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The Caliphate of Cordoba

The Caliphate of Cordoba

The Caliphate of Cordoba. One of the greatest political achievements of Moorish Spain was the creation of the Caliphate of Cordoba by Abd ar-Rahman III.

One of the greatest political achievements of Moorish Spain was the creation of the Caliphate of Cordoba by Abd ar-Rahman I in 756, challenging the Caliph of Damascus in the Muslim world. The establishment of a new caliphate in Cordoba converted the city into the most important of in the western world, rivaling that of Constantinople or Damascus. Its legacy remains strong today, with significant contributions to Islamic art as seen in the Alcázar of Cordoba or the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba. This glorious history still resonates with names like Mansur Rahman III or Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir. The Caliphate of Córdoba ended in 1031, an event that marked the break in the actual political system and the emergence of the Taifa Kingdoms, leading to a gradual weakening of the Al-Andalus society.

The ongoing wars between the heirs of Muhammad to maintain power was polarized into two main fronts: those who supported the prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, versus those who supported the Umayyad family, descendants for Muhammad’s great-grandfather and members of the same tribe.

The Umayyad emerged victorious at first and moved the capital from Medina to Damascus. There, they founded the Caliphate of Damascus which held political and spiritual power. However, the Ali heirs continued to harass Damascus for generations until 749, when Abu I-Abbas was able to eliminate all but one of the members of the Umayyad family. The survivor would travel across Maghreb and eventually emerge strongly at the other end of the Mediterranean, in Al-Andalus. His name? Abd ar-Rahman.

Abd ar-Rahman was protected by the Berber tribes of northern Africa before crossing the Mediterranean in 755 and landing in Almuñécar, marking the beginning of his stay in Spain. With the support of Syrian troops stationed in Al-Andalus, Raham prevailed in the battle of Al-Musara and defeated the Abbasids. At this point, Rahman was appointed to the title of Emir by his followers.

Despite having received the title of Emir, Abd ar-Rahman I did not proclaim himself caliph in order to avoid opposition from Damascus. However, he did decide to create a new political structure of trustworthy men. At the time of Rahman’s death the emirate of Cordoba, Al-Andalus, already had a strong political structure in place.

By 912 the emirate was in crisis due to internal struggles and the reorganization the Christian territories in the north of the peninsula. This same year Emir Abd al-Rahman came to power, ending the crisis and uniting the Muslims by proclaiming himself caliph in 929. This event marked the beginning of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

From this moment forward, the Caliphate of Cordoba gained political strength in three directions: Magreb to the south, the Christian kingdoms and Holy Roman Empire to the north and Byzantium to the east. The Caliph sent emissaries and diplomats to all of these places and Cordoba was established as a key player in the economical and political warfare of the Mediterranean.

The city of Cordoba flourished during the Caliphate, reaching a population of one million inhabitants. Libraries, colleges, medical colleges and translation schools were established and Cordoba’s cultural advancement rivaled that of other important Mediterranean cities like Constantinople or Damascus.

The death of Hisham II would bring crisis to the Caliphate of Cordoba. Civil war erupted between his heirs and the Prime Minister Mansur. The civil war, known as “fitna” led to the decline of the Caliphate of Cordoba which would finally dissolve in 1031, fragmented into what would become the Taifa Kingdoms.