Arab World: Al-Andalus: Fall or Reconquista?

Every year, on the 2nd of January, “El día de la Toma de Granada” is celebrated in Granada in Spain. On that day in 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada (King Boabdil) surrendered the Emirate of Granada. The Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula eight centuries earlier, and the fall of Granada on that day put an end to the Islamic control of that part of the world, or what is known in as Al-Andalus in the Arab world.

This year, on the other side of The Mediterranean Sea, some Arabs decided to tweet in remembrance of the fall of Al-Andalus.

‏@taherofficial: We remember the 521st Anniversary of the fall of Al #Andalus.

Photo shared by @Al_Andalus_ showing King Boabdil handing the keys of the city over to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile

Many netizens seized the opportunity to tweet about the Islamic and Arabic civilization:

@adnan_hws: Remembering #Andalus is more than crying for the loss of a kingdom, it's to learn from our mistakes to rebuild such a glorious civilisation

@morabeteen: الأندلس ليست بمكان ولا زمان, بل هي تجربة حضارية إنسانية لا مثيل لها استمرت تنير ظلمات العالم زهاء الثمانية قرون من الزمان..

@morabeteen: Al Andalus is not just a place or chapter in history, it is an unmatched civilization in the history of mankind that kept on illuminating the world for about eight centuries.

Others claimed more examples for the effect of such civilization:

‏@Nouh1919: In Portuguese there are more than 3000 Arabic words as there are over a 1000 Arabic words in medicine and chemistry in English! #andalus

@mdamra: While London is sinking in mud, Córdoba recorded the 1st dustbin in history, there were collection vehicles and street cleaning!

However, a bigger debate started on Twitter later on. Some users believed that this day marks the loss of a part of the Islamic world.

@HmdSaud: Do you think dear Spanish we forget it

@AliElKhateeb: on January 2, 1492, Emir Muhammad surrendered the Emirate of Granada (#Andalus ♥), we won't forget any land taken from Muslims by force.

@NadaMadridista: On this day above all days we recall those who were murdered and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition 5 centuries ago. #Moorish #Andalus

While others replied by saying that it was basically an occupation.

@samaralii: اسمها عودة الاندلس لأهلها الإسبان بعد احتلال عربي، زي كده سينا رجعت كاملة لينا، بلاش تكيلوا بميكيالين

@samaralii: It is called the return of Al-Andalus to the Spanish people after it has been occupied by the Arabs. It is the same as we [Egyptians] reacquired Sinai after it has been occupied. Stop having double standards.

@MoudBarthez: زعلان ان الأندلس راحت منك ؟ كان نفسك تفضل محتلها طول العمر ؟ علي كدا شباب بريطانيا لازم يتظاهر عشان يرجعوا يحتلوا مصر تأني

@MoudBarthez: Are you sad because you lost Al-Andalus? You wish you had occupied it forever? If so, then the British people should demonstrate to re-occupy Egypt again.

Yet, others insisted that it was not an occupation:

@alaa: حكم المسلمون الأندلس سبعة قرون لا يمكن ان يوصف بالاحتلال و لا معنى لتقييم حكمهم بمعايير اليوم اصلا.

@alaa: The Arab ruling of Al-Andalus for seven centuries can never be described as occupation. And no way to evaluate it with today's standards.

@SherifKhairy: الناس اللي بتتكلم عن إن حضارة المسلمين في #الأندلس كانت احتلال زي احتلال الإنجليز مثلا، بالتأكيد مقرأوش كلمة عن ما حدث وقت دخولها وبعده

@SherifKhairy: Those who call the Muslim civilization in Al-Andalus occupation, and compare it to the English occupation of Egypt, for sure never read a word about that phase of history.

One netizen created a mobile application to mark the occasion, while two others decided to make fun of the whole debate. The first was worried [Ar] that FC Barcelona might become as bad as the the Egyptian football teams if Arabs decided to occupy Al-Andalus again. While the other, after looking at the status of the Arab world today, decided that “we did them the biggest favour ever” by leaving them alone.

Finally, this debate didn't stop some Egyptians from arranging a demonstration carrying banners that read in Spanish, “No hemos olvidado” [We have not forgotten] and “Volvera por supuesto” [We will be back for sure”].


  • […] Arab World: Al-Andalus: Fall or Reconquista? The Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula eight centuries earlier, and the fall of Granada on that day put an end to the Islamic control of that part of the world, or what is known in as Al-Andalus in the Arab world. This year, on the other … Read more on Global Voices Online […]

  • TonoSpain

    in year 711 an army crossed towards north the straits of Gibraltar. 7 years later, most of my land was under control of north african berbers led by arabs, who expanded mostly using their strength , ther military wisdom and advantage over the primitive goths, and specially the lack of union among ruling goth nobles at the time. It was as easy as taking a matured apple, and these goth rulers were easily conviced to join the newcoming power (and that, at the time, meant one had to convert if your ruler does, according to the rule “cuius regio eius religio”).

    Those who didn’t convert and decided to remain christians were soon known as “mossarabs” (from must’arib) and were displaced from the city centres to the suburbs, banned to get access to high culture learning, to serve in the army, to dress like the rest of society mixing with them, or to achieve any task of social relevance. Jews had better treatment historically than spanish christians. Those spaniards who converted, usually called “muladis” spent those 8 centuries claiming for a higher weight in the decission taking. This was their land, after all, but they were socially under arabs and berbers, that is… under strangers. This led to multiple revolts and history accounts are full of examples of them. There is even cases of re-conversion to christianism as a reaction to smthg that was considered an unfair rule. Al-Andalus meant that a foreign language was imposed, same as a foreign alphabet, measurement units, justice practices, food traditions, clothing rules, etc,…and most of it was like a pill swallowed together with the subtile drinking of religion.

    Spaniards were not so open to that feeling of fightng for religion until they suffered the religious “re-conquest” led by the Al-murabitum, the Almuwahhid and others, who introduced in Spain a model to follow. The same model that aimed the Crusades. Fanatical Religious Holy War.

    It was no ther than the same kind of fanatism on both sides. While christians created diverse “holy” figures of “moor-slayers” altering deeply the spirit and the core values of their religion, muslims crossed again Gibraltar heading up north, after the death of Al-Mansur, to gather again the “daifa” kingdoms while destroying all the splendor of Qurtuba, levelling down Madinat Az-Zahra.

    They forced the expulsion of open minded wise men as Ibn Raschid, and The Rambam (Ibn Maimun, or Maimónides, the jewish) together with every other religious minority (mossarabs were expulsed north, just to vanish in history as they were rejected there too for being too arabized)…. and we can spend hours and pages talking about this history.

    Arabs and berbers left a lot in our culture. We lived together in this land for 800 years, They took much of our roman engineering for watering and improved its use for agriculture, they advanced on science and study while we were in darkness and our religious fanatism grew. We learnt from arabs, and we really admire that part of our own essence as a country. But we never took religion with the pack. The process of “reconquista” was slow and irregular. Many times it was normal to find soldiers from both religions fighting together on each side of the battlefield. Many times it was a good business to accept taxes (parias) of gold payed by andalusians to the kings of the north to keep peace alive. But the final retake of their land was smthg that had to happen. Simply because those leading the andalusian society were not spanish, but arabs and berbers. Their language was not spanish and derivating from our latin or german or celtic or iberian roots. Everything they brought came from the south, from the land of the dark-faced men (“maurus”, in latin… and from there, “moro”… moorish).

    From the very first time it was not a spanish thing at all. The andalusian way was that of importing here the arab and berber way of life. And it could take 800 years for spaniards to retake full control over their whole land, but it had to happen from the very first day.

    Any outsider has succeeded in changing us so deeply except maybe romans. Romans were more practical than arabs. They were politheists. When they conquered a new land, they adopted the local beliefs as part of their collection, and the local nobility as roman citizens, giving them equal rights. They were flexible and more open to integrate spanish celts and iberians in their social scheme. Goths who came after Rome were not as that. They didn’t share power or made spaniards feel that they all belonged to a same kind. They lost easily the popular support when arabs came.

    Arabs were more successful than goths as they were far more advanced, and their cultural load was far more intensive… but still, they kept the same mistake. Al-Andalus was not a spanish self-creation. It was a project that came from outside leaving out everything that could link to smthg that we could call “spanish identity”. Arabisation was an advantage for Al-andalus if we compare science and general cultural advance with the rest of european countries,… but same as happened with other regions in Europe… soon or later we will always react and reject the “ethnic and cultural invader”.

    All this happens when “outsiders” impose, violently or not, their ways. So …accept things as they are: We Spaniards love and respect our heritage, our cultural background and the deep footstep that arabs left in this land. But anything else.

    We are who we are. And we never accepted anyone telling us that we were less than them. Last who tried was Napoleon and we gave french the hardest occupation they faced by far. Hitler didn’t dare to try repeating the same mistake. Or the allies after WWII…

    To those who talk about “Retaking Al-Andalus” I say… this is Spain.

    This is our land. You can try again your luck. You can talk loud abt covering us in cultural advance and prosperity. About making us regain the pride of belonging to the Ummah… about reswitching the street lights of Qurtuba… you can keep talking.

    You will never succeed. It will only succeed if it’s a spanish thing.

    With our people ruling.

    Using our language (our 5 languages).

    With our deeply rooted traditions.

    It will only succeed if it’s OUR decission and OUR change.

    If not, it may take us 800 years or 8000.. but that project called Al-Andalus instead of España, will fail again..

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