The fall of Muslim Granada - TAHA KILINÇ

The fall of Muslim Granada

“Implementing a fair and efficacious policy in Andalusia was only possible through the strict inspection and audits of relations between the ruler and the ruled, of the administrators, as well as scholars and lawyers, who were the representatives of religion, morality and law, and intellectuals and poets who were the representatives of highbrow culture. Furthermore, this was only attainable through the establishment of a societal structure or order that embodies political, administrative, legal, religious and economic integrity. Establishing this order was almost entirely tied to the erudition and skills of the governors at the top of the food chain. For example, managing the change in the social order, which Abdurrahman bin Muawiyah built thanks to his family's experience and social influence, was an arduous task that required great political skill following the developments in the Maghrib, the Mashriq and Europe, as well as the communication and engagement with the societies there.” 

This is an evaluation penned in the January 2022 edition of the Deep History Magazine by one of Turkey’s handful of experts on Andalusia, Prof. Dr. Lütfi Şeyban of Sakarya University’s history department. According to Şeyban, the three main reasons Muslims let Andalusia slip through their fingers are:

1) Internal and external factors generated by the forms of social existence such as social and political tensions between Muslims, Bedouin-Hadhari divisions, and the struggle between elites and the bourgeois.

2) Increasing attacks by foes following the weakening of Islam’s global dominance (The gradual loss of territories and credibility following the Christian capture of Toledo in 1085).

3) The fact that establishing permanent political stability and societal justice was largely left to individuals rather than institutions (Throughout history a lot of Muslim states have been unable to institutionalize, the effects of which are still seen today, leading to the collapse of a greal deal of them.)


On January 2, 1492, Catholics seized the last Muslim state in Andalusia, the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. With the approach of its 530th anniversary, I deemed it fit to meticulously elaborate on this watershed event in the January 2022 issue of the Deep History Magazine, of which I am editor in chief. Instead of taking a romantic stance on the matter, we tried to find tangible evidence, documents, and historical truths, we attempted to find an answer to “What went wrong?” With their proficient evaluations, many local and foreign experts simplified the matter and made it comprehensible for Turkish readers.

It was not just an approaching anniversary that propelled us to get down to brass tacks on the matter. Despite the fact that the odyssey of Muslims in Andalusia has been chewed over ad nauseum and been the cause of numerous social media posts, unfortunately, little detail is known about the various phases of the matter. For example, many envision Andalusia as a single state that started and ended in one go. The issue cannot be clarified, and even the chronology becomes impossible to grasp due to mawkish "romantic notions" developed through symbols such as Alhambra or the Cordoba Mosque. This is why, while focusing on the fall of Granada on its 530th anniversary, we relayed its stages and causes of defeat rather than lamenting lost property. 

The matter of how Muslims will evaluate Islamic history has been a methodological debate since yore. If sanctifying the past with a glorified understanding is one side of the coin, on the other end is sacrificing historical players and events to crude generalizations with an orientalist and exclusionary perspective. It is clear that there will be no lessons learned from either side, neither today nor tomorrow. To the extent that "the transgressor transforms into its opponent," both excessive praise and excessive criticism distract us from the truth itself. Thus, both serve the same purpose.

My favorite definition of the science of history and the act of tackling this science is as follows: "To hold a mirror to the past to understand the present and prepare for the future." Going from here, I reach the following essential conclusion: Historical interpretations that do not relay the present and fail to prepare us for the future are of no practical use to us. They only serve to stir us up, nothing more...

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