Saturday, December 10, 2016
Once upon a time in the mid-eighth century, an intrepid young man named Abd al-Rahman abandoned his home in Damascus, the Near Eastern heartland of Islam, and set out across the North African desert in search of a place of refuge. Damascus had become a slaughterhouse for his family, the ruling Umayyads, who had first led the Muslims out of the desert of Arabia into the high cultures of the Fertile Crescent. With the exception of Abd al-Rahman, the Umayyads were eradicated by the rival Abbasids, who seized control of the great empire called the "House of Islam." This sole survivor was undoubtedly too young - he was in his late teens or early twenties - to be terrified at the odds against him, nor was his flight westward, towards what was the farthest frontier of the Islamic territories, as arbitrary or hopeless as it might have seemed. The prince's mother was a Berber tribeswoman from the environs of today's Morocco, which Arab conquerors had reached some years before. From this place, which the Muslims called the Maghrib, the "Far West," the descendants of the Prophet and his first followers had brought women such as Abd al-Rahman's mother back east as brides or concubines for the highest-ranking families, to expand and enrich the bloodlines.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain