The reasons why Muslim forces invaded and conquered the Iberian peninsula in 711 are still up for debate. The long-established story is that Musa Ibn Nusair, the Governor of North Africa, was responding to a plea made by an oppressed Christian Chief Julian. Musa sent an army of 7000 troops, with a young Tariq bin Zayid as the commanding general leading the battalions that pierced through Gibraltar. Gibraltar was in fact derived from Jabal At-Tariq which means ‘Rock of Tariq’ – the place where the army berthed.
The tyrannical Visigoth ruler of Spain, Roderick, also known as the “last king of the Goths”, who reigned violently was killed in battle when the Muslim forces advanced with ease. That victory was the stepping stone for the conquering of Spain and Portugal with little resistance. This was due to the surrender terms which when compared to the harsh conditions of the deposed Visigoth ruler, was by far generous. By 720 Spain was largely under Moorish control.
The Golden age, which lasted from 756 to 1031, brought stability and many other benefits including the establishment of the Andalusian Umayyad dynasty. Andalusia, which was the heartland of the Muslim governance, heralded the ‘golden age’ of learning because literature, architecture and poetry flourished due to the establishment of libraries, colleges, public baths and many more infrastructure. Amir Abd al-Rahman, who founded the Emirate of Cordoba deserves all the credit for this turn in history as he was able to unite all the Muslim groups who participated in conquering parts of Spain under one banner.
It was The Golden age of religious tolerance because both Muslims and non-Muslims worked in harmony to realize the germination of this culture. Jews and Christians were treated fairly better than other conquered peoples elsewhere in those days. In fact they were allowed to live freely amongst the people without discrimination or segregation. They were allowed to practice their own religions because Muslims believe in Prophet Moses and Prohet Esa /Jesus (Alaihimu Salam). In fact Muslims believe these two Prophets as some of Allah Azawajala’s mightiest prophets. For Prophet Esa (Jesus) for example, the only difference between Muslim and Christian belief is that Muslims reject his dying on the cross. The Muslim’s believe is according to what is mentioned in the Quran (4:157-158):
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا – 4:157
And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا – 4:158
Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.
Life in Muslim Spain
In Muslim Spain, Non-Muslims even had an advantage taking jobs that Muslims shunned i.e. banking and dealing in gold and silver. Some Christian women started learning Arabic and adopted the wearing of the veil into their fashion as well. One Emir went so far as having a Christian as the head of his bodyguard unit.
Bernard Lewis author of The Jews of Islam, 1984 observed that “in contrast to Christian anti-Semitism, the Muslim attitude toward non-Muslims is one not of hate or fear or envy but simply of contempt.” Another author wrote about Cordoba- “There were half a million inhabitants, living in 113,000 houses. There were 700 mosques and 300 public baths spread throughout the city and its twenty-one suburbs. The streets were paved and lit…There were bookshops and more than seventy libraries.”
This proved that the capital of Ummayad Spain was unrivaled in wealth and civilization during the Muslim rule. According to the BBC “Muslim scholars served as a major link in bringing Greek philosophy, of which the Muslims had previously been the main custodians, to Western Europe.”
Looking at this great period of history, it is clear that Islam and all other religions can co-exist in prosperity. However, the current world order seeks to prevent this by portraying Islam as a violent religion. Just going back few centuries would prove this myth wrong.