Category: Muslim Spain

The Fall of Seville – A Poem by Abu al-Baqa’ al-Rundi

The Andalusian city of Seville fell to Christian Castile in 1248, after over 500 years of being a Muslim city. Abu al-Baqa’ al-Rundi was a contemporary Andalusian poet from the city of Ronda, in southern Iberia, who wrote a lament about the fall of the once great city in 1267. He alluded to ancient Arabian and Persian history in his poem, hoping to inspire Muslims to rise up and recapture the city. The English translation by James T. Monroe is below, followed by the original Arabic.

English Translation:

Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life. 

As you have observed, these are the decrees that are inconstant: he whom a single moment has made happy, has been harmed by many other moments;

And this is the abode that will show pity for no man, nor will any condition remain in is state for it.

Fate irrevocably destroys every ample coat of mail when Mashrifi swords and spears glance off without effect;

It unsheathes each sword only to destroy it even if it be an Ibn Dhi Yazan and the scabbard Ghumdan.

Where are the crowned kings of Yemen and where are their jewel-studded diadems and crowns?

Where are [the buildings] Shaddad raised in Iram and where [the empire] the Sassanians ruled in Persia?

Where is the gold Qarun once possessed; where are ‘Ad and Shaddad and Qahtan?

An irrevocable decree overcame them all so that they passed away and the people came to be as though they had never existed. 

The kingdoms and kings that had been come to be like what a sleeper has told about [his] dream vision. 

Fate turned against Darius as well as his slayer, and as for Chosroes, no vaulted palace offered him protection. 

It is as if no cause had ever made the hard easy to bear, and as if Solomon had never ruled the world. 

The misfortunes brought on by Fate are of many different kinds, while Time has causes of joy and of sorrow.

For the accidents [of fortune] there is a consolation that makes them easy to bear, yet there is no consolation for what has befallen Islam. 

An event which cannot be endured has overtaken the peninsula; one such that Uhud has collapsed because of it and Thahlan has crumbled!

The evil eye struck [the peninsula] in its Islam so that [the land] decreased until whole regions and districts were despoiled of [the faith].

Therefore ask Valencia what is the state of Murcia; and where is Jativa, and where is Jaen?

Where is Cordoba, the home of the sciences, and many a scholar whose rank was once lofty in it?

Where is Seville and the pleasures it contains, as well as its sweet river overflowing and brimming full?

[They are] 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,

Over dwellings emptied of Islam that were first vacated and are now inhabited by unbelief;

In which the mosques have become churches wherein only bells and crosses may be found.

Even the mihrabs weep though they are solid; even the pulpits mourn through 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] Seville?

This misfortune has caused those that preceded it to be forgotten, nor can it ever be forgotten for the length of all time!

O you who ride lean, thoroughbred steeds which seem like eagles in the racecourse;

And you who carry slender, Indian blades which seem like fires in the darkness caused by the dust cloud [of war],

And you who are living in luxury beyond the sea enjoying life, you who have the strength and power in your homelands,

Have no you no news of the people of Andalus, for riders have carried forth what men have said [about them]?

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 infidel!

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!

Original Poem in Arabic:

لِكُلِّ شَيءٍ إذا ما تمَّ نُقصَانُ * * * فلا يغرُّ بطِيب العَيشِ إنسانُ
هيَ الأمورُ كما شاهدتُها دُولٌ * * * من سره زمنٌ ساءتهُ أزمانُ
وَهَذِهِ الدَّارُ لا تبقِي على أحدٍ * * * ولا يدُومُ عَلَى حَالٍ لَهَا شانُ
أين المُلُوكُ ذوي التُيجانِ مِن يمنٍ * * * وأين منهم أكاليلٌ وتيجانُ
وأين ما شادهُ شدادُ في إرمٍ * * * وأين ما ساسهُ في الفُرسِ ساسانُ
وأين ما حازه قارون من نهبٍ * * * وأين عادٌ وشدادٌ وقحطانُ
أتى على الكل أمرٍ لا مرد لهُ * * * حتى قضوا فكأن القوم ما كانُوا
وصار ما كان من ملك و من ملكٍ * * * كما حكى عن خيال الطيف وسنانُ
كأنما الصعب لم يسهل له سببٌ * * * يوماً ولا ملك الدنيا سليمانُ
فجائع الدنيا أنواعٌ منوعةٌ * * * وللزمان مسراتٌ وأحزانُ
وللحوادث سلوانُ يسهلها * * * وما لما حل بالإسلام سلوانُ
هي الجزيرة أمرٌ لا عزاء لهُ * * * هوى له أحدٌ وانهد شهلانُ
أصابها العينُ في الإسلام فارتزأتُ * * * حتى خلت منه أقطارٌ وبلدانُ
فاسأل بلنسية ما شأن مرسية * * * وأين شاطبة أم أين جيانُ
وأين قرطبةُ دار العلوم فكم * * * من عالم قد سما فيها له شأنُ
وأين حمصُ وما تحويه من نزهٍ * * * ونهرها العذب فياض وملآنُ
قواعد كن أركان البلاد فما * * * عسى البقاء إذا لم تبق أركانُ
تبكي الحنفيةُ البيضاءُ من أسفٍ * * * كما بكى لفراقِ الإلف هيمانُ
على ديارِ من الإسلامِ خاليةٌ * * * قد أقفرت ولها بالكفر عمرانُ
حيث المساجدُ صارت كنائس * * * ما فيهنَّ إلا نواقيسٌ وصلبانُ
حتى المحاريب تبكي وهي جامدةٌ * * * حتى المنابرُ تبكي وهي عيدانُ
يا غافلاً وله في الدهرِ موعظةٌ * * * إن كنت في سنةٍ فالدهرُ يقظانُ
وماشياً مرحاً يلهيه موطنهُ * * * أبعد حِمصٍ تغرُّ المرءُ أوطانُ
تلك المُصيبةُ أنست ما تقدمها * * * ومالها من طوالِ الدهرِ نسيانُ
يا راكبين عتلق الخيل ضامرة * * * كأنها في مجال السبقِ عقبانُ
وحاملين سيوف الهند مرهفةً * * * كأنها في ظلام النقع نيرانُ
وَرَاتِعِين وراء البحر في دَعَةٍ * * * لَهُم بأوطانهم عزٌ وسلطانُ
أعندكم نبأٌ من أهلِ أندلُسٍ * * * فقد سرى بحديثِ القومِ ركبانُ
كم يستغيثُ بنا المُستضعفُونَ وهم * * * قتلى وأسرى فما يهتزَّ إنسانُ
لمثلِ هذا يبكي القلب من كمدٍ * * * إن كان في القلبِ إسلامٌ وإيمانُ

Source:

Constable, Olivia Remie. Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 1997.

 

5 Muslim Inventions That Changed The World

Coffee

About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily routines. And yet, very few people are aware of the Muslim origins of this ubiquitous drink.

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Disunity in al-Andalus: The Taifa Period

One of the recurring themes of Islamic history is that disunity in the Muslim world has consistently led to weakness and the decline of one-powerful empires. One of the most clear examples of this was the taifa period of al-Andalus – Muslim Spain – in the 11th century. In the 700s, al-Andalus was established as a powerful and prosperous province under the Umayyads. After the Abbasid revolution of 750, al-Andalus became an autonomous state under the sovereignty of what remained of the Umayyad dynasty.

Al-Andalus reached its peak around the year 1000. The Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba was the most powerful state in Western Europe politically as well as economically. The artistic, academic, and social achievements of al-Andalus rivaled that of any other part of the Muslim world at that time, including the advanced civilizations in Iraq, Egypt, and Persia. However, within 50 years, all that would change. Al-Andalus would go from being one powerful united state, to one that is divided, vulnerable to invasion, and politically dependent on outsiders. This time, known as the Taifa Period, sowed the seeds for the decline of al-Andalus and its eventual fall in 1492.

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Christianity and the Muslim Conquest of Spain

Few wars in Islamic history have been as decisive or as influential as the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 710s. A small Muslim army arrived on the southern shores of Iberia in the year 711 and by 720, almost the entire peninsula was under Muslim control. Some people like to frame this conquest as one of imperialistic and aggressive Muslims conquering and subjecting a Christian populace with terror and force.

The truth, however, is far from that. It is a very complex conflict that cannot be easily framed in “Islam vs. Christianity” or “East vs. West” terms. The story of the Muslim invasion of Spain is one of justice, freedom, and religious toleration. Understanding the truth behind the Muslim invasion of Iberia is critical to understanding the subsequent history of religious pluralism seen throughout the history of Muslim Spain – al-Andalus.

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Imam Malik – The Scholar of Madinah

The collection and codification of Islamic law has historically been one of the most important, and challenging, tasks that the Muslim community has undertaken in 1400 years of history. To be considered a faqih (an expert in Islamic law – fiqh), one must have mastery of the Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, other sources of law, as well as other subjects such as grammar and history.

One of the giants of Islamic law was the 8th century scholar of Madinah, Malik ibn Anas. At a time when the Muslim community desperately needed the sciences of fiqh and hadith (sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) to be organized, Imam Malik rose to the occasion. His legacy is manifest in his continued influence throughout the Muslim world, both through his own works and the works of those he helped guide on a path of scholarship and devotion to Islam.

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Granada – The Last Muslim Kingdom of Spain

In 711, Islam made its entrance into the Iberian Peninsula. Having been invited to end the tyrannical rule of King Roderick, Muslim armies under the leadership of Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the straits between Morocco and Spain. Within seven years, most of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) was under Muslim control. Parts of this land would remain Muslim for over 700 years.

By the mid 900s, Islam had reached its zenith in the land known as al-Andalus. Over 5 million Muslims lived there, making up over 80% of the population. A strong, united Umayyad caliphate ruled the land and was by far the most advanced and stable society in Europe. The capital, Cordoba, attracted those seeking education from all over the Muslim world and Europe. However, this golden age of politics and society would not last forever. In the 1000s, the caliphate broke up and divided into numerous small states called taifas. The Muslim taifas were disunited and susceptible to invasion from Christian kingdoms in the north. For the next 200 years, the taifas fell one by one to the Christian “Reconquista”. By the 1240s, one kingdom remained in the south: Granada. This article will analyze the fall of this final Muslim kingdom in Iberia.

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The Cultural Icon of al-Andalus

Culture is often a difficult topic to study historically. How did present-day cultures develop? What other regions and times have affected our modern-day cultures? How were ancient cultures different from our own? One of the best ways to address such questions is to look at some of the cultural giants of the past. One of these giants was a Muslim man who lived in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) in the 800s. He was affectionately known as Ziryab and he revolutionized everything from fashion, to dining, to music, to hairstyles, to hygiene. He was one of the greatest cultural icons of the Middle Ages and the impact he had is still felt in the world today.

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Al-Zahrawi – The Pioneer of Modern Surgery

It has often been stated on this website that the Muslim period of Spain’s history (also known as al-Andalus) was a Golden Age of Islamic civilization and society. Harmony between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism prevailed, great advancements were made in the sciences, and wealth and stability were the rule rather than the exception.

One of the great figures of Muslim Spain was Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, Islam’s greatest medieval surgeon. He revolutionized how surgery was performed by inventing new methods and tools to help heal patients. His thirty-volume encyclopedia of medicine was used as a standard text for medicine throughout Europe for centuries. The impact he had on how medicine was practiced was truly revolutionary.

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Spain’s Forgotten Muslims – The Expulsion of the Moriscos

One of the truly tragic events in Islamic history is the loss of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula was a Muslim land with Muslim rulers and a Muslim population. At its height, Iberia had over 5 million Muslims, a majority of the land’s people. Muslim rulers built an advanced civilization based on faith and knowledge. In the 900s, the capital of Muslim Spain, Cordoba, had paved roads, hospitals, and street lights throughout the city. At the time, Christian Europe’s largest library had only 600 books, while Cordoba’s calligraphers were producing 6000 books per year.  The society was a peaceful mixture of European and African cultures, represented by Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in harmony side by side.

This almost utopian society did not last forever. As the so-called Reconquista, or Reconquest, of Spain by Catholic monarchs progressed through the 11th to the 15th centuries, Spain’s Muslims became a marginalized group. In 1492, when the last Muslim state of Iberia, Granada, fell, Spain’s Muslims faced a new reality: genocide.

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