Enlightenment in the Dark Ages (A Play)
By Linda Rodriguez
A common saying of the Dark Ages was when God forgot the world, maybe not entirely.
In Umayyad Spain. Islamic Spain about 850 AD. While the rest of Europe dabbled in the Dark Ages a shining star in the Iberian Peninsula, Al Andaluz, Islam’s Garden of Light in Europe. In a small villa in the outskirts of Cordova.
Characters. In Order of Appearance:
Maximo: Spanish. Works as an Albanil (mason) at La Mezquita
Rosario: Married to Khalid (Arab Muslim). Sister of Maximo
Isabela: Mother of Maximo and Rosario
Maria: Isabela’s Friend (The Neighbor)
Khalid: The Alcalde’s son. Married to Rosario
El Alcalde: Alcalde/ Mayor of Al-Anduluz
General Tariq: General Arab Muslim
Musa: Governor of North Africa
Sheik Aburrahman: A Muslim cleric
Notes: The following play was first performed at the 2005 Hispanic Muslim Day event in New Jersey. Muslim children performed the play while dressed in clothing from the Medieval Period.
At the home of Rosario
[Enter Maximo, brother of Rosario]
Maximo: Finally, work! Thank God! (pause) But what will everyone say…oh Lord? What will my family say, or my sister? After all I’ve said to her. This is my own doing.
[Enter Rosario, Wife of Khalid]
Rosario: Maximo, I heard you got a job with the town! I’m so happy for you! I can’t wait to tell Khalid.
Maximo: Who told you!…. Dime!
Rosario: Khalid! Dad’s the Alcalde.
Maximo: Don’t tell anyone! No one knows. Not even mamí.
Rosario: Porque? There’s no shame in work.
Maximo: It’s not the work, hermana. It’s who I work for. After all the things I said because you married Khalid.
Rosario: Maximo, that’s all in the past. I have been married to Khalid for 5 years. I stopped paying attention to you after the second year, hermanito. Khalid and I both love you and that’s why we helped with this job.
Maximo: Wait a second!!! This was you and Khalid who got me this job? But they requested us to sign up?
Rosario: Hermanito! This is your work! They remember how you worked at the church. You remember the great masonery. That was all your work.
Maximo: Hmmm. Si, hermana, you are right!
The artisans applied their remarkable skills to architecture in making mosques (masjid) and palaces. They mastered technique and design.
Muslim Cordoba was described as the “Jewel of the Tenth Century.” It was compared to Constantinople and Baghdad.
[Enter Isabela, Mother of Maximo]
Isabela: Hola! Niños. Como Estan?
Rosario: Nada mamí. (acting naïve)
Maximo: Nothing mama (brushing off his mother)
Isabela: Hmmm . . . something is wrong! Tell me!
[Rosario looks at Khalid]
Isabela: Dime mi hijo…
Maximo: Nothing mama, I got a job.
Isabela: That’s great son! Donde?
Maximo: Como albanil.
Isabela: Ay que bueno! Thank you God! Donde?
Maximo: In the mezquita (he mumbles the ending)
Rosario: (interrupts) Mami, he’s gonna work with the big project in the middle of the city.
Isabela: Que?! What project? Are you guys talking about La Gran Mezquita! Maximo! Is this true? What I’m hearing!
In another part of the city of Cordova at the La Gran Mequita site the following takes place.
Khalil: Asalamu Alaykum. (approaching The Alcalde, his father) Thank you for helping Maximo, baba.
Alcade: Walaykum Salam. It’s okay son. We must start this Masjid as soon as we can.
Khalid: Yes, I will talk to Maximo to see if he has more friends that are willing to help with pay.
Alcalde: Listen Khalid! General Tarik has contacted Mousa telling him how well our settlement has been. Mousa is planning to come and settle in Sevilla.
Back at the home of Rosario
Rosario: Mami I’m worried about Maximo. It’s been a while since Los Arabes Musulmanes settled, and he still doesn’t feel comfortable among them.
Isabela: I know! But it’s okay look how well our country is doing since the Muslim Arabs came. Ay Dios Mio” Can you imagine if they never came? Our country would probably be in the same conditions as France.
Rosario: Ay Dios, no lo permita!
Irrigation systems imported from the Muslim World beautified Al Andalus pasture and brought its agriculture. Where olives and wheat flourished naturally the Arabs added pomegranates, oranges, lemons, aubergines, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, pams, henna, woad, madder, saffron, sugar cane, cotton, rice, figs, grapes, peaches, and apricots.
Isabela: This definitely has being a good change for us and our country.
Rosario: Mami! I have been learning about Islam, and it truly has touched my heart. When they finish constructing this mosque I will go and learn more.
Three months later the Governor of North Africa Mousa arrives in Spain and later settles in the city of Sevilla. Mousa and General Tariq meet.
General Tariq: Asalamu Alaykum. Welcome to the land of Al Andalus.
Mousa: Walaikum Salam. This has been the will of Allah Subhanna Watallah for us to be here.
General Tariq: La Gran Mezquita is almost completed, and we are looking to build others throughout the cities, Insha’allah!
Mousa: I heard you have Christians working in the construction of the Masjid.
General Tariq: Yes, El Alcalde from Cordova has a son Khalid married to a Spanish Christian. Rosario, her brother Maximo, he is an Albanil. He and other workers as well.
Mousa: Masha’allah! We must go there. I want to see what has been done.
Six months later in the city of Cordova the construction of La Gran Mezquita was finally completed. They all gather to see their great accomplishment.
You can hear them shouting in the background Takbir!
Alcalde: Maximo, you all have done a great job.
Maximo: Gracias. Alcalde, I couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone. Who would ever think that Christians and Muslim would work together so well?
Maximo: It truly has been a good experience.
Khalid: Inshallah, you can come and visit us at the mosque.
Alcalde: Yes, it would be very nice if you can come with your friends.
Khalid: Rosario will be coming to learn more about Islam you can, too.
For the first time ever, all Muslims from the city of Cordova and nearby cities gather together for the Jumah Prayer. You can hear the call to prayer.
As Abdurrahman makes the call to prayer, you can see the interest in the faces of the Christians as they hear the call.
Back at the home of Isabela, Isabela and Maria are talking about the kids.
Isabela: Maximo y Rosario have been going to the Mosque to learn about Islam. Dios Mio! This kid! They really have changed.
Maria: How about you? What do you think about Islam?
Isabela: You know, when the Muslims first came to this country I wasn’t really happy. Pero it seems like destiny that Rosario y Khalid would become a family. He really is a good kid.
Maria: I agree. I didn’t like the idea at all. My son Fernando is thinking about converting to this religion, and I’m really worried.
Isabela: Maria, Don’t worry!
Isabela: The religion of Islam is a peaceful religion. They really are devoted to serving God by obeying what he commands them to do.
Rosario: Buenos Dias! Hola Maria. Mom, I have something to tell you!
Isabela: What is it?
Rosario: Khalid and I would really like for you to come to the mosque this Friday si Dios lo permite. I will do my Shahada.
Maria: Shahada? Que es eso?
Rosario: Mama, you know I love you and you are the best mom anyone can have. You know how Islam has changed me completely.
Isabel: Yo se mija! I have never seen you and Maximo so happy before.
Rosario: Mama, I want you to be with me on the most important day of my life. Friday, I will convert to Islam.
[There was silence across the room!]
Isabel: Rosario! Are you sure this is what you want to do?
Rosario: Yes, Mama!
Isabel: Que Dios te Bendiga! I will be there to support you on your decisión.
The Friday prayer at La Gran Mezquita de Cordova was full. Rosario and her family were there! Among others interested in the religion.
[Shiek Aburrahman with great joy was calling for everyone to witness Rosario and Maximo’s Shahada.]
Shiek Aburrahman: Today is a very important day! We have two special people among us that will do their Shahada. Maximo and Rosario, please come forward.
[Maximo and Rosario walked to the Sheik with tears of joy.]
Shiek Aburrahman: Maximo! Rosario! Are you both ready? Do you believe that there is no God but Allah Subhanna Watalah and that the Prophet Mohammad salaiho Salam is the Messenger of Allah!
Maximo: Yes I do.
Rosario: Yes I do.
Shiek Aburrahman: Rosario! What I’m going to say in Arabic you will repeat after me.
Shiek Aburrahman: Ash-hadu Alla Ilaha llallahu wa Ash-hadu An-na Mohammedan Adhuhu wa rasuluh.
Rosario: Ash-hadu Alla Ilaha llalahu wa Ash-hadu Ana-na Muhummadan Aldhuhu wa rasuluh.
[You can see tears and joy from the faces of Maximo and Rosario.]
Shiek Aburrahman: Takbir, Takbir!
All Muslims in audience: Allahu Akbar!
Cordova University; Islamic Spain around 1200 A.D. was at the height of the Intellectual Boom.
The Islamic civilization had reached its peak in the 10th century, and by 1100 CE the number of Muslims rose to 5.6 million. There existed in Cordoba alone 200,000 houses, 600 mosques, 900 public baths, 10,000 lamps, and 50 hospitals. Lit and paved streets. Muslims introduced public baths because of their need to wash in preparation for prayer 5 times a day. Libraries and research institutions grew rapidly in Muslim Spain. While the rest of Europe remained illiterate, in Muslim Spain knowledge from Greece and Rome was preserved. Arab scholars produced encyclopedias on medicine and astronomy in the 11th Century.