THE SPREAD OF ISLAM
Islam originated with Muhammed after receiving a message from the Archangel Gabriel in c610. Muhammed was an Arab who lived in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In the empty Arab deserts Muhammed's message from God and the subsequent Koran were enthusiastically received as endorsement of belonging and compassion. Islam means acceptance, or surrender in Arabic and the isolated nomadic Bedouin were predisposed to Allah from their own prior concepts and beliefs. It was a short step to proselytisation and Arab armies to spread the word around the Mediterranean rim.
Islam was founded in Arabia amongst the Arabs living in trading centre of Mecca c610. For several thousand years previously a flow of trade had existed between India and the various Mesopotamian civilizations. Camel caravans needed water en route to Rome and Byzantium and Mecca was in a good location to provide some initial trade. This would enable purchase of caravan supplies and basic shelter, food, and water.
Ibn Abdullah was a local Arab member of the of the Hashimite branch of the Quraish tribe of which his family were leaders. Although he had little education, he was familiar with local traditions and the value of either Judaism and Christianity. A man of principles he meditated on local tribal warfare and the merchants' greed and in doing so changed his name to Muhammed. In c610 Muhammed began to receive messages from God via the archangel Gabriel. Muhammed memorised these holy revelations and became a prophet of both Islam and the Bahais. The memorised revelations which Muhammed received were codified as the Koran (Qur'an in Arabic) after Muhammad's death. The essence of Islam is that there is only one God (Allah in Arabic) who is both omnipotent and the judge of everyone, and Muhammed is his prophet.
Muhammed united the Arabian tribes into an allied federation with its capital at Medina, then an oasis called Yathrib. Muhammed became a religious, military, and political leader who established Islam and preached to the Arabs. The nearby merchants of Mecca refused to join Muhammed's following and he fought his first battle in 624 with Mecca. For Muhammad there was no peace until Mecca was forced to acknowledge Allah and his followers raided their caravans enabling him to finally capture the town in 630. For Muhammed his enemies had a choice of death, or conversion to Islam. He died in 632 and his successor (caliph in Arabic) was Abu Bakhr, his father-in-law, whose Muslim armies exploded through Arabia and Palestine.
The Muslim armies captured Damascus in 635 and then Jerusalem in 638. An Islamic army defeated the Romans in 636 at Yarmuk. By 640, Muslim armies had been organised and had driven Byzantine Christians from the Holy Land. For the next 150 years Muslim armies raided throughout Syria, Iraq, North Africa, both the Byzantine and Persian Empires, Egypt, Libya, Mesopotamia, and into Armenia. After Muslim armies had captured the Sassanid Persian Empire Islam expanded to reach nomadic Asian Turks,. Those Turks built the wealthy cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
After 650, Muhammed's son-in-law Ali was the fourth Caliph and Islam split into two parts (orthodox and liberal): Sunni and Shiite. The Umayyid caliphs, then in control, expanded Islam in North Africa and carried the new faith as far as Spain and India.
The Islamic Arab Empire
The Umayyid dynasty, founded by Caliph Muawiya I (661-680), made Damascus their capital and continued to expand. The only power, except Christian Europe, to stand against this inexorable expansion was the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine capital was at the fabulously wealthy city of Constantinople. Muslim troops conquered Tunisia (670), Morocco (690), and reached the Atlantic coast of North Africa by 710. They crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 711, overran Spain (720) and continued into France, as far as Narbonne, only to be defeated by Charles Martel at Tours and Poitiers in 732. In the east Arab armies conquered into Persia, Afghanistan, and as far as the Indus (Pakistan). These military expeditions, though having the main aim of enrichment, were called Jihad (Arabic for holy war). The Muslim armies were still then mainly Arab until 700, then converts to Islam (Persians, Berbers and Turks) joined the ranks as the Islamic expansion continued.
The Umayyids reformed their growing empire's law and administration. Arab and Islamic art and architecture developed. Umayyid engineers built the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem, and then the enormous Great Mosque at Cordoba. By 750 the Empire extended from Spain in the west to India and China in the east. Manpower problems weakened the Umayyids who were still unable to control the Shiites. In 750, the Umayyids were followed by the Baghdad-based Abbasid dynasty.
The Abbasid Dynasty was founded by al-Mansur (Arabic for 'the Victor') and they ruled for the next 500 years. The Abbasids deposed the Umayyids (except for Spain, which remained an Umayyid Caliphate). The Abbasids were supported by the Shiites and they established their capital at Baghdad (762). The Abbasids claimed to be descendants of Mohammad's uncle al-Abbas. The Abbasids tried to make their Caliphate follow a more orthodox Islam. Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809) set up tribunals to enforce orthodoxy and began a jihad. It was at this time that Islam was developed and Shari'a law began to be formulated and took a central role in higher Islamic education. Religious leaders were also given administrative positions as advisers, judges and lawyers.
The Abbasids killed Marawan, the last Umayyid Caliph, in Egypt, and chased his supporters across North Africa. Some of them escaped to the Iberian peninsula and founded the independent Cordoban Caliphate in Moorish Spain (756-1031). The Abbasids developed the Arab-Islamic culture and merged it with that of the Persian Empire, replacing Arab bureaucracy with an Iraqi and Persian civil service and local provincial governors. This restructuring created a multi-cultural Islam in which people were chosen on religious, not racial grounds. This tolerant mix of race, culture, art, religion, and learning stabilised and strengthened the Islamic Empire. Much of the Greek sciences, literature, arts, government were taught and earlier Greek and Latin books were translated into Arabic. The Arab universities which were established were the model for those of Europe.
The Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid sent embassies to Charlemagne (in 797 and 801) and made an alliance with the T'ang emperor in 798. The deliberate cross-fertalisation of cultures sent Muslim merchants to Canton and Chinese merchants to Baghdad. The majority of the Abbasid Caliphs were toppled in military coups and they gradually lost control of their distant provinces, where local governors with strong armies chose their successors. Abbasid authority was weakened and in 945 they lost power in Baghdad to the Shiite Buyid Dynasty (945-1055). A confused series of independent kingdoms followed until 1258. This Islamic fragmentation enabled the crusaders to establish the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099. The Shiites were eventually replaced by the Seljuqs, Turkish Muslims, who ruled for 150 years. The Abbasid Caliphs remained as Caliphs in Baghdad until the Mongol invasion of 1258.
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to parts of Spain and Portugal governed by Muslims, or Berbers, in 711-1492. Al-Andalus was ruled by the Umayyad Caliphate, until the Abbasid Revolution in Damascus of 749. In 756 Spain was re-conquered by the Umayyad Abd ar-Rahman I al-Dakhhil, who built the mosque at Córdoba and established the Emirate of Córdoba until 929. In 929, Abd al Rahman III declared himself Caliph of Córdoba, which then continued as an idependent caliphate until 1031 when leadership passed to the Emirate of Granada. Internal Arab disputes weakened Al-Andalus and left it vulnerable to the Christian Reconquista. Al-Andalus developed as an Islamic centre of learning, open to all, and the city of Córdoba, a leading cultural and economic center, led Europe with a population of c1,000,000 and street lights. Córdoba even passed Constantinople in both size and prosperity. The modern Spanish province of Andalusia continues the original Muslim name.
With the reconquest of Córdoba, the Arabs formed a series of vulnerable, independent kingdoms In 1085 Alfonso VI, king of Castile, captured Toledo and broke Arab power, which finally led to the 1236 fall of Córdoba. With European access regained to the famous Toledo libraries intellectual education grew in Europe. By 1236, the survivng Kingdom of Granada finally remained the only Muslim–ruled territory in Spain and it accepted a subordinate status two years later. Affonso III established the kingdom of Portugal in 1249 with the successful reconquest of the Algarve. and in 1238, Granada became a tributary state to Castile. The city of Grenada with a population of 400,000 was also home to Muslims, Jews, and Christians who were collectively referred to by the Muslims as 'People of the Book'. The centre of power in Al-Andalus was the garden-palace of Alhambra with garrison space for 40,000 soldiers. However, by the fifteenth century popular support clamoured for the Reconquista - recovery of Spain from the Moors. The Roman church fully supported the Christian crusades to recover Spain (Iberia).
The unification of the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, with the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella, created a united Spain, which replaced Muslim Spain. Finally, on January 2, 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada surrendered Granada to Fernando II and Isabel I, Los Reyes Católicos, "The Catholic Monarchs". At the time, Castile was the major power in Iberia and Isabel insisted that as the junior partner Fernando defer to her. This explains the historic emphasis given to Isabel in the discussions with Columbus and in the New World.
Based in Egypt, the Ayyubid dynasty under the Kurdish Sultan Saladin included Syria in a powerful Islamic empire. Saladin had brought a new discipline and was able to change the Holy Land odds and successfully battled the crusaders with the help of soldier-slaves the Arabs called Mamluks. These remarkable men were slaves, captured as boys, mainly Balkan Christians, but trained from boyhood in discipline and the arts of war. The Mamluks gained power themselves and overthrew the Seljuq Turks in 1250.
Slavery existed in all ancient civilizations including pre-Columbian America. Slavery had been accepted and endorsed by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the Middle East slavery is documented in the earliest records as existing among the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. The earliest slaves were captured in war - in Mesoamerica that often meant a short career prior to a 'blood sacrifice' to the gods. Slavery is mentioned in both books of the Bible as well as the Talmud and the Koran, so it is not surprising that the Arabs practiced slavery. Evidently it was an economic cornerstone and slavery was certainly encorporated into Islam.
During the Abbasid rule (c750) the emirs, caliphs, and sultans became concerned for their personal safety and replaced their personal Arab guards with dedicated professional slaves. The slaves of choice were white Germans, Cicassians, and Turks and surplus captured people were always available to the expanding Muslim empire and its armies. (Arabs also dealt in black African slaves and some of them too were trained and organised into armies.) White slaves owned by kings were called Mamlúk in Arabic. Islamic leaders were faced with internal jealousies and well-trained slaves owed their loyalty only to their owners, after conversion to Islam. (Conversion to Islam was not a serious issue for the defeated enemies of Islam: they quickly accepted Islam or died.) The logic of exploiting the available captured people as slaves was historical and was extended to dedicated slave regiments and armies. Good behaviour was rewarded with increased privileges including authority, wealth, marriage, and ultimate freedom. The inherent limitation of Arab manpower was redressed by an increasing reliance on slave armies.
The best of the Mamluks were often captured as young boys, probably Christians from distant places (countries as we know them today did not then exist). The boys would be converted to Islam and then undergo a rigorous training and developed into a dedicated force exclusively loyal to the Sultan. In the event, the Mamluk concept was flawed as Mamluk regiments eventually developed a greater loyalty to themselves and their own commanders. Ultimately the Mamluks became strong enough to overthrow their Arab masters and seize power in their own right. The last Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt died in 1250 and the Mamluk General Aybak murdered Egyptian heir, overthrew the government by coup, married the Sultan's widow Shajar ad-Durr, and ruled an independent Egypt himself as sultan until 1257. He was followed by other Mamluks until 1517. The arrival of the Ottomans ended Egypt's independence, but Mamluk rule was only replaced by the independent Muhammad Ali in 1811.
In c1485, black slaves were added to units equipped with firearms, which were not popular with the mamluks who had created a knighthood. When a sultan tried to show some favor to one of his black arquebusiers (giving him a white Circassian slave girl), he provoked the mamluks. The mamluks expressed their disapproval to the sultan, put on their armour, armed themselves, and marched on the black soldier-slaves killing about fifty. The emirs spoke with the sultan and convinced him to sell the black slaves to the Turks. In the Islamic West black slave troops were more popular, and even included cavalry. The first emir of Cordova, 'Abd al-Rahman I, kept a large guard of black troops. Black troops became important from c1600, after the Moroccan expansion into the Western Sudan. The Moroccan Sultan Mawlay Ismaili (1672-1727) had an army of 250,000 black slaves. The nucleus of this army was provided by the conscription or compulsory purchase of all male blacks in Morocco; it was supplemented by the Saharan tribes and slave raids into southern Mauritania. These soldiers were bred with black slave women, to produce the next generation of male soldiers and female servants. These soldiers began training at age 10 and were mated at 15.
The Christian Crusades
The Crusades were caused by a variety of social, economic and religious elements which came together in the second half of the 11th. century. These included the regeneration of the Church (the popes' search for power), the Seljuq defeat of the Byzantines (in 1071) and the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Comnenus', request to Pope Urban II for help, and the Arab occupation of Jerusalem. Actually Muslims were unusually tolerant of Jews and Christians as a result of their shared Biblical Old Testament history. Another reality was that the popes saw too many Europeans killing each other and dispossessed younger sons sought their future. A new Christian fervour rekindled the concept of pilgrimage, a holy war against 'the heathen' and a wish to come to the aid of their Christian brothers. (This last was a fraud, as the Fourth crusaders proved when they raped and pillaged their way through Constantinople in 1204 and finally destroyed its power. When the Ottoman Turks finally invested that city it was then too weak to resist and fell.)
At the 1095 Council of Claremont, Pope Urban II convinced the French clergy and barons that Crusading was a worthy cause (how wrong he was!). In 1096 Peter the hermit of Amiens led an disorganised crowd of peasants who had been inspired by his sermons to fight and liberate the Holy Land: it was, of course, a disaster. The unprepared People's crusaders marched and many starved on the road or were captured as slaves by Balkan bandits. When they reached Constantinople they were destitute and Alexius felt obliged to support them. With so many peasant crusaders Alexius quickly shipped them across the Bosporus with orders to wait for an armed guard. They didn't wait and singing hymns for protection the People's Crusade was slaughtered by the Turks. The 1096 German Crusade made up for the Turkish slaughter. As the Germans marched north up the Rhine valley they slaughtered Jews by the thousands and drove more thousands to suicide in despair en masse! Then the First Crusade (1096-1099) finally got under way with an army from Flanders and France led by princes.
The First Crusade leaders were Raymond IV of Toulouse, Bohemond of Taranto, Godfroi of Bouillon, Robert II of Flanders, Robert Duke of Normandy, Stephen II of Blois, and Hugues of Vermandois. This effort was more successful than the Peasants' Crusade, as the aristocracy had plenty of money and provisions, agreed on the enemy, and quickly gained a series of victories and finally captured Jerusalem on 15 July 1099. The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the smaller Crusader States were then established with Godfroi as de-facto king. A second crusade (1147-1149) became inevitable after Edessa was taken by the Emir of Mosul in 1144. This crusade failed because again Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany were not agreed on aims, which led to counter-productive campaigns against their own potential allies in Damascus and Ascalon.
In 1187 Sultan Saladin recaptured Jerusalem and the Third Crusade (1189-1192) began two years later. The German Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa led the West on this Crusade. They had a victory at Iconium (Turkey), but the elderly Barbarossa drowned in the River Saleph on 10 June 1190. His son, Friedrich of Swabia, led an army against Acre but he died in 1191. Richard I, the Lion-Heart, and Philip II of France took Acre the same year. Richard and Saladin made peace and came to the agreement that the coastal strip from Tyre and Jaffa was given to the Christians, and that they could make pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
In 1197, Emperor Henry VI set out to win the Holy Land and conquer the Byzantine Empire, but due to his sudden death only an area near Antioch was taken. Pope Innocent III called for a Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) and many of the French barons answered. Christian Constantinople eventually fell to the Christian Crusaders in 1204. The Fifth Crusade (1228-1229) was led by Emperor Friedrich II, who made a treaty with Sultan Elkamil of Egypt taking Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. In 1244 Jerusalem was again retaken by Muslims.
In the Sixth Crusade (1248-1254) Louis IX of France wanted to destroy the power of Egypt. His army took Damietta (1249), but they were defeated and taken prisoner at Mansura. Louis was only released after a ransom was paid in 1254. The Seventh, and final, Holy Land Crusade (1270) was doomed when Louis IX went to Tunis where he and many of his army caught the plague. In 1291 the Mamelukes (1250-1517) captured Acre, and Tyre, Beirut, and Sidon were abandoned by the Christians. The Lusignan Dynasty continued to rule in Cyprus until 1489 and the Knights of St. John in Rhodes until 1523.
This was not Christianity’s finest hour and Islam provided the regional Turks, Kurds, and Arabs the sole alternative to crusader death. The Mamluks drove out the last crusaders in 1291. The European crusaders left behind their castles, legends of brutality, and smoldering resentment. In the early 1500s the Ottoman Turks, having recovered from the Mamluks, overwhelmed the Holy Land and brought tolerance back to that area. Christians were probably better treated under Islam than under Christianity during this period and toleration was the rule. There were many witnesses to the crusaders behaviour. Albert of Aachen described the viciousness and complete lack of discipline as the Crusaders killed everyone, Muslims, Jews, Christians, women, and children when the First crusaders finally broke into the city of Antioch. This was a city with 25 miles of walls and a highly educated aristocracy, which was all destroyed. Europeans were unfamiliar with big cities and could not begin to grasp the fabulous scale and wealth of Constantinople, with more people in that city than in all urban Europe. Many crusaders had simply joined to kill, with the assurance of gold, legality, and God’s blessing. The West to the East opened to an exchange of both culture and trade and many Mediterranean ports and states became rich. The Europeans also became more aware of their own culture because of their contact with the Byzantines and Arabs.
The Eastern Islamic empire came under attack from the Mongols, nomads from Siberia and central Asia, in the 1100s and 1200s. The Mongol Empire grew out of their superb horsemanship, the superior design and skill in using their laminated bows and arrows. Mongol strategy was based on their mobility and aimed to surround and overwhelm their targets. With no vulnerable cities the Mongols were entirely mobile did not take prisoners. Iimmediate surrender was the only way to avoid a cruel death and absolute Mongol destruction. Mongol cruelty was a deliberate part of their successful strategy of psychological warfare by intimidation. A typical Mongol tactic was to engage an enemy, pretend to retreat in disorder - to draw the enemy into a pursuit - and then turn and attack the enemy's exposed flanks.
Genghis Khan built the large mobile Mongol military. His armies were quickly able to outflank their enemies quickly with their small, sturdy ponies. Deliberately sending spies ahead of the army ensured that Mongol plans were well laid. Prior to the invasion of Europe, Batu and Subutai sent spies for almost ten years into the heart of Europe, making maps of the old Roman roads, establishing trade routes, and determining the level of ability of each principality to resist invasion. To communicate they developed an efficient 'pony express'. Their laminated armor was lighter and the use of silk interweaves made it better quality than the heavy metal armor enemy soldiers wore. Their horses were unmatched in the world for endurance and training. The Mongols would often kill a knight's horse to render a heavily armoured rider more vulnerable.
Because Mongols rode as a way of life cavalry training was a daily exercise and logistical delays were minimal. Their weapons were the bow (of two types for mounted and dismounted use), and the lance. A hail of dismounted arrows might open a solid line to a mobile lancer or bowman's attack. Mongol military tactics were based on a sound leadership which was founded on ability. Mongol command was always earned and easily defeated the Europeans, but required all Mongol leaders to vote for the leading Kahn. This latter requirement saved Europe in 1243, when poised on destruction the Mongols learned of the death of Ogatai, son of Genghis Khan, and returned to the Mongolian the capital of Karakorum to vote in the next kahn. (The Mongols selected Kublai, the grandson of Genghis.)
The original Mongol religion was a type of Shamanism but as they moved along they came into contact with three other major religions - Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. It was only after they captured Baghdad (1258), and destroyed the Abbasid caliphate, that Islam became their dominant religion. Mahmud Ghazan (1295-1304) was the first Il-Khan to convert to Islam though not all the Khans were favourable to the new faith - such as those ruled by descendants of Chaghatay (1227-41), one of Genghis's four sons. The conquests of the Mongols led to Turkic people moving all over western Asia. The Mongols were not numerous so they recruited soldiers from other peoples especially from Turkey, and Turkish became the dominant language.
Their Empire stretched from Germany to Korea, from the Arctic Ocean to Turkey and the Persian Gulf. Marco Polo's hero, Kublai Khan, twice tried and failed to make seaborne invasions of Japan and Java, Kublai was not defeated by the weather. In fact it seems that the Japanese kamikaze, or (divine wind) really did save Japan as a 1281 typhoon appears to have destroyed the second Mongol fleet, which carried 40,000 men. The fleet was vulnerable because of Kublai's haste, as he ordered the conquered Chinese to build his ships. The Chinese built flat river-boats, with embedded structural weaknesses, which together could not withstand the typhoon stresses.
The greatest Mongol leader was Genghis Khan (1162-1227) who ceated the Il-Khanid Dynasty (1256-1353) which ruled areas of Persia, Iraq, and Anatolia (modern Turkey). By 1211 Genghis Khan had united the various Mongol tribes and led them to invade the Chin Empire of Northern China, breaking through the Great Wall and capturing Peking in 1215. After his death his grandson, Batu, led the invasion of Europe. Northern Russia was occupied between 1237-1238 and Kiev was destroyed in 1240. The next year a joint Polish-German army was beaten at Liegnitz and also the Hungarians at Mohi. The Mongols then slowed down, perhaps because of the size of their empire. The Mongol princes were apparently human and jealousies dissipated their unity c1260. The Mongols were always on the move, frequently in battle with casualties, and were not able to create a large population. Although the Mongols built the largest world empire, there was no inherent 'staying power'.
As a result of Mongol incursions the Seljuq's Middle Eastern empire was weakened and the foundations laid for the later Ottoman Empire. The Mongol Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad in 1258 ending the Abbasid rule in Iraq. In 1260, the Mongols were finally stopped by the Mamelukes at the battle of Ain Jalut, near Jerusalem. The Mameluke Sultans ruled Egypt and had invited the Abbasids to Cairo. In Persia the Il-Khanid Kingdom was established by the time of Timer Lenk (known in English as Tamerlane - or Tamur the lame - 1336-1405). Tamerlane was a Muslim Turkoman Prince from Samarkand in Transoxiana. As a Turkoman Tamerlane was a close cousin of the Turks. Tamerlane made Samarkand his capital, and he conquered the area from southern Russia, northeast to Mongolia and south to India, Persia and Mesopotamia.
Islam has since spread around the world to become a major religion with approximately 1.3 billion followers. Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India all have more than 100,000,000 Muslim followers.
1 Adapted from Geoffrey Parrinder, World Religions, pp. 464-465. See also Colin Wells, Sailing from Byzantium, pp. 90-176; THE MESSAGE: at, http://www.islamicity.com/education/ihame/default.asp?Destination=/education/ihame/1.asp; Ottoman Empire at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Empire; Origin Of Islam - Quranic Revelation at http://www.allaboutreligion.org/origin-of-islam.htm; Bill Turnbull, 'Islam Through the Years - Part 1' at, http://www.ae086.dial.pipex.com/340is.html; JJ Saunders, 'A History of Mediaeval Islam' at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/saunders.html; Muhammad at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad; Bill Turnbull, 'Islam Through the Years - Part 1' at, http://www.ae086.dial.pipex.com/340is.html; JJ Saunders, 'A History of Mediaeval Islam' at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/saunders.html; Great Seljuq Empire at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Seljuk_Empire; Mongol military tactics and organization at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_military_tactics_and_organization; Mongol invasions of Japan at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_invasions_of_Japan.
2 The beautifully coloured maps are from R. Roolvink et al., Historical Atlas of the Muslim Peoples, see http://www.princeton.edu/~humcomp/dimensions.html; and the Great Seljuq Empire at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Seljuk_Empire.
4 See BBC News report by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, The 'first true scientist', http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7810846.stm, dated 4 January 2009. The report describes the scientific achievements of al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, who was born in 965 in Iraq. He advanced scientific method long before Issac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes.
6 1492 was an epic year in Spain with the Columbus voyage to America, the Expulsion of the Jews, and the final Arab surrender of Granada. Emir Muhammad XII is better known in modern Spain as Boabdil. See James Reston Jr, Op. cit., and Muhammad XII of Granada at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_XII_of_Granada.
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