December 14, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 11019

Algerian Author: Only When The Muslims Espouse The Values of Pluralism And Coexistence Will They Be Cured of Their Sick Thoughts Of Reconquering Andalusia And Be Able To Revive The Flourishing Civilization Of The Muslim Golden Age In Their Own Countries

December 14, 2023
Algeria, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 11019

In an article published October 26, 2023 in the Saudi daily Independent Arabia, Algerian novelist and intellectual Amin Zaoui came out against what he termed the Muslims' "sick" and "imperialist" notion of restoring the golden age of Islam by reconquering Andalusia and Granada.

Asking why life in Andalusia under Muslim rule flourished with creativity, music, the sciences, arts and architecture, and why the Muslims, since the fall of Granada, have failed to establish a similarly flourishing civilization in the lands to which they emigrated, Zaoui underlines that in Andalusia the Muslims lived in peace and coexistence with the other and with those who were different from them – Jews, Christians and non-religious people – "without accusing anyone of heresy or treason, and without denigrating the other religions."

He went on to conclude that, only when pluralism emerges in the Arab countries and the Maghreb, and when Muslims live in peace and coexistence with the other religions, like they did in Andalusia, will they once again enjoy the creativity and prosperity that they enjoyed in Andalusia. The focus on restoring Andalusia, he added, is an open wound and a complex from which the Muslims will only be cured when they create a new Andalusia for themselves in their own lands.

"Caliph Abd al-Rahman III Receiving the Ambassador" (Dionisio Baixeras Verdaguer, 1885)

The following are translated highlights from Al-Zawi's article:[1]

"Even though centuries have passed since the fall of Granada, on January 2, 1492, the Muslims still mourn Andalusia and their lives there – in metered and free verse, in prose, in newspaper columns, in political speeches [of figures] on the right, left and center, from mosque pulpits, in Friday and holiday sermons, in history chapters in books for children and adults, in stories, songs, and poetry. This wailing by Muslims, both Arabs and Berbers, brings them to a nostalgic aspiration to return to that lost Paradise. Arabs and Berbers, from Tangiers to Damascus, are incapable of establishing Andalusia in their natural and legitimate lands, so [instead] they long for it in their fantasies and in their outdated dreams.

“Life [in Andalusia] was wonderful, and creativity soared in spite of the suppression of thought here and here, as happened with Ibn Rushd,[2] Ibn Hazm,[3] and Ibn Arabi.[4] Nevertheless, good prevailed over evil, action prevailed over inaction, and creative thought prevailed over conformity. 

"When Andalusia was under Arab and Berber rule, life there was terrific. There were musicians and sages; there were singers, muezzins and expert Quran reciters; there were places of worship alongside venues of entertainment; there were vibrant mosques and churches and synagogues, and the fields of medicine and astronomy abounded with students. Women had an important place and an active presence in all areas of life, from decision-making in the ruler's palace, as functionaries and diplomats, to poetry, jurisprudence, philosophy, and music.

"At the same time, Andalusia was not the garden of roses, joy and happiness that many imagine. As naturally happens, there were visceral political and familial struggles for control. The emirs divided the cities, villages, outskirts, and provinces among themselves, and sons came out against fathers and uncles in a campaign fed by lust for power.

"While the Muslims, both Arabs and Berbers, held power in Andalusia, despite their struggles amongst themselves they established architectural wonders that will last forever and that to this day attest to a sublime esthetic sense and unique taste. They built magical palaces, mighty mosques, meticulously-planned neighborhoods befitting the nature of the Islamic culture and of the cultures of the other religions, Jews and Christians, who lived in peace and mutual benefit and who respected the water, the rain, and the birds above the trees, and to whom neglect, forgetting, and negligence were alien. Life flowed on the track of progress and art, the rule of wisdom, pursuit of wealth, and mutual benefit.

"Anyone who today wishes to study the history of the Islamic, Berber, and Arab architecture – its actual values and sources, as reflected in mosques, palaces and bathhouses, and in the planning of residential neighborhoods and gardens – must set out for Spanish Andalusia, the authentic place to study all this – and not the ancient cities or metropolises in the lands of North Africa or the Middle East, where everything has changed its shape and has been vandalized or destroyed, while the Spanish preserved all of it.

"When the time came for Granada to fall, the Arabs and Berbers, and the Muslims and Jews amongst them, migrated, individually or in groups, and settled in North African towns or villages… as well as in Cairo, and so on. The leaders, merchants, architects, poets, philosophers, mystics and religious scholars left Andalusia; the men, women, and children left, leaving behind their homes and palaces, their fields, their libraries, their shops and workshops, their feelings, and their memories.

"The lands in which they settled were not very different from those they had left. They established communities wherever they lived, but they were unable to carry their genius with them. Why is this, I wonder? They were incapable of conveying to their new homes that collective wisdom, that passion for life, that was in Andalusia, in the land they had left. I wonder why that is.

"What is the difference, I wonder, between the northern and southern Mediterranean coast? The waters of the sea are the same; the waves and the tides are just as salty. Why, I wonder, is a Muslim creative when he is in the north, but fades, or is extinguished, when he is in the south? There is no difference between the skies above Grenada and those above Tlemcen; the blue is the same blue, the clouds are the same clouds. Why, then does a Muslim succeed here but fail there? There is no difference between the olive trees in Spain and those in the groves of Fez or Tunis. Why, then, are the olives, grapes, and pomegranates there delicious, abundant, and superlative, while in the south they are lusterless and bring no pleasure?

"How are the arms of the Muslims who built and erected the pillars of the Alhambra or the mighty mosque of Córdoba different from the [arms of the Muslims] that cannot construct the roof of a simple house to protect against wind and rain and displacement and fear, in Marrakech, Tripoli, Hauran, Damascus, or Alexandria? I wonder why the Muslim succeeded in creating a civilization there but failed in doing so when he returned to his natural and native land.

"When the Muslims were creative in Andalusia, they lived with the other, with those who differed from them – Jews, Christians, and non-religious people. They peacefully coexisted with them, in competition and in mutual benefit, with mutual interests in everyday life, without accusing anyone of heresy or treason, and without denigrating the other religions.

"It is pluralism in every area – in tenets of faith, in culture, and in language – that will liberate Muslims today from the delusions of extremism. The presence of the foreigner and his culture in the Islamic space... will put an end to the misconception that we are 'the best of nations' and will restore to us the 'seriousness' and healthy rivalry and peaceful ways in industry, in knowledge, in agriculture, in education, and in virtues.

"The day there will be complete pluralism in the Arab lands and in the Maghreb, when Muslims walk in the streets of the cities next to Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and secularists, will be the day that the Muslims, in their lands, will revive their creativity in architecture, and will realize the value of respect for the soil, the land, the tree, the horse, the sea, the friend, the neighbor, and the woman.

"The nostalgia for the 'lost Andalusia' is a sick collective sense that will not pass, unless an alternative Andalusia is created in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Greater Syria, Yemen and Sudan. The yearning for the restoration of Andalusia is a wound from which Muslims will not heal unless they understand that, before they think about 'restoring Andalusia' – which is fundamentally imperialist thinking – they must think of restoring their native rich and broad land that is consumed by lethargy, corruption, destruction, and ruin. Everywhere in this [Arab and Muslim] land, from Tangier to Aleppo, hundreds of 'Andalusias' can sprout – as soon as Muslims understand the value of action, the value of diversity, and the value and necessity of peaceful coexistence.

"The Muslims who focus on 'restoring Andalusia' do not realize that, at the very same time, they are destroying the real Andalusia – in Baghdad, Sana'a, Khartoum, Damascus and Barqah."


[1], October 26, 2023.

[2] Ibn Rushd (Averroes; 1126-1198) was an Andalusian polymath and jurist who wrote on many subjects, including philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy, physics, psychology, mathematics, Islamic jurisprudence and law.

[3] Ibn Hazm (994–1064) was an Andalusian Muslim polymath, historian, jurist, philosopher and theologian.

[4] Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) was an Andalusi Muslim scholar, mystic, poet, and philosopher.

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