The taifa kingdoms in 1031 immediately after the fracturing of the caliphate.
The Party Kingdoms, or Taifa Kingdoms, emerged out of the anarchy that followed the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate of Córdoba in 1009 CE and the ensuing period of civil war (fitna) that lasted until 1031. The Arabic term muluk al-tawa’if (factional kings) was applied to the rulers of these petty states, because their existence defied the Islamic ideal of political unity under the authority of a single caliph. The era of the Party Kingdoms, which lasted until 1110 CE, was one of great cultural florescence in al- Andalus, particularly among Muslims and Jews. It was also the period in which native Iberian Muslims lost control of their political destiny; from this time forward they would dominated by Iberian Christian and North African Muslim powers.
The Umayyad caliphate had been run, in fact, if not in name, by the ‘Amirid dynasty of ‘‘chamberlains’’ (hajib) since Muhammad ibn Abi ‘Amir al- Mansur (976–1002) seized power during the reign of Hisham II (976–1009/1010–1113). On his death, al- Mansur was succeeded by two sons, ‘Abd al-Malik (r. 1002–1008), and ‘Abd al-Rahman (or ‘‘Sanjul’’), who took power in 1008. Unable to maintain the delicate and volatile balance of factions within the government and Andalusi society, or to counter popular resentment of the growing prestige of Berber groups who had been invited to al-Andalus as part of caliphal military policy, Sanjul provoked the outrage of the Umayyad aristocracy, the religious elite (‘ulama’), and the populace by pressuring the aging and childless Hisham to name him as successor in 1008. Sanjul was deposed by elements of the military, and the people of Co´rdoba rampaged against local Berbers. As civil war erupted in the capital, power was seized in the various provincial cities by local governors, members of the palace slave (saqaliba) contingent, the ‘ulama’, and Berber clans, which had come to dominate the army. The variety of political leadership reflected the divisions that had emerged in Andalusi politics and society since the time of ‘Abd al-Rahman III (r. 912–961). Until the death of Hisham III in 1031, each of the rulers maintained a patina of legitimacy by styling himself as the hajib ruling in the name of the Umayyad caliph, while struggling against neighboring Party Kingdoms both for survival and a greater share of Andalusi territory.
By the 1040s, most of the smaller states had been swallowed up, leaving several major players, which included: Badajoz, ruled by the Aftasids, an Andalusi dynasty; Toledo, ruled by the Dhi’l-Nun, of Berber origin; Zaragoza, ruled by the Banu Hud, of Arab origin; Seville, ruled by the Andalusi ‘Abbasids; Granada, ruled by the Berber Zirid clan; Valencia, ruled by ‘Amirids; and Almerý´a, ruled by a succession of factions. By this point the slave regimes were no more; lacking a broader constituency they fell victim to Andalusi and Berber cliques who had a wider popular base or a more cohesive military core. Among the great rivalries that emerged were those of Seville and Granada (which also faced the hostility of Almería), and Toledo and Zaragoza. Zaragoza was further plagued by internal divisions thanks to the custom of Hudid rulers of dividing their patrimony among their heirs.
These rivalries were capitalized on by the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula, particularly Castile and Leo´ n, which were united under the strong leadership of Fernando I of Castile (r. 1035–1065) and his successor Alfonso VI (r. 1065–1109). Fernando, who exploited Andalusi weakness by pushing far south of the Duero and taking Coímbra in 1064, initiated a policy in which military pressure was used to convert the Party Kingdoms into tributary states. As a consequence, Badajoz, Seville, Toledo, Zaragoza, and Granada were forced to pay large indemnities (parias) of gold and silver in exchange for military support and protection from attack. Other Christian principalities, notably Aragon and Barcelona, quickly imitated this. As a result, Christian powers became increasingly embroiled in Andalusi affairs, supporting their taifa clients against rival kingdoms and using them in their own internecine struggles. Hence, Castile-supported Toledo fought Aragon-supported Zaragoza, and Zaragoza faced a rebellious Lérida aided by Barcelona. It was in this context that the famous Rodrigo Diaz del Vivar, ‘‘El Cid,’’ an exile from Castile, found himself commanding the military forces of Zaragoza against the troops of Aragon and Barcelona. Indeed, ‘‘El Cid’’ had earned his moniker from Sevillan troops in 1064 after he led them to victory against the forces of taifa Granada, when they referred to him gratefully as ‘‘my lord’’ (sidi). Such interventions were symptomatic of a general dependence of the taifa kingdoms on Christian military strength, which further undermined their autonomy.
The taifa kingdoms were able to support the paria regime because of the fact that their economic infrastructure had remained largely undamaged by the unrest of the fitna. These were economies based on intensive agriculture and market gardening, manufacture and craft and, particularly in the case of the Mediterranean coast, trade. The trans-Saharan gold trade that had fueled the incredible prosperity of the caliphate also continued, providing the taifa kings with the funds they needed to meet their tributary obligations. The vibrant Andalusi economy also sustained a cultural renaissance, encouraged by the new political plurality in which rival courts vied as patrons of Arabic letters, science, and theology; the great poet Ibn Hazm (b. Córdoba, 993) is the best-known figure of this age. Jewish culture and letters, including both Arabic- and Hebrew-language literature, also throve, producing remarkable figures such as the poet Isma’il ibn Naghrilla (b. Córdoba, 991), who exercised power as effective head of state of the taifa of Granada from 1027 to 1056. This cultural diversity reflected the ethno-religious composition of the kingdoms, most of which had significant Jewish and Mozarab Christian minorities, members of which not infrequently enjoyed great prestige and wielded considerable political power. For example, Isma’il ibn Naghrilla, wazir and military commander of Granada, was succeeded by his son Yusuf. Sisnando Davídez, a Mozarab who later served as Alfonso VI’s envoy, had been an administrator in Muslim Badajoz, and a number of dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) served in the government of Zaragoza.
For the most part this diversity was tolerated by the Muslim majority, including the ‘ulama’, although some of the latter were outraged by the prospect that dhimmis should hold formal office under a Muslim regime. Their ire, however, came to be directed increasingly at the taifa kings themselves, many of whom were Berbers who shared no ethno-cultural affiliation with the Andalusi population and who ruled as a foreign military elite. Popular dissatisfaction was aggravated by the increasing burden of taxation, which the ‘ulama’ (who tended to come from the commercial class) and the common people were expected to bear as a result of the paria system. The taifa kings’ imposition of uncanonical taxes and their submission as tributaries to Christian powers served as an ideological rallying point for popular revolt. The situation of the ‘ulama’ was further exacerbated by the disruption of long-distance trade networks, thanks to incursions of the Normans in the Mediterranean and the Banu Hilal in Tunisia, and by the growing unrest in the Andalusi countryside, where the inter-taifa warfare and banditry led to general disorder. In 1085, the populace of Toledo led by the religious elite ejected the taifa king al-Qadir from the city. Turning to his patron, Alfonso VI, al-Qadir agreed that if reinstated he would hand the city over to the Castilian king, on the promise of later being installed as king in Valencia. Thus, in that same year, after negotiating a treaty with the local ‘ulama’, Alfonso entered Toledo as king.
This event made evident the corruption and debility of the taifa kings, who were derided in learned and pious Andalusi circles as decadent and effete. A well-known contemporary satirical verse mocked them: ‘‘They give themselves grandiose names like ‘The Powerful,’ and ‘The Invincible,’ but these are empty titles; they are like little pussycats who, puffing themselves up, imagine they can roar like lions.’’ It also demonstrated to the taifa kings that Alfonso’s aim was conquest; indeed, following up his seizure of Toledo, Alfonso laid siege to the other powerful northern taifa, Zaragoza (as a means of blocking the expansion on his Christian rival, the Kingdom of Aragón). By now both the ‘ulama’ and the taifa rulers agreed outside help was desperately required. The only group to which they could turn was the Almoravids, a dynamic Berber faction that had coalesced on the southern reaches of the African gold routes and had managed to impose their political will on the region of Morocco, having taken Marrakech in 1061 and Fez in 1069. Self-styled champions of a Sunni Islam revival (which resonated with that of the Seljuks in the East), they saw their mission not only as halting the Christian advance in al-Andalus but also of deposing the illegitimate taifa rulers.
In 1086, the Almoravid Yusuf ibn Tashfin led a sizeable army to al-Andalus at the invitation of al- Mu‘tamid of Seville. With the half-hearted help of the Andalusi troops the Almoravid faced Alfonso VI and his loyal Muslim clients in battle at Zallaqa (or Sagrajas) and issued them a major defeat. He did not follow this up, returning instead to Morocco. For the next two years the taifa kings were confident enough to defy Alfonso VI, but when he began to attack them again, they were forced to call on the Almoravids for help once more. Ibn Tashfin waited until 1089 when, having obtained juridical opinions from the ‘ulama’ of the East authorizing him to take power in al-Andalus, he returned and set about deposing the remaining taifa rulers one by one. By 1094, virtually all of the kingdoms had fallen, their rulers having been either killed or shipped off as prisoners to Almoravid Morocco.
Valencia did not fall until 1102. By 1087, ‘‘El Cid,’’ against the opposition of Zaragoza and the various Christian kings, had determined to take the city for himself and was provided with a pretext when an ‘ulama’-led uprising deposed and executed al-Qadir in 1092. Rodrigo besieged the city, which, forsaken by the Almoravids, surrendered in 1093. Having negotiated a treaty with the Muslim population, Rodrigo ruled the city and surrounding territory until his death in 1099—a Christian taifa king. Three years later, unable to resist the growing pressure of the Almoravids, Rodrigo’s wife and successor, Jimena, and her troops abandoned the city to its inhabitants, setting it ablaze as they left. The remaining Party Kingdom, Zaragoza, remained independent partly because the Almoravids were content to use it as a buffer state and partly because its rulers became so adept at playing off their Christian rivals against each other. As in the case of Toledo, however, the populace and the religious elite became increasingly frustrated by a leadership that was so deeply embroiled with the very Christian powers who seemed determined to defeat them. In 1110, a popular uprising banished the last Hudid king from power, and the city submitted to Almoravid rule. Zaragoza would ultimately fall to Alfonso I of Aragon in 1118, surrendering after a lengthy siege, after the surviving members of the Banu Hud struggled vainly with Alfonso VI’s help to regain their patrimony.
The period of the Party Kingdoms marks a turning point in the history of medieval Iberia, when the balance of political and economic initiative shifted from the Muslim-dominated South to the Christian dominated North. Whether as a consequence of a crisis of ‘asabiyya (group identity) on the part of the Andalusis, or as the result of larger political and economic trends, the destiny of the Muslims of Spain would henceforth be in the hands of foreigners. The politics of the taifa period, however, defy the notion that this process or the so-called Christian Reconquest that looms so largely in it was the result of an epic civilizational struggle between Islam and Christendom; the most striking aspect of taifa era al- Andalus was the relative absence of religious sectarianism and the profound enmeshment of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish individuals and political factions.
Benaboud, M’hammad. ‘‘ ‘Asabiyya and Social Relations in Al-Andalus During the Period of the Taifa States.’’
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Wasserstein, David. The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings:
Politics and Society in Islamic Spain 1002–1086. Princeton, NJ, 1985.