The Downfall of Islamic Spain
By: Prof. Dr. T.B Irving
The author, Prof. Thomas Ballantine Irving, a North American Muslim scholar, is author of several books, including Falcon of Spain (biography of `Abd al-Rahman I) (Lahore, 1954), Islam Resurgent (Lagos, 1979), Kalilah and Dimnah (Dover, 1980), Polished Jade (A Maya Symphony) (Guatemala, 1982). He has also translated the Qur'an into English (The Qur'an: First American Version, Brattleboro, VT 1985: Amana Books). He took his Ph. D from Princeton in 1940 and has taught Spanish and Arabic for 40 years until his retirement as Professor Emeritus of Spanish and Arabic from University of Tennessee, Knoxvile in 1980. He is currently doing research for a history of West Africa for Muslim schools and on Central American literature.
This paper was first presented by the author, at the Seminar on Islamic Civilization held at the University of Brasilia, Jamadi I 25-28,1401.
Each year crowds of tourists visit Spain, generally with the object of seeing the great monuments of Granada, Cordoba and Seville. More than anything else, the Spanish Muslims left posterity a fairyland, especially the Alhambra that sits on its hill facing the city of Granada down below, the last capital of Arab and Muslim Spain. The Moroccan globetrotter Ibn Battutah visited it in the year 1350, while the gypsies, whom Washington Irving found there in the 1830s, did not manage to destroy it.
An insolent church is built into the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which the Cordobese still affectionately call la Mezquita. Yet a Muslim cannot pray the Sunset prayer nor the late Evening prayer there because the heavy doors are closed at sundown. Charles I of Castile (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany) remarked when he saw it: "You have destroyed something irreplaceable with a church one can find anywhere," as he chided the builders for their barbarity
The Fall of Granada
1491 is the date for the Castilian and Aragonese seizure of Granada, on the 2nd of January, ten months before Christopher Columbus "discovered" America (or was it the Bahamas, and the Caribbean coast) certainly not the United States as we know them today). Much water has flowed under our bridges since then and into the broad Atlantic that Columbus and his three ships crossed that same year.
The city and kingdom of Granada in south-eastern Spain represented Islam's last stronghold on the Iberian peninsula. Washington Irving (no kin of mine, but an excellent writer) during his service of the United States legation in Madrid, interested himself in this period of Spanish history, and rescued the Alhambra from the horde of gypsies he found encamped there. Then in Lindaraja, the beautiful two windowed room overlooking the courtyard and city, he wrote his Tales from the Alhambra and went on to chronicle that fascinating period in Spanish history. He also wrote an excellent biography or Sirah of the Prophet that we should rescue today from the strange spellings of that early age of Orientalism.
The Treaty of Granada, which had been drawn up in the previous year, 1491, between representatives of the crowns of Castile, Aragon and Granada, conceded this last city and its kingdom to Castile. In this treaty, the Granadines were guaranteed their religious liberty. The Philadelphia Quaker Henry Lea has written on the subsequent history when that solemn treaty was broken by a Catholic churchman, Cardinal Francisco Xhnenez de Cisneros.
At the end of the 15th century, the five kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula, or what we now call Spain and Portugal, were: Castile, Aragon, Granada, Navarre and Portugal. Aragon actually had three capital cities, two of which, Valencia, and Zaragoza, were known for their active Muslim citizenry. Barcelona in Catalonia, was not so famous, although it is named after Hannibal's uncle Hamilcar Barca and his family, another Semitic influence that left this place name on the Peninsula. Navarre, south of the Pyrenees, was taken by Ferdinand of Aragon in 1512.
1610 and not 1492 should be our cut off date for Muslim power in Spain, even though that last century and a quarter saw Islam in clear decline, fighting a losing, rearguard action. We need rather to follow the fate of the remaining Spanish Muslims, not only in the defeated kingdom of Granada, but also in Castile, Aragon and Valencia, where talented and industrious Mudejar artisans were active.
Abrogation of the 1491 Treaty of Granada
In 1499, seven years after the fall of Granada, Cardinal Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros, who was Queen Isabel of Castile's confessor and founded the University of Alcala, now the Central (or Complutense) University of Madrid, decided to force its inhabitants to be baptized. This demand sounds like a trivial procedure, but under Catholic and Inquisitorial law, it entailed serious legal consequences for its victims.
In the first place, the church and state could then jail or even condemn to be burned at the stake any "lapsed" Catholic, in a real abuse of human rights. The victims in Granada had been unwilling converts who received baptism en masse, just as fire hoses and tear gas "baptize" protesters on city streets today. The "Holy" Office of the Inquisition thus showed it was a blasphemous institution before God and men; it endangered the lives of anyone it touched, as well as their loved ones who were heartlessly deprived of their property and livelihood.
Cisneros ruthlessly burned books of great value in a bonfire in the city centre in 1501, two years later, books that were seized from private collections and had gold and silver bindings, as well as from public libraries, simply because they were written in Arabic on Islamic history, religion and culture. It is those aspects of Islam that our contemporary tourists want to see, and which had brought Spain its greatest glory and thinkers. Some apologists try to relieve Cisneros of this responsibility, but the atmosphere of terror that the cardinal created simply added to the flames. Diego de Deza helped him as an ecclesiastical assistant.
The year following these autocratic actions, in 1502, all Muslims or Mudejars in the kingdom of Castile were arbitrarily subjected to the same treatment of forced conversion. Yet stringent conditions were set on exile from Castile that year, so that "conversion" was actually forced and therefore. invalid, yet potentially lethal (our Mancebo, whom we shall meet shortly, must have been subject to this decree, which explains his reticence at revealing his name).
These "Moriscos" as they were now called by other Spaniards, were Muslims at heart because the conversion of rational believers in the tawhid or `Oneness' of God, as the Granadines were, to trinitarian and dogmatic Christianity is absurd. Torture and jail became routine and mandatory; beggary resulted as whole families were ruined through the arbitrary confiscation of property to pay for the victim's lodging in jail, a quasi judicial action that showed no regard for the fate of families or dependents. All victims were routinely tortured to bring out the last bit of misinformation and slander. Heart o f Jade, a novel by Salvador de Madariaga, tells of a Jewish woman called Isabel Manrique who is cruelly tortured at the end in this routine manner, so that she slowly dies from this judicial and ecclesiastical abuse. Xuchitl, the Aztec princess, in the some novel remarked that it was a waste of good meat if the victim's flesh were not eaten, as it was in Mexico! Leonor, 12 years old, was a "Moorish" maid who was sent as a chattel to the Manrique household by the archbishop of Granada. What arrogance, what absolute tughyan or `arrogation', the third deadly sin of Islam, and what misery this involved for helpless children who did not understand what was happening to them! The story is fiction, but reflects the horrible reality of Inquisitorial Spain.
These practices were ironic, but they underline the heartlessness of the era in Spanish history. These unfortunate victims were driven from their homes, and had to live on the streets and roads of Spain, without visible means of support. The Spanish writer Cervantes in his Coloquio de los perros (`A Talk Between Dogs'), a nouela or early short story from his Exemplary Novels has a caricature (if it were not too real) of one of these "Moriscos" who lived as a gardener near Granada a century later. The dog in the tale starved in a garden; his owner was so tight-fisted because of the constraints that had been foisted upon his people during the past hundred years. The Inquisition confiscated property arbitrarily, and forced many of its victims to wear the sambenito, a ludicrous "Halloween costume," for life.
Subject to the ecclesiastical authorities and malicious testimony gleaned from inquisitive neighbours called familiares, because of the veil of secrecy laid over these transactions, able bodied men were flogged and sent to the galleys; often they received a life sentence where life was shortened through hard labour, for the simple and pious act of praying to God alone. The Inquisition was a law unto itself, and therefore abnormal and deviant in its very nature, its officials living off the confiscated property of its victims, few of whom were even proven guilty for the "offences" for which they had been arrested. Honourable women and girls were sold as slaves, like Leonor in Granada, and for what purposes, might we ask?
The same procedure took place in Malaga in 1487, where citizens became slaves. This mistreatment of matrons, young girls and respectable men by Castilian soldiers and officials was and is reprehensible, as was that of boys who were picked up by priests who tried to catechize them. Granada was ablaze with resentment and fury: thousands of people were uprooted and massacred, while south-eastern Spain was ruined economically and intellectually. Literature and philosophy flickered out where they had flourished, except for the documents of our Al jamiado writers; these last Spanish Muslims compiled poems and precepts for their children, and to express themselves in their agony. Even this expression declined visibly as the 16th century proceeded. Spain's good name and fame abroad slumped internationally, just when American gold and silver was bringing the country wealth; this money disappeared into the coffers of German bankers, to pay for the costly wars of religion in the Low Countries: In 1499 and 1502 insurrections followed against these tyrannical conditions. They were so stringent on emigration from Castile in 1502, as we have seen, that "conversion" was really farcical, and therefore invalid.
A Second Wave of Oppression
In 1525, a generation later, a second wave of oppression began. In that year Charles V (Charles I of Spain) ordered all Muslims in Aragon to become Christians even though most of them received little or no instruction in Catholic dogma and catechism. As the years went on, we can understand that most Muslims in Spain remained Muslims in their hearts.
In 1526, the following year, the Inquisition was moved from Jaen to the city of Granada in order to do its job more efficiently. In the Albaicin, the upper town where most Granadine Muslims were now forced to live, midwives could no longer be Muslims: they might circumcise baby boys or whisper Islamic prayers in the ears of the little babies they brought into the world. We hear of brave women who defied the ban, women like the Qur'anic expert Noceita Kalderan (or Calderon?), and the enigmatic Moratica of Ubeda. There in 1212, three hundred years before, following the battle of the Navas de Tolosa, the Muwahhidin (or "Almohades" as the Europeans deformed this otherwise meaningful name) were decisively defeated; 70, 000 Muslims were slaughtered at the order of the bishops of Toledo and Narbonne, who were present at this battle scene.
So in 1525 the second wave of oppression began. The Mudejars (al mudajjanin or `the tamed' ones) were Muslims who had submitted to Christian rule in the northern kingdoms centuries before. In the city of Toledo in central Spain, they were told that they had to leave or become Christians (many Muslims had fled there recently from Granada); after that date, they could be summarily jailed and tortured for refusing to eat pork or drink wine, practices that were suspect in the eyes of Spanish Christians, especially churchmen and neighbourhood gossips. Such despicable surveillance ruined a previously prosperous and hardworking community.
These laws are much like Jewish legislation in occupied Palestine today: they destroyed houses and mosques just as Jewish businesses were torched during Krystalnacht in Germany, without due judicial procedure. Now this action has been reproduced in Palestine by blowing up Palestinian homes and businesses arbitrarily in towns like, Bayt Sahur and in the Gaza strip. These Muslim artisans in Spain practised the crafts and agriculture which had brought her to a high level of prosperity, especially in the Mediterranean trade. These craftsmen lived in northern and north-eastern Spain, in the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and they contributed greatly to the national economy. The silk industry which had been brought by Muslim merchants from China centuries before was destroyed in Granada, Seville and Pastrana to the east of Madrid through the harassment of these skilled workmen (Pastrana is the town where the Princess of Eboli was imprisoned).
In 1521 a Germanic or brotherhood of Christian workmen in Valencia had raised an urban revolt of the Commoners in that city which led to similar suppression of Islam in and around Valencia on the east coast. Luther's Edict of Worms, we might note, was pronounced in that same year in Germany, as the Protestant Reformation took root in central and northern Europe. Ablerich and Alcocer were "Moorish" wards in Valencia which suffered in this movement. In 1526 the Muslims in and around Valencia (and in Castile, as we have seen) were forcibly baptized, or made subject to civil penalties that went with this official campaign. Those who chose to remain Muslims in Valencia and Aragon were expelled in that same year; from then on, no Arabic could be spoken or written there, and Muslims had to give up their arms. The harsh Pragmatica of 1529 took effect, a civil code regulating the public and private conduct of Muslims, even their behaviour at home. The attempts to catechize and convert the Muslims were absurd since they seldom addressed the essential differences between the two faiths nor explained them rationally.
Under the Pragmatica of 1529, a sweeping and arbitrary royal decree that attempted to govern Muslim behaviour both in public and in private, cities and towns were brutalized; the practice of thought control is not new. Cleanliness was no virtue in Catholic Spain, but led to the suspicion that a clean and neat person might be a Muslim who regularly performed his "ablutions" (another ugly missionary and Orientalist word). Second class citizenship then prevailed for Muslims (as it did for Indians in the overseas colonies), and eventually meant expulsion for "Moriscos" or baptized Catholics, who were really Muslims at heart, as well as immediate expulsion or death for practising Muslims, either sincere ones who did not submit to brainwashing, or "lapsed" Catholics, who were then legitimate prey to the "Holy" Office.
The victims sometimes wasted their money on taxes called acofres (orzo fres) and bribes which dissolute priests solicited from them to feed their own pleasures. The crippled Guatemalan poet Simon Bergaiio y Villegas was jailed early in the last century by the ."Holy" Office in that country because of his "French" books and ideas; these books and his scanty furniture were sold over his head to pay for his "board and room" in prison, just as happened with the 16th century Muslims. Later this poor victim was shipped off to Cuba, where he worked as a printer's devil.
Three native heads of state were executed in America during this same period, using similar brutality and the same narrow mentality. Cuauhtemoc, the last emperor of Anahuac or pre colonial Mexico, had his feet burned off to make him disclose the location of the Aztec national treasure, which he never revealed; finally Hernan Comas, his conqueror, hanged him by the legs so the blood rushed to his head, during the long march to Honduras through the Petkn, the jungle area of northern Guatemala, in order to spare a horse for their transport. Nicarao, the spirited last king of Nicaragua, whose name that country still bears, was fed to a pack of dogs which had been deliberately starved for the occasion. Caupolican in Chile was made to sit on a sharpened stake, and thus impaled, a sentence which he accepted nobly, to the disgrace of his executioners. Such were the customs of the overseas conquerors during their looting of Mexico, Central and South America; the results took three centuries of colonialism to eliminate, and in many ways are still shown in their political habits today.
Bishops Juan de Zumarraga and Diego de Landa, in Mexico City and Yucatan respectively, burned the Aztec and Mayan books and codices under the same inquisitorial laws, although de Landa later tried to make up for his vandalism by writing his Cosas de Yucatan (Things from Yucatan'). Thus Mexican history had to be rewritten by prejudiced churchmen. A half Inca and half Spanish noble in Peru, Garcilaso de la Vega Inca (1535 1616) wrote his Royal Commentaries to preserve the history of his mother's country. She was an Incan princess, and her circle taught him the traditions of ancient Peru, which he copied down.
The anti Islamic campaign (as well as that in Meso America), actually occurred at the same period as the Reformation in Europe, and might be considered as an early phase of the Counter Reformation in Spain, sponsored eventually by the Council of Trent (1645 63) Miguel Servet, a Catalan Unitarian from the district of Huesca, was burned at the stake in Geneva by John Calvin in 1553 for the "crime" of believing (and refusing to recant) that God was One, and not a trinity.
Shortly afterward an anonymous "Mancebo de Arevalo" or `Young Man from Arevalo', a town on the highway running from Madrid to Valladolid and lying in the northern part of the province of Avila in New Castile, began to interest himself in the fate of his people. Barring some archival discovery, he remains anonymous, aware of the legal consequences of his forced baptism; this despite the excellent documents that he drew up in Al jamiado or Spanish written in Arabic script, just as Persian or Urdu are written today. These Al jamiado writings that the Mancebo de Arevalo and others tried to furnish to their children and posterity, provide us with knowledge and information as authentic literature for the new Muslims who are appearing today in Latin America and Spain.
Was the Mancebo a muleteer in the peninsular transport business? The muleteers and transport people in Spain were largely "Moriscos" or Muslims; they were mistrusted because they carried news as well as merchandise from one end of Spain to the other. The Mancebo's great dream was to make the Pilgrimage to Mecca, which he probably achieved by crossing over from Aragon into southern France, and from there to Italy, and then by ship from Genoa or Venice to the Holy Land.
One can sense the further dissent in the Spanish body politic and in society at large in Lazarillo de Tormes, a realistic picaresque novel that was published in the following decade, in 1535. The author himself remains unknown, like our Mancebo or `Young Man' from Arevalo, although his dissidence is clear. Philosophy and medicine had been Islamic specialties during Muslim rule. The Inquisition and petty surveillance killed off Muslim leadership and their upper classes; only the artisans and field hands were left, but without leadership, since these persons had been picked up and jailed, exiled or killed. The quality of Islamic literature deteriorated in Spain; the malice of denunciations in the universities and learned circles, as we witness in the cases of even talented Christians like Fray Luis de Lebn, disrupted true teaching and research throughout Spain, whether Catholic or Islamic.
The East and Northeast: Aragon and Valencia
The richest remaining region to be ruined was the Spanish east coast or Levante as it was called and which was ruled under the milder Crown of Aragon. Ferdinand had been its king, while Isabel was queen of Castile. The crowns fused under Charles I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire). For us, the areas around the cities of Valencia and Zaragoza are what interest us particularly.
The Ebro and Jalon valleys near Zaragoza had been known for their mosques and learned Muslims like Ibn Bajjah or "Avempace", a philosopher of the 12th century. Much of this material was rescued through the efforts of Professor Julian Ribera during the last century. The Banu Mid were an Arab clan who had lived on this "Upper Frontier" along the Ebro valley since the days of Roland and Charlemagne, French invaders whom they (and the Basques) defeated. They intermarried with the Visigothic nobility who had been Arians or Unitarian Christians when Tiriq ibn Ziyad and Miisa ibn Nupyr invaded Spain in 711.
These Visigothic nobles lived in three principal areas: around Murcia in south-eastern Spain under Count Theodomir; around Seville with Princess or Countess Sara the Goth, al Qutiyya as she was called in Arab chronicles, including her great grandson Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al Qutiyya, who honoured her by using her surname; and in the Zaragoza region of what the Arabs called their "Upper Frontier" in the Ebro Valley facing France. Those in Aragon hired the Cid as a mercenary in the 12th century.
The ever tightening of the screw by the Spanish state and church thus came at generational or approximately thirty forty year intervals in 1499 1502, seven years after the fall of Granada and Cardinal Cisneros' intrusion into prostrate Granadine society; then in 1525 26, with the extension of these regulations into Castile and Valencia; and then again in 1568, forty years later with the second Alpujarras campaign; and finally towards the end of the first decade of the following century, in 1609 1614. Hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards, both Muslim and Protestant, were burned at the stake all up the East coast of Spain or its Levante; thriving towns in and around Zaragoza and Valencia were ruined economically and culturally by these official abuses. The Sierra de Espadfin west of Valencia was one set of mountains where these poor souls took refuge, as they did in the Alpujarras, all to no avail. The Inquisition was relentless in its "holiness" under Philip II and his priestly advisors, who followed the decrees of the Council of Trent.
Desperate stands occurred in the mountains west of Valencia like the Muela de Cortes and the Sierra de Espadan; others took place also in Murcia in the valley of Ricote, a community of six towns in the hills northwest of the city of Murcia. Thousands of peaceful Muslims were butchered by troops up and down the East coast, and by Catholic civilians, as they had been twice previously in the Alpujarras mountains southeast of Granada. Muslims were disarmed, and rendered helpless so that any criminals who wished to, might rob or kill them, just as shipmasters did on the Mediterranean if any refugees tried to sail to North Africa or further east. Violence was by no means one sided, and Christians generally possessed the weapons. The oppression was devastating in its effects as able bodied men were hanged on the gallows, burned at the stake, and banned to the galleys. Muslim women and girls suffered other forms of abuse.
This policy led to a desperate state in Spanish defences. King Henry IV of France became aware of this and was ready to take advantage of it. He had been a Protestant from Navarre, the northern part of that kingdom lying in southern France which King Ferdinand had not taken in 1512, and the fourth of the five Spanish kingdoms. Henry became a Catholic to win the French throne when he declared that "Paris is worth a mass!" His intervention into this Spanish quarrel had a dismal effect that hastened the wholesale expulsion of the Spanish Muslims.
The whole land was again ablaze as thousands of people were uprooted and killed, the peninsula ruined. Tax returns fell; two fifths of Valencia's tax revenues had been collected from Muslims, especially as rent from the farmers in the Huerta, the irrigated district around Valencia. The taxes of feudal payments that the lords of Valencia and Aragon collected were levied generally on Muslim farmers and Mudejars or craftsmen. Absurd and humiliating regulations were promulgated against the Moriscos, who were really harassed Spanish Muslims whose sincere faith could not be subverted, except for a few perhaps who had been obliged to attend Catholic schools from childhood: they could not truly believe in the Christian trinity and the arcane dogma of the catechism that was rarely explained clearly to them, nor in saints' worship, as the valiant Hornacheros showed. Watched and denounced as they were, their constant irritation can be understood.
The Second Alpujarras Campaign
By 1566 conditions in and around the city of Granada had become so oppressive that a fresh Alpujarras campaign broke out in the mountains southeast of that ancient city and capital. In 1567 the promulgation of a revised Pragmatica for Granada brought things to a head; the region was again devastated, this time by don Juan de Austria, Philip II’s half brother. Muhammad ibn Umayyah (or Humeya T Fernando de Valor in Spanish), as a descendant of the illustrious house of Umayyah from previous centuries of glory, was proclaimed king of Granada and Cordoba. He made a brief appearance on the stage of history before he was captured and hanged in 1569, at the start of the revolt.
In 1566 Diego de Deza, a "malignant spirit" as he has been called, from the "Holy" Office of the Inquisition, revised the arrogant Pragmatica of 1529 forty years later. This revision was the underlying cause of the great uprising of 1569, the so called second "Alpujarras War" because Deza emphasized the worst features of this edict with its vulgar invasion of family privacy so sacred to Muslims, by public authorities and busy body neighbours. The next year, in 1570, the expulsion of all "Moriscos" or crypto Muslims from Granada was decreed. Pedro de Deza hunted them down brutally; families were split up and dispersed into other parts of Spain, where they were not received too hospitably. "Give him a bishopric and get him out of Granada!", Philip II was advised by persons who witnessed the results of this inhuman and un-Christian policy.
These fanatic churchmen and royal princes ruined Spain at the very moment of her glory in the Indies, and thus wasted the silver and gold they looted in their overseas colonies on these religious campaigns in Spain and Flanders, without counting their wars against Turkey and England, which likewise had a religious aspect. Another ecclesiastical assistant of Philip II, Diego de Espinosa, worked with the king on matters of the Counter Reformation and the suppression of the Alpujarras revolt. Protestants were also jailed and executed under the same laws, especially in the city of Valladolid.
The "Moriscos" or "baptized" Muslims were expelled, while those who remained as "Christians" had to leave their doors and windows open on Fridays and Islamic feast days, just in case they still prayed to God alone in the Islamic manner. 'They were also forbidden to hold Islamic style weddings, funerals and similar festivities, as well as their zambras or parties that the incoming gypsies have since taken over for the benefit of tourists. Their baths were banned and torn down, so that no one could wash themselves in the old manner in them. The town of Hornachos, southeast of Merida in Extremadura, refused to allow images in their mosque, which had been converted into a church with subsequent saints' worship introduced there. That town consisted mostly of muleteers, like our "Young Man" from Arevalo; the men were flogged and sentenced to the galleys for their sincerity of belief. Thus` Spanish commerce on the highways was disrupted by their disappearance. In the final expulsion in 1610, the Hornacheros who lived in western Spain (Extremadura), chose Morocco as their destination.
After 1582 the "Moriscos" were not allowed to live by the sea, for fear that they might communicate with alien ships along the coast: Thefts and murders became common as Muslims were deprived of their property and means of livelihood. This led to enforced ignorance, not only of Muslims, but also of many Catholics, especially as to their dogma and history. Prejudice and propaganda reigned instead which crippled the spirit of Spanish society. It is amazing that the Spanish , people themselves have remained so light-hearted and friendly, ignoring their priests and church even till this century in the Civil War of the 1930s (and the Mexican Revolution two decades before, that followed Benito Juarez' Reforma of 1857). The Spanish Civil War half a century ago, saw non Catholics summarily labelled "Communists" and subject to arrest, jail and possible execution in the same arbitrary fashion, as happened with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was shot one night in 1936 in his beloved city of Granada.
The battle of Lepanto against the Turks off western Greece in 1571 when Cervantes lost the use of his left hand, is rarely contrasted in Spanish histories with the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588, seventeen years later. This battle is ignored in Spain but flaunted in England, because it led to national confidence and glory in the latter country. The Spanish version of this defeat generally says that the fleet was dispersed by a storm, not by Sir Francis Drake and his English sailors.
The Final Expulsion
King Philip III and his corrupt prime minister, the Duke of Lerma, were the principal actors in the final expulsion of 1609 1614. By any standards, they were fanatics while the havoc they created throughout Spanish society still demands redress. Fray Jaime Bleda, a Dominican priest who is called "infame" in some reports, was another of these mass murderers; he had grown up among Muslims around Valencia, and worked with Philip III to arrange the final expulsion. Bleda favoured a general massacre of these Spanish citizens. The Inquisition thus continued its nefarious labours under Philip III, the new king.
September 1609 marks the final Edict of Expulsion that was promulgated. Many refugees escaped to Tunis in this period, since they generally came from the East coast rattier than from Granada and Seville, and settled mainly in the capital and Testour. French ships, whose masters often robbed their passengers, took them to Oran and other ports along the North African coast (if they did not previously give them "burial at sea" after they had seized their possessions). In any case, the refugees could not carry much with them, and that little was easily stolen. In 1614 they came from Murcia, ancient Tudmir which had been named after the Visigothic and Arian Count Theodomir who set up the entity under the Arabs in the 8th century.
Forty thousand Muslim children were said to live in Valencia. This may be a high figure, but orphans were made by the thousands as the departing Muslims were forced to leave their offspring behind to the uncharitable care of Inquisitors and policemen. How could these youngsters be treated humanely, deprived in this manner of their parents' love? They were snatched even at the port of embarkation, to be raised as Catholics (and probably as house servants, to "earn their keep", like Leonor in Heart of Jade). They had been deprived of Islamic schools and books for their education for over a century.
So in September 1609 the final decree of expulsion was promulgated, and the Spanish fleet was summoned from Naples in Italy where it watched the Turk, to transport these hitherto useful citizens to foreign parts. The port of Alfaques on the coast near Tortosa was where most of the Aragonese Muslims were told to embark. The expulsion from Aragon and Catalonia took place principally during 1609 and 1610, and continued until 1614 in the case of Murcia. Spain was emptied of Muslims from all parts. Many fled to France where the Reformation was still in progress; but to stay there, they had to become Catholics, just as in Spain. So they plodded on when and where they could, many to the port of Agde on the Mediterranean coast, and others to Genoa, Venice and other Italian ports, to sail to Turkey, North Africa or the Middle East as the Mancebo of Arevalo apparently did on his Pilgrimage to Mecca.
The End of Islamic Spain
This grim series of events marks the conclusion of nine hundred years of active Islamic life in Spain (711 1610), which had brought that country glory and prestige. The great universities or jawami` and madrasahs which had inspired Western Europe to expand in this line during the 12th and 13th centuries; had been wiped out: Granada was the last of these schools which Ibn Battutah, the Moroccan globetrotter, visited at the end of his travels in the mid 14th century. They now give us a different date for the founding of the University of Granada, after its Christian conquest in the 16th century. And of course it was a different school with different objectives.
The French confiscated college endowments in similar fashion in 19th century Algeria, as the Italians did in Libya in this present one, and forbade Libyan Muslims from enrolling in them. Thus the five madrasahs or Islamic colleges in pre colonial Algeria were reduced to the Universite d'Alger, where students had to speak French in order to enrol in this by then the only institution of higher learning in that colony. This anti Islamic system has thus continued till this century and the Algerian revolt, which the policy in part motivated. How different from the city of Montreal with its distinct institutions in both French and English, Catholic, Protestant and secular!
Ironically, a ship full of books sent by the emperor of Morocco, Mulay Zidan, to the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul in Turkey was intercepted in 1611 by Spanish pirates off the port of Sale under Philip III, the king of the final expulsion. This collection or library is now lodged in the Escorial, the `slag heap' as the name means, that gloomy palace and monastery in the hills northwest of Madrid where Philip II withdrew to spend his last years (like the Pedregal or `Lava Field' South of Mexico City where UNAM, the renewed university of Mexico is located). The Escorial now constitutes the basis of the holdings of Arabic books which have been preserved in Spain, plus those which had been reappearing during the past century, especially in Aragon around Zaragoza, and are now housed in the National Library in Madrid, thanks to the labours of don Julian Ribera and don Eduardo Saavedra. Ironically, this Escorial collection, as we have noted is of Moroccan origin and was seized by Spanish pirates. The 18th century Maronite librarian Miguel Cassiri could not read the Maghribi script, and therefore catalogued many of these books and manuscripts as of "Turkish and Persian" origin.
The monuments of Granada, Seville and Cordoba now attract the tourists to visit Spain, though often without understanding their full significance and underlying tragedy. Their beauty alone sustains them. The wholesale expulsion of Muslims inflicted havoc and. misery every where; it cost the Spanish people one of the most productive sectors in their society, and the best agricultural workers: fruit (peaches, apricots, oranges and other citrus fruit) came to Spain through their husbandry; so did rice and sugar from southern Asia, as did silk and paper. These industrial processes, not articles of trade, had been brought by Muslim merchants or travellers from China via Persia and Central Asia, as well as porcelain where we see the Chinese blue reappear in Majolica ware. All these were technical processes which had been introduced under Muslim rule.
The economy suffered penury when the country lost its productive workmen in this wanton fashion, Muslim artisans who had laboured diligently in the crafts and agriculture. Hardworking and thrifty shopkeepers, bakers and butchers, water carriers were forced out of business and faced restrictive legislation on their activities everywhere. The arts and crafts of Spain truly suffered: Mudejar mechanical and technical methods in tile making, for both floors and walls, which require different processes; carpenters and cabinetmakers (who developed their trade in the high wooden ceilings of the Andean countries, to which some Mudejar workmen were exiled, and whose skill elaborated this safeguard against the earthquakes of that southern continent); blacksmiths and coppersmiths, all suffered exile and penury.
The manufacture of textiles lagged as well, especially cotton and silk weaving in Granada, Seville and Pastrana. The making of woollen blankets and rugs also declined. The silk industry was brought centuries before by Muslim traders from China, as was that of paper, whose raw material was esparto grass grown around Valencia. Hundreds of silk works and countless tile factories are said to have gone out of business in the Seville region alone. Irrigation engineering, especially in and around Valencia's Huerta, suffered from the expulsion of its best workmen. Farms and fields lay abandoned in the Alpujarras mountains southeast of Granada. Generally trade was stifled in those parts of Spain where Muslim or "Morisco" workmen, the busy and talented Mudejars, had plied their trade.
Many Spanish names and words are Arabic in origin, and alive today (but seldom "Moorish" ones the only truly Berber words in modern Spanish are jinete from the Zanata tribe, for `horseman', `rider'; and zanahoria for `carrot'). Alfarero for `potter'; albanil meaning `mason' or `builder' in Spanish, from al Banna' (whose name appears in that of IIasan al Banna' of Egypt, the founder of the Muslim Brethren in this century); alcalde from al qadi (`judge') but now meaning `mayor' in Latin America; words like azulejo from az zulayj for `tile', so important for Islamic decoration on floors and walls with its ongoing, "endless" patterns that seek the pure infinity of God; almohada from al mukhaddah for `pillow'; azucar for `sugar' which comes ultimately from Indian and Sanskrit.
The havoc which these murderers and sadists created throughout Spanish society still demands redress. The great Spanish genocides should be named and condemned for their vandalism and murder of peaceful Spanish citizens; the arch criminals were: Ximenez de Cisneros, to begin with, who started the unholy action; Pedro de Deza who assisted him in these crimes; Diego de Deza (two of them), and Diego de Espinosa, who worked with Philip II, that gloomy monarch, reflecting perhaps the madness of his grandmother Jane; and Jaime Bleda, that last great genocide in the employ of Philip III. These men were fanatics of the first order whose zeal ruined their native country for two centuries.
The laws that sustained these abuses should be formally rescinded: these breaches of human rights need to be redressed in this more liberal age of human history. Some were in effect as late as this century, notably as regulations against Protestant chapels and mosques, like the one in the Ceuta market; any Protestant church in Spain was forbidden to show what it was outwardly, and had to be disguised till after the Franco era. The mosque in Ceuta lies downstairs next to the public toilets in the market, for the country folk who come there to pray. These ugly laws need to be revoked formally, and, if possible, the property seized restored to the international Islamic community.
In Argentina today, the only Muslim name that is permitted by the public registry offices is Omar. The present president, Carlos Menem, although born a Muslim of Syrian descent, was obliged to declare himself a Catholic before he could run for president of that country. The Tatars in Poland in this century were similarly forced to become Catholics if they wanted to remain in that country. This does not represent religious freedom, but reflects the Counter Reformation of Europe that drove the Protestants and Socinians from Poland, whereas they survived in Hungary because the Ottoman government there protected all Christian sects.
This struggle for religious freedom is not over if we consider how the Turks are treated in Bulgaria today, or the Muslims in Central Asia: Since these laws and their effects remain until this day, it is not an internal Spanish matter but an international problem which still demands solution not subject to internal jurisdiction. Islamic centres of authority and worship were all destroyed in Spain; these should be reconstituted wherever possible as they were during that country's greatest glory. The ongoing holocaust of the Palestinians witnesses the continuation of such illegal practices till this day.
On the other hand, the Muslim actors in this tragedy are too often anonymous, like our Young Man from Arevalo, or bore "Christian" names they were forced to assume. The Granadines had squabbled among themselves; they were not entirely innocent victims, but to some extent deserved their fate, especially the quarrelling upper classes. This verdict applies to the royal family and the nobles, not the industrious citizenry: the Zagirs and Avencerrajes (banu Sarraj or `Saddlers') carried on feuds that ruined the kingdom in the last half of the 15th century before the Christian conquest, quarrels which the Castilians and Aragonese were more than happy to take advantage of. Boabdil (Abu `Abdillah), the last ineffectual sultan or king, as his mother said, "wept like a woman over what he could not defend as a man " at the Moor's Last Sign on the highway going up the hills leading to the south coast, where he would embark for exile in Morocco. In his train Leo Africanus may have gone, but as a young boy.
Sadly they recall other Spanish exiles: Ibn 'Arabi, the mystic from Murcia in the 13th century who is buried in Damascus; and Ibn Khaldun from a distinguished Sevillian family which was exiled in 1248 by Ferdinand Ill. The latter scholar wrote a philosophy of history centuries before Spengler and Toynbee, and founded sociology long before August Comte ever thought of it. Likewise we should recall the now nameless people who died at their own expense in the Inquisitorial prisons by the hundreds, or were roasted at the stake all up the East coast of Spain so the civil authority cynically would not "have blood on their hands."
Maqqari, the Algerian historian wrote Nafh, al Tib or `The Fragrant Breath' in the 17th Century to record Andalusian history. This vast field needs study. This is history that we Muslims should know, five hundred years after the fact, and not the myths and legends that tourists half learn about Spain's decline into religious and political intolerance. Americo Castro's book on Espaaca en su historia which Professor Edmund King of Princeton translated into English as The Structure of Spanish History (Princeton University Press 1954) likewise challenges the official version of Spanish history.
Spain thus became a closed society in the 17th century, suffering a general intellectual depression that was so different from the glorious Umayyad caliphate of the 10th century or the philosophic decades that followed. Most Spaniards now lived in ignorance of real theological issues except that they knew that they were Catholics, although they did not know how to discuss these issues with outsiders.
The "Holy" Office was finally abolished by the Cortes or Spanish parliament in 1813 after the Napoleonic wars (but Simon Bergaiio never returned from his Cuban exile). Islam has never been so ruthless nor abusive of human rights in its age of glory in Spain, except possibly for the so called "martyrs" of Cordoba who persistently sought their "martyrdom" in the 9th century under `Abdurrahman II. Under constant pressure the authorities were finally obliged to punish them under the prevailing law of blasphemy. The Turks in the Balkans protected the churches of Byzantium and Rome which had oppressed the Bogomils, ancestors of the contemporary Bosnian and Albanian Muslims. The Hungarian Protestants survived as well because the liberal Ottoman religious policy protected them from the suppression they encountered in Poland, Lithuania, and we might add, Hapsburg Austria. The Greek Patriarchate remains in Istanbul, or as they prefer to call it, Constantinople, and not in Athens or Moscow. These facts of religious freedom need to be remembered in this age of freedom.
A rise in highway robbery had resulted from the general oppression and loss of livelihood, although the robbers were not always Muslims or Moriscos. If a "Morisco" were met on the high road away from home, he could be searched, taken prisoner and even killed by any Christian neighbour (or vecino). The state no longer protected Muslims in their lives, property or beliefs. This lack of responsibility on the part of Spanish public authorities for the general welfare of all citizens, and the suffering by the generally peace loving public lay like a pall over Spanish society for the next two hundred years.
More than one hundred thousand peaceful and valuable Muslim citizens are estimated to have been expelled from Old and New Castile alone in 1610. A figure of 200,000 has been suggested as the number expelled from all Spain by some persons desirous of making the havoc seem minor but this is low; while the official version of 300,000 is uncertain as well. Perhaps as many as two million were exiled or displaced. Certainly it was enough people to disrupt both industry and agriculture, which suffered drastically, especially in the prevailing climate of fear; the whole economy of Spain was stifled in important sectors for decades if not for two centuries at least.
We encounter another aspect of this tragedy in the Mudejar workmen who were indentured for service in the Spanish overseas colonies. These Spanish Muslim artisans, generally without their womenfolk, were transported to Mexico or New Spain, Colombia or New Granada, and Bolivia or Upper Peru, to decorate the new public buildings in those overseas colonies. Thus Mudejar decoration is found on public buildings in those and other countries and can be easily recognized by the generally geometric and floral ornament found on floor and wall tiles (each of which requires a different industrial process) and that bears no images or tamathil which are so repugnant to Muslims, as we found with the Hornacheros. We likewise find geminated or twinned windows as in Washington Irving's Lindaraja; vaulted cloisters as with the Universidad de San Carlos in Antigua, Guatemala.
Few women came with these exiles, so these workmen married local girls and quickly blended into the general population, and much sooner than the Catholic conquistadores who could bring their womenfolk from Spain. However the Mudejars trained grandsons who carried on their crafts in many centres in Latin America, and whose wares are still found in marketplaces today like Taxco, Puebla, Antigua and Bogota.
Manuel Toussaint of Mexico has written El arte mudejar en America to document this work (published by Porraa Hermanos in Mexico City, 1946). The black and white photography of this volume needs to be redone in colour, with a more thorough survey of this heritage in every country of Latin America. The lovely Mudejar cloister in the Colonial Museum in Antigua Guatemala was built as the Universidad de San Carlos in the mid 18th Century, when they knew they should keep the building low because of the danger of earthquake from nearby volcanoes. It resembles a Mogul mosque from India or Pakistan. This style can be revived for use in the new mosques and schools that Muslims will need in North and South America where Islam is now spreading, largely because of the ongoing Palestinian diaspora acid holocaust which ironically is fostering this contemporary revival of our Islamic heritage.
The dry rot in political institutions in America was introduced through this immoral policy and the autocratic governments and church which were brought to the Spanish overseas colonies. Fanatic kings and .priests led Christian Spain to its downfall, even as late as the 1930s and the Civil War.
Results of the Expulsion
The architectural glory of Islamic Spain can still be seen and appreciated, as today's tourists recognize: the great monuments of Seville, Cordoba, Toledo and Granada stand as silent witnesses of past splendour. Judgments vary, according to whether the narrator is liberal in his outlook, or conservative and Catholic (as occurs with don Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo's 6 volume Historia de los heterodoxes espanoles, Madrid 1911). This phase of human history has been rarely assessed dispassionately by Muslims, except possibly by Sir Mubammad Iqbal, the philosopher and poet of Lahore, and the Egyptian poet Ahmad Shawqi, both of whom made their pilgrimage to Cordoba. The Spanish scholars of the past century, Pascual de Gayangos, Juan Ribera and Eduardo Sasvedra, tried to recover this heritage in the last century, but more research remains to be clone, and by scholars sympathetic to the Islamic cause.
Two future dates are worth mentioning now: in 1999 we shall celebrate the half millennium of Ximenez de Cisneros' brash intrusion into Granadine affairs that sealed Spain's good fame in international circles for three centuries. This is a date by which these cruel laws and decrees should be formally rescinded. Then in 2009 2014, ten full years later, we shall celebrate (or deplore) the four hundredth anniversary of the final Expulsion practised by Philip III, the Duke of Lerma and the "infamous" Jaime Bleda. By that date, we should see what can be salvaged from these ruins, especially in places like Ceuta on the African continent, which should never have been affected by such tyranny.
The holocaust of the Palestinians shows the continuation of such illegal practices even in this century. Another example we have in the imams we meet from Central Asia, who are so happy to have their mosques back, and to be able to build new ones. Their statistics sound like those from another century. The New Jersey off the Lebanese coast in 1982 continued this anti Islamic policy when it shelled Druze and Shi'ah villages but spared the Maronite or Catholic ones. Who inspired this policy? Was it an expression of malice, or did it occur through prejudice and ignorance?
I have been a "Moor on the coast" for more than half a century in the North American academic environment, without visiting Spain too often, but observing it from the coast of Morocco and Algeria, where so many of these refugees landed and founded families who often hold the keys to their long abandoned homes in Andalusia. But Islam is alive and well once more, and its heritage reviving.