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This article is taken from PN Review 246, Volume 45 Number 4, March - April 2019.

Exile: Part II André Naffis-Sahely
THE WORLD the Desert Fathers and Mothers had known would be forever changed by the early Muslim conquests of the seventh century, and not long after Tariq ibn Ziyad (670–719) conquered the rock that now bears his name, the notion of exile would be again revisited by Abd al-Rahman I (731–788 ACE), an Umayyad Prince from Syria, with whom the rich tradition of exilic writing in Spain arguably begins. Among the sole high-ranking survivors of the Abbasid slaughter of the Umayyads in 750, Abd al-Rahman spent several years roaming the cities of North Africa, before amassing a small army, landing in al-Andalus and conquering Córdoba, which he made his capital, much to the chagrin of the Abbasid ruler in Baghdad, who reigned, if only nominally, as caliph over the entire Muslim world. Abd al-Rahman’s most famous poem, or rather the most famous poem attributed to him, is ‘The Palm Tree’, which takes as its subject a tree that like the new Emir of Córdoba, has ‘sprung from soil’ in which he is a ‘stranger’, becoming a memento of Abd al-Rahman’s lost homeland in Syria, now ruled by his enemies.

Although Islam expanded its territory rapidly in the first three centuries of its existence, it would not ultimately retain many of its furthest outposts. While al-Andalus – or Muslim Spain – would last roughly from 711 to the fall of Granada in 1491, Siqilliyat, or the Emirate of Sicily, proved even more short lived (831–1091 ACE). This might explain why, in the words of the ...

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