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Scholars, journalists, and even politicians uphold Muslim-ruled medieval Spain—“al-Andalus”—as a multicultural paradise, a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony. There is only one problem with this widely accepted account: it is a myth. In this book, Northwestern University scholar Darío Fernández-Morera tells the full story of Islamic Spain. The Myth Scholars, journalists, and even politicians uphold Muslim-ruled medieval Spain—“al-Andalus”—as a multicultural paradise, a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony. There is only one problem with this widely accepted account: it is a myth. In this book, Northwestern University scholar Darío Fernández-Morera tells the full story of Islamic Spain. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise shines light on hidden history by drawing on an abundance of primary sources that scholars have ignored, as well as archaeological evidence only recently unearthed. This supposed beacon of peaceful coexistence began, of course, with the Islamic Caliphate’s conquest of Spain. Far from a land of religious tolerance, Islamic Spain was marked by religious and therefore cultural repression in all areas of life and the marginalization of Christians and other groups—all this in the service of social control by autocratic rulers and a class of religious authorities.


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Scholars, journalists, and even politicians uphold Muslim-ruled medieval Spain—“al-Andalus”—as a multicultural paradise, a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony. There is only one problem with this widely accepted account: it is a myth. In this book, Northwestern University scholar Darío Fernández-Morera tells the full story of Islamic Spain. The Myth Scholars, journalists, and even politicians uphold Muslim-ruled medieval Spain—“al-Andalus”—as a multicultural paradise, a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony. There is only one problem with this widely accepted account: it is a myth. In this book, Northwestern University scholar Darío Fernández-Morera tells the full story of Islamic Spain. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise shines light on hidden history by drawing on an abundance of primary sources that scholars have ignored, as well as archaeological evidence only recently unearthed. This supposed beacon of peaceful coexistence began, of course, with the Islamic Caliphate’s conquest of Spain. Far from a land of religious tolerance, Islamic Spain was marked by religious and therefore cultural repression in all areas of life and the marginalization of Christians and other groups—all this in the service of social control by autocratic rulers and a class of religious authorities.

30 review for The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helena Schrader

    Fernandez-Morera strips away the veil created by politically-correct modern historians to look at the real face of Muslim Spain based on contemporary, predominantly Arab sources. Conscious that he is taking on the entrenched academic establishment, Professor Fernadez-Morera documents his book meticulously, quoting numerous sources for each assertion and providing more than 100 pages of notes. What emerges is a hideous image of brutal aggression, consciously humiliating oppression, and intoleranc Fernandez-Morera strips away the veil created by politically-correct modern historians to look at the real face of Muslim Spain based on contemporary, predominantly Arab sources. Conscious that he is taking on the entrenched academic establishment, Professor Fernadez-Morera documents his book meticulously, quoting numerous sources for each assertion and providing more than 100 pages of notes. What emerges is a hideous image of brutal aggression, consciously humiliating oppression, and intolerance on all sides (Muslim, Christian and Jewish). This book is not a diatribe against Islam. Rather it is a bitter and biting attack on Western historians who in their search for an example to justify their own fantasies about “multicultural harmony” inside Islam have ignored or consciously distorted the facts. For example, Fernandes-Morera quotes the following passage from another contemporary historian: “It is important to understand that medieval Islamic civilization had a different attitude toward slavery than that seen in Western Europe. Slaves were much better treated and their status was quite honorable. Furthermore, there were many career opportunities open to a skillful mamluk [slave soldier], and the higher standards of living available in the Islamic Middle East, meant there was often little resistance to being taken [as a slave] in Central Asia and south-eastern Europe.” Fernandes-Morera replies: “One can certainly imagine the throngs of girls and boys in Greece, Serbia and Central Asia clamoring to be taken away from their families to be circumcised, to become sexual slaves, or to be castrated to guard harems as eunuchs, or, in other cases, to be raised in barracks with the sole purpose of becoming fearless slave-soldiers.” Fernandez-Morera systematically debunks the allegations of a more “relaxed” Islam and multicultural equality. He does so by quoting Arab sources which (among other things) brag about the wholescale destruction of churches and the slaughter of Christian prisoners, praise the crucifixion of apostates, and texts advising Muslims how to collect the tax from non-believers. (Make them stand before Muslims sitting on a raised platform, call them “enemy of Allah” and then push them around for the amusement of any Muslim “who want[s] to enjoy it.”) He also documents the extent to which Islamic Spanish society was dependent on slaves. For example, Abd al-Rahman had 3,750 slaves in his court, 6,300 sexual slaves in his harem, and 13, 750 slave soldiers. Furthermore, he notes that slaves were a major export of the kingdom, particularly eunuchs (castrated Christian males.) He documents the racism that characterized all blacks as fickle, foolish and ignorant and valued “white” slave girls at almost 15 times that of black slave girls. Fernandez-Morera reminds readers that in Islamic Spain sharia law was the law of the land, and he goes into considerable detail on the specific form of sharia law applied, namely the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence. He points out that the Maliki school, far from being particularly liberal and tolerant, “is one of the more conservative schools, though not the most conservative — an honor that corresponds to the Habali school, predominant in the Arabian Peninsula.” (Fernandes-Morera, p. 96.) Fernandez-Morera points out that Maliki sharia law included many niceties like female genital mutilation (even for adult sexual slaves), counted a woman as half a man, and banned musical instruments and singing altogether (as well as painting and sculpture, of course). The law even went so far as to order a man who bought a non-Muslim sex slave and discovered she was a singer to return her (p. 108). Obviously, as Fernandez-Morera admits, the elites in Muslim Spain (as all over the world) often ignored the law. Non-Muslim slave singers and dancers are tolerated and even coveted. However, he is right to remind his readers that lapses in the application of law do not constitute a positive culture--much less a shining example of “paradise.” In short, Fernandez-Morera uses the Arabic sources to create his picture of Islamic Spain, and he applies logic and common sense ruthlessly to expose “political correctness” masquerading as history. This book is important not just to those interested in learning about Medieval Spain, but as a lesson in how ideology can pervert allegedly scholarly writing. I recommend to everyone with an interest in history and historiography.

  2. 5 out of 5

    S.J. Pearce

    Edited on 1/29/20 to add: Here book chapter based on the blog post: https://www.academia.edu/41779498/The... Edited on 7/6/19 to add: On the basis of my blog post about this book, I was invited to contribute a chapter to a volume on extreme-right historiography, which is forthcoming and which offers a detailed walk through the materials discussed on the blog in greater detail and depth. I'll share a link for the full chapter once it appears. Although this book claims to be the lone voice in the wi Edited on 1/29/20 to add: Here book chapter based on the blog post: https://www.academia.edu/41779498/The... Edited on 7/6/19 to add: On the basis of my blog post about this book, I was invited to contribute a chapter to a volume on extreme-right historiography, which is forthcoming and which offers a detailed walk through the materials discussed on the blog in greater detail and depth. I'll share a link for the full chapter once it appears. Although this book claims to be the lone voice in the wilderness against a pernicious PC myth that has perpetrated scholarship and popular culture, it is in fact written by overlooking all scholarship that contradicts is point and by dealing with medieval texts superficially and only in translation. Just because the author claims to be revealing some hidden truth doesn't mean that's the case. I've written at some greater length about the book here: https://wp.nyu.edu/sjpearce/2017/03/1.... For better alternatives, I'd recommend Hugh Kennedy's Muslim Spain and Portugal and L.P. Harvey's Muslims in Spain.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Negin

    A while back, I was watching a well-known travel show on You Tube about the Andalusian area of Spain. Once they started going on and on about wonderful it all supposedly was under Muslim rule, I was about ready to pop. My blood pressure went up a couple of notches, I’m sure! I kept mumbling to the screen, “Brother, please!” I’m tired, so tired of hearing the same old narrative about that period of time, the supposed multiculturalist paradise, the so-called “Golden Age”. I’m just not buying into A while back, I was watching a well-known travel show on You Tube about the Andalusian area of Spain. Once they started going on and on about wonderful it all supposedly was under Muslim rule, I was about ready to pop. My blood pressure went up a couple of notches, I’m sure! I kept mumbling to the screen, “Brother, please!” I’m tired, so tired of hearing the same old narrative about that period of time, the supposed multiculturalist paradise, the so-called “Golden Age”. I’m just not buying into all that political correctness. As a Persian, I know what they did back in my old country. I recently read “The Force of Reason” by Oriana Fallaci. While reading that, I became interested in reading this one. Oriana addresses the truth about history in Europe during the time of the Muslim invasion and the Crusaders. She says it like it is, as opposed to some romantic version of a time when everyone supposedly lived in a time of tolerance, harmony, and peaceful coexistence. “Whoever believes in the myth of ‘peaceful coexistence that marked the relationships between the conquered and the conquerors’ should reread the stories of the burned convents and monasteries, of the profaned churches, of the raped nuns, of the Christian or Jewish women abducted to be locked away in their harems. He should ponder on the crucifixions of Cordoba, the hangings of Granada, the beheadings of Toledo and Barcelona, of Seville and Zamora. (The beheadings of Seville, ordered by Mutamid: the king who used those severed heads, heads of Jews and Christians, to adorn his palace). Invoking the name of Jesus meant instant execution. Crucifixion, of course, or decapitation or hanging or impalement. Ringing a bell, the same. Wearing green, the colour of Islam, also. And when a Muslim passed by, every Jew and Christian was obliged to step aside. To bow. And mind to the Jew or the Christian who dared react to the insults of a Muslim. As for the much-flaunted detail that the infidel-dogs were not obliged to convert to Islam, not even encouraged to do so, do you know why they were not? Because those who converted to Islam did not pay taxes. Those who refused, on the contrary, did.” This book does a fabulous job of setting the record straight on all the propaganda. The amount of research and evidence is amazing. I only wish that it had been written in a more engaging style, and definitely with less repetition. This book is not an easy read, but I don’t think it was meant to be either. It was written by an academic and is quite scholarly. Some of my favorite quotes: “Professional self-preservation as well as political correctness and economics has affected academic research in certain fields of study, in contrast to the fearlessness demonstrated by professors when unmasking horrors in such dangerous areas of investigation as Christian Europe (the burning of witches! colonialism!) and Catholic Spain (the ubiquitous Spanish Inquisition!). Islamic Spain is no exception to the rule. University presses do not want to get in trouble presenting an Islamic domination of even centuries ago as anything but a positive event, and academic specialists would rather not portray negatively a subject that constitutes their bread and butter. In addition, fear of the accusation of ‘Islamophobia’ has paralyzed many academic researchers.” “Those who portray Islamic Spain as an example of peaceful coexistence frequently cite the fact that Muslim, Jewish, and Christian groups in al-Andalus sometimes lived near one another. Even when that was the case, however such groups dwelled more often than not in their own neighborhoods. More to the point: even when individual Muslims, Jews, and Christians cooperated with one another out of convenience, necessity, mutual sympathy, or love, these three groups and their own numerous subgroups engaged for centuries in struggles for power and cultural survival, manifested in often subtle ways that should not be glossed over for the sake of modern ideals of tolerance, diversity, and convivencia.” “It is significant that Muslim leaders punished their own if they suspected a lack of Islamic zeal. Muslim warriors could be punished with death for apostasy, which contributed to the fervor of the invaders. According to al-Qutiyya, when Musa Ibn Nusayr’s son was named governor, he married the wife of King Rodrigo and began adopting Christian ways—and military leaders cut his head off in the mihrab of a mosque and sent his head to the caliph.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    George

    "The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain" by Dario Fernandez Morera is a polemic against the proponents of "La Convivencia" ("The Coexistence") - the belief that Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in relative peace and harmony in southern and central Spain under Islamic rule between the years 711 and 1492. This book is also, secondarily, a polemic against the claim that Medieval Spain under Islamic rule was the crucial "transmissio "The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain" by Dario Fernandez Morera is a polemic against the proponents of "La Convivencia" ("The Coexistence") - the belief that Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in relative peace and harmony in southern and central Spain under Islamic rule between the years 711 and 1492. This book is also, secondarily, a polemic against the claim that Medieval Spain under Islamic rule was the crucial "transmission bridge" for Greco-Roman philosophy and science to reach the rest of Europe. A polemic can play an important role in our search for a deeper understanding of a topic. A polemic is intentionally one-sided. It doesn't try to give the whole story. It tries to make the strongest possible case for or against a particular view. It can help clarify issues. Of course, the risk of a polemic is that it can set up a Straw Man opponent and then proceed to take down that opponent. I haven't read any of Morera's opponents' books so I don't know if he has fairly characterized their claims. I can say he has written a thought-provoking book. Yet, I think this book would have been even better if Morera had cast the material into a "people's history" mold instead of a polemic mold. More about this idea below. The book has a bit of a courtroom feel. As a reader you are a member of the jury. The "defendant" on trial is Islamic-ruled Spain. The "defense attorneys" are the proponents of "La Convivencia" and the transmission bridge theory. The names of the proponents and their specific claims introduce every chapter and main section of this book. These claims are then shown to be false by the "prosecutor" Morera. And the verdict? Guilty. In my opinion, Morera's strongest point is that the paradigm of colonialism should be applied to Islamic-ruled Spain. Like British colonialists in India and European colonialists in the Western Hemisphere, Muslim colonialists invaded, conquered, and ruled the Indigenous peoples (Christians and Jews) of Medieval Spain. Once you acknowledge the paradigm of colonialism, most, if not all, of Morera's points make sense. The majority of the book explores the difficult daily life of the Indigenous peoples under Islamic rule and the poor treatment of Christians, Jews, and women. Ultimately, no matter how many examples of good treatment of the Indigenous peoples can be found, they, nevertheless, remained under colonial subjugation. For the majority of Indigenous peoples, Medieval Spain under colonial rule was closer to a Dystopia than to a Utopia. The colonialism paradigm also implies (if I understand Morera correctly) that the period after 1492 should be regarded as a period of decolonialization in Spain and Portugal. A process of decolonialization can involve a period of misery, suffering, and movements to extremes in the decolonized region (think of some of the former European colonies). The decolonialization of Spain and Portugal in the 1500s and early 1600s saw the expulsion or conversion of the remaining colonialists, their collaborators, and the Jews by the Spanish Inquisition. Morera's secondary polemic is against the claim that Islamic-ruled Spain was the transmission bridge that provided Renaissance Europe with the ancient, Greco-Roman world's science, philosophy, and culture. Morera makes two points against this claim. First, he demonstrates that the Visigoth culture that existed in Spain in the year 711 was more advanced than the culture of the colonial invaders and, if anything, the Indigenous culture's development was slowed down and stifled during the period of Islamic rule. Any positive cultural achievements of Islamic-ruled Spain were based, in large part, on the pre-existing Indigenous culture. Morera's second point is that Renaissance Europe didn't need to rely on a transmission bridge through Islamic-ruled Spain to reach Greco-Roman culture because it had an eight-lane super highway (my analogy) between Rome and Constantinople during the Medieval period. Morera's decision to cast this material into a polemic mold means this book is also about the agendas, subjectivity, and pre-conceived notions of historians (including Morera). And it's about battles and Groupthink among academics. The disadvantage of a polemic is that it divides people and puts them on the defensive. Morera has put his hand into a hornet's nest. I wonder if any of the "defense attorneys" named in this book will take the time to consider and address Morera's arguments. This book highlights that a positive or negative history book can be written about any country, empire, religion, or group that has ever existed. I am reminded of Winston Churchill's quip "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." Which brings me to the "people's history" idea. Instead of writing a polemic, Morera could have written basically the same book (minus the defense attorney quotes) with a title like "A People's History of Islamic Spain" using most of the same information. According to Wikipedia: "A people's history, history from below, is a type of historical narrative which attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people rather than leaders. There is an emphasis on [the] disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the nonconformists, and otherwise marginal groups." If Morera had taken the "people's history" approach I think this book would have been even better. A final thought on the year 1492. The year 1492 is pivotal for Spain and Portugal for at least three reasons. First, it marks the end of a several hundred-year period of Islamic colonialism. Second, it marks the beginning of a hundred-plus year period of decolonialization. And third, it marks the beginning of a several hundred-year period of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism over the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The formerly oppressed became oppressors. This book is an important contribution to the discussion about Islamic-ruled Spain. I enjoyed it and learned many things. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Medieval Spain, colonialism, or battles among historians. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Notes: Audiobook: Narrated by: Bob Souer Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes Release Date: 2016-06-28 Publisher: Tantor Audio

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    Excellent reading for people with islami phobic tendencies, but little of historical value for anyone else. The very broad brush taken by the author to paint the Spanish conquest as an Islamic holy war is ridiculous reason when he himself concedes that the very first raids by the Berbers yielded much booty and many beautiful captives which prompted further attacks. Jihad was cited as a reason because Islam was the majority religion of the Berbers. If the same Berbers happened to be Christian wou Excellent reading for people with islami phobic tendencies, but little of historical value for anyone else. The very broad brush taken by the author to paint the Spanish conquest as an Islamic holy war is ridiculous reason when he himself concedes that the very first raids by the Berbers yielded much booty and many beautiful captives which prompted further attacks. Jihad was cited as a reason because Islam was the majority religion of the Berbers. If the same Berbers happened to be Christian would the esteemed author quote from the Bible like he has done in his book? I would have expected any historian to be at least informed that wars are conducted only for material gains, justifications vary from time to time but the ulterior motive remains the same, booty.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kirk Mahoney

    The author DESTROYS the myths by John Esposito and other so-called "Islamic scholars" about how wonderful Spain was supposed to have been under Islamic rule. This book has so many footnotes that you finish reading the epilogue at 49% through the Kindle version. If you are tired of the kowtowing to Islam by professors whose jobs are endowed by Saudi Arabia, then you should read this book, which will give you plenty of ammunition and come-backs to their LIES.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This books re-examines and re-interprets the depiction of the historical territory of Al-Andalus – medieval Spain under Islamic rule. The author asserts that historical facts have been molded to suit modern political agendas. That is, he asserts that the unpleasant realities of history have been downplayed in order to advance a liberal agenda. He asserts that the notion of Muslims, Jews and Christians living in relative harmony in Al-Andalus is a myth perpetuated for political purposes, includin This books re-examines and re-interprets the depiction of the historical territory of Al-Andalus – medieval Spain under Islamic rule. The author asserts that historical facts have been molded to suit modern political agendas. That is, he asserts that the unpleasant realities of history have been downplayed in order to advance a liberal agenda. He asserts that the notion of Muslims, Jews and Christians living in relative harmony in Al-Andalus is a myth perpetuated for political purposes, including advocating multi-culturalism and religious tolerance. I’m in two minds about this book. Firstly, of course I know that historians don’t always have all the necessary facts and need to do some guesswork. Of course I know that history gets refashioned to suit the purposes of the day and can be re-visited and re-interpreted from many perspectives. Of course I know that history is a tool that can be used to advance ideological agendas. Of course I know that historians are biased by things like their own beliefs and by where funding comes from. And of course I know that the medieval period wasn’t some wonderful paradise. But my main problem with this book is that the author isn’t even handed in his approach. The author criticises what he sees as the overly positive depiction of Al-Andalus, without acknowledging that most other Western depictions of Islamic history are overly biased in the opposite direction. He doesn't put the depiction Al-Andalus in context, that is, as a rare positive depiction of Islam situated within many long centuries of anti-Islamic sentiment. This context is of vital importance when interrogating how the positive depiction of Al-Andalus came about and what impact such a depiction actually has. Additionally, the author is critical of historical inaccuracy when it paints Muslims in a positive light, but has nothing to say of historical inaccuracy when it depicts Muslims in a negative light. Likewise, he is quick to criticise liberals for refashioning history to serve their purposes, but has nothing to say about conservatives doing the same exact thing. And he shows absolutely no insight into how his re-interpretation of history will be used for political purposes. Which is to say, this book promotes Islamophobia. This book will be used to justify discrimination against Muslims. But the author doesn’t acknowledge this. Nor does he show any insight into his own biases. Instead, the author endeavours to portray himself as one of the few disinterested historians who can see the unbiased facts of history. And this is why I ultimately did not like this book. Just like the myth it aims to debunk, this book is interpretation and political propaganda masquerading as historical fact.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    This book is ferociously erudite, but tinged with obsession. True, nearly all modern academic and popular mention of Muslim Spain endorses an easily disproved falsehood—that Muslim Spain was a golden land of tolerance, offering unique scientific and cultural advancement. So I suppose that the opposite falsehood, that Muslim Spain was a nasty land of unbroken intolerance where nothing was accomplished, in a sense merely balances the scales. But a reader of “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise” st This book is ferociously erudite, but tinged with obsession. True, nearly all modern academic and popular mention of Muslim Spain endorses an easily disproved falsehood—that Muslim Spain was a golden land of tolerance, offering unique scientific and cultural advancement. So I suppose that the opposite falsehood, that Muslim Spain was a nasty land of unbroken intolerance where nothing was accomplished, in a sense merely balances the scales. But a reader of “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise” still feels like he’s once again only getting part of the picture, and getting berated into the bargain, rather than getting what most readers really want, which is an analysis that is objective as possible. It is no secret that it is difficult today to get a straight story about any aspect of historical Muslim world. Most offerings range from laughably false and whitewashed pro-Islam (anything by Karen Armstrong or many other authors) to one-note, one-sided vitriol against Islam (anything by Robert Spencer). This difficulty exists because Islam today lies at the intersection of numerous political squabbles, ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to European ideological multiculturalism, to numerous breeds of oppression theory, to fears of terrorism and of a resurgent Islam in a clash of civilizations. Therefore, nearly all publications since 1980 or so have a distinct ideological tinge (as do many earlier, originating in anti-Catholicism, such as Runciman’s histories of the Crusades). It would be nice if for any period in Muslim history, authors would simply address the reality of what happened, not imposing the template of their politics on either the substance of, or the focus upon, the actions of the protagonists. Thus, in medieval Spain, rather than talking about whether Abd al-Rahman I was tolerant, or intolerant, we should talk about what he did, and why. But, unfortunately, that is not this book. Oh, we are told what he did, but only the parts that show he was intolerant. Which is doubtless true, but I doubt he was as much a one-trick pony as the author tell us. Darío Fernández-Morera painstakingly frames his book in direct opposition to the lumbering philo-Muslim herd of recent decades. Each chapter, and sub-chapter, is headed by quotations from eminent scholars, the purpose of which is to set the substance of those quotations, and those scholars, up for being demolished in the succeeding pages. This is a very effective device, for it, as the Marxists say, heightens the contradictions. And Fernández-Morera does, indeed, accomplish the demolition he seeks. Thus, there is never any doubt about his purpose, which he achieves with the focus of Ahab. More precisely, the author’s purpose is not just to undermine the myth of a golden age of tolerance; it is to focus on the domination of the Maliki school of Islam in Muslim Spain, and to claim that in effect, Muslim Spain often functioned as a type of hierocracy, where Maliki clerics held substantial political power. (The traditional view of most Muslim systems is not that they were theocratic, or hierocratic for that matter, but that they were caesaropapist—that secular rulers had very significant religious power.) Maliki clerics in Spain were not interested in tolerance, or anything at all resembling what modern Western liberals want. That is—the secular rulers of Muslim Spain may, or may not, at any given time have been doctrinally flexible in their personal lives, drowning themselves in wine and concubines (though the latter is generally accepted in Islam), but the actual conduct of broader society was dictated by the legal thought and practice of inflexible and intolerant Maliki clerics. Fernández-Morera begins with various framing and definitional matters. If one concept characterizes the book, it’s that convivencia, the propagandistic term often used to conclude with little evidence that there was a wonderful spirit of mutual tolerance throughout Muslim Spain, is wholly bogus. As the author points out, that there were mutual influences among different groups in Muslim Spain shows nothing—mutual influences always exist under every conqueror. Thus, “This book’s interpretive stance is Machiavellian, not Panglossian. . . . Even when individual Muslims, Jews, and Christians cooperated with one another out of convenience, necessity, mutual sympathy, or love, these three groups and their numerous subgroups engaged for centuries in struggles for power and cultural survival, manifested in often subtle ways that should not be glossed over for the sake of modern ideals of tolerance, diversity, and convivencia.” And again, just because certain secular rulers lived dissolute lives does not mean that was the norm for regular people (any more than, I might add, that just because Charles II had lots of mistresses polygamy was the norm in Restoration England). If the author had limited himself to proving this thesis, rather than stamping on the idea that there was ever any element of convivencia in Muslim Spain, his book would have been very successful. Rather than relying on secondary sources, Fernández-Morera uses mostly primary sources. This is because of the corruption of the secondary sources, largely because of the Gulf states—their funding of Western university departments related to Islam is vast, but conditioned on toeing the pro-(Sunni) Muslim line (something academics under the spell of Edward Said and oppression studies have no problem with). The author’s grasp of languages seems to be immense, which certainly helps him offer a lot of backup to his thesis. There are a hundred pages of footnotes, most to primary sources. The reader can’t, therefore, complain that the book contains falsehoods (unlike, say, every paragraph Karen Armstrong writes). But he can complain of imbalance. The author begins with “Conquest and Reconquest,” in which Fernández-Morera attacks the modern attempt to recast the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Spain as a mere “migration,” having no religious component or jihad element. This modern argument is obviously on weak ground, since that would make the Muslim incursion into Christian Spain unique in Muslim history and contrary to Muslim theology. Not that Fernández-Morera attempts to parse Muslim theology, which has many strands over many centuries. His point is simpler—the actual conquerors of Spain told us exactly why they did it, over and over, and whether there is actually such a thing as jihad as inner struggle in Islam, no conqueror of Spain ever mentioned jihad in any context other than the physical conquest and domination of the Christians and Jews. The conquest of Christian Spain was fast, accomplished through both war and short-term, quickly broken, treaties, though its speed was not without historical parallel—roughly ten years. And the author notes something else not often mentioned today—the Arab conquerors, as well as the defeated Christians, again and again pointed out the critical role of the Jews in supporting the Arab conquest, including through administration of conquered cities as the Arabs moved on to new conquests. This is hardly surprising—Muslim conquests throughout the Middle East were greatly helped not just by the weakness and disorganization of conquered societies, such as Sassanid Persia (and Visigothic Spain itself), but also by the frequent active cooperation of religious minorities, such as the Nestorian Christians in Egypt, who (especially in the early years of the Muslim conquests) saw Islam as just another Christian heresy, and one that would reduce taxes and let them practice their brand of Christianity in peace, thus one whose rule was preferable to the Greek Roman Empire. It’s in this first chapter that some of the book’s defects as writing show up. All too frequently the book reads like a flat recitation of facts and references, delivered in staccato fashion, with not-infrequent repetition of the same facts. We are told repeatedly about tabiun (contemporaries of Muhammad’s companions, whose presence on campaign was regarded as highly desirable); that Ibn Khaldun disparaged Arab building techniques; and, most often of all, that the famous “Mosque of Córdoba” (now thankfully a cathedral) was built on the Basilica of St. Vincent, destroyed by the conquerors. All these things are interesting, and even relevant, but being told once would have been enough, and the repetition either indicates bad editing or the edge of obsession—probably the latter, since most of these are used in service of a negative light being cast on the conquerors. No doubt much they did was negative, but they must have done some neutral, or even good, things. What those are, we are not told. In the next chapter, the author’s main purpose is to establish that Visigothic Spain, far from being a backward society improved by superior Muslim culture, was in fact a flowering hybrid of Roman and Visigothic culture, largely destroyed by a mostly retrograde Islam, except for a few elements that survived (such as the Visigothic horseshoe arch, often described as an Islamic element). This is a variation on the generally accepted modern view that the “Dark Ages” weren’t that dark at all. I have a lot of sympathy for this view, and elements of it are surely true (including that it was not Arabs, rather it was mostly the Greek Roman Empire, that preserved the texts of Aristotle and other Classical writers, supplemented by Christian scribes under Islam). On the other hand, both documentary and archaeological evidence of this period is slim, and the author, I think, tries to spin too much out of too little. But what I have no sympathy for is his frequent references to, and reliance on, a secondary source: Emmet Scott’s “Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited.” This is a 2012 book updating the thesis of Henri Pirenne, from the 1930s, that the Dark Ages were caused by the rise of Islam, because it ended trade and most contacts between Europe and the East, both in the Mediterranean and, to a lesser extent, overland, thus turning Europe temporarily into a backwater, when it was otherwise still flourishing after the fall of Rome. This thesis certainly has something to it, although it tends to get little modern hearing, since it suggests that there could be something negative about the impact of Islam. But Scott’s present-day book, which endorses and updates Pirenne, comes very close to endorsing the bizarre Phantom Time Hypothesis—that today is really 1720, not 2017, because Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II inserted the years A.D. 614-911 into the calendar. The supposed proof of this turns on a nearly complete lack of archaeological evidence for those centuries, which might support Pirenne, but given, say, Chinese records, the idea of phantom time is sheer stupidity (like most conspiracy theories positing multi-generational gnosis). I read Scott’s book when it came out in 2012, and this was a disturbing element of the book. Though Scott never directly endorsed the Phantom Time Hypothesis, instead tiptoeing around it, he was clearly sympathetic. Looking around now, I see that Scott later, in 2014, wrote a book formally endorsing it. Therefore, that Fernández-Morera cites Scott heavily does not, or should not, help his case—yes, Pirenne may well be right, but crackpots should be avoided, and the case for the flowering of Visigothic Spain being cut short not overstated. The rest of the book is taken up with an encyclopedic rendering, in multiple chapters, of the bad behavior of Muslims toward Jews, Christians, and women in Muslim Spain. Although no informed person really thinks that Muslim Spain was, for the 500 years of its existence (700 if you include the 200 years in which it was reduced to the rump of Granada) a model of tolerance, traditionally the earlier Umayyad dynasty, and the fragmented taifa kingdoms which followed it, have been regarded as more tolerant than the later Almohad and Almoravid dynasties. Fernández-Morera will have none of this—relying largely on Maliki texts, and primary texts showing the actual application of the rigid Maliki rules, he insists that non-Muslims were uniformly treated poorly. Yes, occasional Christians and Jews rose in the Muslim power hierarchy; and yes, for some periods the rules requiring constant humiliation of non-Muslims weren’t aggressively enforced. But mostly they were, interspersed with pogroms and massacres of both Christians and Jews (the latter, in particular, came in for abuse because of their education and prosperity—some things apparently never change). Women always had vastly more freedom and power in Europe than anywhere in Islam, including Muslim Spain. And dhimmi status was the best Christians could hope for (when they weren’t being accused of being polytheists, because of belief in the Trinity, and killed outright)—which was only protection in the sense of “protection racket,” an organized form of monetary extortion in exchange for a temporary abeyance of violence against the person. None of this is surprising to any educated person—the uniform history of Islam in power is that of a triumphalist religion, in which some, and some only, minority religions are allowed to exist, as long as they pay taxes and recognize the temporal authority of Islam over them. I have no doubt that all the data, texts, and examples Fernández-Morera offers are both true and accurate. All this is a valuable corrective to the philo-Muslim, anti-Christian view that normally dominates in the academy and in the media today, supplemented by outright lies often offered by American politicians as they declare their willing submission to Islam. But this book offers only a one-dimensional picture, no different than the one-dimensional picture usually offered of Christian Europe as a nasty, intolerant place. Sometimes it was; sometimes it wasn’t, and the same has to be true of Muslim Spain. Any ambiguity in this book is always resolved against Islam. The reader, or at least this reader, is unhappy not to get a complete picture. Maybe the corrective is needed, but the reader is tired of being a kickball in the ideological wars. Yes, the Reconquista was awesome, and should be celebrated, and isn’t celebrated enough today. But that doesn’t mean we should endorse viewing history through a pinhole.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    Please give my review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/review/RPOBN0U... The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise by Dario Fernandez- Morera This is a detailed, well-supported and highly engaging book. The thesis of the author, Dario Fernandez- Morera, is that Spain prior to the Muslim conquest was a civilized society that was conquered by barbarians, who thereafter usurped the benefits of the higher civilization and impressed their own repressive social structure on the survivors. Fernandez-Mor Please give my review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/review/RPOBN0U... The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise by Dario Fernandez- Morera This is a detailed, well-supported and highly engaging book. The thesis of the author, Dario Fernandez- Morera, is that Spain prior to the Muslim conquest was a civilized society that was conquered by barbarians, who thereafter usurped the benefits of the higher civilization and impressed their own repressive social structure on the survivors. Fernandez-Morera contends that there was no tolerant Muslim civilization in Spain, and that this idea, and the name Andalusia, was concocted by scholars in the 20th century. In his epilogue, Morera writes: “But a basic fact is lost in discussions and arguments about the details of the life of the Christian dhimmis of Spain, the so-called Mozarabs, and about how much or how little they benefited from Islamic “toleration”— namely, that they were by definition a subaltern group, a fourth- or fifth-class marginalized people in a hierarchical society, and that they were the victims of an extortion system, the dhimma, that gave them the choice that gangsters give to their victims: pay to be protected, or else. Therefore, saying that the Christians might be “content” with their status in Spain, Greece, or elsewhere under medieval Islamic rule is even more preposterous than saying that American blacks might be “content” with their second-class citizenship under the tolerant white hegemony in certain areas of the United States prior to the twentieth-century civil rights movement, or perhaps even with their treatment by slave owners in the American South before the War of Secession, who often “made them part of the family.” 10 In fact, as the nomenclature described by the historian Ibn Hayyan of Córdoba indicated, Christians were at the bottom of a stratified Islamic world, where Arabs occupied the top, followed by Berbers, then by freed Muslim white slaves, and finally by muladis (converts), who were further divided into first-generation converts and the rest. 11 And of course Christians, again by definition, were not part of the Islamic umma but were merely tolerated and “protected” (a word with ominous meaning for anyone familiar with “protection” rackets) as long as they humbly kept their place and paid for said “protection”— in a hegemonic tactic also used by the Muslim Turks during their four-hundred-year subjugation of Christian Greece. Morera’s book is therefore intended as revisionist history, and Morera knows that he is attacking a position that has become hallowed by multicultural piety and the sense that there is something amiss in Western culture. One of the engaging features of Morera’s writing is that he introduces his chapters with quotations from leading scholars that attest to the myth of Andalusian tolerance, and then he proceeds to dismantle these fatuous quotes bit by bit with citations and facts. There is an interesting feature in Morera’s sources. He seems to rely on quite a bit of Spanish sources. My sense was that most of the “Andalusian paradise” advocates don’t read Spanish and aren’t aware of recent research by Spanish historians. In addition, I suspect that Morera’s opponents are indoctrinated in the various “Black Legends” that depict Spain as perennially backwards and barbaric. Morera’s first bit of correction is to destroy the idea that everyone referred to Spain under the Muslims as “Andalusia.” The Christian inhabitants referred to the regions occupied by the Muslims as “Spain” and even the Muslims used the term Spain (and not Iberia.) Morera also takes on the modern apologetic that “jihad” does not mean “military conquest.” The conquest of Spain was religiously motivated as part of the concept of jihad. Modern apologists might downplay the idea of jihad as religious war, but the Muslims involved in the conquest and subjugation of Spain were clear: “Likewise, the legal manual Suma de los principales mandamientos y devedamientos de la ley y çunna, por don Içe de Gebir, alfaquí mayor y muftí de la aljama de Segovia, written in 1492 in aljamiado— Spanish written with Arabic signs used by many of the Muslims under Spanish Christian domination— examines jihad (al-chihed) only as Holy War and as obligatory for the believer (35). The same is true of the legal manual Leyes de moros, written in Spanish and possibly dating from the fourteenth century (see the allusion to jihad in 250). The persistence of the understanding of jihad only as Holy War in these works is quite telling because they were written for the use of Muslims already under Christian rule (mudéjares). 26 The Suma makes clear that waging jihad is obligatory for all free Muslim males and that before fighting the infidels one must ask them first either to submit to Islam and pay the jizya or to convert to Islam (chapter 35).” Morera also undermines the popular notion that the Visigothic kingdom was destined to fall. In fact, the Visigothic kingdom, according to Morera, was a “nascent civilization” that could count social and engineering achievements among its accomplishments. It did not fall because it was a moribund civilization, but because it was attacked by a powerful outside source at a time when it was beset with its own internal conflicts. Among its accomplishments was its legal code: “Overlooked, too, is that the Visigothic Code of Law was, for its time, an impressive document that combined Visigoth practices with Roman law and Christian principles, and that evidences a guiding desire to limit the power of government many centuries before Magna Carta. (The following headings in title 1 of book 2 give an idea of this concern with freedom from tyrannical rule: “II. The Royal Power, as well as the Entire Body of the People, should be Subject to the Majesty of the Law. III. It is Permitted to No One to be Ignorant of the Law.… V. How the Avarice of the King should be Restrained.”) “ Visigothic Spain was filled with substantial works of public construction that relied on engineering skills retained from Rome. Likewise, Spain was developing its own musical style. Islamic Spain took over these skills. After laying the foundations, Morera addresses the myth of toleration. The true story of Islamic Spain is anything but toleration. While I was listening to the stories of beheadings and impalements and persecution of Christians and heterodox Muslims, I was caused to reflect on ISIS in Syra and Iraq, and ponder how there could be such similar activities separated by a millennium of time and a continent. Morera points out that the situation of women in Islamic Spain was far more oppressive than found in Christian Spain. Christian women could work and leave their homes, and there were female monarchs. Not so in Islamic Spain, where women were either sex slaves or confined to their homes as wives or daughters. Likewise, while the condition of Jews may have been better in Islamic Spain than Christian Spain, that was due to the traditional tactic of conquerors who support a minority against the larger population. Course, this preferential treatment created resentment among Muslims and curtailment of preferential treatment. In terms of tolerance, one of the signal facts is simply that Christianity was exterminated in the southern, Muslim lands by the time of the Reconquest. Dhimmi Christians were induced to convert by the constant state of humiliation imposed on them, by the mass beheadings and deportations and by the emigration to the Christian kingdoms of the north. Morera writes “By the end of the twelfth century, as a result of flight (or “migration”) to Christian lands, expulsions to North Africa, executions, and conversions, the Christian dhimmi population had largely disappeared from al-Andalus. 9 When Christians entered Granada in 1492, there were no Christian dhimmis in the city. And: “Never mind the lowly status Christian dhimmis and even muladis occupied in Islamic society; the harsh restrictions they lived under; the extortion and humiliation they suffered through their special “taxes” (the jizya); the destruction of their ancient churches, as recorded by the monks Eulogius and Alvarus (testimonies either ignored by scholars or dismissed as the exaggerations of fanatics); 106 or the even harsher punishments Christians faced for violating Islamic laws. Those punishments included drastic measures such as ethnic cleansing: Christian dhimmis were expelled to North Africa repeatedly— from Malaga in 1106, Granada in 1126, and various parts of Islamic Spain in 1138 and 1170.107 The punishments also included, as we have seen repeatedly, executions of the most painful and public forms. Such was the spirit of Islamic Spain’s “convivencia,” which Norman Roth hails as “one of the many things that made Spain great, and which the rest of Europe could have learned from it to its profit.” Moreras arguments are backed up with impressive citations to authorities. His writing is very engaging. If you like seeing the fatuous nonsense and academic pieties flayed with intelligence and scholarship, this is your book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Todd Wilhelm

    This is a great book that really has me wondering about what passes as scholarship at many of our institutions of higer learning. Author Dario Fernandez-Morerra begins each chapter with a quote or two from a noteworthy person, usually a college professor in Arabic Studies, or a similar field. Each person quoted states how wonderful life was under muslim rule in Medieval Spain. What tolerance of Christianity and Judaism the muslim conquerors exhibited, how society flourished under muslim rule, et This is a great book that really has me wondering about what passes as scholarship at many of our institutions of higer learning. Author Dario Fernandez-Morerra begins each chapter with a quote or two from a noteworthy person, usually a college professor in Arabic Studies, or a similar field. Each person quoted states how wonderful life was under muslim rule in Medieval Spain. What tolerance of Christianity and Judaism the muslim conquerors exhibited, how society flourished under muslim rule, etc. He then totally dismantles their mythical statements by relentless revelations of what life was actually like, culled from well documented sources of individuals who actually lived during the supposed "golden era" of muslim rule. Thankfully there are authors like Fernandez-Morerra who are willing to do the research to refute those who would like to rewrite history to align with their anti-western, anti-christian world views. If I had my way I would make this mandatory reading in high school history courses.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Denise Spicer

    This is a GREAT book, an eye-opening MUST READ. The author meticulously documents his research including medieval PRIMARY SOURCES to refute the politically correct but false claims of academic/media pundits that Spain was conquered peacefully by the Muslim invaders who were religiously tolerant. Instead the author references example after example of Muslim repression, sometimes extremely brutal, of Christians and Jews. Especially compelling is the archaeological evidence he lists (of destroyed c This is a GREAT book, an eye-opening MUST READ. The author meticulously documents his research including medieval PRIMARY SOURCES to refute the politically correct but false claims of academic/media pundits that Spain was conquered peacefully by the Muslim invaders who were religiously tolerant. Instead the author references example after example of Muslim repression, sometimes extremely brutal, of Christians and Jews. Especially compelling is the archaeological evidence he lists (of destroyed churches, monuments, etc.) Especially chilling is how the “academic interpretation of jihad as spiritual has made its way into school children’s education.” whereas the early sources themselves discuss jihad only in the martial sense. (page 23) Also included are interesting facts about how Islamic warriors pioneered the slavery of Africans blacks. (page 164) and that the majority of Muslim scholars were non-Arabs from conquered nations. (page 236). Although probably too scholarly for some this should be required reading for ALL teachers.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Jakab

    This is one of those treasures you run accross from time to time that simply fills in one big historical fog bank you hardly ever took much notice of. It was not an entrancing presentation (audio book) but I have done it twuce already. Will probably need to do it again. I did so many mental double takes I needed lots of googling just to be sure I was not hallucinating. Sort of takes my breath away. .. What I failed to appreciate was the Arabs and Berbers were several orders of magnitude lower on This is one of those treasures you run accross from time to time that simply fills in one big historical fog bank you hardly ever took much notice of. It was not an entrancing presentation (audio book) but I have done it twuce already. Will probably need to do it again. I did so many mental double takes I needed lots of googling just to be sure I was not hallucinating. Sort of takes my breath away. .. What I failed to appreciate was the Arabs and Berbers were several orders of magnitude lower on the barbarian scrotum pole then the aristocracy they replaced. If not for the reconquest Spain today could be culturally North African. Think Algeria. Think about that.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Zuvich

    Engaging, thought-provoking, and meticulously researched using Islamic, Christian, and Jewish texts, Dr Darío Fernández-Morera's book convinced me of the plausibility of his argument: that the oft-told belief that Muslim-controlled Spain was a time of peaceful inclusion for all inhabitants is largely, if not wholly, a myth, and that those who were not followers of Islam were subjugated and pretty much held as second-class citizens - and the conquered were given a choice of conversion, death, or Engaging, thought-provoking, and meticulously researched using Islamic, Christian, and Jewish texts, Dr Darío Fernández-Morera's book convinced me of the plausibility of his argument: that the oft-told belief that Muslim-controlled Spain was a time of peaceful inclusion for all inhabitants is largely, if not wholly, a myth, and that those who were not followers of Islam were subjugated and pretty much held as second-class citizens - and the conquered were given a choice of conversion, death, or payment of jizya. As such, I think this book ought to be required reading in high schools, along with the existing theory (which I think this book successfully refutes). This book is good for any adult who wishes to be more knowledgeable about the Islamic impact on Spain and about topics such as female genital mutilation, usage of the veil, women's rights, equality, architecture, slavery, and more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    An excellent contrarian reading of Islamic Spain as opposed to the post-nationalist, cultural Marxist, anti-Western reading common amongst Western historians today. Well-documented and tightly argued. The author's language occasionally slips into polemic and this is unfortunate, but in swimming against the 'religious' tide of Leftist 'narrative' this is almost to be expected. An important book that offers a serious re-evaluation of Medieval, post-Visigothic, Islamic Spain. Rating: 5 out of 5 Sta An excellent contrarian reading of Islamic Spain as opposed to the post-nationalist, cultural Marxist, anti-Western reading common amongst Western historians today. Well-documented and tightly argued. The author's language occasionally slips into polemic and this is unfortunate, but in swimming against the 'religious' tide of Leftist 'narrative' this is almost to be expected. An important book that offers a serious re-evaluation of Medieval, post-Visigothic, Islamic Spain. Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Svetlana Petrova

    I am not an expert in Muslim Spain, but I do have some experience in research. In my opinion, this book is suspiciously one sided and very unbalanced. The author's passion (obsession?) with denigrating one (Muslim) side of the story and praising the "superior" Christian culture made me chuckle many a times. I started the book as a very neutral reader, eager to learn about the period and having no anti- or pro- notions, but I quickly became very skeptical about the author's way of delivering his I am not an expert in Muslim Spain, but I do have some experience in research. In my opinion, this book is suspiciously one sided and very unbalanced. The author's passion (obsession?) with denigrating one (Muslim) side of the story and praising the "superior" Christian culture made me chuckle many a times. I started the book as a very neutral reader, eager to learn about the period and having no anti- or pro- notions, but I quickly became very skeptical about the author's way of delivering his message. It felt like propaganda and/or brainwashing, especially with repeating the same facts over and over (not even paraphrazing them). Does the author want me to memorize them? Is there a quiz tomorrow? I was wondering why he is so vitriolic, so almost jealous sounding. Is he resentful of some specific researchers? It sounds like a personal attack masked as an academic endeavor. Who said that history books are boring??? They are boiling with passion, at least this one, for sure. Now I am going to find more books to see for myself how other scholars interpret this period of Iberian history since I no longer trust the author's interpretation. Overall, I liked how passionate the author is and his linguistic style, but, as a researcher, I can only say - nothing can be only black or only white. I learned some facts about Muslim Spain and the book made me want to read more about the subject; therefore, two stars. Looking for recommendations to continue my reading.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris Power

    A hit job. The author only presents evidence that supports his preconception that all things Muslim are evil or worthless and all things Christian are good. Very little attempt is made to present a truthful picture. Too bad. I do think that some of the more popular books on the golden age of Islam in Spain overstate their case but this book is a caracature of an argument in the opposite direction. The author clearly invested significant effort in combing over many primary sources but unfortunately A hit job. The author only presents evidence that supports his preconception that all things Muslim are evil or worthless and all things Christian are good. Very little attempt is made to present a truthful picture. Too bad. I do think that some of the more popular books on the golden age of Islam in Spain overstate their case but this book is a caracature of an argument in the opposite direction. The author clearly invested significant effort in combing over many primary sources but unfortunately did so with nefarious intent.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keith Newport

    Authoritative insight into the impact Islam has on civilisations that aren't prepared to defend against its continuing, aggressive efforts to subject all people to their distorted view of an oppressive dystopia. A well researched treatise that accomplishes its stated task. Ordinary citizens, students, and professors will be exposed to irrefutable facts that challenge the lies found in propaganda designed to humanize an evil cult.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    A historical work, discussing history before, during, and after the period. Also the legal systems -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish -- that prevailed there (inside and outside communities). In particular dwelling on the conflicts inside religious communities and between them. An excellent survey that debunks a lot of myths.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jody

    Darío Fernández-Morera (DFM) is by no means the first rebel scholar to dispute the universally espoused academic hypothesis that Islamic Spain represented a "Golden Age" of pre-modern multiculturalism and tolerance. However, in The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, DFM pushes the challenge to this programmatic dogma one step further, contending that the Visigothic Kingdom that was toppled by the Umayyad invasion of the 8th century was not a nascent civilization conquered by a more advanced people Darío Fernández-Morera (DFM) is by no means the first rebel scholar to dispute the universally espoused academic hypothesis that Islamic Spain represented a "Golden Age" of pre-modern multiculturalism and tolerance. However, in The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, DFM pushes the challenge to this programmatic dogma one step further, contending that the Visigothic Kingdom that was toppled by the Umayyad invasion of the 8th century was not a nascent civilization conquered by a more advanced people. Rather, he argues, it was a rich European culture in its own right, and one that was both more enlightened than and intellectually superior to its Arab conquerors. I don't have the requisite reading under my belt to pick a side in this debate, but I did find DFM's treatment of Visigothic socio-political complexity both gripping and unexpected. Examples include the comparatively self-directing status of women in Visigothic society (the relevant chapter includes a brief survey of queens regnant—a phenomenon unheard of in any caliphate), Visigothic religion, and Visigothic political ethos and traditions. On this latter subject, I was hitherto ignorant of the Visigothic Code, which in some ways anticipated Magna Carta by almost six centuries. All this said, a fair reader must concede that DFM assumes too strident a tone in dealing with the comparative merits of European and Arab cultures (and, by extension, of Christianity and Islam). This would not be a concern if the book were not presented as a work of academic history. As is, it reads more as a polemic. DFM seems unwilling to allow that Arabs were more skillful at just about anything when compared to the cultures they plunged and the lands they colonized. He attributes almost all of their medieval achievements to Visigothic, Byzantine, or Persian influence. This dismissiveness (if not outright contempt) extends even to the level of aesthetics—e.g., the primitiveness of Arab music, or the shabbiness of Arab architecture. DFM's treatment of religion in Al-Andalus is a bit more evenhanded. Ample primary sources illustrate that Muslims, Christians, and Jews were all by turns awful and cruel and barbaric to one another. Crucially, his arguments point toward a similar conclusion drawn by historian Mark Cohen, who has suggested that the idea of Convivencia originates primarily in the work of Jewish historians. This put me in mind of an undergraduate class I took on the Inquisition to help fulfill a Spanish minor. As research for my final paper, I read The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain by Benzion Netanyahu (Benjamin's father). I recall Netanyahu writing something to the effect that the Reconquista was the greatest calamity to befall Jews until the Shoah. This is probably accurate, as none of the burdens or indignities of the dhimma system compares to the excesses of the Inquisition. In DFM's analysis, the Inquisition might be interpreted as an extreme reaction on the part of newly emancipated Christians who had been oppressed in Islamic Spain for 700 years. Once in power, they turned their ire not just on Muslims but Jews, who were seen as co-conspirators and enablers of Muslim colonization and persecution. These contemporary nuances are lost in modern historical discourses which mandate that Christian Europeans always be cast as villains. Most modern academics seem incapable of countenancing a case in which Europeans were themselves the colonized. By means of comparison, could one imagine a prevailing historical viewpoint that European colonization had a positive civilizing impact on the Indigenous Americas? Or, say, that the British brought a more advanced and enlightened culture to India? Ultimately, the evangelists of Convivencia do themselves more harm than good. Their many agents across media (e.g., the reviewers on this page throwing out accusations of "Islamophobia") reinforce the idea that they might be trying just a bit too hard to subvert uncomfortable truths and realities. The final page of the book includes a quote from the medievalist historian José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec, which sums up the matter at hand quite succinctly: The frontier between Spain and Morocco is the world frontier where there is the most visible difference between the two worlds. If the battle of Navas de Tolosa had been lost, that frontier would be on the Pyrenees. One...would not be able to eat ham or drink beer. One's name would be Hussein, or Jamal or Benazir, and perhaps one would not be able to go on the street without wearing a veil. DFM concludes the book with a roll call of the great luminaries of Spanish culture who flourished during the generations following the Reconquista. These include Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, St. Teresa de Ávila, Diego Velázquez, and Doménikos Theotokópoulos ("El Greco"). The latter is the most famous exemplar of the post-Byzantine Cretan School, which bridged Eastern and Western European artistic traditions and movements. Indeed, many Greek Christians fled west after their ancient kingdom was routed and colonized by Islamic invaders in the 15th century. They brought with them the spark of a brilliant culture which wasn't lost but rather transmuted into a continental Renaissance and, in the case of Spain, ushered in a true Golden Age.

  20. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    This book has been on my to-read list for some time, but after reading this 'professional' review, I find myself all the more interested in wanting to read it, if only to turn the pointing finger back to the reviewer who calls the author 'sneering', yet seldom have I read a more sneering review. I had to read the article very slowly and carefully to ascertain the author's points as they were so few compared to her unkind attitude; also a number of typos and grammatical errors. Well, time and God This book has been on my to-read list for some time, but after reading this 'professional' review, I find myself all the more interested in wanting to read it, if only to turn the pointing finger back to the reviewer who calls the author 'sneering', yet seldom have I read a more sneering review. I had to read the article very slowly and carefully to ascertain the author's points as they were so few compared to her unkind attitude; also a number of typos and grammatical errors. Well, time and God, permitting I would like to see what the hoopla is all about.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Waraji-sama Waraji-sama

    This book should absolutely be required reading in all stages of western education. I can’t begin to describe the sheer importance of such a historical treatise. To be clear, I didn’t find the information presented by Morera to be overtly shocking due to the fact that I have a strong knowledge base on Islam and Islamic history, the peculiarities of which could never bring about any kind of “golden age” to the inheritors of the western Roman Empire, regardless of whether or not there really was a This book should absolutely be required reading in all stages of western education. I can’t begin to describe the sheer importance of such a historical treatise. To be clear, I didn’t find the information presented by Morera to be overtly shocking due to the fact that I have a strong knowledge base on Islam and Islamic history, the peculiarities of which could never bring about any kind of “golden age” to the inheritors of the western Roman Empire, regardless of whether or not there really was a “dark age” within Europe, an idea disputed by the Encyclopedia Britannica, I might add. The notion of an Islamic golden age bringing convivencia and tolerance to Europe is entirely preposterous, as Morera states, and thoroughly points out while using sources in great abundance. In fact, just over half of this entire book is made up of notes and other source materials used to back up his assertions, many of which are first-hand accounts of Muslims, Christians and Jews from the historical periods in question. That most academic historians would perpetuate such ideas shows a gross lack of ethical boundaries. I rather liked Morera’s treatment. He was objective, and made clear assertions that were polemic to all three of the cultures of those times discussed. Before reading this book I saw a talk in which Christopher Hitchens regurgitated the nonsense of the Andalusian “golden age” in which he asserted that the Islamic empire reintroduced Greek learning to the barbarous Christians of then Spain. I rolled by eyes wondering if he had ever truly studied Islam, a religion of which he had nothing but polemical interest in, Christianity of which even more so, it seems. I really liked how Morera used accounts from the era to disprove this notion quite thoroughly, showing in stark contrast that the Berbers and Arab conquerors marveled at the wealth and advancements of the post-Roman Visigoth culture of Spain during their invasion during the eighth century. As I said before, I wasn’t overly shocked by the revelations, but that’s only due to my knowledge of Islamic history. However, if you don’t have that particular knowledge, you’re in for quite a revelation; a whole set of them in fact. Islam has not and never will create a cultural atmosphere of conviviencia that fosters tolerant multicultural societies; the very notion is laughable and I challenge anyone who doubts the assertions made by Morera to go read the Quran and ahadith to understand for themselves. Understanding a subject from multiple sources and not just from historians with “narratives” if possible, is essential to understanding truth on this topic, which is why I encourage anyone and everyone to read the source materials of the various religions mention in this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    B.J. Richardson

    "La Convivencia" (the coexistence) is the term one hears ad-nauseam when talking about Muslim occupied Spain. In those two words, we have wrapped up a pile of lies and wishful thinking about a time when Muslim rulers actually cared for and treated well their Christian and Jewish neighbors. The politically correct establishment is consistently trumpeting this lie and quoting each other to maintain, what is to me, their mind-boggling alliance with Islamic apologists. It is mind-boggling to me beca "La Convivencia" (the coexistence) is the term one hears ad-nauseam when talking about Muslim occupied Spain. In those two words, we have wrapped up a pile of lies and wishful thinking about a time when Muslim rulers actually cared for and treated well their Christian and Jewish neighbors. The politically correct establishment is consistently trumpeting this lie and quoting each other to maintain, what is to me, their mind-boggling alliance with Islamic apologists. It is mind-boggling to me because there is no single worldview in history more antithetical to a liberal world view than Islam. This is not just true now. It was just as much, if not more so during the centuries when Muslim invaders had conquered and occupied parts of Spain. Dario Fernandez-Morera goes back to the sources and the mountains of evidence to demonstrate that the entire concept of "La Convivencia". Instead, he calls this time "La Precaria Existencia" and shows how no side, not the ruling Muslims, nor the subject Jews and Christians, ever felt safe or comfortable among their neighbors. He quotes multiple Muslim scholars and historians bragging about the destruction and plundering of churches and synagogues, he examines the legal code in effect during this time as well as the fatwas (the legal rulings) of Islamic leaders of this time to show that intolerance and oppression were the norm, not coexistence. He examines the history of martyrs throughout this era. And he also looks at Jewish and Christian writings and records from this same time to show that they were just as intolerant (so no, this book is not an anti-Islamic bash fest). In all, this book is one of a growing number coming out to counterbalance the false propaganda we are inundated with that at one time there was a Muslim ruled Spain in which all lived in peace and harmony. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Muslim, Spanish, or medieval history. Even if you don't go read it yourself I would suggest you point it out to anyone you might know who has bought the lie of "La Convivencia"

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill V

    I am not an expert on Spain or on the Muslim presence in the country but I found this text to be eye opening. There are over 90 pages of footnotes, for a ratio of 1 page of footnotes for every 2.5 pages of text. I did not review the footnotes but that is an impressive ratio. The book explodes what people are told about Spain under Muslim rule. Like many things today, it seems political considerations and sensitivities override the need to be honest about what happened. The author takes several qu I am not an expert on Spain or on the Muslim presence in the country but I found this text to be eye opening. There are over 90 pages of footnotes, for a ratio of 1 page of footnotes for every 2.5 pages of text. I did not review the footnotes but that is an impressive ratio. The book explodes what people are told about Spain under Muslim rule. Like many things today, it seems political considerations and sensitivities override the need to be honest about what happened. The author takes several quotes and statements from many modern authors and people, such as President Obama, about how enlightened and tolerant Muslim rule was and then proceeds to disprove or discredit them through quotes from original sources or providing historical evidence of what actually happened.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    What a book. Destroys the idea of a golden age of Islam in Spain (oops Iberia).?

  25. 4 out of 5

    yana

    Approach this work very carefully and take note of the academic context it exists in before you allow it to shape your opinions. For a better view on the period, I suggest you invest in the following titles instead: Moorish Spain by R. Fletcher; Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain, 1492-1614 by M. Carr; The Story of the Moors in Spain by S. Lane-Poole; A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain C. Lowney; Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree by T. Ali (historical fictio Approach this work very carefully and take note of the academic context it exists in before you allow it to shape your opinions. For a better view on the period, I suggest you invest in the following titles instead: Moorish Spain by R. Fletcher; Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain, 1492-1614 by M. Carr; The Story of the Moors in Spain by S. Lane-Poole; A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain C. Lowney; Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree by T. Ali (historical fiction); Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus by H. Kennedy (highly recommended). If you're of a drier persuasion, I suggest delving into Google Scholar to read the most recent peer-reviewed papers on the topic. As for this book, Morera spins a believable analysis of a number of carefully selected primary resources. Not in a good way. While this is what most of the praise for this book is based on, the way the author has chosen his primary sources and the manner in which he has handled them has been EXTREMELY selective and frankly manipulative. In fact, the entire piece relies on the reader's relative ignorance on the topic or on the biased education they might have received. Morera linguistically toys with the statements he makes until the reader is persuaded that it was intelligently argued facts that have brought him about to see through the "great lie" of the covivencia. Al-Andalus is accused of murderous intolerance with examples pulled out of historical context and evaluated by light of modern ethics... And without being related to the brutality of any other society of the time or the Inquisition which followed for 350 years after. You might think Morera's work is dedicated to demasking the "covivencia' as a rotten myth... But in reality, he tries to sell a very intricate brand of islamophobia and anti-semitism which reels even at the thought of ever having shared a part of Europe with either of those cultures. The book exists in the perfect vacuum of pseudo-academia where it's safe from the criticism of an entire field of scholars who would otherwise rip its method and content to shreds. Note that it is not published by a respected academic press, despite the author's continuous reassetion that he's a legit academic. Let's be real, we all know at least one professor who has successfully hung onto some regrettable *opinions* in spite of the big name institutions he/she may represent. Too long; didn't read: this is a controversial opinion piece which relies on the readers' limited knowledge of the period and seeks to appeal to a sentimentalist Christian-Europe-Above-All viewpoint.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amjad Al Taleb

    I honestly thought that the "Andalusian Paradise" was a huge exaggeration of the good-old-days of the religious coexistence. That was until I read this book who's author went out of his way to find traces of marginal accounts that might hint to a different story. He even criticized Islam saying that nothing in Visigoth Europe amounts to the number or treatment of slaves in Islamic Andalusia, now I do not know about the Visigoth; but clearly the author has not heard of the genocides and enslavemen I honestly thought that the "Andalusian Paradise" was a huge exaggeration of the good-old-days of the religious coexistence. That was until I read this book who's author went out of his way to find traces of marginal accounts that might hint to a different story. He even criticized Islam saying that nothing in Visigoth Europe amounts to the number or treatment of slaves in Islamic Andalusia, now I do not know about the Visigoth; but clearly the author has not heard of the genocides and enslavement that European Christians committed in the Americas and Africa. The author even refers to a Story from Arabian Nights, which are Indian and Persian folk stories to criticize an Arab Calif in Baghdad and used that as evidence of how bad life was in Andalusia. This book is full of bullshit disguised as academic research to provide self-righteousness to Islamophobics. And I believe it was quite successful at this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gil Garza

    Using a wealth of primary sources, the author examines the pre conquest society in the Spanish Peninsula, what happened during the Islamic conquest and how the conquering Muslims ruled their subjects. Using primary sources, the author examines many modern mythological characterizations of this period and tests them to find them entirely lacking substance. The modern mythologies of medieval Spain that I learned in college now resemble propaganda more than they do history. The writing style is ver Using a wealth of primary sources, the author examines the pre conquest society in the Spanish Peninsula, what happened during the Islamic conquest and how the conquering Muslims ruled their subjects. Using primary sources, the author examines many modern mythological characterizations of this period and tests them to find them entirely lacking substance. The modern mythologies of medieval Spain that I learned in college now resemble propaganda more than they do history. The writing style is very readable lacking entirely the tortured language so common in the Academy. Anyone interested in Spanish culture and history will be fascinated by this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm Kennedy

    Well researched and argued counter narrative to usual Convivencia approach.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    History you're not going to get from a lot of sources.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jacob O'connor

    This is well researched, but alas.  It's not a familiar debate.  It is interesting to see how our biases and prejudices color history.  Andalusian Paradise follows a trend in rescuing Christian history from the academics of the last several generations.  It also recasts Spanish Islamic history in a more reasonable light.  It proves the adage, history is told by the victors.   Notes: Interesting insight.  Modern historians often re-imagine history according to their social agenda.  p. 15 BCE as oppo This is well researched, but alas.  It's not a familiar debate.  It is interesting to see how our biases and prejudices color history.  Andalusian Paradise follows a trend in rescuing Christian history from the academics of the last several generations.  It also recasts Spanish Islamic history in a more reasonable light.  It proves the adage, history is told by the victors.   Notes: Interesting insight.  Modern historians often re-imagine history according to their social agenda.  p. 15 BCE as opposed to BC. p. 26

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