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Córdoba, Caliphate of

Manuela Marín
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Córdoba, Caliphate of

( AH316–422/929–1031 CE).In AH 138/756 CE, after the ʿAbbāsids overthrew the Umayyad dynasty of Damascus (132/750), ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I ibn Muʿāwiyah, grandson of the caliph Hishām (104–125/723–743), sought refuge in the West and eventually established the rule of the Umayyad dynasty of Córdoba (138–316/756–929) in the Iberian Peninsula (al-Andalus). The Umayyad rulers in al-Andalus styled themselves as umarāʿ (princes) until 316/929, and the name of the ʿAbbāsid caliph, al-Manṣūr (136–158/754–775), continued to be mentioned for two years in the Friday prayer (khuṭbah), symbolizing acceptance of his authority. Nevertheless, the Umayyad rulers in al-Andalus were autonomous.

Early Conflicts.

The proclamation of the Umayyad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad (300–350/912–961) as Commander of the Faithful (amīr al-muʿminīn) (316/929) was the end of the war that lasted in al-Andalus from circa 261/875 and reached its culmination during the reign of his grandfather and predecessor, ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad (275–300/888–912). The country was torn apart by northern marauding Christians as well as by fiercely contending Arabs, Berbers, and converts to Islam from Iberian origins (muwallad), who opposed the Umayyads of Córdoba. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān took the caliphal titles of “al-Nāṣir li-dīn Allāh” and “al-Qaʿim bi-amri Llāh” as a mark of his triumph in restoring peace and order in al-Andalus and proclaimed his intention of extending his authority to the whole community of believers. This led him to campaigns against the Umayyad's arch foe, the Fāṭimid caliphate of al-Mahdīyah (296–358/909–969) in the Eastern and Central Maghrib (Tunisia and Algeria), and against the Idrīsids (179–375/789–985) of Western Maghrib (Morocco). He occupied Ceuta (319/931) across the Straits of Gibraltar and sent money, weapons, and gifts of silk brocade (ṭirāz) to the Banū Khazar of the Zanāta and to the Banū Abīʿl-ʿĀfiya of the Miknasa, and to every Berber tribal chieftain ready to break off with the Fāṭimids.

As the head of the community of believers ʿAbd al-Raḥmān took the field and lead his army to the northern frontier in several campaigns and restored al-Andalus frontiers to their former extent and cut neatly on the Christians’ conquests made during the disorders of ʿAbd Allāh's emirate (888-912), and that in spite of the defeat inflicted on ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān in Simancas-Alhándega (939) by Ramiro II, king of León, where the caliph was routed and almost captured by the defection of some frontier contingents of his army.

Establishment of the Caliphate.

After this defeat ʿAbd al-Raḥmān left the conduct of the war to his generals and focused on the last stage of the construction of his new palace-complex city, al-Madīnatuʿz-Zahrāʿ (The Most Shining City), lying 3 miles (5 kilometers) northwest of Córdoba. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Nāṣir reformed the gold coinage and the financial administration, and created a powerful war fleet with bases at Almería and Tortosa, and left behind him a rich, peaceful, prosperous country, united under a single ruler. Al-Ḥakam al-Mustanṣir bi-Llāh (350–366/961–976), the second caliph and son of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, was proclaimed Commander of the Faithful at a mature age and with wide experience in political and administrative affairs that enabled him to hold the northern frontiers and to crush a dangerous war in al-Maghrib, where the Idrīsid al-Ḥasan ibn Qannūn tried to eradicate the Umayyad presence and inflicted a crushing defeat on the army sent to repress him. Nevertheless, al-Ḥakam managed to defeat al-Ḥasan ibn Qannūn and bring him and all the Idriīsids to Córdoba.

The Succession.

Al-Ḥakam, an accomplished scholar in the Islamic sciences and a bibliophile, had only two sons, by his concubine Ṣubḥ, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and Hishām. The death of the former left the latter as the successor to the Caliphate, and his father arranged to have his infant son named as heir apparent in his own lifetime in order to secure his assumption of the caliphal title after his death. When Hishām became caliph as a minor with the caliphal title of al-Muʿayyad bi-Llāh (366–399/976–1009), the exercise of actual power was entrusted to Jaʿfar ibn ʿUthmān al-Muṣḥafī, who relied on Ṣubḥ, Hishām's mother, and on her property manager, Muḥammad ibn Abī ʿĀmir. The first years of Hishām's caliphate were full of conspiracies to get rid of the infant caliph and replace him with a suitable adult Umayyad male, but to no avail, as Muḥammad ibn Abī ʿĀmir was successful in preventing Hishām's downfall and placed himself as the sole ruler in Hishām's name and with Ṣubḥ's consent. With Muḥammad ibn Abī ʿĀmir, known as al-Manṣūr or Almanzor, the Caliphate of Córdoba reached the peak of its power in al-Andalus. Victory never evaded al-Manṣūr in the battlefield, and he asserted his power in the Maghrib, making his authority felt in Sijilmāsa, the northernmost point of the Saharan trade, where Hishām's name was read in the Friday prayer.

Al-Manṣūr persuaded the childless caliph Hishām to invest him and his sons as the legitimate rulers in his name. At al-Manṣūr's death (392/1002), ʿAbd al-Mālik, al-Manṣūr's eldest son, took the title of al-Muẓaffar (392–398/1002–1008) and followed his father's steps in his policy in the northern frontier, in the Maghrib, and in his relationship with the caliph Hishām. When al-Muẓaffar died, his brother ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, known as Sanjūl, seized power and forced the caliph Hishām to nominate him as the heir apparent to the caliphate. This move aroused the hatred of the Umayyads. Sanjūl was executed, Hishām was deposed, and Muḥammad al-Mahdī, a grandson of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Nāṣir, took the caliphal title. A devastating war began in al-Andalus among various Umayyads contending for the caliphate. The “community of believers” was sundered and power throughout al-Andalus and the Maghrib rested in the hands of the most shrewd and cunning amongst the Arabs and Berbers of al-Andalus, the officials of the Caliphate, the Berbers of the army, and the Zanāta chieftains in the Maghrib, opening the way for the Party Kings, the rulers of the factions (mulūk aṭ-ṭawāʿif).

Table 1 The Umayyad Umarāʿ (a.h. 138–316/757–929 c.e.)

Name with accession and death dates Name and laqab Name and ordinal number
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Muʿāwiyah ibn Hishām (138–172/756–788) ʿAbd al-Rahmān  al-Dākhil ʿAbd al-Rahmān I
Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān (172–180/ 788–796) Hishām al-Ridā Hishām I
Al-Hakam ibn Hishām (180–206/ 796–822) Al-Hakam  al-Rabadī Al-Hakam I
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn al-Hakam (206–238/ 822–852) ʿAbd al-Rahmān  al-Awsat ʿAbd al-Rahmān II
Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān (238–273/ 852–886) Muhammad I
Al-Mundhir ibn Muhammad (273–275/ 886–888) Al-Mundhir I
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muhammad (275–300/ 888–912) ʿAbd Allāh I

Table 2 The Umayyad Caliphs (ah 316–422/929–1031 ce): The Golden Age

Name with accession and death dates Name and laqab* Name and ordinal number
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Muhammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh (300–350/912–961) ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-  Nāsir li-dīn Allāh ʿAbd al-Rahmān III
Al-Hakam ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān (350–366/961–976) Al-Hakam al-Mustansir  bi-Llāh Al-Hakam II
Hishām ibn al-Hakam (366–399/976–1009) Hishām al-Muʿayyad  bi-Llāh Hishām II
*nickname or honorific name given to the rulers of medieval Islam

Table 3 The Fitnah (War) and Its Aftermath

Name with accession and death dates Name and laqab* Name and ordinal number
Muhammad ibn Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Jabbār ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al- Nāsir (399–400/1009) Muhammad al-Mahdī Muhammad II
Sulaymān ibn al-Hakam ibn Sulaymān ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Nāsir (400/1009–1010) Sulaymān al-Mustaʿīn Sulaymān I
Hishām ibn al-Hakam (400–403/ 1010–1013), second time Hishām al-Muʿayyad bi-  Llāh Hishām II
Sulaymān ibn al-Hakam ibn Sulaymān ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Nāsir (403–407/1013–1016) (Sulaymān I), second time. Killed by ʿAlī ibn Hammūd, from the Idrīsid lineage. Sulaymān al-Mustaʿīn Sulaymān I
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Mālik ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Nāsir (408–409/1018) ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Murtadà ʿAbd al-Rahmān IV
ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Jabbār ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al- Nāsir (414/1023–1024) ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-  Mustazhir ʿAbd al-Rahmān V
Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn ʿUbayd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Nāsir (414–416/ 1024–1025) Muhammad al-Mustakfī Muhammad III
Hishām ibn Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Mālik ibn ʿAbd al-Rahmān al- Nāsir (418–422/1027–1031) Hishām al-Muʿtadd Hishām III
*nickname or honorific name given to the rulers of medieval Islam



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