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Muslim Women in Medieval Spain - Essay Example

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The first three hundred years of the Muslim conquest gave Spain a unique character among west European countries. Save for the Pyrenean regions and the territory to the north of the River Duero, the entire land mass was subjected by and received the imprint of Islamic civilization. Three centuries of virtually undisputed Muslim rule gave Spain its indelibly Moorish characteristics (Mann 12). Spain's Moorish past is so readily accepted by the modern traveler that it requires some effort to grasp the scale of the revolution that over, took the peninsula. A wholly foreign race professing a strongly hostile religion took over the country, a totally alien language became the official tongue, a completely novel culture was imposed on the population. Entire sections of the peasantry and the urban élite deserted their Catholic faith and embraced Islam. By the tenth century the territory called Al-Andalus was a country with a solid Muslim majority, and had become the single most powerful and civilized state in western Europe. The Moorish state was never so integrated or unified that it crushed out the cultures that had preceded it (Collins 43). None the less, Islamic culture itself became so imbedded in the Hispanic mentality that it ceased to be alien and became an ineffaceable and authentic part of peninsular history. In Medieval Spain women obtained an important role and had more rights and freedoms in contrast to Christian women and their position in society. In Medieval Spain, the subjected Christian population was usually treated with the limited religious tolerance customary to Islam. Occasional persecution was matched by outbreaks of religious zeal on the part of the conquered. Those who held fast to their faith were called Mozarabs, Christian in belief but Arabized in culture and language. Their numbers, however, shrank, and their faith itself became diluted with novel beliefs and heresies. Many were attracted by the higher quality of Islamic culture. The principal episcopal see, Toledo, once the Visigothic capital, found itself isolated as the sees of the Christian north freed themselves from its jurisdiction. Despite these drawbacks, Mozarabism remained a vitally important phenomenon (Carr 64). It represented a profound dialogue between Muslim and Christian civilization, and retained enough of an identity to prepare the way for an eventual re, conversion of the lands which the Muslims had made their own. Dillard (1993): "The settlement charters, drawn up by king or count to attract settlers who would defend the frontier outposts and raid into Muslim territory, illustrate less the legal independence of and privileges granted specifically to women than their importance as wives of colonizers and mothers of future citizens: women are the necessary guarantors of permanent settlement through a second generation" (71).
Castilian predominance was unmistakable. The kingdom embraced over half the land mass of the peninsula and the great majority of its inhablitants. Over most of its territories the language spoken was Castilian. In the Crown of Aragon the Catalans were the pace-setters. By settling the newly annexed Muslim -populated lands of Valencia, they made Valencia into a province that was (and has remained into recent times) overwhelmingly Catalan in race and language. Though the aim of the Reconquest was to eliminate Arab power, it did not necessarily involve elimination of the Arab population. No state could have coped adequately with a sudden withdrawal of all Muslims from Spain (O'Callaghan 110). The slow progress of conquest therefore allowed Christian society to adapt to changing political conditions (Collins 76). In effect, the Christians 'colonized' those regions where they encountered a working peasantry. Royal grants gave them ownership of the southern estates controlled by Moors (Mann 15). They continued to exploit them with the help of the subjected Muslim peasants, who were treated virtually as serfs. ...Show more


This paper tells that Muslim women in medieval Spain occupied a better position than Christian women and were granted more rights and freedoms. A woman had no voice in her marriage (in its initiation or in its termination). …
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Muslim Women in Medieval Spain
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