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Fray Alonso de Mella (ca. 1445) on the Muslims of Granada

Alonso de Mella, born in Zamora, was an important Franciscan preacher who was one of the main instigators of the so-called “Durango Heresy” which sprung up in the Basque country between 1442 and 1444. This heresy promoted communitarian/communistic ideas and the interpretation of the Bible against established authority. Hundreds of the adherents of this movement were publicly burnt by the ecclesiastical and political authorities. As a result, Fray Alonso–and several others–sought refuge in the Nasrid kingdom of Granada around 1443. The following is an excerpt from a long letter written by Fray Alonso to King Juan II of Castile (d. 1454) in which the former requested that a committee of clerics be formed to investigate the merits of the ideas being promoted by all those accused of the Durango heresy. The section translated within this letter is chosen to demonstrate the peculiar attitude of Fray Alonso towards the religious status of the Muslims of Granada, who are deemed to be believers.



[…] Propter omnes supra dictas causas, o domine, stantes nos supradicti in dicto regno, et dilegenter perscrutantes et examinantes fidem quam sarraceni tenent et credunt, reperimus dictors sarracenos non esse infidels, sicut illuc dicitur, quinymmo reperimus eos esse catholicos et fideles et credentes in solum verum Deum, creatorem celi et terre, quem cum tanta fide, timore, humilitate, reverential et devotione adorant et honorant in omnibus suis factis et dictis. Et placeret Deo, quod illi qui dicunt se christianos timerent eum, crederent, adorarent cum tanta reverential et timore. Item reperimus dictos sarracenos credentes et confitentes omnia sancta facta et dicta Ihesu Christi, quem, multo amplius quam christiani, in suis verbis et factis honorant, credentes de ipso quod secundum rationem potest et debet creditum esse. Reperimus etiam eos dispositos audire et auscultare omne illud quod secundum rationem potest verificari; secundum quas rationes in eis repertas veraciter cognoscimus Deum non esse duntaxat Deum christianorum, sed esse Deum omnium illorum qui recte credunt in eum, et per digna opera adimplent mandata sua. Et quod Deus non est acceptor personarum, cum sit pater omnium et sit illi cura de omnibus (Sap. 6.8) nam occuli omnium respiciunt in eum, qui non vult mortem peccatoris (Ez. 33.11), nec delectatur in perdition morientium. […]


[…] For all the reasons mentioned above, your Majesty, we the aforementioned being in this kingdom [of Granada] have been carefully examining and inquiring into the faith which the Muslims hold and profess. We find that the Muslims are not unbelievers [infidels], as is said at home, but rather we found them to be sincere believers in the One, True God, Creator of heaven and earth, the God whom with such faith, fear, humility, reverence and devotion they worship and honor in all their deeds and words. May it please God that those who call themselves Christians should fear, believe, worship and honor Him with equal reverence and awe. Then again, we found that the Muslims believe and accept all the holy deeds and words of Jesus Christ, whom, much more than do the Christians, they honor in their words and deeds, believing in those things which according to reason can and should be believed about Him. We found them also disposed to hear and listen to everything which in reason can be verified. According to the reasoning which we observed in them we truly recognized that God is not merely the God of the Christians, but the God of all those who properly believe in Him, and who by worthy deeds do His bidding. Also, that God makes no distinction of persons, but is the Father of all and is concerned with everybody who turns his eyes towards Him (Wisdom of Solomon 6.8), and who does not wish the death of any sinner (Ezekiel 33.11), nor does He take pleasure in the damnation of the dying. […]

(Colin Smith ed., Christians and Moors in Spain: Volume II, 1195-1614 [Warminster: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 1989], pp.134-135)



Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350) on the Divine Law

Imam Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn al-Qayyim (d. 1350), the great Hanbali jurist and theologian, said, “Verily, the Divine Law (Shari’a) is founded upon wisdom and welfare for the servants in this life and the afterlife. In its entirety it is justice, mercy, benefit, and wisdom. Every matter which abandons justice for tyranny, mercy for cruelty, benefit for corruption, and wisdom for foolishness is not a part of the Divine Law even if it was introduced therein by an interpretation.”

قال ابن القيم فَإِنَّ الشَّرِيعَةَ مَبْنَاهَا وَأَسَاسُهَا عَلَى الْحِكَمِ وَمَصَالِحِ الْعِبَادِ فِي الْمَعَاشِ وَالْمَعَادِ وَهِيَ عَدْلٌ كُلُّهَا وَرَحْمَةٌ كُلُّهَا وَمَصَالِحُ كُلُّهَا وَحِكْمَةٌ كُلُّهَا فَكُلُّ مَسْأَلَةٍ خَرَجَتْ عَنْ الْعَدْلِ إلَى الْجَوْرِ وَعَنْ الرَّحْمَةِ إلَى ضِدِّهَا وَعَنْ الْمَصْلَحَةِ إلَى الْمَفْسَدَةِ وَعَنْ الْحِكْمَةِ إلَى الْبَعْثِ فَلَيْسَتْ مِنْ الشَّرِيعَةِ وَإِنْ أُدْخِلَتْ فِيهَا بِالتَّأْوِيلِ

إعلام الموقعين عن رب العالمين


Julian the Apostate (d. 363)

Today marks the 1650th anniversary since the death of the last pagan Roman emperor (Julian the Apostate). His death marks the beginning of the permanent ascendancy of Christianity as a religio-political force in the Roman Empire, Europe, and the Mediterranean world. Interestingly, Emperor Julian was killed by an Arab (possibly Christian) assassin from the tribe of Ta’i in Syria and Iraq while he was campaigning against Sassanid Iran.

This Coptic icon, which represents Julian being killed by St. Mercurius (known as “Abu Seifein” or “Master of the Two Swords” in Arabic), is interesting because it shows how Middle Eastern Christianity transformed the death of Julian into a miraculous event.


Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial

This is where I will be spending the summer doing archival research.




An Avicennan Prayer

The following is a supplication made by the great Muslim philosopher Ibn Sina/Avicenna (d. 1037)

نَعْوُذُ بِكَ اللّٰهُمَ مِنْ شَّرِ فِتْنَةٍ
تُطَوِّقُ مِنْ حَلَّتْ بِهِ عِيْشَةً ضَنْكَا
رَجَعْنَا إِلَيْكَ ٱلآنَ فَٱقْبَلْ رُجُوعَنَا
وَقَلِّبْ قُلُوباً طَالَ إِعْرَاضُهَا عَنْكَا
فَإِنْ أَنْتَ لَمْ تُبرِئْ سَقَامَ نُفُوسِنَا
وَتَشْفِي عَمَايَاهَا إِذَنْ فَلِمَنْ يُشْكَى
– ابن سينا

I seek refuge in You, O Lord, from the evils of strife.
I forsake the trivial seduction of the world, necklace of a narrow life.
I now return to You, accept my return,
and change this heart that has for so long turned away from You.
If You do not restore my ailing soul and heal its blindness,
to whom would I raise my complaint?

(From H. Jahien et A. Nourreddine, Anthologie des textes poétiques attribués à Avicenne, Alger, Fac. de médecine, 1960, p. 103.)


Isidore of Seville (d. 636): “In Praise of Spain”

Omnium terrarum, quaeque sunt ab occiduo usque ad Indos, pulcherrima es, o sacra, semperque felix principum, gentiumque mater Hispania. Jure tu nunc omnium regina provinciarum, a qua non Occasus tantum, sed etiam Oriens lumina mutuat. Tu decus, atque ornamentum orbis, illustrior portio terrae.

Of all the lands from the West to the Indies, you Spain, O sacred and always fortunate mother of princes and peoples, are the most beautiful. Rightly are you now the queen of all provinces, from which not only the west but also the east borrows its shining lights. You are the pride and ornament of the world, the more illustrious part of the earth.

(Isiodore of Seville, History of the Goths, Vandals and Suevi)



Gold Dinar of Alfonso VIII of Castile (r. 1158-1215)

Below are images of gold dinar minted by the Alfonso VIII of Castile (r. 1158-1214)–known primarily as the victor at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212)–in Toledo around 1185. Despite being a Christian king, the style of the coin follows that of other Andalusi coins and most of the inscriptions are Arabic. On one side it reads: amir / al-qatuliqin / alfuns / ibn shanja / ayyidahu allah wa nasarahu (“Prince of the Catholics, Alfonso son of Sancho, May God protect and assist him!”).


On the other side, there is an image of a cross and the inscription imam al-bay’a / al-masihiyya al-baba / ALF (“the spiritual leader of the Christians, the Pope/AlF(onso)”), with the following in the margins: bism al-ab wa’l-ibn wa’l-ruh al-quds al-ilah al-wahid man amana wa ta’ammada yakunu salim (“in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, who so believeth in Him and is baptized will be saved”).