The History of the Moriscos and Mudéjares!
By Ah’med Birzali Rodriguez
Assalaamu ‘alaikom, I shall attempt to explain the history of the Mudéjar, Morisco or in Arabic, Mudajjaan, Mawaarika! In the year of 711 AD, a herd of horses came brooding into Spain like a storm led by a Berber by the name of Tarik ibn Ziyad, governor of Tangier in Northern Morocco, who led an army of 12,000 Berbers and Arabs into Spain, out of the appeal of Akhila son of the late Witizia of the Northern Visigoths, who under the threat of Roderick, the heir of the Southern Visigoths, had been declared by the nobles the new king of the Visigoths in Andalusia and of other areas of Spain! It is very important to point that out because many Christian historians have claimed the Moor’s invasion was a brutal and savage altruistic foray into Southern Spain! Many Christian historians spoke of the “Two Spains,” one Christian and the other Muslim. What they basically meant was Hispania or Spain which also included Portugal and Moorish Andalus, which befell under the domain of the Moors (Al Baladiyyun)! Historians can debate and argue about whether or not the details of the Moor’s entrance into Southern Spain was an unjust invasion or more a plead for help! What cannot be debated though is the vast wealth of contribution that the Moors contributed to not only Islamic and Arab identity. But as well, to the vast wealth of knowledge and prestige it gave to Spain in general! s entrance into Southern Spain was an unjust invasion or more a plead for help! What cannot be debated though is the vast wealth of contribution that the Moors contributed to not only Islamic and Arab identity. But as well, to the vast wealth of knowledge and prestige it gave to Spain in general! s entrance into Southern Spain was an unjust invasion or more a plead for help! What cannot be debated though is the vast wealth of contribution that the Moors contributed to not only Islamic and Arab identity. But as well, to the vast wealth of knowledge and prestige it gave to Spain in general!
The connotation given to the Moors was truly in earnest, a bad connotation, imposed by the Christian Europeans. They ignorantly thought that all of these so-called Moors were all of darker skin. But history itself tends to deviate from the truth, as in the case of the Moors themselves. As Muslims we know, that the Berbers and Arabs who made up the conglomeration of the Spanish Moor (the Mudajjanee or Mawrikee or in Spanish, the Mudéjar or Morisco) where mostly light skinned or fair skinned. Though there were several darker skinned Moors such as the Maures and Sub-Saharan Africans whose descendants were the Moriegos. And some Central-Asians whose descendants were the Morunos. And as well some Balkan Muslims, whose descendants were the Morovos. All, the Mudéjar, Morisco, Moriego, Moruno and the Morovo, were part of Al Andalus!
From that mixture came as well the Mudéjar and Morisco, apart from the Arabs and Berbers! What was Al Andalus like before the Moors arrived in southern Spain? Feuds, one kingdom or faction fighting against each other! What was Al Andalus like under the dominion of the Moors? The greatest manifestations and wonders of civilization that Europe itself had ever witness until this day! Al Andalus was a place where Jew, Christian, and Muslim alike were all free to practice and worship in their religion. Religious tolerance and cultural tolerance was the trademark of the Moors. Under the Ummayad Dynasty, this form of tolerance was prevalent and rife! In fact the Sephardic Jews were admirers of the Arabic zajals and scholars. In fact, Musa ibn Maimun, the known Jewish scholar, was quite an admirer of Islam and Arabic! As for the Christians,
What was unique about the Morisco and Mudéjar was the fact that he was trilingual. He spoke Arabic, Hebrew, and as well Aljamiyah, a version of Spanish. In fact, it could be said that for nearly eight hundred years the heart of Islam and the learning center of Islam laid there in Al Andalus itself! It was in a simplistic sense the Mecca of Arab learning and civilization! The greatest scholars of math, literature, art, architecture, poetry, and science came out of Al Andalus indeed, such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Hazim, Ibn Bassam, Ibn Malik, Ibn Qutiyyah, and many more! Essentially for eight hundred years, the Morisco or Mudéjar contributed to the great vast wealth of knowledge of Islam in general!
But history would take precedence, and unfortunately, it would spell disaster for the Morisco or Mudéjar in the form of the first wave of expulsion at the fall of Granada in 1492! An expulsion like no other in which the Moriscos were forced to flee into Northern Africa! Many fled to Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Spanish Sahara. But what is not well known is that many stayed behind – even after the Treaty of Granada was broken by the Castilian Spaniards. Under the provision of the Treaty of Granada under article 2, they permitted the Morisco, Mudéjar, to remain in Spain and practice their religion, and keep their identity, language, and above all property! Due to the betrayal of the Castilian Spaniards, many were forced to convert to Catholicism, were not allowed to speak their languagee,
The word coined for the Moors who stood behind, was in Spanish “Moriscos, Mudéjares” or in Arabic “Mudajjaan, Mawaarika!” Sadly enough, many of the Moriscos, Mudéjares, were taken to monasteries, and unwillingly forced to be baptized and endoctrined within the Catholic religion itself! Or worse, many of them were butchered and slaughtered for failing to convert, thus by the sword of the Castilian Christian during the Spanish Inquisition, led by the fundamentalist Cardinal Ximénez de Cisneros! Thus, many Moriscos and Mudéjares were forced to take on Castilian names, the Castilian religion, and above all, the Castilian identity! The Moriscos and Mudéjares were scattered from the south to the north in an effort to maintain dominion upon them and systematically wipe them out through ethnic cleansing!
In following years, one last ditch major rebellion was made by the Moriscos and Mudéjares who had beseeched their brethren in Northern Africa to come to their aid. But unfortunately, the uprising was quelled. In the years from 1609 to 1614, the Morisco and Mudéjar was at last either expelled, absorbed, or worse exterminated. What is not really known nor told is the fact that many of the Moriscos and Mudéjares emigrated to the Americas in mass numbers!
Though in time, the Morisco and Mudéjar serve mainly as a connotation to what was once a great empire. Forgotten in the pages of history books is that the Morisco, Mudéjar is slowly reverting, not converting, back to Islam in numbers. And more importantly, they are once again returning to their ancestral religion, language, and identity. They are yearning to return as a strong vibrant community as before in Al Andalus! Slowly the Morisco and Mudéjar is gaining ground.
I am often asked the difference between the Moriscos and the Mudéjares. The major difference is simply that the Moriscos unlike the Mudéjares though they fled Al Andalus were able to retain their identity, language, and their religion. On the other hand, the Mudéjares were forced to give up their identity, language, and religion. The Mudéjare was absorbed by the Castilian way. I have accepted another language, another identity, and another religion, Catholicism! As for the Moriegos, they were Sub-Saharan Africans who migrated back to Northern Africa. The Morunos who were Central-Asian Moors of Al Andalus migrated back to Central-Asia. The Morovos who were Balkan Muslims returned back to the Balkan peninsula. They were mostly like the Morisco, able to retain their Islamic identity with the exception of the Morovos. Although only a few,
Inshallaah, while we have our mosque in Córdoba and an Islamic University as well, the message of Muh’ammad (peace be upon him) is being heard. The more the truth of the history of the Morisco, Mudéjar is told and known to the Hispanic Muslim, the more the spirit of not only Islamic renewal is once again resurfacing, but also the whole Mudéjar or Morisco identity is being reclaimed, and consequently, they are gradually returning to their ancestral roots! With our Moriego, Moruno, and Morovo brethren, the history of the Moors is alive anew! Peace be upon Muh’ammad and Islam! Allahu Akbar!