WHEN Yusuf I crossed over to Europe, he was in command of an army of 15 000 men, armed mainly with swords and poniards; but his shock troops were a 6 000 strong detachment of Senegalese cavalrymen mounted on white Arabian horses, said to be fleet as the wind.
Once in Spain, Yusuf was met by the chief rulers of Spain, the Kings of Almeria, Badajoz, Granada, and Seville.
The Moorish army, only 10 000 men in all, joined the African forces of Yusuf and marched northward to join battle with King Alphonso VI, who headed a Christian army of 70 000.
The opposing armies battled each other at Zalakah in October, 1086, and at first the Christian hosts seemed to be winning.
Al Mutammed, leading the Moslems, though wounded, kept his men in line until Yusuf came up with reinforcements and attacked the Christians from the rear.
In the early part of the 12th Century another religious reformer, calling himself the Mahdi, appeared in Morocco. He named his followers Almohades (Unitarians).
After the conquest of Morocco in 1147, when the last Almoravide King was dethroned and executed, the Almohades seized the reins of government, and then invaded Europe.
By 1150 they had defeated the Christian armies of Spain and placed an Almohade sovereign on the throne of Moorish Spain; and thus, for the second time a purely African dynasty ruled over the most civilised portion of the Iberian Peninsula.
Under a great line of Almohade Kings, the splendour of Moorish Spain was not only maintained but enhanced; for they erected the Castile of Gibraltar in 1160 and began the building of the great Mosque of Seville in 1183.
The Geralda of Seville was originally an astronomical observatory constructed in 1196 under the supervision of the mathematician Geber.
The Almoravides had established a Spanish court in Seville.
The Almohades set up an African court in the city of Morocco; and Ibn Said in the 13th Century describes Morocco as the ‘Baghdad of the west’, and says under the early Almohade rulers the city enjoyed its greatest prosperity.
In the early part of 13th Century, the Moorish power in Spain began to decline. Unfortunately, the Moslems, due to religious and political differences, began to spilt into factions and wage war among themselves.
At the same time the Christians of Europe, having absorbed the science and culture of Moors, which enabled them to bring an end to the long night of the Dark Ages, began to form a united front in order to drive the Moors back into Africa.
The dominions of the Almohades were slowly but surely captured by the Christian armies, and after almost a century of brilliant achievement the Almohade dynasty was ended when their last reigning sovereign was deprived of his throne in the year 1230.
Moslem Spain declared independence under the rule of Ibn Hud, the founder of the Huddite dynasty.
The Christian forces, in the meantime, conquered one great city after another, taking Valencia in 1238, Cordova in 1239, and Seville in 1260.
By 1492, the Moors had lost all Spain except the Kingdom of Granada.
The Christians, although not free from internal disputes, were finally united by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, which joined in peace the formerly hostile royal houses of Aragon and Castile.
The united Christian forces surrounded the city of Granada and blockaded it for eight months.
The Moorish King, Abu Abdallah (also known as Boabdil), finally surrendered.
The Moors lingered in Spain for a little more than a century.
By 1610, through expulsion and migration, a million, among them many Jews, had returned to northern Africa and Western Europe.
The expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia was a serious setback to modern civilisation.
The true greatness of the Moorish culture is not generally known even to the educated Western world. The standard work on the Moors is the three volume History of the Moorish Empire in Europe by S.P. Scott.
One of the very best studies of the contributions of the Moors to world history is the one-volume edition, The Story of the Moors in Spain, by Stanley Lane-Poole.