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Tariq Bin Ziyad
Jamil Ahmad


After landing on the coastal strip overlooking the rock which was later named as ‘Jabal-ul-Tariq’ (Gibraltar), its conqueror Tariq Bin Zayid, ordered the burning of the ships that had brought his Muslim troops from Africa in 711 A.D.

Why are you doing this. Sir?’ cried the astonished soldiers.

How will we return? Enquired some.

Tariq remained unmoved by these appeals.

In reply, he uttered those historic words, which will always inspire people to embark on brave deeds. He said: ‘We have not come her to return. Either we shall conquer and establish ourselves here or we will perish.’

Emboldened by these words. Tariq and his soldiers routed one of the most formidable armies of the West and carried the banner of Islam even beyond the high walls of the Pyrenees.

Soon after the death of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sws), the Muslims were threatened from all sides. The mighty neighbouring Empires of the Roman and Persians were conspiring to uproot this new force. But the Arabs not only met this challenge but also crushed the two greatest Empires of the world, and in less than half a century their arms held sway over the three known continents.

The Islamic principles of equality and fraternity had enabled the conquered and newly converted races to take their share in the government along with the noblest of the Arabs. Islam recognised no distinction of caste and creed and readily patronised talent wherever found. This is why all capable slaves have occupied the highest positions in an Islamic polity and many slave dynasties have magnificently ruled over Muslim subjects.

Tariq bin Ziyad, a newly converted Berber slave wsa a lieutenant of Musa bin Nusair, the Muslim Viceroy of Africa. The Berber slave was destined to be the conqueror of Spain, the biggest Muslim territory in Europe, which, for eight centuries under the Muslims, kept aloft the torch of civilisation and culture that at last dispelled the gloom that had enveloped the Mediaeval Europe.

At this time, when Africa was enjoying the blessings of toleration, justice and prosperity under the  Muslims, neighbouring Spain was groaning under the tyranny, and bigotry of its Gothic ruler. The honour of women was not safe and the tillers of the soil were put to heavy taxation. The rulers and their henchmen revelled in luxury while the masses groaned in poverty. A large number of refugees from Spain both Christians and Jews who had suffered under the Gothic rule had taken refuge in Muslim Africa. One of them was Julian, the Governor of Ceuta, whose daughter. Florinda, had been dishonoured by Roderick, the Gothic King of Spain. They appealed to Musa to liberate their country from the tyrant’s yoke.

In response to their prayer and with the sanction of the Caliph, Musa made a reconnaissance on the southern coast of Spain. The report was favourable and in May 711, Tariq bin Zaid with 7,000 Muslims crossed the Straits in ships in small contingents. As his troops landed in Europe, Tariq concentrated them on a hill, which took the name of ‘Jabl-ul-Tariq’ (The Rock of Tariq) now called Gibraltar, and urged them either to conquer or perish. They had no intention to go back home.

The Gothic King Roderick collected a huge army of more than one lakh solders. Tariq, too was reinforced by 5,000 soldiers dispatched by Musa and now his army numbered 12,000. The two armies met at the mouth of river Barbate, on the shores of a lagoo of Janda and fought a decisive battle on July 9th, 711, A.D. The two armies were unequally matched. The Christians by Tariq was irresistible and the Goths were completely routed with terrible losses. King Roderick was drowned in the river. This remarkable victory of Tariq broke the morale of the Spaniards, and henceforward, they did not dare face the Muslims in the open.

Therefore, the armies of Tariq met little resistance in the interior of Spain. His was a triumphant march from place to place in the Peninsula. Tariq had divided his small army into four divisions and directed one of his lieutenants towards Cordova, the other towards Malaga, the third towards Granada and himself at the head of the main body hurriedly marched upon Toledo, the Capital of Spain. All these cities capitulated without much resistance. The Goths were paralysed by the rapidity of Tariq’s movement and the severity of his blows. The Gothic armies fled before him. ‘God’, says an analyst, ‘filled the hearts of idolators with terror and alarm.’ The oppressed masses of Spain hailed the Muslims as their liberators. The exemplary treatment of Tariq and his men endeared him to the conquered races.

The fiercest battle of the entire campaign was fought at Ecija, which resulted in the victory of Tariq’s forces. Toledo, the Capital of Spain, also capitulated after little resistance. Here Tariq was joined by his Master Musa bin Nusair, thee Muslim viceory of Africa. Hence forward, the two generals moved side by side and in less than two years, the whole of Spain was in Muslim hands Portugal was conquered, a few years after. ‘This constituted the last and the most sensational of the major Arab campaigns’, writes Philip K. Hitti,’ and resulted in the addition to the Moslem world of the largest European territory ever held by them… In its swiftness of execution and completness of success, this expedition into Spain holds a unique place in the Mediaeval Military Annals.

Musa and Tariq would have easily conquered the whole of Europe which lay at their feet. There was none to stop their victorious advance, but Providence meant otherwise. When they were planning the conquest of Europe, they received summons from the Caliph to present themselves at Damascus. They exhibited a rare discipline by obeying the orders of the Caliph, reaching Damascus at the earliest possible time. Tariq died there afterwards.

The conquest of Spain by Muslims opened a new era for the Peninsula. It brought about a social revolution in which the freedom of religion was fully recognised. The intoleration and persecution of the Christians gave place to toleration and large-heartedness. The captured Christian cities received favourable terms which were faithfully observed. Individual acts of violence by the Muslim soldiers were severely punished. No properties or estates were confiscated. Instead, the Muslims introduced an intelligent system of taxation, which soon brought prosperity to the Peninsula and made it a model country in the West. The Christians had their own judges to settle their disputes. All communities had equal opportunities for entry into the public services.

This wise an generous administration of Muslim conquerors had its good effects. The Christians including their priests, who had first left their homes in terror came back and passes a happy and prosperous life. A well-known Christian writer says: ‘The Moors (Muslims) organised that wonderful kingdom of Cordova, which was the marvel of the Middle Ages, and which, when all Europe was plunged in barbaric ignorance and strife, alone held the torch of learning and civilisation bright and shining before the Western world.’

(Extracted from ‘The Hundred Great Muslims’)

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