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Full text of "Decisive Moments In The History Of Islam"

DAMAGE BOOK 

Dranched Book 



00 ir 

64893 



DECISIVE MOMENTS IN 
THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

The original iclca of this book is fully repre- 
sented by its title. It deals with the deeisive 
encounters between the East and West, bet- 
ween Islam and Christendom. This is one of 
the most important subjects of Islamic history, 
indeed, perhaps, the most important of all. 
Besides its abundant and eventful episodes, it 
throws much light on this eternal struggle 
between the East and West. The encounter of 
Islam and Christendom, in the fields of war 
and peace, was always decisive and had the 
most far-reaching eilects on their destinies. 

Islam is commencing to-day a new phase of 
revival, both political and moral. The streng- 
thening of intellectual and cultural bonds 
between Muslim nations, the review of the 
glories of the past and co-operation in throw- 
ing light on the common legacy, are valuable 
elements in this revival. 

Nothing has hitherto been written on similar 
lines. 



By the same Author 

1. Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah and the mysteries of 
.the Fatimide Doctrine. (Arabic) 

2. Ibn Khaldun : his Life and Work. (English) 

3. History of the Inquisition and the Famous 
Trials of History. (Arabic) 

4. Misr ul-Islamiah (Islamic Egypt). (Arabic) 

5. History of Al-Azhar Mosque. (Arabic) 

6. History of the Muslim Dynasties in Spain 
new and enlarged edition. (Arabic) 



Translated from the Second Arabic Edition 

DECISIVE MOMENTS IN 
THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 



BY 

MUHAMMAD ABDULLAH ENAN 

Formerly of the Egyptian Bar 

Assistant Director. Press Department, Ministry of the Interior, Cairo 
"Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, Univeisity Fouad 



JSH. MUHAMMAD ASHRAF 

KASHMIRI BAZAAR - LAHORE (INDIA} 



Copyright 



First published, October, 1940 
Second Revised Edition, November, 1943 



Published by 

Sh. Muhammad Ashraf. 

Kashmiri Bazaar. Lahore 

and printed by 

S.^A.Latif 

at the Lion Press, 

Hospital Road, Lahore 



Preface to the Second Arabic Edition 

THE original idea of this book is fully represented 
by its title. It deals with the decisive encounters 
between East and West, Islam and Christendom. 
This is one of the most important subjects of Islamic 
history, indeed perhaps the most important of all. 
Besides its abundant and eventful episodes, it throws 
much light on this eternal struggle between the East 
and West. The encounter of Islam and Christendom 
in the fields of war or peace, was always decisive and 
had the most far-reaching effects on their destinies. 
Such is the field which inspired me with the idea of 
this work and most of its chapters, and from it I 
chose those decisive encounters which I here present 
to the reader. They are all united with this common 
bond, and all are representative of the idea. The book 
is not, therefore, as it may seem, at the first glance, a 
collection of miscellaneous studies but, with the 
exception of a few chapters, is a harmonious unity 
dealing with one and the same subject. I did not, 
of course, deal with all such decisive events, the 
subject being so vast and inexhaustive, but have tried 
to present some of the most important and with 
most far-reaching effects on the course of Islamic 
history. I have dealt with special care with two of 
these, namely, the Arab siege of Constantinople and 
the battle of Tours (Pavement of the Martyrs), the 
greatest decisive encounters of Islam and Christendom. 
The failure of the Arabs, under the walls of Cons- 
tantinople, was a check to the torrent of young Islam 
from penetrating into Europe from the East, and gave 
it a new life to the Byzantine Empire, which lasted 
for some more centuries. The retreat of the Arabs 



vi DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

before the Franks, in the plains of Tours, was a check 
to Islam from penetrating into the nations of the 
West and the North, the seal of its victory in the 
West, the field of deliverance for Christendom, and 
the cradle of resurrection and life for the European 
nations. Likewise the victory of the Muslims in the 
plains of Zallaka was not only the victory of Muslim 
Spain ; it was the defeat of Christendom by Islam, and 
the prelude of the Crusades. And the Crusades were 
nothing but a new phase of this eternal struggle 
between East and West, and Islam and Christendom. 
The fall of Andalusia and the Moorish civilization 
was a blow not only to Islam, but to the greatness of 
Spain itself. Let us imagine for example that the 
Muslims conquered Rome instead of their failure 
under its walls, or that the Crusaders were able to 
crush Egypt and establish themselves in the East ; 
what would have then been the fate of Islam and the 
Islamic world ? These decisive events and moments 
in the history of Islam and Christendom, are the 
data which supplied the subject of these studies. 
Many of them are very scantily dealt with by the 
Islamic Chronicles, and are seldom treated in our 
modern historical research. We are, therefore, obliged 
to refer for many of their details to Western sources 
and scholars despite their being often influenced by 
religious and national motives, which could be eli- 
minated only by a dispassionate and impartial inquiry. 

Cairo, March 1943. 



I welcomed the idea of publishing an English 
version of this work which could be read by Muslims 
all over the world, who know no Arabic, but who could 
read English. Islam is commencing to-day a new phase 
of revival, both political and moral. The strengthen- 
ing of intellectual and cultural bonds between Muslim 



PREFACE vii 



nations, the review of the glories of the past, and co- 
operation in throwing light on the common legacy, are 
valuable elements in this revival. 

Cairo, December 1939. M. A. ENAN. 



CONTENTS 

PREFACE ........ v 

Preliminary 

I. The Arab Outburst 3 

II. Religious Policy of the Arabs ... 14 

Decisive Moments I 

III. Arab Siege of Constantinople ... 29 

IV. The Pavement of the Martyrs ... 43 
V. The Muslims Masters of the Sea ... 74 

(i) The Conquest of Crete .... 75 

() Sicily, Sardegna, Corsica and the South of 

Italy 77 

(0 The Greatest Muslim Seaman . . 82 

VI. The Muslim Invasion of Rome ... 90 

VII. The Idea of the Crusades .... 96 

VIII. (0 The Greek Fire : its Origin and Develop- 
ment 109 

() The Greek Fire in the Combats of Damietta 115 

IX. (0 De Joinville's Memoirs on the Seventh 

Crusade 122 

(it) The Adversity of St. Louis in Egypt . 129 

Miscellaneous Studies I 

X. (i) Diplomacy in Islam 139 

(ii) Charlemagne and Al-Rashid . . . 147 

XL Slavery in the Middle Ages : its Rules and 

Development in Muslim Countries . . 157 



X DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

XII. Chivalry : its History, Principles and Conven- 



tions 



Decisive Moments II 



XIII. The Cid El Campeador and the History of 

the Kingdom of Valencia .... 

XIV. The Fall of Toledo 

XV. The Battle of Al-Zallaka 

XVI. The Fall of Granada 

XVII. Fall of the Moorish Civilization and the 
Tragedy of the Moriscoes .... 

XVIII. Intellectual Legacy of Muslim Spain in the 
Escurial 

Miscellaneous Studies II 



XIX. Marco Polo . . 
XX. Ibn Batuta 

XXI. Some Religious Legends which directed 
Course of History .... 

BIBLIOGRAPHY . 

INDEX 



the 



165 



177 
193 
203 
213 

224 
239 



251 
264 

279 

287 
289 



PRELIMINARY 



CHAPTER I 
The Arab Outburst 

THERE are, in the annals of History, events and 
problems which seem extraordinary, and which 
could hardly be explained by social law and 
evolution. The outburst of the Arabs from the 
deserts of Mecca to the conquest of the ancient world 
is one of those astounding problems. From the wilder- 
ness of their peninsula the Arabs, with modest 
numbers and arms, proceeded to the invasion of the 
Roman and Persian Empires, both among the greatest, 
most impregnable and civilized nations of History. 
Those tribes, which had hardly emerged from the 
nomad condition, were not awed by the prestige of the 
two great Powers which shared the domination of the 
antique world, nor were they checked by their military 
skill, their powerful and victorious arms, and their 
immense and inexhaustible resources. The Arab 
tribes were victorious in every conquest and battle. 
In less than fifty years they were able to found, on the 
ruins of the two vast empires, one of the greatest 
powers of History. This is a historical phenomenon 
which is not easy to understand and explain. 

There is something, however, in the conditions 
of the age in which the Arabs made their first erup- 
tion and in the struggle between the young empire of 
the Caliphs and Constantinople and Persia, which 
throws light on this mystery. The Arab invasion of 
the ancient world, their great conquests and astound- 
ing victories, may be ascribed to two fundamental 
factors, i.e., the spiritual effect of Islam on those 
nomadic tribes, which emerged from the desert, seek- 



4 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

ing domination and riches through conquest, and the 
conditions of those nations which happened to be the 
theatre of their conquests. 

The effects of Islam on the Arab outburst are 
most conspicuous. The new religion appearing amorig 
dispersed, inconsistent and antagonistic tribes, imbibed 
with pagan traditions and ravaged by civil wars, recon- 
ciled and furnished them with solid, spiritual, social 
and moral institutions. The conditions of the age in 
which the Arabian Prophet appeared were such as to 
favour the new doctrine, and encourage its propaga- 
tion. It was an age of mental and social decline where 
the governing and privileged classes in civilized 
societies sank into the most awful dissolution. Nations 
were full of wrath and weariness at the conditions and 
institutions of the time, and burning with hope and 
desire to have them replaced by better and more 
elevated ones. Signs of the general storm were hover- 
ing on Arabia. " The birth of Mohamed," says 
Gibbon, " was fortunately placed in the most degener- 
ate and disorderly period of the Persians, the Romans 
and the Barbarians of Europe." 1 The Arabs felt the 
need for a religion with more solid precepts and with 
purer doctrines than the pagan institutions ; even 
people of Persia, Syria and Egypt were feeling the 
same for new spiritual doctrines ; Zoroastrianism and 
ManichaBanism, 2 were already dead ; Judaism had 
since long come to a standstill ; and Christianity pro- 
voked acute controversy and split into sects, the 
powerful persecuting the weak most bitterly. 

During these violent storms, which raged in the 
ancient world and shook it to its depths, Arabia 
enjoyed more liberty and tranquillity, and was the 
refuge of persecuted sects whose dogmas and rites 
were threatened. Thus it was the best theatre for the 
birth of those ideals which were coveted by the 
ancient world and by the Arabian tribes. "The 
Arabs were never subdued or conquered. . ." says von 



THE ARAB OUTBURST 5 

Sfchlegel, and " this long established liberty and total 
independence of all foreign conquerors and rulers had 
contributed not a little to exalt among the Arabs a 
strong self-consciousness." 3 In this age, when Arabia 
was animated with these elevated aspirations and 
ideals, and impelled by an ardent desire to free itself 
from the defects of old life, rose the Arabian Prophet. 
Islam was a comprehensive code for a new life, 
distinguished by its purity and solidity of its moral 
and social precepts. From its legislative side, Islam 
was a very powerful factor in organizing this disper- 
sed and inconsistent society. The new Sharia (Law) 
created, from the Arabian tribes, an organized and 
united society, replaced the law of custom and chang- 
ing passions by wise laws which are most expressive of 
the loftiest human qualities and feelings. Surely the 
laws which govern the moral side of the life would be 
most effective and most triumphant if they could 
provide for the orientation of spirit and sentiment in 
the society for which they are enacted. That was the 
triumph of Muslim Law {Sharia), and it is this that 
made it, through centuries, a political and social 
constitution for the majority of Islamic states and 
societies ; that is also why there are many modern 
Muslim societies of our time which still submit will- 
ingly to many of those precepts and provisions enacted 
more than thirteen centuries ago. " It is not the pro- 
pagation, but the permanency of his religion," cries 
Gibbon with admiration, " that deserves our wonder : 
the same pure and perfect impression which he 
engraved at Mecca and Medina, is preserved, after the 
revolutions of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the 
African, and the Turkish Proselytes of the Koran " 4 ; 
and " Historians are apt," says Finlay, " to be enticed 
from their immediate subjects, in order to contemp- 
late the personal history of a man who obtained so 
marvellous a dominion over the minds and actions of 
his followers ; and whose talents laid the foundations 



6 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

of a political and religious system, which has ever 
since continued to govern millions of mankind of 
various races and dissimilar manners. The success of 
Mahomet as a lawgiver, among the most ancient 
nations of Asia, and the stability of his institutions* 
during a long series of generations, and in every con- 
dition of social policy, proved that this extraordinary 
man was formed by a rare combination of the qualities 
both of a Lycurgus and Alexander." 5 

These are positive factors regarding the effect of 
Islam in the eruption of the Arabs. There is, how- 
ever, a negative factor concerning the feelings of the 
nations who were the first theatres for the diffusion 
of Islam. In Persia, and in the Roman provinces, 
religious persecution was an established state policy. 
This persecution affected the followers of different 
religious doctrines; it even affected the followers of 
the official religion or doctrine if not embraced accord- 
ing to the official versions. Islam brought the bless- 
ing of toleration, and urged the liberty of faith and 
conscience. The Muslim conquerors followed this 
principle to a praiseworthy extent, in a time when 
Islam was still burning in the bosoms of all classes. 
This judicious policy was one of the most important 
factors in the extension of Islamic conquests and 
assuring the loyalty of the conquered nations. 



From this versatile portrait which history pre- 
sents to us, at the advent of Islam, of the dissolution 
of the Persian and Roman Empires, the decay of the 
antique world and of simplicity of the Arabian society 
with its shades of zeal, vigour, and moral purity, we 
could realize many of the factors of the triumph of 
Islam and the Arabs. 

This portrait is described by Gibbon : " While 
the State was exhausted by the Persian War, and the 



THE ARAB OUTBURST 7 

Church was distracted by the Nestorian and Mono- 
physite sects, Mohamed with the sword in one hand, 
and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the 
ruins of Christianity and of Rome. The genius of the 
Arabian Prophet, the manners of his nation, and the 
spirit of his religion, involve the causes of the decline 
and fall of the Eastern Empire ; and our eyes are 
curiously intent on one of the most memorable 
revolutions which have impressed a new and lasting 
character on the nations of the globe " 6 ; and by 
Schlegel : " Compared with Roman degeneracy, with 
the corruption of the Byzantine Court, with the 
Assyrian effeminacy, and the immorality of the great 
Asiatic cities, this tribe-character of the Arabians, as 
preserved in its purity during their ancient freedom, 
appears undoubtedly to be of a less corrupt, more 
moral, and more generous nature. Doubtless the 
Arabs possessed, in the first ages of their history, a 
great moral energy of will and strength of character 
and even in the period of their decline these qualities 
are still perceptible. 1 ' 7 

While the Arabian peninsula was animated with 
this new and vigorous life, the two powers dominating 
the ancient world, and bordering the extremities of the 
peninsula, i.e., the Persian and Roman Empires, were 
passing through a stage of social and political decay. 
In Persia despotic rule overwhelmed all classes pf 
society, and suppressed all liberties ; this despotic rule 
itself was tottering over a volcano of intrigues, cons- 
piracies and ambitions. The military zeal of the 
Persians which formerly pushed their arms to the 
farthest confines of Asia Minor had since long sub- 
sided, and was absorbed by peaceful and luxurious life ; 
the powerful authority of the throne waned and was 
unable to master the distant provinces ; anarchy reign- 
ed everywhere, and tyranny raised indignation among 
all classes of society. The Roman Empire had grown 
01d ; the barbarian tribes conquered its western por- 



8 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

tions, and the era of revival caused in the Eastern 
Empire by the conquests and reforms of Justinian at 
the beginning of the sixth century degenerated before 
long and seeds of decay and decomposition set in. 
The Roman laws and institutions were the principal 
cause of this decline. They made a sharp distinction 
between classes and individuals, favoured the Roman 
citizens with rights, posts and privileges, and deprived 
the non-Romans who were equally Roman subjects. 
The result was that Roman society was divided into 
two classes : governing masters, i.e., the Romans 8 and 
governed subjects. The latter, who were the vast 
majority of the people, were deprived of all rights 
and prerogatives, were severely oppressed, especially 
in distant provinces eluding the control of the central 
government and suffered from heavy taxation and 
extortion. They were, therefore, hostile to the 
Roman yoke, and longed for its downfall. Also the 
Roman armies, at the time of which we are speaking, 
had lost their national character ; they were composed 
equally of mercenary troops and of the subjects of the 
conquered provinces to whom the Empire was forced 
to apply for protection and for upholding its authority 
in its vast possessions. This mixture between the 
pure Roman and foreign elements caused the decay of 
the vigorous qualities of the army which were the 
support of the State ; it lost its national spirit which 
had made it the terror of the antique world and which 
had pushed its arms to the confines of Scotland and 
the shores of the Baltic. 

The military glory of the Arabs may, from some 
points, be ascribed to some other causes than their 
military skill. In fact, the young armies of the desert 
could not be equal to the Roman and Persian armies 
either in means or qualities. However, the majority 
of Arabian troops made its experience in the Persian 
wars ; religious zeal in the bosoms of the young com- 
pensated for discipline and skill. This zeal was so 



THE ARAB OUTBURST 9 

great as to outweigh and overwhelm the Roman valour. 
Blind obedience was a conspicuous quality among the 
Arabian troops ; it was a compensation for the defects 
of means and skill. The first Arab conquests were 
also distinguished by surprise and rapidity which 
contributed to their success. Zeal, however burning, 
could not stand a long struggle ; discipline and skill 
would mostly triumph, when the effects of surprise 
are gone. The Arabs, however, were able in most 
cases to uphold their victory and to establish them- 
selves in the conquered land among nations ravaged 
by religious discord, severely oppressed and impelled 
by indignation and discontent. The Roman legions 
lost in most of these combats the advantages of discip- 
line and skill and the possible help of the subject 
people, who since long withheld their sympathy for a 
government from whose tyranny they suffered most 
severely. 

The Roman Empire faced the Arab outburst in a 
time when the Persian wars made a heavy drain on its 
resources, sapped its forces and destroyed the power 
of the central government, and helped many leaders 
and governors to defy it and to realize for themselves 
a substantial independence. The national spirit had 
for long subsided in the bosoms of leaders and chiefs ; 
personal ambitions and interests were the sole factors 
which animated them and oriented their policy and 
acts. Their first object was to strengthen their local 
independence with all means. The subject people 
themselves hated the Roman yoke ; being itself weak, 
the central government delivered them to oppressive 
governors and officials who heavily taxed and extorted 
them. Religious persecution increased their indigna- 
tion. Roman policy was animated, since the fourth 
century, by a spirit of deep fanaticism, so it pushed 
religious persecution to an appalling extent. The 
prelates of Egypt and Syria, the Christian chiefs who 
did not embrace the official creed, were most hostile 



10 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

to this policy which they opposed, supported by the 
majority of the people. When Islam appeared, and 
the flows of Arab conquest invaded the Roman pro- 
vinces, it found a favourable theatre for victory. Pre- 
lates, chiefs and also the subject people could appre- 
ciate the moderation of these new conquerors and their 
judiciousness in establishing their administration and 
creed. 

The Arabs in fact offered, in their first conquests, 
sublime examples of moderation, self-restraint, and 
avoidance of those abominations and savage methods 
which stained the annals of wars of the age. Compare, 
for example, Abu Bakr's counsel to the army going to 
wage war on the Arabian Apostates : " Avoid treason, 
exaggeration and perfidy, the ignominy of persons ; do 
not kill the child, the aged or women ; do not inundate 
or burn palms ; do not cut a tree or slaughter a sheep, 
a cow or a camel, except for eating " 9 and the speech 
of Omar about governors : " By Allah, I do not send 
you my governors to beat you, or extort your property ; 
but I send them to instruct you in your religion and 
laws ; if anybody suffered anything contrary, he 
should let me know ; by Allah, I would remove him 
who commits it 10 ; and compare the proceeding of 
Omar to Jerusalem to take it personally, according to 
the desire of its inhabitants, without any manifesta- 
tion or procession ; how he blamed his generals when 
they met him in pomp ; how he, the conqueror, 
gave the inhabitants of the city his pledge " assuring 
the safety of their persons, children and women ; 
and that their churches are not being inhabited or 
demolished " and how he refused to offer his prayers 
in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, fearing that 
Muslims would make this a pretext for taking it 11 
compare all these and such other things offered by 
the annals of the first Arab conquests with what the 
Roman and Persian armies committed : murder, 
destruction and pillage in their mutual wars before the 



THE ARAB OUTBURST 11 

advent of the Arabs ; and by those manifestations of 
pomp which accompanied the arrival of the Caesars 
and their governors in the provinces ; and their 
haughtiness towards the people whose murmurs they 
ignored. And lastly, compare the rigour of the Arab 
generals in upholding law, removing oppression and 
protecting the conquered people from the violence of 
the victorious soldiery, with all sorts of tyranny and 
extortion inflicted on them recklessly by the Emperor, 
his governors and officers. This contrast between 
justice and injustice, between moderation and excess, 
between temperance and rapacity, between toleration 
and bigotry, was one of the principal factors which 
paved the way for Arab victory, helped them to win 
the friendship and support of the conquered nations ; 
and inspired those nations with a sort of satisfaction 
for their fate under the new masters, and alleviated 
the effect of this change of sovereignty. The arrival 
of the Arabs was not accompanied with those fears 
and misgivings which are usually inspired by the arrival 
of a hostile invader. 

This judicious policy enacted by the early Muslims 
was neither general nor long lasting. But in an age 
of decay and evolution, it was apt to take advantage 
of those seeds of despair and indignation which ani- 
mated oppressed societies. Its manifestations, however 
partially applied, gained for the Arabs forces of sym- 
pathy and support not to be assured by great armies ; 
and paved for them ways for understanding which 
could not be smoothed by tyranny. We have many 
examples of this in the first era of conquest. Tolera- 
tion was the systematic policy of the Caliphate. A 
Christian or a Jew had nearly the same rights as a 
Muslim, as regards the liberty of conscience and 
creed. The non-Muslim sects enjoyed mostly the 
exercise of their own laws and traditions. Taxation 
was enacted generally with moderation and equity. 

The effect of this policy may be clearly traced in 



12 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the conditions which accompanied the introduction of 
Muslim sovereignty in the conquered lands ; it was 
mostly established after the conquest on solid basis, 
not to be shaken by those elements of hostility which 
usually move the conquered against the invader, 
endangering his sovereignty, and making it totter on 
a secret volcano of indignation, thirst of revenge, and 
desire of liberty ; a volcano which would explode at 
the first occasion, and at the slightest provocation. 
The Arabs, though occupied with conquests, could 
proceed at the same time with the organization of the 
new nations and societies, and cementing their under- 
standing with the conquered. They submitted them 
to the laws and spirit of Islam in successive decades ; 
they avoided the evils of violence and rapidity which 
may kindle the reactionary effects and passions, and 
would destroy a state based on coercion and continued 
oppression, and ignored all rights, feelings and aspi- 
rations. 

Such were the factors and conditions which 
impelled the first Islamic conquests, paved its way, and 
made from the conquered nations allies of the Arabs, 
seeing in their arrival a sort of liberation and better 
fate. And so the Arabs were able, in less than a cen- 
tury, to sweep over the greater part of the ancient 
world, in the east and the west, and cross the sea from 
the west into the heart of Christendom. This victo- 
rious march, however, waned before long, when the 
Arabs enjoyed peace and prosperity under the orga- 
nized state. Meanwhile, the Roman Empire and 
Christianity were able to muster their forces and 
prepare their defence. The Arabs suffered their first 
decisive defeat under the walls of Constantinople, and 
Europe was closed before them from the East. And 
in the plains of Tours, where they suffered their second 
defeat, was the closing chapter in their victorious 
career in Western Europe. Islam then retired to the 
South, where it confined itself in Spain. The great 



THE ARAB OUTBURST 13 

Islamic Empire was split into several hostile and 
competing states, and the short era of glorious victory 
was closed for ever. 

v References 

1 Gibbon : Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. L. 

2 This is the doctrine of Zoroaster, founder of the old Persian religion 
(about eighth century B.C ), Zoroastnanism continued to be the national 
Persian religion from the middle of the sixth century B.C. to the middle of 
the seventh century. A. D. Mamchaeamsm is al?o the old religion of Mani 
(third century A.D.). Although it was opposed it spread in Parsia and the 
surrounding Arab countries as well as in Egypt. 

8 Fr. von Schlegel : Philosophic der Geschichte, Kap. XII. 

4 Gibbon : Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. L. 

5 Fmlay : Greece under the Romans, Ch. V, 2. 

Gibbon : Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. L. 
T Fr. von Schlegel : Philosophic der Geschichte, Kap. XII. 

8 The Muslim chronicle denotes by the word " Roum " the subjects of 
the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire. We see it used in 
this sense in the events of the conquest of Syria, Egypt and Asia Minor, and 
in the siege of Constantinople. It is sometimes applied in a more general 
sense to the inhabitants of the countries on the east of the Mediterranean. 
In the early Muslim chronicles it is applied to all the Christian nations 
(Ibn Khaldun, Vol. VI, p. 107), but the first use of the word is more general 
and correct. 

Ibn Khaldun, Vol. II (second part) p. 65. 

10 Ibn al-Jauzi : Biography of Omar ibn al-Khattab (Cairo ed.), p. 82. 
" Ibn Khaldun, Vol. II, (1) p. 225, and (2) p. 106. 



CHAPTER II 
Religious Policy of the Arabs 

IF the rush of the Arabs from the desert and 
emergence from their primitive nomadic state to a 
life of brilliant victories, and if their resolution, 
notwithstanding their inferiority in number, resources 
and equipment, to invade two of the greatest empires 
of antiquity the Persian and the Roman Empire 
and the fact that they were able in less than a century 
to build a great empire on the partial ruins of the an- 
cient world and in the lands they conquered from it ; if 
all this may appear an amazing historical phenomenon, 
the invasion by Islam of the old religions, its sweeping 
of the conquered nations with extraordinary speed, 
is also an astounding historical phenomenon. If the 
victory of the Arabs may, from some points, be 
ascribed to external factors and circumstances beyond 
their will and power, the victory of Islam may also, 
from some points, be ascribed to the circumstances of 
the conquared nations and to the state of the new 
societies which passed under the banner of Islam, and 
to their moral and social characteristics. 

There is, in the annals of Islam, nothing of these 
sanguinary episodes and persecutions which accom- 
panied the appearance of most of the old religions, and 
which figure especially in the early ages of Christian- 
ity. The Islamic doctrine spread with its own peace- 
ful methods ; its triumph was the greatest ever known 
in the history of religions and creeds. " The willing- 
ness to embrace a new religion after a foreign conquest," 
says the historian von Gut Schmidt, " is a fact which 
basely figures in antiquity ; Islam stands indeed alone 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 15 

in this victory " ; and Dozy adds : " This phenomenon 
appears at first a striking mystery, especially when we 
know that the new religion was not imposed on any- 
body. 1 ' 1 In fact, the Islamic doctrines were based, from 
the beginning, on the principles of tolerance and res- 
pect of creeds and conscience, especially towards Jews 
and Christians, i.e, the followers of Revealed Books 
acknowledged by Islam. Christianity and Judaism 
were, at the time the Arabian Prophet appeared and 
Islam emerged from the desert, embraced by the majo- 
rity in many of the lands conquered by the Arabs ; 
tribute (Jiziya) was all that the new religion imposed 
on non-Muslims, in order to preserve the liberty of 
their creeds and rites. This privilege was first 
limited to Jews and Christians, but was soon accord- 
ed, in the time of the Prophet himself, to the followers 
of other creeds such as the tribes of " Bahrein " whose 
majority was Zoroastrian. In the time of Othman, the 
third Caliph, this privilege was also accorded to the 
Berbers of Africa then conquered, and were allowed 
to enjoy similar rights as Christians and Zoroastrians. 
It appears that paganism then prevailed among the 
Berber tribes. It was certainly their religion before 
the Roman conquest, but since then Rome imposed 
Christianity on them ; and since the fourth century 
Christianity prevailed among the peoples of Africa. 
It also appears that, at the time of Muslim conquest, 
many tribes adopted Judaism. 2 Religious tolerance 
was, however, applied to all conquered peoples, although 
they comprised many societies. " In order to be a world 
power," says Goldziher, " Islam adopted an ingenious 
policy. In the early ages it was not necessary to 
embrace it. The Unitarians, or those who follow 
the institutions of the Revealed Books, such as Jews, 
Christians and Zoroastrians, were able, on payment of 
personal tribute [Jiziya], to enjoy liberty of faith as 
well as the protection of the Muslim State. It was 
not the duty of Islam to penetrate into their souls, but 



16 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

it aimed only at their external subjugation. Islam 
pushed this policy to extreme limits. In India, for 
example, the old rights were celebrated in the temple?, 
under Muslim rule." 3 In his account, on the conquest 
of Spain, Dozy extols the importance of this tolerance 
and says : " The state of the Christians, under Muslim 
rule, was not the cause of much discontent it compared 
with the past. The Arabs, moreover, were very tole- 
rant ; they did not harass anybody in matters of 
religion. For this the Christians were grateful to 
the Arabs ; they praised the tolerance and justice 
of the conquerors and preferred their rule to that of 
the Germans and Franks." 4 In short, tolerance was a 
firmly established principle of Muslim policy, dating 
from the time of the Prophet himself ; it was after- 
wards pushed to limits which may have exceeded the 
imagination of the Prophet and his first successors. 

This tolerance, although proportional and depend- 
ent on obtaining religious liberty through the payment 
of tribute, was, nevertheless, a new phenomenon in 
ages whose annals were stained with episodes of re- 
ligious persecution, and where religious discord and 
strife were only suppressed with much bloodshed. 
The State imposed its religion on the sovereign and 
the subject alike ; it did not content itself with out- 
ward faith and rites ; its tyranny comprised not only 
the scope of public life, but was pushed into the most 
inward circumstances of private life. This policy did 
much to sap the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire 
and to undermine its social structure ; it had also 
its destructive effects on the Persian Empire. The 
Muslim State, on the contrary, had realized since its 
rise the value of tolerance. Tolerance was its arm to 
conquer the sympathy of peoples and societies, harass- 
ed under the old regime by religious persecution, and 
at the same time bent under the burden of heavy 
taxation and extortion and pillage which were generally 
committed in the name of religion. 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 17 

So the Muslim State provided the conquered 
peoples with two privileges or two boons, totally 
unknown under the old regime, i.e., (1) tolerance and 
religious liberty, and (2) just and moderate taxes 
which were levied according to established laws and 
limits. Thus tolerance and moderation were much 
responsible for paving the way of conquest before 
the Arabs, assuring for them the sympathy of the 
conquered peoples and, in many instances, their actual 
assistance against the Roman Empire. 

Now, should we not ask, what was the secret of 
the spread of Islam with such extraordinary rapidity 
among the conquered peoples ? Why those peoples, 
who were accorded liberty of faith and conscience, 
preferred to abandon their religions and creeds in 
order to embrace the religion of the new State ? and 
how Muslim policy was able, with such tolerance and 
moderation, to create, in less than a century, great 
Muslim nations in Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa and 
Spain ? This astounding problem was the result of 
many political, economical and social factors which 
dictated to the Government of the Caliphs its policy 
towards the new subjects. Personal ambition and 
desire to preserve social position also contributed to 
its creation. Moreover, we shall see that its realiza- 
tion with such a speed was not always in conformity 
with the material interests of the Caliphate. The tol- 
erance of the Muslim State was, in fact, limited to the 
liberty of faith and rites ; it did not comprise all the 
social and civil manifestations of daily life. The non- 
Muslim people were always considered by Muslim 
society as inferior from the social point of view ; in 
the field of public life, they were deprived of the 
protection, respect and pride which the Muslims 
enjoyed. This distinction dates from the early days 
of Islam ; it was officially designed and laid down by 
the State. Omar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, 
was the first to formulate this policy towards the 



18 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Zimmis (non-Muslims) in promulgated laws and re- 
gulations, which were the source of such legislation 
in Muslim countries. They differed in vigour and 
moderation according to circumstances and may be 
resumed as follows : The Zimmis (non-Muslims) 
were not allowed to build new churches or synagogues 
or to rebuild those already fallen ; neither to raise the 
cross on the churches or to expose their sacred books 
in the streets or public places ; or to chant their 
prayers in the churches situated in Muslim quarters ; 
they could not light tapers and they must proceed 
quietly in funeral processions while passing through 
Muslim quarters ; they were also prohibited to try to 
convert a Muslim, or to obstruct the embracing of 
Islam by a Christian ; they must comply with the 
rules of humility and respect due to Muslims, such as 
to avoid sitting before a Muslim without permission, 
and not to wear Muslim clothes ; they must have their 
special garments and colours. They were also for- 
bidden to have Arabic names, or to inscribe Arabic 
letters on their seals, or to use saddles or to carry 
arms, or to have Muslim slaves. Caliph Omar wrote 
to Amr ibn al-As, conqueror of Egypt and its first 
Muslim Governor, in a message concerning the non- 
Muslims : " The Zimmis must be sealed in the neck 
with lead ; they must show their belts, shave their 
beards, and ride their mounts aside. The Jtziya 
[tribute] is to be imposed only on those who are 
already shaved [adults] ; it must not be imposed on 
women or boys ; the Zimmis are not allowed to dress 
themselves in the same manner as Muslims. 1 ' 5 

This official distinction created from non-Mus- 
lims, within the Muslim State, a special society having 
its own life, spirit, dispositions and social institutions, 
and seen by Muslim government and Muslim society by 
another eye than that consecrated to their brethren. 
These regulations, issued for non-Muslims, were ap- 
plied at first with leniency; the local governors and 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 19 

authorities were still more lenient in their application 
than the central government. In many instances the 
Zimmis concluded local treaties with governors to 
avoid the humility of these social restrictions and dis- 
tinctions. Nevertheless the situation of the Zimmis 
(Christians and Jews) was always inferior in Muslim 
States from the social point of view ; it resembled, in 
many points, the situation of the Jews in European 
countries in the Middle Ages, nay, in our own times in 
same countries where anti-Semitism still prevails. 6 This 
distinction pressed heavily on the Zimmis, especially 
the Christians, in many a political crisis ; it turned 
sometimes to a violent persecution in which the Church 
and Christians, suffered different sorts of oppression 
and humiliation. The Zimmis were, moreover, the 
object of suspicion and apprehension to the authorities ; 
the early Muslim governments rarely allowed them to 
occupy official posts other than those of accountants 
and tax-gatherers, in which they excelled ; they were 
rarely raised to influential or confidential posts, or 
charged with any important mission or interest. It is 
not amazing therefore that the Zimmis, in those times, 
were anxious to liberate themselves from the chains 
and humiliations of this regime ; that their intelligent 
and ambitious elements preferred to earn for them- 
selves, by embracing Islam, all the social and economical 
privileges enjoyed by the Muslims, and to find for 
themselves, by joining Muslim society, brilliant situa- 
tions and, lastly, to enjoy through this the blessings of 
freedom of thought which was one of the loftiest 
characteristics of Islamic life. The entering of a Zimmi 
into Islam did not, always, enable him, at first, to enjoy 
all the rights and privileges of the Muslims. But 
to embrace Islam was the first step in liberating him 
from oppressive charges and humiliating regulations 
and traditions. If the first generation of the Zim- 
mis, embracing Islam, encountered some difficulties in 
securing total fusion in Muslim society, or the rapid 



20 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

enjoyment of all sorts of respect and perf erence enjoyed 
by the radical Muslim, or gaining the sympathy and 
confidence of the authorities, time was the only 
means of abolishing these distinctions and fusing the 
inhabitants of the same country into a single society. 
The succession of ages and generations was the only 
means of forgetting the past and elevating the sons 
of those who embraced Islam to the rank of old 
Muslims. Moreover, their descendants borrowed Arab 
lineage and ascribed their names and origins to one 
of the known Arab tribes in order to efface the last 
vestiges and memories which may compromise their 
social position after being admitted into Islam, and 
turned into pure and true Muslims. 

The triumph of Islam in Syria and Egypt was 
easier and more rapid than in any other conquered 
country. Christianity was the main religion in Syria 
and Egypt at the time of Muslim conquest; but it 
was imposed on them by fire and sword, and before 
long, its doctrines were subjected to controversy ; its 
fundamental principles were shaken and its dogmas 
weakened ; there were many hostile sects and creeds, 
and oppression and persecution led to political and 
social anarchy. There is nothing in the principles of 
Islam which may evoke the resentment of faithful 
hearts ; its hostility to the church doctrines was moder- 
ate and lenient. The success of Islam in overrun- 
ning the old world with such astounding rapidity 
was the miracle of its power, and proof of superi- 
ority. Justice, moderation, abnegation and austerity, 
which characterized the policy of the conquerors, was 
an overwhelming contrast to the oppression of Chris- 
tian governments in those ages, and a proof that the 
Church was not the true symbol of justice and frater- 
nity. Were not all these decisive and far-reaching in- 
dications that the new religion was the more worthy to 
follow and, being the victorious one, was it not the true 
religion ? It was natural that this phenomena should 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 21 

impress the spirit of the age. The belief in miracles 
was a poisonous arm which returned to the bosom 
of the Church ; in fact, no miracle occurred to save 
Chiristendom from Islam and no thunderbolts fell on 
those victorious armies which swept over most of the 
old world in about a generation only. 

Islam triumphed with the same rapidity in the 
other conquered lands. The philosopher von Schlegel 
remarks : " The religion of the Arabs and their conquests 
may be considered in the light of a new emigration of 
nations. In fact a large part of the Arab nation emi- 
grated into Spain ; this Arab emigration caused in Asia 
and Africa a grave revolution in sovereignty, language, 
character and political institutions, which was greater 
and more powerful than that caused by the invasions 
of the Germanic tribes in Europe." 7 But was the 
spread of Islam, with this astounding rapi.dity, between 
the conquered nations, always compatible with the 
policy and ideals of the Caliphate, especially after 
being turned into a political sovereignty? It appears 
that this was not often the case. On the contrary, 
the Caliphate's material interests suffered much from 
it, so that the Caliphate did not, even in early days 
of religious enthusiasm, encourage this policy. The 
reason for this is clear. The resources of Muslim 
governments from tribute (Jiziya) and other differ- 
ent taxes, imposed on the Zimmis, were enormous. 
These resources suffered whenever a general move to 
embrace Islam occurred in a conquered nation. The 
effects, however, were not very great at the beginning ; 
the majority of conquered peoples preferred, for a 
time, the enjoyment of the blessing of the tribute 
in fact it was blessing when compared with their 
sufferances under previous rule in order to preserve 
the religion of their fathers and to celebrate their 
national rites. Moreover, the great wealth which 
poured into the coffers of Muslim government from 
the patrimonies and spoils of fallen governments, 



22 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the wealth of the conquered princes, governors and 
leaders and the ransom of captives was more than to 
compensate the Caliphate, in early days, for the losses 
which it suffered from time to time by the rush of 
Zimmis to embrace Islam in order to liberate them- 
selves from the Jiziya and similar taxes. 

We may form an idea about the resources of the 
Caliphate from the Jiziya and other duties and reve- 
nues amassed from the conquered lands, from a report 
of the Arab chronicle of the conquest of Egvpt to the 
effect that when Amr ibn al-As concluded peace with 
the Copts, on the condition of the payment of a 
tribute of two dinars per man, the number of those 
who owed the tribute amounted to six millions, or 
eight millions according to another report, among 
whom there were no women, old men or boys. The 
Caliphate thus realized a revenue of twelve or sixteen 
millions a year. 8 Another estimation is that Egyptian 
villages were counted for the sake of tribute and 
found to be more than 10,000, the smallest of which 
had at least 500 men who owed tribute. 9 Other indi- 
cations may be found in Arab reports about the enor- 
mous gains, wealth and spoils realized by the Arabs 
at the conquest of Spain, and in other similar reports 
of Arab conquests. Tribute was of two sorts : tribute 
imposed on individual men and tribute imposed collec- 
tively on a village and paid likewise, the village being 
considered an independent unit ; if any of its inhabi- 
tants died without an heir, his property returned to 
the village and was counted as part of the tribute. 
This sort of tribute may be compared to the military 
tribute imposed on a rebel or conquered town, or in a 
peace treaty. Its application in this manner was, how- 
ever, limited to special circumstances. 10 The tribute was 
a permanent tax imposed on every male adult ; it was 
neither fixed nor limited in constant proportions, but 
was collected according to the economic circumstances 
of persons and times. Ibn Abdul Hakam reports, for 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 23 

example, that Omar ibn al-Khattab charged those who 
submitted under a concluded peace only what they 
engaged to pay, not more not less ; the case of those 
who submitted without fixing the tribute was review- 
ed. If they were poor, they were moderately charged, 
if they were wealthy, they were charged accordingly. 
He also relates that the ruler of Akhna came to see 
Amr ibn al-As and asked him to charge them a fixed 
tribute in order that they may be able to provide for 
it. Amr answered him pointing to the corner of a 
church, " If you give me what fills from the ground to 
the roof, I would not tell you. You are a source of 
income for us ; if our charges are heavy, you would be 
heavily charged, if they were light, you would be 
treated lightly." 11 Tribute was not limited to the 
amount of money charged ; it comprised the delivery 
of quantities of corn, oil, honey and clothes. It com- 
prised also the hospitality by the Zimmis of Muslims 
for a certain number of days. 12 

The levy of these taxes, and the methods of 
their payment, were in most cases characterized by 
moderation and leniency. They were not imposed on 
boys, women or old men ; and in fixing their amount 
the Zimmis were allowed to preserve, before all, from 
the produce of their lands, all that was necessary for 
their personal consumption and expenses and the 
maintenance of their churches. 13 Leniency was extend- 
ed sometimes to the postponement of payment. It 
is related, for example, that Amr was once late in 
sending the income of the Kharaj (land-tax) of Egypt 
at the appointed time. Omar wrote, blaming him: 
" I was amazed for writing to you so much with regard 
to your lateness in sending the Kharaj, and your 
answer to me. You know that I never accept from 
you anything but plain truth. I did not send you 
to Egypt in order to offer it to you or your friends 
as a gift; but I sent you in the hope that you may 
realize a prosperous Kharaj and enact a good policy. 



24 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Send the Kharaj on the receipt of my letter because 
Kharaj is nothing but the right due to Muslims." 
Amr wrote back : " I received the letter of the Com- 
mander of the Faithful blaming me for the lateness 
of the Kharaj and pretending that I deviate from 
right and the good way. By God ! I never spare a 
good act as you know; but the landowners prayed me 
to wait until the reaping of their harvest ; I preferred 
to use leniency till their crops were ripe in order not 
to oppress them and oblige them to sell what is 
indispensable." 14 

When Muslim conquests were extended, the 
expenses of State and Army increased greatly and the 
Caliphate felt hardly the need for money. It was 
thus contrary to its needs and material interests to 
encourage a policy which emptied its coffers and 
weakened its income, although this policy might have 
helped to spread the religion of the State and increase 
the number of Muslims. At the time when the non- 
Muslims began to feel deeply their social inferiority 
and preferred to liberate themselves from special laws 
by embracing the State religion, the Caliphate began 
to feel anxious about its resources. When the deficit 
from tribute income reached its zenith, the Caliphate 
decided to impose tribute on the Zimmis who embrac- 
ed Islam. Al-Hajjaj ibn Yousef, Governor of Iraq, 
was the first to execute this resolution. Then the 
Caliph Abdul Malik ibn Marwan ordered his brother 
Abdul Aziz, Governor of Egypt, to impose it on the 
Egyptians who embraced Islam. Some of the officials 
of his Diwan (office) objected to this and one of 
them said to him : " It would be a great pity, O Prince, 
if you were the first to do this in Egypt. In fact the 
Zimmis pay the tribute for their monks, how could 
we impose it on those who embrace Islam ? " 15 The 
Emir then abandoned the project. Omar ibn Abdul 
Aziz was, among the Omayyad Caliphs, the most pious 
and most fervent for the idea of spreading Islam. He 



RELIGIOUS POLICY OF THE ARABS 25 

abolished tribute levied on Zimmis who embraced 
Islam in the whole Empire and made them equal to 
pure Muslims in all respects. He wrote to Hayyan 
ibn Sharih, Governor of Egypt, urging him to liberate 
the Zimmis embracing Islam from the tribute. In 
his answer Sharih objected that Islam had done harm 
to the Jiziya, and that the State coffers were empty. 
Omar ibn Abdul Aziz wrote remonstrating him severely 
and repeating his orders : " God sent Muhammad " he 
said, " to instruct and enlighten, and not as a tax- 
collector." The Caliphate thus hesitated, for a time, 
between the two policies, until the fusion of Christians 
and "Muslims was achieved by time and the majority 
of the subject peoples was turned into Muslim blocks 
comprising only very few non-Muslim minorities. 
Religious contrasts naturally disappeared and the dis- 
tinction between the old and the new Muslims was 
difficult or rather impossible ; the importance of Jiziya 
as a source of revenue was reduced ; and the Caliphate 
was compensated for its material losses by its gains 
of moral force and support. 

Thus this peaceful and enlightened policy, adopt- 
ed by the government of the Caliphs towards its new 
subjects, led at first to gaining their support through 
religious tolerance, and their material help through 
payment of tribute and then at last to their embracing 
Islam and thus securing their moral and material 
support at the same time. Thus it appears that the 
spread of Islam with this overwhelming rapidity was 
not always in conformity with the policy of the Cali- 
phate and that it was, at one time, prejudicial to its 
material interests. This throws light on an astound- 
ing historical fact denied or misinterpreted by most of 
the Western writers who write on Islam, and on the 
methods of its diffusion and the causes of its being so 
deeply rooted ; it also explains how the government 
of the Caliphs was, at the same time, an autocracy 
grasping all authority in its hands and a lenient in- 



26 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

strument which gave way to liberal and democratic 
principles. 

References 

1 Dozy : Essai sur r Islamisme. 

Ibn Khaldun, Vol. VI, p. 107. 

9 Goldziher : Die Religion des I slams (die Rehgionen des Orients) p. 106. 

4 Dozy : Histoire des Musulmans de V Espagne, Vol. II, pp. 41-43. 

5 Some of these documents are mentioned in Ibn Abdul Hakam's 
Akhbar Misr. p. 151, and in Makrizi : Al-Khitat, (Bulac) I, p. 76 & II, p. 494 
and 498. 

6 For example, in Nazi Germany, Hungary and Rumania. 

I Fr. von Schlegel : Philosophic der Geschichte, Kap. XII. 

Ibn Abdul Hakam : Akhbar Misr, pp. 70 and 87. This report is 
apparently exaggerated. According to this estimation the population ot 
Egypt, at the time of conquest, must have been about fifty millions. This 
census, at any rate, gives us an idea of the enormous revenue realized by the 
Caliphate from the yearly tribute. 

Ibid., p. 156. 

10 There are other opinions concerning the definition and limits of 
" tribute." Ibn Abdul Hakam has devoted for this a chapter comprising 
many important details and reports. See Akhbar Misr, pp. 151-56. 

" Akhbar Aitsr, pp. 153-54. 
" Ibid., p. 152. 

II Ibid., p. 153. 

14 Ibid. Later historians have reproduced many similar documents 
about the days of conquest, but Ibn Abdul H jkam is their first and most 
trustworthy source. 

Ibid., pp. 155-56 and Makrizi : Khitat. Vol. I, p. 78 



DECISIVE MOMENTS 
I 



CHAPTER III 
Arab Siege of Constantinople 

IN their first march on the Roman Empire the Arabs 
conquered Syria, Egypt and Africa, penetrated as 
far as the plateaus of Asia Minor and swept over 
the southern Roman provinces. In less than a quarter 
of a century, from the biginning of their victorious 
career, the Arabs approached the walls of Constanti- 
nople, the seat of the Eastern Empire. The current 
of their conquests was deterred for only a short internal 
in which the Arabs were occupied with their internal 
troubles and feuds, and no sooner their strife came to 
an end than they resumed their career of conquests 
under the young Omayyad dynasty. They penetrated 
through the provinces of the Eastern Empire as far as 
the Bosphorus and overran north Africa as far as the 
Atlantic and, crossing to Spain, swept over Western 
Europe as far as the heart of France and the banks of 
Loire. 

Under the aegis of the Omayyad dynasty, Islam 
rose to the zenith of its military glory. The torrent of 
its victories then subsided, and a moment came for a 
decisive settlement between Islam and Christianity in 
the East and West. In the East, Islam retired before 
the walls of Constantinople by which it had tried at 
first to cross over to Europe. In the West, it retired 
in the plains of Tours and Poitiers and contented itself, 
in the west of Europe, with Spain where it remained 
for centuries struggling with Christianity. 

The conquest of Constantinople was the first plan 
of the Caliphate to sweep over the West and crush 
Christianity in its cradle. The Eastern Empire was 
undoubtedly the stronghold of Europe and of Christi- 



30 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

anity in the East. The Arabs, in their first move, 
ravaged the territories of the Eastern Empire, wrenched 
its most important provinces and penetrated through 
Asia Minor till they approached its capital. The con- 
quest of Constantinople was the natural object of this 
march. The Muslim chronicle, however, gives the 
project a religious colour based on certain sayings 
attributed to the Prophet. There is more than one 
tradition (Hadith) relating to the Arab conquest of 
Constantinople of which the following is one : 

" As soon as the day of judgment comes the 
Romans descend to Al-Aamak 1 or to Dabik, and an 
army composed of the best men of the world proceeds 
from Medina to meet them. When they are reconciled 
the Romans say : * Let us fight our countrymen who 
were captured. 1 * No, by God,' say the Muslims, 'we 
shall not leave our brethren to you.' The Muslims 
will fight them ; one-third of the Muslims will be 
defeated whom God will never forgive ; one-third will 
be killed the best martyrs to God and the third, 
who are never deceived, will be victorious and will 
conquer Constantinople . . ." 2 

Whatever may be the truth of these traditions, 
they point to the peculiar religious colour which is 
attributed by the Muslim chronicles to the Arab 
project of the conquest of Constantinople. 



The first attempt made by the Arabs to conquer 
Constantinople was in 32 A.H. (653 A.D.) in the days 
of the Caliph Othman. An army, led by Mua'wiya ibn 
Abi Sufyan, then Governor of Syria, marched through 
Asia Minor as far as the shores of the Bosphorus. 
According to Theophanes, historian of the Byzantine 
Empire, an Arab fleet, led by Busr ibn Artah, sailed at 
the same time from Tripolis to Constantinople and 
defeated the Roman fleet, led by Emperor Constans II, 



ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 31 

opposite Mount Phoenix. Twenty thousand Romans 
perished but the Muslim fleet, owing to its losses, could 
not proceed to Constantinople and therefore retired. 
According to Theophanes this expedition sailed in 
September, 653 A.D. (Safar, 33 A.H.), which almost 
agrees with the Arab version. 3 

The second expedition was in 44 A.H. (664 A.D.) 
In the meanwhile Mua'wiya ibn Abi Sufyan had 
seized the Caliphate and the Omayyad dynasty was 
established in Damascus. 

In the resumption of conquests the triumphant 
leader found a means of diverting the attention of the 
generals and chiefs whose rivalry and opposition he 
dreaded ; hence the second expedition to Constanti- 
nople and the resumption of the invasion of Africa. 4 
An expedition was led by Abdul Rahman ibn Khalid 
ibn al-Walid who penetrated the plateaus of Anatolia 
as far as Pergamos, 5 close to Constantinople. The 
fleet was commanded by Admiral Busr ibn Artah who 
sailed as far as the waters of the Marmora. But winter 
set in before the Muslims could put their plan in force. 
They were therefore obliged to pass the winter in 
Anatolia and limit their activities to local invasions. 
Once again they could not proceed to besiege Con- 
stantinople. 

A few years later, however, Mua'wiya completed 
his preparations for the conquest of the seat of the 
Eastern Empire. Mua'wiya had previously reconnoitr- 
ed himself all the passages and routes of Asia Minor 
having ravaged its regions with his forces more than 
once and studied the general conditions and the dis- 
solution and weakness of the Eastern Empire. He now 
mobilized his large forces and assembled a big fleet 
in the ports of Egypt and Syria and sent an advance- 
guard, commanded by Fodala ibn Obeid al-Ansari, 
who penetrated through Anatolia (48 A.H. 668 A.D.) 
and conquered its forts as far as Calciduan. The next 
year (49 A.H.) marched to Constantinople a great army 



32 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

commanded by Sufyan ibn Auf al-Ozdi accompanied 
by Yezid ibn Mua'wiya and a number of the principal 
companions and adherents (of the Prophet) including 
Abdulla ibn Abbas, Ibn Omar, Ibn al-Zobair and Abu 
Ayyub (Job) al-Ansari. 

The fleet, which was commanded by Admiral 
Busr ibn Artah, passed without opposition through the 
channel of the Helles (Dardanelles) and transported 
the army to the European shore close to the Palace of 
Habdumon, a few miles from the seat of the Eastern 
Empire. Both the Byzantine and the Arab chronicles 
give various dates of this famous siege. Theophanes 
says that the Arabs began their march on Constan- 
tinople in the autumn of 666 A.D. (46 A.H.), while 
according to another report the siege began in the 
spring of 668 A.D. (48 A.H.) or in the spring of 672 
A.D. (53 A.H.). 6 In any case it is more probable 
that the Arabs were under the walls of Constantinople 
since 50 A.H. (670 A.D.). Constantine IV was then 
Emperor of the Eastern Empire. He had previously 
been informed of the news of this campaign since 
its preparation and was ready to repulse it with all 
possible means. 

Thus the Arabs began their greatest naval combat 
by besieging Constantinople. They encircled the city 
by land and sea with thick lines of ships and troops, 
and for several days, from daybreak to sunset, attacked 
its eastern front as far as the Golden Horn without 
being able to approach its walls and impregnable 
towers. In fact, the Muslims did not realize the 
impregnability of Constantinople and the means of 
Roman defence, nor did they realize the valour of the 
Romans impelled by overwhelming danger to defend 
desperately their capital and last stronghold, their 
religion and civilization. They were astounded by 
the endurance and patience of the enemy and parti- 
cularly appalled by the ravage of the Greek Fire 7 on 
their ships, ranks and equipment. The Romans who 



_ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 33 

had discovered its secret used it as their best means of 
defence. The Muslims being tired of these fruitless 
assaults turned to plunder the Asiatic and the 
European shores of the Sea of Marmora. Having 
besieged the city by sea from April to September they 
retired, on the approach of winter, to the island of 
Cyzicus, eighty miles from Constantinople, where they 
established their headquarters and passed the winter. 
They resumed the siege in the summer of the next 
year and retired to Cyzicus during the winter. They 
continued to besiege the city in summer and to retire 
in winter for six or seven successive years before they 
were convinced of the futility of their attempt or 
decide to abandon their great project. But these suc- 
cessive efforts impaired their forces and exhausted 
their patience. They lost many of their men, ships, 
munitions and cattle ; continued failure damped their 
enthusiasm, and disease and disorder broke out in their 
ranks. They finally decided to retire in 678 A.D. 
(58 A.H.). The army retired to the south through 
Asia Minor after being torn by siege and pursuit : many 
of their ships were wrecked by storms in their retreat. 
In these famous combats the Arabs lost about 30,000 
men including a number of leaders, such as Abu 
Ayyub al-Ansari, the famous companion of the 
Prophet, who was killed and buried under the walls of 
Constantinople in the course of the first or the second 
assault (51 or 52 A.H.). His tomb was discovered 
eight centuries after when the Turks conquered Con- 
stantinople in 1453 A.D. This discovery was a great 
religious event. 

The events of this memorable siege, the failure 
of the Arabs and breaking up of their forces and arma- 
ments, were factors which revived the prestige of the 
Roman valour in the East and West, and cast a 
temporary cloud on the glory of the Arabs. The 
Omayyad Caliph, Mua'wiya, came to an understand- 
ing with the Roman Emperor and a peace, which 



34 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

lasted for forty years, was concluded between the two 
Empires. 8 



But the Caliphate in conquering Constantinople 
was not merely to take possession of the seat of the 
Eastern Empire ; it had a greater and more far-reaching 
aim to pass through Constantinople to the West to 
carry the doctrines of Islam to the Christian nations 
and to submit them to its sovereignty. When its 
armies retired from the walls of Constantinople, it 
opened another route to the West and to Christendom ; 
its armies crossed to Spain after sweeping over North 
Africa, conquering the Christian kingdom of the Goths 
and passed over the Pyrenees to Gaul. Musa ibn 
Noseir, who had organized these conquests, proposed 
to cross Christian Europe from West to East and to 
reach Damascus via Constantinople, thus realizing the 
project of the Caliphate of annihilating Christendom 
and the Eastern Empire at one and the same time. 
But the hesitation and disagreement of the Caliphate 
put an end to this excellent dream, and thus the 
torrent of Islamic conquests was arrested in the south 
of France. 

The Omayyad policy continued to ponder over 
its project of conquering Constantinople and crossing 
Europe by way of the Eastern Empire. In 96 A*H. 
(715 A.D.) Suleiman ibn Abdul Malik became Caliph 
and the Omayyad Caliphate reached the zenith of its 
might and military glory. The Eastern Empire had, 
on the contrary, fallen to the lowest depths of dis- 
solution, weakness and anarchy, and its throne became 
an easy prey to the storms of accession and dethrone- 
ment, so that in the space of not more than twenty 
years not less than six Caasars were dethroned. The 
Bulgars and the Sclavonians swept over its northern 
provinces and approached the walls of the capital, 



ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 35 

while the Arabs penetrated through Asia Minor and 
their conquests reached the shores of the Bosphorus. 
Constantinople was the field of insurrection and civil 
war when Suleiman became Caliph, and in six years 
three usurping Caesars succeeded one another on the 
throne. Anastasius II took possession of the throne 
in 711 A.D. and was succeeded by Theodosius III 
and then by Leo III, who usurped the throne early in 
717 A.D. 

Suleiman ibn Abdul Malik on his accession found 
that the Eastern Empire was passing through a phase of 
weakness and decay ; he was thus encouraged to resume 
the project of conquering Constantinople. It is said 
that a number of theologians told him that he who 
conquered Constantinople bore the name of a prophet, 
and that he was the only Omayyad Caliph to whom 
this description applied, 9 and here also we note the 
religious character given by Arab chronicles to this 
project. Suleiman assembled great forces on land and 
sea, supplied with enormous quantities of provisions, 
munitions tools and siege instruments for a summer 
and winter campaign. Suleiman marched to Dabik 
and appointed his brother Maslama ibn Abdul Malik 
commander of the expedition and ordered him not to 
abandon Constantinople till he had conquered it, or 
to await his instructions. 10 Early in 98 A.H. (Sep. 
or Oct. 716 A.D ) Maslama traversed the Anatolian 
plateau and conquered several Byzantine towns and 
forts. He then marched to Amorium, capital of Ana- 
tolia, to which he laid siege. The city was defended 
by its governor Leo the Isaurian or, according to the 
Arabic version, Leon or Aleon of Marash. Leo was 
a very intelligent, brave and adventurous soldier ; he 
aspired after the throne of Constantinople which he 
proposed to seize from Emperor Theodosius III. He 
laid with Muslims plans and conditions on which the 
various records do not agree. The Arabic chronicle 
says that Leo agreed to guide Maslama and help him 



36 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

to conquer Constantinople and that he had previously 
made a similar pledge to Suleiman ibn Abdul Malik 
and induced him to prepare the expedition and con- 
vinced him that the plan was easy to execute. 11 
According to the Byzantine records Leo helped the 
Arabs with his guidance and advice, but he did not 
mean to deliver Constantinople to them ; he only 
meant to pave the way for himself by weakening the 
forces of the Empire and keeping them busy with the 
repulse of the invaders. 12 In fact, Leo availed himself 
of the opportunity and proclaimed himself Caesar at 
Amorium. He then marched at the head of his forces 
to Constantinople and defeated the army sent by 
Theodosius against him. The Emperor resigned the 
throne and retired into a monastery, and so Leo enter- 
ed Constantinople with his victorious army and was 
crowned Emperor of the Roman Empire as Leo III, in 
March 717 A.D. 

Maslama advanced towards Constantinople with 
his innumerable army in the spring of the same year 
(98 A.H., 717 A.D.), while the fleet sailed to the 
Marmora. Suleiman showed great determination and 
energy ; he supplied his brother with other forces, and 
amassed reinforcements in all towns and ports. Mas- 
lama occupied Pergamos and approached Constantino- 
ple with one of the most formidable forces ever moved 
by Islam against Christendom. The Byzantine chroni- 
cle estimates the army of Maslama at 80,000 men, and 
the Arabs standing under the walls of Constantinople, 
by land and sea, at 180,000. 13 Maslama crossed the sea 
at Abydos where he met the Arab fleet. He then car- 
ried his army to the European shore of the Hellespont, 
and marched on the coast of Marmora till he reached 
Constantinople which he surrounded by land and sea 
with dense forces, and set up huge battering-rams 
The Muslims tried, at first, to storm the city, but fail- 
ed notwithstanding several severe attempts and were 
repulsed before the impregnable walls, owing to the 



ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 37 

ability of the Byzantine engineers and the abundance of 
the engines of defence, such as the projectors of Greek 
Fire and stones. Maslama then decided to capture the 
city by a continued and severe siege. He, therefore, 
pressed hard against it and cut off all its communi- 
cations with the shore, dug a deep trench around his 
camp, defended with strong barriers, and sent detach- 
ments of troops to destroy the neighbouring fields 
and capture all provisions which might find their 
way to the besieged city. As for the fleet, it cut off 
the communications of the city with the sea the 
greatest fleet ever amassed by the Arabs, perhaps even 
the greatest sea force ever mobilized by a Muslim state. 
According to the Byzantine report this force was com- 
posed of eighteen hundred large war and transport 
vessels. Admiral Suleiman ibn Ma'az of Antioch 14 then 
divided the fleet into two large squadrons : one was 
stationed at the Asiatic shore in the ports of Eutropius 
and Anthimus to cut off the transport of provisions 
coming from the Archipelago, and the other occupied 
the European shore of the Bosphorus, opposite Galata, 
to cut off communications of the city with the ports 
of the Black Sea, particularly Cherson and Trebizond. 
The first sea battle was fought when the fleet of the 
European shore sailed to its ports. The high wind 
and heavy waves caused the ships to beat one against 
the other: the Byzantines availed themselves of the 
opportunity to direct the Greek Fire which burned 
some of the ships and pushed others to the foot of the 
walls. Admiral Suleiman decided to avenge this partial 
defeat by a complete victory. He assembled his 
strongest ships and manned them with detachments 
of his bravest troops and sailed to the walls of the 
city which he stormed violently. But Leo was watchful 
and ready ; he repulsed the invaders with a torrent of 
fire, forcing Suleiman to withdraw his fleet from the 
European shore to the gulf of Sosthenian. 15 

The Muslims began their second siege of Cons- 



38 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

tantinople on August 15, 717 A.D. (Muharram 2, 99 
A.H.), that is to say, shortly before the advent of win- 
ter. Maslama made preparations for a long and severe 
siege; he amassed enormous quantities of provisions 
as high as mountains and built underground passages 
and wooden houses for his troops. 16 Notwithstanding 
his daring and courage Maslama had little knowledge 
of the arts of war. He was credulous and quickly 
deceived and had no first class commanders among 
his assistants. 17 It appears that he counted on a speedy 
delivery of the city by the Byzantians and was 
deceived by Leo's promises. Whenever the siege tight- 
ened Leo resorted to negotiations with Maslama and 
tried to cajole him ; then the seige would relax and pro- 
visions would find their way to the city. Accord- 
ing to the Arab report Leo actually promised Maslama 
to deliver the city and to hand over the treasury of the 
Romans and all precious objects, and to ascend the 
throne in the name of the Caliph and pay tribute. 
There is no doubt, however, that Leo's promises were 
false, that he was not sincere and only wanted to gain 
time. 18 

A few weeks after the beginning of the siege, 
Caliph Suleiman ibn Abdul Malik died (Safar 10, 99 
A.H.) before he could send reinforcements to Maslama. 
Winter with its rigours then set in, and the country 
surrounding the city was for several weeks covered 
with snow. Many of the best besieging troops 
died from the horrors of cold and most of the horses 
and other cattle perished. The scarcity of pro- 
visions and the difficulty of obtaining them spread 
disorder in the ranks, while the death of Admiral 
Suleiman also spread disorder in the fleet. As for the 
Byzantians they spent the winter in safety within the 
walls of the city. In the following spring a large fleet 
carrying provisions from Alexandria reached Maslama, 
entered the Bosphorus and anchored at Kalos Agros. 
It was followed by another fleet coming from Africa 



ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 39 

and anchored on the Bithynian coast (east of Mar- 
mora). Most of the men of the ships coming from 
Alexandria and Africa were Christian mercenaries 
and were appalled by the state of the Muslim camp ; 
fearing its dissolution and weakness many of them 
agreed to escape. Under cover of darkness they took 
boats to the city and acquainted the Emperor with 
the conditions in the Muslim camp and the hardships 
from which they were suffering. Leo seized the 
opportunity and sent a squadron of his ships, with fire 
projectors, to the outer port which attacked the Mus- 
lim ships, put them in confusion, burned some and 
captured others. . Many of the ships ran ashore. 19 

The situation was changed and the Muslim camp 
was struck with famine and depression, while the 
besieged heaved sighs of relief. Maslama, however, 
continued to besiege the city by land ; his detachments in 
search of provisions were torn and famine was intensi- 
fied ; all provisions and cattle were consumed. The 
troops suffered great horrors ; u they ate the cattle, 
skins and the roots and leaves of trees in fact every- 
thing except dust.' 1 20 Orders were then received from 
the new Caliph, Omar ibn Abul Aziz, to raise the 
siege and retire. Maslama decided to withdraw and 
transported the remnant of his army to the Asiatic 
shore on the remnants of his fleet. The Arabs raised 
their second siege of Constantinople on August 15, 
718 A.D. (Muharram 12, 100 A.H.) but not before 
one of the mightiest forces Islam could move against 
Christendom had been shattered before its walls. The 
rest of the army retired south to Damascus, while the 
remaining part of the fleet was overtaken and scat- 
tered by the storms in the Archipelago. The Greeks 
of the islands attacked these ships and sank many of 
them ; it is said that only a few ships of Maslama's 
grand fleet reached the ports of Syria. 21 



40 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Thus Muslims were forced to retire from the 
walls of Constantinople in its two great expeditions 
and the Caliphate failed in its stupendous project : its 
hopes to vanquish the West through the East were 
frustrated. 

This failure is due to several reasons : insufficient 
experience of the Arabs in the naval warfare, the rigours 
of the climate which the southern troops from Syria, 
Egypt and Africa could not endure, and particularly to 
the ability of the Byzantians in the methods of de- 
fence of forts and besieged cities, as well as in the use 
of the Greek Fire. The Eastern Empire had maintained 
its supremacy in the art of war, notwithstanding the 
dissolution that had crept into all shades of its social 
and economic life, not to speak of the impregnability 
of the walls of Constantinople and the abundance of 
the means of defence and the instruments for repulsing 
the invaders. 

This failure was decisive in the history of Islam 
and had a deep effect on its future. The siege of Cons- 
tantinople was the greatest effort made by Islam to 
carry its doctrines to the Western nations at a 
time when they were torn by dissensions and Pag- 
anism and Christianity contested spiritual supremacy 
over them. The penetration of the Arabs to the plains 
of France as far as the banks of Loire, shortly after 
(114 A.H., 732 A.D.), was not accompanied by the same 
preparations and had not the same gravity, nor was 
it made with the same determination and persistence 
which characterized the expedition to Constantinople, 
although this penetration was in the execution of the 
same policy and for the realization of the very purpose 
the Caliphate had in view. 

If the Arabs had captured Constantinople the 
destiny of Europe and the history would have changed ; 
there would have been new nations in Europe and 
a religion other than Christianity, and Islam and the 
Arabs would most probably have dominated the 



ARAB SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE 41 

nations of the north. In the next chapter we shall see 
how the struggle between Islam and Christianity in 
the West became one of life and death, and how the 
nations of the north assembled, on the banks of the 
Loire, to stop the torrent of Islam and the Arabs. We 
shall see how the Western historians exalted the sal- 
vation of Europe and Christianity from the grasp of 
Islam in the battle of Tours (Pavement of Martyrs). 
While Gibbon, writing of this battle, says ; " The 
events that rescued our ancestors of Britain and our 
neighbours of Gaul from the civil and religious yoke 
of the Koran, that protected the majesty of Rome and 
delayed the servitude of Constantinople, that invigo- 
rated the defence of the Christians and scattered among 
their enemies the seeds of division and decay," Finlay, 
on the contrary, considers that the salvation of Europe 
and Christianity was realized before the walls of Cons- 
tantinople and by Leo III. He says : " The vanity of 
Gallic writers has magnified the success of Charles Mar- 
tel over a plundering expedition of the Spanish Arabs 
into a marvellous victory, and attributed the deliverance 
of Europe from the Saracen yoke to the valour of the 
Franks. A veil has been thrown over the talents and 
courage of Leo, a soldier of fortune, just seated on 
the imperial throne, who defeated the long-planned 
schemes of conquests of the caliphs Welid and 
Suleiman." 22 

In any case Constantinople was the stronghold of 
Christianity in the East, and it was at the banks of the 
Loire that the Arab conquests were repulsed in the 
West of Europe. Before the walls of Constantinople 
and on the banks of the Loire was the retreat of Islam 
and the salvation of Christianity the last word on the 
fate of Islam and Christianity. 



42 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

References 



1 Al-Aamak O*** on ancient locality near Dabik between 
Antioch and Aleppo (Yaqout : Geographical Dictionary). 

"This and other traditions concerning the conquest of Constanti- 
nople are reported in Sahih Muslim (Cairo ed.), Vol. VIII, pp. 176-77. 

3 Ibn al-Athir, Vol. Ill, p. 50 ; Finlay : Greece under the Romans, 
Ch. V, 3. 

4 The resumption of the conquest of Africa was in 45 A.H. 

B Pergamos or Bergama (Arabic Burgan) is in the north-west of Asia 
Minor 

8 Finlay : Greece under the Romans, Ch. V, 3 ; Gibbon : Roman Empire, 
Ch. LII, and Encyclopxdi de Vlslam, art. Constantinople. 

T M The Greek Fire " is dealt with in a separate chapter. 

8 Finlay : Greece under the Romans, Ch. V, 3 ; Gibbon : Roman Empire, 
Ch LII. 

* Al-Uyun wal Hadayiq ft Akhbar al-Haqaiq 



(Ed. de Goeje) Vol. Ill, p. 24. It is written by an unknown author who 
gives a long account of the siege, pp. 24-33. 

" Al-Taban t Vol. II (V) p. 1314. 

11 Ibid., p. 1316. Al-Uyun wal Hadayiq, Vol. Ill, p. 25. 

" Finlay : Byzantine Empire, Ch. 1-2. 

18 Ibid. 

14 The Arabic chronicle omitted the name of the admiral, but the 
Byzantine version says that his name was Suleiman. As Suleiman ibn 
Ma'az was one of the commanders of the expedition, according to the 
Arab report, it seems probable that he was the admiral in question. 

15 Finlay : Byzantine Empire, Ch. 1-2. 
18 Al-Tabari, Vol. II, p. 1315. 

" Al-Uyun wal Hadayiq, pp, 27-28. 

18 Ibid., p. 29. 

19 Finlay : Byzantine Empire, Ch. 1-2. 

20 Al-Tabari, Vol. II, p. 1316 : Ibn al Athir, Vol. V, p. 10. 

21 Finlay : Byzantine Empire. Ch. 1- 2. 
" Ibid. 



CHAPTER IV 
The Pavement of the Martyrs 

AT the end of October 1932 twelve hundred years 
had passed since an event happened which had 
the greatest and most far-reaching effect in the 
history of Islam and Christendom in fact, it was the 
last word on the fate of both. 

This great event was the battle of the Pavement 
of the Martyrs, known in the European chronicles as 
the battle of Tours or Poitiers. It was fought between 
the Arabs and the Franks in the plains of France, on 
the banks of the Loire in October 732. 

Twelve hundred years have passed since the Pave- 
ment of the Martyrs. 1 History has changed ; the traces 
of Islam were effaced from Western Europe and from 
Spain about four centuries ago. Yet the memory of 
the Pavement of the Martyrs is still alive in the West ; 
its events and historical effects are still the subject of 
appreciation and reflection by Western historians. 
The passage of twelve hundred years, since it took 
place, was an anniversary celebrated in France and was 
the source of new reflections and comments turning 
round the old historical cry : " If the Arabs and Islam 
had not been repulsed in the plains of Tours there 
would have been neither Christian Europe nor Chris- 
tianity, and Islam would have now dominated Europe ; 
and Northern Europe would have to-day been peopled 
by the sons of Semitic nations with black eyes and 
dark hair instead of the sons of the Aryan nations 
with fair hair and blue eyes." 

This great event, and the memories and reflections 
which it raised and still raises, is the subject of this 
chapter. We shall deal with its details in the light of 



44 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the most trustworthy Arabic and Western sources. 
We shall see that the history of Islam could not per- 
haps tell us of an event so grave and important and as 
far-reaching in its effect as the battle of the Pavement 
of the Martyrs. 

The Arabs conquered Spain and took possession of 
the Kingdom of the Goths in 91-92 A.H. (710-711 A.D.) 
under the great generals Tariq ibn Ziyad and Musa ibn 
Noseir in the days of the Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abdul 
Malik. Spain from that date became, like Egypt and 
Africa, one of the provinces of the Omayyad Caliphate, 
It was governed by successive rulers under the Omayyad 
Caliphs, who organized its affairs and pushed Islamic 
conquests beyond the Pyrenees. 2 In less than twenty 
years, after the conquest of Spain, the Arabs were able 
to overrun the southern provinces of France, dominate 
the plains of the Rhone and advance far in the heart 
of France. 

Muslim Spain, though young, soon became the 
seat of internal insurrections and disputes, and Chris- 
tendom recovered from its first surprise and got ready 
for the struggle. The Arabs, after the avalanche of 
their victories in the south of France, met with their 
first defeat in the battle of Toulouse in Zul-Hijja, 102 
A.H. (June, 722 A.D.) ; their Emir and general Al- 
Samh ibn Malik was killed, and they retired to Septi- 
mania after having lost the flower of their army and a 
number of their great leaders. 

For ten years after Andalusia (Muslim Spain) 
was a prey to disturbance and chaos, the fire of con- 
quest having subsided, the governors (Walis) were 
busy with internal affairs and disputes, till Abdul 
Rahman ibn Abdulla al-Ghaf iki was appointed governor 
of Andalusia in Safar, 113 A.H. (April, 731 A.D.). 

Little is known of the early life of Al-Ghafiki, 
but we know that he was one of the sub-companions 
(of the Prophet) who entered Andalusia. We then 
find him one of the Yemenite leaders and a senior 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 45 

army officer, and in 102 A.H., after the battle of 
Toulouse and the murder of Al-Samh ibn Malik, he 
became, for some months, commander of the army and 
Emir of Andalusia to which post he was elected by the 
generals and leaders. Nothing was heard of him till 
he was appointed for the second time Emir of Anda- 
lusia by the Caliph in 113 A.H. 3 It is, however, a fact 
that Abdul Rahman al-Ghafiki was a great soldier 
who gave proof of his military talents in the invasions 
of Gaul ; he was an able ruler and administrator and an 
enthusia>tic reformer. Indeed, there is no doubt that 
he was the greatest and the most capable of the Walis 
of Andalusia. The Muslim chronicle is unanimous 
about his high merits and qualities, his sense of justice, 
patience and piety. 4 The whole of Andalusia wel- 
comed his appointment ; the army loved him for his 
justice, kindness and leniency, while his prestige united 
the tribes ; Modar and Himyar were reconciled ; 
concord ruled in the administration and the army, and 
Andalusia entered into a new era. 

Abdul Rahman inaugurated his governorship with 
a visit to the various provinces. He organized their 
affairs and appointed able and impartial men for their 
administration; suppressed dissensions and injustice; 
restored to the Christians their despoiled churches and 
property ; reassessed the taxes which he imposed on 
all with justice and equality, and spent the early days 
of his governorship in reforming the administration, 
remedying the defects which had crept into it in the 
days of his predecessors; he took particular interest 
in reforming and organizing the army, recruiting men 
from all provinces, creating new and select divisions 
of Berber cavalry commanded by the best Arab 
officers, fortifying the principal northern towns and 
ports, and making preparations to suppress all tendency 
to revolt and insurrection. 5 

In fact revolt was on the paint of breaking out in 
the north. Its hero on that occasion was a Muslim 



16 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

leader, Othman ibn Abi Nis'a al-Khat'ami 4 governor 
of the northern provinces. Ibn Abi Nis'a (Munuza or 
Munez in European chronicle) was one of the Berber 
leaders who entered Andalusia with Tariq at the con- 
quest of Spain. He was governor of Andalusia three 
years previously, but was not long in that office. He 
was then appointed governor of the provinces of Pyre- 
nees and Septimania. The Arabs and Berbers were in 
conflict since the conquest, the latter being enraged 
against the former ; the Berbers bore the greatest 
charges of the conquest, while the Arabs realized most 
of its advantages and occupied all responsible posts. 
Ibn Abi Nis'a was very ambitious and fanatical for his 
race. He expected to be re-elected as Wali of Anda- 
lusia, but when Abdul Rahman was appointed his 
hatred and indignation knew no bounds. He awaited 
an opportunity to revolt, and had, in the course of his 
raids or travels in Acquitaine, come in touch with its 
master the Duke Eudo and then to an understanding 
with him. The Duke seeing that the danger of 
Muslim conquest was threatening his realm, tried to 
conclude an armistice with the Muslims, and actually 
negotiated with them when they invaded his country. 
Karl Martel, the Mayor of the Prankish Palace, availed 
himself of this opportunity to declare war on the 
Duke whose influence and independence he dreaded, 
invaded Acquitaine twice and defeated the Duke. 
Eudo was, in fact, between two fires ; he dreaded the 
Franks from the North and the Arabs from the South. 
The armies of Karl Martel threatened him and ravaged 
his country (731 A.D.) and at the same time Othman 
ibn Abi Nis'a was trying to conclude a treaty with 
him (the Duke) and seeking his help to put in force 
his project of revolting against the Andalusian govern- 
ment and realizing the autonomy of the northern 
provinces. The Duke welcomed this alliance and 
presented Othman with his beautiful daughter Lampi- 
gia as a bride. According to some record? Ibn Abi 



PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 47 

Nis'a captured the Duke's daughter in the course of 
one of his raids on Acquitaine, fell in love with her 
and married her. In any case, this marriage cemented 
the bonds of alliance between the Duke and the 
Muslim chief. In order to conceal his project Ibn 
Abi Nis'a gave this alliance the form of an armistice 
between him and the Franks. But Abdul Rahman 
doubted the intentions of the rebel and refused to 
acknowledge the armistice and sent to the north an 
army commanded by Ibn Zayan to ascertain the truth 
and ensure the safety of the northern provinces. Ibn 
Abi Nis'a fled from his residence in the city of Al- 
Bab 6 situated in the Pyrenees, to the internal mountain 
defiles. Ibn Zayan chased him from rock to rock till 
he was captured and killed in defending himself. His 
wife Lampigia was taken prisoner and sent to the 
Court of Damascus where she was married to a 
Muslim prince. 7 When Eudo saw the fate of his ally 
and realized the impending danger, he prepared to 
defend his kingdom. The Franks and the Goths of 
the northern provinces now began to move in order to 
attack the Muslim posts. Abdul Rahman was burning 
with the desire to avenge the murder of Al-Samh and 
the defeat of the Muslims under the walls of Toulouse, 
and was making preparations from the beginning of 
his governorship to sweep over all the kingdom of the 
Franks. When he saw that danger was threatening 
the northern provinces, he considered it necessary to 
march to the north before completing his preparations. 
He was, however, able to mobilize the greatest army 
the Muslims could send to Gaul since the conquest. 
Early in 732 A.D. (beginning of 114 A.H.) Abdul 
Rahman marched to the North, traversing Aragon 
(Al-Thaghr al-Aala) and Navarre (country of the 
Bashcons) and entered France in the spring of 732 
A.D. He marched at once to Aries, on the Rhdne, 
which had not paid tribute and occupied it after a 
fierce battle on the banks of the river with the forces 



48 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

of Duke Eudo. He then marched to the West and 
crossing the Garonne, the Muslims fell like a torrent 
upon Acquitaine 8 ravaging its towns and fields. Eudo 
tried to stop them and both armies met on the banks 
of the Dordogne but the Duke suffered an overwhelm- 
ing defeat and his army was badly torn. c< God alone 
knows how many Christians fell in this battle, 1 ' says 
Isidore of Beja. Abdul Rahman pursued the Duke 
as far as Bordeaux, his capital (Burdal), which he 
occupied after a short siege. The Duke accompanied 
by some friends fled to the North, and the whole of 
Acquitaine fell into the hands of the Muslims. Abdul 
Rahman then returned again to the Rhone Valley, the 
Muslim army traversing Burgundy occupied Lyon and 
Besancon 9 and the advance-guard reached Sens which 
is only a hundred miles from Paris. Abdul Rahman then 
turnedt o the west as far as the banks of the Loire to 
complete the conquest of this region, thence to march 
on the seat of the Prankish kingdom. 10 He accomplish- 
ed this brilliant march and conquered all the southern 
half of France from east to west in a few months only. 
44 A victorious line of march," says Gibbon, "had been 
prolonged about a thousand miles from the rock of 
Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire ; the repetition of 
an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the 
confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland : the 
Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euph- 
rates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without 
a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Per- 
haps the interpretation of the Koran would now be 
taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might 
demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and 
truth of the revelation of Mahomet." 

In fact the decisive encounter between Islam and 
Christianity, between the East and the West, was on 
the point of taking place. The invasion of Islam of 
the old world was rapid and marvellous. Within half 
a century, after the death of the Prophet, the Arabs 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 49 

had crushed the Persian Empire and taken possession 
of most of the provinces of the Eastern Roman 
Empire, from Syria to the farthest point of Mauri- 
tania. The Empire of the Caliphate rose strong and 
steadfast between Sind in the East and the Atlantic in 
the West, extending to the north as far as the heart of 
Anatolia. The object of the Islamic policy of con- 
quest, since the establishment of the Muslim Empire, 
had a more far-reaching aim than the annexation of 
territories and dominating peoples. In the conquered 
countries of the old world Islam faced established civil 
and social institutions based on pagan or Christian 
principles. Christianity had dominated the provinces 
of the Roman Empire from the fourth century; the 
Caliphate had to demolish this old edifice and to raise 
on its ruins, in the conquered lands, new institutions 
inspired by Islam, and to bend Christianity to the 
domination of Islam, either by spreading Islam among 
the conquered nations or submitting them, from the 
civil and social points of view, to the spirit and 
authority of Islam. This struggle between Islam and 
Christianity was of a short duration in Syria, Egypt 
and Africa ; in less than half a century Islam over- 
whelmed these nations with its domination and 
influence and strong and comprehensive Muslim 
societies were formed among them. Thus the old 
institutions and religions disappeared. The Caliphate 
pushed its conquests to the farthest extremities of 
Anatolia on the East, and crossed over to Spain on the 
West. As for the East, Islam tried to penetrate into 
the West through Constantinople, and the Caliphate 
sent its huge armies and fleets more than once to the 
capital of the Eastern Empire and besieged it twice as 
already described. On every occasion in the siege of 
Constantinople the forces of the Caliphate demons- 
trated utmost persistence, determination and fortitude, 
but they failed and withdrew exhausted and the 
project of the Caliphate to conquer the West from 

7 



50 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

this side failed. Islam met with a decisive defeat in 
the East under the walls of Byzantium ; the Eastern 
Empire raised in the face of Islam an impregnable fort 
protecting Christendom against its invasion and domi- 
nation. But the Muslim armies crossed over to the 
West through Spain and from the heights of the 
Pyrenees, overlooked the other Christian nations of 
Europe. Had it not been for the hesitation of the 
Caliphate and dissension between the leaders, Musa 
ibn Noseir would have put in force his project to cross 
Europe from west to east and to arrive at the seat of 
the Caliphate by way of Constantinople. It might 
have been more than probable that Christianity would 
then have received its death-blow and Islam would 
have dominated the nations of the north as it had 
dominated the nations of the south. But the idea 
died in its cradle owing to the fear and hesitation of 
the Caliphate. 

The subsequent conquests of the Emirs of Spain, 
in the south of France, were another phase of the 
struggle between Islam and Christianity. The Prank- 
ish kingdom was, at that time, the greatest among the 
kingdoms of the West and the North, and protected 
Christianity in the West as the Roman Empire did in 
the East. Indeed, its mission in this protection was 
more arduous, for, while Islam threatened Christianity 
from the South, the Germanic pagan tribes threatened 
it from the North and East. The Muslim invasions 
stopped at first at Septimania and its cities, but later 
extended to Acquitaine and the banks of the Garonne, 
then to the north of the Rhone and Burgundy and 
comprised the whole of the southern half of France. 
Thus Islamic danger appeared so grave and imminent 
as to menace the destinies of the Franks and the whole 
of Christendom; at the same time indications also 
loomed of that decisive struggle which both the 
Franks and the whole of the Christendom had to 
sustain. 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 51 

It was thus between Islam and Christendom that 
the combat raged in the plains of France ; it was, 
however, on the other hand, raging between the 
invaders of the Roman Empire and those striving for 
the possession of its patrimony. It was between the 
Arabs, who had overrun the lands of the Roman 
Empire in the east and south, and the Franks who 
occupied Germany and Gaul. The Franks are a 
branch of one of those Barbarian tribes Vandals, 
Goths, Alans and Swabians who invaded Rome and 
shared its patrimony. 

This encounter between the Arabs and the Franks 
in the plains of France was more than a local struggle 
for the conquest of a certain town or province. It had, 
in fact, a more far reaching aim and effect ; its object 
being the whole partimony of the vast Roman Empire 
of which the Arabs had won the greatest part. They 
then wanted to wrench the remaining part from the 
hands of their competitors, the invaders of the Roman 
Empire from the north. 

These northern plains which were destined to be 
the theatre of a decisive combat between the invaders 
of the Roman Empire, comprised a conflicting society 
whose foundations and institutions were not well 
established. The Germanic tribes, which crossed the 
Rhine, and crushed the authority of Rome in the 
conquered countries, were a mixture of discordant 
invaders longing to inherit the wealth and prosperity 
of Rome. The Goths had overrun northern Way since 
the fifth century and occupied the south of Gaul and 
Spain, but these Barbarian kingdoms had no elements 
of stability. Hardly a century'after, the Franks invaded 
France and wenched its northern half from the indepen- 
dent Roman governor, and the southern half from the 
Goths ; thus a new government and a new society 
were established in Gaul. On every occasion the 
invaders established their authority by sheer force and 
shared it on the basis of feudality so that, not long 



52 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

after, there were, in the conquered country, several 
local principalities. The invaders did not think of 
founding a solid society with an established political 
and social institution and, particularly, did not think 
of combining into one nation with their subjects. 
Thus the Roman and Gallic inhabitants of the con- 
quered countries who were for centuries under the 
domination of Rome, continued to adopt its language 
and civilization. But the invading Germanic tribes 
alone enjoyed government and authority and formed 
for themselves a separate society characterized by rude 
and primitive life for generations before it was in- 
fluenced by the civilization of Rome and its intellectual 
and social legacy. The conversion of the Franks 
to Christianity, in the reign of Clovis, was the greatest 
factor in the evolution of these tribes and polishing 
their heathen mentality and savage traditions. Their 
establishment afterwards in the conquered land, the 
consolidation of their authority and their enjoyment 
of prosperity and wealth after long adventure, un- 
settlement and poverty, and their desire to maintain 
an easy, prosperous life, were strong factors in their 
military decay, calming down their passion for con- 
quest and increasing their desire to colonize. So the 
Germanic tribes which crossed the Rhine, under the 
aagis of the Franks and settled in Gaul, developed into 
a somewhat homogeneous society in the beginning of 
the eighth century. Gaul had not at that time become 
France, but the roots of future France were planted 
and the birth of the French nation had already its fac- 
tors and causes. But this society notwithstanding its 
enjoyment of a sort of settlement and solidity was, at 
the time the Arabs had penetrated into France, the 
prey of dissolution and was torn by dissension. Acqui- 
taine and the rest of the southern France were held by 
a number of local princes and leaders who had availed 
themselves of the weakness of the central government 
to declare the independence of their provinces and 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 53 

towns. On the other hand the Germanic pagan tribes 
beyond the Rhine, tried from time to time to cross the 
river and threaten to destroy the kingdom of the 
Franks. The Franks were occupied with driving back 
these raids ; they crossed the Rhine from time to time 
to repulse this danger and force the pagan tribes to 
embrace Christianity. The religious question was also 
a strong factor in this struggle between tribes united 
by race and blood-relationship and the kingdom of the 
Franks was saved from that danger only by dispute 
and competition among the pagan tribes. 11 

Such were the conditions of the Prankish kingdom 
and society in the beginning of the eighth century, 
that is to say, when the torrent of Muslim conquests 
penetrated from Spain into the south of France. Only 
a hundred years had passed from the death of the Pro- 
phet to this decisive encounter between Islam and 
Christendom (732 A.D.). But in the course of this 
century the Arabs conquered all the nations situated 
between the Sind to the East and Atlantic to the 
West. They overwhelmed the old world with an 
avalanche of brilliant victories and captured all the 
southern provinces of the Roman Empire from Syria 
to the furthest ends of Mauritania and Spain, and 
crossed the Pyrenees into the heart of France ; while 
the northern Germanic tribes took more than three 
centuries to conquer the northern provinces of the 
Empire and settle there. While the Muslim Empire 
rose unshaken and steadfast, and in all the provinces 
of the Caliphate were founded strong local governments 
and enlightened Muslim societies and organized con- 
quering armies, most of the German tribes which had 
conquered Rome from the north, with the exception 
of the kingdom of the Franks, were still nomadic, 
wandering and disunited. 

The Franks were the leaders of the Germanic tribes 
in this struggle which raged in the plains of France, 
the decisive phase of which commenced with the cross- 



54 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

ing of the Muslims into France in the spring of 732 
A.D. The torrent of Muslim conquests pointed twenty 
years before to the crushing of France, that is to say, 
when the Muslims crossed the Pyrenees for the first time 
under Musa ibn Noseir and occupied Septimania. They 
then overran the valley of Rhone and Acquitaine more 
than once. The kingdom of the Franks was at that 
time busy with dissension, fighting for authority and 
leadership till Karl Martel became mayor of the Palace ; 
he then spent several years to establish his authority 
while his rival and antagonist, Eudo, Duke of Acqui- 
taine, received alone the blows of the Saracens. When 
the danger of Islamic conquests was more imminent 
and approached to the north as far as Burgundy, 
the Franks were alarmed and the Germanic tribes 
of Austrasia and Nostria rose to defend their dominion 
and existence. 

The danger was real and impending this time ; 
the Muslims had then crossed the Pyrenees with the 
greatest army they had amassed, and the most fully 
prepared since the conquest. The commander of the 
Muslim army was the energetic, brave and able Abdul 
Rahman al-Ghafiki, the greatest Muslim soldier who 
ever crossed the Pyrenees. He gave proofs of his 
ability, as a leader, since the battle of Toulouse when 
he managed to save the Muslim army from pursuit 
after its defeat and the murder of its leader Al-Samh, 
then to retire to Septimania. The Prankish chronicle 
exaggerates the strength and preparations of Abdul 
Rahman's army ; it estimates its strengh at four hun- 
dred thousand men, besides large numbers of men to 
colonize the conquered lands. 12 This estimate is 
evidently an exaggeration. The Arab chronicle esti- 
mates it at seventy or eighty thousand men, which 
is more reasonable. This famous Muslim invasion and 
the magnificent army inspired the imagination of the 
modern European poet ; thus we see that Southey says 
in his ode on Roderick, the last of the Gothic Kings : 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 55 

A countless multitude ; 
Syrian, Moor, Saracen, Greek renegade, 
Persian, and Copt, and Tartar, in one bond 
Of erring faith conjoined strong in the youth 
And heat of zeal a dreadful brotherhood, 
Nor were the chiefs 

Of victory less assured, by long success 
Elate, and proud of that o'erwhelming strength 
Which, surely they believed, as it had rolled 
Thus far uncheck'd, would roll victorious on, 
Till, like the Orient, the subjected West 
Should bow in reverence at Mahommed's name ; 
And pilgrims from remotest Arctic shores 
Tread with religious feet the burning sands 
Of Araby and Mecca's stony soil. 13 
Abdul Rahman penetrated into France with his 
formidable army in the spring of 732 A.D. (beginning 
of 114 A.H.) and swept over the valley of Rhone and 
Acquitaine. He dispersed the forces of Duke Eudo, 
and, after a brilliant march, approached the banks of the 
Loire. According to an ecclesiastical chronicle, it was 
Eudo who invited Abdul Rahman to France to help 
him to fight his adversary Karl Martel. This report is 
improbable because, as already said, it was Eudo who 
hastened to oppose and repulse Abdul Rahman, and 
his kingdom and capital were the first captured by the 
Muslims/ 4 Theodoric III was then King of the 
Franks, but the kings of the Franks were at that time 
mere puppets. Karl Martel, mayor of the Palace, was 
the real king appropriating for himself every authority, 
and on whose shoulders rested the responsibility of 
defending his kingdom and his people. As the Muslim 
danger became imminent he was making great prepara- 
tions and assembling his forces, but Abdul Rahman 
penetrated to the heart of France before he had moved 
to meet him. The Muslim chronicle attributes this 
delay to a preconceived plan, and says on this subject : 
u The Franks hurried to their great King Karla, which 



56 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

is the title of their kings, and said to him : * What an 
eternal indignity ! We heard of the Arabs and dreaded 
them from the East, but they came from the West and 
conquered Spain and took possession of all its valuable 
things notwithstanding their small number, insufficient 
armaments, and although they carried no shields.' His 
answer was to this effect : * If you follow my advice, 
you will not interrupt their march nor precipitate your 
attack. They are like a torrent carrying all before it. 
They are in the advent of their victory ; their deter- 
mination replaces for them the superiority of number, 
and hearts which replace the defence of shields. But 
give them time to be loaded with spoils, settle down 
and to fight among themselves for authority, when you 
will easily defeat them. 1 " 18 

We can also explain the delay of Karl Martel by 
the desire to leave his adversary and rival Eudo with- 
out help till the Muslims destroyed his kingdom when 
he would get rid of his rivalry and opposition. In any 
case, Abdul Rahman had overrun Acquitaine and the 
whole of the south of France when Karl Martel was 
prepared to march to meet him. Duke Eudo, after 
losing his kingdom and the dispersal of his army, came 
to implore succour from his old adversary Karl Martel. 
Karl had amassed a large army of Franks, and of the 
various savage Germanic tribes and mercenary troops, 
beyond the Rhine, in which the combatants were a 
mixture of all the nations of north. They were mostly 
irregular troops, almost naked, wearing wolve skins, 
their curly hair falling on their bare shoulders. The 
leader of the Franks marched with this great army 
towards the south to encounter the Arabs, sheltered 
by highlands, in order to surprise the enemy in his 
positions before he had completed his preparations to 
repulse him. The Muslim army had, at that time, 
overrun all the territories of Acquitaine which are now 
called in modern France, Guyenne, Perigord, Saintonge 
and Poitu, and approached, after the victorious march, 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 57 

the southern plains of the Loire where it joins its three 
tributaries, the Creuse, Vienne and Claine. 

It is difficult to define exactly where that encoun- 
ter of Islam and Christendom, decisive in the history of 
the East and the West, took place. But it is generally 
agreed that it was the plain situated between Poitiers 
and Tours, on the banks of the Claine and Vienne, 
branches of the Loire, not far from the city of Tours. 
The Muslim chronicle deals concisely with this great 
battle, and the Arabic sources we have give no com- 
prehensive details. There are, however, some details 
about it in some Muslim chronicles cited by Conde, the 
Spanish historian, to which we shall refer later. The 
Prankish and ecclesiastical chronicles, on the contrary, 
deal at length with the events of this battle and give 
interesting details, but they are doubtful and lack 
historical precision. We shall first give an account of 
the battle based on both chronicles, and afterwards 
give their details. 

The Muslim army reached the plain stretching 
between Poitiers and Tours, as already stated. The 
Muslims captured and pillaged Poitiers and burned its 
famous cathedral. They then attacked Tours, situated 
on the left bank of the Loire, captured it and destroyed 
its cathedral. Meanwhile the Prankish army had reach- 
ed the banks of the Loire ; the Muslims did not, at 
first, realize this fact, and their reconnoitring guards 
wrongly estimated its strength. Thus when Abdul 
Rahman wished to cross the Loire to meet the enemy 
on its right bank, he was surprised by the arrival of the 
great forces of Karl Martel. Abdul Rahman, realizing 
that the Prankish army was superior in number, re- 
tired from the banks of the river again to the plain 
between Tours and Poitiers. Karl Martel crossed the 
Loire west of Tours and encamped with his army a few 
miles to the left of the Muslim army between the 
rivers Claine and Vienne. 

The state of the Muslim army inspired anxiety 



58 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

and apprehension. Dissension was rife among the 
Berber tribes, forming the majority of the army, who 
were anxious to retire with their great spoils. The 
Muslims had, during their victorious march, depleted 
southern France of its wealth. They plundered all its 
rich churches and monasteries, and carried away innum- 
erable treasures, spoils and captives. These rich burdens 
which they carried brought disorder in their ranks and 
created dissension between them. Abdul Rahman 
realized the danger of these spoils to discipline and fear- 
ed that the troops would be busy guarding them. He 
tried in vain to induce them to abandon some of them, 
but he did not insist fearing mutiny. On the other 
hand the Muslims were exhausted by continued inva- 
sions during several months since their entry into 
France ; their number was reduced, as garrisons had to 
be left in many conquered posts and cities ; neverthe- 
less Abdul Rahman made preparations to fight the 
enemy with determination and confidence in a decisive 
battle. 

Fighting began on October 12 or 13, 732 A.D. 
(about the end of Sha'ban, 114 A.H.). For seven or 
eight days there were minor engagements between the 
two armies, in which each maintained its position. On 
the ninth day the two armies were engaged in a general 
battle ; both fought severely without advantage to either 
till night fell. On the next day fighting was resumed, 
both sides exhibiting extreme courage and endurance 
till the Franks showed signs of fatigue, and victory 
appeared to be on the side of the Muslims. But the 
Franks had by then opened a passage to the Muslim 
camp of spoils, and it was feared that it would fall into 
their hands. Or, according to a chronicle, an unknown 
person in the Muslim posts raised a cry that the camp 
of spoils was on the point of falling into the hands of 
the enemy. A large cavalry force withdrew from the 
heart of the battle to the hind ranks to defend the 
spoils and many soldiers hastened to defend their 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 59 

property, when disorder broke out in their ranks. 
Abdul Rahman tried in vain to restore discipline and 
reassure the troops but while he was moving before and 
leading the ranks and gathering them again together, 
he was hit and killed by an enemy arrow, and he fell 
from his horse. Alarm and disorder then ruled in the 
Muslim army ; the Franks pressed hard on the Muslims, 
and their ranks suffered much loss but they maintained 
their position till night fell when the two armies were 
separated with no decisive victory on either side. This 
happened on October 21, 732 A.D. (early in Ramadan, 
114 A.H.). 16 

At this juncture dispute and dissension burst out 
among the leaders of the Muslim army. Opinions 
differed, minds were excited and apprehension and 
alarm spread. The leaders finding that there was no 
hope of victory decided to retire at once, and imme- 
diately left their positions in the depth of the night 
and under cover of the darkness withdrew towards the 
south to their bases in Septimania, leaving their heavy 
objects and most of their spoils to the enemy. At 
dawn next day Karl and his ally Eudo, noticing the 
quietness of the Arab camp, advanced cautiously and 
found it vacant with the exception of a number of 
wounded men who could not accompany the retreating 
army ; these were killed on the spot. Karl apprehend- 
ing snare or strategy, contented himself with the retire- 
ment of the enemy and therefore did not dare pursue 
it and retired with his army to the north. 

This is the most precise account of the events of 
that famous battle according to the various reports. 
We will now give first the Prankish ecclesiastical chro- 
nicle and then the Muslim chronicle. 

As for the Prankish ecclesiastical chronicle, it is 
marred by exaggeration, partiality and fanaticism. It 
depicts the misfortunes brought on France and Chris- 
tendom by the Saracen invasion in gloomy colours, and 
gives lengthy details. One chronicle says: "When 



60 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Duke Eudo saw that Prince Charles (Karl) had defeated 
and annihilated him, and that he could not avenge 
himself with receiving succour from somewhere, he 
allied himself with the Saracens of Spain and asked them 
to help him against Prince Charles and Christendom. 
The Saracens and their king who was called Abderame 
came out of Spain with all their wives and their chil- 
dren, and all their substance in such great multitude 
that no man could reckon or estimate them. They 
brought with them all their armour and whatever they 
had as if they were henceforth always to dwell in 
France. They traversed La Gironde, captured the city 
of Bordeaux, killed the people, pillaged the churches, 
devastated all the plains and marched till Poitieu." 17 

44 Then Abderrahman, seeing the land filled with 
the multitude of his army, pierces through the moun- 
tains, tramples over rough and level ground, plunders 
far into the country of the Franks and smites all with 
the sword, insomuch that when Eudo came to battle 
with him at the river Garonne, and fled before him, 
God alone knows the number of the slain. Then Abder- 
rahman pursues Count Eudo, and while he strives to 
spoil and burn the holy shrine at Tours, he encounters 
the chief of the Austrasian Franks, Charles, a man of 
war from his youth, to whom Eudo had sent warning. 
There, for nearly seven days, they strive intensely, and 
at last they set themselves in battle array; and the 
nations of the north standing firm as a wall, and im- 
penetrable as a zone of ice, utterly slay the Arabs with 
the edge of the sword. 

44 But when the Austrasian people by the might of 
their massive limbs, and with iron hands striking straight 
from the chest their strenuous blows, had laid multi- 
tudes of the enemy low, at last they found the King 
(Abderrahman) and robbed him of life. Then night 
disparted the combatants, the Franks brandishing their 
swords on high in scorn of the enemy. Next day rising 
at earliest ,dawn and seeing the innumerable tents of 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 61 

the Arabs all ranged in order before them, the Euro- 
peans prepared for fight, deeming that within those 
tents were the phalanxes of the enemy; but sending 
forth their scouts they found that the hosts of the 
Ishmaelites fled away silently under cover of the night, 
seeking their own country. Fearing, however, a feigned 
flight and a sudden return by hidden ways, they circled 
round and round with amazed caution and thus the 
invaders escaped, but the Europeans after dividing the 
spoils and the captives in orderly manner among them- 
selves returned with gladness to their homes." 18 

As for the Muslim chronicle, it is very restricted 
on this subject. Most of the Muslim historians are 
reticent on these great events or refer to them very 
concisely. But the Spanish historian Conde gives 
us the following passages of the Muslim Andalusian 
version 19 on the conquest of France and on the battle 
of Tours : 

" The people of Afranc, meanwhile, and those of 
the Spanish border, hearing of Othman's death, and 
knowing the great force of the Muslimah that was com- 
ing against them, made the best preparation in their 
power entreating for defence, and wrote to their neigh- 
bours entreating aid. The Count and Lord of the 
district gathered his forces and went forth against 
the Arabs, whom he fought with varying success, but 
Abderrahman was upon the whole victorious, and 
gradually occupied all the towns belonging to the Count. 
His troops were inflated with their continued good 
fortune ; they desired nothing better than to be led to 
battle, full of confidence, as they were, in the valour 
and military skill of their leader ; and of these they had 
daily experience, to the perpetual loss and heavy dis- 
advantage of the Christians. 

" Passing the river Garonne, the Muslimah forces 
burnt all the towns along its banks, destroyed the fruits 
of the fields, and carried off captives innumerable. Like 
a desolating tempest it was that this army swept over 



62 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the land ; the success of their incursions, their unchang- 
ing prosperity and the spoils they obtained, had indeed 
rendered the soldiers insatiable. 

" When Abderrahman crossed the river Garonne, 
he was opposed by the Count of the territory, but de- 
feated him, and drove him to take refuge in his city, 
which the Muslimah instantly besieged, and soon after- 
wards entered by force of arms, all now yielding to 
their life-destroying swords. The Count himself died, 
in defence of his town, and the conquerors took off 
the head from his corpse. They then departed, laden 
with spoils, to seek further triumphs. 

44 The whole land of Afranc (France) was now 
trembling at the approach of the Muslimah hordes, 
and the people called on King Caldus for aid ; they des- 
cribed the murderous attacks of the Muslimah cavalry 
which seemed to be in all places at once, their squadrons 
occupying and ravaging the whole territory of Narbona, 
Tolosa, and Bordhal: they also related the death of 
their Count. 

44 The King consoled them by promises of immedi- 
ate succour, and in the year 114, having gathered a 
vast army, he came forth to the battle. The Muslimah 
had now approached Medina Towers, and here Abder- 
rahman received intelligence of the great host which he 
was now to encounter. The troops he commanded had 
fallen into much disorder, being loaded with riches of 
every kind, and almost sinking beneath the burden of 
their spoils : fain would Abderrahman, and the other 
more prudent generals of the Muslimah force, have per- 
suaded their soldiers to abandon these impediments, 
and think only of their horses and arms, but fearing to 
discourage them, and confiding in their constant good 
fortune, they permitted the overweening confidence 
of other leaders to prevail, and despised the force of 
their enemies. 

11 But this careless disregard and disdain of the 
enemy's power, more especially when accompanied by 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 63 

a relaxation of discipline, has ever been the bane of 
armies. It is true that the covetous rage for booty in- 
cited the soldiers to unheard-of efforts, and pressing 
the operations of the siege they succeeded in forcing an 
entrance, but almost under the eyes of the Christian 
auxiliaries now fast approaching. On that day the fury 
of the Muslimah was as the rage of hungry tigers ; the 
carnage they made in the city was hideous, and for this 
it would seem that God had determined to punish them 
seeing that fortune then turned her back upon their 
banners. 

" It was on the banks of the river Owar that the 
two contending armies of different tongues, Musli- 
mah and Christians, met together, each in some dread 
of the other. Abderrahman, remembering earlier suc- 
cesses, was the first to attack, and came on with the 
accustomed impetuosity of his formidable horsemen : he 
was met by the Christians with equal resolution, and 
the conflict, a sanguinary and obstinate one, held its 
course throughout the day ; nay until night interposed 
to separate the two hosts. 

44 On the following day, the combat recommenced 
with fury at the hour of dawn, when the Muslimah 
captains, thirsting for blood and eager to obtain ven- 
gednce, penetrated deep into the ranks of the enemy ; 
but in the hottest part of the battle, Abderrahman 
perceived that a great body of his cavalry had abandoned 
the field, and were hastening to defend the riches 
amassed in their camp, which was threatened by the 
enemy. This movement threw the Muslimah force 
into confusion, and Abderrahman, dreading the disorder 
that must ensue, rushed from side to side, exhorting his 
people to their duty. Yet he soon found that it was 
impossible to restrain them and, fighting with the 
bravest, wherever the battle raged most fiercely, he fell 
dead with his horse, having first been pierced by lances 
innumerable. All was now thrown into confusion ; the 
Muslimah gave way on every side, and it was only by 



64 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

favour of the descending night that they found means 
to withdraw from the terrible combat. 

"The Christians pursued their advantage, and 
followed the beaten troops through several successive 
days : the retreating Muslimah were compelled to sus- 
tain numerous attacks and, amidst unimaginable horrors, 
the struggle was continued even to Narbonne. 

" This fatal combat, and the death of the illustrious 
general Abderrahman, took place in the year 115 ; the 
King of France then laid siege to Narbonne, but the 
city was defended by the Muslimah with such deter- 
mined bravery that he was compelled to raise the siege 
and retire to the interior of his dominion with a great 
loss." 20 

On the other hand Cardonne, in speaking of the 
battle, quoted the following passage which he said he 
copied from Ibn Khallikan : " When the Arabs captured 
Carcassone, Karla feared that they might pursue their 
conquests ; he therefore marched to fight them in the 
great land (France) with a formidable army. The Arabs 
knew in Lauzon (Lyon) of his approach, and as his 
army was superior in number they decided to retire. 
Karla marched as far as the plains of Anicon without 
meeting any one, for the Arabs had concealed themselves 
beyond the mountains and entrenched themselves there. 
He besieged the mountains without allowing the Arabs 
to realize this fact, and fought them till a great number 
of them fell and the remainder fled into Arbona (Nar- 
bonne). Karla besieged Arbona for some time but could 
not conquer it and had to retire to his lands where he 
built the fort of the valley of Rizona (the Rhdne) and 
furnished it with a strong garrison in order to be a 
barrier between him and the Arabs. 21 

We now come to the Muslim version. The 
Muslim historians are either reticent on this great 
battle or brief. We must at the outset say that the 
battle of Tours is known in Islamic history as the battle 
x>f Al-Balat or Balat al-Shuhada (The Pavement of the 



THE PA YEMENI; OF THE MARTYRS 65 

Martyrs) on account of the number of distinguished 
Muslims and sub-companions who fell in it. This 
very appellation, the reserve of the Muslim chronicle, 
and the tone of the few details relating to this battle, 
prove that the Muslim historians realized the gravity 
of this decisive encounter between Islam and Chris- 
tendom and the enormity of the disaster which befell 
Islam in the plains of Tours. The religious character 
of the battle is proved by the Islamic legend pretend- 
ing that Al-Azan (call to prayer) was for long ages 
heard in the Pavement of the Martyrs. 22 The reserve 
of the Muslim historians in this matter could be 
explained by the fact that they were reluctant to deal 
at length with this great calamity to Islam, or to enter 
into its painful details, and therefore limited them- 
selves to short references. There was also no reason 
of comment on the consequences of a calamity which 
was, undoubtedly, a blow to Islam and to the ambi- 
tions and projects of the Caliphate. With the excep- 
tion of some alleged Andalusian versions, written at a 
later age, which we have reproduced, all the Muslim 
historians maintain this reticence and reserve. The 
following are some of their short statements : 

Ibn Abdul Hakam, one of the earliest historians 
of the Muslim conquests and the earliest who has 
written on the conquests of Spain, says : u Obaida 
(governor of Africa) had appointed Abdul Rahman 
ibn Abdulla al-Akki (Al-Ghafiki) governor of Anda- 
lusia. He was a pious man. Abdul Rahman invaded 
the country of the Franks, the furthest enemies of 
Andalusia, captured great spoils and defeated them. 
He then invaded them a second time, but was killed 
with most of his followers. His death, according to 
Yahiya, quoting Al-Leith, was in the year 115 A.H." 23 
Al-Waqidi, Al-Balazuri and Al-Tabari, also among the 
earliest historians of the conquests, made no mention 
of the battle. Ibn al-Athir, speaking of the events of 
the year 113 A.H., merely quoted the version of Ibn 

9 



66 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Abdul Hakam : " Obaida appointed Abdul Rahman 
ibn Abdulla governor of Andalusia, and he invaded 
the Franks, penetrated far into their country and 
captured great spoils. He then invaded the country 
of the Franks in that year (113), or in the year 114 
A.H., according to a report which is true, and was 
killed with his followers. 24 Ibn Khaldun wrongly 
attributes the battle to Ibn al-Habhab, governor of 
Egypt and Africa ; he says : " After him came (that 
is to say, after Al-Haytham) Mohammad ibn Abdulla 
ibn al-Habhab, governor of Africa, who entered it 
(Andalusia) in the year 13 and invaded the Franks 
with whom he fought several battles ; he was defeated 
in Ramadan, 14 A.H. (114 A.D.). He was governor 
for two years." Among the Andalusian chronicles we 
can quote the version of the author of Akhbar Majmu'a, 
with reference to the governors of Andalusia. He 
says : " Then Abdul Rahman ibn Abdulla al-Ghafiki 
became governor ; under him were killed the invaders 
of Balat al-Shuhada as well as their governor Abdul 
Rahman." 25 In his biography of Abdul Rahman, Al- 
Dabbi quotes the words of Ibn Abdul Hakam ; 26 Ibn 
Adhari says : " Then Abdul Rahman al-Ghafiki 
became governor ; he invaded the Romans and was 
killed with a number of his troops in 115 A.H. at the 
spot known as Balat al-Shuhada." 27 He says else- 
where : " This Abdul Rahman became governor of 
Andalusia for the second time in Safar, 112 ; he remain- 
ed governor for two years and seven or eight months 
and was killed in the land of the enemy in Ramadan, 114 
A.H." 28 Al-Makkari quotes : " Then came Abdul 
Rahman al-Ghafiki, sent by Obaidulla ibn al-Habhab, 
governor of Africa ; he entered Andalusia in the year 

13 A.H. (read 113), invaded the Franks and met them 
in several battles. His army was defeated in Ramadan 

14 at a spot known as Balat al-Shuhada which was the 
name given to the battle." 29 He quotes elsewhere: 
"He was killed (wrongly meaning Al-Samh ibn 



JTHE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 67 

Malik) in the battle famous among the Andalusians 
by the name of Al-Balat; the Franks overwhelmed 
him and surrounded the Muslims, thus none of them 
escaped. According to Ibn Hayan the Azan (call 
to prayer) is still heard there." He also quotes Ibn 
Hayan : " Abdul Rahman entered Andalusia on 
being made governor for the second time by Ibn al- 
Habhab in Safar, 113 A.H. He invaded the Franks 
with whom he fought several battles till he was killed 
and his army defeated in Ramadan, 114, at a spot 
named Balat al-Shuhada. According to Ibn Bashkwal 
this invasion is known as the invasion of Al-Balat." 3U 

These short passages and references, which almost 
agree in word and sense, are all that the Muslim 
chronicle delivered to us on this subject, although its 
reticence points, as we have said, to a sense of tremen- 
dous gravity and far-reaching effects of the event. 
While the silence of the Muslim chronicle is dictated 
by the greatness of the calamity which befell Muslims 
in the plains of Tours, the Christian chronicle, 'on the 
contrary, gives lengthy details of the battle and extols 
the victory of Christendom and its deliverance from the 
Islamic danger and glorifies the heroism of Karl Martel 
to the zenith. The Christian version, mostly written 
by contemporary prelates, absurdly exaggerates this 
calamity of the Muslims, and alleges that not less than 
375,000 Muslims fell in this battle, whereas not more 
than 1500 Christians were killed. This version is 
based on a letter which Duke Eudo wrote to Pope 
Gregory II on the events of the battle, attributing the 
victory to himself, which the contemporary and later 
Christian historians copied as if it were a fact which 
could be believed. This is, however, nothing but a 
mere legend, for the whole of the Muslim army which 
entered France did not exceed 100,000 according to 
the best estimates. 31 Moreover, the Muslim army was 
not defeated and crushed in Tours, in the sense of a 
crushing defeat, but retired of its own accord after 



68 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

fighting the whole decisive battle till the evening, 
maintaining its position before the enemy. It did not 
retire in the course of the battle and was not defeated. 
It is impossible that the awful havoc which befalls an 
army maintaining its position would reach such an 
imaginary figure. It is reasonable to say that the 
losses of the Muslims were great in these terrible 
battles, which the Muslim chronicle admits. But 
these losses could not exceed several ten thousand 
men in an army of not more than one hundred thou- 
sand. A clear proof of this is the caution of the 
Franks and their reluctance to pursue the Arabs after 
the battle and the fear that their retirement was a 
military stratagem. If the Muslim army had been 
torn to pieces, the Franks would have lost no time to 
pursue and entirely crush it. But it was strong and 
numerous enough to intimidate the enemy. 32 But the 
loss of the Muslims was tremendous as regards quality 
owing to the death of Abdul Rahman and many of the 
leaders and generals of the army. Indeed, the death 
of Abdul Rahman was most disastrous ; he was the 
best governor of Andalusia, the greatest general Islam 
ever produced in the West, and the only man who, 
with his prestige and strong character, could unite the 
Muslims in Spain. His death in these critical condi- 
tions was therefore a great calamity to the ideals of 
Islam and the plans of the Caliphate to conquer the 
West. 33 

Modern criticism attaches great importance to 
this decisive encounter between Islam and Christen- 
dom, and points to its grave and far reaching effects 
in changing the destinies of Christendom and of the 
nations of the West, and consequently in changing the 
history of the whole world. The following are some 
of the opinions of the foremost historians and thinkers 
of the West on this subject. 

Edward Gibbon says that the events of this battle 
" rescued our ancestors of Britain, and our neighbours 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 69 

of Gaul, from the civil and religious yoke of the 
Koran : that protected the majesty of Rome, and 
delayed the servitude of Constantinople ; that invigo- 
rated the defence of the Christians, and scattered 
among their enemies the seeds of division and 
decay." 34 The historian Arnold considers this battle 
" among those signal deliverances which have affected 
for centuries the happiness of mankind." 35 Sir Edward 
Creasy says that " the great victory won by Charles 
Martel over the Saracens in 732 A.D. gave a decisive 
check to the career of the Arab conquest in Western 
Europe, rescued Christendom from Islam, preserved 
the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civiliza- 
tion, and re-established the old superiority of the 
Indo-European over the Semitic family of mankind." 36 
Von Schlegel, speaking of Islam and the Arab empire, 
says : " No sooner the Arabs had completed the con- 
quest of Spain than they aspired to conquer Gaul and 
Burgundy. But the mighty victory gained by the 
Prankish hero, Karl Martel, between Tours and 
Poitiers, put an end to their advance, their leader 
Abdul Rahman fell in the field of battle with the 
flower of his army. Thus Karl Martel saved with his 
sword Christian nations of the West from the deadly 
grip of all-destroying Islam." 37 Ranke says that " the 
commencement of the eighth century was one of the 
most important epochs in the history of the world ; 
when on the one side Mohammedanism threatened to 
overspread Italy and Gaul, and on the other the 
ancient idolatry once more forced its way across the 
Rhine. In the history of Christian institutions, a 
youthful prince of Germanic race, Karl Martel, arose 
as their champion, maintained them with all the energy 
which the necessity of self-defence called for, and 
finally extended them into new regions." 38 

Zeller says : " This victory was particularly the 
victory of the Franks and Christendom ; this victory 
helped the leader of the Franks to establish his domi- 



70 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN JHE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

nation not only in Gaul, but also in Germany which 
he associated in his victory." 39 But there are other 
Western historians who do not go so far in the estima- 
tion of the consequences and effects of the battle 
among whom are the two great historians, Sismondi 
and Michelet. They do not attach great importance 
to the victory of Karl Martel. George Finlay says : 
" The vanity of Gallic writers has magnified the 
success of Charles Martel over a plundering expedition 
of the Spanish Arabs into a marvellous victory, and 
attributed the deliverance of Europe from the Saracen 
yoke to the valour of the Franks. A veil has been 
thrown over the talents and courage of Leo, a soldier 
of fortune, just seated on the imperial throne, who 
defeated the long-planned schemes of conquest of the 
caliphs Welid and Suleiman." 40 

We side with the former party in highly estimat- 
ing Balat al-Shuhada ; we think that it was the great- 
est decisive encounter between Islam and Christen- 
dom, between the East and the West. In the plains 
of Tours and Poitiers the Arabs lost the domination of 
the world, and the destiny of the old world was 
changed; the torrent of Islamic conquests retired before 
the nations of the North, as it retired sometime previ- 
ously before the walls of Constantinople. Thus failed 
the last attempt made by the Caliphate to conquer the 
nations of the West and subjugate Christendom to 
the domination of Islam. United Islam never had 
another opportunity to penetrate into the heart of 
Europe in the same numbers, determination and con- 
fidence as when it marched to Balat al-Shuhada. It 
was before long smitten with discord. While Muslim 
Spain was occupied with its internal dissensions, a 
great Prankish united Empire rose behind the Pyre- 
nees, threatening Islam in the West and contesting its 
domination and influence. 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 71 

References 

1 This chapter was written in 1932. 

' According to Arab chronicle " Jibal al-Burt or Al-Burtat."- 



3 The Muslim chronicle does not agree on the date of the appoint- 
ment of Abdul Rahman. Al-Dabbi says that he was appointed in 110 A.H. 
(Bughiat al-Multamis No. 1021), and likewise ibn Bashkwal (Nafh al-Tib, 
Vol. II, p. 56). Ibn Adhan savs that it was in Safar, 112 A H. (Vol. II, p. 
28) ; Ibn Mayan, in Safar, 113 A.H. (Nafh al-Tib. Vol. II, p. 51). In our 
opinion the last is the most probable record because it agrees with the 
dates of the former governors. 

4 See Ibn Abdul Hakam, pp. 216-217 ; Bughiat al-Multamis of Al-Dabbi 
No. 1021 ; AI-Makkan quoting Al-Humaydi (Nafh al-Tib< Vol. II, p. 56). 

5 Conde: Dominacwn de los Arabos en Espana, Vol. I, p. 105 (English 
translation). 

6 It is called " Cuidad de la Peurta " in Castihan. It was situated on 
one of the Pyrenees passages and sometimes called Puecarda. 

7 The chronicle makes the story of Lampigia the source of many a 
sensational romance, which afforded a fertile material to writers and poets, 
but most of these romances are mere legends. 

* The principality of Acquitame extended at that time between the 
Rhone to the east and the Bay of Biscay to the west, and between the 
Loire to the north and Garonne on the south, comprising modern from 
France, the provinces of Guyenne, Pengord, Samtonge. Poitu, Vendee 
and part of Anjou. 

9 The birthplace of Victor Hugo. 

10 Cardonne gives a different description of the march of Abdul 
Rahman He says that he marched first on Aries and besieged it. The 
Duke hurried to its succour, and was met by Abdul Rahman who defeated 
him and he was forced to fly. Abdul Rahman then crossed the Garonne 
and occupied Bordeaux. The Duke had gathered a new army and tried to 
oppose his march again, but was again defeated. Abdul Rahman then 
traversed Pengord, Saintonge and Poitu, ravaging these regions until he 
reached the city of Tours (Cardonne : Histoire de I'Afnque et de VEspagne. 
I, p. 129). We have explained his march according to all the different 
records and according to the geographical circumstances of thif invasion. 
It is possible that Abdul Rahman did not lead the northerly march to 
Burgundy, but the Saracenic army, no doubt, invaded these regions. 

11 See Creasy: Decisive Battles of the World, Ch. VII, giving an 
excellent review of the Germanic society of that age, and the events of the 
battle of Tours. See also Zelier : Histoire de r Allemagne, I, p. 67. 

12 Aschbach : Geschichte der Omajaden in Spanien, I, p. 61. 

13 Southey: Roderick the last of the Goths. 



72 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

14 Dom Bouquet : Recueil des Histonens de Gaule et de la France, report 
of St. Denis (Vol. Ill, p. 310). See also Bayle : Dictionnaire Histonque et 
Critique, under art. Abderame, 

15 Al-Hijari in " Mushab " cited by Al-Makkan (Nafh al-Tib, Vol. I, 
p. 129). Al-Hijan gives this on the occasion of the crossing of Musa 
ibn Noseir to France. But it appears from the name of Karla (Karl) that 
the passage concerns the great invasion of which we speak. The Latin 
ecclesiastical chronicle is ot the same purport (Gibbon : Roman Empire, Ch. 
LII.) where the passage is cited in reference to the battle of Tours. 

18 According to most Prankish and ecclesiastical chronicles the battle 
was fought in Oct. 732 A.D. which corresponds with Sha'ban, 114 A.H. 
But the Muslim chronicle differs in fixing this date, some saying that it 
was in 115 A.H. Ibn Abdul Hakam, p. 217 ; Al-Dabbi in Bughiat al-Multamis 
No. 1021 ; Ibn Adhan, Vol. I, p. 37, but he again says that the battle was 
in 114 A.H. Vol. II, p. 28. Ibn al-Athir, Vol. V. p. 64; Ibn Khaldun, Vol. 
IV, p. 119; Al-Makkan quoting Ibn Hayan (Vol. I, p. 109. and Vol. II, p. 
56) all agree that it was 114 A.H. The latter two say that it was in 
Ramadan, 114 A.H. which is the most correct date agreeing with the 
Western reports. 

11 This is the version of Saint Denis as given by Dom Bouquet: 
Recueil des Histonens de Gaule et de la France, III. p. 310. This Recueil 
gives also the versions of other prelates. 

18 This is the version of Isidire of Beja, who lived at that time. See 
Creasy : Decisive Battles of the World, Ch. VII ; Hodgkin : Charles the 
Great, Ch. III. See also Gibbon, where these details are cited or 
summarized. 

19 These statements which Conde says to have copied from the 
Arabic version could not be traced in any of the known Arabic sources. 
Conde himself does not indicate any of his sources. It is probable that he 
copied them from some manuscript in the collection of the Escurial or 
from private collections which have not been made public. It is also pro- 
bable that he copied them from Gazwat al-Muktabas by Al-Humaydi ; Conde 
says in his introduction that he consulted this work with regard to the time 
of conquest and the Emirs. He may also have copied some passages of it 
from Ibn Hayan and Ibn Bashkwal. It also seems that Al-Hijan, in his 
work Al-Mushab, dealt with these events in detail. In fact Al-Makkari 
quoted from him a passage to this effect (Nafh al-Ttb, Vol. I, p. 129). 
Perhaps Conde came across some of these details. Unfortunately all these 
sources are not available, and are not to be found in the Egyptian Public 
Library ; they are still in manuscript in the Escurial and other European 
collections. See Conde on his sources in, the introduction of the English 
version (Vol. I, p. 23.) 

80 Conde : His tor ia de la Dominacion de los Arabos en Espana, English 
translation, Vol. I, pp. 108-111. 

** Cardonne: Histoire de I' Afnque et de VEsvagne, Vol. I, pp. 129-31. 
We searched minutely Ibn Khallikan's work, Wafayat al-Ayan without 
being able to find this passage. Perhaps Cardonne who wrote in the 
middle of the 18th century and copied from Arabic manuscripts in the Royal 
Library in Paris, consulted a copy of Ibn Khallikan containing additional 
details. On the other hand there is no other historical work of Ibn Khallikan 
which may contain such passages. 



THE PAVEMENT OF THE MARTYRS 73 

11 Al-Makkan quoting Ibn Hayan, Vol. II, p. 56. 

23 Akhbar Misr wa Futuhoha \ i _^._t4 ~ . ^^ J ^Lt Gibb me- 
morial edition, pp. 216-217. *-+**$* J / J . 

24 Ibn ol-Athir, Vol. V, p. 64. 

a5 Akhbar Majmu'a fi fath al-Andalus (Madrid, 1867), p. 25. 
26 Bughiat al-Multamis, No. 1021. (Madrid, 1884). 
w Al-Bayanal-Mughrib, Vol. I, p. 37. 

28 /frui, Vol. II. p. 28. 

29 Nafh al-Ttb, Vol. I, p. 109. 

30 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 56. 

31 This estimate is adopted by some European historians, as for 
example, the French historian Mezerai. See annotations in Bayle's 
dictionary under Abderame. 

32 Commenting on the pretensions of the Prankish chronicle Edward 
Gibbon writes : " But this incredible tale is sufficiently disproved by the 
caution of the French general (Karl Martel) who apprehended the snares 
and accidents of a pursuit, and dismissed his German allies to their native 
forts. The inactivity of a conqueror betrays the loss of strength and blood, 
and the most cruel execution is inflicted, not in the ranks of battle, but on 
the backs of a flying enemy " (Ch. LII). 

33 See Bayle's dictionary, art. Abderame where he contradicts the 
Prankish version of the Arab losses. In the English translation there are 
many useful comments and remarks of some French historians, which all 
agree in criticising the Prankish version. 

34 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. LIT. 

35 History of the Later Roman Commonwealth. 
39 Decisive Battles of the World. 

87 Philosophic der Geschichte. 

38 History of the Reformation. 

39 Histoire dt I'Allemagne. 

40 Byzantine Empire. 



CHAPTER V 
The Muslims Masters of the Sea 

THE ninth century (third Hijra) was the age of 
the Muslim naval supremacy. The Mediter- 
ranean Sea, 1 with its numerous Muslim 
strong ports on the east, south and west, was the 
arena of this supremacy. The first naval battles of 
the Arabs were undertaken with hesitation and 
apprehension of the sea and its horrors, but they began 
during the first effervescence of their conquests. 
Hardly half a century afterwards, the sea, like the 
land, was the seat of their daring deeds and invasions. 
Since the Caliphate of Othman the Arabs sailed, in 
strong fleets and expeditions, to conquer the neigh- 
bouring islands. In 28 or 29 A.H. (648 A.D.) Mua'wiya 
ibn Abi Sufyan invaded Cyprus and imposed tribute 
on it, and in 32 A.H. he again sailed to it with a large 
fleet and conquered it. During the Caliphate of 
Mua'wiya the Arabs invaded Sicily for the first time 
and conquered Rhodes ; 2 and during the Caliphate of 
Al-Walid ibn Abdul Malik they invaded Crete, Sicily 
and Sardegna and conquered the Balearic islands 
(Majorca and Minorca). The expeditions to Cons- 
tantinople and the great fleets and forces sent by the 
Caliphate to besiege it were among the greatest naval 
expeditions of those days. 

The Muslim naval expeditions continued to in- 
crease in force and number, and at the beginning of the 
ninth century the Muslims were masters of the sea, 
dominating the southern and middle waters of that 
great sea which occupies the centre of the old world 
and commands it on all sides. The nations and institu- 
tions of the old world suffered in those days from a 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 75 

general upheaval. Civil war raged almost everywhere ; 
the elements of dissolution which struck the Byzantine 
Empire and civilization began to find their way to the 
Muslim states and to the strong Prankish kingdom. 
One of the most important peculiarities of this age 
was the spread of irregular war and the great number of 
strong bands which could defy the governments. The 
sea was the seat of these wars ; its rich ports were the 
object of these expeditions. These strong bands which 
roamed about in the Mediterranean Sea, mostly Muslim, 
worked either for themselves or under the aegis of 
a Muslim government, independently or with some 
official expeditions. They were formed principally of 
the middle class men, and their chiefs, persons of im- 
portance, moved by disappointment and the vicissi- 
tudes of life, to seek their fortune. The spread of slavery 
in that age made it easy for them to assemble brave and 
daring men. All these adventurers were prompted by 
a strong desire of colonization, similar to that which 
pushed the Western nations in modern times to conquer 
and colonize backward countries. 3 

For about two centuries these Muslim naval ex- 
peditions spread terror on the Christian shores and 
ports of the Mediterranean, creating trouble and alarm 
in many countries and encouraging the ambition of 
the discontented and rivals seeking authority and sover- 
eignty. The Italian and Byzantine waters were parti- 
cularly the theatre of these expeditions ; their ports 
and rich islands were their coveted object. In this 
chapter we shall give a concise account of these inter- 
esting naval invasions and conquests, as well as their 
political and social effects. 

(0 The Conquest of Crete. As we have already 
said the Muslims began their naval conquests by invad- 
ing the islands near their shores, and conquering some 
of them, as Cyprus and Rhodes. They sailed to Crete 
in the days of Al-Walid ibn Abdul Malik, and after- 



76 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

wards in those of Al-Rashid, but failed to conquer it. 
It was conquered by one of those naval adventurous 
bands of which we have already spoken. It was com- 
posed of Andalusian Arabs who revolted against Al- 
Hakam al-Muntasir, Emir of Andalusia, together with 
the people of Cordova in 198 A.H. (815 A.D.). Al- 
Hakam defeated the insurgents and dispersed them and 
ordered their houses to be demolished or burnt. Their 
remnant fled to various countries, some to Al-Maghrib 
(Mauritania) but most of them to Egypt in a number 
of ships ; they disembarked in Alexandria and took 
part in the civil war which was raging in Egypt at that 
time. They then captured Alexandria and used it as a 
base for their plundering raids on the islands of the 
Archipelago. When Abdulla ibn Tahir, Al-Mamun's 
general, came to Egypt to crush the revolution, the 
Andalusians were forced to evacuate Alexandria (212 
A.H., 827 A.D.). Some of them had, a few years before, 
invaded Crete, occupied a part of it and established 
themselves there ; the Andalusians decided to join 
them and conquer the island whose wealth and fertility 
were already known to them. 

This daring band, composed of about ten thousand 
men, sailed from Alexandria in about forty ships, com- 
manded by a brave and intrepid sailor, Abu Omar Haf s 
ibn Isa al-Andalusi, known by the name of Cretan or 
Al-Balluti (the Byzantine version calls him Abu Chaps) 
and anchored at the shores of Crete about the end of 
212 A.H. (827 A.D.). When the Muslims stormed 
the island, the Byzantine garrison fled, and the fright- 
ened inhabitants showed but little resistance. The 
Byzantine government was unable to send reinforce- 
ments to the island, the Emperor Michael II being 
busy crushing an internal insurrection. According to 
Byzantine historians when Abu Hafs landed in the 
island he ordered the ships to be burnt and when his 
troops protested, he addressed them in the following 
words : " What do you complain of ? I have brought 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA . 77 

you to a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is your 
true country ; repose and forget the barren places of 
your native land." " And our wives and children ? " 
said they. His reply was : " Your beautiful captives 
will supply the places of your wives, and then you will 
become fathers of a new generation/ 1 * They settled 
where they disembarked and surrounded their camp 
with a large ditch, which name (Al-Khandaq) was 
given to Crete, corrupted by the Europeans into 
Candia. The Andalusians formed a new government 
in Crete, and used the island as the base for a number 
of plundering expeditions to the neighbouring islands. 
A torrent of adventurers then came from all the 
Muslim ports to take their share of the Greek spoils. 
Emperor Michael, being frightened by this new danger, 
prepared a large naval expedition commanded by 
Admiral Oryphus which roamed between the islands 
of the Archipelago and chased the Muslim sailors, 
but it was repulsed by the invaders of Crete. His 
successor Emperor Theophilus prepared another large 
expedition which was scattered by the Muslims 
near the island of Thasos. The Muslims remained in 
Crete about a century and a third, disturbing the 
islands of the Archipelago with their plundering in- 
cursions till the Greeks recaptured the island in the 
year 961 A.D, (350 A.H.) in the time of Emperor 
Romanes II. 1 

() Sicily, Sardegna, Corsica and the South of 
Italy. At the same time that Crete was conquered, the 
Muslims also conquered Sicily. The three largest 
islands in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea : Sicily, 
Sardegna and Corsica, attracted the attention of the 
conquerors by their size and wealth. Naval expedi- 
tions were directed to them from the ports of Africa 
and Andalusia. These expeditions often lacked official 
character and were generally composed of " mujahids " 
(zealots) and adventurous sailors, in the manner later 



78 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

adopted by many English and Spanish seamen in the 
sixteenth century. 

At that time Sicily was under the actual supremacy 
of the Byzantine Empire. As for Sardegna and 
Corsica they were under its nominal supremacy. The 
Franks had conquered Corsica, and Sardegna sought 
their protection from the invaders. Although Muslim 
expeditions had invaded these islands more than once 
in the days of the Omayyads, they could not make per- 
manent conquests, owing to their size and the distance 
which separated them from the shores of Africa and 
Spain and owing to the fact that these expeditions were 
usually modest in their numbers and their nature. 

But the Muslim fleets had attained at the beginn- 
ing of the third century of the Hijra (ninth century 
A.D.), in Africa and Andalusia a degree of strength 
and equipment never attained before. The invasions 
by the Normans of the Andalusian shores had obliged 
the government of Cordova to prepare a fleet strong 
enough to protect the ports and repulse the enemy. 
Also the Aghlabites in Africa (Tunis) created naval 
forces strong enough to protect its shores from the 
attacks of the Byzantines, the Pisans and the Franks. 
The Aghlabites dominated from Tunis, the centre of 
the Mediterranean Sea, and their strong fleets sailed in 
these waters between Calabria, Sardegna and Corsica, 
and raided their shores. Sicily, on account of its size, 
wealth and proximity of the African shore, appeared to 
them a valuable easy prey, and therefore was the object 
of their ambition awaiting opportunity to invade and 
possess it. 



The Muslim conquest of Sicily is a delightful 
story, very much like a fairy tale. It was conquered by 
a strange personality similar to those of the ancient 
legends. The story of the conquest, as related by the 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 79 

Byzantine version, may be resumed as follows. A 
noble Sicilian called Euphemius (called Firm by the 
Arabs) fell in love with a beautiful nun whom he 
abducted from her convent. The then Emperor 
Michael II ordered his nose to be cut off as punishment 
for his offence. He escaped to his native city Syracuse 
and, with a band of followers, revolted against the 
Byzantine governor, occupied Syracuse and made him- 
self ruler of the city. Civil war broke out in the island 
and Fimi was defeated and expelled from Syracuse. 
He fled to Africa (Tunis), and sought succour from its 
Emir, Ziadat Allah al-Aghlab, whom he invited to 
conquer Sicily and promised to make him its king. 6 
But the Muslim version is silent about the abducted 
nun ; it tells us only that the Emperor having been 
angry with Fimi, Commander of his fleet, ordered him 
to be arrested ; that Fimi and his party revolted and 
captured Syracuse. But another leader named Palata 
wrenched the city from him. Fimi sailed with his ships 
to Africa and applied to its Emir, Ziadat Allah, for help. 
The Emir acceded to his request and despatched his 
fleet commanded by the Qadi (Judge) of Kairowan, Asad 
ibn al-Forat, to capture Sicily. 

Asad ibn al-Forat was one of the greatest scholars 
of his age, as well as a daring soldier and brave seaman. 
He had previously undertaken incursions in these 
waters, and according to Ibn Khaldun, had conquered 
the island of Corsica. 7 

According to European historians the Muslims 
made several raids on Corsica in 806 A.D. and in 810 
managed to occupy it temporarily till they were driven 
out of it by the troops of Charlemagne. But they 
raided it many a time afterwards, and it is possible to 
deduce from the agreement of the version and the date 
that Corsica was also conquered by Asad ibn al-Forat. 

This aged Qadi and Admiral again sailed with the 
ships under his command in the month of Rabi 4 al- 
Awwal, 212 A.H. (827 A.D.) to Sicily. This expedition 



80 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

was not composed of small squadrons, but appears to 
have been the greatest naval expedition led by Asad 
ibn al-Forat. According to the Muslim version it 
was composed of nine hundred cavalry troops and ten 
thousand infantry soldiers besides the seamen. They 
were mostly " Mujahids " or soldiers fighting for their 
religion. The Muslim ships anchored in the port of 
Mazorra, at the western extremity of the island which 
is the nearest to Africa. Asad ibn al-Forat, at the 
head of his troops, penetrated into the east of the 
island, captured several forts and besieged Syracuse and 
Palermo. Several crushing battles were fought be- 
tween them and the Greeks. When the Emperor sent 
reinforcements the Muslims found themselves in hard 
straits and were defeated in several battles. Many of 
them died of plague, including their Commander Ibn 
al-Forat. When the siege was tightened by the 
Greeks, Ibn al-Aghlab sent reinforcements to Sicily 
and at the same time a fleet arrived from Andalusia 
composed of squadrons of adventurous Mujahids in 
214 A.H. (829 A.D.) and the Muslims resumed their 
attack and occupied Palermo. Ibn al-Aghlab conti- 
nued to send reinforcements to Sicily and the Muslims 
continued to conquer its cities and forts one after the 
other namely Palermo, Castrogiovanni (in Arabic Qasr 
Yana), Girgenteo, (Arabic Gorgant), Catania, Messina 
and others. Their advance in the island was, however, 
slow owing to the rough nature of the land. They 
settled in the cities they conquered and established a 
principality governed by successive rulers till the con- 
quest of the whole island was completed by the fall of 
Syracuse, the last of its strongholds, in 264 A.H. (878 
A.D.). There arose in Sicily a Muslim state which 
lasted for about two centuries in the course of which 
the island flourished and became a smiling garden, 
proud of its sciences, trade and industry. When decay 
overcame that little Muslim state the Franks made 
consecutive raids on the island till Duke Roger, the 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 81 

Norman, recaptured it in 464 A.H. (1072 A.D.). Thus 
Muslim domination of the island came to an end like 
a happy dream. 8 

When Sicily was conquered by the Muslims it 
became the base of a large number of naval expeditions 
and invasions organized by the Aghlabites or the rulers 
of Sicily or by special bands to invade the Italian ports 
and shores and plunder them. These expeditions in- 
cessantly attacked the eastern and western shores of 
Italy spreading terror and alarm in the Christian prin- 
cipalities. They returned laden with spoils and slaves 
and held in the Muslim ports thriving markets of 
slave trade. In 842 A.D. (227 A.H.) two Lombard 
princes quarrelled on the Duchy of Beneventum (sou- 
thern Italy), and one of them appealed for help to the 
Emir of Sicily, Al-Fadl ibn Jaafar, who despatched a 
strong expedition to Calabria. 9 It occupied the port 
of Bari and settled there. It also established there a 
strong base for invasions in these waters, and ravaged 
Calabria, and imposed tribute on most of its cities. In 
846 A.D. (232 A.H.) another naval expedition sailed 
from Sicily to the western shores of Italy, and after 
ravaging its ports and plundering Fondi it anchored 
at the mouth of the Tiber on which Rome is situ- 
ated. It then penetrated to Rome and plundered the 
churches of Saint Peter and Saint Paul which, at 
that time, were outside the city, and the " Queen of 
Nations" (Rome) was saved from falling into their 
hands only by the troops of Emperor Louis II (850 
A.D.) ; the Saracens withdrew to besiege Gaeta. Pope 
Leo IV was obliged to fortify the Vatican suburb, and 
included the churches of Saint Peter and Paul in the 
new city known as the Leonine city. 10 At the same 
time the Muslims occupied the port of Taranto and, 
afterwards, Ragusa, one of the ports of the eastern 
Adriatic. The Muslim seamen then continued their 
invasions in the Italian waters forcing the inhabitants 

to build along the shores strong towers and forts to 
11 



82 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

repulse sudden attacks, high enough so that the fires 
kindled at their base could not reach the topmost 
storeys. A storm of fear and alarm blew at that time 
over Italy and anarchy extended to all classes of 
society. 11 

The danger of the Muslim naval expeditions to 
the ports of the Byzantine Empire in the east of the 
Mediterranean was not less than on the Italian 
waters. In 881 A.D. (267 A.H.) the Emir of Tarsus 
sailed in thirty ships and attacked Chalis. But Onianos, 
the Byzantine admiral, advanced to meet him with a 
large force. A battle was fought in which the Emir 
of Tarsus was killed and the Muslims were defeated. 
A few years later a band from Crete attacked the Hel- 
lespont (Dardanelles) and pillaged the island of Per- 
kinsos. It then retired before the imperial fleet, com- 
manded by Oryphus, but it returned with new ships and 
attacked the southern shores of Greece, when Oryphus 
was obliged to resort to a well-known old trick - to 
move the ships from the eastern waters to those of the 
Adriatic through the Isthmus of Corinth, and was 
thus able to surprise the Muslim ships at the entrance 
of the Adriatic and disperse them. 

(Hi) The Greatest Muslim Seaman. About the 
end of the third century A.H. (ninth A.D.) there 
appeared in the east of the Mediterranean the 
greatest seaman of that age ; in fact, the greatest Mus- 
lim seaman of all times. He is the admiral known to 
the Byzantine chronicle by the name of Leo of Tripolis ; 
and it records his daring naval expeditions and invasions 
in the waters of the Byzantine Empire, and the 
terror and woes which these invasions caused to the 
Empire. 

Who is this Leo of Tripolis ? 

He is the admiral or general whom the Muslim 
historians call Ghulam Zarafa. The Arabic records 
throw no light on his origin, but the Byzantine 
records say that Leo of Tripolis was born of Chris- 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 83 

tian parents in Attalia, near Pamphylia, in the south- 
east of Asia Minor, and in his early youth joined 
the Muslim bands and embraced Islam and set led in 
Tripolis, the port of Syria. 12 Leo passed hits early 
youth on board ships and acquired his military ex- 
perience on the waves of the sea. He took part in 
many invasions and plundering expeditions, organized 
by Muslim naval bands to invade the shores, ports 
and islands of the Archipelago. He then went to 
Tarsus where he gathered under his flag the ablest 
and bravest Muslim seamen of the age. He used Tar- 
sus as his headquarters and became, with his strong 
daring band, a force which alarmed the Byzantine 
Empire and its ports. 

The greatest invasion undertaken by Leo of Tri- 
polis or Ghulam Zarafa was that of Thessalonica 13 in 
904 A.D. (291 A.H.); The Muslim chronicle refers 
briefly to this great invasion, while the Byzantine 
chronicle gives lengthy details. The following is the 
concise Muslim record : " In 291 A.H. the well-known 
Commander, Ghulam Zarafa, sailed from Tarsus to 
Greece. He stormed the city of Antioch, which is 
equal to Constantinople, by the sword, killing five 
thousand men and taking as many prisoners. He also 
saved as many Muslim captives. He captured sixty 
Greek ships laden with valuables, effects and slaves ; 
these, with the spoils from Antioch, he divided and 
a single portion was equal to one thousand dinars." 
Antioch mentioned here is Salonica, not Antioch of 
Syria which was at that time a Muslim port. We shall 
now give the details of the Byzantine version as re- 
corded by a contemporary historian who was an eye- 
witness of this event, namely John Caminiatis. 

Leo of Tripolis sailed from Tarsus in fifty-four 
ships each carrying about two hundred combatants, 
besides a number of chosen chiefs and officers. On the 
way he was joined by the bravest corsairs in the waters 
of the East. The Byzantine fleet, sent by Emperor 



84 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Leo VI to defend the ports of the Empire, did not 
dare to meet the Muslim ships. He withdrew to the 
shores of the Hellespont, leaving the waters of the 
Archipelago open before the invaders. It was reported 
in Constantinople that the invaders were aiming at the 
port of Thessalonica, which was at that time the great- 
est, strongest and richest after Constantinople, and 
nature had contributed immensely to the rich fertility 
of this region. Thessalonica is situated on the hills of 
Olympus overlooking the cape of a narrow isthmus in 
which ships can take refuge. It was separated from 
it by a huge wall extending for a mile along the shore, 
and protected by strong forts built on high hills. But 
they were in those days in a state of dilapidation, the 
upper ledge of the great wall being demolished on the 
side of the sea making it possible for the ships to app- 
roach the walls of the city. Petronas, commander of 
the garrison, therefore, tried to repulse the invading 
ships by throwing into the water great quantities of 
huge rocks and pieces of marble which adorned Hellenic 
tombs, to expose the ships of the invaders to the arrows 
and fires of the Greeks. As for the inhabitants of the 
city, they placed their confidence in St. Dimitrius, pat- 
ron of their city and felt sure that he could repulse the 
new danger. Alarming rumours of the advance of the 
invaders spread every day. Leo of Tripolis had chased 
the Byzantine fleet to the strait of the Hellespont and 
returned to Thasos. When Petronas died suddenly, 
an officer named Nikitas assumed command, and did all 
he could to prepare the means of defence, and brought 
some of the Sclavonian troops from the neighbouring 
countries. But the inhabitants of the city did not lose 
confidence in St. Dimitrius and hurried after the priests 
and the bishop to the church of this Saint and prayed 
night and day. As for Leo of Tripolis, he spent some 
time in Thasos to repair his ships and get the catapults 
and other implements of destruction ready. On Sun- 
day, July 29, 904, rumour spread in the city that the 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 85 

invaders had reached the gulf and hid themselves there. 
Terror and alarm, weeping and lamentations spread 
everywhere and the inhabitants got ready to fight 
while wives and children were shedding tears. Finally 
the Muslim ships appeared and advanced towards the 
city, its anchorage being protected by huge chains 
stretched between the two shores. Several ships were 
sunk there to prevent the approach of the assailants. 
The Muslim admiral having reconnoitred the entrance 
and the forts of the city made a local attack to examine 
their strength and to see how far the inhabitants were 
ready to defend it. 

On the following day the Muslims attacked the 
city from the east and tried to scale the wall by ladders 
and discharging catapults. But they were repulsed 
before a torrent of stones and arrows of the Byzan- 
tines. Leo of Tripolis then resorted to another strata- 
gem. He sent his advance-guard with covered fire- 
injectors so that they would be protected from the 
fire of the defenders. The advance-guard kindled fire 
under the eastern walls of the city and withdrew 
under a rain of arrows and stones. The flames rose 
and the iron gates gave way, but the Muslims gained 
no advantage, as it appeared that the passages beyond 
the doors were blocked with strong buildings on which 
impregnable forts were built. The aim of Leo of Tri- 
polis in making these preliminaries was to divert the 
attention of the defenders from his real object. 

He found that he could get over the wall of the 
city in several places he had marked. 

He then began to put into action his final plan 
with the greatest ability and speed. Several ships 
were securely tied, every two together, on the decks 
of which he set up a high wooden tower. On the fol- 
lowing morning these towers were pushed to the lowest 
parts of the wall ; each was provided with a number 
of chosen Muslims who could overlook the towers of 
the defenders. A terrible fight raged between the two 



86 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

sides, and the Muslims showered on the Byzantines 
an incessant rain of stones, arrows and the Greek fire 
which they had just begun to use in that age. 14 The 
Greeks withdrew from the towers, and the seamen of 
the Alexandrian ships were the first who attacked the 
wall. They rushed at the other towers and drove 
the Greeks out and opened the gates of the city. 
The Muslims then stormed it from all sides, and the 
seamen who were to gather the spoils, with drawn 
swords and wearing nothing but trousers, entered the 
city, and the Byzantines and the Sclavonians fled in all 
directions. 

The Muslims then divided themselves into groups 
which roamed in the city killing, plundering and tak- 
ing captives. The Byzantine historian John Cami- 
niatis and several members of his family were among 
the captives. He fell into the hands of a number of 
Abyssinians whom he asked for mercy and whom he 
promised to lead to the place where the treasures of 
his family were hidden. One of these Abyssinians 
knew Greek; the chief of this band led him to the 
Admiral who sent with him some men to carry the 
treasure. Fortunately for Caminiatis the treasure was 
intact. Leo of Tripolis accepted it as ransom for the 
life of the historian and his family, and ordered him 
and other captives to be taken to Tarsus where they 
were to be exchanged against Muslim captives in the 
hands of the Byzantines. After several days spent by 
the Muslims in pillage and taking captives Leo of 
Tripolis left Thessalonica laden with huge spoils and a 
large number of captives estimated by John Caminiatis 
at twenty-two thousand men, women and youths, 
chosen for the wealth of their families in order to be 
ransomed, or for their beauty to be sold in the slave 
markets at high prices. Many of the captives were 
noble Greeks who suffered much in ships ; many died 
from hunger and cold. 

Leo of Tripolis sailed with his ships avoiding the 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 87 

Byzantine fleet, in order that he should not be harrassed 
while his ships were laden with spoils. 

He anchored at Zantarium, a Cretan port, where 
for several days he distributed the spoils and the 
captives. The ships then separated, each party of 
seamen returning to their own respective ports in the 
waters of Egypt and Syria. Leo arrived in Tripolis on 
24th September, 904, whence he sailed to Tarsus which 
was the base for ransoming and exchanging captives 
between Muslims and Byzantines. There the nobles of 
Thessalonica, including the historian Caminiatis, were 
exchanged against Muslim captives. It was from the 
writings of this historian that we extracted the story of 
this great invasion ! l5 



This is a short account of the annals of the Muslim 
seamen. It proves that the naval supremacy in 
the Mediterranean Sea was held by the Muslims for 
long generations, and that the annals of these conquests 
and naval expeditions which ended with the conquest 
of Crete, Sicily and the southern ports of Italy and 
which could cross the sea in all directions as far as 
Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Empire, and 
even Rome, the capital of Christianity, and Genoa, the 
farthest Italian port, were not less important and dar- 
ing than the invasions of the Spanish and English sea- 
men in the sixteenth century in the American waters. 
The deeds of such seamen as Abu Hafs Omar al-Balluti 
and Leo of Tripolis are not less brilliant than those of 
modern admirals like Andrea Doria, John Hawkins, 
Francis Drake, Cortes, Pizarro and others whose lives 
and deeds fill some of the most brilliant and attractive 
annals of modern history. 

From the stories of these Muslim expeditions 
and invasions we could perceive the decline of the 
Byzantine Empire and the weakness of the Govern- 



88 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

ment of Constantinople, as well as the corruption 
of a court whose tyranny preferred squandering the 
funds of the Empire on demonstrations of luxury 
and on building palaces and churches to fortifying the 
boundaries of the Empire and the equipment of its 
armies and fleets. We could, however, remark that 
the feelings of the people governed by the Byzantine 
Empire were an important factor in facilitating the 
Muslim invasions. These peoples did not object to 
Muslim rule, as the government of Constantinople had 
thought that government whose tyranny and oppres- 
sion were unequalled by any Muslim government of 
that age. The conquest of Sicily, whose inhabitants 
joined the Muslims in fighting the Byzantines, proves 
this fact. 

These expeditions and invasions were usually ac- 
companied by terrible havoc and shedding of blood by 
the two contending sides ; they supplied all the markets 
and palaces of the east with swarms of concubines and 
slaves. We also note that the Muslim corsairs usually 
attacked the Christian ports, a fact which proves that 
they were moved by a national or religious spirit. 
They rendered Muslim governments great services by 
weakening the armies and fleets of the Byzantine 
Empire and exchanging Muslim captives against others 
they captured in their invasions. We also note that 
Muslim seamen were true colonists; they colonized 
Crete and other islands of the Archipelago for ages, 
and were a strong support to the Muslim domination 
which rose and flourished for about two centuries in 
Sicily. 

References 

1 In Arabic geography Bahr al-Rum (Roman Sea). 

2 Al-Balazun : Futuh al-Buldan (Cairo ed.) pp. 158 and 237. 
' Finlay : Byzantine Empire, Ch. Ill, 1. 

4 Gibbon : Roman Empire. Ch. LXII. 



THE MUSLIMS MASTERS OF THE SEA 89 

5 For the conquest of Crete see Al-Balazuri : Putuh al-Buldan, p. 278 : 
Ibn-al-Athir, Vol. VI, p. 35, and Ibn Khaldun, Vol. IV, p. 211. 

6 Fin lay : Byzantine Empire, Ch. Ill, 1. 
1 Ibn Khaldun, Introduction, p. 211. 

8 On the conquest of Sicily see Ibn ul-Athir, Vol. VI, pp. 113-15 ; Ibn 
Khaldun. Vol. IV, pp. 198-200, 207-11, and Yaqout's Geographical Dictionary, 
under Sicily. 

9 The Arabs called Calabria the southernmost part of Italy. " Calloria" 
or the grand land or shore. 

10 We shall discuss the Arab invasion of Rome in the next chapter. 

" Ibn Khaldun, Vol. IV, p. 202 ; Ibn al-Athir, Vol. VI, p. 177. Also 
Fmlay : Byzantine Empire, Book II, S. II (1). 

12 Finlay : Byzantine Empire. 

13 It was in that age the greatest port of the Eastern Empire after Con- 
stantinople. Its population at this time numbered about a quarter of a 
million. 

14 There were two kinds of this fire. One was used from the earliest 
ages, and the other invented by the Byzantines. The secret of the latter was 
known to the Arabs only in the eleventh century. By Greek fire we mean here 
the first kind. 

15 Ransom (al-Fida) between Muslims and Christians was officially 
organized between the Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire, and always put 
in force in one of the ports of Syria or Asia Minor. In this manner tens of 
thousands Muslims taken captives in war were saved against an equal number 
of Christian captives. Several official ransoms were organized in various ages 
(See on this subject Al-Maknzi : Khitat, Vol. II, pp. 191-92). See also the re- 
port of Caminiatis in Finlay's Byzantine Empire, Book II, Ch. 1. 



CHAPTER VI 
The Muslim Invasion of Rome 

AT the beginning of the ninth century A.D. the 
Muslims conquered Crete and Sicily, as already 
mentioned, as well as some of the provinces of 
southern Italy. They undertook in the Italian waters 
a series of invasions and naval combats which form a 
unique chapter in Islamic history. Muslim con- 
quests were previously limited to land close to the 
shores of the Mediterranean, and the Muslims came 
into the sea only in a few invasions. They then 
besieged Constantinople, which was one of their 
greatest naval expeditions, and then crossed over to 
Spain. The misfortunes which the Muslims suffered 
before the walls of Constantinople increased their 
fears of the sea and its horrors. They had to 
pass another century in discovering its secrets and 
studying its nature and conditions ; they were led to 
this by the force of events. The Norman invasions 
of the shores and ports of Andalusia, for example, 
induced the government of Cordova to build fleets 
and naval forces. The danger which threatened the 
Aghlabites in Africa, from the sea, obliged them to 
build fortifications and naval institutions, and to amass 
a trained host of admirals and seamen. The eighth 
century was an era of naval experiments for the 
Muslim fleets. They limited their activities to de- 
fence, and only on rare occasions attacked and went 
far into the sea. At the dawn of the ninth century 
things were changed when these fleets roamed in the 
Mediterranean from one end to the other, conquered 
its islands and ravaged their shores and ports. Thus, 
as we have seen, the ninth century was the age of the 



THE MUSLIM INVASION OF ROME 91 

Muslim naval supremacy. 

Ibn Khaldun describes this naval supremacy as 
follows : " At the age of Muslim domination, the 
Muslims held the supremacy of the Mediterranean on 
all sides, and their power and sovereignty over it 
were great. The Christian nations could not with- 
stand Muslim fleets in any part of its waters. The 
Muslims rode its waves for conquests all the time of 
their domination. They had many triumphant enter- 
prises of conquest and spoils ; they conquered all the 
islands far from shores, such as Majorca, Minorca, 
Ivica, Sardegna, Sicily, Corsica, Malta, Crete, Cyprus 
and all the possessions of the Romans and the Franks. 
Abul Qasim, the Sheite (the Fatimite) and his sons 
sent their naval expeditions from Al-Mahdieh to 
Genoese waters and returned victorious and laden 
with spoils. Mujahid al-Amiri, prince of Denia, one 
of the petty kings, conquered Sardegna with his fleets 
in the year 405 A.H. but it was reconquered immedi- 
ately by the Christians. In the meantime the Muslims 
had mastered many of the waters of this sea ; their 
fleets roamed in its waters here and there, while 
Muslim troops crossed the sea in fleets from Sicily to 
the opposite mainland, attacking the kings of the 
Franks and ravaging their countries." 1 

The merit of the Muslim governments in obtain- 
ing this supremacy was not equal to that of the 
Muslim adventurous admirals. The waters of the 
Mediterranean were the field of the wanderings of 
these unofficial fleets. Its rich islands were the 
coveted destination of these fleets and the objects 
they had in view. The shores of Sicily and Calabria 
where the Muslims occupied some ports, were the 
refuge of many strong and daring bands. These in- 
vading and pillaging bands were not, however, always 
inspired by Muslim governments, but generally en- 
joyed, at least, their moral support ; they acted with 
their knowledge and tacit acquiescence, and took 



92 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

refuge in their ports and supplied themselves with 
provisions and munitions there. They rendered great 
services to them, as their successive invasions exhaust- 
ed the forces of their Christian enemies, and helped, 
on many occasions, by carrying Christian captives to 
ransom Muslim captives by way of exchange. At 
certain times they acted direct in the interests of these 
governments ; they fought side by side with regular 
forces and facilitated their task in attack and defence. 

Nothing in the history of these Muslim naval 
expeditions is more strange and fascinating than the 
invasion of Rome. The Muslims invaded the city of 
the Caesars twice. We have only short accounts of 
this enterprise which is recorded only by European 
historians. The reticence of the Arab chronicle may 
be explained by the fact that these invasions were not 
undertaken in favour of an organized Muslim govern- 
ment, but undertaken by strong Muslim bands. It 
seems, however, from the repetition of these expedi- 
tions to the Italian shores and to Rome, and from their 
strength and regularity, as well as from the treaty con- 
cluded by their leaders with the Pope, and from their 
sailing from and returning to the ports of Sicily, that 
they acted, at least, on the inspiration of the govern- 
ment of Sicily, or rather that of Africa, to which 
Sicily was a vassal. 

The Queen of the World (Rome), even in 
those days in which it had lost its old impregnability, 
enjoyed a remnant of its old prestige. It was often 
invaded by the Goths, Vandals and Lombards who 
ravaged its imposing districts, but they always respect- 
ed its sacred quarters and temples, situated outside 
the Vatican, on the way to the port of Ostia at 
the mouth of the Tiber, but the Christian temples and 
legends did not inspire the Muslim seamen with such 
awe. In 846 A.D. (231 A.H.) a great expedition 
sailed from Sicily to the North alongside the Italian 
shores. After ravaging its ports, besieging Gaeta and 



THE MUSLIM INVASION OF ROME 93 

pillaging Fondi it anchored at the mouth of the Tiber. 
The Muslim chronicle does not throw any light on 
this invasion, but it took place in the days of Abul 
Abbas Muhammad ibn al-Aghlab, Emir of Africa 
(226-42 A.H.). At that time Al-Fadl ibn Jaafar al- 
Hamazani was the Emir of Sicily. It appears that it 
was an expedition of privateers, but there is no doubt 
that the Emir of Sicily took part in its organization 
and despatch. At that time Sergius II was Pope. 
The walls of Rome did not enclose all the old city ; 
the sacred district, which included the churches of 
Saint Peter and Paul and a large number of old temples 
and tombs, was outside the walls exposed to attacks. 
The Muslim seamen stormed that district and despoil- 
ed the temples and idols of their magnificent orna- 
ments and wrenched a silver altar from the tomb of 
Saint Paul and besieged the city of Caesars. The Pope 
was alarmed and the Roman people were struck with 
fear and awe. Emperor Louis II, King of the Franks 
and the Lombards, hastened to send an expedition to 
fight the invaders. The ports of Naples, Amalfi and 
Gaeta, also prepared a naval expedition to chase them. 
At the same time other Muslim bands came to rein- 
force the expedition of their brethren. But what 
saved the eternal city from falling into the hands of 
the Muslims was the disagreement between the 
Muslim leaders themselves. They raised the siege 
after a fierce combat with the troops of the Emperor 
and the ships of the Italian ports, in which some of 
their ships were sunk, and returned to the south laden 
with spoils and captives in 850 A.D. 

These daring deeds revealed to the Papacy and to 
Christendom the weakness of the eternal city and the 
danger to which it was exposed. Leo IV, the succes- 
sor of Sergius, hastened to fortify it, and included the 
sacred district and the churches of Saint Peter and 
Paul within the protection of the walls. He fortified 
this suburb which is still called the Leonine city, in 



94 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

his memory, and closed the mouth of the Tiber with a 
strong iron chain to stand in the way of the invadors. 

Muslim expeditions continued to attack Italian 
ports afterwards. They were mostly pillaging expedi- 
tions. But the idea of invading the eternal city con- 
tinued to occupy the minds of the Muslims for some 
time. In 870 A.D. (256 A.H.) the Muslim admirals 
in the ports of Africa and Andalusia prepared a great 
expedition. The Muslim chronicle does not throw 
light on this expedition also, but it seems probable 
that the governments of Africa and Sicily superin- 
tended its preparation and supplied it with material 
help. At that time Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn al- 
Aghlab (250-61 A.H.) was Emir of Africa, and 
Muhammad ibn Khafaja, Emir of Sicily. Ibn al- 
Aghlab had conquered Malta a year before (255 A.H.) 
Khafaja ibn Sufyan, Emir of Sicily, was noted for 
his naval expeditions in the waters of Calabria. The 
various units met in one of the ports of Sardegna, and 
sailed to the Italian shores which they ravaged as 
usual. They anchored at the mouth of the Tiber, 
sixteen miles from Rome. Pope Leo IV had conclud- 
ed a defensive pact with the league of imperial ports, 
Naples, Amalfi and Gaeta. Their united fleet com- 
manded by a courageous young leader named Caesarius 
lost no time in approaching the Muslim ships. The 
Muslims hastened to meet it, and a great naval battle 
was fought between the two sides in the waters of 
Ostia, the port of Rome. A severe tempest blew at that 
time and forced the Frankish fleet to return to the shore. 
The Muslim ships collided with one another causing 
some of them to sink. But this partial loss did not 
deter them from their project ; they continued to 
threaten the city with siege till Pope John VIII, who 
succeeded Pope Leo, was forced to negotiate with them 
to evacuate the country on payment of a yearly tribute 
of twenty-five thousand pieces of silver. 

Such was the end of the attempt made by the 



THE MUSLIM INVASION OF ROME 95 

Muslims to conquer the city of the Caesars. They 
did not return to those waters in large organized 
expeditions. The conquest of Rome was not, at that 
time, an object difficult to attain as, for example, the 
conquest of Constantinople. But discord was latent 
within these expeditions, and thirst for gain overcame 
the idea of settlement and organized political conquest. 
The kingdom of the Aghlabites was, at that time, 
falling into decay and the rulers of Sicily were trying 
to separate the island from the central government. 
As for the government of Cordova it was occupied 
with suppressing internal insurrections which were 
tearing Andalusia and repulsing the attacks of the 
Normans and the Franks. It had therefore no idea 
to make distant naval conquests. The idea of con- 
quering Rome was, in fact, that of the adventurous 
Muslim admirals and seamen who assumed its charge 
and enjoyed its profit, although the government of 
Africa did not hesitate to supply them sometimes with 
its material help, but always with its moral support. 2 



References 



1 Prolegomena, p. 212. 



9 See for the annals of this invasion in Famin : Invasions des Sarrazins 
en Italic; and Fmlay: Byzantine Empire; and Gibbon: Roman Empire, 
Ch. LII. Also see Ibn Khaldun, Vol. IV, pp. 200-205, giving interesting 
details about Muslim invasions m Italian waters. 



CHAPTER VII 
The Idea of the Crusades 

THE idea of the Crusades is older and more far- 
reaching than those wars generally called by 
the historians 4 the Crusades.' The idea of the 
Crusades is based on the struggle between Islam and 
Christendom. This struggle began since Islam emerged 
to conquest in its early age. The Crusades did not 
begin at the end of the eleventh century, and the first 
Crusade was not fought in the plains of Syria. We 
may assign the beginning of the real Crusades to the 
commencement of the eighth century when the Mus- 
lim forces encamped under the walls of Constantinople 
threatening to traverse it to the west, and when they 
poured into the plains of France threatening Chris- 
tendom and the nations of the North. From the begin- 
ning of the eighth century Christendom felt the appal- 
ling danger which threatened it from the effervescence 
of Islam and its victory in the South, and from the 
advance of paganism beyond the Rhine. These com- 
bats, fought between Christendom and Islam, on the 
banks of the Loire, and between Christendom and 
paganism, on the banks of the Rhine, were the first 
stage of that severe struggle which conveyed the idea 
of the Crusades. The successive combats fought 
three centuries later, in the plains of Syria and Egypt, 
between the Muslims and the Franks, and which 
lasted for one century and a half, were only a new 
phase of the general struggle. 

When the great edifice of the Roman world crum- 
bled, and Islam acquired the greater part of its patri- 
mony, the object of Muslim conquest was not limited to 
conquering lands and extending sovereignty ; it aimed 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 97 

at a greater and more far-reaching end the realiza- 
tion of the spiritual and social sovereignty of Islam in 
addition to its political domination. When the armies 
of the Caliphate marched on Constantinople, and when 
they crossed the Pyrenees and swept over southern 
France, they aimed at that distant purpose. But Islam 
retired before the walls of Constantinople, and then 
retired before the Franks at the Pavement of the 
Martyrs ; Paganism retired at the same time beyond 
the Rhine before those very Franks who barred the 
way of Islam. Christianity was saved and the nations 
of the North escaped from the danger of annihilation 
and were prepared to defend themselves whenever the 
phantom of this danger appeared ; the kingdom of the 
Franks became the stronghold of Europe and Chris- 
tianity in the West, as the Byzantine Empire and 
Constantinople were its strongholds in the East, pro- 
tecting it against the attacks and outbursts of 
Islam. Christianity considered Karl Martel, the hero 
of the Pavement of the Martyrs, its protector and 
saviour from the grasp of Islam and the civil and 
religious yoke of the Quran. Charlemagne later 
gave this protection an acute colour ; he chased the 
pagan tribes towards the east and imposed Christianity 
on Saxony, Bohemia and Lombardy, and repulsed Islam 
beyond the Pyrenees. For about two centuries Chris- 
tianity was content to defend itself. When the ties 
which cemented the great Muslim Empire were loose, 
and it was divided in the tenth century into competing 
states and principalities, and the pagan tribfs broke 
down in western Europe, Christianity was able to 
defy the Muslim States; and a series of wars and 
crushing battles broke out between Christians and 
Muslims. War was waged against the Muslims by the 
neighbouring nations and kingdoms, or by those who 
apprehended their power, such as the principalities of 
Christian Spain, the small Italian states and the Byzan- 
tine Empire. The religious idea was not lurking be- 



98 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

hind these battles ; passion of conquest, political domi- 
nation and national liberty were the principal motives* 
But the Church conferred, by its doctrines, on many 
of these local wars the colour of the Crusades which 
were fought either to propagate religion, to crush its 
enemies or to protect the Holy Land. The religious 
motive was generally advanced to give these wars 
an atmosphere of awe which is hardly created by any 
other motive. In fact many combatants, who hurried 
to the banner of the Church, believed that they sacri- 
ficed their material interests and secular ambitions for 
the sake of a better and more important aim the good 
of Christianity. 

But religious enthusiasm and the spirit of Jihad 
(religious war) did not attain in Christianity the 
same fervour as in the Muslim world. In the early 
ages of Islam, much of the credit of the impetuosity of 
Muslim conquests, their strength and rapidity, and of 
the success of Islam in sweeping over most of the pro- 
vinces of the Eastern Empire and Spain, were due to 
this spirit. But in Christian Europe this spirit resul- 
ted only in small interrupted movements, but in any 
case not in great movements such as those which 
inflamed Arabia, Asia and Africa, and led to so far- 
reaching conquests such as those achieved by the 
Muslim empires in Baghdad, Egypt and Spain. 

The idea of the Crusades may, in one sense, be 
more significant than the idea of the Muslim Jihad. 
Western Europe had, for long, passed out of the 
nomadic state and national dissolution, and the ruling 
classes, notwithstanding their occasional passion for 
change and movement, had settled down and were 
bound to their national homes by various ties. If the 
religious fervour was weaker in the West than in the 
East, the material on which it rested and could be 
inflamed was stronger and more deeply rooted. The 
Church could easily gather bands of volunteers from 
neighbouring fields. But it aimed at 1 the realization of 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 99 

distant, dangerous and arduous purposes, and most of 
the princes and knights, who responded to its appeal 
in the great Crusades, had not much hope of attaining 
great secular profits. It was for this reason that the 
great projects specially prepared and patronized by 
the Church were most expensive but least fruitful. 
Western Christendom marched to gain victory, 
not in the distant plains of Syria, but in Spain and 
southern Italy where it struggled with the Muslim 
States, and in central Europe where it was constantly 
at war with paganism. 

This spirit of the Crusades began in Spain about 
a century before the Council of Clairmont and the 
appeal of the Pope Urban II to the great Crusade. In 
fact, religious zeal tinted these wars of Spain from 
the beginning with a deep colour of fanaticism. From 
the time Spanish Christianity was pushed to the 
north, and took refuge in the hills of the Pyrenees 
and Asturias, it was ablaze with ardour to reconquer 
its southern territory from the grasp of Islam. The 
northern principalities, whenever menaced by the 
Muslims from the south, at once forgot their political 
and national disputes and gathered round the banner of 
religion. This is proved by the course of events both 
in the reign of Al-Nasir li-Din Allah (300-50 A.H., 
912-61 A.D.) and of Al-Hajib al-Mansur (366-93 A.H., 
976-1001 A.D.) when Islam was most active in chasing 
Christian Spain, and captured its furthest and most 
impregnable northern forts. Likewise the Berber 
tribes crossed to Spain, first under the banner of Al- 
moravides and afterwards under that of Almohades, to 
save Muslim Spain from the danger of annihilation and 
to renew the age of Al-Jihad (religious wars), and at 
the same time to acquire the legacy of the Omayyad 
Dynasty. This new Muslim outburst alarmed the 
Christian principalities and inspired them with a new 
wave of religious fanaticism. They therefore appealed, 
in the name of religion, to their Christian neighbours, 



100 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

when a torrent of volunteers from Normandy, Acqui- 
tania, Burgundy and other Prankish States crossed the 
Pyrenees and hastened enthusiastically to succour the 
cross and take their share of Muslim spoils. Rome 
took this movement under its patronage and Pope 
Gregory VII allowed the volunteers to fight in the 
name of religion and to govern the conquered lands in 
the name of Papacy. And so the Papacy tinted with 
the hue of religion every war waged by Christendom 
against Islam. 

But worldly ambition and material profit lurked 
behind this religious spirit which the leaders kindled 
in the bosoms of the troops and the populace. Thus 
we see some of the leading adventurers of Christian 
knights, such as Cid El Campeador, 1 fighting succes- 
sively by the side of the Christians and Muslims alike 
and, when victorious, contented with the spoils taken 
from the conquered lands and with the tribute paid by 
the Muslims ; we see them even adopting the habits 
and social traditions of the conquered nation. All 
classes of Christian Spain profited by the lands taken 
from Muslim Spain. The nobles gained new feudal 
possessions. The middle classes hurried to the new 
cities to exchange the poverty of their old homes 
against wealth and prosperity ; common people and 
peasants hurried to the beautiful valleys and blooming 
fields of Andalusia to escape the barrenness and 
poverty of the North. 



These factors which kindled the fire of continued 
struggle between Islam and Christendom are the very 
same which oriented the idea of the Crusade towards 
the East. As the Muslim outburst in the days of 
Almoravides and Almohades threatened to overrun 
Christian Spain, and inspired the northern nations 
with enthusiasm, likewise the Muslim outburst in the 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 101 

East alarmed Christendom and particularly the Byzan- 
tine Empire which was the stronghold of Christianity 
in the East. Islam at that time was burning with a 
new young power, that of the Seljuke Empire. This 
eruption of the Sel jukes and their sweeping conquests 
in the time of Alp Arslan and Malik Shah (435-485 A.H. 
1063-1092 A.D.) in the territories of the Byzantine 
Empire, and on the shores of the Mediterranean, were 
the prelude of the first Crusade. These formidable 
invaders had usurped the legacy of the Abbaside 
Empire, overrun Armenia, Asia Minor and Syria in 
less than a quarter of a century, and crushed the armies 
of the Byzantine Empire in the battle of Manzikert 
(Malaz Kurd 463 A.H., 1071 A.D.) and established, 
by the side of their Great Empire in Baghdad, the 
Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor whose frontiers were 
extended to the waters of Marmora and the shores of 
the Mediterranean. In the face of the impending danger 
Constantinople appealed to the western nations and 
the pilgrims, who had visited the Holy Land, raised 
their voices complaining bitterly of the tyranny of the 
conquerors and their persecution of Christianity and its 
rites. There was, at that time, at the head of the Church, 
a very determined and sagacious man, Hildebrand, who 
ascended the Papal throne as Gregory VII. He was 
appalled by this new danger, and decided to prepare 
an expedition to protect the Eastern Empire which he 
rightly considered as a strong barrier for the protection 
of Europe from the outburst of Islam from the East, and 
appealed to all the princes of Europe for help. But, 
notwithstanding his intelligence and prudence, he 
could not inspire the princes or the peoples with that 
burning enthusiasm which is the soul of the Crusade. 
It was doubted that he might orient this expedition to 
fight the Normans in southern Italy ; his appeal was 
not crowned with success and was responded only by 
a small number of adventurers. 

It was the task of his successor Urban II to revive 



102 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

his project and to ensure its preparation and execu- 
tion. Urban was a very enthusiastic, keen-minded 
prelate. He appealed not only to the princes and the 
knights, but also to the populace. His interpreter to 
the common people was a French monk of his country, 
who reminds us of the ancient apostles, named Peter 
the hermit. He had visited the Holy Land in 1093 
A.D. and returned to Europe to relate the most 
horrible stories of the Seljuke tyranny and their 
sacrilege of the Holy Sepulchre. Whatever truth or 
lies and exaggerations there were in the statements of 
this monk, his appeal greatly helped to rouse the 
fanaticism of the lower classes. He travelled over 
Europe on donkey back and barefooted, wearing 
coarse clothes and carrying a large cross. He address- 
ed the populace, moving them to tears, raising their 
enthusiasm and urging them to vengeance and restora- 
tion of the Holy Sepulchre. The outburst of the Sel- 
jukes had, at that time, abated and their Empire broke 
into pieces at the death of Malik Shah (1092 A.D.), 
But the prelates of the Church and the princes of the 
West did not feel secure at that temporary calmness, 
particularly as they had learnt from the past history 
that no sooner an outburst of Islam subsides than a 
stronger outburst begins. Urban, like his predecessor 
Gregory, considered it necessary to strengthen the 
Eastern Empire, but he was of opinion that this should 
be done by creating a Latin Kingdom in Palestine to 
watch over Jerusalem and observe the eruption of 
Islam in the South and East. This desire of the 
Church was carried out and the princes and the 
knights responded to its call and amassed large forces. 
The avalanche of Christendom poured into the East, 
and thus began in 1098 A.D. (491 A.H.) the series of 
great wars known by the name of Crusades. Godfrey 
of Bouillon and his colleagues, the leaders of the first 
Crusade, took possession of Jerusalem (1099 A.D.) and 
many towns and portsof Syria, and created the Latin 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 103 

Kingdom which rose in the heart of the Islamic nations 
as an emblem of the victory of Christendom. 

As the first Crusade was the result of the out- 
burst of Islam under the Seljukes, likewise the second 
Crusade in 1147 A.D. (542 A.HJ was the echo of a 
new eruption of the Seljukes and the fall of Edessa 
(Ar-Ruha), the stronghold of the Latin Empire in the 
north in the hands of Emad-ud-Din Zanki (1144 A.D.). 
The third Crusade in the year 1188 A.D. (584 A.H.) 
was a reply to the rise of Egypt under Salah-ud-Din 
(corrupted by Europeans to Saladin) who reconquered 
Jerusalem and crushed the Latin Kingdom which 
lasted about eighty years in Palestine. The effer- 
vescence of Islam at that time was strong and dazzling, 
and threatened to sweep Asia Minor and the Eastern 
Empire ; and so the greatest Christian princes of the 
age hurried to face the impending danger. Egypt was 
engaged in a crushing struggle with the armies of 
France, England, Germany and other European 
countries, and its armies gave severe lessons to the 
invaders. Salah-ud-Din dealt deadly strokes to the 
Crusaders and forces of Egypt became at that time the 
object of admiration and awe. The hopes of Christia- 
nity in the East vanished. The fourth Crusade of 
1204 A.D. (600 A.H.) was reduced to pillaging bands 
whose leaders settled in Constantinople and divided 
among themselves the remnants of the Byzantine 
Empire and abandoned the dangers of the Holy war. 
The expeditions of the fifth (1217 A.D., 614 A.H.) 
and seventh Crusades (1248 A.D., 647 A.H.) exhaust- 
ed all their forces and resources in vain attempts in 
the waters of Egypt and the land of Damietta which 
ended with their defeat and dispersion. As for the 
sixth expedition (1228 A.D. 625 A.H.) it managed to 
capture Jerusalem for a certain time. 

That was the idea which inspired the Crusades 
the idea of Muslim danger and the struggle for life 
and death between Islam and Christianity. To pre- 



104 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

serve its authority the Church managed to urge the 
Christian princes to fight Islam in the name of 
religion ; it was able also to diffuse this spirit of 
exaggerated fanaticism and religious zeal in Christian 
societies for long ages, and to mobilize the chivalry of 
the Middle Ages in great expeditions towards imaginary 
aims without any attractive worldly profits. 

But this religious spirit did not extinguish the 
worldly ambition in the bosom of the Crusade leaders. 
As religion was a banner in the hand of the Church 
under which princes and knights were called to stand, 
likewise the religious appeal was an effective means in 
the hands of the knights and nobles to recruit the 
common people and to ensure their obedience and 
submission, If the hearts of the leaders and knights 
were moved by a sort of religious zeal, worldly ambi- 
tion was the strongest factor which pushed them to 
the melee of these distant adventures. Rivalry for 
power and authority made its way among them from 
the beginning, a fact which is proved by most of the 
Crusades. Godfrey of Bouillon and his colleague 
princes marched at the head of the first Crusade after 
having engaged to rule the conquered lands in the 
name of Papacy. When they reached Constantinople 
they engaged to rule them in the name of the Emperor 
against the marching of the Crusade army through the 
territories of the Empire. But no sooner they reached 
Tarsus and Antioch than a storm of discord broke out 
among them ; Baldwin abandoned his colleagues and 
settled in the principality of Emessa (Horns) and 
Bohmund settled in Antioch and refused to inarch to 
the South ; Raymond of Toulouse was busy with the 
invasion of Tripolis and Godfrey made himself inde- 
pendent ruler of the principality of Jerusalem. All of 
them ruled their new principalities in their own names 
and for their own account, and built palaces and made 
feudal donations. As we have seen the fifth Crusade 
did not reach the Holy Land, but settled in Constan- 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 105 

tinople, its leaders taking part in the intrigues which 
shook the throne of the Caesars, and finally preferred 
to wrench the remnants of the Eastern Empire than 
to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre. 

After this brief exposition we can deduce that the 
Crusades were due to two principal factors : one moral 
and the other social or material. 

As for the former, it is the revolution of senti- 
ments and religious creeds. We have seen that 
Christianity had been fighting Islam since the seventh 
century and repulsing it from Europe after being 
threatened by it with defeat and annihilation, and 
finally confining it to Spain where it continued to 
struggle with it. Also that the Crusades were neither a 
sudden eruption caused by the stories of the discon- 
tented pilgrims nor the appeal of Peter the hermit ; but 
it was the conclusion or the climax of the great combat 
which had been raging for four centuries between Islam 
and Christendom. The field of this struggle was in 
Europe till the eleventh century when it was removed 
by the Crusades to Asia. If we compare the events of 
these two ages we can notice that Christianity had, for 
some time, in Asia, some of the characteristics of Islam 
presented in Europe and, in a sense, had the same 
destinies. Islam was settled in Spain where it establish- 
ed principalities and kingdoms. The Christians did 
the same in Asia ; they conquered Syria and founded 
the Latin Kingdom and some other small principalities, 
and their position there, with regard to the Muslims, 
was similar, in some respects, to that of the Muslims 
in Spain with regard to Christians. In other words, 
the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem in the East was 
somewhat similar to that of Muslim Kingdom of 
Granada in the West. 2 But the great phenomenon 
and the soul of the constant combat were the struggle 
of the two great creeds under whose banners the old 
world stood ; that is to say, the struggle between Islam 
and Christendom which reached its zenith in the 



106 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Crusades. 

The second factor, the material or social, is due to 
the state of Europe in the eleventh century. Feudalism 
had greatly oppressed European society with its charges 
and restrictions. Europe had begun to seek a wider 
and more general horizon, and human thought had 
tried to go beyond the narrow circle in which it was 
confined ; the appeal to the Crusade helped to create 
this horizon and people hastened to it hoping to find 
in it a wider and more versatile career and the future 
inspired them with great hopes. The Crusades were 
the first general European event, and perhaps this 
was its most important characteristic. The whole of 
Europe took part in it ; before the Crusades, Europe 
was never moved with the same sentiment or acted 
for the same cause. The Crusades were not only a 
European event, they were in every country a national 
event. In every country all classes of society were 
moved by the same sentiment ; kings, nobles, priests, 
merchants, the common classes and the peasants all 
had, for the Crusades, the same feeling and acted as 
one man. Thus the Crusades were, for the European 
nations, the cradle of moral unity which was a new 
phenomenon ; in fact the beginning of European unity. 

We have no need to pass a judgment on these 
barbarian wars and invasions provoked by Christianity 
and European fanaticism in the East for almost two 
centuries. They were already condemned by many 
Western thinkers and historians. It is sufficient to 
cite that resounding passage in which one of the great- 
est historians and thinkers of Christendom, Edward 
Gibbon, historian of the Roman Empire, has passed 
his judgment on the Crusades : 

"The principle of thq Crusades was a savage 
fanaticism ; and the most important effects were 
analogous to the cause. Each pilgrim was ambitious 
to return with his sacred spoils, the relics of Greece 
and Palestine ; and each relic was preceded or followed 



THE IDEA OF THE CRUSADES 107 

by a train of miracles and visions. The belief of the 
Catholics was corrupted by new legends, their practice 
by new superstitions ; and the establishment of the 
inquisition, the mendicant orders of monks and friars, 
the last abuse of indulgences, and the final progress of 
idolatry, flowed from the baleful fountain of the holy 
war. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the 
vitals of their reason and religions ; and if the ninth 
and tenth centuries were the times of darkness, the 
thirteenth and fourteenth were the age of absurdity 
and fable." 3 

Need we say that the struggle between Islam and 
Christianity is still going on ; that the West, in our 
own time, is still organizing its crusades on Islam under 
the banner of political and economic imperialism and 
with new methods concealed under the mask of civili- 
zation, education and culture ? 



As for the significance of the Crusades and their 
political and social effects, there is no room to discuss 
them. We can, however, say generally that they were 
the cradle of European nationalism ; that they saved 
European society from large classes of knights and 
nobles who crushed the rights and liberties of the 
middle and lower classes. But the Crusades, on the 
other hand, did not convey great advantages from the 
East to Western civilization. The gain of Western 
civilization, from that of Islam, was greater, not in the 
range of crushing calamities and wars, but in the 
cradle of peace in the plains of Andalusia and Sicily 
where Islam and Christianity cordially met and co- 
operated with understanding. As for the East it 
gained nothing by waging these wars against fanatical 
crowds who cared only for fire and sword and the 
acquisition of spoils. 



108 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

References 

1 Don Rodrigo do Bivar, hero of the Spanish Knighthood who died in 
1096 A.D. We shall speak of him in another chapter. 

1 Guizot : Histoire de Civilisation en Europe. 
* Roman Empire, Ch. LXI. 



CHAPTER VIII 
( i) The Qreek Fire : its Origin and Development 

WE have already spoken of the Greek Fire and 
its importance as a means of defence. We 
speak here of the history of this fire, and the 
role it played in the wars of the old world. 

The ancients had their arms and their devastating 
military means. Human mind, since the most ancient 
times of history, was directed towards the invention 
of these means. We would smile if we compared the 
ancient means of war and devastation with those of our 
age, and the appalling progress they have made on 
land, sea and air. But this vast contrast does not pre- 
vent the historian, who contemplates calmly the annals 
of the past, from admiring the arms of destruction and 
the means of defence invested by the ancient civiliza- 
tion. 

The Greek fire was, in the Middle Ages, the most 
terrible means of warfare and destruction. For long 
ages it was a miracle of war, and a unique meansf or 
the protection of the Eastern Empire and repulsing the 
naval attacks of the Arabs on its ports and shores. The 
successors of Constantine found in it the last means to 
preserve the remnant of the legacy of the Roman 
Empire. 

The origin of this fire, which played a great rdle 
in the history of the Middle Ages, is very obscure. It 
was used for the first time as effective means of de- 
struction at the close of the seventh century A.D. But 
certain Assyrian inscriptions and symbols prove that 
throwing fire on besieged cities and on enemy camps 
was one of the means of war in Babylon. Thucydides 
says that the Spartans tried, in the siege of Platia 



110 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

(429 B.C.), to burn the city by throwing on it flaming 
balls of wood mixed with tar and sulphur. In the 
siege of Dilium (424 B.C.) the besiegers placed on the 
walls vessels full of tar, sulphur and coal and set fire to 
them with bellows which pushed the air through the 
hollow trunk of a tree. 1 Tacitus also says that in that 
age a mixture of sulphur, tar, coal and the nap of hemp 
was used in naval battles. This was placed in fast 
boats and projected flaming on the rear of enemy 
ships. About 350 B.C. tar and naphtha or petroleum 
were added to this mixture. Later historians speak in 
their narratives of wars fought nine centuries after- 
wards of a mixture made of these materials ; this mixture 
developed, saltpetre, turpentine oil and fat being added, 
and was used in the Crusades and known at that time 
as the Greek Fire. 

But the fire used in the Crusades was not the real 
Greek Fire used in the naval battles between the Byzan- 
tines and the Arabs, the secret of the composition of 
which is still an object of dispute and conjecture. Ac- 
cording to religious Byzantine legends the origin of 
this fire was due to divine revelation. Emperor Con- 
stantine VII (Porphyrogenitus), historian of the Byzan- 
tine Empire, pretends that the secret of the Greek Fire 
was revealed by an angel from heaven to Emperor Con- 
stantine I, as a gift and blessing from God to the Romans. 2 
It is certain, however, that this fire was used as means 
of defence in Byzantine wars only about three centuries 
later in the time of Constantine IV (Pogonatus) in 648- 
685 A.D.and that it was invented by an engineer named 
Calnicos who was in the service of the Arabs in Heliopo- 
lis, a city of Syria, and who later fled to Constantinople. 
He is said to have been an Egyptian, native of Heliopolis 
of Egypt. This is perhaps more probable because 
chemistry was, from the earliest ages, a flourishing 
science among the Egyptians, who made in it many 
researches and great discoveries. The terrible effects of 
this new arm appeared for the first time in the Arab 



THE GREEK FIRE: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 111 

siege of Constantinople (668 A.D.,48 A.H.) when the 
fire was often shot on Arab ships destroying a great 
number of them, and the Muslims retired southward 
and raised the siege of the seat of the Roman Empire. 

As we have already said the composition of this 
wonderful fire is still a mystery, as the ingredients of 
balming used by the ancient Egyptians are still unknown 
to modern science. We may, however, deduce from 
the Byzantine historians and their references to Greek 
Fire that it was composed of naphtha, a highly inflam- 
mable oil which ignites when it meets the air, and of 
sulphur and tar in proportions still unknown. This 
composition emitted dense smoke and made a great 
explosion and issued strong fire with tongues shooting 
up and down at the same time. It burned fiercely and 
was not extinguished when it came in contact with 
water, but burned more strongly and only sand and 
vinegar could put it out. It is said that its inventor 
Calnicos added saltpetre to its composition to cause 
explosion, but saltpetre was not known before the end 
of the thirteenth century. Colonel Hime.the military 
historian, in his book on the history of arms and muni- 
tions 3 says that the Greek Fire contained a quantity 
of lime which made it stronger when it touched water. 
It was therefore composed of neptha, sulphur, lime 
and tar, thus making an inflammable liquid ; hence its 
name liquid fire and sea fire. 4 

Greek Fire was used on land and sea at the same 
time, when ranks clashed and in siege. It was thrown 
from the tops of towers or walls in large vessels, shot 
in burning balls of iron and stone, or in curved arrows 
wrapped with hemp, nap and hair saturated with the 
flaming liquid. In sea battles it was carried in firing 
ships and shot from long brass pipes fixed to siphons 
placed in the prows of ships, made in the forms of beasts 
with gaping mouths casting a rain of burning liquid 
fire. 

The Byzantines preserved for a long time the 



112 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

secret of this terrible arm and monopolized its use in 
fighting their enemies. They sometimes lent it to 
their allies but without revealing its secret. Constan- 
tine VII says in his history that this secrecy was im- 
posed by Heaven, and that the angel who conveyed 
the secret of this fire to Constantine the Great told 
him that the Prince and the subjects should conceal 
the secret of this blessing, otherwise disclosing of it 
would be considered disobedience of God's order and 
would bring about his indignation and punishment. 
Thus this secret remained buried in Byzantine facto- 
ries for about four centuries till the Arabs discovered 
it at the end of the eleventh century, either by way of 
analysis and research or by learning the secret of this 
mixture from some Byzantine renegade. 



The Arabs were the first to suffer from the 
ravages of the Greek Fire. They experienced its horrors 
and dangers for the first time in their first siege of 
Constantinople (48 A.H., 668 A.D.) when the Greeks 
directed it against their ships and camps putting them in 
disorder more than once. It often repulsed the attacks 
of the Muslims on the walls and ended by burning 
most of their ships. In the second siege (97 A.H., 
717 A.D.) its ravages on the Muslims were severer. 
It repulsed Maslama ibn Abdul Malik, with his great 
army and fleets, from the walls of the city and 
forced him to keep far from the European shores. 
It afterwards forced him to raise the siege and to 
withdraw with the remnant of his army to the 
islands of the Archipelago. In that siege it destroyed 
one of the greatest forces amassed by Islam against 
Christianity. 

It would be no exaggeration to say that it was the 
Greek Fire which frustrated the plans of the Omayyad 
Caliphate to conquer Europe by way of Constantinople, 



THE GREEK FIRE : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 113 

and put an end to its projects with regard to the 
Eastern Roman Empire and the east of Europe, It also 
forced them to divert the torrent of their invasions to 
the deserts of Africa and to be content, of Christian 
Europe, with the possession of Andalusia. It was the 
Greek Fire which also converted the plans of the 
Abbaside Caliphate from conquering Asia Minor 
and trying to traverse to Constantinople, to plun- 
dering expeditions and small conquests in the course 
of which the Abbaside and the Byzantine Empires 
successively invaded the frontier forts. It also pro- 
tected the seat and the ports of the Byzantine 
Empire for long generations from the ravages of 
the naval expeditions of adventurous privateers which 
were prepared either in Muslim ports or in Genoa, 
Pisa and Venice and which dominated the sea in those 
ages. 

But while the Greek Fire was, for generations, a 
terrible arm in the hands of the Greeks (Byzantines) 
it became, when the Muslims discovered its secret, a 
terrible arm in their hands. It played a great role, 
particularly in the Crusades, and the Egyptian troops 
were renowned for its use on land and sea. The 
fire projectors formed a special section in the army and 
the fleet, and it was this fire which repulsed the attacks 
of the Crusaders on Egyptian shores and did great 
havoc to them in the battles of Damietta. 5 The 
French chronicler, de Jomville, 6 describes its devasta- 
ting effects on the French in these battles in his book 
entitled " History of Saint Louis." He says that it 
rushed through the air as if it were a long-tailed bird 
of prey spreading its wings, very dense, accompanied 
by resounding thunder with the speed of lightning; 
its light dispersed the darkness of the night. He then 
speaks of his and his friends' terror when they saw it 
and its ravages on the ranks of the French. 

It seems that the Muslims were able to keep for 
a time the secret of this fire after discovering it as the 

15 



114 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Greeks before them did. In the Muslim naval ex- 
peditions on the Italian shores and on the islands of 
the Mediterranean and its Christian ports, as well as 
in the Crusades, we find the Muslims, and not their 
enemies, using the Greek Fire. It also seems that the 
secret of the use of the Greek Fire was communicated 
to the Muslims of Andalusia who used it in fighting 
their Christian enemies of northern Spain. In the 
siege of Niebla (1257 A.D., 665 A.H.), a Portuguese 
town, the Almohades, used, in repulsing the armies of 
Alphonso X, King of Castille, instruments which 
threw on the Christian camps stones and burning 
materials accompanied by claps of thunder. The kings 
of Granada used, since the end of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, similar instruments in fighting the Christians. 
Here we hesitate to express an opinion on the nature 
of these instruments. On reading the description 
given by the Arab and Spanish historians, it occurs to 
the mind that they were guns and that the Muslims 
had, at that time, discovered gunpowder, if we 
admit that they discovered it before the German 
priest, Berthold Schwartz in the middle of the four- 
teenth century. It is probable, however, that these 
instruments were the projectors of Greek Fire which 
had improved with time, and were adopted by the 
Almohades and the Andalusians from the Muslims of 
Egypt and Tunis. It seems that the Muslims of An- 
dalusia used the gun for the first time in the battle of 
Rio Selito ( Wadi Lakka) in 1340 A.D., 740 A.H., and 
in the defence of Algeciras in 1342 A.D., 742 A.H. 
This opinion is confirmed by the fact that the Greek 
Fire was accompanied by terrible claps of thunder 
when discharged. Yet we can suppose that the Mus- 
lims of Andalusia began to use the Greek Fire and 
afterwards added gunpowder to it and were able to 
make guns and use them against the Christians. 

This is the story of the Greek Fire and of the r6le 
it played in the wars of Middle Ages. We have 



THE GREEK FIRE : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 115 

already seen that it was an important factor in the 
protection of the Eastern Roman Empire, for centuries, 
against the attacks of its enemies, particularly the 
Arabs Yet we cannot say that the Greek Fire made, 
in the arts of war, a great revolution as that made 
by the invention of dynamite. Notwithstanding the 
terrible destruction it caused and the burning of 
munitions and ships, the Greek Fire did not do much 
havoc to the ranks and did not put an end to the 
methods of defence and protection which these ranks 
obtained from steel and iron, and from breastplates, 
girdles, helmets, etc. Moreover, it was used together 
with other war implements not less destructive and 
fearful. For long ages the Arab catapult was the terror 
of besieged cities, and the arrows and the darts of the 
Arabs were, for a time, the terror of the Byzantines 
and other Christian nations. As for the dynamite, it 
is the {most terrible means of destruction and of loss 
of lives ; indeed it is the greatest calamity ever inflic- 
ted on humanity. 

() The Greek Fire in the Combats of Damietta. 
The Crusades, in a certain sense, are a page of the 
national history of Egypt, although they are also a 
page of the general history of Islam. Egypt was the 
field of many crusade battles, and the armies of Egypt 
were foremost among the Muslim forces to repulse 
the Crusaders ; they were, at the same time, the most 
formidable and caused the greatest havoc. The seventh 
Crusade was the most closely connected with the 
history of Egypt. It came direct to Egypt to turn it 
into a field of holy war and a prize to the Church. 
Louis IX came at the head of his knights and troops, 
and met in Damietta the Egyptian armies at whose 
hands he suffered reverses and captivity. 

Egyptian chronicles give detailed record f of these 
combats, and often speak of the Greek Fire thrown by 
the Egyptians on the Crusaders. About the events of 



116 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

these battles and of the Greek Fire used in them we 
have an important European document, the ' Memoirs' 
of de Joinville, called the " History of Saint Louis." 7 
These are the memoirs of an eye-witness who took 
part in all encounters and events and who filled in the 
army a lofty post. This is the Knight Jean de 
Joinville, one of the principal officials on the suite of 
Louis IX, who accompanied him in his expedition to 
Egypt and filled, after his death, the same post in the 
court of his son Louis X. 

De Joinville wrote his memoirs by the order of the 
Queen of France, consort of Louis IX, especially for 
her to record all the events in which the saintly King 
took part. De Joinville speaks at great length of the 
battles which raged between the Egyptians and the 
Crusaders on Egyptian soil, and gives minute details 
and observations which the Arab sources hardly men- 
tion. What gives it particular value is the fact that 
it was written by a soldier versed in the science of war 
and an eye-witness who took part in these battles from 
the beginning to the end. 

De Joinville tells us of the efficiency of the Egyp- 
tian troops, their discipline and their tactics and of 
those fiery projectiles which terribly ravaged the 
fortifications of the Crusaders and their ranks and, 
finally, was one of the greatest causes of their defeat 
and retirement. He gives a minute sensational des- 
cription of it, and speaks of the terror with which it 
inspired his countrymen when they saw it, their 
disorder and their cries for help, and he calls it Greek 
Fire. This appellation has a historical origin or sense, 
as it seems to us that these fiery projectiles, then used 
by the Egyptians in fighting their enemies, is the same 
as the old Greek or Byzantine Fire which, as already 
said, was for centuries, the most effective arm in the 
hands of the Eastern Roman Empire. When the 
Muslims learnt its secret it became a terrible arm in 
their hands and a great instrument in dispersing the 



THE GREEK FIRE : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 117 

Crusaders and frustrating many of their expeditions. 

The seventh Crusade came to Egypt in the days 
of Al-Malik al-Salih, son of Al-Kamil (1249 A.D. 
647 A.H.) commanded by Louis IX, King of France, 
known as Saint Louis, comprising de Joinville and his 
knights and followers who camped outside Damietta. 
Louis IX wrote to Al-Malik al-Salih, in the name 
of the Christian nations, to deliver Egypt to him, 
threatening him with his great army. Al-Malik al- 
Salih, who was at that time ill in Cairo, charged his 
secretary Baha-ud-Din Zoheir, the great poet, to reply. 
In this reply he defied the Crusaders and warned them 
with vengeance. Al-Malik al-Salih was cautious but 
prepared. But the garrison at Damietta did not face 
the enemy and left the town without fighting. The 
Crusaders occupied Damietta and raised towers before 
it to protect it from the Muslims. The Egyptian 
troops marched to fight the French and camped on 
the side of Mansura, and contented themselves with 
harassing the French and dispersing their patrols which 
went in search of food. 

The Greek Fire was the first terrible surprise 
made by the Egyptians to the Crusaders. As soon as 
the disorder caused by the death of Al-Malik al-Salih 
came to an end, the Egyptians advanced to fight the 
French. The Greek Fire was at that time the most 
terrible means of destruction in the hands of the Mus- 
lims. We reproduce here de Joinville's description 
of the terror caused to his countrymen from the effects 
of this fire. He writes : 

" One night when we were keeping guard over the 
towers, that guarded the covered ways, it happened 
that the Saracens brought an engine called a petrary 
which they had not hitherto done, and put Greek 
Fire into the sling of the engine. When my Lord, 
Walter of Ecurey, the good knight who was with me, 
saw it, he spoke thus : * Lords ! we are in the greatest 
peril that we have ever been in, for if they set fire to 



118 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

our towers, and we remain here, we are but lost and 
burnt up ; while if we leave these defences, we have 
been set to guard, we are dishonoured. Wherefore 
none can defend us in this peril save God alone. So 
my advice and counsel is that, every time they hurl 
the fire at us, we throw ourselves on our elbows and 
knees and pray our Saviour to keep us up in this 
peril.' 

44 As soon as they hurled the first cast we threw 
ourselves on our elbows and knees as they had taught 
us. The first cast fell between our two towers guard- 
ing the covered ways. It fell on the place in front of 
us where the host had been working at the dam. 
Our firemen were ready to put out the fire ; and 
because the Saracens could not shoot straight at them, 
on account of the two pavilion wings that the King 
had caused to be set up, they shot up into the clouds 
so that the darts fell on the firemen's heads. 

44 The fashion of the Greek Fire was that it came 
frontwise as large as a barrel of verjuice and the hail 
of fire that issued from it was like a large lance. The 
noise it made in coming was like heaven's thunder. It 
had the shape of a dragon flying through the air. It 
gave so great a light, because of the fusion of the 
fire making the light, that one saw as clearly through- 
out the camp as if it had been day. Three times did 
they hurl Greek Fire at us that night (from the pet- 
raries) and four times with the swivel crossbow. 

44 Every time that our saintly King heard them 
hurling the Greek Fire he would raise himself in his 
bed and lift up his hands to our Saviour and say 
weeping: 4 Fair Lord God! guard me my people.' And 
verily I believe that his prayers did us good service in 
our need. At night, every time the fire had fallen, he 
sent one of his chamberlains to ask how we fared and 
whether the fire had done us any harm. 

44 Once when they hurled it at us the fire fell near 
the tower which the people of my Lord of Courtenay 



THE GREEK FIRE : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 119 

were guarding and struck the guards of the stream. 
Then, look you, a knight, whose name was TAubigoiz, 
came to me and said : 4 Lord ! if you do not come to 
our help we shall all be burnt ; for the Saracens have 
shot so many of their shafts that it is as if a great 
hedge were coming burning against our tower.' We 
sprang up and went thither and found he spoke 
sooth. We put out the fire and before we had put it 
out the Saracens had struck us all with shafts that they 
shot across the stream. 

" The King's brothers kept guard over the towers 
by day, and went to the top of the towers to shoot 
bolts from the crossbows at the Saracens in their 
camp ; for the King had decided that the King of Sicily 
was to keep guard over the towers by day while we 
were to keep guard over them by night ; and now 
on a day when the King of Sicily was thus keep- 
ing guard, and we were to keep guard by night, we 
were in sore trouble of heart because the Saracens 
had wellnigh shattered our towers. And the Saracens 
brought out their petrary in full daylight, whereas we 
had so far only brought it out by night, and they 
threw Greek Fire on our towers. And they had 
brought their engines so near to the causeway which 
the host were building that no one dared to go to the 
towers because of the great stones that the engines 
cast and which fell upon the causeway, whence it 
happened that the two towers were burned and the 
King of Sicily was so besides himself that he wished to 
throw himself where the fire was, in order to put 
it out ; and if he was incensed, why I and my knights 
could but praise God seeing that, if we had been on 
guard (in the towers) that night, we should all have 
been burned. 

" When the King saw this, he sent for all the 
barons of the host and begged each of them to give him 
wood from their ships to build a tower to help to dam 
up the stream ; and each brought according to his will 



120 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

and then the tower was made. 

"The King decided also that the towers should 
no* be pushed forward on the causeway until the day 
came when it was the turn of the King of Sicily to 
mount guard, so that he might thus repair the loss of 
the other towers that had been burned when he was on 
guard. As it had been decided so was it done ; as soon 
as the King of Sicily came on guard, he caused the 
tower to be pushed forward along the causeway to the 
point where the other towers guarding the covered 
way had been burned. 

" When the Saracens saw this they so arranged 
that all their sixteen engines should cast their shot 
upon the causeway, to the place where the tower had 
been brought ; and when they saw that our people 
feared to go to the tower because of the stones from 
the engines that fell on the causeway, they brought 
up the petrary and cast Greek Fire at the tower and 
burned it utterly." 

De Joinville then goes on to describe, in the 
course of his narrative of the following battles, how 
the Saracens resorted to the Greek Fire on various 
occasions. He says that their fire was once directed 
across all the Christian camp so that it hit the King's 
saddle and that it often fell on the knights and it 
seemed as if the stars of heaven had fallen upon 
them. 

Thus we see that that wonderful fire, which for 
long ages was the means of protecting the Eastern 
Empire and Christendom against the invasions of Islam, 
became from the eleventh century, in the hands of the 
Muslims, the means of protecting themselves from the 
attacks of their enemies. The Muslims of the East, 
that is to say Egypt and Syria, were the first to learn 
the secret of the Greek Fire and the first, among the 
Muslims, to acquire dexterity in using it, but its secret, 
as we have said before, was soon known to other 
Muslim states in north Africa and Andalusia. 



THE GREEK FIRE : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 121 

References 

1 Thucyddides : Pelopnnesian War, Ch. VII and XIV. 
'Gibbon : Roman Empire, Ch. LII 

3 The book is entitled Gunpowder and Ammunition ; their Origin and 
Progress (London 1904). 

4 Encyclopedia Britannica, Art. Greek Fire. 

* For the battles of Damietta and the fire projectors see Makrizi : Al- 
Khitat, Vol. I, p. 221, etc. 

6 The second part of this chapter gives in detail Joinville's report* 
1 Jean, Sire de Joinville : Histoire de Saint Louis, 



16 



CHAPTER IX 
(i) De Joinville's Memoirs on the 7th Crusade 

WE have already said that Jean de Joinville, 
counseller and biographer of Louis IX, left 
on his death memoirs which dealt not only 
with the history of his King, but also recorded annals 
of the combats fought in Egypt during the seventh 
Crusade (1249 A.D.), and with certain Egyptian affairs 
of that age which he minutely described. We have 
quoted what this historian wrote on the use of the 
Greek Fire by the Egyptian Army and the terror and 
defeat caused to his countrymen by its terrible havoc. 
As these memoirs of de Joinville are one of the most 
valuable documents of the Crusades and have special 
value to the history of Egypt, we reserve this chapter 
to the historian and his memoirs. 

Joinville, or Sire Joinville, was born about 1224 
A.D. and accompanied his King, Saint Louis, at the 
head of his knights and soldiers in the seventh 
Crusade which sailed from French waters on August 
28, 1248. This expedition was one of the greatest 
Crusades ; in fact it was the beginning of a new chapter 
of these barbarian wars. The Latin Kingdom founded 
by Godfrey de Bouillon and his knights in Jerusalem 
did not last more than eighty years, and then crumbled 
under the heavy strokes of Salah-ud-Din. The Holy 
Land was restored to the authority of Islam and the 
Crusaders retreated to their forts on the coast. The 
Crusaders resolved, on the downfall of their kingdom 
in Jerusalem, to transfer the field of struggle to Egypt 
in order to destroy that power which had crushed their 
expeditions and upset their plans. They came to 
Egypt for the first time in the days of Al-Malik 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 123 

al-Kamil and occupied Damietta (214 A.H., 1217 A.D,), 
but they were afterwards defeated and were obliged to 
evacuate it. Egypt was safe and tranquil for one-third 
of a century till Louis IX prepared his great expedi- 
tion. This expedition had, therefore, to recommence 
the Crusades and to reconquer the Holy Land. It 
went direct to Egypt and encamped outside Damietta 
and reconquered it. But it was again defeated and 
repulsed after crushing battles in the days of Al-Malik 
al-Salih. De Joinville fought by the side of his King 
and assisted, on his defeat and captivity, his liberation 
and return. He returned to France in July, 1254 A.D., 
that is to say, six years since he had left it. 

De Joinville says that he concluded writing his 
memoirs in October, 1309 A.D. when he was eighty- 
five years old and more than half a century after the 
events he recorded. He recorded them at the request 
of Jeanne de Navarre, Queen of France and mother of 
Louis X. In fact he says at the beginning of his book : 
" To his good lord Louis (afterwards Louis X), son of 
the King of France (Philip le bel) and, by the grace of 
God, King of Navarre and Count Palatile of Champagne 
and of Brie, Jean Lord of Joinville, his seneschal of 
Champagne gives greeting and love, and honour 
and loyal service, dear Sire, I would have you know 
that our lady the Queen, your mother, who loved me 
much may God have her in His grace, prayed as ear- 
nestly as she could, to cause a book to be written for her 
containing the holy word and good deeds of our King 
Saint Louis ; and I covenanted to do so, and with God's 
help the book is now completed in two parts." 

The narrator reserved the first part of his book 
to the personal life of Saint Louis, his habits, qualities 
and deeds. In this part de Joinville represented his 
King and commander Louis IX as a pious sovereign 
whose heart is full of faith, kindness and gentleness, 
and considers him the ideal Christian and expresses 
his affection and esteem of his friend with whom he 



124 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

took part in the great events. It was fated that he 
should die long years before him, and he recalls the 
distant past and remembers the eventful days of his 
youth and evokes the phantom of Saint Louis wearing 
his armour, covered with his arms and equipment, 
running here and there between the ranks to encour- 
age his knights, and praises his courage and intrepidity, 
his patience in adversity, and enumerates his good 
qualities, i.e., his kindness to his troops, his loyalty and 
his adherence to the right. But notwithstanding the 
affection and respect which the historian had for him, 
he was not altogether deterred from criticizing him. 
He criticized him where necessary, and cites his private 
opinion and judgment. Thus he blames the saintly 
King for accepting two rare horses presented to him 
by a clergyman to pave the way for discussing certain 
matters, and does not hesitate to ask the King if this 
present had induced him to be lenient with the priest. 
He goes even further in his remonstrations, and ex- 
presses his astonishment at the King's indifference to 
his wife and children. He says, for instance, that the 
Queen sailed from Jaffa to meet the King in " Massiat" 
and that he (de Joinville) went to receive her and 
accompanied her to the King's palace. He then in- 
formed the King, who was at prayers, of her arrival. 
The King knew where de Joinville had gone but he 
did not receive him, and purposely made his sermon 
long till his return. All the King did was to enquire 
after the health of his wife and children. De Joinville 
here says : " I relate to you all these matters because I 
had spent not less than five years in his service, yet he 
did not talk to me once about his wife or his children ; 
in fact, so far as I am aware he talked to no one on 
this subject. It seems that it is not a good quality that 
a man should be a stranger to his wife and children to 
this extent." The historian has the right thus to 
blame his King, for Margaret de Provence, the saint 
King's wife, was an excellent model as wife and queen ; 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 125 

in fact she was distinguished for a certain sort of 
heroism, if we believe what the historian says of her. 
She accompanied her husband in his expedition to the 
field of battle in a foreign land, and bore the fatigues 
of the journey which was great at that time. She bore 
patiently all kinds of privations imposed by the events. 
When her husband was defeated and with the greater 
part of his nobles taken prisoners by the enemy, and 
when she was besieged in Damietta and was suffering 
the pains of her last childbirth, she called to her room 
an aged knight, and asked him to promise to cut her 
head at once if the besieged city fell into the hands of 
the Muslims. The knight swore to do so. A day 
after her childbirth she summoned the knights to her 
bed-side reports of the capitulation reached the 
garrison and hoped that the weakness of her child 
and her sex as a woman would encourage them. Such 
scenes are rare in history. But the attitude of Louis 
IX towards this brave queen may be explained by his 
anxiety not to be moved in his political and military 
acts by the influence of his wife, because Margaret de 
Provence was a strong-willed, ambitious and influential 
woman. 

But these are not all the remarks and criticism de 
Joinville makes. He disapproves certain actions of the 
King whose counsellor and adviser he was. For in- 
stance, he opposed Louis IX when he proposed to send 
his second crusade expedition in 1270 A.D., that is to 
say fifteen years after his return to France, when he was 
an aged man worn out by disease. He tried to induce 
the King to give up his determination and pointed out 
to him that his policy was wrong and would lead to 
misfortunes to him and to France. He says : " I believe 
that those who advised him to send this expedition had 
committed a great sin." He thanks God for not 
accompanying him on that expedition. Events con- 
firmed de Joinville's prophecy, as Louis IX abandoned 
his original plan and landed on the coast of Tunis 



126 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

where he and the greater part of his army perished. 

We are not as interested in this part of the book 
which de Joinville devotes to his saintly King and his 
qualities, as in the second part in which the historian 
speaks of events and battles connected with the ex- 
pedition of Louis IX to Egypt and the Holy Land. In 
this part de Joinville gives a narrative which is almost 
a chapter of the history of Egypt. He gives in detail 
all the events he witnessed since the crusaders arrived 
in Egypt and besieged Damietta till they evacuated 
it and the whole of Egypt when they were defeated. 
This narrative of de Joinville is of particular interest ; 
he was not only an eye-witness to all the events 
recorded but he played an active role in them. He 
took part in the battles fought round Damietta and 
in the lands of Mansura from beginning to end, and 
although a young man, he occupied a high post in the 
army, having been one of its nobles and knights, His 
being in touch at every moment with his King who 
consulted him on many important matters, gives his 
narrative a semi-official character, at least as regards 
the French side of the events dealt with. De Joinville 
deals with these events clearly and precisely and with 
power of observation worthy of admiration. We par- 
ticularly admire what he writes of the political changes 
of Egypt at that time. He cites them with precision 
although they happened in an enemy country and 
among the ranks of the enemy. He narrates at first 
what happened after the death of Al-Malik al-Salih 
when the crusaders arrived in Egypt. Al-Malik al- 
Salih was then ill in Cairo; he died soon after the 
occupation of Damietta by the French. De Joinville 
says: " The Soldan (the Sultan) had a son of the age 
of five and twenty years, wise, adroit and crafty, and 
before the dead Soldan heard that his son would dis- 
possess him, he bestowed on him a kingdom which he 
had in the east (Syria). And now when the Soldan 
was dead, the emirs sent to fetch the son, and so soon 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 127 

as the son was come to Egypt he took the golden 
rods from his father's seneschal, and constable, and 
marshal, and bestowed them upon those who had come 
with him from the east. When the seneschal, cons- 
table and marshal saw this they were very wroth, as 
were also those who had been of the father's council 
and they felt that great shame had been put upon them... 
They so practiced with the men of the Halca, whose 
duty it was to guard the person of the Soldan, that the 
men of the Halca agreed, at their request, to kill the 
Soldan." 

Continuing his narrative in another chapter de 
Joinville says : " The emirs whom the Soldan had dis- 
missed from his council, in order to appoint thereto 
his own emir, brought from a foreign land, now con- 
ferred together ..They went to those of the Halca and 
demanded of them that they should kill the Soldan, as 
soon as they had eaten with him, as he had invited 
them to do so. Thus it befell that after they had 
eaten, and the Soldan had taken leave of his emirs and 
was going to his chamber, one of the knights of the 
Halca, who bore the Soldan's sword, struck the 
Soldan therewith, in the middle of the hand, between 
the four fingers and clove the hand up to the arm. 
The Soldan turned to the emirs, who had caused it to 
be done to him, and said : ' Lords, I make appeal to you 
against these people of the Halca who desire to slay 
me as you can see.' Then the knights of the Halca 
answered the Soldan : * As thou sayest that we desire 
to slay thee, better is that we should slay thee than 
that thou shouldst slay us. 1 Then they caused the 
drums to be beaten, and all the hosts came to ask what 
was the Soldan's will. And they answered that Dami- 
etta was taken (the Soldan was then camping near 
Damietta), and that the Soldan was going thither, 
and that he ordered them to follow. So the host got 
to their arms, and spurred towards Damietta, and 
when we saw this, we were in sore trouble of heart 



128 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

(the historian was then captive as well as the King 
and many French nobles and knights), for we thought 
that Damietta was lost. But the Soldan being young 
and active fled into the tower that stood behind his 
chamber with three of his bishops, who had sat at meal 
with him, and he was there with them in the tower. 
Those of the Halca who were five hundred mounted 
men, threw down the Soldan's pavilion and swarmed 
round about the tower, besieging him and the 
three bishops and cried to him to come down. 
And he said so he would if thev promised him safety. 
Then they threw at him Greek Fire and the tower 
flared up quickly. When the Soldan saw this, he got 
down swiftly, and came flying towards the river ; one of 
them gave him a spear thrust in the rib and the Soldan 
fled to the river trailing the spear. And they followed 
after, till they were all swimming, and came and killed 
him in the river, not far from the galley in which we 
were. One of the knights, whose name was Paris- 
ud-Din Aktay, cut him open with his sword, and took 
the heart of his body ; and then he came to the king 
(Louis IX) his hand all reeking with blood, and said : 
* What wilt thou give me, for I have slain thine enemy, 
who, had he lived, would have slain thee?' and the 
king answered him never a word." 

De Joinville speaks in the first paragraph of the 
accession of Al-Malik al-Muazzam Ghiyas al-Din, 
son of Al-Malik al-Salih, through the efforts of his 
mother Shajarat al-Durr. The princes had concealed 
the death of Al-Malik al-Salih, and hastily summoned 
him from Syria. In the second paragraph he speaks 
of the discharge by Al-Malik al-Muazzam of Egyptian 
princes and governors, and of replacing them by 
others who had come with him, and of the cons- 
piracy of the Mamelukes against him, headed by 
Bybars who afterwards ascended the throne of Egypt, 
and his murder in the river, as already said, an event 
which led to the extinction of the Ayubite dynasty, 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 129 

and the rise of the first Mameluke dynasty. This pre- 
cision in narrative is evident in all the political and 
military events related by de Joinville, in both the 
French and the Muslim camps. This is evidently ex- 
plained by the fact that the position of de Joinville in 
the army and his contact with King Louis IX enabled 
him to be acquainted with the reports made by French 
spies about the condition and news of the Muslims. 
Moreover, de Joinville was an eye-witness of the 
murder of Sultan Al-Muazzam. There were among 
the captives countrymen of his who knew Arabic. 

The historian also deals with other important 
matters such as his minute description of the Greek 
Fire and the ability of the Muslims in using it, as well 
as the conditions of the bedouins, the Sultan's Halca 
or royal guard, the regime of government in Egypt, 
the embassy of the Ismaili leader (the old man of the 
mountains) in Banyas to Louis IX in Egypt and the 
embassy of Louis to him. In all these matters his re- 
searches and inquiries were ample, his observations and 
logic minute, and his narrative dispassionate. His 
memoirs are therefore more like true history than 
mere chronicle, and are a valuable document on the 
history of the Crusade expedition led by Saint Louis to 
Egypt, and on the history of Egypt itself in those 
days. 1 

(ii) The adversity of St. Louis in Egypt. One of 
the unique incidents in the history of the Crusades 
was the captivity of Louis IX or Saint Louis, King 
of France, in Egypt. It is also a unique incident in afi 
the phases of the great struggle between Islam and 
Christendom, the flames of which burned for centuries. 
The history of Andalusia (Muslim Spain) offered us, 
on more than one occasion, the story of a Christian 
prince who was taken captive by the Muslims, or a 
Muslim prince taken captive by the Christians. But 
all of these were local princes. Likewise the struggle 

17 



130 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

between Islam and Christendom did not perhaps 
witness, since the Pavement of the Martyrs and Al- 
Zallaka, a battle with greater or more far-reaching 
effects than that in which the flower of the French 
army was destroyed in the plains of Egypt, and 
the saintly King was taken prisoner. This is the 
Crusade expedition which arrived in Egypt in 1249 
A.D. (647 A.H.) in the days of AI-Malik al-Salih, as 
already stated. Among those fanatical expeditions, it 
is one of the most deserving to be termed a Crusade. 
Louis IX did not come with his army to the East as 
invader, seeking dominion and spoils of victory, and 
was not moved by .worldly ambition as Christian 
princes and knights did before. They hurried to the 
East and its rich ports only to fill their hands with 
money and captives and to settle down as kings in its 
flourishing fields. But Louis came to the East risking 
his life and army in the cause of religion before 
everything else, and to try to realize the triumph of 
Christianity and save the Holy Land. He was not, 
like his predecessors the Crusade princes, a tool in the 
hands of the Church, but was guided by his own 
inspiration and burning fervency for religion and its 
cause, although in his policy he was but an interpreter 
of the Church and executor of its projects. 

In his policy and action Louis IX represented the 
spirit of the age in which battles were raging every- 
where between Christianity and her enemies. The 
Crusades were raging continually between Islam and 
Christianity in Spain, as they were between Christian- 
ity and those who raised the standard of revolt against 
it, such as the Albigences, the Gathers and other 
heretical sects. 

Louis IX came at the head of his knights and 
troops with a great army to the waters of Egypt and 
camped outside Damietta, as already stated. He wrote 
to the King of Egypt, in the name of the Christian 
nations, asking him to deliver up Egypt to him, in 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 131 

menacing language. The King of Egypt retorted the 
menace and defiance. The affairs of Egypt at that 
time were in such a state as to encourage the invading 
enemy. Al-Malik al-Salih died soon after the arrival 
of the crusaders, and the court was occupied, for a time, 
under the inspiration of Shajarat al-Durr, to summon 
her son, Turan Shah (Al-Malik al-Muazzam) from 
Syria to ascend the throne. In the meantime the crusa- 
ders marched from Damietta to the south, by river and 
land, and were engaged with the Muslims at Mansura 
in a series of fierce battles in which the Christians 
were defeated. The new King had arrived with his 
men from Syria, thus strengthening the Muslims. Louis 
here found his army in a difficult situation, for weak- 
ness, disease and hunger had begun to press on it. The 
French princes held a council and decided to negotiate 
with the Muslims to withdraw from Damietta on 
condition that Jerusalem would be left to the Chris- 
tians. The Muslims agreed on condition that the King 
of the Christians should deliver himself up to them as 
hostage till the evacuation was concluded. The French 
refused and proposed to hand over the King's brother. 
Each side insisted and the negotiations broke off. The 
Christians were, in fact, in a critical position, and the 
Muslims were sure that the hour of victory had 
come. 

When Louis saw his knights and soldiers falling 
around him, one after the other, he decided to retire 
north to Damietta on the evening of Tuesday, April 5, 
1250 A.D. (Muharram 2, 648 A.H.). But the Muslims 
were ready ; their ships and advance-guards had marched 
north in the river and on its banks and surrounded the 
French camp on many sides. Thus no sooner had the 
French retired a little to the north-east, with their ships 
and troops, than the Muslims followed them and the 
battle, famous in the history of Egypt and of the 
Crusades, was fought in which the French were crushed, 
losing several thousand men and their King Louis IX, 



132 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

or Rey Eff ranee, 8 as he is called in the Arabic Chronicle, 
was taken prisoner. 3 

De Joinville, biographer of Louis IX, recorded, as 
we have said, minutely and at great length these great 
events which he witnessed and in which he took part. 
He spoke in detail particularly of how his saintly king 
fell prisoner in the hands of the Muslims, which inci- 
dent was related to him by Louis personally, as he 
says in the course of his narrative. 

The historian says : " The king told me how he 
had left his own division and placed himself, he and 
my Lord Geoffrey of Sargines, in the division that was 
under my Lord Gaucher of Chatillon, who commanded 
the rear-guard. 

" And the King related to me that he was mounted 
on a little courser covered with a housing of silk ; 
and he told me that of all his knights and sergeants 
there only remained behind with him my Lord Geoffrey 
of Sargines, who brought the King to a little village, 
where the King was taken prisoner ; and as the King 
related to me, my Lord Geoffrey of Sargines defended 
him from the Saracens, as a good servitor defends his 
lord, and every time that the Saracens approached he 
took his spear and ran upon them and drove them 
away from the King. 

"And thus he brought the King to the little 
village ; and they lifted him into a house and laid him 
almost as one dead. Thither came my Lord Philip of 
Montfort and said to the King that he saw the Emir 
with whom he had treated for the truce and, if the 
King so willed, he would go to him and renew the 
negotiations for a truce in the manner that the 
Saracens desired. The King begged him to go and said 
that he was quite willing. So my Lord Philip went to 
the Saracens; and the Saracens took off his turban 
from his head, and took off the ring from his finger in 
token that he would faithfully observe the truce. 

" Meanwhile a great mischance happened to our 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 133 

people ; a traitor sergeant whose name was Marcel, 
began to cry to our people : 4 Yield, lord Knights, for 
the King commands you, and do not cause the King to 
be slain.' All thought that the King had so command- 
ed, and gave up their swords to the Saracens. The 
Emir saw that the Saracens were bringing in our 
people prisoners, so he said to my Lord Philip that it 
was not fitting that he should grant a truce to our 
people, for he saw very well that they were already 
prisoners. 

" So it happened to my Lord Philip that whereas 
he was free, all our people were taken captive, yet was 
not he so taken, because he was an envoy. But there 
is an evil custom in that land that when the King sends 
envoys to the Soldan, or the Soldan to the King, and 
the King dies, or the Soldan, before the envoy's return, 
then the envoys, from whithersoever they may come, 
and whether Christians or Saracens, are made prisoners 
and slaves." 

The village to which Louis IX and his nobles 
escaped, before they were taken prisoners, was called 
Minyet Abi Abdilla. We know from the Arabic 
Chronicle that Louis IX was afterwards taken to 
Mansura and kept prisoner in the house known as that 
of Fakhr al-Din Lokman, and was given a guard whose 
name was Sobayh al-Muazzami, and was then taken 
to the Muslim camp. The guard of Sultan Turan 
Shah, having in the meantime conspired against him, 
murdered him on the spot near the place where the 
French King and his lords were kept prisoners.* De 
Joinville relates, as already said, that one of the leaders 
of the royal guard, a knight named Faris-ud-Din Aktay, 
cut the Sultan's heart off his body and took it to King 
Louis IX with blood dripping from his hand, and said 
to him : " What will you give me ? I have murdered 
your enemy who would have murdered you if he had 
lived." The King made no reply. He also relates 
that the Muslim leaders offered to the imprisoned 



134 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

King the throne of Egypt, and that Louis IX told them 
that he would not have refused but for the calamity 
which had befallen him. This we consider only a 
legend. There is no doubt, however, that the saintly 
King remained prisoner till he accepted the Muslim 
conditions, the most important of which was the com- 
plete evacuation of the Egyptian territory and payment 
of a great ransom. He was set at liberty only in the 
middle of May, 1250, when the ransom was paid, and 
the Mulims resumed possession of Damietta, that is 
to say, after about six weeks of captivity. He then 
sailed to Acre with the remnant of his army. Jamal 
al-Din ibn Matruh, the vizier and a great poet, has 
commemorated this event in an everlasting ode in 
which he says : 

Tell Saint Louis when you meet him the f olllowing 

truth by an eloquent man. 
May God recompense you for what had happened ; 

the perishing of the worshippers of Jesus 

Christ. 
You came to Egypt seeking its throne, thinking 

that much ado would be of some use. 
Fate led you to dense armies the extent of which 

you could not see. 

You have sent all your friends through foolish- 
ness to the depths of the grave, 
Fifty thousand, all of whom are either killed, 

wounded or taken prisoners. 
Would to God that you could repeat it, so that 

Jesus may be delivered of you. 
If your Pope approves this, deceit may come from 

a counsellor. 
Tell them if they propose to return to revenge or 

to any bad aim, 
The house of Ibn Lokman is always ready, the 

chains and Sobayh, the guard, are still 

there. 



DE JOINVILLE'S MEMOIRS ON THE 7TH CRUSADE 135 

The Muslim chronicle exaggerates the losses of 
the French in this battle, estimating them at thirty 
thousand, while the poet estimates them at fifty 
thousand. It is, however, certain that the losses of 
the French were enormous either before or after the 
battle, due to the ravages of hunger and disease. 
There is no doubt also that the Muslim chronicle with 
regard to the defeat of the Christians, as well as the 
Christian chronicle with regard to the defeat of the 
Muslims, always try, in such decisive battles between 
Islam and Christendom, to tint the incidents and their 
consequences with a deep colour of gravity and extra- 
ordinary victory. 

References 

1 Sec de Jomville's memoirs Histoire de Saint Louis, spoken of above, 
and its English translation. Memoirs of the Crusades, with preface by Sir 
F. Marzials. 

2 This is the old French name of the King of France. 

3 For details of this battle see Makrizi : Al-Khitat, Vol. I. p. 222 ; Abul 
Mahasin : Al-Nujum al-Zahira in the events of the year 647 ; Ibn lyas. Vol. I, 
PP 84-85. 

4 Makrizi : Al-Khitat, Vol. I, pp. 222-23 



MISCELLANEOUS STUDIES 
I 



CHAPTER X 
(i) Diplomacy in Islam 

THE means and the manners in which a state orga- 
nizes its foreign affairs and its relations with 
other states are known in modern terms by the 
name of diplomacy or foreign political usage and for- 
malities. It is in this sense that we wish to understand 
diplomacy, in this chapter, when we speak of some 
aspects of Muslim Diplomacy, its development and 
principal incidents, or, in other words, the political 
manner and means adopted by the various Muslim 
states in organizing their relations with Chiristian 
nations or among themselves. 

There is no doubt that diplomacy did not flourish 
in the first period of Islam. It was the age of conquest 
and construction, and there were but few opportunities 
to create regular diplomatic relations between Islam 
and Christendom ; these were mostly peace treaties con- 
cluded after the conquest of a new country, as was 
the case with Syria and Egypt in the days of Omar. 
But these early relations, between Islam and Chris- 
tendom, were limited in scope, concise in formalities 
and details. The greatest diplomatic event in that 
age was the Prophet's letters to the kings and princes 
of his time calling upon them to embrace Islam and to 
believe in his mission. At the end of the sixth year of 
the Hijira (627 A.D.) the Prophet sent letters and 
envoys to Heraclius, Emperor of the Eastern Roman 
Empire, to Chosroes, King of Persia, to the Roman Ruler 
of Egypt (known wrongly by the name of Al-Mokaw- 
kas), 1 to the Christian King of Ghassan, who was at 
the same time Cesar's representative in Syria, to the 
Emirs of Yemen, Oman and Bahrein, and to the King 

18 



140 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

of Abyssinia. These letters were couched almost in 
the same words, in all of which the Prophet called 
upon the kings of his age to embrace Islam and warned 
them against the consequences of refusal. The letter to 
Heraclius was sent through a deputation of the com- 
panions of the Prophet, headed by Dehiya al-Kalbi. The 
following is the text of this letter as reported by Al- 
Bukhari in his Sahth : " From Muhammad, the Prophet 
of God, to Heraclius, King of the Romans : Peace be 
on him who follows the true faith ; I summon you to 
embrace Islam. You will be saved if you become a 
Muslim. Become Muslim and God will double your 
reward. If you refuse you will be responsible for the 
sins of the infidels. Believers in the holy Scriptures ! 
Come let us all unite to worship no one but God, and 
associate no one else with Him, and no mortal should 
be worshipped. If they refuse, bear witness that I am 
a Muslim/' 2 

Reports do not agree on the replies of the kings 
and princes to the Prophet's letters. It is reported 
that Heraclius welcomed the envoys and politely dis- 
missed them. 3 The prefect of Egypt handed the envoy 
a letter and a present to the Prophet. 4 The King of 
Abyssinia replied in a friendly manner. The Emir of 
Bahrein replied by embracing Islam. As for Chosroes 
he insulted the envoys, dismissed them and tore up the 
Prophet's letter. We know the subsequent events 
which led to the conquest of Syria, Persia and Egypt 
during the Caliphate of Omar. This was an original 
and peculiar kind of diplomacy, but it agreed with the 
spirit of that age and the conditions connected with it. 
Rising and impetuous Islam considered it its right to 
impose its doctrine on all mankind, after this doctrine 
had overrun the Arab peninsula, the cradle of its 
inspiration and the centre of its mission. The only 
course open before it to bring about this revolution 
was defiance and daring strife. And whom could Islam 
defy other than the Persian Empire which barred its 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 141 

way from the east and the Roman Empire which barred 
it from the north and west ? 

The Omayyad dynasty had little chance to orga- 
nize diplomatic relations because it spent its ninety 
years in constant conquests and wars. The most im- 
portant diplomatic event of that age, between Islam 
and Christendom, was the conclusion of peace between 
Mua'wiya and the Emperor of the Romans, when the 
Arabs failed in their first siege of Constantinople 
(58 A.H., 687 A.D.). The relations between the 
Omayyad and the Byzantine empires were afterwards 
the object of occasional negotiations. They exchanged 
a few embassies from time to time. The relations bet- 
ween the Abbaside and the Byzantine empires were, 
sometimes, regular but mostly disturbed, and there 
were, between them, innumerable political treaties and 
agreements and diplomatic negotiations on many occa- 
sions. It was natural that there should be such treaties 
and constant political relations between the great 
Muslim empire and the leader of Islam, and its im- 
mediate neighbour, the leader of Christianity, in the 
East. But the Abbaside Caliphate, if the Prankish 
report is right, was pursuing a friendly policy with the 
Kingdom of Franks, leader of Christianity in the ex- 
treme West, and there were also mutual correspon- 
dence and embassies between Al-Rashid and Charle- 
magne, Emperor of the Franks. We might perhaps 
find, in the events of Muslim Spain at that time, the 
explanation of this friendly attitude of the Abbaside 
Caliph in the far East towards the Prankish King 
in the extreme West. Abdul Rahman al-Dakhil, 5 the 
Omayyad, had conquered Andalusia and wrenched it 
from the Caliphate and founded there a strong and 
solid state. The Abbasides looked upon this new 
Omayyad state with apprehension, while Charle- 
magne, on the other hand, dreaded the spread of 
Muslim doctrines and its increasing force beyond the 
Pyrenees. He had to stifle the Muslim doctrines in 



DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

order to uphold the prestige of the Church and to 
crush the rising Andalusia in order to avoid the danger 
of its crossing the Pyrenees and overrunning south- 
ern France, as had happened before. We ignore if 
these alleged relations between Al-Rashid and Charle- 
magne were true if the Abbasides had played any role 
in dictating the policy of Charlemagne with regard to 
Andalusia. We know, however, that he tried to in- 
vade Muslim Spain ; that he failed, his army being 
crushed in the defiles of the Pyrenees in Ronscesvalles 
(Bab-ul-Shazri) in 778 A.D., and that the condition 
of peace between him and Abdul Rahman al-Dakhil 
did not prevent him from continually intriguing against 
Muslim Spain and provoking disorder. 

This role which Al-Rashid seems to have played, 
at the court of the King of the Franks, in order to 
crush the Omayyad rule in Spain, is the same as that 
played by Theophilus, Emperor of the Byzantine Em- 
pire, at the court of Abdul Rahman ibn al-Hakam, 
Emir of Andalusia. The ravages of Al-Mamun and 
Al-Mutasim in the Byzantine territory at that time led 
the Emperor to the despatch of an embassy in 836 
A.D. (225 A.H.) to Abdul Rahman ibn al-Hakam 
carrying precious presents and a letter inviting him to 
conclude an alliance and urging him to restore the 
sovereignty of his family in the East, against Al-Mamun 
and Al-Mutasim, whom out of spite he calls in his 
letter Jupiter and Mars. Abdul Rahman, in reply, sent 
him a magnificent present and despatched to him his 
ambassador, Yahiya al-Ghazal, one of his principal 
statesmen and a great poet who cemented the relations 
and understanding between them. The Emperor did not 
omit before to try to negotiate an armistice with the 
Abbaside Caliph. Soon after the death of Al-Mamun 
he sent to his brother and successor, Al-Mutasim, 
his ambassador John, the grammarian, to try to con- 
clude peace, but in vain. The relations between the 
Emperor and the Emir of Andalusia were limited to 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 143 

courtesy and correspondence because the successor 
of Abdul Rahman, the first, maintained his policy of 
settling and fortifying himself in the peninsula, and 
contenting with consolidating the sovereignty of the 
Omayyads there, till Al-Nasir was urged to change this 
policy and to interfere in the affairs of Africa through 
new circumstances and events which occurred in his 
time. 



The diplomacy of Muslim Spain played a great 
role on account of its position on land and seat at the 
doors of Christian Europe, and of its regular commer- 
cial and political relations with most of the Christian 
states. Diplomatic relations between Islam and the 
great Christian states reached their zenith at the time 
of Abdul Rahman al-Nasir, when their deputations 
and embassies arrived in succession in Andalusia. In 
the month of Safar, 336 A.H. (948 A.D.) the envoys 
of Constantine VII, Emperor of Constantinople, known 
by the name of Porphyrogenitus, arrived at the court 
of Al-Nasir carrying valuable presents. Al-Nasir re- 
ceived them with pomp, and they handed him the Em- 
peror's letter written in Greek. The letter was stamp- 
ed with gold and on one side had the image of Christ 
and on the other that of the Emperor made of glass 
beautifully coloured. The address in the letter was : 
" From Constantine and Romanin (Romanus II, son of 
Constantine), believers in Christ, the two great kings 
of the Romans, to the most meritorious, the glorious 
of noble lineage, Abdul Rahman, the Calliph, ruler 
over the Arabs in Andalusia, may God grant him long 
life." The emperor's envoys were appalled by the 
splendour of the royal court and the grandeur of Mus- 
lim sovereignty. The most noted men of Islam deli- 
vered speeches in this great gathering, among whom 
was Al-Qadi, Munzir ibn Sa'eed al-Balluti, a famous 
man of letters, who extemporized an excellent speech 



144 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

enumerating the deeds of Al-Nasir, and the following 
ode ; 

Crowds are seen standing at his door all either 
soliciting or hoping : 

Deputations of the Roman kings in the courtyard, 
either dreading his might or asking his 
favour. 

Live in safety the longest possible life, for all put 
their hopes in you, both barefooted or shod, 

You will rule the East and the West, as far as the 
city of Constantine or the land of Babylon. 

When the Emperor's envoys departed, Al-Nasir 
sent with them his ambassador, Hisham ibn Huzail 
carrying great presents to consolidate the friendship 
and strengthen the bonds of alliance. The ambassador 
returned after two years having successfully accomp- 
lished his mission. Afterwards there were successive 
embassies from the Christian princes to Abdul Rah- 
man al-Nasir : the envoys of the King of the Sclavo- 
nians, who was at that time Peter, son of Simeon 
(King of Bulgaria), the envoys of the German Emperor 
Otto I (the great), and the envoys of the King of 
France. Al-Nasir received them with pomp and cere- 
mony and sent, with the deputation of the Sclavo- 
nians, Rabih (Riva), the Bishop, to their King. He 
then received the envoys of the Pope John XII seek- 
ing friendship and alliance which were granted. 6 

But Muslim diplomacy did not disregard the 
secret element which is one of the peculiarities of 
modern diplomacy. The Muslim Caliph had, in addi- 
tion to his secret envoys he sent to the provinces and 
cities subject to his rule to supply him with informa- 
tion about the governors, judges and the people, a 
large number of secret envoys whom he sent to 
foreign courts and governments to acquaint him with 
all that happened there and with all their plans, good 
and bad, which concerned his country. It seems that 
the Abbasides were the first to organize this secret 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 145 

diplomatic class. Al-Mahdi, Al-Rashid, Al-Mamun 
and Al-Mutasim had secret agents in Constantinople, 
and other principal cities, to acquaint the Caliph with 
all the actions of the Byzantine Emperor and his gov- 
ernors. These envoys and spies were chosen from 
among all classes, particularly merchants, and some- 
times from among women of surpassing beauty and 
sagacity who accomplished their missions with great 
ability. These diplomatic means attained the zenith 
of organization and importance in the days of early 
Abbaside Caliphs when the Caliphate was strong and 
independent and held all the functions of authority 
and government in their hands. They vanished when 
the authority of the Caliphs was weakened and over- 
whelmed by the ascendancy of theTurkish guard and 
the Bouehs, 7 when the Caliph was a prisoner in his 
palace and deprived of all real authority. When the 
power of the Abbaside Caliphate waned and the gov- 
ernors of provinces became independent under nomi- 
nal authority of the Caliph, the Caliph replaced, his 
secret envoys, with the official envoys and accredited 
agents, to represent him in the courts of Cairo, Damas- 
cus, Mosul* Nishapur, Merv and others. These envoys 
accompanied the prince at whose command they 
accomplished their mission in his wars and invasions as 
the Pope's envoys accompanied the Christian kings in 
their wars and invasions at the close of the Middle 
Ages. They were seen on the suite of Alp Arslan and 
Malik Shah, and they often intervened in the affairs 
of these kings ; sometimes reconciling them and settl- 
ing their disputes. 



The religious policy of Islam differed according to 
times and lands. Tolerance was, in general, since the 
early ages of Islam, the settled policy of the various 
Muslim governments towards their subjects. We have 

19 



146 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

lately seen a copy of a historical official document, 
issued by the Abbaside Caliph, Al-Muktafi, in 1138 
A.D. to the Nestorian Patriarch Abdichou which 
throws light on this policy. By this document the 
Caliph granted his Christian subjects every kind of 
religious liberty. Commenting on this discovery Dr. 
Mingana, Curate of the Reynolds Library, who dis- 
covered this document, says : " We always felt the 
need of a document to throw light on the relations 
prevailing between official Islam and official Chris- 
tianity in an age in which Islam had the right of life 
and death on millions of Christian subjects. Indivi- 
dual Christians may have suffered from the tyranny 
of individual Muslims, or a Christian society may 
have suffered from the fanaticism of a local ruler or 
faqih (theologian). Likewise some Caliphs, as Al- 
Mutawakkil, had persecuted Christians in a horrible 
manner. But such acts should be considered contrary 
to law and their perpetrators acting against the law. 
As for the official conduct of Islam, in this respect, it 
is evident from this document, which undoubtedly 
proves, that organized tyranny was not the official 
policy of Islam." Dr. Mingana further says : " This 
document was issued by the Chancellory of an Abba- 
side Caliph, but is it possible that the King of England 
or the Queen of Holland or the President of the 
French Republic is more tolerant with his Muslim 
subjects ? The Koran was not the cause of the acts of 
oppression committed against the Christians as the 
Gospel was not the inspiring motive of those barbaric 
acts of the inquisition." 8 

It is evident from the above that diplomacy in 
Muslim states was not much different from what it 
was in the Christian states in the Middle Ages with 
regard to its organization and traditions. This is due 
to the fact that State institutions and their political 
traditions in those ages were similar, from various 
points of view, in East and West. 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 147 

(ii) Charlemagne and Al-Rashid. In the middle 
of the eighth century A.D. the East and West were 
going through a movement of political settlement. In 
the East the decline of the Omayyad Caliphate and the 
eruption of the Sheites led to the rise of an Abbaside 
Caliphate which advanced rapidly towards consolida- 
tion. In the West civil wars in Andalusia led to the 
rise of a new Muslim state destined to revive, for long 
centuries, the past glory of the Omayyads. At the 
same time we see the feuds of Barbarian tribes and 
states which had lasted since the sixth century in the 
middle and west of Europe, leading to the rise of the 
powerful kingdom of the Franks. We then see this 
new kingdom consolidating itself in short intervals 
and securing a political and social establishment 
which, no doubt, points to a new political and social 
phase of the Middle Ages. 

At this time when Baghdad and Cordova rose to 
represent the power of Islam in the East and West, 
and likewise to dispute the legality of sovereignty and 
influence of the heritage of the first Muslim State, 
the Kingdom of the Franks was rapidly emerging from 
a state of nomadism, paganism and anarchy, till the 
zenith of this change was attained at the hands 
of Charlemagne or Charles the Great. Charlemagne, 
like the early Abbaside Caliphs and Abdul Rahman al- 
Dakhil, had spent the early years of his rule in sup- 
pressing competitors and rebels. When his reign was 
established, he determined to make conquests and or- 
ganize political relations. The policy of Charlemagne 
towards Islam was one of the most important elements 
of the Prankish diplomacy. This policy was contradic- 
tory in appearance : while Charlemagne was planning 
to crush the Muslim State in Spain he was, as the 
Prankish chronicle records, in correspondence with the 
Abbaside Caliph and sent his envoys to strengthen the 
bonds of friendship and alliance with him. The fact, 
however, is that the Prankish sovereign was^at the 



148 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

same time, the hero of Christianity and his wars to 
repulse the heathen Saxon tribes from the banks of the 
Rhine and the repulse of Islam beyond the Pyrenees 
reveal the religious spirit before everything else. His 
relations with the Abbaside Caliph were, from his 
point of view, nothing but the means to facilitate his 
mission to fight Islam in Spain and to protect Chris- 
tianity in the East. 

These relations between Charlemagne and the 
Abbaside Caliph are a story recorded by Prankish and 
ecclesiastical chronicles, but no reference whatsoever 
is made to it by the Arabic chronicles. The Prankish 
chronicle relates that Charlemagne and Al-Rashid ex- 
changed correspondence and embassies ; that Charle- 
magne in order to strengthen friendship among them, 
sent an embassy to Al-Rashid headed by a Jew named 
Isaac accompanied by two noble Christians who died 
on the way. Isaac alone arrived at the Baghdad Court 
and presented to Al-Rashid the letters and presents of 
the King of the Franks. Al-Rashid received him with 
honour and welcomed the friendship of the Prankish 
King, and sent him ambassadors carrying magnificent 
presents among which were an Arabic tent, a water- 
watch, silk clothes, objects of art in gold, a monkey, 
an elephant and the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. Ac- 
cording to certain Prankish reports Al-Rashid offered 
the King of the Franks sovereignty over the whole of 
Palestine, or granted him the kingdom of Jerusalem 
only. But most of the records agree that Al-Rashid 
merely sent to Charlemagne the keys of the Holy 
Sepulchre and told him that, as Palestine was at a great 
distance from the territories of the King of the Franks 
and as he feared local revolts breaking out among the 
Franks, if he sent some of his troops there, the Caliph 
would himself undertake the protection of the Holy 
Land acting for the King of the Franks and sending 
him its revenue. Ecclesiastical reports affirm that 
this offer was actually made, and some Saxon odes 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 149 

refer to it. But there is no doubt that this was an 
exaggeration dictated by the pride of the Church to 
ecclesiastical chroniclers ; it was only recorded in a 
subsequent age and not in the contemporary records, 
Eginhard, the historian and contemporary of Charle- 
magne, having made no reference to it, although he 
speaks of the elephant presented by the Caliph to his 
King, and even says that its name was Polabas (pro- 
bably Abul Abbas), and that it died in 810 A.D. 9 The 
reticence of the Arab chronicles is another proof that 
the relations between the courts of Baghdad and that 
of the Franks were not, from this point of view, as 
grave as represented by the ecclesiastical chronicle. 
These were merely royal courtesies between the 
masters of the East and the West ; if they were really 
of political gravity they must have been a state secret. 
It seems also that the real aims of Charlemagne 
in being on friendly terms with the Abbaside Caliph 
were involved in secrecy and known only to his secret 
council as is proved by the fact that the reports 
merely relate the events of these relations without 
speaking of their political import. 

The Prankish chronicle further says that Charle- 
magne was so pleased with the result of his first 
embassy to Al-Rashid that he sent another embassy 
headed again by his envoy Isaac. We do not know 
the details of this second embassy, nor do we know the 
exact dates of this diplomatic correspondence. It is 
probable, however, that they took place in the early 
days of Al-Rashid, between 786-790 A.D. (171-176 
A.H.) The events of Andalusia at this time throw 
light on the nature and extent of this understanding. 
As soon as the young Abbaside Caliphate settled on 
the ruins of the old Omayyad Caliphate, Abdul Rah- 
man, the Omayyad, appeared in Spain and took part 
in the civil war which was tearing the peninsula at 
that time. His resolution and sagacity enabled him 
to establish in Cordova a new Omayyad State. The 



150 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Abbasides looked upon the foundation of this rising 
Omayyad State with doubt and apprehension and 
rightly feared that it would be a danger in the future 
to their sovereignty in the Western provinces. The 
idea of crushing it in its cradle was not strange to the 
early Abbaside Caliphs ; Al-Mansur at least made an 
effort to crush it and sent Ibn Mughith al-Yahsubi, 
governor of Africa, to invade Andalusia. But Abdul 
Rahman dispersed the army of the Abbaside Caliph 
and killed his representative and, according to certain 
records, sent to Mecca his head and the heads of some 
of his men, accompanied by the letter of Al-Mansur to 
Ibn Mughith. Al-Mansur was seized with terror and 
exclaimed : " This is none but a devil ; thanks be to 
God that there is a sea between him and us." 

It appears that the Abbaside policy was preoccu- 
pied, for some time, after Al-Mansur, with this rival 
Muslim State. But if the rise of this State disturbed 
the Abbasides, for distant possibilities connected with 
prestige and moral sovereignty, it was a threatening 
danger to the kingdom of the Franks. The memory 
of Muslim invasions in France, and those of the great 
battles fought between Islam and Christendom on the 
banks of the Loire, and their menace to overrun the 
northern nations, was still alive in the bosoms of the 
Prankish tribes and it was not unlikely that the danger 
would be renewed if the civil war in Muslim Spain 
came to an end and the Muslim State continued, as it 
was, a strong coherent block. 

Was it not natural that these factors should have 
encouraged the policy of war and strife between the 
rising kingdom of the Franks and the young State of 
Cordova, and between Christianity whose triumphal 
banner Charlemagne carried beyond the Rhine and 
protected from the attacks of Saxon paganism, and 
Islam whose torrent flowed to France half a century 
before and was stemmed only by the civil war in Spain ? 
The struggle against the Muslim State in Spain was a 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 151 

part of the general policy of Charlemagne. Charle- 
magne watched every occasion to pursue this policy 
which was begun by his grandfather, Karl Martel, and 
this occasion presented itself when civil war raged in 
Spain. Abdul Rahman al-Dakhil had crushed his ene- 
mies in the south, but the north was still raging with 
the revolts of his enemies, the remnant of preceding 
usurpers and local governors. The strongest and the 
most stubborn of the rebels was Suleiman ibn Yakzan 
al-Kalbi, governor of Barcelona. He and some of his 
(rebel) colleagues, as Bani Yousef al-Fihri, the last 
master of Andalusia before Abdul Rahman, had thought 
of seeking the help of Charlemagne. They met him 
in the course of one of his travels in the south of 
France, and induced him to invade the northern pro- 
vinces and promised to hand over to him certain towns. 
According to some reports the man who sought the 
help of Charlemagne was Alphonso, Prince of the 
Asturias, who succeeded Pelagius as prince of Leon. It 
is most probable, however, that the appeal was made 
by the Muslim rebels whose authority was smashed by 
Abdul Rahman. The appeal came at the right time, 
because Charlemagne had completed the subjugation 
of the Saxon tribes. He amassed a huge army and 
crossed the Pyrenees, after having taken possession of 
the northern Muslim forts. But the rebel leaders, in- 
stead of helping the Franks, were engaged in fighting 
one another. Charlemagne marched on Saragossa whose 
ruler Al-Husain ibn Yahiya al-Ansari had joined the 
rebels. Charlemagne tried to take Saragossa and severe 
combats were engaged between him and the defenders 
of the city in which he was repulsed with great losses. 
Suspecting the intentions of the rebel Suleiman, 
he arrested him and turned to the north with his army. 
This was not, however, the epilogue of the calamity. 
The Prankish army when crossing the Pyrenees was 
attacked in the defiles of Ronces valles by large numbers 
of Muslims and Bascons led by Matruh and Ayshun, 



152 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

sons of Suleiman ibn Yakzan. The surprise was 
appalling; the ranks of the retiring army were in a 
state of disorder and overcome with fatigue and exhaus- 
tion. The flower of the Prankish army was torn and 
a number of the foremost Prankish nobles were killed. 
The memorable echo of this famous catastrophe re- 
sounded two centuries after in the "Chanson de 
Roland," seneschal of Charlemagne, who died in this 
battle. It was for centuries the ideal epic poem of 
Christian chivalry. 

This happened in August, 778 A.D. (164 A.H.), 
that is to say, about half a century after the Pavement 
of the Martyrs (the battle of Tours and Poitiers). 
Were there, at that time, political relations between 
the Court of Baghdad and the King of the Franks ? 
This is affirmed by some Frankish chronicles. It is 
more probable, however, that these relations began 
only in the days of Al-Rashid ; there was therefore no 
relation between this first invasion of Muslim (Omay- 
yad) Spain and the friendship of Charlemagne to 
the Abbaside Caliph. But we find traces of this alli- 
ance in the subsequent invasions of the Franks of the 
Kingdom of Cordova. Charlemagne had not abandon- 
ed his policy of intriguing against Muslim Spain and 
trying to attack it. The Omayyads, on their part, had 
not abandoned the policy of stabilization and of chas- 
ing the rebels, trying at the same time to extend their 
frontiers and to retrieve the losses of Islam in the 
northern provinces. In 792 A.D. (187 A.H.) Hisham, 
son of Abdul Rahman, who succeeded his father on 
the throne of Cordova, marched to the north with a 
huge army, invaded Septimania and defeated the army 
of the Count of Toulouse who was sent by Charlemagne 
to repluse the Arabs on the banks of the Urbina river, 
at a place known by the name of Vildin. But the 
opportunity of revenge soon presented itself to Char- 
lemagne. No sooner had Al-Hakam al-Muntasir 
ascended his father's throne than he was faced by the 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 153 

revolt of his uncles Abdulla and Suleiman, sons of 
Abdul Rahman. Abdulla went to meet Charlemagne 
at his capital Aix-la-Chapelle. Charlemagne welcomed 
him and sent with him an army which marched against 
Toledo and occupied it. At the same time he sent an 
army, commanded by his two sons, Charles and Louis, 
which ravaged the northern Muslim States. But the 
rebels and invaders did not realize the resolution of 
Al-Hakam who hastened to meet his enemies in 
every field, repulsed the Franks to the north, and 
quickly suppressed the revolt. Charlemagne again 
invaded Spain and occupied Barcelona at the request 
of its Muslim ruler, but it was retaken by Al-Hakam. 
This stage was the close of the struggle waged by 
Charlemagne against the young kingdom of Cordova 
for twenty years. But his successors continued to 
follow his policy for a long time. 

Hostility to Muslim Spain was an essential ele- 
ment in the policy of Charlemagne. It was also one 
of the bases of the general Prankish policy. But the 
friendship of Charlemagne with Al-Rashid was not far 
from influencing it. We also notice the influence 
of the Church on this policy. The torrent of Islam 
which swept Spain in a few years, and afterwards 
violently turned to France till it almost carried away 
its southern provinces was, in the opinion of the 
Church, an imminent menance to Christianity. We 
know that Charlemagne made an alliance with the 
Church and exploited its influence to pave the way for 
his conquests and to acquire the crowp of the Holy 
Roman Empire ; and that the Church on the other 
hand exploited him in fighting its enemies. The 
Caliphate in the East dominated over the souls of many 
millions of Christians. Was it not a triumph to the 
Church to induce Charlemagne to secure the friend- 
ship of the Abbaside Caliph and ensure thereby his 
toleration of millions of its sons and his patronage to 
the Holy Sepulchre and pilgrims visiting it ? This, as 
20 



154 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

appears to us, is the price the Muslim Caliphate paid 
to conclude a treaty with the King of the Franks and 
the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. 



The Prankish chronicle, about the relations of 
Charlemagne with Al-Rashid, was the object of the 
recent research. Opinions differed, some believing and 
supporting and others denying it. The Orientalist 
Reinault was among those who believed and supported 
it. On the other hand, the Russian Orientalists Bart- 
hold and Wasiliew were among those who denied and 
contradicted it. Barthold dealt with it in a special 
chapter in his book entitled Christlichen Ostens, and 
inquired as to the motives which could lead to con- 
tracting such relations between the Muslim Caliph 
and the Christian Emperor, the value of the events 
reported by the European chronicle and the proofs 
which supported them. Barthold discusses that it 
is certainly possible that there were relations and 
embassies between Charlemagne and the Patriarch of 
Jerusalem. There were religious and trade interests 
between them which would necessitate such relations. 
But this does not prove that embassies were exchanged 
between Al-Rashid and Charlemagne. As for the story 
of the elephant which was carried from the East to the 
Court of Charlemagne, while admitting its authenticity, 
there is no proof that it was sent by the Caliph or that 
it was sent for political reasons. It is certain that 
embassies were exchanged between Al-Rashid and 
Irene, Empress of Constantinople, but, in general, there 
is no proof that Al-Rashid had any knowledge of 
Charlemagne or his kingdom. 10 

Wasiliew, in his research, agrees with Barthold 
in denying the authenticity of the relations and the 
exchange of embassies, and gives as the most decisive 
proof, the fact that the Oriental sources make no 



DIPLOMACY IN ISLAM 155 

reference to it whatsoever. 11 

We do not agree with Barthold and Wasiliew, 
and prefer to believe the authenticity of the Prankish 
chronicle, for it was recorded by a great contemporary 
historian, Eginhard, Charlemagne's biographer, and 
because of its minute details with regard to the events 
and persons which bears the stamp of truth. As we 
have seen there were also great political interests 
which reconciled the policy of the Abbaside Cali- 
phate with that of Charlemagne, particularly with 
regard to Andalusia. As for the reticence of the Arab 
sources with regard to these relations it is possible to 
explain it by the fact that these relations and 
embassies were carried on secretly, on account of its 
being a state secret, as the agreement between the 
Abbaside Caliph and the Christian King to wage war on 
a Muslim State (Spain) was not a matter agreeable 
to divulge. The Muslim chronicle omits many of the 
important events in the relations between Islam and 
Christendom, either because they were unknown or 
for want of interest in them. But this cannot be 
advanced as proof of want of authenticity. 

References 

1 The Arab historians speak of Al-Mokawkas as the chief of the Copts 
in Egypt. But modern research throws a new light on his personality, and 
it is most probable that he was Cyrus, the Roman prefect of Egypt at the 
time of the Arab conquest. See Butler's The Arab Conquest of Egypt, Appen- 
dix C and Lane- Poolers Egypt in the Middle Ages, pp. 5-7. 

2 Ibn Abdul Hakam says that this letter was addressed to Al-Mokaw- 
kas, but most chronicles say that it was addressed to Heraclius. The text 
of both the letters may have been, however, the same. See Akhbar Misr, p. 46. 
See also Subh al-Aasha, Vol. VI, p. 376, where the text of the Prophet's 
letter to Chosroes and to other princes is given. 

3 For the details of these missions see Butler's The Arab Conquest of 
Egypt, and Muir's Life of Mohamed, pp. 49-59. 

4 Akhbar Misr, p. 47. 

5 Al-Dakhil=one who had entered, because he was the first Omayyad 
prince who entered Spain and ruled it. He is also known as Abdul Rahman 
the First. 



156 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

For the details of these embassies see Makkari : Nafh al-Tib (Cairo), 
Vol. I, p. 171 and the following : Ibn Khaldun, Vol. IV, p. 142 and the 
following. 



1 The dynasty of Boueh /*JJ Jf 



8 " The Manchester Guardian " published a translation of this docu- 
ment with Dr. Mmgana's comments m 1927. 

9 Eginhard gives details of these embassies and relations between 
Al-Rashid and Charlemagne in his book Pita Karoli Magnt. See also 
Hodjkin : Charles the Great. 

10 See the summary of Barthold's research in" Der Islam, "B. Ill, p. 409. 

n See the summary of Wasiliew's research in " Der Islam, " B. IV, 
p. 333. 



CHAPTER XI 

Slavery in the Middle Ages : its Rules and 
Development in Muslim Countnes 

THE rules of slavery had their origin from usages 
in ancient wars more than any other source. 1 
According to this usage the victor becomes the 
legal master of the enemy he vanquished and whose 
life he saved. It was strengthened by the wars of the 
Barbaric states which inherited the patrimony of the 
Roman Empire since the fifth century ; the victor used 
to march behind the train of his spoils a long line of 
prisoners who became slaves by virtue of the rules of 
war, i.e., his personal property which he could dispose 
of as any other object. Beautiful and smart young men 
and women were employed in domestic works where 
they occupied doubtful positions which exposed them 
either to pleasure or to anger or to different passions. 
As for the various artisans, they used to exercise their 
trade in the interests of their masters. The Barbarian 
chiefs, however, treated their Roman slaves in a differ- 
ent manner ; they forced them, disregarding their 
position, to work in fields and to attend to cattle a 
master had the right of life and death on his slaves. 
The number of slaves in these Barbaric states conti- 
nually increased through new wars and resources and 
their condition gradually became worse in consequence 
of the tyranny and oppression usual to Barbaric socie- 
ties. When these states disappeared, and thirst for 
conquest and war somewhat subsided, the slaves became 
smaller in number and were better treated under the 
Frankish states which succeeded the Barbaric states 
in Gaul (France) and Lombardy. This state of affairs 
continued till the ninth century when slavery became 



158 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

more limited and the condition of the slaves far better. 
Slavery developed to a sort of social system and became 
an outstanding element in the feudal society during 
the Middle Ages. 

Captivity in war became the most prominent 
demonstration of slavery, particularly when the slave 
was of another race. The humane idea then began 
to emerge slowly from the chaos of the Middle Ages, 
and the standard of human life and the rights of man 
began to rise slowly. The yoke of slavery began to be 
moderate and the slave to acquire new rights. This is 
due, in some respects, to the spread of Christian doc- 
trines and their great influence on the minds of leaders, 
princes and nobles. The laws of slavery in those days 
can be summarized in the principle that the slave was 
the property of his master. The element of slavery 
was that the slave should not be sold independently 
of the farm to which he was attached and could not 
leave it ; he was thus annexed to the land and went 
with it to the new owner. He was not then con- 
sidered a unit in a flock of slaves working under an 
overseer of the King, as he was considered in the 
days of the Franks, but was allotted a certain plot of 
land to live in, and paid his master for it a certain 
rent in the form of a large proportion of the crop of his 
land, and kept the rest for himself. Should the slave run 
away from the farm his master had the right to bring 
him back by force, and should he disappear his land 
returned to the master. The slaves then gradually 
acquired new rights such as inheritance through their 
fathers and marriage. The marriage of slaves was 
vague and not defined by law ; their offspring was 
therefore not recognized, and children were not attri- 
buted to their fathers. It was also due to the interven- 
tion of the Church that this injustice was removed. 
From the middle of the twelfth century slaves were 
accorded the right of legal marriage and their children 
were recognized ; hence their right to inherit the land , 



SLAVERY IN THE MIDDLE AGES 159 

was granted. There were, however, exceptional condi- 
tions resulting from the marriage of slaves : for example 
when a slave marries the female slave of another master, 
she follows him, in virtue of this marriage, to live with 
him on his farm, and thus her master loses her services, 
and the loss would be greater when her children fol- 
lowed her, as was generally the case. This and other 
problems of the kind were solved in various ways, such 
as giving the master of the female slave a monetary 
compensation, or waiting till one of his slaves marry a 
female slave of the master of the farm in which his 
woman lived and was thus compensated in the same 
manner. As for the children, they were divided bet- 
ween the two masters according to certain conditions. 
As regards civil rights in those days the most evident 
distinction between a free man and a slave was that 
the latter was not qualified for a judicial post ; i.e., he 
could not be a judge nor accepted as a witness. This 
incapacity was the result of his incapacity to wage war, 
for, according to the practice of the Middle Ages, only 
those fit to carry arms could interpret the will of God 
as represented in legal judgments. 



The laws relating to slavery in Islam are perhaps 
the most precise and best made to deal with this excep- 
tional social system which is not justified even by the 
conditions in which it were laid. But, as is known, 
slavery is one of the characteristics of the greatest 
and most ancient civilizations. It was difficult, indeed 
impossible, for Islam to undertake in those ages to 
demolish a system which had taken such a deep root 
in the frame of society. War and the survival of the 
fittest, both morally and materially, necessitated that 
it should have a share in the institutions of state and 
private life. But slavery as enacted in western societies 
of the Middle Ages, and of which we spoke above, 



160 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

was not known to Islam in that sense. Islam knew 
one kind of slaves those taken in war. The purport 
of Muslim law (Sharia) on this subject is that non- 
Muslim captives are of two kinds: (1) persons made 
slaves on being merely captured who are considered 
like any other spoils with regard to division and dis- 
posal ; these are women, children and men ; (2) a kind 
not considered slaves by mere capture but by choice, 
and these are the free men. The fate of the latter is 
left to the Imam or the Commander of the army. 
They are either condemned to death or to slavery or 
graciously set free or ransomed by money or men, that 
is to say exchanged against Muslim prisoners taken by 
the enemy. In this exchange the circumstances of the 
case and the position of the persons are taken into 
consideration. When an adult prisoner embraces Islam 
and the Imam or the Commander of the army had not 
decided his fate before his conversion, Islam spares his 
life and the Imam has to decide his fate according 
to the other provisions. 

Those who embrace Islam before being captured, 
Islam protects them against everything, spares their 
lives, property, liberty and their children. 

These are the rules on slavery in Islam. It is, as 
we have seen, restricted in the narrowest limits allowed 
by the conditions of those ages. One, however, feels 
on reading other provisions of Muslim law that slavery 
in itself was an undesirable principle. There are many 
passages in the Quran and the Prophet's traditions 
which urge the emancipation of slaves, making it legal 
ransom for many sins and religious contraventions, 
such as intentionally failing to fast. In Muslim socie- 
ties the emancipation of slaves was considered one of 
the greatest virtues. Moreover in many Muslim king- 
doms and societies the slaves were saved much of 
the oppression suffered by those in western societies. 
Kindness in treatment was the general rule. In many 
interpretations of the Muslim law masters are enjoined 



SLAVERY IN THE MIDDLE AGES 161 

to be kind to slaves, and they were given the status 
of family members. We must not, however, omit to 
refer to a certain kind of slaves who were prominent 
in the Caliphs' States and Courts. We mean the 
Sclavonians (Al-Sakaliba) who crowded the palaces 
of the Caliphs and the Emirs since the eighth century. 
The term Sclavonian was originally applied to the 
prisoners captured by the Germans, the Byzantines and 
the Franks from Slav nations and sold to the Arabs. 
This term was applied, with the lapse of time, to all the 
foreigners serving in the Palace and in the army irres- 
pective of their nationality. The slave markets of the 
Sclavonians were very active in the East since the days 
of Al-Rashid, that is to say, since the frequent incur- 
sions of the Abbaside Caliphate on the territories of 
the Byzantine Empire. This activity attained its zenith 
in the days of Al-Mamun when the cities, particularly 
the ports of the Abbaside Empire, became great mar- 
kets swarming with this undesirable trade. Indeed 
the great profits made from it were, at certain times, a 
factor which led to war and to continued incursions 
by the local governors on the territories of the 
Byzantine Empire. Likewise Sclavonian slaves played 
a prominent part in Muslim Spain. The palaces of 
the Emirs were full of them, particularly in the days 
of Abdul Rahman son of Al-Hakam ; they comprised 
all European nationalities. Ibn Hawkal, who visited 
Andalusia in the tenth century A.D., says that there 
were, among the Sclavonians who served in the Court 
of the Caliph, Germans, French, Spaniards, Lombards 
and Russians. Most of these Sclavonians were 
brought as children by Jews who were the foremost 
slave dealers in those ages, or by Muslim corsairs who 
captured them. They then embraced Islam and learned 
Arabic easily. Some of them had a superior educa- 
tion ; in fact some of them distinguished themselves 
in prose and poetry. In the days of Al-Nasir li-Din 
Allah (300-350 A.H.) their number amounted to 
21 



162 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

about fourteen thousand. They had great influence 
and owned large estates. Al-Nasir entrusted them with 
most important posts in the army and in the govern- 
ment, and forced the noble Arabs and the chiefs of 
tribes to respect them. Such a policy found, on the 
other hand, its echo in the palaces of Baghdad. We 
do not propose to enter into the details of this policy 
which was a danger to Islam and its empires whether in 
Baghdad, Cairo or Cordova. But it can be said that 
it was one of the most important causes of the decline 
of the power of the Arabs, the fall of the authority of 
the Caliphate and the breaking up of its wide Empires 
into small states and local governments. 



It was not astonishing therefore to see the ports 
and islands of the Mediterranean becoming great 
centres of slave trade, particularly in the ninth and 
tenth centuries A.D. At that time wars were raging 
between the Abbaside and the Byzantine Empire and, 
at the same time, between the Byzantine Empire and 
its neighbours on the east and west. The Arabs took 
possession of most of the islands of the Mediterranean, 
and the Arab seamen acquired great reputation. They 
made the island of Crete as the base from which they 
sailed and in which they anchored, and the ports of 
the island and those of Egypt and Syria were crowded 
with the vessels of the adventurer corsairs who roamed 
in this sea seeking spoils. They invaded the shores of 
the Christian countries, particularly the ports of 
the Italian republics and of the Byzantine Empire, 
and returned to their homes laden with spoils 
and captives. They sold thousands of slaves to the 
merchants of Egypt and Syria, who penetrated with 
their trade to the furthest ends of Africa and Asia. 
The greatest incursion of this sort was that of the 
Muslim sailors led by Ghulam Zarafa (Leo of 



SLAVERY IN THE MIDDLE AGES 163 

Tripolis), the greatest seaman of his age, who invaded 
the port of Salonica in 904 A.D. in which the number 
of prisoners was, as reported, more than fifty thousand. 
The waging of war and naval adventures in this 
manner were in themselves the cause of alleviating 
the misfortunes of the slaves, as spoils and material 
profits urged the victorious on many occasions to spare 
the lives of the captives with a view to selling them 
or ransoming them by their wealthy relatives. More- 
over the idea of exchanging captives became more 
desirable by the intensity of the combat and the 
appalling misfortunes resulting from it, particularly 
through captivity and dispersal. The Byzantine and 
the Abbaside Empires finally agreed to organize the 
exchange of captives on certain conditions. This 
agreement was applied, and put into force, on various 
occasions and is known by the system of ransoming 
(Al-Fida) or of exchanging the captives. 2 From 789 
A.D., that is to say from the days of Al-Rashid, a 
condition was added to this agreement stating that 
both parties were allowed to ransom their ordinary 
captives against a certain sum for every head. The 
port of Tarsus was at that time one of the most 
important centres of exchange and ransoming between 
Muslims and Byzantines. The Muslims of Crete were 
the great propagators of this policy and their island 
was the biggest centre of slave trade in the Medi- 
terranean, on one side, and of exchange and ransoming 
on the other. These formalities were accomplished 
by high class men and societies who communicated 
with the families of the captives or their wealthy 
friends, either to pay ransom or to offer to exchange 
them. The Christian captives, who were ransomed 
in this manner, were forced to pay large sums as 
ransoming was a private transaction which was not 
carried out according to official treaties, as is the case 
with official ransoming or exchange, concluded between 
the contracting governments. 



164 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

This is a short account of the laws on slavery and 
its development in the Middle Ages, from which we 
see that the calamities of constant wars affected the 
liberties of men more than their lives and property. 

References 

1 It must be observed thit slavery had, in the ancient times, other 
sources than war, as the sale of children by their parents, and the kidnap- 
ping of persons in naval battles. Also, certain criminal provisions in the 
ancient laws which punished certain crimes by slavery. 

3 We have already spoken of this system (p. 89). See also, for 
details. Maknzi: Al-Khitat, Vol. V, pp. 191-92. 



CHAPTER XII 
Chivalry : its History, Principles and Conventions 

IF feudalism 1 was the essential foundation of the 
edifice of social and political systems in the 
Middle Ages, chivalry was the corner-stone in the 
edifice of feudalism ; indeed it was the fundamental 
frame of feudalism which supported its edifice, bound 
its parts and brought its upper and lower classes 
together. One of the most important characteristics 
to distinguish between men in the early days of the 
Middle Ages, before chivalry flourished, was freedom and 
slavery. Men were either free or slaves. When the 
system of slavery declined and chivalry flourished the 
most important characteristic to distinguish between 
men was nobility and ordinary birth. Men were 
either knights, nobles or lords, or of the lower classes. 
The origin, conventions and traditions of this chivalry, 
which was for ages the flower of Christian societies 
and which played an important role in the Crusades, go 
back to the end of the eighth century or the beginning 
of the ninth and to the feudal system in the days of the 
Normans. In the time of Charlemagne it took the 
form of a ceremony in which the young knight was 
supplied with his arms. It appears that, as a military 
system, it goes back to earlier days. The historian 
Tacitus mentions it in dealing with the conditions of 
the Germanic tribes and describes its usages. 2 But 
chivalry, as a great military honour, is conferred in a sort 
of religious ceremony and goes back to the eleventh 
century. Muslim chivalry, however, is much older ; 
it goes back to the first Muslim age in the first century 
of the Hejira (seventh century A.D.). But it was not 



166 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

a religious or political system ; it was merely quality, 
talent and ability, and had also in it a code of forma- 
lities and traditions, Ibn Qutaiba, in his book Uyun 
al-Akhbar, reserves a chapter for chivalry and its 
manners, and cites, with regard to its origin and con- 
vention, some well-known statements. As for Chris- 
tian chivalry, it did not flourish and become well- 
established and, in addition to its military character, 
become a political and social system with established 
principles and conventions with which were incorpo- 
rated rights and duties before the eleventh century. 

Nobility, as we have seen, was the basis of chivalry 
and its foremost characteristic. The distinction bet- 
ween the nobles and the masses, in the first stages of 
feudalism, was generally obscure, but it advanced since 
the inheritance of the allotted lands became an estab- 
lished right and finally became the basis for the 
classification of people in strong classes which were the 
most prominent element in the society of the Middle 
Ages. Nobility is formed of two different elements : 
(1) the inheritance of the land with all its obligations 
to accomplish important duties, and (2) capacity to 
fight on horse-back or in other words chivalry. The 
second quality implies the idea of property also. It 
implies the ability to possess the expensive arms re- 
quired for the accomplishment of the knight's duties. 
The conjunction of this idea with that of land pro- 
perty, and that of good birth, supplied the feudal prince 
the services of an elite of combatants. This elite, with 
their families, composed the highest aristocracy and 
the strongest class in a barbarian society such as that 
of the Middle Ages. 

Nobility of birth led to the conversion of this 
aristocracy to a class, in every sense of the word, which 
the masses could not reach or join without many 
difficulties and various formalities. One of the means 
of joining nobility for the ordinary man was to buy a 
farm to which the qualification of nobility was attached 



CHIVALRY : ITS HISTORY AND PRINCIPLES 167 

{terra nobilis) or when the king or one of the great 
nobles conferred upon him the qualification of nobi- 
lity as a gift for services rendered or certain abilities 
for which he was noted. The qualification of nobility 
was then attached to the land he owned and was in- 
herited by his children. It is evident that the creation 
of nobles in this manner was an excellent means to 
surround the throne with persons who supported it 
and looked after its interests. That age was, in fact, 
the beginning of the rise of monarchy and its libera- 
tion from the shackles of feudalism, and the prepon- 
derance of its institution on all other systems of domi- 
nation and government. The inheritance of nobility 
was at first limited to the male descendants, but the 
inclination of the throne to the adoption of the afore- 
said policy soon after led to granting it to females. 
Thus a woman could confer the qualification of nobi- 
lity upon her descendants who then became knights 
and nobles. 

When the feudal system was settled, and the 
resources of aristocracy increased by the improvement 
of agriculture, the duty of the knight to follow the 
prince at his own expense became, as regards the 
feudal lords, the highest kind of honour and dignity. 
When the knight donned all his accoutrements, 
carried arms which covered him from head to foot, and 
mounted his horse like wise covered with iron and steel, 
he could meet tens of unarmed men of the lower 
classes. When some of these knights would come to- 
gether they could terrify hundreds and thousands of 
their followers and force them to submit and obey. It 
is evident that the growth of this enmity, or its mere 
existence, often led, on many occasions, to sanguinary 
battles in which the masses found means to avenge 
themselves from the tyranny of the knights. But the 
combination of rights and duties of both parties, in the 
ordinary affairs of life, supported a social system like 
chivalry, lacking all the elements of political settlement. 



168 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

One is astonished at the formalities and traditions 
of chivalry and it seems to us that they were the 
formalities of a religious sect or of a great secret 
society. The fact is that these formalities, which should 
be observed before obtaining the honour of knight- 
hood, are very old. As we have already said, Tacitus 
referred to them when he spoke of the conditions 
of the Germanic tribes. They assumed, since the 
origin of chivalry, a tint of glamour and dignity 
which amounted almost to sanctity. These forma- 
lities may be summarized as follows : before the 
candidate to knighthood was given a sword and spurs 
he had to pass through certain tests and spend a 
number of days in fasting. He then passed a night 
in an old dark church where he gave himself up to 
meditation. He was then given a sword and spurs 
and received on his cheek or shoulder a slight 
stroke as the symbol of the last offence he should 
pardon. Yet, although chivalry was both a social and 
political system, it was not free from religious 
character; indeed this character was so strong that 
the system of chivalry itself was likened to the rights 
and duties of the holy ecclesiastical classes. A novice 
was obliged to take a bath and to wear a short coat, as 
was the case in baptism ceremonies. The knight 
received his sword on the altar of the church from 
a priest, the ceremony having been preceded, as al- 
ready said, by fasting and supplications. He was then 
declared a knight in the name of God and Saint 
George and Michael. The knight then took the oath 
that he would accomplish the duties of his profession 
Knighthood being a profession, as stated and the 
only guarantee that he would observe his oath was his 
good breeding, good example and the judgment of 
public opinion. This oath is, in short, to say the 
truth, to support right, to protect the miserable, to be 
kind and courteous in his dealings, to persecute the 
enemies of religion, to despise the attractions of luxury 



CHIVALRY : ITS HISTORY AND PRINCIPLES 169 

and security, and to avenge his honour in any danger- 
ous adventure whatever. These formalities attained, 
in the eleventh century, a high degree of splendour and 
sanctification, so that it was the duty of the King, in 
order to join chivalry, that he should serve the Court 
as a page, then as a lord-candidate to Knighthood. 
Golden spurs, the emblem of chivalry, were then con- 
ferred upon him. 

As chivalry had peculiar formalities and obliga- 
tions it likewise had peculiar tournaments and sports. 
It was chivalry which contributed to the evolution of 
these aristocratic sports. It abandoned the old Olym- 
pian sports in which naked scenes were exhibited, thus 
keeping girls and women away from them, and cor- 
rupting the morals of the youth, and replaced them 
with decent and serious sports. Duels were the most 
popular sport among the knights and the nobles. 
Special grand ceremonies were held to which the 
knights hastened from all parts, and were attended by 
the most noble and most beautiful girls and ladies. 
The ceremony, sometimes, lasted two or more days 
in which two knights met one another with lances, 
the victorious winning the arm and the horse of his 
adversary. He could also choose one of the ladies 
present to preside over the rest of the encounters 
and sports, and she was called the * queen of love 
and beauty.' Hence the connexion of the idea of love 
with chivalry in the Middle Ages ; the love of a 
woman meant to the loving knight the high estima- 
tion of the whole of the fair sex. A knight sometimes 
fell in love with a certain beautiful woman, but their 
relations were pure, merely platonic. The r6le of 
chivalry was, in this respect, a fertile source of litera- 
ture full of beautiful stories, of delicate enthusiastic 
poetry and endless charming songs and romances. But 
chivalry was not limited, in its sports, to distraction 
and amusement ; it organized small combats and seri- 
ous exercises such as the attack and the defence of a 
22 



170 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

fort, etc. These combats and exercises were a means 
in which the knight acquired knowledge and experi- 
ence. 



What were the effects of this strange system on 
the mentality of society and man ? Chivalry was, 
without doubt, one of the most beautiful and striking 
aspects of the Middle Ages, if not the most beautiful. 
But it did not only create a society unique in its cus- 
toms and organization embodying a homogeneous and 
solidary group of men, it had also, in the minds of men 
and of society, deep effects which sometimes rose to 
sublime character, and at others sank to the lowest 
human passions. Chivalry alleviated much of the 
impetuosity of rude societies and improved their 
character and inspired them with a strong spirit of 
the principles of loyalty, justice and humanity. Indeed 
chivalry was the first to shake national egoism. Did 
it not bring together, in one field, the knights of 
different nations who mixed in public sports, united 
by common principles and ties ? But, on the other 
hand, chivalry inspired the knights, and particularly 
the uneducated with deep despise of peaceful arts and 
professions, and a strong feeling of conceit, selfishness 
and revolt against institutions and laws. A knight 
considered that he had the right of self revenge and 
disregarded every law and usage. Perhaps the worst 
that chivalry inspired the society of the Middle Ages 
was a savage feeling of deep religious fanaticism. We 
have seen that the hatred of the enemies of religion 
was one of the passages of the oath taken by the 
knight when he joined the ranks of knighthood, and 
that the evident religious character was connected 
with the formalities of this system. It is a fact that the 
Church thought, from the very beginning, to extend 
its influence ana domination on Christian chivalry 



CHIVALRY: ITS HISTORY AND PRINCIPLES 171 

and was able to realize its aim to the extremist point. 
The Arabs conquered Spain and settled there since the 
eighth century ; they then conquered Sicily and other 
islands of the Mediterranean and, more than once, 
threatened Rome, the seat of Christendom. The 
phantom of the Muslim danger always appeared before 
the Church and Christianity, strong and imminent. 
Hence arose the sentiment of defending religion and 
the fatherland. The Church exploited this feeling. 
The Byzantine Empire repulsed the attacks of Islam 
in the East, but when the Byzantine Empire, which 
the Church considered the sole impregnable barrier for 
the protection of Christianity in the East, declined 
and the Seljukes rose to overrun its territories and 
penetrated far deep into Asia Minor, and the Church 
hastened to appeal to the Christian nations to declare 
the Crusades on the Muslim nations, apparently to 
save the Holy Sepulchre, but in fact to maintain the 
supremacy of the Church and to protect Christianity, 
chivalry was ready to enter the holy war in the name 
of God and religion. The princes and the feudal 
lords rose, followed by the knights in successive bands, 
to go to the ports of Syria and Palestine. The knights 
used to go to the field of battle, accompanied by their 
attendants and a number of their soldiers, and every 
prince gathered as many of his knights as he could. 
Every party was distinguished by the emblem of its 
prince and his war cry. The history of the C rusades 
is full of stories of the private expeditions and mis- 
sions organized by individual knights, fighting some- 
times for religion, but generally to seek spoils and for- 
tune. Indeed these adventurous bands often limited 
their activities to pillage and robbery in all the lands 
through which they passed. But there is no doubt 
that, despite the rivalry and elements of dissolution 
which prevailed in its ranks, chivalry rendered great 
services to Christianity in the Crusades, particularly 
when we remember that European chivalry with all its 



172 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

preparations, its excellent arms and shields, in many 
cases was superior to the light Muslim chivalry which 
was not so well prepared and armed. 

In short Christian chivalry was, from the moral 
point of view, a conflicting mixture of good and bad 
qualities. Saint Palaye, historian of chivalry, says that 
if the laws and conventions of chivalry were strongly 
bound to religion, virtue, honour and humanity, the 
ages in which it most flourished were ages of pro- 
fligacy, violence and barbarism, and that these bad 
qualities were particularly attached to those who 
joined chivalry. But nevertheless the principles of 
chivalry were meant to encourage order and virtue. 
From its early days chivalry carried the elements of 
decay ; in fact, not more than a century after, its rise 
and the ardour of the knights abated and objects of 
ornament and luxury were seen on the horses in place 
of arms, and chivalry was reduced to military anarchy 
with all its passions and evils. 3 Then came the inven- 
tion of guns in the fourteenth century which was a 
fatal stroke to chivalry and its heavy armament ; thus 
chivalry lost, from that time, its importance and 
impregnability, and soon after it became a memory and 
a tradition. 



Now a few words about chivalry in Islam. Chival- 
ry is latent in Arab character. It had a great import- 
ance in pre-Islamic era as it was a prominent element 
in many Arabian combats and " famous days," and 
was one of the greatest sources of inspiration and 
revelation to pre-Islamic poets. It had, in the early days 
of Islam, much importance and consideration. But it 
was not an established political and social system with 
peculiar laws and conventions as was the case in 
Europe. It was at the beginning nothing but quality 
and military ability looked upon with honour and 



CHIVALRY : ITS HISTORY AND PRINCIPLES 173 

dignity and had certain traditions. But organized Mus- 
lim chivalry, with principles and social customs, origi- 
nated in Andalusia under the aegis of the Caliphate 
of Cordova, and derived its conventions from the prin- 
ciples of honour, courtesy and high character. It be- 
came, since the days of Al-Nasir and his son Al-Hakam, 
a social system under the banner of which stood the 
nobles, the high and the brave. It flourished particu- 
larly under Al-Hajib al-Mansur. Sedillot says : " The 
characteristics of Andalusian chivalry and its charming 
qualities, were the source from which Christian chivalry 
took many of its characters and conventions "; Reinault 
$ays : " The idea of chivalry began to flourish in this 
age, that is to say, the age of Al-Nasir, associated with 
a strong feeling of honour and respect for the fair 
sex." Viardot says : " Chivalry and all its institutions, 
known in the western Christian nations flourished, 
among the Andalusians in the days of Al-Nasir, 
Al-Hakam and Al-Mansur." Andalusia was at that 
age a centre to which Christian knights repaired from 
all parts, assured peace and protection by the Caliphs, 
to hold competitions with Muslim knights. The old 
traditions, such as the knight's shouting the name of 
his sister or lady-love, in rushing to the field of battle, 
had disappeared in that age ; the knight going to the 
field merely wearing on his arm or on his helmet an 
emblem from the woman he loved. The Andalusian 
ladies attended these competitions and encounters 
which were held in the squares of the great cities, and 
their presence lent these delightful ceremonies charm 
and elegance. The conditions of chivalry, as required 
by convention, were ten in number: piety, courage, 
high character, strength, the talent for poetry, elo- 
quence, good horsemanship, skill to use the sword, the 
lance and the bow. The meeting of the two sexes, 
in this way helped to polish feelings and character, 
strengthen the sense of loyalty, decency and truth. 
The Muslim chivalry attained the zenith of its strength 



174 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

and brilliance in the kingdom of Granada whose 
history overflows with stories of noble and renowned 
warriors, and their gallantry and loyalty which it would 
be too long to record here. We shall see, in another 
chapter, in speaking of the fall of Granada, examples 
of this sublimity in courage, patriotism and qualities 
which characterized the Andalusian chivalry. As an 
example we cite the following historical event : the 
Muslim knights besieged the Queen of Castille, wife 
of Alphonso VII, in the fort of Azika in 1139 A.D. 
(534 A.H.). The Queen reproached the Muslim 
knights for their conduct andf or their dwant of courage 
and character in attacking a fort defened by a woman. 
The Muslim knights recognized the justice of this 
reproach, and asked her only to look at them from a 
window of the fort. When she did so the Muslim 
knights saluted her with the greatest respect, raised 
the siege and departed at once. 

This is a short account of the principles and 
institutions of chivalry, which reveals a great deal 
about the characteristics of medieval society, its feel- 
ings and mentality. 

References 

1 Feudalism is a political, social and military system which prevailed in 
Europe in the Middle Ages. It appeared in the ninth century when central 
governments were not able to dominate all the provinces subject to them. 
The origin of the system is unknown, but it is a mixture of Roman Law of 
ownership, the principles of dealings and personal relations. In a few words, 
this system means that the land is the property of the throne which granted 
it to princes and nobles who, in their turn, granted it to the people. Each 
of these has political, military and financial rights and duties. This system 
prevailed in the west of Europe till the thirteenth century. The Franks 
were the first to apply it and to lay down for it established principles. 

' Tacitus : Annals. 

' G. Miller : History Philosophically Illustrated, Ch. XIX. 



DECISIVE MOMENTS 
II 



CHAPTER XIII 

The Cid El Campeador and the History of the 
Kingdom of Valencia 

THE chivalry of the Middle Ages, with all its 
principles of violence, tyranny and egoism, with 
its noble qualities, tenderness and courtesy, 
with the elements of hatred, daring and adventurous 
spirit, with kindness, faith and humility, was one of 
the strangest social pictures created by the feudal 
system. This chivalry penetrated into the edifice of 
the feudal society, dominating it in a certain sense, 
leading it according to its whims and fancies, and 
almost effacing every other authority. 

Both Muslim Spain and Christian Spain were in 
those ages the cradles of chivalry, in each of which 
chivalry greatly flourished. But the continued struggle 
between Islam and Christianity in Spain was, in 
addition to national factors, tinted with a deep colour 
of religious fanaticism. In these cradles chivalry was 
aflame with this religious spirit. The conditions of 
war and politics often subjugated national or religious 
matters to the influence of personal passions and 
interests, when chivalry appeared in the garb of adven- 
ture seeking gain and fortune. 

These characteristics were prominent in the life 
of one of the Christian Spanish knights, whose story 
is connected with many events in Andalusian history 
and who is considered by European chronicles and 
legends an ideal of national and Christian chivalry. 
We say " chronicles and legends," not history, because 
history, as we shall see, contradicts many of these 
legends and produces the Spanish hero in a garb 

23 



178 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

different from that in which the ecclesiastical songs 
and chronicles dressed him. 

This very noted hero is Don Rodrigo Diaz di 
Bivar, known in Christian chronicles by the name of 
Cid El Campeador. 



For ages the Cid El Campeador was the emblem 
of Christian heroism and his life a fertile source for 
the imagination of poets and writers. But this exag- 
gerated fiction was written only to excite the religious 
and national spirit in a nation which, in those ages, 
was striving to restore its territory wrenched from it 
and occupied by Islam centuries before. But if we 
deprive the story of the Christian knight of the 
elements of fanaticism, exaggeration and fiction with 
which it is overwhelmed, we find an ordinary picture 
of medieval chivalry with more vices than virtues. 
The fact that his life was crowded with events and 
battles in which he took part, and characterized with 
daring and adventure and with great influence and 
authority, is due more to the conditions of his age and 
to the elements of discord which were tearing his 
adversaries than to his ability, skill and character. 

The story of Cid El Campeador has been written 
by more than one Spanish historian. The first who 
studied his life and wrote it in a historical style free 
from legend was Alphonso X, king of Castille, entitled 
the Learned. He wrote it at the close of the thirteenth 
century when he was writing the general history of 
Spain (Cronica General) relying, in writing it, on 
old Latin and Spanish chronicles, and some Arabic 
chronicles and historical odes, that is to say more than 
a century and a half after the death of the Cid. But 
this part devoted to the life of the Cid differs much, in 
its spirit and style, from all the other parts of the 
history of Alphonso X. Scholars do not agree in the 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 179 

explanation of this difference in style and spirit, and 
no one was able to explain it clearly till the learned 
Dutch orientalist, Reinhart Dozy, who spent the 
greatest part of his life in studying the obscure parts of 
the history of Andalusia, proved by comparisons and 
decisive indications that this biography of the Cid, 
which was annexed to the history of Alphonso X, was 
merely a literal translation of a story written by a 
Muslim Valencian historian who lived in the days of 
the Cid and witnessed his deeds and wars, and that it 
relies in many of its records on certain chapters of Ibn 
Bassam, author of Kitab az-Zakhira? in which he 
incorporated the biographies of Andalusian men of 
letters in the fifth century A.H. Ibn Bassam wrote 
this book about the year 503 A.H. (1109 A.D.) in 
Seville only ten years after the death of the Cid El 
Campeador. His report on the Cid is therefore the 
oldest. What increases its value is the fact that the 
author cites a person who knew the Cid perfectly and 
all his qualities and deeds. This narrative is given in 
the chapter written by Ibn Bassam about Ibn Tahir, 
king of Murcia who was deposed and who, on the 
loss of his throne, migrated to Valencia. Ibn Bassam 
reproduced a number of reports he wrote about the 
events of Valencia, and Ibn Bassam himself goes on to 
give the details of these events at great length and 
with precision. The importance of this narrative is 
evident, because the conquest of Valencia by the Cid 
is the most glorious page of his life. The Arabic 
record will be dealt with later. 



Who was the Cid ? He was a Castillian knight, 
Rodrigo or Ray Diaz di Bivar, surnamed the Cid, 
which is the corruption of the Arabic word " Al-Sayyid," 
the name by which he was also called by Muslims. 
The title Campeador is an old Castillian word meaning 



180 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the combatant, and was given to the Cid for his 
courage,, daring and love of fighting. 2 He was born in 
Burgos between 1026 and 1045 A.D., and his father 
was Layan Calvo, judge of Castille in the days of Froila 
II. History tells us nothing about his youth ; all that 
is recorded is due to legends and stories. He first 
came to notice on the death of Ferdinand I, king of 
Castille and Leon, in 1065 A.D. when discord broke 
out between his sons. He joined his son Sancho and 
marched with the forces of his ally Ahmed ibn Solaiman 
ibn Hud, prince of Saragossa, to fight Ramiro, king of 
Aragon, who was defeated and killed in Grados in the 
year 1068 A.D. (460 A.H.). He then joined Sancho 
in 1071 in the war between him and his brother 
Alphonso, king of Leon, in Galbeares. Sancho was at 
first defeated, but he gathered the remnant of his army 
at night, attacked his brother with the guidance of the 
Cid, defeated him and took him prisoner. 

The Cid continued to fight on the side of the 
king of Castille till the latter was killed before the 
walls of Zamora, the next year. He then joined the 
service of Alphonso when he ascended the throne of 
Castille on the death of his brother. According to 
some chronicles Alphonso sent him to the court of Al- 
Mutamid ibn Abbad, prince of Seville, to collect the 
tribute Banu Abbad had agreed to pay to the king of 
Castille. He remained there for some time and return- 
ed to the court of Castille carrying the tribute claimed 
and a large number of precious presents. But some of 
his enemies denounced him to Alphonso, and as he had 
a spite against him for siding with his brother he 
expelled him from his court and his territories in 1081. 

Here begins the true romantic phase of the life of 
the Cid El Campeador. He appears as an adventurer 
seeking his fortune and disregarding every religious 
and national consideration. He hires himself, his 
sword and his companions, at one time to the Muslim 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 181 

Emirs and at another to Christian princes. He mixed 
himself up with every revolution and war raging here 
and there, seeking profit and authority wherever he 
could. The conditions of Muslim Spain at that time 
were a wide field for the ambitions of an adventurer 
like the Cid. The Petty Kings ( Al-Tawaif ), who inheri- 
ted the patrimony of the Omayyad Caliphate and estab- 
lished their small states in Andalusian ports and cities, 
were tearing one another and intriguing against one 
another and sought assistance in this struggle from the 
Christian mercenaries or by alliance with a Christian 
prince. The fire of this foolish dispute was kindled 
particularly between the northern states in which Banu 
Hud had settled between Valencia and Saragossa. It 
was to this raging field that the Cid and his mercenaries 
came and joined the service of Al-Muktadir ibn Hud, 
Emir of Saragossa. Al-Muktadir had proposed long 
before to crush his brother Al-Muzaffar, Emir of 
Lerida, and so he sought the assistance of the Navarrese 
(the Bascons) and the Catalans to fight him till 
he was defeated and taken prisoner. Al-Muzaffar was 
prisoner when the Cid came to the court of Al- 
Muktadir. Al-Muktadir died not long after in 1081 
A.D. after having divided his territory between his 
two sons. He gave Al-Mutamin Saragossa and its 
dependencies and his brother Al-Mundhir. Denia, 
Tortosa and Lerida. Soon after the two brothers 
quarrelled and war broke out between them, when Al- 
Mundhir sought the help of Sancho Ramirez, king of 
Aragon and Count of Barcelona. The Cid fought 
by the side of Al-Mutamin and often ravaged the 
territory of his enemies and finally defeated them at 
the walls of Alcala Minars. He then returned to 
Saragossa where the people received him with pomp, 
and Al-Mutamin highly honoured and recompensed 
him. A number of the allies of Al-Muzaffar ibn Hud 
had rebelled against Al-Mutamin, in support of their 
Emir, and Al-Muzaffar, in his prison, appealed to the 



182 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

king of Castille who responded and sent troops to 
fight Al-Mutamin. Soon after Al-Muzaffar died in 
prison and so the revolt came to an end. War broke 
out again between Al-Mundhir and Al-Mutamin and 
the Cid marched to fight Al-Mundhir and his allies, 
inflicted a terrible defeat on them and returned to 
Saragossa laden with spoils. 

In 1085 Al-Mutamin died and was succeeded by 
his son Al-Mustain, who also took the Cid in his service. 
We know nothing about the deeds of the Cid in the 
service of this Emir in the following few years. We 
know, however, that the Cid concluded with Al- 
Mustain in 1088 an agreement to invade Valencia. Here 
begins the most important stage in the adventures of the 
Campeador, which made of him a national hero of 
Christian Spain. 



Valencia was at that time a prey to disturbance 
and anarchy. It was, since the fall of the Omayyads, 
a field for the usurper and the adventurer being at 
first occupied by a grandson of Al-Hajib al-Mansur, 
named Abdul Aziz al-Mansur, who was succeeded by 
his son Al-Muzaffar, but his brother-in-law Al-Mamun 
ibn Dhil Nun, Emir of Toledo, deposed him and took 
him prisoner and annexed Valencia to the dependencies 
of Toledo. As Al-Qadir, Al-Mamun's successor, was 
weak and irresolute, the governor of Valencia, Abu 
Bakr ibn Abdul Aziz revolted against him and became 
independent, and sought the protection of Alphonso 
VI to whom he agreed to pay an annual tribute. 
But soon after Alphonso relinquished the protection 
of Valencia and sold it to Al-Qadir. He then tried 
to deceive and weaken Al-Qadir, at one time, by 
instigation and, at another, by threats and intrigues, 
till his resources and forces were exhausted and he 
finally besieged him in Toledo till he submitted 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 183 

to his claims and was forced to surrender Toledo 
to him on condition that Alphonso should conquer 
Valencia and hand it over to him. Alphonso VI 
entered Toledo, the ancient capital of the Goths, on 
May 25, 1085 (Muharram, 478 A.H.), and thus the 
kingdom of Banu Dhil Nun vanished and for the first 
time one of the strong bastions of Muslim Spain 
crumbled. Now Ibn Abdul Aziz, governor of Valen- 
cia, tried to discover an ally to protect him and found 
no one but Al-Mutamin, Emir of Saragossa, with 
whom he negotiated and offered his daughter as bride 
to his son Al-Mustain. Al-Mutamin agreed and cele- 
brated the marriage of his son with great splendour 
which was cited as an example of brilliant pomp. 
When Ibn Abdul Aziz died after having ruled Valen- 
cia for about ten years, his two sons disagreed among 
themselves, and with the inhabitants of Valencia and 
Al-Qadir, Ibn Dhil Nun availed himself of the oppor- 
tunity to march on Valencia with a Christian army 
supplied to him by Alphonso. The Valencians dread- 
ed the consequences of the war and delivered up the 
city without fighting. Al-Qadir entered Valencia and 
settled there and harassed the inhabitants with his 
tyranny and extortion, thus disturbing order and 
security. The Christians ravaged the city and its 
environs forcing many of the nobles to migrate to 
other cities. 

At that time the Almoravides, led by their Emir 
Yousef ibn Tashfin, crossed over to Andalusia with a 
great army to help the Andalusian princes and to 
protect Islam which was almost crushed by the Chris- 
tians of the north. Alphonso was obliged to march 
to meet him with all his forces. The Castillians 
evacuated Valencia and the Muslim and the Christian 
armies met at Al-Zallaka on Friday, October 23, 1086 
A.D. (12 Rajab, 479 A.H.) when the Christians were 
defeated, and their enthusiasm subsided for a time and 
the Petty Kings again revived. 



184 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

When the Christians evacuated Valencia the 
commanders of the neighbouring forts revolted against 
Al-Qadir; and Al-Mustain ibn Hud, prince of Sara- 
gossa, considered the opportunity fit to take possession 
of Valencia. He, therefore, secretly agreed with his 
ally the Cid, to conquer it jointly and to leave all the 
spoils to the Cid, but the city itself was to be the 
share of Al-Mustain. The army of the Cid was then 
composed of about three thousand men. 

But no sooner Al-Mustain and the Cid arrived 
at Valencia than the latter revealed his real character 
a faithless adventurer who sacrificed both enemy and 
friend. He had secretly received from Al-Qadir valu- 
able presents, and therefore did not hasten to invade 
the city on the pretext that Al-Qadir was under the 
protection of Alphonso, and that fighting him meant 
fighting Alphonso. He secretly advised Al-Qadir not 
to deliver up the city to any one, and promised both 
Al-Mustain and Al-Qadir, separately, to help him 
to realize his purpose at the right moment, assuring 
Alphonso at the same time of his submission and 
loyalty. He then visited Castille and came to an 
understanding with its king who gave him a number 
of forts and recognized him as the ruler of the Muslim 
lands he conquered, and that they would be his and 
his son's property. He, however, soon after lost the 
favour of the king of Castille for delay in granting his 
request to march with him to fight the Almoravides ; 
he also lost his post in the court of Saragossa because 
Al-Mustain doubted his loyalty and plans. 

The Cid thus became the commander of an army 
of mercenaries, or rather the chief of a pillaging band 
which roamed in the north-eastern provinces seeking 
spoils and riches. The relations between him and 
all the Emirs and governors in those provinces were 
strained, and all of them began to plan to fight and 
crush him, the most active among them being 
Berengar, Count of Barcelona. But the Cid defeated 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 185 

him and took him prisoner with a number of his 
suite, and set them free only after getting a large 
ransom ; they afterwards concluded a treaty, the Cid 
having become at that time an object of fear and 
terror in those provinces and imposed tributes on 
most cities and forts. 

Alphonso was anxious to punish the Cid for his 
cunning and frequent treachery. He therefore con- 
sidered it best to conquer Valencia whose real master 
the Cid was, and thus deprive him of the strongest 
bastion of his authority and influence. He then 
besieged it by land and sea in 1092 A.D., and the 
Cid considered that his best means to force him to 
raise the siege was to ravage the lands of Castille 
itself. He swept over a great zone of it and stormed 
its cities and forts like a thunderbolt, killing and 
destroying till he forced Alphonso to raise the siege 
and return whence he came. 



At that time the troubles in Valencia increased 
and the Valencians decided to smash the overwhelm- 
ing yoke imposed by the Cid on the city. Jaafar ibn 
Abdilla ibn Jahhaf al-Moafiri, Qadi (judge) of the 
city, inspired the public with the spirit of revolution 
and aspired to wrest the authority. The Almoravides 
had approached the province of Valencia by occupying 
Denia and Murcia. Ibn Jahhaf negotiated with Ibn 
Ayisha, commander of the Almoravides, and promised 
to give him Valencia if he helped him to fight Al- 
Qadir and the Cid, and Ibn Ayisha agreed. One day 
a detachment of Almpravide troops came to the city 
where disorder and disturbance were intensified. Ibn 
Jahhaf led the rebels, arrested Ibn al-Faraj, the Cid's 
representative in the city, and searched for Al-Qadir 
who had escaped from his palace till he found him and 
ordered him to be killed, and his palace was looted. 

24 



186 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Authority then devolved to Al-Jamaa (assembly of 
governing notables) and Ibn Jahhaf became its chief 
who assumed authority and began to amass troops and 
to fortify the city. This happened in October, 1092 
A.D. (Ramadan, 485 A.H.) 

When the Cid came to know this he turned his face 
towards Valencia. The friends of the murdered king 
went to him, and he imposed fines and provisions on 
the forts lying on his way. He arrived at the out- 
skirts of Valencia in the middle of 1093 after having 
burned the surrounding villages and fields. A few 
days after he occupied most of the neighbouring 
country, and attacked the Almoravides and the Valen- 
cians killing, wounding and capturing many of them. 
He raided Al-Kidya, an environ of the city, and 
forced its inhabitants to submit and make peace. 
He then pressed the siege of the city itself, and the 
Valencians preferred to sue for peace. Ibn Jahhaf 
negotiated with the Cid and finally peace was con- 
cluded on a condition that the Almoravides should 
leave the city, and that it should pay the Cid a 
monthly tribute of ten thousand dinars. The Al- 
moravides being tired of a city which was always in a 
state of revolt, made no objection, and the Cid again 
occupied the fort of Kabula, but he continued to visit 
the environs of the city and oppress Ibn Jahhaf with 
his demands. Ibn Jahhaf also suffered at the same 
time from internal disturbances and the revolt of Banu 
Tahir, former governor of Murcia. The Cid then 
increasing his claims asked Ibn Jahhaf to hand over to 
him all the resources of the city and give him his son 
as hostage. Ibn Jahhaf refused and closed the gates 
of the city and appealed to the king of Saragossa for 
help. Al-Mustain promised him succour. He also 
appealed to Alphonso VI who also promised to help 
him. Ibn Jahhaf decided to oppose the Cid to the 
last moment and war was resumed. The Cid laid a 
strong siege all round the city, and ravaged the 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 187 

surrounding country, and did all he could to stop the 
supplies to the city, fearing that it would resist till the 
Almoravides surprised him. The siege lasted twenty 
months causing much distress to the Valencians many 
of whom dying of hunger, and they became like 
phantoms. The notables of the city now met and 
forced Ibn Jahhaf to sue the Cid for peace ; he agreed 
but left the negotiation to them. A deputation went 
to negotiate with the Cid, and they agreed that 
the Valencians should send envoys to the king of 
Saragossa and to Ibn Ayisha, commander of the 
Almoravides, asking them to come to the assistance 
of Valencia in fifteen days. If, in this interval, no one 
came to succour the city would capitulate on the 
following conditions. Ibn Jahhaf to continue to be 
governor of the city and his person, family and pro- 
perty ensured, the lives and the property of the in- 
habitants to be also ensured, a representative of the 
Cid to superintend collecting of taxes, the city to be 
occupied by a garrison of Mozarabes (Christians living 
under Muslim rule) the Cid and his army to encamp 
in Kabula, and the laws and usages of the city to 
remain unchanged. An armistice was then concluded 
and envoys were sent to seek succour. But no one 
came after fifteen days, and on the following day Ibn 
Jahhaf with Muslim and Christian notables signed an 
agreement to deliver up the city on the above con- 
ditions. At noon of that day (June 15, 1095, 488 A.H.) 
Valencia opened its doors to the Cid El Campeador 
and his Castillian troops, 3 and they entered it and 
occupied its towers contrary to the conditions of the 
treaty. The Cid summoned the nobles of the city 
and delivered a speech to them in which he promised 
to conduct the affairs of the city with justice, to lend 
an ear to the complaints made by the inhabitants, to 
protect them, to restore rights to their owners, and 
other enticing promises. Yet the Christians occupied 
most of the houses and environs of the city, and no 



188 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

one listened to complaints or injustices. The Cid 
now appeared in his true colour. He ordered the 
nobles of the city to deliver up to him the Qadi, Ibn 
Jahhaf, and he and his family were arrested and 
brought before him, and he ordered them to be put in 
prison. He took his residence in the royal palace, and 
his Castillian troops occupied all the forts of the city, 
thus breaking all the conditions of the treaty. The 
Cid then began to torture the Qadi, Ibn Jahhaf, and 
claimed from him the fortune and the treasures of 
Al-Qadir. He robbed him of all his fortune and 
ordered him to be burned, and he and some members 
of his family were publicly burned. He also ordered 
a number of noted men to be burned, among whom 
was Abu Jaafar ibn al-Banna, the famous poet. The 
Cid then turned to the Valencians, humiliated and 
oppressed them with extortion and all sorts of perse- 
cutions. Most of the Muslim inhabitants of Valencia 
deserted it and the Christians occupied their quarters. 
The Cid thus became like a crowned king by occu- 
pying one of the most important port of Spain. 



For a few years the Cid remained in Valencia, his 
army ravaging that district. He concluded a treaty 
with Pedro I, king of Aragon, occupied some of the 
neighbouring forts and began to plan great projects. 
But the Almoravides who were vigilant and watching 
his movements, returned to Murcia and resolved to 
recapture Valencia. They were engaged with the 
army of the Cid in several local combats and defeated 
him at Xativa. At that time the disease from which 
the Cid suffered was aggravated, and he died in sorrow 
and pain in July, 1099 A.D. The Almoravides marched 
on Valencia, but Ximena, wife of the Cid, undertook 
the defence of the city in his place, and was able to do 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 189 

so for two years. She appealed to Alphonso VI but 
the king of Castille refused to send his army against 
an enemy far from his territories. The Almoravides 
with a huge army commanded by their Emir, Abu 
Mohammed Mazdali, approached the walls of the city 
in October, 1101 A.D. and Ximena and her friends were 
obliged to leave the city after burning it and leaving it 
in ruins. Ximena carried with her her husband's body 
to bury it in Christian ground. On May 5, 1102 A.D. 
(495 A.H.) the Almoravides recaptured Valencia and 
thus the adventures of the Christians in that locality 
ceased for a time. 

This is the story of the Cid El Campeador the 
story of a daring adventurous knight who combined 
in himself all the vices of his age, not the story of 
an extraordinary hero and saint. But Christian, and 
particularly Castillian, literature try to represent him 
as the ideal of national heroism, and mix his history 
with a large number of astonishing legends. It is said, 
for example, that the inhabitants considered him a 
saint and undertook pilgrimage to his shrine to be 
blessed by his body which was embalmed and placed 
in an open coffin in the Church of Saint Pedro di 
Cardina. Also, that a Jew once tried to touch the 
body when its right hand moved and grasped the sword 
which it carried and the Jew fell from terror. The 
body was afterwards buried and of ten moved to various 
places. It is reported that the coffin of the Cid was 
opened in the days of Charles V in 1541 A.D., when a 
perfume exhaled and the body was found wrapped in 
Moorish clothes with a sword and a lance. As the 
weather was very dry at that time, no sooner the 
coffin was opened than a heavy rain fell watering the 
whole of Castille. There are also other legends of 
this sort. 



190 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

We now come to the Arab report to which is due 
the merit of recording the true history of the Cid, and 
whose Castillian translation, in the general history of 
Alphonso, was the sole source of this history. This 
Arab report which Dozy proved, as already said, to be 
the origin of the Castillian report, was written, as 
understood from its style, by a Valencian writer who 
lived in the days of the Cid and witnessed his deeds 
and vicissitudes. As this story ends at the time the 
Cid entered Valencia, Dozy doubts that the writer 
was killed at the disturbances of that time, and even 
doubts that he was the man-of-letters Abu Jaffar ibn 
al-Banna who was burned by the Cid with other 
notables of Valencia when he occupied it. This Arab 
report was lost, and all that remains of it is its Castillian 
translation the spirit and style of which point to its 
Arab origin. 4 But we still retain the record of 'Ibn 
Bassam, incorporated in his book entitled Az-Zakhira, 
in which he gave a short account of the story of 
the Cid, his deeds and qualities particularly at the 
time of the revolt of Ibn Jahhaf. Ibn Bassam 
begins by speaking of the Cid El Campeador in the 
following words : " Abdul Rahman ibn Tahir lived long 
enough to see the fall of all the chiefs and to witness 
the calamity of the Muslims of Valencia at the hands of 
the tyrant Al-Kanbiator (Campeador), may God crush 
him, when this port fell into his possession in the year 
88 (read 488 A.H.)." Ibn Bassam goes on to speak of 
the fall of Toledo into the hands of Alphonso VI and 
the fall of Valencia into the hands of the Cid in a 
rhymed vigorous style. He begins with the Cid enter- 
ing the service of Ibn Hud, in the following words ; 
41 When Ahmed Ibn Hud, who is still the master of 
Saragossa, felt the approach of the troops of Amir 
al-Muslimin (the Almoravides) from all sides and 
encroach his frontiers from every post, he allied him- 
self to a * dog ' among the most cynical Gallicians, 
named Razarik (Roderic) surnamed Al-Kanbiator (the 



THE CID EL CAMPEADOR 191 

Campeador). He was powerful and dangerous. He 
had acquired many victories on the Petty Kings, and 
had a deep knowledge of intrigues and mischief. 

" Banu Hud were the first to bring him to note 
invoking his help for the support of their tyranny and 
their mischievous faulty plans. They pushed him into 
the provinces of the peninsula where he crushed her 
brave knights and planted his banner into the hearts of 
her sons, till he acquired great power and his mischief 
covered her furthest end." He goes on to describe the 
conquest of Valencia by the Cid as follows : " Razarik 
coveted so much the possession of Valencia that he 
stationed himself continually in its neighbourhood, 
like a lover near his mistress, destroying its provisions 
and killing its defenders and bringing in it every woe, 
and attacking it on all sides. Perhaps a lofty summit 
which could not be aspired for or attained, and which 
moons and suns could not replace, was neverthe- 
less attained by this tyrant. This tyrant achieved his 
mischievous aim by entering Valencia in the year 88 
by one of his treacherous attempts and after the 
submission of the aforesaid Qadi to his power, and 
acknowledging his authority on conditions and alleged 
promises which did not long last. 1 ' He then resumed 
the qualities of the Cid in these strong words : " This 
scourge of his time was, through his great courage, 
prudence and cruelty, one of God's prodigies." Ibn 
Bassam goes on to speak 'of the Almoravide conquest 
of Valencia, as already stated. His rhymes and flowery 
style did not hinder him from acquiring precision in 
events and dates. 5 

We can then refer in this part of the history of 
Christian Spain, to a trustworthy Arab source which is 
the sole source of the life of the Cid. We have already 
seen that it was the conditions of Muslim Spain, its 
raging dissensions and civil wars which paved the way 
to the victory and glory of the Castillian knight who 
was able by his daring and cunning to exploit these 



192 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

dissensions to the extreme, and to achieve through 
adventure, intrigue and treachery what could not be 
achieved by great arms. 6 

References 

1 This is the book entitled Az-Zakhirafil-Taarifbi-Mahasinahl-al-cJazira, 
of which a manuscript exists in the Egyptian Library. It consists of two 
parts only, the first relating to Cordova and its notables, and the second to 
Western Andalusia and its notables, and the history of Banu Abbad. It 
lacks the third part relating to the history of Valencia and its nobles, and the 
fourth part relating to the history of the peninsula. One-half of the book 
is missing. The copy is in two large volumes (No. 2267 and 2347, literature), 
but Professor Levi Provencal, the French orientalist, discovered a complete 
manuscript copy of Az-Zakhira in some of the mosques of Morocco and Fez 
which is now being printed in Cairo by the Egyptian University. 

2 This is the explanation given by Dozy, but in an appendix of Al- 
Bayan al-Mughnb (Vol. Ill, p. 305) its meaning is given as ** sahib al-fahs," 
i.e., master of the valley. 

3 Nafh al-Tib, Vol. II, p. 557. But Ibn al-Abbar says that the Cid 
occupied Valencia in 487 A.H. (1094 A.D.). (Al-Hulla al-Suyaraa, p. 189.) 

* The author of Al-Bayan al-Mughnb (Vol. Ill, p. 306) in his report 
on the events of Valencia and the rule of Qadi, Ibn Jahhaf, says that the 
historian Abul Abbas Ahmad ibn Alkama was then present at Valencia and 
witnessed the Cid and his deed, and wrote a lengthy report about his 
life in his history. 

8 This chapter was given in the third part of Az-Zakhira which is 
now being printed in Cairo. It is reproduced by Dozy in his book Le Cid. 
It was likewise referred to by Ibn al-Abbar in Al-Hulla al-Suyaraa (p. 189). 

For the details of these events see Dozy : Le Cid, also his Recherches 
sur I'Histoire et Literature de I' Espagne pendant le moyen age and his Histoire 
des M usulmans de I'Espagne (Vol. Ill, new edition) : Aschbach : Geschichte 
Spamens zurZeit der Herrschaft des Almoravtden und. Almohaden. Vol. I, 
pp. 111-114. See also Al-Makkari : Nafh al-Tib, Vol. II, p. 577 ; Ibn Adhari : 
Al-Bayan al-Mughrib, Vol. Ill, pp. 305-306; and Ibn al-Abbar : Al-Hulla al- 
Suyaraa, p. 189. 



CHAPTER XIV 
The Fall of Toledo 

FOR about three centuries Muslim Spain was one 
block, subject to one central government that 
of Cordova. Its sole enemy within the peninsula 
was Christian Spain. When the last edifice of the 
Andalusian Omayyad Caliphate crumbled, after the 
Ameride dynasty had robbed it of its authority and 
wrenched its patrimony and qualifications, and both 
the usurper and the usurped having fallen into the 
same abyss dug by greed and raging passions, Muslim 
Spain fell a prey to tyranny and anarchy and was swept 
by a torrent of dissolution and dissension: and the 
vultures aspiring after authority, thirsty for dominion, 
rushed at the prey, achieved its death, snatched its limbs 
and built on its ruins several states and principalities 
which no sooner they were established than they began 
to tear one another and devoted all their energies to 
waging a series of terrible civil wars which were not 
ended before they were all overthrown by new powers 
which rose on the other side of the straits (the Al- 
moravides and Almohades) and found in Andalusia 
a large field to satisfy their ambition for sovereignty 
and imposing dominion. They then met their death 
one after the other at the hands of their old enemy who, 
for centuries, awaited an opportunity to recapture his 
country from the grasp of Islam and restore it to 
the fold of Christianity. 

Those chiefs who inherited the patrimony of the 
Omayyad Caliphate in Andalusia were called " the 
Petty Kings " (Muluk al-Tawaif ). They became pro- 
minent during the storm ; they were either a former 

25 



194 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

minister, a governor of a city, a Cadi (Judge) or 
wealthy and noble men. They created for themselves 
independent governments and royal dynasties and 
some of them became very powerful and extended 
their dominion over more than one of the great pro- 
vinces, such as Banu Hud in Saragossa and Aragon 
(Al-Saghar al-Aala), and Banu Ab bad in Seville whose 
court almost rivalled in splendour that of the departing 
Omayyads. 

These new small states were able to raise a strong 
barrier in the face of Christian Spain if they, or some 
.of them, agreed to oppose their common foe. But 
they were busy more with their personal disputes and 
internal combats than to attend to the danger which 
threatened them all. Some of them did not even 
hesitate to side with the Spanish Christian kings against 
each other so that, not long after, most of them were 
paying tributes to Castille and Aragon and some were 
vassals to the kings of the North. 



Toledo was the first stronghold of the edifice of 
Islam in Andalusia which crumbled. Since the latter 
part of the fifth century it was the seat of the Goths, 
successors of the Alaric. But the Arabs did not 
choose to make it, after the conquest, the capital of a 
Muslim state in Spain. They chose Seville and later 
exchanged it for Cordova which bacame the seat of 
the Emirs and, afterwards, the capital of the Omay- 
yad state. Toledo was a turbulent stubborn city to 
subdue and govern and there Abdul Rahman al-Dakhil 
and his successors were met with great difficulties and 
reverses. On the fall of the Omayyad Caliphate this 
ancient city, together with other cities, revolted and 
became, for some time, independent, till Ismail ibn 
Dhil-Nun, surnamed Al-Zafir, became its ruler. Ismail 
was the scion of a noble family of Santa Maria. On 



THE FALL OF TOLEDO 195 

the death of the governor of Toledo the troops, during 
the chaos, offered him the post of governor which he 
accepted and created for himself a dynasty and a king- 
dom in Toledo. This happened in the middle of the 
eleventh century (427 A.H.) but two years after he 
died and was succeeded by his son Al-Mamun Yahiya. 
Being a resolute and ambitious prince he extended the 
frontiers of his kingdom to the east and south, wren- 
ched Valencia from its governor who belonged to Banu 
Amir. Civil war was then raging in all parts of An- 
dalusia, carrying to its beautiful valleys ruin and woe. 
Those chiefs who divided among themselves the heri- 
tage of Omayyad Caliphate were malignantly watching 
one another and everyone of them was trying to extend 
his territory at the expense of the other. Cordova, 
Seville and Toledo were involved in this grave combat 
which threatened Islam in Spain. Cordova was in the 
hands of Banu Jihwar and Seville in those of Banu 
Abbad, the strongest of the Petty Kings. The policy of 
Al-Mutadid-Billah al-Abbadi was, in fact, the cause of 
this civil war. He aspired after the conquest of the 
surrounding cities and provinces and the possession of 
all the patrimony of the Omayyad Caliphate. Ibn 
Jihwar on the other hand was trying to extend his 
frontiers, while Ibn Dhil-Nun was turning his atten- 
tion to the eastern parts where, as already stated, he 
occupied Valencia, and on the other hand wished to 
wrench Cordova from the hands of Ibn Jihwar. 
Al-Mutadid-Billah was trying to provoke civil war 
between the small Emirs ; on the one hand he incited 
some and on the other went to help the vanquished and 
watched the course of events awaiting favourable 
opportunities. 

Ibn Dhil-Nun assisted the governors of the cities 
and forts of Cordova which Ibn Jihwar was trying to 
bring under his rule. The frontiers of Cordova and 
Toledo touched on many points, and Ibn Jihwar often 
invaded the territory of Ibn Dhil-Nun and ravaged it. 



196 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Ibn Dhil-Nun was indignant and resolute to invade 
Cordova ; he concluded a treaty with Ferdinand I, 
king of Castille to ensure his neutrality while engaged 
with his adversary. He then marched on Cordova 
with a huge army and Ibn Jihwar appealed to Ibn al- 
Aftas, king of Badajoz and to Ibn Abbad, for help. 
The former responded to the appeal but the latter 
refused on the pretext that he was himself engaged in 
fighting the Emir of Caramonia. After several small 
and indecisive battles the two armies finally met 
between Cuenca and Toledo. The forces of Cordova 
and Badajoz were commanded by Al-Harith ibn al- 
Hakam, the most noted soldier of that age, while Ibn 
Dhil-Nun commanded his own army, A long and 
fierce battle was fought in which the king of Toledo 
was victorious. The defeated army retired to Cordova. 
Ibn Jihwar, who was an old man bent with age and 
despair, was frightened ; while his son Abdul Malik 
who was engrossed in luxury and pleasure in the 
palaces of Al-Zahra, at last rose to save the situation 
and appealed for help to Al-Mutadid, his friend and 
companion in youth. He welcomed him and promised 
to grant his request, but the victorious army had by 
that time encircled Cordova, besieged it and cut off all 
its communications. Some of the knights of Cordova 
left the city secretly and hurried again to Ibn Abbad 
to acquaint him with the imminent danger. Ibn 
Abbad considered this a favourable opportunity to 
realize a part of his great project and at once despatched 
his army under the command of his son Muhammad, 
accompanied by his vizier and counsellor Ibn Ammar, 
to save the city. A decisive battle was fought between 
the forces of Ibn Abbad and those of Ibn Dhil-Nun, 
under the walls of Cordova, in which Ibn Dhil-Nun 
was defeated and retired to Toledo with his vanquish- 
ed army. 

The guiding spirit of Ibn Abbad was at that time 
his vizier, Ibn Ammar, a man of great intelligence 



THE FALL OF TOLEDO 197 

and daring. Apart from his genius as a poet and 
litterateur he was one of the foremost Andalusians, 
famous for his sagacity and cunning, and Ibn Abbad 
had supplied him with a secret plan and orders with 
regard to Cordova. He watched the developments of 
the battle and when he found the Cordovans busy 
pillaging the camp of the defeated army, he entered 
Cordova at the head of a strong detachment, occupied 
its forts and palaces, and arrested and imprisoned the 
old king (Ibn Jihwar) who died a few days after from 
grief. No sooner his son Abdul Malik returned 
from chasing his adversary than he learned the 
terrible fact and marched to the walls of the city and 
there the troops of Ibn Abbad surrounded him and 
wounded and arrested him and sent him to prison 
where he died soon after. Ibn Abbad tried to win 
over the Cordovans with presents, courteous treatment 
and brilliant banquets ; they abandoned the cause of 
their old king with the exception of Al-Harith ibn 
al-Hakam, who could not bear this treachery and 
humiliation and went to the defeated king of Toledo, 
seeking protection. Thus Ibn Abbad accomplished 
his object of occupying the Omayyad capital. He 
attained, at that time, the summit of his power and his 
kingdom its widest limits. 

Ibn Dhil-Nun was quiet for some time to repair 
his army and make his preparations. But he was 
burning to avenge his defeat. Al-Harith, on the other 
hand, urged and incited him. He concluded an 
armistice with the king of Castille and wrote to his 
son-in-law, Abdul Rahman al-Muzaffar, Emir of Valen- 
cia to succour him with his army, but he refused fear- 
ing the power of Ibn Abbad and that of his allies who 
surrounded him. Ibn Dhil-Nun was indignant. He 
marched secretly with his forces to Valencia which he 
entered and arrested Abdul Rahman, sparing his 
life and only deposing him out of pity for his daugh- 
ter, and proclaimed himself king in his place. 



198 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

At that time Al-Mutadid-Billah al-Abbadi died 
(461 A.H., 1069 A.D.) and was succeeded by his son 
Muhammad "Al-Mutamid Ala- Allah." Ibn Dhil-Nun 
found that the opportunity he awaited had come, 
because Muhammad was not as determined and strong 
as his father. He decided to invade his allies first and 
so he invaded Murcia and Thodmir which appealed to 
their ally, the king of Seville, who was at that time 
busy fighting Malaga and Granada. He despatched to 
them Ibn Ammar with a small force and the cunning 
vizier bought the alliance of Count Raymond of 
Barcelona with a sum of money, but Ibn Dhil-Nun 
defeated all the allied forces. Ibn Abbad came with 
his forces at the last moment but the river Segura 
hindered him from reaching his allies till the defeat 
was complete. Ibn Dhil-Nun was moderate in profit- 
ing by his victory, so he maintained the king of Mur- 
cia under his protection, but the king of Thodmir pre- 
ferred to escape and took refuge with the Count who 
kept him prisoner for a time till Ibn Ammar ransomed 
him with money. 

Ibn Dhil-Nun did not give his adversary time to 
repair his affairs. He therefore assembled his forces 
in the following year (466 A.H., 1074 A.D.) and hired 
a detachment of cavalry from the king of Castille. The 
Army was commanded by Al-Harith ibn al-Hakam 
who rapidly marched on Cordova and occupied it and 
killed its defender, Siraj al-Dawla, son of Al-Mutamid, 
and carried his head on a lance and ordered it to be 
exhibited in the city to avenge the murder of Ibn 
Jihwar. At that time Al-Mutamid was fighting in the 
neighbourhood of Malaga and his forces dispersed here 
and there. When he learned of the fall of Cordova 
and the murder of his son he amassed his forces and 
retired to Seville. Al-Mamun ibn Dhil-Nun had at 
that time entered Cordova but he died soon after from 
disease and old age at the zenith of his victory. 
Al-Harith ibn al-Hakam fortified himself in the city, 



THE FALL OF TOLEDO 199 

apprehending the advance of Ibn Abbad. No sooner 
Ibn Abbad arrived with his army under the walls of 
the city than the Cordovans revolted against Al-Haris 
and he had to escape, but as soon as he left by the 
eastern gate of Cordova, Ibn Abbad entered it with his 
army by the western gate. Al-Mutamid was burning 
with the desire to capture and punish him and there- 
fore chased him till he reached him. It is said that 
fearing his escape he fatally stabbed him with his spear 
which penetrated through his body. He then ordered 
the body to be tied with that of a dog and it was 
exhibited over the bridge of the city with an insulting 
inscription. Thus Ibn Abbad avenged the murder of 
his son in a fearful manner. 



Al-Mamun was succeeded by his son Yahiya, 
entitled Al-Kadir, in difficult circumstances, but he did 
not inherit his father's resolution, courage and sagacity, 
and preferred a life of amusement and luxury. As 
Al-Mamun had found a favourable opportunity in the 
death of Al-Mutadid, likewise Al-Mutamid found a 
favourable opportunity in the death of Al-Mamun. 
He therefore sent his armies to various parts of the 
territory of Ibn Dhil-Nun. He occupied Murcia, 
Lorica and other dependencies of Toledo and detach- 
ed his allies from him, while Al-Kadir witnessed these 
calamities without concern or apprehension of the 
danger which threatened his kingdom. Elements of 
disorder were raging in Toledo itself, kindled by the 
discontented and the Fakihs (theologians). Perhaps 
Ibn Ammar was not a stranger to this chaos and soon 
after the disorders turned into a general revolution. 
The insurgents besieged the Emir in his palace (1081 
A.D.), and he and his family escaped death with diffi- 
culty. He took refuge in a fort close to Valencia and 
began to negotiate with Ibn Hud, Emir of Saragossa 



200 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

and Alphonso, king of Castillc, who was his 
father's great friend. The king of Castille, when his 
brother usurped his throne, had fled to Al-Mamun ibn 
Dhil-Nun who gave him hospitality and protection. 
But politics and ambition had their effect ; the king of 
Castille forgot all the promises he had made to 
Al-Mamun at the time of his adversity and refused to 
succour the son of his friend and protector prefering 
the alliance of Ibn Abbad. Al-Kadir then appealed to 
the king of Badajoz who came to his assistance and 
helped him to be restored to his throne. But suddenly 
the king of Castille took off his mask and attacked the 
territory of Toledo which he fiercely ravaged. The 
king of Badajoz alone stood by the side of Al-Kadir. 
The secret treaty which Ibn Abbad had concluded 
with the king of Castille, gave him a free hand in 
Toledo. The king of Castille hastened to assemble 
all his forces and advanced with a great army towards 
the walls of Toledo, those valleys having been the 
field of war for several years till they were totally 
ruined and impoverished and the phantom of starvation 
began to threaten the inhabitants with its terrible 
misery. The elite of the Muslims were aware that the 
situation was critical and that the fall of Toledo, one 
of the great seats of Andalusia, into the hands of the 
king of Castille, foretold its final fall and that the fall 
of the first bastion in the edifice of the Muslim state 
meant the fall of the whole edifice. A number of them 
urged union in the face of the common danger. Abul- 
Walid, Cadi of Be ja, an influential old man, went round 
the provinces and cities, visited Murcia, Granada and 
Seville raising his voice and warning against the con- 
sequences of discord and assuring that the king of 
Castille will destroy all the Petty Kingdoms one after 
the other, if they did not hasten to co-operate and unite. 
But the efforts of these wise envoys, who foresaw 
the latent calamities of the future, were in vain and 
ambitions and personal passions overcame every wise 



THE FALL OF TOLEDO 201 

principle. The king of Seville, who was responsible 
for the calamity, was quietly watching the fall of 
Toledo and only Omar ibn al-Aftas, the brave king 
of Badajoz, continued to defend the ancient city by 
the side of its king. But he was forced to retire 
before the huge forces of Alphonso, after a series of 
fierce battles. The Christians surrounded the city and 
severely besieged it and cut off its communications, 
till the situation became difficult and the misery of the 
besieged was intensified. The Muslims saw that the 
only means of saving their lives was an honourable 
surrender, and that they could escape the pangs of 
hunger and death only by capitulation and slavery. 
They agreed with their king, Al-Kadir, to send a 
deputation to discuss peace with the king of Castille. 
The Christian king refused to listen to them unless 
the city surrendered. The nobles and sheikhs were 
indignant and resolved to defend their liberty to the 
last breath and to die under the ruins of the walls. 
But the voice of the populace rose from all sides ask- 
ing for capitulation, in consequence of the hunger and 
privation they suffered. The notables were then 
forced to send a new deputation to the king of 
Castille proposing to surrender the city on the promise 
to ensure the safety of the population and their 
property, to maintain the mosques and the Muslim 
rites and to accord the inhabitants the choice either to 
remain in Toledo or to leave it and to allow the 
Muslims to maintain their judges and laws. The 
Christian king feigned to accept and soon the gates of 
the city were opened and Alphonso entered it at the 
head of his Castillian troops on May 25, 1085 A.D. 
(beginning of Safar, 478 A.H.). As for the unfortu- 
nate king, Yahiya al-Kadir, he left with his family and 
riches for Valencia, followed by a large number 
of notables and nobles. It is said that the king 
of Castille supplied him with a detachment of troops 
to ensure his safety in Valencia. 

26 



202 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Thus the great city fell and escaped for ever from 
the hands of the Muslims and was restored to Chris- 
tianity, its old fold. Conde says : " It was the only 
barrier against the advance of the Christians to the 
river Tagus. This event, which gave the authority of 
the King of Castille a new force, revealed to the 
Muslims their weakness and represented before them 
the phantoms of slavery and death embracing, after 
centuries of power and glory, the darkness of an 
inauspicious future. There was before them only one 
way to avoid these misfortunes to be united and to 
entrust to able hands the management of all their unit- 
ed forces. But private interests prevailed at that time, 
as they always do, over public interests, and they con- 
tinued to fall rapidly to the abyss of dissolution. 111 

The calamity had a terrible echo in Andalusia 
and all the Muslim world. It provoked the sorrow of 
Arabic poetry for a time and excellent elegies were 
composed to mourn it. 2 It had a deep effect on the 
course of the history of Andalusia. It forced the 
Petty Kings to appeal to the Almoravides for help in 
fighting the Christians and they were united for 
a time till the Almoravides conquered Andalusia for 
themselves, and Muslim Spain entered a new phase of 
its history, which was the phase of Berber Kingdoms 
and became the field of a torrent of Muslim invaders 
which flowed to it from the other side of the straits. 3 

References 

1 Histona de la Dominacion de los Arabos en Espana. 

2 The author of Nafh al-Tib gives many of these elegies, Cf. Vol. II, p. 589 
and the following. 

* On the events of the fall of Toledo see Nafh al-Tib, Vol. II, p. 522 and 
the following ; Ibn Khaldun, Vol. IV. p 161 : and Dozy, Vol, III, p. 120 and 
the following. 



CHAPTER XV 
The Battle of Al-Zallaka 

AS already stated Andalusia was, in the days of the 
Petty Kings, a prey to discord and dissension, 
advancing rapidly towards decay, and its eter- 
nal enemy, Christian Spain, was watching it. Chris- 
tian Spain had become very powerful and it seemed to 
her that Muslim domination in Spain was already 
breaking down and will not last long. It had become 
then united and formed two great kingdoms, Castille 
and Aragon. There was at that time on the throne of 
Castille a stubborn determined king, Alphonso VI, 
who defied the Petty Kingdoms and awaited the 
moment to devour them. He was weak when he 
ascended the throne with the help of an Andalusian 
Emir, Ibn Abbad, king of Seville. He opened his 
reign by invading the petty Christian states as Leon, 
Galicia and Navarre. He then began to intrigue bet- 
ween the Muslim states, and allied with one Emir 
against another and helped one chief against the other 
till he could, due to his resolution and cunning, 
wrench the city of Toledo from its Emir, Yahiya ibn 
Dhil-Nun. This was the first great Muslim seat 
which fell into the hands of Christian Spain (478 A.H., 
1085 A.D.) and the boundaries of Christian Spain 
were pushed, for the first time, beyond the banks of 
the Tagus. Alphonso then suddenly took off the mask 
and appeared, as he really was, before those Muslim 
Emirs who sued his friendship and whom he pretend- 
ed to be their ally. He advanced with his troops 
towards the principality of Saragossa whose king Abu 
Gaafar Ahmad ibn Hud, entitled Al-Mustain, began 



204 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

desparately to defend his territory. He also sent word 
to Ibn al-Aftas, king of Badajoz, asking him to deliver 
up some of his forts, but Ibn al-Aftas retorted with a 
severe and determined reply. 1 He did not, however, 
find around him any Muslim Emir whose help he 
could seek. The Castillian troops penetrated into 
Muslim territory and occupied the city of Curia and 
its torts. Alphonso then asked Al-Mutamid ibn 
Abbad, king of Seville, the strongest Muslim Emir of 
that time, to deliver him some of his forts also. Ibn 
Abbad indignantly refused and began to prepare for 
war and dismissed Alphonso's ambassador, who had 
come to receive the tribute he promised to pay to the 
king of Castille in one of the treaties concluded bet- 
ween them, and ordered the murder of some of the 
envoys who accompanied him. The king of Castille 
was indignant and swore to take vengeance. 2 

Al-Mutamid ibn Abbad took a decision. He 
summoned his generals, assembled his troops, repaired 
his forts and placed garrisons in them. He even went 
further in his preparations not to fight the Christians 
alone. He abandoned the policy of conquest which 
had moved him for a time against his colleagues, the 
Muslim Emirs, and had obliged him more than once 
to seek the help of the Christians against them. He 
wrote to the kings of Granada, Almeria, Badajoz and 
other Emirs and rulers asking them to meet and con- 
sult to face the common danger. They met in two 
congresses, one held in Seville and the other in Cor- 
dova, and discussed an idea which had previously 
occurred to more than one Andalusian Emir, which 
was actually put in force by the Emir of Badajoz. 
That idea was the appeal of the Emirs of the Petty 
States to the Commander of the Muslims, Yousef ibn 
Tashfin, the Almoravide and Lamtunide (from the 
tribe of Lamtuna), king of Mauritania, and to incite 
his zeal to defend Islam in Andalusia. 

These Almoravides and Lamtunides had emerged 



THE BATTLE OF ZALLAKA 205 

from the desert beyond the Atlas mountains about 
half a century before, impelled by a deep religious 
doctrine, defeated the tribes of the neighbouring 
mountains and successively conquered the forts of 
Morocco, occupied Segelmassa and the countries of 
Dara and Masmuda and their valleys and deserts. 
They then penetrated through the Atlas ; and tribes 
from all sides hastened to join their banner. They 
created their new kingdom between the Atlas and the 
sea and founded the city of Morocco (454 A.H., 1062 
A.D.) to be their capital. There was at that time on 
the throne of this young powerful state a prince of 
brilliant qualities, full of resolution and prudence, 
Yousef ibn Tashfin. It was to these victorious invaders 
that the eyes of the Petty Kings were turned. They 
agreed to seek help from their King with the excep- 
tion of Abdulla ibn Sakut, governor of Malaga, who 
criticized the idea and warned the Petty Kings against 
inviting these savage bedouins to come to the beauti- 
ful valleys of Andalusia from fear that being allured 
by its prosperity they would plan to conquer it and 
enslave its inhabitants after repulsing the danger of 
the Christians. He advised them to rely on themselves 
and on their union, their weakness being due only to 
their discord. The Emirs refused to listen to him and 
determined to put their idea into force. They asked 
Al-Mutawakkil, Emir of Badajoz, who was the most 
learned Andalusian at that time, to write to Yousef ibn 
Tashfin a letter describing the calamities brought on 
the Muslims by the Christians, and imploring him to 
hasten to help them before the greatest calamity befell 
them. The Emirs signed this letter and Ibn Abbad 
sent, in his name and in the names of the Emirs of 
Andalusia, an embassy with valuable presents. He 
also wrote to him a letter describing the humiliation 
of the peoples of Andalusia, how the king of the 
Christians overwhelmed them and deprived them of 
their cities and forts one after the other. He further 



206 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

described the causes of this weakness of Andalusia 
and implored him to come to their succour. 

Yousef ibn Tashfin received with honour the 
envoys of the Emirs of Andalusia and their letters and 
dismissed them with the best words and promises. He 
then held a council and all the Berber leaders were of 
opinion to grant the request of the kings of Andalusia. 
That was also the opinion of Yousef ibn Tashfin. 
There is no doubt that the Berber leaders were urged 
by religious zeal and the desire to help Islam and their 
brethren. But there is no doubt, also, that the king of 
the Almoravides was, from the beginning, burning 
with a secret hope of extending his dominion to the 
beautiful Andalusia, of whose wonders he had often 
heard. 

But Yousef ibn Tashfin stipulated, for granting 
this request, that Ibn Abbad should give him the port 
of Algeciras to ensure the safety of his communication 
in going and returning. Ibn Abbad granted this 
request, inspite of the opposition of his son Al-Rashid 
and other Emirs who apprehended the consequences 
of this act. 

The king of Morocco kept his promise . and 
torrents of soldiers went from all parts of Morocco to- 
wards the sea. The king of the Almoravides marched 
at the head of his great army and crossed the sea to 
Andalusia. Ibn Abbad received him at Algeciras and 
delivered to him its forts which were occupied by a 
force of Almoravides. Yousef ordered its impregnable 
forts to be repaired and marched with his army to- 
wards Seville after having supplied it with provisions 
and munitions. 



The king of Castille was, at that time, busy fight- 
ing Ibn Hud, Emir of Saragossa and besieging his 
capital. He heard of the preparations of the Almora- 



THE BATTLE OF ZALLAKA 207 

vides and of their crossing over to Spain. He at once 
retired from Saragossa and assembled troops from all 
sides Galicia, Bascony and Asturias, as well as all 
the armies of Castille. He appealed to the Cid El 
Campeador, the most noted knight of Castille, to help 
him, as well as to the kings of Aragon and Navarre ; 
all responded and hastened to him with their forces. 
Yousef ibn Tashfin was awaiting at Seville the pre- 
parations of the Andalusian princes. When he was 
informed of the preparations of the king of Castille 
and his march to Andalusia he moved with his Berber 
forces from Seville and the armies of Andalusia 
hastened to him from all sides. The united Muslim 
forces marched to meet the united Christian forces. 
They met not far from Badajoz in a plain called by the 
Arab chronicles as Al-Zallaka and by the Christian 
chronicles as Sacralias. 3 The king of Castille divided his 
army into two parts, one commanded by him and the 
other by the king of Navarre. Historians differ as to 
the strength of the Christian and the Muslim armies. 
According to one Muslim report the army of the 
Christians was composed of eighty thousand, and to 
another fifty or forty thousand. As for the Muslim 
army it was estimated by some at forty-eight thousand 
and by others at twenty thousand, 4 but it is under- 
stood from the various reports that the army of the 
Christians exceeded the Muslim army in numbers. 
Yousef also divided his army into two large parts, one 
comprising all the Berber cavalry and commanded by 
Daood ibn Ayisha, the ablest Berber general, and the 
other comprising the cavalry of Seville, Granada, 
Valencia and Badajoz and commanded by Al-Mutamid 
ibn Abbad. Yousef commanded the reserve army 
composed of his best Almoravide troops from Lam- 
tuna, Sanhaja and other Berber tribes. 

The two armies were drawn up one opposite the 
other, separated only by the river Jera, a small branch 
of the Gaudiana extending between Badajoz and Lerida. 



208 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Before the battle Yousef wrote to the king of Castille 
proposing him either to embrace Islam or to pay a 
tribute or fight, according to the religious law. He 
said in that letter : " We have heard, O Adfonsh 
(Alphonso) that you wished to meet us and to have 
ships to cross the sea to us. Now we have crossed 
over to you and God brought us together in this field, 
and you shall see the consequences of your wish. The 
wishes of infidels are in vain." 

The king of Castille retorted with a vehement 
letter full of threats. Yousef merely returned to him 
his letter annotated with the following words: " You 
shall see what will happen." 5 

On Rajab 12, 479 A.H. (October 23, 1086 A.D.) 6 
the battle began and the two armies were engaged in a 
general combat. The king of Castille attacked with 
his cavalry the Almoravides' wing commanded by Ibn 
Ayisha so severely that it was almost dislodged from 
its position and was put in disorder, notwithstanding 
the bravery exhibited by the Almoravides. The king 
of Navarre also defeated the Andalusian forces which 
were in a state of disorder and most of them had 
retired towards Badajoz. Only Ibn Abbad and his army 
stood in face of the Navarrese but the brave prince 
was wounded and his men were dispersed. When the 
king of the Almoravides found that the Christians 
were winning on all sides, he at once pushed his reserve 
forces to the field, which were the best of his troops, 
and they were led to the heart of the Christians by one 
of his bravest and ablest generals, Syr Ibn Abi Bakr. 
Soon the aspect of the battle changed, and the fugi- 
tives joined the new forces and the combat was 
resumed. Yousef attacked the camp of the Christians, 
which was guarded by a small force, and destroyed it. 
He then attacked the rear of the Castillians forcing 
the king of Castille to withdraw with his forces to 
face this new danger. Ibn Ayisha, availing himself of 
this opportunity, rushed with his forces to chase the 



THE BATTLE OF ZALLAKA 209 

retiring Christians surrounded by the reserve army, 
and the Andalusian armies poured from all sides. The 
Christians were torn everywhere, and the dead and the 
wounded surrounded the king of Castille who was 
severely wounded in the thigh, and he and his army 
escaped destruction only by nightfall. 

The Muslims passed the night in the field of 
battle watching the movements of the Christians. On 
the morning of the following day some of their forces 
advanced to chase the fugitives, while another great 
force began to collect spoils which were enormous. 

According to the Muslim chronicle the king of 
Castille escaped with about five hundred men, the 
remnant of his army, and, while the Muslims lost only 
three thousand men, most of the Christians perished. 
It is also reported that the heads of the Christians 
who were killed were gathered and formed a great hill, 
and when counted found to be twenty-four thousand. 
According to another report the number of the heads 
of the men killed, distributed among the cities of 
Andalusia, was forty thousand. 7 This is no doubt an 
exaggerated figure, although the Christian report 
admits that the battle was terrible and the losses of 
the Christians were very great. There is no doubt 
also that the losses of the Muslims were equally great, 
particularly among Almoravides who were fighting in 
a foreign land. The victorious armies did not content 
themselves with their decisive victory in the plains of 
Al-Zallaka, but marched north and reconquered from 
the Christians many of the forts and towns they 
had occupied years before. Ibn Tashfin returned to 
Seville where he remained for a little time before 
returning to Mauritania on account of urgent matters. 



It is evident that the encounter of Islam and 
Christianity in the plains of Al-Zallaka was a page of 

27 



210 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the history of the Crusades ; the first cradle of which 
was Spain, and which raged afterwards in the East at 
the same time they raged in Spain. The battle of 
Al-Zallaka meant, in fact, more than the defeat of the 
king of Castille and the victory of the Petty Kings 
and their allies the Almoravides. The religious 
eruption of the Almoravides which swept over the 
deserts of Mauritania, in a short time, and afterwards 
crossed the sea to Spain to succour the Muslim states 
at the beginning and to wrest them, afterwards, from 
the Petty Kings, was so violent that it inspired Chris- 
tendom with apprehension. Christendom saw in its 
violence this imminent danger which threatened more 
than once to overwhelm the Christian countries 
beyond the Pyrenees. Muslim Spain was raged with a 
similar outburst on two occasions after the battle of 
Tours and the deliverance of Christendom by Karl 
Martel in 732 A.D. the first in the reign of Al-Nasir 
li-Din Allah and the second in the reign of Al-Hajib 
al-Mansur. In both cases Christian Spain was repuls- 
ed beyond the northern mountains, and Islam pene- 
trated into the farthest parts of Spain. 

The Muslim historians themselves feel the grav- 
ity of this battle and its religious character. They mix 
its incidents with a number of spiritual legends. Thus 
it is said that when Yousef ibn Tashfin embarked and 
the storm raged, he prayed to God to calm it ; he said : 
" God ! if what I am doing is right, and if my journey 
is for the good of Islam, calm the waves. But if what 
I am doing is an evil which will injure Islam, let these 
waves express Thy holy wish." The waves subsided 
soon after this supplication and a favourable wind 
drove the ship towards Andalusia. 8 Also that when 
the king of Castille was making preparations to fight 
the Muslims he had several terrible dreams. He 
dreamt that he was riding an elephant on the sides of 
which drums were hanging which made a terrible noise 
when beaten and that a Muslim Faqih (theologian) 



THE BATTLE OF ZALLAKA 211 

of Toledo explained this dream in the sense that it 
foretold his crushing defeat, comparing this with what 
happened in the year of the elephant when Abraha, 
who was also riding an elephant, was crushed. There 
are also other legends. 9 In addition to these legends 
the Muslim chroniclers say that the armies of Chris- 
tendom were completely crushed in Al-Zallaka and 
that the king of Castille escaped with only five hundred 
men of an army estimated at more than fifty thousand. 
This exaggeration reminds us of that of the ecclesiasti- 
cal chronicle on the losses of the Muslims in the Pave- 
ment of the Martyrs (Battle of Tours) where it is 
alleged that about three hundred thousand Muslims 
perished while not more than three thousand Chris- 
tians were killed. 

These legends and exaggerations do not raise the 
slightest doubt on the importance of this famous battle 
and do not reduce the magnitude of its decisive con- 
sequences. In the plains of Al-Zallaka the sweeping 
torrent of Christianity was turned away from Muslim 
Spain after threatening it with total destruction. Islam 
gained a new life in Spain which lasted for four more 
centuries, and it was inspired by this young strong 
spirit which created from the ruins of the Petty States 
(Al-Tawaif ) the glorious kingdom of Granada which 
for more than two centuries dazzled Europe with its 
sciences and brilliant civilization. 10 

References 

1 See the text of the letter of the king of Badajoz to the king of the 
Christians in Al-Hulal al-Mawshiya, pp. 20-21. This was a letter full of 
courage and magnanimity. 

* According to some Arab chronicles Ibn Abbad killed the Ambassa- 
dor of Alphonso VI himself, but the former chronicle is more correct. 

'Dozy, Vol. Ill, p. 126. 



212 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

4 Sec Al-Hulal al-Mawshiya of Ibn aUKhatib, p. 38 ; Ibn al-Athir, Vol. 
X, p. 52 ; Nafh al-Tib, Vol. II, p. 528 and Al-Mujib of Murrakishi (Cairo), 
p. 71. 

5 Nafh al-Tib, Vol. II, p. 527 ; Ibn al-Athir. Vol. X, p. 52. 

6 The Islamic Chronicle differs as to the date of the battle. Ibn Khallikan 
says that it was fought on Rajab 15. 479 A.H. (Vol. II, p. 484). Ibn al-Athir 
agrees with him in the year, but says that it took place at the beginning of 
Ramadan (Vol. X, p 53). Al-Murrakishi says that it took place in Ramadan, 
480 A.H. (p. 72). But according to Rawd al-Kirtas (p. 96), and Al-Hulal al- 
Mawshiya (pp. 40-41) it took place on Friday, 12 Rajab, 479 A.H. This day 
concords with 23rd October, 1086 A.D. which is the date given by the 
Christian Chronicle, and is therefore the most exact. 

7 See Ibn Khallikan, Vol. II, p. 483; Nafh al-Tib, Vol. I, p. 531 ; Rawd 
al-Kirtas. p. 96 ; Al-Hulal al-Mawskiya, p. 44 and Jbn al-Athir, Vol. X, p. 53. 

Rawd al-Kirtas, p. 92. 

Al-Hulal al-Mawashiya, pp. 35-36. 

10 For the battle of Al-Zallaka see Ibn Khallikan, Vol. II, p. 481 and the 
following pages ; Ibn al-Athir, Vol. X, pp. 52-53 ; Murrakishi, pp. 70-73 ; Rawd 
al-Kirtas, pp. 93-98 ; Al-Hulal al-Mawshiya, pp. 33-46 ; and Dozy, Vol. II, 
pp. 125-130. 



CHAPTER XVI 
The Fall of Qranada 

AMONG the tragic events of Islamic history there 
is none which is more dreadful, more sorrow- 
ful and more inciting to tears than the fall of 
Granada, the seat of Andalusia. In this pathetic page 
there are wonderful scenes of heroism, of sanctifying 
liberty and national pride, and the most sublime 
efforts to defend the fatherland ; there are astounding 
scenes of tyranny, martyrdom and sacrifice for the 
defence of home and religion. It is the story of an old 
noble people which, for centuries, raised the edifice of 
its greatness and civilization in those valleys and 
remained for long ages the master of the peninsula, 
moving through it with pride and confidence ; and then 
one day it finds itself weak before the enemy, loses its 
flourishing seats one after the other and is rendered to 
a tragic remnant, taking refuge within the walls of 
Granada, the last Muslim stronghold. 

In this lies the dreadfulness of the tragedy: 
Granada, which remained for ages the mistress of 
Andalusia, looking from its Alhambra over the destinies 
of a great and powerful nation, and throwing from 
its universities and schools the lights of science and 
arts on the peninsula and southern Europe, and being 
the seat of a Muslim power, finds itself in the year 
1491, lonely, deprived from all succour, surrounded by 
Christian forces, thirsty for its liberties and coveting 
its Alhambra. She had thus to sustain the last strug- 
gle and to behold the downfall of Islam in Spain ; and 
was doomed to be the grave of Andalusia, its flourishing 



214 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

civilization, its sciences and arts and all its greatness and 
glory. 

The Muslim kingdom in Spain had begun some- 
time before a phase of rapid decline and fall ; its re- 
maining cities and ports fell successively in the hands 
of Christian Spain, so that about the close of the 
fifteenth century it comprised only the little kingdom 
of Grajiada with few cities and ports. Then came the 
decisive struggle when the two Christian kingdoms of 
Castille and Aragon united through the marriage of 
their sovereigns, Isabella and Ferdinand V, and Chris- 
tian Spain decided to deal its crushing blow to Spanish 
Islam. Its united armies poured into the kingdom of 
Granada. Granada was then suffering from an alarming 
state of affairs ; internal discord made its way into it 
and it was torn by civil war and split into two hostile 
camps ; Granada and the neighbouring districts, under 
the rule of Abu Abdilla Muhammad, son of Sultan 
Abul Hassan the Nasride (known as Boabdil) and 
Guadix and the neighbouring districts under the rule 
of his uncle Abu Abdilla known by the name of 
Azzaghal. Ferdinand and Isabella had waged war on 
Islam some years before and wrenched, successively, 
Malaga, the strongest Andalusian port (Shaaban, 892 
A.H., August, 1487), Guadix, Almunicar and Almeria 
(end of 894 A.H., 1489 A.D.) and Baza (Muharram, 
895 A.H., December, 1489). Then it was the turn of 
Granada, the last Muslim stronghold; its king Boabdil 
(Abu Abdilla) 1 had strived to have friendly relations 
with Ferdinand and acknowledged his sovereignty ; 
but he was urged by public enthusiasm to wage war 
against him. In the course of 895 A.H. (1489 A.D.) 
many combats raged between Muslims and Christians 
in which the Muslims successfully resisted the invaders 
and recaptured many forts. The war stopped for the 
winter season and then in the spring the Christians 
marched against Granada with a large army furnished 
with cannons and abundant munitions, camped in the 



THE FALL OF GRANADA 215 

vega, south of Granada in Gumada II, 896 A.H. (March 
1491), and laid around it a rigorous siege. Ferdinand 
built for his army in this district a little walled town 
named "Santa Fe" (the sacred providence) as symbol 
for religious war. Thus began the last chapter in the 
struggle between Islam and Christianity in Spain. 2 

There was no doubt about the issue of such a 
struggle, the Christian armies were ranging around 
Granada like impetuous waves, completely equipped 
and prepared with ample munitions and provisions, 
while Granada had but little forces modestly equipped, 
limited provisons, and a wearied people. But Granada 
did not submit to its inevitable fate before striving to 
avoid it with every possible means ; thus offering a 
defence which is one of the gloriest in the history of 
besieged cities and conquered seats. This was limit- 
ed not to the endurance for seven months of the 
miseries and ravages of the siege, but comprised also 
the scenes of wonderful bravery. The Muslims made 
several sallies to fight the besieging enemy, attacking 
them, devastating their camps and frustrating their 
plans. The Muslim cavalry showed in these combats 
such intrepidity, valour and dexterity as to startle the 
enemy and commend their admiration ; these valorous 
knights were, in fact, the last remnant of Andalusian 
chivalry which was for ages the flower of chivalry in 
the Middle Ages. 

The soul of Muslim chivalry in this critical 
moment was a knight of high birth and character Musa 
ibn Abil Ghassan, 3 most resolute, adroit and gallant. 
He was the scion of a royal branch, one of those old 
lineages renowned for their extreme valour and 
deep hatred for the Christians, and which preferred 
thousand times death to seeing the fatherland occupied 
by the infidels. Musa was, among the knights of 
Granada, the most capable in combat and horseman- 
ship ; he secured by his beauty, grace and skill, the 
sympathy of the Granadian society and the admiration 



216 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

of its ladies. Since Boabdil ascended the throne of 
Granada, Musa reproached him for his submission to 
the king of the Christians and strived to kindle the 
military spirit, to organize and discipline the chivalry 
of Granada, and to lead battalions into the lands of 
the enemy, surprising his forts and garrisons in the 
neighbourhood. He was present at the time when 
Ferdinand V occupied with his army the vega of 
Granada and sent word to Boabdil inviting him to 
surrender the idol of the troops, who hurried to his 
banner, and elated his men by his call and enthusiasm. 
Musa then cried : " Let the Christian king know that 
a Moor is born for the spear and the scimitar and the 
career of the steed ; if the Christian king wishes our 
arms, let him come and win them, but let him win them 
dearly. For my part, sweeter were a grave beneath the 
walls of Granada, on the spot I had died to defend, than 
the richest couch within her palaces, earned by sub- 
mission to the unbeliever." The people were soon 
burning with enthusiasm and the spirit of war penetra- 
ted once more into Granada ; Boabdil and his viziers 
were carried by the general enthusiasm and they sent a 
reply to the king of the Christians telling him that 
they would fight unto death. 

Granada raged with the war cry ; Musa put him- 
self at the head of the cavalry and led it several times 
to the neighbouring Christian forts, so that his name 
evoked terror among the Christians. His triumphal 
returns kindled people's enthusiasm. Ferdinand sent 
small expeditions to devastate the fields around the 
city as a preliminary for the siege, and Musa arranged 
counter expeditions to harass the Chrisitians, cut their 
communications and wrench their provisions. The 
Christian armies, however, soon covered the whole of 
the valley of the Xenil (the river on which Granada is 
situated), and Ferdinand decided to press most hardly 
on Granada and not to raise the siege before the sur- 
render of the last Muslim city. Granada was in a 



THE FALL OF GRANADA 217 

very critical situation, for all the Muslim forts sur- 
rounding it, such as Baza, Gaudix, Andarax, etc., fell 
into the hands of the Christians ; Maulai Abdalla 
44 Azzaghal" (Boabdil's uncle), king of Alpuxurras and 
Gaudix, surrendered all his territory and Granada 
was cut off from land and sea on all sides. The 
Christian warships occupied the waters of Gibraltar 
in order to prevent the arrival of any reinforcements 
sent by the Muslims of Africa ; the only route left to 
Granada was the southern one of Alpuxurras from the 
side of the Sierra Nevada (Jabal Chollair), from which 
it could, with difficulty, draw some munitions and 
provisions. The besieged city endured courageously 
for months the horrors of the siege, till winter set in 
and all the neighbouring ravines were covered with 
snow, and hunger and misery of the besieged were 
doubled. One day the governor of the city, Abul 
Qasim Abdul Malik, told the ruling council that 
the remaining supplies would suffice only for a few 
months, that despair had crept into the bosoms of the 
troops and the populace and that defence was a vain 
effort. Musa objected vehemently as usual and 
stated that defence is possible and must be further 
carried ; he kindled a new spark of enthusiasm in the 
hearts of the chiefs and leaders and Boabdil, carried 
by the spirit, charged the leaders, with defence. Musa, 
as usual, commanded the cavalry, assisted, among 
others, by Nairn ibn Radwan and Muhammad ibn 
Zaida, both famous knights of the age ; he ordered the 
doors to be opened and stationed his troops there 
day and night ; whenever Christian troops approached 
they were quickly surprised and dispersed ; and many 
Christian ranks were torn in this way. Musa said to 
his men : " We have nothing left but the land on 
which we stand ; if lost we would lose name and the 
fatherland." 

Ferdinand decided at last to storm the walls of 
the city ; the Muslims, headed by Boabiil and Musa, 

28 



218 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

sallied to meet him, and some terrible combats raged 
between the two armies in the vega near Granada. 
The Muslim cavalry, commanded by Musa, was as 
usual the soul of the struggle ; Boabdil led the royal 
guard. The struggle was fierce and every foot of soil 
was stained with the blood of the two contending 
parties. The Muslim infantry was, however, weak 
and were soon dispersed and fled everywhere ; the 
royal guard followed them to the walls of the city 
preceded by Boabdil. In vain Musa tried to re- 
assemble the troops and call them to the defence of 
their homes, wives and everything cherished by them ; 
finding himself alone in the field with his devoted 
cavaliers, whose number was reduced and who were 
mostly badly wounded, he was forced to retire to the 
city trembling with rage and despair. 

The Muslims then closed the gates of the city 
and waited behind them in fear and sorrow. The 
Christians showed their firm resolution to pursue 
the siege and intensified the pressure on the besieged 
city by every means and their efforts in cutting its 
communications. The Muslims, within Granada, were 
suffering the horrors of hunger, privation and disease ; 
and despair crept into the bosoms of all. Boabdil 
summoned a council of chief warriors, Faqihs and 
notables; they assembled in the great hall of the 
Alhambra with gloomy airs ; and Abul Qasim Abdul 
Malik, the governor of the city, informed them of 
the enormity of the calamity, that provisions were 
exhausted and that the people were suffering awfully. 
The council declared then that the people could not 
bear any more the horrors of defence and that they 
have to choose between surrender and death ; and 
they decreed unanimously to sue for surrender. Musa 
ibn Abil Ghassan alone objected, as usual, and said: 
14 It is yet too early to talk of a surrender. Our means 
are not exhausted ; we have yet one source of strength 
remaining terrible in effects which often achieved 



THE FALL OF GRANADA 219 

the most signal victory. It is our despair. Let us rouse 
the mass of the people ; let us put weapons in their 
hands ; let us fight the enemy to the very utmost ; and 
much rather would I be numbered among those who 
fell in the defence of Granada than of those who sur- 
vived to capitulate for surrender." 

But this time his words were without effect, for 
they were addressed to men who felt no more any 
hope or any enthusiasm and who reached a state of 
despair where heroism was useless and heroes were 
nothing, and where the counsels of the old were pre- 
ferred. Thus it happened that Boabdil acquiesced to 
the counsel of the assembly and decided to surrender ; 
he sent Abul Qasim Abdul Malik to the king of 
the Christians to negotiate with him the conditions. 
Ferdinand V received him cordially and Granada was 
trembling to its depth until the minister returned 
carrying the last conditions agreed by the king of the 
Christians. They were resumed thus : that war should 
cease between the two parties for 70 days ; if within 
this interval the Muslims received no succour from their 
brethren in Africa, Granada is to surrender and ack- 
nowledge the sovereignty of the king of the Christians ; 
that all Christian captives should be released without 
ransom ; that the Muslim captives should likewise 
be released ; that the Muslims should be assured for 
the safety of their person, property and honour ; that 
they would preserve their own laws and justice ; that 
they would enjoy the free exercise of their religious 
rites such as prayers, fasting, Azan, etc., that the 
mosques should remain sacred, no Christian may enter 
a mosque or the house of a Muslim ; that no Christian 
or Jew should rule over Muslims ; that Muslims are 
free to cross to Africa on board ships furnished by the 
king of the Christians within three years ; that no 
Muslim should be obliged to become a Christian ; that 
the Pope should approve these conditions. It was 
lastly agreed that Boabdil should leave Granada to 



220 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Alpuxurras, where he would be accorded some lands 
with Andarax as a seat ; and that Granada should 
offer 500 notables as hostages to ensure fidelity and 
obedience. 4 

Such were the principal conditions laid for the 
surrender of Granada ; they were undoubtedly the best 
to be obtained in such a desperate position, if the 
Christians were true to their promises ; but these 
were, as we shall see, merely treacherous and were 
all broken only a few years after the surrender of 
Granada. This was foretold by Musa when the chiefs 
assembled in the dreadful moment to sign the decision 
of surrender and to condemn their rule to naught and 
their nation to death ; many could not withhold their 
tears and sobs. Musa alone remained calm, silent and 
gloomy. " Leave seniors," he cried, " this idle lamenta- 
tion to helpless women and children. We are men ; 
we have hearts, not to shed tender tears but drops of 
blood. I see the spirit of the people so cast down that 
it is impossible to save the kingdom. Yet there still 
remains an alternative for noble minds a glorious 
death. Let us die defending our liberty and avenging 
the woes of Granada ; our mother Earth will receive 
her children into her bosom, safe from the chain of 
the coifqueror ; or should any fail of a grave to hide 
his remains, he will not want a sky to cover him ; 
Allah forbid, it should be said, the nobles of Granada 
feared to die in her defence." 

Musa ceased to speak and a dead silence reigned 
in the assembly. Boabdil looked round ; despair was 
depicted on all those faces, worn by sufferance, and 
enthusiasm was already dead in those broken hearts. 
" Allah-u- Akbar " (God is Great), he exclaimed, " there 
is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of 
Allah, and God's will is inevitable. Too surely was it 
decreed in the book of fate that I should be unfor- 
tunate and the kingdom expire under my rule." 
" Allah-u- Akbar," repeated the viziers, " God's will 



THE FALL OF GRANADA 221 

must be done." They agreed all, that it is the will of 
God that it must be executed, that His decree is in- 
evitable, and lastly that the terms of the Christian king 
were as favourable as could be accorded. When Musa 
saw that they were about to sign the treaty of surren- 
der he rose with violent indignation. " Do not deceive 
yourselves," he cried, " or think the Christians will be 
faithful to their promises, or their king as magnanimous 
in conquest as he has been victorious in war. Death is 
the least we have to fear ; it is the sacking and 
plundering of our city, the profanation of our mosques, 
the ruin of our homes, the violation of our wives and 
daughters; cruel oppression, bigoted intolerance, whips 
and chains ; the dungeon, the faggot and the stake ; 
such are the miseries and indignities we shall see and 
suffer ; at least those grovelling souls will see them 
who now shrink from an honourable death. For my 
part, by Allah, I will never witness them." With 
these words he left the Council Chamber and strode 
gloomily through the Court of Lions, and the outer 
halls of the Alhambra, without deigning to throw a 
glance or utter a word. He went to his dwelling, 
covered himself with his arms, mounted his favourite 
steed and issuing forth from the city by the gate of 
Albira (Elvira), was never seen or heard of. 

Such is the account given by the Arabic chronicle 
of the end of Musa ibn Abil Ghassan. 5 But an old 
Spanish chronicler, Fray Antonio Agapida, endeavours 
to clear the mystery of his fate. That very evening a 
party of Spanish cavaliers, about fifteen lances, were 
riding along the banks of the Xenil. They beheld in 
the twilight a Moorish cavalier approaching closely 
armed from head to foot. His visor was closed, his 
lance in rest and his powerful charger barbed like 
himself in steel. They called upon him to stand and 
declare himself. The Muslim cavalier did not answer 
but charging into the midst of them transfixed one 
knight with his lance and bore him out of his saddle 



222 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

to the earth. Wheeling round he attacked the others 
with his scimitar. His blows were furious and deadly ; 
he seemed regardless what wounds he received, so he 
could but slay. He was evidently fighting for mere 
revenge, eager to inflict death, but careless of surviv- 
ing to enjoy victory. Nearly one half of the cavaliers 
fell beneath his sword. At length he was desperately 
wounded ; and his steed, being pierced by a lance, fell 
to the ground. But he continued to fight upon his 
knees, brandishing a keen dagger. Finding, at length, 
he could no longer battle, and determined not to be 
taken prisoner, he threw himself, with an expiring 
exertion, into the Xenil and his armour sank him to 
the bottom of the stream. 

This cavalier, according to the report of Fray 
Agapida, was none but Musa ibn Abil Ghassan ; and 
he adds that his horse was recognized by certain con- 
verted Moors of the Christian camp. This report may 
be probable, but the truth was never known. 6 



Thus Granada submitted and surrendered (Safar, 
897 A.H., December, 1491 A.D.) ; and the Christians 
entered Granada on the 2nd of Rabi I, 897 A.H., (2nd 
January, 1492) and occupied Alhambra and all its 
palaces and towers. The banner of Christianity flowed 
over the falling edifice of Islam. Muslim domination 
in Spain was ended, and this glorious and memorable 
page of Islamic history was effaced for ever ; and the 
great Moorish (Andalusian) civilization, its literature, 
science and arts and all its brilliant legacy, were all 
doomed to naught. 

Such was the pathetic and tragic story of Granada 
and its knight Musa Ibn Abil Ghassan : the story of a 
Muslim cavalier who represents the loftiest qualities 
of chivalry and the most sublime conceptions of 
sacrifice, devotion, pride and magnanimity. If the 



THE FALL OF GRANADA 223 

Spanish legends, made from the Cid El Campeador an 
ideal for Christian heroism and chivalry and designat- 
ed him as the national hero of Spain, there is in the 
tragic story of the Granadian cavalier, in his noble 
qualities, all what makes him, most rightly, an idol for 
Muslim chivalry and the national hero of Andalusia. 7 

References 

1 We shall henceforth call Abu Abdilla by his corrupted European 
appellation " Boabdil." 

8 For the details of these events see Makkari Naf h al-Ttb, Vol. II, 
pp. 612-615. We possess on the fall of Granada and Muslim Spain a detail- 
ed Arabic chronicle entitled Akhbar al-Asr fi Inkida Dawlet Bam Nasr, being 
a booklet of 56 pages from the pen of an unknown author who, however, 
mentions at the end of his book that it was written in Gumada II, 947 A.H., 
i.e., 50 years after the fall of Granada. The chronicle is thus nearly con- 
temporaneous. It seems that it was written by one of the nobles of Granada 
who remained there and was forced to embrace Christianity, but remained 
Muslim in his heart, that he feared to divulge his name because he laments 
the fate of Islam and enumerates the atrocities of the Christians. The book 
was published by the German orientalist M. Miiller (1863) from the unique 
MS. of the Escurial. Makkari copies most of this chronicle (see pp. 28-40 
of the aforesaid book). 

8 We could not trace in any of the known Arabic sources any mention 
of Musa or his acts. Our source for this is Conde's report about the fall of 
Granada (see the English translation, Vol. Ill, p. 390 and the following), 
Conde pretends to have copied his report from Arabic sources, but as usual 
he does not mention them. We could not. therefore, verify the real lineage 
of Musa or his early life. 

4 Akhbar al-Asr, pp. 48-50 ; and Naf h al-Tib, Vol. II, pp. 615-16. 

5 This is the report of Condc reproduced from unknown Arabic sources 
(see Conde, Vol. Ill, p. 394). 

a This report was reproduced by Irving in his Conquest of Granada. 
Ch. 97. 

7 The Christian records about the fall of Granada are given with detail 
in Irving's Conquest of Granada and in Prescott's History of Ferdinand and 
Isabella. 



CHAPTER XVII 

Fall of the Moorish Civilization and the Tragedy 
of the Moriscoes 

EIGHT centuries of raging war between Arabs 
and Spaniards ; a continued struggle between 
Islam and Christianity ; innumerable changes 
and revolutions to secure authority and domination ; 
great and small states and principalities fighting for 
the legacy of the Omayyad Caliphate ; continued efforts 
on the part of Islam to conserve its dominions and 
sovereignty, and continued efforts on the part of 
Christian Spain to wrench its national liberties from 
the conqueror ; and lastly the stubborn defence of the 
conqueror to save his acquired home, religion and 
civilization ; these are the phases of the Andalusian 
(Moorish) tragedy which ended with the pass ing away 
of Muslim domination in Spain. 

If we admire the continued strife waged by Chris- 
tian Spain on Muslim Spain, the continued progress 
which it realized through the ages in retrieving its 
territory and sovereignty, its intelligent exploitation 
of the discord of the Muslims, its unity in facing 
every new rise on the part of Andalusia and putting 
an end to all discord whenever menaced by the common 
danger ; history, on the other hand, reproaches the 
successful and victorious Spain for committing the 
worst of errors and crimes in its policy towards defeat- 
ed Islam, the remnant of the Moors and Moorish civili- 
zation, and proves how this short-sighted policy was 
most injurious to the greatness of Spain and how it 
was one of the chief factors or*its decline. 

Christian Spain was great when defeated but not 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 225 

when victorious; great when defeated, for it was a 
bands of those Goths crushed in the battle of Xeres by 
Tariq ibn Ziyad and persecuted by Musa ibn Noseir 
till the rocks of the Pyrenees, which laid the founda- 
tions of those Christian principalities, treated at first 
scornfully by the Muslim kingdom, and then only 
after two centuries became at the time of Al-Nasir 
li-Din Allah (912-961 A.D.) so powerful as to rival 
the Muslim kingdom itself and ravage its lands ; in 
fact they became, at the close of the Omayyad rule, 
a menacing danger to the very existence of Muslim 
domination. Also Christian Spain always gave, at the 
time of general danger, a good example in defending 
its religion and upholding its national unity ; indeed, in 
this, it exhibited more resolution and zeal than Muslim 
Spain. At the time when Al-Hajib al-Mansur (976- 
1001 A.D.) marched to invade the Christians in the 
North and West, and to crush their national independ- 
ence, he found all Christian Spain one united block 
and failed to achieve his plan, although he dispersed 
the armies of the Christian principalities and stormed 
their strongest forts and farthest ports. When the 
Muslim kingdom was carried by revolution, broken 
into pieces and devoured by the Petty Kings (Muluk 
al-Tawaif), Christian Spain was able to exploit this 
state of anarchy, to make* from most of the Muslim 
princes, tools in its hands, directed according to its 
wishes, and to appear in the zenith of its power and 
unity. And lastly when the Petty Kings abandoned 
thier discord for a while and decided to gather 
their forces into one united front under the leader- 
ship of Yousef ibn Tashf in, king of the Almoravides, 
Christian Spain was more prompt in cementing its 
unity. The whole forces of the Christian kingdoms 
assembled in the plains of Al-Zallaka (Sacralias) under 
the leadership of its greatest prince Alfonso VI ; and 
the forces of the Petty Kings and Al-moravides assem- 
bled under the leadership of Yousef ibn Tashfin. 

29 



226 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Christian Spain was defeated at Al-Zallaka, but the 
calamity did but consolidate its resolution and unity. 
We do not mean thereby that Christian Spain did not 
suffer from internal discord ; in fact it did often suffer 
from it, and on some critical occasions it was a great 
danger to it ; but we mean only to say that it never 
forgot, at the moment of national danger, to stifle its 
internal discord and personal controversy, a principle 
which was not taken into much consideration by the 
Muslim principalities. 

Christian Spain was great in its defeat but it did 
not prove its greatness in victory. For, no sooner 
had it realized the object for which it strived for 
centuries, and conquered the last Muslim stronghold, 
than it preferred extremeness to moderation, bigotry to 
faith and mean passions to wise ideals. It worked 
intentionally and with premeditation to demolish the 
great edifice raised by Islam in Spain and endowed by 
the Muslims with magnificent treasures of science 
and arts, thinking that, by its destruction, it will efface 
the last vestiges of a past servitude and the last traces 
of the usurping enemy and purify Christianity from 
what it suffered from violation and profanation. It 
did not realize that the greatness of Spain itself will 
suffer from the annihilation of Andalusian civilization ; 
it had no idea of the abominable crime it committed in 
crushing this magnificent legacy with which Islam in 
Spain endowed the West and all humanity. 

The Muslims surrendered Granada, their last 
stronghold, to the victorious enemy after exhausting 
all means of defence ; and Ferdinand V engaged him- 
self to ensure them peace, life, property, honour and 
liberty of faith under the new rule. Ferdinand, how- 
ever, never hesitated to engage himself, whenever 
this served his aims, and to tint his perfidious policy 
with the colour of religion and piety. But he never 
considered himself bound by engagements whenever 
they impeded his aims. The Jews were the first 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 227 

victims of the policy of persecution and annihilation 
laid down by the founder of modern Spain. Under 
Muslim rule they enjoyed all liberties and were 
master of commerce and finance ; but no sooner they 
came under the new rule than they were urged to 
abandon their religion and embrace Christianity ; 
deportations and confiscations were the punishment 
of refusal. Some submitted, fearing the loss of their 
homes and wealth ; those who refused were thrown 
on the faggots of the Inquisition or banished every- 
where, after being deprived of all their possessions ; 
even those who abjured were not spared whenever 
they were suspected of heresy or discontent. This 
ominous example inspired the Muslims with fear and 
sorrow, for they dreaded the violation of the engage- 
ments made to them and that they would, in their 
turn, be the victims of such persecutions. The eternal 
words and true presage, delivered by Musa ibn Abil 
Ghassan the most heroic knight of Granada, on the 
day they decided its surrender, resounded in their 
ears : " Do you think the Castillians will be faithful to 
their promises or their king as magnanimous as he had 
been victorious ? You are awfully deceived. They 
are all thirsty for our blood and death is the least 
that we have to fear. It is the worst of humiliations, 
oppression and slavery ; it is the plundering of your 
homes, the violation of your wives and daughters and 
the profanation of your mosques. It is the blazing 
faggots that are awaiting you in order to turn you 
into ashes." 1 

The presage was true and the fears of the Muslims 
were realized. Only a few years after the surrender 
of Granada the Christians began to amend the treaty 
and interpret it arbitrarily, and then violate its pro- 
visions successively, thus withdrawing the accorded 
rights one after the other. The mosques were closed 
and the Muslims were forbidden to celebrate their 
rites ; their doctrines and laws were violated ; and 



228 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

lastly they were publicly invited to embrace Christian- 
ity under the menace of the most terrible punishment. 
A sparkle of enthusiasm still burned in the bosoms of 
the inhabitants of the mountainous districts ; they 
protested, and the spirit of revolt spread everywhere. 
The Council of State was only awaiting an opportunity 
to abolish the treaty and withdraw its provisions 
completely ; it found a pretext in the protest and the 
dangers of revolt and decided to proceed to the 
execution of a terrible project which it cherished 
since long the dispersal and extermination of the 
Moors. Policy did not fail to find reasons. Had not 
the Moors negotiated with their Muslim brethren in 
Africa, Egypt and Constantinople? Had they not 
implored them succour with men and money in order 
to revolt and take their revenge ? Is their existence 
not a danger to the state and the religion ? The 
Council of State, under the pretext of protecting 
religion, decreed that the Moors should embrace 
Christianity and that those who refuse should be 
deported ; in fact the Council was aware that the 
Muslims were so attached to their religion that they 
would prefer deportation. No sooner the decree was 
known than revolt raged everywhere in Granada, 
Alpuxurras and Albaycin. The Muslims tried to 
resist but they were unarmed and the Christian troops 
were most successful in pursuing and dispersing the 
rebels. The attachment to home, fear of poverty and 
family cares, urged many Muslims to submit and 
embrace Christianity (904 A.H., 1499 A.D.). But the 
idea of extermination was lurking behind the Spanish 
policy. The Moors were considered, notwithstanding 
their embracing Christianity, as renegades, heretics and 
secret enemies of religion ; their movements and acts 
were viewed with suspicion. The Muslims in the 
mountainous districts were able to resist for a time 
but Ferdinand sent large forces for their suppression. 
They preferred deportation and implored for permission 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 229 

to cross to Africa. The Castillian government allow- 
ed them either to embrace Christianity within three 
months or to leave Spain abandoning their property 
to the State. Large crowds of Moors emigrated into 
Fez, Oran, Bougie, Tunis, Tripolis and other African 
ports. Those who remained and abjured their religion 
were subjected to continued oppression, dreadful 
prison, torture and the faggot, for the most trifling 
reasons. 

The contemporary Moorish chronicle describes 
this tragedy in the following pathetic words : " The 
king of Castille then invited them (the Moors) to 
embrace Christianity and forced them to do so in the 
year 904 A.H. Thus they were forced to embrace his 
religion and all Andalusia became Christian. There 
were none who could publicly declare that 'there is 
but one God and that Muhammad is the Prophet of 
God.' This was only done by hearts in secrecy. In 
the minarets the bells replaced the 4 Azan ' and in the 
mosques images and crosses replaced the recital of 
Quran. There were so many humid eyes and sorrow- 
ful hearts and so many weak and incapable people who 
could not migrate and join their Muslim brethren ; 
their hearts were kindled and their eyes inundated 
with tears ; they saw their sons and daughters worship 
the cross and idols, eat swine and drink spirits, the 
mother of all evils, without being able to forbid or 
exhort them. If any one ventured to do so, he was 
severely punished and tortured. What a dreadful 
tragedy and a terrible calamity ! " 2 

And Al-Makkari says : " In general the people of 
Granada all embraced Christianity, urban and rural ; 
some of them refused and separated themselves from 
the Christians but in vain. Some villages and districts, 
such as Balfic and Andarax, revolted and defend- 
ed themselves ; but the enemy attacked them in 
great forces and crushed them totally through death 
and captivity. Only those of mount Villa Leunga 



230 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

(near the city of Ronda) were enabled by God to de- 
feat the enemy and to kill a great number of them 
among whom was the Count of Cordova. They were 
allowed to emigrate in safety into Fez with their 
families and movable property except precious things. 
Despite all this the Muslims who pretended Christian- 
ity worshipped God and said their prayers secretly. 
The Christians persecuted them actively and burned 
many of them for this reason and prohibited them to 
carry even a small knife. They revolted several times 
in the mountains but in vain." 3 

When Charles V ascended the throne, the Muslims 
implored him for justice and protection from this 
overwhelming policy through a delegation which 
explained their plaints and misfortunes. Their demands 
were laid before a Court of prelates and Inquisitors. 
The Court especially considered if baptism imposed 
on Muslims by the royal decree, and executed in 
accordance with it, was binding, i.e., if it involved 
the punishment of those who refused it by death on 
the faggot. The Court adjudged in the affirma- 
tive and decreed that " the baptism imposed by 
the mighty on the weak, the victorious on the defeat- 
ed, and the master on the slave, creating equality could 
not be effaced through refusal." Thus Conde, a 
Christian and a Spaniard, describes the decree of the 
Court. 4 The royal decree of baptism was thus con- 
sidered binding and the Moriscoes (the name given to 
the baptised Moors) were called upon to embrace 
Christianity or leave the country within a short time ; 
if not they were condemned to be burnt alive by an 
auto-da-fe, i.e., the fire festivals invented by the 
" saintly court " (the Inquisition) to execute its 
victims in order to spare the 4 shedding of blood.' 

Here was not the end of their misfortunes : The 
Bishop of Seville procured in the following year a 
decree ordering the Moriscoes of Granada to change, 
in one day, their dress, language, habits and morals as 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 231 

if such a change, when imposed on the outward 
appearance, could suffice to efface the legacy of ages of 
culture and traditions. The execution of this, order 
was carried on with much vigour ; every Christian was 
given the right to watch over its execution and a 
special Inquisition was set in Granada to punish the 
guilty. A terrible storm of murder, torture and 
oppression raged in Granada ; persecution was intensi- 
fied everywhere ; spying and intrigue were most 
common ; and a band of zealous Christians attacked 
the Moriscoes of Valencia and overwhelmed them 
with murder, pillage, torture and dispersal. " Before 
such terror," says Conde, " which bent them under the 
mercy of their persecutors, there were among them 
none but the miserable and the unfortunate. The 
scenes of faggots in Granada, Cordova, and Seville, the 
groaning of the victims devoured by fire and the 
scenes of extortion, deportation and continued tortures, 
filled them with terror and compelled tfiem to 
silence ; protest in words or even by allusion was con- 
sidered an incitement to revolt. They were, however, 
spared for years through this interpretation which is 
the refuge of tyranny, namely the condemnation of 
those whose crimes could not be proved." 5 

The people of Granada raised the standard of 
revolt but were crushed by the royal troops ; and 
Christian Spain was not contented with depriving 
them of every right and privilege and seizing thier 
property " and reducing them to a state of slavery in 
the same city of which they were the masters and 
rendering them strangers in their homes ; but it meant 
to exterminate them, to crush their race and to efface 
even the memory of their glorious past." 6 Philip II 
was then king of Spain ; he burned with fanaticism 
for the cause of the Church and the Catholic faith, 
and made from religion a mask which covered his 
political aims. The old accusations were repeated. It 
was alleged that the Moriscoes negotiated with the 



232 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Courts of Africa and Constantinople and the Bishop 
of Granada said that they were not true Christians ; 
for they still spoke Arabic, took frequent baths 
according to the rites of Islam and their women were 
still veiled. Another court of prelates, learned men 
and Inquisitors was called. How could the speaking of 
Arabic, bathing and the veil of women be considered 
as innocent signs ? The Moriscoes tried to defend 
themselves but in vain. They pleaded that fashion, 
bathing, language, morals and dancing are all tradi- 
tions which appertain to education and custom and 
which have nothing to do with religious doctrines ; 
that to abandon the dress of their fathers was a diffi- 
cult thing, that bathing was a hygienic necessity in 
warm climate, that dancing was practised by all 
nations, that the veiling of women was mere decency, 
and that it was not easy for a people who spoke 
Arabic since their cradle to study Castillian and de- 
prive themselves suddenly from every means of under- 
standing. But this simple logic did not convince the 
authorities and the prelates of the saintly court. If 
a Moorish woman appeared veiled her veil was torn ; 
and if a Moriscoe spoke Arabic he was thrown into 
prison. The government of Philip II did what was 
worse ; it wrenched from the Moriscoes all their chil- 
dren, male and female, and threw them into public 
schools. Then the Moriscoes lost their patience and 
sought refuge in revolt and despair ; they assembled 
secretly in the vega and decided to revolt and defend 
themselves against tyranny. They sent some of their 
chiefs secretly to Africa while others went to the 
mountains of Alpuxurras to propagate the idea and to 
arrange the plans of the revolution. Unfortunately 
some of the letters which they exchanged with the 
kings of Africa were seized and they divulged the fact 
that the governments of Africa had acceded to the im- 
plored succour and to send troops and ammunitions to 
the shores of Mertula and Almeria. The ports were 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 233 

fortified and the shores watched with vigilance. But 
the resolution of the rebels did not wane ; they assem- 
bled secretly in the suburb of Granada and elected a 
brave and courageous chief, Muhammad ibn Abi 
Omayya, who was baptised by the name of Ferdinand 
di Vallor. They then went to Alpuxurras and there 
they raised the standard of revolt ; the inhabitants of 
the surrounding country hurried to their support and 
at first dispersed the government troops, stormed the 
churches and monasteries and killed the priests and 
officials. The revolt developed rapidly and lasted for 
a time, when the government sent large forces to 
Alpuxurras which surrounded it and penetrated into 
the posts of the rebels after severe combats (1569 
A.D.). The rebels took refuge in the mountains and 
were joined by small reinforcements which came from 
Africa and succeeded in landing in Spain notwith- 
standing every vigilance. Combats of equal success 
raged for a time between Christians and Moriscoes. At 
last the government of Philip II was forced to send 
from Seville a large army led by the famous Don Juan 
Albaycin hastened to offer its submission but the 
rebels decided to fight to the end. 

In the meantime Muhammad ibn Abi Omayya or 
Ferdinand di Vallor was treacherously killed by some 
of his friends for ^Jileged treason. The rebels elected 
another chief, Maulai Abdulla and the war continued 
during the whole winter with equal success for both 
sides. When Don Juan saw the desperate bravery of 
the rebels and the difficulty of his mission he resorted 
to negotiation and issued a general amnesty, promis- 
ing to grant good conditions to the Moriscoes and 
threatening to suppress the rebels without mercy. 
Those whom the struggle had exhausted preferred to 
submit but those who knew the treachery of the Cas- 
tillians refused and many migrated with their families 
to Africa fearing defeat and revenge. Maulai Abdulla 
was obliged to surrender but only for a while. No 

30 



234 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

sooner Don Juan retreated with the remnant of his 
army than he assembled his friends and again urged his 
brethren to engage in the struggle. Philip II was 
most furious and issued orders to persecute Maulai 
Abdulla and his troops, that they must be captured 
alive or dead and that the Moriscoes of Granada 
should all be deported. Maulai Abdulla was pursued 
from one rock to another till his troops were dispers- 
ed and, at last, his own friends killed him to buy their 
safety. His dead body was carried to Granada where 
it was exhibited and mutilated. The Moriscoes were 
expelled from their homes without mercy and dispers- 
ed in the mountains of Asturias and Gallicia and put 
under ruthless vigilance. 7 

During the reign of Philip III Christian Spain 
took its last step. Christianity had then reigned 
among the Moriscoes and the sons of Koraish and 
Mudhar became, through the regime of force and 
violence, Christians and Castillians, attending the mass 
in the churches and speaking and writing the Castil- 
lian language. But nevertheless they remained apart 
and Christian Spain, after imposing on them its reli- 
gion and civilization, refused to receive them in its 
society. There were still great numbers of them in 
Murcia and Valencia. Philip III, who was weak and 
coward, feared the Moriscoes, who were living there 
since a century in complete slavery and trained their 
fetters without any opposition or murmur. He issued 
his famous decree for the deportation of the Moris- 
coes or converted Moors and their complete expulsion 
from Spain (1609 A.D., 1017 A.H.). Ships were pre- 
pared to transport those who were in the ports into 
Africa and the Moriscoes of the northern provinces 
went to France where they settled in Languedoc and 
Guyenne. Thus ended the last chapter in the tragedy 
of the Moriscoes. And so was the end of one of the 
most glorious nations and one of the most flourishing 
civilizations of history. 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 235 

Conde commenting at the end of his history on 
this tragedy says : " And so vanished for ever from 
the Spanish territory this brave, intelligent and 
enlightened people, who with their resolution and 
labour inspired life into the land, which the vain pride 
of the Goths condemned to sterility, and endowed it 
with prosperity and abundance and with innumerable 
canals, this people whose admirable courage was like- 
wise in happiness and adversity, a strong rampart to 
the throne of the Caliphs, whose genius, progress 
and study raised in its cities an eternal edifice of 
light which sent its rays into Europe and inspired it 
with the passion of study, and whose magnanimous 
spirit tinted all its acts with an unrivalled colour of 
grandeur and nobility, and endowed it in the eyes of 
posterity with a sort of extraordinary greatness and 
a charming colour of heroism which invokes the 
magical ages of Homer and which presents them to 
us in the garb of Greek half-gods. 

44 But nothing is eternal in this world. This 
people, conquerors of the Goths, who seemed through 
the ages coi^tinuing to the farthest posterity, vanished 
like phantoms. In vain do the lonely travellers ask 
the sad barren plains of Andalusia, which were inhabit- 
ed before by a rich and happy people, about its 
glorious past. The Arabs appeared suddenly in Spain 
like a star which crosses through the air with its light, 
spreads its flames on the horizon and then vanishes 
rapidly into naught. They appeared in Spain to fill 
her suddenly with their activity and the fruits of 
their genius, and endowed her with a glorious 
glamour which enveloped her from the Pyrenees to 
Gibraltar and from the ocean to Barcelona. But a 
burning love for liberty and independence, a fickle 
character disposed to frivolity and merriness, neglect of 
old virtues, an unfortunate disposition to revolution, 
provoked always by an inflamed imagination, violent 
passions and ambitions, a spirit to dominate, and other 



236 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

factors of decay, worked in the course of time, to 
demolish this grand edifice raised by men like Tariq, 
Abdul Rahman al-Nasir, Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar and 
led the Arabs to internal dissensions, which sapped 
their power and pushed them to the abyss of naught. 

44 Millions of Moors quitted Spain carrying their 
property and arts the patrimony of a State. What 
have the Spaniards created in their place ? We could 
say nothing, but that an eternal sorrow fills this land 
in which the gayest natures breathed before. Indeed 
there are some ruined monuments which still look 
upon these gloomy districts, but a real cry resounds 
from the depths of these monuments and ruins : 
honour and glory to the conquered Moor and decay 
and misery to the victorious Spaniard! 08 

And Lane-Poole is not less eloquent. He says : 
" For nearly eight centuries, under her Mohamedan 
rule, Spain set all Europe a shining example of a 
civilized and enlightened State. Her fertile provinces 
rendered doubly prolific by the industrious engineer- 
ing skill of the conquerors bore fruit a hundredfold. 
Cities innumerable sprang up in the rich valleys in 
the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana whose names, and 
names only, commemorate the vanished glories of their 
past. Art, literature and science prospered as they 
then prospered nowhere else in Europe. . . Mathe- 
matics, astronomy, botany, history, philosophy and 
jurisprudence were to be mastered in Spain, and Spain 
alone. Whatever makes a kingdom great and prosper- 
ous, whatever tends to refinement and civilization, 
was found in Muslim Spain." 

" With Granada fell all Spain's greatness. For a 
brief while, indeed, the reflection of the Moorish 
splendour cast a borrowed light upon the history of 
the land which it had once warmed with its sunny 
radiance. The great epoch of Isabella, Charles V and 
Philip II, of Columbus, Cortes and Pizarro, shed a 
last halo about the dying moments of a mighty state. 



FALL OF THE MOORISH CIVILIZATION 237 

Then followed the abomination of dissolution, the rule 
of the Inquisition and the blackness of darkness in 
which Spain has been plunged ever since. In the land 
where science was once supreme, the Spanish doctors 
became noted for nothing but their ignorance and 
incapacity. The arts of Toledo and Almeria faded into 
insignificance. The land, deprived of the skilful irri- 
gation of the Moors, grew impoverished and neglect- 
ed, the richest and most fertile valleys languished and 
were deserted, and most of the populous cities which 
had filled every district in Andalusia, fell into ruin- 
ous decay; and beggars, friars, and bandits took the 
place of scholars, merchants and knights. So low fell 
Spain when she had driven away the Moors. Such is 
the melancholy contrast offered by her history. 

Thus was the tragedy of the Moriscoes, and thus 
was the end of Moorish civilization. Perhaps there 
is, in those verses of Abul Baka al-Rondi, in his 9 
famous elegy of Muslim Spain, the best interpretation 
of this eternal tragedy which nations, empires and 
civilizations must eternally go through : 

Everything once complete must wane ; no man 
must be allured by happy life ; 

Things, as you see, are only decades ; who may be 
happy once, may often be unhappy ; 

And this world spares nobody ; and never remains 
the same ; 

Time inevitably destroys every enjoyment, when- 
ever swords and lances may fail ; 

And every sword goes to mortality ; although 
this may be Ibn Zi-Yazin, and the sheath 
may be Ghomdan. 



238 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

References 

3 The Inquisition was celebrating its auto-da-fe in Seville since 1480. 
2 Akhbar al-Asr, pp. 54-55. 

Nafh al-Ttb, Vol. II, pp. 616-17. 

4 In the French translation of his work, adapted and enlarged by 
M. Maries under the title of Histoire de la Dominacion des Maures en Espagne. 
Vol. III. 

5 Conde: Vol. Ill, French translation. 

Ibid. 

7 For full details of this pathetic tragedy see Prescott's Phihp 11 of 
Spain. Vol. Ill, Ch. 1-8. 

8 Conde : Vol. Ill, French translation. 

9 Lane-Poole : The Moors in Spain, Introduction. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
Intellectual legacy of Muslim Spain in the Escurial 

MUSLIM civilization in Spain was, during the 
Middle Ages, a source of world-wide light. 
In Andalusia learning attained the loftiest 
dignities. While Europe was passing through a phase 
of rudeness and ignorance, and the legacy of ancient 
thought was buried in the darkness of monasteries, the 
schools of Cordova sent their light far into the North 
and West. In Cordova Muslim thought attained 
its zenith, and its achievements attained their most 
brilliant decade. But political troubles and the cala- 
mities of war and time often shook this edifice, sapped 
its foundations and squandered its treasures, during 
Muslim domination itself. 

When Muslim domination in Spain declined and 
was reduced to the kingdom of Granada, Granada 
remained for two centuries the centre of Muslim 
learning in the West, and a refuge of science and 
letters, and its public and private libraries were 
crowded with the most valuable works. When Muslim 
domination fell with the fall of Granada, its last 
stronghold, in 1492, this magnificent intellectual edifice 
crumbled to the ground ; and not many years later 
Christian Spain committed its barbaric crime by 
destroying the legacy of Muslim thought. In the 
year 1499, Cardinal Ximenes, Archbishop of Toledo, 
ordered that all Arabic books should be collected in 
Granada, where they were gathered in piles in the 
principal square of the city and ceremoniously burnt 
through" an auto-da-fe, with the exception of 300 
volumes on medicine which were endowed to the 



240 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

University of Alcala. Most of the intellectual legacy 
of Muslim Spain perished in this calamity ;* and 
fanaticism and ignorance did not spare but a small 
remnant of Arabic works which were afterwards 
buried in the dark vaults of the Escurial and in some 
public libraries. 

Till the middle of the seventeenth century the 
Arabic manuscripts conserved in the Royal Library of 
the Escurial attained several thousands. This was the 
richest collection of its kind in Spain. But a new 
misfortune befell this last remnant of the legacy of 
the Moors. In the year 1671 a fire broke out in the 
Escurial and devoured the major part of this unique 
treasure and only 2,000 volumes could be saved. 2 The 
Spanish Government, during these ages, jealously con- 
cealed the Arabic manuscripts from every research and 
curiosity, as if it feared that the spirit of Islamic 
thought might influence the thought of Christian 
Spain, despite that it strived to crush this spirit by 
every means. The Spanish scholars themselves, urged 
by a feeling of national and religious egoism, failed to 
make any research in these valuable sources, which 
throw the greatest light on the history, civilization and 
culture of Spain during the Muslim domination, and 
consulted for this part of the history of Spain only 
national and Christian sources ; hence their works 
were tinted in those ages with a deep colour of par- 
tiality and bigotry. The Spanish Government did not 
awake from its slumber to organize this Moorish legacy, 
and make it accessible before the middle of the 
eighteenth century, when it invited a scholar, Michael 
al-Ghaziri, a Syrian, known in Europe as " Casiri " to 
study the Arabic manuscripts and to make a detailed 
catalogue for them. He was versed in both Eastern 
and Western cultures. It appears that such a catalogue 
was never made before. All that we know is that a 
learned scholar, Steinschneider, in the course of his 
research, in the Vatican library, found a list of the 



INTELLECTUAL LEGACY OF MOSLEM SPAIN 241 

contents of the Escurial library written in Latin and 
comprising the names of a few hundreds of Arabic 
books, the titles of which were written in mixed Arabic 
and Latin. 3 But the Arabic collection remained, 
during these ages, concealed and unknown from 
modern research. 

Casiri (Al-Ghaziri) was the right man for this 
task. He was a Syrian who had studied Arabic and 
then the Semitic languages, Latin and Spanish. He 
spent his adolescence and youth in Rome, then the seat 
of Oriental research, near the Vatican library, very 
rich in Arabic and Oriental manuscripts. He accepted 
the invitation of the Spanish Government and was 
nominated librarian in the library of the Escurial in 
1749. He spent about four years in the Escurial study- 
ing and verifying the Arabic manuscripts ; and then 
began to write his detailed catalogue. The first volume 
of this catalogue appeared in 1760 in Latin under the 
title : Bibliotheca Arabico-Hispana Escurialensts (the 
Spanish- Arabic library of the Escurial), written and 
commented by Michael Casiri, the Maronite, prelate, 
expert and philologist at the court of Carlos III. 
Casiri commenced his catalogue with a long preface, 
speaking about the value and importance of the Arabic 
manuscripts. He divided them into several sections 
and began with philology which comprises Nos. 1-159, 
No. 1 being a copy of Sibaweh's grammatical work. 
Then comes poetry, its sorts and science, comprising 
Nos. 168-488 ; philosophy comprising Nos. 489-705 ; 
ethics and politics comprising Nos. 706-784 ; medicine 
and natural science comprising Nos. 785-901 ; mathe- 
matics, geometry and astronomy comprising Nos. 
902-985 ; law, theology and the science of Koran 
comprising Nos. 986-1617 ; and Christian works com- 
prising Nos. 1618-1628. These are the contents of the 
first volume from the catalogue. The second volume 
appeared only in the year 1770, ten years later, begin- 
ning with geography which comprises Nos. 1629-1635, 



242 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

and history comprising Nos. 1636-1851. With this 
number ends the catalogue and Casiri did not register 
anything more, although about hundred other manu- 
scripts were discovered afterwards. Casiri terminates 
his catalogue with a general index of authors and the 
number of their works. 

Casiri does not only mention the titles, names 
and contents but, on many occasions, makes also 
inquiries, comments and explanations. He studies the 
manuscript and its author, cites many texts and 
biographies and copies complete documents. His cata- 
logue is a vast scientific effort which reveals his pro- 
found learning although it contains many errors and 
inaccuracies. Later scholars who studied the collec- 
tion of the Escurial criticize his effort and express 
their doubts as regards its scientific value. 4 His 
catalogue, nevertheless, remains a valuable reference 
and an ample and excellent account of the Arabic 
manuscripts in the Escurial. 



The publication of Casiri's catalogue provoked the 
attention of scholars who began to study, in the 
collection of the Escurial, all the Arabic records con- 
cerning the history of the Moors in Spain, the policy 
of the Muslim governments and characteristics of 
Muslim society. Towards the end of the eighteenth 
century some scholars, among whom were Andres and 
Masdeu, studied the history of Moorish literature and 
science. Andres published his work about the 
"Origins, progress and state of literature " 5 and Masdeu's 
vast work entitled Historica critica de Espana de 
la cultura espanola (Critical history of Spain and 
Spanish culture), which is one of the most valuable 
sources about the history of Moorish civilization, 
containing very interesting records and passages about 
the characteristics of Muslim society in Spain, and the 



INTELLECTUAL LEGACY OF MOSLEM SPAIN 243 

fields of Muslim thought. Masdeu cites frequently 
the Arabic sources. But the history of Muslim 
Spain, as given by the Arabic records, remained con- 
cealed from the West till the learned Orientalist, 
Joseph Conde, librarian of the library of the Madrid 
Academy, made a very comprehensive research in the 
Arabic sources and spent many years in studying the 
manuscripts of the Escurial ; he then wrote his famous 
work Histoire de la Dominaaon de los Arabos en 
Espana (History of Arab domination in Spain). 
The first volume of this history appeared in 1810 ; 
but Conde died in the same year and the two remain- 
ing volumes of his manuscript were published in the 
following year. The first volume deals with the his- 
tory of the Moors in Spain from the conquest till 
372 A.H. (932 A.D.) up to the advent of Al-Hajib 
ai-Mansur ; the second volume deals with the history 
of the Amiride dynasty and the Petty Kings (Al- 
Tawaif ) till the rise of the kingdom of Granada, and 
the third deals with the history of the kingdom of 
Granada till its fall in 897 A.H. (1492 A.D.). Conde 
cites many Arabic records without any precision or 
verification and commits many historical errors but in 
many of his comments he is very frank ; indeed he 
gives, sometimes, the most cruel judgments against his 
nation and countrymen, especially in dealing with 
events connected with the fall of Granada, the perse- 
cution of the Moors by Spain, their conversion and 
expulsion from the country of their forefathers, with 
such terrible atrocities and bloodshedding. The most 
important merit of the effort of Conde, however, 
is that it was the first European work which presents 
the cause of the Moors in Spain, from the Arabic side ; 
and the West could, for the first time, be acquainted 
with the defence of the Moors, their points of view, 
and the characteristics of their institutions and policy. 
From this time the Arabic records were cited in 
every work dealing with Muslim Spain. Then came 



244 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the learned Dutch Orientalist, Reinhart Dozy (1820- 
1883), who devoted his best efforts to the study of 
Andalusian history and its Arabic and Christian 
sources and in 1861 published his valuable work: Histoire 
des Musulmans de VEspagne jusqua la conquete 
des V Andalousie par les Almoravi des (History of the 
Muslims of Spain till the conquest of Andalusia by 
the Almoravides) in four volumes. 6 Dozy deals with 
the history of Muslim Spain in a vigorous, critical and 
philosophical style and devotes more care to the 
explanation of political and social problems than to the 
narration of events. His work is, undoubtedly, one of 
the most valuable western sources of Andalusian 
history, although it is tinted with some shades of 
fanaticism and partiality. Dozy bitterly attacks Conde 
and his work, and qualifies him with pretension, indeed 
with ignorance even of elementary Arabic ; he speaks 
of him thus in his Recherches sur I' Histoire et la 
Litterature de VEspagne pendant le moycn age : 
" He (Conde) knows of Arabic language little beyond 
the characters in which it is written, supplying the 
lack of the most elementary knowledge by an extreme- 
ly fertile imagination and an unequalled impudence, 
forging dates by the hundred, and inventing facts by 
the thousand, while pretending to give a faithful trans- 
lation of Arabic texts." Dozy goes very far in his cri- 
ticism of Conde and his work. In fact Conde proves 
on many occasions his good knowledge of the langu- 
age, and cites many of the well-known Arabic records 
with precision while Dozy denies him even an elemen- 
tary knowledge. If Conde has committed many errors 
of events and dates, it was, nevertheless, thanks to 
him that the West, for the first time, was acquainted 
with the Arabic version of the Andalusian history ; 
and his work retains its value, especially with regard 
to the history of the Petty Kings, the Almoravides and 
the kingdom of Granada. 



INTELLECTUAL LEGACY OF MOSLEM SPAIN 245 

Casiri's catalogue remained for more than a 
century the only guide for the Arabic collection of 
the Escurial till the French Orientalist, Hartwig 
Direnbourg, was charged by the French government to 
make a new study of this collection. He spent several 
years in this mission, and in 1884 published the first 
volume of his catalogue : Les Manuscrits Arabes de 
VEscuriale. Although he was led by the results of his 
study to doubt the value of his predecessor's effort, 
and to discover many of his errors, he was never- 
theless obliged to follow his method in classification 
and enumeration with slight changes. 7 Direnbourg 
discovered in the forgotten depths of the Escurial 
about 100 other Arabic manuscripts, which were not 
mentioned by Casiri ; but at the same time he failed 
to find some of those mentioned by him. Many of 
the contents of this collection disappeared in the 
course of time' which, probably, may be ascribed to 
some negligence in its conservation. In fact the 
Escurial library was not a public library, but was a 
private one, being the property of the Spanish Crown. 
It fell into the public domains only in 1931, i.e., 
since the fall of the Spanish Monarchy. 

Direnbourg closed his enumeration at No. 1955, 
while Casiri stops at No. 1851, which equals No. 1856 
of Direnbourg's enumeration, thus exceeding Casiri 
with one hundred newly discovered manuscripts. 
Direnbourg devotes the first volume of his catalogue 
to works on philology, rhetoric, poetry, literature and 
philosophy, following nearly the classification of 
Casiri ; this volurve comprises 708 books (Nos. 1-708). 
Direnbourg also published a small part of the second 
volume containing works on ethics and politics from 
No. 709 to No. 788. He died in 1905 without com- 
pleting his task. M. Levy-Provencal was charged with 
the completion of his work ; and utilizing Direnbourg's 
notes, he published the third volume of the Escurial 
catalogue in 1928, comprising works on theology, 



246 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

geography and history (Nos. 1256-1852), following 
both the classification and enumeration of Casin. He 
has still to furnish us with the remaining part of the 
second volume comprising medicine, natural history, 
mathematics and law, and the fourth volume compris- 
ing a review of the hundred books which were missed 
by Casiri (Nos. 1853-1952). 8 

This research in the intellectual legacy of the 
Moors and the light it threw over it were a great con- 
quest in the history of Muslim Spain and Muslim 
civilization. Till the end of the eighteenth century, 
the West knew this history only as given by the 
partial Christian records. Hundreds of facts were con- 
cealed by masks of lies and bigotry. The documents 
of the Escurial came to tear these masks, present the 
decisive proofs of the greatness of this page of Spanish 
history and furnish us with hundreds of facts about 
the superiority of Moorish civilization and the brilli- 
ant progress it achieved. Research, in these documents 
revealed, for example, that there were some Arabic 
manuscripts dated as back as 1009 A.D. written on 
paper made of cotton and some others dated 1106 A.D. 
written on paper made of hemp which proves the 
early discovery as well as the skill of the Moors in this 
industry. Other historical manuscripts were also 
found which prove that the Moors were the first to 
use dynamite in war; and there were similar revela- 
tions which throw the greatest light on facts, which 
remained for centuries buried in the darkness of the 
Escurial. 9 

References 

1 Historians differ as to the number of Arabic manuscripts which per- 
ished through this barbarous crime ; some quote the number at one million, 
but Conde says they were 80,000, which is more probable and logical. In 
fact the contents of the great Omayyad library of Cordova, according to the 
best authorities, did not exceed 600,000, volumes. This great collection was 
squandered during the revolution of the Berbers ; and no such great collec- 
tion was amassed in Granada. But Granada contained many public and 



INTELLECTUAL LEGACY OF MOSLEM SPAIN 247 

private collections, and being the seat of Islam in Spain it naturally contain- 
ed the most valuable works of Andalusian thought. During the reign of 
Philip III the Spaniards captured a large ship loaded with Arabic books, 
appertaining to Maulai Zaidan, king of Morocco, and so the collection of the 
Escunal was greatly enriched. 

2 The number of books destroyed by this fire is estimated at 8,000, 
which were mostly Arabic 

8 Direnbourg : Les Manuscnts Arabes de VEscunale, Introduction. 
4 See the Introduction of Direnbourg in his work cited above. 

"This work appeared at first in Italian, in 7 volumes (1782-99) arul 
was then translated into Spanish and French. 

6 M. Levy-Provencal, the French Orientalist and Dean of the Faculty 
ot Alger, published lately a new edition of this work with valuable annota- 
tions (Leyflen, 3 V., 1932). 



logue. 



7 See the Introduction of Direnbourg cited above. 

* See the Introduction of M. Levy-Provencal, Vol. II of the Cata- 



9 When the civil war broke out in Spam (1936), and the Nationalists 
approached Madrid, the collections of the Escunal, including the Arabic 
collection and many other scientific and artistic treasures, were removed by 
the Republicans to Barcelona, Paris or Geneva. After the termination of 
hostilities many of these treasures were restored by the Nationalist govern- 
ment but nothing is yet known about the fate of the Arabic collection. We 
hope that nothing has befallen this last remnant of the legacy of a great 
civilization. 



MISCELLANEOUS STUDIES 
II 



CHAPTER XIX 
Marco Polo 

TWO great explorers were the first to reveal to 
the world the secrets of Asiatic society in the 
Middle Ages, and the splendour of the Far 
East, its sumptuous palaces and the luxury in which its 
princes and nobles indulged. These two explorers 
were Marco Polo the Venetian, and Ibn fiatuta of 
Tangier. The European explorer crossed the vast 
continent and recorded his travels and observations at 
the time the Muslim explorer was born. The former 
crossed the continent from its centre, and the latter 
from its south and his efforts completed those of the 
former. Each of them spent his youth in studying 
the conditions of the countries and peoples through 
which he had to pass, and if the European explorer has 
the merit of being the first to discover the secrets of 
Asiatic societies, only the nations of the west, who 
were at that time a minority in the civilized world, 
were indebted to him for his discovery. The merit of 
the Muslim explorer lies in acquainting the Eastern 
and Islamic nations with one another and with the 
wonderful secrets of societies which were then 
related like legends. The discoveries of Marco Polo 
were not generally known when Ibn Batuta began 
his travels from the East to the West of the globe. 
This Muslim explorer has also the advantage, over 
his European predecessor, of crossing the unknown 
countries of East Africa and many southern Asiatic 
countries and islands. He has still the greater advan- 
tage of being able to give minute geographical, 
historical and social descriptions and observations. 



252 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

The reason is that the Muslim explorer, owing to his 
education and the conditions in which he lived, was 
more capable of understanding the conditions and 
societies of the nations through which he passed than 
his predecessor. 

Yet the records of Marco Polo are one of the most 
valuable pages of the history of Asia, the Tartars and 
the Seljuke Turks in particular. They are still a 
document consulted in verifying many of the events 
connected with the history of those Mogul states 
which spread their dominion from the shores of the 
Pacific to the east of Europe. 



Marco Polo became explorer by circumstances as 
the following delightful story shows. In the thirteenth 
century Venice was the most important commercial 
port in the Mediterranean, and its vessels visited the 
Eastern ports as far as the Crimea, and its merchants 
wandered in all the countries of the East. Among 
these merchants was the father of the explorer, Nicolo 
Polo, a Venetian of noble family who had a firm 
trading in Constantinople between Venice and the 
East. In 1260 A.D. Nicolo Polo sailed in his own ship, 
which was laden with valuable goods, with his brother 
and partner Maffeo, to Constantinople, which they 
safely reached. That was in the days of Baldwin II, 
the last of its crusade Kings, After spending some 
time in trading they decided to continue their voyage 
to the ports of the Black Sea. They sailed to Soldania 
(Sudaq), a Crimean port, and then left with their 
property on horseback till they reached Bulgara and 
alighted in the court of a Tartar prince who governed 
that country. The prince welcomed and honoured 
them. They decided to compensate him for his kind 
reception and presented him with some precious 
jewels. The prince admired their generosity and 



MARCO POLO 253 

ordered that double the price of the jewels be paid 
them and that valuable presents and objects of art be 
also presented to them. 

After spending a year in the prince's country the 
brothers decided to return home. But war had broken 
out between this prince and Alau (afterwards the 
famous Hulagu) another Tartar prince who governed 
the Eastern provinces. Thus the way was closed 
before them and it was impossible for Nicolo Polo and 
his brother to return to Constantinople whence they 
had come. They therefore took an unfrequented route 
and sailed east to Bukhara which was at that time 
under the Persian rule where, by the force of 
circumstances, they were obliged to halt. They made 
the acquaintance of a notable Tartar there whom Alau 
had sent as Ambassador to the great King Kublai Khan, 
emperor of all the Tartars. His Court was at that 
time " at the end of the continent between the east 
and north-east." This ambassador admired the intelli- 
gence and excellent character of the Italians, as he had 
never before seen a European. Having previously 
studied the Tartar language he proposed that they 
should accompany him to the great Khan (King) who 
would be pleased to see and cover them with his pat- 
ronage and generosity. As they were at that time 
almost despaired of returning to Venice they accepted 
his invitation and spent with him a whole year on the 
way to the court of the great king who received them 
kindly and honoured them. Since they were the first 
Europeans who came to his court, he inquired from 
them about the Christian kings, the Roman Emperor, 
the condition and extent of their countries, the manner 
of executing justice, how they made war, etc. He parti- 
cularly asked them about the Pope and the Christian 
religion. They replied fully to all these questions in the 
Tartar language and he was so pleased that he included 
them among his favourites and decided to send them 
with one of his envoys as ambassadors to Rome to ask 



254 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

his holiness the Pope to send him a hundred learned 
pious men to preach Christianity in his country and 
bring back with them some of the holy oil which is 
burned in the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem. 

When they heard these orders of the great Khan 
they knelt before him and said that they were ready 
to obey him. He gave them letters and a safe-conduct 
and ordered an envoy named Khogatan to accompany 
them. A few weeks after the Khan's envoy fell ill 
and they left him, with his permission and order, in 
the city of Alau and continued their journey. The 
royal safe-conduct opened the way before them and 
they overcame all difficulties till three years after they 
reached the port of Laysos, south of Anatolia. They 
then proceeded to Acre which they reached in April 
1269, and there learned that Pope Clement IV had 
died. There was in Acre a Papal legate, named 
Thibaldo di Piacensa, to whom they communicated 
the Khan's message. He advised them to await the 
election of the new Pope to hand him the message. 
They acted on his advice and proceeded to Venice 
where Nicolo Polo found that his wife had died 
leaving the child whom she bore before he left, named 
Marco, who was then fifteen years old. This was the 
future explorer who was the first to reveal to the 
Europeans the secrets of the Far East. 

We know nothing of the childhood of Marco 
Polo, but it seems that he spent his early years in the 
house of one of his uncles in Venice. Nicolo and his 
brother Maffeo remained two years in Venice awaiting 
the election of the new Pope. But when tired of wait- 
ing, they decided to return to the great Khan to acquaint 
him of the failure of their mission. They sailed in 
1271 accompanied by Marco who was then seventeen 
years old. When they reached Acre they took from 
the Papal legate a letter to the Khan explaining the 
situation, and took for him some of the holy oil. They 
then marched north ; but before going far the legate 



MARCO POLO 255 

sent a messenger to acquaint them of the election of the 
new Pope who had assumed the name of Gregory X, 
and who could now meet the wishes of the Khan. 
They hastened to Acre in an armed vessel placed at 
their disposal by the King of Armenia. The Pope 
welcomed them and handed them several Papal letters 
to the Khan ; he also sent with them two priests to 
undertake in the Tartar Court the duty of preaching 
and the other religious rites, and several sacred objects 
of art which he blessed for the Khan. The party then 
again sailed to the port of Laysos but when they had 
gone far enough into Armenian territory they heard 
that war was raging in those localities and that the 
troops of Al-Zahir Beybers al-Bundukdary, Sultan of 
Egypt, were ravaging that country. The two priests 
were frightened and decided to return and handed the 
letters and the objects of art to the two brothers. 
Nicolo, Maffeo and Marco continued their journey 
till they crossed the frontier of Armenia safely. They 
crossed several barren deserts and rugged defiles and 
penetrated into the north-east till they learned that 
the great Khan was then staying in a large and 
magnificent city called Clemenfoe.. They proceeded 
to it and arrived safely after an arduous journey which 
lasted more than three years. Kublai Khan received 
them in a large assembly and they related to him 
what had happened to his embassy and handed him 
the Pope's letters, presents and the holy oil. He then 
asked Nicolo about the young man whom he saw for 
the first time. "Your servant, my son," replied 
Nicolo. The Khan was much pleased and ordered 
that Marco Polo, should be appointed among his pages. 
The young man soon advanced in the Court, and the 
Khan's suite admired his smartness and character. 
Marco studied the Tartar language and quickly adopted 
Tartar habits. The Khan covered him with his favours 
and loved him for his intelligence and talents, and 
sent him on various missions to distant parts of his 



256 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

kingdom, which he accomplished perfectly and regaled 
the Khan with news of his journeys and the condi- 
tions of his subjects. 

Marco and his father and uncle spent about 
seventeen years in the Court of Kublai Khan, in the 
course of which he undertook many political and 
administrative missions to all parts of the vast Mogul 
empire. He went to its furthest ends, studied their 
conditions and topography, and was able to learn a 
great deal about their affairs, both from personal expe- 
rience and from trustworthy persons. The Venetians, 
so long far from their homes, were very anxious to see 
their relatives and their country, and apprehended the 
death of Kublai Khan, who was old and infirm, before 
enabling them to return home. But the Khan refused 
to give them permission and insisted on their remain- 
ing near him. They were obliged, against their will, 
to wait till a favourable occasion presented itself to 
enable them to return. It so happened that Queen 
Bulgan, wife of Argon Khan, King of Persia and 
Khorasan, who was a princess of the royal Tartar 
family, died. Argon sent envoys to the great Khan 
who was then in Katai, asking to send him a new wife 
of the family of the deceased queen. His envoys met 
the Venetians there and the great Khan promptly 
acceded to the request of Argon, chose for him a 
beautiful young bride of high education and morals, 
named Kogatin, and made all preparations for her 
departure with the envoys of Argon. The royal 
procession after marching for eight months in valleys 
and defiles learned that there was war in the west 
between the Tartar Princes and that communications 
with Persia were closed and dangerous. It had there- 
fore to return to the court of the great Khan against 
its wishes. Marco Polo had, at that time, returned from 
a voyage in the southern seas to the East Indies islands 
and he told the great Khan that voyage in those seas 
was very safe. The envoys of Argon were interested 



MARCO POLO 257 

in this statement and met the Venetians with whom 
they agreed that the envoys should ask the Khan to 
allow them to return home with the Queen by the safe 
sea route, as Marco Polo had said. Also that they 
should ask to be accompanied in this voyage by 
the Venetians who were good seamen. The envoys 
submitted this double request to the Khan who granted 
it unwillingly. He summoned the Venetians, talked 
kindly to them, and asked them to promise to return 
after visiting their relatives and home. He also gave 
them an imperial pass and appointed them Ambassa- 
dors to the Kings of France, Spain and other Christian 
sovereigns. The Khan gave the party fourteen large 
ships and presented the Venetians with many jewels 
and precious stones. The party, accompanied by the 
young princess, sailed and reached Java three months 
after. They then crossed the Indian Ocean and reach- 
ed the ports of King Argon, after eighteen months in 
the course of which hundreds of the sailors died, as 
well as two of the King's envoys, leaving only one. 
When they landed they heard that King Argon had 
died and that his brother Kiakatu was ruling the 
country in the name of his little son Kassan. It was 
decided to marry the young princess to Kassan. The 
Venetians rested there several months, and Kiakatu 
gave them royal passes and ordered them to be accom- 
panied by guards and supplied provisions wherever 
they were and all difficulties in their way to be over- 
come till they crossed the frontier of his territory. 
They resumed their journey and learned on the route 
of the death of the great Kublai Khan. They arrived 
at the port of Trebizond and continued their voyage to 
Constantinople, thence to Negroponte and finally safe- 
ly arrived at Venice in 1295 A.D. Strange stories were 
told of their return : their relatives did not recognize 
them when they saw them in ragged Tartar clothes 
and hardly able to speak their native tongue. They 
were recognized only when they took off their ragged 

17 



258 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

clothes and produced from their linings the most 
beautiful jems. But Marco Polo did not remain long 
with his family, as war was then raging between 
Venice and Genoa. As the Marco Polo family was 
noble and wealthy, they were asked to prepare a specia 
vessel, and Marco sailed his family's vessel in the fleet 
of Andrea Dandolo, Doge of Venice. The Venetians 
were defeated in the wars of Cresola on September 
7, 1297, and Marco Polo was taken prisoner and carried 
to Genoa and was detained there for three years, 
notwithstanding all the efforts he made to ransom 
himself. It is probable that he wrote the history of his 
travels in that interval. He dictated them in bad 
French to a fellow prisoner. He then returned to 
Venice in 1299 and married shortly after. We know 
but little of his life after his return from captivity ; all 
we know is that he lived a rich and famous man and 
was called the Millione, /.., the millionaire, on account 
of the stories he told of the wealth of Kublai Khan. 
The explorer fell ill in 1324 and felt the end of his 
days. He wrote his will and died shortly after and 
was buried in the church of San Lorenzo but no one 
knows where his tomb exactly is. 



This is the wonderful story whose delightful 
events produced the first explorer who revealed to the 
world the grandeur of the Far East and depicted its 
brilliant scenes. But the society to which Marco 
Polo related all he saw hardly supported or believed 
him. The stories related by the explorer were not 
much believed. Perhaps Marco Polo was so affected 
by this mistrust that he did not tell of all he saw and 
heard which might have been considered extraordinary 
legends. The spirit and the conditions of that age throw 
light on this. All that Europe knew in the Middle 
Ages of the East was what the Bible said and the 



MARCO POLO 259 

Crusaders reported, and all that was seen of it was 
what the ports of Syria, Byzantium and the neighbour- 
ing ports of the Black Sea exhibited. As for the Far 
East, it was concealed from the European world by a 
thick veil of extraordinary imagination. Yet the 
reports of Marco Polo were more wonderful than all 
that people then imagined of the East, its glittering 
gold, great Kings, enchanting palaces, rivers flowing 
with milk and honey, houris and youths, genii, devils 
and treasures, in general all the mystery, brilliance and 
grandeur which surrounded it. Ibn Batuta suffered 
from the society of his age what Marco Polo suffered 
from mistrust and partiality. 

Yet Marco Polo's observations and studies may 
be ranged among the writings of the great explorers. 
They are still an authority on some parts of middle 
Asia and China, and will always remain among the 
most valuable sources to the geographer, the historian 
and the student of Asiatic life. If Marco Polo mixed 
his descriptions with a number of scenes and legends 
which are not accepted by modern mind, and remind 
us of the miracles cited by Ibn Batuta in his book, the 
fact is due to the spirit and mentality of the age, on the 
one hand, and to the surroundings from which Marco 
Polo obtained his information, on the other. Marco 
Polo visited the greatest court of the age, saw the 
splendour of the " King of Kings " (Kublai Khan), his 
vast territories, his great dominion and his immense 
wealth, and heard from his suite, his generals and his 
officers, his subjects and his slaves, enough to inflame 
his imagination the imagination of the Middle Ages 
to the highest limit, and dictated to him and to his 
pen to say what the imagination of his age accepted 
and what modern mind rejects. But this deviation 
which is due to the nature of the age, does not deprive 
the explorer from the truthfulness of his narrative or 
the profoundness of his studies in many matters which 
might have been far from his mind owing to their 



260 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

complexity and strangeness. The following which he 
reported about the Ismailies of his time is an example 
of his precision. He says : 

" Of the old man of the mountain, of his palace 
and his gardens, of his capture and his death... Having 
spoken of this country mention shall now be made of 
the old man of the mountain. The district in which 
his residence lay obtained the name of Mulehet, signi- 
fying in the language of the Saracens, the place of 
heretics, and his people that of Mulehetites, or holders 
of heretical tenets, just as we apply the term of Patha- 
rini to certain heretics amongst Christians." The 
following account of this chief, Marco Polo, testifies to 
having heard from sundry persons. " He was named 
Alo-eddin and his religion was that of Mahomet. In 
a beautiful valley enclosed between two lofty moun- 
tains, he had formed a luxurious garden, stored with 
every delicious fruit and every fragrant shrub that 
could be procured. Palaces of various sizes and forms 
were erected in different parts of the grounds orna- 
mented with works in gold, with paintings and with 
furniture of rich silks. By means of small conduits 
which contrived these buildings, streams of wine, milk, 
honey and some of pure water, were seen to flow in 
every direction. The inhabitants of these palaces 
were elegant, and beautiful damsels, accomplished in 
the arts of singing, playing upon all sorts of musical 
instruments, dancing and especially all those of dalli- 
ance and amorous allurements. Clothed in rich 
dresses they were seen continually sporting and amus- 
ing the garden and pavilions, their female guardians 
being confined within doors and never suffered to 
appear. The object which the chief had in view in 
forming a garden of this fascinating kind was this : 
that Mahomet having promised to those who should 
obey his will the enjoyments of Paradise, where every 
species of sensual gratification should be found, in the 
society of beautiful nymphs, he was desirous of its 



MARCO POLO 261 

being understood by his followers that he also was a 
prophet and the compeer of Mahomet, and had the 
power of admitting to Paradise such as he should 
choose to favour. In order that none without his 
license might find their way into this delicious valley, 
he caused a strong and inexpugnable castle to be 
erected at the opening of it, through which the entry 
was by a secret passage. At his court, likewise, this 
chief entertained a number of youths, from the age of 
twelve to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants 
of the surrounding mountains, who showed a disposi- 
tion of martial exercises, and appeared to possess the 
quality of daring courage. To them he was in the 
daily practice of discoursing on the subject of the 
Paradise announced by the Prophet, and of his own 
power of granting permission ; and at certain times he 
caused opium to be administered to them or a dozen 
of the youths, and when half dead with sleep he had 
them conveyed to the several apartments of the 
palaces in the garden. Upon awakening from the 
state of lethargy their senses were struck with all the 
delightful objects that have been described, and each 
perceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, sing- 
ing, playing and attracting his regards by the most 
fascinating caresses, until intoxicated with excess of 
enjoyment amidst actual rivulets of milk and wine, he 
believed himself assuredly in Paradise and felt an 
unwillingness to relinquish delights. When four or 
five days had thus been passed, they were thrown once 
more into a state of somnolency, and carried out of the 
garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence 
and questioned by him as to where they had been, 
their answer was, * In Paradise, through the favour of 
your highness, 1 and then before the whole court, who 
listened to them with eager curiosity and astonishment, 
they gave a circumstantial account of the scenes to 
which they had been witnesses. The chief thereupon 
addressing them said : ' We have the assurances of 



262 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

our prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit 
Paradise, and if you show yourselves devoted to the 
obedience of my orders, that happy lot awaits you/ 
Animated to enthusiasm by words of this nature, all 
deemed themselves happy to receive the commands of 
their master, and were forward to die in his service. 
The consequence of this system was that when any of 
the neighbouring princes, or others, gave umbrage to 
this chief, they were put to death by these disciplined 
assassins of his ; none of whom felt terror at the risk 
of losing their own lives, which they held in little 
estimation, provided they could execute their master's 
will. On this account his tyranny became the subject 
of dread in all the surrounding countries. He had also 
constituted two deputies or representatives one of 
whom had his residence in the vicinity of Damascus, 
and the other in Kurdistan ; and these pursued the 
plan he had established for training their young 
dependents. Thus there was no person, however power- 
ful, who, having become exposed to the enmity of the 
old man of the mountain, could escape assassination. 
His territory being situated within the dominions of 
Alau (Hulagu), the brother of the grand Khan 
(Mangu) had information of his atrocious practices, 
as above related, as well as of his employing people to 
rob travellers in their passage through his country. In 
the year 1262 he sent one of his armies to besiege this 
chief in his castle. It proved, however, so capable 
of defence, that for three years no impression could 
be made upon it ; until at length he was forced to 
surrender for want of provisions and after being made 
prisoner was put to death. His castle was dismantled, 
and his garden of Paradise destroyed. And from that 
time there has been no old man of the mountain." l 

We find in this page which Marco Polo wrote on 
the Ismailis a certain precision in study and research 
appreciated by scholars who know the history of the 
Ismailis and their conditions. We find this precision 



MARCO POLO 263 

in many of the writings of Marco Polo about the 
kingdoms of Central Asia in his days, and the Tartar 
kingdoms in particular, their history, courts and socie- 
ties. The memoirs of Marco Polo were for ages the 
authority of the historians and scholars in studying 
many of the conditions of these nations and kingdoms 
in the Middle Ages, and they are still a valuable docu- 
ment as regards the history and geography of Asia, 
binding the heritage of the past and modern research 
with the strongest of ties. 

Reference 

*The murder of the old man of the mountain. Ala-ud-Dm, cited by 
Marco Polo, was in 1255 after a long reign. He was succeeded by his son 
Rukn-ud-Dm who reigned for only one year, and was besieged by the army 
ot Hulagu at whose hands ended the Ismaih dominion. 



CHAPTER XX 
Ibn Batuta 

AT the time Marco Polo, the Venetian, closed his 
journeys in the depths of the Asiatic countries 
and societies and recorded his travels and 
observations, there was born in Tangier a Muslim 
explorer, one of the few outstanding personalities 
presented by the history of Islam in the fourteenth 
century. In 1304 A.D. (703 A.H.) Abu Abdilla 
Mohammed ibn Abdilla of Tangier, known by the 
name of Ibn Batuta, was born. We know very little 
about his youth and his early education, but it seems 
that he was born in ordinary conditions and that he 
studied law and theology. Similarly we do not know 
the special circumstances or motives which induced 
the Muslim explorer to spend his life in travelling 
about the world to the furthest ends of the globe 
known at that time. All we know is that when thfs 
young man of Tangier attained the twenty-second year 
of his age he was filled with the desire to perform 
pilgrimage and to visit the holy lands. Pilgrimage is 
the most sublime aspiration which burns in the heart 
of every Muslim who can accomplish this desire. 
It seems also that Ibn Batuta could not afford 
the journey to Mecca and that he was intent upon 
accomplishing this desire whatever difficulties he 
might encounter. Crossing the desert of North Africa 
and the Islamic countries from Tangier to Mecca was, 
in those days, a great adventure. 

The future explorer left his native town, Tangier, 
in the month of Rajab, 725 A.H. (1325 A.D ), as he 
relates in his travels, " proposing to make a pilgrimage 
to the sacred House of God and to visit the tomb of 



IBN BATUTA 265 

the Prophet (on whom be God's peace), alone without 
a companion to console me, and even without joining 
a caravan, impelled by a powerful spiritual resolu- 



tion." 



He began his voyage in the days of Abu Sa'eed 
ibn Abi Yousef, Sultan of Almohades. He crossed the 
famous cities of Barbary, such as Telemcen, Algiers, 
Bougie and Constantinople, till he reached Tunis whose 
Sultan was at that time Abu Yahiya ibn Abi Zakaria, 
an Emir of Banu Hafs. The young explorer had no 
patience to bear the pain of separation and solitude 
and had no idea at all to go round the world, so that 
when he arrived in Tunis and found that no one came 
to call upon him, " he had such an emotion that he 
could not restrain his tears and wept bitterly." 
He then joined the pilgrims' caravan to Tripolis and 
thence to Alexandria which he describes as " the port 
guarded by God and the delightful place full of 
beautiful scenes and strong fortifications and of 
worldly and religious enjoyments." This happened 
ten months after leaving Tangier. Hethen went to 
Cairo which he describes in these poetical words : " I 
then arrived at Misr (Egypt), the mother of countries, 
the seat of the great Pharaoh, with her large provinces 
and cities, very crowded with edifices, very beautifully 
planned, the centre of those going and coming and the 
refuge of the weak and the strong, raging like waves 
with its population which she could hardly contain 
in spite of her great size and possibilities. Her youth 
is renewed in spite of her old age. Her star never 
leaves the zone of good omen. Her Cairo has con- 
quered the nations and her kings swayed over the 
people of Arabia and Persia." 

The explorer was dazzled with the demonstra- 
tions of progress and wealth he saw in Egypt, and he 
did not wish merely to wander in it. On the contrary 
we see him roaming about Alexandria, describing 
minutely its Pharaoh Pompey's pillar and all its 



266 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

monuments. He visited all the quarters of Cairo with 
its famous mosques, institutions and monuments. He 
then visited the provinces of lower Egypt from north to 
south, and of upper Egypt to its farther end, and saw all 
the ancient Egyptian monuments. He was introduced 
to the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Nasir ibn Qalaun, and its 
princes, scholars and judges. He describes in detail its 
progress, civilization, the Nile, the pyramids and the 
aspects of social life. He then travelled by the desert 
route, alongside the Red Sea, and reached Palestine by 
the Sinai route and visited Jerusalem and its ancient 
monuments both Muslim and Christian. He then 
went north, alongside the sea, crossing Syria till 
Aleppo and came in contact, in all his travels, with 
princes, nobles and scholars, and saw all the famous 
mosques, monuments and institutions. He then went 
south to Damascus and was dazzled by its beauty, 
and spent some time there, and described in detail its 
Omayyad mosques, bazaars, gardens, institutions and 
inhabitants. 

It was here that Ibn Batuta determined to put in 
force the object for which he had left his country, 
that is to say, to perform the pilgrimage. He left 
Damascus with the pilgrims' caravan and crossed the 
ordinary route till he reached Medina and visited the 
Bait-ul-Haram and other sacred monuments. He then 
went to Mecca where he accomplished the rites of the 
pilgrimage and visited the Holy Kaaba, the Masjid- 
al-Haram and the tombs of the Prophet's Companions. 
He devotes a long chapter of his book to the descrip- 
tion of the holy land and the sacred monuments and 
all rites, and records legends connected with them, as 
well as the societies of Mecca and Medina and their 
topography, institutions and markets. His style in 
that part of the book shows his reverence, respect, 
enthusiasm, or rather his profound faith and piety. 

But the explorer never thought of returning home 
after realizing his desire which, as he says in his book 



IBN BATUTA 267 

was the motive of his voyage. It is most probable 
that the idea of continuing his travels and going 
round the world occurred to him only at this occa- 
sion. We find that he suddenly turned his face to the 
north-east, proposing to go to Iraq instead of taking 
the route back home. We also find that he crossed the 
defiles of the Arabian desert with all its ruggedness, 
wilderness, dangers and difficulties. He had already 
passed through the Muslim countries in the Near East 
and West. But they were not mysteries to him. Egypt 
and Syria were frequently visited by travellers and 
merchants coming from North Africa and Andalusia, 
and were the route taken by pilgrims every year. 
Their societies, traditions and habits were better 
known in North Africa than any other Muslim society. 
But the turning towards the East can be considered in 
the life of Ibn Batuta the beginning of his real adven- 
tures and famous travels. He was henceforth passing 
through countries which differed in climate and nature 
from all those countries which he had experienced in 
the first part of his voyage. He was passing through 
societies he did not know, nor did he know anything 
about their characteristics, although they were 
Muslims. Moreover, he met societies which spoke 
languages other than Arabic, the language he used till 
this part of his voyage. Here becomes evident the 
outstanding talents of the explorer in appreciating all 
the geographical and social conditions he saw, his 
precision in studying these scenes and his ability to 
describe them. Here Ibn Batuta begins to learn the 
Persian and the Turkish languages, the former becom- 
ing his arm in his travels to the Indian societies, as the 
Tartar language was an arm to his predecessor, Marco 
Polo, in his travels in Tartar countries. 

The explorer turned towards the East and crossed 
Najd and the Arabian desert to Iraq. He describes 
these regions and their historical localities and monu- 
ments and the legends connected with them which is 



268 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

one of the characteristics of Ibn Batuta in describing 
monuments. He then crossed the Euphrates and the 
Tigris to the Persian Iraq. He visited Shiraz and 
Ispahan and returned by a northern route and again 
crossed the Euphrates and the Tigris to the Arabian 
Iraq. He alighted at Baghdad and there met Abu 
Sa*eed Bahadir Khan, Sultan of the two Iraqs and 
Khorasan. At that time Baghdad was deprived of 
authority and was no longer the seat of an empire 
since its occupation by the Tartars and the murder of 
Al-Mutasim, the last Abbaside Caliph (656 A.H., 
1258 A.D.). It had lost its old splendour and was 
mostly in ruins. The impression it made on the 
explorer is evident from his writings on Baghdad, 
its monuments, societies and its suburb Al-Rasafa, 
which was then crowded by the Caliphs 1 tombs. 
Here he also deals with history and relates the history 
of the royal dynasty which ruled Iraq at that 
time, as he later relates the history of all the 
Seljuke and Indian dynasties which were then on the 
throne. 

The explorer left the city of the Caliphs for 
Mosul, thence to Nasibein (Nisbis) and to Sinjar, and 
came in contact with all their princes. The fact is 
that feudalism in its widest sense prevailed in all 
these countries, and the Seljuke princes had divided 
the provinces and cities among themselves. Every 
province or city had an independent feudal ruler 
called Sultan or Khan (king). Here ends the first of 
the journeys of Ibn Batuta. We do not know what 
he was thinking of at that time and what urged him 
to go south again, that is to say, to Baghdad and Mecca. 
But he says in his book that he arrived for the second 
time at Mecca, ill and exhausted. He rested there 
about a year and studied for another year. It seems 
that he definitely decided in that interval to go round 
the world and, thanks to the information he obtained 
from the pilgrims who came there from all parts of the 



IBN BATUTA 269 

world, he drew up a sort of programme for his voyage. 
He began by going south to Yemen and then to 
Somaliland. He visited the littoral of the Arabian 
Sea as far as Oman and Bahrein, and there saw the 
pearl-diving places and describes how pearls are 
obtained. He met the Emirs of these localities, and 
again crossed the desert to Mecca where he performed 
the pilgrimage for the third time. That was in 732 
A.H. (1332 A.D.) and there he met Al-Malik al- 
Nasir, Sultan of Egypt. He then sailed in the Red 
Sea to Sudan and crossed Nubia and upper Egypt to 
Cairo. He did not stay there long, but continued his 
journey to Syria and sailed from Latakia and reached 
the Turkish shore, or the coast of Asia Minor, in 733 
A.H. (1333 A.D.). 

Asia Minor was at that time overflowing with 
Seljuke princes, but the tribe of Othman had begun to 
occupy an outstanding position over them. Othman, 
founder of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, had pene- 
trated west in the provinces of the Byzantine Empire, 
defeated its Emperor, Andronicus the elder, in several 
battles and taken possession of much of his territories. 
Bursa was then the Ottoman capital, and their King, 
at the time of the arrival of the explorer, was Orkhan, 
son of Othman. Besides the Ottomans there were, in 
Asia Minor, many other strong princes among whom 
was Uzbek Khan, King of the northern provinces. 
Islam had spread in most of these countries. But 
Muslim dominion was still young, so that these socie- 
ties were more different in their spirit, institutions 
and traditions than any other society the explorer had 
seen. The country was likewise new and the nature 
still more strange. The explorer penetrated through 
the defiles of Anatolia from east to west and from 
south to north, and gave full details of all he saw- 
topography, institutions, characteristics, crops, habits 
and ethics. He then crossed the lands of Sultan 
Uzbek Khan to the shores of the Bosphorus, accom- 



270 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

panied by a party sent by this Sultan to the Byzantine 
Emperor. 



The occupant of the throne of Constantine, the 
day the Muslim explorer arrived in Byzantium, was 
Emperor Andronicus III or the younger. He ascended 
the throne in 1328 A.D. Ibn Batuta arrived there 
with the party sent by Sultan Mohammed Uzbek 
Khan, accompanying his wife Khatun Pylon, the 
Emperor's daughter, who had gone to visit her father in 
Constantinople. The explorer accompanied her party 
and was much honoured. He arrived in Constanti- 
nople after a journey by land and sea which lasted 
about a month, and entered it with the royal party at 
noon on a day of the year 733 A.H. (1333 A.D.) 
The explorer describes his entry in these delightful 
words : u We entered at noon, or soon after, the great 
city of Constantinople, and their bells so pealed that 
the earth shook from their sound. When we arrived 
at the first gate of the royal palace, we found a 
hundred men with their officer in his box and I 
heard them say * Saracno Saracno V* 1 He describes 
his reception by the Emperor as follows : *' On the 
fourth day the Khatun sent me an Indian youth named 
Sunbul who took me by the hand into the palace. We 
passed through four gates, each of which had a roof 
under which stood armed men with their officer. 
When we reached the fifth gate Sunbul left me and 
entered. He then returned accompanied by four young 
Greek pages who searched me to see if I had any arms. 
The officer told me that that was the custom; they 
had to search all those who entered to see the King, 
whether nobles or common people, natives or 
foreigners. The man who stood at the gate took me 
by the hand, opened the door, and four men surround- 
ed me, two holding my sleeves and two following me. 



IBN BATUTA 271 

They introduced me to a large hall, the walls of which 
were in mosaic, with pictures of animals and other 
objects, and in the centre a fountain with trees on 
both sides. Men were standing right and left, all 
silent, and in the centre of the hall three men were 
standing to whom the four men handed me and they 
held my clothes, as did the others. A man beckoned 
to them and they advanced with me. One of them 
was a Jew who told me in Arabic : ' Have no fear, I 
am the interpreter.' They took me to a great canopy 
where the Emperor was sitting on his throne with the 
Empress by his side. Six men stood on his right and 
four on his left, all armed. Before saluting and approa- 
ching him he beckoned me to sit down for a while to 
calm mysefr, and I did as I was told. I then approach- 
ed and saluted him and he ordered me to sit down, 
but I refused. He asked me about Jerusalem, the holy 
rock, the Sepulchre, the cradle of Jesus, Bethlehem, 
the city of Al-Khalil, then about Damascus, Egypt, 
Iraq and Asia Minor to which I replied, the Jew 
translating between us. He was pleased with my 
replies and told his sons : ' Honour this man and 
assure him of his safety/ He then gave me a mantle, 
and ordered that a horse with saddle and bridle be 
given me, as well as a parasol as sign of safety. 1 ' The 
explorer calls the emperor * Takfor ' and his father 
4 Girgis,' which is evidently wrong, for he was 
Andronicus III and his father Andronicus II. 

Constantinople had at that time lost much of its 
past splendour, as the Crusaders had conquered it a 
century and a quarter before, and destroyed many of 
its palaces and churches, and it was often burned 
during the war. Yet it was the grandest scene the 
explorer saw in all his travels. He describes its 
situation in a manner which proves his deep researches 
and inquiries. He says : " Its greatness has no end, 
and it is divided into two parts with a great river 
between them (meaning the Golden Horn). This 



272 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

river is called Ibsimi. One of the parts is called 
Istanbul and it is situated on the eastern side of the 
river, where the Sultan (Emperor), his ministers and 
common people live. Its markets and streets are 
wide and paved with slates. The city is built at the 
foot of a mountain extending about nine miles into 
the sea ; its width is the same and even more. A small 
fort and the Sultan's palace are built on the summit. 
A wall surrounds this mountain, and the way to it is 
from the seaside. The great church of Aya (Saint) 
Sophia is in the middle of this part. The second part 
is called Galata and is situated on the western side. It 
is reserved for the Christian Franks, as the Genoese, 
the Venetians and the inhabitants of Rome and 
France." The explorer describes at great length the 
great church of Aya Sophia, the monasteries with 
which Constantinople was crowded at that time. He 
describes their conditions and their inmates, both 
monks and virgins. He visited them by special per- 
mission of the Emperor who gave him an interpreter 
to accompany him in this visit. 

The explorer stayed several weeks in Constanti- 
nople. He left it dazzled with the Hellenic civilization 
and the wonders of its architecture and grandeur, and 
the luxury which had almost shaken the foundations 
of the Byzantine society. He again crossed northern 
Anatolia in winter, and suffered much from severe 
cold. He then turned east to Turkistan and alighted 
at Khwarazm which was at that time a province of 
the territory of Sultan Uzbek Khan. He then went 
to Bukhara which the Tartars had then destroyed, and 
stood with reverence before the tomb of Ismail 
al-Bukhari, author of Al-Gami as-Sahih and went 
about that country for a time. He learned on that 
occasion in his travels something of the history of the 
Tartars from the days of Genkiz Khan, and crossed 
Baluchistan and entered India from the north-west. 
He reached Punjab, as he says, in 734 A.H. (1334 A.D.). 



IBN BATUTA 273 

Here begins a new stage in the travels of Ibn 
Batuta, and here is seen his strong spirit of adventure. 
He was full of the desire to penetrate into the coun- 
try, taking no heed of the difficulties on his way. He 
crosses the vast provinces of India from north to south 
and from west to east, and comes in contact with 
their kings, Muslims and others. He liked to settle in 
some of these kingdoms and tried to approach their 
kings to gain their favours and enter their service. He 
attained his object more than once. He gained 
the friendship of Sultan Ahmed Shah, King of 
the northern provinces, whose court was at Delhi, who 
appointed him a judge and entrusted him with certain 
missions and embassies. He remained many years in 
his service. He reserves in his book a large part for 
the history of this kingdom, its institutions and civili- 
zation. He even went further in his adventures ; he 
accompanied military expeditions and was once taken 
prisoner and was on the point of losing his life but 
was only saved by a miracle. He not only went round 
the internal provinces, but visited the shores of India 
till its southern end. He crossed over to Ceylon, and 
described the " Sacred foot," known as Adam's foot. 
The explorer gives us in this part of his book a large 
number of delightful stories and descriptions. He 
describes many of the beliefs of the Hindus, their 
religious traditions, secret temples and social life with 
all their revolting rites, such as burning women on the 
death of their husbands (the suttee), pilgrimage to the 
Ganges in which some drowned themselves as sacri- 
fices to God and to immortalize the soul. He reveals 
deep impression and emotion at these appalling pagan 
rites and says that he almost fell from his horse when 
he saw women being burned. He likewise describes 
the wonders of nature, the flora and fauna he saw in 
these flourishing lands. His description is strong and 
delightful. He tells us that Hindu brigands once 
attacked his caravan and robbed him of all he had, 

18 



274 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

including his notes. This perhaps explains the lack of 
precision in recording dates and places, events and 
portraits. He no doubt recorded much of what 
he saw, and he kept many of these notes till he 
returned, relying on them while dictating his travel. 

Ibn Batuta spent long years in India, its kingdoms, 
seas and islands. He then went to the east, and visit- 
ed the islands of the East Indies, that is to say, Java 
and Sumatra and then went north. Here he tells us 
that he went afterwards to China, and describes to us 
its nature and people. He is not, however, very clear 
in this part of his narrative and it seems that by China 
he meant Indo-China and the south of China, and 
that he penetrated but little in a northerly direction. 
After going round for some time in those countries, 
he returned to Java, sailing across the Indian Ocean to 
India which he again crossed. He then sailed to the 
southern shore of Sind, and crossed Persia, Mesopo- 
tamia, Syria and Egypt on his way back home. He 
sailed from Tunis, visited Sardinia and crossed 
Morocco to Fez which he reached in 753 A.H. (1352 
A.D.) during the reign of Sultan Abu Enan the 
Merinide, that is to say, after spending a quarter of a 
century in going round the world. He then went to 
his birth-place, Tangier, and visited his mother's tomb. 
He did not remain there long, for he was seized with 
the passion for travel again. He crossed the sea to 
Andalusia and visited its ports and principal cities 
which were flourishing at that time, although confined 
in a small part of the Peninsula, and the Muslims were 
at that time busy defending continually their lands 
and liberty, which were threatened by speedy destruc- 
tion by Christian Spain. He arrived in Granada in the 
days of the Nasrides during the reign of Sultan Abul 
Hajjaj Yousef ibn al-Walid al-Nasri. He made the 
acquaintance of its scholars and theologians. He then 
sailed again to Morocco, but he did not settle there, 
for he went to Sudan by way of the desert and 



IBN BATUTA 275 

studied the conditions of its tribes and made the 
acquaintance of its Sultans and Emirs. On his way 
back he received orders of Sultan Abu Enan to return 
to Fez. He returned and settled there, after such long 
travels and absence from home in 755 A.H. (1354 A.D.), 
that is to say, thirty full years from the day he left his 
birthplace for the first time. He was then an old man 
of fifty-three years, having sailed from Tangier a 
young man of twenty-two. 



Ibn Batuta settled in the Court of Fez after long 
absence and travel. He became a favourite of the 
Sultan who was delighted with his interesting stories 
and pleasant company. He related to him all about the 
countries and peoples he saw. He became renowned 
for his wonderful news and stories, and some accused 
him of exaggeration and lies. The fact is that we 
should remember that the society to which the 
Muslim explorer related the wonders and splendour of 
Asia was not less sceptic and partial than was the 
society to which his predecessor, Marco Polo, related 
his experiences. Ibn Batuta expresses his pain of this 
incredulity in some passages of his book, and says : 
44 God knows that I am telling the truth, and God is a 
sufficient witness." The story of Ibn Batuta and the 
news of his travels were still alive and strong when 
the philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote his famous Prole- 
gomena, the explorer having been dead only a few 
years before. Ibn Khaldun saw the explorer and met 
him in the Court of Fez when he was in the 
service of Sultan Abu Enan. He describes him as 
follows : 

" There came to Morocco in the days of Sultan 
Abu Enan, of the Kings of Bani Marin, a notable of 
Tangier, known by. the name of Ibn Batuta who had 
oneg twenty years before to the East where he visited 



276 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

Iraq, Yemen and India, and entered the city of Delhi, 
the seat of the Kings of India, and came into contact 
with its king who was at that time Sultan Mohamed 
Shah who honoured and employed him as a judge. 
He then returned to the west and was presented to 
Sultan Abu Enan. He related all about his travels 
and the wonders he saw in the kingdoms of the 
world : and people whispered that he was telling lies. 
I one day met Faris ibn Wardar, the Sultan's vizier, 
and discussed the matter with him, and told him that 
I was sceptic about this man's stories, as people were 
accusing him of lies. But the vizier said : ' You must 
not disbelieve what he tells about those countries 
because you did not see them/ " Thus the great 
explorer was denied his due in the society of his age, 
as was the case with Marco Polo. But the echo of his 
travels was carried further and made a deeper impres- 
sion than that made by the travels of Marco Polo. 
The Muslim explorer penetrated into societies gene- 
rally Muslim but were distant from and unknown to 
the rest of the Muslim world, and he was able to 
study profoundly their institutions, laws and mentality. 
He penetrated into various societies ; from Andalusia 
to East Africa, to India, to Java, to China, and roamed 
about in each of them observing and studying. But 
Marco Polo only crossed Central Asia, that is to say, 
Tartary only, and entered it with the mentality of a 
foreigner unable to understand it, thus the observa- 
tions of the Muslim explorer were more precise and 
trustworthy than those of his European predecessor. 
With the exception of some strange stories for 
which he was accused of exaggeration his reports, 
whether on history, geography or social conditions, 
with their deep research and power of presentation, 
are one of the most trustworthy documents of 
Asiatic history and geography. Moreover, the 
style of the explorer is easy and charming, and 
proves his delightful and abundant humour. He 



IBN BATUTA 277 

carries the reader, throughout his travels, interested to 
follow him in the views he saw, in his observations 
and pictures and in all he says about himself. The 
explorer has delightful stories about himself ; he speaks, 
for instance, of how he was married more than once 
through his voyage and had several children, how his 
travels necessitated leaving his wives and children to 
fates of which he knew nothing, how he was fond of 
delicious food and sweet fruits, how he was able to 
travel from one city to another and one country to 
another, thanks to the presents he received from great 
men and the donations of kings and princes, how he 
once tried to induce one of the Indian Sultans to pay 
his large debts by praising him in an ode he wrote, how 
he was inquisitive to know the strange social habits, 
such as pagan rites and mourning and marriage cere- 
monies, how he saw in India the tricks of magicians 
and fakirs and was horrified one day to see a magician 
cut a living man to four pieces and join them after- 
wards when the man was again alive. These no doubt 
are some of the acts of modern jugglery the like of 
which we hear in Europe. Besides these there are 
many trustworthy historical passages and living pictures 
of all sides of nature and general life. 

Ibn Batuta spent the rest of his life quietly, asto- 
nishing the society of his age with all he saw and 
heard and was more than seventy years old when he 
died in 775 A.H. (1374 A.D.). Ibn Batuta dictated 
and did not write his travels himself. He dictated 
them to Ibn Juzai, an Andalusian theologian who, like 
Ibn Batuta, received the favours of Bani Marin (the 
Merinide). He dictated them by the order of Sultan 
Abu Enan in 756 A.H. in the city of Fez. Ibn Juzai 
describes Ibn Batuta in these words : " The Shaikh, 
the theologian, the reliable traveller, the globe-trotter, 
who crossed countries from all sides, who rambled 
deeply impressed and travelled studying everywhere." 
But the spirit of Ibn Batuta, his graceful style and his 



278 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

power of expression are evident in all that Ibn Juzai 
wrote. Ibn Juzai says that he took down the words of 
Shaikh Abi Abdilla (Ibn Batuta) in terms which 
represented his objects, and explained his points of 
view. On many occasions he took his own words. Thus 
were recorded those famous travels which reserve for 
the Muslim explorer a high position among the great 
explorers of the world. They were given this very 
interesting title: Tuhfat al-Nuzzar fi Gharaib al- 
Amsar wa Ajayib al-Asfar (The onlookers' treasure 
book on the strange things of countries and the 
wonders of travel.) 

Modern research has realized the value of the 
work of Ibn Batuta, which was translated into English 
and French, and was published in Europe in the early 
part of last century, long before it was published in 
the East. It still preserves its historical and geo- 
graphical value among the most precious works of the 
Middle Ages. 2 

References 

1 Probably Sarrazino (Saracens), the name applied by Greek writers to 
the Muslims of Arabia. 

3 The travels of Ibn Batuta were published about the middle of the 
nineteenth century in Paris by the Orientalists Defremery and Sanguinetti 
with a French translation in four volumes (1853-1859). They were printed 
in Cairo more than once. They were translated into English in 1829 by the 
English Orientalist Dr. S. Lee, and the German Orientalist, von Metzik, 
translated the chapters on India and China into German. Certain parts 
were also translated into other languages. 



CHAPTER XXI 

Some Religious Legends which directed the Course of 

History 

RELIGIOUS legends had their effect on history in 
all ages. They were the source of a number 
of great phenomena and events, and the support 
of great states which were built on their foundations, 
as well as obscure heroes who derived from them the 
elements of their heroism and borrowed the garb 
of their sovereignty. They were also stronger and 
deeper in their moral effect ; they invaded the nations 
of history, traced for them the programmes of life, and 
fashioned for them the desired creeds, principles and 
traditions. 

Not a single great religion is free from a number 
of these strong legends. But those of them which are 
connected with sovereignty and politics had greater 
influence on the course of historical events. Yet 
political leadership in such legends was nothing but 
the result of religious leadership. As the appeal to 
the quality of a prophet weakened in the course of 
time since the rise of the great religions and the con- 
solidation of their foundations, these legends always 
took the form of the heritage of prophecy or some- 
thing appertaining to it. 

These religio-political legends attained in Islamic 
states the zenith of their power and success, and one 
of them, the Mahdi legend, was the strongest and most 
far-reaching in effect. We know that the Shiites 
erected the edifice of their religious and political 
doctrine on a number of these legends and supposi- 
tions, and preaching the expected Mahdi was the 
banner of their political doctrine after consolidating 



280 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

the foundations of their religious doctrine. They 
were able by founding a series of secret subversive and 
revolutionary sects to undermine the foundations of 
the Abbaside Caliphate, the emblem of the antagonistic 
principles and doctrines. But the Mahdi legend was 
not created by the Shiites although they exploited it 
in the course of ages. Theology attributes it to the 
age of the Prophet himself. There are some traditions 
(Hadis) which speak of this legend but they are the 
object of much controversy and doubt. There is also 
a class of adages attributed to a number of the princi- 
pal companions. The purport of these traditions and 
adages is that "at the end of Time a man of Ahl 
al-Bait (the Prophet's family) is sure to appear, who 
will support the religion, exhibit justice, and will be 
followed by Muslims and restore the glory and the 
kingdom of Islam, and he will be called Al-Mahdi." The 
legend had no importance in the beginning of the 
Muslim Empire, but it became stronger at the close of 
the second century of the Hijra, and to it was directed 
the care of the Shiites. Their Imams and propa- 
gandists tried to confirm it with theological texts 
and historical explanations, till it became a part of 
the Shiite creed itself. The Mahdi legend took its 
political character through one of their sects known 
by the name of the " Twelfth's " who were Imamites 
returning the right of religious leadership (the Imama) 
to the descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib till Jaafar 
as-Sadiq (the faithful). They were then divided into 
two sects, the first of them claimed the leadership for 
his son Ismail, and these are the Ismailis, and the other 
claimed the leadership of his son Musa al-Kazim, and 
then a successive series of his sons till Muhammad 
al-Mahdi who is the twelfth of these leaders (Imams), 
and thus they were named the Twelfth's sect. They 
say that Muhammad al-Mahdi the last of their 
Imams did not die but disappeared, and will remain 
concealed to the end of Time when he will emerge 



RELIGIOUS LEGENDS 281 

and fill the world with justice, after being filled with 
injustice. They called him " Al-Mahdi al-Muntazar " 
(the expected Mahdi), or the expected Fatimite 
because, according to them, he is one of the descen- 
dants of Fatima. This is a sort of limitation by the 
Shiites of the general legend whose adherents not 
only fashioned the prophecy in general, but some of 
them claimed for it a certain precision. They fixed 
the seventh century of the Hijra for the appearance 
of the Mahdi, indeed they fixed a certain year, 683 A.H. 
When this age passed and the Mahdi did not appear, 
some adherents said that that date was that of the birth 
of the Mahdi not the date of his appearance. Others 
said that the Mahdi would appear in 743 A.H. and 
all, in support of their prophecy, advanced doubtful 
texts and concealed themselves behind obscure tokens 
and signs which proved that they spoke with the 
inspiration of a secret doctrine. The philosopher 
Al-Kindi declared that the Mahdi would renew Islam, 
produce justice and conquer Andalusia, Rome and 
Constantinople, and rule the world, which is an 
astonishing statement by a liberal-minded philosopher. 1 
Since the first ages of Islam the Shiites tried to 
apply this legend in a practical manner. Many of 
their chiefs raised the standard of revolution in the days 
of the Abbaside Caliphate in Hedjaz and Khorasan, 
and assumed the title of Imam, and some of them 
pretended to be the Mahdi. But those chiefs who 
appeared in the East were able only to provoke a 
number of local rebellions all of which were shattered 
on the rock of the Abbaside Caliphate which was then 
at the zenith of its power. But the Shiites thought 
at the end of the third century that the opportunity 
had come to make a decisive stroke. They raised the 
Mahdi legend again as an arm in their hand, and tried 
to make this experiment on this occasion far from 
the East, in the deserts of North Africa and among 
its tribes which were then in a state of comprehensive 



282 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

mental decay, and in dark nomadic and superstitious 
conditions which were not far from paganism. Thus 
Obeidulla al-Mahdi appeared armed with this legend, 
and was able, after several episodes and combats, to 
wrench the kingdom of the Aghlabites and found the 
first Shiite state in Africa, which was named the 
Obeidite Fatimite, and to gather the political fruits 
of a religious doctrine which secretly worked for about 
a century to undermine the foundations of the Abba- 
side Caliphate. 

In the deserts of Africa and in the hills of 
Morocco Muslim history had the greatest experience 
of the expected Mahdi legend. It had at that time 
emerged from the confines laid to it by the Shiites and 
resumed its general character with which it was known 
in the early days of Islam. The societies and tribes of 
Morocco had become a fit cradle for such doctrines, 
particularly in the age in which it had fallen to the 
worst phases of mental decay and religious fanaticism. 
In 515 A.H. a preacher named Muhammad ibn Abdilla 
ibn Tumrut (or Tumart) appeared in the land of Sus. 
At first he did not assume a specified quality but 
was content to preach doing good and abstaining from 
evil. He had studied in the East, in Baghdad and in 
other cities. The Almoravide empire had at that time 
approached its death agonies. The tribes of Masmuda, 
to one of which he belonged, joined him, and after 
years of preaching he pretended to be the infallible 
Mahdi and linked his lineage with that of the Prophet 
(on him be peace). To support his pretension he 
cited certain signs, proofs and traditions. He then 
raised the banner of revolution, and continued to fight 
the Almoravides till their empire was shattered and 
became the prey of Abdul Momin, his successor and 
his greatest companion. The Mahdi and his followers 
thus established the Almohade empire which ruled 
the whole of North Africa and conquered Andalusia, 
and gave the Muslim Empire in Mauritania and Spain 



RELIGIOUS LEGENDS 283 

new force and splendour. Ibn Tumrut was one of the 
ablest, most intelligent, determined and ascetic leaders 
of the Mahdi doctrine, and his spiritual influence 
was the strongest support for the rise of his empire 
which for a time maintained its spiritual character, 
subjecting politics and war to the authority of religion. 

In the early part of the eighth century A.H. in 
the days of Sultan Yousef ibn Yaqoub, a Sufi prea- 
cher, known as Al-Tuwayziri, appeared at Sus and 
pretended to be the expected Mahdi, and had many 
followers of the populace. But the authorities sent 
someone who killed him treacherously, and thus his 
revolt was suppressed in its cradle. Again at the close 
of that century another preacher known by the name 
of Al-Abbas made his appearance and pretended to 
be the Mahdi. He had many followers of the inhabi- 
tants of Gomara ; he stormed Morocco and burned it, 
but he was also killed by treason. 

The present generation had not forgotten 
Muhammad Ahmed al-Mahdi, the national hero of 
Sudan, at the end of the last century, and the great 
events connected with his religious appeal. 



The legend of the expected Massieh (Christ) is 
similar to that of the expected Mahdi. It has a Jewish 
origin and is also known in Islam ; indeed it is some- 
times mixed with the Mahdi legend. It is said that 
the expected Massieh will appear soon after the Mabdi, 
or at the same time and acknowledge his leadership. 
But this legend had no practical results in Christendom. 
This may be due to the fact that religious legends are 
the heritage of the Church which it fashions according 
to its fancy and produces it and urges its application 
when it likes in order to realize one of its objects. But 
the legend of the expected Massieh became at one 
time popular among the Jews. At the close of the 



284 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

seventeenth century Sabbathai Sevi appeared in Smyrna 
and pretended to be the expected Massieh. He had 
many Jewish followers in Europe and the East, and 
he called himself " King of Kings." His movement 
ended only when the Sultan arrested him, and he died 
in 1676. There is still, however, a remnant of his 
followers in Salonica and Turkey. Soon after Sabba- 
thai, there appeared, in the eighteenth century, in the 
plains of western Russia like Ukrania and Poland, a 
number of Jewish pretenders who invoked this and 
similar legends to influence the lower classes and exploit 
their credulity, all of whom belong to the Cabalists. 
Some of them perfected the arts of magic and chemistry 
with which they opened their way and consolidated 
their doctrine. Most of them were, however, nothing 
but local adventurers and their call was soon stifled 
and which rarely left a trace. This was due to the 
conditions of the age and the places in which they 
appeared, and particularly to the low conditions of 
their society. They thus appeared in the darkest 
parts of Europe in southern Russia which was in a 
horrible condition of mental decay, and only there they 
realized certain success. 

We see in Christianity that the legend of resur- 
rection impressed most profoundly the imagination of 
European society about the close of the tenth century. 
It is known that the idea of the end of the world in 
the near future fascinated many Christians from the 
earliest days of Christianity. It was due at the same 
time to the idea of the appearance of the Massieh or 
his return to the world, in fulfilment of a promise he 
is said to have made, when, as the legend says, the 
Christians will be separated from the rest of mankind 
and enjoy the life of paradise. It was supposed that 
this great phenomenon would happen a thousand years 
from the birth of the Massieh. At the end of 
the tenth century this legend became strong in the 
minds of Christian society. A storm of awe and 



RELIGIOUS LEGENDS 285 

apprehension blew over Europe and took its material 
form in the revival of the life of asceticism and 
monasticism in many parts of Europe, particularly Italy, 
and in the increase of the authority of the Church and 
the consolidation of its spiritual domination. When 
the year one thousand came, many societies were seized 
with a sort of general terror and it is reported that many 
people hastened to the summits of mountains, some 
of them entrusting their wealth to the monasteries. 
These dreadful clouds had hardly cleared from the 
horizon of Europe than the Church derived from them 
a new force, and the vaults of monasteries were filled 
with treasures and objects of value. The second 
chance for the Church to strengthen its influence and 
its dominion on the dark societies of Europe was in 
urging Europe to go to the plains of the East to wage 
the wars of the Crusades. 

In the Crusades the Church diffused its spiritual 
legends in the minds of the populace, nay, in the minds 
of the knights and nobles. A torrent of Christians 
flowed to the East, apparently "to save the Holy 
Sepulchre and Jerusalem, to die as martyrs, attain 
paradise and be purified of all sin," and in fact to help 
the Church to consolidate its dominion and repulse 
the threatening danger of Islam. The torrent of Islam 
foreshadowed at that time the invasion of Europe from 
Anatolia by the Seljukes and from Spain by the 
Almoravides. Thus religious legends had their deep 
influence in those great barbaric wars. 

The legend of the expected Mahdi occupied an 
important place in Muslim theology. It is strange 
that it continued to be even in the most brilliant ages 
of Islam an endless source of prophecy and contro- 
versy. We have seen that it was dealt with even by 
philosophers, such as Al-Kindi. But the great thinker, 
Ibn Khaldun, treats the legend in a guarded manner 
and is content with citing different versions about 
it, leaving confirmation and denial to the theologians, 



286 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

although he was himself inclined to deny it. 2 

In any case this great legend found fertile ground 
and flourished only in the deserts of Africa and its 
distant plateaus and among its fanatical tribes which 
were then in a state akin to paganism and primitive- 
ness rather than to Islam and civilization. 

References 

1 For the doctrine of the expected Mahdi and all the theological pole- 
mics connected with it, see Ibn Khaldun, Prolegomena (Bulak), p. 260 and 
the following and for the Shute doctrine and the organization of the Shiite 
Imama, p. 164 and the following. 

8 See Ibn Khaldun's Prolegomena, pp. 273-275. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



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AL-BALADHURI : Futuh ul-Buldan. 

IBN ABDUL HAKAM : Akhbar Misr wa Futuhoha. 

Al-Uyun wal Hadayiq fi Akhbar al-Haqaiq (edited by de Goeje). 

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IBN UL-ABBAR : Al-Hulla al-Suyaraa. 

ABDUL WAHID AL-MURRAKISHI : Al-Mujib fi Talkhis Akbar 

al-Maghrib. 

IBN BASSAM : Az-Zakhira fi Mahasin ahl-al-Jazird. 
IBN ABI ZAR : Rawd ul-Kirtas (Upsala). 
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IBN KHALLIKAN : Wafayat ul-Ayan. 
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288 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 

FINLAY : Byzantine Empire. 

GIBBON : Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

HODGKIN : Charles the Great. 

IRVING : The Conquest of Granada. 

LANE-POOLE : A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. 

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G. MILLER : Historv Philosophically Illustrated. 

Mum : Life of Muhammad. 

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TACITUS : Annals. 

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* * * 

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* * * 

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* * * 

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(English and French versions). 

* * * 

CASIRI : Bibliotheca Arabico-Hispana Escurialensis 
DIRKNBOURG : Les Manuscrits Arabes de VEscuriale. 



INDEX 



Abbaside Caliphate, 113, 114, 142, 145- 

155, 161-163, 268, 280-282 
Abdichou, Patriarch, 146 
Abdul Aziz ibn Mansur, 182 

Malik ibn Marwan, 24 

Rahman al-Dakhil, 141, 

142, 147-151, 194 

al-Ghaf iki, 44-70 

al-Muzaffar, 197 

al-Nasir, 143, 144, 236 

ibn al-Hakam, 142, 161 

- ibn Khalid, 31 



Abdulia ibn Abbas, 32 

ibn Tahir, 76 

Abu Abdilla (Boabdil), 214, 216, 218, 
220.233,234 

Ayyub al-Ansari, 32, 33 

Lakr, Caliph, 10 

ibn Abdul Aziz, 182 

Enan. Sultan, 274-277 

Sa'eed Bahadir Khan, 268 

ibn Abi Yousef, 265 

Yahiya ibn Abi Zakaria, 265 

Abul Abbas ibn al-Aghlab, 93 

Baka al-Rondi, 237 

Hajjaj Yousef al-Nasiri, 274 

Qasim Abdul Malik, 217-219 

Qasim, the Sheite, 91 

Abydos, 36 

Abyssinia, 140 

Acquitania, 46-48, 50, 52, 54-56, 100 

*'hlabites, 78, 81, 90, 95, 282 

A J C 1 -Ji c Mlfn 7S 

Ahmed bnal:, ocUaH, .* J 

Al-Aamak, 30, 42 

Ala-ud-Din, old man of the Mountain, 

260 

Alans, 51 

Alau (Hulagu), 253, 254, 262 
Al-Bab, city of, 47 
Albaycin, 228, 233 
Al-Bukhari, 140, 272 
Alcala Minares, 181 
Aleppo, 266 
Alexander, 6 
Alenndiia, 38, 39, 76, 265, 266 



Al-Fadl ibn Jaatar, 81, 93 
Algeciras, 114, 206 
Al-Hajjaj, 24 

AI-Hakam al-Muntasir, 76, 152 
Alhambra, 213, 218, 221, 222 
Al-Harith ibn al-Hakam, 196-199 
Al-Husain ibn Yahiya, 151 
Ali ibn Abi Talib, 280 
Al-Kindi, 281, 285 
Al-Mahdi al-Muntazar. 145, 281 
Al-Makkari, cited, 66, 229 
Al-Malik al-Kamil, 123 

al-Muazzam, 128, 129, 131 

al-Salih, 117, 123, 126, 128, 

130, 131 

Al-Mamun, 142, 145, 161, 199 
Al-Mansur, Caliph, 150, 173 

al-Hajib, 210, 225, 243 

Almeria, 214, 233, 237 

Almohades 99, 101. 114, 193, 265 

Al-Muktafi, Caliph, 146 

Almunicar, 214 

Almoravides, 99, 100, 183-191, 193, 202. 

204-211, 225, 226, 282, 285 
Al-Mutasim, 142, 145, 268 
Al-Mutawakkil, 146, 205 
Al-Nasir ibn Qalaun, 143, 144, 266 
Alp-Arslan, 101, 145, 
Alphonso VI, 182-191, 203, 204, 206 

X, 114, 178-192 

of Asturias, 151 

Alpuxurras, 217. 228, 232 

Al-Rashid, 141, 142, 145, 147-150, 152- 

154, 161, 162, 206 

Al-Samh ibn Malik, 44, 45, 47, 54, 66 
Al-Tuwayziri, 283 
Al-Zahir Beybers, 255 
Al-Zallaka (Sacralias), 130, 183, 203- 

211, 225, 226 
Amalf i, 93, 94 
Amorium, 35, 36 
Amr ibn al-As, 18, 22-24 
Anastasius 11, 35 
Andalusia, 44, 45, 65-68, 76, 80, 90, 94, 

95, 100, 107, 113, 114, 121, 129, 141-143, 



290 



DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 



147. 149-150, 151, 155, 161, 172, 183, 
193, 202, 203, 205-211, 223, 224, 229, 
235, 237, 239, 267, 274, 276, 281, 283 

Andarax, 217, 220, 230 

Andrea Dandolo, Doge, 258 

Andres, 242 

Andronicus, the Elder, 269, 271 

the Younger, 270, 271 

Arabia, 4-9, 98, 265 

Arabs, 3-12, 13-22, 29-41, 43-70, 74, 
109, 110, 112, 114, 115, 141, 143, 161, 
162 170, 224, 235 

Aragon, 47, 180, 194, 203, 214 

Argon Khan, 256, 257 

Aries, 47 

Armenia, 101, 255 

Arnold, cited, 69 

Aryan Nations, 43 

Asad ibn al-Farat, 79. 80 

Austrasia, 54, 60 

Auto-da-fe, 230, 240 

Aya Sophia, Church of, 272 

Azzaghal, Abu Abdilla, 214, 217 



Badajoz, 196, 201, 205, 207, 208 
Baghdad, 98, 101, 147, 149, 152, 162, 

268, 282 

Baha-ud-Dm Zoheir. 117 
Bahrein, 140, 269 
Barbarians, 4, 51 
Barcelona, 151, 153, 235 
Bascons, 151 
Baza, 214, 217 
Beneventum, Duchy of, 81 
Berbers, 15, 46, 99 
Berengar, Count 9! Barcelona, 185 
Bordeaus, 48, 60 
Bougie, 229, 265 
Bukhara, 253 
Bulgan, princess, 256 
Burgundy, 48, 50, 54, 69, 100, 150 
Busr ibn Artah, 30-32 
Byzantine Empire, 30, 75, 78, 82, 8? 87, 

88,97,98, 101, 103, 110, 111-113, 141 

142, 145, 161-163, 171, 269 
Byzantium, 50, 259, 270 



Cabalists, 284 

Caesars, 11, 36, 105, 140 

Cairo, 117, 126, 145, 162, 265, 266, 269 

Calabria, 78, 81, 91, 94 

Calciduan, 32 Dabik, 30, 35 



Caliphs-Caliphate, 3, 11, 17, 22-25, 30, 
31, 34, 40, 50, 53, 68, 70, 74, 97, 141, 
145, 146, 156, 161, 162, 172, 173, 23 

Calnicos, 110, 111, 114 

Caminiatis, John, 83, 86, 87 

Caramona, 196 

Carcassone, 64 

Cardonne, cited, 64. 71, 72 

Casiri (Al-Ghaziri), cited, 240-242, 
245, 246 

Castille, 114, 178, 180, 184, 185, 189, 
194, 196, 202-204, 206-211, 214, 229 

Castrogiovanni, 80 

Catania, 80 

Charlemagne, 79, 97, 141, 142, 147-155, 
165 

Charles Martel, 41, 46, 54-59, 64, 67, 

69, 97, 151, 210 

V, 189, 230, 237 

China, 259, 274, 276 
Chosroes, 114, 139, 140 
Christianity-Christendom, 4, 7, 11, 14, 

15, 20, 21, 29, 34, 40-70, 87, 93, 96-99, 

141, 148, 153, 155, 171, 177, 193, 210, 

211, 215, 222, 224, 226, 228, 230, 234, 

283, 284 
Church, the, 7, 19, 21, 98, 99, 101, 104, 

115, 130, 142, 149, 153, 159, 171 
Cid El Campeador, 100, 177-191, 207, 

223 

Clairmont, Council of, 99 
Clement IV, Pope, 254 
Clovis, 52 
Conde, Joseph, cited, 57, 61, 71, 72, 

202, 230, 231, 235, 243, 244 
Constans, 31 
Constantme IV, 32, 109, 110, 144 

VII, 110, 112, 143 

Constantinople, 3, 12, 29-41, 49, 50, 69, 

70, 74, 83, 84, 88, 95-97, 101, 103-105, 
110-113, 141, 143, 145, 154, 228, 232, 
252, 257, 270-272, 281 

Cordova, 76, 78, 90, 95, 147, 149, 150, 
152, 153, 162, 173, 193-197, 204, 2J<l 
231, 239 

Corsica, 77-7* 9i 

Creasy, cited, 69, 71 

Crete, 74-77, 82, 87, 90, 91, 162, 163 

Creuse, river, 57 

Crusades, 96, 98-107, 110, 113-115, 122. 
123, 129, 130, 132, 165, 171, 210, 285 

Cuenca, 196 

Cyprus, 76, 91 

Cyzicus, 33 



INDEX 



291 



Damascus, 31, 34, 39. 47, 145, 262, 266, 

271 
Damietta, 103, 113, 115, 117, 123, 125- 

128, 130, 134 
Dehia al-Kalbi, WO 
Delhi, 273, 276 
Denia, 183, 185 

Direnbourg, Hartwig, cited, 245, 246 
Don Juan, 233, 234 
Dozy, Reinhart, cited, 15, 16, 26, 179, 

190, 244 



Eddessa (Ar-Ruha), 103 

Egypt, 4, 10, 17-25, 29, 31, 40, 44, 49, 

76, 87, 96, 98, 103, 114-117, 120, 129- 

131. 134, 139, 140, 162, 228, 265-267, 

269, 271, 274 
Escurial, 239-246 
Eudo, Duke of Acquitaine, 46-48, 54- 

60,67 



Gregory II, 67 

VII, 100. 101 

X.255 

Guadalquivir, 236 
Guadiana, 236 
Guadix. 214, 217 
Guyenne, 56, 234 



Halca (Royal Guard), 127-129 
Hayyan ibn Sharih, 25 
Heliopolis, 110 
Hellespont, 36, 82, 84 
He radius, 139, 140 
Himyar, 45 
Hindoos, 273, 274 
Hisham, Caliph, 152 

ibn Huzail, 144 

Holy Sepulchre, 10, 102, 105, 148, 153, 
171, 254, 271, 285 



Fans-ud-Din Aktay, 128, 133 
Ferdinand I of Castille, 180, 196 
V of Aragon, 214-219, 226, 

229 

Fez, 229, 230, 274, 275, 277 
Finlay, cited, 5, 13, 41, 42, 70, 88, 89 
Fodala ibn Obeid, 31 
France, 29, 34, 43, 44, 50-52, 55, 56, 96, 

97, 116, 117, 123, 142, 153, 158, 234 
Franks, 16, 41, 46, 47, 50-59, 66, 68, 80, 

95-97, 100, 141, 147-149. 152. 154, 158. 

161, 272 



Gaeta, 81, 93, 94 

Garonne, 48, 50, 60, 61, 158 

Gaul, 34, 41, 45, 51, 52, 68, 69 

Genkiz Khan, 272 

Genoa, 113, 258 

Gibbon, Edward, cited, 4-6, 13, 41, 48, 

68, 88, 106 

Gibraltar, 48, 217, 235 
Girgenteo, 80 

Godfrey ot Bouillon, 102, 104. 122 
Goldziher, cited, 15, 26 
Goths, 34, 44, 47, 51, 92 
Granada, 105, 114, 173, 174 f 198. 200, 

204, 207, 213-223, 226, 228, 229, 231- 

234, 236, 239, 243, 274 
Greek Fire, 33, 37, 40, 86, 109-120, 122, 

129 



Ibn Abbad, al-Mutadid, 195, 196, 198 

, al-Mutamid, 199, 203-208 

Abdul Hakam, cited, 23, 26, 65, 66 

Abi Bakr, Syr, 208 

al-Aftas, Omar, al-Mutawakkil, 

196, 201, 204 

al-Athir, cited, 65 

al-Zobair, 32 

Ammar, 196-199 

Ayisha, 185, 187, 207, 208 

Bassam, cited, 179, 190, 191 

Batuta, 251, 259, 264-278 

Dhil-Nun, Al-Qadir, 183, 195 

Al-Mamun, 183, 198, 200 

Jahhaf, 185-188,190 

Juzai, 277, 278 

Khaldun, cited, 13, 26, 79, 89, 91, 

286 

Khallikan, cited, 64 

Mugith, 150 

Omar, 32 

Qutaiba, cited, 166 

Sa'eed, al-Balluti, 144 

Tahir, King of Murcia, 179 

Tumart, 282, 283 

Zayan, 47 

India, 16, 273, 274, 276 

Inquisition, 227, 230, 231, 237 

Isabella of Castille, 214, 237 

Isidore of Beja, 48 

Islam, 4-12, 14-25, 29-41, 43-70, 83, 96- 

98, 130, 139, 144 1#, 159-161, 172, 177 



292 DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 



178, 183, 193, 194, 202-211, 214, 215, 

224, 226, 232, 282, 283, 285 
Ismailis, 260, 280 
Ispahan, 268 

Italy, 69, 77, 81, 87, 99, 101, 285 
Ivica, 91 



Jaffa, 124 

Jeanne de Navarre, 123 

Jerusalem, 10, 102-105, 123, 131, 148, 

254, 266, 271, 285 

Jizia (Tribute) 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 25 
John VIII, Pope, 94 

the Grammarian, 143 

Joinville, Jean de, 113, 116, 117, 120, 

122-126, 128. 129, 132, 133 
Judaism, Jews, 4, 11, 15, 19 
Justinian, 8 



Kairowan, 79 

Karl Martel, see Charles Martel 

Kassan, Tartar Prince, 257 

Khaiaja ibn Sufyan, 94 

Kharaj, 23, 24 

Kogatin, Tartar Princess, 256 

Koran, the (Quran) 5, 7, 41, 48, 68, 97, 

146, 160 

Kublai Khan, 253-259 
Lampigia, 47 



Lamtunides (Lam tuna), 205 
Lane-Poole, cited, 236 
Leo III, 35-41 

IV, Pope, 81, 93, 94 

of Tripolis (Ghulam Zarafa), 82- 

87, 163 

the Isaurian, 35, 36 

Lerida, 181 

Levy Provencal, 246 

Lorica, 199 

Louis IX (Saint Louis), 115-117, 122- 

126, 128-134 
Lycurgus, 6 
Lyon, 48, 64 



Majorca, 91 
Malaga. 198, 205 
Malik Shah, 101, 102, 145 
Malta, 91 
Mamelukes, 129 



Manichaeanism, 4, 13 

Mansura, 117, 126, 131, 133 

Manzikert, battle of, 101 

Marco Polo, the Venetian, 251-264 

267, 275, 276 

Margaret de Provence, 125 
Masdeu, 242, 243 

Maslama ibn Abdul Malik, 35-39 112 
Masmuda, 205, 282 
Massieh, (Christ), 283-285 
Mauritania, 49, 53, 76, 209, 210 
Mecca' 3, 5, 264, 269 
Medina, 5, 30, 266 
Mediterranean Sea, 74, 75, 77, 78 82 

87, 90, 91, 101, 114, 162, 163, 171 
Mertula, 233 
Messina, 180 
Michael II, 76-79 
Mingana, Dr,, 146 
Minorca, 91 

Mua'wiya, 30; 31, 33, 141 
Modar, 45 
Moguls, 252, 256 
Muhammad, the Prophet. 4. 6, 7, 25 

140, 220 i,. 

Ahmed al-Mahdi, 283 

al-Mahdi, 280 

ibn Abi Omayya (Ferdi- 
nand di Vallor), 233 

ibn al-Aghlab, 94 

- ibn Khafaj'a, 94 



Monophysites, 7 

Moors, 224, 228, 229, 234, 236, 237 240 

243, 246 

Morocco, 205, 206/274, 275, 282, 283 
Mozarabes, 187 
Mujahid al-Amiri, 91 
Mulehet (Malahida), 260 
Munuza (Othman ibn Abi Nisa) 46 47 
Murcia, 179, 185, 186, 198-200, 234 
Musa al-Kazim, 280 

ibn Abil Ghassan, 215-222, 227 

ibn Noseir, 34, 44, 50, 54, 225 



Najd, 268 
Naples, 93, 94 
Narbonne, 64 
Navarre, 47, 123, 203, 207 
Nestorians, 7, 146 
Nicolo Polo, 252-255 
Niebla, 114 



Obeidulla al-Mahdi, 282 



INDEX 



293 



Omar, Caliph, 10, 18, 23, 139, 140 

ibn Abdul Aziz, 25, 39 

Omayyad Caliphate, 29, 31, 34, 44, 99, 

113, 141-143, 147. 149, 152, 181, 193, 

195, 224 

Orkhan, son of Othman, 269 
Ostia, 92, 94 
Othman, Caliph, 15, 30, 74 

founder of the Ottoman 

Empire, 269 



Palermo, 80 

Palestine, 102, 103, 107, 148, 171 

Pavement of the Martyrs, 42, 65, 97, 

130, 152, 211 

Pedro I, King of Aragon, 188 
Pelagius, Prince ot Leon, 151 
Perigord, 56 
Persia, Persians, 3-10, 140, 141, 256, 265, 

267, 274 
Petty Kings (Al-Tawaif),181, 184, 191, 

194, 195, 202, 225, 226, 243 
Philip II, 231, 233, 234, 237 

Ill, 234 

Poitu, 57 

Punjab, 272 

Pyrenees, 34, 44, 46, 47, 50, 53, 54, 70, 

97, 99, 100, 142, 143, 148, 151, 225, 

235 



Ragusa, 81 

Ramiro, King of Aragon, 180 

Raymond (Count of Barcelona), 104, 

198 

keinault, cited, 154, 173 
Rhodes, 74, 76 
Rhone, 44, 50, 54, 55, 64 
Roderick, Gothic King, 54 
Roger, Duke of Norman, 80 
Roman Empire, 3-12, 14-17, 49-53, 106, 

109, 111, 113, 114, 116, 139, 141, 153, 

154, 157 

Romans, 4, 8, 30-33, 97 
Rome, 7, 15, 41, 51-53, 69, 81, 90-93, 

100, 171, 254, 281 
Roncesvalles, 142, 151 



Sabbathai Sevi, 284 
Salah-ud-Din, 103, 122 
Sancho Ramirez, 180, 181 
Santa Fe, 215 



Santa Maria, 195 

Saintonge, 56 

Saracens, 41, 48 t 54, 59, 60, 69, 81, 117- 
120, 132, 133 

Saragossa, 151, '180-184, 186, 187, 190. 
194, 203, 207 

Sardegna, 74, 77, 78, 91, 94 

Saxons, 148 

Schlegel, von, cited, 5,7, 13, 2>, 26, 69 

Sclavonians, 34, 84, 86, 144, 161 

Sedillot, cited, 173 

Segelmassa, 205 

Seljukes, 101-103, 171, 252, 268, 269, 285 

Semitic Nations, 43 

Septimania, 44, 46, 50, 54, 59 

Seville, 179, 195, 198, 200, 201, 204, 207, 
233 

Shajarat-ul-Durr, 128, 131 

Sharia (Muslem Law), 5, 160 

Sheites, 147. 279-282 

Sicily, 74, 77-81, 87-92, 95, 107, 119, 
120, 171 

Sierra Nevada, 217 

Sufyan ibn Auf al-Ozdi, 32 

Southey, 54, 71 

Spain, 12, 16, 17, 21, 22, 29, 34, 43-70, 
78, 97-101, 105, 130, 141-143, 147, 150- 
153, 161, 171 177. 178, 188, 191, 202, 
203, 210, 211, 222, 225-227, 231. 233, 
235-237, 239, 240, 243, 283, 285 

Spartans, 110 

Steinschneider, cited, 241 

Suleiman, admiral, 37, 38 

ibn Abdul Malik, 34-38 

ibn Yakzan, 151, 152 

Swabians, 51 

Syracuse, 79, 80 

Syria, 4, 10. 17, 20, 29-31, 39, 40, 49, 53, 
83,87,96,99,101,103,105, 110, 120, 
127, 128, 131, 139, 140, 162, 171, 259, 
266, 267, 269, 274 



Tacitus, 110, 165, 168 
Tagus, river, 202, 203 
Tangier, 251, 264, 265, 275 
Taranto, 81 

Tariq ibn Ziyad, 44, 46, 225, 236 
Tarsus, 82, 83, 86, 104, 163 
Tartars, 252-256, 268, 272 
Telemcen, 265 
Thassos, 77, 84 
Theodoric III, 55 
Theodosius III, 35. 36 
Theophanes, 30, 32 
Thessalonica, 83-8t 



294 



DECISIVE MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM 



Thodmir, 198 

Thucydides, 110 

Tiber, 81, 92-94 

Toledo, 193-202 

Tortosa, 181 

Toulouse, 44-47, 54, 152 

Tours and Poitiers, battle of, 12, 29, 41, 

43, 67, 69, 70, 152 
Trebizcmd,37, 257 
Tripolis, 31, 83, 87, 104, 229, 265 
Tunis, 78, 79, 114, 229, 274 



Urban II, Pope, 99, 102 
Uzbek Khan, 269, 270, 272 



Vienne, river, 57 
Villa Leunga, 230 



Xativa, 188 

Xenil, river, 216, 221, 222 
Ximena, 188, 189 
Ximenes, 239 



Yahiya al-Ghazal, 142 

Yezid ibn Mua'wiya, 32 

Yousef ibn Tashfin, 204-211, 225, 226 



Valencia, 179-191, 195, 197, 231, 234 

Vandals, 51, 92 

Vatican, 92 

Venice, 113, 252, 254, 258 

Viardot, cited, 173 



Zamora, 180 

Zantarium, 87 

Zeller, cited, 69 

Ziadat Allah al-Aghlab, 79 

Zimmis, 18-25 

Zoroastrianism, 4, 13, 15