The Ballad of East and West : Part 2 Islamic Invasion of Europe ; Al Andalus

This article is the part of series about the conflicts between Europe and Asia since antiquity

  • Part 1 Greco-Roman world against Persia
  • Part 2 Arab Invasion of Europe ;  Al Andalus
  • Part 3 Christendom Strikes Back ; Reconquista
  • Part 4 The Holy wars ; Crusades
  • Part 5 The Mongol Horde
  • Part 6 Ottoman Intrusion
  • Part 7 Colonialism

(all the portraits used in the article are under public domain)

Arab conquest of Spain 711-714

After capturing huge territorial gains in north Africa Arabs made Qayrowan , near Tunis ,their capital of eastern realm . The Berber tribes native to these lands resented the Muslim rule and drove out Hassan Bin Noman  , the appointed governor general of Maghreb by the Omayyad Empire.

At this moment Caliph Al-Walid1 appointed an ethnic Arab Musa Bin Nusayr the commander of the eastern possessions of Omayyad Empire.Musa was an able commander  who pacified the Berber rebellion and take the control over all the northern Africa till Morocco.

Omayyad empire

Omayyad Empire

The main cause of Spanish conquest were the growing ambitions of the Arab Empire was to stretch their rule to another continent .The casus belli of this war was apparently the mistreatment of Count Juliann’s daughter.Arabs were also aware about the despotic regime of the Roderic  and the succession feud after the Witiza’s death which has created problems for the last king sons.

Florinda lost her flower ,

The king was soon repentant

But Spain lay in thrall

Because of Roderick lust

Initially caliph was reluctant to invade a new continent so Musa , now the governor general of the Maghreb of Northern Africa sent Tarif to probe the situation of the unknown country in 710. The expedition was a success Tarif returned with a large booty.

The promise of riches inspired both the Arabs and Berber tribes to invade Spain.An ethnic Berber general Tariq was commissioned to invade the Visigoth Spain.Tariq’s troop landed on southern coast of Spain , the landing site later came to be known Gibraltar Jabl Al Tariq (The Rock of Tariq) or Gibraltar.Musa reinforced Tariq’s armada with another 5000 soldiers almost all Berbers.The Spanish king gathered a huge army variously estimated from 25000 to 100,000 strong.This was the most pivotal battle in the saga of conquest of Christian Spain by the Muslim horde.

Battle of Barbarate/Battel of Guadalete July 19-26,711


The famous speech of Tariq as reported by the Arab historians

“My men, wither can you flee? Behind you lie s the sea and the  we have burnt, while before you stand the ,strong in numbers .yet you possess something that your enemies do not ; courage and consistency. And you are present in this country poorer than orphans before a greedy guardian’s will be easy tot turn this on him if you will but risk death for one instance!”the battle lasted about a weak.Spanish army was strong in numbers but weak in moral. At a critical juncture in battle Witiza’s sons deserted the king Rodrigo and joined Count Julian, now on Muslim side. This turned the tide , Muslim army vanquished Spanish army  sure of the defeat Roderick fled the battle but was never seen after probably drowned crossing the nearby river Barbate.”


The tussle between the military commander Tariq and the governor general Musa paved the seeds of dissension amongst the Arab elite and fighting Berber faction which lasted throughout the Muslim reign in ins Spain and was probably the biggest reason behind the decline of Muslim Spain.

Tariq resumes advance , contrary to the wishes of his master who was  now envious of the successes of Tariq.Tariq divided his army into three wings and dispatched them against Malaga  on the Mediterranean coast, Cordoba on the west and other against Elvira in the south.

Conquest of Toledo; October 711

Musa joins the campaign

Musa gathered 18000 men, almost all the Arabs and landed at Tarifa near Algeciras in June,712.Musa was able to captured the cities of Medina Sidonia,Carmona and Seville in 712.Toledo, Saracus and Merida defied Arabs by putting stiff resistance against invaders but were eventually vanquished.

Conquest of south Spain.

Seville revolted but was recaptured by Musa’s son Abd al 713.Theodomir was a gothic count who was able to retain his army and lands after the battle of Barabarate but later on he sued for peace with Muslim forces ins pain.

Musa meets Tariq , 713

First time during the invasion both Musa and Tariq meet .Tariq defied his military commander’s orders to wait for him , Musa wanted to give him harsh punishment but spared him fearing a mutiny in the forces.

Conquest of North ; Pyreens to Galacia.

The nobles and the military  garrison were now starting to gather in the mountainous region  , to put an end to resistance Musa and Tariq both combined their forces .Tariq first subdued Guadalajara, later on the province of Saragossa signed the treaty with Moors. Tariq managed to conquer Barcelona. Musa was able to capture Gerona and Narbonne.

Musa wanted to invade France but the caliph called him to Damascus. it rounds up the first round of Arab invasion of eastern Europe of Iberian peninsula.

English: The Iberian Peninsula in 750. Español...

English: The Iberian Peninsula in 750. Español: La península ibérica en el año 750. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Omayyad Governorate of Muslim Spain

  • Abd al aziz, 714-716
  • As Samh
  • Abdur Rehman Al Ghafiqi 731-732

Arab Invasion and Defeat in France

Between the Frankish kingdom and Muslim lied three territories.

  • Septimania
  • Duchy of Aquitaine
  • Provence in southern Gaul

As-Samh subdues Septimania

Battle of Toulouse, May 721

The battle was disastrous defeat for the governorate of Spain as the appointed govern As-Samh was himself slain in this battle. After this a long civil war broke out between different Arab tribe and their compatriot Berbers.

After some time when order was restored in Muslim Spain another governor general Abdur Rahman invaded Aquitaine. Though initially successful in the pitched battles of Lyons, Besancon and Sens. now the  “Rois fainéant” ,i.e. do-nothing kings  of Merovingian dynasty stood against the Muslim Saracens  , as the French called them. But the real power lied in the hands of Charles who late assumed the title of Martel


Battle of Tours October 731

The battle ended in the decisive victory for the franks and they defeated the Muslim army and killed their commander. The results were enormous for the future history of Europe. After this never were Muslims able to command such an offensive against the Western Europe unless until the times of Ottoman Empire. Christendom was saved by the Saracens by the true son of Europe Charles Martel.


The next few governors were able to maintain their presence in southern France. The Berber revolt in North Africa and growing dissension against the Omayyad elite in Middle East left the governors unable to pursue further advance in Europe, from the Muslim perspective this was just another defeat on the ongoing battle saga to build an empire. Omayyad rule stretched from Spain to Indian Sind the huge distances made it difficult for the Arabs to rule.

Princely state of Spain under Omayyad rule

Abd Ar-Rhaman 1 757-788

After the fall of Omayyad dynasty in the heartland of Muslim world a young prince survived the massacre and made to western outposts of the Islamic empire .He rallied Arabs around him put an end to civil war in Muslim Spain and rule the Iberian  peninsula as a princely state independent of Muslim center first  time in the history.

A poem is attributed to him

I, and I alone, driven by consuming anger, bared a two edged sword,

Crossed the dessert and furrowed the sea , mastering waves and waste-land

I won a kingdom, gave it strength and built a mosque for prayer:

I rallied a disbanded army and peopled deserted cities.

Timeline of Omayyad rulers in Spain

Hisahm Bin Abd Ar –Rahman  788-796

Akam 1   796-822

Abd ar-Rahman 2   822-852

Muhammad 1 852-866

Munzir 886-888


The grand rebel Umar ibn Hufsan

Abd a Rahman 3  912-961

Abr ar –Rahamn 3 was the first ruler of Spain who formally seceded frpm the central lands of Muslim and established a formal kingdom of Muslim Spain.

Al Hakam 2 961-976

Hisham 2 and the Prime Minister Hajib al-Mansur 967 -1009

Al Mansur was an ambitious minister he not only subdued the rival Christian kingdoms with both his military prowess and cruelty, but he was also the virtual rule of emirate or kingdom of Muslim Spain. The unpopularity  of Al Mansur took the dynasty into a new low which caused the eventual fall of Omayyad Spain.


civil war and the collapse of the Omyyad dynasty


This was the end of the glorious period of the Muslim empire in Spain .Now the tide was turn in favor of Christian kingdom of Spain. The reconquista started in the new millennium which ended in 1492 after the capitulation of the last Muslim stronghold of Nasird duchy.


The King’s Islam

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, his followers established a system of electing the new leader chosen by selective electoral of leading companions and the people of the cities of Medina and Mecca. After the besiegement and murder of Uthman the third caliph by the young generation of Muqatila, Ali (R.A) was elected as the next caliph but a civil war broke out in Islamic world by abruptly ending the tradition of this early form of democracy. From the very beginning of the history of Islam few royal families have rules the Easter Realm of Islamic world.

Transition from the Neo Democratic Caliphate to Arab Monarchy

After the untimely demise of Ali bin Abi Talib. Muawyia swiftly captured the Islamic realm by outmaneuvering the heir of Ali. In popular orthodox view it was decided that after Muawyia Hassan the elder son of Ali will be the next caliph. But Hassan died in suspicious circumstances leaving only muawyia to rule. Muawyia appointed his son as the legal successor of caliphate after him

2nd civil war and establishment of Umayyad rule

Yezid was the only living son of Muawyia , after  death of his father he was made the next so called caliph. This was the first time in history when caliphate was bestowed to the son of former caliph. This caused a strong reaction in the masses egalitarian Arabs.Hussain bin Ali the next patriarch of the house of Ali was called by the military city of kufa to lead them in this precarious situation. Hussein was also the grandson of the prophet Mohammed (SAW).but Yedzid’s governor of Iraq foiled the attempt of Alide resistance by killing Hussein and all male members of his family .Another front of resistance was opened by the holy cities of Mecca and Medina lead by Ibn e Zubayr brothers. They were initially successful and captured vast amount area due to absence of power created by Yezid’s death.

Establishment of Omayyad’s rule

Another branch of the Omayyad’s family was come through in these difficult times. It was the house of Merwan. They end the schism by the brutal use of force .Omyyad’s made Damascus the new capital of Islam. Early Omyyad’s were able to established Arab hegemony and supremacy over the entire Islamic world.  Umayyad generals were able to conquer central Asia, northern Africa. Iberian peninsula, khurasan and Sind in India.

Omayyad established the dictatorial rule over the both Muslim and non Muslim population in the empire. Omayyad were big land owners and were the early feudal s in the Islamic world. War booty and slaves was another lucrative source of revenue for the empire.

House of Ali was able to gain sympathies of the general public .House of Abbas were able to put a whole system of resistance based on espionage and treachery. They were also able to win the sympathy of newly converted Muslims who were heavily taxed even after their conversion which was against the religious doctrine of Islamic jurisprudence. The third element was the Muslim feudal class of Persia who has newly acquired lands in the recently conquered area of Persian Empire. Abu Muslim commanded an army against the Umayyad governor of Khurasan and put an end to the rule of House of Omayyad

Transition of the City State of Medina into a Republic

Transition of the City State of Medina into a Republic

Unification of Arabia

Now the Muslim power was unopposed

After the fall of mecca Arabian tribal community had now realized that now with their religious leadership of Quraysh

Submission of the tribes to Islam

As Ibn e Hisam an early Muslim writer aptly describes;

The Arabs were waiting with regard to Islam the decision of the struggle between the Quariash and prophet of god And the reason was that Quraysh were their leaders and guides and were the guardians of the house and the sacred mosque, when mecca was conquered and they realized that there was no power left to fight Muhammad and he was their friend not enemy they entered the faith in large numbers

Tribal Deputations

In the last two years of the Muhammad`s life tribal deputation from whole arabia came to medina to accept the soverigintiy of this newly formed state.

Deputations came from the following tribes , clans or places

1  Muzaina

2 Asad

3  Temim

4  Abs

5   Fezara

6  Murra

7   Tha`laba

8  Saad bin Bak

9   kilab

10 Bani-al-Baqqa

11 kinana

12 Ashja

13 Bahila

13 Sulaim

14 Amir bin Sasa

15 Thaqif of Taif

16 Abd al Qays

17 Bakr bin Wail of Eastern Arabia

18 Taghlib

19 Hanifa of Centeral Arabia,

20 Shayban a branch of Bakr bin Wail

21 Yemen

22 Tai

23 Murad of South Arabia Ghasan on the borders of syria

24 Hamdan in South Arabia

25 Nakha

26 kasham,

27 Mahra in South eastern Arabia

28 Najran a city in the South

29 Jayshan

Proclamtion of the ban on paganism was imposed on feburary-631 A.D.Jizya was imposed on the non muslim  people living in islamic republic of medina

The period of war was over and a process of consolidation began with the appointments of  Scholars, governers , tax collecters , judges and military commanders were disposed to different parts of Arabia .

Islamic State in the Bipolar world of Persia and Byzantium

Islamic State in the Bipolar world of Persia and Byzantium

Byzantine had recently won a decisive victory against Persia and recaptured the province of Syria. Syria was predominantly ethnically an Arabian province but was ruled by romans since time of Caesar. On the other hand Iraq was ruled by Persia which held great number of Arab tribes.

Alif Lam Meem! The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious after a few years. (Al Quran 30:1-4)

 Arabs living in these provinces embraced both pagan and Christian faiths. Condition of Arabs living under the chains was no better than their brothers living in peninsula. Arab tribes resented the foreign rule and were more than happy to see state of medina as their liberator not the conqueror. Muslims of Arabian peninsula could not remain untouched to what was happening to their brothers in other parts of the neighboring realms.

No man’s land

Arabia was a dry and barren land with no resources what so ever .A country where anarchy prevailed with nomadic tribes always fighting internally maybe this was the reason which saved them from the colonial ambitions of Persia and Rome. They always considered it as a kind of a buffer state.

Muhammad’s letter to Head of States

Muhammad sent letters to different head of states during his last years after having established a strong hold in medina. His emissaries sent to Persian Emperor were met with a cold response from khusro Parvez. But these delegations put an alarm in the minds of these monarchies of a rise of a new force in the political melodrama of seventh century Middle East.

Beginning of the conflict

Muhammad wanted to expand his empire further to the north. His envoys were sent to the tribes living in the north under the patronage of Roman Empire. Muslim emissaries were put to death which infuriated Medina.An army was prepared to fight against the Ghasanid tribes the culprits behind this ferocious act. But Muslim army met with a strong resistance, three of its generals were killed.

Campaign of Tabouk

Muslims considered the involvement of Byzantium forces behind their defeat at Motah. To avenge the dead Muhammad himself gathered the largest army under his command of 30000 men. After arriving at Tabouk and camping there, Muhammad’s army was prepared to face the Byzantines. However the Byzantines were not at Tabouk. They stayed there for a number of days and scouted the area but they never came.

Wars in Central Arabia and Southren Parts of Peninsula

Wars in Central Arabia and Southren Parts of peninsula

Hawaizan were the age old rivals of Quraysh, they were the subject of Persian Empire .Hawaizan were hostile towards the new religion.They consider that it will abolish the old ways and their traditionalistic lifestyle,

They consisted of both city dwellers and nomadic tribes. One of their brethren was settled in Taif, a city rivaled to economic success of mecca. Hawaizan merchandise looked for the support of Persian overlords .Their trade route was mainly directed towards Iraq which was a Persian province at that time.

Battle of Hunayn

When Muslim armies marched towards mecca Muslim didn’t know whether they were going to attack mecca or Hawazin tribes.

Hawazain were considering it as a great opportunity that the internal struggle between Muslims and Qurish will destroy either one of their opponents.  After the conquest of mecca Muhammad gathered his armies now numbered ten thousand in number. This army consisted of two main forces 

(i)         Army of  Medina  which initially attacked mecaa

(ii)        Army of Qurash which consisted of two thousand men

Hawazain were commanded by a young leader named as Malik Bin Nuwayra . he knew that his tribe were strong in type of warfare with heavy archery, so he selected a o position in which a narrow pass was selected .when Muslims armies reached that spot early in the morning they came the firing range of the arrows and missiles of  Hawazain .The vanguard of Muslim army was routed due to this superior military move of enemy after this the general disarray followed and the army was dispersed,

The Vanguard was commanded by the holy prophet himself when he saw people fleeing like this he asked them to return to the battle and fight, only a handful of people were left with him who fought vigorously and never left their place this was the turning point of the war as the people now saw that despite all of their enemy strength and superior military move Muslim army stood still. They came back and this battle was won but it was a pyrrhic victory and Muslims losses were also great, Muslims found a great number of booty

Siege of Taif

Taif was the city which was first visited by the holy prophet to gain their support against their old rivals of mecca. This mission was a failure as his proposal was rejected. After a few years Muslim armies besiege Taif for a short period of time. But the city defended itself successfully against the invading army.

This war put an end to  force of a strong enenmy of the newly formed Muslim state. Now there was none left who can stand against the city sate of medina which was now started to emerge as the theocratic republic of Islam with its capital at medina

Evolution of Arabic philosophical tradition from religious theological ( kalam ) to neo- platonic school of thought. ( falsafa ).

Islam as a religion emphasizes on the importance of thinking and rationality. It also became the basis Islamic thought and philosophy in Middle East ,Persia and Muslim Spain. Muslim thought has a very pleasant blend of eastern and western philosophy .It first started as the translation movement and then the  theological disputes based on deep philosophical interpretation of religious text paved the way for Neo Platonic school of thought in medieval Islamic philosophy.

Islamic philosophy is not confined to either to one topic ,time or place. Islamic philosophy is used as a very broad generic term.

Origins of Muslim Philosophy

Firstly early Muslim tried to rationalize their religion because they feel the pressure from both the inner circle of believers who questioned various aspects of divine religion and on the other hand by the Jews and Christians who probed Islamic religious teachings and were needed to be answered. Later on Greek and on the lesser extent Indian and Persian philosophical concepts were fused into Muslim theoretical ideas.

Kalam or Religious Theology

Religion was on the central stage for medieval Islamic thinkers which became the basis of Al kalam that is actually the process to rationalize religion with the use of logic and dialectic reasoning.


the first group of theologians to use this approach were Mutazilites

Unity and justice were the main focal point of mutaziltes as they used to titled themselves as the ahl at tauhid wa,l adl the forbearers of unity and justice

According to Abu al-Hudhayl the mutazilites (Arabic: المعتزلة‎) doctrine included five basic principles.

1The doctrine of unity or tauhid التوحيد

Asharites were the firm believers of the unity of god the so thought divine attributes such as ‘powerful’ (qadir), ‘knowing’ (‘alim), ‘creating’ (kjaliq), ‘nourishing’ (raziq), etc. as mentioned in Quran should be taken in metaphorical sense. So they absolutely denied the anthropomorphism nature of divine attributes

In response to this Sunni proposed that these ‘entities’ called sifat are at the same time neither identical to God nor other than Him

2The principle of adl العدل or justcie Predestination and free will

They were of the opinions that god has given human free will and for evil deeds they are to be blame for their actions not god

3The doctrine of al waad wal waid , الوعد و الوعيد  promise of paradise

They also belived that it is the necessity of human to be promised something good like jannah or paradise and for the sinners a plce of eternal daamnation hell

4The doctrine of amr bil mahrooh wa nahi anil munkir الأمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر

Mutazilites were of the view that it is their responsibility to advocate the good and forbid from evil

5The doctrine of al-manzila bayn al manzilataynالمنزلة بين المنزلتين

 or the doctrine of intermediary position

Mutazilites believe that a Muslim sinner has intermediary position he can neither be called an infidel or a believer if he commits a sin he holds an intermediary position between these two

The Reactionary Approach , Asharism

The second most influential school of thought in earlier religious tradition was Asharism it was founded by al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d. 324 AH / 936 AD). The disciples of the school are known as Ash’arites

The doctrine of bi la kayf or unquestioning conformism

They believe that tjere is limit to human rationalistic approach and it does not provide us with all necessary answeres so we have to ultimatly rely on divine truth which is the final and absolute truth.

Asharites were strong believers of atomism are the everlasting material other than that everything happened for just an instant, as every event that happened is directly commanded by God Himself they believed in constant divine intervention in worldly affairs

Asharites were also the strong adherents of Occasionalism.

The doctrine of predestination

They believe that everything is predestined and we humans are mere the agents to perform it

Translation movement

To make Arabic capable enough to express ideas of philosophy and contemporary sciences, around a whole century from 750 to 850 was dedicated to translation under the direct patronage of early Abbasid dynasty. It was mainly influenced by Greek philosophical tradition and a on a lesser extent by Persian and Indian traditions have also share in intellectual beginning of Islamic philosophical thought.

Translation happened in two ways first the Greek classics were translated from Syriac to Arabic and secondly the direct translation of Greek text into Arabic.

Translation was done in two ways as first new words were coined to express purely new ideas developed by Arabic thinkers and secondly Greek terms were arabisised e.g, jumatryia (geometry), falsafha(philosophy), iksir (elixir) , urghun(organ) , and jughrafyia (geometry).

Bayt al Hikma was commissioned by the official decree of the medieval Abbasid dynasty to translate the great works of Greek philosophers into Arabic language.

  Arabic philosophy

Arabic philosophy was coined by the combined efforts put forth by Muslim , Jews Christian and atheist philosophers of arab descent e.g,

  • Al-Kindi (d. 866): first Arab/Muslim philosopher; philosophy as “the search for truth” (talab al-haqq)
  • Al-Farabi (d. 950): elaborates Islamic Neo-Platonism;)

Persianized  Islamic  Philosophy

Ibn Sina/Avicenna (d. 1037): fully developed an elaborate and complete system of philosophy .

Avicenna’s philosophy, like that of his predecessors among the Arabians, is Aristoteleanism mingled with Neo-Platonism, an elucidation of Aristotle’s teaching in the light of the Commentaries of his own.

Avicenna worked on

the doctrine of being

the body mind relationship

theory of knowledge

doctrine of prophecy god and the world

Islamic philosophy in West

Islamic Spain produced many scholars like ibn hazm, Averroes

Ibn Rushd/Averroes represents full synthesis of Aristotelian thought and Islam Averroes openly admitted his inability to hold on philosophic grounds the doctrine of individual immortality, being content to maintain it as a religious tenet. Averroes’ greatest influence was as a commentator


Logic was considered as he philosopher’s tool kit in medieval Islamic philosophy and Avicenna and Ibn Hazm were the followers of the Aristotelian logic in Kalam but the use of logic in theological studies was successfully integrated by Al Ghazali .

End of Rationalist Thought Al Ghazali

Alghazali is traditionally believed to have refuted the popular philosophical beliefs in his famous book the incoherence of philosophers in which he gives three major contradiction of the philosophers to common in reference to common orthodox Islamic belief.

His objections on philosophers

the denial of resurrection of human’s bodily form

notion of eternal universe

and god knows only particulars

and due to these allegations he called philosophers  as  the heretics. He is also credited with converging the traditional Kalam with the new vibrant Sufi theology (mysticism).


Contemporary Islamic philosophy

Contemporary Islamic philosophy is more centered on political and theological aspects of philosophy.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, founder of Islamist political thought in the 20th century, was also the the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami a political organization. Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was a famous teacher of the philosophical school of Hikmat-ul-Mutaliya. So the ideals of new Islamic Republic of Iran have also their roots in islamic philosophy.