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The Forgotten History and Legacy of Muslim Spain

Have you ever wondered just how amazing Muslims in Andalusia really were? Yeah, you heard it right. We are really talking about Muslims. They were so ahead of their age that even the mighty European intellectuals eventually succumbed to their greatness. The likes of John Green, Bettany Hughes, and David Levering Lewis believe that Renaissance would have been impossible were it not for the role played by the Muslims in Spain. If you really want to know about Muslim rule in Spain, you should watch the documentary entitled “When Moors ruled Europe”.

Bettany Hughes In Granada For The Documentary

When Moors ruled Europe is one of the best documentaries directed and Produced by Timothy Cope-state, starring Bettany Hughes. This documentary was released on  June 10, 2008.

Documentary cover of “When Moors Ruled Europe”.

Bettany Hughes is one of the most respected historians of the modern era. Her documentary series entitled “Eight Days that Changed Rome” is worth watching. She is an esteemed author of multiple books on the ancient world as well. When Moors Ruled Europe deals specifically with the Muslim rule in Europe. The documentary’s focus is solely on the southwestern corner of Europe.

A map of “Muslim Spain”, Al Andalus

This documentary commences in 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. The same year when Grenada, the last center of Muslim power, bowed down to the Christian power. 

It was the marriage rather unholy alliance of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, and the strength of the two main Christian power in Spain that resulted in the expulsion of Muslims from Spain. 300,000 Muslims were expelled from Spain to North Africa, a plethora of Muslims were mercilessly killed and millions of books were burned. 

“We have 30 books left behind from Muslim Andalusia so that we could split the atom. If half of the one million burned books could survive, we would already travel between galaxies in space.”

Pierre Curie

The history of Spain was modified by Victor, Former president of Spain. He tried to present the negative image of the Muslim Rule in Spain. In his quest to portray Muslims as primitive and violent beings he totally annihilated Muslim culture. But, Bettany Hughes has tried to set the record straight by presenting the unbiased version of the history of Spain. Muslims invaded Europe in year 711 AD but they did not resort to violence.

“We don’t have evidence of violence, not at all. It was peaceful in this area. And the archeology is showing another landscape and another place too.”

Lauro Olmo Encisco, talking about Arab arrival at Al-Andalus

In this documentary, Bettany makes it abundantly clear that the Muslims were welcomed with open arms by the native people in Spain because they were treated inhumanly by the previous rulers.

“If you read the Orthodox Spanish histories, then you’ll learn that predatory Muslim hoards forcibly appropriate the Visigothic Spain. And it certainly were in some invasive battles, but in many places, like here Recopolis it seems that the new comers were actually welcomed with open arms. We even have treaties where Visigoths enthusiastically handover their lands for in exchange for effective protection of the Muslims.”

Bettany Hughes
Islamic Calligraphy of Al-Andalus

The documentary presents a brief description of Arab’s architect, intellectual, Music, and Art. It was beyond doubt the greatest era of Muslim culture as the Muslim intellectuals were at the apogee of their intellectual prowess. According to Bettany, it was the Golden age of Muslim intellectuals and the Dark ages for Europeans. 

Great Masjid of Cordoba, one of the Greatest Architectural Works In History

“When I heard that the doctrine of the Arabs, which is devoted almost entirely to the quadrivium, was all the fashion in Toledo in those days, I hurried there as quickly as I could so that I could hear the wisest philosophers of the world.”

Daniel of Morley; talks about Muslim Toledo

In the first part of the documentary, Bettany brings to our attention the glorious Al Hambra, one of the wonders of the world in Grenada. The subtlety that is on display in Al Hambra is matchless as it is built with amazing geometrical accuracy.  Alhambra is the epitome of  Muslims’ aesthetic, intellectual and Mathematical ingenuity.

Artistic depiction of Muslim Spain
Wilhelm Meyer portrays “the Dream of al-Andalus”

Bettany has also explained the History of Islam and the role of education in Islam. She explains that Education was an integral part of Islam and it was the reason behind Muslims’ success in the intellectual spheres.

Averros, an excellent mind from Muslim Spain
Statue of Ibn Rushd (Averros), one of the greatest mind in History, from Al-Andalus

She relates how an Islamic power struggles on the other side of the Med, in Damascus led by Abd-al Rahman I, after his family was massacred in Damascus. He was forced to flee to Andalusia where he, later on, became the ruler of Cordoba.

Abd al Rahman I, constructor of Muslim Spain
A statue of Abd al Rahman I (Ad Dakhil)

He introduced an irrigation system and a sewage system. In his time the economy of Andalusia flourished in an unprecedented way.

There were 70 libraries and 350 public bathrooms in Córdoba. Cordoba was the Center of knowledge at that time. It was a cosmopolitan city with a population of 100,000.

Bettany has further attempted to explore the city of Toledo in Muslim Spain. The Scholars from all around Europe flocked here in order to seek knowledge from the great Arabs. The ideas initiated and floated by the Arabs were so inspiring, so original and so radical that they inspired renaissance and the foundation of the oxford.

Bettany amply bears out the fact that European art, music, and poetry were inspired by the Arab culture. She further opines that the crusades should not be deemed religious wars, because just like most of the wars, these wars were triggered by the lust for power and land. One of the biggest reasons for the untimely demise of the Muslims was that they underestimated the role of military power. Therefore, when they were caught off guard they did not know what hit them.

This documentary is worth watching because it is unbiased, entertaining, and informative. Furthermore, Bettany beautifully explores the era of Muslim rule in Europe and the evolution of their intellectual growth.  She beautifully shows the other side of the coin and tries to unfold the forgotten history of the Muslims.

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