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The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain - María Rosa Menocal

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain - María Rosa Menocal

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Published by MuslimThunder
Menocal offers persuasive evidence that the Renaissance was strongly foreshadowed by the intellectual climate of Spain in the preceding centuries, starting in 783 with the founding of Andalusia by Abd al-Rahman, an Umayyad from Syria. The culture created was receptive to intellectual pursuits not allowed in the rest of Europe for several centuries, including the creation of impressive libraries and the study and translation of Classical authors.

Menocal claims that this environment was largely a result of the tolerance shown by this ruler and his successors toward Christians and Jews and their cultures. Menocal has not given us a history book so much as a demonstration that puritanical cultures of any ilk are detrimental to the development of science, art, and literature.

Her arguments are convincing even without the dark background of September 11.

Recommended for all libraries.

-- Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York .

All 50 reviews »

http://books.google.com/books?id=iDDhaR9btpcC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

María Rosa Menocal, Director, Whitney Humanities Center,

http://www.yale.edu/span-port/faculty/menocal.html
Menocal offers persuasive evidence that the Renaissance was strongly foreshadowed by the intellectual climate of Spain in the preceding centuries, starting in 783 with the founding of Andalusia by Abd al-Rahman, an Umayyad from Syria. The culture created was receptive to intellectual pursuits not allowed in the rest of Europe for several centuries, including the creation of impressive libraries and the study and translation of Classical authors.

Menocal claims that this environment was largely a result of the tolerance shown by this ruler and his successors toward Christians and Jews and their cultures. Menocal has not given us a history book so much as a demonstration that puritanical cultures of any ilk are detrimental to the development of science, art, and literature.

Her arguments are convincing even without the dark background of September 11.

Recommended for all libraries.

-- Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York .

All 50 reviews »

http://books.google.com/books?id=iDDhaR9btpcC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

María Rosa Menocal, Director, Whitney Humanities Center,

http://www.yale.edu/span-port/faculty/menocal.html

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Published by: MuslimThunder on Aug 27, 2010
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The Ornament of the World
How Muslims, Jews and ChristiansCreated a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
ByMaría Rosa Menocal
Excerpts
A fascinating history of a brilliant lost civilization with powerful lessons for the modern world.A portrait of the vibrant civilization of medieval Spain, The Ornament of the World is the story of an extraordinary place and time. Both history and literature often depict the Middle Ages as a
 
dark and barbaric period, characterized by intellectual backwardness and religious persecution.Now María Rosa Menocal brings us an altogether different vision of medieval Europe, wheretolerance was often the rule and literature, science, and art flourished in a climate of culturalopenness.The story begins as a young prince in exile—the last heir to a glorious Islamic dynasty—fleesthe massacre of his family and founds a new kingdom on the Iberian peninsula: al-Andalus.Combining the best of what Muslims, Jews, and Christians had to offer, al-Andalus and itssuccessors influenced the rest of Europe in dramatic ways, giving it the first translations of Platoand Aristotle, the tradition of love songs and secular poetry, advances in mathematics, andoutstanding feats of architecture and technology.In a series of captivating vignettes, Menocal travels through time and space to reveal the oftenparadoxical events that shaped the Andalusian world and continue to affect our own. Along theway, we meet a host of intriguing characters: the brilliant and dedicated Jewish vizier of apowerful Muslim city-state; the Christian abbot who commissions the first translation of theQuran; the converted Jew who, under a Christian name, brings a first taste of Arabic scholarshipand storytelling to northern Europe.This rich and complex culture shared by the three faiths thrived, sometimes in the face of enmityand bigotry, for nearly seven hundred years. Ironically, it was on the eve of the Renaissancethat puritanical forces finally triumphed over Spain's long-standing traditions of tolerance,ushering in a period of religious repression. In the centuries since, even the memory of the vitaland sophisticated culture in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians once lived and worked side byside has largely been overlooked or obscured.In this remarkable book, we can at last uncover and explore the lost history whose legacy is stillwith us in countless ways and whose lessons—both inspirational and cautionary-have apowerful resonance in today's world.
Chapter 1
Beginnings
O
NCE UPON A TIME IN THE MID-EIGHTH CENTURY, an intrepid young man namedAbd al-Rahman abandoned his home in Damascus, the Near Eastern heartland of Islam, andset out across the North African desert in search of a place of refuge. Damascus had become aslaughterhouse for his family, the ruling Umayyads, who had first led the Muslims out of thedesert of Arabia into the high cultures of the Fertile Crescent. With the exception of Abd al-Rahman, the Umayyads were eradicated by the rival Abbasids, who seized control of the greatempire called the "House of Islam."
 
This sole survivor was undoubtedly too young - he was in his late teens or early twenties - to beterrified at the odds against him, nor was his flight westward, toward what was the farthestfrontier of the Islamic territories, as arbitrary or hopeless as it might have seemed. The prince'smother was a Berber tribeswoman from the environs of today's Morocco, which Arabconquerors had reached some years before. From this place, which the Muslims called theMaghrib, the "Far West," the descendants of the Prophet and his first followers had broughtwomen such as Abd al-Rahman's mother back east as brides or concubines for the highest-ranking families, to expand and enrich the bloodlines.The Abbasid massacre of the Umayyads in Syria took place in 750. Abd al-Rahman reappearedin the Far West five years later, and when he finally reached that distant land, he found thatmany of his Berber kinsmen had themselves emigrated from there. These non-Arab nomads,who in antiquity had settled between the Sahara and the Mediterranean west of the Nile, hadbeen largely converted to Islam and partially Arabized with the westward expansion of Islam inthe seventh century.Beginning in 711, the Muslims - here the Berbers under the leadership of the Syrian Arabs-hadpushed across the small sliver of sea that separates Africa from Europe, the Strait of Gibraltar,to the place the Romans had called Hispania or Iberia. Unlike Abd al- Rahman, who crossed theformidable desert as a political refugee, the Berbers of the Maghrib, along with the Syrians whorode at the head of the troops, were driven by military expansiveness and ambition, as well asby that sense of adventure and the desire for a better life that have motivated pioneersthroughout history.Abd al-Rahman followed their trail and crossed the narrow strait at the western edge of theworld. In Iberia, a place they were calling al-Andalus in Arabic, the language of the new Muslimcolonizers, he found a thriving and expansive Islamic settlement. Its center was on the banks of a river that wound down to the Atlantic coast, the Big Wadi (today, in lightly touched-up Arabic,the Guadalquivir, or Wadi al-Kabir).
The new capital was an old city that the former rulers, the Visigoths, had calledKhordoba, after the Roman Corduba, who had ruled the city before the Germanicconquest. It was now pronounced Qurtuba, in the new Arabic accents heard nearlyeverywhere.
The governor of that amorphous and fairly detached frontier "province" was understandablytaken aback by the unexpected apparition of this assumed-dead Umayyad prince. Out in thesehinterlands, after all, so far from the center of the empire, the shift from Umayyad to Abbasidsovereignty had, until that moment, made little real difference in local politics.The local politics had been shaped perhaps most of all by the often murderous rivalries betweenthe majority Berber rank and file and the Arab leadership, rivalries within this community of Muslims whose animus would decisively dominate the politics of al-Andalus - the name used for 

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