Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn al-Qutiyah (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East)

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 Early Islamic Spain
  • Book Author:
David James
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About the Book – Early Islamic Spain

This book is the first published English-language translation of the significant History of Islamic Spain by Ibn al-Qu¯ tı¯ya (d. Cordova 367 / 977). Including extensive notes and comments, age˙nealogical table and relevant maps, the text is preceded by a study of the author and his work, and is the only serious examination of the unique manuscript since Pascual de Gayangos’ edition in 1868.

Ibn al-Qu¯ tı¯ya’s work is one of the significant and earliest histories of Muslim Spai˙n and an important source for scholars.

Although like most Muslims of al-Andalus in this period, Ibn al-Qu¯ tı¯ya was of European origin, he was a loyal servant of the Iberian Uma˙yyads, and taught Arabic,

traditions (hadı¯th) and history in the Great Mosque of Cordova. Written at the height ˙of the Umayyad Caliphate of Muslim Spain and Portugal (al-

Andalus), the History describes the first 250 years of Muslim rule in the peninsula. The text, first fully translated into Spanish in 1926, deals with all aspects of life, and includes accounts of Christians, Jews and Muslim con- verts.

 Aside from the intrigues of the ruling classes, it also speaks of the lives of lesser inhabitants: servants, minor officials, poets, judges, concubines and physicians.

This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of the history of Spain and Portugal, Islamic history, and Mediaeval European history. David James was Special Lecturer in Arabic Studies at University College Dublin, where he also taught a course on Islamic Spain.

He is the author of Manuscripts of the Holy Qur ‘a¯n from the Mamlu¯ k Era and has lived and worked in Andalucia for the last ten years.

Al-Andalus under the Governors of the Damascus Caliphate (92–136/711–756)

For several years the people could not agree upon a governor [for al-Andalus] until the Berbers there appointed Ayyu¯ b ibn Habı¯b al-Lakhmı¯ [97/716] to rule them. Habı¯b was the nephew of Mu¯ sa¯ on his˙ sister’s side. This Ayyu¯ b has descendants˙ near Binna, Peña in the province of Rayya, [Málaga].1

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Then, Sulayma¯n appointed as governor (wa¯lı¯) of Ifrı¯qı¯ya ‘Abdalla¯h ibn Yazı¯d, a client of the Arab tribe of Qays, after his anger against Mu¯ sa¯ and his dismissal of him as governor of Ifrı¯qı¯ya and North Africa.2 In turn ‘Abdalla¯h appointed al-Hurr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahma¯n al-Thaqaf ı¯ [97–100/716–719] governor (wa¯lı¯)˙of al-Andalus; for in th˙ose days al-Andalus had no separate governor, but one chosen by the governor of Ifrı¯qı¯ya.

But al-Hurr had not been appointed long before ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al- ‘Azı¯z – God have˙mercy upon him – became caliph [99–101/717–720], and appointed al-Samh ibn Ma¯lik al-Khawla¯nı¯ [100–102/719–721] governor of al-Andalus. Over If˙rı¯qı¯ya he appointed Isma¯ ‘ı¯l ibn ‘Abdalla¯h, a client of the Banu¯ Makhzu¯ m.3


‘Umar charged al-Samh with evacuating the Muslims who had settled in al- Andalus because he fe˙ared for their safety should they be overrun by the

enemy. However, al-Samh wrote and reassured him of the strength of the Muslims of al-Andalus, t˙he many towns they occupied and the prominence

of their fortresses. Then ‘Umar sent his client Ja¯bir4 to collect the caliphal dues, which amounted to one-fifth of the revenue.5 Ja¯bir took up residence in Cordova [near . . . the] graveyard and prayer hall in the Arrabal suburb.6 But he received news of ‘Umar’s death and stopped collecting the money and built the bridge over the river at Cordova, opposite the garden.7


When Yazı¯d ibn ‘Abd al-Malik became caliph [101–105/720–724], he appointed Bishr ibn Safwa¯n governor of Ifrı¯qı¯ya, and Bishr in turn appointed ‘Anbasa ibn Su˙

After him came: Yahya¯ ibn Sala¯ma al-Kalbı¯ [107–119/726–728], ‘Uthma¯n ibn Abı¯ Ni ‘sa al-Khath˙’amı¯ [110–111/728–29], Hudhayfa ibn al-Ahwas al-Qaysı¯ [110/728], al-Haytham ibn ‘Abd al-Ka¯f ı¯ [˙111/729–730], ‘Ab˙d al˙-Rahma¯n ibn ‘Abdalla¯h al-Gha¯fiqı¯ [112–114/730–732], and ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ˙Qatn al-Fihrı¯ [114–116/732–734].8 However, ‘Abd al-Rahma¯n ibn ‘Abdalla¯˙h claimed that his ancestor, ‘Abd al-Rahma¯n [al-Gha¯fiqı¯]˙was not appointed by the governor of Ifrı¯qı¯ya, but by the ca˙liph Yazı¯d ibn ‘Abd al-Malik [101–105/

720–724], and that his family have the royal decree of appointment.9 Their residence is at Marı¯ya¯nat al-Gha¯fiqı¯n [Mairena in the Aljarafe (al-Sharaf ) de Sevilla].10


Then . . . Hisha¯m ibn ‘Abd al-Malik became caliph [105–125/724–734] and appointed ‘Ubaydalla¯h ibn al-Habha¯b, a client of the tribe of Salu¯ l ibn Qays, governor of Ifrı¯qı¯ya. He, in tu˙rn,˙appointed ‘Uqba ibn al-Hajja¯j al-Salu¯ lı¯ [116–123/734–741] governor of al-Andalus. That was in ˙the year 110/ 728–729.11

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 He had hardly been appointed when the Berber revolt in Tangiers broke out against ‘Ubaydalla¯h [in 122/740].12 They were joined by Maysara, called ‘The Ruffian’, a water-seller in the market of Qayrawa¯n [Quairouan]. He and his supporters killed the governor, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdalla¯h al-Mura¯dı¯.

When the news of the revolt in Tangiers reached al-Andalus, a revolt broke out there against ‘Uqba, and he was overthrown. The instigater of the revolt was the former governor, ‘Abd al-Malik al-Fihrı¯, who again took over [to 123/ 741]. He did not repudiate allegiance to the caliph and al-Andalus submitted to him.

Then the caliph Hisha¯m removed [ ‘Ubaydalla¯h ibn] al-Habha¯b from Ifrı¯qı¯ya and the hinterland of North Africa and appointed Kulth˙u¯ m˙ibn ‘Iya¯. d al-Qaysı¯ and ordered him to go and put down the Berbers. His successor  should he be killed – was to be his nephew Balj ibn Bishr al-Qushayrı¯. Should Balj be killed his place would be taken by Tha ‘laba ibn Sala¯ma al- ‘A¯ milı¯.


So Kulthu¯ m set off for Ifrı¯qı¯ya with 30,000 men. There were 10,000 . . . [clients] of the Umayyads and 20,000 men from other Arab tribes. . . .


They had heard rumours of the collapse of their [Umayyad] rule and the takeover by the ‘Abba¯sids [132/750]. But they heard that the writ of the latter would not extend beyond the river Za¯b. They assumed this meant the Za¯b of Egypt, but it was the Za¯b of Ifrı¯qı¯ya.13 ‘Abba¯sid power never went beyond Tubna in North Africa.14 Kulthu¯ m had been ordered to bring North Africa to h˙ eel and he did so to the best of his ability.

 But the Berbers again revolted and joined forces with Humayd al-Zana¯tı¯ and Maysara the Ruffian, afore mentioned. The two side˙s met at a place called Nafdu¯ ra and a great battle ensued in which Kulthu¯ m and 10,000 men perished, while another 10,000 –

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