Titel Category

This category

Categorie archief Lost Islamic History


The use of independent reasoning, known as ijtihād, has always played a prominent role in the derivation of Islamic law. While it is often portrayed today as a practice that groups such as Muslim modernists and Salafis seek to “bring back”, ijtihād has continuously been employed as part of the Islamic intellectual tradition, with jurists throughout the centuries commenting on when and how it is to be used.

In this excerpt from Molla Şemseddin Fenari’s (d. 1431) Fuṣūl al-Badāʼiʻ fī Uṣūl al-Sharāʼi, the early Ottoman jurist lays out the prerequisites one must attain before being qualified to exercise ijtihād in Islamic law. He includes this section near the end of his work, after having already explained how the Qurʾān, Sunnah, consensus, and analogical reasoning operate in Islamic legal theory.

The conditions for one to practice ijtihād are that they master the following three sciences:

  1. That one know the verses of the Qurʾān that are related to knowledge of rulings linguistically, meaning both individually and how they fit together. [For this] one needs the linguistic sciences of morphology, syntax, semantics, and communication, either naturally [through being raised in the language] or through training. One also needs [knowledge of rulings] technically, meaning the utmost understanding of rulings and their divisions, being able to differentiate between specific and general, ambiguity and clarity, abrogating and abrogated, et cetera. The general rule is that one should be capable of deriving from it [the Qurʾān] what is incumbent for one to do.
  2. Knowledge of the Sunnah that is related to it [legal rulings]. Meaning both what was uttered and what was legislated as we have mentioned [earlier] as well as chain of transmission, meaning the path by which reports have come to us through parallel chains and other means. And one must be able to verify the knowledge of the narrators in accordance with criticism and praise [of them], verify reports, know the types of reports, et cetera. In our time, the path to this knowledge is through sufficient review of the imams that are relied upon, due to the difficult reality of narrating in this day.
  3. Knowledge of qiyās (analogical reasoning), including its bases, conditions, and the types that have been accepted as well as those that have been rejected. And one must know the issues that have already been agreed upon (by the jurists) so that they would not violate that consensus. One does not need to know kalām (dialectical theology) since one can be a Muslim as a follower [as opposed to devising rational proofs for theology on their own]. Although it is better for one to know an apportioned amount that pertains to Allah, His necessary existence, His pre-eternality, His life, His power, His speech, that it is rationally possible for a person to be held responsible by Allah, the sending of the prophets, and their miracles and laws, even if one does not go the path of knowing all of the detailed proofs as opposed to the general proofs for these. One also does not need to know fiqh (positive law) as that is the fruit of ijtihād, although in our day pursuit of it is the path through which one acquires the ability to do ijtihād.

(Source / 29.10.2017)


The Ottoman State was established in 1299 CE and went on to become one of the premier empires of the Muslim world within a few centuries. While it lasted until the First World War, it was the sixteenth century that is commonly considered the “golden age” of the Ottomans. It was during this time that the prolific scholar Taşköprüzade Ahmet (d. 1561) wrote a monumental work giving brief biographies of the scholars of the Ottoman Empire up to his time. His Shaqāʾiq al-Nuʿmāniyya fī ʿUlemāʾal-Dawla al-ʿUthmāniyya today serves as a valuable source of information on the first 250 years of Ottoman scholarship.

The text is divided into ten parts, one for each of the ten sultans (from Osman to Süleyman) up to Taşköprüzade’s time. What follows is a translation of the first part, regarding the seven scholars of the time of Osman Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman State:

The First Generation: regarding the scholars of the state of Osman Ghazi, who was recognized as sultan in the year 699

Master Edebali

And from among the scholars in his time was the master Edebali. He was born (may Allah be pleased with him) in the lands of Karaman and there he studied some of the sciences. Afterwards he travelled to the Levant and he studied deeply with the scholars of Syria. And he read tafsīr, Ḥadīth, and uṣūl al-fiqh with them. Afterwards he travelled to his homeland and began serving the Sultan Osman Ghazi. He attained his complete acceptance and they would resort back to him on issues of sharīʿah and would consult with him on issues of governance.

And he was a scholar, active, a worshipper, and an ascetic. It is told that his supplications were accepted and people would seek blessings from his noble sayings. And he (may Allah be pleased with him) had abundant wealth except that he proceeded upon the path of the Sufis and built in the Ottoman State a lodge where travelers would stay and he housed Sultan Osman in it as well.

He stayed in it one night and saw in his sleep that a moon came out of the chest of Shaykh Edebali and entered his own chest. And from it sprouted a great tree from his navel, with its branches blocking out the horizons and under it great mountains that have rivers coming from them that people benefit from for themselves, their riding animals, and their gardens.

So he told this dream to the shaykh, who told him: “You have a good news. You’ve attained the rank of sultan and Muslims will benefit from you and your children. And I give you this daughter of mine in marriage.” And Osman had children from her.

The shaykh reached an age of 120 years. He died in the year 726. A month after his death his daughter, the wife of Sultan Osman and the mother of Sultan Orhan died as well. And three months after his death, the Sultan Osman Ghazi died as well.

Tursun Faqīh

And from among them is the master Tursun Faqih. He is the son-in-law of Master Edebali and he was also from the lands of Karaman. He studied with the aforementioned master tafsīr, Ḥadīth, and uṣūl al-fiqh, and achieved deep understanding with him. And after his (Edebali’s) death, he took the position of giving legal opinions, management of governance, and teaching of the religious sciences. And he was a scholar and an active person, who’s supplications were answered.

Master Khattāb al-Ḳaraḥiṣārī

And from among them is the master Khattab ibn Abi al-Qāṣim al-Ḳaraḥiṣārī. He (may Allah be pleased with him) studied in his homeland with the scholars of his time, then he travelled to the Syrian lands and studied with its scholars and learned from them fiqh, Ḥadīth, and tafsīr, then he returned to his homeland, where he died, may Allah have mercy on him.

He has a beneficial commentary on the work of the shaykh and scholar ʿUmar al-Nasafī on issues of dispute. He completed writing it in the year 717.

Mukhlis Baba

And from the shaykhs of his time was the shaykh, the knower of Allah, Mukhlis Baba. He (may Allah be pleased with him) settled down in the lands of Karaman and he attended the conquests of Sultan Osman Ghazi. And he was one who’s supplications were accepted, a seeker of spirituality, and one who had reached Allah. And he had supreme gifts bestowed from Allah and sublime ranks. May Allah protect his great secrets.

ʿĀshiq Paşa

And from them was the shaykh, the knower of Allah, ʿĀshiq Paşa, the son of the aforementioned Mukhlis Baba. He settled down in a place called Kırşehir in the lands of Ḳaramān, and he died in it. His tomb is well known there, supplications made there are answered, and people seek blessings there.

He (protect his secrets) was a worshipper, an ascetic, a knower of Allah and His attributes, and active in attaining the ranks and stations of the seeking spirituality. He wrote a book in Turkish containing the states and ranks of seeking spirituality.

ʿIlwān Çelebi

And from among them is the shaykh, the knower of Allah ʿIlwān Çelebi, son of the aforementioned ʿĀshiq Paşa. He (may Allah be pleased with him) settled in a place close to the city of Amasya and he died and was buried there. I visited his venerable tomb in the prime of my youth and sought blessings. He (may Allah be pleased with him) was a worshipper, an ascetic, and a knower of Allah and he had an immense ability to attract people. He also has a work on the ranks of seeking spirituality.

Shaykh Ḥasan

And from among them is the shaykh, the knower of Allah, Shaykh Ḥasan. He (may Allah be pleased with him) was a worshipper, an ascetic, who’s supplications were accepted and who’s gifts from Allah were apparent and was a treasure trove of blessings. And he had a lodge close to the House of Felicity in the land of Bursa. He is nicknamed “Akhī Ḥasan”. May Allah protect his great secret.

(Source / 18.05.2017)


One of the most jarring and important events of recent Islamic history has been the Arab-Israeli Conflict. This conflict is multifaceted, complex, and is still one of the world’s most problematic issues in international relations. One aspect of this conflict is the refugee problem that began in 1948, with the creation of the State of Israel. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees that year, in what is known as the “Nakba”, which is Arabic for catastrophe. 


In the 1800s, a new nationalistic movement was born in Europe. Zionism was a political movement advocating the creation of a Jewish state. Many Jews believed having their own state was necessary in the face of discrimination and oppression by Europeans that went back centuries. After debating where to create this new state should exist at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, the Zionist movement decided to aim at creating their state in Palestine, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan-caliph of the Ottoman Empire, Abdülhamid II, refused, even in the face of a 150 million British pound payment proposed by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, in exchange for ownership of Palestine.

The door would open for Zionism however, after the First World War. During the war, Britain conquered Palestine from the Ottomans in 1917. At around the same time, the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration to the Zionist movement promising British support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

After the war, Palestine became a League of Nations mandate under British control in 1920. Since it was under British control, the Zionist movement heavily advocated the emigration of European Jews to Palestine. The result was an exponential rise in the number of Jews living in Palestine. According to British census data, in 1922, there were 83,790 Jews in Palestine. By 1931, it was 175,138. And by 1945, the number had jumped to 553,600 people. In 25 years, Jews had gone from 11% of the total population to 31%.

Naturally, the reaction from the Palestinian Arabs was less than enthusiastic. Tension between new Jewish settlers and native Palestinians erupted on numerous occasions.  Eventually, the British decided by the 1940s that they could no longer control the territory, and decided to end the mandate of Palestine and leave the country.

United Nations Plan and Israeli Independence

The left map shows the Jewish-majority areas in the Mandate of Palestine. The right map illustrates the UN Partition Plan.

The left map shows the Jewish-majority areas in the Mandate of Palestine. The right map illustrates the UN Partition Plan.

Seeing the coming end of British control over Palestine, and the inevitable conflict between the Arabs and the Jews that would follow, the newly-created United Nations took up the issue in 1947. It came up with a plan known as the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. In it, they advocated the creation of two states in what has historically been known as Palestine. One for Jews, known as Israel, and one for Arabs, Palestine.

While the Jews in Palestine accepted the plan with enthusiasm, the Arabs vehemently rejected it. In their view, it took away land that had been a historically Muslim Arab land since the Crusades and gave it to the new Jewish minority in the country. Tensions continued to rise between the two sides.

In the midst of this rising tension, Britain declared an end to the Mandate of Palestine, and withdrew from the country on May 14th, 1948. That day, the Zionist movement in Palestine declared the establishment of a new country, Israel. The following day, the neighboring Arab countries declared their rejection of the declaration and invaded Israel.

The result of the 1948 war was an enormous increase in the size of Israel. The resulting state was much larger than the state proposed by the United Nations, capturing approximately 50% of the proposed Arab state.

Expulsion of the Palestinians

Perhaps the largest human impact of the 1948 War was the expulsion of much of the Palestinian population. Within the borders of the new State of Israel, there had been close to 1,000,000 Palestinian Arabs before the war. By the end of the war in 1949, between 700,000 and 750,000 of them had been expelled. Only 150,000 remained in Israel.

Palestinian refugees in 1948

Palestinian refugees in 1948

Refugees are always an unfortunate side-effect of war. Throughout history, groups of people have always fled to escape fighting and conquest. What makes the Palestinian refugees of 1948 unique, however, is why they became refugees. Since this is still very much a real conflict today, many historians analyzing the causes of the Palestinian exodus are still heavily influenced by politics and international relations. Historians (including some Israeli historians) have however defined a few key reasons for the exodus:

Fear: Many Palestinians left because due to fear of Israeli attacks and atrocities. These fears were not unwarranted. On April 9th, 1948, about 120 Israeli fighters entered the Palestinian town of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem. 600 villagers were killed. Some died defending the city in battle against Israeli forces, while others were killed by hand grenades thrown into their homes, or executed after being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem.

Naturally, once word of this massacre spread throughout Palestine, Palestinians feared the worst from the Israelis. In many cases, entire Palestinian villages fled Israeli advances, hoping to avoid the same fate as Deir Yassin. Some Israeli groups, such as Yishuv, accelerated this flight through psychological warfare intended to intimidate Palestinian towns into surrendering or fleeing. Radio broadcasts were aired in Arabic, warning Arab villagers that they could not stand up to Israeli advances, and resistance was futile.

Expulsion by Israeli Forces: While fear was the main motivating factor for refugees early in the war, as the war dragged on through 1948, deliberate Israeli expulsion became more common. As the Israelis conquered more and more territory, their forces became more thinly spread throughout the country. In order to maintain control over these areas, many newly-conquered villages were forcibly emptied by Israeli forces.

Notable examples of this were the cities of Lydda and Ramla, near Jerusalem. When they were conquered in July of 1948, Yitzhak Rabin signed an order expelling all Palestinians from the two towns, amounting to between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Israeli forces bused some of them to the Arab front lines, while others were forced to walk, only being allowed to take with them whatever they could carry. This expulsion alone accounted for about 10% of the total Palestinian expulsion in 1948.

Encouragement by Arab Forces: In some cases, the Arab armies from neighboring countries, particularly Jordan, encouraged Palestinian towns to evacuate. One possible reason for this was that to provide an open battlefield without civilians in the crossfire. In any case, many Palestinian civilians left their homes under direction from Arab armies, hoping to return soon after the inevitable Arab victory, only to become refugees in neighboring countries.

After the War

A Palestinian refugee camp in 1948 near Damascus, Syria.

A Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, Syria in 1948

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War created a massive refugee problem in the Middle East. Over 500 towns and cities throughout Palestine were completely depopulated during this time. The 700,000+ refugees from these towns became an economic and social burden on neighboring countries and the West Bank, Palestinian land under Jordanian authority. In 1954, Israel passed the Prevention of Infiltration Law. It allowed the Israeli government to expel any Palestinians who managed to sneak back to their homes in what was now Israel. It also allowed the government to expel any internally displaced Palestinians still within Israel if they sought to return to their homes.

Today, the right of return is still a major problem that has yet to be solved by peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. The forcible expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 proved to be a problem that continues even after the lives of the original refugees draw to a close in the 21st century.

(Source / 14.05.2016)


Regarding the topic of Islam on the European continent, the focus is usually exclusively on the period of Muslim Spain, al-Andalus, that lasted from 711 to 1492 (with a Muslim minority population that remained until 1609) and the Ottoman Empire, which crossed from Anatolia into Southeastern Europe in the early 1300s.

What is usually forgotten is the period of Muslim rule in Sicily, an island off the southern coast of the Italian Peninsula. It was here that Muslim dynasties ruled for over 200 years and a sizable Muslim populace called the island home. This article will explore the rise of Islam in Sicily under the Aghlabid Dynasty, subsequent Muslim control of the island, and the eventual Norman conquest of the 11th century. Part two will examine the social and intellectual history of Muslim Sicily.

Aghlabid Rule in North Africa

The Muslim conquest of North Africa can be seen as a continuation of on-and-off warfare between Muslim polities and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire that dates back to the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. After the initial outburst of Muslim expansion during the caliphate of Umar (r. 634-644) that conquered Egypt and the eastern half of modern Libya, Muslim military activity slowed during the caliphates of Uthman and Ali. Further military activity continued after the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate by Mu’awiya in 661. By the late 7th century, Muslim armies under the command of Musa ibn Nusayr reached the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Morocco.

The political scene of the Mediterranean in the 9th-10th century, with the Aghlabid Dynasty in the center.

The Umayyad government’s hold on North Africa was tenuous at best. While the major cities along the coast were firmly under Umayyad control, the rural areas were dominated by the region’s native people, the Amazigh, who did not always accept Umayyad overlordship. The relative autonomy of North Africa only increased after the Abbasid Revolution in 750, which saw a new family accede to the caliphate and a new capital for the Muslim world built at Baghdad.

Due to the difficulty involved in governing distant North Africa, the Abbasid government allowed a local governor, Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, to rise to power and establish a semi-autonomous dynasty based in Qayrawan (in modern Tunisia) in 799 that nominally accepted Abbasid overlordship. Unlike the earlier Umayyad focus on expansion, the early Aghlabid emirate focused on managing the competing factions within its domain, particularly the Arab-dominated standing army and the native Amazigh.

The Conquest of Sicily

During the instability of the early 800s, a few factors came together that caused an Aghlabid expedition to Sicily. First, political problems on the island led to the arrival at the Aghlabid court in 826 of Euphemius, a Byzantine naval commander in revolt against the Byzantine Empire. The reasons for his revolt are unclear, and the Aghlabid emir, Ziyadat Allah I, was initially hesitant to offer help, especially considering that a peace treaty with the Byzantines in 817 was ostensibly still in effect.

Another major figure factors into story that helped make the invasion a reality. Asad ibn al-Furat was a scholar of Islamic law (fiqh) who had studied in the East with Imam Malik as well as with two of Imam Abu Hanifa’s students, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani. He was politically active in the Aghlabid emirate and commanded great respect among the people due to his studies with some of the greatest scholars of his era. To Ziyadat Allah I, he was a nuisance that could potentially cause problems, particularly considering with the tenuous stability of the emirate in the first place. Luckily for the emir, Ibn al-Furat was in favor of an invasion of the island and argued that the peace treaty was void anyways due to the Byzantine capture of several Muslim merchants.

To Ziyadat Allah I, the situation was perfect. He could simultaneously attack the Byzantines, weakening their commercial presence in the central Mediterranean Sea, and strengthen his own control by sending Asad ibn al-Furat (along with numerous other potentially rebellious laymen and soldiers) on what he probably thought would be an ill-fated expedition to the island.

But the expedition ended up being far more successful than most probably imagined. The army (which probably numbered no more than 10,000) left North Africa in June of 827 and arrived on the western coast of Sicily within a few days. A subsequent pitched battle between Asad ibn al-Furat’s forces and the local Byzantine soldiery ended in victory for the Muslims and the retreat of most Byzantine soldiers to the fortified towns of Palermo and Syracuse, on the island’s northern and eastern coasts, respectively.

After a failed siege of Palermo, in which Asad ibn al-Furat died of disease in 828, the Muslim army went inland, pursued by the Byzantines, now reinforced with new troops and ships transferred from the Aegean Sea. After numerous losses in battle and deaths due to disease, the invasion seemed to be on the brink of failure when a contingent of soldiers from Umayyad al-Andalus arrived on the island in 830 and joined forces with the remnants of the Aghlabid expedition. This was a major turning point, as the rejuvenated Muslim army now marched on Palermo and successfully besieged it.

The island of Sicily

At this point, Ziyadat Allah I, who was not particularly involved in the invasion, took an interest in the island and sent a cousin to act as the governor of Palermo (known as Balarm to the Arabs). Sicily now began to be considered a province of the Aghlabid emirate, with a functioning government and economy. With a renewed interest in the island, the conquest continued in a piecemeal fashion. Villages and towns individually accepted Muslim control based out of Palermo, with the eastern half of the island holding out the longest. Syracuse was eventually conquered in 878 and the last Byzantine holdings were taken in 965.

With regards to governance, the system set up on the island was similar to Aghlabid governance in other regions. The province was led by a governor, who was nominally under the authority of the Aghlabid emir in Qayrawan, but oftentimes ruled semi-independently. While Muslims were subject to Islamic law as dictated by the qadi and religious scholars, Christians and Jews were free to be governed by their own laws so long as they paid the poll tax (jizya) and any land taxes (kharaj) they owed. Muslims were subject to the alms tax (zakat) and land taxes.

Fatimid Rule

The early 900s saw a momentous movement arise in North Africa that would affect Muslims throughout the Islamic world. In 909, a claimed descendant of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Abdullah al-Mahdi, declared himself Imam of the Isma’ili Shi’a community and the rightful leader of the Muslim world. Using a network of informants and proselytizers across North Africa and playing off of Amazigh discontent with Arabs, he quickly consolidated power and captured Qayrawan, overthrowing the Aghlabid Dynasty.

Since its inception, the emirate of Sicily had been tied to North Africa’s government, and the local leaders recognized that this would probably have to continue even with the Shi’a Fatimids. A representative chosen by Sicily’s elite attempted to meet with the Fatimid leader to secure Sicily’s relative autonomy, but was imprisoned in North Africa. In his place, al-Mahdi sent a Shi’i governor and qadi to rule over the island in the name of the Imam.

With Sicily’s reputation of rebelliousness, the new Fatimid administration enacted heavy-handed policies meant to subdue the province. The attempt at direct control, coupled with a new tax, the khums, which decreed that 1/5th of all earnings were to be forwarded directly to the Fatimid Imam, led to widespread opposition by the Sunni population and the almost immediate overthrow of the first Fatimid governor.

A subsequent rebellion in 913 entirely rid the island of Fatimid domination for a few years, but was brutally suppressed by the Fatimids in 918. Another revolt began in 937 in Agrigento and was supported by Muslim communities across the island starting in 939. A Fatimid expedition put down this revolt, massacring towns which were then repopulated by new immigrants from North Africa who were more loyal to the Fatimid government.

In an attempt to solidify their control over the island, the Fatimids appointed al-Hasan al-Kalbi, a military governor loyal to the Fatimid Imam, as governor of the island in 964. He would inaugurate a dynasty on the island, where his descendants would rule under Fatimid authority for the next hundred years.

While the era of the Kalbid Dynasty in Sicily saw the conquest of the last remaining Christian outposts, ongoing conflict on the island did not cease. Fatimid repression of Sunni Islam, to which the vast majority of the island’s Muslims adhered, exacerbated tensions, while conflict between native Sicilian Muslims and North African Arabs and Amazigh immigrants caused a major social divide.

Militarily, the Kalbid Dynasty saw the waning of Sicily’s power in the central Mediterranean. By the early 1000s, Kalbid emirs were not inclined to continue raids against Byzantine outposts on the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. Furthermore, the populace itself became more sedentary, with numerous men seeking exemptions to avoid military conscription.

The Norman Conquest and the Fall of Muslim Sicily

The early 11th century saw the imposition of new taxes on Sicily’s Muslims by the Kalbid emir al-Akhal meant to strengthen the island as an independent polity that can manage its own defense. Since the Fatimid conquest of Egypt in 969, the bulk of North Africa’s naval and military power shifted to the eastern Mediterranean, leaving Sicily vulnerable to Byzantine attack.


The new taxes, coupled with pre-existing tensions between the island’s population and its Fatimid/Kalbid rulers, caused a group of Sicilian notables to seek the help of the newly-independent Zirid Dynasty of Tunisia. In 1036 a Zirid force crossed from North Africa to Sicily and quickly took over Palermo and killed al-Akhal.

The Zirids may have wanted to bring the island under their own control, much like the Aghlabids two centuries earlier. Fears of North African domination caused Palermo’s residents to revolt against their new Zirid governors and force the expedition back to Tunisia not long after it arrived on the island.

At this point, control of the island entered a period of decentralization, as provinces, led by military leaders, declared their independence in the absence of a central government on the island. Much like the Ta’ifa Period of al-Andalus, ethnic, political, and economic rivalries divided the region’s Muslims into competing factions.

Another similarity to the Andalusian model was the arrival on the scene of powerful Christian kingdoms eager to take advantage of Muslim disunity. The Normans, a dynasty originally from Northern Europe that was famed for its military ability (as evidenced by their conquest of England in 1066) ruled over southern Italy and took the opportunity to invade the island in 1052. A Zirid attempt to defend the island never materialized due to their preoccupation with tribal wars in North Africa, coupled with the determination of the Sicilian Muslims to not be ruled by a North African power.

The church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo, Sicily. It operated as a masjid during the era of Muslim Sicily.

By 1065, most of the island was under Norman control. Palermo fell in 1072, Syracuse followed in 1085 (incidentally the same year the Andalusian city of Toledo fell to Castile), and the final outpost of Islamic control in Sicily, the southern coastal city of Noto, fell in 1090.

Like in al-Andalus, a Muslim population (it’s likely the majority of the island followed Islam by the time of the Norman conquest) continued to live under Christian rule. Treatment of the Muslim population was dependent on the aims and temperament of the Norman king in power at the time. The reign of Roger II from 1130 to 1154 was particularly tolerant. It was during his reign that the great geographer al-Idrisi completed his world atlas known as Tabula Rogeriana.

Regardless, thousands of Muslims chose voluntary migration to Muslim lands over continuing to live under Norman Christian control. Meanwhile, the ongoing Crusades in the Levant, coupled with sporadic Muslim revolts in Sicily worsened relations between Muslims and Christians throughout Europe. In 1189, Palermo’s Muslims were massacred and in 1199, Pope Innocent III declared Muslims in Sicily to be “hostile elements” to the state. Numerous forced and self-imposed exiles continued during the 12th and 13th centuries, and in 1266 the last Muslims were forced from the island, ending over 400 years of Islam in Sicily.

Part two of this article will examine the social and intellectual history of Muslim Sicily.

(Source / 24.01.2016)


The mimbar constructed by Nūr al-Dīn Zengī that was moved to Jerusalem upon its liberation in 1187.

The minbar constructed by Nur al-Din Zengi that was moved to Jerusalem upon its liberation in 1187.

After 88 years of Crusader control, Salah al-Din’s Ayyubid Empire liberated Jerusalem on 2 October, 1187 CE (27 Rajab, 583 AH). During the era of Crusader occupation of the city, al-Aqsa Masjid did not hold any Friday prayers, making the first one after Salah al-Din’s liberation of the city especially significant.

Below is an English translation of the first Friday sermon (khuṭbat al-jumuʿah) in al-Aqsa, given by the Shafi’i scholar and later qaḍi of Damascus, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn al-Zakī. It is found in the found in the Kurdish scholar Ibn Khallikān’s (d. 1282 CE) biographical dictionary, Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch (Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān).Ibn Khallikān’s commentary is in bold.

On the conquest of Jerusalem, all the learned men who happened to be in the retinue of the sultan aspired to the honor of pronouncing the khutba on the ensuing Friday, and each of them sent in for examination a khutba written with great eloquence, in the hopes of being chosen; but the sultan addressed an order to Muhyi al-Din, directing him to be the preacher. This was the first Friday on which the public prayer was said at Jerusalem after the taking of the city, and the sultan with all the chief men of the empire attended the ceremony. Muhyi al-Din mounted the pulpit and commenced his discourse by pronouncing the Fatiha. Then he said:

God has cut off the uttermost part of those who acted perversely; so praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures. “Praise be to God, who has created the heavens and the earth and ordained darkness and light” (6:1). “Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom; who needs none to defend Him from humiliation; and magnify Him by proclaiming His greatness” (17:111). “Praise be to God who has revealed the Book to His servant shorn of falsehood and unswerving from the truth, so that he may give warning of a dire scourge from Himself, proclaim to the faithful who do good works that a rich and everlasting reward awaits them, and admonish those who say that God has begotten a son” (18:1-3). “Say: Praise be to God, and peace upon His servants whom He has chosen! Who is more worthy, God or the idols they serve besides Him?” (27:59). “Praise be to God, to whom belongs all that the heavens and earth contain! Praise be to Him in the world to come. He is the Wise One, the All-knowing” (34:1). “Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and the earth! He sends forth the angels as His messengers, with two, three or four pairs of wings. He multiplies His creatures according to His will. God has power over all things” (35:1).

In this, the preacher’s design was to quote all the passages of the sacred Qur’an in which praise is given to God. He then commenced the khutba as follows:

Praise be to God, by Whose aid Islam has been exalted, and by Whose might polytheism has been humbled; Whose decrees control all events, and Who rewards gratitude by continuing His favors. He has enveloped the infidels in his toils, Whose justice has decreed that time should be a series of vicissitudes, Whose bounty has granted success to those that feared Him, Who spread His shade over His servants, and caused His religion to triumph over every other. In His might He is far above His creatures, and naught can resist Him; His sway extends over the world, and naught can withstand it. He commands what He pleases, and none can disobey Him; He decides what He will, and none can oppose Him. I praise Him for His victorious assistance; for His exalting of His friends; for His aiding of those who aided in His cause, and for His cleansing of His Holy House from the filth of polytheism and its pollutions. I give him such praise as a man can offer whose inmost feelings are conscious of gratitude, and who denotes it by his outward bearing, and I declare that there is no other god but the only God, Who has no associate in His power, Who “is one and eternal; Who begot none, nor was He begotten” (112:1-3). Such is the declaration of one who has purified his heart by the professing of God’s unity, and has given it in charge unto his Lord.

I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and apostle, the remover of doubt, the confuter of infidelity, and dispeller of falsehood; that God “transported him by night from the Holy Temple [of Mecca] to the Farther Temple [of Jerusalem]” (17:1), and raised him up to the highest heavens, “even unto the lote-tree of the utmost bound, near which is the garden of repose; and his eyes did not wander, nor did they turn aside” (53:14-15, 17). May God’s blessing be upon him and upon his successor Abu Bakr al‑Siddiq, the first to embrace the faith; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the first who removed from this house the sign of the cross; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, the possessor of the two lights, the collector of the Qur’an; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the destroyer of polytheism and the breaker of idols. And God’s blessing be on the family of Muhammad, on his Companions, and on the succeeding generation.

O men, rejoice at good news! God is pleased with your conduct; and that is the utmost term, the highest point, of man’s desires; inasmuch as He rendered it easy for your hands to recover this strayed camel [i.e. Jerusalem] from the possession of a misguided people, and to bring it back to the fold of Islam, after it has been abused by the polytheists for nearly one hundred years. Rejoice at the purifying of this house “which God allowed to be raised, and in which He permitted His name to be mentioned” (24:36); the ways of which He has delivered from polytheism, after He had spread His tent over it and established His rites within it; a house of which the foundations were laid on the profession of God’s unity, for that is the best basis to build on, and of which the edifice was erected to His glory, for it stands founded on piety from ancient times till now. It was the dwelling-place of your father Abraham; the spot from which your blessed Prophet Muhammad mounted to heaven; the qibla towards which you turned to pray at the commencement of Islam; the abode of the prophets; the place visited by the saints; the cemetery of the apostles; the spot where the divine revelation descended, and to which the commands and the prohibitions were sent down: it is the country where mankind will be assembled for judgment; the ground where the resurrection will take place; the Holy Land whereof God has spoken in His perspicuous book (5:21); it is the mosque wherein the Apostle of God offered up his prayer and saluted the angels admitted nearest to God’s presence; it is the town to which God sent his servant and apostle, and the Word which he caused to descend on Mary, and his spirit Jesus, whom he honored with that mission and ennobled with the gift of prophecy, without removing him from the rank he held as one of his creatures: and the Almighty said that the Messiah “does not disdain to be a servant of God, nor do the angels who are nearest to Him” (4:172). They lied, those who said that god had equals, and widely did they err. “Never has God begotten a son, nor is there any other god besides Him. Were this otherwise, each god would govern his own creation, each holding himself above the other. Exalted be God above their falsehoods!” (23:91) “They are surely infidels who say: ‘God is the Messiah, the son of Mary’” (5:72).

Here the preacher repeated the remaining verses of The Table (Sura 5).

This temple is the first of the two qiblas; the second of the two sacred Mosques (17:1); the third after the two holy cities [Mecca and Medina]; the next place, after these two Mosques, to visit which travelers girth their camels; the next spot named after these two mansions, when the number of holy places is counted on the fingers. Therefore, had you not been of God’s chosen servants, of those whom he selected from amongst the dwellers in his cities, he had not honored you with this favor wherein you will never have a rival, and in the excellence of which you will remain without a competitor. Blessings be on you for an army which has procured the triumph of the miraculous powers displayed in the Apostle’s gift of prophecy, which has fought battles like those of Badr, which has shown resolution like that of Abu Bakr, achieved conquests like those of ‘Umar’s, behaved like the armies of ‘Uthman, and charged like those of ‘Ali! You have renewed for Islam the glorious days of Qadisiya, the conflicts of Yarmuk, the sieges of Khaybar, and the impetuous attacks of Khalid ibn al-Walid. May God grant you his best rewards for the service you have rendered to his blessed prophet Muhammad. May he recompense you for the blood you lost in combating his foes. May he accept from you as an agreeable offering the blood which you have shed, and remunerate you with Paradise, for that is the abode of happiness.

Appreciate then (and God be merciful unto you) this favor at its just value, and thank for it the Almighty with fit acknowledgment, inasmuch as He placed you under deep obligations by conferring this honor upon you, and appointing you for this service. It is a victory which has opened for you the gates of heaven, and illumined by its light the face of the darkness; which has made the most highly favored of the angels to rejoice, and solaced the eyes of the prophets who were sent unto mankind. How great a favor was that which rendered you the army by whose hands the Sacred City was recaptured in these latter times, the body of troops whose swords set up again the monuments of the faith, after the mission of prophets had ceased. Soon, perhaps, may God achieve, by your hands, other victories such as this; victories whereat the people of the green [the inhabitants of Paradise] will rejoice yet more than the people of the earth. Is this not the House whereof God has spoken in His book and explicitly named in this formal address directed to Himself: “Glory be to Him who transported His servant by night from the Holy Temple to the Farther Temple” (17:1)? Is it not the house which all religions honored, towards which the prophets turned themselves, and in which were read the four books [Torah, Gospels, Psalms, Qur’an] sent down from Almighty God? Is it not the house for the sake of which God staid the sun over Joshua so that it set not, and delayed its pace so that the victory might be rendered prompt and easy? Is it not the house which God commanded Moses to order his people to deliver, yet none obeyed him but two men? Wherefore He waxed wroth against them, and cast them into the wilderness in punishment for their disobedience. Give therefore praises unto God for having helped you to the fulfillment of your resolutions in an undertaking from which the children of Israel, His chosen people, recoiled; and for having prospered you in an attempt wherein the nations of former ages failed; and for having made you of one opinion after you were divided; and for having enabled you to speak of this as a past event, when before you spoke of it only as an event to come.

Receive our congratulations, inasmuch as God has mentioned your conduct to those near Him, and has made you His own troops after you have been troops in the service of your passions. Rejoice at the coming of the angels, sent down to thank you for the sweet odor of the profession of God’s unity wherewith you have gifted this House; and for the perfume of sanctification and glorification you have spread throughout it; and for having removed from their paths therein the nuisance of polytheism and trinitarian doctrines, and a criminal and evil belief. Now, the angels of the heavens implore God’s mercy on you, and pray for you and give you blessings. Therefore, with the help of God, preserve this gift which you have obtained, and protect this favor which you have received, by living in the fear of God, that fear which saves him who holds unto it and delivers from danger him who clings thereto. Beware the seductions of your passions. Avoid falling into perdition, or turning back from the path of righteousness, or recoiling before an enemy. Seize this opportunity for removing the annoyances which still subsist in the land. Fight the good fight in the cause of God, and devote yourselves, O servants of God, to His will, for He has made of you His chosen servants. Beware lest Satan cause you to slip and lead you into rebellion; making you imagine that this victory was owing to your sharp swords, your fleet steeds, and your intrepidity in battle. No, by God! Victory comes not but from the Mighty, the Wise. Take care, O servants of God, after His having ennobled you by this great conquest, this signal favor, and after His having reserved for you so evident a triumph, and placed within your grasp His strong cord [of guidance]—take care not to commit such deeds as He has forbidden, or show the grievous sin of disobedience; lest you be “like the woman who unravels the thread she has firmly spun” (16:92); and like him “to whom We vouchsafed Our signs and who turned away from them, therefore Satan overtook him as he was led astray” (7:175).

Maintain the holy war: it is the best means which you have of serving God, the most noble occupation of your lives. Support God’s cause, and He will support you. Protect His religion and He will protect you. Remember Him, and He will remember you. Thank Him, and He will give you an increase of favors and reward you. Labor to expel the evil, and tear up the enemy by the root. Purify the rest of the land from this filth which has angered God and His Apostle. Lop off the branches of infidelity and cut through its roots. For now the times cry aloud: “Vengeance for Islam and the community of Muhammad. God is mighty. God gives victory and aid. God conquers and subdues. He humbles the infidel!”

Know therefore (and God be merciful unto you): that is the opportunity, therefore seize it; this is the spoil, hasten to obtain it; this is the serious matter, put forth your serious efforts to accomplish it, and send forward the troops of your resolutions in battle-array. For each deed is judged by its result, and each merit by its recompense. God has now made you victorious over this misguided enemy who was equal to you in number, or even surpassed you. And how if you were one to twenty? “If there are twenty steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding” (8:65). May God enable us and you to follow His commandments and be restrained by His prohibitions. May He aid us, Muslims, with succor from Himself. If God assist you, who can overcome you? And if He deprive you of His protection, who then can help you? The best saying is that which is uttered in fitting place; the arrow which strikes deepest is that which is shot from the bow of speech; the best word by which one can touch the intelligence is that of the only God, the sole God, the Mighty, the Wise, who has said: “When the Qur’an is recited, listen to it in silence so that you may be shown mercy” (7:204). I fly to God from Satan the accursed. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

The orator then recited the beginning of Exile (Sura 59), after which he said:

The Apostle ordered you and me to conform to that which God has commanded on the subject of devoted obedience to His will; let us therefore obey Him. He forbade you and me to commit the foul sin of disobedience; let us not therefore revolt against Him. I ask pardon of God for myself, for you, and for all Muslims; ask also pardon.

He then prayed for the imam al-Nasir, the caliph of that age, after which he said:

And prolong, O Almighty God, the reign of Your servant, so humble in his fear of You; so thankful for Your favors, so grateful for Your gifts; Your trenchant sword, Your shining torch; the defender of Your faith, the champion and protector of Your Holy Land; the firmly resisting, the great, the helping prince [or, victorious emir?]; him who gave might to the declaration of the true faith, who vanquished the adorers of the cross; the weal (salah) of the world and of religion (al-din); the sultan of Islam and of the Muslims; the purifier of the Holy Temple; Abu al-Muzaffar Yusuf, the son of Ayyub; the giver of life to the empire (muhyi’l-dawla); the commander of the true believers. Grant, O Almighty God, that his empire extend over the earth, and that the angels ever encircle his standards. Reward him for the services he has rendered to the orthodox [Sunni?] belief, and for his firm resolution and prompt execution in the defense of the Muslim religion. Preserve his life, we beseech You, for the prosperity of Islam. Protect his empire for the advantage of the faith, and extend his authority over the regions of the East and of the West. As You have enabled his hand to retake Jerusalem when men had begun to doubt of Your intentions, and when the Muslims were suffering under their trials, so let his hand take possession of the land far and near. Help him to seize infidelity by the forelock. Let him scatter their squadrons, disperse their multitudes, and send them, band after band, to join their predecessors [in hell]. Reward him, O God, in the name of Muhammad, for his efforts, and let his orders and prohibitions issue uncontrolled to the East and to the West. Let the center and the frontiers of the land, and all the regions of the kingdom, prosper under his rule. Let him humble the pride of the infidels, and tame the insolence of the perverse; spread his dominion unto every city, and post the detachments of his troops on the roads to every country. Maintain, O God, him and his children in the possession of the empire till the day of judgment. Preserve his days and those of his sons and brethren, emirs highly favored. Strengthen his power by granting them long life, and decide, by Your will, the exaltation of his friends and theirs. O God: inasmuch as You have produced, through his means, this lasting advantage for Islam, to endure as long as months and years pursue their course, grant him the eternal kingdom in the abode of the pious, and answer his prayer when he says: “Inspire me, Lord, to render thanks for the favors You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and to do good works that will please You. Admit me, through Your mercy, among Your righteous servants” (27:19).

He then pronounced the usual prayers.

(Source / 11.01.2016)


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.

Emirate of Granada

The seal of the Emirate of Granada, declaring "There is no victor except for Allah"

During the Reconquista, Muslim states fell one by one to Christian kingdoms invading from the North. The major cities of Cordoba, Seville, and Toledo fell from the 1000s to the 1200s. The Murabitun and Muwwahidun (Almoravid and Almohad) movements from North Africa helped slow the Christian tide, but disunity among the Muslims eventually led to continued loss of land.

One Muslim state – Granada – was able to escape conquest by Christians in the 1200s. After the fall of Cordoba in 1236, the rulers of the Emirate of Granada signed a special agreement with the Kingdom of Castile, one of the most powerful Christian kingdoms. Granada had agreed to become a tributary state to Castile. This meant they were allowed to remain independent as the Emirate of Granada, but in exchange for not being invaded by Castile, they had to pay a yearly sum (usually in gold) to the Castilian monarchy. This created a detrimental situation for the Muslims of Granada as they paid regularly to strengthen their enemies.

Despite this, one of the reasons Granada was able to maintain its independence was its geography. It lies high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain. The mountains created a natural barrier for any invading armies. Thus, despite being militarily weaker than Castile, the mountainous terrain provided a huge defensive advantage.

The Granada War

For over 250 years, Granada remained as a tributary state to the stronger Kingdom of Castile. But surrounded by unfriendly Christian nations, Granada was constantly at risk of being exterminated. In the early 1400s, a Muslim scholar wrote of al-Andalus’ last kingdom, “Is Granada not enclosed between a violent sea and an enemy terrible in arms, both of which press on its people day and night?”

The impetus for the conquest of Granada occurred in 1469, when King Ferdinand of Aragon of Queen Isabella of Castile married. This united the two most powerful Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. With a united front, now the Christians set their sights on removing the last Muslim state from the peninsula.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sought to destroy the last Muslim emirate of al-Andalus

In 1482, war began between the new Kingdom of Spain and the Emirate of Granada. Despite being in a much weaker position, the Granadans fought valiantly. One Spanish chronicler expressed his respect for the Muslim soldiers, “the Moors [Muslims] put all their strength and all their heart into the combat, as a courageous man is bound to do when defending his life, his wife, and his children.” The ordinary Muslim civilians and soldiers were fighting for their existence and the survival of Islam in al-Andalus, and fought very bravely. The Muslim rulers, on the other hand, were not as chivalrous or brave.

Throughout the war, the Christians remained unified and did not break up into separate warring factions, as they had commonly in the past. In contrast, Granada experienced huge political upheaval. Muslim leaders and governors were commonly at odds and scheming different plans to undermine each other. Many of them were even secretly working with the Christian kingdoms in exchange for wealth, land, and power. Worse than all of that, in 1483, one year into the war, the sultan’s son, Muhammad, rebelled against his father and sparked a civil war in Granada, just as Spanish forces began to attack from outside.

King Ferdinand planned to use the civil war to his advantage. He supported Muhammad in his fight against his father (and later, his uncle) in an effort to weaken Granada as a whole. Muhammad was supported with arms and soldiers by Ferdinand in the fight against other members of his family, and thus was able to take power over Granada. Throughout this armed struggle, Christian armies slowly pressed further into Granadian lands, so that by the time Muhammad took power in 1490, he only ruled the city of Granada and nothing of the surrounding countryside.

Granada’s Last Stand

Right after solidifying his rule over Granada, however, Muhammad was sent a letter by King Ferdinand that demanded he immediately surrender the city. Muhammad was very surprised by this demand as Ferdinand had given him the impression that he would be allowed to rule over Granada with Ferdinand’s support. Clearly, Muhammad realized too late that he had been just a pawn used by Ferdinand to weaken Granada.

Muhammad decided to resist the Christians militarily and sought help from other Muslim kingdoms throughout North Africa and the Middle East. No help came besides a small Ottoman navy that raided the Spanish coast and did not cause much damage. By the end of 1491, the city of Granada was surrounded by Ferdinand and Isabella’s army. From the towers of his palace, Alhambra, Muhammad could see the huge Christian armies assembling and preparing to conquer the city. With this depressing future in sight, Muhammad was forced to sign a treaty which gave over control of the city in November 1491.

Christian banners and crosses were hung from the Alhambra on January 2nd, 1492

On January 2nd, 1492, the treaty took effect and the Spanish army entered Granada and officially took possession of the last Muslim state of al-Andalus. Christian soldiers occupied the legendary Alhambra palace that morning. They hung the banners and flags of Spain’s Christian monarchs from the walls, signifying their victory. At the top of Alhambra’s tallest tower, they erected a giant silver cross, telling the terrified people of Granada below that the forces of Christendom had been victorious over the Muslims of al-Andalus. Muslims were too fearful to venture outdoors, and the streets were deserted.

Sultan Muhammad was exiled, and on his way out of Granada, he stopped at a mountain pass to look back at Granada and began to cry. His mother was unimpressed with his sudden remorse and scolded him, “Do not cry like a woman for that which you could not defend as a man.”

Although the victorious Christians promised religious freedom and generally favorable terms to the people of Granada, these promises were soon broken. In 1502, Islam was officially outlawed in Granada and hundreds of thousands of Muslims had to either immigrate to North Africa or hide their beliefs. By the early 1600s, not a single Muslim was left in all of Spain.

The story of al-Andalus’ decline from one of the Muslim world’s leading political and social powers in the 1000s to a rump state that was conquered in the late 1400s is one that has no match in Islamic history.  The constant infighting among Muslims, the lack of support from other Muslim empires, and the focus on personal power instead of Islamic unity all led to this downfall. And with the loss of Granada in 1492, that story ended.

(Source / 02.01.2016)


Below is a transcription and recording of a Spanish nashīd in praise of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and in celebration of his birth that dates from the 16th century – an era of intense persecution of Muslims in Spain.

The song is mostly in Spanish, with common prayers referencing the Prophet recited in Arabic. It was originally written in Aljamiado, a form of Spanish written using Arabic letters that was popular among Spanish Muslims.

You can read a few more Aljamiado nashīds here.

Lyrics, transcribed from the original Aljamiado:

Señyor, fes tu assalá sobr’él,

i fesnos amar con-él,

sácanos en su tropel,

jus la señya de Muḥammad.


Façed assalá de conçençia

sobre la luz de la creyençia

e sillaldo con revenençia

i dad a’ççalám sobre Muḥammad.


Tu palabra llegará luego,

e-será reçebido tu ruego,

e-abrás a’ççalám entrego,

esos son los fejos de Muḥammad.


Quien quiera buena ventura,

i -alcançar grada de altūra

porponga en la noje escūra

l-a||alá sobre Muḥammad.


El-es cunbre de la nobleza,

corona de gran riqueza,

cunplimiento de leal alteza,

estas son figuras de Muḥammad.


De su olor fue ell-almiçke de grada,

relunbró la luna aclarada,

e naçyó la rosa onrada

de la sudor de Muḥammad.


Señyor de la grada graçyosa,

d-él naçyó la çençia acuçiosa,

cabdillo dell-alumma preçiosa,

este es nuestro annabī Muḥammad.


A Edam e a Nūḥ fue adelantado,

i a Ibrāhīm i a Içmāʿīl el degollado,

i con ʿĪçā fue albiçreyado,

en todo s-adelantó Muḥammad.


De qu-enpeçó la su venida

la tierra estaba ascureçida,

e luego fue esclareçida,

i clareó con la luz de Muḥammad.


Como enpeçó la creyençia,

luego cayó la descreyençia,

Asām i toda su pertenençia,

aclaró de la luz de Muḥammad.


Los almalakes deçendían,

todas muy alegres vinían,

las alḥurras así fazían,

albriçyando con ti yā Muḥammad!


Los lugares todos poblaste,

con dereja razón que mostraste,

los assayṭānes apedreaste,

éste es el secreto de Muḥammad.


Vino con-alunbramiento onrado,

i con addīn muy ensalçado,

e caminó muy dereçado,

ture la guiaçion de Muḥammad.


Quién contará sus maravillas,

como de la pluvya las sus gotillas,

e dones de grandes valías

que fueron dados a Muḥammad?


Ay partida de la guía,

qu’averdadeçe su mesajería!

Llamólo la corça de día:

Defiéndime yā Muḥammad!


Yo é dos fijos en cría,

Dísome ell-uno: Ve todavía

all-arraçul sin miedo, fía

en la segurança de Muḥammad.


El gemer del tronco deseyado

con palabras ubo fablado.

Tornó ell-oŸo a su estado.

El camello fabló a Muḥammad.


Testemonyó la criaūra

que del juizyo él-era la fermosūra.

Fízole sonbra la nube escūra,

las palomas acosieron a Muḥammad.


Soldó la luna depués que fendió,

ell-espalda fabló e cayó,

de la palma luego comyó,

como la plantó Muḥammad.


Ell-awa d’entre sus dedos

manó como manaderos.

Un puñyo fartó a mil fanbrientos,

Como bendiso en-ella Muḥammad.


Del-alfaḍīla del-Alqur’an onrado,

siete aleyas de al^amdu preçyado

abarcan muy gran dictado,

todo por la onra de Muḥammad.


El día de la gran tristeza

publicars-á la su nobleza.

Dirá el rey de la alteza:

Demanda i dart-é yā Muḥammad!


Alça la cabeça mi privado,

i ruégame por tu amado.

Aquel día todo ell-alfonsado

tienen feguza en Muḥammad,


de qu-asentará el mejorado

En-alganna, en-alto grado,

a donde graçya ell-onrado,

a los qu-alegraron a Muḥammad.


Salrá con albiçra i riḍwān,

con alḥurras i wildān,

con plateles de rayān,

al reçebimiento de Muḥammad.


Los alminbares de los annabíes,

e los alkurçies de los alwalíes,

e las sillas de los taqíes,

çerc-al-alminbar de Muḥammad.


En los alcáçares de las alturas

con muy graçyosas alḥuras,

e de muy nobles feguras,

para los amigos de Muḥammad.


El Señyor noble llamando:

Warneçed mi-siervos coronando,

qu-ellos son los de mi bando

Pues no contraryaron a Muḥammad.


Lo que les prometieron fallaron,

e todo cuanto desearon

en-alganna para siempre los graçiaron,

que son alumma de Muḥammad.


Qu-él-es mi castillo i mi warda,

e sus amores la mi alfarda,

aunque mujo se me tarda,

ayúdome con ti yā Muḥammad!


Que mi presona es mujo dura,

non reçibe castigadura,

yo é miedo, avergonçadura,

sey mi abogado, yā Muḥammad!


Que en mi dijo i en mi fejo

tengo yo gran despejo,

apiade Allah elmi derejo

i déme ell-amor de Muḥammad.


Aquí alabo los tus grados;

lonbraré a l-aṣṣiḥāba onrados,

qu’ellos fueron los alabados

pues ayudaron a Muḥammad.


Apiade Allah el cuerpo dell-alimām

Abī Bakr y ʿUmar i ʿUzmān

i ʿAlī ell-alabado tanbién,

mienbro de los mienbros de Muḥammad.


Bendiçyon sea sobre albatūl,

i sobre los dos fijos ʿadūl,

i sobre las mujeres del-arraçūl,

i toda l- aṣṣiḥāba de Muḥammad.

(Source / 15.12.2015)


According to new research at the University of Birmingham, a collection of Quranic manuscripts held at the university may be the oldest in the world. Radiocarbon dating estimates that the manuscripts, which are written on animal skin, were written between 568 and 645 CE.

If the research is accurate, it means that the manuscripts were written at most just a few years after the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ passed away in 632 CE, indicating it was probably transcribed by a Companion of his.

The manuscript is written in the now extinct Hijazi script, which lacked dots and vowel markings, making it difficult to read for someone not already familiar with the verses. By the late 600s, the Kufic script came to dominate Quranic manuscripts.

Below are scans of the manuscript along with links for further reading.

Verses 91-98 of Surat Maryam, followed by the first 12 verses of Surat Taha


Verses 91-98 of Surat Maryam, followed by the first 12 verses of Surat Taha



Verses 12 to 39 of Surat Taha

Verses 17 to 23 of Surat al-Kahf


Verses 17 to 23 of Surat al-Kahf

Verses 23 to 31 of Surat al-Kahf


Verses 23 to 31 of Surat al-Kahf

Link to virtual manuscript at University of Birmingham

Link to text transcription of the manuscripts by Alba Fedeli

(Source / 22.07.2015)


It’s a common accusation made against Muslims and Islam in general: “The only reason Islam is a world religion is because it spread by the sword.” It’s a favorite remark of Islamophobes who parade as analysts and historians fear-mongering about the threat Islam supposedly poses to the Western World. With it being such a hot topic that causes so much debate, it is appropriate to analyze and study this topic to better understand whether it is valid or not.

Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia – The First Conquests

After the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), Islamic expansion truly began in the early 630s, AD. Campaigns against the Byzantine and Sassanid (Persian) Empires were initiated which pitted this new religion of Islam, with its desert Arabian warriors against the established and ancient empires centered in Constantinople and Ctesiphon.

Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, gave these armies rules which would seem very constricting by today’s standards of warfare:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.”¹

These rules were very unique and innovative for the time. Just before this Muslim expansion, the Persians and Byzantines had fought a decades-long war that left lands from Syria to Iraq in ruins. Abu Bakr made it clear that Muslim armies do not operate by the same principles and restrict their fights to the armies and governments of the enemy, not the general populace. Islamic Shari’ah law, based on the example of Abu Bakr, clearly forbids the use of force against anyone except in legitimate cases of war against a clearly defined enemy.*

The purpose of this article is not to delve into the tactics and individual battles of this conquest of Egypt, Syria and Iraq. It is enough for our purposes here to state that Syria was under Muslim control by 638, Egypt by 642, and Iraq/Persia by 644. The Byzantine Empire, having lost its religious base in Syria, as well as its commercial base in Egypt was greatly weakened. The Sassanid Empire, on the other hand, completely ceased to exist after the Muslim conquest. Politically, it was a disaster for these two giant empires. But, going back to the main idea of this article, how did Islam as a religion spread in the conquered areas?

Unequivocally, the general populace was not forced or induced to convert to Islam. If anything, they were encouraged to continue living their lives as they had for centuries before. In the example of the conquest of Jerusalem, the caliph at the time, Umar ibn al-Khattab, wrote in the surrender treaty with the patriarchs of city:

He [Umar] has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city…Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed…They will not be forcibly converted.²


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which Umar promised to protect when the city came under Muslim control

No other empire or state at the time had such ideas about religious tolerance. Umar, being a companion of the Prophet, sets a precedent in this treaty about the treatment of conquered peoples in Islamic law. The rest of the conquered lands, in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia had similar treaties. Whether the citizens of the conquered lands were Christian, Jew, Sabians, or Zoroastrians, they were allowed to keep their religious traditions. There exists not one example of forced conversion in these early conquests.

Proof of the lack of forced conversion in these areas is the remaining Christian communities in these countries. For the first few centuries after the Muslim conquest, the majority of the population of these areas remained Christian. Slowly, they began to take on Islam as their religion and Arabic as their language. Today, large percentages of Christians remain in Egypt (9%), Syria (10%), Lebanon (39%), and Iraq (3%). If those early Muslim conquests (or even later Muslim rulers) forced conversion on anyone, there would be no Christian communities in those countries. Their existence is proof of Islam not spreading by the sword in these areas.

North Africa and Spain

The soldiers and leaders of these early conquests in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia were from the first generation of Muslims. Many of them were even companions of the Prophet. What would happen as Muslim expansion continued in later generations, as Muslim armies fought the Byzantines further West, in North Africa and later, in Spain?

The majority of the population of the North African coast in the 600s were Berbers. While the Byzantine Empire controlled most of the coast from Egypt to Algeria, the people of those areas were generally not loyal to the Byzantines who had great trouble trying to subdue the region. Political and social upheaval in the century before Islam led to a devastated region, which was probably just a shell of its former glory as a Roman province.

The first Umayyad caliph, Muawiya, appointed a general, Uqba bin Nafi, to conquer the North African coast from the Byzantines in the 660s. Again, without getting into the details of the tactics and battles, within the course of a few decades, Muslim control over North Africa was solidified.

The same pattern we saw in Southwest Asia continued in North Africa. Conversions were not forced on any of the local populations. No accounts, by either Muslim or non-Muslim sources, mention forced conversion of the Berbers. Indeed, many Berbers did convert to Islam quite quickly. That strengthened the Muslim armies, as huge numbers of newly-converted Berbers would join the armies sweeping across the continent. Had these Berbers been forced to convert, they certainly would not have had the zeal and enthusiasm for Islam that would cause them to join the armies and spread Islamic political control even further against the Byzantines.

After the Muslim conquest of North Africa, came a proposal that would prove to change world history forever. In the early 700s, the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal) was under the control of the Visigothic King Roderic. A nobleman from Iberia sent to the Muslim governor of North Africa, complaining about the oppressive and tyranical rule of Roderic. The nobleman promised to support a Muslim invasion against Roderic with his own troops if they intervened.


The Rock of Gibraltar, where Tariq ibn Ziyad’s army landed in their pursuit of Roderic, with a modern mosque in the foreground

After a few preliminary raids to gauge the local populations’ support for such an intervention, the Muslim general Tariq ibn Ziyad (who may possibly have been Berber himself), ferried an army across from Morocco to Iberia in 711. Within months, Tariq’s army had defeated King Roderic and opened up the country to Muslim control. Within 3 years, the entire Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim control. Many cities, hearing of the justice of Muslim rule, voluntarily opened their doors and welcomed Muslim armies, who ended what they saw as the oppressive rule of the Visigoths.

More documentary evidence survives from this conquest proving that the conquest did not mean forced conversion. In April 713, a Muslim governor in the region negotiated a treaty with a Visigothic noble, which included the provision that the local people “will not be killed or taken prisoner. Nor will they be separated from their women and children. They will not be coerced in matters of religion, their churches will not be burned.”³

We see again in the example of Muslim Spain (which would later be called al-Andalus) that the locals (mostly Christians, although a sizable Jewish population also existed) were not forced to convert to Islam. In fact, in later centuries, an almost utopian society of religious tolerance existed in al-Andalus, in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians all experienced a golden age of knowledge, culture, and philosophy. This enlightened land of religious tolerance would end centuries later with the Christian Reconquista which effectively ethnically cleansed Muslims and Jews from the entire peninsula.

The Indian Subcontinent

Today, two of the most populous Muslim countries in the world, Pakistan (2rd most Muslims), and India (3rd most Muslims), occupy the Indian subcontinent. Islam has had an incredible and lasting impact on the region in all aspects of life. However, even through centuries of Muslim rule by different empires and dynasties, Hinduism and other religions remain as important aspects of the subcontinent.

The reasons for Muslim invasion into the subcontinent were justified by the time period’s rules of warfare. A ship filled with daughters of Muslim traders who were trading in Sri Lanka was attacked by pirates from Sindh (what is now Pakistan) who captured and enslaved the women. Seeking to liberate the women and punish the pirates, an expedition was sent out in 710, led by Muhammad bin Qasim, an Arab from the city of Ta’if.

Bin Qasim’s military expedition into this distant and remote land was made successful by very important social issues in India. The caste system, which originated from Hindu belief, divided society up into very strictly controlled social classes. Those on top led wealthy, comfortable lives, while those on the bottom (particularly untouchables) were seen as the scourge of society. Added to this were the Buddhists, who were generally oppressed by the Hindu princes throughout the country. With the entrance of Muslim armies, which carried with them the promise of an equal society, many Buddhists and lower castes welcomed the Muslim armies. In fact, the first Muslims of Indian origin were probably from the lower castes, as Islam offered them an escape from the oppressive social system they were accustomed to.

With the conquest of Sindh, Muhammad bin Qasim showed that Islamic law’s protection of religious minorities was not just for Christians and Jews. Buddhists and Hindus in the subcontinent were given religious freedom and were not forced to convert. In one case, a Buddhist community complained to bin Qasim of their fear that the Muslim armies would force Islam upon them and they would have to leave the practices of their ancestors. Bin Qasim held a meeting with the Buddhist and Hindu leaders of the town, and promised them religious freedom and asked them to continue leading their lives as they had previously.


We now come back to the question posed at the beginning of the article: did Islam spread by the sword? While numerous people with political and religious agendas make their case otherwise, it is seen as a clear and indisputable fact that the religion of Islam was not spread through violence, coercion, fear, or bloodshed. There exist no accounts of people being forced to convert to Islam under any circumstances. While the political and military control of Muslim leaders did in fact spread through defensive warfare, Muslim leaders and generals in fact went out of their way to protect the rights of other religious groups. The warfare was always carried out only against the governments and armies that the Muslims were at war with. The local citizens were left alone. Although this article only gives specific examples of a few regions, this trend continued throughout Islamic history, following the precedent of the early Muslims.

It is important to note that these are some of the first examples in history of religious tolerance. While religious tolerance and freedom are first seen in “Western” civilization in the Enlightenment of the 1600s and 1700s, Muslims have practiced religious freedom since the 600s AD. The arguments made by some political and historical “pundits” about Islamic belief spreading violently and through warfare clearly have no historical basis. In fact, Muslim religious toleration has influenced the historical tradition of such ideas in lands as diverse as Europe, the Americans and India.

(Source / 07.06.2015)

The Mongol Invasion and the Destruction of Baghdad

The 1200s started out looking good for the Islamic world. The Crusaders had been defeated and Jerusalem liberated in 1187, the Ismaili Fatimids had finally been removed from harassing the Muslim world in the mid-1100s, and a powerful Khwarazmian Empire had emerged in Persia. However, all that would soon turn around when the ruthless Mongols would make their way into Southwest Asia. The destruction and devastation they left in their path has scarcely been seen anywhere else in history.

Who Are The Mongols?

The Mongols were a tribe of nomads from Central/North Asia. They lived on the steppe of that region, relying on a nomadic lifestyle of constant movement as a way of life. They were forever dependent on and attached to their horses, which was their main mode of transportation. Religiously, they were polytheistic animists. They never established a large, organized empire, and instead stayed as a loose coalition of tribes north of China.

Throughout history, they were usually at war with their neighbors. China to the south in fact built the Great Wall of China during the reign of Emperor Shi Huang (247-221 BC) as a means to keep the Mongols and others away from their villages. The Mongols also feuded with other tribal groups in Central Asia such as Turkic tribes and the Tatars.

Genghis Khan

Mongolian (and world) history changed forever during the rule of Genghis Khan. He was a tribal chief for the Mongols from 1206-1227. During his reign, he managed to unite the many Mongol tribes along with numerous Turkic tribes as well. With a large, unified group, he set about conquering any and all land the Mongol horsemen could reach.

He conquered most of Northern China in the 1210s. In doing so, he destroyed the Xia and Jin dynasties, as well as conquered Beijing. He also managed to conquer most of the Turkic tribes of Central Asia, leading all the way into Persia. This led him to send armies into Eastern Europe as well, attacking Russian lands and even the borders of Central Europe’s German states.


By the 1220s, Genghis Khan’s armies had ravaged much of Asia and even Europe

More important than what Genghis Khan conquered was how he conquered. He deliberately used terror as a weapon of war. If a city he was besieging gave up without a fight, its people would usually be spared but would have to go under Mongol control. If the city fought against the Mongols, everyone, including civilians, would be massacred. This reign of terror is a large part of why he was such a successful conqueror. People were more willing to give up than to suffer massacres at his hand. For example, when he besieged the city of Herat, in present-day Afghanistan, he killed over 1,600,000 people.

The Invasion of the Muslim World

Besides some raids and massacres on the borderlands of Islam, Genghis Khan did not invade far into the Muslim world. Under his successor, Ogedei, the Muslim world continued to be spared Mongol wrath. However, in 1255 that peace would end. The Great Khan, Mongke, put his brother Hulagu Khan in charge of an army whose goals were to conquer Persia, Syria, and Egypt, as well as to destroy the Abbasid Caliphate. The campaign’s goal appears to be a complete destruction of Islam. Hulagu himself even had a very deep hatred for everything attached to Islam. Much of this came from his Buddhist and Christian advisors who influenced his policies.

The Muslim world at this time was in no position to resist the Mongol attacks. The Abbasid Caliphate was nothing but a shell of its former self, having no power outside of Baghdad. Most of Persia was disunited as the Khwarazmian Empire had mostly deteriorated by then. The Ayyubid state established by Salah al-Din was only in control of small parts of Iraq and Syria. In Egypt, a recent revolution had overthrown Salah al-Din’s descendants and brought to power the new Mamluk Sultanate. With his giant army of hundreds of thousands, Hulagu did not encounter much resistance.

The Destruction of Baghdad

Baghdad had been established in 762 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur. Throughout its history, it had been the capital of the Muslims, as well as the world in general. The libraries of Baghdad were unrivaled. The House of Wisdom, established soon after the city was built, was a magnet for the most intelligent scientists, thinkers, mathematicians, and linguists of the world. The caliphs were patrons of literature, science, and the arts.

Although by the mid-1200s much of the glamour and importance of Baghdad was gone. The caliphs were figureheads more interested in worldly pleasures than serving God through serving the people. The Abbasid army was effectively non-existent, and only served as bodyguards of the caliph. And the scientific achievements of the Muslim world were now centered in places such as Cairo, Muslim Spain, and India.


The Mongol army besieging Baghdad

It was at this historic and landmark city that the Mongols arrived in 1258. Their army, estimated at over 150,000 soldiers, stood before the city that was just a shadow of the great capital of the Muslim world of the 800s. The siege began in mid-January and only lasted two weeks. On February 10th, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs.

A full week of pillage and destruction commenced. The Mongols showed no discretion, destroying mosques, hospitals, libraries, and palaces. The books from Baghdad’s libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books. The world will never truly know the extent of what knowledge was lost forever when those books were thrown into the river or burned.

More important than the books, however, was the loss of life. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people were butchered in that one week of destruction. Baghdad was left completely depopulated and uninhabitable. It would take centuries for Baghdad to regain any sort of prominence as an important city.

Defeat and Aftermath

After Baghdad, the Mongols continued on westward. They conquered Syria from the Ayyubids, with help from the Armenians and neutrality from the Crusaders. In Palestine they reached the extent of their conquests. The new Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, under the leadership of Baibars defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. This prevented a Mongol invasion of the Holy Lands of Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem. This also ensured the safety of the only remaining powerful Muslim empire of the time, the Mamluks.

Despite ultimately being unsuccessful in their attempt to destroy Islam, the Mongols left a deep political, economic, and military scar in the heart of the Muslim world. Entire regions were depopulated. Irrigation canals, fields of crops, and economic infrastructure were destroyed beyond repair. The political institutions, such as the caliphate, that held the Muslim world together for centuries were simply abolished.

The empire established by Hulagu stretched over most of Muslim Southwest Asia

The Mongol Il-Khanate established by Hulagu’s descendants would rule over Persia, Iraq, and Anatolia for over 100 years. Over decades and centuries, the Mongols in Southwest Asia slowly converted to Islam and became absorbed in a Persian/Turkish culture. But there is no denying the immense negative effect the Mongols had on the Muslim world in the 1200s.

The Mongol invasion is one of the most demoralizing times of Islamic history. The death and destruction of the 1200s has not yet been seen again in the Muslim world. While most articles on this website illustrate the great achievements of Islamic history, it is similarly important to be aware of the negatives, particularly what causes them to occur. The Muslim world was largely unable to repel the Mongol invasion due to disunity and weak political and military institutions. Throughout Islamic history, disunity has always led to invasion and defeat, while unity has led to great Islamic empires that benefited the entire world.

(Source / 10.02.2015)