I read about the history of Muslim spain long time ago, but I was not very sure about how the fall came about. I think now I have a better idea.
But before I get into the history, let me recount an experience.
I was talking to an ultra-orthodox friend of mine. He told me this about Spain (Al-Andalus)- “the Muslims there were so impious that when the Christians told them to wait the Muslims did not have the ability to run or fight. The Christians came back with swords to slaughter them.
I was deeply disturbed by this account. There was no sympathy for a race that was being persecuted! There was, instead, a contempt for the sufferer (a signature of right wing mind).
It is a sad story and a shameful one for the Musilms. And a demostration of how easily unity of Ummah can fall apart.
Problem started when the Umayyad dynasty at Baghdad was overthrown by the Abbasids. A young surviving Umayyad prince named Abd-ar-Rahman came to Spain and started to rule there. The Abbasids, sure enough,did not like the development. They sent a band of soldiers to kill Abd-ar-Rahman. These soldiers were duly defeated by Abd-ar-Rahman, and he then declared Andalus independent of Baghdad.
Can you imagine what happened next? The Abbasids formed an alliance with the French kings and warlords who were fighting Muslim Andalus from the north. The Andalusians, in turn, allied with the Byzantine empire who were defending their falling empire againt invading Muslims.
Even inside Andalus things were not black and white. There were many Christians fighting for the Muslims. For the invading French, however, things were black and white. They considered Muslims as pagans and heretics who had to be destroyed.
Meanwhile Abd-ar-Rahman’s successor Abd-ar-Rahman III declared himself the Caliph of all Muslims.
This proved fatal. Succession struggle became so bitter that the empire fell into pieces of city states. Muslim Andalus never recovered from this infighting which was almost a civil war. Add to the problem- the invading French from the north.
The city states held out for about three more centuries among infighting and constant attack from the north.
In 1492, with the fall of Granada, fall of Muslim spain was complete. Then came in Spanish Inquisition, the brutality of which I better not mention, except that no less than a million books on theology, physics, chemistry, astornomy, philosophy and medicine burned.
So what do I make of the narrative of my ultra-orthodox friend? I think that the Abbasids, who were never quite friendly with the Umayyad Al-Andalus spread these rumours about Andalusian Muslims, as propaganda. I would argue that these propaganda has survived through ages.
Instead of helping the tolerant and coherent Muslim Andalus, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side, they (both the Andalusian and the Baghdadi Caliphate) paved the path for inquisition and maybe even the crusades.