The Moorish period refers to the rule of Moors in the Iberian Peninsula which began in 711 and continued in one way or the other until 1492. The period began when Moorish military leader Tariq Bin Ziyad crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated a significant Visigothic army in 711. This marked the beginning of the Moorish period.
Over the subsequent centuries, Moors consolidated their rule over Iberian regions of modern-day Spain, Portugal and Septimania. Initially ruled by a single caliphate, the Moors soon divided into multiple political entities which would frequently engage in mutual warfare as well as in wars with the Christian kingdoms to the north.
The Christian kingdoms continued a campaign to reconquer the southern lands of Iberia under the Moorish rule and by 1492, successfully ended Moorish rule all over the Peninsula.
By the late 7th century, Arab Muslims had successfully conquered North Africa by ending Byzantine rule in the region. This led to an assimilation of the Berber populations in North Africa into the expanding Muslim Caliphate.
In 711, Berber military leader Tariq Bin Ziyad launched a campaign to conquer Hispania, then under Visigothic rule. In an eight-year campaign, he was able to conquer most of Hispania. The series of Muslim battlefield victories was halted when Charles Martel decisively defeated a Muslim Army at the Battle of Tours in 732, marking the maximum extent of Moorish rule in Iberian Peninsula.
Establishment of Al-Andalus
The rapid Moorish conquest of Hispania led to a decentralised authority over the conquered territories, with many independent Moorish governor reigning over different regions. This changed in 756 when the last surviving member of the recently-overthrown Omayyad dynasty reached An-Andalus.
He would then proceed to establish the Caliphate of Cordoba and establish himself as the legal caliph of all Muslim territories in the Iberian Peninsula.
By 788, he had effectively brought most of these territories under his control and centralised the Moorish rule of Spain. The Cordoba caliphate continued to be the most dominant and legitimate Muslim authority in Moorish Spain until the 11th century.
Collapse of Cordoba Caliphate
The Omayyad dynasty underwent a civil war in the early 11th century which effectively led to a collapse of the Cordoba Caliphate. This was immediately led by the rise of many small states and principalities all over the Moorish-controlled region.
The collapse of centralised authority weakened Moorish rule over the region which coincided with the rise of powerful Christian kingdoms in northern Iberian region. Consequently, Moorish states called taifas were forced to either pay tribute to these Christian kingdoms or to face the threat of conquest. To counter this, a number of taifa rulers sought the help of the Almoravid dynasty which reigned in Morocco.
Almoravid Dynasty in Moorish Spain
The Almoravid ruler Yusuf ibn Tashfin reached Iberia in 1086 in order to aid Muslim rulers against the attacks of Christian kingdoms. He was able to halt the conquests of Christian kingdoms by defeating the armies of Castile and Leon in decisive battles.
By the turn of the century, he had effectively taken over the control of most of the Moorish region in Iberia and for the time being, stopped the advance of Christian kingdoms towards the south.
Almohad Dynasty and Civil War
Tashfin’s descendants continued to rule Al-Andalus until late 12th century when the Almohad dynasty came to power following its success in battlefield against Christian kingdoms. In 1212, the combined might of the Christian kingdoms inflicted a major defeat on the Almohad army which shook the foundations of Muslim rule in Spain and severely weakened the Almohads.
The dynasty continued to rule for another decade before another major civil war ensued between different Muslim regions of Iberia. This led to the reestablishment of many taifas which splintered the centralised authority and opened the way for the Christian kingdoms to rapidly reintegrate Muslim territories and taifas into their kingdoms.
Emirate of Granada
By 1249, all Muslim territories in the Iberian region had fallen to different Christian kingdoms with the sole exception of the Emirate of Granada.
The Emirate occupied a small region in southern Iberia and had to pay an annual tribute in gold to the Kingdom of Castile. This lasted until 1492 when the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragorn came together thanks to the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabelle.
The united might of the two kingdoms led an assault on the Emirate of Granada. After crushing all opposition, the Castilian army marched on the city of Granada in 1492. After a long siege, the last Muslim ruler in Iberia finally agreed to surrender the city. This marked the end of Moorish period of Hispania.
End of Moorish Influence
Despite the end of Moorish rule in Iberia, a sizable population of Moorish Muslims continued to live in the region. Initially, this population was allowed to adhere to their religious practises with freedom. Before the end of the 15th century, however, forced conversions of Muslims led to revolts and rebellions in different parts of Iberia.
The revolts were suppressed and significant numbers of Muslims exiled to North Africa while those remaining in Iberia were forced to convert to Christianity. The expulsions of Moors from Spain continued until the early 17th century and the suppression of any form of Islamic expression continued until early 18th century.
This effectively ended any Moorish religious influence in the region, although the Moorish period would continue to exert cultural influence on the identities of Christian kingdoms.
The Moorish period in Iberia was marked by the rule of Muslim rulers over a vastly heterogeneous population comprising of Berbers, Arabs, Christian, Jews and other minorities. Most of this period was marked by tolerance, with the Moors ushering in a golden age of Iberia during the Omayyad caliphate that lasted until early 11th century.
During this period, arts and culture prospered, minorities enjoyed significant rights and rapid intellectual activity birthed great polymaths such as Averroes and Ibn Rushd.
The scientific and intellectual development during the period would play a part in later igniting the European Renaissance. Later periods of Moorish rule, as their might declined, was marked by strife, intolerance and a lack of intellectual initiatives.