This is the second year of Moorish Thanksgiving, which is a descendant of Persian Thanksgiving. This marks the sixth year of the tradition of celebrating the medieval Islamic East or West.
For over 700 years, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together in medieval Spain in relative peace. This rare period of a pluralistic society is called La Convivencia (“the Coexistence”) by Spanish historians. It started with the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and ended with the surrender of the last Moorish King of Granada in 1492.
A “Golden Age” was created with the injection of advanced knowledge from the Moors and an interchange of Moorish, Christian, and Jewish cultures. The key to this interchange was a nuanced tolerance: the ruling Muslims considered Jews and Christians second-class citizens but also dhimmīs, protected minorities. According to Benjamin R. Grampel, Jews and Christians “were allowed freedom of settlement and movement; and significantly were permitted freedom of religion that included the license to manage affairs of their own faith-community.”
The impact of this exchange and intermingling is enduring–for example, one quarter of all Spanish words are of Arab origin. Art, poetry, and architecture from La Convivencia demonstrates borrowing and blending between cultures and religions. Spanish synagogues use mosque-style plasterwork. Christian King Peter, after conquering Seville, built a structure that is Islamic in architecture, with inscriptions of quotes from the Qur’an, and that referred to Peter as a caliph. The Great Mosque of Córdoba is a mosque with a Christian cathedral right inside the heart of the complex. On the tomb of Ferdinand III, the Christian warrior king who took Seville from the Moors in 1248, inscriptions are in Latin, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew.
Relative to Thanksgiving, the escalation of knowledge and culture by the Moors–math, engineering, law, architecture, astronomy, navigational sciences–ignited the Renaissance and set the groundwork for Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World.
We celebrate this “Golden Age” by cooking the food of the Islamic West and honoring values from this period: exchange of ideas, conversation, seeking knowledge, and tolerance.
Thank you David Albertson, Stephen Bronstein, Rocket Caleshu, Lindsay Keach, Norma Listman and Marc Weidenbaum.