Abd al-Rahman I was the founder of the Umayyad dynasty in Hispania, and he was one of the last Umayyad survivors when the Abbasid overthrew the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus. According to what I read, he fled Damascus, travelled west on low profile, and finally arrived in Hispania after 6 years missing. In Hispania he quickly amassed support, defeated the local Muslim ruler and installed himself as Emir. According to Wikipedia:

Abd-ar-Rahman I became Emir of Córdoba in 756; fleeing for six years after the Umayyads had lost the position of Caliph held in Damascus in 750. Intent on regaining a position of power, he defeated the existing Islamic rulers of the area who defied Umayyad rule and united various local fiefdoms into an emirate.

I'm curious how the people in Hispania verified that he was in fact Abd al-Rahman, the Umayyad prince, because:

  • He travelled on low profile, so I guess this also mean without strong troops or obvious indicator of being a royal

  • Hispania was pretty far from Damascus, so probably Hispanic peoples have less idea about how Umayyad princes look or how to verify them

  • He didn't seem to be an important prince, like the heir to the throne, he just happened to be one of the survivor.

  • Yet enough people in Hispania believed him to allow him to take over.

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    This could possibly be expanded to a question of how people would prove their identity in the Caliphate in general. Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 11:18
  • Excellent question! Perhaps he had some family relics or something? Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 13:18
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    @FelixGoldberg Even if he did, how did people from Spain verify relics from a ruling family previously based in Damascus?
    – Fitri
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 15:30
  • 1
    I'd like to start a bounty on this, but I can't, because I'll end up rewarding the existing "answer", even though it does in fact not answer the question at all. Annoying. Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 8:52
  • @LennartRegebro AFAIK you can "just assign a bounty to a specific answer", unless they have changed everything again...
    – o0'.
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Peter C. Scales:The Fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba: Berbers and Andalusis in Conflict (Medieval Iberian Peninsula, Vol 9), the source linked in the answer by @Mr.lock / @Kobunite

actually hints at a plausible answer to OP's question, namely that

  • Abd al-Rahman was recognized when he arrived in al-Andalus because members of the Umayyad family had already established themselves there.

Relaying accounts by Muslim historians Scales says (p112) that already in 121AH/739AD some 30,000 soldiers, among them 10,000 Umayyads, had been sent westwards by Calpih Hisham.

A vanguard of this detachment, some 7,000 Umayyads, found themselves besieged by Berbers in Ceuta, and appealed to the governor of al-Andalus to be allowed to cross the Gibraltar.

As he agreed these 7,000 would become the second wave of Arabs to settle in Spain.

So when Abd al-Rahman landed in al-Andalus 755AD he would be able to count on the support from his own kin.

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    According to Wikipedia, Abd al-Rahman were born in 731, so if those people had met with him before, it must have been when he'd been 8 years old or younger. Do you think they could recognize him in 755?
    – Fitri
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 5:18
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    @Fitri He might have been accompanied by older family members known to the kinfolk; if I'm not mistaken the grandfather of Abd al-Rahman was the same Caliph who sent these people westwards in the 730's. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 5:54

Abd al-Rahman I's mother was a Moor from a tribe called Nafra (click the link for pg 111). That helped him to be recognized first in Morocco and then in Islamic Spain as well.

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    Actually, this answer makes a very good point. I don't see why people downvoted it (the form is a bit messy but the substance is good!). Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 9:27
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    I agree, but it would be good if there were some sources quoted to verify it.
    – Kobunite
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 10:14
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    @FelixGoldberg: aside from the poor copyediting, there is no reference and it does not adequately explain why having a mother from tribe Nafra help the son to be recognized in Morocco and Spain.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 10:14
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    I, somehow, managed to link directly to page 111. It's stupidly difficult to link to specific pages on Google Books. :S Great find T.E.D! :-)
    – Kobunite
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 14:49
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    "That helped him to be recognized first in Morocco and then in Islamic Spain as well." - How? I don't think this answers the question at all. Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 15:11

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