Historical Setting for Legends of Al-Andalus

Legends of Al-Andalus takes place in one of the many Taifa Kingdoms in in the Iberian peninsular in 1030 AD.

Spain 1030 AD

Spain 1030 AD

I’ve picked 1030 AD as the starting point partly because some years ago I drew a map for that period and partly because it was a time when the peninsular was in a state of considerable flux. The caliphate had dissolved and local kings (Taifa) dominated Al-Andalus.

Background History

Check out Timeline 1008-1086 Taifa Kingdoms.

The Emirate

The campaign is set in “the Emirate”. In fact it could be any of the Taifa kingdoms of the period.

I’ve made a stylised map of the Emirate showing all the locations of interest. The major encounter regions are in green and specific named locations within those regions are in orange. The city and the fort both include several small locations. For simplicity other Muslim Emirates are grouped together, as are the Christian Kingdoms. The thick black lines show the routes between locations.

Map Legends of Al-Andalus

Map of the Emirate

Inhabitants of the Emirate  

Check out Andalusian Order of Battle and Taifa Kingdoms.

The inhabitants of Al-Andalus included these main ethnic groups:

  • Andalusians
  • Arabs
  • Slavs
  • Berbers
  • Negroes
  • Christians
  • Jews

Andalusians, Arabs, and Berbers were Sunni Muslim. Slavs were often Sunni Muslim converts but could be Christian mercenaries. Negroes were either Sunni Muslim or pagan.

Andalusians (Muladí in Spanish and Muwallad in Arabic)

Iberian Muslims were called Muwallad, a term used for people of non-Arab or mixed ancestry who grew up among Arabs and were educated within the Arab-Islamic culture (Wikipedia: Muladi). From the beginning they formed the bulk of the Muslim population. Among the Muwalladun were the free-born, enfranchised and slaves.

The Muwalladun were the mainstay of the economic framework of the country (Wikipedia: Muladi). They, together with the Mozarabs, constituted the productive classes which were craftsmen and small tradesmen in the towns, farmer and labourers in the rural countryside.

Most Muwallad in Al-Andalus were the descendants of Iberian, Roman, Visigothic and Suebi converts to Islam (Wikipedia: Muladi). A significant part of the Muwalladun was formed by freed slaves. These were the Saqaliba, or Slavs who became a very important social group in Al-Andalus during the 10th and 11th centuries. Converts adopted the ethnic name of their patrons and many Muwallad assumed forged Arab genealogies. However, there were a few who were proud of their Roman and Visigothic origins. These included the Banu Angelino and Banu Sabarico of Seville, Banu Qasi of Aragon, Banu l’ Longo and Banu Qabturno. Several Muwallad nobles also used the name Al-Quti (The Goth), and some may have been actual descendants from the family of the Visigothic King of Hispania, Wittiza.

In spite of the Islamic doctrine of equality and brotherhood of Muslims, the Muwalladun were inferior to the Arabs and Berbers in social status (Wikipedia: Muladi). The the Arab and Berber aristocrats often looked down upon the Muwalladun with the utmost contempt and pejoratively referred to the Muwalladun as “the sons of slaves”. Prominent positions in government and society were rarely available to individuals of Muladi descent. None-the-less many Muwalladun held key posts in the departments of civil administration, justice and the armed forces. Several Muwalladun became rich burgesses and powerful magnates by means of their activities in trade, activity and agriculture.

The Muwallads, in turn, despised the Arabs and Berber immigrants whom they viewed as colonialists and foreign intruders (Wikipedia: Muladi). The locals resented the tendency of early Arab and Berber immigrants to carve out large estates for themselves, farmed by Christian serfs or slaves, and deny advancement to the locals. This mutual feeling of hatred and suspicion provoked frequent revolts. The Muwallads were sometimes assisted in their revolts by the local Mozarab population and occasionally by the Christian powers.

The Muwallads primarily spoke Andalusian Arabic, along with a wide variety of Iberian Romance languages (Wikipedia: Muladi), presumably related to the Mozarabic language. Andalusian Arabic was a mixture of Iberian languages and Classical Arabic, though derived especially from Latin. This local dialect of Arabic was also spoken by the Berbers and Arabs from the 9th century onwards.

Through the cultural Arabization of Muwallads and their increasing inter-marriage with the small number of Berbers and Arabs present in Iberia, the distinctions between the different Muslim groups became increasingly blurred in the 11th and 12th centuries (Wikipedia: Muladi). The populations mixed with such rapidity that it was soon impossible to distinguish ethnically the elements of foreign origin from the natives. Therefore, they merged into a more homogeneous group of Andalusi Arabs generally also called Moors.

Unlike Muslim in other areas those of Al-Andalus aspects of Christian culture (Wikipedia Mozarab). They adopted the Christian solar calendar and holidays. In Al-Andalus, the Islamic lunar calendar was supplemented by the local solar calendar, which were more useful for agricultural and navigational purposes. Like the local Mozarabs, the Muslims of Al-Andalus were notoriously heavy drinkers. Muslims also celebrated traditional Christian holidays sometimes with the sponsorship of their leaders, despite the fact that such fraternisation was generally opposed by the Ulema. The Muslims also hedged their metaphysical bets through the use of Roman Catholic sacraments.

Alim (plural Ulema), Mufti, Qadi, Faqih, Iman and Sheikh

An Alim (plural Ulema) is an educated Muslim legal scholar whose job is to arbitrate on shari‘a law (Wikipedia: Ulema). In a broader sense the term ulema means the body of Muslim clergy who have completed several years of training and study of Islamic sciences. An Alim might be a mufti (interpreter), qadi (judge or governor), or faqih (jurist). Some people also include the village imams – who have attained only the lowest rungs on the ladder of Islamic scholarship – within the ulema. Medieval rulers appointed qadis in every region, town and village for judicial and administrative control and to establish peace and justice over the dominions they controlled; typically the role was hereditary. An imam is an Islamic leader, often the leader of a mosque and the community. The imam explains Islamic issues to the community and leads the prayer during Islamic gatherings. The Sheikh usually gives the sermon. A Sheikh is an elder of a tribe, a revered wise man, or an Islamic scholar. In the latter sense it is a synonym with Alim.


Arab immigrants provided the basis of some early armies; the significant influxes were in 711, 712, and 741 (Heath, 1980). The the Arab and Berber aristocrats often looked down upon the Muwalladun with the utmost contempt and pejoratively referred to the Muwalladun as “the sons of slaves” (Wikipedia: Muladi).

Berbers (Amazigh)

Berbers mercenary/immigrants were being employed throughout the history of Al-Andalus, however, there were particular bursts of recruitment: under Abd al-Rahman II (822-852), Al-Hakam II (961-976), and the vizier Al-Mansur (976-1002) (Kennedy, 1996). The the Arab and Berber aristocrats often looked down upon the Muwalladun with the utmost contempt and pejoratively referred to the Muwalladun as “the sons of slaves” (Wikipedia: Muladi).

Slavs (Saqlabi or Saqaliba)

European slave troops were employed from the reign of al-Hakam I (796-822) although only became a large professional military force in the 10th century (Kennedy, 1996). Despite being called Slavs, most were recruited from the Kingdom of Leon. The Slavs became a very important social group in Al-Andalus during the 10th and 11th centuries (Wikipedia: Muladi).


Negro slaves and mercenaries were employed periodically – particularly as a counter-balance to either the Slavs or Berbers (Kennedy, 1996).

Christians (Mozarabs)

Mozarabs were Iberian Christians living under Muslim rule (Wikipedia Mozarab). They spoke dialects of the Mozarabic language (a Romance language and the precursor of modern Spanish and Portuguese) plus Arabic.

Most were Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite (Wikipedia Mozarab). Christian women often married Muslim men and their children were raised as Muslims. Even within Mozarab families, legal divorce eventually came to be practised along Islamic lines. Ordination of the clergy ultimately drifted far from canonical norms, breaking Apostolic Succession, and various Muslim sources claim that concubinage and fornication among the clergy was extremely widespread.

Christians, like the Jews, were regarded by the Muslims as dhimmi, or tolerated non-Muslims living under the rule of a Muslim government, and as such were allowed among Muslims if they paid a heavy personal tax (jizyah) (Wikipedia Mozarab). Mozarabs had their own tribunals and authorities. Restrictions forbade Christians to occupy any position in control of Muslims however some gained high offices in the Islamic administration. The construction of new churches and the sounding of church bells were eventually forbidden.

The Mozarabs employed Arabic-style names such as Zaheid ibn Zafar, Pesencano ibn Azafar, Ibn Gafif, Ibn Gharsiya (Garcia), Ibn Mardanish (Martinez), Ibn Faranda (Fernandez), in purely Christian contexts (Wikipedia Mozarab). This demonstrates that they had acculturated thoroughly and that their Arabic names were not mere aliases adopted to facilitate their movement within Muslim society. Conversely, some Christian names such as Lope and Fortun entered the local Arabic lexicon (Lubb and Fortun), and others were adopted in translated form (such as Sa’ad for Felix). In the witness lists, Mozarabs identified themselves with undeniably Islamic names such as al-Aziz, and Ibn Uthman. Several Mozarabs also used the name Al-Quti (The Goth), and some may have been actual descendants from the family of the Pre-Islamic Visigothic Christian king, Wittiza.

Mozarabs, like their Muslim neighbours, were notoriously heavy drinkers (Wikipedia Mozarab).

The Mozarabs understood that they gained a great deal by remaining in close contact with the Moors so didn’t not have an automatic allegiance to their Christian fellows (Wikipedia Mozarab). There is substantial evidence that Mozarabs fought in the defence of the front line fortress towns (thaghr), participating in raids against Christian neighbours and struggles between Muslim factions

Unlike Andalusi Muslims and Jews, Mozarabs had little interest in commerce because of their general perception of trade as lowly and despicable (Wikipedia Mozarab). This was in stark contrast to the greater respect accorded to merchants in Jewish and Muslim societies, where trade was frequently combined with other callings, such as politics, scholarship, or medicine. So although Mozarab merchants traded in Andalusian markets they were neither influential nor numerous before the middle of the 12th century. This extended to trade with the Christian north. Most traffic between Al-Andalus and Christian regions remained in the hands of Jewish and Muslim traders until the dramatic shifts initiated by European commercial expansion throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. With the development of Italian maritime power and southward expansion of the Christian Reconquista, Andalusian international trade came increasingly into the control of Christian traders from northern Iberia, southern France, or Italy and by the middle of the 13th century was an exclusively Christian concern.

Up until the middle of the 10th century Mozarbs comprised at least half the population of Al-Andalus (Wikipedia Mozarab). From that time Mozarab population of Al-Andalus declined steadily through conversion to Islam and migration to the Christian north. There was still a sizable Mozarab population in the the Islamic areas taken by the Christians in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Conversion to Islam was encouraged by the Muslim rulers (Wikipedia Mozarab). Many Mozarabs converted to Islam to avoid the Jizya tax. Conversion to Islam also alleviated their social position, opened up new horizons, ensured better living conditions, and broadened scope for more technically skilled and advanced work. Restrictions forbidding Christians to occupy any position in control of Muslims encouraged Christian slaves to gain their freedom by declaring conversion to Islam. Apostasy, however, for one who had been raised as a Muslim or had embraced Islam, was a crime punishable by death.

Some Christians martyred themselves to protest against Arab Muslim rule (Wikipedia Mozarab). Others were also killed when they rejected conversion to Islam and associated sexual advances from Muslims.

Many Mozarbs chose to migrate to the Christian kingdoms of the north (Wikipedia Mozarab). The high level of literary culture among the Mozarabs made Christian refugees from Al-Andalus welcome in the north. It also helped explain why the descendents of these refugees became an influential element in the northern kingdoms.


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Muslim Emirates

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Christian Kingdoms

The Christian kingdoms of the north were starting to impact the Muslim south.

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