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The Islamic History of the Champions of Europe – Portugal

Portugal was once an Islamic kingdom

The Portugal football team were crowned champions of Europe for the first time in their history after overcoming France in the Euro 2016, European Cup.

It may come as a surprise to many that much of Portugal once lived under Islamic rule for over 500 years from the early 8th century during the period when Muslims ruled Spain, Andalusia. At that time Portugal was called Al-Garb Al-Andalus (the west of Al-Andalus, Spain).

Whilst first Seville and then Cordoba came to be known as the capital of the Muslim Kingdom of Spain, the city of Silves was the capital of the medieval Muslim Kingdom of Portugal.

The Muslim introduction of new agricultural technology and plain hard work made Portugal prosper. To this day, the common Portuguese verb “mourejar” means “to work like a Moor (Muslim),” and it implies unusual diligence and tenacity. Indeed, Portuguese is saturated with thousands of words with Arabic origin.

Antonio Preto da Silva, a former Portuguese tourism commissioner in Canada stated:

“A good number of our people, especially educated people, know quite well that the Arabs were part of our history… They contributed to our language, our architecture and especially to our knowledge of navigation. The lateen sail and the astrolabe, introduced by the Arabs, were instrumental in launching our nation into its Age of Discovery.”

Following their Spanish counterparts, the Portuguese Christian Reconquista (crusade) gradually forced the Muslims south, driving them from their last strongholds along the Algarve coast in 1249. In the neighbouring Spanish region of Andalusia, the Emirate of ‘Garnata’, Granada, would hold out for another 250 years.

Whilst centuries of Muslim rule in Andalusia produced architectural treasures like the Giralda in Seville, Córdoba’s Great Mosque and the Alhambra palace in Granada, the Islamic period in Portugal left few major monuments. The Andalusian cities developed as major centres of Islamic culture to rival Damascus or Marrakesh, but Portugal was always on the outer edge of the Muslim world and its frontier rulers invested little in grandiose construction. Today, the town of Mértola, in the Alentejo, possesses the only partial remains of a mosque, converted to a Catholic Church after the Reconquista. The waterwheel in Algarve today is a descendant of the Muslim waterwheel that helped revolutionise agriculture in Portugal as in Spain.

The Portuguese language is however peppered with words of Arabic origin, often those relating to food, farming and manual work. One commonly used is “oxalá” – a direct descendent of “inshaAllah”, the term meaning “God willing.” The city we know of as Lisbon, originates from the city once known as Al-Ishbun. The famous city of Algarve, takes its name directly from al-Gharb al-Andalus. These are not the only places to inherit a Muslim name, hundreds of place names in Portugal start with “Al”, the Arabic for ‘The’. The Alfama district in Lisbon is one such example. In fact, all across the Mediterranean this is the case, from Alghero in Sardinia to Algeciras in Southern Spain. The Portuguese language continues to borrow many words from Arabic, such as azeitona (olives) and garrafa (bottle). Others include azenha (water mill), from the Arabic al-saniyah and nora (water wheel), from the Arabic na’urah.[1]

Following the period of Muslim rule, now ruled by Christians, Portugal pursued an aggressive stance towards Muslims which would see them come into confrontation with the Mughal Empire in India, the Mamluks in Egypt and eventually the Ottomans. Post-Islamic Portugal would also unfortunately go on to play a leading role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, which involved the mass trade and transportation of slaves from Africa (many of whom were Muslims) and other parts of the world to the American continent.

Points to note:

The Euro 2016 tournament should serve as a reminder to us that Islam is not a new phenomenon in Europe but rather it is part of the fabric of the continent with deep historical roots. Many Muslim nations participated in the tournament such as Turkey and Albania; former Muslim nations such as Spain, Portugal, and parts of Romania, Hungry and Croatia also participated, whilst other nations were heavily represented by Muslim players such as France, Switzerland and Germany.

Islam is Europe’s second religion. As for Portugal, we pray that Islam will flourish in these lands once again and make it prosper as it once did.

Source: www.islam21c.com


Shireen Hunter. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion: The New Sociak, Culural, and Political Lanscape  

Habeeb Salloum, Arabian Memories in Portugal, Saudi Aramco World, 2001

[1] http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/200102/arabian.memories.in.portugal.htm

About Z A Rahman

Z.A Rahman is a community activist and a member of a large Mosque in the UK. He has a keen interest in politics and history, particularly Islamic history. He also enjoys traveling and has visited numerous countries in the Middle East and North Africa.


  1. When I was a small child 64 years ago it was normal to see maps of the world on the walls of my first school’s classrooms, with the British Empire, as it was then called, highlighted in pink on the map. It covered about one fifth of the world’s land surface I believe, the largest empire in the history of humanity.
    “Look at all the pink” our teacher would say, “see how we’ve civilised so much of the world”!!

    She was a very nice, sincere lady, Mrs. Greenwood, now dead, and we liked her so much that we would go back to the infant school in our teens to see her.
    She was totally sincere in her belief that the British had “civilised” the lands where they were exploiting and dominating the indigenous inhabitants.

    Now that I’m older and wiser, able to choose which of the indoctrination I was subject to as a child can be reassessed and discarded, and living in a post-empire country, which did not really become democratic before we divested ourselves of these shameful colonies. I’m even married to one of these former colonial subject peoples, a Kenyan Sikh.

    It is very regressive and unfortunate that Muslims still boast and crow about their historic victories, which were attained with horrific bloodshed and suffering to the conquered people. When will you
    admit, as I did as a young man, that invasion, murdering, forced conversions, ruling by fear is WRONG. It is not justified just because your biased view of what is good for others is imposed by force.
    The only civilised way forward is by democracy, equality, and respect for other opinions, to which Islam is diametrically opposed.

    • And here, ladies and gentlemen, you have a fine specimen of a brainwashed troll, still indoctrinated with the poison of white supremacy. You might think: how is he a white supremacist if he has “brown friends” (or in this case a spouse). Alas, the most pernicious feature of white supremacy and imperialism is the infamous “false universal”. He has, by virtue of a mere coincidence of terms (“empire”, “history”, “conquest”, etc.) painted the other (the “Muzlamic”) with the sins of his own misguided forefathers.

      Such indoctrination (which by his own admittance began over 60 years ago) can rarely be overcome. If he were to read, however, he **may** have a chance. Discourse analysis in particular seems to be the antidote for some of the most indoctrinated, who are sadly least likely to actually do it. These myths and projects against “Islam” are from Popes who have been dead for a millennium, but sadly their legacy remains.

      • Great to get such a swift response to my point that it’s about time that Islam stopped boasting about its violent spread across the world, and learnt to embrace democracy, as Britain is at least trying to do. My points must really have hit the button Jenkins!
        I was never brainwashed by “white supremacy”, but my brainwashed elders had the deluded belief that imperialism was something to be proud of. I realised the truth about so-called Christian imperialism as a teenager, about ten years after I stopped believing in Father Xmas, the tooth fairy and God, if I ever did.
        If you can’t see that point then you don’t understand plain English. You certainly can’t write it.
        You paraphrase “brown friends”. I never said that, but being brought up in London it was a fact of life for most kids, working, socialising, playing rugger, school, working in nursing, most of my colleagues were coloured. My best friend, our rugger captain, was a Nigerian. And yes, my wife is brown: so what ; you got a problem with that?
        Your use pretentious use of jargon-babble cannot hide the fact that I accept and admit the sins of my forebears, because they were, like the Islamic conquerors before and after them, quite conscious and not “misguided” about what they were doing.
        The Islamic conquerors were no doubt inspired by their sense of superiority and divine destiny, just like my (our?) forebears, but TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT. ADMIT IT.
        As I said, when I got older I was able to sift out the truth from the lies that all children are exposed to. I’m 70 years old, so of course the indoctrination I was exposed to was over 60 years ago, so what, but I dismissed it in my teens.
        Who are you to patronise me and advise me “to read”. I can read in 2 languages, not that it’s got anything to do with Muslim dysfunctionality. I’ve travelled in 40 countries, 8 of them Muslim, so I know a bit about their political dysfunctionality
        I have no religion, no political affiliation and test my opinions against facts, not delusions, intolerance and hatred, and discuss with tolerance and without the abuse that is your style.

      • Hello again Jenkins, I hope you’ve bothered to re-read my piece about the boasting by some Muslims on Islam 21c about past conquests, which has nothing to do with your “white supremacy” obsession, and also to see my demolition of your absurd accusations.
        It’s obvious to anyone that I, of all people, cannot be accused of “white supremacy”, as I made clear to you in my rebuttal of your incoherent rant. By the way, I’ve read the Koran more than once.
        But just for the record, I couldn’t care less if the whole of Britain becomes coloured and mixed race, like my children and grandchildren and hundreds of my relatives.
        Nowhere in my original piece did I even mention colour, race, black, white, brown, yellow, tartan or any other indicator of race. It’s a subject of sublime indifference to me, as you should have realised when I paid you the courtesy of describing my early years in multi-racial West London.
        Apologies would be in order.
        Also for the record, I will list the nationalities or religions of our some of our coloured friends in London, before we moved north: Nigerian, Ghanaian, Barbadian (my wife’s bridegroom), Shri Lankan, Mauritian, Philippinos +++, (one took our wedding photos), Pakistani Muslim, Pakistani-German mixed, Chinese (became doctor in Canada), Granadian, and of course Sikhs.
        My original piece was, as you well know, about religion, specifically the section of Islam which justifies its own violent expansion whilst criticising other empires.
        Your pathetic attempt to divert attention from my point, that all these Islamic conquests were wrong, will not work, as readers are well aware of exactly what my view addresses, ie Islam in the 21st century.

        • I did not want to embarrass you further by replying to your rant since I thought maybe when you cooled down you’d actually bother to READ what I said instead of hastily slapping together some automated defence mechanism and refuting a straw man nobody argued in the first place.

          You could have a million brown friends. Your white supremacy is epistemological.

          Again, if there was even the slightest chance of enlightening you I’d spend some time explaining what white supremacy is, but I’m not about to waste my time on some ignorant old fogey who just wants to rant about Muslims by reciting orientalist or crusader myths he’s been indoctrinated with

          • I’ve never read orientalist or crusader myths, Jenkins, although I understand the crusades were unsuccessful and revolting attempts by the popes to free Jerusalem from the Muslim conquest. Never mind, it’s under the control of Israel now.

            I’m certainly not interested in popes or any other deluded believers, and neither am I interested in your obsession with white supremacy, which you insist on banging on about, however you wish to define it. Very sad.

            My original piece criticised Muslims who boast about Islam’s conquests of non-Islamic lands, whilst criticising other empires, and cannot see that Islam’s conquests were just as evil. This is incredibly regressive and insight-lacking religious bias, which is typical of, and will do nothing to help solve the 1400 years split in Islam, which has cost, and is still costing ,millions of unnecessary deaths.
            I did READ what you said. It was nonsense.

            I’m still waiting for you to address this point, instead of pompously waffling about irrelevancies.
            If Islam does not address these points then it can expect more of the same conflicts it enjoys now.

  2. inquistor for justice

    i understand that many english and eurpean words come from arabic…aljebra and chemistry and admiral and so on…but is it true portugal comes from word burtqal..arabic for oranges.?

  3. Total Isalmic nonsense. The Iberian Penninsula had a thriving culture long before the invasion of unwanted Muslims. Islam claiming credit for these things is like a rooster taking credit for the Sun coming up everyday. And tell us about that “slave trade”? Tell us about the millions of African slaves captured and forced to serve in Islam. I guarantee they outnumbered the slaves sent to the New World. Nice history revision dude.

    • Another tortured soul desperately trying to downplay the humiliatingly wretched history of his savage ancestors by pushing the same old tired imperial propaganda against muslamics and their ray guns… pity

  4. quando os islamicos foram expulsos de Portugal, ai que Portugal cresceu!! se nao fosse os Catolicos e aos JUDEUS Portugal seria como arabia saudita, yemem tudo uma porcaria que quando acabar o petroleo vao tudo morrer de fome nao tem nada a oferecer a nao ser petroleo !!

  5. Subhanallah, energising as always.

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