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Arab Influence on Spain: 700-1500

What was the most significant contribution of the Arabs on Spain? A. Religion B. Civilization or C.Caliphs. Learn how the Arabs greatly influence Spain.

Arab Rule

In the name of territorial expansion of the Arab Empire and the spread of Islam, the Moors began to show interest in Hispania in the early 700’s. The Moors were in fact a mixture of peoples. These included Arabians, Yemenites, Syrians and Berbers. They were all united as Moors under Islam. Islam is the Muslim’s religion. It holds that there is only one God, Allah and Mohammed is the prophet. Islam is based upon the teachings of Mohammed as they appear in the Qur’an, the Islamic Bible. The Qur’an, an expression of divine messages revealed to Mohammed, is revealed literature containing a sufficient rule of life, where salvation is achieved. Armies drawn from inhabitants of Arabia, Mohammed’s country of birth, conquered surrounding countries and founded a new empire, the Caliphate. Thus, the Muslim’s Islamic religion was formed.

An opportunity opened for the Arabs to invade Spain when the Visigoth King Witiza sought help from the Muslims of North Africa to regain his throne from Roderick, duke of Baetica. Having agreed to help the king with his dynastic conflict, the Muslim army under the command of Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated Roderick’s army. They then advanced into Spain proceeding with an invasion of the land and its peoples in the summer of 711.

The Berbers were a people who had for centuries inhabited North Africa. General Tariq ibn-Ziyad, led the 18,000 Arab army men to overthrow the Visigoths and by 714, they practically had all of Spain under Arab rule. The Arabs rule Spain for 800 years. During that length of time they greatly influenced the land by incorporating their architecture, culture, customs, and scientific knowledge upon the Hispania-Romans.

They considered the Christian and Jewish communities to be “peoples of the Book” (Old Testament). Having pushed them to the remote northern edges of the Cantabarian mountains, in Asturia and Pyrenees, they were permitted to practice their religion, but not without paying special taxes.

During the 800years of Islamic rule, the Christians continued with their battle against the Arabs. However, under the Arab’s rule, Spain became known as Al-Andalus and part of the Umayyad Caliphate or Empire. Headed by a Caliph, the person holding the highest position of authority in the Muslim temporal world, the Umayyad Caliphate were responsible for the early spread of the Islam religion.

Caliph Emir Abd al-Rahman I, the first ruler of Al-Andalus, established the city of Cordoba as the capital of Al-Andalus. He cleared the way to maintain centralized control over Al-Andalus.

Caliph Emir Abd Al-Rahman II (822-853) laid the foundations for the arts and sciences and architecture of the Caliphates.

Caliph Emir Abd Al-Rahman III (912-926) reigned supreme in academia, in arts and sciences, including astronomy, medicine and mathematics.

Caliph Al-Hakem (961-976) built the greatest libraries in the now Islamic world.

Caliph Hisham II-(Al-Mansur), (980-1000) a skillful military commander assumed dictorial powers against the kingdom of Leon. In the ongoing battles with the Christians, he led expeditions for booty in Spanish Christian territories. In the eyes of Muslim he was a hero. In the eyes of Spanish Christians, he was a scourge. He died on the battlefield.

Caliph Hisham II- (Abd-al Malik,) son of Al-Mansur replaced his father along with the dictorial leadership supported by his Berber army. They made frequent attacks on Castilla, Leon, and Aragon until his death in when the Christians began to have significant military successes.

According to Albert Hourani, The History of the Arab Peoples, in arts and agriculture, learning and tolerance, Al Andulus was a beacon of enlightenment to the rest of the world. Agriculture surpassed anything elsewhere on the continent. Moorish filigree silver and leatherwork became famous throughout the Mediterranean. In engineering, the skill of the Spanish Moors had no parallel and the splendor of their architecture was manifest in the glorious mosques of Cordoba, the Giralda and Alcazar of Seville, and the Alhambra of Granada. Its excellence in art and literature, mathematics and science, history and philosophy defined this brilliant civilization.

During Arab rule, Spain became a civilized nation because of the major contributions in arts and sciences, including astronomy, medicine and mathematics. The greatest libraries in the Islamic world were built. By 1008 the Muslim leadership became vulnerable. By the 15th century, the Muslim Rule Umayyad Empire was demolished.

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  1. Ruby Hawk

    On July 12, 2008 at 10:44 pm


    Well writen and an interesting history lesson. thank you for a good read.

  2. Berberetxo

    On September 30, 2008 at 4:00 am


    Without the arab conquest Spain would be a iliterate, ignorant, barbaric country. The only legacy visigoths gave us was the fratricide. Spain would not even be a country as we know today!
    Wonderful post Suzanne, if only spaniards could read it…

  3. sara

    On May 23, 2009 at 2:23 am


    very good and intersting

  4. Chrisi

    On November 16, 2009 at 4:26 pm


    Thank you sooo much!!! From Bulgaria!

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