Ottoman Turks responsible for the fall of Muslim Spain
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
The Battle of Aghajariyi
On August 26, 1488 AD, the Battle of Aghajariyi near Adana in what is now south-central Turkey ended with the victory of the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt-Syria over the Ottomans. A few months earlier the Ottomans had launched a major attack from both land and sea, but while they managed to take control of Cilicia, their fleet was almost destroyed by a storm off the coast of Syria.
The Mamluks responded by besieging Adana and taking it after three months, thus reasserting their control over Cilicia – a victory that made the local Muslim dynasties of Anatolia flock to their standard instead of siding with the Ottomans. The wars between these two great Turkic powers that started in 1485 and ended 32 years in 1517 with the fall of Cairo to Sultan Selim, are indeed a series of unfortunate events of Muslim history that provided much-needed relief to Europe and emboldened Christian mercenaries to attack Spanish Muslims in their last stronghold, the kingdom of Granada, thereby ending almost eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain.
The beleaguered Spanish Muslims had appealed to both the Mamluks and the Ottomans for help, but after conquering Constantinople (Istanbul) and ending the Byzantine Empire in 1453, Mohammad al-Fateh, who was advancing towards Italy with sights set on the capture of Rome, fell victim to the deceit and intrigue of European powers, which turned him against fellow Muslims in the east.
In 1468 he planned to attack the Mamluks in Syria but could not do so because of the refusal to cooperate with him by the Turkic dynasties of Anatolia, especially the Aq-Qoyounlu leader Sultan Uzun Hassan, whom he attacked and defeated in 1473. Finally in 1485, the next Ottoman Sultan, Bayazid II, got the pretext to start war with the Mamluks when the Egyptian forces detained an Ottoman ambassador who was returning from Deccan with an Indian ambassador and gifts for the Ottoman Sultan through the Red Sea.
The decisive Battle of Marj Dabiq
On August 24, 1516 AD, the decisive Battle of Marj Dabiq (44 km from Aleppo), resulted in a resounding victory for the Ottoman Sultan Selim I over the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri of Egypt-Syria-Hijaz, ending within the next five months the 267-year old Mamluk Dynasty and transforming the Ottomans from a realm on the margin of Islamic lands located in Asia Minor and south-western Europe, into a huge empire encompassing the historical cities of Cairo, Damascus, Bayt al-Moqaddas and Aleppo, as well as the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The wars between the two Turkic powers had started in 1485 in southern Anatolia, when Bayazid II instead of concentrating on European campaigns turned eastwards to annex the lands of fellow Muslims in Anatolia, much to the relief of Spanish Christians besieging the Emirate of Granada, the last stronghold of Muslims in Spain, whose ruler had appealed to the Mamluks for help.
Thus in August 1516, Selim, two years after his narrow victory at Chaldiran in Azerbaijan over Shah Ismail I of Persia, invaded Syria, since he greatly feared that the Iranians, who still controlled Iraq, might reorganize and counterattack in view of the widespread influence of the Safavids in Syria and Anatolia (modern day Turkey), and their recent sending of an embassy to the Republic of Venice, through Mamluk ports in the Levant.
In the summer of 1516, Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri marched into Syria for Asia Minor with a large army, but was deceived by Sultan Selim who made false promises of friendly ties, sent costly gifts, and played the sectarian card by saying that the real enemy is the Shi’ite Muslim Safavid dynasty of Iran.
The Ottoman ruler, having bribed the chief Mamluk courtiers, including the puppet Abbasid caliph of Cairo, Mutawakkel III, launched a treacherous surprise attack that caught the Egyptian forces unprepared and resulted in the death of Sultan al-Ghawri. Aleppo and Damascus were seized as the Ottomans marched unobstructed towards Egypt, defeating the Mamluks on their way in Ghaza, Ridhwania, and finally in January 1517 in Cairo, where Selim I not only styled himself the first non-Arab caliph (with fatwas from court mullahs), but also received allegiance from the Sharif of Hijaz.
On 23rd of the Islamic month of Shawwal in 633 AH, Cordoba (Qurtuba in Arabic), the former capital of the Omayyad state of Andalusia or Islamic Spain, fell to King Ferdinand III of Castile after a 7-month siege, thus ending 520 glorious years of Muslim rule, which the saw the city win worldwide acclaim as a centre of science and civilization at a time Christian Europe was immersed in darkness.
Although Cordoba's political and administrative decline had begun half-a-century earlier when the Almohad Dynasty shifted the capital to Seville after defeating the Almoravid Dynasty, it was still the cultural centre of Andalusia, with its libraries and schools that over the centuries produced outstanding scholars in various fields such as Ibn Hazm the poet and grammarian, Ibn Saffar the mathematician, al-Bakri the historian and geographer, al-Ghafiqi the botanist, az-Zahrawi the physician, al-Qurtubi the exegete of the holy Qur'an, and Abbas ibn Firnas, the polymath who experimented with a flying machine some thousand years before the airplane was invented.
The decline of Muslims in Spain was the result of fratricide and treachery. The death of Yusuf II in 621 led to a crisis of succession, providing the Christian rulers an opportunity for intervention, especially when the claimant, Abdullah al-Adel, began to ship the bulk of his forces across the straits to Morocco to contest the succession with his rival there, leaving Andalusia undefended. At this, al-Adel's cousin, Abdullah al-Bayyasi appealed to Ferdinand III for military aid and with the help of the Christian army was installed as Amir in Cordoba, in return for surrendering strategic frontier strongholds.
Soon, when al-Bayyasi was killed by a popular uprising the people of Cordoba, Ferdinand occupied more Muslim territory. In 625 AH when the Almohad ruler in Seville, Abdul-Ala Idris I, made the fatal mistake of abandoning Spain, and left with the remnant of the Almohad forces for Morocco, Andalusia was left fragmented in the hands of local strongmen, led loosely by Mohammad ibn Yusuf ibn Houd al-Judhami. At this, the Christian kings - Ferdinand III of Castile, Alfonso IX of Leon, James I of Aragon and Sancho II of Portugal - immediately launched a series of raids. Houd's army was destroyed and the Christian armies romped through the south virtually unopposed, as Muslim cities fell one by one, with little or no prospect of rescue from North Africa. Ferdinand seized Badajoz and Mérida, followed by Cazorla, Ubeda and Cordoba, from where he continued his march over the next 12 years to occupy Murcia, Cartagena and finally Seville, the Almohad capital, leaving only a rump Andalusian state, the Emirate of Granada, unconquered.