The Muslims of al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia) consisted of Arabs, Berbers and native Iberians who converted to Islam (+descendants). Were there significant social distinctions between the three ethnic groups?

The official and literary language was Arabic and presumably everybody speaks it. But did they, for example, live in separate communities, speak in different vernaculars at home, or have distinguishable names, clothings or customs from each other? Did they intermarry? Or were they generally assimilated since they had the same religion?

I'm interested in the period around the 10th century, e.g. during the Caliphate of Córdoba: long enough after the initial conquest, but still before the disintegration of the Muslim power.

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    "The official and literary language was Arabic and presumably everybody speaks it" is probably only true up to a point. In those days language was quite local. Also, don't forget the Jewish population. Feb 15, 2018 at 7:52
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    Were the Romance languages used by the Muslim subjects, or only Christians?
    – user69715
    Feb 16, 2018 at 1:03

1 Answer 1


Legally all the Muslims were treated identically, at least on paper, as only non-Muslims had jizya imposed on them.

However the different Islamic groups in medieval Iberia came from different ethno-cultural backgrounds, and the three principal groups Arabs, Berbers, and Muladi (native iberian muslims) formed three distinct communities that contributed to the (relatively) cosmopolitan nature of Andalusi society. Arabs formed the elite of Al-Andalus, at least until the Almoravid conquest of Islamic Iberia by ethnic Berbers, with non-Arab muslims constituting second-class citizens. However due the homogenising effect of Arabic increasingly becoming the lingua franca of Islamic (replacing Romance dialects), by about 1100 the ethnic distinctions between muslim Iberians became much more blurred and correspondingly the social hierarchy between ethnic Arabs, and non-Arab muslims became blurred [1].

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    Thanks for including source. Could you specify the relevant page numbers of chapters from the book you cited?
    – user69715
    Feb 16, 2018 at 0:40

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