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The Muslims of South Andalusia

... The capitulation of Granada, only nine years after the Spanish Inquisition had come into being, is all indication of the efficiency of this institution, and the determination of the Christians to oust the Muslims from Spain. The capitulation, however was not achieved solely by force of arms, and the Muslims of the South only surrendered once they felt that they had secured the freedom to continue their practice of Islam unmolested and unrestricted in any way. Abu 'Abdullah, the last Khalif of Granada, only agreed to surrender once a solemn and binding treaty had been witnessed by both the Christians and the Muslims.

The treaty of 1492 was thus an attempt to win religious tolerance for all the Muslims left in Spain. They were no longer the rulers of the country but it was hoped that they would at least be permitted to worship their Lord (Allah) the manner indicated by their prophet. These hopes were strengthened when the treaty was ratified by Ferdinand and Isabella to a solemn declaration made several months later on November 29, 1492. They swore by God that all Muslims should have full liberty of faith, work and trade. The Muslims were to be regarded as free subjects of the crown, with the free exercise of their own religion....

The Inquisitors were also not at all happy with the treaty which Ferdinand and Isabella had ratified. By the end of the fifteenth century they had reduced the Muslim population and practice of Islam considerably. The treaty had only slowed down their operations, but also it was likely that the Muslims might become strong again and attempt to rebel. Furthermore, they were convinced that the Muslims would never be converted by peaceful means. Cardinal Ximenes, the Archbishop of Toledo, was impatient to continue the activities of the Spanish Inquisition unimpeded, and finally he received permission to do so.

In 1499, on the invitation of Ferdinand and Isabella, Ximenes began a campaign to coerce the Muslims of southern Andalusia into the official religion:

As a result of his endeavours, it is reported that on l8th December 1499 about three thousand Moors were baptized by him and a leading mosque in Granada was converted into a church. 'Converts' were encouraged to surrender their Islamic books, several thousands of which were destroyed by Ximenes in a public bonfire. A few rare books on medicine were kept aside for the University of Alcala.

These destructive measures were not achieved without the use of force. As a young Muslim girl was being dragged through the streets of the Muslim quarter, she cried out that she was about to be forcibly baptized, in contravention of the terms of lo treaty. A crowd collected, her captors were attacked, and a riot and momentary uprising of the Muslims was the result. They besieged the house of Ximenes, and after three days fighting, negotiations were opened.

The Muslims stated that they had not risen against the king, but against the officials who had broken the king's word. They could not be contradicted, and initially peace was re-established. Further promise was given that the terms of the original treaty would again be honoured. However, it soon became clear that this was solely a means of restoring order and that it was not intended to abide by this promise:

Ximenes immediately denounced the uprising as a rebellion, and claimed that by this the Moors had forfeited all their rights under the terms of capitulation. They should therefore be given the choice between baptism and expulsion. The government agreed with his arguments, and Ximenes then began the mass baptism of the population of Granada, most of whom preferred this fate to the more hazardous one of deportation to Africa. The speed with which the baptisms were carried out meant that there was no time in which to instruct the Moors in the fundamentals of their new religion, so that inevitably most of the new converts became Christian only in name.

... It is estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Muslims were forcibly baptized in the mass baptism of Granada by Ximenes. It is not known how many were deported to Africa, but the number was probably small not only because it was made difficult toleave, but also because the Muslims were not prepared to relinquish their kingdom so easily.

... At Andarax, for example, the principal mosque, in which the women and children had taken refuge, was blown up with gun-powder. At Belfique all the men were put to the sword and the women were taken as slaves. All children under the age of eleven years were spared, but were separated from their parents and handed over to the Church to be brought up as Catholics. The survivors were always forcibly baptized, thus preparing them for further persecution from the Spanish Inquisition at a later date, and all books in Arabic, especially the Qur'an, were collected to be burnt.

Cardinal Ximenes:

...was reported during his conversion campaign among the Granada Moors in 1500 to have burnt in the public square of Vivarrambla over 1,005,000 volumes including unique works of Moorish culture.

The last community of Muslims in Andalusia was thus smashed and fragmented within a very short space of time, and the first armed rebellion of Granada was put down with such ruthless efficiency that: 1501 it was officially assumed that the kingdom of Granada had become a realm of Christian Moors - the Moriscos. Those Moors who wished to emigrate to Africa could do so on payment of a sum of money but converts were not allowed to go. Ferdinand granted the Moriscos legal equality with Christians but at the same time disarmed the population, for fear of further risings.

Since the majority of Muslims had been 'converted', the offer of emigration was an empty one, and the 'legal equality' granted by Ferdinand was but a mockery of the terms of the Treaty of Granada which he had so blatantly permitted to be broken.

Behind the words of conciliation and peace, the general intention of the Church to eliminate the practice of Islam was unmistakable, and now that the Muslims of southern Andalusia, or the Moriscos as they were called, were within the jurisdiction of the Spanish Inquisition, the Inquisitors embarked on the task of detecting 'relapsed heretics' and secret Muslims. The communities of Muslims which had survived the suppression of the rebellion, or reformed after it, were repeatedly harassed by the Inquisitors....

In 1507, Ximenes was appointed Inquisitor General of Spain. He co-ordinated the activities of the Inquisitors throughout Spain so effectively that the wealth of the Spanish Inquisition and the poverty of the Muslims were both greatly increased. It was during this time that the notorious Complutensian Polygot Bible was assembled in the University of Alcala on the orders of Ximenes. It was composed of six volumes with the Hebrew Chaldean and Greek 'original' of the Bible printed in column parallel to the Latin Vulgate. It was finally published in 1522. This was the first time that the Bible had been printed in Greek. The people who assembled it faithfully incorporated the two famous New Testament forgeries of I John 5.7 and I Tim. 3.16 in all the texts. Although it was claimed that the texts were 'original', no manuscript written prior to the Council of Nicaea was used. The printing of the Complutensian Polygot cost Ximenes 50,000 ducats. The ease with which he could pay it was a tribute to his successful work in southern Andalusia....

The government had failed to exercise effective control over its ministers. As for the Inquisition, the method adopted was to place so much confidence in the archbishop of Seville and in Lucerno....that they were able to defame the whole kingdom, to destroy, without God or justice, a great part of it, slaying and robbing and violating maids and wives to the great dishonour of the Catholic religion....The damages which the wicked officials of the Inquisition have wrought in my land are so many and so great that no reasonable person on hearing of them would not grieve.

Clearly the persecution of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was a great trial for the Muslims of Andalusia, and these times of contraction were a mighty test of their Islam. Although many survived by the grace of (Allah), many also died fighting in the way of Allah, not only because they abhorred the prospect of slavery and the enforced pretence of the official religion, but also because they were certain in their knowledge of the rewards of such a death. For the Jews this trial on Andalusia was a tragedy.

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.

Allah: Allah is the proper name in Arabic for The One and Only God, The Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is used by the Arab Christians and Jews for the God (Eloh-im in Hebrew; 'Allaha' in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, pbuh). The word Allah does not have a plural or gender. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and He does not beget nor was He begotten.


Books and E-Books
On Muslim History and Civilization

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.