This week, the historical figure Abd al-Rahman took power in Al-Andalus by defeating the local governor of Cordoba in 756. He would establish the Umayyad dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula after consolidating his expanding authority. While this is obviously not a man who we in Western Civilization would revere, there are qualities which we in the west would do well to remember. Abd al-Rahman’s grandfather had been overthrown as Caliph a decade before by the Abbasids. After the bloody overthrow, this young man had to spend five years wandering in North Africa before being able to have the support necessary to launch his venture in Iberia.
What does this have to do with us? Why should we remember a historical figure many centuries ago who is outside of our civilization? Well, there are a few reasons. As a historical figure, al-Rahman displays courage and persistence under adversity, not giving up, even though for his dynasty it certainly was by that point “over” with little hope of recovering their former position. From our perspective on the opposite side of the civilizational struggle between Europe and the middle east, and from our current low status position, it seems that our civilization is in terminal decline. Perhaps not all hope for our people is lost. Certainly much of what we have lost and are yet to lose is unrecoverable, but other opportunities may present themselves to us in time. We must remember that it is necessary to take a turn taking our lumps in order to break us out of complacency, decadence, and apathy. Al-Rahman fought to preserve and recapture the glory of his own lineage so that it would not disappear into the wasteful nothingness of the desert sand thus setting a good example for us.
To give a second reason for remembrance in context: in the time of Abd al-Rahman, the Muslims controlled territory even as far north as Narbonne in Southern France. To us in contemporary times this is perceived of as in the heart of European Christendom. It is possible that Narbonne might again not be controlled within our civilization.
But even if it takes us 700 years of effort, we will recapture what we have lost.
We won't recapture what we have lost, the word lost implies there was an attempt to retain it. We will recapture what others carelessly squandered, what others traded for a mess of platitudonal pottage, what others gave away in exchange for a small hit of smug, self-satisfied dopamine. Never give those who led us here the benefit of the doubt, for at this point there is positive certainty of their failings.
The Umayyads are a staple example of building a power base away from the heartlands of an empire.