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Reflections on “Speaking without Knowledge” (17:36)

One of the most important Qur’anic injunctions (and one which is usually flaunted and ignored by many Muslims today) is the following: “And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge” or (alternatively translated) “Do not follow or accept that of which you have no knowledge” (17.36)

وَلا تَقْـفُ ما لَـيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْـمٌ

According to the great Qur’an commentator, Qatada (d. 735), the essential meaning of this verse is: “Do not say, `I have seen’, when you did not see anything, or `I have heard’, when you did not hear anything, or `I know’, when you do not know, for God Almighty will hold you accountable for all that.”

Important Assassinations in Medieval and Early Modern Islamic History: A Short List

This (very short) piece is inspired by an interesting article on ( that looked at various high-profile assassinations in Europe during the Middle Ages. As in European history, so too in Islamic history many high-profile leaders and political figures met their demise as a result of an assassin’s blade (or poison!). The following are just some of the most significant victims of assassination between roughly 640 and 1810:

[For the sake of brevity, I have decided to keep each entry short since much more details can easily be found in various articles and books about each figure. If anyone is interested in any particular individual or would like a source reference, leave a comment below and I’ll provide additional information] (more…)

Fin de règne berbère Almohade en Andalousie, avènement d’Ibn Hud et des Nasrides :

Originally posted on Histoire Islamique :

Guerrier élite berbère Almohade  Guerrier élite berbère Almohade

Abû al-`Alâ’ Idrîs al-Ma’mûn 1227–1233

 (second prétendant à la succession des Almohades de Marakesh, soutenu par le souverain chrétien Ferdinand III de Castille).

An de l’hég. Ga4 (de. J.-C. 1227). Abou-Aly Edris, âgé de trente- neuf ans , jouissait d’une grande considération parmi les Almohades. Il, savait allier la prudence à la valeur, et s’était couvert de gloire dans l’Afrique orientale (Ifriqya : Constantinois, Tunisie, et Tripolitaine), sous le règne de son neveu al-Mustansir.

Pourvu depuis du gouvernement de Séville, il y étais regardé comme le prince le plus capable d’arrêter les progrès des chrétiens.

Afin d’honorer la ville de Malaga, où il était né, il y avait fondé, l’année précédente, un superbe palais, nommé l’Alcaçar des Seïds, et exécuté sous sa direction ; mais les talents supérieurs d’ Al-Mamoun ne purent lutter contre les coups de la fortune et la fatalité des circonstances .

L’Espagne (Al-Andalus)…

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Famous Historical Muslims of Hellenic/Greek Origin

Islamic civilization currently encompasses every major culture, ethnicity, race, and language on the planet. The pages of Islamic history are filled with the emergence of many different ethno-linguistic groups, from regions as far apart as West Africa and Central Asia, as important political and cultural forces, which greatly impacted the direction of Islamic civilization. Unfortunately, despite this reality, Muslim history has often been presented as a series of accomplishments revolving around Arabs, Persians, and Turks, to the exclusion of all other groups. The rich histories of hundreds of Muslim ethnic, racial, and linguistic groups have too often been overlooked or overshadowed by this mistaken approach towards Muslim history which has identified Muslim history with a very specific cultural and geographic context.

One particular group of Muslims that has played an important role within Islamic civilization as scholars, administrators and warriors have been Hellenes/Greeks. While the many contributions of Greek Christians to medieval and early modern Islamic/Islamicate/Middle Eastern civilization have been highlighted, especially in the context of intellectual exchange and the transmission of philosophical/medical knowledge, the history of Greek Muslims is all but unknown to most people. Greek, in the context of this post, is not meant in any ethno-nationalistic sense, but is intended to signify individuals or groups who belonged to lands and cultures where Hellenic languages and civilization predominated, whether 9th-century Sicily, 13th-century Anatolia, or the 19th-century Aegean. A variety of processes—ranging from enslavement and conquest to voluntary conversion and political opportunism—contributed to the integration of many Greeks into Islamic civilization from the seventh century to the present.

The following are only a handful of some of the most famous names of countless Greek Muslims who played an important role throughout Islamic history. As one will notice, a large number of the names come from the Ottoman period. This is largely due to the fact that there are far more historically-documented cases of Muslims of Greek descent during the period of Ottoman rule in western Anatolia and south-eastern Europe (areas where Greek speakers were concentrated most heavily) than there are for earlier periods of Islamic history. Significantly, many of the Greek Muslim men and women listed below who played an important role within this empire were a product of the devşirme system, which was one of the key aspects of the Ottoman imperial system during the pre-modern period. From the fifteenth century onwards, there was a major effort on the part of the Ottomans to lessen their reliance upon traditional military and political elites and concentrate power instead in the hands of those who had passed through the devşirme system. At a later date, I plan on providing some more concrete thoughts on the devşirme system, slavery and society in the pre-modern Islamic world. For now, however, I have attached a list of further reading below (feel free to recommend additional works) for those serious about learning more about the interrelationship between slavery, social mobility and socio-political developments in Islamic history. (more…)

Intermarriage between Muslim and Christian Dynasties in Early Medieval Iberia (711-1100)

The following is my own summary translation of pp. 33 to 38 of Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Sālim’s book al-Jawānib al-Ijābiyah wal Silbīyah fī al-Zawāj al-Mukhtalaṭ fī al-Andalus (Rabat, 1994). Although it is heavily dependent upon the perspective of (later) Arabic primary sources and contains some errors, this is a particularly interesting passage that sheds light on the extent of the intermarriage between Muslim and Christian dynasties in early medieval Iberia,. The main primary sources relied upon by the author include the anonymous Akhbār Majmū‘ah, Ibn al-Qūṭīya’s Tā’rīkh Iftitāḥ al-Andalus, Ibn al-Khaṭīb’s A‘māl al-A‘lām, Ibn Idhārī’s Bayān al-Mughrib, al-Maqqarī’s Nafḥ al-Ṭīb, and Ibn Khaldūn’s Kitāb al-‘Ibar.

The Taifa Kingdoms (ca. 1010-1090): Ethnic and Political Tensions in al-Andalus during the 11th Century

Following the collapse and disintegration of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba during the civil wars of 1009–1013, al-Andalus fragmented into about 20-30 kingdoms known as the party kingdoms, reyes de taifas or mulūk al-tawā’if. Some of these emirates, such as the Taifa of Silves, were little more than self-governing city-states while others, such as the Taifa of Seville, controlled large swathes of territory. Although there were three Taifa periods—the first from 1010 to 1110, the second from 1144-1172, and the third from roughly 1220 to 1270—I will be focusing this post on the first Taifa era, which is what scholars usually mean when they refer to the “Taifa Kingdoms.” I thought it would be useful to simply lay out the names and ethno-tribal origins of the ruling families of the various Taifa kingdoms in order to demonstrate the complex political situation that had arisen in 11th-century al-Andalus. Although the question of “ethnicity” is certainly a troublesome one in the medieval period (not least in al-Andalus!), the concepts of “Berber,” “Arab,” and “indigenous Iberian” (muwallad) were all deployed and utilized by various factions in the Taifa kingdoms during the 11th century. Rather than attempt any major analysis (I’ve provided a list of further reading for those interested in learning more), it seemed like a good idea to clarify the tribal and “ethnic” background of each of ruling families of the Taifa kingdoms.

It is quite notable (especially when one considers that they probably composed a significant majority of the Muslim population of al-Andalus) that only two very small kingdoms were actually of Hispano-Muslim (i.e. muwallad/muladí) origin, while the vast majority of the Taifas were ruled by various Berber dynasties who had migrated to al-Andalus during the late Umayyad period, especially during the regency of Ibn Abī ‘Āmir al-Manṣūr (d. 1002). It was these various Berber tribes, which played such an instrumental role in al-Manṣūr’s successful campaigns against the northern Christian kingdoms, that eventually played such an instrumental role in the dismantling of Umayyad and Arab power in the Iberian peninsula.

It is also notable that there were several “Slavic” (or Saqlabī) kingdoms that arose, since many of these “Slavs” (many of whom were actually Franks or Germans slaves or freedmen from Western or Central Europe) also played an important role as administrators and soldiers in the late Umayyad period. Although the two Arab kingdoms of Seville and Zaragoza were among the most extensive, stable and powerful, they represented a minority of the kingdoms and the fact remains that between roughly 1000 A.D. and 1220 A.D. (i.e. from the Taifa period to the devolution of the Almohad caliphate) al-Andalus would remain dominated by Berber polities. This fact, coupled with the reality that the vast majority of Andalusīs were Arabic-speaking Hispano-Muslims, Christians or Jews contributed to the emergence of a distinct political system in which Berber political and military rulers worked alongside local Andalusī administrators, fiscal agents and elite families. For more on the complex and interesting socio-political dynamic of the Taifa period, here is a summary of Abdullah b. Buluggin’s Tibyān: ). The following are the main kingdoms that existed in al-Andalus between the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in 1013 and the Almoravid conquest in 1090:

Taifa de Albarracín (1011-1104). Ruled by the Hawwara Berber Banū Razzīn family

Taifa of Algeciras (1035-1058). Ruled by the Hammudids, who were a Berber dynasty that claimed partial descent from ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib (d. 661). They briefly claimed the caliphate following the fall of the Umayyad dynasty.

Taifa of Almeria (1011-1091). Ruled by various Saqlabī Muslim rulers until the Arab Tujibi Banū Sumadih took over in the 1040s

Taifa of Alpuente (1009-1106). Ruled by the Kutama Berber family of the Banū Qāsim

Taifa of Arcos (1011-1068). Ruled by the Zanata Berber family of the Banū Jizrūn

Taifa of Badajoz (1009-1094). Although founded by a Saqlabī Muslim (Sabur), it was ruled by the Miknasa Berber Banū Afṭaṣ family. It was one of the most powerful and extensive of the taifa kingdoms.

Taifa of Carmona (1013-1091). Ruled by the Zanata Berber Banū Birzāl dynasty

Taifa of Denia (1010-1076). Ruled by the Saqlabī Muslim Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī and his sons

Taifa of Granada (1013-109). Ruled by the powerful Sanhaja Berber Banū Zīrī family, who were originally governors for the Fatimids in Ifrīqīyah (modern-day Tunisia and eastern Algeria)

Taifa of Malaga (1026-1090). Ruled by the Berber Hammudid family before being seized by the Sanhaja Berber Zirid taifa of Granada between 1058 and 1090

Taifa of Majorca (1076-1116). Ruled until 1075 by the Saqlabī Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī and his son ‘Alī before being controlled by the Banū Aghlab family for the remainder of its existence

Taifa of Murcia (1011-1090). Although founded by a Saqlabī Muslim (Khayrān al-‘Āmirī), this kingdom was contested between various Saqlabī, Berber and Arab rulers in al-Andalus until it was finally integrated into the Almoravid polity. However, during the second and, especially, the third Taifa periods Murcia would be one of the most powerful kingdoms.

Taifa of Niebla. Founded and ruled by Abū-l ‘Abbās Aḥmad b. Yaḥya al-Yaḥṣūbī, descended from the Hispano-Muslim family of the Banū Yaḥṣūb, and his successors until it was conquered by the Banū ‘Abbād of Seville in 1053

Taifa of Algarve (1016-1052). Founded and ruled by the Hispano-Muslim Banū Harūn family until it was absorbed into the expanding ‘Abbādid taifa of Seville in 1052

Taifa of Seville (1023-1091). Ruled by the Lakhmid Arab Banū ‘Abbād family until its conquest by the Almoravids. It was one of the most powerful and expansionist of the taifa kingdoms

Taifa of Toledo (1010-1085). Ruled by various individuals until the Hawwara Berber Dhū-l Nūn family took power in 1032 and controlled it until its conquest in 1085 by Alfonso VI of Castile

Taifa of Valencia (1010-1094). Ruled by the Saqlabī Amirid dynasty of Mujahid of Denia and his sons until it was seized by the Berber Banū Dhū-l Nūn dynasty of Toledo in 1085 (and the city was conquered by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar or “El Cid” in 1094)

Taifa of Zaragoza (1013-1110). Ruled by two Arab families: the Banū Tujib (1013-1039) and the Banū Hūd (1039-1110). The descendants of the Banū Hūd would play a particularly prominent role in the second and third Taifa periods as well. The famous Sayf al-Dawlah (the Zafadola of the Castilian chronicles), whom I have written about elsewhere on this blog, was descended from this line.

(There existed other taifas centered around the towns of Cordoba, Lisbon, Ceuta, Lorca, Mertola, Ronda, Silves, Tortosa but these were very short-lived and fell under the domination of one of the larger and more powerful kingdoms by the mid-11th century)

Enlace permanente de imagen incrustada

 (Map of the Taifa Kingdoms with the  Berber dynasties shown in brown)

Further Reading

Travis Bruce. “Piracy as Statecraft: The Mediterranean Policies of the Fifth/Eleventh-Century Taifa of Denia.” Al-Masaq 22 (2010): 235–248

Abdullah ibn Buluggin. The Tibyan: Memoirs of Abd Allah b. Buluggin, Last Zirid Emir of Granada. Leiden: Brill, 1986. Translated by Amin Tibi.

Pierre Guichard and Bruna Soravia. Los reinos de taifas: Fragmentacion politica y esplendor cultural. Malaga, 2006

Andrew Handler. The Zirids of Granada. Miami, 1974

Goran Larsson. Ibn Garcia’s Shu’ubiyya Letter: Ethnic and Theological Tensions in Medieval al-Andalus. Brill, 2003

Peter Scales. The Fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba: Berbers and Andalusis in Conflict. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

David Wasserstein. The Rise and Fall of the Party-kings: Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002-1086. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985

Imágenes de Granada. 25: La Granada de la Plataforma de Ambrosio de Vico


Granada in the Early Modern era

Originally posted on Alberto Granados:

En el último cuarto del S. XVI y en plena contrarreforma, el Arzobispo don Pedro de Castro y Quiñones encargó al arquitecto Ambrosio de Vico que realizara un plano de la ciudad. Quienes observen la llamadaPlataforma de Vico y observen la leyenda, encabezada por todas las iglesias locales, podrán observar el énfasis en hacer de nuestra ciudad todo un escaparate de la más pura ortodoxia religiosa.

Téngase en cuenta, que la Plataforma coincide en el tiempo con el gigantesco fraude de loslibros plúmbeos, con el que algunos moriscos trataron de simular una aparición milagrosa que eliminaba las distancias entre cristianismo, islam y judaísmo, conjurando con ello el miedo a la Inquisición. La aparición de dichos libros y del cuerpo de San Cecilio, provocó un renacer de la fe y la ciudad se llenó de cruces, especialmente en el camino que conducía al nuevo Monte Sacro o Sacromonte.

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