As a student of Western medieval history for over ten years now, the Muslim rule of Spain has been a subject that interested me, but that I had not quite gotten around to in any detail. So when I heard good things about Dario Fernandez-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, I decided to read it for myself.
The book is even better than I expected. D. F. M. well debunks the hoary academic myth that Muslim Spain was a tolerant multi-cultural paradise. But it is the manner in which he does so that most impresses. He begins his chapters with quotes from those holding the prominent viewpoint of the “Andalusian paradise.” He frequently acknowledges their views, including points on which they are correct. Also, he thoroughly documents that Christians and Jews in Spain, not only Muslims, were harsh in a number of their laws, restricted contact with each other, and were largely segregated, contributing to the lack of tolerance in Spain. The Muslims were not the only bad guys, if you will. So this book is no one-sided polemic.
Instead, this work is thoroughly scholarly. D. F. M. quotes primary sources so much, it is almost overkill at times. But he is debunking the dominant academic view of Muslim Spain; his near overkill is necessary. Further, his notes and long bibliography take over a hundred pages! The main text only goes to 240 pages – this is not a hard read. But combined with the notes and bibliography, this is both a good introduction to the subject and an excellent resource for further study.
Sadly, the current state of academia is so averse to truth-telling about Islam and its history, one may have difficulty finding other books on Muslim Spain that are this good. That makes this already (The publication date was 2016.) that much more a must have on the subject.
A personal note - I was struck while reading that the atrocities of ISIS and other Islamonazi groups are nothing new. For example, how several medieval Muslim rulers turned executions into outlandish spectacles much like ISIS stood out to me. These included mass executions that Muslims bragged of. Trust that bragging is not too strong a word. Actual history, as opposed to fashionable academic revising of it, and the view of Islam as a benign peaceful religion are not compatible.
But even if one disagrees with me on that observation, any open-minded student of Muslim Spain needs to get The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise.