La Convivencia: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Lived Side by Side in Harmony

Map of Muslim Expansion in the West in the Umayyad Period (661-750)

By Irfan Nugroho
Today (20/05/2009), I typed the Google News for “Obama, Israel, and Palestine” then I stranded on a blog There I found something interesting there to write down here; that of about La Convivencia.

The article on the blog entitled “Obama, Israel – Palestine, and A Dream Leading to Peace” written by Mr Robert S. Siegel. On that writing, Mr Siegel dreamed about the emergence of La Convivencia II that he predicted to be in the Land of Palestine-Israel.

But I’m not going to discuss Mr Siegel’s opinion here. I want to emphasize on what La Convivencia is.

La Convivencia, as what I typed on Google, is defined “a term used to describe the situation in Spanish history from about 711 to 1492 – concurrent with the Reconquista ("Reconquest") – when Jews, Muslims, and Catholics in Spain lived in relative peace together within the different kingdoms (during the same time, however, the Christian push to the south into Moorish land was ongoing).” (

It’s clear enough I think. Then I came up to another web, also telling about La Convivencia This one is from

On that blog, La Convicencia is described “the Spanish word for living together harmoniously. It’s also the term used to describe the co-existence of different faiths in medieval Spain,” (

So this is a period when Spain was ruled with Islamic Law. That is the time when Spanish Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in harmony. Spain was an Islamic State, ruled with Islamic Law, and all people, Muslims, Jews, or Christians, lived side by side in harmony.

Spain was ruled under the Islamic law For 781 years (711 – 1492 A.D.). Arrived first time in 711 A.D., the Islamic Armed Forces arrived and in seven years later, they conquered the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain, Portugal, Andora, and Gibraltar). On January 2nd, 1492, the Islamic State of Andalusia faced its ruin signed by the surrender of Muhammad XII of Granada to the “Catholic Monarchs.”

Although Christians and Jews lived under “restriction” of Islamic Law, for much of the time Muslims, Jews, and Christians managed to get along together, and to some extent, to benefit from the presence of each other.

Each group contributed greatly to the prosperity of Andalusia (the Arabic name of Southern Spain). All living sectors such as economics, science, religion, and culture suffered from remarkable advances.

Compared to the recent governance system, when many countries are ruled with democracy, we find no such harmonious and peaceful life. We should now reconsider our governance system, especially in Indonesia.

However, many Indonesian people are now afraid of being ruled with Islamic Law. Perhaps, that can be normal because they never read about the La Convivenciaor about the golden age of Spain under the Islamic Law.

Worse, amongst those who are afraid of Islamic Law are the Indonesian Muslims. Read between the lines of Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana-KUHP (Indonesia's Penal Code), which is actually the modification of the Burgerlijk Wetboek (the Dutch Law), we will see there are some principles elements of Muslims’ rights that are perforated from its roots.

But why those people prefer being ruled with this rather than being ruled with Islamic Law?