Al-Andalus: Unforgotten Memory (Special)

Nowadays, Spain has a population of 44,709,000 millions. Just a 1,080,000 million (2.3%) out of them are Muslims.

Once mentioning Spain and Islam together, drawings of lively scenery of 800 years of a golden civilization- once called Al-Andalus -just pop up in your mind.

All over Europe, Spain mathematically owns the longest history of Islam in the continent.

During the eight centuries of Al-Andalus, the Muslim dominating majority of the Iberian Peninsula’s population which used to adhere to Arianism - (a non-Trinitarian Christian doctrine that is theologically close to Islam) - was formed genetically of indigenous Iberians, Indo-European Celt settlers, Germanic Vandal settlers, Semitic Phoenician settlers and Germanic Visigothic settlers whom all were named (Muladies) and converted by majority to Islam starting from the 10th century.

That’s on the contrary of the common mistake most people believe in that the Iberian Peninsula (Spain & Portugal) was flooded by North African Mediterranean Hamitic Amazigh (Berber) and Semitic Arabs.

Nowadays, Spain has a population of 44,709,000 millions. Just a 1,080,000 million (2.3%) out of them are Muslims after expelling the majority of its Indigenous Iberian Muslims and converting the rest to Catholicism during the Reconquista in 1492.

Unlike the indigenous Iberian Muslims of medieval Andalus, the modern Muslim population in Spain started to arrive in significant numbers in the 1970s from Morocco.

Locations, Cities and Landmarks:

5_Madrid_Mezquita_Abu_Bakr* Madrid: The first Mosque in modern Spain after the expelling the majority of all native Muslims of indigenous ethnic Iberian (Muladies ) ancestries, and settler Amazigh and Arabs in 1492, was built after 490 years in 1982 in Madrid.

There are very few big newly built mosques in Spain, only four: two in Madrid (Abu Bakr Mosque and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Madrid), one in Valencia (Islamic Cultural Centre of Valencia) and another one in Granada.

6_Toledo_Mosque_of_Cristo_de_la_Luz* Toledo: Toledo was dotted with ten mosques like Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, Mezquita-Catedral San Sebastián and Mezquita de las Tornerías. According to the Spanish Ministry of Justice Office of Religious Affairs (MOJ)'s, in 2007 Spain listed 443 entities of Islam in the entire country. At the end of 2008 there were 641 Muslim religious entities in whole Spain.

Mosques in Spain are predominantly small spaces. They are usually located in garages or warehouses on the outskirts of the towns because communities don't easily find better places or because local authorities and neighbors are opposed to mosques being opened in town centers.

7_Zaragoza_Aljafera_Palace* Zaragoza- Aljafería Palace: is a fortified Islamic palace built by Banu Hud dynasty taifa during the 2nd half of the 11th century in Zaragoza.
8_Mlaga_Alcazaba* Málaga- Málaga Alcazaba:  an Islamic citadel erected in Málaga, Spain during the mid-11th century. Málaga Alcazaba encompasses over 100 military towers and three palaces. The citadel is three centuries older than both fortresses “Alcazar of Sevilla” and “Alhambra of Granada”.

9_Alcazaba_de_Mrida* Mérida- Alcazaba de Mérida: is a UNESCO Heritage site and the first Muslim citadel in Al-Andalus. This 9th century fortification is located near the well-known Roman Bridge Puente Romano over the Guadiana River. The castle was built in 835 by Abd ar-Rahman II of Córdoba as a big square with walls of 10 meters height, 2.7 meters thickness and 25 towers.

* Plama de Majorca- La Almudaina Royal Palace : is the rectangular fortified palace (Alcázar) of the city of Palma de Mallorca, the capital city of the Island of Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. It was built by Almoravids dynasty “the revivalists of Al-Andalus” in 1117 with several guard towers, the most notable of which is “Torre del Angel” (Angel Tower).

1_Algeciras*Algeciras : the first location where the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate Army led by the Amazigh general Tariq ibn Ziyad first landed on Iberia soil.

In modern Spain, the state recognizes Islam since 1967, affording it a number of privileges including the rights of teaching Islam in schools and observing Islamic religious holidays. In 1989, 15 Islamic organizations joined forces to form the Union of the Islamic Association, later becoming the Union of Islamic Society and expanding to 17 members.

2_Alhambra*Alhambra, Palace & Fortress of Granada: is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of Islamic Gothic Architecture. Building of Alhambra started in the 13th century by several rulers from the Nasrid Dynasty of the Emirate of Granada, the remaining province of Al-Andalus.

In 2003, the sound of the Muslim call to prayer returned once again to Granada for the first time since the Reconquista in 1492, with the opening of the Great Mosque of Granada. It is encouraging to note that the mosque was built to cater for a group of about 500 Spanish Muslims who had converted to Islam over the past 30 years.

3_Crdoba_Mezquita* Córdoba Mezquita-Catedral: is another Islamic World Heritage Site of religious significance to both Catholics and Muslims. It’s artistically and architecturally considered to be an Islamic Andalusian masterpiece. Around 600 AD the building was a Visigothic Christian church for St. Vincent.

Abd ar-Rahman I the founder of the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba divided the building between Muslims and Christians, allowed the Christians to rebuild all their ruined churches, and later purchased the Christian half of the building. Abd ar-Rahman I and his descendants reworked the mosque over two centuries. Additionally, Abd ar-Rahman I also used the building as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honor his wife.

Later on during Reconquista in 1236, Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile and the mosque was turned back into a church.

On December 27, 2006, the Islamic community of Spain appealed to Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican to allow Muslim worshippers to pray at the Córdoba Mezquita. The Islamic comunity asked the Vatican to convert the Mezquita into an ecumenical center where members of all faiths could worship. On December 28, the Archbishop of Córdoba declined this request in addition to the refusal of the Vatican.

4_Grand_Mosque_of_El-Qasabah_of_Seville* The Grand Mosque of El-Qasabah of Seville: is another historically famous Islamic landmark which got converted to the current largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

  • Josef W. Meri & Jere L. Bacharach. Medieval Islamic Civilization. Routledge. 2005. p. 176 ff.
  • David Levering Lewis, God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215, W. W. Norton & Company, (2008) p. 272 ff.
  • Payne, Stanley G. "A History of Spain and Portugal; Ch. 2 Al-Andalus". The Library of Iberian Resources Online. 1973. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  • Fernando Bravo. Spanish National Statistics Institute. January 1, 2009.
  • Total population - Spanish National Institute of Statistics. 2005 figures.
  • Observatorio Andalusi. 2006 Annual Report.
  • Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE).
  • US Department of State. International Religious Freedom Report. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007 Report.
  • Fernando Bravo. Euro-Islam: News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and North America. 2007.
  • Thomas F. Glick. Islamic and Christian Spain in the early middle ages. The Library of Iberian Resources Online.
  • Lynch, John. Spain under the Habsburgs. (vol. 2). Oxford, England: Alden Mowbray Ltd. 1969.
  • Dwight F. Reynolds. When the Moors Ruled in Europe documentary. 2005.
  • Islamic Commission of Spain.
  • The Christian Science Monitor.
  • The Spanish Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Office of Religious Affairs.
  • Spanish Deputy Minister for Immigration. 2005.
  • The European Observatory for Racism. 2006 Report.
  • The Pew Global Attitudes Project.
  • The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 2010.
  • Metroscopia Polling Organisation. 2006 Report.
  • The Spanish Ministry of Interior.
Related Links:
The Rise and Fall of Al-Andalus
A Glimpse of Muslim Spain
A Mini-Guide to Andalucia
Islam is the Assistant Editor of the Health & Science Section of OnIslam.net. He studied Biology as a major and he's an Administrative Member in The Astronomical Society of Mahmoud Mosque (ASMM), Egypt. He achieved a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology from The Institute of African Researches & Studies, Cairo University.

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