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The Royal Edict of Expulsion (1609) and the Last Andalusi Muslims (“Moriscos”) of Spain

Historical Background

Following the forcible conversion of the Andalusī Muslims of Granada in 1501 (which I have described elsewhere ), similar edicts of conversion were promulgated that forced the Muslims populations of Castile (1502), Navarre (1515) and the Crown of Aragón (1526) to convert to Christianity, thereby criminalizing Islam as a public religion in the Iberian peninsula for the first time in 800 years. The new population of New Christians, as they were called, were referred to (derogatorily) as Moriscos. The Spanish government as well as the Church and Inquisition threatened any who continued to adhere to Islam—in any shape or form—with the death penalty, which usually meant being burned at the stake.

Image(Panels showing the Conversion of the Muslims of Granada in 1501, Altar, Royal Chapel, Granada) (more…)

An Andalusi Muslim in Early Modern Europe: Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Hajari’s Description of the 17th-Century Netherlands

Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Qāsim al-Ḥajarī al-Andalusī was an Andalusī Muslim born around 1570 in the village of al-Ḥajar, in the vicinity of Granada. He lived for most of his youth as a Morisco (crypto-Muslim) in Spain before escaping to Morocco around 1598, residing in Marrakech, where he remained until 1636 or so. While in Spain, he learned Spanish and Portuguese in addition to his native Arabic. As a result of his knowledge of the latter, he was enlisted in deciphering the so-called “Lead Books of Sacromonte” around 1588. During his time in Morocco, he entered the service of the Sa’adian Sultan Muley Zaydān (r. 1603–1627) as a translator and secretary. While in the service of the Sa’adian dynasty he also embarked on major journey to Europe, traveling to France and the Netherlands between 1609 and 1611. Around 1636, he departed to the Central Islamic Lands in order to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Following his performance of the latter, he resided in Egypt for a time before departing for Tunis. Due to the absence of sources, it is unclear how he spent the remainder of his life. It is certain that al-Ḥajarī died sometime after 1638/1639, because he has a work (on gunpowder technology and cannons) that can be dated to these years. He was a erudite scholar, traveler and translator and the few of his works that have survived remain an important source of information for the Islamic West during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


The purpose of his trip to Europe in 1609–1611 was diplomatic (on behalf of the Sa’adians) and was aimed at securing the properties and wealth that was confiscated from the Moriscos during their expulsion from Spain. The work in which this journey is recorded is given the heavily polemical title Nāṣir al-Dīn ‘ala al-Qawm al-Kāfirīn (“Making the Faith Victorious against the Disbelievers”).* His travelogue is interspersed with all the interesting details, fascinating personal exchanges and curious observations that can be expected from an Andalusī Muslim traveling in Early Modern Europe during the seventeenth century. However, the bulk of the work centers on the author describing (and likely exaggerating) his various theological and polemical exchanges with different Christian and Jewish scholars that he met in France and the Netherlands. The section translated below is excerpted from his description of the Netherlands and his meeting with the ruler/stadtholder of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands, Maurice of Nassau (r. 1585–1625).

**(It has just been brought to my attention that this book has been translated into English and published in Madrid in 1997 as “Kitāb Nāṣir al-Dīn ʻalā ʼl-qawm al-kāfirīn = (The supporter of religion against the infidels)” by P.S. van Koningsveld, Gerald Wiegers and Q. al-Samarra’i. However, since I only have access to the 2003 Beirut edition of the Arabic text, the translation below is my own. Update II: I now have access to the 1997 Madrid edition, of which scans are included below but have left my translation, based on Beirut 2003 edition, unchanged) (more…)

Religious Propoaganda and Holy War in the 12th Century: The Friday Sermon following Saladin’s Conquest of Jerusalem in 1187

The khutba or Friday sermon, delivered in the al-Aqsa mosque immediately following the conquest of Jerusalem by Salah al-Din Yusuf b. Ayyub (d. 1174-1193) in 1187, is preserved by Ibn Khallikan in his biography of Muḥyiddīn ibn al-Zakī. Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282) served as chief qāḍī of the Shāfi‛īs in Damascus. His greatest achievement is his biographical dictionary of some 800 famous Muslims entitled Wafayāt al-a‛yān wa-anbā’ abnā’ al-zamān (Obituaries of the Notables and News of the Sons of the Age), fully translated here: (more…)

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) and the Question of Takfir (“Excommunication”)

Taqī al-Dīn Abūl ‘Abbās Ahmad ibn Taymīyya (d. 1328), the famous Damascene theologian and Ḥanbalī jurist, is perhaps one of the most controversial intellectual figures in Islamic history.The following is a short excerpt from his fatwa that can be found in the compendium Majmu’ al-Fatawa (Majmu’ al-Fatawa, 3: 282-288) as well as other collections of his epistles. The actual section is far more comprehensive, but the sections I translated below provide an idea about his ruling with regard to the issue of takfir as reflected in his later teachings. Takfir refers to the declaration by one individual or group of Muslims that another individual or group of Muslims are no longer believers, but apostates from the faith. It differs from the concept of excommunication or anathematization in a medieval Christian context only in the sense that Islam (arguably) recognizes no official ecclesiastical hierarchy or body that can enforce such a declaration, although in some cases the political authorities took this role upon themselves.

Although there are numerous indications in Ibn Taymīyya’s earlier writings that he did engage in and promote a discourse of takfir, this particular epistle makes it abundantly clear that towards the end of his career he strongly sought to disassociate himself from such sentiments. It is not entirely clear why he did so. Perhaps he came to perceive such a discourse as a major threat to the social, religious and political fabric of the Islamic world. Alternatively, it could be that as he came under increasing repression by the Mamluk authorities–facing strong accusations of heresy–he recognized the immense and dangerous implications of takfir as a tool of state oppression. His change of heart can also be seen as the result of his own intellectual and theological evolution. While the underlying reasons for this discernible shift in his writings remain obscure, it is nonetheless clear that Ibn Taymīyya was committed to a strongly anti-takfir position during the last few years of his life. As his student, Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 1348) reported: “Towards the end of his life, our teacher Ibn Taymīyya would state : ‘I do not deem anyone from among the Muslims to be an unbeliever.’” (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’) (more…)

Fraxinetum: An Islamic Frontier State in Tenth Century Provence

The following is an updated and revised summary of my journal article on Fraxinetum which appeared in the UCLA Journal Comitatus in 2010 (the full article and the footnotes can be accessed here:

Political History

According to Liutprand (d. 972), the bishop of Cremona, the history of Muslim Fraxinetum began around 887, when a small vessel carrying about twenty Andalusi sailors landed on the Provençal coast near the modern town of St. Tropez.[1] The Andalusis forcibly seized the neighboring settlement of Freinet, and on the mountain above the town proceeded to occupy the fort, which had been called Fraxinetum since Roman times.[2] The subsequent fortress-city which they established was highly defensible and practically impenetrable, protected on one side by the sea from where the Andalusis drew their reinforcements, and on the other by large forests of thorny trees.[3] Consequently, the fort could only be accessed through a single, narrow path leading up the mountain.[4] Contemporary Latin authors, namely Liutprand of Cremona and the anonymous author of the Life of Beuve of Noyers, emphasize the Iberian origin of the raiders, but differ in naming them; Liutprand calls them “saraceni,” whereas the author of the Life of Beuve refers to them as “hispanicolae.”[5] Tenth-century Arab geographers, especially Muhammad Ibn Ḥawqal in his Surat al-Arḍ (977) and al-Istakhri in his Kitab al-Masalik wa al-Mamalik (951), refer to the fortified port of Fraxinetum as Jabal al-Qilal (“Mount of Lumber/Timber”) and describe it as a vast mountainous region blessed with rivers/streams and fertile soil that takes two days to cross.[6] Ibn Ḥawqal, like Liutprand, emphasizes the virtual impenetrability of the fortress and specifies that it was only accessible through one route on the side of the mountain. He also adds that it was dependent on the Umayyads of Cordova, as implied by his cartographic representation of Fraxinetum as an island at the mouth of the Rhone River and located close to the Iberian Peninsula, similar to the Balearic Islands.[7]  (more…)

Castilian “Reconquista,” Ottoman Expansion and the Christianization of al-Andalus

Since its initial conquest by Arab and Berber armies in 711–715, most of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) had been under Umayyad Muslim political control between 756 and 1031.[1] Following the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, however, al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled portions of Iberia, had disintegrated into over two dozen emirates, known as taifas.[2]

This fragmentation and weakening of Muslim political authority facilitated the rise of the northern Christian powers of Portugal, Navarre, Castile, León, and Aragón. Attempts by local (Andalusi) and foreign (“Berber” Almoravid, Almohad and Marinid) dynasties to resist the southward expansion of these Christian kingdoms ultimately failed, and the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, ending in an overwhelming defeat for the Muslims at the hands of a Christian coalition, sealed the fate of most of al-Andalus.[3] Beginning in the eleventh century, Castile and Aragón in particular had capitalized on the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba and succeeded in conquering major Andalūsī cities such as Toledo in 1085, Zaragoza in 1118, Lisbon in 1147, Cuenca in 1177, Majorca and Badajoz in 1230, Cordoba in 1236, Valencia in 1238, Jaén in 1246, and Seville in 1248, Algeciras in 1344, Antequera in 1410 and Gibraltar in 1462.[4]


Kitāb Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiyyah by al-Sulamī [1/11] : Brief Background Information followed by the Translation of the Book’s Introduction

Originally posted on al-Ikhbār:

This is the first part of a series of translations of the first ten Sufis (commonly understood to be the mystics of Islam) listed in the biographical dictionary Kitāb Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiyyah (Book of the Generations of Sufis) written by Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥman al-Sulamī (d. 412 AH/1021 CE).  Before offering more detailed information on the author and the text, it is imperative to situate al-Sulamī within the trajectory of Sufism’s development so that we may fully appreciate the significant role he and other figures played in systematizing emergent forms of Islamic mystical religiosity.  In the 3rd/9th century, al-Ḥarith al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857) wrote a foundational text titled Kitāb al-Riʿāya li-Ḥuqūq Allāh (Book of Observing What is Due to God), which showed the development of an experiential mode of piety focused on introspection that sought to overcome the weakness of human nature so that an aspirant can truly love and serve God in the most…

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