Cordoba, Once There Was

By Nasir Gondal MD, New York

Lying within the wrap of alwadi alKabir the river, is the pearl of Cordova. The seat of the power, knowledge, wisdom, and wealth of Muslim Andalusia. Where sages pondered, poets wrote, nightingales sang, and beauty walked.

While Granada was the second lease on Muslim rule in Spain, the zenith of Moors and Islamic Spain was Cordoba. This was the center of Muslim Spain. It was here that the Berbers captured in 711 and made a provincial capital of the Damascene Ummayad Caliphate in 716. Later when the Banu Abbas massacred the Bani Ummaya, the lone survivor, Abdur Rahman I escaped to al Andalus. He founded the Emirate of Andalusia, Amarat-al Andalusia in 766. Much later, when there was a threat of Fatimid invasion of the Iberian peninsula the Ummayads declared a separate caliphate of their own Khilafatul Qurtuba, under Abdur Rahman III in 929. Perhaps this was the first and only time when the world had three caliphates, Abbasi, Fatimi and Ummayah. It was perhaps the second time that an Umayyad declared a parallel caliphate in the presence of an existing Banu Hashim caliphate. First one would be Amir Muawiyah.

The rule of Bani Ummayah (the Emirate and Caliphate combined) lasted for three centuries. As usual, the downfall of the Banu Ummayah was none other than the infighting and the futile wars of succession. In 1031, the caliphate denigrated into several city states taifas. The warring taifas, under threat of a Christian invasion, asked their co-coreligionists in Marrakesh, the al Murabitun, Almoravids for intervention, who complied. They were face covering puritanics, the most famous being Yusuf Bin Tashfeen. He reestablished the formal relationship with Baghdad calling the Caliph Amirul Momeneen he chose for himself the title of Amir ul Muslemeen. He lived for more than a century. His successors were succeeded by even more conservative al Muwwahids, Almohads. For reasons un-researched by me, they moved the capital away from Cordoba to Seville. Decisively defeated in 1212 by a coalition of Catholic kingdoms the Almohads retreated to North Africa leaving al Andalus to feeble taifas to defend for themselves. Qurtuba finally succumbed to the Catholics in 1236. After its fall to the La Reconquesta the city slowly lost its name, fame and population. It got reduced to become and still remains a small provincial city. Although from time to time it has tried to be the political or cultural capital of European Union.

Cordoba was the worlds most populous city at the turn of the first millennium with the population around half a million at that time. After Baghdad, which had a population of about a million (much later in 1258) when it fell to the Mongols, Cordoba was perhaps the most glorious Muslim capital in its history which fell to the Infidels. (Delhi was about a hundred thousand in 1857)

No matter what the revisionist historians claim about the pre-Islamic legacy of Cordoba, the golden age of Cordoba was under Muslims. Similarly, the pinnacle of Muslim rule in Andalusia was none other than Cordoba.

It was here in Cordoba that the Jewish ‘Golden Age’ flourished. The Umayyads of Cordoba were magnanimous enough to realize the potential of the diversity and used it to their advantage. There was a conducive atmosphere for art and education. Artisans, writers, thinkers and scientists flourished. Jews, and some may claim that the Christians themselves, never had it better under any other rule. Yes, the Muslims made sure no church tower was higher than the mosque minaar, but the nurturing environment led to the human development space which created the giants like Maimonides and Averroes.

The city is within the curve of the river, al wadi al kabeer, now known as Guadalquivir River.

Read further.

For slideshow click here.

Nasir Gondal

Dr. Nasir Gondal

Categories: Europe and Australia, Muslim Heritage, Spain

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3 replies

  1. nice article, i visited Cordoba in 1999, went to the Jewish quarters where Ibn Rusdh statute is, holding a book in his right hand, went to the street which has statute of Musa ibn Maimoon, Jewish tourists touching his feet and kissing, and of course the Grand mosque. we had local delicacy (fish) and coffee in a restaurant. I also saw the ‘hand adorned with hina’. It was hot day but we visited Medina al-Zahra, looked closely at the layout of the palace, marble columns. All i could do was sigh and say Glory that was Cordoba. we could benefit from author’s personal observations as well.

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