Conquista and Reconquista

As its subtitle indicates, this book dispels a number of imprecisions, equivocations, and outright lies regarding the Islamic conquest of Spain in late antiquity or the early medieval period.  (The Romans called it Hispania, a word that evolved into the medieval Latin Spannia and eventually the modern España.)  Its author, for many years professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Salamanca, is today’s foremost Western authority on Islamic law.  His works have been used by scholars even at Islamic universities such as Cairo’s Al-Azhar in their religious polemics against scholars at the service of the Islamic Caliphate of al-Baghdadi.

One imprecision among the many corrected by this book concerns the actual extent of the Islamic control of Spain.  Traditionally, historians have asserted that Islam’s initial onslaught (c. 711-719) conquered most of the land except for a narrow strip of the northwestern part of the country.  But Maíllo Salgado argues convincingly that the entire northwest quadrant, including the lands of today’s Asturias and Galicia, was never controlled by Islam.

This issue may seem of merely academic interest, but it is not.  The author points out that Spain was the one land conquered and occupied for many centuries by Islam that eventually managed to escape its domination.  (Another exception, not...

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