The Umayyad conquest of Hispania (711–718) began as an army of the Umayyad Caliphate consisting largely of Berbers, inhabitants of Northwest Africa recently converted to Islam, invaded the Christian Visigothic Kingdom located on the Iberian peninsula (Hispania). Under the authority of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I of Damascus, and commanded by Tariq ibn Ziyad, they disembarked in early 711, perhaps at Gibraltar, and campaigned their way northward. Tariq's forces were reinforced the next year by those of his superior, the Emir Musa ibn Nusair. During the eight-year campaign, most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim occupation, save for remote areas in the northwest (Galicia and Asturias) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. The conquered territory, under the Arabic name al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire. The invaders subsequently moved northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (Poitiers) in 732. Muslim control of French territory was intermittent and ended in 975. Though Muslim armies dominated the peninsula for centuries afterward, Pelayo of Asturias's victory at the Battle of Covadonga in 722 preserved at least one Christian principality in the north. This battle later assumed major symbolic importance for Spanish Christians as the beginning of the Reconquista.
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania, however, gave birth to a period in human history of almost unique cultural exchange. So famed did the academies and libraries of Muslim Spain become, where Jews, Christians and Muslims studied and collaborated, that scholars flocked there from such centers of learning as Paris and Oxford universities. On the one hand, the story of Christian-Muslim-Jewish relations from the invasion until the Fall of Granada, the last Muslim emirate, in 1492 cannot be reduced to one of harmony. On the other hand, it cannot be reduced to a story of constant hostility either. The reality was more complex. In an increasingly interdependent and pluralist world Humanity as a whole will benefit more when accounts of hostility between different races and religions are offset by stories of harmony and fruitful exchange, called convivencia in Spanish.
The society that flourished in Moorish Andalusia, made possible by the Ummayad conquest of Hispania, was one in which people of different faiths not only tolerated each other, but allowed the other's views to influence their own. The great Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas looked upon certain Muslim philosophers as genuine sources of truth about the divine. Sun Myung Moon predicts that when the Kingdom dawns, that which is best in all the cultures of the world will contribute to the final civilization of humanity. He regards all the great religion-cultural spheres as having been raised up by God. The Andalusian experience may not have been perfect—there was not complete equality—but it can be held up as a model for other pluralist societies to emulate. Following the Fall of Granada when the last Muslim emirate was conquered, a much less tolerant society forced Jews and Muslims to convert, or to leave Spain and even the descendants of converts were later expelled. Many suffered at the hand of the Spanish Inquisition. The myth that grew up around the reconquest depicted the Christians as servants of truth and the Moors as servants of darkness. This myth needs to be exploded and a fairer, truer picture of what life was like under Muslim rule before the Fall of Granada needs to be substituted for the legends that have been generated.