A history of Moorish Spain (part 2)


The distinctive green and white flag of modern Andalucía dates from 756AD owing its existence to Abd-er-Rahman as before the battle that he won against Al-Fihri to take the prize of Cordoba and therefore Al-Andalus his army had not prepared a flag so a green turban was hastily wrapped around a white spear with the green signifying hope and the white peace.

Abd-er-Rahman now the Emir of Al-Andalus started construction of the Mezquita around 785AD and according to legend proclaimed “Let us build a Mosque which will surpass that of Bagdad, that of Damascus, and that of Jerusalem, which shall be the greatest temple of Islam and become the Mecca of the Occident.”


The mosque was similar in style to the great mosque of Damascus, the city where Abd-er-Rahman had escaped from 30 years previously.

Christian slaves constructed the mosque with the help of stones from razed churches and the Emir also helped, working for an hour a day. The work continued for nearly 300 years with each subsequent ruler adding further to the building.

In 788AD Hisham the First succeeded as Emir, born in Cordoba he called for Jihad and Moslems flocked from abroad. In 793AD with his new army he waged war against the far northern enclave of the Kingdom of Asturias where Christians had flocked to after the initial Moorish invasion around 720AD. He won that battle but was then defeated by the Frankish King William the First when he attacked the County of Toulouse in what is now France. He died in 796AD.

Al-Hakam the First was Emir from 796-822AD and founded the first university in Cordoba. This was an enlightened time and both Jews and Christians were given more religious freedom in Al Andalus than anywhere else in the world. The price was a special tax or Jizya meaning people of the book. The alternative was to convert to Islam or if one preferred execution. Moslems were also allowed to marry Christians with the offspring given the term Muwallad nowadays known as Mulatto.

During the period from 807-811AD Emir Al-Hakam had many victories in the north against the Frankish Christian King Charlemagne taking Gascony in 809AD. Charlemagne had the title Emperor of the Romans given to him by Pope Leo the Third after quelling a rebellion against the Pope in Rome in 800AD. Charlemagne was also a learned man and set up the first ever Christian library.  Paradoxically the two leaders fought against each other whilst both encouraging spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. They did however forge a peace treaty in 816AD.

Al-Hakam earned the title Al-Muzaffar meaning great warrior.

There were rebellions in Al-Andalus during this whole period; one in Toledo in 800AD meant 300 prominent people were put to death. The largest revolt was by Moslem clerics in Cordoba and was crushed around 817-818AD with Al-Hakam ordering 300 people to be crucified on the banks of what was then called al-wādi al-kabīr ‘The Great River’. We now know it as the Guadalquivir.

800 survivors were expelled with some going to Fez where they set up the Andalucían quarter which can still be seen today and others fleeing to Alexandria.

In 827AD they moved again to Crete where they set up an emirate which survived until the beginning of the Byzantine reconquest in 961AD.

Al-Hakam has two reputations, one as a ruthless leader and also that of someone who used diplomacy and reconciliation when it was in Al-Andalus’ best interests to do so. He did extend Moslem rule across Spain and also cleverly maintained a balance between a secular and theological state.

Al-Hakam was succeeded in 822AD by Abd ar-Rahman the Second who ruled for 30 years until his death. But more about Abr ar-Rahman another time.




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