Political decline and cultural deployment

At the beginning of XIe century, the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate was accompanied by political fragmentation. It is in this unique context, soon made worse by the advances of the Christians to the north and the Berbers to the south, that the cultural ferment which characterizes this part of the Muslim world takes place.

The cultural history of Spain from XIe century remains a subject little discussed by historians, unlike Arabists. This is the object of study of this work which intends to replace the XIe Andalusian century into broader Islamic history by connecting political and cultural issues. A real turning point, this XIe century is well documented and the author suggests rereading the corpus of sources to try to explain the intellectual proliferation ofal-Andalus even though these territories are experiencing political divisions and progressive weakening in the face of Christian and Berber powers. The investigation began when the Umayyad Caliphate (929-1031) fell in a violent and long civil war which gave birth to a multitude of principalities called tafas. The latter in turn disappeared in 1090, gradually conquered by the Berber dynasty of the Almoravids.

The myth ofal-Andalus

A true historiographical topos, the Andalusian myth remains linked to the image of a lost paradise, the practice of tolerance between the three monotheistic religions (Muslim, Christian and Jewish), the beauty of palaces and gardens, a certain degree of refinement, a high intellectual level , a near East that arouses nostalgia The challenge is then to show the different stages of the construction of this Andalusian paradigm around the concept of tolerance that the author has renounced using since its origins until today.

It is in this context that the controversy of the years 1950-1980, now outdated, between Amrico Castro and Claudio Séchez-Albornoz, concerning the place of coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle Ages in the definition of the spanish man. For Amrico Castro, it was in the Middle Ages that the distinctive features of Spanish identity were formed, and the determining fact would be the symbiosis between the contributions of the three cultures, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, which would have coexisted most often peacefully on the peninsular soil. Questioning the method, the sources used and the results, Claudio Séchez-Albornoz argued that the characteristics of Spain would have emerged from then on.Hispania Roman and they would thus have resisted the influences of the different periods of domination in its history. The two researchers are also trying to find the origins of delay of Spain on other modern nations in order to explain it. For Claudio Séchez-Albornoz, this presence of Muslims and Jews has been too long, leading Christians to a real obsession with war. This centuries-old military enterprise would have monopolized the Spaniards to the point of distracting them from the economic development which was then that of other European countries. For his part, Amrico Castro highlights the expulsion and forced conversion of Muslim and Jewish communities to explain the weakening and decline of Spain.

Without returning to this now closed debate, and in a more innovative way, the author demonstrates the renewal of this paradigm at the end of the XXe and at the beginning of XXIe century, built into the medieval genesis of multiculturalism and a model of living together. A revival which was also built under the pen of polemicists for whom the deconstruction of this myth served better to condemn medieval Islam. The author refutes these different theses, highlighting their contradictions while methodically relying on the sources. This first step appears essential to understand the historiographical issues of the subject and it rightly constitutes in the current context a reminder of the tools and methods of the historian's profession. For example, it is because it was born in the modern era that the concept of tolerance cannot account for medieval behavior. It is then totally anachronistic to use it for the Middle Ages.

A political history of tafas of XIe century

Before shedding light on cultural developments, it was necessary to define the complex context ofal-Andalus in this beautiful XIe century by offering a reading of political events through several Arab sources such as Ibn Idhari, Ibn Khaldun or even the Memoirs of the last Zirid mir of the kingdom of Granada Abd Allah. The author makes some strong remarks: if the century opens with a civil war called fitnah between 1009 and 1031, causing disorder and the end of the caliphate, it was in reality a crisis of the state and its military system linked to the recruitment of Berber and Christian troops. Muslim authors have largely insisted on the ethnic dimension of the clash of princes and this vision has been taken up by historians specializing inal-Andalus as a Lvi-Provenal varist who already divided the tafas into three groups: tafas Andalusians led by families of Arab origin who arrived at the beginning of the Muslim conquest; THE tafas esclavones, whose masters are former high officials from slavery; finally, the tafas Berbers administered by princes of Berber origin.

The author demonstrates that these three types of principalities are above all Andalusian and were born from the civil war of the first third of the XIe century. It is moreover during this period of fragility that a specific identity is constructed. al-Andalus and links high culture, intellectual excellence, but also a certain inability to wage war. Indeed, faced with threats to the south by the Berbers and to the north by Christian princes who imposed the payment of tribute, participated in conflicts between Muslim princes and annexed territories as part of the Reconquista, many intellectuals and scholars are wondering about their future and that of their lands. Arab identity affirmsal-Andalus therefore becomes an issue and a challenge, especially from the second half of XIe century, which is materialized by a dense and varied cultural production making this period a intellectual golden age. As the author points out to better explain such a paradox: power and vulnerability can go hand in hand (p. 183).

A picture of cultural production in a politically divided Spain

The excitement of Andalusian production at the time of tafas illustrates the richness of the intellectual life of this period: geographers like al-Bakri, historians like Ibn Hayyan, polygraphers like Ibn Hazm, scholars, poets and literati of all kinds produce works that make XIe century the summit of Andalusian culture. The survey multiplies changes in scale to better understand the realities of developments at work both at the political and cultural level. Far from being a simple attribute of the caliphate, culture is at the heart of the political projects of the Muslim principalities. Encouraging letters, sciences and art means seeking a certain legitimacy by attaching oneself to the Umayyad ideology which remains a model, it means seeking to remain an Arab and Islamic center despite political and military difficulties or especially in response to them.

This rich intellectual life participates in the construction of an Arab and Andalusian identity precisely to show thatal-Andalus did not die at the same time as the Umayyads and continued to exist despite the political disorders of the XIe century. This final part is an opportunity to paint a portrait of several intellectuals and their journeys between the different courses of tafas.

Ibn Hazm Monument, Cordoba

The most famous Andalusian intellectual of XIe century, Ibn Hazm (994-1064), thus took advantage of the rivalries between the Muslim principalities to write with a certain freedom and hold positions that were very controversial in his time. By creating a typology of scholarly courses, the author points out the division of intellectual activities in the tafas Andalusian, the image of northern cities like Toledo and Zaragoza which seem to favor mathematics and astronomy. She logically explains this phenomenon by the sharing of the cultural heritage of the Umayyad Caliphate in the aftermath of the fitnah and by the desire of sovereigns to adhere to imperial ideology. Each principality no longer possesses the means that the capital of the Umayyad Empire had to centralize all the intellectual excellence of the time.

The multiplication of references and examples underlines the meticulousness and rudiment of this investigation, which is now essential for understanding al-Andalus At XIe century. By choosing to combine political and cultural history, the work allows us to understand the complexity of the social world of tafas Andalusians, a world where Arab identity remains closely associated with scholarly culture and a sedentary lifestyle. The Iberian Peninsula ultimately appears as a land of great political inventiveness to fill the void left by the disappearance of the Umayyad Caliphate.