Bangsamoro can be the new Andalusia
LAST March 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Spain and the province of Andalusia. It was an official trip in line with my work as a peace advocate in the Bangsamoro peace process. During my visit, I was inspired to learn more about the history of this place and its people because the history of Andalusia has a deep connection with the history of the Muslims in Mindanao.
According to my readings, “Andalusia is a large autonomous region of hills, rivers and farmland bordering Spain’s southern coast. It was under Moorish rule from the 8th-15th centuries, a legacy that shows in its architecture, including such landmarks as the Alcázar castle in Seville, the capital city, as well as Córdoba’s Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral and Granada’s Alhambra palace.” World history tells us that before Spaniards arrived in our islands, Spain was under the Moors of Andalusia for more than seven hundred years. This is the reason why they called the Muslims in Mindanao as Moros.
For 8th and 15th centuries, what happened in Spain under Andalusia? This is an important part of history for us to learn and understand. In an article by Akbar Ahmed, Chair of the Ibn Khaldun Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. describes his conversation with H.R.H. Prince Turki al- Faisal, of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prince Turki heads The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s preeminent think tank, and has been Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the U.K.
In the said article, Ahmed asked Prince Turki what Andalusia meant to him, he replied, “I have a passion for Andalusia because it contributed not only to Muslims but to humanity and human understanding. It contributed to the wellbeing of society, to its social harmony.” The prince also added, “This is missing nowadays. Andalusia was the exact opposite of Europe at that time — [then] a dark, savage land of bigotry and hatred.”
The prince was describing the Dark Ages in Europe and Andalusia “produced a magnificent Muslim civilization — religious tolerance, poetry, music, learned scientists and scholars like Averroe¨s, great libraries (the main library at Cordoba alone had 400,000 books), public baths, and splendid architecture (like the palace complex at the Alhambra and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba).” (Ahmed, Akbar)
Ahmed also added, (Andalusia’s) “great achievements were the result of collaboration between Muslims, Christians and Jews — indeed the work of the great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides was written in the Arabic language. It was a time when a Muslim ruler had a Jewish chief minister and a Catholic archbishop as his foreign minister. The Spanish had a phrase for that period of history — La Convivencia, or co-existence.”
We are on the path of designing the future of Bangsamoro through the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The Duterte administration has been inclusive right from the start in handling the Bangsamoro peace process. We can see clearly in the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the provisions within the BBL provides equal opportunity for all its citizens.
For me, Bangsamoro can learn a lot from the golden age of Andalusia. Ahmed also wrote, “The civilization of Muslim Spain was the embodiment of the Islamic compulsion to seek ilm, or knowledge. Andalusia produced many firsts, the first person to fly, Ibn Firnas, after whom a moon crater was named, as well as a bridge in present-day Cordoba and the first philosophical novel, by Ibn Tufail. Through Spain, Europe received models for universities (Oxford and Cambridge are examples), philosophy and literature (for example the work of Thomas Aquinas), and the study of medicine originating from the work of Avicenna and Abulcasis.”
In line with the view of ilm, Prince Turki “underlined the importance of the concept of knowledge or ilm in this vision. Ilm, he pointed out, meant studying the Quran, fiqh, or Islamic law and hadith, or the sayings of the Prophet. But ilm also included the learning of non-religious subjects such as mathematics and science.” This can also be our vision for the Bangsamoro.
The Bangsamoro can also learn in the history and background of the charter of Medina. In the said article, Ahmed shared the point of view of Prince Turki saying, “Prince Turki connected Andalusia with the earliest days of Islam and talked excitedly about the charter of Madina, which he said was the first written constitution for society providing a social framework for the state itself.” We recognise the diversity of our people in the Bangsamoro. The BBL is not aiming for an Islamic state. It opens a door for our people to exercise self governance suitable for our local context.