For all students of Islam, Richard Fletcher's 175 pages of text are critical reading that dispel the widely disseminated myths of a kind, gentle "golden age" of Andalusian Islam.
Many accounts exist from Islamic conquerors and subjugated Christians, but only three important contemporary reports meet scientific tests---a "single but crucial administrative document from the Islamic side," "a small amount of archaeological evidence" and an anonymous Christian, Latin narrative (aka "Chronicle of 754")---give a "more reliable account of events in Spain during the first half of the eighth century than any other surviving narrative sources."
In 711, after early 8th century Arab raids had laid waste to "several provinces," North African governor Musa ibn Nusayr sent Tariq's army to Spain, followed shortly after with his own fully equipped legions.
Tariq's Islamic invaders decisively defeated Roderic of Spain (and murdered him) in 712 at the "Transductine promontories," most likely situated between Algericas and Jerez.
In Toledo, Musa executed prominent nobles, wasted the countryside, also then devastating the Ebro valley and Zargoza, where he inflicted further mass murder. Toledo's Bishop fled. When the Umayyad Caliph recalled Musa to Damascus---with innumerable enslaved Visigoth lords and their gold bullion and jewels---he assigned Spain's governorship to his son Abd al-Aziz, who by 715 conquered provinces throughout the Iberian peninsula.
Other documents corroborate the Toledo Bishop's arrival in Rome, archaeological excavations discovered signs of violent 8th century devastation alongside 711 to 713 coins. Also, Abd al-Aziz' April 5, 713 treaty promised Theodemir lordship over seven southeastern Spanish towns and free Christian practice---in exchange for stiff annual poll taxes (one silver dinar per person) plus wheat, barley, unfermented grape juice, vinegar, honey and oil and promises not to aid the Islamic conquerors' enemies.
As-Samh distributed Visigoth monarchy lands "by lot" to Muslim governors and conquering soldiers from 718 through 720; the Arab minority obtained most fertile lands and North African Berbers got the less fertile central and northern peninsula and southern and eastern mountains. Some 150,000 to 200,000 Arab and Berber warriors migrated to Spain as well.
The Berbers 739 Maghreb revolt precipitated an "endemic civil war" in Andalusia. In 750, the Abbasids (descended from Mohammed's uncle Abbas) defeated the Umayyads---shifting Islam's center east to Baghdad, where the Abbasid Caliphate established its capital in 762. But in 756 Umayyad Abd al-Rahman escaped Abbasid Caliph al-Saffah ("shedder of blood"), crossing to Spain, and establishing a rival Umayyad empire in Cordoba, which ruled Spain until 1031.
It was never a kind and gentle rule or "Islamic golden age," despite frequent claims to the contrary. Apart from 8th Century devastation and waste of Spain, the Umayyads wrecked havoc later too. Emir al-Haken (796-822) established a palace cavalry of 2,000 and standing army of 60,000; crucified 72 people in 805, and leveled Cordoba's southern suburb in 818. The Umayyads divided Spain into three regions--"tugurs" (meaning "front teeth)---ruled by military governors. These remained in virtually constant states of war. Burgos, for example, was laid waste "to its foundations" in 884.
Even reputedly enlightened Abd al-Rahman III (912-961) wielded mighty military power and devastated many areas. A Pyrenean monk at San Juan de la Pena monastery documented the July 26, 920 slaughter in Valdejunquera, southwest of Pamplona. Similarly, al-Nasir's May to July 920 expedition besieged Muez castle on July 25, 920, and "put to the sword" all "combatants," including upwards of 500 "counts and knights" and destroyed many other villages en route back to Cordoba. Poet Ibn Abd Rabbihi described Osma as being left "like a blackened piece of charcoal."
On al-Rahman III's 961 death, he owned 3,750 slaves in his Cordoba palace alone.
After Rahman III's death, al-Hakem II ruled until 976, but Almanzor or Al-Mansur ("the victorious") --- Abu Amir Muhammad ibn Abi Amir al-Ma'afari --- then arose bringing freedman and general Ghalib into his circle. They headed his first campaign, against Leon, in 977.
Overall, Almanzor led 57 campaigns. He sacked Barcelona and the San Cugat del Valles monastery in 985, and plundering of Coimbra (now in Portugal) in 987. In 995, he captured Castile's count, and destroyed Carrion and Astorga. In 997 he attacked Santiago de Compostela, in 999 destroyed Pamplona and in 1002 flattened Roija and the San Millan de la Cogolla monastery.
He raided Catalonia in 1003, Castile in 1004, Leon in 1005, and Aragon in 1006. So evil was Almanzor--- who self-described all wars against Christians as jihad---he was said to be "seized by the Devil."
Yet worse came with the 11th century invasion of Morocco's Almoravids, who traversed the Atlas mountains to conquer Morocco's plain and then Spain---which they ruled from about 1080 until its liberation in 1248 by Fernando. Historian Ibn Khaldun described the Almoravid religious and military fervor as such that "noting can stand in their way...for their outlook is the same and the object they desire is common to all and is one for which they are prepared to die."
In 1148, for example, the Almohads massacred 100,000 Jews in Fez and 120,000 Jews in Marrakesh and wrecked devastation and death in Spain, from Seville to Tortosa.
Thus in 1148, the renowned Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides fled Almohad persecution in Cordoba with his whole family disguised as Muslims, until finding asylum in Fatimid Egypt. Arabs and Muslims had "persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us," he later wrote. "Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they."
His 1172 Epistle to the Jews of Yemen Maimonides advised his persecuted Jewish brethren that forced conversions they reported in Yemen duplicated those that Berbers had also forced upon Jews across the Maghreb and Spain. Maimonides referred to Mohammed as "the Madman," despairing that the objective of his "invented ... well known religion," was "procuring rule and submission...."
This book gives the true details of Andalusia, Muslim Spain.
--Alyssa A. Lappen