Tag Archives: Garnata

Muslims in Spain from 1492-1568

With the Treaty of Garnata in place, Muslims were given a multitude of promises that their Deen shall not be interfered with and that all freedom of religion should be preserved, (not unlike the modern western liberal democracies such as America, Britain, Canada). In fact the day after the agreement was signed, “…Ferdinand and Isabella made a solemn declaration in which they swore by God that all Moors should have full liberty to work on their lands…and to maintain their religious observances and mosques heretofore, while those who preferred could sell their property and go to Barbary, (Lea, 2001, 21).” Thus in the beginning, western historians argue that the capitulations were made in good faith by the Spanish sovereigns and that they intended to carry them in good faith as well. It must be remembered that under the Capitulations, Garnata and only Garnata, was given a certain degree of autonomy, (albeit technically and in fact being part of the Spanish crown as its territory), to govern their religious and social affairs. In regards to the Muslims of Spain, (inclusive of Garnata), located mostly in Valencia, Castille and Garnata, they were now all Ahl Al-Dajn or Mudajaneen . In the hectic times that followed, the people that were afraid for their Deen and of the permissibility of remaining under the rule of the Kuffaar, fled mostly to the Maghreb States, (modern-day Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya), Mali, Egypt and Sham[1] . The Spanish had arranged transport and logistics to allow for the exit of these Muslims, and they left unhindered by Spanish forces either on the path to the port or after departure.

As for those that stayed behind, the capitulations were respected and implemented. Ferdinand and Isabella appointed Inigo Lopez De Mendoza as their Captain General, (e.g. governor), of Garnata and he certainly intended to follow the letter of the law in regard to his Spanish-Muslim subjects. Abu Abdullah, the ousted Emir of Garnata, was suspicious of the Christians, (Ibid, 23), and rightfully so, as he had originally requested papal approval of the Treaty of Garnata, ( as Maqari mentions in his account of the Garnatan capitulations, that Papal approval was demanded by the Muslims), but after realizing the futility of the endeavour, he dropped this point during Treaty negotiations. As per the capitulations, Muslims were left relatively unhindered in their religious affairs and traffic back and forth between the Maghrib and Andalus was not restricted.

Furthermore, Al Bayyazin’s [2] wall was monitored to avoid Christians climbing upon it to peer down at Muslim houses. However, taxes were made more burdensome on Muslims by, “…farming the revenues to Moorish almojarifes or tax speculators… (Ibid, 24).”

Furthermore, (inspite of the fact that Spanish Crown did not charge a toll to exit Spain or hindered the path of emigrants), private ship owners began speculating, (increasing), on the prices of the trip and freight to the Maghrib, (Ibid). This burdened many of the people that wanted to leave, and in fact stopped many people from leaving since they did not have the funds to do so.

The Spanish, had begun to renege on some of their non-religious promises of the Garnata Capitulations but had for the time kept their end of the bargain, (with a few exceptions), on religious matters, (Ibid). It was only when, in 1499, Cardinal Ximenes was appointed to assist Talavera in Garnata that matters began to devolve. However, let me state clearly that even if Ximenes was not present in Garnata, the forced conversions, the inquisition courts, massacres and the expulsions of the Muslims would have happend anyway (due to many reasons, not the least of which was the nature of the reconquista, in that it was a religious crusade against the ‘infidel’ and ‘heretic’ Muslim occupier). Ximenez’s appointment only accelerated affairs.

In any case, as a sign of the charitable stance of the Spanish sovereigns, they appointed Hernando De Talavera to be the Archbishop of Garnata in 1493.

Talavera was known to be a man that was gentle and a man of “…Charity and loving kindness, (Lea, 2001, 26).” In addition he instructed “…his missionaries to learn Arabic but he himself in his old age acquired it sufficiently for his purposes and composed an elementary grammar and vocabulary, (Ibid).” Talavera certainly wasn’t an opponent of the reconquista and of destroying the Muslim faith, but he certainly didn’t adopt the inhumane measures adopted later by his assistant Ximenes. Therefore Talavera was successful in making quite a few Muslims either feign apostasy, (out of fear, and rightfully so, of punishment and torture, since the Spanish inquisition had, at this time, already been operating since 1476), or truly apostatize and become Christians. An example of this would be the Muslims of Caspe, (a town in the province of Aragon or Arghun), announcing the desire to be baptized and become Christians in 1499 or that in the district of Teruel and Albarracin [Al Birazeen] a masjid was converted into a church by the residents in 1493.

In terms of global events, the Uthmanis were preoccupied had, since 1453 CE gone from strength to strength, with the conquest of Constantinople and the defeat of the Byzantines, to the gradual acquisition of Eastern European territory between 1456 to 1461, (including Bosnia, Serbia and Albania), while defeating the Shia’ Safawiyya (Safawids), in 1473. During this period the Uthmanis had also attempted to invade Italy in 1480, (which ended in failure).

Truly the Uthmanis were a superpower of their time and European powers trembled at their power whether on land or sea. A special emphasis should be placed of Uthmani sea power as it was the equivalent of American Air power today, and in military terms is a decisive factor in contemporary warfare and strategic planning.

Without doubt, the Uthmanis possessed one of the strongest navys in the world, at the time, with active patrols across the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and even the Pacific. That is to say nothing of the Uthmani naval
ghazis , (such as Khair Al Deen), who used to venture even further out to sea up to even the shores of Iceland and America to raid kafir ships and obtain ghaneema . As it applies to Andalus, the naval power of the Uthmanis was applied when they sent Kamal Reis, an Uthmani naval commander, who was sent to Bijaya, (in the Mediterranean ocean), presumably after the fall of Garnata to maintain contact with the Muslims of Andalus to collect intelligence and assess their situation by which to judge what course of action should be taken, (Harvey, 2005. 335). Kemal Reis was recalled in 1495 back to port in Turkey for unknown reasons, (perhaps he completed his mission?). In light of increasingly successful of Portuguese attacks on Muslim cities on the eastern coast of Africa, and the taking of the island of Hormuz, (on their way to strengthen the Portuguese forces already present in Gujurat), the Mamlukes decided to respond to this Christian aggression. In 1507, on the way to defend the Sultan of Gujrat against the Portuguese, the Mamluke navy fortified the port city of Jeddah against any possible Portuguese aggression. The very real fear was that the Portuguese would sail up the Red Sea and, in the words of Joao de Barros, a 16 century Portuguese historian:

“…take the city of Jeddah, a port very near by, by which we could go to Mecca and thence to Medina to steal the body of their Prophet and hold it in our possession in the same way as they hold Jeruslam, which is the home of our faith…(Peters, 189)”

This certainly was the aim of one of the commanders of the Portuguese naval reinforcement group on its way to Gujrat, Alfonso De Albuquerque. He would go onto replace Francisco de Almeida as the Portuguese governor of the Portuguese territories of India. On arrival in the area, the Mamluke navies, under the command of Hussein Al Kurdi, engaged the Portuguese forces in 1508 in the Battle of Chaul and defeated the Portuguese in the engagement while killing their commander, Lourenco de Almeida, (son of Francisco de Almeida).



[1] Historically it usually refers to the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean, which includes modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan

[2] This is known in Spanish as Albaycin and was one of the three quarters in the city of Garnata, (Al Bayyazin, Al Hamra’ and the Christian quarter). In Arabic, the full name of the quarter was Ribad Al Bayyazin, which means ‘Quarter of the Falconer,’ but there is dispute over this meaning.

The Fall of the Murabitun, Muwahiddun and The Christian Crusade Upon Garnata

However, in a short span of less than a hundred years, the
Murabitun had been wrestled from power both in the Maghrib and Andalus by Muwahhidun [1] who accused the Murabitun of becoming lax in their application of the
Shariah while claiming they had come to purify the region of its Bida’ . In fact by 1147, victory was almost complete for the Muwahhidun , but that certainly stopped the tempo of raids into Muslim territory by Christian forces. As it became clearer to later observers, each successive wave of internal ‘regime change’ undertaken, had resulted in lesser territory in Muslim possession as compared to the regime before. In other words, the internal tumult led only to more land falling into the hands of the Christians. If we look at the map on the next page, (The Spanish mangled the Arabic word ‘Al Muwahiddun’ into Almohad), we can see the state of the world and the Muslim holdings in the Maghrib and Andalus around 1200 CE. Notice how Portugal was no longer under Muslim Control as it had been taken as a result of the Reconquista campaign of the Christians.

In any case, The Muwahiddun captured and lost territory to the Christians, with a see saw like struggle taking place, where the Christians, being united and without the high level of strife present in the Muslim camp, were beginning to tilt the momentum towards themselves. This momentum was violently tilted towards the Christians side at the Battle of Las Navas De Tolosa, (or ﻣﻌﺮﻛﺔ ﺍﻟﻌﻘﺎﺏ /The Battle of punishment/retribution), in 1212 CE where the Muwahiddun sustained, some historians say, 100,000 casualties resulting in crushing loss and the end of the Muwahiddun power over Andalus. In fact, between 1217-1252 CE, Fernando the III, (King of the Kingdoms of Castille and Leon), conquered all Muslims kingdoms, (including Qurtuba), leaving Garnata as the sole independent Muslim Kingdom. Therefore it can be said that by 1252 CE, the end of Islam in Andalus was nigh. This period marked sporadic uprising by local Muslims against their kafir occupiers but this memory is marked by treachery by Muslim rulers who worked openly with the
kuffaar to safeguard their kingdom, while lying to their people about events unfolding. A great example of this is of Mohammad Ibn Al Ahmar, (who was the founder of the Banu Nasr dynasty that ruled Garnata till its fall in 1492). In addition, the Muslim lands and populations that came under Spanish control became ‘Mudejars,’ (or Mudajjan ), or Muslims who lived under the Christian rulers and obeyed them while, the Spanish King promised to safeguard the
Shariah and Sunnah and not meddle in its application and the Islamic practices of the populations. This designation ended in the beginning of the 16 century, as all Muslims, Garnati and others, were either expelled, imprisoned, expelled, killed, or baptized by force/coercion.

When Ferdinand III of Castile captured Qurtuba in 1236, Ibn Al Ahmar knew what was coming his way and approached Ferdinand to propose that in return for cooperating in the conquest of Muslim Seville, Garnata would be granted independence. Fernando agreed and took Seville. On returning to Garnata, Ibn Al Ahmar announced “there is no victor but Allāh” ( ﻭ ﻻ ﻏﺎﻟﺐ ﺍﻻ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ), which can be seen inscribed all over the Al Hamra’ palace, (one can surely see the absurdity of his proclamation after what Ibn Al Ahmar did, but this is not the place to get into that debate). As agreed, Ibn Al-Ahmar continued to pay the required tribute to Ferdinand III of Castile in exchange for the independence of Granada. Subsequently Ibn Al Ahmar lost his other holdings to Castille and was left with the city of Garnata only. Ofcourse the populace was kept in the dark about his backdoor deals, although rumours were rampant. It almost seems reminiscent of Muslim rulers of the 21 century, who use religion to justify their misdeeds while keeping their populace in the dark about their policies whether at home or abroad, and most importantly, about who is really controlling the nation. Clever public relations tricks are the soup de jour for Muslim elites as one might want to give the example of a nation that flouts hundreds of court scholars that write lengthy treatises of how allowing Kaffir troops on their land is wrong in principle, but is needed now due to maslaha or the fact that it actively and passively assists Kaffir armies to murder Muslims.


Garnata continued its policy of abating the Christians of paying them to leave them alone for almost 250 years, while increasingly mounting pitched battles to defend against ever ambitious Christian armies who realized that it was more useful to simply conquer Garnata and confiscate its wealth, populace and lands at once, than to keep it alive and bleed its populace to death. Thus the last ten years of Andalus, (1482-1491 CE), were years where Andalus was in a state of economic and military exhaustion due to the continuous raids against them by the Christians. The state of disarray of affairs in the Maghrib did not allow for substantial reinforcements to help them, while in the Muslim world at large, the aftermath of the Crusades and the Mongol Invasion still loomed large, while the Savafid Shia’s would later divert a large chunk of the Ummah’s energy. The Uthmanis, to the detriment of the Garnatis, were later preoccupied with this menace. The Uthmanis were indeed the hope the Garnatans looked towards after the glourious opening of Constantinople in 1453 CE, and hoped they would aid them.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad, (Boabdil in Spanish), the 12 became the Emir of Garnata in 1482 by way of leading a coup against his father, (whom he expelled). At the Battle of Sharqiya in 1483 CE he was caught by Spanish forces. While under detention, the King of Castille, (Ferdinand), with his council deliberated on what to do with Abu Abdullah. Rodrigo Ponce De Leon summed up the then adopted strategy as such, “release Boabdil; grant a short truce, and accept any tribute offered, including the release of Christian prisoners. All that did not preclude prosecuting the war once the truce came to an end, when Castile itself would be in a stronger position. (Harvey, Islamic Spain 1250 to 1500: 1250 to 1500, 281).” The strategy was agreed upon to release him in order to free prisoners and extract payment from the Muslims, but to also make Abu Abdullah feel indebted to the Spanish for freeing him, and thus have their ‘man’ at the helm of Garnata. Rather, Abu Abdullah consented to hold Garnata as a tributary kingdom under Ferdinand and Isabella. The plan worked as in Abu Abdullah’s mother agreed to Ferdinand’s terms by paying “…12,000 Doblas and the release of sixty prisoners a year for five years, and in addition ten noble youths (Boabdil’s son Ahmad among them), were to pass into Castillian hands as hostages (Ibid, 282).” In 1485 he was released, and by 1486 he was in Garnata again. But the people were incensed at this deal as is reflected by a fatwa that survives in Wanshirisi’s Kitab Al Mi’yar Al M’urib regarding the hostage swap wherein, the chief Qadi of Garnata Ibn Al Azraq, The
Mufti Al Mawwaq, Qadi Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Barr and others joined in to condemn the deal. They stated that there was no Islamic grounds for dropping allegiance to Abu Hasan, (the current commander and leader of Garnata), in favor of Abu Abdullah, and anyone who does so, does it in rebellion against Allāh and The Prophet ( ﺻﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﻭﺳﻠَّﻢ ).

As it turned out, the Castilian move did not work, as people did not switch their allegiances to Abu Abdullah.

Abu Abdullah tried winning people over by offering “…a promise that districts loyal to him would be spared the ravages of war, (Ibid, p. 288).” Simply put he was a pascifist looking to bring back peace and stability. This was a message that appealed to traders and countryside folk, which led to renewed in fighting amongst the rival Garnatan factions. Abu Abdullah continued to be the thorn in the side of the mujahideen under Emir Abu Hasan, dividing up the populace into two factions, (people that wanted peace and negotiations with Ferdinand and those that wanted to continue the Jihad Al Difaa’ or defensive
jihad ). In fact by 1485, this strategy reaped rewards as the distracted and divided mujahideen at the city of Ronda were besieged by Ferdinand leading to the martyrdom of Emir Abu Hasan, leading to the succession of Abdullah Al Zagal or otherwise named Muhammd Bin Sa’ad, (Abu Abdullah’s uncle), as Emir of Garnata and the Mujahideen. By October of 1486, Abu Abdullah had managed to muster troops to fight Al Zagal’s forces in the city of Garnata, all the while, (according to Christian Sources), being in contact with the Spanish Monarchs in order to coordinate their efforts better.

In fact, Hernando de Pulgar, (a Spanish writer and Councilor of State at the time in Spain), wrote in his ‘Brief report on the Great Deeds of the Excellent Renowned Great Captain ‘:

“The King and Queen favored this young king [Abu Abdullah] with a safeconduct and peace which they extended to those of his realm who supported him, such as the people of Albaicin [Al Bayyazin], who constantly with their merchants entered Andalusia for bread and oil and necessary provisions. These merchants were well treated by the people on the frontier and the guards. Since Illora is the nearest pass to Granada, and since they were well treated there, that was where they always crossed” (Ibid, 291)

He goes on to say:

“He [Abu Abdullah] sent to the king and queen to beg them to order the captains and governors on the frontier to increase their military pressure because by squeezing the city in that way he would be enabled to sustain his position in the Albaicin [Al Bayyazin] better. When the orders reached the frontier to as Boabdil [Abu Abdullah] had requested, Gonzalo Fernandez [i.e., the future Great Captain] took pleasure in pleasing and being of service to this young man in Albaicin [Al Bayyazin], where inhabitants were beginning to waver because they saw the old king’s [Abu Abdullah] party was ever stronger in the city.” (Ibid, 292)

In other words what is alleged is that Abu Abdullah asked the Spanish to increase pressure on Al Zagal on his front line while he would then attack his rear line. The predicament for Emir Muhammad Al Zagal was indeed dire, in that he had to balance defending the city against the Spanish while keeping Abu Abdullah’s forces in check. The important town of Loja/Lawsha was beseiged by the Spanish crusaders along with foreign mercenaries from all over Europe. The town did subsequently fall, but as a result, embarrisingly enough, the Spanish agent, King Abu AbdAllāh was recaptured by the Spanish, only to be speedily re-released once again, (to avoid people getting the right idea that the Spanish were using Abu Abdullah to subdue the Muslims from within). As a result of the Spanish victory, they were able to move in from the west towards the countryside of Garnata.

In 1487, the Spanish decide to move onto to siege the key city of Maalaqa, (Malaga), on the western coast line, by first going through Balsh-Maalaqa, (Velez Malaga). It was an essential city for the Garnatans as it was their main life-line of supplies from North Africa, and if cut, it severly hurt Garnata in terms of supplies and any hope of receiving reinforcements in the future, (albeit no state in North Africa was in a position to send anything to help them due to their division and in fighting).

Reportedly, (from Hernando Pulgar’s writings), we learn that the Fuqaha of Garnata were pleading with Emir Al Zagal to come to a truce with Abu Abdullah and concede his throne in order to safeguard Garnata from Spanish attack and to present a united front for the mujahideen and for the opposing Spanish army. Pulgar states the Fuquha allegedly: “….him [Al Zagal], saying that if what he wished was to be king, of what country did he wish to be king, if it was all to be lost? In addition they told him that it would have been better if all the fighting which was taking place between his brothers and members of his family…had taken place in defense of the country, against its enemies rather than inflicted on friends, and this they preached all through the city. They ought to grieve, they said, to see homes which they had built being taken over by the Christians, the fruits of trees planted by their fathers and their grandfathers being gathered by them, to see their brothers and relatives exiled from their own land, which had been held by their forefathers for so long. Their blood had been shed to win it, now blood was being shed to lose it” (Ibid, 293).

Pulgar continues by saying the Emir Al Zagal, in order to avoid fitna, offered to step down as Emir and fight under the command of Abu Abdullah, but Abu Abdullah refused.

This resulted in Emir Al Zagal leaving with the mujahideen towards Balsh-Maalaqa (Velez-Malaga) to liberate it. However, on the way there, he received news that Abu Abdullah had successfully taken control of Garnata which meant it was pointless struggling for Maalaqa without his rear base or any good chance of victory at Velez-Maalaqa. Thus he fled with the Mujahideen to the Alpujarras, (or in Arabic, Al Busharaat ), a mountainous area east of Garnata to regroup. The Spanish arrived at Maalaqa for the key battle that was one of the last in series of battles that led to the destruction of Garnata.

The mujahideen under their commander at Maalaqa, Ahmad Al Thagri, were not in a mood to surrender or negotiate. In fact he contemptuously rejected the offer of a negotiated settlement, (Ibid, p.294), and so stiffed his garrison of troops with Berber reinforcements. To make sure that if the
Mujahideen did not achieve victory and their City walls[2] were breached by the Spanish, they destroyed all the houses and buildings near the wall so that the Spanish could not take anything from them nor make it any easier for them, (Ibid, 295), while the Christian account of the siege stated that:

“[The Muslims] seemed to have a greater desire to kill Christians than to preserve their own lives. The fighting went on for six hours, and the sound of trumpets, the shouting, the alarms, the clash of weapons, the noise of the matchlock guns [3] and of the crossbows on both sides were so loud that the hillsides reechoed…So great was the desire for vengeance that it predominated over the desire to gain, and nobody made any attempt to take prisoners, only to kill and to maim” (Ibid, 295-296).

The Christians did eventually breakthrough, but they regressed further into the defensive fortifications of the city and were not looking to give up. Only Shahada or victory was sufficient for them.

Even though there are no Muslim accounts available of the defenders in Maalaqa, Christian accounts spell out clearly that the mujahideen were not looking to give up:

“Although they [the mujahideen] had no food supplies inside, and could hope for none from outside, although they saw their fellows fall dead and wounded in the fighting, it was worthy of not how bold this barbarous folk was in battles, how obedient to their commanders, how hard-working as they repaired the fortifications, how astute the ruses of war, how constant in the pursuit of their objectives” (Ibid, 297)

Emir Al Zagal heard of the siege of Maalaqa, and sent a relief coloumn of Istishadeyeen (Martyrdom seekers), who, in the words of a Christian account of the battle:

“believing that if they did manage to get in to Malaga, that would be a mighty exploit, and if they did not that would save their souls [attain Shahada ], so they resolved to die or enter the city” (Ibid, 298)

In the meanwhile, Abu Abdullah reported these troop movements to King Ferdinand, and he, (Abu Abdullah), subsequently intercepted these brave mujahids and routed them, leaving the remainder to retreat back to Emir Al Zagal.

Hernando Pulgar states that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella “…lavished their favors on Abu Abdullah in gratitude for this, (Ibid).” Other attempts were made to come to the aid of Maalaqa by Ibrahim Al Jarbi, (from Jerba in Tunisia), who was actually a resident of Wadi Ash, (Guadix). He formulated a plot to assinate Ferdinand and Isabella. He rallied some 400 people to his cause, according to Pulgar. They made an unsuccessful attempt to attack the Christians leading to the martyrdom of many whereas Ibrahim Al Jarbi decided to lead the assassination attempt on his own by standing outside of the city of Maalaqa, in an attempt to get arrested by the guards, to be subsequently taken into the Christian camp. There was the danger that the guards would kill him on the spot and not take him close to the King and Queen, but he stuck to the plan and had
Tawakkul , (reliance), on Allāh. The plan worked and the soldiers captured him and took him to Rodrigo Ponce De Leon, Marquis of Cadiz at the time, to be interrogated. He baited Rodrigo by saying that he had a revelation about the war, but told him that he would only reveal it to the King and Queen. After hesitation, he was taken to see them and placed in a waiting tent with other Spanish nobles eager to see what this supposed holy man had to say.

Unfortunately for Ibrahim, he spoke no Castillian and therefore assumed when he saw the ornately dressed Alvaro De Portugal and his wife Felipa, that he reached his target. He attacked with ferocity but failed to kill either, and was subsequently caught and was “…cut into pieces. (Ibid, 299).” The barbaric Christians then catapulted this brave mujahid’s body parts over the city walls to intimidate the Muslims. The Muslims instead decided to stitch his body together and gave him an emotional funeral. In retaliation, Muslims killed a high ranking Christian Prisoner and mounted his body on a Donkey towards the Christian camp.

SubhaanAllāh ! Look at the iman and love for martyrdom and the hatred of humiliation and defeat! People that literally were commiting suicide, by western standards, to make the Word of Allāh uppermost inspite of hunger, lack of reinforcements and the overwhelming strength of the enemy. The story of Abu Abdullah is one that has many allegories in the 21 century in the Muslim world, wherein if we looked at Iraq, we would have seen how the leaders were propped by the United States and its Coalition of The Willing to create the Majlis Al Sahwa , (or Awakening Councils), and subsequently, the Abna’a Al Iraq, (Sons of Iraq), while allowing them enough latitude to criticize America and cloaking themselves in Islamic ideology only to divide the mujahideen and to betray them and steal the fruits of their Jihad. And what is their return on this bargain? They get to rule Iraq in any subsequent government that would be formed if they were to defeat the real mujahideen . If we were to look at Afghanistan and their struggle against Russia, we would see that the blood and sweat put into that Jihad was derailed by the machinations of the international community and, more importantly, Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who took it upon themselves to create a nationalist unity government with no mention of Shariah or its establishment, which was the very goal which many
Mujahideen from all over the world gave the ultimate sacrifice for.

People such as Abu Abdullah attempted to gain worldy power while risking their hereafter by allying with the kuffaar , betraying and killing the Muslims. Allāh (ﺳﺒﺤﺎﻧﻪ ﻭ ﺗﻌﻠﻰ ) says:

ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳﻦَ ﺀَﺍﻣَﻨُﻮﺍْ ﻳُﻘَـﺘِﻠُﻮﻥَ ﻓِﻰ ﺳَﺒِﻴﻞِ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪِ ﻭَﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳﻦَ ﻛَﻔَﺮُﻭﺍْ ﻳُﻘَـﺘِﻠُﻮﻥَ ﻓِﻰ ﺳَﺒِﻴﻞِ ﺍﻟﻄَّـﻐُﻮﺕِ

Those who believe, fight in the cause of Allāh, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of the Taghut. So fight against the friends of Shaytan; ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytan. [4]

In 1489, the Spanish headed towards the town of Basta, (Baza in Spanish), in order to mop up the remainer of Garnatan resistance under Emir al Zagal. The commander at Basta was Sidi Yahya Al Najjar and predictably, he didn’t offer to surrender, just as the Maalaqan commander did. However, as the siege ground on, Yahya wrote to the king and his commanders to begin negotiations to surrender and by the end of the month, they had reached an agreement. However the agreement made no mention of how the Muslims of the city would be treated but rather dealt with how the Muslim elite of the city would survive and “…the subterfuges that would permit Sidi Yahya…to transmogrify himself safely and profitably into Don Pedro de Granada Venegas, (Ibid, p. 302).” In other words, he had made arrangements to convert to Christianity, but you may wonder why such an abrupt turn of events? This agreement was a good way in which to look at how the Garnatan nobles and leaders were willing to become murtad (or at least to pretend to do so), to safeguard their lands and wealth, even if that meant selling out the mujahideen under them and their citizens. As a result of the agreement:

1. Yahya became Ferdinand’s Vassal

2. He became a Christian, and would be baptized in the King’s own chamber, but this conversion was to be kept secret until Basta was surrendered

3. He was confirmed in possession of his lands, “towns. Fortresses, and villages” (i.e. he was to be lord of his own domain)

4. He was exempted from the duty of lodging royal troops (always thought of as a humiliating obligation).

5. He was exempted from certain taxes, including the

6. He was entitled to keep an armed escort

7. Various financial settlements were made to his advantage, and if Basta was surrendered, but not until then, he was to receive and extra gratuitity of ten thousand reales .[5] (Ibid, p. 302-303)

After concluding his secret deal, Yahya headed off to Wadi Ash to persuade Emir Al Zagal to stand down and surrender. Yahya was successful and Emir Al Zagal gave up his resistance and handed over Wadi Ash and Almeria, (King Ferdinand offered him his very own domain in the Alpujarras or Al Bushra . The Emir had no intention of following Yahya’s path, and thus sold the holdings offered to him and crossed over to the Maghrib with his fellow Mujahideen .

However, an alternative reason is presented by an anonymous writer, who was present in Garnata during the last years of its existence, in Akhir Ayyam Gharnatah Nubdhat al- Asr fi Akhbar Muluk Bani Nasr , (The Last Days of Garnata: A synoposis of the era of news of the Kings of Bani Nasr/( ﺁﺧﺮ ﺃﻳﺎﻡ ﻏﺮﻧﺎﻃﺔ ﻧﺒﺬﺓ ﺍﻟﻌﺼﺮ ﻓﻲ ﺍﺧﺒﺎﺭ ﻣﻠﻮﻙ ﺑﻨﻲ ﻧﺴﺮ )):

“All the knights and commanders of the Emir Muhammad b. Sa’d [Al-Zagal], accepted the dhimma [protection of the King of Castille] and began to help him against the Muslims…

Many people assert that Emir Muhammad b. Sa’d [Al-Zagal] and his commanders sold these villages and districts ruled by them to the ruler of Castille, and that they received a price for them. All of this was with a view to taking revenge [ intiqam] on the son of his brother Muhammad b. Ali [Boadil/Abu Abdullah] and on his commanders who had remained in Garnata, with just the city under their government and with benefit of a truce from the enemy. By his action [Al-Zagal], wanted to cut Garnata off, so as to destroy it in the way the rest of the country had been destroyed, (Ibid, p. 304-305).”

Why did he want to destroy Garnata? He simply wanted revenge upon his rival, Abu Abdullah, according to the writer. Shortly afterwards, Abu Abdullah sent out his wazir
to enter into talks with the Spanish to surrender, and as by orchestration, his wazir arrives back in Garnata with two Spanish officers sent by King Ferdinand to negotiate on Spain’s behalf. These men were Gonzalo de Cordoba and Martin de Alarcon and both were known to Abu Abdullah very well and likewise they knew him well. The only people who were not familiar with the nature of these relationships were the people of Garnata and Abu Abdullah’s
Shura . Martin de Alarcon had been in charge of the “…arrangements for Boabdil’s [Abu Abdullah’s] detention when he was first held by the Castilians, at Porcuena in 1483.

From that point on Boabdil had been a tool of Castilian policy, (Ibid, p. 307).” It has to be assumed that perhaps Ferdinand picked Alarcon for psychological reasons as perhaps, during Abu Abdullah’s incarceration, there developed a detainee-jailor relationship, wherein Martin could assert his own will upon Abu Abdullah easier. Gonzalo de Cordoba was the man who, in 1486, had completed an operation inside Garnata to support Abu Abdullah against Emir Al Zagal and was known to Abu Abdullah.

However, in a strange twist of events, Abu Abdullah refused to negotiate reinitiated hostilities against the Spanish. One may assume that perhaps he had a sudden change of heart after his series of betrayals. However, it is perhaps more realistic, (and certainly we can only guess at his intentions), in light of the past and what was to happen at the end of hostilities, that he planned to keep up the ruse and make it appear as if he was the heroic Emir who would not bow down to the Spanish and would fight them till the end, (to dispel rumours that he was in league with the Spanish from the beginning or that there was a secret ‘deal’ between them). The idea was to reach a point wherein Garnatans who, were in no position to fight, had their supply lines cut and were short of trained men who were still able to, or were alive to fight, to want to call for peace themselves, with Abu Abdullah then regretfully having to call for a surrender and mercy for his beloved people. It was the Middle Ages equivalent of Madison Avenue spin-doctoring that the US Defense department would be proud of, since Abu Abdullah had agreed to surrender Garnata and the surrounding kingdoms from the day he was first captured by the Spanish! He was only making his people ask for negotiations over a matter that already, years before had been decided in secret! In fact, that indeed did happen, when the powers in the Maghrib didn’t come to their aid, supplies were short and morale was lowered due to continuing Spanish besiegement. In fact in Akhir Al Ayyam Gharnata , it was stated thus:

“Many people alleged that the Emir of Garnata and his ministers and military chiefs had already made an agreement to hand over the city to the Christian King who was invading them, but they feared the common people, and so kept them duped, and simply told them what they wanted to hear. This was why, when they [the people] came saying what the king and his ministers had been keeping secret from them, they pardoned them on the spot. This was why military operations had been suspended at the time, to give scope for them to find a way of introducting the idea to the common people. So when they sent to the king of the Christians, they found he readily agreed, and was happy to grant all their requests and all their stipulations, (Ibid, p. 311).”

As for the composition of the Spanish armies during this long, arduous and vicious campaign against the Muslims, the allegation that the army was purely Spanish rings hollow. Evidence is presented from the archives in the former royal archives of Aragon, in the Spanish book of essays, ‘Gente del siglo XV,’ which shows that Christians from all over the world showed up during the 1480’s to the end of the campaign, eager for a fight against the Muslims. The numbers that are present in the finding, (Which are included in full in Appendix Z), are startling as there were at least 24 Swiss, 20 French, 17 English, 1 Scottish, 1 Portuguese, 1 Dutch and 23 German Soldiers listed. There are even reports of Italian knights showing up to fight, serving both on the ground and at sea in the service of the Spanish, (Edwards, 124). Do remember this is not even the real total of foreign fighters but simply a glimpse that proves the presence of foreign crusaders fighting the Muslims. In fact the Briton, Edward Woodville, (who is listed in the statistics), led his own band of men to Spain to fight the ‘Saracens.’ After all, the Pope had declared that the war being waged against the Muslims of Garnata was a Crusade as John Edwards says:

“The fact that Ferdinand and Isabella’s campaigns against the emirate of Granada were designated as ‘crusades’ brought troops from outside the Spanish kingdoms to fight in the royal armies. Papal interest in the Spanish frontier against Islam and the Reconquista had already rekindled in the 1430’s. Martin V and Eugenius IV made successive grants of crusading indulgences to those who fought, and gave the traditional two-ninth’s share of the Spanish Church’s tithes…to the respective rulers of Castile and Aragon, (Ibid, 122).”

Edwards continues by stating England’s role in this Crusade at a royal level:

“Henry IV [the King of England at the time] did mount campaigns against Granada between 1455 and 1458, as well as capturing Archidon [Arshidona] and Gibralter [Jabal Tariq] in 1462, (ibid, 123).”

Edwards speaks of a notorious English crusader, Edward Woodville, and his story. His army had:

“…approximately 300 archers together with supporters, left…England at the end of February 1460…The army which Edward Woodville assembled in the Isle of Wight included not only local men but also troops from Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and Burgundy, as well as other parts of England…Isabella [Queen of Spain]…designated him as leader of the foreign knights…Woodville’s company…was said to have acquitted itself well in the fighting which ended in the capture of the town [of Loja/Lawsha] on 28-29 May 1486 [6] , (ibid, 127).”

As for Edward’s men, some of them were captured and rightfully enslaved and sent to Fas/Fez to be traded and sold while others were killed by the mujahideen . As for the role of soldiers other than Edward Woodville:

“…other troops from the British Isles, who are known to have participated in the 1486 and 1487 campaigns are William Marston, who is recorded as a groom of Henry VII’s chamber, and Hubert Stanton, who was said to be from Ireland, (ibid).”

The role of the Pope and the Vatican is also described:

“Pope Sixtus IV issued the first crusading bull for war against Granada in November 1479, only two months after signing of the treaty of Alcacovas between Castile and Portugal…Sixtus IV’s lengthy bull of 10 August 1482 was addressed to ‘the universal Christian faithful…, fighters and warriors and other assistance (pugnatores et bellatores aliaque auxilia ), both from Spain…and from other nations,’” (Ibid, 123).

The Activities of the Mercenaries varied by the countries they came from:

“…it is certain that companies of Swiss, and some German, mercenaries continued to gain employment in the successive Granada campaigns. They were present in 1482, staying in Alhama until two years later, and are to be found in the documents once again in 1491, when some of them received letters of commendation from the king” (Ibid).

I will expound further on the role of foreign fighters and mercenaries in Christians armies and the inherent irony of their use during the Crusade in Garnata, the jihad in Bosnia, The Spanish Civil War and the so called ‘War on Terror’ today, in the conclusion.



[1] Berber dynasty, (mostly consisting of Masmuda tribesmen), that was founded in the 12th century, and conquered all northern Africa as far as Libya, together with Al Andalus.

[2] Cities during these periods were fortified usually by a high external stone city wall with built in citadels and other defensive devices in order to allow the city defenders to have the maximum ability to defend the city in the case of an invasion. In fact, within the city there were internal city walls as to allow a secondary position of retreat for the defenders in the case that the attackers had penetrated the first wall.

[3] By 1394, the Garnatan army had already used handguns in the field against Christian troops and were the first to do so in the Jazirat al Andalus (Andalusi peninsula)

[4] Surat al-Nisa’ verse 76

[5] Unit of Spanish currency at the time. The first real was introduced by King Pedro I of Castile at a value of 3 Murabitun/Maravedies, (gold dinars minted by the Murabitun). This rate of exchange increased until 1497, when the real was fixed at a value of 34 maravedíes. The famous Peso de a Ocho (“piece of eight” is referred to the value of 8 Reales = 1 Silver Peso) also known as Spanish dollar, was issued that same year, and it later became widespread in America and Asia.

[6] The battle at Lawsha in 1486 was a key battle and was battle where Abu Abdullah the traitor was recaptured by the Spanish and key Spanish military men proved their mettle. One of these men was Gonzalo Fernandez De Cordoba, who, during the battle had fought effectively with his group of 120 Lancemen. This was the same Gonzalo Fernandez De Cordoba that was sent by King Ferdinand to help Abu Abdullah the traitor to fight the brave Emir Al Zagal in Al Bayyazin and also the same person who King Ferdinand had sent in 1491 to negotiate on Spain’s behalf for the surrender of Muslims forces in the city of Garnata.