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The Iberian Peninsula, which is divided into the great provinces of Carthaginesis, Baetica, Lushtania, and Gallaccia, had been one of the richest and most developed areas of the Western Roman Empire. However, for three centuries before the coming of the Muslims, it had been dominated by warrior aristocracies of Germanic origin (Kennedy, 1996). They conquered al-Andalus. The conquests of Spain by Arabs were swift. A great number of Arabic forces first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 711 and by 716, most of the Peninsula had followed Muslim rule in one form or another. These conquests of al-Andalus took the Arabs to the western and southern shores of the Mediterranean basis. This expansion was deemed as the turning point in the history that was the final stage before the accepted legacy of the late Roman Empire.
After conquering North Africa, the governor of Ifriqiya, Musa b. Nusayr, appointed a Berber called Tariq as his assistant and right-hand man. While Tariq was exploring other regions, Musa decided to join the processes that seemed a very profitable venture. He gathered an army of 18,000 men on the coast opposite to Gibraltar. The majority of his army was Arabs. It included some men who became Muslims in the generation after the Companions of the prophet, and the leaders of the main Arab tribes. The army crossed to Algeciras to consolidate the area of Muslim rule in the south. He began with the smaller towns of Medina, Sidonia, and Carmona before turning his attention to Seville, one of the largest cities in the Peninsula.
Further, he went north along the Roman road to the city of Merida, which at that time had been one of the main capitals of Roman Spain. Here Musa and his army encountered much more serious resistance. Therefore, he then sent his son Abd al-Aziz back to Seville, while he proceeded to meet Tariq at Toledo. He forced his subordinate to hand over the riches he had confiscated from the churches. Musa then proclaimed himself as a veritable sovereign in Toledo while Tariq retired to Cordova in high dudgeon. Musa set out again, heading for the Ebro valley. At some point, during that year, he took Zaragoza, where a garrison was established and a mosque was founded. The new rulers of Spain began to make their mark on the administration almost immediately. For example, the arrival of Musa b. Nusayr was marked by the minting of a new gold coinage based on North African models. The coins had the Latin legend ‘In Nomine Domini non Deus nisi Deus Solus’, a direct translation of the Islamic formula, ‘There is no god but God’, an unusual mixture of Muslim and Latin traditions. Further, Musa took Lerida and went in the direction of the Roman road that led to Barcelona and Narbonne.
The conquest had been extremely successful within five years of the initial invasion; almost the whole Iberian Peninsula had been brought under the control of the Muslim armies. Apart from Musa, other Arab Ummayads changed the physiognomy of Cordoba by erecting new buildings and fostering its extraordinary expansion. A church in the town became a Mosque known as alcazar. It was a symbolic enclosure that housed the graves of the successive Emirs, who were buried within its walls. The Ummayads of al-Andalus kept Cordoba as their seat for almost two hundred years. After the crushing of the revolt of Shaqunda, their grasp on the capital seems to have been remarkably solid. This is shown by the surviving tax receipts from the rural districts around the city or by the important role played by the Sahib al- Madina in the Umayyad administration. (Moreno, 2010).
The Arabic influence spread rapidly in Spain. A peculiar trait of Arabic words adopted in Spanish is the assimilation of the determinative article ‘al’ to the borrowed words such as ‘al guacil’. Directing raids against the Christians in both Eastern and Western Islamic lands was an important sign of leadership and authority over the Muslim community and their purpose was as much ideological as military (Kennedy, 1996). However, even with Musa’s great achievements, the Caliphs of Damascus were not satisfied with the governors who had become successful conquerors, fearing that they might escape from the government control. Musa b. Nusayr was removed from office and brought back to Iraq to be punished. Both Musa and Tariq were ordered to go to Damascus. However, before leaving, they both made an attempt to subdue the regions around the northern mountains. Musa appointed his son Abd al-Aziz as governor of al-Andalus. His other sons were appointed to Sus and Qayrawan. Therefore, he obeyed the order and returned to Damascus where he was humiliated, dispossessed of his gains, and imprisoned. He died in 716-17, probably still confined. His work of consolidating the conquest of al-Andalus was continued by Musa’s son Abd al-Aziz.
The Berbers derived their name from the term barbari which means foreigner, by which Romans described them. The range of Berber habitation stretched from the borders of the Nile valley in the east to Morocco in the west. They were not politically united and belonged to a bewildering number of different tribes. However, they were solidified by a similar dialect, or a family of dialects, totally distinct from both Latin and Arabic. There was a legend among the Berbers, that al Kahina, a prophetess, had prophesied the consolidation of Arab rule over Berber tribal chieftains. This may be considered as a fulfillment of al Kahina’s vision, and a few years after the pacification of Ifriqiya (Tunisia) in 92/ 711, Berber troops took part in the Arab expedition that crossed the straits from Ceuta, landed in the Iberian Peninsula, and defeated the Visigothic army. Thus, they assisted the Arabs to conquer al-Andalus.
During the Arab conquest of Africa, the leader of the conquest, Musa, appointed Tariq b. Ziyad, a converted Berber to Islam, as a governor. It was the first time in the history that such an appointment involving a Berber had been done. Tariq enjoyed a position of command in the Muslim army. Tariq was left with a group of newly converted Berbers and a few Arabs, and Musa ordered that the Arabs should teach the Berbers the Koran and to instruct them in issues of the faith. The establishment of this strong Muslim army, just across the Straits of Gibraltar from the rich and inviting lands of southern Spain, was the prelude to the invasion, and the group was the nucleus of the first Muslim force to invade the Iberian Peninsula. (Kennedy, 2007).
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Tariq, the Berber commander of the Muslim output at Tangier, started making plans to lead his men across the Straits of Gibraltar to the south of Spain. The prospects of the conquest as well as the earnings and confiscations from the conquest must have been tempting. Moreover, there were many Berbers newly converted to Islam who hoped to benefit from their new status as conquerors rather than the conquest. Tariq had been aware of the major political upheaval in the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania. The Visigoths were German rulers who had conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the fifth century. The idea that a small group of Berbers with a few Arab officers could attack and destroy this formidable state was most impossible.
Tariq also had immediate reasons for invading the Iberian Peninsula. The men he commanded were mostly Berbers who had joined the Muslim army. However, it was most unlikely that any regular system of payment had been introduced to reward them for their allegiance to the new faith. In order to retain their loyalty, Tariq needed to find immediately a source of revenue whereas Spain provided the perfect embrace where this could be achieved. Tariq was supported by Julian, the Lord of Ceuta. Julian had sent his daughter to Rodrigo, also known as Roderick, the Visigothic King of Spain, for her education and instruction, where she got pregnant from Rodrigo. Therefore, Julian was seeking ways to punish Rodrigo and decided to send the Arabs against him. Moreover, Tariq had previously written to Julian, paying him compliments and exchanging presents. Therefore, Julian helped transport Tariq’s troops to the Spanish side. The people on the Spanish side did not pay them any attention because the ships in which Tariq’s troops traveled resembled the merchant ships that were often going to and fro. They were able to take the ‘Green Island’, where the part of Algeciras stands today. This had to be the base but also to allow them to the Africa coast if the situation had worsened. At the same time, Rodrigo was campaigning against a Basque rebellion in the far north of his kingdom when he heard of the Muslim raid. He hurried to south, pausing at his residence at Cordova to gather more men. His army was exhausted by long marches to confront the invaders. Tariq took advantage of this situation, keeping close to his base and requested reinforcements from Africa. Five thousand more Berbers arrived, giving him a total of twelve thousand men. The decisive battle was fought near the little town of Medina in Sidonia. Rodrigo headed for the Transductine Mountains to fight the Muslims and in the battle, his army of Goths, which had come to him fraudulently and in rivalry out of ambition for the kingship, fled and Rodrigo was killed.
Further, Tariq led his men to the east along the Quadalquivr valley, heading of Cordova. At Ecija, where the Roman road crossed the River Genil, he encountered the first resistance and took the city by storm. He then decided his forces for the sake of moving with speed. Seven hundred men, all of them mounted, were sent to Cordova under the command of Tariq’s assistant Mugith. Tariq himself headed for the capital, Toledo. It seemed that this town was largely abandoned by its inhabitants. Tariq was then summoned to Damascus by the Caliphs. Before leaving, he attempted to subdue some regions. He took Leon and Astorga and then moved over the Cantabrian Mountains to Oviedo and Gijon. Many inhabitants abandoned the cities and fled to the mountains of the Picos de Europa (Kennedy, 2007).
He then went to Damascus where he died in the Middle East in complete obscurity.
Muwallads are people of mixed ancestry, especially a descendant of an Arab father and a non-Arab mother, who was raised under the influence of an Arabic society and educated within the Islamic culture. They helped conquer al-Andus. Sarah, the daughter of Alamund, who was the son of the Visigothic ruler, Wisas, killed by Rodrigo, managed to preserve her father’s extensive properties in the Seville region against the capacity of her uncle Artubas. Sarah was married twice to the prominent members of the Arab army, and her descendants became leading Arab families of Seville in later centuries such as the Banu Hijjaj or the Banu Maslams.
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Theodemir, another Visigothic ruler established a close relationship with the new rulers, which led to the marriage of his daughter to a member of the Arab army, Abd ala Jabbar ibn Khattab. The descendants of this union were called the Banu Khattab, and became a rich and influential family of local ‘ulama’ until the end of the Islamic rule in the region of Murcia during the period from the eighth to thirteenth centuries (Moreno, 2010). Abd al-Rahman was a young grandson of the great Caliph Hisham. He fled to North Africa and sought refuge among his mother’s relations, the Nafza Berbers. He established contact with the Umayyad and Mawali among the Syrian junds in the al-Andalus (Kennedy, 1996). He then crossed to the south coast of al-Andalus, recruited an army of about 2,000 Umayyad mawali and Yemeni jundis, and marched on to Cordova. He then defeated the Visigothic kings and entered the capital. In Extremadura, the bulk of the politically active populations were powerful muwallad landowners. An example is Ibn Marwan al-Jilliqi, the Galician, whose family seems to have come from northern Portugal. He was one of the first Muwallads to play an important role in the politics of al-Andalus. After the death of Ibn Marwan al-Jilliqi, his brother Abd al-Rahman took the opportunity to assert his control sending troops to occupy Merida in 530. In Toledo, Muwallads was a dominant group that wished to keep power in the city in their own hands. Abd al-Rahman attempted to impose the Ummayad rule on Toledo. It can be concluded that the Muwallads, having a mixed ancestry of most Arabs and Berbers, helped the Arabs to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. However, they were also rich landowners who valued their independence and would at times conquer parts of the Iberian Peninsula for their own interests and rule over the conquered cities.
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Dhimmis are defined as non- Muslims living in an Islamic state. Among the Dhimmis who helped in the acquisition of al-Andalus, were the sons of Witiza, the ousted former ruler of the Visigothic Kingdom who was killed and replaced by Rodrigo. It is said that these sons considered the Muslim invasion as no more than a raid, which would last maximum during one summer season. They could not know that Muslims would rule the parts of the Iberian Peninsula for the next eight hundred years (Kennedy, 2007). It is also claimed that the Muslim invaders had received support from the Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula. The Visigothic kings had introduced increasingly harsh anti-Jewish legislation, ending with the edict that they should all be converted to Christianity. The Jews, therefore, viewed the Muslims as potential liberators.
Another person who helped was the Visigothic noble Theodemir. It is said that he negotiated a treaty of peace with Abd al-Aziz that Abd would not harass him, remove him from power, his followers would not be killed or taken as prisoners and would not be separated from their women and children. They demanded not to be coerced in the matters of religion their churches were not to be burned. Theodemir was clearly expected to continue to rule his seven towns and the rural areas attached to them. Theodemir and his followers may have imagined that the Muslim conquest would not last long. It took five centuries before Christian powers re-established control over this area. Theodemir died full of years and distinction in 744.