The Myth of Muslim Spain as a Model of Coexistence for Today

| March 4, 2011 | Comments (9)

Muslims ruled the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) or part of it for some 800 years from 711-1492.There is the idea in the West,based on lack of serious investigation by journalists and by the claims of Muslim intellectuals that Muslim rule there was a “model for today”.

An example of tolerance,peaceful coexistance and harmony.They call it the “Spirit of Al-Andalus”.Al-Andalus was the name the Arabs gave to the peninsula.They even say:”Let us get back the Spirit of Al-Andalus.”

The Book “Ornament of the World:How Muslims,Jews and Christians created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain”(2002) by Maria Rosa Menocal

Muslim expansion up to 750

Muslim expansion up to 750

The book has that theme,Muslim Spain at its best is a model for today for how Muslims,Jews and Christians should coexist.She shows ignorance of the Koran since she never cites that the Koran curses Jews and Christians till the Day of Judgement.A clear example of intolerance.She is a professor of Spanish and Portuguese in Yale,she is not a historian,nor an expert on religion.And she has obviously failed to do basic investigation.

Allah cursing the Christians

Chapter 5:14:

“And with those who say “We are Christians” We took compact; and they have forgotten a portion of that they were reminded of. So We (Note:Allah) have stirred up among them enmity and hatred, till the Day of Resurrection.”

Allah cursing the Jews

Chapter 5:64:

They (Note:the Jews) have said, “God’s hand is fettered.” Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said. No, but His hands are outspread; He expends how He will. And what has been sent down to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in insolence and unbelief;

and We (Note:Allah) have cast between them enmity and hatred, till the Day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, God will extinguish it. They hasten about the earth, to do corruption there; and God loves not the workers of corruption.”

She also doesn’t mention the Koran never condemns slavery

It encurages freeing slaves,but there is never a condemnation of slavery in principle,if only implicitly.In fact one law in the Koran says to free a slave if he asks for it,but only if the master thinks the slave deserves it.The principle of slavery itself is approuved.

Chapter 24:33:

“And let those who find not the means to marry be abstinent till God enriches them of His bounty.

1.Those your right hands own(Note:euphemism for slaves)  who seek emancipation, contract with them accordingly,

2.If you know good in them; and give them of the wealth of God that He has given you.

And constrain not your slave-girls to prostitution, if they desire to live in chastity, that you may seek the chance goods of the present life. Whosoever constrains them, surely God, after their being constrained, is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”

In fact she doesn’t mention in her book the following:

1.That it was the Muslim custom to send an army every year from Cordoba,the Muslim capital,to capture Christian men as slaves and Christian women as sex slaves.

2.That non-Muslim women in the ornament of the world were treated worse that Muslim women.The caliph of Spain in Cordoba,in the 10th century,had a harem of 5,000 Christian women as slaves for sexual purposes.

You see that in other cases:the Moghul emperor Akbar of India,who was Muslim most of his life had a harem of 5,000 Hindu women,his sucessor Jahangir had one of 6,000 Hindu Muslim,the Moroccan king Moulay Ismail (early 1700’s) had a harem of 500 Christian and non-Muslim African women.

In fact she doesn’t mention at all the fact that it is authorized in the Koran 4 times:

a)Chapter 33:50
b)Chapter 23:1-7
c)Chapter 70:27-31
d)Chapter 4:23-24

3.That only non-Muslims could be slaves and were slaves but not viceversa.

4.She never condemns,in her book,which states over and over again how great Muslim rule was,the penalty by death if one criticized Muhammad and the Koran.A great culture of tolerance indeed.

An Apercu(Overview) of Muslim History in Spain

It lasted from 711 till 1492

1.From 711 till 929:

The peninsula was part of the Abbasid Empire,its capital being Bagdad.

2.From 929-1031:

It was an independant caliphate,with Cordoba as its capital.The Caliph had an impressive library of 400,000 books,the biggest in Europe,and there were 70 libraries in Cordoba.There was a time when the caliph was a puppet and it was really ruled by the strongman called Al-Mansur (938-1002).He  practically conquered the entire peninsula.He:

1.Led 50 raids of destruction against the Christians in the north for 20 years to get slaves and booty.He destroyed a number of towns and cities.

2.He destroyed the church of Santiago de Compostela in 997,a place of pilgrimage,but respected what is said to be the tomb of St.James,the brother of John the Evangelist.

The period from 711-1031 is supposed to be “the best” one,”the ideal one”,the one put forth as a model for today.

End of the Caliphate

It lasted for 100 years from 929-1031.Afterward it split into little kingdoms called taifas.In 1066 practically all the 4,000 Jews of Granada were massacred.It was the first pogrom of the Jews in Europe.Later a group of fanatical Muslims from Morocco entered and took over.

The Almoravids (1086-1147)

They were a fanatical group who entered Muslim Spain from Morocco and persecuted Christians and Jews.Many fled to Christian Spain.In 1033 6,000 Jews had been massacred in Fez,Morocco,the whole Jewish community.The Amoravids made half of the peninsula part of their Moroccan Empire.

The Almohads (1147-1269)

They were even more fanatical and also came from Morocco,they had conquered the Almoravids in Morocco and persecution and death of Christians and Jews increased alot.With them a part of Spain was also part of Morocco.

The Battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212)

Undeniably one of the turning points in history.The Muslims under the Almohads decided to destroy the Christian power once and for all.The kings of all the peninsular kingdoms (Castille,Portugal,Navarre and Aragon) joined together.In the battle 100,000 Muslims were killed or captured.

After that nothing stopped the Christians.City after city was captured.All of Portugal was free by 1250,and Cordova and Seville fell.By 1275 90% of all the peninsula was out of Muslim control.The reconquest was in effect over.

The Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (1232-1492)

Since it has helped the Christians it was allowed to exist,ad it did till 1492.It was then that they built the beautiful Alhambra (“the red one”),the king’s palace,so-called since red stone was used.It is very plain and unimpressve ont the outside but beautiful inside.

The king of Castille was impressed by Muslim architecture and he had his palace built in the Muslim style around 1360.He was king Pedro I and his palace is called the Alcazar of Seville.Alcazar mean “the palace” inArabic.It was built by Muslim craftsmen and it looks almost exactly like the Alhambra.Click here to see pictures of it:

Converting to Islam

It is believed that about 80% of the people in Muslim Spain were Muslim by the 9th-10th century due to mass conversion.When the Spaniards,Catalans and Portuguese reconquered vast areas from 1075-1275,in 200 years,they conquered many Muslims.

There was never wholesale persecution of the Muslims like under the Almoravids and Almohads against the Christians.Yet by 1475,or in 200 years practically all those people had become Christian.In 1475 the vast majority of the Muslims were in the kingdom of Granada (population:300,000).Virtually all in that kingdom were Muslim while out side there were some 8 million non-Muslims in the rest of the peninsula.

The Christian Martyrs of Cordoba (850-055 AD)

Some 50 Christians were executed for criticizing Muhammad and the Koran.But that is not all,we have documentary evidence that people in the Golden Age of Muslim Spain were executed only because they had left Islam,they had not even criticized it.Read it,it’s very moving indeed.

The Myth about Maimonides (1138-1204)

He was the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middles.He is put up as an example of Muslim tolerance in Spain.In fact his family had to flee Muslim Spain because of persecution of the Jews.They went to Morocco where they had to flee again because of Muslim intolerance.They finally found peace in Muslim Egypt.

He wrote the Guide to the Perplexed and a commentary on Mosaic law called the Mishna Torah.There is the saying:”From Moses to Moses there is none like Moses”.In his Letter to the Jews of Yemen he called Muhammad “Ha Meshuga” which means “the crazy man”.The disdain with which he held Islam is not mentioned in Menocal’s book due to her lack of knowledge.For more details:

The Myth of Averroes (1126-1198)

He was the greatest Arab philosopher of all time but what they don’t tell you is he was also a religious jurist who wrote a manuel for Muslim judges where he says to kill those who leave Islam.Menocal never mentions it either,lack of knowledge.For more:

Other Famous Figures:

Here I deal only with those who lived in Muslim Spain,not the intellectuals and writers who were in Christian Spain (the author of The Cid,the great poet Juan Ruiz,the Catalan philosopher and writer Raymond Lull,etc).That is another story.We have:

1.Abulcassis (931-1013)

A great physician and he can be considered the father of modern surgery,he invented many surgical techniques and instruments.

2.Ibn Hazim (994-1064)

He was a poet famous for his love poems in “The Dove’s Necklace”.He also wrote a book against Christianity where he show great ignorance,similar to Ahmed Deedat.

2.Judah Halevi (1075-1140)

He was the greatest Jewish poet of the Middle Ages.His masterpiece is “The Kuzari”,in Arabic.From 750-1000 the rulers of the kingdom of Khazar,a Turkic-language kingdom (near the Caucasus) were Jewish,they had converted to Judaism,maybe the common people had also,scholars debate the point.His work has the king examine the claims of 4 persons:a Christian,a Muslim,a philosopher and a Jew as to which has the truth.He decides for Judaism.

The Case of Frederick II (1194-1250)

He was the most powerful monarch in Europe,the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire,a very brilliant man,an intellectual.He was called Stupor Mundi,”the Wonder of the World”.Analysing him all indicates he did not believe in Christianity.Now at his court:

1.He had 20 Muslim women from age 20 to 40 at his court in Sicily who he said were his servants.

2.People said he had a harem,they were his women slaves for sexual purposes.

Alot of historians believe it is true.The point is that not even the most powerful man in Europe could openly say:”I have sex slaves”.Why?Because it would cause a moral scandal,it was unacceptable.Contrast that with society accepting 10,000 Christian women,sex slaves by the Caliph in Muslim Spain.


It shows women in Christian Spain and Europe had a higher status and respect.

The Myth of who is Responsible for Transfering New Knowledge to Europe

You hear it all the time:”Europe owes Muslims the transfer of Greek and Arab science and philosophy in the Middle Ages.”It is not true.The Muslims,on their own initiative learned the science and philosophy of the Greeks and the science of the Indians.Again it was on their own initiative.So nobody ever says:”The Muslims owe the transfer of Greek and Indian science to the Greeks and Indians”.Nobody.

In the same way the phrase “Europe owes Muslims the transfer of Greek and Arab science and philosophy in the Middle Ages” is a myth.Muslims didn’t say “let us translate all this into Latin”,no more than Greek and Indians said:”Let us translate our knowledge into Arabic.”

The Toledo School of Translation

It is the Europeans themselves who have the merit.They were the ones who had the idea,not the Muslims.Toledo was captured by the Spaniards in 1085 and made the capital.For the next few centuries the king and others ordered the translation of Arabic works into Latin.

The most famous of the translators was the Italian Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187) who translated 70 scientific works.After him we have John of Seville (12th century),a Jewish convert to Christianity.

What if Spain Today treated its Muslims like Muslim Spain treated its Christians?

Let us have Al-Andalus today in Spain and since the rulers are non-Muslim how would Spain’s 1 million Muslims be treated?There would be:

1.Legal slavery for Muslims by non-Muslims but not viceversa.

2.Non-Muslims can have Muslim women slaves for sex,but not viceversa.

3.Muslims who preach Islam are to be executed.

4.People who convert to Islam are to be executed.

An Example of giving a False View of Reality

In the BBC documentary “When the Moors ruled Spain” there is absolutely nothing of what I have stated,nothing.It shows the BBC is not as good as it should be,it can’t be relied on for everything.

What is the Muslim Legacy in Spain?

Apart from the Alhambra and what is left of the mosque of Cordoba there is virtually nothing,except for flamenco dancing.

1.Political Legacy:

The Portuguese and Spaniards owe their ideas of democracy from the Greeks,not the Muslims.

2.Legal System:

They owe it to the Romans.The Romans established the principle of “all are equal before the law”.In Islamic law non-Muslims are less equal than Muslims.In Roman law monogamy was the law,not polygamy.


They say there are 4,000 Arab words in Spanish.If there are then the vast majority are hardly used,I know what I am talking about.Some are common words in several European languages like alcool,quimica(chemistry),algoritmo,algebra.Others are common only in Spanish like aceite (Arab for oil),aceituna(Arab for olive).Others exist but are virtually dead like alcazar (Arab for “the palace”).Nobody uses it anymore,everybody says palacio.

In short Spanish and Portuguese and Catalan are not 50% Arabic,50% Latin.They are not hybrid tongues like English (50% French) and Swahili (50% Arab,50% Bantu).

To verify the Koranic citations go to, which has:

1.Six translations by Muslims.
2.Four translations by Non-Muslims.
3.The text in Arabic,with Latin letters.

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