The Real Tragedy of Andalusia

March 1, 2006
By Ibn Iblis

    We intend to struggle so that our Palestinian homeland does not become a new Andalusia. - Abu Iyad, second in command to Yasser Arafat, 1974 1

    Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalusia would be repeated in Palestine. We cannot accept that Palestine will become Jewish. - Osama bin Laden 2

Andalusia, or Al-Andalus, was the area of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic control during the middle ages. For Bin Laden, the "tragedy" of Andalusia is the Reconquista - the liberation of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim rule, which came to an end in 1492. But an objective analysis of the history of Al-Andalus shows us that the real "tragedy" was the yoke of Islamic persecution non-Muslims in Al-Andalus suffered under for nearly 800 years.

Muslim apologists claim that Andalusian Spain represented the "Golden Age" of enlightened Islamic tolerance and peaceful co-existance with other faiths. This is a dispicable exaggeration. In the tradition of the Prophet and the Banu Qurayza, and re-enforced by the precedents set by Arab conquerers of Syria, Egypt, and Persia, those who offered up armed resistance suffered the full effect of Islamic custom - that is, the summary execution of all adult males and the enslavement of women and children.

Those who surrendered peacefully were spared death and enslavement, but the conditions they suffered regardless hardly support the myth of Islamic tolerance. Jews and Christians were prohibited from building new churches and synagogues, or repairing their old ones. They were segregated in special quarters and foced to wear discriminatory clothing. They of course had to pay the non-Muslim poll tax, the jizya, and the Muslim land tax, the kharaj. This is contrary to the rosy picture painted by contemporary Western media, which claims ridiculously that "The ... Islamic polity not only allowed Jews and Christians to survive, but following Qur'anic mandate, by and large protected them." 3 We're reminded that that Qur'anic mandate, as dictated in Qur'an 9.29, orders Muslims to fight the 'People of the Book' until they pay the tax in humiliation recognizing the superiority of Islam. And of course, the question that begs to be asked is, protected them from whom? The Muslims to whom Spain was an alien land and had no business being there in the first place?

Other accounts describe Andalusian Islam's pan-confessional humanism, asserting, again ridiculously, that "one could argue that the oft-bewailed missing 'reformation' of Islam was under way there until it was aborted by the Inquisition."4 Never mind that the Muslim "inquisition", discussed a little later, preceded the Christian one by some 300 years. As historian Richard Fletcher puts it, "The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion - to mention only a few disruptive episodes - must give it the lie ... Beauty? Yes, a fair amount of it. Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Grenada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later)."5

Here we are presented with two starkly contrasting points of view of Andalusian Spain. Which is right? In Muslim Spain we see a classic historical example of what Bat Ye'or has termed dhimmitude, the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. The conditions of the dhimmi in Spain were not necessarily unique - the dhimmi were a despised and repressed underclass no matter where Islam ruled - yet somehow the conditions they lived under have been revisioned into something of a model for tolerance.

By the death of the fourth and last of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, Ali, Muslim armies were adapt at jihad across both land and sea. In the Mediterranean, they'd conquered Cyprus, and slaughtered the populations of Crete and Cos Rhodes 6. In 711 the Muslims cross the Straight of Gibraltar into Spain, which then becomes the front line of jihad for centuries as wave after wave of Arabs established fiefdoms cultivated by the native inhabitants, who soon became slaves or tributaries.

Muslim apologists claim the Muslims were "invited" into Spain to take over for the Visigoths; their reason being that the conquest was conjointly planned and carried out with a faction of Iberian Christian dissidents, but this invasion was a textbook example of jihad. It began with a series of razzias (raids) into Spain from the Maghrib during the early 8th century, causing great devestation. Then around 711, the governor of North Africa, Musa ibn Nusayr, sent an army under the command of Tariq to conquer Spain for Islam permanently. In 712 the last Visigothic king, Roderic, was killed in a decisive battle against Tariq, after which the rest of Iberia swiftly fell to the Muslims. Most churches were converted into mosques or otherwise destroyed. There were massive pillages, enslavements, deportations and murders. Towns that revolted, such as Toledo in 713, were punished by pillage; in Toledo's case, all the notables had their throats slit and in the surrounding countryside there was death and devestation. In 730, the population of Cerdagne was ravaged and a bishop burned alive 7.

It is true that many aspects of the dhimma, or "covenant of protection" (those who fell under the jurisdiction of the dhimma are referred to as dhimmis), were not enforced at all times. Some of these conditions I described previously. But this was due to practicality, not religious tolerance. The Jews and Christians of Muslim Spain greatly outnumbered their Muslim rulers, a balance which was not altered for centuries after the conquest, and thus the level of autonomy granted to the dhimmis providing they recognized Islam's authority and paid the jizya, which was typically an annual cash payment supplemented with agricultural products, helped keep the conquered lands subdued.

Further, several other factors disrupted the stability of the emirate. The city of Toledo along with others were in a state of near perpetual rebellion. The Berbers, the original conquerers of Spain, were eventually relegated to second-class status by Arab immigrants who came to rule Andalusia. They revolted in 740, initiating a civil war and a period of chaos that caused widespread damage and economic dislocation. On top of all this, the emirate also had to deal with the Carolingian expansion into lands previously under Islamic control, particularly Aquitaine and Septimania. In 778 Charlemagne penetrated Spain itself, though this campaign was a disaster (the governor of Zaragoza had appealed to him for aid against the Muslims, but then changed his mind and refused to allow the Franks to enter. As the army withdrew, they were ambushed by Basques in the pass of Roncesvalles and destroyed). Aquitaine later became a Frankish sub-kingdom under the control of Charlemagne's son Louis, who conquered Barcelona in the early 9th century. So the emirs had more important things to worry about than punishing Christians and Jews for otherwise insignificant infractions.

Thus it appears that, though records show almost all the churches and synagogues in Spain were destroyed, new ones sprung up. Further, church bells rang in Cordoba to indicate the canonical hours, and Christian funeral processions passed through Muslim neighborhoods, all of which violated the dhimma. Though these violations provoked no official censure, they were still the target of Muslim scorn. Eulogius, a Christian martyr who chronocled life in Islamic Spain before his death, lamented that the "clang of the reverberating metal" evoked curses from any Muslim within earshot. Priests were subjected to verbal abuse and pelted with rocks and dung while taking the dead to the cemetary 8.

Despite being spared the full brunt of their pact with their Muslim masters, the jizya was an "unbearable tax" 9 that weighed heavily on the dhimmi. The irony should not be lost on any rational reader that, in a land where revisionist historians laud the muticultural tolerance of its rulers, an underclass was proclaimed and forced to pay a tax specifically because of their religious beliefs. The fact that discriminatory taxes were not uncommon in medieval lands does nothing to make the jizya a neutral variable when determining the overall tolerance of Muslim Spain, especially since it is required by Muslim law as stated by verse 9.29 of the Qur'an and various hadith.

Though most tenets of the dhimma were overlooked by the Muslim rulers early on, there were two aspects that they did not waver on: the payment of the discriminatory jizya, and the prohibition against blaspheming Islam or the prophet Muhammad. Once again the irony should not be lost that, again, in a land where revisionist historians laud the muticultural tolerance of its rulers, its conquerors destroyed practically every church and synagogue and them banned the newly subjugated inhabitants from speaking ill against Islam. Unlike ringing church bells or funerals passing through Muslim neighborhoods, the penalty for blaspheming Islam was severe.

In 850 a priest named Perfectus was stopped by a group of Muslims and, seeing he was a priest, asked him to explain his Catholic faith and the give his opinions about Islam. Perfectus turned them down, fearing he would only provoke them, but when they promised to protect him he acceeded. The Muslims were angered by Perfectus' harsh criticism of Islam, who proclaimed Muhammad to be one of the false prophets foretold by Christ and cited his moral depravity. A few days later the Muslims violated their vow to protect him and turned him over to the magistrate, testifying that they had blasphemed the prophet. Perfectus was later beheaded before a group of Muslims who had gathered for the feast breaking the Ramadan fast 10. Later a merchant named Joannes was flogged severely, publicly humiliated, and enprisoned for invoking Muhammad's name as he sold his merchandise in the marketplace.

In 851 a monk, Isaac, approached a Cordoban qâdi - an Islamic authority appointed to administer Islamic law and maintain standards of religious observance. To the qâdi he said, "I desire to embrace your faith, if you will offer me instruction." The qâdi had barely had the chance to elabortate on the life of Muhammad when Isaac said, "Your prophet has lied, he has decieved you; may he be accursed, wretch that he is, who has dragged so many wretches with him down to hell! Why don't you, as a man of sense, abjure these pestilent doctrines? Is it possible that you believe in the impostures of Muhammad? Embrace Christianity - therein lies salvation!" Taken aback, the judge slapped Isaac and had him brought before the emir, Abd-ar-Rahmân II, who, despite the pleadings of the qâdi, who thought he must be insane, insisted that the full measure of the law be carried out. Isaac was beheaded and for several days his headless body was hung upside down for public viewing; he was then burned and his ashes were cast into the river to prevent the Christians from honoring him 11. Rahmân then proclaimed an edict threatening future violators with the same punishment. However, over the next four days, seven more Christians followed Isaac's example. Two days after Isaac's death, a Christian soldier named Sanctius was beheaded. Within two days of Sanctius' execution six more Christians presented themselves before Islamic authorities and proclaimed, "We abide by the same confession, O judge, that our most holy brothers Isaac and Sanctius professed. Now hand down the sentence, multiply your cruelty, be kindled with complete fury in vengeance for your prophet. We confess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of antichrist and an author of a profane doctrine."12 In addition to beheading the violators, Rahmân ordered the arrest of the entire clerical leadership. This halted the outbursts for a time, but in 852, a week before Rahmân's death, four more Christians were beheaded.

Because of these martyrdoms, and under the influence of Malikite (a school of Islamic thought, among the more strict) jurists in the emir's court, Muhammad I, Rahmân's son, began enforcing aspects of the dhimma that had not been previously enforced. "On the very day that he received the scepter of the kingdom," Eulogius wrote, "he ordered all Christians to leave the palace, deprived them of their dignity, and removed their honor." These jurists, according to Eulogius, "laboring with a similar zeal against God, afflicted, subverted and oppressed [Christians] everywhere."13 Muhammad ordered the destruction of all newly constructed churches. This edict, again, was never fully enforced because Muhammad was tormented by perennial uprisings in Toledo and other cities where Muslims had not yet settled in great numbers.

One can almost predict the Leftist self-loathing deflection to this discrimination and oppression; the same reaction many had to the Rushdie affair: they "asked for it". The fact that these Christian martyrs broke their pact with their conquerers does nothing to change the fact that the dhimma is discriminatory inandofitself. Why shouldn't the Christians have spoken out against it? Why shouldn't they have rebelled against a regime that relagated them to a despised underclass, destroying their cultural heritage? Further, didn't these persecutions merely prove the martyrs' point, that the Muslims multiplied their cruelty and professed a profane doctrine? Perhaps not to the Muslims, who recieved their moral direction from that very doctrine, but certainly to the objective critic.

The status of non-Muslims ebbed and waned throughout Spain's Islamic era. There is a difference between Allah's morality and human nature. Living amongst Jews and Christians, it is natural that Muslims would start to see them as human beings, not the "unclean" descendants of apes and pigs the Qur'an says they are. And thus, though the law, both Allah and Muhammad's as well as the emir's, was clear, there were times when the dhimmi enjoyed a certain measure of equality. This tranquility was usually disrupted when Islamic jurists reminded Muslims of the dhimmi's place in Islamic society, and revived the average Muslim's religious zeal to put them back in that place.

For example, in Granada between 1056 and 1066, two Jewish high executives - viziers - Samuel Ibn Naghrela and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated. The ensuing pogrom slaughtered as many as five thousand Jews, and was likely inspired at least in part by a disturbing anti-Jewish ode written by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq:

    Go, my messenger, go and relate these words to all the Sinhejites - the full moons and lions of our days - these words of a man who loves them, who pities them, and who believes that he would fail in his religious duties if he did not give them salutory counsels:

    Your master has done a deed at which his ill-wishers rejoice: though he could choose a minister among believers, he has chosen an infidel! Through his minister, the Jews, contemptable outcasts, have become great lords, and their pride and arrogance know no bounds. When they least expected it they have obtained their heart's desire; they have attained the highest honors, so that the vilest ape among these unbelievers today reckons among his menials a multitude of pious and devout Moslems. And all this not by any efforts of their own. Nay! he who has raised them so high is a man of our own religion! Ah, why did he not follow the example set him by devout princes of the days gone by? Why did he not humble the Jews and treat them as the vilest of mortals? Then in droves they would have led among us a vagabond life, the target of our aversion and disdain; then they would not have treated our nobles with arrogance and our saints with scorn; then would not these vile creatures have sat by our side and ridden with the nobles of our court.

    O Badis (the amir), you are a sagacious man, and your conjectures are very sooth; how then were you blind to the evil which would be done by these demons who lift up their horns in your dominions? How could you show affection for those bastards who have made you odious in men's sight? How can you hope to establish your power when these wretches pull down what you build up? How can you place such confidence in a villain, and make him your family friend? Have you forgotten how that the Almighty has said in His Book that we should have no fellowship with the ungodly? Take not such men for your ministers, but abandon them to curses, for the whole earth cries out against them - before long will it quake and we shall all perish. Turn your eyes to other lands and behold how the Jews are treated as dogs, and kept apart. Where you alone take another course, you, O prince beloved of your people, descended from a line of kings, you who surpasses your contemporaries even as your ancestors surpassed theirs?

    I came to Grenada, and there I beheld the Jews reigning. they had parcelled out the provinces and the capital between them: everywhere one of these accursed ruled. They collected the taxes, they made good cheer, they were sumptuously clad, while your garments, O Muslims, were old and worn out. All the secrets of the state were known to them; yet it is folly to put trust in traitors! While believers ate the bread of poverty, they dined delicately in the palace. They have supplanted you in your master's favor, O Muslims, and will you not oppose them? Will you suffer them? They slaughter oxen and sheep in our markets, and you eat without scruple the flesh of beasts unclean in their eyes! The chief of these apes has adorned his mansion with incrustations of marble, and has made fountains from where limpid waters flow; and while we stand waiting at the gate he scoffs at us and our religion. Great God! What disgrace! If I were to say that he is as rich as you are, my king, I should speak truth. Ah, hasten to slay him, and offer him up as a burnt-offering! Sacrifice him, for he is a fat ram! Spare not his kinsfolk and his friends, for they too have heaped up great riches. Take their wealth; you who has more right to it than they. Think not that it would be treachery to slay them! Nay, but true treachery it is to suffer them to sit in high places. They have broken their covenant with us; who then would dare to blame you if you punish the perjurers? How can we thrive if we live in the shade and the Jews dazzle us with their glory and their pride?. 14

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for Melik Kaylan to argue that the oft-bewailed missing 'reformation' of Islam was under way there until it was aborted by Abu Ishaq. These Jews had stepped out of bounds by accepting positions of prominence in Muslim society, and they were punished for it.

Other inequities abounded. The sincerity of Jewish converts to Islam was always in doubt, and thus Muslim "inquisitors" removed the children of such converts and placed them in the care of Muslim educators. Maimonides, the preeminent Jewish philosopher and physician, has somehow been touted as one of the best examples of the mutual tolerance between Muslims, Jews, and Christians that led to the cultural flowering in Muslim Spain. This despite the fact that he was expelled from Cordoba along with his entire family in 1148 15, and despite his own writings to the contrary:

    Remember, my coreligionists, that on account of the vast number of our sins, God has hurled us in the midst of this people, the Arabs, who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us....Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they..." 16

The expulsion Maimonides was victim to was the final of three major expulsions ordered by the Almoravids, the prior two taking place in 1106 and 1126. Reinhart Dozy, the Dutch Arab historian, chronicled the events leading up to and surrounding the mass deportations:

    The Christians, or Mozarabs as they were called, suffered still more: the Fakihs and the populace fostered against them a yet more envenomed hatred. In most towns they formed but a small community: but in the province of Granada they were still numerous, and near the capital they possessed a beautiful church, which had been built about 600 C.E. by Gudila, a Gothic noble. This church was an offense to the Fakihs. Basing their action, probably, on the autority of the Khalif 'Omar II ... they issued a fetwa decreeing its demolition. Yusuf having given his approval, the sacred edifice was leveled with the ground (A.D. 1099). Other churches seem to have met with a similar fate, and the Fakihs treated the Mozarabs so oppressively that the latter at length appealed to Alfonso the Battler, King of Aragon, to deliver them from their intolerable burdens. Alfonso acceded to their request. In September, 1125, he set out with four thousand knights and their men at-arms, all sworn on the Gospels not the desert one another. Alfonso, did not however, achieve the results he aimed at ... the ultimate object of the expedition had been the capture of Granada, and this was not effected. Upon the withdrawal of the Aragonese army, the Moslems cruelly avenged themselves on the Mozarabs. Ten thousand of the Christians were already out of their reach, for knowing the fate in store for them they had obtained permission from Alfonso to settle in his territories; but many who remained were deprived of their property, maltreated in endless ways, thrown into prision or put to death. The majority, however, were transported to Africa, and endured terrible sufferings, ultimately settling in the vicinity of Saleh and Mequinez (A.D. 1126). This deportation was carried out by virtue of a decree which the Kady Ibn Rushd - grandfathter of the famous Averroes - had procured from Ali. Eleven years later a second expulsion of the Mozarabs took place, and very few were left in Andalusia 17.

Even if Muslim Spain could be deemed "tolerant" by Medieval standards - and al-Andalus was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch 18 - dhimmitude is utterly incompatible with modern ideas of equality between human beings, regardless of religious creed. Unfortunately for modern civilization, particularly those of us in the West, dhimmitude is an inseperable tenat of jihad, which is a pillar upon which Islam stands. Non-Muslims have been persecuted anywhere Dar al-Islam has reigned, and will be persecuted in lands Dar al-Islam reigns in the future


Notes
[1] Bat Ye'or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam; pg. 122 [2] Osama bin Laden statement, October 2001 [3] María Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World, quoted by Andrew Bostom [4] Malik Kaylan, Wall Street Journal July 2003 [5] Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain; pp. 171-172 [6] Bat Ye'or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam; pg. 50 [7] Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad; pg 423 [8] Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain; pg. 12 [9] Ibid.; pp. 9 [10] Ibid. pg. 24 [11] Reinhardt Dozy, Spanish Islam; pp. 284-285 [12] Wolf, CMMS pg. 25 [13] Ibid.; pg 16 [14] Dozy; pp 651-652 [15] Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude; pg. 88 [16] Ye'or, The Dhimmi; pg. 351 [17] Dozy; pp. 721-722 [18] Fletcher; pg. 173

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