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 The Founder of Western Islam?

Abd al-Rahman ibn Muawiyah, also known as Abd al-Rahman I or Sahib al-Andalus (Lord of Andalusia), was born in Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad dynasty, but was forced leave his homeland by the Abbasids as a teenager. He sought refuge in North Africa and eventually moved into southern Spain where he inaugurated Muslim rule for the first time after ousting the oligarchic King Roderic, who was an oppressive Christian monarch.

Prince Abd al-Rahman was, by all accounts, a wise, shrewd and capable ruler, military strategist and administrator. His rule laid the foundation of the Umayyad dynasty of Spain that was destined to endure for more than 300 years in the heart of Europe, extending into southern France, Italy and Portugal, among other places.

He was a gifted scholar, poet and writer who actively encouraged cultural, intellectual and literary activities at a time when Europe was engulfed in the ‘Dark Ages’ and Cordova, the capital of Muslim Spain, became the home of more schools, colleges and libraries than the rest of Europe put together.

He and his descendants established a polity that was open, inclusive and unusually tolerant for its time. Cordova was a truly cosmopolitan centre where Arabs, Berbers, Visigoths, Africans and Persians, among others, lived in peace, security and harmony unlike the rest of Europe which was being ravaged by conflict and division.

Abd al-Rahman’s enlightened reign paved the way for the emergence of a cosmopolitan and inclusive Islam that was religiously authentic but culturally rooted to the Western landscape, something that can therefore be characterised as ‘Western Islam’.

 

Written by Muhammad Mojlum Khan, based on the book ‘Great Muslims of the West’, available at www.kubepublishing.com

 

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