Collapse Of Caliphate Of Cordoba: In the year 711 AD, the Muslim Umayyad Dynasty began what would be a 7-year conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
While they had previously engaged in small raids and incursions throughout the Iberian lands, it was not until 711 AD that the actual, full-scale assault began.
At this time, a Visigothic king, Roderic, ruled over the region, which was contemporarily known as Hispania.
The Umayyad commander, Tariq ibn Ziyad, was now ready to face off with Roderic and his troops.
Crossing modern-day Gibraltar, the channel that divided Hispania and North Africa, Ziyad led his army into the peninsula and along the banks of the Wadi Lakku river. Upon entering Hispania, the Umayyad troops clashed with Roderic and his own, resulting in a victory for the Muslim invaders.
During the early stages of the conquest, King Roderic was actually killed in battle against Tariq ibn Ziyad, which the latter had not really been expecting.
To Ziyad’s pleasant surprise, the loss of their king would have pushed the local troops into a downhill spiral.
The Umayyads were able to fully seize power throughout the Iberian Peninsula in 718 and established the region as a province under the Umayyad Caliphate with Córdoba as the new capital.
This organization of territory remained until halfway through the 8th century, after the Umayyad Caliphate was toppled by the succeeding Abbasid Caliphate in 750.
By 756, the remaining Umayyad leader, Abd al-Rahman I, outright refused to acknowledge the authority of the Abbasid Caliphate. Instead, he managed to depose the Abbasid rulers in the area and proclaimed the capital of Umayyad Iberia, Córdoba, to be an independent emirate, known as the Emirate of Córdoba.
Much to Rahman’s pleasure, he was able to do so without much pushback, and he and his descendants became the rulers of this new Emirate for many decades to come.
While these emirs technically only ruled over Córdoba itself, many of them actually extended their authority throughout more of the peninsula.
The political situation throughout the Emirate of Córdoba and the surrounding parts of the peninsula remained more or less uneventful for the first century and a half.
There was, however, a proactive decline in the power and stability of the emirate that became glaringly apparent around the time that the new emir, Abd al-Rahman III, took power in 912.
Rahman was not willing to give up his authority or territory quite yet though.
His first mission, which he succeeded at, was to consolidate power not only within the Emirate of Córdoba, but across the whole of the peninsula or al-Andalus, and even extending to some parts of North Africa. While the emir was triumphant with this, it did not entirely solve the instability within his territory.
Riots and discord remained to a high degree, and there was outside pressure from the nearby Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad and Fatimid Caliphate in Tunis, which made Rahman realize that more must be done to solve the problem.
Hoping to be able to directly combat both internal and external threats at the same time, the emir of Córdoba opted to give himself a promotion of sorts.
In 929, Rahman III proclaimed the Emirate of Córdoba to now be the Caliphate of Córdoba, with him as the caliph.
It’s important to recognize that this decision was more than just a mild political move.
The Caliph of the Muslim world was supposed to be the entirety of the Muslim community.
This meant that for anyone to deem themselves “Caliph”, they were taking on an enormous political and religious title and responsibility. Furthermore, there was not supposed to be more than one caliph.
This put Rahman in direct opposition to the Fatimids and Abbasids, who had already been primary enemies to each other for some time.
The claim to the title for Rahman was only partially beneficial as well.
While the Muslims in Al-Andalus recognized his authority and right to the caliphate, seeing themselves as being closer to Muhammad than the alternative caliphates, another Muslims outside of the reach that the Caliphate of Córdoba had gained was not so pleased.
Nonetheless, due to the new local unity and acknowledgment of Rahman’s declaration, turning the emirate into a caliphate, Rahman and his people found great prosperity.
Rahman III in particular was a great acquirer of triumph throughout his reign.
The caliph managed to unite the entirety of al-Andalus through a combination of military action and peaceful diplomacy, meanwhile also fighting back against his new rivals from the Fatimid Caliphate as they attempted to pass through Morocco and invade the lands of the Caliphate of Córdoba.
Rahman furthermore increased diplomacy between his caliphate and the North African Berber tribes, alongside the Christian rulers
throughout Europe, including building a relationship with Constantinople.
Riding his wave of success and continuing his momentum, Rahman was also able to drastically improve the economy within the Iberian Peninsula, as compared to its numbers during the reign of Rahman II.
The caliphate was now almost running completely on its own. Thanks to the work of Rahman III, the administrative duties to maintain al-Andalus became incredibly easy.
This worked out wonderfully for Rahman’s son, Al-Hakam The Second, who took over for his father upon his death in 961.
With Al-Hakam as the new Caliph of Córdoba, the caliphate continued to thrive and maintain positive relations with their European and North African neighbors.
With his territories functioning so smoothly on their own, Al-Hakam was even able to place a majority of his responsibilities on his advisors,and instead spent the bulk of his time invested in scholarly activities.
The state of Al-Andalus and the Córdoba caliphate was possibly at the best it had ever been. Scholastically, economically, and
politically, the Iberian Peninsula was prospering.
While this period was vastly enjoyable, as was most of the 10th century for Al-Andalus, it would not last forever, and the end was unfortunately soon.
Before Al-Hakam died in 976, he had chosen his young son to become his successor.
The issue with this decision though was the minor age of Al-Hakam’s son. The unprepared, 10-year-old boy was not equipped in
any form to take over the caliphate, but it had still been decided by the previous caliph nonetheless, and his to advisor, Almanzor, had pledged loyalty to young Hisham The Second already.
Almanzor had no option other than to declare Hisham the new caliph upon his father’s passing, which proved to be a disastrous mistake.
The Caliphate of Córdoba was now at the start of a tragic decline.
Hisham himself was not entirely responsible for this new, unfortunate trajectory, of course. Given that he was a mere child, the job of ruling the caliphate fell predominantly upon the shoulders of Almanzor and the caliph’s mother, Subh.
While these two were not flat-out horrible, they were still not able to maintain the prosperity that the earlier rulers had been able to.
Focused mostly on preventing and removing any signs of opposition to the young caliph, Subh and Almanzor suddenly began letting Berbers immigrate into al-Andalus from North Africa in hopes of increasing their own level of support within the peninsula. While this may have worked to an extent, it was not as successful of a solution as Almanzor and Subh had hoped it to be.
The authority that the caliph held began to diminish at a startling pace.
Local revolts and foreign threats became more and more abundant.
When a coup d’etat erupted in 1009 and resulted in the assassination of Almanzor’s son, Abd al-Rahman Sanchuelo, the pace of
Córdoba’s decline greatly increased.
The Fitna of al-Andalus, a time of great inner strife and civil war, broke out in response to the assassination of Sanchuelo, and the competitors for the throne that Almanzor and Subh had tried to eradicate began to come out of the woodworks. The Hammudid Dynasty was a sudden new adversary as well, with multiple invasions being launched into al-Andalus throughout the instability of the Fitna.
Now under the weak rule of Hashim The Third, the Caliphate of Córdoba was crumbling.
The once-powerful and united entity was breaking apart into more and more factions, and a total collapse was inevitable. Hashim knew that it was too late to turn back the clock, and in 1031, the entire caliphate split up into a group of Taifas or smaller, independent structures all across the Iberian Peninsula.
Now, all that really remained of the Caliphate of Córdoba, once the Emirate of Córdoba, was the little Taifa of Córdoba.
The ending of the Emirate had been a good thing, as it meant that the entity of Córdoba was then be upgraded to the high and mighty title of a caliphate. But, the downfall of the caliphate itself was an entirely different story.
Córdoba and all of al-Andalus had their competition and adversaries from the start, and although a series of remarkable
caliphs were able to not only maintain but grow their young caliphate, the existence of it was bound to succumb to
the outward and inward pressure eventually.
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