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Early Islamic World

Islam in Spain (Al-Andalus)

History for Kids >> Early Islamic World

For a significant part of the Middle Ages the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal) was ruled by the Islamic Empire. Muslims first arrived in 711 AD and ruled portions of the region until 1492. They had a significant impact on the culture and lives of the people in the region and brought many advancements to Europe.

Map showing the region of Al-Andalus
Map of Al-Andalus
What is Al-Andalus?

Muslims referred to the Islamic land of Spain as "Al-Andalus." At its peak, Al-Andalus encompassed almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. The border between Al-Andalus and the Christian regions to the north was constantly changing.

Muslims First Arrive

Muslims arrived in Spain during the conquests of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Umayyads had conquered much of northern Africa and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain in 711 AD. They found little resistance. By 714, the Islamic army had taken control of the majority of the Iberian Peninsula.

Battle of Tours

After conquering the Iberian Peninsula, the Muslims turned their attention to the rest of Europe. They began to advance into France until they were met near the city of Tours by the Frankish army. The Franks, under the leadership of Charles Martel, defeated the Islamic army and forced them back south. From this point forward, Islamic control was mostly limited to the Iberian Peninsula south of the Pyrenees Mountains.

Umayyad Caliphate

In 750, the Umayyad Caliphate was taken over by the Abbasid Caliphate in the Middle East. However, one Umayyad leader escaped and he set up a new kingdom in Cordoba, Spain. Much of Spain at the time had come under the control of various bands of Muslims. Over time, the Umayyads united these bands under one rule. By 926, the Umayyads had regained control of Al-Andalus and named themselves the Caliphate of Cordoba.

Arches inside the Mosque of Cordoba
Mosque of Cordoba by Wolfgang Lettko
Culture and Advancements

Under the leadership of the Umayyads, the region flourished. The city of Cordoba became one of the greatest cities in Europe. Unlike the dark and dirty cities of most of Europe, Cordoba had wide paved streets, hospitals, running water, and public bath houses. Scholars from around the Mediterranean traveled to Cordoba to visit the library and to study subjects such as medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and art.

Who were the Moors?

The term "Moors" is often used to refer to the Muslims from North Africa who conquered the Iberian Peninsula. The term didn't just include people of Arab descent, but anyone who lived in the region who was a Muslim. This included the Berbers from Africa and local people who converted to Islam.


Throughout the 700 years that the Islamic Empire held the Iberian Peninsula, Christian kingdoms to the north attempted to take back control. This long lasting war was called the "Reconquista." It finally ended in 1492, when the united forces of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile defeated the last of the Islamic forces at Granada.

Interesting Facts about Islamic Spain the Early Islamic Empire Activities More on the Early Islamic World:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the Islamic Empire
First Four Caliphs
Umayyad Caliphate
Abbasid Caliphate
Ottoman Empire

Scholars and Scientists
Ibn Battuta
Suleiman the Magnificent
Daily Life
Trade and Commerce
Science and Technology
Calendar and Festivals

Islamic Spain
Islam in North Africa
Important Cities
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History for Kids >> Early Islamic World

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