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By the beginning of the sixteenth century the whole of Spain was under the control of the Catholics, and the unimpeded practice of Islam in its total social nexus was no longer possible. There were still Muslims, especially in the remote mountain villages of what had been Muslim Spain, but after three centuries of fighting and persecution, a large number of the Muslims of Spain were either dead or gone. Those who remained held to as much of their Islam as was possible, but they faced the prospect of increased bondage.

Having reduced the Muslims, especially in the North, to slavery the Church now concentrated on making them into Christian slaves. The Christians began a concerted drive throughout Spain to eliminate all those who were still practising the fundamental actions of Islam, and who claimed not to have been baptised. The rural communities of the Mudejares in the north of Andalusia were special targets.... The influence of the Church was now much greater, however, and with the subjugation of the Muslims in Granada, the bargaining position of the Mudejares was no longer so strong. One year after the suppression of the rebellion in Alpujarras, the process of Christianising the Mudejares was commenced in the North:

Ten years after the expulsion of the Jews, Isabella, on 12th February 1502, issued a royal order giving all remaining Moors in the realms of Castile the choice between baptism and expulsion. The majority of the native Moorish communities, the Mudejares, chose to stay and be baptised. How free such a choice was is illustrated by the fact that emigration was made literally impossible. The historian Galindez de Carvajal says that although Moors were technically allowed to leave if they chose, in practice the authorities would not allow them go and instead forced them to accept baptism. Under such conditions the mass of the remaining Moorish population of Castile came into the Catholic fold.

The process of converting the Mudejares of Castile to the official religion was speeded up by dividing their families. Under Isabella's decree, all males under the age of fourteen and all females under the age of twelve were separated from the families and handed over to the Church to be brought up as Christians. Isabella's decree signaled the beginning of a fresh campaign against the Mudejares throughout the North....

When Charles V was crowned king, fresh requests were made by the nobles to overhaul the Spanish Inquisition, and to instil a little justice into its procedure. As a result of these protestations the new king promised that they would neither be expelled nor forcibly baptised. His Catholic advisers, however ensured that the liberties enjoyed by the Inquisitors would not be restricted in any way. By this stage even the papacy, which had been responsible for the institution of the Inquisition in the first place, could not influence the Spanish Inquisition, so inflexible was its hold on the land. In July, 1519, Pope Leo X:

... issued three briefs, one to Charles, one to the Inquisitor General, and one to the tribunal of Saragossa, reducing the powers of the Inquisition to the bounds of ordinary canon law, and revoking all special privileges granted by his predecessors. Charles and his officials refused to allow the publication of the briefs in Spain, and instead a firm protest was sent to Rome. The pope now shifted his position and suspended the briefs without revoking them....

To the argument that the conversions had taken place under compulsion, the standard answer was once again given, that to choose baptism as an alternative to death meant the exercise of free choice, which rendered the sacrament of baptism valid. The Inquisition was therefore ordered to proceed on the assumption that all 'properly' executed baptisms were valid. The task was now to save the Moriscos from relapsing into their old faith.


The fate of the Moriscos in the South was no different to that of the Moriscos in the North. Their mass baptism which has been organized by Ximenes in the first years of the sixteenth century was completed well before the mass baptism of the Mudejares in the North, and if anything the subsequent persecution by the Spanish Inquisition was more severe in the South than in North.... For the majority of Moriscos this meant the imposition of silence whenever they were in the presence of a Catholic Christian, for Arabic was the only language they knew. They were also forbidden to wear Muslim dress:

... tailors were not to make garments nor silver-smiths jewels after their fashion; their baths were prohibited; all births were to be watched by Christian midwives to see that no Moorish rites were performed; disarmament was to be enforced by a rigid inspection of licences; their doors were to be kept open on feast-days, Fridays, Saturdays, and during weddings, to see that Moorish rites were abandoned and Christian ones observed; schools for the education of children in Castilian were to be established in Granada, Guadix and Almeria; no Moorish names were to be used and they were not to keep gacis or unbaptised Moors either free or as slaves.

The provisions of the Edict prohibited virtually every aspect of Islam in a Muslim's life from birth to death.

No Morisco woman was allowed to act as a midwife. A Christian midwife was posted in every Morisco village. She supervised al1 the pregnant women and as soon as a baby was born, the priest was called and the baby was baptised. There was thus no opportunity to call the adhan (call to prayer) into the child's ear at the time of birth, and if the baby was a boy he could not be circumcised, nor could a ram be sacrificed in thanksgiving. The most that the Moriscos could do under the circumstances was to bathe the baby where the priest had touched it, in an attempt to 'undo' the baptism....

...that cemeteries could be established near the churches changed from mosques, but Old Christians were not to be debarred from burial there if they wished. This partially satisfied them and it continued until 1591 when it was ordered that they should be buried inside of the churches, which was so abhorrent to them that they vainly offered more than thirty thousand ducats if king or pope would allow them to be interred elsewhere, even though in dunghills.

Between birth and death the Muslims faced continual persecution, and in the process the family structure was severely affected....


E-Books on Islam and Muslims

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Dr. A. Zahoor
All Rights Reserved
Excerpts from Ahmad Thomson's book on the subject of Islam in Spain, 1989.
"Islam in Andalus," Revised Edition by A. Thomson and M. Ata'ur-Rahim, Ta-Ha Publishers, London, 1996.