Lisbon's Islamic Community celebrated its 50th anniversary. The community was
established by migrants in the 1960s, but Islam has much more ancient roots in
is in Portugal's soul," said the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de
Sousa while standing at the entrance of the Central Mosque of Lisbon for the
50th anniversary commemorations.
what is now Portugal was under Islamic rule for over 500 years. In 711, Muslim
armies sailed from North Africa and quickly took control of large parts of
Portugal and Spain, which became known in Arabic as al-Andalus.
might at times not be fully aware of the profound heritage left by Arabs in
Portuguese society and culture," the president said. "But it was and
continues to be very important."
period left important monuments in the south of Spain. The Great Mosque of
Cordoba and the complex of palaces of Alhambra in Granada are among the most
famous examples of grandiose Islamic architecture.
there are few Islamic monuments in Portugal, five centuries of Islamic rule
left deep traces in Portuguese language and culture.
was a golden age for humanity. Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted
relatively peacefully and science and culture thrived," says the writer,
poet and scholar Adalberto Alves. "The influence of five centuries of
Islamic presence is immense."
achievements of this period are often attributed to the relative tolerance and
collaboration between different religious groups. As long as they acknowledged
Muslim rule and paid special taxes, Christians and Jews were protected and
integrated in cultural and economic life.
Alves has spent the last 45 years exploring the influence of centuries of
Muslim rule in Portugal. His work aims at spreading the heritage of al-Andalus
and bringing Europe closer to the Islamic world by emphasising common cultural
family is from the south of Portugal, from an area that was very influenced by
the Islamic presence. So I grew up with this interest in the other and ended up
discovering that the other is also part of us," he says.
collected Arabic poetry of the Andalus period and translated it into
Portuguese. His contribution to the dissemination of the history of Arab
presence in Portugal and Spain was recognised by UNESCO with the Sharjah Prize
for Arab Culture in 2008.
years, Alves also worked on a dictionary of Portuguese words of Arabic origin.
A lot of Portuguese expressions are also influenced by Arabic. The expression
"oxalá", commonly used in Portuguese to express hope, is a direct
descendant of the Arabic "Insha'Allah".
found there were almost 19 000 words of Arabic origin in Portuguese language,
and my dictionary keeps expanding," he says.
explored the many areas where Portugal has been influenced by its Islamic past,
from poetry and language to carpet weaving, music, architecture and science. He
argues that without the navigational sciences developed by the Arabs, the
Portuguese wouldn't have become famous sailors and Portugal wouldn't have had
one of world's longest-lived colonial empires.
European Enlightenment was prepared by the Arabs. It was their contribution in
the Iberian Peninsula that made it possible," he argues.
according to Alves, the cultural and intellectual debt to the Arab-Islamic
world has not been acknowledged in Europe. Despite playing a fundamental role
in the rise of Europe and the European Enlightenment, Arab and Muslim scholars
have been written out of European history.
Islamic presence left a strong legacy in Portugal, but this heritage is not
well-known," says Fawzia Ibrahimo, a member of the Lisbon Mosque's Social
Committee. "Most people are not aware of how this period is still present
in Portuguese language and culture," she adds.
Ibrahimo started studying the history of Al-Andalus, she was surprised to find
that so many Portuguese traditions were influenced by the Islamic period.
children study this period in school they mostly learn about the fights between
Christians and Muslims. There is a lot of emphasis on the battles. And Muslims
are depicted as enemies," says Ibrahimo. "I wish there was more
interest in the positive aspects, the long periods of coexistence and this
period's flourishing of arts and science."
In the 15th
century, Christian kingdoms conquered the last Muslim strongholds in
al-Andalus, putting an end to Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula. Jews and Muslims
were forced to convert or expelled from Portugal and Spain, which became
exclusively Christian kingdoms.
constructed as Europe's "other" and the coexistence and cooperation
of al-Andalus was largely forgotten. But Muslim and Jewish traces remained, not
only in Portugal's history and culture, but also in the population's genes.
study conducted by an international team of scientists revealed that a third of
the Iberian Peninsula's population has Jewish or Muslim ancestry. The study published
in the American Journal of Human Genetics showed that there were mass
conversions of Jews and Muslims to Catholicism after Christian armies conquered
Portugal and Spain.
Portugal passed a restitution law that offered citizenship to the descendants
of Jews who were expelled from the country in the 15th century. The Muslims
expelled around the same period, however, were not included in the law.
for the commemoration of Lisbon's Islamic community 50th anniversary last year,
Ahmad al-Tayyeb, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University argued that the access to
Portuguese citizenship granted to descendants of Iberian Jews should be
extended to Muslims who were also expelled in the 15th century.
us redeem the crime that we committed when we expelled from the peninsula the
Arabs that civilised it," wrote Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's most famous
focused on the influence of Islam in Portuguese literature conducted by the
scholar Fabrizio Boscaglia showed that Pessoa wrote about his admiration for
Islamic civilisation, stressing Portugal's cultural debt to al-Andalus.
years before the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar called for restitution laws to
include Muslims, Pessoa considered the expulsion and dispossession of Iberian
Muslims a crime. The poet emphasised how Islam was part of Europe's cultural
and philosophical history.
Portuguese history school manuals, Muslims were not seen as enemies but as
ancestors. And Islam as part of the common cultural heritage that brings people
across the Mediterranean together.
Source: The New Arab