martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

The andalousian city of Jerez

After the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by the Arab troops in the year 711, the area surrounding the river Guadalete formed part of the province of Shidhuna, a political and administrative unit whose capital was the city of the same name, Shidhuna, and whose extension was almost similar to its Gothic and Roman predecessors. The province of Shidhuna was bounded by Sevilla to the north; Málaga to the east; Algeciras to the south; and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. By mid-ninth century, the dominant city of the province was still Shidhuna, but after the Norman incursions in 844, it started a decline parallel to the rise of other towns like Jerez, which became the new capital of the province and an important cultural center, coinciding with the period of higher economic prosperity of the area. This splendor is reflected in the bookHistory of the scholars of al-Andalus, by Ibn al-Faradi from Cordoba (d. 1013), which immortalizes thirty scholars of Sidonia and other towns and hamlets of the province, especially Jerez. Indeed, the first names of the people from Islamic Jerez appear in the final years of the ninth century. The presence of these scholars in the city shows the gradual Islamization of the area by that time. Thus, in the tenth century, the authorities sent to Jerez experts in religious sciences to ensure the arabization and islamization of its inhabitants.

The period of the Taifa kingdoms (XIth c.) meant the loss of Jerez’s hegemony after undergoing the Banu Khizrun of Arcos, and later, the Banu 'Abbad of Seville, who overshadow all the towns and provinces under their control. The entry of the Almoravids, first, and the subsequent Almohad invasion of al-Andalus, provided a change to the situation, as many major cities in the area had the chance of fighting for their independence and achieving some prominence. Jerez was well known because of its opposition to the Almoravid power, between 1143 and 1145. The city became, then, a small kingdom ruled by Abu l-Gamr Ibn Azzun, of the Banu Ghaniya, in the second Taifas period, between the Almoravid an Almohad dominations.Jerez recovered its political weight in the region ought to its immediate submission to the Caliph Abd al-Mu'min, who declared the city free of seizures. The Geographers Ibn Ghalib (XIIth c.) and Yaqut (XIIIrd c.) mention it again as the capital of the province at that time.

The commercial and strategic importance that the city had achieved between the mid-twelfth century and the early decades of the XIIIrd century was remarkable. Before being taken by the Christians, Jerez was a town of about 20,000 people, with more than twenty mosques, surrounded by a strong wall and equipped with castle, ramparts, Alqaysariya, and all the elements of a great Andalousian city, Jewry and suburbs included. Hand in hand with this undeniable commercial and urban development, Jerez reached its cultural splendor. The townscholars were mostly aristocrats who, along with his scholarly occupation, held religious and legal positions of responsibility in the city. These, as the rest of scholars used to do at that time, came to learn, improve their education and even teach in the most important andalousian cities like Córdoba, Sevilla, Malaga or Granada, not to mention the pilgrimages to the East in search of knowledge. This is the case of Ibn Lubbal of Jerez (d. 1187-8), Ibn Malik (d. between 1195 and 1197) or Ibn Azhar (d. 1188-9), who soon became prestigious teachers in Jerez itself, a city that received the visit of many scholars of al-Andalus and the rest of Islam, since the beginning of the XIIth century. The power also promoted this illustrated environment. One of the governors of Jerez during the Almohad period was, for example, the prolific poet Abu Umar Ibn Abi Khalid (d. 1215-6) from Seville. The scholars mentioned above taught other people from Jerez like the grammarian Ibn Abd al-Mu'min (d. 1223), well known for his excellent Commentary on the Macama of al-Hariri of Basra; the poet Ibn Shakil (d. 1208-9); the physician Ibn Rifa'a (d. 1239); or Ibn Giyat, vizier and poet (d. 1223). All of them continued the work of instructing new disciples from Jerez and other parts of al-Andalus.

After the conquest of the city by the troops of the Castilian king Alfonso the Xth, the Andalousian history of Jerez reached its end. Following the surrender of the city to the Christian troops and the subsequent expulsion of the Muslim population, many scholars from Jerez eventually prospered outside al-Andalus. Bio-bibliographic codes tell us that some of these scholars chose the Maghreb as a place of residence, specially the cities of Rabat and Meknes; and others the East, where many of them settled in Alexandria, Jerusalem and Damascus.

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