The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts

By Richard Corradini; Max Diesenberger et al. | Go to book overview

THE HISTORY OF IBN HABIB AND
ETHNOGENESIS IN AL-ANDALUS

Ann Christys

In Das Reich und die Germanen, Herwig Wolfram cited the Arab conquerors of the Middle East, North Africa and Hispania as an “extraordinarily successful counter example” to what he called the 'Pax Gotica'.1 Across Europe, the 'Transformation of the Roman World' into a number of successor states was accomplished with the help of the barbarians' acceptance of Christianity. The islamic warriors, in contrast, had rolled back the frontiers of Romanitas to create a new empire for a new religion. The Moroccan historian Ibn Idhari described how ʿUqba ibn Nafiʿ, having conquered North Africa, rode his horse into the Atlantic crying: “Oh God, if the sea had not prevented me, I would have galloped on for ever like Alexander the Great, upholding your faith and fighting the unbelievers!”2 Yet this stirring anecdote was recorded in the fourteenth century. Nearly all the histories of the islamic conquests were written when Islam was much better established than in the conquest period itself. Only in retrospect could the islamic conquests be characterised as holy war. The new societies resulting from the Germanic and islamic conquests may not be as different as they are usually portrayed. Like the barbarians who inherited the Roman world, the men who came to Hispania were a mixture of ethnic groups whose common identity had yet to be defined. The conquerors came from North Africa and were not all Arabs, nor even Muslims, but a mixture of converts to Islam, pagans practising their own local religions, and even Christians, in which the Arabs were a minority.3 Studies of the barbarian kingdoms have

1 H. Wolfram, Das Reich und die Germanen (Berlin 1990), trans. Th. Dunlop, The
Roman Empire and its Germanic Peoples
(London 1997) p. 301. For the sake of clarity,
Arabic names are transliterated in a simplified form.

2 Ibn Idhari, Al-bayan al-mughrib fi akhbar al-Andalus wa-l-Maghrib 1, ed. G.S. Colin
and E. Lévi-Provençal, 2 vols. (Leiden 1949) p. 27.

3 E. Manzano Moreno, “beréberes en Al-Andalus: los factores de una evolución
histórica”, Al-Qantara 11 (1990) pp. 397–428; id., “Arabes, beréberes y Indígenas:
al-Andalus en su primer período de formacion”, L'Incastellamento, ed. M. Barcelo
and P. Toubert (Rome 1998) pp. 157–178.

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