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Al-Andalus ( ) was the Arabic name given to the parts of the Iberian Peninsulamarker and Septimaniamarker governed by Arab and North African Muslims (given the generic name of Moors), at various times in the period between 711 and 1492.

Following the conquest, al-Andalus was divided into five administrative areas roughly corresponding to Andalusiamarker, Galiciamarker and Lusitania, Castile and Léonmarker, Aragonmarker and Cataloniamarker, and Septimaniamarker. As a political domain or domains, it successively constituted a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, initiated by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711–750); the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750–929); the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031); and the Caliphate of Córdoba's taifa (successor) kingdoms.

In succeeding centuries, Al-Andalus became a province of the Berber Muslim dynasties of the Almoravids and Almohads, subsequently fragmenting into a number of minor states, most notably the Emirate of Granada. For large parts of its history, particularly under the Caliphate of Córdoba, Al-Andalus was a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdobamarker became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in both the Mediterranean basin and the Islamic world.

For much of its history, Al-Andalus existed in conflict with Christian kingdoms to the north. In 1085, Alfonso VI of León and Castile captured Toledomarker, precipitating a gradual decline until, by 1236, with the fall of Córdoba, the Emirate of Granada remained the only Muslim-ruled territory in what is now Spainmarker. The Portuguesemarker Reconquista culminated in 1249 with the conquest of the Algarve by Afonso III. In 1238, Granada officially became a tributary state to the Kingdom of Castile, then ruled by Ferdinand III. On January 2, 1492, Muhammad XII surrendered complete control of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, "The Catholic Monarchs".

Etymology of al-Andalus

The etymology of the word "al-Andalus" is disputed. Furthermore, the extent of Iberian territory encompassed by the name changed over the centuries. As a designation for Iberia or its southern portion, the name is first attested by inscriptions on coins minted by the new Muslim government in Iberia circa 715 (the uncertainty in the year is due to the fact that the coins were bilingual in Latin and Arabic and the two inscriptions differ as to the year of minting).

At least three specific etymologies have been proposed in Western scholarship, all presuming that the name arose after the Roman period in the Iberian Peninsula's history. Their originators or defenders have been historians. Recently, linguistics expertise has been brought to bear on the issue. Arguments from toponymy (the study of place names), history, and language structure demonstrate the lack of substance in all preceding proposals, and evidence has been presented that the name predates the Roman occupation rather than postdates it.

A major objection to all earlier proposals is that the very name Andaluz (the equivalent of Andalus in Spanish spelling) exists in several places in mountainous areas of Castile. Furthermore, the fragment and- is common in Spanish place names, and the fragment -luz also occurs several times across Spain.

Older proposals

The name was traditionally believed to be derived from "Vandal" (the Germanic tribe that colonized parts of Iberia from 407 to 429), however, there is no historical evidence to support this. This proposal is sometimes associated with the 19th century historian Reinhart Dozy, but it predates him and he recognized some of its shortcomings. Although he accepted that "al-Andalus" derived from "Vandal", he believed that geographically it referred only to the harbor from which the Vandals departed Iberia for Africa—the location of which harbour was unknown.

Another proposal is that "Andalus" is an Arabic language version of the name "Atlantis". This idea has recently been defended by the Spanish historian Vallvé, but purely on the grounds that it is allegedly plausible phonetically and would explain several toponymic facts (no historical evidence was offered). In Modern Standard Arabic, the name for "Atlantis" is aţlānţis.

Vallvé writes:

Arabic texts offering the first mentions of the island of al-Andalus and the sea of al-Andalus become extraordinarily clear if we substitute this expressions with "Atlántida" or "Atlantic".
The same can be said with reference to Hercules and the Amazons whose island, according to Arabic commentaries of these Greek and Latin legends, was located in jauf al-Andalus—that is, to the north or interior of the Atlantic Oceanmarker.

The "Island of al-Andalus" is mentioned in an anonymous Arabic chronicle of the conquest of Iberia composed two to three centuries after the fact. It is identified as the location of the landfall of the advance guard of the Moorish invasion of Iberia. The chronicle also says that "Island of al-Andalus" was subsequently renamed "Island of Tarifa". The preliminary invasion force of a few hundred, led by the Berber chief, Tarif abu Zura, seized the first bit of land that is encountered after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in 710. The main invasion force led by Tariq ibn Ziyad followed them a year later. The landfall, now known in Spain as either Punta Marroquí or Punta de Tarifa, is in fact the southern tip of an islet, presently known as Isla de Tarifa or Isla de las Palomas, just offshore of the Iberian mainland.

This testimony of the Arab chronicle, the modern name "Isla de Tarifa", and the above mentioned toponymic evidence that "Andaluz" is a name of pre-Roman origin taken together lead to the supposition that the "Island of Andalus" is the present day Isla de Tarifa, which lies just offshore from the modern day Spanish city of Tarifa. The extension of the scope of the designation "Al-Andalus" from a single islet to all of Iberia has several historical precedents.

In the 1980s, the historian Halm, also rejecting the "Vandal" proposal, originated an innovative alternative. Halm took as his points of departure ancient reports that Germanic tribes in general were reported to have distributed conquered lands by having members draw lots, and that Iberia during the period of Visigothic rule was sometimes known to outsiders by a Latin name, Gothica Sors, whose meaning is 'lot Gothland'. Halm thereupon speculated that the Visigoths themselves might have called their new lands "lot lands" and done so in their own language. However, the Gothic language version of the term Gothica Sors is not attested. Halm claimed to have been able to reconstruct it, proposing that it was *landahlauts (the asterisk is the standard symbol among linguists for a linguistic form that is merely proposed, not attested). Halm then suggested that the hypothetical Gothic language term gave rise to both the attested Latin term, Gothica Sors (by translation of the meaning), and the Arabic name, Al-Andalus (by phonetic imitation). However, Halm did not offer evidence (historical or linguistic) that any of the language developments in his argument had in fact occurred.

The Emirate and Caliphate of Córdoba

Under the orders of the Great Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I, Tariq ibn-Ziyad led a small force that landed at Gibraltarmarker on April 30, 711. After a decisive victory at the Battle of Guadalete on July 19, 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim occupation in a seven-year campaign. They crossed the Pyreneesmarker and occupied parts of southern France, but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. However Poitiers did not stop the progress of the Berber Arabs and in 734 Avignonmarker was occupied, Arlesmarker was looted and the whole of Provence was overrun. In 737, the Muslims reached Burgundy, where they captured a large quantity of slaves to take back to Iberia. Charles Martel responded with continuous campaigns against the Muslims in the south of Gaul between 736 and 739 and twenty years later, in 759, the Franks under the leadership of Pepin the Short expelled the Muslims from Septimaniamarker which was one of the five administrative areas of Al-Andalus .

The Iberian peninsula, except for the Kingdom of Asturias, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire, under the name of al-Andalus. The earliest attestation of this Arab name is a dinar coin, preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Madridmarker, dating from five years after the conquest (716). The coin bears the word "al-Andalus" in Arabic script on one side and the Iberian Latin "Span" on the obverse.

At first, al-Andalus was ruled by governors appointed by the Caliph, most ruling for periods of under three years. However, from 740, a series of civil wars between various Muslim groups in Iberia resulted in the breakdown of Caliphal control, with Yūsuf al-Fihri, who emerged as the main winner, effectively becoming an independent ruler.

In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads for control of the great Arab empire. But in 756, the exiled Umayyad prince Abd-ar-Rahman I (later titled Al-Dākhil) ousted Yūsuf al-Fihri to establish himself as the Emir of Córdobamarker. He refused to submit to the Abbasid caliph, as Abbasid forces had killed most of his family. Over a thirty year reign, he established a tenuous rule over much of al-Andalus, overcoming partisans of both the al-Fihri family and of the Abbasid caliph.

For the next century and a half, his descendants continued as emirs of Córdoba, with nominal control over the rest of al-Andalus and sometimes even parts of western North Africa, but with real control, particularly over the marches along the Christian border, vacillating depending on the competence of the individual emir. Indeed, the power of emir Abdallah ibn Muhammad (circa 900) did not extend beyond Córdoba itself.But his grandson Abd-al-Rahman III, who succeeded him in 912, not only rapidly restored Umayyad power throughout al-Andalus but extended it into western North Africa as well. In 929 he proclaimed himself Caliph, elevating the emirate to a position competing in prestige not only with the Abbasid caliph in Baghdadmarker but also the Shi'ite caliph in Tunismarker—with whom he was competing for control of North Africa.
The period of the Caliphate is seen by Muslim writers as the golden age of al-Andalus. Crops produced using irrigation, along with food imported from the Middle East, provided the area around Córdoba and some other Andalusī cities with an agricultural economic sector by far the most advanced in Europe. Among European cities, Córdoba under the Caliphate, with a population of perhaps 500,000, eventually overtook Constantinoplemarker as the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. Within the Islamic world, Córdoba was one of the leading cultural centres. The work of its most important philosophers and scientists (notably Abulcasis and Averroes) had a major influence on the intellectual life of medieval Europe.

Muslims and non-Muslims often came from abroad to study in the famous libraries and universities of al-Andalus after the reconquista of Toledo in 1085. The most noted of these was Michael Scot (c. 1175 to c. 1235), who took the works of Ibn Rushd ("Averroes") and Ibn Sina ("Avicenna") to Italymarker. This transmission was to have a significant impact on the formation of the European Renaissance.

The First Taifa Period

The Córdoba Caliphate effectively collapsed during a ruinous civil war between 1009 and 1013, although it was not finally abolished until 1031. Al-Andalus then broke up into a number of mostly independent states called taifas. These were generally too weak to defend themselves against repeated raids and demands for tribute from the Christian states to the north and west, which were known to the Muslims as "the Galician nations", and which had spread from their initial strongholds in Galiciamarker, Asturiasmarker, Cantabriamarker, the Basque country and the Carolingian Marca Hispanica to become the Kingdoms of Navarremarker, Leónmarker, Portugalmarker, Castile and Aragonmarker and the County of Barcelona. Eventually raids turned into conquests, and in response the taifa kings were forced to request help from the Almoravids, Islamic rulers of the Maghreb. Their desperate maneuver would eventually fall to their disadvantage, however, as the Moravids they had summoned from the south went on to conquer many of the taifa kingdoms.

Almoravids, Almohads and Marinids

In 1086 the Almoravid ruler of Morocco Yusuf ibn Tashfin was invited by the Muslim princes in Iberia to defend them against Alfonso VI, King of Castile and Leónmarker. In that year, Yusuf ibn Tashfin crossed the straits to Algecirasmarker and inflicted a severe defeat on the Christians at the az-Zallaqah. By 1094, Yusuf ibn Tashfin had removed all Muslim princes in Iberia and annexed their states, except for the one at Zaragozamarker. He regained Valenciamarker from the Christians.

The Almoravids were succeeded in the 12th century by the Almohads, another Berber dynasty, after the victory of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur over the Castilian Alfonso VIII at the Battle of Alarcosmarker. In 1212 a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of the Castilian Alfonso VIII defeated the Almohads at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosamarker. The Almohads continued to rule Al Andalus for another decade, but with much reduced power and prestige; and the civil wars following the death of Abu Ya'qub Yusuf II rapidly led to the re-establishment of taifas. The taifas, newly independent but now weakened, were quickly conquered by Portugal, Castile and Aragon. After the fall of Murciamarker (1243) and the Algarve (1249), only the Emirate of Granada survived as a Muslim state, but only as a tributary of Castile. Most of its tribute was paid in gold from present-day Malimarker and Burkina Fasomarker that was carried to Iberia through the merchant routes of the Sahara.

The last Muslim threat to the Christian kingdoms was the rise of the Marinids in Morocco during the 14th century, who took Granada into their sphere of influence and occupied some of its cities, like Algecirasmarker. However, they were unable to take Tarifamarker, which held out until the arrival of the Castilian Army led by Alfonso XI. The Castilian king, helped by Afonso IV of Portugal and Pedro IV of Aragon, decisively defeated the Marinids at the Battle of Salado in 1340 and took Algeciras in 1344. Gibraltarmarker, then under Granadian rule, was besieged in 1349–1350, Alfonso XI along with most of his army perished by the Black Death. His successor, Pedro of Castile, made peace with the Muslims and turned his attention to Christian lands, starting a period of almost 150 years of rebellions and wars between the Christian states that secured the survival of Granada.

In 1469 the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile signaled the launching of the final assault on the Emirate of Granada (Gharnatah). The King and Queen convinced the Pope to declare their war a crusade. The Christians crushed one center of resistance after another and finally, in January 1492, after a long siege, the Moorish sultan, Muhammad XII, surrendered the fortress palace, the renowned Alhambramarker, itself.


The society of Al-Andalus was made up of three main religious groups: Christians, Muslims and Jews. The Muslims, though united on the religious level, had several ethnic divisions, the main being the distinction between the Berbers and the Arabs. Mozarabs were Christians that had long lived under Muslim rule and so had adopted many Arabic customs, art and words, while still maintaining their Christian rituals and their own Romance languages. Each of these communities inhabited distinct neighborhoods in the cities. In the 10th century a massive conversion of Christians took place, so that muladies (Muslims of ethnic Iberiamarker origin) comprised the majority of the population of Al-Andalus by the century's end.
The Berbers, who made up the bulk of the invaders, lived in the mountainous regions of what is now the north of Portugal and in the Meseta Central, while the Arabs settled in the south and in the Ebro Valley in the northeast. The Jews worked mainly as tax collectors, in trade, or as doctors or ambassadors. At the end of the fifteenth century there were about 50,000 Jews in Granada and roughly 100,000 in the whole of Islamic Iberia.

Non-Muslims under the Caliphate

Treatment of non-Muslims

The non-Muslims were given the status of ahl al-dhimma (the people under protection), adults paying a "Jizya" tax, equal to one Dinar per year with exemptions for old people, women, children and the disabled, whenever there was a Christian authority in the community. When there was no Christian authority, the non-Muslims were given the status of majus.

The treatment of non-Muslims in the Caliphate has been a subject of considerable debate among scholars and commentators, especially those interested in drawing parallels to the coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims in the modern world. María Rosa Menocal, a specialist in Iberian literature, has argued that "tolerance was an inherent aspect of Andalusian society". In her view, the Jewish and Christian dhimmis living under the Caliphate, while allowed fewer rights than Muslims, were much better off than in other parts of Christian Europe.

Jews constituted more than 5% of the population. Jews from other parts of Europe emigrated to Al-Andalus, where they were treated with dignity, as were Christians of sects regarded as heretical by various European Christian states. Al-Andalus was a key center of Jewish life during the early Middle Ages, producing important scholars and one of the most stable and wealthy Jewish communities. But there is no consensus among scholars that the relationship between Jews and Muslims was indeed a paragon of interfaith relations. Bernard Lewis takes issue with this view, arguing its modern use is ahistorical and apologetic. He argues that Islam traditionally did not offer equality nor even pretended that it did, arguing that it would have been both a "theological as well as a logical absurdity."

Rise and fall of Muslim power

The Caliphate treated non-Muslims differently at different times. The longest period of tolerance began after 912, with the reign of Abd-ar-Rahman III and his son, Al-Hakam II where the Jews of Al-Andalus prospered, devoting themselves to the service of the Caliphate of Cordoba, to the study of the sciences, and to commerce and industry, especially to trading in silk and slaves, in this way promoting the prosperity of the country. Southern Iberia became an asylum for the oppressed Jews of other countries.

Christians, braced by the example of their coreligionists across the borders of al-Andalus, sometimes asserted the claims of Christianity and knowingly courted martyrdom, even during these tolerant periods. For example, 48 Christians of Córdoba were decapitated for religious offences against Islam. They became known as the Martyrs of Córdoba. These deaths played out, not in a single spasm of religious unrest, but over an extended period of time; dissenters were fully aware of the fates of their predecessors and chose to protest against Islamic rule.

Under the Almoravids and the Almohads there may have been intermittent persecution of Jews, but sources are extremely scarce and do not give a clear picture, though the situation appears to have deteriorated after 1160.

During these successive waves of violence against non-Muslims, many Jewish and even Muslim scholars left the Muslim-controlled portion of Iberia for the then-still relatively tolerant city of Toledomarker, which had been reconquered in 1085 by Christian forces. Some Jews joined the armies of the Christians (about 40,000), while others joined the Almoravids in the fight against Alfonso VI of Castile.

The 11th century saw Muslim pogroms against Jews in Spain; those occurred in Cordoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066.

The Almohads, who had taken control of the Almoravids' Maghribi and Andalusian territories by 1147, far surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist outlook, and they treated the dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, many Jews and Christians emigrated. Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.

Medieval Spain and Portugal was the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalus to ravage the Christian Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms, bringing back booty and slaves. In raid against Lisbonmarker in 1189, for example, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives, while his governor of Córdoba, in a subsequent attack upon Silves in 1191, took 3,000 Christian slaves.

The last Muslim bastion, Nasrid Granadamarker fell around 1492. By this time the Moors in Castile numbered "half a million within the realm, 100,000 had died or been enslaved, 200,000 emigrated, and 200,000 remained as the residual population. Many of the Muslim elite, including Muhammad XII, who had been given the area of the Alpujarra mountain as a principality, found life under Christian rule intolerable and passed over into north Africa"


C.W. Previte-Orton writes in his Cambridge medieval history,
The brilliant Saracenic civilization of Moslem Spain rendered the Moors, even during their declines under the Reyes de Taifas, the most cultured people of the West.

Many tribes, religions and races coexisted in al-Andalus, each contributing to the intellectual prosperity of Andalusia. Literacy in Islamic Iberia was far more widespread than any other country of the West.

From the earliest days, the Umayyads wanted to be seen as intellectual rivals to the Abbasids, and for Córdoba to have libraries and educational institutions to rival Baghdad's. Although there was a clear rivalry between the two powers, freedom to travel between the two Caliphates was allowed, which helped spread new ideas and innovations over time.

In the 10th century, the city of Cordobamarker had 700 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries, the largest of which had up to 600,000 books. In comparison, the largest library in Christian Europe at the time had no more than 400 manuscripts, while the University of Parismarker library still had only 2,000 books later in the 14th century. In addition, as many as 60,000 treatises, poems, polemics and compilations were published each year in Al-Andalus. In comparison, modern Spain published 46,330 books per year as of 1996.


Andalusian philosophy

The historian Said Al-Andalusi wrote that Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III had collected libraries of books and granted patronage to scholars of medicine and "ancient sciences". Later, al-Mustansir (Al-Hakam II) went yet further, building a university and libraries in Córdoba. Córdoba became one of the world's leading centres of medicine and philosophical debate.

However, when Al-Hakam's son Hisham II took over, real power was ceded to the hajib, al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir. Al-Mansur was a distinctly religious man and disapproved of the sciences of astronomy, logic and especially astrology, so much so that many books on these subjects, which had been preserved and collected at great expense by Al-Hakam II, were burned publicly. However, with Al-Mansur's death in 1002 interest in philosophy revived. Numerous scholars emerged, including Abu Uthman Ibn Fathun, whose masterwork was the philosophical treatise "Tree of Wisdom". An outstanding scholar in astronomy and astrology was Maslamah Ibn Ahmad al-Majriti (died 1008), an intrepid traveller who journeyed all over the Islamic world and beyond, and who kept in touch with the Brethren of Purity. Indeed, it is said to have been he who brought the 51 "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity" to al-Andalus and who added the compendium to this work, although it is quite possible that it was added later by another scholar of the name al-Majriti. Another book attributed to al-Majriti is the Ghayat al-Hakim "The Aim of the Sage", a book which explored a synthesis of Platonism with Hermetic philosophy. Its use of incantations led the book to be widely dismissed in later years, although the Sufi communities kept studies of it.

A prominent follower of al-Majriti was the philosopher and geometer Abu al-Hakam al-Kirmani. A follower of his in turn was the great Abu Bakr Ibn al-Sayigh, usually known in the Arab world as Ibn Bajjah, "Avempace"

The Andalusian philosopher Averroes (1126–1198) is considered the father of secular thought in Europe and possibly the most important among them. He was the founder of the Averroism school of philosophy, and his works and commentaries had an impact on the rise of secular thought in Western Europe. He also developed the concept of "existence precedes essence".

Another influential Andalusian philosopher who had a significant influence on modern philosophy was Ibn Tufail. His philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, translated into Latin as Philosophus Autodidactus in 1671, developed the themes of empiricism, tabula rasa, nature versus nurture, condition of possibility, materialism, and Molyneux's Problem. European scholars and writers influenced by this novel include John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz, Melchisédech Thévenot, John Wallis, Christiaan Huygens, George Keith, Robert Barclay, the Quakers, and Samuel Hartlib.G. J. Toomer (1996), Eastern Wisedome and Learning: The Study of Arabic in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 222, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0198202911.

Jewish philosophy and culture

With the relative tolerance of al-Andalus and the decline of the previous centre of Jewish thought in Babylonia, al-Andalus became the centre of Jewish intellectual endeavours. Poets and commentators like Judah Halevi (1086–1145) and Dunash ben Labrat (920–990) contributed to the cultural life of al-Andalus, but the area was even more important to the development of Jewish philosophy. A stream of Jewish philosophers, cross-fertilizing with Muslim philosophers, (see joint Jewish and Islamic philosophies) culminated in a widely celebrated Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, Maimonides (1135–1205), though he did not actually do any of his work in al-Andalus, as, when he was 13, his family fled persecution by the Almohads.



In the 11th-12th centuries, astronomers in Al-Andalus took up the challenge earlier posed by Ibn al-Haytham, namely to develop an alternate non-Ptolemaic configuration that evaded the errors found in the Ptolemaic model. Like Ibn al-Haytham's critique, the anonymous Andalusian work, al-Istidrak ala Batlamyus (Recapitulation regarding Ptolemy), included a list of objections to Ptolemic astronomy. This marked the beginning of the Andalusian school's revolt against Ptolemaic astronomy, otherwise known as the "Andalusian Revolt".

In the late 11th century, al-Zarqali (Latinized as Arzachel) discovered that the orbits of the planets are elliptic orbits and not circular orbits, though he still followed the Ptolemaic model.

In the 12th century, Averroes rejected the eccentric deferents introduced by Ptolemy. He rejected the Ptolemaic model and instead argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe. He wrote the following criticism on the Ptolemaic model of planetary motion:

Averroes' contemporary, Maimonides, wrote the following on the planetary model proposed by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace):

Ibn Bajjah also proposed the Milky Way galaxy to be made up of many stars but that it appears to be a continuous image due to the effect of refraction in the Earth's atmosphere. Later in the 12th century, his successors Ibn Tufail and Nur Ed-Din Al Betrugi (Alpetragius) were the first to propose planetary models without any equant, epicycles or eccentrics. Al-Betrugi was also the first to discover that the planets are self-luminous. Their configurations, however, were not accepted due to the numerical predictions of the planetary positions in their models being less accurate than that of the Ptolemaic model, mainly because they followed Aristotle's notion of perfect circular motion.

Earth sciences

In the late 11th century, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ma'udh, who lived in Al-Andalus, wrote a work on optics later translated into Latin as Liber de crepisculis, which was mistakenly attributed to Alhazen. This was a short work containing an estimation of the angle of depression of the sun at the beginning of the morning twilight and at the end of the evening twilight, and an attempt to calculate on the basis of this and other data the height of the atmospheric moisture responsible for the refraction of the sun's rays. Through his experiments, he obtained the accurate value of 18°, which comes close to the modern value.

In the early 13th century, the Andalusian-Arabian biologist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati developed an early scientific method for botany, introducing empirical and experimental techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and separating unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations. His student Ibn al-Baitar published the Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada, which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations in history, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It contains details on at least 1,400 different plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. The Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada was also influential in Europe after it was translated into Latin in 1758.


Córdoba alone was reported to have had as many as 50 Bimaristan hospitals at the time of Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis). Sir John Bagot Glubb wrote:

Muslim physicians from Al-Andalus contributed significantly to the field of medicine, including the subjects of anatomy and physiology. Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis), regarded as the "father of modern surgery", contributed greatly to the discipline of medical surgery with his Kitab al-Tasrif ("Book of Concessions"), a 30-volume medical encyclopedia which was later translated to Latin and used in European and Muslim medical schools for centuries. He helped lay the foudations for modern surgery, with his Kitab al-Tasrif, in which he invented numerous surgical instruments, including the first instruments unique to women, as well as the surgical uses of catgut and forceps, the ligature, surgical needle, scalpel, curette, retractor, surgical spoon, sound, surgical hook, surgical rod, and specula, and bone saw.

From the 10th century, Muslim physicians and surgeons were applying purified alcohol to wounds as an antiseptic agent. Surgeons in Islamic Spain utilized special methods for maintaining antisepsis prior to and during surgery. They also originated specific protocols for maintaining hygiene during the post-operative period. Their success rate was so high that dignitaries throughout Europe came to Córdobamarker, Spainmarker, to be treated at what was comparably the "Mayo Clinicmarker" of the Middle Ages.

Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) was the earliest known experimental surgeon. In the 12th century, he was responsible for introducing the experimental scientific method into surgery, as he was the first to employ animal testing in order to experiment with surgical procedures before applying them to human patients. He also performed the first dissections and postmortem autopsies on humans as well as animals. He also established surgery as an independent discipline of medicine, by introducing a training course designed specifically for future surgeons, in order that they be qualified before being allowed to perform operations independently, and for defining the roles of a general practitioner and a surgeon in the treatment of a surgical condition.

In Islamic Spain, Abu al-Qasim and Ibn Zuhr, among other Muslim surgeons, performed hundreds of surgeries under inhalant anesthesia with the use of narcotic-soaked sponges which were placed over the face. Muslim physicians also introduced the anesthetic value of opium derivatives during the Middle Ages. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) wrote about its medical uses in The Canon of Medicine, which later influenced the works of Paracelsus. Sigrid Hunke wrote:

During the Black Death bubonic plague in 14th century Al-Andalus, Ibn Khatima and Ibn al-Khatib hypothesized that infectious diseases are caused by minute "contagious entities" which enter the human body.

Psychology and sociology

Abu al-Qasim (Abulcasis), the father of modern surgery, developed material and technical designs which are still used in neurosurgery. Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) gave the first accurate descriptions on neurological disorders, including meningitis, intracranial thrombophlebitis, and mediastinal germ cell tumors, and made contributions to modern neuropharmacology. Averroes suggested the existence of Parkinson's disease and attributed photoreceptor properties to the retina. Maimonides wrote about neuropsychiatric disorders and described rabies and belladonna intoxication.

Said Al-Andalusi (1029–1168) stated that people in all corners of the world have a common origin but differ in certain aspects: "ethics, appearance, landscape and language". He treated the history of Egypt as part of the universal history of all humanity, and he linked Egypt and Sudanmarker to the history of the Arabs through a common ancestry. They linked ancient Egypt to Muslim history through Hajar (Hagar), the wife of Ibrahim (Abraham) and mother of Ismail (Ishmael), the patriarch of the Arabs, thus making Hajar the mother of the Arabs.

Translation movement

Contributing to the growth of European science was the major search by European scholars for new learning which they could only find among Muslims, especially in Islamic Spain and Sicily. These scholars translated new scientific and philosophical texts from Arabic into Latin.

One of the most productive translators in Spain was Gerard of Cremona, who translated 87 books from Arabic to Latin,including Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī's On Algebra and Almucabala, Jabir ibn Aflah's Elementa astronomica,al-Kindi's On Optics, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathīr al-Farghānī's On Elements of Astronomy on the Celestial Motions, al-Farabi's On the Classification of the Sciences,the chemical and medical works of Razi,the works of Thabit ibn Qurra and Hunayn ibn Ishaq,and the works of Arzachel, Jabir ibn Aflah, the Banū Mūsā, Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam, Abu al-Qasim, and Ibn al-Haytham (including the Book of Optics).

With the fall of Islamic Spain in 1492, the scientific and technological initiative of the Islamic world was inherited by Europeans and laid the foundations for Europe's Renaissance and Scientific Revolution.

Agriculture and cuisine

As early as the 9th century, an essentially modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Arab caliphates, replacing the largely export driven Roman model. Cities of the Near East, North Africa, and Moorish Spain were supported by elaborate agricultural systems which included extensive irrigation based on knowledge of hydraulic and hydrostatic principles, some of which were continued from Roman times.

The introduction of new crops transforming private farming into a new global industry exported everywhere, including Europe, where farming was mostly restricted to wheat strains obtained much earlier via central Asia. Spain received what she in turn transmitted to the rest of Europe; many agricultural and fruit-growing processes, together with many new plants, fruit and vegetables. These new crops included sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines, and saffron. Others, previously known, were further developed. Several were later exported from Spanish coastal areas to the Spanish colonies in the New World. Also transmitted via Muslim influence, a silk industry flourished, flax was cultivated and linen exported, and esparto grass, which grew wild in the more arid parts, was collected and turned into various articles.

Restaurants in medieval Islamic Spain served three-course meals, which was introduced in the 9th century by Ziryab, who insisted that meals should be served in three separate courses consisting of soup, the main course, and dessert.

As a result of the improved agriculture and cuisine, the average life expectancy of the scholarly class in Islamic Spain increased to 69–75 years by the 11th century.


The systems of contract relied upon by merchants was very effective. Merchants would buy and sell on commission, with money loaned to them by wealthy investors, or a joint investment of several merchants, who were often Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Business partnerships would be made for many commercial ventures, and bonds of kinship enabled trade network to form over huge distances. Networks developed during this time enabled a world in which money could be promised by a bank in Baghdadmarker and cashed in Spain, creating the cheque system of today. Each time items passed through one of the cities along this extraordinary network, the city imposed a tax, resulting in high prices once the items reached their final destinations. These innovations made by Muslims and Jews laid the foundations for the modern economic system.

Geography and exploration

Long distance travel created a need for mapping, and travelers often provided the information to achieve the task. While such travel during the medieval period was hazardous, Muslims nonetheless undertook long journeys. One motive for these was the Hajj or the Muslim pilgrimage. Annually, Muslims came to Mecca in Arabia from Africa, Islamic Spain, Persiamarker and Indiamarker. Another motive for travels was commerce. Muslims were involved in trade with Europeans, Indians and the Chinese, and Muslim merchants travelled long distances to conduct commercial activities.

The baculus, used for nautical astronomy, originates from Islamic Spain and was later used by Portuguese navigators for long-distance travel. The origins of the caravel ship, used for long distance travel by the Portuguese and Spanish since the 15th century, date back to the qarib used by explorers from Islamic Spain in the 13th century.

According to a controversial theory, explorers from Al-Andalus may have travelled to the Americas (see Pre-Columbian Andalusian-Americas contact theories).

Linguistics and literature

The "Toledo School" was a famous center of medieval linguistics. Members of this school included; Yehudah ibn Tibbon, Herman the German, Adelard of Bath and Gerard of Cremona.

In the 12th century, the Andalusian-Arabian philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail" in the West) first demonstrated Avicenna's theory of tabula rasa as a thought experiment in his Arabic novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island. The Latin translation of his work, titled Philosophus Autodidactus, published by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671, had an influence on John Locke's formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which went on to become one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern Western philosophy, and influenced many Enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley.

Hadith Bayad wa Riyad (The Story of Bayad and Riyad) was a 13th-century Arabic love story written in Al-Andalus. The main characters of the tale are Bayad, a merchant's son and a foreigner from Damascusmarker, and Riyad, a well educated girl in the court of an unnamed Hajib (vizier or minister) of Al-Andalus who is referred to as the lady. The Hadith Bayad wa Riyad manuscript is believed to be the only illustrated manuscript known to have survived from more than eight centuries of Muslim and Arab presence in Spain.


A number of musical instruments used in Western music, particularly in Spanish music, are believed to have been derived from Arabic musical instruments used in Al-Andalus: the lute was derived from the al'ud, the rebec (ancestor of violin) from the rebab, the guitar from qitara, naker from naqareh, adufe from al-duff, alboka from al-buq, anafil from al-nafir, exabeba from al-shabbaba (flute), atabal (bass drum) from al-tabl, atambal from al-tinbal,the balaban, the castanet from kasatan, sonajas de azófar from sunuj al-sufr, the conical bore wind instruments, the xelami from the sulami or fistula (flute or musical pipe),the shawm and dulzaina from the reed instruments zamr and al-zurna,the gaita from the ghaita, rackett from iraqya or iraqiyya,the harp and zither from the qanun,canon from qanun, geige (violin) from ghichak,and the theorbo from the tarab. It is also commonly acknowledged by flamenco performers that the vocal, instrumental, and dance elements of modern flamenco were greatly influenced by the Arab performing arts.


Hispano-Moresque ware was a style of Islamic pottery created in Islamic Spain, after the Moors had introduced two ceramic techniques to Europe: glazing with an opaque white tin-glaze, and painting in metallic lusters. Hispano-Moresque ware was distinguished from the pottery of Christendom by the Islamic character of it decoration.

The tin-glazing of ceramics was invented by Muslim potters in 8th-century Basramarker, Iraqmarker. The earliest tin-glazed pottery thus appears to have been made in Iraqmarker in the 9th century. From there, it spread to Egyptmarker, Persiamarker and Spain, before reaching Italymarker in the Renaissance, Hollandmarker in the 16th century, and Englandmarker, Francemarker and other European countries shortly after.

Lusterware was invented by Geber, who applied it to ceramic glazes in the 8th century. After the production of lusterware became popular in the Middle East, it spread to Europe—first to Al-Andalus, notably at Malagamarker, and then to Italy, where it was used to enhance maiolica.

An albarello is a type of maiolica earthenware jar originally designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs. The development of this type of pharmacy jar had its roots in the Islamic Middle East. It was brought to Italy by Hispano-Moresque traders by the 15th century.


Industrial water mills were employed in the first large factory complexes built in Al-Andalus between the 11th and 13th centuries. Fulling mills, paper mills, steel mills, and other mills, spread from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain by the 12th century. The first windmills were built in Sistan, Afghanistanmarker, sometime between the 7th century and 9th century, as described by Muslim geographers. These were vertical axle windmills, which had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. These were introduced to Europe through Spain. The bridge mill was a unique type of water mill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Cordoba in the 12th century. The first forge to be driven by a hydropowered water mill rather than manual labour, also known as a finery forge, was invented in 12th century Islamic Spain.Adam Lucas (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, p. 65, Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004146490 Stamp mills were first used by miners in Samarkandmarker from as early as 973. They were used in medieval Persiamarker for the purpose of crushing ore. By the 11th century, stamp mills were in widespread use throughout the Islamic world, including Islamic Spain.Adam Robert Lucas (2005), "Industrial Milling in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: A Survey of the Evidence for an Industrial Revolution in Medieval Europe", Technology and Culture 46 (1): 1–30 [10–1 and 27]

Many dams, acequia and qanat water supply systems, and "Tribunal of Waters" irrigation systems, were built during the Islamic Golden Age and are still in use today in the Islamic world and in formerly Islamic regions of Europe such as Sicily and the Iberian Peninsulamarker, particularly in the Andalusiamarker, Aragonmarker and Valenciamarker provinces of Spain. The Arabic systems of irrigation and water distribution were later adopted in the Canary Islandsmarker and Americas due to the Spanishmarker and are still used in places like Texasmarker, Mexicomarker, Perumarker, and Chilemarker.

Muslim cities such as Cordoba had advanced domestic water systems with sanitary sewers, public baths, drinking fountains, piped drinking water supplies, and widespread private and public toilet and bathing facilities. The first street lamps were built in the Arab Empire, especially in Cordoba, which also had the first facilities and waste containers for litter collection.S. P. Scott (1904), History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, 3 vols, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London.
F. B. Artz (1980), The Mind of the Middle Ages, Third edition revised, University of Chicago Press, pp 148–50.
(cf. References, 1001 Inventions)

In 9th century Islamic Spain, Abbas Ibn Firnas (Armen Firnas) invented a primitive version of the parachute. John H. Lienhard described it in The Engines of Our Ingenuity as follows:

Ibn Firnas was also the first to make an attempt at controlled flight, as opposed to earlier gliding attempts in ancient China which were not controllable. Ibn Firnas manipulated the flight controls of his hang glider using two sets of artificial wings to adjust his altitude and to change his direction. He successfully returned to where he had lifted off from, but his landing was unsuccessful. According to Philip Hitti in History of the Arabs:

Ibn Firnas' glider was possibly the first hang glider, though there were earlier instances of manned kites being used in ancient China. Knowledge of Firman and Firnas' flying machines spread to other parts of Europe from Arabic references. Ibn Firnas' hang glider was also the first to have artificial wings, though the flight was eventually unsuccessful.

See also


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  2. "Los arabes y musulmanes de la Edad Media aplicaron el nombre de al-andalus a todas aquellas tierras que habian formado parte del reino visigodo : la Peninsula Ibérica y la Septimania ultrapirenaica." ("The Arabs and Muslims from the Middle Ages used the name of al-Andalus to all those lands that were formerly part of the Visigothic kingdom: the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania"), Eloy Benito Ruano, Tópicos y realidades de la Edad Media, Real Academia de la Historia, 2000, p.79.
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