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08 Emilio González Ferrín
Historical Al-Andalus: Revisiting vs. Revival Emilio González Ferrín 1 It was Gregory of Nisa who wrote –around sixteen centuries ago- that History is a non-stop sequence of new beginnings. Nonetheless, we do not usually feel it in the same way, tided-up -as we use to be- in the concept of the so-called History of the decline, normally over-following the great work of Edward Gibbon –History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire-. Thus, we tend to feel History as a non-stop sequence of declines, searching for causes just like a meteorologist designs the map of a long awaited storm. One of these overwhelming storms seems to be the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, as physicians of History use to refer, considering those times just like an eventual illness lastly overcome in the genesical Renaissance. History of dates and proper names, History of capital letters live on this organic perception of time and Humanity. Because it –History- seems to be the biography of the heroes, the times that flourished at their feet, the territories that motherland gained by means of that flourishing, and the way the world came down when those heroes passed away. At least, this was the perception of Thomas Carlyle and his numerous crypto-followers. But this kind of biological perception of History is guilty of incoherence. In fact, it is the quoted Gregory of Nisa who writes closer to Biology, for it is clear that life is not a downhill road to the end –thought a pesimist would sign above this-. Life always spread, althought not necessarily in the way it was expected. In fact, in life –and in History- everything is on the verge of becoming something different, even something new, or so it seems if we point at it from today, jumping to conclusions about a time cut-off from its recent past. So to speak: we do not understand historical meanings if we select a portion of past time and expose it out of context. Having said that –about the unexpected aftermath of things- we may also point out the subsequent truism: that everything was born from the previous one. 2 New beginnings and continuity. This is our vision of History just in case we could be able to present it. For it is not so common to talk about perceptions in a discipline so old and with methodologies so fixed. We historians use to be more like scroll curators and file keepers, committed to the slogan of Philologies: if it’s old and hard to translate, it is the truth. Reluctants –at any case- to revisit certain inconvenient periods of time that –in contrast- use to be overhauled by more impudent non specialists that –at the very end- are the ones that shape the common understandings of the periods aforementioned. One of these inconvenient periods is al-Andalus. Because it refers to a past time in which we were differents, as well as refers –at any case, in faulty perceptions- to a way of being different to-day. Again: new beginnings and continuity. There are two axis crossed between in the ways of tackling the subject of al-Andalus. First of all, to move from creationism to evolutionism. It is worthless to maintain in History what has
one may say ‘this is not me’ although belonging to the same land. sometimes its revival in terms of orientalist stage machinery for a certain operetta. al-Andalus develops itself as something out of that Punch & Judy Show of History –so called clash of civilizations. Let us suppose I am a muslim. That time –the Middle Ages. another with an endemic proclivity to conflict. as well as the unique way of being someone.and embodies a rare. a section out of religion.. a harassing sens of History. Mythological nourishment in times of alleged esentialist diatribe. Well. 4 Revisiting al-Andalus with no revival purposes means another thing quite different. In our vision. indeed. others out of culture.15. Based on a difficult concept if we depart from a scientifical point of view: religions as subjects/starrings of History. and another one may say ‘this is me’ in spite of belonging to a cultural tradition two or three continents far away. An so.considered dark ones by the creationists of the Renaissance. Religions as flags. In easy-going readings of al-Andalus. designing the true path that once led to a european enlightment. Faulty background fitted for faulty senses of identity. an indonesian muslim –for instance-: do I –thus.inherit the cultural legacy of Byzantium just because he follows the same religion?. as teams with a collection of medals and cups gained in the past. and so on.is the basis of our description of the world. No: to some extent. It is. This History based upon ideals fallen from above and absolute starting points by means of invasions and amazing cavalries is no longer comprehensible. for nothing is allowed to appear as it once really was. thus.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4. fertile and original european arabic portion of the Middle Ages. The second axis deals with our current vision of the world. Everything flourish in a context from which it emanates. Again. 3 An so. in our frenologic globe there are places out of time..frenologic distribution of the world over different phases of the past.08 Emilio González Ferrín been disregarded in general science postulates: the old fashioned tenet about things coming from nothing and at once. It is an ingredient [. what it was once disregarded as non scientifical –in this case. A complete frenologic description of the world with anachronic mixture and abiding topics that points out every single tendency of a region and its historicist background. As we shall see. Because we use to apply our vision of today’s –we said. we may ask ourselves: what is the current and political versatility of al-Andalus in this context –the context of these two axis crossed between: historical creationism and our frenologic vision of the world-?.]. the Middle Ages are not dark but hardly understood because are written in arabic. we think it is a component of Europe. In fact. the frenologic bust. the Europe that we take as matrix of the West and the one that in al-Andalus jumped from the Middle -2- .inherit al-Andalus simply because of my coincidence with its majority religion? Does a man from Panama –for instance. but as we need in our current fusses. al-Andalus is not merely a past time. It consist of admitting the role of movement in History and.
between the IV and the VI century were writen several commentaries to Plato main writings. In this chronicle is narrated the uprising of the Omeyas related to the adventure of ten thousand soldiers commanded by a general called Balj. followed 1 Emilio González Ferrín. -3- . Juan Vernet. Located by Plato in the western lands where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic ocean. but in any case starting point of an esencialist feed-back in arabic. that creationist and genesic origin commonly admitted. 6 This hellenic origins can also be traced in two significant details in the formation of al-Andalus. we should admit that the starting point of that flourishing new age includes a wide-spread stream of orientalisation conducted mainly through four cannals: the eastern commercial contacts of Venise. but in 711 there were no arabic culture or islamic civilisation able to spread out from a very limited portion of the Middle East. almost two hundred years after-. responsible in part of the official version insistently repeated till today. Their feat consists precisely on a defeat in north Africa. The second hellenic trace is paradoxically the first valuable arabic source containing information about al-Andalus. General History of al-Andalus: Europe between East and West –in spanish-. The bazaar of the Renaissance. al-Andalus is the final step after a long series of eastern grafts. Cordoba: Almuzara. It was Hegel who talked about cualitative changes as an accumulation of cuantitative incorporations. Islam was a hellenic culture. after a long and constant formation.the long and always changing crossroad of al-Andalus. origine of the wordhomage Atlantis/adalandis/al-Andalus.15. It the so called Akhbar majmua –Collected Chronicles-.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4. itself a greek polis in its planification. 2007 (second edition). 2 Jerry Brotons. What Europe owes to the Islam in Spain.conquest of Byzantium. It is worthless to maintain the myth of an arab-islamic conquest in 711. both of them shed light enough on the gradual formation of eastern Islam and alAndalus as well as a key concept in the origines of a wider cultural world: at least during a century and a half. the midlands of Sicily –arabic culture under normand dinasties with Frederik the Second Hohenstaufen-. This is not exactly the place and time to study it in depth. a quite atypical portion of Europe in arabicwas created like a sediment. we just need the comparative reading of two authors contemporary to the first universal steps of Islam: Saint John of Damascus –in the East.08 Emilio González Ferrín Ages to live a first renaissance1. 5 This crossroad –al-Andalus. One is the name: al-Andalus as fonetic transformation of the voice Atlantis. And so. VII century. just like anywhere else all over the Mediterranean. and last –but no least. the flight of greek intellectuals after 1453 and the turkish –never arabic. Amongst several latin and greek related sources. Through their pages. Following the new over-arching interpretations in the origines of the european Renaissance2.and Eulogy of Cordoba – in the West. This will change after the foundation of Bagdad –in 762-. page 11. generating that hellenic cultural movement called the neoplatonism.
let us have it in mind. That carolingian assumed restoration bypassed also the iberian peninsula. the addition of cuantitative changes provoked a cualitative one. substantive problems in the transition of the visigothic kingdom. suffering a cut off from its closest rest of Europe. thus marking a distance from the previous one just to validate the old theory of Mircea Eliade concerning the myth of the eternal return. centered in Byzantium and its fusion by confusion in Bagdad with the Sasanid persian Empire. Constantinopla and Rome. the much more illustrated one at that time.not only knew but took precise advantage of it. aligned itself with the rest of the mediterranean south and east. -4- .provoked a definitive european disconnexion. following the thesis of Hegel. Hispania. 7 As time went by.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4.but the greek version. But the gap between these two different roman worlds –East and West. It will be accomplished in that carolingian restorarion. a long peripherical questioning of the late roman centralism. Although it was not exactly the latin one –western mediterranean. at least a century and a half after the presumed conquest-: the background of the encyclopedical writings of Isidoro de Sevilla indicates cultural heights that the next iberian phase -al-Andalus. Once again: new beginnings and continuity. evolutionism. Hispania became al-Andalus after a long struggle of different heretical trends. instead of an admitted –and more credible. it seems that Rome tended to resume in the West bypassing the way of being roman in the rest of the mediterranean basin.08 Emilio González Ferrín by a tactic retreat that led them to streghten in al-Andalus and become the principal party that supported the first emir of Cordoba. Isidoro and latin-visigothic legacy of Hispania fertilized the science produced long after in arabic in the same lands. and so on. Hispania was not at all the empty or uncultivated land that appears in the arabic chronicles –written. on the verge of becoming al-Andalus. and eventually minted a key concept in european historiography: the aforementioned idea of restoration. in fact. a very orientalized way. It was the unexpected continuation of the Roman culture and not its decline and fall. as well as the reconquest to come in the iberian peninsula. 8 This Carolingian state played the lead of a certain cannonical definition of Europe: disregarding the existence of a living Roman Empire in the East. the greek chronicle of the ten thousand written by Jenofonte. In the future. The point is that every restoration presumes to reject the past from which it emanates at any case. this one aligned in turn with a future configuration: the Carolingian project.15. And so. or even in the Renaissance itself.evolution and graft. It is interesting to stress that this is exactly the narrative plot of the Anabasis. This new beginning grew in keeping with a similar evolution in the rest of south and east Mediterranean. every single great project in Europe will have to be anchored in an assumed golden distant past. a new emperor claimed for himself the role of a restoration in the beginnings of the IX century.
in spite of the fairy tale tradition of familiar disputes. the territories with a common civilized structure. spices. it was once just like belonging today to the West –for instance.with a compulsory stop in al-Andalus. gold. Around 850 we may already talk about a specific arabic culture called andalusian. and always bedouin just in terms of fashion and implant of colective memory. this previous dichotomy always persisted: the so-called sunni islam comes from Byzantium. to the Dar al-Islam. The Dar al-Islam. As a matter of fact. the torn between these two similar pressures will produce a particular andalusian spin-effect that will in fact deliver a whole heritage all over Europe. Before that. 11 But perhaps we are trying to build up the house starting by the roof. was a network of cities and routes.in terms of technological or economic heights. and from then on began to spread out a young and formative vision of the world that we may recognize as part of a pre-renaissance. Never a unique empire. Belonging to it. the two-times motor of al-Andalus was the 3 Dimitri Gutas. At any case. Dimitri Gutas has shown the connexion between creating the greek small letters and the spreading out of all the hellenic cultural heritage: it seems that by the time of the foundation of Bagdad as arabic economic and cultural fortress. not very different from the northiberian dependency from the cluny french preeminence.08 Emilio González Ferrín 9 By dint of arabization –the cornerstone of the andalusian miracle. and even the muslims to a certaint extent. The success of a civilization always comes from the more practical. before the need to deliver in order to survive. al-Andalus reached the necessary level to have a proper historical meaning. -5- .al-Andalus became a substantial part of what we may call the heights of the time. but because they needed them in order to apply the knowledge.were translating cannons of science and thought not inpired by a sudden love for letters. In general. the unique andalusian dependency was fron north Africa after mid-XI century and the overwhelming murabit preeminence.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4. and not at all the mythical invasive cavalry. the arabs. paper. the greeks in Byzantium created this practical small letter to make the most of time copying manuscripts in order to sell them to the bagdadis translators into arabic3. And the spin-effect of the Mediterranean worked once again delivering formation all over a world already in arabic and master of commercial routes –silk. Greek Philosophy and Arabic Culture. 10 This Dar al-Islam as civilized network used to have a pluralist system of laws derived from the roman and persian laws. al-Andalus became a very active part of this network with no connexion of political dependency with the East. as well as the so-called chii islam comes from the persian and zoroastriam background. in part provoked by ocassional political incertitude.15. The arabized populations of the Middle East –in the future. At the very end. slaves. As a matter of fact.
the ancient capital of sciences. This circulation of money and goods created a really atypical mutual prosperity that came down with the final eclipse of the arab -6- . And if Colombus reached America was in part because an andalusian called Azarquiel created mobil instruments permitting a type of shipping far from the coastal one. Against the common-places regarding islamic culture as a whole. the citystates of Taifas in al-Andalus generated the enough creative political crisis in order to stimulate culture. Castilla and Aragon. and al-Andalus had beed long time ago setting course for the Renaissance. The money from al-Andalus financed the building up of northern cathedrals. Cordoba.08 Emilio González Ferrín alternance of centralisation/non-centralisation focused in a modern capital of its times –Cordoba. at any case. because that would be the case if they had been created in languages different from the arabic. all those writings and works should be considered as part of the european Renaissance. 13 But it is the time to recognize the diversity of european cultural roots. poetry and functionaryjungle did not disappear but –on the contrary. the wealth of southern Taifa small states started to pay for peace: introducing a special tax called parias. Because Europe was the final destination of andalusian cultural items and devises: if Averroes was prohibited in Paris was because they were reading his writings there.were born several books that let us start thinking of antropocentrism and other typically european themes. the beginning of an age always disregarded with scorn in the manuals that in fact consist on the core of andalusian identity: the city-states of Taifas. In our opinion. For. Or the aftermath on courtier letters such as the writings of Ibn al-Khatib. Or like The Necklace of the Dove. 12 Just like the italian city-states that preluded the Renaissance. Experimentalism also spread out during the Taifas due to the competition between the mini-courts. It was 1031. in al-Andalus –Taifas and after. Besides this. living the golden age of european astronomy and medicine before the Ilustration as well as other genres. the Taifa kings used to pay to the north forming states –Leon. the post-taifa period could be considered the road that led to Averroes.till a morning in which the system broke down. Such as The Self-Taught Philosopher by Ibn Tufayl –whose translation into english preluded the genre of the utopia and the beau savage.was clonated into one thousand and one small cordobas whose rivalry and competition in-between contributed to raise the level of the whole al-Andalus. and not necessarily in other parts of the Mediterranean. in that universal game of taking over. For instance. the european comentator of Aristotle. and in its crypts were buried the kings and courtesans dressed-up in the silk produced and bought in al-Andalus.15.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4. the treatise of love and lovers by Ibn Hazm. That philosopher from Cordoba reached such a level of predicament in Europe that his translations were forbidden in Paris –XIV century. mainly.in order to contain expansive whims and to maintain and support the statu-quo.under the accusation of free-thinking. the science is to the needed one.
Thank you very much. that unrivalled arm against the oblivion. as well as the invented feed-back of religious rivalry. the Sefarad tragedy by which thousands of andalusian jews had to escape from those two different fundamentalisms –at the very end. In its pages. second. if we were able to inhabit our History in Spain –just like Americo Castro claimed-. And third. Cluny from the north and Murabit from the south. Indeed.15. al-Andalus filtered through several converted –jews and muslims.that succeeded in colouring the cultural life of an already sadly closed Spain. serious essays to open up the religion in order to cover the mistreated converted. this original Third Spain –neither inquisitorial. as we said-. we could understand precious social keys left in masterpieces of our literature such as Don Quixote. we may find missing moriscos. as well as an enlightened fool that shouts ‘I know who I am’ in a forgetful land. or expelledmade possible some cornerstones of our literary spanish Golden Age by surreptitious influences in movements like the so called erasmism and a lot of heterodox cultural and religious trends. the translations around Toledo and other centers of competitive scientific formation. something else. -7- .08 Emilio González Ferrín world due to a new beginning: the european renaissance in itself. 14 Torn between christian and muslim exclusive identities after the terrible year 1000 –mainly. The forgetfulness of having been something more. only one: the national-catholicism. al-Andalus began to filter and seep through three important different ways: first.Revisiting Al-Andalus – CUNY – 4.and carrying al-Andalus in their saddlebags. In fact.
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