Soon after the death of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sws), the Muslims were threatened from all sides. The mighty neighbouring Empires of the Roman and Persians were conspiring to uproot this new force. But the Arabs not only met this challenge but also crushed the two greatest Empires of the world, and in less than half a century their arms held sway over the three known continents.
The Islamic principles of equality and fraternity had enabled the conquered and newly converted races to take their share in the government along with the noblest of the Arabs. Islam recognised no distinction of caste and creed and readily patronised talent wherever found. This is why all capable slaves have occupied the highest positions in an Islamic polity and many slave dynasties have magnificently ruled over Muslim subjects.
Tariq bin Ziyad, a newly converted Berber slave was a lieutenant of Musa bin Nusair, the Muslim Viceroy of Africa. The Berber slave was destined to be the conqueror of Spain, the biggest Muslim territory in Europe, which, for eight centuries under the Muslims, kept aloft the torch of civilisation and culture that at last dispelled the gloom that had enveloped the Mediaeval Europe.
At this time, when Africa was enjoying the blessings of toleration, justice and prosperity under the Muslims, neighbouring Spain was groaning under the tyranny, and bigotry of its Gothic ruler. The honour of women was not safe and the tillers of the soil were put to heavy taxation. The rulers and their henchmen revelled in luxury while the masses groaned in poverty. A large number of refugees from Spain both Christians and Jews who had suffered under the Gothic rule had taken refuge in Muslim Africa. One of them was Julian, the Governor of Ceuta, whose daughter. Florinda, had been dishonoured by Roderick, the Gothic King of Spain. They appealed to Musa to liberate their country from the tyrant’s yoke.
In response to their prayer and with the sanction of the Caliph, Musa made a reconnaissance on the southern coast of Spain. The report was favourable and in May 711, Tariq bin Zaid with 7,000 Muslims crossed the Straits in ships in small contingents. As his troops landed in Europe, Tariq concentrated them on a hill, which took the name of ‘Jabl-ul-Tariq’ (The Rock of Tariq) now called Gibraltar, and urged them either to conquer or perish. They had no intention to go back home.
The Gothic King Roderick collected a huge army of more than one lakh solders. Tariq, too was reinforced by 5,000 soldiers dispatched by Musa and now his army numbered 12,000. The two armies met at the mouth of river Barbate, on the shores of a lagoo of Janda and fought a decisive battle on July 9th, 711, A.D.