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« on: May 19, 2008 09:02 AM »


Al-Andalus, ‘Bright Jewel of the World’

As early as the Ninth century, Andalusia had become one of the wonders of the world. The Arabs, who arrived on Spanish shores in 711, set to the task, in the following century, of building an urban-based society, modelled on the example of Baghdad, the “city of peace,” which, built from scratch in 762, was to become a thriving center of industry, agriculture, trade, science, and the arts, whose influence radiated out to the East as far as India and China. Although at its inception, Andalusia was dependent on the Emir of North Africa, who appointed a governor with the approval of the Caliph Walid ibn ’Abd al-Malik, of the Omayyad dynasty in Damascus, Arab Spain soon became independent. The Omayyad ’Abd al-Rahman fled Baghdad for Spain when the former came under the rule of the rival Abbasid dynasty, and in 756 proclaimed an independent emirate. It was under the rule of ’Abd al Rahman III (912-961), who declared himself Caliph of Spain in 929, that Andalusia flourished as a nation, reaching its high point under his successor Al Hakam II (961-976) and his military leader Muhammed ibn Abi Amir, known as Al Mansur.

The unity of the caliphate ended in 1031, but Andalusian culture continued to flourish, in some cases reaching new achievements, under the “party kings” who ruled over the city-states of Seville, Almeria, Badojaz, Granada, Toledo, Malaga, and Valencia. The break-up of the caliphate weakened the city-states politically, however, leaving them vulnerable to the military pressures of Christian rulers. Toledo fell in 1085 to Alfonso VI, and Valencia was taken temporarily by the Cid in 1094. Berber Muslim tribesmen from North Africa halted the Christian onslaught and established the Almoravid dynasty (1095-1149) and the Almohad dynasty (1149-1248). In 1236, Ferdinand III had taken Cordoba, the capital of Andalusia, and twelve years later, conquered Seville. In the latter half of the Thirteenth century, Muslim rule was limited to the kingdom of the Nasrids, which ruled over Granada, Almeria, Malaga, and Aljecires.

Under ’Abd al Rahman II (822-852), Andalusia had grown to support a population of 30 million, who lived in hundreds of cities, manufacturing centers where textiles were produced, and trade and education flourished. The capital city, Cordoba, was the largest city in the West, with 130,000 households within its walls, 3,000 mosques, and 28 suburbs, with villas, palaces, and splendid gardens.

Using the same technologies and applying the same fiscal and credit policies which had been introduced by the Baghdad caliphate in Iraq, Andalusia built up an advanced agricultural sector. Islamic legislation did not recognize primogeniture, but favored family farming, facilitating the distribution of land to all offspring. Farmers who took advantage of irrigation techniques, financed through taxation, paid only 5% rather than 10% of their yield in taxes. Dams, irrigation canals, and pumps contributed to productivity levels which far outstripped those in Northern Europe for centuries to come. The textile industry, which employed 13,000 persons out of the 130,000 households in Cordoba, produced cotton, linen, wool, and silk. State as well as private textile mills were equipped with spindles and horizontal looms.

In the Ninth century, Andalusia’s cities were the marvel of chroniclers: “One sings praises to the golden threaded silk of Almeria, Malaga, and Murcia, whose faultless quality arouses the delight even of oriental observers. In Abadilla they produce those rugs that bring such high prices in the Orient. Granada delivers the especially gloriously colorful silk dresses, of the type known as ‘velvet shimmer.’ ... Murcia produces wonderful inlaid bedsteads, marvelous fabrics, metal wares, like goldplated knives and scissors ... which reach North Africa as frequent export articles. From Murcia, Almeria, and Malaga come costly glass and gold porcelain. Al-Andalus also knows the production of various kinds of mosaics.”


Education in Islam

But the greatest wonder of Andalusia was the advancement of learning. None of its wealth in industry and trade would have been possible without a conscious state policy promoting science, as the driving force behind technological progress and overall economic growth. As with the policy pursued under the Abbasids in Baghdad, the Andalusian rulers promoted learning and patronized the arts as a means of raising the cultural level of the population. ’Abd al Rahman I started building the great mosque in 785, an immense public-works project, which established the religious and educational center of the capital. It was enlarged and extended by his successors ’Abd al Rahman II and ’Abd al Rahman III, and completed by al-Hakem II.

Since the time of Mohammed, the mosque had functioned as “the Islamic educational institution par excellence.” Mohammed was primarily a teacher, who gathered his followers into a circle (the halqah), to tell them about the new faith. In the second and third centuries after Mohammed, as the mosque flourished as a school, other educational institutions were introduced: the kuttab, for elementary education in reading, writing, arithmetic, and in the Koran, as well as some poetry and sayings. Much stress was placed on developing the capacity for memorization. In addition, the homes of learned men (’ulama) and of paper merchants (warraqun) were turned into school rooms.

In the Ninth-Tenth centuries, the mosque schools evolved into universities, the first in Europe, which flourished in every city, drawing Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars and students like magnets, from all over the world. Finally, there were the academies, separate from the mosques, the most famous of which were the House of Wisdom (Dur al-Hikmah) and the House of Science (Dur al-’Ilm), which were libraries, translation centers, and astronomical observatories. In the Tenth and Eleventh centuries, the madrasah, a state-sponsored educational institution, appeared in Persia and Baghdad, as well as in Andalusia.

Elementary education was generally organized as a family matter, with the parents coming to some agreement with the teacher regarding payment.

Hakem II extended education to the needy, by building 27 elementary schools in Cordoba for children of poor families. Three of these were located near the great mosque, and the remaining 24 in the suburbs “to impart free education.” One chronicler reports that in Cordoba alone, there were 800 schools. In addition, a large orphanage was built in Cordoba, as in many other towns. Thus, “the majority of Muslims could read and write.” The German philologist Gustav Diercks remarked that “there were even in the smallest villages, public schools and schools for the poor in such numbers, that one has good reason to assume that under Hakem II (916-976) at least in the province of Cordoba, no one was ignorant of reading and writing.”

Al Hakem was himself a scholar, who had read many of the 400,000 books which filled his famous library, as indicated by his marginal notations. Books originally written in Persia and Syria, became known first in Andalusia. The city produced 60,000 books a year, facilitated by the use of paper, an invention the Arabs had taken from the Chinese, and developed in factories in every major city. Cordoba, the pearl of Andalusia, was renowned throughout Europe. In her poem on the martyrdom of Saint Pelagius, written in the Saxon cloister of Gandersheim, the Abbess Hroswitha had glowing words for Cordoba, the “bright jewel of the world, the young, marvelous city, proud of her power of resistance, famous for the delights which she embraces, beaming in full possession of all things.”


The Miracle of Arabic

Northern Europe gazed at the marvel of Al-Andalus in awe, not without a tinge of suspicion, wondering what the secret behind the brilliance of Arab Spain could be. Although some conjectured that sorcery was what was taught in the halls of Toledo’s academies, the truth is that Islamic Spain was a humanist culture which had been founded on a crucial scientific discovery: the Arabic language.

Mohammed, whom Muslims consider the last prophet in a series beginning with Abraham, was an illiterate, who received the revelation, contained in the holy book of the Koran, with the injunction by God: “Read! Recite!” The miracle which gave birth to the new religion was therefore the miracle of language, whose appearance to Mohammed echoed the act by which God had given the gift of speech to the first man, Adam. It was not language in general, but the Arabic language, based on that spoken by the Quayrash clan in Arabia, but elevated through the poetry of the Koran to a literary tongue. It was what Dante would later call an “illustrious vernacular,” a language spoken by the people, but forged through the transmission of universal ideas, in this case divine revelation, into a vehicle capable of transmitting the most profound ideas regarding man and the universe.

The Koran itself is considered by Muslims to be what one might call a unique experiment; although the validity of the ideas it contains is to be taken on faith and is susceptible to rigorous proof by Reason, yet an oft-cited test of its validity is in the very form of its expression. This means, that were one to attempt to express the same thought contained in any of the Koran’s verses, in another form, it would be impossible. Thus the poetical text stands for Muslims as a scientific proof.

The role that the language has come to play in every facet of Arab culture is unique. Since it is incumbent on Muslims to read and recite the Koran in Arabic in daily prayers, believers who were won over to the faith had to learn to speak, read, and write the language of the Koran. Its expansion was tantamount to a literacy campaign. As Islam spread like wildfire through non-Arab populations, to the East through Persia and India up to China and southeast Asia, as well as westward across North Africa and into Spain, care had to be taken to maintain the purity of the language, easily corrupted by non-native speakers. Thus, the first improvements introduced by the early Caliph ’Uthman included revising the script so as to fix the values of sounds.

This systematic treatment of word-formation was crucial to the monumental translation efforts, begun under the Abbasids in Baghdad, and continued throughout the Arab world, notably in Cordoba and Toledo in Spain. To render ideas expressed in Greek philosophy and science, new Arabic terms had to be coined, and the language grew through this process into an extraordinarily flexible vehicle of expression. Arabic translations were given highest priority by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (764?-809) in Baghdad, who, embodying the oft-cited Muslim maxim, “Seek knowledge even if it were in China,” would send emissaries to Byzantium and other parts of the world in search of ancient manuscripts, to be translated, with the help of Syrian Christians at his court, into Syriac, and thence into Arabic, or directly into Arabic. Under Caliph al-Mamun (813-833), translation work was transformed into a highly organized activity, in the House of Wisdom, a complex which became a translation center, an academy, an astronomical observatory, and one of the richest libraries in the world. Directing a team of 90 translators was the Nestorian Christian Hunayn ibn-Ishaq (809-877), who introduced the method of conceptual rather than literal translation. All the works of Classical Greece which could be found were rendered into Arabic, from the medical works of Hippocrates and Galen, to the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, to the science and geometry of Ptolemy, Euclid, and Archimedes. An effort of the same magnitude was undertaken in Muslim Spain, where institutions modelled on the House of Wisdom grew up in Cordoba and Seville.

The fact that Hunayn ibn-Ishaq would receive for each book translated, its equivalent in gold, testifies to the value placed on knowledge—and the diffusion of knowledge—in Muslim culture. As Ibn ’Abd Rabbihi wrote in the Tenth century, knowledge and its spread through education are “the pillars upon which rests the axis of religion and the world. They distinguish man from the beast, and the rational from the irrational being.” The Andalusian poet and philosopher Ibn Hazm (died 1064) exalted the role of knowledge in developing virtue, and condemned those who were greedy with their knowledge. The best means for disseminating learning, said Ibn Hazm, was through books, the possession of which in private libraries became the hallmark of the learned man.

Such attitudes reflect a love of knowledge which is fundamental to Islam. Among the prophetic traditions included by Ibn Khayr in his Farasah, are the following:

    There is nothing greater in the eye of God than a man who learned a science and who taught it to people.

    A Muslim cannot bestow on his brother a better gift than a word of wisdom. If the brother hears, grasps, then transmits it, God will guide him, and divert him from evil, since the word of wisdom leads to the uplifting of the soul.

    Scholars and teachers are partners in reward, and there are no better people than they.

    The knowledge that is not used is like a treasure from which nothing is spent. Its possessors labored in collecting it, but never benefitted from it.

    And God directs you to one single man [who is learned], it is better for you than the whole world and all in it.1

Such was the spirit that pervaded Andalusia. “In no country and in no other cultural epoch was the drive for such extensive scientific travel so widespread, as in Muslim Spain, from the Tenth century on. It was perfectly commonplace for inhabitants of the peninsula to make their way across the monstrous stretch on the North African coast, to Egypt, and from there to Bukhara or Samarkand, in order to hear the lectures of a famous scholar.”2 This was the spirit that gave rise to public schools for needy children, as well as splendid public libraries, 70 of which were still open in the 13th century, and to such high literacy rates that “almost everyone could read and write, whereas this was a privilege restricted to the clergy in northern Europe.”3
The Poetry of the Koran

The driving force behind the quest for knowledge, through translations, books, and education, was the Koran, a poetical text which urged the believer to increase his knowledge as a means of praising the Almighty. The Koran stood as the cornerstone for further edification of the language-culture. Although pre-Islamic poetry flourished in Arabia, it was the birth of Islam that gave the poetry its greatest impetus.

Poetry was the heart of Andalusian culture. An anthology of Andalusian poetry from the Tenth century compiled by Ibn Ferradsch, The Garden, had 200 chapters, and each of them 100 double verses. Poetry was a part of life. Not only were statesmen cited for their poetical productions, but “every peasant was obsessed by the gift of improvisation and even the farmer behind the plough, would make verses about any subject whatsoever.”4 Chronicles report that poetry was an indispensable tool for every aspect of social and political life. “Poems, which wound around columns and walls, in various intertwinings, constituted a major decoration in the palaces, and even in the government chancelleries, the art of poetry played a role. ... Men from the humblest condition rose to the highest, honored positions, to royal consideration, solely through their poetical talent; verses gave the signal for bloody combat and disarmed again as well the rage of the victor; poetry had to lay its weight in the balance, in order to lend more energy to diplomatic negotiations; and a happy improvisation often broke open the jail gates for a prisoner or saved the life of one condemned to death.”5

The poet held a position at court as cherished as that of the translator and the teacher, and as richly rewarded. When in 822 Abd al-Rahman II ceremoniously welcomed the famous poet Ali ibn Nafi, known as Zirjab of Baghdad, to his court in Cordoba, he offered him 200 gold pieces per month, abundant goods in kind, 2,000 gold pieces in gifts per year, and the use of various houses, fields, and gardens worth 14,000 gold pieces. Zirjab brought with him from Baghdad the wealth of oriental customs, dress, and culture, above all poetry and music. Zirjab knew 20,000 songs by heart, and would call in women of the court, themselves accomplished musicians, to take down in writing the songs he had composed in the night. Zirjab brought with him as well the knowledge of musical instruments and theory current in the East, and introduced an innovation to the lute (from the Arabic al ’ud) by adding a fifth string. In the years thereafter, Seville would become the renowned center of production of musical instruments, from lutes and guitars, to flutes, copper trumpets, tambourines, and others.

Zirjab was not only a practical musician and poet, but a learned man, who spent hours conversing with Abd al-Rahman about poetry, history, astronomy, science, and art.

Poets at court were an institution from the earliest caliphs in Spain. The poet Yahja, nicknamed “al Gazal” (the gazelle) because of his good looks, served his caliph, Abd al Rahman II, well, as a virtual ambassador, who overwhelmed the Emperor in Constantinople with his improvised verses celebrating the beauty of the empress. The poets Ibn Adb Rebbihi and Mondhir Ibn Said at the court of Abd al-Rahman III became legendary figures, thanks to the power of their poetry.

Excerpted from: http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-01/013_andalusia.html
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 09, 2008 03:49 PM »

THE MOORS IN ANDALUCÍA         

By Robina Lambert Lowry               

The Moors left an outstanding cultural legacy behind them in Al-Andalús, or Andalucía as it is today. A complex mix, it was inextricably woven over a period of 800 years into that of the myriad civilisations which had previously invaded and settled here. The influence of their culture reached out far beyond Spanish borders, with Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Cádiz being recognised throughout Europe and North Africa as centres of great learning, renowned for magnificent art and architecture, and homes to eminent scientists and philosophers.

In the beginning of the 8th century the Umayyads arrived from Damascus and settled in Córdoba where they established their capital in exile. Towards the end of the 11th century the Almoravids followed by the Almohads came from northern Africa and at the beginning of the 13th century the Nasrids began their 250-year reign in Granada. When the kingdom of Granada was finally conquered by the Christians at the end of the 15th century the last Nasrid ruler, Boabdil, was exiled briefly to the Alpujarras before finally leaving Al-Andalús for Fez in Morocco.

As the distance between the cities was so vast, numerous towns and villages were built along the well-trodden routes connecting one to another. They acted not only as staging posts, but were also settled by generations of caliphs and emirs, their families and entourages, who built the alcazabas (citadels), fortalezas (fortresses) and castillos (castles) that can still be seen today. Some have fallen into ruin, others have been restored to a lesser or greater degree, but all bear testimony to a fascinating period in the history of Spain.

The irrigation systems laid out by the Romans, which had fallen into disuse after their departure at the end of the 4th century, were recovered and extended by the Moors who brought water into the very heart of urban buildings through a complex network of wells and channels, fountains and pools. The water was not only for domestic purposes, it was used comprehensively in public squares, patios and private gardens, and also for their hammans or public baths, still to be seen in many provincial capital cities throughout Andalucía.

After they left, Moorish history and culture was all but ignored, both by the Arab world and by Europe, the same fate facing the traditions and culture of the Jews who were expelled around the same time. Relegated to beautiful legends in the annals of history, those eight centuries of Spain’s past were not considered sufficiently important to study or even remember. However, this legacy has now been brought back to life again by organisations such as the Fundación Legado Andalusí (www.legadoandalusi.es) and the Fundación Tres Culturas (www.tresculturas.org ).

Umayyads

By the 8th century the Umayyad caliphate, centred in what is now the Middle East, had expanded into Central Asia as well as to northern India and westwards to Spain. Leaving Damascus when the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads and took control of the great Arab empire, Abd-ar-Rahman I travelled to Al-Andalús where he formed a new emirate, or state, based in Córdoba. His descendants continued to rule as emirs there for the next 150 years, with his grandson Abd-ar-Rahman III restoring Umayyad power throughout Al-Andalús and also in parts of North Africa. In 929 he proclaimed himself caliph, elevating the emirate to a position of prestige on a par with that of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.

During this golden age of Al-Andalús the population of Córdoba increased to around half a million inhabitants, overtaking Constantinople to become the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. The surrounding land, laid out with its efficient irrigation system, produced a wide variety of crops and this, together with the produce imported from the Middle East, gave the region its reputation for being the most advanced agricultural-economic sector in Europe.

Between 1009 and 1013, however, there raged a devastating civil war and by 1031 the caliphate eventually collapsed. Al-Andalús was divided up into independent states called taifas, but without a united front they could not defend themselves against incursions by Christian forces. These raids finally became conquests and in the end the taifas had to request help from the Almoravids in northern Africa.

Almoravids and Almohads

Towards the end of the 11th century in the western Magreb, now Morocco, a new political and religious movement emerged from which was founded the Almoravid dynasty. Ethnically more Berber than Arab, it conquered Morocco and founded Marrakech as its capital. In 1085 after the fall of Toledo in central Spain, Yusuf ibn Tashufin, the Almoravid leader, was sent a plea from the Moorish leaders there to help in repelling the Christian armies who were gradually moving south from northern Spain. Five years later the Almoravids took control of the whole of Al-Andalús, while maintaining their principal seat of government in Marrakech.

Initially the Almoravids disapproved of the opulence and lack of piety favoured by Spanish Muslims and put into place quite austere regulations, especially as regards art and architecture. Their later monuments, however, show they were eventually seduced by the so-called ‘luxury’ culture in Al-Andalús. This survives today in the ideas and designs they took back with them to North Africa in, for example, the mosques at Algiers and Fez.

In the mid-12th century the Almoravids were overtaken by another religious movement: the Almohads, who came from a Berber tribe originating in the very heart of the Atlas Mountains. This new dynasty spread through Morocco, crossed over to the Iberian Peninsula and, by 1150, had conquered the cities of Sevilla, Córdoba, Badajoz and Almería. Marrakech was again retained as their centre of power and, as religious reformation was an integral part of their culture, their courts in that city and also in Sevilla became significant focal points of Islamic learning.

The Almohads built grand mosques, mansions and palaces throughout their empire, which gradually extended as far north as the Ebro River, near the modern city of Tarragona. Continuing with the use of geometric design in their art and architecture (patterns begun by the Almoravids), they rebuilt the Alcázar in Sevilla, enlarged the city’s Grand Mosque and constructed nearby a new minaret, the Giralda. Rising over 100 metres tall, the slim, elegant tower was built in 1184 to mark the accession of Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur. The minaret, serving as a model for similar ones in the Almohad imperial capitals of Rabat and Marrakech, still stands today, an emblematic landmark of Sevilla.

Like the Almoravids before them, the Almohads gradually succumbed to the relaxed customs and spiritual neglect that generally characterised Al-Andalús. The Christian states to the north were by then too well organised to be conquered by the Muslims and, despite minor forays into ‘alien’ territories, the Almohads made no permanent advances against them. Al-Mansur’s successor, Muhammed III (Al-Nasir) was finally defeated in 1212 at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena, marking the end of Almohad dominance.

Nasrids

On the northern borders of present-day Granada province numerous battles for property and land took place from the beginning of the 13th century as Christian armies fought to wrest control of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors. But it was the battle at Las Navas de Tolosa that became one of the turning points in the Christian reconquista. Alfonso VIII and his troops had sneaked through the Despeñaperros Pass in the rugged Sierra Morena and taken the Moors by surprise. The Almohads suffered fatalities of some 100,000 men, the Christians 2,000 only. This marked the end of the Almohad era and left the way clear for the next, and longest lasting, Muslim dynasty in Al-Andalús – the Nasrids.

Al-Ahmar ibn Nasr, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, was appointed governor of his native town of Arjona in 1231, extending his power soon after from Jaén to Guadix. But by now the Christian reconquista was in full swing and, when Córdoba was conquered in 1236, the Nasrids aligned themselves with Fernando III of Castile and ruled as a vassal state for the next 250 years. Trade links with the rest of the Muslim world were strengthened. This was especially so with the gold trade with sub-Saharan regions in Africa, and the Nasrids were also providers of mercenary troops for Castile. But they are principally renowned for the elegance and splendour of their architecture, including the complex network in Granada, unique in Europe, of fountains, wells and baths to supply the numerous, large hammans, or public baths, which formed an integral part of their culture.

During the Nasrid dynasty their rulers’ centre of power was the city of Granada. Their style was very decorative. They covered walls and floors with a profusion of beautifully designed ceramic tiles, used stucco or creatively carved plaster, and painted artistic decorations on many surfaces. Their usual ornamental motifs were geometric, or took the form of plant life, and they also included writings from the Koran. Although the Nasrids continued to follow models of architecture of their predecessors the Almohads, they brought in the innovative use of marble in many of their more important buildings.

The pièce de resistance of Granada is the Alhambra, considered the epitome of Nasrid architecture. Originally a complete government city built for the Moorish rulers, it had mosques and mansions, schools and army barracks, as well as large areas of formal gardens such as the incomparable Generalife. The Alcazaba, or fortress, and the Nasrid palaces, where Arabic inscriptions feature prominently and decorative ceramics abound, remain almost intact nearly 700 years later as testimony to their constructive artistry. Numerous Moorish buildings in Granada were however destroyed or built over during the subsequent Christian era, but those that remain comprise the most complete group of Muslim housing architecture in Europe.

Boabdil: el rey chico

Boabdil was born in the Alhambra Palace to the Sultana Aixa. His father, Abul Hassan Ali, known by the Spaniards as Muley Hacén, gave his name to the highest mountain peak on the Iberian Peninsula, Mulhacén, where it is said he was buried. Boabdil’s name was Abu’Abd Allah, pronounced ‘bu-ab-di-lah’ from which came the andaluz pronunciation with its knack of cutting short every word...  His nickname of ‘el rey chico’ (the small king) did not in fact have anything to do with his stature but referred to the size of his ever-diminishing kingdom. By many, he was also known as el zogoybi – the unfortunate one – but that came later.

He came to the throne in 1482 following an uprising by the population in the Granada district of Albaicín against the extraordinarily high taxes that had been levied upon them. Boabdil, supported by an important local family, the Abencerrajes, deposed Abul Hassan Ali who was driven from the land and Boabdil became Muhammed XII, the last Nasrid king of Granada.

To gain more prestige, Boabdil endeavoured to invade the region of Castile. At the same time he was continually fighting against his father and his uncle, who both considered themselves the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Granada. In 1483, during one of his forays against the Christian armies, Boabdil was captured and imprisoned in the castle at Lucena. Its unusual octagonal tower, the Torre del Moral, is a surviving remnant of the original castle that can still be seen today. Three years later, in exchange for his liberty, Boabdil agreed to govern Granada under the Catholic kings. He had his throne returned to him, but had to hand over part of the territory ruled by his father to the kingdom of Castile.

The next six years saw more frequent civil wars and internecine strife, greatly favouring the ever-stronger Christian forces who eventually laid siege to Granada. The city fell on 2 January 1492 and, four days later, after total capitulation by its inhabitants, the so-called reconquista came to an end. From this magnificent centre of culture, of science and learning, of glorious art and architecture, Boabdil was expelled and the armies of Fernando and Isabel, the Reyes Católicos, or Catholic Kings, raised the Christian cross on the Alcazaba alongside their royal standards of Castile and Aragón.

Boabdil was granted a fiefdom in the region of Las Alpujarras and left Granada by the southern route to La Zubia. About 12 kilometres from the city he paused at a mountain pass before descending to Padul, looked back at his birthplace, his palace and his kingdom and sighed for what he had lost. His mother travelling with him is said to have been somewhat unsympathetic, telling him: “You do well to weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.” ThePuerto del Suspiro del Moro (the Pass of the Arab’s Sigh), around 860 metres above sea level, is the last place on that road from where the Alhambra Palace can be seen.

From Padul, Boabdil travelled south to Lanjarón, the gateway to Las Alpujarras. Lying at the south-western end of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it was originally settled by the Romans who discovered seven natural springs in the area and has been renowned for its spa waters ever since. Turning east, Boabdil travelled to the land he had been ceded near Láujar de Andarax by the wide Guadalfeo river valley.

Protected by the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the north and bounded by the lower sierras of Gador, La Contraviesa and Lujar to the south, the Alpujarras stretch from west to east through the province of Granada and into that of Almería. The snow from the high sierras melts in late spring and early summer keeping the towns and villages well supplied with fresh water throughout the year. With their innate knowledge of agriculture, their engineering skill in laying out complex networks of channels for the supply and drainage of water and their talent at maintaining the intricate terracing that originated from as far back as the time of the Visigoths, the Moors turned the Alpujarras into a veritable paradise on earth.

Boadbil lived in exile for less than a year in the Alpujarras before travelling to Fez in Morocco where he died fighting other battles in 1527. His followers stayed behind but most were finally expelled around 1570. However, much of their culture remained: two Moorish families were forced to stay behind in each village to instruct the Christian peasants sent down from the north to repopulate the area, in matters of agriculture and water management. They formed the basis of a new society, which still pays respect to the old in many of its traditions.
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 01, 2009 06:48 AM »

The Art of Islamic Spain

Written by Patricia, Countess Jellicoe

The Alhambra, site of the first presentation of the exhibition "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain," has been an Orientalist fantasy since.. Washington Irving rediscovered it for the Western world in his delightful Tales of the Alhambra, written in 1832. But the 13th-century citadel and palace complex, set on a hilltop overlooking Granada, is not only the best known monument of the Muslim era in Spain, but itself one of that period's greatest treasures. In this setting, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Administration of the Alhambra and Generalife together have produced a real and provocative new vision of almost 800 years of Islamic Spain.

Some 120 pieces of the finest Hispano-Islamic art from collections in America, Britain, Russia, Sicily, Egypt, Morocco, Spain and other countries went on display: ivory and marble carvings, bronze lamps and animals, coins, jewels and ceremonial swords, superb textiles, ceramics, astrolabes and the flowing calligraphy of Qur'ans, all restoring a vivid life to the rich, exotic beauty of the Alhambra's interiors. The displays were a feat of installation: Nothing was permitted to touch the exquisite tiled and stuccoed walls, all cases and lighting standing discreetly free.

The exhibition catalogue presents the history of the various Muslim dynasties in Spain, from the first Arab conquests in 711 to the fall of the last Muslim kingdom in 1492 - for, in order to appreciate fully the art assembled in this exhibition, one should know something of the origins of Al-Andalus, of the powers and interests at play, of the widespread trade and travel of Spain's Muslims and the resulting influences on their arts, and of the ebb and flow of hegemony in the peninsula, from the early days of Muslim-Christian-Jewish harmony and mutual tolerance to the final victory of the reconquista in Granada.

Some say the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula began with an invitation: According to one account, the Umayyad governor of North Africa, Musa ibn Nusayr, was asked to aid the opponents of a Visigoth king. True or not, it is a fact that Ibn Nusayr sent his general Tariq ibn Ziyad with a Amazigh (Berber) army into Spain in 711, following himself in 712. Toledo lured Tariq to its conquest, and within seven years the whole of the peninsula, except for Galicia and Asturias, was under Muslim control, remaining so throughout the Umayyad period, from 711 to 1031.

The era of the Umayyad Governors was followed by the Umayyad Emirate, established in 756 after the arrival in Spain of 'Abd al-Rahman I, sole survivor of the Umayyad caliphate of Damascus, which had been overthrown by the Abbasids in 750. The dynasty of the Andalusian Umayyads (756-1031) marked the zenith of Arab civilization in Spain.

But that dynasty collapsed after the death of the formidable dictator-chamberlain al-Mansur in 1002 and the civil war of 1010-1013, and local governors proclaimed themselves taifas, or petty monarchs, with Seville, Toledo and Saragossa the most powerful of the independent kingdoms. Their internecine wars cost territory: Muslim control had receded to only half of Spain by 1065. With the fall of Toledo to Christian armies in 1085, the taifas sought support from the North African Amazigh (Berber) Almoravid dynasty -- but the Almoravid leader, Yusuf ibn Tashufin, believed that the rule of the taifas had to be ended if Islamic Spain was to be rescued. In 1090, Ibn Tashufin decided to land his army in Al-Andalus. One after another, Muslim-ruled cities fell to the Almoravids -- Granada, Almeria, Seville, Valencia, Saragossa, Lisbon and the 'Vest. Al-Andalus remained subject to the Almoravids until 1145, when they were replaced by the Almohads, another Amazigh (Berber) dynasty from North Africa's southern Maghrib. The Almohad rulers adopted the title of caliph and introduced a series of religious measures seeking to strengthen their territories. Two great Almohad sovereigns - Yusuf I and his son Ya'qub - raised western Islam to the zenith of its power. But in 1212, at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the Christian armies avenged their previous defeats, a turning point in the history of the peninsula. Only one-third of Spain was left under Muslim control and Al-Andalus was once again fragmented into tribute-paying principalities -- Granada excepted.

The final dynasty, the Nasrid Kingdom (1238-1492), ruled only Granada and three tribute-paying cities: Jaén, Almería and Málaga. As pressure eased on Granada, the kingdom reached its greatest splendor during the reign of Muhammad V (1354-1359 and 1362-1391), when he added considerably to the Alhambra Palace. His ministers included some of the most learned men of the epoch: polymath historian Ibn al-Khatib, his close friend and fellow historian Ibn Khatima and court poet Ibn Zamraq. The royal court also extended its protection to Tunis-born Ibn Khaldun, the great philosopher of history. But by the end of the next century, the power of Christian Castile and Aragon, unified by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella -- both pledged to the reconquista -- forced the last ruling Nasrid, Muhammad XII, known to the Spaniards as King Boabdil, into exile on January 2,1492.

The city of Córdoba, whose Great Mosque still survives with its rhythmic arched vistas, became the center of a sophisticated, luxuriously rich Hispano-Islamic civilization that ranked with Byzantium and Baghdad. By the time of its apogee in the 10th century, Córdoba was renowned for its intellectually advanced culture, its learned centers and its libraries, far outstripping the still-undeveloped Christian north. In the late 11th century, Córdoba was incorporated into the Kingdom of Seville, where it remained, continuing to thrive as an intellectual center, until reconquered by the Christians in 1236.

In the exhibition, marble capitals from the Madi-nat al-Zahra Palace in Córdoba show the influence of Byzantine artisans invited to the court to train Muslims, while the schematized interweaving of marble window screens (celosías) is a forerunner of the later, geometrically more intricate Islamic designs. A supreme example of the quality of Umayyad artistic production is the deep overall carving of ivories such as the "Pamplona Casket," dating from 1004 or 1005; with its foliated Kufic dedication to 'Abd al-Malik and its images of princely hunting and feasting, traceable to textile patterns. Of 21 medallions on the casket, one outstanding one may show the reigning Caliph Hisham II -- a bearded, bareheaded figure seated on a lion throne, a flower or fruit in his hand and a signet ring on his left ring finger. Flanking him are two attendants, one holding a fly whisk, the other a perfume bottle or sprinkler and a woven fan.

Two carved ivory pyxides -- containers for precious aromatics -- have the domed cover unique to 10th-century Spanish containers, and are designed to resemble a pavilion, with its palatial and paradisiacal connotations, suggesting the richness of the gifts within. One pyxis, made in 968, features within its overall carving large medallions of such vividness that they have been included in virtually all discussions of early Islamic art: One contains the ancient Middle Eastern motif of lions attacking other animals, bulls in this case; the second portrays a lute player on a lion throne, flanked by two seated youths; the third is of two beardless, bareheaded riders picking dates from either side of a tree while cheetahs seated on their horses' flanks hold two parrots by the tail.

One of two 10th-century textile fragments on display, of silk, linen and gold thread, is thought to be part of an almaizar -- a cloth which served as both veil and turban -- of Hisham II, to whom there is a dedication in Kufic, while its embroidered medallions of people, lions, birds and other animals show Egyptian Coptic influence.

The Madinat al-Zahra Palace, built by 'Abd al-Rahman in and his son al-Hakam II between the middle and end of the 10th century, was tragically looted and destroyed in the 11th century. Found in its ruins was the well-known bronze Córdoba Stag - probably made as a fountain-head - that is the surviving masterpiece of the palace's metalwork atelier. The body of the stag has an overall pattern of leaves within circles, a common textile design of the period. Fountains were an integral part of Islam's aesthetic - particularly in western Islam. Medical philosophies of the time maintained that health followed from the freshness of flowing water and perfumed air. The musk and ambergris from ivory pyxides, perfume from silver and gilt bottles, and perfumed candles would all have filled the palace's rooms with scent.

The taifa kings emulated Córdoban power in their patronage of the arts; thus many scholars, merchants and the richest citizens emigrated to their realms, which became centers of small renaissances. Islamic literature in Spain attained its. peak during the taifa era when the poet-king of Seville, al-Mu'tamid, established an academy of letters, and al-Mansur's poet, Ibn Darraj al-Qastalli, who took refuge in Saragossa, penned a series of qasa'id, or poems, of unequaled beauty.

In architecture, buildings took on new forms and decoration. An example in the exhibition from the Aljaferia in Saragossa, the best-preserved palace complex of the taifa era, is a carved-stucco relief with a design of interwoven arched columns -- derived, perhaps, from the Córdoba Mosque's curving maqsura arches, but giving birth to a new style of more complex and integrated geometrical shapes against a fuller scrolled-leaf ground. The relief still bears some of the red and blue color of the paints once used on all such stuccoes.

By the end of the 11th century, Al-Andalus was at the forefront of European sciences. The Saragossan king al-Mu'tamin (1080-1085), an outstanding mathematician himself, gathered at his court a distinguished group of scholars and philosophers. In the mid-11th century, Abu Qasim Sa'id ibn Ahmad of Toledo, in his book The Categories of Nations, discussed the schools of sciences which had developed since their establishment a century before by "the Euclid of Spain," astronomer-mathematician Maslamah al-Majriti of Madrid - whose translated work was known to European monasteries. Muslims, Christians and Jews collaborated on the Materia Medica, a revision of the Eastern Arabic version of the first-century Greek physician Dioscorides' text, while throughout Al-Andalus further medicinal plant properties were being discovered and disseminated.

The Andalusians excelled in astronomy, both theoretical and practical, perfecting their tables and the precision of their astronomical instruments. Trade and travel brought dependence on the celestial globe -- known to Muslims from Ptolemy's Almagest (See Aramco World, May-June 1992) -- and the development of the Hellenic astrolabe, which became known to Europe through numerous Muslim treatises between the ninth and 16th centuries. Toledo astronomer Al-Zarqali, who died in 1087, simplified the astrolabe; his version, known as the saphea azarchelis, remained in use until the 16th century. He also anticipated 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler by suggesting that the orbits of the planets are not circular but oval. Impressive elements of the exhibition are one of the two oldest known celestial globes, made in about 1085, and a Saragossan astrolabe dated with the hijri year 472 (AD 1079/80).

The true origins of the controversial 11th-century bronze "Pisa Griffin," which once sat atop the cathedral in that Italian city, are unknown, but local legend calls it booty taken from conquest of the Balearic Islands east of Spain. Monumental and fearsome, the griffin stands rigid, its rounded chest and body, curled-back wings and beaked head covered in zones of textile-like feathering, scales and bands of Kufic lettering, with a tear-drop design on the legs portraying birds and animals in a scrolling surround, reminiscent of Sassanian Persia. But the puzzling meter-tall sculpture exhibits characteristics of many other regional styles as well, and it has been variously attributed to Fatimid Egypt, Fatimid North Africa, Spain, Sicily and Iran.

Silk textiles were a large part of Al-Andalus's export trade, and the iconography of two 11th-century textiles is Middle Eastern -- Sassanian Persian or Mesopotamian. Conserved in startling freshness is the lining of the Reliquary of San Mi-Han, in brilliant crimson silk with alternating friezes of confronting winged lions and paired griffins flanking the stylized "tree of life," or hom, in green outlined in yellow. An altar panel, called "the Witches Pallium," is an extraordinary design on crimson silk with a central frieze of half-sphinx, half-harpy composites of lions and eagles beneath arches of serpents with feline heads under attack by ibises; above and below are friezes of the hom between confronting peacocks.

The Almoravids vigorously developed textile production; the most prosperous and brilliant period was within the first quarter of the 12th century, with Almería taking over from Córdoba and becoming one of the first great manufacturing cities. The Almoravid silks that stand out above all others are often referred to as "the Baghdad group," but should more accurately be termed "the Baghdad imitations." Contemporary chroniclers call them "tabby" after al-'Attabiyah, a district of Baghdad where such weaving was done.

A special technique in these textiles "favored fine woven lines between two juxtaposed colors and accentuated outlines in preference to massed color -- a technique Spanish weavers developed with such skill that their delicate and intricate textiles are more like a painted miniature," according to the catalogue. Their decorative style is based on large rondels, pearl-banded surrounds, and pairsof animals, face-to-face or back-to-back -- lions, griffins, sphinxes, harpies, heraldic eagles, peacocks and others - Sassanian themes widely used since ancient times.

The best example is a 12th-century fragment showing "the Lion Strangler," an ancient Middle Eastern motif: A man stands in turban and richly embroidered tunic between two confronting lions, which he strangles in the crooks of his arms; his head, hands, feet and belt and the lions' heads are brocaded in gold in a unique system which joins the strands of oropel -- tinsel, in this case thin threads of gilded leather -- to produce a brocade with an unusual honeycomb effect.

These textiles were equally prized by Spanish Catholics: This particular fragment is from San Bernardo Calvo's dalmatic, or religious robe. Another fine example is a 12th-century silk chasuble, badly worn but very beautiful, from the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse. The vestment's rondel design is formed by the spread tails of paired, facing peacocks with a stylized hom between them. There are also gazelles and dogs within each roundel, all standing on a pedestal on which Kufic lettering repeats the Arabic phrase "perfect blessing."

Examples of textiles from the Almohad period are few, but of high quality. Simplicity and piety were enjoined upon them by their more austere religious beliefs, so the Almohad rulers initially had no royal textile and embroidery workshops, and prohibitions were issued against wearing luxurious silks. However, like the Almoravids, they finally succumbed to the attraction of rich textiles and resumed their production. Rondels containing animals gradually disappeared and circles were substituted with rosettes, lozenges, polygons and stars inspired by caliphal marbles, together with bands of script. Christians made use of such textiles as well, associating the fabrics with power and wealth, just as the caliphal rulers had.

Maria de Almenar's coffin cover, dating from about 1200, is of great technical simplicity and magnificent artistry, with gold rampant lions and gold Kufic writing on a blue band against the crimson silk ground. The covered headrest for Leonor of Castile's corpse, with its soft blue-and-gold bands, is totally Islamic in design: The central piece consists of silk and gold thread in overall geometric patterns, and a band of blue cursive Arabic script reads "happiness and prosperity."

An important, carefully restored historical textile, dated between 1212 and 1250 and a tour de force in the Almohad tradition, is the striking wall hanging known as the Las Navas de Tolosa Banner, now held to be a trophy won by the Castilians in some other battle. Its central eight-pointed star is enclosed in a ring and a square of stars and circles, surmounted and edged with bands of large Kufic inscriptions and Qur'anic quotations.

The Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, both born of religious movements, introduced Qur'ans on vellum, parchment and paper - the oldest surviving one, dated 1090, lent to the exhibition from Uppsala, Sweden. From Marrakesh, a superb page from a 13th-century, 20-volume Qur'an is written in beautiful, large Maghribi script in brown ink, the sura (chapter) heading in Western Kufic and marginals in blue and gold on peach-colored paper, probably from Jativa, a center for Spain's famed papermaking industry.

Morocco played a significant role in the history of bookbinding and influenced the craft's later development in Europe, where the first gilded bindings did not appear until the mid-15th century. An engraved, gilded and painted Qur'an binding from Rabat (1178) has its distinctive flap, or lisan, intact (See Aramco World, March-April 1987). An exquisite, small blue-and-gold frontispiece, dated 1143, from a Córdoban Qur'an manuscript on loan from Istanbul, is a fascinating example of the mystic element in Islamic geometrical design, creating a sense of movement outward at the same time, paradoxically, as inward. Also from Istanbul comes a folio from a Qur'an copied in Marrakesh early in the 13th century -- part of the sura titled Man/am, or "Mary." The red-and-gold heading is written in Western Kufic script, with verses separated by gold and red-and-gold decorations. From the Vatican Library, the exhibition features one of the very few illustrated manuscripts to have survived from Islamic Spain, a version of the peerless love story of Bayad and Riyad.

Two immense mosque lamps, a generous loan from the Qarawiyin Mosque in Fez, document Muslim-Christian wars. Constructed around Spanish church bells taken as booty, 130 of these lamps once lit the Qarawiyin Mosque; now only 10 remain. The two lent to the exhibition are made of copper alloy; one is from the late 12th or early 13th century and the other from the North African Marinid era of the 14th century.

From the Nasrid period (1238-1492), along with a spectacular display of ceremonial arms and armor, comes the large, gold-lustered Alhambra Vase from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, an early 14th-century storage jar of a kind first mentioned by Washington Irving. Part of a glazed mosaic tile dado, or pedestal element, from the Mexuar (council chamber) of the Alhambra "bears an interlaced design forming alternating stars of eight and 16 points" and half-stars of 10 points in a design of black, buff, green, and blue motifs on a white ground, the catalogue notes. Along the top of the panel is a script frieze repeating "Power is God's, glory is God's, dominion is God's."

Wooden ceilings, which have a long tradition in Hispano-Islamic Spain, attained their greatest splendor under the Nasrids. One of the most exquisite examples of workmanship and geometric design can be seen in the Alhambra's own Salon de Comares, its beauty accentuated by the Metropolitan Museum's lighting arrangements. The original cupola ceiling of the Partal Palace's Torre de Las Damas shows an inventive transformation from a square to an octagon and from an octagon to a 16-sided figure, culminating at the crown of the roof in a 16-pointed interlaced star, with stalactites, or muqarnas, forming a cupola within the octagon.

Marquetry, or taracea inlay work, was used for decoration throughout the period of Islamic Spain, from the minbars of Córdoba's Great Mosque and the Qarawiyin Mosque in Fez, to that of the Kutubiyyah in Marrakesh. The superb cabinet doors from the Palacio de los Infantes in Granada have their entire surfaces, inside and out, inlaid with silver, precious woods and green- and natural-colored bone in an intricate design of stars and wheels framed by hexagons, all within rectangular double guilloches, or twisted bands. A dazzling constellation in silver, they are a final accolade to the astonishing art of Islamic Spain.

Patricia, Countess Jellicoe is a London-based writer and lecturer on Middle and Far Eastern art and garden history. Born in China. She has lived in Beirut, Washington, Brussels and Baghdad.

This article appeared on pages 24-31 of the September/October 1992 print edition of Saudi Aramco World
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Science in Al-Andalus

Written by Paul Lunde

The Medieval Christians of Spain had a legend that Roderick, the last king of the Visigoths, was responsible for unleashing the Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula because, in defiance of his plighted word, he unlocked the gates of an enchanted palace he had sworn not to tamper with. As far as the West was concerned, the Arab invasion did unlock an enchanted palace. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Vandals, Huns and Visigoths had pillaged and burned their way through the Iberian Peninsula, establishing ephemeral kingdoms, which lasted only as long as loot poured in, and were then destroyed in their turn. Then, without warning, in the year 711, came the Arabs -- to settle, fall in love with the land and create the first civilization Europe had known since the Roman legions gave up the unequal fight against the barbarian hordes.

Spain first prospered under the rule of the Umayyads, who established a dynasty there after they had lost the caliphate in the East to the Abbasids. At first, the culture of the Umayyad court at Córdoba was wholly derivative. Fashions, both in literature and dress, were imitiative of those current in the Abbasids’ newly founded capital of Baghdad. Scholars from the more sophisticated lands to the east were always assured of a warm reception at the court of Córdoba, where their colleagues would listen avidly for news of what was being discussed in the capital, what people were wearing, what songs were being sung, and -- above all -- what books were being read.

Islamic culture was pre-eminently a culture of the book. The introduction of paper from China in 751 gave an impetus to learning and an excitement about ideas which the world had never before known. Books became more available than they had been even in Rome, and incomparably cheaper than they were in the Latin West, where they continued to be written on expensive parchment. In the 12th century, a man sold 120 acres of land in order to buy a single Book of Hours. In the ninth century, the library of the monastery of St. Gall was the largest in Europe, boasting 36 volumes. At the same time, that of Córdoba contained 500,000. The cultural lag between East and West in the Middle Ages can be attributed partly to the fact that the Arabs had paper, while the Latin West did not.

It took much more than paper to create an intellectual and scientific culture like that of Islamic Spain, of course. Islam, with its tolerance and encouragement of both secular and religious learning, created the necessary climate for the exchange of ideas. The court of Córdoba, like that of Baghdad, was open to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, and one prominent bishop complained that young Christian men were devoting themselves to the study of Arabic, rather than Latin -- a reflection of the fact that Arabic, in a surprisingly short time, had become the international language of science, as English has today.

Islamic culture in Spain began to flourish in earnest during the reign of ‘Abd al-Rahman II of Córdoba, as Arabic spread increasingly among his non-Muslim subjects, especially in the cities, leading to a great flowering of intellectual activity of all kinds.

In a courtly society, the tastes and predilections of the ruler set the tone for society at large, and ‘Abd al-Rahman II, passionately interested in both the religious and the secular sciences, was determined to show the world that his court was in no way inferior to the court of the caliphs at Baghdad. To this end, therefore, he actively recruited scholars by offering handsome inducements to overcome their initial reluctance to live in what many in the lands of the East considered the provinces. As a result, many scholars, poets, philosophers, historians and musicians migrated to Al-Andalus, and established the basis of the intellectual tradition and educational system, which made Spain so outstanding for the next 400 years.

Another result was that an infrastructure of public and private libraries, mosques, hospitals and research institutions rapidly grew up and famous scholars in the East, hearing of these amenities, flocked to the West. They in turn attracted students of their own; in the Islamic world it was not at all unusual for a student to travel thousands of miles to study at the feet of a famous professor.

One of the earliest of these scholars was ‘Abbas ibn Firnas, who died in the year 888 and who, had he lived in the Florence of the Medici, would have been a “Renaissance man.” He came to Córdoba to teach music, then a branch of mathematical theory, but—not a man to limit himself to a single field of study -- soon became interested in the mechanics of flight. He constructed a pair of wings, made out of feathers in a wooden frame, and attempted to fly -- anticipating Leonardo da Vinci by some 600 years.

Luckily, ‘Abbas survived, and, undiscouraged, turned his mind to the construction of a planetarium in which the planets actually revolved -- it would be extremely interesting to know the details of the gearing mechanism. It also simulated such celestial phenomena as thunder and lightning and was, of course, a wild success. Next ‘Abbas turned to the mathematical problems involved in the regularity of the facets of certain crystals and evolved a formula for manufacturing artificial crystals.

It must be remembered that a knowledge of the achievements of men like ‘Abbas has come to us purely by chance. It has been estimated that today there are 250,000 Arabic manuscripts in western and eastern libraries, including private collections. Yet in the 10th century, private libraries existed which contained as many as 500,000 books. Literally millions of books must have perished, and with them the achievements of a great many scholars and scientists whose books, had they survived, might have changed the course of history. As it is, even now, only a tiny proportion of existing Arabic scientific texts has been studied, and it will take years to form a more exact idea of the contributions of Muslim scientists to the history of ideas.

One of the fields most assiduously cultivated in Spain was natural science. Although Andalusian scholars did not make contributions as fundamental as those made by their colleagues in the East, those that they did make had more effect on the later development of science and technology, for it was through Spain and the scholars of Al-Andalus that these ideas reached the West.

No school of translators comparable to the House of Wisdom of al-Ma’mun existed in Spain, and Andalusian scholars seem not to have interested themselves in the natural sciences until the translations of the House of Wisdom reached them.

Interest in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine was always lively, however, because of their obvious utility -- mathematics for commercial purposes, computation of the rather complicated Islamic laws of inheritance, and as a basis for measuring distances. Astronomy was useful for determining the times of prayer and adjusting the calendar, and the study of medicine needed no apology. The introduction of the new Aristotelian ideas, however, even in Arab dress, aroused a certain amount of suspicion in the conservative West, and it was some time before public opinion would accept that Aristotelian logic did not conflict with the revelation of Islam.

Part of the suspicion with which certain of the ideas emanating from the scholars of the Abbasid court were viewed was due to an inadequate distinction between sciences and pseudo-sciences. This was a distinction which the Muslims made at a much earlier date than western scholars, who, even during the Renaissance, tended to confound astronomy with astrology, chemistry with alchemy. Ibn Hazm, a leading Andalusian scholar of the 11th century and staunchly conservative, was very outspoken on this point. People who advocated the efficacy of talismans, magic, alchemy, and astrology he calls shameless liars. This rational approach did much to make Islam preeminent in the natural sciences.

The study of mathematics and astronomy went hand in hand. Al-Khwarizmi’s famous book entitled The Calculation of Integration and Equation reached Al-Andalus at an early date, and became the foundation of much later speculation. In it, Al-Khwarizmi dealt with equations, algebraic multiplication and division, measurement of surfaces and other questions. Al-Khwarizmi was the first to introduce the use of what he called “Indian” and we call “Arabic” numerals. The exact method of transmission of these numerals—and the place-value idea which they embodied—is not known, but the symbols used to represent the numbers had slightly different forms in eastern and western Islam, and the forms of our numerals are derived from those used in Al-Andalus. The work of al-Khwarizmi, which now only survives in a 12th-century Latin translation made in Spain, together with a translation of Euclid’s Elements, became the two foundations of subsequent mathematical developments in Al-Andalus.

The first original mathematician and astronomer of Al-Andalus was the 10th century’s Maslama al-Majriti. He had been preceded by competent scientists—men like Ibn Abi ‘Ubaida of Valencia, who in the ninth century was a leading astronomer, and the emigré from Baghdad, Ibn Taimiyyah, who was both a well-known physician and an astronomer—but al-Majriti was in a class by himself. He wrote a number of works on mathematics and astronomy, studied and elaborated the Arabic translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest and enlarged and corrected the astronomical tables of al-Khwarizmi himself. He compiled conversion tables, in which the dates of the Persian calendar were related to hijri dates, so that for the first time the events of Persia’s past could be dated with precision.

Al-Zarqali, known to the Latin West as Arzachel, was another leading mathematician and astronomer who flourished in Córdoba in the 11th century. He combined theoretical knowledge with technical skills, and excelled at the construction of precision instruments for astronomical use. He built a waterclock capable of determining the hours of the day and night and indicating the days of the lunar month. He contributed to the compilation of the famous Toledan Tables, a highly accurate compilation of astronomical data. His Book of Tables, written in the form of an almanac (almanac is an Arabic word meaning “climate,” originally indicating the stations of the moon) contains tables which allow one to find on what day the Coptic, Roman, lunar and Persian months begin; others give the position of the various planets at any given time; still others allow prediction of solar and lunar eclipses. He also compiled valuable tables of latitude and longitude; many of his works were translated, both into Spanish and into Latin.

Still another luminary was al-Bitruji (the Latin scholars of the Middle Ages called him Alpetragius), who developed a new theory of stellar movement and wrote the Book of Form in which it is detailed.

The influence of these astronom- ical works was immense. Today, for example, the constellations still bear the names given them by Muslim astronomers—Acrab (from ‘aqrab, “scorpion”), Altair (from al-ta’ir, “the flyer”), Deneb (from dhanb, “tail”), Pherkard (from farqad, “calf”)—and words such as zenith, nadir and azimuth, all still in use today, recall the works of the Muslim scholars of Al-Andalus.

But the Muslim science par excellence was the study of medicine. Interest in medicine goes back to the very earliest times. The Prophet himself stated that there was a remedy for every illness, and was aware that some diseases were contagious.

The great contribution of the Arabs was to put the study of medicine on a scientific footing and eliminate superstition and harmful folk-practices. Medicine was considered a highly technical calling, and one which required long study and training. Elaborate codes were formulated to regulate the professional conduct of doctors. It was not enough to have a mastery of one’s subject in order to practice medicine. Certain moral qualities were mandatory. Ibn Hazm said that a doctor should be kind, understanding, friendly, good, able to endure insults and adverse criticism; he must keep his hair short, and his fingernails as well; he must wear clean, white clothes and behave with dignity.

Before doctors could practice, they had to pass an examination, and if they passed they had to take the Hippocratic oath, which, if neglected, could lead to dismissal.

Hospitals were similarly organized. The large one built in Córdoba was provided with running water and baths, and had different sections for the treatment of various diseases, each of which was headed by a specialist. Hospitals were required to be open 24 hours a day to handle emergency cases, and could not turn any patient away.

Muslim physicians made many important additions to the body of medical knowledge which they inherited from the Greeks. Ibn al-Nafis, for example, discovered the lesser circulation of the blood hundreds of years before Harvey, and ideas of quarantine sprang from an empirical notion of contagion.

Another example is Ibn Juljul, who was born in Córdoba in 943, became a leading physician by the age of 24 (he began his studies of medicine at 14) and compiled a commentary on the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides and a special treatise on drugs found in Al-Andalus. In his Categories of Physicians, composed at the request of one of the Umayyad princes, he also presents a history of the medical profession from the time of Aesculapius to his own day.

During the 10th century, Al-Andalus produced a large number of excellent physicians. Several went to Baghdad, where they studied Greek medical works under the famous translators Thabit ibn Qurra and Thabit ibn Sinan. On their return, they were lodged in the government palace complex at Madinat al-Zahra. One of these men, Ahmad ibn Harran, was placed in charge of a dispensary which provided free medical care and food to poor patients.

Ibn Shuhaid, also known as a popular doctor, wrote a fundamental work on the use of drugs. He -- like many of his contemporaries -- recommended drugs only if the patient did not respond to dietary treatment, and said that if they must be used, simple drugs should be employed in all cases but the most serious.

Al-Zahrawi, who died in 1013, was the most famous surgeon of the Middle Ages. He was court physician of al-Hakam II, and his great work, the Tasrif, was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona and became a leading medical text in European universities in the later Middle Ages. The section on surgery contains a number of illustrations of surgical instruments of elegant, functional design and great precision. It describes lithotrites, amputations, ophthalmic and dental surgery and the treatment of wounds and fractures.

Ibn Zuhr, known as Avenzoar, who died in 1162, was born in Seville and earned a great reputation throughout North Africa and Spain. He described abscesses and mediastinal tumors for the first time, and made original experiments in therapeutics. One of his works, the Taysir, was translated into Latin in 1280 and became a standard work.

An outgrowth of the interest in medicine was the study of botany. The most famous Andalusian botanist was Ibn Baitar, who wrote a famous book called Collection of Simple Drugs and Food. It is an alphabetically arranged compendium of medicinal plants of all sorts, most of which were native to Spain and North Africa, which he had spent a lifetime gathering. Where possible, he gives the Berber, Arabic, and sometimes Romance names of the plant, so that for linguists his work is of special interest. In each article, he gives information about the preparation of the drug and its administration, purpose and dosage.

The last of the great Andalusian physicians was Ibn al-Khatib, who was also a noted historian, poet, and statesman. Among his other works, he wrote an important work on the theory of contagion: “The fact of infection becomes clear to the investigator who notices how he who establishes contact with the afflicted gets the disease, whereas he who is not in contact remains safe, and how transmitting is effected through garments, vessels, and earrings.”

Ibn al-Khatib was the last representative of the Andalusian medical tradition. Soon after his death, the energies of the Muslims of Al-Andalus were wholly absorbed in the long, costly struggle against the Christian reconquista.

Another field that interested the scholars of Al-Andalus was geography, and many of the finest Muslim works in this field were produced there. Economic and political considerations played some part in the development of this field of study, but it was above all their all-consuming curiosity about the world and its inhabitants that motivated the scholars who devoted themselves to the description of the earth and its inhabitants. The first steps had been taken in the East, when “books of routes,” as they were called, were compiled for the use of the postmasters of the early Abbasid caliphs. Soon, reports on faraway lands, their commercial products and major physical features were compiled for the information of the caliph and his ministers. Advances in astronomy and mathematics made the plotting of this information on maps feasible, and soon cartography became an important discipline in its own right.

Al-Khwarizmi, who did so much to advance the science of mathematics, was also one of the earliest scientific descriptive geographers. Basing his work on information made available through the Arabic translation of Ptolemy, al-Khwarizmi wrote a book called The Form of the Earth, which included maps of the heavens and of the earth. In Al-Andalus, this work was carried forward by Ibn Muhammad al-Razi, who died in 936, and who wrote a basic geography of Al-Andalus for administrative purposes. Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Warraq, a contemporary of al-Razi, wrote a similar work describing the topography of North Africa. The wide-ranging commercial relations of Al-Andalus allowed the collection, from returning merchants, of a great deal of detailed information about regions as far north as the Baltic. Ibrahim ibn Ya‘qub, for example, who traveled widely in Europe and the Balkans in the late ninth century -- he must have been a brave man indeed -- left itineraries of his travels.

Two men who wrote in the 11th century collected much of the information assembled by their predecessors and put it into convenient form. One of them, al-Bakri, is particularly interesting. Born in Saltes in 1014, al-Bakri was the son of the governor of the province of Huelva and Saltes. Al-Bakri himself was an important minister at the court in Seville and undertook several diplomatic missions. An accomplished scholar as well as litérateur, he wrote works on history, botany and geography as well as poetry and literary essays. One of his two important geographical works is devoted to the geography of the Arabian Peninsula, with particular attention to the elucidation of its place names. It is arranged alphabetically, and lists the names of villages, towns, wadis and monuments which he culled from the hadith and histories. His other major work has not survived in its entirety, but it was an encyclopedic treatment of the entire world.

Al-Bakri arranged his material by country -- preceding each entry by a short historical introduction -- and describes the people, customs, climate, geographical features and the major cities, with anecdotes about them. He says of the inhabitants of Galicia, for example: “They are treacherous, dirty and bathe once or twice a year, even then with cold water; they never wash their clothes until they are worn out because they claim that the dirt accumulated as the result of their sweat softens their body.”

Perhaps the most famous geographer of the time was al-Idrisi, “the Strabo of the Arabs.” Born in 1100 and educated in Córdoba, al-Idrisi traveled widely, visiting Spain, North Africa and Anatolia, until he eventually settled in Sicily. There he was employed by the Norman king Roger ii to write a systematic geography of the world, which is still extant, and is usually known as The Book of Roger.

In it, al-Idrisi describes the world systematically, following the Greek division of it into seven “climes,” each divided into 10 sections. Each of the climes is mapped—and the maps are highly accurate for the time in which they were compiled. He gives the distances between major cities and describes the customs, people, products and climate of the entire known world. He even records the voyage of a Moroccan navigator who was blown off course in the Atlantic, sailed for 30 days, and returned to tell of a fertile land to the west inhabited by naked savages.

The information contained in The Book of Roger was engraved on a silver planisphere, which was one of the wonders of the age.

Al-Andalus also produced the authors of two of the most interesting travel books ever written. Each exists in good English translation. The first is by Ibn Jubair, secretary to the governor of Granada who, in 1183, made the Hajj, and wrote a book about his journey, called simply Travels. The book is in the form of a diary, and gives a detailed account of the eastern Mediterranean world at the height of the Crusades. It is written in clear, elegant style, and is filled with the perceptive, intelligent comments of a tolerant -- and often witty -- man.

The most famous of all the Andalusian travelers was Ibn Battuta -- the greatest tourist of his age, and perhaps of any. He went to North Africa, Syria, Makkah, Medina and Iraq. He went to Yemen, sailed down the Nile, the Red Sea, Asia Minor, and the Black Sea. He went to the Crimea and to Constantinople. He went to Afghanistan, India and China. He died in Granada at the age of 73.

It is impossible to do justice to all the scholars of Al-Andalus who devoted themselves to the study of history and linguistic sciences. These were the prime “social sciences” cultivated by the Arabs, and both were brought to a high level of art in Al-Andalus. For example, Ibn al-Khatib, whose theory of contagious diseases we have touched on already, was the author of the finest history of Granada that has come down to us.

Ibn al-Khatib was born in 1313, near Granada, and followed the traditional educational curriculum of his time -- he studied grammar, poetry, natural sciences and Islamic law, as well, of course, as the Qur’an. His father, an important official, was killed by the Christians in 1340. The ruler of Granada invited the son to occupy the post of secretary in the department of correspondence. He soon became the confidant of the ruler and gained a position of great power.

Despite his busy political career, Ibn al-Khatib found time to write more than 50 books on travel, medicine, poetry, music, history, politics and theology.

The achievements of Ibn al-Khatib were rivaled only by those of his near contemporary Ibn Khaldun, the first historian to seek to develop and explicate the general laws which govern the rise and decline of civilizations. His huge, seven-volume history is entitled The Book of Examples and Collection from Early and Later Information Concerning the Days of Arabs, Non-Arabs and Berbers. The first volume, entitled Introduction, gives a profound and detailed analysis of Islamic society and indeed of human society in general, for he constantly refers to other cultures for comparative purposes. He gives a sophisticated analysis of how human society evolved from nomadism to urban centers, and how and why these urban centers decay and finally succumb to less developed invaders. Many of the profoundly disturbing questions raised by Ibn Khaldun have still not received the attention they should from all thinking people. Certainly, anyone interested in the problems of the rise and fall of civilizations, the decay of cities, or the complex relationship between technologically advanced societies and traditional ones should read Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction.

Another great area of Andalusian intellectual activity was philosophy, but it is impossible to do more than glance at this difficult and specialized study. From the ninth century, Andalusian scholars, like those in Baghdad, had to deal with the theological problems posed by the introduction of Greek philosophy into a context of Islam. How could reason be reconciled with revelation? This was the central question.

Ibn Hazm was one of the first to deal with this problem. He supported certain Aristotelian concepts with enthusiasm and rejected others. For example, he wrote a large and detailed commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analects, that abstruse work on logic. Interestingly, Ibn Hazm appears to have had no trouble relating logic to Islam -- in fact, he gives illustrative examples of how it can be used in solving legal problems, drawn from the body of Islamic law. Nothing better illustrates the ability of Islam to assimilate foreign ideas and acclimatize them than Ibn Hazm’s words in the introduction to his work: “Let it be known that he who reads this book of ours will find that the usefulness of this kind of work is not limited to one single discipline but includes the Qur’an, hadith and legal decisions concerning what is permissible and what is not, and what is obligatory and what is lawful.”

Ibn Hazm considered logic a useful tool, and philosophy to be in harmony, or at least not in conflict, with revelation. He has been described as “one of the giants of the intellectual history of Islam,” but it is difficult to form a considered judgment of a man who wrote more than 400 books, most of which have perished or still remain in manuscript.

Ibn Bajjah, whom western scholastic theologians called Avempace, was another great Andalusian philosopher. But it was Averroës -- Ibn Rushd -- who earned the greatest reputation. He was an ardent Aristotelian, and his works had a lasting effect, in their Latin translation, on the development of European philosophy.

Islamic technological innovations also played their part in the legacy that Al-Andalus left to Medieval Europe. Paper has been mentioned, but there were others of great importance -- the windmill, new techniques of working metal, making ceramics, building, weaving and agriculture. The people of Al-Andalus had a passion for gardens, combining their love of beauty with their interest in medicinal plants. Two important treatises on agriculture -- one of which was partially translated into Romance in the Middle Ages, were written in Al-Andalus. Ibn al-‘Awwam, the author of one of these treatises, lists 584 species of plants and gives precise instructions regarding their cultivation and use. He writes, for example, of how to graft trees, make hybrids, stop blights and insect pests, and how to make floral essences and perfumes.

This area of technological achievement has not yet been examined in detail, but it had as profound an influence on Medieval European material culture as the Muslim commentators on Aristotle had on Medieval European intellectuals. For these were the arts of civilization, the arts that make life a pleasure rather than a burden, and without which philosophical speculation is an arid exercise.

Paul Lunde, an independent scholar who divides his time between Seville and Cambridge, England, researches and writes about the Middle East. His most recent book is Islam: Culture, Faith and History (2001, Dorling Kindersley).
Michael Grimsdale, one of Britain’s foremost illustrators, paints portraits, animals, sports and travel themes in a variety of media. Widely collected and exhibited, his paintings have also appeared in advertising, books and magazines.

This article appeared on pages 20-27 of the Al-Andalus print edition of Saudi Aramco World.
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 31, 2009 04:36 AM »

After 650 years, the wisdom of the Alhambra is revealed

Granada's fortress-palace built by Spain's medieval Moorish rulers, has always fascinated visitors. But what messages do its intricately carved walls hold – poetry, philosophy or piety?

Visitors to the Alhambra fortress-palace in Granada have for centuries fallen into a reverie before its intricately carved medieval walls, wondering at the meaning of the Arabic inscriptions that adorn them from floor to ceiling. The script that winds round the filigree arches and pillared courtyards is so stylised that it's often difficult to disentangle words from images, and few can decipher the classical Arabic in which they are written.

Now, the carvings have been logged and translated, finally answering the question that has perplexed generations of visitors to Europe's jewel of Muslim architecture: "What are these walls telling me?"

Researchers have produced an interactive DVD that decodes, dates and identifies 3,116 of some 10,000 inscriptions carved on the building that symbolises centuries of Muslim rule in Spain and is today the country's top tourist landmark.

"There's perhaps nowhere else in the world where gazing upon walls, columns and fountains is an exercise so similar to turning the pages of a book of poems," says Juan Castilla, from the School of Arabic Studies at Spain's Higher Scientific Research Council, whose team produced this still-incomplete guide.

Arabic artisans, supervised by poets employed in the 14th-century court of King Yusuf I, drew up the decorative plans and planned the spaces where verses – original, or copied – were to be engraved.

So, what do these words say? "There aren't as many as we thought," Dr Castilla confessed. Inscriptions of poetry and verses from the Koran that have inspired generations represent only a minimum percentage of the texts that adorn the Alhambra's walls, despite the mistaken belief that they are smothered in writings of this kind, he said, presenting his study in Madrid.

Instead the motto of the Nazrid dynasty – "There is no victor but Allah" – is repeated hundreds of times on walls, arches and columns. Isolated words like "happiness" or "blessing" recur, seen as divine expressions protecting the monarch or governor honoured in each palace or courtyard. Aphorisms abound: "Rejoice in good fortune, because Allah helps you," and "Be sparse in words and you will go in peace."

Researchers built upon studies begun 500 years ago by the conquerors of the Nazrid dynasty, who ruled the kingdom of Al Andalus and created this fabulous pile. The Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella ruthlessly purged Muslims from Spain after 1492, but they were sufficiently curious about their vanquished enemy's heritage, or impressed by the Alhambra's unique beauty, to order specialist translators to study the inscriptions that cover every nook and cranny.

For centuries scholars spent half their life, and ruined their eyesight, scrutinising the messages embedded in the geometric tiles or finely carved in the stonework. Among them are verses by the acclaimed Islamic poets Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn Zamrak, some of which describe the place where they appear, such as the Hall of the Two Sisters, which represents a garden: "Moreover we do not know of any other garden/more pleasant in its freshness, more fragrant in its surroundings,/or sweeter in the gathering of its fruits..." wrote Ibn Zamrak.

The ceiling represented heaven: "The hands of the Pleiades will spend the night invoking/God's protection in their favour and they will awaken to/the gentle blowing of the breeze./ In here is a cupola which by its height becomes lost from/sight..." the poet wrote.

Until now, however, efforts to transcribe such verses have revealed only a fraction of the material. With modern technology, including a 3D laser scanner, "we have achieved not so much a discovery as an exhaustive labour that seeks to register all the inscriptions," said Dr Castilla. At the touch of a mouse, everyone from the specialist to the idly curious can now learn the meaning of the ancient words, see exactly where they are located, and how often they are repeated on the walls.

The form of script is also described: angular kufic, whose uprights sprout into decorative foliage, or intertwine; curlicue cursive; or a mixture of forms. In a culture that banned human images, the form as well as the content of the calligraphy was designed to exalt temporal and heavenly rulers.

Kufic is used for quotations from the Koran, which tend to be high up on the walls, while the poetry is nearer the ground – further from heaven, scholars say – in elaborately cursive script.

The DVD takes you on a virtual tour of all the writings, with details (in Spanish only, so far) of when and how each was created. This first volume covers the citadel-palace of Comares. The Palace of Lions, with its renowned courtyard and fountain, follows later this year. The guide is due to be completed, and reissued in one compilation DVD by 2010.

Source: independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/after-650-years-the-wisdom-of-the-alhambra-is-revealed-1658050.html
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« Reply #5 on: Mar 31, 2009 06:19 PM »

Jazak'Allah Khairan for sharing this lovely article Sis jannah. It actually makes me feel a bit sad, because some years back, I think it was 2005, I was supposed to go to Spain, accompanying my mother for one of her medical conferences, but then we had to change our plans last minute and cancel the trip. We were to have gone to the Alhambra, aomong other places. Insha'allah another opportunity will arise. Anyways, such a place, and others around the world should make us proud of what our ancestors in Faith accomplished and hopefully, revive the desire for our current Ummah to return to our past glory, yet in a present / relevant manner, that will benefit our present, as well as our future, for our children and the coming generations. Hope that makes sense  Smiley

The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another:  [9:71]
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« Reply #6 on: Apr 01, 2009 01:20 AM »

wsalam,

no worries bro... life is long and inshaAllah u can go some other time (like ur honeymoon Smiley) i still haven't gone either but i noticed that some people go there and come back and still know nothing about the amazing history and deep meaning of the place. so if you read and learn now it will make your experience later that much more meaningful inshallah Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: Apr 01, 2009 03:38 PM »

ASA WR WB Sis Jannah - that's a good idea, I'll keep that in mind  Grin. Thanks for the self-education tip. I don't know if it is as much of a lesson on our Islamic history, but in our common "Motherland" there is the Taj Mahal .  . . . . . . .actually been there - that was breathtaking, but I'm guessing not as much of an impact on that history as the Alhambra was I'm sure.

The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another:  [9:71]
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« Reply #8 on: Apr 01, 2009 03:48 PM »

All jokes aside

Be wary of mixing your honeymoon with a trip to visit the "Old World". A few friends of mine choose to do that and got a package - visiting spain, morroco and parts east, and it ended up being more like an episode of "Amazing Race" rather than a honeymoon - every night or two a different city, and in the morning rushing for a train or flight to the next place and not really enjoying any particular place. Not to discount it, I'm sure it's great - just keep it simple - thats all...   and relax  bebzi

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Your heart will not truly open until you understand Surah 21 : Verse 92  (Al-Anbiya: The Prophets)

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« Reply #9 on: Apr 02, 2009 11:44 PM »

ws,

there seems to be two types of vacations... the sightseeing/learning/visiting places type one and the relaxing/on the beach/just taking things in.  I like the sightseeing type of vacations but that's just me. I know other people just like the relaxing type of vacations. Don't know which is best for a honeymoon, maybe depends on what the couple like.

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« Reply #10 on: Apr 02, 2009 11:47 PM »

Well, I am a big history buff - just want to learn about places I've read about and never been to, so yeah sight-seeing or just taking things in slowly and with enough time is what I prefer. No matter what type of trip it would be, that type of package deal, hoping from one place to another every day or two doesn't sound appealing at all.

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« Reply #11 on: Mar 30, 2010 02:23 AM »

Best site i have ever seen on the topic of Muslim Spain. Beautiful graphics too! but (un)fortunately for us it's only in Arabic!! *cry http://www.alandilus.com/

Also nice travelogue/article:

SPAIN'S ISLAMIC LEGACY:
A GLIMPSE FROM A MUSLIM'S TRAVELOGUE


by
Dr. S.M. Ghazanfar

  Introduction
  Grandeur of Granada
  Cordoba's Grand Mosque
  Seville: A Detour
  Some Concluding Remarks 



Introduction


This article is a travelogue of impressions from a recent visit to Spain. For a Muslim who has some familiarity with Islamic history in the Iberian peninsula of the Mediterranean, a visit to Spain is almost like a pilgrimage. However, unlike the pilgrimage to Mecca, such a visit can be spiritually and emotionally agonizing, for one is overwhelmed by manifestations of European Islam in Spain (Al-Andalus, as it was then known). That was the era of the Golden Age of Islam, from early 8th century to late 15th century, almost coincidental with Dark Ages in the rest of Europe, when Al-Andalus was the center of global civilization. And the capitol city of Cordoba was Europe's largest - the city of books, of patrons of great literary figures and of men who were explorers of knowledge. There existed no separation between science, wisdom, and faith; nor was East separated from the West, nor the Muslim from the Jew or the Christian. It was here that the European Renaissance began and flourished beyond.

For decades I had longed to visit Spain, not only for its legendary charm and picturesque beauty but, more importantly, to experience the heritage of almost 800 years of Islamic presence. In December 1998, I traveled to Spain for the purpose of participating in a colloquium, sponsored by the Paris-based International Society for the Study of Arab and Islamic History and Science (in conjunction with Spanish universities). The conference theme pertained to the contributions of Cordoba's most important intellectual, Death of Ibn Rushd (known as Averroes in the West; Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Astronomy, Theology) in commemoration of his 800th death anniversary. The trip also provided me an opportunity to experience Spain's Islamic heritage. That heritage, indeed, has its reminders in every nook and corner of contemporary Spain, but especially in the province of Andalucia. That is where the two most prominent monuments of Islam's legacy are located: Granada (Arabic Gharnata) and Cordoba (Arabic Qurtaba); both are United Nations' "Heritage of Humanity" cities. Of course, these cities are well-maintained by Spanish Government, for, aside from the "heritage" aspects, both are huge sources of tourist revenue, even though, in times past, Catholic fanaticism had tried to destroy all vestiges of the Islamic heritage. Soon after landing in Madrid (Arabic Majrit, a kind of a breeze), I took a night train to Granada, arriving there the next morning.

Grandeur of Granada

When Muslims (Arabs and Berbers) arrived in Spain during early eighth century, they thought they had discovered heaven on earth. Water being somewhat of a luxury for them, they found it in the snows of Spain's mountain peaks. By a series of intricate channels, they directed water into the palace grounds and onto plains below. Still today in Granada one gets a glimpse of paradise (so described even by many subsequent visitors and travelers as well) in the majesty of Alhambra Palace and the adjacent Generalife Gardens (Arabic Janna al-Arif, the Garden of the Architect). Small streams carry the water to numerous fountains and ponds, water even rushing over a stone stairway. One observes and hears splashing and gushing water, with displays of color under the conifers--roses, lilies, jasmine, etc. Aside from the luxury of the Palace itself, there are the courtyards shaded by a variety of trees and cooled by fountains and underground water channels, and walls decorated by patterned tiles. All through one feels the presence of God Almighty, for there are Qura'anic verses inscribed on the walls, the most prominent and ubiquitous being: "Wa la ghalib illa Allah" (There is no victor but Allah).

As one walks through Alhambra and the Gardens, one vicariously absorbs into the past and begins to experience an enormous sense of pride and awe at the glory that was Islam. But as I walked through the Palace, the tour-guide pointed out, among others, the "Ambassador's Hall," where the Muslim ruler, Abu Abdallah ("Boabdil," as the guide referred to him) had signed the treaty on November 25, 1491 for eventual surrender of Granada in January 1492 to the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. [The Treaty of Granada]. And, I remembered reading, when Abu Abdallah shed tears and cried out, "Allah O'Akbar," his mother said to him, "Cry you like women over a kingdom lost that you could not defend like a man." Thus one feels the pain of an inglorious end to a glorious past, intensified further by one's knowledge of a divided and impoverished present world of Islam, subject to Western hegemony almost since the Crusades. Of course, I strongly felt the tour-guide was inclined to understating the Arab-Islamic character of these historic structures, as well as denigrating the Islamic rulers and religion (e.g., "You have heard of sensuous Moors," "Islam allows many wives," etc.). And the mostly non-Muslim, Western tourists, given their own conditioning, seemed quite receptive. However, once my Muslim identity became apparent, there was caution; the guide even stated that during Islamic Spain, "Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together peacefully."

There are numerous other reminders of historic Islam in Granada. There are several smaller palaces and there is the historic Albaican quarter (the Muslim quarter, where still some Muslims live and where the former mosque stands as Church of El-Salvador). Many churches, with domes and crosses on top in place of crescents and bell-towers in place of the muezzin's ada'n, clearly revealed their former status. There is the Gothic Cathedral, once the Great Mosque of Granada, where the two Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, are buried. As I visited the Cathedral, I saw more statues and paintings of Catholic icons than I care to remember, reminding me of at least one of the reasons for the 16th century Protestant split in Christianity.

One giant-sized painting/sculpture that covered a large wall was most painful to absorb. It showed a warrior on a horse and a dead man with his neck crushed, lying under the horse's feet. The guide explained, "It is Santiago and his horse, slaying a Muslim." When I asked further, she said, "It is the Apostle Santiago who helped in the Christian victory over Islam." When I asked her about the implied hate-message, she was slightly taken aback and asked if I was a Muslim, and when I affirmed, her answer was, "well, it is just a painting." Since that experience, I have learnt a little about the legend of St. James ("Santiago" in Spanish). When the Muslim commander, Ibn Abi Amir (also known as "Al-Mansur bi Allah," meaning "victorious through God's grace;" and "Almanzor" in the West), captured Leon in Northern Spain in the 10th century, his troops caused much destruction, including the Church of Santiago de Compostela. However, Al-Mansur preserved the shrine of the Christian apostle St. James in that structure. Later, as the Muslims lost ground, the myth of St. James was cultivated, and Santiago "Matamoros" ("Santiago the Moor-slayer") became known as the inspiration for the Christian victory; thus, he became Spain's patron-saint.

And then during the Cathedral visit, there was another interesting conversation with a another tour guide. I asked him about the number of Muslims now in Spain. He said, "Not many; only some youngsters are converting out of fashion." "You mean they are not true to their new faith?" I asked. "No, they will revert," he seemed confident. I said, "What if they don't? Will there be another Inquisition?" There was a long pause. [Another 1985 travelogue: Valencia, Granada and Cordoba].

Cordoba's Grand Mosque and Surroundings


From Granada, I proceeded by bus to Cordoba. As I was riding in the bus, I could see, through the eyes of my eyes, the presence of Muslims in history, especially conspicuous because I could see former mosques in every little town along the way. And then, about every few miles, I could see forts and castles on mountain tops, now displaying Christian symbols, as well as often churches besides them. I could see flashbacks of Muslims tending to their olive groves, developing new crops and agriculture technology, and living side-by-side peacefully with their non-Muslim cousins. Yet I could also see them hiding behind the hills and mountains, trying to escape the wrath of the 16th century Inquisition, when their choice was to either be "baptized" (and thus, be "saved"), or face deportation, or risk brutal death.

Among the various monuments of Islamic Spain, the most intense yearning of my soul was to experience the Grand Mosque (Le Mezquita) of Cordoba, built in the 8th century by Emir Abdul Rehman I, but now called The Holy Cathedral. [The construction of the great mosque of Cordoba began in 786 CE on a site purchased for 100,000 gold dinars]. Immediately after arriving at my hotel in Cordoba on December 8th, I was able to join a guided tour that took me to the Mosque. As a Muslim, just being there was overwhelmingly therapeutic, for here, before my own eyes, was about the most vivid reminder of the Golden Age of Islam, an era that provided the roots of Europe's Enlightenment. In the open compound, there were ornate rows of orange trees, with the Cathedral's bell-tower on one side, once the muezzin's minaret. As we entered the Mosque, I could also see the Cathedral, which the Catholic hierarchy, so as to emphasize the victory over Islam, built in the center of the Mosque during early 16th century. While there was some controversy at the time as to the building of the Cathedral, fortunately its presence helped to preserve the Grand Mosque from complete destruction at the hands of the new rulers. While standing in the Mosque, I felt spiritually immersed in its serenity and grandeur. There were the majestic arches and columns; there was the symmetry of chandeliers in all directions, interrupted by the presence of the Cathedral. As I saw the mihrab, I was instinctively drawn toward it. It was enclosed by a metal fence, but I could see several Qura'anic verses on the walls, beautifully inscribed in Arabic calligraphy, intertwined with colored tilework, and with Christian statues and crosses above. Again, it was easy to flashback - and I could see myself standing in prayers, shoulder to shoulder, along side such Muslim intellectual giants of Cordoba as Ibn Hazam, Al-Qurtubi, al-Maqqari, al-Ghafiqi, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Al-Arabi, and others who once made Cordoba the supreme intellectual center of the world.

Yet again, I felt, as I did at Alhambra, that the tour guide was painstakingly linking the architectural beauty of the Mosque more with the Romans and less with the centuries of Islamic presence. During interactions with the guide, someone happened to ask about the origins of bullfights in Spain and, as though trying to link this violent sport with "terrorist" Arabs, she responded, "Oh, the Arabs brought that here." Cautiously, I interjected, for while I had heard several explanations as to the origins of bull-fighting, that was not one of them. So I mentioned that one explanation I had read somewhere went back to some Catholic legends, in that when Mariam (Mary) was pregnant with Prophet Issa (Jesus Christ; peace be upon both), there was an incident in which a bull was indignant to Mariam, so the bull became a beast to be fought back. She said she had never heard of this. Fortunately, a Catholic couple in the group from Barcelona was able to confirm my story. I do not know the authenticity of this explanation, however; but, whatever else, certainly contemporary bull-fighting did not originate with the Arabs. [Mary and Jesus (peace be upon them) and Jesus, The Son of Mary (pbut) in the Holy Qur'an].

Then I encountered a most painful experience in Cordoba's Grand Mosque. As the tour was in progress, I felt the urge to perform two nafls, as tahat al-masjid. So I moved away from the group to a somewhat remote corner and began my prayers. As I stood there, performing the second raka'at, suddenly I felt the presence of an angry man, trembling with rage and breathing straight into my face, admonishing me with his gestures and screaming in Spanish, "No Muslim prayers.....No Muslim prayers" (so I understood). Momentarily, I resisted the pressure of this Catholic security guard; but he held and shook my arm, and forced me to break my niyat. Obviously, I was annoyed - but far more intense was my spiritual agony, for here was one of the most sacred heritages of Spanish Islam and as a Muslim, I was being denied the freedom to say prayers. This was despite my knowledge that post-Franco Spain had become more tolerant and that even the Spanish Parliament had passed legislation that accepted Islam, Judaism, Protestant Christianity as co-equals with Catholicism. Despite my protests (to be fair, the guide and some others joined my protest), the guard tightly held my arm and escorted me out of the Mosque. As I stood outside the Mosque, the pain was unbearable and my eyes filled with tears. And there I was, thinking of the late Allama Iqbal (1873-1938) of the Indian sub-continent who visited this Mosque in 1932 (with special permission from England, for until not long ago, Muslims and Jews were forbidden to enter Spain) and, having encountered similar experiences, he expressed his anguish in his poetry; thus, in his epic poem, "The Mosque of Qurtaba," he bemoaned:

        Oh Holy Mosque of Qurtaba, the shrine for all admirers of art
        Pearl of the one true faith, sanctifying Andalusia's soil
        Like Holy Mecca itself, such a glorious beauty
        Will be found on earth, only in a true Muslim's heart

As I stood there outside the Mosque, I was thinking of the well-known tolerance and protection that Islam has historically extended to other faiths. And my mind was occupied by the thoughts of Allama Iqbal's most touching poems he wrote during his visit to Spain. I had carried them with me to Spain and they became the source of some comfort in my pain. Of course, during the next day or so, I cautiously returned to the Mosque, accompanied by a Muslim colleague from France; and I was able to absorb its quiet spirituality more thoroughly.

But there is so much more of Islam's legacy in Cordoba. Guided by a city map, I decided to explore more by walking. Echoes of Cordoba's grandeur remain in the area around the Mosque, for it is typical of a Muslim town of small palaces, built around watered courtyards, and to explore these streets is to encounter unexpected joys: glimpses through open doors (which would have been shut in Islamic times) reveal cool, tiled and flower-filled patios. Street names in Arabic seemed common. "Alfaros" was the Arabic name of the hotel where I stayed, with some of the specialty rooms also named in Arabic (e.g., "Salon al-Zahra"). [Wonders of az-Zahra and Other Andalusian Palaces]. And there were churches, castles, and fortresses which would remind me of their Islamic past, either by their structure or some inscriptions. As I walked along the banks of Guadalquivir (derived from al-Wadi al-Kabir, or Great River, in Arabic), I saw the picturesque ruins of three flour-mills from the Islamic days, with a Roman bridge standing in the background. On the other side of the bridge stood an historic fort, the Tower of Calahorra (Arabic Qalah al-Harrah, or The Fort of Freedom), which houses a small but excellent Arab-funded Islamic Museum. The most spectacular sight, however, was that of a 9th century waterwheel (Spanish noira, from Arabic al-na'urah) still standing in the river. During centuries past, water used to be taken from here and transported through intricate channels to the Mosque and the rest of the city. Near the Mosque is the Alcazar (Al-Qasr in Arabic), built in the 8th century, the residence of the first Ummayad emir, Abdur Rehman. Then, of course, I had to pay homage to Ibn Rushd and visited his statue not far from the Mosque.

While I was unable to say prayers in the Grand Mosque, I knew that there was at least one functional mosque now in Cordoba. And I had also known of the newly-founded Ibn Rushd Islamic University in the vicinity of the Mosque. Upon some investigation, I located the university and the mosque that is within it; and I went there for Friday prayers on December 11th. That visit turned out to be quite an experience by itself. It was most moving to hear the sound of ada'an on the soil of Spain, where the general environment is still rather hostile and where once even the slightest suspicion of one's Islamic faith could lead to death. And, further, I discovered this irony: the university and the mosque are now located almost exactly at the spot where so much of the Islamic past was destroyed: religious scriptures and thousands of books written by Islamic scholars. This was also one of the spots where Muslims used to be burnt at the stake for their refusal to be baptized or for suspicion that they were not quite "Christian." Those who thus converted by force became known as Moriscos. Most Andalusians have that Morisco past even today, though over the centuries their identity is so thoroughly lost in the larger society that hardly anyone remembers or wants to remember, and any attempt to remind them arouses surprise, even ridicule and hostility (as I discovered for myself!). Of course, the Jews, though less numerous, had suffered similar fate in Spain, and those "baptized" were known as Conversos.

In the University's mosque, I met some native young Spaniards (including three women) who, having discovered their roots and/or having formally studied comparative religion, had embraced Islam. In fact, it was most moving to hear the Friday khutba from the mouth of a young Spanish Muslim, who spoke in fluent Arabic, and even provided translation in English as well as Spanish! Of course, he also led the prayers. As I think back of these young Spanish Muslims, I also reminisce about what that guide in the Granada cathedral had told me about the "young Spaniards converting out of fashion."

Then, at the University, I met the University's Rector, Dr. Ali M. Kettani, a Moroccan by origins [Dr. Kettani was the Director General of IFSTAD in the 1980s]. And it was a pleasant surprise, for he and I had briefly known each other in the 1980s when we were both located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I have not met many people with the dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to the cause of Islam that I observed in Dr. Kettani. With his own almost single-handed efforts, he has founded this small university in an environment which, though officially tolerant, still exudes Catholic fanaticism; I was told the university and mosque doors have to be locked all the time, for there have been instances of violence and vandalism. The University currently enrolls some students (Muslims and non-Muslims) and there are plans underway for expansion. However, there is also a desperate need for financial resources (anyone willing to contribute may contact the author).

And while visiting the University, I also learnt of a most gruesome tragedy that a prominent Muslim lady, Sabora Uribe, had suffered. Professionally a psychiatrist, the wife of the President of the Federation of Spanish Muslim Entities, the mother of five children, she had embraced Islam 20 years ago and was the founder of the Women's Spanish Muslim Association (called "Al-Nisa"). She was brutally murdered in a town near Cordoba on October 28, 1998. Some fanatic entered the house at night and stabbed her to death, the apparent motive being hatred for her Islamic faith and activities. The University has named one of its classrooms in her memory. One of her children attends the Islamic University in Cordoba.

Seville: A Detour


At the end of the Ibn Rushd colloquium and having absorbed as much of Cordoba as I could with the time available, a colleague and I decided to make a quick visit to Seville. Of course, this city has its own Islamic heritage. I had read somewhere that the Arabic name of Seville was Ishbilyya. After the advent of Islam, the city's Roman name Hispalis was 'arabized' to Ishbilyya, from which is derived Seville, pronounced "Savellya" in Spanish, which is almost the Arabic pronounciation. One of Islamic Ishbillya's famous 12th century scholar was the Muslim botanist Abu Zakariyah al-Awwam Ishibili who had identified nearly 600 plants and had developed methods of grafting; in the usual Arab fashion, he is named "Ishibili" after the city he came from. But there is more of Islamic past in Seville, submerged in the famous relics of the Alcazar and the Cathedral/La Giralda.

About like the Alhambra Palace, Seville's Alcazar (Al-Qasr) is another architectural jewel from the early days of Islam. It was built in the 8th century and then expanded in the 9th. Later the Christian rulers made further additions, but in spite of the Gothic details, the entire structure is essentially Islamic and follows the Islamic tradition of halls and open courts with water fountains. The walls are covered in painted stucco and glazed tiles. The blue and white inscription proclaims the same message that I saw in Alhambra: "wa la ghalib ill Allah" (There is no victor but Allah). Over the vestibule doors are elongated voussoirs which make a nice introduction to more fantasies. Multi-lobed arches support facades of a network of lace-like stone and foliage in which lurk human faces besides the shields of Castile (added during the Christian rule). There is the Hall of the Kings, with fine woodwork, a triple horseshoe-arched arcade and deep alcoves. Then there is the "Hall of the Ambassadors," with its similar triple arcades, sharply cut while the ornament is so lavish that it would numb the senses were it not for the vistas beyond. The dome is starlit above subdued muqarana squinches (shoulders of masonry supporting the dome, with interlocking woodwork producing the effect of stalactites) which catch and reflect the light. One of the most elaborate plaster designs in one of the halls is a foliate lattice inset with pine cones, some of which seemed crushed into thistle heads and others conjured into three-dimensional shells.

After absorbing the interior wonders of the Alcazar Palace, I walked through the well-trimmed hedges in the exterior, sat on the tiled benches and enjoyed the beautiful flowers as the Muslim emirs and their entourage must have enjoyed them when they were the masters. And I wondered: If only the Muslim architects would come here to the land of their forefathers to study the beautiful Andalusian architecture, what improvements could be made to the modern concrete boxes that are common place. And how the sons of the desert became such excellent gardeners and farmers still mystifies historians and scholars! They introduced so many different types of plants in the West: lemons, oranges, apricots, artichokes, dates, rice, sugarcane - it is a long list.

And then we walked to Seville's famous Cathedral and its La Giralda (The Minaret) - the grandest of the minarets, rivaled only by its parent, the kutubiyya of Marrakesh. The Cathedral is now where the Great Mosque of Seville was built in 1172; and the original minaret was built in 1198. The mosque was converted to Christian use in 1248. Later it was demolished, except for the dome and the minaret, and the Cathedral was built during the 15th century. I walked through the Cathedral and absorbed what I could, and we even walked to the top of the 165-feet tall minaret (no stairs, only gently sloping ramps). Aside from the visible dome and the minaret (both now "Christianized," of course), an astute visitor can also see the Cathedral's Islamic past in two other manifestations: an Arabic-language wall plate as one enters the minaret that tells of its architect, Abu Yusuf Ya'qub; and the huge entry gate whose doors not only have the Islamic design but also 12th century Arabic inscriptions. There is nothing inside the Cathedral that would suggest its Islamic past. There is the thoroughly Gothic architecture inside, with dozens of statues and paintings of Christian icons and other symbolisms. Yet, I was impressed by the Cathedral's interior, not only for its grandeur and richness but also for the serene and solemn atmosphere and the religious sanctity that it conveyed, much more than I felt in Granada's Cathedral. I also saw in the Cathedral the tomb of Christopher Columbus, who, after the 1492 fall of Islamic Granada, was charged by Isabella and Ferdinand to seek out India. [Columbus: What If?]. But one factor that caused him to pursue that task by traveling West was the Ottoman presence in the East; and guided by well-travelled Muslim navigators, he happened to "discover" the Americas in the same year (of course, many dispute and despise his adventures). [Islam and Columbus' America].

Some Concluding Remarks


While the splendid monuments of Islamic history that one encounters in Spain represent a tangible legacy of a great civilization, there are many others that are less tangible and which are part of daily lives and taken for granted. Perhaps the most telling example of continuing Islamic influence is the survival of myriad Arabic words and phrases in the Spanish language, such as almirante (al-amir), almohade (al-mohtasub), arroz (al-ruz), guitarra (qitar), aceituna (zaytuna), and many others. Further, when one hears "Ole'! Ole'!" during the Flamenco dances and Spanish bullfights, the unwitting reference is to "Allah! Allah!" And when a Spaniard or Portuguese says "Oj'ala'" (God willing), he probably does not even know that he is uttering the distorted version of Arabic "Insha-Allah." [Names of Arabic Origin...]. And there is so much more, including many customs and traditions that go back to the Islamic past, despite the fact that during the early 15th century Spanish Inquisition, anything with the slightest link to the Arabic language or Islamic faith or practice was absolutely forbidden and subject to the severest punishments.

Contemporary Spain vigorously promotes Alhambra and other monuments of Al-Andalus as major tourist attractions. Yet, the promoters, including the tour-guides, do not quite point out that these are legacies of nearly eight centuries during which Muslims not only occupied Spain but planted the roots of European Renaissance through unparalleled transfer of knowledge in almost every field known. In other words, while Spain and the West are happy to inherit and benefit from the legacy of Islamic Spain (with its own assimilation, to be sure, of the rediscovered Greek reservoir of knowledge), there is stubborn reluctance to acknowledging how that legacy contributed to Europe's ascendence. The American traveler, Washington Irving, observed this paradox when he visited Spain during early 18th century. The Spanish, he remarked, considered Muslims only as "invaders and usurpers;" and that still seems to the case today.

Yet, given the official acceptance of Islam in 1989, there is now freedom of religion in Spain, at least officially. However, fanaticism still becomes visible at times, such as the murder of a Muslim woman last October. According to information available from the Islamic University of Cordoba, there are now about 500,000 Muslims living in Spain - about 100,000 citizens, the rest are foreigners. Of the citizens, about 20,000 are converts, the rest are naturalized. Most of the new Muslims live in the Andalucia region, though one can find some in all regions of Spain. There are about 200 mosques in Spain today, 50 of them in the Andalucia region. At one time, of course, there were over 1600 mosques in Cordoba alone!

Finally, while I have had the good fortune of having done some traveling here and there, none - except my visits to Mecca and Medina - surpasses the spiritual and emotional experience that I felt upon being immersed for a few days into Spain's Islamic past. There is indeed a sense of pride and humility about the glorious age of my forbearers in faith. This personal exposure to Islamic legacy, as well as my other recent academic explorations into Islam's intellectual contributions and their impact in the making of the West, are in the nature of spiritual medicine, a sort of a therapy for the soul. Such encounters enable me to escape into history books and thus help me in overcoming the sense of inferiority and humiliation that haunts me as a Muslim; I suspect I am not alone. Again I am recalling a verse from Allama Iqbal's poem, Hispania:

        Indeed, my eyes observed and absorbed Granada; but
        My soul is at peace neither from travelling, nor stopping
        Saw so much, absorbed so much; told so much, heard so much;
        Yet, solace to the heart is neither from seeing, nor from hearing

While one can seek solace in such lamentations of the late Allama, yet one also yearns for a brighter Islamic future, as visualized in the writings of such universal intellectual giants as Ibn Sina (980-1037), Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058-1111; Sociology, Theology, and Philosophy), and Ibn Rushd (1126-1998). The meaning of life and its goal in Al-Andalus during its Islamic apogee directed each act of daily living, as well as scientific explorations. Such explorations were not set apart from wisdom and faith, and none can express this delicately-balanced bliss better than Ibn Rushd. Thus, during my visit to Cordoba's Islamic Museum, I noted this message from a recorded tape of Ibn Rushd's remarks from his book, On the Harmony of Science and Religion: (i) science, founded on experience and logic, to discover reason; (ii) wisdom, which reflects on the purpose of every scientific research so that it serves to make our life more beautiful; and (iii) revelation, that of our Qura'an, as it is only through revelation that we know the final purposes of our life and our history; Amen. Indeed, it is the gift of "reason" that the then civilized Islam, through Ibn Rushd and others, gave to the then primitive Europe. And it was their impact that the late Allama mentions in his poem, "The Mosque of Qurtaba:"

        Those whose vision guided the East and the West;
        Who showed Dark Europe the path of Enlightenment

jannah
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« Reply #12 on: Jun 15, 2010 09:17 PM »

This is REALLY GREAT:  A virtual walking tour of the Al-Hambra with voice commentary:

http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200604/alhambra/default.htm


Al-hamra'a

When the sun rises you think that it rises from Al-hamra'a , and when it sets you must think that it sets inside it .

It is the beginning of beauty , and the end of it .

From this site you can see Al-hamra'a shines and listen to its story
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jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!jannah is awe-inspiring mA!
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I heart the Madina


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« Reply #13 on: Dec 31, 2010 03:12 PM »

See gorgeous poetry on Al-Zahra in the Andalusian Poetry thread in Islamic Poetry!!!


Few know of the hidden wonders of Spain’s Madinat al-Zahra


The Salt Lake Tribune
Published Dec 28, 2010 04:49PM

Forgotten and in ruins for more than 900 years, a little-known Moorish city in southern Spain — the one-time seat of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula — is rising from obscurity.

Madinat al-Zahra, the palace city and capital of al-Andalus, or the Moorish caliphate that dominated most of the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years preceding the reconquest of Spain by Christian kings, is rising from ruins with an ambitious excavation and painstaking restoration.

Even in Spain, few know of the one-time grandeur and history of what has been hailed as the Versailles of the Middle Ages. Construction on the city began in 936 at the base of the Sierra Morena Mountains in the province of Andalucía, about 5 miles from Córdoba, at the behest of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. It was built to showcase his power after consolidating rule of most of the peninsula. Abd al-Rahman moved his court from Córdoba to Madinat al-Zahra in 947.

Construction continued for about 30 years more and involved 10,000 workers and 1,500 mules, according to the book La Mezquita de Cordoba y Madinat Al-Zahra , one of the few modern writings (published in 1953) on the capital city. The Spanish book contains one small chapter on the city; the rest focuses on the famed grand mosque still in existence in Córdoba.

Madinat al-Zahra was built in three terraced sections over 277 acres with more than 4,300 columns, including more than 1,000 from Tunis and 140 from the emperor of Constantinople, the book states. The city had an intricate water system, elaborate stonework and luxurious furniture and rugs. It was destroyed and sacked in 1010 during civil war in the caliphate. Marble pillars were taken and used in Córdoba and Sevilla.

Modern excavation of Madinat al-Zahra began in 1911 and continued with subsequent digs through the decades. It accelerated after 1985 when administration and management of the city was transferred to the regional government of Andalucía. Only 10 percent of the city has been excavated.

Modern museum and headquarters

In October 2009, a large museum, artifact repository and headquarters opened a few miles from the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra. Much of the building is below ground. Restored stonework, pottery and other pieces taken from the ruins are carefully displayed and protected. Facilities include a specialized library, auditorium, restoration rooms and cafeteria.

Cost » Entrance to the museum is free for European Union residents but 1.25 euros for nonresidents. The price includes transport to the ruins by bus and back again. Buses run every 15 minutes.
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