Book Burning in Andalusia & Ha-Seferad

Hebrew books were burned in 1490, whilst 5,000 Arabic manuscripts were burnt in Granada 1499.

During the Spanish Reconquista, many people were expelled out of Granada, due to their religious affiliations that do not align with Isabella and Ferdinand’s ideology. The reconquista broke the last stronghold of the Muslim world in Europe. However what is being overlooked was that there were Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians in addition to Muslims, who faced the change of the new monarchy. Before the Reconquista, Jews and Orthodox Christians contributed to the intellectual Renaissance of Iberia, which had also paved the way for the European Renaissance.

Science and medicine texts in Medieval Spain, tended to be written in the Arabic language, and thus to understand or acquire knowledge of those texts, reading proficiency in Arabic is needed [still contested?]. Even to translate the texts into Latin.

Hellenic philosophical texts were translated into Arabic during the Dark Ages, and outside of Iberia, the Ummayads accomplished this, however, the Abbasids created more translations of the texts as they funded more works for it. The reason why Hellenic texts were studied and kept in the Islamic world, was to achieve cultural hegemony perhaps because it was believed that Hellenic rhetoric could help with the progress of civilisation and scientific thinking. Arabic translators contributed more than just word for word scripts and included commentaries on Greek texts. This may have included translators of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim backgrounds.

It can be argued that Greek texts were translated into Arabic first and if it were not for the work of these translators Europe would not have access to these texts. And thus without the flourishing of the Islamic empires (that also were home to Christians and Jews) the Renaissance in Europe would not have blossomed fully perhaps.

The coexistence of the Abrahamic religions in Andalusia, (that may not always be peaceful because to suggest so would be romantic) led to appropriations of ideas into architecture and intellectual works from each religion, which defines the la convivencia era (8th to 15th century). An example of this may be the 12th-century synagogues in Toledo that possesses inscriptions in Hebrew and Arabic, and some may include verses from the Quran.

In Granada the libraries that kept Arabic texts of Greek philosophers, became Latinised during the Reconquista. Libraries and books were raided during the Reconquista, religious texts burnt whilst science books remained and were studied vigorously to be translated into Latin, who only those that could translate and have knowledge of both Arabic and Latin languages were commissioned this task. After its use, these texts met their end of the fire.


D’Ancona, Cristina, “Greek Sources in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from:

Muneeza Shamsie (2016) Introduction: The enduring legacy of al-Andalus, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 52:2, 127-135, DOI: 10.1080/17449855.2016.1164969

Menocal, M.R. (2000). Culture in the time of tolerance.


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