Rise of Islam

The rise of Islam in Europe during the Middle Ages was a major event that had significant effects on the Iberian Peninsula and the continent as a whole.

During this period, a number of Islamic rulers and dynasties reigned in the region, influencing culture, architecture, and politics!

The Moors in Spain
The Moors

From the Umayyad Caliphate in 756 to the Almohads in the 12th century, these rulers left a lasting impact on Europe. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the history of Islam in Europe during the Middle Ages and explore the different rulers of Islam during this period.

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The Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)

The Umayyad Caliphate was one of the most influential Islamic empires in history. It was founded in 661 by Muawiyah I and lasted until 750, when it was overthrown by the Abbasids. During this period, the Umayyad’s built a massive empire which stretched from modern day Spain to India.

This period is also credited with bringing Islam to much of Europe and the Iberian peninsula. The Umayyad Caliphate was ruled by several different dynasties over its long timeline, but it was eventually overthrown in 750 due to a number of internal and external pressures.

Despite this, its legacy remains strong today and its influence can still be seen in many aspects of modern day Spain.

The Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258)

The Abbasid Caliphate was a powerful empire established by the Sunni Muslims in 750 CE. It was led by caliphs from the Abbasid dynasty, descendants of the prophet Muhammad’s uncle Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib.

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This empire ruled over the Middle East and North Africa, stretching as far as Iberia (modern-day Spain). During its reign, the Abbasid Caliphate presided over a period of great cultural, scientific, and technological advances.

The Abbasid dynasty ran for more than five centuries, beginning with Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah as the first caliph and ending with al-Musta’sim, the 37th and last caliph, who was killed by the Mongols in 1258.

During this timeline, Muslim civilization reached its height in Baghdad and other major cities, setting the foundation for what is now modern science, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics.

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The Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171)

The Fatimid Caliphate was a caliphate of Ismaili Shia Islam which ruled over North Africa and the Middle East, including Egypt and Syria, from 909 to 1171. The Fatimid Dynasty was founded in 909 by the descendants of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima.

During this time, the power of the caliphate spread to parts of the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain). Despite being relatively short lived, the Fatimid Caliphate had a major influence on the region’s culture, architecture, and politics.

Notable achievements during this period include construction of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, as well as its first university, both of which still stand today.

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Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

The Almohad Caliphate (1130-1269)

The Almohad Caliphate was a Berber empire that arose in modern-day Morocco in the 12th century and quickly spread across Iberia, modern-day Spain, and eventually reached its peak of power in the 13th century.

They implemented religious reform in their conquered territories, built large monuments, and even encouraged trade with Europe. The Almohads are remembered for their impressive engineering feats, such as the construction of the Giralda, the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Seville.

Despite their great achievements, the Almohads were eventually pushed back by Christian forces, marking the end of Islamic rule in Iberia.

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Grand Mosque of Seville

The Mamluk Sultanate (1250-1517)

The Mamluk Sultanate, founded in 1250 by the Ayyubids, was one of the most powerful Islamic dynasties of the Middle Ages. It ruled much of modern-day Egypt, the Levant, and Hejaz, as well as parts of modern-day Syria and northern Iraq.

Under the Mamluks, the territory included in their empire extended from parts of modern-day Turkey to the Iberian peninsula in modern-day Spain. The Mamluks established several trade routes between their lands and Europe which facilitated a great deal of cultural exchange and trade between both regions.

The Mamluk Sultanate was a powerful force that shaped the future of the Islamic world and Europe alike during this period.

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Mamluk Warrior

Rise of Islam During the Middle Ages

The rise of Islam during the middle ages had a profound effect on Europe, especially in modern day Spain. The Umayyad Caliphate was the first Islamic empire to emerge in the seventh century and within decades it had spread across much of the Middle East and North Africa, conquering lands that had been part of the Byzantine and Persian Empires.

In 711 CE, an army of Muslim Berbers and Arabs crossed into the Iberian peninsula and within a few years had taken most of Spain and Portugal.

This marked the beginning of centuries of Muslim rule in the region and would shape its culture and history for centuries to come.

Moorish History Regions Conquered
Map showing Moorish conquest areas of Spain highlighted in green

End of Islam in the Middle Ages

The end of Islam in Europe came in the late 15th century, with the fall of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517. The forces that brought about this change were mainly the Christian Reconquista which sought to recapture Christian lands from Muslim rulers.

In 1492, the forces of Isabella and Ferdinand of Aragon, two of the most powerful Christian rulers of that time, captured Granada and united the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, thus ending Muslim rule in modern-day Spain.

The Reconquista was the result of centuries of war between the Islamic forces and the Christian kingdoms and played a significant role in the fall of Islam in Europe.

Reconquista Period

Legacy of Islam in Medieval Europe

The legacy of Islam on Medieval Europe has been profound and far-reaching, especially in the Iberian Peninsula where much of the culture still remains today.

Islamic rule saw a large influx of scholars, poets, and artisans that brought new and exciting ideas to the area.

This cultural exchange resulted in new technology, architecture, and scientific discoveries that heavily influenced medieval European societies. For example, the fields of mathematics, astronomy, and medicine saw great advances due to Islamic scholars and doctors.

In modern day Spain, the influence of Islamic culture can still be seen in the traditional architecture and cuisine which contain distinct Middle Eastern elements. These legacies illustrate the impact that Islam had on Medieval Europe during its rise and fall.

Map giving Timeline of the reconquista
The first recorded instance of successful resistance to Moorish conquest of Iberia was the Asturian rebellion led by Pelagius.

5  Great Examples of Middle Ages Islamic Architecture in Europe

1. Alhambra Palace

Located in modern-day Spain, this Moorish palace was built during the mid-13th century and is a stunning example of Islamic architecture. It features intricate carvings, gardens, courtyards, fountains, and towers.

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2. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

This historic building is located in modern-day Spain and serves as both a mosque and cathedral. It was originally constructed as a mosque by the Moors in 785 but was later turned into a cathedral after the Reconquista.

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3. Leaning Tower of Pisa

While the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is not an Islamic building, it does represent the cross-cultural exchange between Muslims and Christians in the Mediterranean during the medieval period. It was started in 1173 by Bonanno Pisano, a Christian designer who was heavily influenced by Islamic architecture.

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4. The Aljaferia Palace

Located in Zaragoza, Spain, this 11th-century Moorish fortress is a great example of Islamic architecture in Europe. It features an interior courtyard, gardens, arches, and towers that are decorated with geometric shapes and calligraphy.

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5. Great Mosque of Damascus

Built-in 715 AD in Damascus, Syria, this mosque is one of the oldest surviving examples of Islamic architecture. It features a massive courtyard, arcades, and two minarets which were added later on. The Great Mosque was built during the Umayyad Caliphate and stands as a symbol of Islamic influence in the region.

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