Cordoba Emirate

756-929

 The ascent of Abd al-Rahman

Al-Andalus was no longer an emirate depending on Damascus. The situation changed with the establishment of a new state politically independent in 756 by Abd al-Rahman al-Dakhil, an arab leader that claim to be an Umayyad prince who had succeeded in escaping from the slaughter of his family by the Abbasids. 

The dynasty of the Andalusian Umayyads (756–1031) marked the growth and perfection of the Arabic civilization in Iberia. Its history may be divided into two major periods—that of the independent emirate (756–929) and that of the caliphate (929–1031)—and may be interpreted as revolving around three persons of like name—Abd al-Rahman I (756–788), Abd al-Rahman II (822–852), Abd al-Rahman III (912–961)—and the all-powerful hajib (chief minister) Abu Amir al-Mansur (976–1002).

Confronted by the intrigues of the Abbasids, by the jealousy of the earlier Muslim settlers, who opposed his appointments, and by the uncertain situation on the Frankish frontier, he nevertheless succeeded in establishing himself in Cordoba, setting up an Umayyad administration, and introducing the elements of Syrian culture into Al-Andalus. Supported by his standing mercenary army, he temporarily repressed the rivalries of the Arab aristocracy.

In 763 he defended his territories against an invasion organized by al-Mansur the caliph of Baghdad. After defeating the Abbasids force, Abd al-Rahman executed its leaders and sent their preserved heads to Baghdad as a gesture of defiance. The Abbasidswere subsequently unable to effectively intervene in Iberia and never succeeded in recovering northwest Africa.

Abd al-Rahman introduced internal reforms to Al-Andalus, which included the formation of a council of state, the reorganization of the judiciary under a senior qadi (judge), and the division of Spain into six military provinces. His embellishment of Cordoba included the construction of a spectacular mosque, schools, and hospitals, and he was noted for his clemencytoward Spain’s Christian population.

 

The Frankish annexation of Narbonne and of the hitherto independent duchy of Aquitaine further weakened the Pyrenean frontier, and, when a dissident governor of Zaragoza appealed to the Franks, their king, Charlemagne, invaded Spain, only to find the gates of Zaragoza shut against him. He was defeated by a combination of Basques Basques and Muslims as he retreated through the Pyrenees at Roncesvalles (778).

After this failure, Charlemagne realized that he could not win Spanish support for his designs without the favour of the Spanish church. He intervened in the adoptionist controversy in order to discredit the metropolitan of Toledo and to separate the church of the small independent kingdom of Asturias. He succeeded in undermining the authority of Toledo, and the creation of the kingdom of Toulouse enabled his frontiersmen to conquer Barcelona (801), which was placed under a Gothic governor.

The imperialism of the Franks soon led to a revival of localist sentiment, however, and, after Charlemagne’s death in 814, the Basques and other Pyrenean peoples broke away from Frankish rule. In the Asturias, the peace with the Muslims had ended as the authority of Toledo was rejected, and armies from Córdoba advancing up the Ebro began to raid Álava and Castile. The young Alfonso II withstood these attacks for 10 years, until a succession crisis in the emirate of Córdoba gave him some respite.

 Abd al-Rahman I’s successors, Hisham I (788–796) and al-Ḥakam I (796–822), encountered severe internal dissidence among the Arab nobility. A rebellion in Toledo was put down savagely, and the internal warfare caused the emir to increase the numbers of Slav and Berber mercenaries and to impose new taxes to pay for them.

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān II inaugurated an era of political, administrative, and cultural regeneration for Muslim Spain, beginning a sharp “Orientalization” or, more precisely, an “Iraqization.” ʿAbd al-Raḥmān’s most severe problems sprang from his restless vassals in the Ebro valley, especially the convert Banū Qāsī family and the Mozarabs. Incited by the extremist chiefs Alvarus and Eulogius (the latter being canonized after his death), the Mozarabs sought to strengthen their Christian faith through the aura of martyrdom and began to publicly revile the Prophet Muhammad, an action punishable by death from 850 onward, according to Mozarabic sources. The emir sought to persuade the blasphemous to retract, but, failing in his attempts, he imposed the death penalty. The “vogue” of seeking martyrdom was a reaction of the conservative Mozarabic party against the growing “Arabization” of their coreligionists. The conflict ended in 859–860, and, despite official tact, this provocation by the Christians led to the execution of 53 people and was finally disavowed by the ecclesiastical authorities.

In foreign policy, Abd al-Rahman II conducted intensive diplomatic activity, exchanging ambassadors with the Byzantine Empire and with the Frankish king Charles II (the Bald) and maintaining friendly relations with the sovereigns of Tāhart, who lent military support to Muslim Spain. He confronted the constantly growing incursions of the Vikings (Norsemen), whom he defeated in the vicinity of Sevilla. Furthermore, he established permanent defenses against the Viking invaders by creating two naval bases, one facing the Atlantic at Sevilla and another on the Mediterranean shore at Pechina near Almería.

His successors Muḥammad I (852–886), al-Mundhir (886–888), and ʿAbd Allāh (888–912) were confronted with a new problem, which threatened to do away with the power of the Umayyads—the muwallads. Having become more and more conscious of their power, they rose in revolt in the north of the peninsula, led by the powerful Banū Qāsī clan, and in the south (879), led by ʿUmar ibn Ḥafṣūn. The struggle against them was long and tragic; Ibn Ḥafṣūn, well protected in Bobastro and in the Málaga mountains, was the leader of muwallad and even Mozarabic discontent in the south of Al-Andalus, but his defeat in 891 at Poley, near Córdoba, forced him to retreat and hide in the mountains. ʿAbd Allāh, however, was unable to subdue the numerous rebels and thus left a weak state for his grandson, the great ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III, who from 912 was able to restore order. He subdued all of Al-Andalus, from Jaén (Jayyān) to Zaragoza (Saraqusṭah), from Mérida (Māridah) to Sevilla (Ishbīliyah), and the Levant. He even challenged Ibn Ḥafṣūn successfully—especially after the latter’s political error of reverting to the Christianity of his Spanish ancestors, a move that caused the desertion of numerous muwallads who regarded themselves as good Muslims. When Ibn Ḥafṣūn died in 917, his sons were forced to capitulate, and in 928 ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III captured the theretofore impregnable fortress of Bobastro.

The ascent of Abd al-Rahman assured the survival of Muslim power in the Iberian Peninsula. Confronted by the intrigues of the Abbasids, by the jealousy of the earlier Muslim settlers, who opposed his appointments, and by the uncertain situation on the Frankish frontier, he nevertheless succeeded in establishing himself in Cordoba, setting up an Umayyad administration, and introducing the elements of Syrian culture into Al-Andalus. Supported by his standing mercenary army, he temporarily repressed the rivalries of the Arab aristocracy.

In 763 he defended his territories against an invasion organized by al-Mansur the ʿAbbāsid caliph of Baghdad.After defeating the Abbasids force, Abd al-Rahman executed its leaders and sent their preserved heads to Baghdad as a gesture of defiance. The Abbasidswere subsequently unable to effectively intervene in Spain and never succeeded in recovering northwest Africa.

Abd al-Rahman introduced internal reforms to Al-Andalus, which included the formation of a council of state, the reorganization of the judiciary under a senior qadi (judge), and the division of Spain into six military provinces. His embellishment of Córdoba included the construction of a spectacular mosque, schools, and hospitals, and he was noted for his clemencytoward Spain’s Christian population. The Frankish annexation of Narbonne and of the hitherto independent duchy of Aquitaine further weakened the Pyrenean frontier, and, when a dissident governor of Zaragoza appealed to the Franks, their king, Charlemagne, invaded Spain, only to find the gates of Zaragoza shut against him. He was defeated by a combination of Basques Basques and Muslims as he retreated through the Pyrenees at Roncesvalles (778).

After this failure, Charlemagne realized that he could not win Spanish support for his designs without the favour of the Spanish church. He intervened in the adoptionist controversy in order to discredit the metropolitan of Toledo and to separate the church of the small independent kingdom of Asturias. He succeeded in undermining the authority of Toledo, and the creation of the kingdom of Toulouse enabled his frontiersmen to conquer Barcelona (801), which was placed under a Gothic governor. The imperialism of the Franks soon led to a revival of localist sentiment, however, and, after Charlemagne’s death in 814, the Basques and other Pyrenean peoples broke away from Frankish rule. In the Asturias, the peace with the Muslims had ended as the authority of Toledo was rejected, and armies from Córdoba advancing up the Ebro began to raid Álava and Castile. The young Alfonso II withstood these attacks for 10 years, until a succession crisis in the emirate of Córdoba gave him some respite.

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān had designated his second son, Hishām I (788–796), to follow him, but this was challenged by his elder son, Sulaiman, governor of Toledo. The standoff was resolved when Sulaiman accepted a pension in Africa. Hisham was succeeded by his young son al-Ḥakam I (796–822), but again the succession was disputed. The rebellion of Toledo, savagely repressed by the murder of many of the Gothic inhabitants, obliged the emir to engage large numbers of professional soldiers, often Slavs or Berbers, and to levy new taxation to support them. When the population of Córdoba rebelled, the uprising was put down with great bloodshed, and the suburb of Secunda was razed.

Under ʿAbd al-Raḥmān II (822–852), the urban rebellions were stilled, as the Muslim garrisons protected themselves in inner fortresses. Frankish pressure, after the fall of Barcelona and Tarragona, was relaxed, and the Muslims left the northeast to the mawālī Banū Qāsī family, whose influence was for a time so great that they were called the “Third Kings of Spain.” The court of Córdoba, now prosperous, cultivated Arabic literature and the refinements of Eastern life. The tranquility of Al-Andalus was shaken in 844 when the Norsemen sailed down the Atlantic seaboard and forced their way into the Guadalquivir, raiding Sevilla.

>In the north, Alfonso II’s small Asturian kingdom had allied itself with its Basque neighbours and repopulated the frontier of Castile. It occupied the new capital of Oviedo and attracted the bishops of Galicia, where the discovery of the supposed tomb of St. James at Padrón had turned the nearby town of Santiago de Compostela into a significant Christian religious centre.

In the south, the Christians of Córdoba, now obliged to use Arabic or be excluded from the business of the state, again became restless. When ʿAbd al-Raḥmān II was succeeded by his son Mohammed I (852–886), some of these Mozarabs (Spanish Christians who retained their faith but adopted the Arabic language) protested by seeking out martyrdom. This movement, led by Eulogius (died 859), ultimately collapsed, and many Christians subequently converted to Islam. Finding themselves still discriminated against, they joined the great rebellion of the crypto-Christian chief ʿUmar ibn Ḥafṣūn, which raged from 880 until 928. ʿUmar’s rebellion grew under a pair of weak emirs—al-Mundhir (886–888) and ʿAbd Allāh (888–912)—and for a moment ʿUmar threatened Córdoba itself.

Umar’s contemporary, Alfonso III (866–910), king of Asturias, supported the cult of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in an effort to energize his Christian kingdom. He authorized Vimara Peres to set up the county of Portugal, and claimed that his goal was the restoration of the Visigothic monarchy in Spain. Alfonso styled himself as emperor, but his aspirations were quashed when he was deposed by his sons, and his dream of a reborn Visigothic kingdom died with ʿUmar. Instead, the new ruler of Córdoba, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III (912–961), outplayed the Christians with a shrewd combination of diplomacy and aggression.

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