. And have gained their desired and attained the utmost and this happened so suddenly, before they even realised it, And how many a worthy Muslim humbly obeys the vilest ape among these miscreants. And this did not happen through their own efforts but through one of our own people who rose as their accomplice. O, why did he not deal with them, following the example set by worthy and pious leaders? Put them back where they belong and reduce them to the lowest of the low, Roaming among us, with their little bags, with contempt, degradation and scorn as their lot, Scrabbling in the dunghills for coloured rags to shroud their dead for burial. They did not make light of our great ones or presume against the righteous, These low-born people would not be seated in society or paraded  along with the intimates of the ruler. Badis! You are a clever man and your judgment is sure and accurate. How can their misdeeds be hidden from you when they are trumpeted all over the land? How can you love this bastard brood when they have made you hateful to all the world? How can you complete your ascent to greatness when they destroy what you build? How have you been lulled to trust a villain and made him your companion - though he is evil company? God has vouchsafed in His revelations a warning against the society of the wicked .Do not choose a servant from among them but leave them to the curse of the accurst! For the earth cries out against their wickedness and is about to heave and swallow all. Turn your eyes to other countries and you will find the Jews are outcast dogs. Why should you be different and bring them near when in all the land they are kept afar? You, who are a well-beloved king, scion of glorious kings, And are the first among men  as your forebears were first in their time. I came to live in Granada  and I saw them frolicking there. They divided up the city and the provinces with one of their accursed men everywhere. They collect all the revenues,  they munch and they crunch. They dress in the finest clothes while you wear the meanest. They are the trustees of your secrets--yet how can traitors be trusted? Others eat a dirham's worth, afar, while they are near, and dine well. They challenge you to your God and they are neither stopped nor reproved. They envelop you with their prayers and you neither see nor hear. They slaughter beasts in our markets and you eat their trefa. Their chief ape has marbled his house and led the finest spring water to it .Our affairs are now in his hands and we stand at his door. He laughs at us and at our religion and we return to our God. If I said that his wealth is as great  as yours, I would speak the truth. Hasten to slaughter him as an offering, sacrifice him, for he is a fat ram. And do not spare his people for they have amassed every precious thing. Break loose their grip and take their money for you have a better right to what they collect. Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them--- the breach of faith would be to let them carry on. They have violated our covenant with them so how can you be held guilty against violators? How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent? Now we are the humble, beside them, as if we had done wrong, and they right! Do not tolerate their misdeeds against us for you are surety for what they do. God watches His own people and the people of God will prevail." 
Olivia Remie Constable, Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, p.123 -125

   The  Almoravids  who seceded the Ummayads were very
intolerant of non-believers due to  their sectarian and fundamentalist views. They opposed the appointment of non-Muslims to any positions of the paying of tribute to non-Muslims. They actively began to persecute Christians and Jews forcing them to immigrate to the  Christian north. The later Almohads were even less tolerant telling their Christian and Jewish subjects to either convert or leave their lands. 

 Historian John Tolan writes 
"Those who lost the most  by this change of rulers were the Jews. The Almoravids frowned  upon interaction with non-Muslims. In 1105 , Yusuf  ordered all the Jews in his realm  to convert to Islam; only the intervention of a qadi (Islamic judge) from Cordoba - and a hefty bribe from the Jewish community of Lucena - dissuaded him. Jews were removed  from high office. These restrictions should not be exaggerated; They adversely affected relatively few jews, most of them highly placed courtiers and they quickly ceased to be enforced. The oppression was minor compared to what Jews  (and free-thinking Muslims) were to suffer under the Almohads later in the century. Nevertheless, Almoravid intolerance caused many prominent Jews to immigrate to the eastern Mediterranean and to the Christian realms of northern Spain and Provence. At the same time, Almoravid fundamentalists tried to limit  Muslim - Jewish interaction, some Andalusian Jews themselves questioned the value of such interaction" 
Petrus Alfonsi and His Medieval Readers p.7 

 Scholar Roger Le Tourneau notes
"On the other hand it is under the reign of the philosopher King that Almohad intolerance was at its highest point. The Jews who had been officially converted to Islam were suspected of secretly practising their own religion were compelled to wear special and rather ridiculous clothes so that they were easily identified by Muslims" 
  Almohad Movement in North Africa in the 12th and 13th Centuries p.77

Scholar Paul B. Fenton points out
"There was no reason to suppose that the payment of the Jizya was not accompanied by a degrading ceremony clearly specified  in the fiqh (legal)  manuals  concerning the manner in which jizya was to be remitted. "Jizya is to be given in a humiliating manner. At the moment of a remittal, the dhimmi should incline his head , whereupon the  (Muslim) official should seize him by the beard and deliver him a blow on the temple and it is obligatory on one of the sides." The second most enduring discriminatory measure was the obligation to wear distinctive  clothing or a Jewish badge (ghiyar)  said to  have been first  instituted by the  Ummayad caliph  Umar Abd al-Aziz  (717-720). It was the most rigorously imposed  in the Muslim world under the Almohads...  Abu Imran al-Fasi was brought a message from the Zirid sovereign al-Mu'izz  Badis by none other than the latter's personal  physician was nagrid (head) of Tunisian Jewry, Ibrahim b. Ata.  Realising  he had mistaken him for a Muslim because he was not wearing the Jewish badge, the  qadi flew into a rage and had the Jewish courtier's   turban stained on the spot before dismissing him. The humiliated nagrid sought redress from a royal patron, only to be told that he learned a good lesson which demonstrated  the might of Islam and veneration inspired by Muslim theologians. Such distinctive attire singled out the Jews   who suffered particularly at times of unrest and turmoil....In the 12th century, a period of severe persecution of Maghreb Jewry set in first under  Almoravid dynasty and intensified in particular during the expansion of Almohad power. The  Almoravid ruler Ali Yusuf ibn-Tashfin had forbade the Jews, under pain of death to reside in his capital of Marrakesh. But the intolerantly orthodox Almohads who had  originally  arisen to combat the laxity of deviant Muslims, soon imposed their rigid religion on infidels. Many Jews were  forced to choose between conversion, expulsion  or death, perished as martyrs while some feigned apostasy and others like the famous Maimonides, fled the Mahgreb eastwards. Realising Jewish existence was imperiled, in his Epistle on Forced Conversion, Maimonides urged his co-religionists to seek haven elsewhere. A dramatic firsthand account of a religious debate between   Muslims and Jews followed by a massacre of the latter took place in Sijilmasa (Morrocco) has been preserved in a letter dated to 1148 and discovered in Cairo.... The discriminatory measures to which Jewish converts  were subjected under Almohad rule are described at length by the philosopher and exegete Joseph Ibn Aqnin. He mentions that their children were abducted and entrusted to fanatical Muslim tutors, they could not intermarry with ethnic  Muslims , were restricted to certain trades, were given derogatory names and were subjected to a ruthless inquisition, a sort of precedent to the latter  Catholic persecutions on Spanish soil."
Exile in the Maghreb: Jews under Islam, Sources, and Documents, 997–1912 p.2-3

  So we can see the various Islamic dynasties that ruled Spain and North Africa were far from being  the epitome of tolerance as presented in the popular myth and as llisha would have us believe.

There were numerous instances of atrocities, murder, discrimination and intolerance which are conveniently ignored by advocates of this myth. Generalising about 700 years of Islamic rule  in Spain in this way leads to the distortion of history. I am not arguing that the West was uniquely tolerant either, I just disapprove of people distorting history for ideological reasons. I suspect this myth largely arose  out of popular disgust caused by the brutality of the  later Spanish Inquisition. People began to view what preceded the Reconquista as infinitely more  tolerant. However, the ironic thing is many  practices of the  Inquisition seem strangely foreshadowed by numerous instances of Almoravid and Almohad persecutions of the Jews. 

Illiterate Visigoths and  Enlightened Arabs

     llisha mentions the great "intellectual wealth" of the Umayyads but I have a problem with this. First off, nobody would deny that Cordoba became a great centre of learning over time. However, what people conveniently forget is that  the Arab conquest of Iberia  paved the way for 150 years of intellectual stagnation. The second major problem I have with this is that some advocates of this myth present the Visigoths as being little more than illiterate barbarians. Whilst when they conquered Roman Hispania in  the fifth century, they were certainly so. However, by the sixth and seventh centuries, they were far from the illiterate barbarians they have often presented as. In fact, Greco-Roman learning flourished in Visigoth Spain, largely in the monasteries  amongst learned men of the church.

Scholar Joseph F. O'Callaghan writes 
"  Though not a genius, he (St Isidore 599 - 636) was  a man of great learning and broad intellectual interests, with a great enthusiasm for the wisdom of the past. A prolific writer, his works include the Regula Monachorum, the Liber Sententiarum, a clear and systematic summary of theology, and  the  Liver  de officiis ecclesiasticis, a  manual of instruction for the clergy. He also wrote two historical works, a chronicle recording events from creation to the fourth year of Sisebut's reign, that is to 616, and the Historia de regibus Gothorum, Wandalorum et Suevorum, extending to 624. Neither work has the colour and vivid detail one finds in Gregory of Tours or Bede. Isadore's Historia  begins  with the famous  De laude Spaniae "Of all the lands there are from India to the west, thou O Spain sacred and always happy, mother of princes and of peoples are most beautiful." Though a Hispano-Roman, Isadore had a frank admiration for the Visigoths and continually expressed a patriotic enthusiasm for Hisapnia and its barbarian rulers. His work was the first truly national, rather than universal history  to appear on the peninsula....

   St Isadore exercised his lasting influence on the Middle-Ages through his  Etymologiae, the first of the medieval encyclopaedias. In 20 books he set out to summarise for the benefit of future generations the learning of the ancient world. The breadth of the work is indicated from the table of contents; after treating the seven liberal arts, medicine and jurisprudence, he turned to God, the angels, man, the state; the remaining books discuss a variety of subjects such as human anatomy, cosmology, geography, minerals, metals, coins, weights measures, agriculture, war, architecture clothing, food, drink and tools... Although he has been ridiculed for giving fanciful of capricious etymologies for words, Isidore's  achievement  in  synthesising human  knowledge both religious and secular, Christian and pagan, is nonetheless remarkable. he provided the European Middle Ages with an indispensable instrument which it made  possible for untold thousands over many centuries to acquire the rudiments of learning. later generations have also honoured his memory,  Fernando I of Leon in 1063 asked his vassal, the Muslim king of Seville, to surrender the saint's body so that it could be given aa new resting place in a recently erected church in Leon, dedicated henceforth to his memory. Two centuries later, Alfonso X recognised the continuing  value of Isadore's work by ordering the translation of the Etymologiae into Castillian and  Dante placed him in paradise in the company of all the great theologians......

      Several learned men graced the sea of Toledo during the Century.  Among them were Eugene II, the astronomer, Eugene III, the poet, Saint Ildephonse  (659 - 667), a Goth , served his apprenticeship as a monk and abbot before his election  as  bishop....

   St Julian (680-690)  was the last great writer of the Visigothic age. he is perhaps best known for his 
 Historia rebellionis Pauli , his vigorous denunciation of the treacherous  Duke Paul, coupled with a smoothly flowing narrative full of life,  ranks his history in the best of it's  kind  in the Visigothic period. (Julian was) an author whose knowledge of both pagan and Christian writers was profound and extensive......

     Within 20 years of Julian's death,  the Muslim conquest destroyed the Visigothic Kingdom and interrupted the scholarly tradition to which St Isadore had given such impetus. In the long bleak centuries ahead, however, the Christian people still drew inspiration from that group of scholars whose work had enlightened the Visigothic and Gothic age."
A History of Medieval Spain p.85-88

 So we can see that the Visigoths largely continued the Greco-Roman Intellectual  traditions that had existed in Spain since the days of the Roman province of Hispania. Also far from illuminating the vanquished Visigoths, the Arab conquest interrupted this thriving intellectual tradition. The Arab conquerors of Visigothic Spain were  "rude barbarians" and the conquest paved the way for 150  years of intellectual stagnation. 

 Historian Joseph F. O'Callaghan later notes
"...As the Muslims extended their rule over the provinces of the Byzantine and Persian Empires in the 7th and 8th centuries, they came into contact with the philosophical and scientific thought of the ancient civilizations. Gradually assimilating the wisdom of the past, they  developed a distinctive culture which under the patronage of the Caliphs, flourished at Baghdad and eventually spread throughout the Muslim world. The first Muslims to enter Spain however, were rude barbarians from the deserts of Arabia and the mountains of Morrocco whose contact with Greco-Roman civilization was still minimal. During the first century and a half of their domination in al-Andalus, civil wars and rebellions, the illiteracy of the masses and the stringent thought control of the Malichite jurists did  not provide a suitable environment for the flowering of literature and learning. ..By the ninth century however, Cordoba became the centre of a potentially significant civilization""
A History of Medieval Spain 157-158

 Historian Joseph F. O'Callaghan later continues
" Muslim scholars, like their  christian contemporaries were very much concerned with the concept of God and man's relationship to Him. The study of philosophy was inextricably linked to theology but the rude culture of the first invaders of Al-Andalus, coupled with the strict orthodoxy of the Malikites, impeded the early development of philosophical speculation. Nor was there a strong philosophical tadition in pre-muslim spain, as Miguel Cruz Hernandez has pointed out. Philosophy began to flourish after Spanish muslims, who had visited the east for study or pilgramage, brought back the newest doctrines. the earliest philosopher to appear in al-Andalus was ibn Masarra of Cordoba (d.931), whose father had been very deeply influenced by the Mutazilite doctrines which he encountered. the principal source of Ibn Masarra's ideas was  the neo-platonism of psuedo-Empedocles; for this reason he was acused of pantheism , of denying the physical reality of the punnishments of hell, and of holdin the doctrine of free will. These opinion so aroused the ire of the Malikites that Ibn masarra elected to go into exile in Mecca; he returned to Spain only during the more liberal regime of  Abd al-Rahman III. in spite of  alternating periods of tolerance and persecution the followers of Ibn Massara continued to propogate his doctines for more than a century after his death. The influence of the Malikite Jurists also restricted the development of scientific studies, but mathematics and astronomy were  considered necesary for  dealing with sch practical matters as detemining the calendar"

A History of Medieval Spain, p.160-161

    So the visigoths were not illiterate primitives but continuers of Greco-Roman intellectual traditions.  Whilst llisha focuses on  the "interlectual wealth" of the Ummayads she ignores the fact that this emerged much later  due to ideas spreading from Baghdad to Spain. The initial conquerros of Islamic spain were not enlightened as often presented but  "rude barbarians" who interrupted already long existing intellectual traditions. llisha conveniently ignores all this in her ideologising and myth making.

Fractured Islamic Spain

       Another major problem I have  with the myth of an Islamic golden age in Spain because it generalises  the  history of an Islamic Spain as if  a single, stable Islamic state  lasted continuously for 700  hundred years until it was brutally destroyed in the completion of the Reconquista in 1492.  History is far messier than that.  As Roger Collins previously stated the Umayyad  political system was deficient due to the build of  too much power often building up in the frontiers and  they lacked the political coordination of the Franks. This lead to constant factionalism, instability and civil war. They spent far more time fighting each other than they ever did fighting the Christians. With the placing of the 10-year-old Hisham II on the throne in  1031,  the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba collapsed into a multitude of disorganised and independent taifas.  This weakness enabled   Alfonso VI  to capture the taifa of Toledo 1085. Seeing how weak they were against the Christians, the taifas petitioned the Almoravids  for help. With their help, they were able to defeat Castile in 1086.  The Almoravids were Berbers who had taken control of  North Africa. They practised fanatically strict asceticism and had fundamentalist interpretations of the Quran. The Almoravids despised the taifas for their decadence. Similarly, the taifa's considered the Almoravids to be unsophisticated desert barbarians. The ruler of the of the taifa of Seville, al-Mu'tamid' who first petitioned the  Almoravids for help is said to have remarked: "Better to be a camel driver among the Almoravids  than a swineherd in Castile."  With the help of the Almoravids, Castille was defeated in 1086. Far from recognising Islamic Iberia as a  great centre of Islamic thought, Sultan of the Almoravids Yusuf ibn Tashfin  considered the taifas to be heterodox, heretics and indifferent to Islam. Clerics issued a fatwa  declaring that  the Yusuf ibn Tashfin  had good morals, was a  sound Islamic ruler and had the right to dethrone heterodox rules.   This enabled him to annex most of the  taifas  by  1094. The Almoravids ruled Spain from Marrakeche, not Cordoba until they were conquered by the Almohads in 1147. The Almohads  were a Berber religious movement that arose following the teachings of  Ibn Tūmart, a Morrocan religious scholar who taught a very puritanical form of Islam. He  rejected the belief in attributes of God widely believed in Muslim Orthodoxy as being polytheistic anthropomorphisms, incompatible with the unity of God. He also heavily criticised the Maliki school of jurisprudence for neglecting the Sunnah and Quran.  He  criticised the Almoravids for the sale of pork and wine in Margrebi markets. The Almoravids despised him and publicly burnt his books. In  1122, Ibn Tūmart launched a  revolt again the perceived excesses of the  Almoravids. He was  so puritanical that any Islamic art found in mosques that came under his control, was destroyed.  It was not until after  his death that his followers  succeeded in conquering  Marrakech in 1147. This led to the second Taifa period with the  Almohads, slowly gaining control of the  Iberian taifas   between 1146 and 1173. They effectively ruled Spain until 1212 AD. Quite ironically, the Almohads, in turn, fell apart after the death of the Caliph Yusuf II  al-Mustansir in 1224. He  was placed on the throne at the age of 10  and later died when gored to death by his pet cows . Unfortunately, he died  without leaving any heirs.  Abd al-Wahid I was named the next  successor. Abdallah al-Adil  governor of Murcia rejected this, naming himself Caliph. This led to a succession of civil wars amongst the Almohads where the Christian Kingdoms of Castille  and Portugal  fought on the same side as several Almohad factions. Abdullah had Abd al-Wahid I  murdered only to be later murdered himself in 1227. Yahya al-Mu`tasim was pronounced the next caliph. Abdullah's brother Abu al-Ala Idris al-Ma'mun,  the governor of Cordoba  and did not  accept this, naming himself caliph. He left Spain with his armies to confront Yahya in 1228. This marked the end of Almohad rule and  led to the reemergence of the taifas for the third time. Many independent taifas as well as the emirates of  Murcia and Algrave were rapidly conquered by Castille and Aragon. Then the Christian  powers entered  into various civil wars and  struggles amongst themselves. They  left the Emirate of Granada  as a tributary state which the Unified Kingdom of Castille and Leon  finally conquered in 1492.

   I find it Ironic that the Almoravids viewed the Umayyad taifas as decadent and heterodox and used this as a pretext to remove them from power. This is exactly what happened to them  with the Almohads, in turn, viewing the Almoravids as decadent and using that as an excuse to remove them from power. This is much like the cyclical nature of Islamic history as described by  Ibn Khaldun. Puritanical religious reformers used to a hard life in the desert sweep into towns ousting those rulers they deem as decadent, only to become used to city life, losing their  "desert toughness" and become decadent themselves , to be ousted by the next band of  puritanical desert religious reformers. 

   So to summarise, Islamic Spain was not a single state that existed continuously for 700 years, rather it was a series of dynasties that removed each other from power for perceived irreligiousness and decadence. These dynasties were prone to civil wars and fought each other more than they ever fought Christians. Christians were often drawn into these civil wars and were table to take advantage of them to make rapid conquests. Also, people forget there were three taifa periods where Islamic  Spain was ruled by a multitude of independent states who were also  frequently engaged in civil wars. When people regurgitate these myths about Islamic Spain they again conveniently ignore all this and talk about Islamic Spain as if it was a single state or entity that  lasted 700 years. I guess  myths are preferable to history for some people.

Who were the Umayyads?

       Lastly, I would say that rather than being the pinnacle of Islamic civilisation as is widely claimed, the Umayyads were the great destroyers of Islam. All too often people forget who they were, what they did prior to ruling Spain and why they only ruled Spain and North Africa.
   The Umayyads were a powerful merchant clan from Mecca that had bitterly opposed the Prophet Mohammad during his lifetime. Uthman a member of the Umayyad clan  ignored his clan's animosity towards Mohammad, becoming an early follower and marrying two of the prophets daughters. Later during the days  of the Rashidun Caliphate Umar, the second Caliph was assassinated in 644. Uthman was elected the next caliph as he promised to follow what had been laid down by Abu Bakr and Umar and not innovate. When the governor of Egypt was unable to provide the  capital with sufficient revenues , Uthman decided to place his  own foster brother  Abdulla ibn al-Sahad as governor of Egypt. The Former governor Amr Ibn al-Ahaz, stated that the new governor  was abusing his authority by oppressing and starving the local Egyptian population just to  increase his revenues. However because Abdullah  had doubled tax revenues, Uthman decided to let him remain in the post. This may seem unimportant but Uthman set a precedent of nepotism within the caliphate. He subsequently placed his relatives in charge of Kufa and Basra . Over time he placed more and more family members entered into  positions of power. This is significant as previous Caliphs  Abu Bakr and Umar had  prevented their family members from gaining positions of power within the caliphate to prevent the creation of an aristocracy. Unfortunately, Uthman's actions resulted in exactly that, the development of  powerful ruling elites within the caliphate who were mostly members of the Umayyad clan.

Historian Bernard Lewis writes 
  " Uthman, like Mu'awiya, was a member of the leading Meccan family of Ummaya and was indeed the sole representative of the Meccan patricians among the early companions of the Prophet with sufficient prestige to rank as a candidate. His election was at once their victory and their opportunity. That opportunity was not neglected. Uthman soon fell under the influence of the dominant Meccan families and one after another of the high posts of the Empire went to members of those families. The weakness and nepotism of Uthman brought to a head the resentment which had for some time been stirring obscurely among the Arab warriors. The Muslim tradition attributes the breakdown which occurred during his reign to the personal defects of Uthman. But the causes lie far deeper and the guilt of Uthman lay in his failure to recognise, control or remedy them."
 The Arabs in History, p 59

  Previous caliphs had prevented the confiscation of  Christian lands in the conquered territories, however, Uthman  decided to reverse this decision. He allowed Muslims to buy lands within the conquered territories and provided state loans to Muslims, to finance this. This further led to the creation of wealthy  landowning elites in the Caliphate, especially   amongst the Umayyad clan. His family effectively owned vast tracts of land  and governed the biggest trading centres. Uthman's favourite cousin Muawiyah  was appointed the governor of Syria. Over time  he gained  such power that he controlled territories  ranging from the Euphrates river to  the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. He even had his own standing army and fleet  loyal to him alone. 

     The citizens of the Caliphate became increasingly upset over excessive taxation, extortion and corruption, especially in Egypt. There, the widespread corruption caused  riots. An Egyptian delegation went to the capital to complain in person to the Caliph who promised to remove  Abdullah. Upon commencing their journey back to Egypt,  they found a suspicious man carrying a letter apparently from Uthman ordering Abdullah to kill the delegation when they return to Egypt.  The delegation returned to the capital and  confronted Uthman who said he had nothing to do with the letter. Historians think  Abdullah's cousin Murwan was responsible for authoring  this fake letter  to prevent his cousin being removed from power. After an altercation, the mob rioted  and  Uthman was killed. The mob demanded a new caliph, so Ali, Mohammad's cousin and son in law  and was elected  the next caliph.  
    Muawiyah did not accept his election as Uthman's successor, blamed Ali for Uthman's murder and took up arms against him to gain control of the Caliphate. After a brutal civil war, Ali agreed to allow Muawiyah becoming the next Caliph  if he promised  not to name a  successor. Afterwards Ali was conveniently assassinated.  Later  on his deathbed,  Muawiyah  named his son  Yazid  as his successor. This  effectively made the Ummayads the first  Islamic ruling dynasty. Earlier caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar  wanted to exactly avoid this which is why earlier Caliphs were elected. Ali had been passed over twice before out a desire not to  create dynasties out of the family members of Mohammad.  The Ummayads ultimately destroyed all that was good about the first caliphate (election of rulers, preventing nepotism, balance of power, preventing landed elites opposing tribal nationalism).  

    The Umayyads maintained hereditary dynastic succession  in a period  from 661 –750. There were 14  Ummayad  Caliphs during this period.   During the time of the 6th Ummayad Caliph, Al Walid  Visigothic Spain was conquered in a period spanning from 711 AD to 718 AD. By the time of the 14th Ummayad caliph Marwan II, people had grown so fed up with widespread  Ummayad  corruption, nepotism,  mistreatment of  non-Arabs, anti-Persian persecutions, discrimination and Arab domination of the state. Also  many were disillusioned by the Umayyad practice of forcing new converts to continue paying  Jizya to keep revenues up. This resulted in  Shia, Sunni and non-Muslims rising  up again against the tyranny of the Umayyads in what came to be known as the Abbasid revolution in 750.  The Umayyads  effectively were ousted, losing control of most of the Caliphate to the Abbasids.  The Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I wouldn't accept  Abbasid rule so he fled to Spain where he created the Emirate of Cordoba in 756 AD. In this far-flung  region on the periphery of the Islamic world, he governed his Emirate. This was the reason that the Ummayads ruled directly from Cordoba and didn't set up a colonial style government as you call it. They  had lost the majority of their holdings but were able to hold on to Spain and  parts of North Africa, 

   Every time  people like llisha praise Umayyad Spain they should remember the immense damage  the Umayyad clan  had caused the  caliphate, effectively maintaining control of the caliphate  from 661–750 AD and subverting the ideals that Abu Bakr and  Umar had established. Their rule resulted in great corruption  and  oppression and once they lost  their caliphate to the Abbasids managed to cling to Spain and North Africa. Also, their brutal persecutions of Ali and his descendants paved the way for well over a thousand  years of division and disagreement between the Shia and Sunni.

   So to conclude, llisha is factually incorrect in asserting that Umayyad Spain was " not so inclined to subjugate the locals and plunder the land." In fact, they frequently did that. The Umayyads regularly raided Christian lands enslaved the locals. They had a thriving slave trade in cordoba. They were obsessed with recording in their own records the amount of heads of their enemies they obtained to be displayed on their gates. The Islamic conquest of Spain paved the way for centuries of  perpetual warfare. According to Roger Collins, Umayyads Spain was far more violent than Western Europe at the time. Similarly, whilst there was a  somewhat limited period of tolerance in Umayyad Spain, 40 years, it was only limited to elites in cordoba and was not consciously noted at the time. Whilst llisha boasts of Umayyad learning she ignores the fact  that  the Arab conquest destroyed pre-existing thriving intellectual traditions and that the conquest paved the way for 150 years of cultural stagnation. The Umayyad's successors in Spain the Almoravids and Almohads were increasingly intolerant and many of their practices strangely foreshadow the Inquisition. Similarly, Islamic Spain was constantly divided and it was these divisions that helped the small Christian powers make territorial gains. The Umayyad's lost control of the caliphate because of reactions to widespread corruption and intolerance which forced them to flee to Spain. Again we see llisha is vastly ignorant of Islamic Spain and really needs to take her own advice and "pick up a history book."

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