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711-ca. 1243Ca. 1243-1492

Arabic: 'al-'andalus
Other spelling: Andalusia


Andalucia: Seville, Spain.
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From Seville, Spain.

Andalucia: Lion's Court, Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
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Lion's Court, Alhambra, Granada.

Andalucia: Exterior of Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
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Exterior of Alhambra, Granada.

Andalucia: Detail from the Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain.
Andalucia: Medina Azahara, Spain.

Lands of southern Spain, and at times, Portugal, ruled by Muslim rulers, between 711 and 1492. Throughout Andalucia's history the territory was gradually decreased, reflecting the emerging strength of Christian Spain and the increasing military and political weakness of the Muslim world, then especially in North Africa.
The term "Andalucia" is really only the name for the remaining southeastern parts of the Iberian peninsula, the last surviving Muslim state here until 1492. But from this, "Andalucia" has been given as name to the entire Muslim history on the peninsula, even periods when other names were used, and territories extended far beyond Andalucia; Cordoba, Almoravids and Almohads.
With the end of Andalucia, Muslims and Jews would eventually have to convert to Christianity or leave Spain. Today, many communities around North Africa are direct descendants of the Andalucians, still keeping their identity strong.
Among the most interesting questions concerning the Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula, is why it happened so swiftly. The explanation is found both with the long experience of warfare with the Muslims, as well as Iberian weakness. Iberian rulers at the time seemed mainly concerned with terrorizing the Jewish community, and the aristocracy ruthlessly exploited the peasants.
Consequently, locals regarded the Arabs and Berbers entering their land as liberators, not marauding aliens. Stories tell that where the Muslim army came, they were welcomed by rejoicing locals.
Bad governance was the rule most of the peninsula, facilitating a fast conquest in the following decades. The Iberian peninsula was placed under control of the Caliphate, becoming a part of the Muslim civilization.
In memory of Tariq ibn az-Zaid, the general of the first Muslim army, the cliff marking the southern end of Spain was named for him: Jabal at-Tariq or Gabal at-Tariq; Gibraltar.

Andalucia in propaganda
Andalucia is often referred to as the most prominent example of a tolerant and cultural Muslim state, an image enhanced by the lack of such qualities in contemporary Europe. In Andalucia peoples of different religions were allowed fair freedom of faith and expression. This image is tainted and the product of European Leftist romanticism towards non-European peoples.
In reality, as the rulers after the Muslim cultural decline from the around the 12th century, had no other choice but to treat its Christian subjects well, otherwise they would have sought help from neighbouring Christian states. Hence, the tolerance was not a Muslim product, it was forced upon the Andalucian rulers from the outside. As this is clarified, the Muslim rulers did secure a society far more tolerant than many other European states, and especially far more tolerant than the Christian regimes after the fall of Andalucia in 1492.
The image of Andalucia is also interesting, as the Muslim occupation of Christian Spain is never referred to as colonization, while French occupation of Muslim North Africa through the 19th century is always referred to as "colonization" and "imperialism". To make it clear, the Muslim invasion of Spain and the French invasion of North Africa are the very same phenomenon. Both exploited weaknesses in the invaded countries, both established regimes which secured people with the same belief as the rulers benefits better than the indigenous population and both managed to create stability and progress to the benefit of all.
Furthermore, while information of the Spanish cleansing of Muslims (and Jews) is widely covered in historical works, the North Africans arranged a similar ethnic cleansing of Christians (and eventually also Jews) after gaining their independence in the middle of the 20th century.

711: The Muslim general Tariq ibn az-Zaid sets out from Morocco with 7,000 troops in order to loot Spain.
719: Muslim conquerors reach the Pyrenees — the cultural border between the Iberians and the French peoples.
8th century: The new territories are stringently controlled by Damascus, and the emirs and leaders were removed often and easily. The new Muslim rulers soon were absorbed into the indigenous culture, which also had many cultural elements from the Roman ages. Military expansion comes to a halt because the Muslims overextend themselves, but culture begins to blossom, both the arts and sciences. The result is a mixture of Levantine and Roman architecture, a new organizational model in Spain, and freedom for the population.
732: Defeat by the Franks, in Poitiers, less than 300 km away from Paris. For a couple decades, Muslims occupy a part of today's southeastern France.
756: Declaration of an independent emirate, centered around Cordoba.
9th century: Muslims gain little new land. The Muslims start to fight among each other. Berbers retaliate against the Arabs. Meanwhile, the Christian kingdoms in the north slowly grow stronger.
929: Abdurrahman declared himself Caliph, and finally cuts the ties with Baghdad: The Caliphate of Cordoba is a reality.
1036: The Caliphate of Cordoba collapses, and is divided into many independent Moorish kingdoms. Christian kings begin regaining territory.
1086: Almoravids come from North Africa to rescue the king of Sevilla, and they remain, assuming power in Spain.
1145: Almohads invade Spain, and have all Muslim territories under their control by 1150.
1212: Battle of Toledo, when the Almohads are expelled from Spain.
1250: Kingdom of Portugal fights the last battle against the Muslims, and wins its independence.
1200s: Most of the Muslim territories are lost. What remains is the kingdom of Grenada in the southernmost part of Spain.
1469: Marriage of Isabella 1 of Castile and Ferdinand 5 of Aragon makes the Christians the strongest force on the Iberian peninsula.
1492: The final battle, between Isabella/Ferdinand and the kingdom of Grenada. Historians regard the fall of the last Muslim kingdom as the end of the European Middle Ages.

By Tore Kjeilen