An Intercultural Dialogue between the Muslim Taifa of Denia and the Christian County of Barcelona in the Eleventh Century

An Intercultural Dialogue between the Muslim Taifa of Denia and the Christian County of Barcelona in the Eleventh Century

By Travis Bruce

Medieval Encounters, Vol.15: (2009 )

Abstract: Points of dialogue increased across the Muslim-Christian Iberian frontier over the course of the eleventh century. Rulers on both sides pursued policies of active communication, through violent and pacific means. This is especially evident in the relations between Denia and Barcelona. The growing Mediterranean interests of both polities brought them into frequent contact through trade, diplomacy and conflict. In fact, the intercultural entente established between the rulers of Denia and Barcelona allows for a much broader view of Iberian Muslim-Christian relations within the context of the eleventh-century Western Mediterranean.

Introduction: The eleventh-century Iberian Peninsula witnessed a transformation in the nature of Muslim–Christian relations. Although al-Mans.ūr had subjugated almost the entire Iberian Peninsula under the power of the Cordoban caliphate, the disintegration of the Umayyad regime redirected economic and political currents to over thirty regional polities, known as taifas. At the same time, the Christian kingdoms began consolidating their power. This process led to the reversal of military dominance in the Peninsula, culminating in the reconquista, and the idea of conflict based on religious differences, which complicated intercultural dialogue when it did not prevent it altogether. While historians of medieval Spain have replaced this model with a more nuanced view in step with modern sensibilities, it is nonetheless worthwhile to re-examine, through a thoroughgoing survey of the Latin and Arabic sources, the varied and often contradictory ways in which Iberian polities constructed their relations around and in spite of their religious differences.

Muslim hegemony over the Iberian Peninsula ended with the fall of the Cordoban caliphate in 1009. When ʿAbd al-Rahmān, son of the legendary al-Mansūr, sought to usurp the caliphal throne, civil war destroyed the Umayyad state. Muhammad al-Mahdī tried to restore his Umayyad family’s authority over the caliphate, but was unsuccessful in the face of the Berber, Andalusī and Slav factions vying for power. Al-Mahdī was violently deposed, and a succession of contenders supported by various factions fought over the remains of the caliphate for the next twenty years. This period is known to Arabic sources as the fitna, which denotes civil strife and conflict within the Muslim community. The fitna officially ended in 1031, when the last pretender to the Cordoban caliphate was ousted, but no semblance of unity would return to al-Andalus before the end of the century with the Almoravid invasions.

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