One of the most famous pieces of Andalusi poetry is the Ratha’ al-Andalus (“Lament for al-Andalus”)–written in the late thirteenth century by Abu Baqa’ al-Rundi (d. 1285)–which laments the fall of various towns and cities in the Iberian peninsula to the Castilian and Aragonese conquerors between 1220 and 1248. In the poem, al-Rundi mourns the fall of Muslim civilization in Andalusia and decries the atrocities committed against the conquered Muslim population, devoting particular attention to the oppression and subjugation of his compatriots. In many ways, his poem is also a major critique of the Muslim powers of the day for their failure to act to prevent the tragedy. Although there is much that can be said about the poem in its historical context, it is to the present which I hope to draw attention.
Al-Rundi refers to the city of Seville–the effective capital of al-Andalus after Cordoba–as Homs, which was one of the ways in which the Arabs residing in Islamic Spain referred to the city. It is said that they named it Homs because the city reminded them of the illustrious beauty of Homs in Syria. Today, Homs tragically lies in ruins after being bombarded and destroyed by the ruthless Baathist regime in Syria. As I write this, Homs and Aleppo provinces in Syria are being subjected to unspeakable atrocities by the Baathist regime and its allies. I hope that the words of Abu Baqa’ al-Rundi will be appreciated and their relevance to the tragic reality of Homs and Aleppo will be understood upon reading the poem:
وأين حمصُ وما تحويه من نزهٍ * ونهرها العذب فياض وملآنُ
قواعدٌ كنَّ أركانَ البلاد فما * عسى البقاء إذا لم تبقى أركان
تبكي الحنيفيةَ البيضاءَ من أسفٍ * كما بكى لفراق الإلف هيمانُ
حتى المحاريبُ تبكي وهي جامدةٌ * حتى المنابرُ ترثي وهي عيدانُ
يا غافلاً وله في الدهرِ موعظةٌ * إن كنت في سِنَةٍ فالدهر يقظانُ
وماشيًا مرحًا يلهيه موطنهُ * أبعد حمصٍ تَغرُّ المرءَ أوطانُ
تلك المصيبةُ أنْسَتْ ما تقدَّمها * وما لها مع طولَ الدهرِ نسيانُ
كم يستغيث بنا المستضعفون وهم * قتلى وأسرى فما يهتز إنسان
لماذا التقاطع في الإسلام بينكمُ * وأنتمْ يا عباد الله إخوانُ
ألا نفوسٌ أبيَّاتٌ لها هممٌ * أما على الخيرِ أنصارٌ وأعوانُ
يا من لذلةِ قومٍ بعدَ عزِّهُمُ * أحال حالهمْ جورُ وطغيانُ
بالأمس كانوا ملوكًا في منازلهم * واليومَ هم في بلاد الضدِّ عبدانُ
فلو تراهم حيارى لا دليل لهمْ * عليهمُ من ثيابِ الذلِ ألوانُ
ولو رأيتَ بكاهُم عندَ بيعهمُ * لهالكَ الأمرُ واستهوتكَ أحزانُ
يا ربَّ أمٍّ وطفلٍ حيلَ بينهما * كما تفرقَ أرواحٌ وأبدانُ
وطفلةٍ مثل حسنِ الشمسِ * إذ طلعت كأنما ياقوتٌ ومرجانُ
يقودُها العلجُ للمكروه مكرهةً * والعينُ باكيةُ والقلبُ حيرانُ
لمثل هذا يذوبُ القلبُ من كمدٍ * إن كان في القلب إسلامٌ وإيمانُ
–ابو بقاء الرندي “رثاء الأندلس”
Where is Homs and the righteousness it contains, as well as its sweet river overflowing and brimming full?
It was among the capitals which were the pillars of the land, yet when the pillars are gone, it may no longer endure!
The tap of the white ablution fount weeps in despair, like a passionate lover weeping at the departure of the beloved,
Even the prayer niches weep though they are solid; even the pulpits mourn though they are wooden!
O you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!
And you who walk forth cheerfully while your homeland diverts you [from cares], can a homeland beguile any man after [the loss of] Homs?
This misfortune has caused those that preceded it to be forgotten, nor can it ever be forgotten for the length of all time!
How often have the weak, who were being killed and captured while no man stirred, asked our help?
What means this severing of the bonds of Islam on your behalf, when you, O worshipers of God, are [our] brethren?
Are there no heroic souls with lofty ambitions; are there no helpers and defenders of righteousness?
O, who will redress the humiliation of a people who were once powerful, a people whose condition injustice and tyrants have changed?
Yesterday they were kings in their own homes, but today they are slaves in the land of the tyrant!
Thus, were you to see them perplexed, with no one to guide them, wearing the cloth of shame in its different shades,
And were you to behold their weeping when they are sold, the matter would strike fear into your heart, and sorrow would seize you.
Alas, many a mother and child have been parted as souls and bodies are separated!
And many a maiden fair as the sun when it rises, as though she were rubies and pearls,
Is led off to abomination by a barbarian against her will, while her eye is in tears and her heart is stunned.
The heart melts with sorrow at such [sights], if there is any Islam or belief in that heart!
Homs (February 2013)