The Ornament of the World Characters

The main characters in The Ornament of the World include Abd al-Rahman, Al-Hakam, and Hasdai ibn Shaprut.

  • Abd al-Rahman was the only survivor of the Umayyads, Damascus’s ruling family. He settled in Cordoba and eventually became the influential governor of al-Andalus. 
  • Al-Hakam was caliph of the city of Cordoba. He planned to expand the Great Mosque and oversaw the completion of the Madinat al-Zahra.
  • Hasdai ibn Shaprut was vizier to a descendant of Abd al-Rahman and represented Cordoba in international negotiations.


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Last Updated on April 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 382

Abd al-Rahman

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Abd al-Rahman came from the ruling family of Damascus, the Umayyads. They were killed by rivals, and he was the only survivor. He traveled to al-Andalus in Iberia and lived among his Berber ancestors, from whom his mother was descended. Because of his Umayyad and Berber ancestry, he was able to gain the loyalty of the soldiers there. They helped him become the new governor of al-Andalus. He forged a new city, and his legacy affected history in many ways by helping spread Muslim and Arab influence and culture.


Al-Hakam was the caliph of Cordoba. He oversaw the completion of Madinat al-Zahra and also made plans to expand the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which couldn’t support the number of people who wanted to use it for religious purposes. His son, Hisham II, was only eleven when Al-Hakam died and was kept prisoner by Ibn Abi Amir, who ruled in his stead. It was the beginning of the end of the rule begun by Abd al-Rahman.

Hasdai ibn Shaprut

Hasdai ibn Shaprut was the head of his religious community and the vizier of one of Abd al-Rahman’s descendants, who was named for him. He was well-spoken and an excellent negotiator who represented the caliphate of Cordoba in negotiations with other countries. He also helped spread copies of a medical dictionary and worked as a physician.

Isabella and Ferdinand

Isabella and Ferdinand were rulers of Spain. They offered religious tolerance to their people but ultimately didn’t follow through on their promises. They exiled Muslim and Jewish people who refused to convert to Christianity. This changed the face of Spain as well as its culture and progress.

Ibn Nagrila

Ibn Nagrila, also known as Samuel, came from an educated and well-off Jewish family. They moved from Cordoba to Malaga when Christian and Jewish people were forced from Cordoba. He wrote for the vizier of Granada until the caliph found out that the vizier was pretending Ibn’s letters were his own. Ibn went to court and, in time, became head of the Jewish community in Granada. He rebuilt their city to be safer and to better represent their heritage. He wrote poetry in Hebrew that helped to reestablish the language in places where it was no longer being used.