The history of Spain reflects the effect of certain cultures and religions on Spanish population, language, traditions and style of life. In the Middle Ages (about 411 AD) Spain was occupied by the German tribes and further the country was conquered by the Visigoths (416 AD) (Collins, 1995).
However, the aim of this essay is to analyse the impact of the Islamic invasion on Spain, as the Muslims has had a considerable effect on the country up to the present day. In 711-714 the Umayyad dynasty seized the Spanish area near Cordoba (Rahman, 1989); forty years later Abd al-Rahman I created an Umayyad Emirate. But it was in the tenth century under the ruling of Abd al-Rahman III (912-961) that the Muslims managed to intensify Spain’s prosperity and wealth (Goodwin, 1990). Abdal-Rahman III united some areas of al-Andalus and improved military, tax and law systems.
In the eleventh century the Emirate was divided into several kingdoms with unique cultures and traditions. After the decay of the Umayyad dynasty, other Islamic dynasties took control over Spain, such as the Almoravides, the Almohades and the Nasrids (Taha, 1989).
At the end of the fifteenth century the Christian rulers seized the power in Granada and put an end to the Muslim ruling. Other Spanish places, such as Seville and Cordoba, were liberated from the Muslims by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in the thirteenth century. But the Islamic influence has preserved in Spain till nowadays, though Isabella made everything to destroy Islam and eradicate any traces of the Muslims.
The Islamic invasion positively affected many areas of life in Spain, such as culture, education, religion, economics, science, society and family. Al-Andalus, as the Muslims called Spain, had acquired the central position among other civilizations of the ancient world since the conquest of Cordoba by the Umayyad dynasty (Chejne, 1974). In particular, the Muslims created about two thousand public baths and mosques for different social groups and implemented some schools for poor children in Cordoba. Although some Spanish regions opposed the Muslim ruling, industry and trade were considerably advanced by the Umayyads (Harvey, 1990).
Spanish libraries contained more than 400,000 books and the streets of Cordoba were illuminated, unlike such European capitals as Paris and London. As Hillenbrand (1999) puts it, Cordobain its prime had no peer in Europe for the amenities of civilized life. Its houses were bountifully supplied with hot and cold running water, its streets were lit at night (p.175). Different religious groups, such as Christians, Muslims and Jews, successfully interacted with each other. According to Ghazanfar (2004), there existed no separation between science, wisdom, and faith; nor was East separated from the West, nor the Muslim from the Jew or the Christian (p.2). Such religious tolerance can be explained by the fact that the Muslims did not act as oppressors, but, instead, they tried to improve the living conditions of all social classes in Spain. As a result, Christians and Jews occupied the leading positions during the Muslim ruling (Hopfe, 1998).
This peaceful co-existence of three religions had continued till the fifteenth century (Thomson, 1989), contributing to many aspects of life in Spain. For instance, in the eleventh century Arabic language was utilised in Spanish science and literature, while Spaniards began to learn the Muslims’ language to acquaint with Arabic writings (Shubert, 1992).