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Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain Essay


During Middle Ages, Spain witnessed the rise and development of various literal traditions. Three major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Iberian Peninsula contributed to the existence of different intellectual communities, beliefs and practices. Due to the presence of these religions, conflicts and traditions were common as each entity pursued dominance over each other.

Political leaders and philosophers played a major role in setting such disputes among warring groups. This essay discusses the impact and knowledge and understanding of the relations in Spain between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, based on Dwayne Carpenter’s literature, Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain.

Abdallah ibn Tumart

During early years, Medieval Spain was treated by the rise of different leaders from varying communities. For instance, Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart came to the limelight in 515 (A.D. 1121) (Carpenter 239). He hailed from Sus district and presented himself as a person who believed in doing good things.

According to genealogical findings, he belonged to the “high born” and traversed several countries for studies. During his tours, he learnt a lot from influential leaders he met, including Abu Bakr al-Shashi, who influenced him in the understanding of law and theology. Additionally, he was privileged to hear hadith narrated by people like Mubarak ibn Abd al-Jabbar.

He also attended the lectures of jurist Abu Bakr al-Turtush in Alexandria, where he made several calls, ordering people to do the right thing and shun evil. These calls contributed to his immediate departure from the city using a ship, whose crew could not put up with his endless “good” calls, choosing to throw him into the sea but survived (Carpenter 240).

Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart’s desire of spreading knowledge had no borders. He landed at Bijaya in North Africa, where his influence grew significantly through teaching and preaching. As a result, the Prince of Bijaya got threatened, forcing him to move to another city (Carpenter 240). His obedience was also evident as he obeyed commands to leave certain territories.

Due to his deep knowledge, people followed him, including Abd al-Wahid and Abd al-Mumin, who accompanied him to al-Ubbad mosque. While camping at the mosque, Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart influenced the surrounding communities until he became an idol to most of those who interacted with him, including rulers. At Fez, he continued to win the hearts of many through his knowledge and doctrines of the Ash’anya school (Carpenter 240).

He empowered rulers, giving them the power to win debates and influence their subjects by expounding legal rulings. However, his influence equally threatened some rulers who believed that he was out to corrupt people. For instance, he was exiled from the city of Fez, after the fuqaba heard his theology, forcing him to relocate to Marrakesh.

Despite the fact that Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart used his knowledge to promote good deeds among people, his life was at risk after some rulers believed that his theology promoted evil among people. There were attempts by Andalusian, who wanted him killed for corrupting Muslims. However, the commander of Muslims found no guilt in him to justify his death or life imprisonment as suggested by Malik ibn Wuhayb. He was therefore allowed to move to Sus with his followers, where he launched his propaganda (Carpenter 241).

Although Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart invited many people from Sus to attend his teachings, he never disclosed his agenda of gaining power. As an eloquent scholar, ibn Tumart composed papers on several articles of faith in local languages, attracting people from all over Masmuda (Carpenter 241). Consequently, his fanatics developed love and obedience to him; he was endowed with immense knowledge.

He identified trustworthy people and tasked them to preach his mission and convince chiefs from all the tribes. He however forbade them from shading the blood of innocent people as a way of practicing his doctrine of doing good things and avoiding evil. Ibn Tumart introduced Mahdi to people in a manner that triggered their desire to see him among his followers.

He claimed the title, after winning everybody, saying that he was the sinless prophet Muhammmad ibn Abdallah (Carpenter 241). This made people to take the oath of allegiance to him, allowing them through similar prophetic engagements. He also continued to write treatises, books and statements of belief in his religion.

Ibn Tumart’s popularity grew widely in Masmuda as people obeyed every command that was issued by him, including killing a brother, sister or parents. He remained focused to his dream and formed an army in 517, whose main aim was to convert the al-Murabits and make them acknowledge the sinless Imam Mahdi (Carpenter 242). They were also given the power to fight and kill those who would resist their commands. Nevertheless, their first attack on Marrakesh was unsuccessful; leaving Ibn Tumart’s army with great loses.

He later made several raids, which were successful, killing people mercilessly and capturing other territories in the name of a saint. His influence continued even after his death, Abd al-Mumin tool over, conquering province after province until the entire Morocco was submissive. At this stage, his armies targeted other eastern areas of North Africa and then Spain (Carpenter 243).


From this, it is clear that knowledge was a powerful tool in advancing religious, political and personal interests. Ibn Tumart is an example of these people, having convinced multitudes to be the sinless Imam and Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdallah.

Works Cited

Carpenter, Dwayne. Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain. Michigan: G. Braziller in association with the Jewish Museum, 1992. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain." November 19, 2019.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain." November 19, 2019.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain'. 19 November.

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