Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

It was the moment which set Spain on a course to become the greatest power in early modern Europe. On January 2, 1492 Abdallah Muhammad bin Ali, or Muhammad XII, known as Boabdil, the last Moorish sultan of Granada and head of the Nasrid dynasty, surrendered his city and handed over the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The Christian rulers had approached Granada accompanied by the cardinal of Spain, Francisco Cisneros, and a brilliant retinue of courtiers and noblemen, among whom was Christopher Colombus.

All the Christian royalty and knighthood wore Moorish dress, brocade and silk tunics and the waist sash or marlota, in a gesture of apparent respect, a visual statement to placate, reassure and suggest commonality. In reality, it was more an act of insolent appropriation and absorption of what was Moorish by the enemy. It was a gesture that epitomized the aggressively hostile ethos of the Reconquest, which manifested itself in a latent desire to usurp and eliminate that culture and religion. That desire finally became a reality in 1609, when all Moriscos or converted Muslims were expelled from Spain.

Boabdil rode out to meet them, departing from the Gate of Seven Floors at the Alhambra, down steep slopes offering magnificent views of the city he was about to leave forever. At this official, public surrender of Granada to the Christian enemy, Boabdil handed the keys of his city to Ferdinand, and was recorded as saying in Arabic: “God loves you greatly. Sir, these are the keys of this paradise. I and those inside it are yours.”

Struggle and diplomacy

This moment of surrender has captured the imagination of writers and artists up to the present day – initially as one of supreme conquest and later because of the extreme poignancy of that ceremony of transition and loss. It marked a crucial encounter in a centuries-old clash between two great religions and cultures and symbolized the epoch-changing transition of the kingdom of Granada from Islamic state to Christian territory.

In the ten years before 1492, the kingdom of Granada was the theater of one of the most significant wars in European history. The Nasrid sultan’s territory was the last Spanish stronghold of a great Muslim empire which had originally stretched to the Pyrenees and beyond, and had included northern Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Pamplona. The fall of Granada was the culmination of that ancient battle between two major and opposing civilizations, which not only settled the cultural fate of a large part of Europe but also established the basis for the discovery of the Americas.


The departure of Boabdil’s Family from the Alhambra (1492). Manuel Gómez-Moreno (1880)

In that last decade of Muslim rule in Spain from 1482-92, sultan Boabdil – a raw youth of 20 who had barely left the confines of the Alhambra palace and had no experience of the world outside his dysfunctional family – rose to the throne as the 23rd of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada. In the ensuing ten years, he fended off the attacks of the indomitable Christian army with courage, bearing the inescapable loss of his Islamic kingdom and his consequent exile from Spain with dignity. Boabdil broke the mould of previous Muslim rulers in preferring negotiation over violence, peace with the Christians over war, and strove to find a way for the Muslims of his kingdom to maintain their religion and customs alongside their Christian counterparts.

As I have discussed in a recent book on the subject, the last Muslim sultan in Spain has become a potent symbol of resistance against repression, and of the forces of rebellion – a moral hero in his own right whose life matters today because he sought to save his kingdom and way of life through the path of negotiation and diplomacy.

End of days

The year 1492 is generally seen as a beginning, whether of modern Spain or the discovery of the New World. But what had ended was equally significant. For nearly 800 years, since 711, the Spanish peninsula had been home to a group of people who came as invaders and stayed to create a unique and sophisticated civilization which bequeathed to Spain a lasting cultural heritage. One thing that was lost was the fertile cross-cultural creativity and renewal born out of the Muslim conquest.






Expulsion of the Moriscos at the port of Dénia. Vincente Mostre (1613)

The sometimes uneasy coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews which had been such a significant part of medieval Spanish life was replaced by the serious confrontations and conflicts leading to the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609. Instead of a society where members of three different religions lived together, Spain after 1492 became a society with a sole religion and language, a closed, suspicious place that repressed and eliminated difference.

The story of Boabdil and the fall of Granada represents a last stand against religious intolerance, fanatical power and cultural ignorance, in which issues of violence, tension and prejudice between Muslims and Christians were as pressing then as they are now.

Source: Islamicity


Spain witnessed 10 times increase in Muslim Population in last 30 years

Spain witnessed 10 times increase in Muslim Population in last 30 years

Muslim population living in Spain has increased ten times in the last 30 years, exceeding 2.5 million. According to unofficial figures, about 3 million Muslims are living in Spain

Secretary of the Islamic Commission of Spain said that the Muslim population living in Spain has increased 10 times in the last 30 years, exceeding 2.5 million. Mohamed Ajana told Anadolu that according to official records, 2.5 million, and according to unofficial figures, about 3 million Muslims live in Spain.

Ajana added that the Muslim population in Spain, which was seen as purely immigrants in the past, now has an important place among Spanish citizens. He stated that more than one million Muslims in the country are Spanish citizens, some of them are immigrants and others are of Spanish origin.

Explaining that Muslims from Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Senegal, and Algeria are in the majority, he shared the information that the majority of the Muslim population in Spain lives in industrialized regions such as Catalonia, Valencia, Andalusia, and Madrid.

Ajana also said that there are currently 53 Islamic federations serving the Muslim community in Spain, and that there are about 2,000 mosques.

He said the main problems that Muslims face are obtaining permits and licenses for the construction of mosques, the existence of only 40 Muslim cemeteries despite the increase in population, education, and Islamophobia.

Muslim Spain Brief History

Muslim Spain Brief History

By the time ‘Abd al-Rahman reached Spain, the Arabs from North Africa were already entrenched on the Iberian Peninsula and had begun to write one of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history.

After their forays into France were blunted by Charles Martel, the Muslims in Spain had begun to focus their whole attention on what they called al-Andalus, southern Spain (Andalusia), and to build there a civilization far superior to anything Spain had ever known. Reigning with wisdom and justice, they treated Christians and Jews with tolerance, with the result that many embraced Islam. They also improved trade and agriculture, patronized the arts, made valuable contributions to science, and established Cordoba as the most sophisticated city in Europe.

By the tenth century, Cordoba could boast of a population of some 500,000, compared to about 38,000 in Paris. According to the chronicles of the day, the city had 700 mosques, some 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries – one reportedly housing 500,000 manuscripts and employing a staff of researchers, illuminators, and bookbinders. Cordoba also had some 900 public baths, Europe’s first street lights and, five miles outside the city, the caliphal residence, Madinat al-Zahra. A complex of marble, stucco, ivory, and onyx, Madinat al-Zahra took forty years to build, cost close to one-third of Cordoba’s revenue, and was, until destroyed in the eleventh century, one of the wonders of the age. Its restoration, begun in the early years of this century, is still underway.

Photo: A forest of eight hundred and fifty pillars connected by Moorish arches lines the great mosque of Cordoba.

By the eleventh century, however, a small pocket of Christian resistance had begun to grow, and under Alfonso VI Christian forces retook Toledo. It was the beginning of the period the Christians called the Reconquest, and it underlined a serious problem that marred this refined, graceful, and charming era: the inability of the numerous rulers of Islamic Spain to maintain their unity. This so weakened them that when the various Christian kingdoms began to pose a serious threat, the Muslim rulers in Spain had to ask the Almoravids, a North African Berber dynasty, to come to their aid. The Almoravids came and crushed the Christian uprising, but eventually seized control themselves. In 1147, the Almoravids were in turn defeated by another coalition of Berber tribes, the Almohads.

Although such internal conflict was by no means uncommon- the Christian kingdoms also warred incessantly among themselves- it did divert Muslim strength at a time when the Christians were beginning to negotiate strong alliances, form powerful armies, and launch the campaigns that would later bring an end to Arab rule.

The Arabs did not surrender easily; al-Andalus was their land too. But, bit by bit, they had to retreat, first from northern Spain, then from central Spain. By the thirteenth century their once extensive domains were reduced to a few scattered kingdoms deep in the mountains of Andalusia – where, for some two hundred years longer, they would not only survive but flourish.

It is both odd and poignant that it was then, in the last two centuries of their rule, that the Arabs created that extravagantly lovely kingdom for which they are most famous: Granada. It seems as if, in their slow retreat to the south, they suddenly realized that they were, as Washington Irving wrote, a people without a country, and set about building a memorial: the Alhambra, the citadel above Granada that one writer has called “the glory and the wonder of the civilized world.”

The Alhambra was begun in 1238 by Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar who, to buy safety for his people when King Ferdinand of Aragon laid siege to Granada, once rode to Ferdinand’s tent and humbly offered to become the king’s vassal in return for peace.

Photo: Pool in the Patio de los Arrayanes reflects the grandeur of the incomparable Alhambra.

It was a necessary move, but also difficult – particularly when Ferdinand called on him to implement the agreement by providing troops to help the Christians against Muslims in the siege of Seville in 1248. True to his pledge, Ibn al-Ahmar complied and Seville fell to the Christians. But returning to Granada, where cheering crowds hailed him as a victor, he disclosed his turmoil in that short, sad reply that he inscribed over and over on the walls of the Alhambra: “There is no victor but God.”

Over the years, what started as a fortress slowly evolved under Ibn al-Ahmar’s successors into a remarkable series of delicately lovely buildings, quiet courtyards, limpid pools, and hidden gardens. Later, after Ibn al-Ahmar’s death, Granada itself was rebuilt and became, as one Arab visitor wrote, “as a silver vase filled with emeralds.”

Meanwhile, outside Granada, the Christian kings waited. In relentless succession they had retaken Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville. Only Granada survived. Then, in 1482, in a trivial quarrel, the Muslim kingdom split into two hostile factions and, simultaneously, two strong Christian sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, married and merged their kingdoms. As a result, Granada fell ten years later. On January 2, 1492 – the year they sent Columbus to America – Ferdinand and Isabella hoisted the banner of Christian Spain above the Alhambra and Boabdil, the last Muslim king, rode weeping into exile with the bitter envoi from his aged mother, “Weep like a woman for the city you would not defend like a man!”













Photo: A Moorish-built tower soars above Guadalquivir River in Seville.

In describing the fate of Islam in Spain, Irving suggested that the Muslims were then swiftly and thoroughly wiped out. Never, he wrote, was the annihilation of a people more complete. In fact, by emigration to North Africa and elsewhere, many Muslims carried remnants of the Spanish era with them and were thus able to make important contributions to the material and cultural life of their adopted lands.

Much of the emigration, however, came later. At first, most Muslims simply stayed in Spain; cut off from their original roots by time and distance they quite simply had no other place to go. Until the Inquisition, furthermore, conditions in Spain were not intolerable. The Christians permitted Muslims to work, serve in the army, own land, and even practice their religion – all concessions to the importance of Muslims in Spain’s still prosperous economy. But then, in the period of the Inquisition, all the rights of the Muslims were withdrawn, their lives became difficult, and more began to emigrate. Finally, in the early seventeenth century, most of the survivors were forcibly expelled.

Source: Islamicity


Sacromonte Quarter

Sacromonte Quarter

The Sacromonte is a neighborhood won to the rock. It was born 500 years ago to give shelter to the persecuted and ended up sacralizing itself under the cover of a legend. Its streets, which disappear abruptly at the edge of a pit or communicate by whitewashed staircases, still give the appearance of that Muslim village where the mixture of accents, rhythms and dances ended up merging into the current flamenco.

The best in a day
The ascent begins at the Casas del Chapiz, two Moorish palaces from the 16th century. In front of the statue of Chorrojumo, the gypsy patriarch whom the painter Manuel Fortuny immortalized. A little later, the Zambra de María la Canastera, converted into a museum, is worth a visit.

You can stop at Casa Juanillo to try its famous tortilla, and head to the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, which recreates the habitat and lifestyle of the neighborhood. The Ethnological Museum of Gypsy Women also provides an interesting view of this ethnic group. You should arrive at the last guided tour of the Sacromonte Abbey, at 18.00, to be amazed by the impressive history of the place.

It is a privilege to go down with the sunset over the Alhambra. The Sale El Gallo is a good place to recharge; and after dinner, you can visit different caves, such as Los Tarantos, which offers flamenco zambras that end at an appropriate time.

Corral del Carbón

Corral del Carbón

Corral del Carbón, called al-fundaq al-yadida in Arabic, meaning New Corn Exchange, was constructed in the first half of the 14th century, functioning as a storehouse and point of sale for wheat, as well as accommodation for the merchants who brought it to Granada.

After the end of Al-Andalus in the 16th century would become a theatrical courtyard and in the 17th century, it was also a neighbors’ courtyard, the rooms of the lower floor being used to store coal, from which its current name is taken.

In 1887, it was declared a National Monument, miraculously saved from profiteering. Corral del Carbón was then a house inhabited by 36 families. In the first third of the 20th century, Leopoldo Torres Balbás acquired it for 128,000 pesetas from the sale of tickets to the Alhambra, restoring it between 1929 and 1931.

Corral del Carbón is accessed by a single door which imitates those of the eastern Iwanes, with a large, acute horseshoe arch of scalloped brick, with arabesque spandrels carved from plaster. Over the door is surah 112 of the Quran “God is one, God is Eternal, He neither begets nor is born, nor to Him is there any equivalent” and has two double windows, one on the first floor and another on the upper floor, topped with beautiful eaves with a large overhang, supported by corbels angled upwards.

Behind the facade, the hallway, which takes up the space of the first two floors, has a beautiful ceiling of and two blind arches on each side, with seats. The interior of the corn exchange, centered around a large, almost square patio with a pillar, was divided between three floors. The lower floor was for goods and pack animals, and the two upper floor, each with 22 small rooms, with lamps but without beds, with only large mats, were the rooms in which the merchants slept, wrapped in large cloaks. Through two different pipes in the central pillar of the patio, water flowed from the Darro river, arriving from the Romayla canal, and from the Genil river, arriving from an urban branch of the Gorda canal.

The floors are supported by stone pillars on the ground floor, and brick on the upper floors, with wooden footings very similar to those that the Maristán had. There were no windows in the whole building, to prevent the goods being stolen, and for which the corn exchange master (fundeqayr) was responsible, who lived in the rooms over the door, monitoring the arrival and departure of goods, Its only door was hermetically closed at sunset, the merchants not being able to leave until dawn. Just before sunset, they were told to gather their property and animals, opening the doors afterwards, thereby preventing anyone from taking what was not theirs.