There are certain periods in history that stand out in our memory as special times when mankind seemed to rise above his usual small-mindedness, when his actions became a source of inspiration for generations and centuries to come.

We might talk about the Greek Miracle in this way, and even more so of that time conjured from an ingenious and subtle harmony between spirit and matter, faith and reason, art and Convivencia (Co-existence) or simply of that time when both individual and community life was so very rich and accomplished:  that of Andalusia, which covered a large area of Spain from the 8th to the 15th century.

Obviously we must be wary of excessive idealizing here. Examining the pattern of events at that time gives us a more prosaic reality containing human conflict -  all too human - where the ideology was no more than a comfortable mask hiding the usual motivations found in the history of mankind, those of monopolizing power and wealth.

So rather than talking of a paradise, we can speak of an Andalusian paradigm: that where knowledge above all led organically towards the realization of one aim: that of the accomplishment of wisdom and human values. This objective was undertaken with awareness and in accordance with the various approaches of such philosophers as Ibn Tofail, Averroes, Maimonides, Raymond Lull and Ibn Arabi.

According to many Andalusian thinkers such as Ibn Hazm or Ibn Gabirol, knowledge itself cannot be considered as separate from that other dimension which is an integral part and superior to it: that of Love; Love that is freed of all constraint to become progressively unconditional and universal.  These writers could have paraphrased the wisdom of Rabelais to say that knowledge without love is nothing but the death of the soul. This phrase is particularly apt in our time of technological proliferation and the rupture of the narrow remit of science and of the complete loss of vision of its aims.

In Andalusia the cult of femininity reached its highest point, it was the scene of courtly love and of poetry. Today we need to rediscover the mystery and hidden resources of this lost paradigm. Nizam (Harmonia), just like Dante’s Beatrice of later centuries, can escape time and place and return from the furthest reaches of the Orient to interrogate each of our philosophers, all of whom spent time in Fes.

Perhaps the secret of this recreated Andalusia will be murmured to us in the shadows or the light, between songs, musical interludes and poetry, clothed in the breeze that whispers within Bab al Makina or through the lanes and courtyards of the medina.

Faouzi Skali
Director General, Spirit of Fes Foundation