history

Moors of Spain Part I – The Spread of Islam to Spain in the 8th Century

Moors {{PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S

“Written” by Celeste McMillan

If you have already read The Vital Sacrifice, then you know that I am Teresa McMillan’s mother.  Back in college, I was very was very keen about social justice which lead me to my first career in law.  As an attorney, I passionately fought for my client’s rights.  Teresa’s friend, Tina, was fond of my passion in the legal world which led her to become the powerhouse attorney that she is.  However, that career is behind me now as you know and now I am an interior designer.

One thing that I have consistently been passionate about since college and all throughout law school and even until this day is history.  You have seen that I am passionate about our family history but I am also interested in history in general.  My family originally came from the Dominican Republic and moved to New York.  My mom and dad then moved us to Wisconsin when I was very young but I always yearned to go back to New York so when I had the opportunity to do so for college, I did.  After having Teresa, I became interested in my family bloodline and because I have a Spanish grandmother, I’ve always been fascinated with Spanish culture.

One particular part of Spanish history that has always intrigued me was that of the Moors in Spain.  I was first introduced to them while watching the film El Cid when I was young girl.  I always wondered who the dark villains were that Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, played by the gorgeous Charleston Heston, fought back in order to unify Spain.  I later found out that they were an invading Moorish army but I always wondered, who were the Moors?

What I discovered is that since antiquity, Spain had been ruled by various groups including the Celts, Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and the Visigoths.  Spain experienced a great deal of civilization during its Roman presence in the region.  But, as you know, every great nation falls; thus, Romans were eventually overtaken by the Visigoths.  The Visigoth control of the region began to weaken when its king Wittiza passed away.  His son Agila was next in line to be his successor; however these plans were thwarted by a Duke named Roderick.  He usurped power and named himself king and there was nothing that Agila or the people of Spain could do about it.  This political move inevitably gained Roderick many internal enemies who were more than happy to do whatever they could to remove him from power.

Roderick, King of Spain {{PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

It was this factionalism that made Spain ripe for invaders.  Roderick was unaware of or at least unconcerned about the anger brewing in his country toward him as a result of his takeover.  As he was going about his usual tasks of trying to pacify Spain, particularly the remote northern regions, he was totally blind-sighted by the raiders coming in from the south.  In 711 A.D., Tangiers’ governor Tariq Ibn Ziyad raised a small army of Berbers who were recent converts to Islam over the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.  His intention was to spread the growing Islamic Berber influence into the fertile lands of Spain extending the region known as the Magreb.  The Magreb primarily consisted of dry, harsh terrain that was hard to cultivate, so Spain’s fertile lands were very desirable.

Tariq Ibn Zayid, image courtesy of Creative Commons – Flickr

The success of Tariq’s campaign was made possible by exploiting the political unrest of the region.  One man in particular who despised King Roderick was Count Julian whose daughter was allegedly raped by the king.  Out of sheer revenge, it is believed that Julian helped Tariq’s soldiers safely enter the lands of Spain.   The Visigoths under King Roderick put up a fight against the invaders but to no avail.  Even though Roderick and his soldiers outnumbered the Moors, the lack of unity among them made them no match against Tariq and his united invading force.  From this point on, Tariq defeated King Roderick and his army and continued across the Iberian peninsula gaining momentum as his army grew from reinforcements from North Africa.  He took over lands of Spain from south to north, forcing its locals to accept the new religion of Islam or pay taxes if they remained loyal to their former religions.

 

Leave a reply below or join the private discussion by becoming a member on LE Blog’s Facebook group.  Don’t forget to check out upcoming series about the Moors which include the spread of their influence and their eventual fall during the Reconquista.

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Disclaimer:   These blog articles are attributed to characters found in the novel, The Vital Sacrifice, and this blog is a fictitious representation of the characters in the book speaking on what interests them based on their role in the novel.  These blog articles are post-publication characterizations and are meant to entertain niche audiences who may be interested in purchasing or have already purchased this novel.

Enslavement and Rebellion of Zanj People of Iraq

Zanj, Public Domain Image {{PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

‘Written’ by Ali Rahman, Blog Contributor

 

If you have already read The Vital Sacrifice, then you already know a bit about my lineage.  My mother, Fatimah, was Arab and my father, Malik, was a Zanj both of whom resided in Egypt.  As you may have read, my father, who was a statesman heavily involved in the politics of his day, taught me a lot when I was a youth; but, one thing that he did not discuss with me is our Zanj ancestry.  I later found out that it was because it was a part of his past that he wanted to forget because his people weren’t esteemed in East African or middle-eastern societies.  After the Zanj rebellion in Iraq and their diaspora throughout nearby lands, nations that they settled in often regarded them as second-class citizens.  Thus, this inferiority complex plagued my father and may have been why he kept this part of my past from me.  Therefore, I decided to learn more about this part of my ancestry for myself and share what I found with you.

For many centuries, this land now known as Iraq was referred to as Mesopotamia, the land between two rivers.  This area of the world has been known for many great civilizations that have arisen here including the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Persians.   This region is often referred to as the cradle of civilization because it is believed that this is where the original garden of Eden was and where agriculture and writing flourished. By the 7th century, Arabs defeated the Persians and established their rule under the Abbasid empire.  Their empire spread far and wide usually taking over by force or simply by conversion to the Islamic faith.

As this empire spread, it left much slave labor in its wake.  There were many nationalities of slaves taken under the Abbasid rule but one group of slaves in particular that were enslaved in the area now known as Iraq was Bantu-speaking people from East Africa which became known as the Zanj.  The Zanj were taken from various parts of East Africa to Iraq primarily to work in the salt mines but also performed many other roles which included growing cotton, ‘working’ in harems, and being for forcefully changed into eunuchs to protect harems.  Apparently this slave labor became too much for the Zanj people so they staged a series of rebellions in the region with the last one resulting in long-term success — a little over a decade — through the use of guerrilla warfare.  Ali ibn Muhammad, led the insurrection but he was eventually killed and the rebellion was eventually put down.  This rebellion crippled not only crippled the economy of the region but also was the beginning of the end for the Abbasid empire who became entrenched in civil war and infighting from that point on.

I’m not certain what happened to the enslaved after the insurrection because not much was recorded about the rebellion or its aftermath; but, at some point, my father’s people eventually made their way back to East Africa – Egypt to be precise.  Apparently my father felt like a second-class citizen due to his lineage and sought to pull himself up in Egyptian society by acquiring education and working as a top adviser for the Sultan.  Fortunately, he and his bloodline were able to move away from Iraq and make a new life for themselves in other nearby regions.  For those that remain in Iraq today, I can’t say the same.  There are many decedents of Zanj who reside there that are disgruntled with the discrimination in Iraq – the same type of discrimination that my father fought so hard to protect me from.

 

More links to this topic

Will Iraqi Blacks Win Justice?

Black Iraqis

Black Iraqis claim discrimination

Black Iraqis In Basra Face Racism

 

Are you familiar with the plight of former Zanj and present-day Black Iraqis in the region? Join the conversation by leaving a reply below or join the private discussion by becoming a member on LE Blog’s Facebook group.

Click here, to follow Ali Rahman on Pinterest.

 

 


 

Disclaimer:   These blog articles are attributed to characters found in the novel, The Vital Sacrifice, and this blog is a fictitious representation of the characters in the book speaking on what interests them based on their role in the novel.  These blog articles are post-publication characterizations and are meant to entertain niche audiences who may be interested in purchasing or have already purchased this novel.