Abd-ar-Rahman III

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Abd-ar-Rahman, also known as “al-Nasir li-Din Allah” (“the Defender of God’s Faith”), was the founder of a short-lived caliphate line in the then-Muslim-controlled Iberian peninsula. He inherited the lesser title of emir in his early twenties from his grandfather, who selected him as a successor instead of his father or uncles. At the time, his family’s emirate was collapsing under the triple pressures of a nearby Christian kingdom that was part of the early reconquista, a rival Muslim caliphate, and a rebellion within its own borders. Through a combination of firm military leadership and political wiles Abd-ar-Rahman was able to suppress his rival parties and solidify his rule over al-Andalus (the Muslim-held territory in North Africa and Iberia); declaring himself caliph, a title traditionally held only by the rulers of Mecca and Medina, brought him new respect as both a political and religious leader.

Although the caliphate he founded lasted only a short while after his death, Abd-ar-Rahman’s patronage of the arts and sciences shaped his domain into a cultural capitol that boasted expansive libraries and religious tolerance. His legacy was somewhat marred by a story of him executing a Christian slave boy he allegedly attempted to seduce; though the tale may be fictitious – or an exaggeration of a true event in which the boy refused to convert to Islam -, Abd-ar-Rahman did have a male harem as well as a female, which was not unusual for upper-class Andalusians.

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