The fact that Muslims first entered Spain in the year 711 is well-known today, but what is not so widely known is that Muslims made their way into southern France and parts of Italy soon afterwards. Recent excavations carried out at Nimes, a city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, has led to the discovery of three early medieval Muslim graves.

Led by a team of archaeologists, anthropologists and geneticists, the discovery of the graves and analysis of the skeletons has confirmed that two of the three were males and their age range was from 25 to 35, while the third was around 50. Analysis of their DNA has also proved that they were of North African background, perhaps of Berber origin.

Most interestingly, in the three graves the bodies were placed on their right side facing towards the south-east, namely in the direction of the Qibla (the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), which has finally confirmed the fact that the Muslims had made their way into southern France as early as the eighth century.

It is worth pointing out that Nimes formed a part of the Visigothic Kingdom consisting of Spain, Portugal and parts of southern France at the time. Once the Muslims had conquered Spain, having defeated King Roderick (Rodrigo) in the battlefield, seem to have swiftly moved into southern France where they soon settled and eventually died. That explains the presence of Muslim graves in Nimes dating back to the eighth century.

Do you know when Muslims first entered Italy and Portugal? What about the Balkans, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria? And was it the Muslims who first discovered America or was it Christopher Columbus?

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


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