Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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of their empire was as the cutting of the string. As the
Ommeyades are the objects of his panegyric, so the
Africans are of his disdain. Yusuf Tachefin, the founder
of the Almoravides, owed his fame, he says, wholly to
Al Mutammed, King of Seville. "Otherwise, I ask you,
would he have been known, ignorant and rude Bedowi as
he was ? " Among the limitations of Yusuf it is recounted
that on various occasions he jeered at the poets and their
fine metaphors, declaring that he understood nothing of
their writings except that the writers wanted bread 1
But Ash-shakandi proceeds: "Since Africa dares to dis-
pute the superiority in the sciences, can you produce such
men as these .-* " He then gives a list of scholars eminent
in the ranks of science, philosophy, and literature, which is
now valuable for the service it renders in rescuing the
names of great men from oblivion and preserving a record
of their works. This list contains geometers, philosophers,
theologians, historians, men distinguished in philology,
literature, geography, medicine, and all the natural sciences,
also grammarians, musicians, poets, and orators. Ash-
shakandi also distinguishes the scholar kings of the lesser
courts of Spain, men who could still devote their minds
with ardour to the study of science in the midst of all the
tumult of civil war.

He proceeds to the description of Spain itself, its
principal towns and monuments. Much that was said of
Cordova in a previous chapter was taken from this epistle.
Though himself a native of Cordova, he says of Seville,
where the later court of the Almoravides and Almohades
was fixed, that it was one of the finest cities of Spain, and
praises at great length its magnificent buildings, — especially
the famous mosque — its good streets, its spacious dwelling-
houses, — of which the courtyards were planted with orange,
citron, lemon, and other fruit-trees — and its generally
excellent arrangements. The river at Seville was navig-
able for large vessels, and was always filled with pleasure
boats kept by the inhabitants of the town, "who were


very luxurious and dissipated." It was held to be a
delightful boating river. The environs of Seville were
very picturesque — olives, figs, and sugar-cane abounded,
and the banks of the river were covered with fruit-trees
"formino a sort of canopy, so that it was possible to sail
sheltered from the rays of the sun, and listening to the
melody of singing-birds along the banks." The river ran
for a course of thirty miles through clusters of buildings
and farmhouses, high towers and strong castles, forming
a continued city. The mildness of the temperature, the
purity of the air, the abundance of provisions and com-
modities which were to be found in its markets, made it an
agreeable place of residence. There was a saying, common
in Andalusia, " If thou seekest for bird's milk, by Allah !
thou shall find it in Seville." The love of music of its
inhabitants has been already mentioned. They were,
Ash-shakandi says, "the merriest people upon earth,
always singing, playing on instruments, and drinking wine,
which among them is not considered forbidden so long as
it is used with moderation." Amongst its many manu-
factures Seville was as famous for oil as Malaga was for
wine. Beja, a town in its territory, was famous for its
cotton manufactures.

Other Spanish towns — Granada with its magnificent
chestnut trees, Toledo, Valencia rich in trade and noted
for the paper manufactories of Xatina in its neighbourhood ;
Jaen, so famous for its silk manufactures that it was called
"Jaen of the Silk" ; Murcia, Xeres, Malaga, Lisbon, each
famous for their special products ; Saragossa, afterwards
the seat of Empire of the Huddites, in which there was a
wonderful palace with a golden hall of extraordinary beauty
of design and workmanship, and many more, are described
by Ash-shakandi in detail enough to present a vivid picture
of the wealth, importance, and refinement of civilisation
which distinguished the Spain of the thirteenth century.
If his opponents in the literary contest had anything like
the same account to give of the African half of the Arab
Empire, the condition of this portion of the Western world


under the African dynasties which administered it for
nearly two hundred years, must have been extraordinarily

We may add to Ash-shakandi's account a statement of
Ibn Said, made also in the thirteenth century, that in his
day Andalusia was " so thickly populated that if a traveller
goes any distance through it he will find at every step on
his road hamlets, farms, towns, orchards, and cultivated
fields, and will never meet, as is more or less the case in
other cultivated countries, with large tracts of uncultivated
land or desert. This, united to the habit of the Andalusians,
who, instead of living together as the Egyptians do,
grouped in towns and villages, prefer dwelling in cottages
and rural establishments in the midst of the fields, by the
side of brooks, and on the declivities of mountains, gives
altogether to the country an aspect of comfort and pros-
perity for which the traveller will look in vain elsewhere.
Their houses, too, which they are continually white-washing
inside and out, look exceedingly well by the side of the
green trees."

This picture of country life speaks much for the general
order and security which prevailed, and indicates that the
measures taken by Almoravide and Almohade sovereigns
to mamtain a general respect for law had been successful.
During the disorders preceding the Almoravide conquest
brigandage had become rife, and a quaint story is told of
a certain brigand, Greyhawk by name, who was brought
before Al Mutammed, King of Seville. This Greyhawk,
having committed atrocious crimes, was condemned to be
crucified, and while he hung on the cross watched by his
devoted wife and daughter, he managed still to beguile an
unwary traveller into leaving his laden mule to search for
treasure in a well, upon which Greyhawk instructed his
wife to make off with the mule and its burden. The
traveller meanwhile died in the well, and Greyhawk was
taken down from the cross and brought again before the
King. "Tell me, O Greyhawk," said the King, "how
couldst thou be guilty of such a crime as that now imputed


to thee, being as it were under the very clutch of death ? "
" O King," rephed the robber, " if thou knewest how
strongly nature impels me to the perpetration of such acts,
and how great is the pleasure I enjoy while I commit
them, I have no doubt but that thou wouldest relinquish
the royal power and embrace my profession."

That story and the state of affairs which it illustrates
belong, however, to another period. The reign of the
Almohade el Mansur, which lasted till 12 14, marks the
greatest period of Almohade prosperity. It was during
this reign, in the year 1195, that the three Christian kings
of Arragon, Castile, and Leon were overthrown in the
celebrated battle of Alarcos, at which it was said that the
loss of the Christians amounted to 146,000 men, besides
30,000 prisoners and an incredible amount of spoil. It
would seem to be after this battle, though it is variously
related and placed by some historians in the reign of one
of the Almoravide sovereigns, that the Christian population
of Granada, accused of intriguing with the governments
of Christian Spain, was transported by the Moors in a
body to Africa and settled by thousands in Mequinez,
Sallee, and other towns of the western coast. An Arab
historian who visited Sallee in the year 1360 says that at
that time the town of Rabat, not far distant, was almost
wholly inhabited by families from Granada.

Thus began in the twelfth century, after a long period
of African domination in Spain, a reaction of Europe
upon Africa which has continued to the present day.
This expulsion of the Christians from Granada may be
taken as the first of the great religious expulsions for
which Spain became famous in later years. It is just
to remember that the system was initiated by the Moors,
and it is perhaps worth noting that the celebrated Aver-
rhoes, one of the most famous among the many names
associated with the enlightenment which Arab civilisation
spread through the dark ages of medieval Europe, was
so warm an advocate of the measure, that he took the
trouble to cross from the Spanish Court to the Court of


Morocco for the purpose of urging his views upon the
Sultan. He appears to have spent a considerable part
of his life at the court of Morocco, which was at that
time a centre of learning. He died there in 1198, and,
in recording his death, Morocco is mentioned as "the
capital " of Adouatein. The mere existence of this
geographical expression, used, as has been said, by the
Arabs to signify the two kingdoms of Spain and Africa,
shows how very closely the interests of the two countries
had become bound together. In connection with the
residence of the learned Averrhoes at the court of El
Mansur in Africa, it may be worth mentioning that the
praises of the same sovereign were sung in his court at
Seville by the " learned and celebrated poet, a black of
Soudan, Abu Ishak Ibrahim al Kanemi." The circum-
stance, though slight, is interesting, as serving to show
that at the end of the twelfth century Negroland con-
tributed, not only its commercial wares, but also its quota
of art to the stores of Europe.

From the beginning of the thirteenth century onward,
the decay of the Mussulman power in Spain is marked.
The Christian Powers made constant and successful on-
slaughts upon the Almohade possessions. Town after
town of importance fell into their hands. They were
assisted by internal divisions among the Mussulmans ;
and in 1230, after nearly a century of brilliant rule, the
Almohade dynasty was brought to an end by the deposi-
tion of the reigning sovereign. The Moslem portion of
the continent declared itself independent under Ibn Hud,
also a leader of African origin. Valencia fell into Chris-
tian hands, 1238; Cordova, 1239; Seville, 1260. A little
later the whole of the Moslem population was driven to
the coast between Ronda, iu the west, and Almeria, in the
east. In Africa the province of Ifrikiah, which stretched
at one period from the confines of Egypt to those of
Morocco, at the same time declared itself independent
under a Sultan of the Hafside dynasty. In 1269 the
Merinites possessed themselves of the throne of Morocco



and its surrounding provinces, and fixed their capital at
Fez. When nothing was left to the Almohades but
Tafilet and a small part of Ifrikiah, they returned to their
stronghold of Tinmelel, to maintain for a few years only
a " phantom Caliph," Ishak, last of his race, who, when
the successful siege of Tafilet in 1274 had given all that
remained of Moroccan soil to the Merinites, was brought
before the ruling sovereign of that dynasty and executed.
It is interesting to note that at this siege of Tafilet, which
put an end to even such empty pretence as still remained
of the Dual Empire of Spain and Africa, mention is made
of the use of firearms, or "fire-engines," which threw out
iron gravel. The shot, it is said, was forced from the
piece by means of a burning powder, "of which the sin-
gular properties work effects that rival the power of the


Thus, before the end of the thirteenth century, the dual
Mohammedan Empire of "Adouatein," or "The Two
Shores," had ceased to exist, and in its place there
had grown up three distinct Moslem powers. In Spain
the Huddites, who afterwards fell under the Hafside
leadership of the celebrated Ibn Ahmar, the builder of
the Alhambra, formed a Moslem kingdom within the
restricted limits still left to them, scarcely extending be-
yond the province of Granada. Upon the northern coast
of Africa, in the ancient province of Africa Propria, or
Ifrikiah, embracing Tunis and Tripoli, and henceforward
generally known as Barbary, an independent Hafside
dynasty was established, of which the subsequent history
is one long succession of war. In Morocco the dynasty
of the Merinites, ever at war with the Hafsides of the
coast, was to hold its own until, at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, it was overthrown by the Sherifs, whose
descendants now reign in Morocco. Almost simultane-
ously with this break-up of the Caliphate of the West, the
Caliphate of the East was overthrown by the Tartars
in 1258.

Notwithstanding the ceaseless wars to which all these
dynasties were exposed, the Courts of Tunis, Fez, and
Granada maintained a high reputation for learning, re-
finement, and civilisation. The most brilliant period of
Arab domination had come to an end, but the Arabs
continued for two hundred years to represent the highest
standard of knowledge and enlightenment which existed

in modern Europe. Their universities were the founts



of learning to which Christian ignorance went for its
early education. Their courts were homes envied openly
by the most distinguished of European kings. Among
the celebrated pupils of Arab teachers, Roger Bacon,
Peter the Venerable, Pope Sylvester II., are illustrious
names which occur at once to the memory, and up to
the end of the fifteenth century there was scarcely a man
of eminence or learning in the schools of England, France,
or Italy, whose biography, when it has been preserved,
does not acknowledge the debt which he owed directly
or indirectly to Arab learning. Arabian knowledge of
the physical conditions of the Universe remained far in
advance of anything known to Europe until near the
end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth
centuries. The entire medical faculty of the Continent
was trained in Arab schools. That they maintained this
high place in the front rank of science through all the
decadence of their later history, is sufficiently illustrated
by the fact that when, at the moment of the final ex-
pulsion of the Moors from Spain, the Catholic Cardinal
Ximenes ordered the destruction of the libraries of
Granada, he reserved from the general condemnation
three hundred medical works, to which Europe recognised
its obligation.

There is no department of our daily life upon which
the Arabs have not left their mark. Not only our
learning, our laws, our justice, our naval and military
science, our agriculture, our commerce, our manufacturing
industries, have been profoundly impressed by Arab
influence maintained in Europe for upwards of 800 years,
but our daily customs, our domestic life, have been no
less intimately touched. It is from the Arabs of Spain
that we have learned to wash, to dress, to cook, to garden.
They improved our musical instruments ; they gave us
new poetic metres ; they gave us the imaginative pleasures
of narrative fiction. From them France and Italy
borrowed the lighter play of wit and repartee, which has
since radiated through the northern races. From them


modern Europe learned to associate with the emotions
of love the grace and joy of cultivated life. It was from
their hands that the growing life of the young nations
of the West received its happiest direction. We have
but to turn to the vocabularies of Europe and to trace
in them the many important words of Arabic origin in
order to appreciate to some extent the debt of which we
have lost sight.

I have no intention of entering into the history of
Spain during the centuries which led to the conquest of
Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella, and the final expulsion
of the Arabs from Europe in 1502. My purpose in briefly
relating the outlines of the Arab-African conquest of Spain
has been merely to indicate the nature of the national life
to which Negroland owed the impulse of its medieval
civilisation. If the impression made by Arab- African
civilisation upon Europe has been indelible, it is only
natural that the same impression should have been strong
upon the nations which were brought in contact with it
— even though in some instances they were of a wholly
different race — in the continent from which it sprang.

Here is a picture quoted by Ibn Said, the "truthful
historian," to whom allusion has been already made, from
a previous writer, the truth of whose words he endorses,
of the immediate effect upon Africa of the downfall of
the Almohade dynasty in Spain. Ibn Said was born in
Granada in 12 14; he died in Tunis in 1287, and was
therefore a personal witness of the condition of things
which he describes.

"Africa," he quotes, "may be said to have derived its
present wealth and importance, and its extent of commerce,
from Andalusians settling in it. For when God Almighty
was pleased to send down on their country the last
disastrous civil war, thousands of its inhabitants, of all
classes and professions, sought a refuge in Africa and
spread over Maghreb el Aksa (Morocco), and Africa
Propria (Barbary), settling wherever they found comfort
or employment. Labourers and country people took to


the same occupations which they had left in Andalusia.
They formed intimacies with the inhabitants, discovered
springs, made them available for the irrigation of their
fields, planted trees, introduced water-mills, and other
useful inventions. In short, they taught the African
farmers many things whereof they had never heard, and
showed them the use of excellent practices whereof they
were completely ignorant. Through their means the
countries where they fixed their residence became at once
prosperous and rich, and the inhabitants saw their wealth
increase rapidly, as well as their comfort and enjoyments.
. . There was no district in Africa wherein some of the
principal authorities were not Andalusians. . . . But it
was in the class of operatives and workmen in all sorts
of handicrafts that Africa derived the most advantage
from the tides of emigration setting towards its shores."

Ibn Ghalib, from whom the quotation is made, wrote
at an earlier period than Ibn Said. After making the
quotation, Ibn Said continues: "Perhaps some of my
readers, in perusing the accounts I have just given in the
words of Ibn Ghalib of the revolution created by the
Andalusian emigration in the trade and agriculture of
Africa, will say to themselves : ' This author was un-
doubtedly partial towards his countrymen, and he exag-
gerated their merits ' ; but let them plunge into his book,
let them weigh every one of his expressions, and com-
pare his narrative with those of other writers, and they
will soon feel convinced that he spoke the truth."

Of these same Andalusians the author, Ibn Ghalib,
who is quoted, says, at an earlier period : " They are
Arabs by descent, in pride, in the haughtiness of their
temper, the devotion of their minds, the goodness of their
hearts, and the purity of their intentions. They resemble
them in their abhorrence of everything that is cruel
or oppressive, in their inability to endure subjection or
contempt, and in the liberal expenditure of whatever they
possess. They are Indians in their love of learning, as
well as in their assiduous cultivation of science, their firm


adherence to its principles, and the scrupulous attention
with which they transmit to their posterity its invaluable
secrets. They are like the people of Baghdad in cleanli-
ness of person and beauty of form, in elegance of manners,
mildness of disposition, subtlety of mind, power of thought,
extent of memory, and universality of talent. They are
Turks in their aptitude for war, their deep acquaintance
with every one of its stratagems, and their skilful pre-
paration of the weapons and machines used in it, as
well as their extreme care and foresight in all matters
concerning it. They have been further compared with
the Chinese for the delicacy of their work, the subtlety
of their manufactures, and their dexterity in imitating all
sorts of figures. And, lastly, it is generally asserted that
they are of all nations that which most resembles the
Greeks in their knowledge of the physical and natural
sciences, their ability in discovering waters hidden in the
bowels of the earth and bringing them to the surface ;
their acquaintance with the various species of trees and
plants and their several fruits, their industry in the pruning
and grafting of trees, the arrangement and distribution
of gardens, the treatment of plants and flowers, and all
and every one of the branches of agriculture. Upon this
last subject their proficiency is proverbial. The Anda-
lusians, moreover, are the most patient of men and the
fittest to endure fatigue."

Such was the estimate made by contemporary writers
of the people whom civil war and religious intolerance
drove from the cities of southern Spain, to spread through
the northern part of Africa and to found new homes upon
its shores. But to these descriptions it may be well, in
this place, to add another, made a hundred years later,
by a very competent historian, who, looking from a dis-
tance at the events which had taken place, was perhaps
able to form a truer opinion of the causes of the national
downfall. Ibn Khaldun, who was born at Tunis in 1332,
and died in Egypt in 1406, and whose " History of the
Berbers" is held to contain the most authentic information


of the internal history of North Africa, thus summarises,
on his opening page, the fate of the Arab nation to which
he belonged : " Raised to the height of power in Asia
Minor under the dynasty of the Ommeyades, formidable still
under that of the Abbassides, attaining the highest fortune
in Spain under the second dynasty of the Ommeyades,
the Arabs found themselves in possession of such glory
and prosperity as had never been the lot of another people.
Surrounded by luxury and devoted to pleasure, they
yielded to the seductions of idleness, and, tasting the
delights of life, they fell into a long sleep under the
shadow of glory and of peace. Then the soldier was
no longer to be distinguished from the artisan, except by
his ineptitude for work ; their hardy habits were gone,
and they were overthrown, not in the first instance by
strangers, but by their own Caliphs. They were enslaved,
then broken and dispersed."

Allowing for the somewhat over-flowery rhetoric of
Arabian writers, the facts would seem to justify both sides
of this description. The later decadence of the Arabs,
when, after the final expulsion of 1502, they entirely lost
touch with the progressive life of Europe, can only be
accounted for on the assumption that they had, as Ibn
Khaldun perceived, lost their early vitality, and that they
carried with them into Africa the elements of their own
decay. They were overthrown, not, in the first instance,
by strangers, but by themselves.

Yet, without a doubt, their influence upon Africa,
when the civil wars first drove them out of Spain, was
that described by Ibn Said.


From the break-up of the Arab Empire of " The Two
Shores" in the middle of the thirteenth century to the
moment of the final severance of North Africa from
Europe in the sixteenth century, the growth and spread
of civilisation in the independent kingdoms of North
Africa was very marked. Throughout the dark period
of the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church was assert-
ing its claim to dominate the conscience of the Western
World, and to direct not only the action but the thought
of Christendom, all that was independent, all that was
progressive, all that was persecuted for conscience' sake,
took refuge in the courts of Africa. Art, science, poetry,
and wit found congenial homes in the orange-shaded
arcades of the colleges of Fez, in the palaces of Morocco,
and in the exquisite gardens of Tripoli and Tunis.

The charm of life which had been so sedulously culti-
vated in the Mohammedan towns of Spain was transported
to the coast of Africa. The beautiful palaces of southern
Spain were reconstructed upon African soil. The gardens
of El-Mostancer, a Hafside sovereign of Tunis who
reigned from 1252 to 1277, rivalled those of the Omme-
yades in Cordova. After describing the beauties of the
gardens, Ibn Khaldun says of the court of this monarch,
that it was always filled with distinguished persons.
"Here," he says, "were to be seen numbers of Anda-
lusians, amongst them distinguished poets and other elo-

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 6 of 41)