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Decline of Muslim Power in Spain

Córdoba Caliphate

Al-Andalus (green) in the year 1000.

The harmony and political unification that made Córdaba's grandeur possible ended in the eleventh century. Rahman III's successors, ruling caliphs, failed to maintain the dynasty's unity. The last Córdoba's Caliph was Hisham III. With different factions competing for power, the Cordoba Caliphate finally crumbled in 1031. The caliphate was dissolved, and independent Moorish kingdoms arose across Muslim Spain (al-Andalus).

These petty kingdoms warred against each other, and Muslim kingdoms sought help in their wars by bringing onto their side Christian rulers in the peninsula's north. In a war between Toledo and Zaragoza, Toledo paid the Christian kingdom of Navarre to raid Zaragoza, and Zaragoza paid León-Castile to raid Toledo. Division among the Muslims made them weak and vulnerable to a move by the Christians to expand against them.

Religious zealotry inspired the Christians. Pope Alexander II viewed Muslims as an enemy. He wanted no cooperation or traffic with them. He looked forward to Christian domination of Spain. In 1062, Ferdinand I of León-Castile invaded Toledo with a large army. Ferdinand then invaded Badajoz. In 1063, Pope Alexander II was preaching Reconquista as a Christian emergency. In 1064 a combined force of Italian, Norman, Frankish knights and Christian Spaniards besieged the Moorish city of Barbastro for forty days until it surrendered. Wikipedia describes the Crusaders as killing the surrendering soldiers following an agreement and their emerging from town. Then, "Crusade soldiers plundered and sacked the city without mercy." Thousands of the towns inhabitants were massacred and the rest were enslaved. Another massacre occurred in Valencia, where Muslims, after successfully defending their city, slaughtered Christians.

The peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians that marked previous centuries and Córdoba's grandeur was in decline or something of the past. In Grenada in 1066 the Muslim poet Abu Ishaq rebuked the Berber ruler of the city for having a Jewish minister. No Muslim, he claimed, should be under the authority of a Jew or Christian. Muslims stormed the royal palace where Joseph had sought refuge, and they killed him. Jews of the town attacked. The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia describes more than 1,500 Jewish families, numbering 4,000 persons, falling in one day. note25

So it went when religious differences were riled up and mixed with righteousness and perceptions of enemies in league with the devil. It presaged the nature of the Christian crusades that were to come in the 1100s.

                     

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