After a troubled wedding night, Asghar and Zahra hope to revive their relationship during their honeymoon in southern Spain. While Asghar is entranced by the legacy of Islamic Andalusia, Zahra is less impressed. When they meet a Spanish convert to Islam called Tariq, the pair are unwittingly drawn into his dramatic plan to revive the caliphate from the Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba.
They climbed up to the Alhambra through the misty dawn. Already there were a hundred or so tourists queuing at the entrance, like medieval petitioners waiting for an audience. Standing with Zahra, Asghar read aloud from the Islamic history book he had borrowed from the new mosque’s library, authored by one Dr RS Hassan, PhD.
After the conquest of Spain eighty years after the Prophet’s death, Asghar informed Zahra, the Muslims created the first multi-faith society, in which Jews and Christians were free to practise their religions.
“It says here,” said Asghar, “that even the Jews call it their Golden Age.”
“Some amazing Muslims were Spanish—Averroes and all that lot,” said Zahra. “They were close enough to the Europeans, you see, to pick up their learning.”
“Wasn’t it the other way round?” asked Asghar. He quoted Dr RS Hassan’s words: “The Muslims translated ancient Greek works—Plato, Aristotle—when Europe was still in the Dark Ages. They were the best for poetry, medicine and philosophy, while the Christians were busy fighting each other.”
“Well, I’m sure it was a two-way process.”
“Dr Hassan says Granada fell in 1492 because people like Ibn Rushd were too Westoxified. They became too settled in their ways and soft—not like the old tribal warriors of the desert.”
“Have you read any Averroes?” she asked.
“I haven’t,” he admitted. “Why, what does he say?”
“Well, it’s very complex,” she said vaguely. “Look—we’re nearly at the entrance.”
By the time they reached the head of the queue, the sun was beating down hard. Entering the cool palace was a welcome balm. The buildings were smaller than Asghar had expected and not as impressive as the monumental shrines in Iran he had visited. Zahra informed him that the subtle beauty of the courtyards lay in their perfect proportions—the bright ponds and intricately carved calligraphy. Perhaps that was why, she said, after quickly glancing at Wikipedia on her phone, that the conquering Castilian monarchs Ferdinand…