THE MOORS IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL - 7TH TO 15TH CENTURY A.D.
With the establishment of Islam in Arabia during the 6th century A.D., an explosive burst of religious fervor swept across the known world converting many people to this new faith. After the prophet Mohamet died in 632 A.D., Arabian armies swept across North Africa (capturing Egypt in 638 A.D., Tripoli in 643 A.D., and southwest Morocco in 681 A.D.), north into Russia, east into India, and northeast into Spain and Portugal. In North Africa, Arab followers of Mohamet found converts (from roughly 640-700 A.D.) among the Moorish people of that region and thus began an era of Moorish and Arab development.
On April 30, 711 A.D., the Moors, under the leadership of the African general, Tarik (the Rock of Gibraltar is named after him), invaded the Iberian Peninsula with 7000 men (6700 were Moorish Africans, 300 were Arabs) and defeated King Roderick and his Visigothic Kingdom. Four Moorish dynasties ruled Spain and Portugal from 711-1492, or close to 800 years. They developed and maintained a civilization that was known internationally for its science and technology, educational institutions, medical schools and science, mathematics, philosophy, music and a host of other disciplines that laid the foundation of the modern world. At the height of its power, the Moorish empire in Africa stretched from the western half of Algeria through Morocco and as far south as Ghana; while in Europe the empire extended itself from the Atlantic coast of Portugal through Spain and across the Pyrenees to the Rhone Valley in France. All of this happened during the time when the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages.
GOLDEN AGE OF THE MOORISH EMPIRE
Moorish Dynasties: The Umayyad Dynasty ( 715-750 A.D.: the first phase); The Abbasid Dynasty - the second dynasty ( 750-756 A.D., was defeated by the Umayyads); The Umayyads regain power and would reign from 756- 1031 A.D. (the second phase); The Almoravide Dynasty - the third dynasty (1086-1147 A.D.). ; The Almohade Dynasty - the fourth dynasty (1142-1492 Period of a scientific Renaissance 12th-13th centuries). By 1492, the Moors had lost all of Spain except the kingdom of Granada. The Christian forces in Spain (united under the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella: the royal houses of Aragon and Castile) surrounded the city of Granada and set up a blockade for eight months. The Moorish King, Abu Abdallah, surrendered on January 2, 1492. This ended African rulership in Spain and Portugal and would formally set the stage for a new 500 year cycle of European expansionism in the world. On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed in a place that would become the beginnings of the Americas.
The Moors brought knowledge into Spain from various parts of the known world: they ransacked the monasteries for old Greek and Egyptian manuscripts, they acquired the basis of gunpowder from China, the number system from India, scientific knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, medicine and physics from North Africa, Persia (game of Chess and other scientific knowledge), Egypt, Greece, Ethiopian, Phoenician and elsewhere. They located much of the ancient works of Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras, Plato, Ptolemy, Hippocrates and others. In essence, they brought the works of Dynastic Egyptian and Classical Greek back on the scene and, as author Jan Carew states, “translating into Arabic the Greek translations of Egyptian texts as well as the works of the Greek thinkers themselves, synthesizing and improving upon them.” Where Christian theologians forbad scholars from considering ideas and concepts outside of the prescribed religious canons, Islam encouraged and openly accommodated new scientific ideas and thinking. Thus, Arabic became the official language of science and technology during this era. Under the Moors, theoretical and applied sciences took a bold leap in the areas of mathematics (trigonometry, geometry, algebra), medicine (they amassed a great deal of information concerning the functions of the human body and cures of its diseases. They had world renown anatomical schools and pioneered in the areas of pathology, therapeutics, surgery, and pharmacology.), astronomy, navigation (pioneered in the development of the astrolabe and the Lateen sail), and new concepts of world geography, philosophy, music (song and dance), poetry, literature, environmental planning and the martial arts. The Moors were profoundly dedicated to the educational process. At its high point, Moorish civilization attracted scholars and students from England, France, Germany, Italy, other parts of Europe, the Mideast, various parts of Africa, Persia, India, other parts of Asia and elsewhere.
Moorish Spain excelled in city planning and built splendid cities throughout their territories. The Moors developed advanced drainage and irrigation systems, aqueducts, sophisticated storage facilities and efficient marketing, transportation and trading networks. Cordova, Seville, Toledo, Granada and other Moorish cities were regarded as meccas of learning, cosmopolitan, and sophisticated urban centers promoting the latest advances of the day. The city of Cordova possessed 1600 mosques, 900 public baths (personal hygiene and cleanliness was strongly encouraged by city planners, doctors and public health officials), 213,077 middle class homes, 60,300 mansions, thousands of bookstores, and 80,455 shops. It had close to one million residents. The cities had public hospitals, beautiful parks, public libraries, lighted streets, and hot and cold running water. By the tenth century, Spain had a postal system of fast horses and a universal educational system.
Women in Moorish Spain enjoyed a full level of freedoms and educational pursuits: this was unique among Islamic nations (the wearing of the veil in public places was almost completely ignored). Women shared in all of the intellectual, scientific and literary movements of the day. There were women poets, surgeons and doctors, historians, philosophers, business leaders, and other disciplines and professions. Women operated educational institutions in some of the principal cities.
Many European university centers were established by European scholars who translated and studied Moorish books and documents: Oxford (1200 A.D.); Cambridge (1257 A.D.); Valencia (1209 A.D.); Naples (1228 A.D.); Rome (1245 A.D.); Lisbon (1290 A.D.). Standard Moorish (translated books in various European languages) texts in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, botany and other disciplines were used in the newly established university centers. Western academia benefited greatly from the advancements that took shape in the Moorish Civilization.
With the Reconquista (reconquest of Spain and Portugal) by Spanish Christians in January 1492, eight hundred years of Moorish rule came to an end. At the beginning of the “Columbian Era” thousands of books that the Moors had collected over the centuries (some of them priceless manuscripts) were burned in large bonfires by the priests of the Holy Inquisition. In time, an estimated three million Moors were forced to leave Spain or convert to the Catholic faith: this is a period of intense anti-Moorish and anti-Jew developments. Many returned to northern Africa and some would settle in other parts of western Europe. The Jews were also expelled during this time. Europe begins to slowly enter a Renaissance period and aggressively moves to consolidate power for a new era. Africa and African people begin to drift slowly into an era of the Dark Ages and a global holocaust. It is no mystery that Spain and Portugal are the first major European powers to aggressively move towards global expansion.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION OF THE 18TH CENTURY
After the FALL of the MOORS, some of the most important European scientists are as follows: Nicolaus Copernicus, astronomer (1473-1543); Galileo Galili, astronomer (1564-1642); Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) Credited with discovering the three laws of planetary motion; Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) mathematician and physicist. Credited as the founder of modern physical science and the theory of universal gravitation. These and other European scholars and scientists would help to lay the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. To say that these scientists did benefit from the developments that took place in nearly 800 years of Moorish Civilization would not be an accurate assessment of how scientific and technological developments are accumulated and improved on over time.
Birth of the Machine Age (the application of power-driven machinery to manufacturing) was not a scientific and technological immaculate conception. Centered in Europe (with England leading the way) during 18th and 19th centuries. Like all previous technology revolutions, it was inspired and influenced by the advances made in previous periods by cultures and societies worldwide( advances during the Pre-Industrial period of the Moors, scientific and technological developments in China, India, North Africa, Persia, the Ottoman Turks, etc.) . This is the period when many manual processes are mechanized leading to the introduction of assembly line developments.
It introduced the assembly line system, steam engines (first modern steam engine was built in 1705), rapid advances in communication systems, electric power, railroads, the internal combustion engine, the steamship, rapid firing guns, the urgent need for raw materials and natural resources (the colonization movement was used to support these new demands). There was a rapid growth of cities in Europe and America, as many people moved from countryside communities to work in the new urban industrial settings. Capitalism was born as world commerce, economic and financial arenas are revolutionized.