Charles Reginald Haines.

Christianity and Islam in Spain (756-1031) online

. (page 3 of 15)
Online LibraryCharles Reginald HainesChristianity and Islam in Spain (756-1031) → online text (page 3 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Who," says Isidore of Beja, "can describe such horrors! If every limb
in my body became a tongue, even then would human nature fail in
depicting this wholesale ruin of Spain, all its countless and
immeasurable woes. But that the reader may hear in brief the whole story
of sorrow - not to speak of all the disastrous ills which in innumerable
ages past from Adam even till now in various states and regions of the
earth a cruel and foul foe has caused to a fair world - whatever Troy in
Homer's tale endured, whatever Jerusalem suffered that the prophets'
words might come to pass, whatever Babylon underwent that the Scripture
might be fulfilled - all this, and more, has Spain experienced - Spain
once full of delights, but now of misery, once so exalted in glory, but
now brought low in shame and dishonour."[1]

[1] Cp. also Isidore, sec 36. Dunham, ii. p. 121, note,
curiously remarks: "Both Isidore and Roderic may exaggerate,
but the exaggeration proves the fact."

This is evidently mere rhapsody, of the same character as the ravings
of the British monk Gildas, though far less justified as it seems by the
actual facts. Rodrigo of Toledo, following Isidore after an interval of
500 years, improves upon him by entering into details, which being in
many particulars demonstrably false, may in others be reasonably looked
upon with suspicion as exaggerated, if not entirely imaginary. His words
are: Children are dashed on the ground, young men beheaded, their
fathers fall in battle, the old men are massacred, the women reserved
for greater misfortune; every cathedral burnt or destroyed, the national
substance plundered, oaths and treaties uniformly broken.[1]

To appreciate the mildness and generosity of the Arabs, we need only
compare their conquest of Spain with the conquest of England by the
Saxons, the Danes, and even by the Christian Normans. The comparison
will be all in favour of the Arabs. It is not impossible that, if the
invaders had been Franks instead of Moors, the country would have
suffered even more, as we can see from the actual results effected by
the invasion of Charles the Great in 777. Placed as they were between
the devil and the deep sea, the Spaniards would perhaps have preferred
(had the choice been theirs) to be subject to the Saracens rather than
to the Franks.[2]

[1] Dunham, ii. p. 121, note.

[2] Dozy, ii. p. 41, note, quotes Ermold Nigel on Barcelona:

"Urbs erat interea Francorum inhospita turnis,
Maurorum votis adsociata magis."

To the down-trodden slaves, who were very numerous all through Spain,
the Moslems came in the character of deliverers. A slave had only to
pronounce the simple formula: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is
his Prophet": and he was immediately free. To the Jews the Moslems
brought toleration, nay, even influence and power. In fact, since the
fall of Jerusalem in 588 B.C. the Jews had never enjoyed such
independence and influence as in Spain during the domination of the
Arabs. Their genius being thus allowed free scope, they disputed the
supremacy in literature and the arts with the Arabs themselves.

Many of the earlier governors of Spain were harsh and even cruel in
their administration, but it was to Moslems and Christians alike.[1]
Some indeed increased the tribute laid upon the Christians; but it must
be remembered that this tribute[2] was in the first instance very light,
and therefore an increase was not felt severely as an oppression.
Moreover, there were not wanting some rulers who upheld the cause of the
Christians against illegal exactions. Among these was Abdurrahman al
Ghafeki (May-Aug. 721, and 731-732), of whom an Arab writer says:[3] "He
did equal justice to Moslem and Christian ... he restored to the
Christians such churches as had been taken from them in contravention of
the stipulated treaties; but on the other hand he caused all those to be
demolished, which had been erected by the connivance of interested
governors." Similarly of his successor Anbasah ibn Sohaym Alkelbi
(721-726), we find it recorded[4] that "he rendered equal justice to
every man, making no distinction between Mussulman and Christian, or
between Christian and Jew." Anbasah was followed by Yahya ibn Salmah
(March-Sept. 726), who is described as injudiciously severe, and dreaded
for his extreme rigour by Moslems as well as Christians.[5] Isidore says
that he made the Arabs give back to the Christians the property
unlawfully taken from them.[6] Similar praise is awarded to Okbah ibn
ulhejaj Asseluli (734-740).[7] Yet though many of the Ameers of Spain
were just and upright men, no permanent policy could be carried out with
regard to the relations between Moslems and Christians, while the Ameers
were so constantly changing, being sometimes elected by the army, but
oftener appointed by the Khalif, or by his lieutenant, the governor of
Africa for the time being. This perpetual shifting of rulers would in
itself have been fatal to the settlement of the country, had it not been
brought to an end by the election of Abdurrahman ibn Muawiyah as the
Khalif of Spain, and the establishment of his dynasty on the throne, in
May 756. But even after this important step was taken, the causes which
threatened to make anarchy perpetual, were still at work in Spain. Chief
among these were the feuds of the Arab tribes, and the jealousy between
Berbers and Arabs.

[1] _E.g._, Alhorr ibn Abdurrahman (717-719); see Isidore, sec.
44, and Conde, i. 94: "He oppressed all alike, the Christians,
those who had newly embraced Islam, and the oldest of the
Moslemah families."

[2] Merely a small poll-tax (jizyah) at first.

[3] Conde, i. 105.

[4] Conde, i. p. 99. Isidore, however, sec. 52, says:
"Vectigalia Christianis duplicata exagitat."

[5] Conde, i. 102.

[6] Isidore, sec. 54. Terribilis potestator fere triennio
crudelis exaestuat, atque aeri ingenio Hispaniae Sarracenos et
Mauros pro pacificis rebus olim ablatis exagitat, atque
Christianis plura restaurat.

[7] Conde, i. 114, 115.

Most of the first conquerors of the country were Berbers, while such
Arabs as came in with them belonged mostly to the Maadite or Beladi
faction.[1] The Berbers, besides being looked down upon as new converts,
were also regarded as Nonconformists[2] by the pure Arabs, and
consequently a quarrel was not long in breaking out between the two
parties.

As early as 718 the Berbers in Aragon and Catalonia rose against the
Arabs under a Jew named Khaulan, who was put to death the following
year. In 726 they revolted again, crying that they who had conquered the
country alone had claims to the spoil.[3] This formidable rising was
only put down by the Arabs making common cause against it. But the
continual disturbances in Africa kept alive the flame of discontent in
Spain, and the great Berber rebellion against the Arab yoke in Africa
was a signal for a similar determined attempt in Spain.[4] The
reinforcements which the Khalif, Yezid ibn Abdulmalik, sent to Africa
under Kolthum ibn Iyadh were defeated by the Berbers under a chief named
Meysarah, and shut up in Ceuta.

[1] The two chief branches of Arabs were (1) Descendants of
Modhar, son of Negus, son of Maad, son of Adnan. To this clan
belonged the Mecca and Medina Arabs, and the Umeyyade family.
They were also called Kaysites, Febrites, and Beladi Arabs. (2)
Descendants of Kahtan (Joktan), among whom were reckoned the
Kelbites and the Yemenites. These were most numerous in
Andalus; see Al Makkari, ii. 24.

[2] Dozy, iii. 124. See Al Makk., ii. 409, De Gayangos' note.
Though nominally Moslem, they still kept their Jewish or Pagan
rites.

[3] See De Gayangos, Al Makk. ii. 410, note. He quotes Borbon's
"Karta," xiv. _sq._ Stanley Lane-Poole, "Moors in Spain," p.
55, says, Monousa, who married the daughter of Eudes, was a
leader of the Berbers. Conde, i. 106, says, Othman abi Neza was
the leader, but Othman an ibn abi Nesah was Ameer of Spain in
728.

[4] Al Makkari, ii. 40.

Meanwhile in Spain, Abdalmalik ibn Kattan[1] Alfehri taking up the cause
of the Berbers, procured the deposition of Okbah ibn ulhejaj in his own
favour, but, this done, broke with his new allies. He was then compelled
to ask the help of the Syrian Arabs, who were cooped up in Ceuta, though
previously he had turned a deaf ear to their entreaties that they might
cross over into Spain.

The Syrians gladly accepted this invitation, and under Balj ibn Besher,
nephew of Kolthum, crossed the Straits, readily promising at the same
time to return to Africa when the Spanish Berbers were overcome. This
desirable end accomplished, however, they refused to keep to their
agreement, and Abdalmalik soon found himself driven to seek anew the
alliance of the Berbers and also of the Andalusian Arabs against his
late allies.[2] But the latter proved too strong for the Ameer, who was
defeated and killed by the Yemenite followers of Balj.

[1] Cardonne, i. p. 135.

[2] The Syrian Arabs seem to have borne a bad character away
from home. The Sultan Muawiyah warned his son that they altered
for the worse when abroad. See Ockley's "Saracens."

These feuds of Yemenites against Modharites, complicated by the
accession of Berbers now to one side, now to the other, continued
without intermission till the first Khalif of Cordova, Abdurrahman ibn
Muawiyah, established his power all over Spain.

The successor of Balj and Thaleba ibn Salamah did indeed try to break up
the Syrian faction by separating them. He placed those of Damascus in
Elvira; of Emesa in Seville; of Kenesrin in Jaen; of Alurdan[1] in
Malaga and Regio; of Palestine in Sidonia or Xeres; of Egypt in Murcia;
of Wasit in Cabra; and they thus became merged into the body of
Andalusian Arabs.

These Berber wars had an important influence on the future of Spain;
for, since the Berbers had settled on all the Northern and Western
marches, when they were decimated by civil war, and many of the
survivors compelled to return to Africa,[2] owing to the famine which
afflicted the country from 750 to 755, the frontiers of the Arab
dominion were left practically denuded of defenders,[3] and the
Christians at once advanced their boundaries to the Douro, leaving
however a strip of desert land as a barrier between them and the
Moslems. This debateable land they did not occupy till fifty years
later.[4]

[1] _I.e._, Jordan. See Al Makkari, i. 356, De Gayangos' note.

[2] Dozy, iii. 24.

[3] Al Makkari, ii. 69.

[4] When they built a series of fortresses as Zarnora,
Simancas, San Estevan.




CHAPTER III.

THE MARTYRDOMS AT CORDOVA.


Abdurrahman Ibn Muawiyah landed in Spain with 750 Berber horsemen in May
756. The Khalifate of Cordova may be said to begin with this date,
though it was many years before the new sultan had settled his power on
a firm basis, or was recognised as ruler by the whole of Moslem Spain.

During the forty-five years of civil warfare which intervened between
the invasion of Tarik and the landing of Abdurrahman, we have very
little knowledge of what the Christians were doing. The Arab historians
are too busy recounting the feuds of their own tribes to pay any
particular attention to the subject Christians. But we may gather that
the latter were, on the whole, fairly content with their new
servitude.[1] The Moslems were not very anxious to proselytize, as the
conversion of the Spaniards meant a serious diminution of the
tribute.[2] Those Christians who did apostatize - and we may believe that
they were chiefly slaves - at once took up a position of legal, though
not social, equality with the other Moslems. It is no wonder that the
slaves became Mohammedans, for, apart from their hatred for their
masters, and the obvious temporal advantage of embracing Islam, the
majority of them knew nothing at all about Christianity.[3] The ranks of
the converts were recruited from time to time by those who went over to
Islam to avoid paying the poll-tax, or even to escape the payment of
some penalty inflicted by the Christian courts.[4] One thing is
noticeable. In the early years of the conquest there was none of that
bitterness displayed between the adherents of the rival creeds, to which
we are so accustomed in later times. Isidore of Beja, the only
contemporary Christian authority, though he rhapsodizes about the
devastations committed by the conquerors, and complains of enormous
tributes exacted, yet speaks more fairly about the Moslems[5] than any
other Spanish writer before the fourteenth century. "If he hates the
conquerors," says Dozy,[6] "he hates them rather as men of another race
than of another creed;" and the marriage of Abdulaziz and Egilona
awakens in his mind no sentiment of horror.

[1] This was not so when the fierce Almoravides and fiercer
Almohades overran Spain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
See Freeman's "Saracens," p. 168.

[2] As happened in Egypt under Amru. See Cardonne, i. p. 168,
and Gibbon, vi. p. 370.

[3] Dozy, ii. 45, quotes a passage from Pedraca, "Histor.
Eccles. of Granada" (1638), in which the author points out that
even in his day the "old Christians" of Central Spain were so
wholly ignorant of all Christian doctrines that they might be
expected to renounce Christianity with the utmost ease if again
subjected to the Moors.

[4] Samson, "Apolog.," ii. cc. 3, 5.

[5] Speaking of Omar, the second Khalif of that name, Isidore,
sec. 46, says, "Tanta ei sanctimonia ascribitur quanta nulli
unquam ex Arabum gente."

[6] Dozy, ii. p. 42.

On the whole the condition of the mass of the people, Christian or
renegade, was certainly preferable to their state before the
conquest.[1] Those serfs who remained Christian, if they worked on State
lands, payed one-third of the produce to the State; if on private lands,
four-fifths to their Arab owners.[2] The free Christians retained their
goods, and could even alienate their lands. They paid a graduated tax
varying from thirteen pounds to three guineas.[3] In all probability the
Christians under Moslem rule were not worse off than their
coreligionists in Galicia and Leon. A signal proof of this is afforded
by the fact that, in spite of the distracted state of the country, which
would seem to hold out a great hope of success, we hear of no attempts
at revolt on the part of the subjected Christians in the eighth century,
except at Beja, where the Christians seem to have been led away by the
ambition of an Arab chief.[4] They were even somewhat indifferent to the
cause of their coreligionists in the North, and the attempts which
Pelayo and his successors made to induce them to rise in concert with
their brethren met with but scant success.[5]

[1] See especially Conde, Pref. p. vi.

[2] Dozy, ii. 39.

[3] Dozy, ii. 40.

[4] Dozy, ii. 42.

[5] Cardonne, i. 106.

There can be no doubt, however, that the good understanding, which at
first existed between the Moslems and their Christian subjects,
gradually gave place to a very different state of things, owing in no
small degree to the free Christians in the North, whose presence on
their borders was a continual menace to the Moslem dominion, and a
perpetual incentive to the subject Christians to rise and assert their
freedom.

Our purpose now is to trace out, so far as the scanty indications
scattered in the writers of the time will allow, the relations that
existed between the two religions during the 275 years of the Khalifate,
and the influence which these relations had upon the development of the
one and the other. It will be agreeable to the natural arrangement to
take the former question first.

With a view to the better understanding of the position of Christianity
and Mohammedanism at the very beginning of our inquiry, we have thought
it advisable to point out in a preliminary sketch the development of
Christianity in Spain previous to the period when the Moslems, fresh
from their native deserts of Arabia and Africa, bearing the sword in one
hand and the Koran in the other, possessed themselves of one of the
fairest provinces of Christendom. This having been already done, we can
at once proceed to investigate the mutual relations of Christianity and
Mohammedanism in Spain during the 300 years of the Khalifate of Cordova.

It was in fulfilment of a supposed prophecy of Mohammed's, and in
obedience to the precepts of the Koran itself, that the Arabs, having
overrun Syria, Egypt, and Africa, passed over into Spain, and the war
from the very first took the character of a jehad, or religious war - a
character which it retained with the ever-increasing fanaticism of the
combatants until every Mohammedan had been forced to abjure his creed,
or been driven out of Spain. But, as we have seen, the conquest itself
was singularly free from any outbursts of religious frenzy; though of
course there must have been many Christians, who laid down their lives
in defence of all that was near and dear to them, in defence of their
wives and their children, their homes and their country, their religion
and their honour. One such instance at least has been recorded by the
Arab historians,[1] when the Governor, and 400 of the garrison, of
Cordova, after three months' siege in the church of St George, chose
rather to be burnt in their hold than surrender upon condition either of
embracing Islam, or paying tribute.

Omitting the story of the fabulous martyr Nicolaus, as being a tissue of
errors and absurdities,[2] the first martyr properly so called was a
certain bishop, named Anambad, who was put to death by Othman ibn abi
Nesah (727-728) - a governor guilty of shedding much Christian blood, if
Isidore is to be believed.[3]

[1] Al Makkari, i. 279, says: "This was the cause of the spot
being called ever since the Kenisatu-l-haraki (the church of
the burnt), as likewise of the great veneration in which it has
always been held by the Christians, on account of the courage
and endurance displayed in the cause of their religion by those
who died in it."

[2] Florez, "España Sagr," xiv. 392.

[3] Isidore, sec. 58, "Munuza quia a sanguine Christianorum,
quen ibidem innocentem fuderat, nimium erat crapulatus, et
Anabadi, illustris episcopi,... quem ipse cremaverat, valde
exhaustus," etc. It is doubtful who this Munuza was, but
probably Othman ibn abi Nesah, Governor of Spain.

Fifteen years later a Christian named Peter, pursuing very much the same
tactics as the pseudo-martyrs in the next century, brought about his
own condemnation and death. He held a responsible post under Government,
that of receiver of public imposts, and seems to have stood on terms of
friendship with many of the Arab nobles. Perhaps he had been rather lax
in his religious observances, or even disguised his Christianity from
motives of interest. However, he fell sick, and thinking that his life
was near its end, he called together his Moslem friends, and thanking
them for showing their concern for him by coming, he proceeded, "But I
desire you to be witnesses of this my last will. Whosoever believeth not
on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the Consubstantial Trinity,
is blind in heart, and deserveth eternal punishment, as also doth
Mohammed, your false prophet, the forerunner of Antichrist. Renounce,
therefore, these fables, I conjure you this day, and let heaven and
earth witness between us." Though greatly incensed, as was natural, the
hearers resolved to take no notice of these and other like words,
charitably supposing the sick man to be light-headed; but Peter, having
unexpectedly recovered, repeated his former condemnation of Mohammed,
cursing him, his book, and his followers. Thereupon he was executed, and
we cannot be altogether surprised at it.[1]

Besides these two isolated cases of martyrdom, we do not find any more
recorded until the reign of Abdurrahman II. (May 822-Aug. 852). In the
second year of this king's reign, two Christians, John and Adulphus,
making public profession of their faith, and denouncing Mohammed, were
put to death on Sept 17, 824.[2]

[1] We give the account as Fleury, v. 88 (Bk. 42), gives it,
but with great doubts as to its genuineness, no other writer
that we have seen mentioning it.

[2] Florez, x. 358: Fleury, v. 487. They were buried in St
Cyprian's Church, Cordova. See "De translatione martyrum
Georgii etc.," sec. 7.

This is the first definite indication we have that the toleration shown
by the Moslems was beginning to be abused by their Christian subjects;
and there can be no reasonable doubt that this ill-advised conduct on
the part of the latter was the main cause of the so-called persecution
which followed. But besides this fanaticism on the part of a small
section of the subject Christians, there were other causes at work
calculated to produce friction between the two peoples. During the
century which had elapsed since the conquest, the Christians and
Mohammedans, living side by side under the same government, and one
which, considering the times in which it arose, was remarkable no less
for its equity and moderation than for its external splendour and
magnificence, had gradually been drawn closer together. Intermarriages
had become frequent among them;[1] and these proved the fruitful cause
of religious dissensions. Accordingly we find that the religious
troubles in the reigns of Abdurrahman II. (822-852) and Mohammed I.
(852-886) began with the execution of two children of mixed parents.
Nunilo and Alodia were the children of a Moslem father and a Christian
mother. Their father was a tolerant man, and, apparently, while he
lived, permitted his children to profess the faith of their mother. On
his death, the mother married again, and the new husband, being a
bigoted Mohammedan, and actuated, as we may suppose, by the _odio
vitrici_, immediately set about reclaiming his step-children to the true
faith of Islam, his efforts in this direction leading him to ill-treat,
even to torture,[2] the young confessors. His utmost endeavour to effect
their conversion failing, he delivered them over to the judge on the
charge of apostasy, and the judge to the executioner, by whom they were
beheaded on Oct. 21, 840.[3]

[1] Due in part no doubt to the marriage of captives. See also
below for "the maiden tribute," pp. 96, 97.

[2] So Miss Yonge.

[3] This date is given by Morales, apud Migne, vol. cxv. p.
886, and by Fleury, v. 487, who accuse Eulogius, "Mem. Sanct.,"
ii. c. 10, of being in error when he assigns the date 851. The
Pseudo-Luitprand gives 951, vouching for this date as an
eye-witness: "Me vivente, in castro Wergeti, id est Castellon,
etc."

Though there were some cases of martyrdom of this character, where the
sufferers truly earned their title of martyrs, - and we may believe that
all such cases have not been recorded - yet the vast majority of those
which followed in the years 851-860 were of a different type. They were
due to an outbreak of fanatical zeal on the part of a certain section of
the Christians such as to overpower the spirit of toleration, which the
Moslem authorities had so far shown in dealing with their Christian
subjects, and to raise a corresponding tide of bigotry in the less
enlightened, and therefore more intolerant, masses of the Mohammedans.
The sudden mania for martyrdom which manifested itself at this time is
certainly the most remarkable phenomenon of the kind that has been
recorded in the annals of the Christian Church. There had been
occasional instances before of Christians voluntarily offering
themselves to undergo the penalty of the laws for the crime of being
Christians. One such instance in the case of a Phrygian, named Quintus,
had caused grave scandal to the Church of Smyrna; for, having gone
before the proconsul and professed himself ready to die for the faith,
when the reality of the death, which he courted, had been brought home
to him by the sight of the wild beasts ready to rend him, the courage of
the Phrygian had failed, and he had offered incense to the gods. Africa
also had had her self-accused martyrs.

But the Spanish confessors have an interest over and above these, both
by reason of their number and the constancy which they displayed in
their self-imposed task. Not a single instance is recorded, though there


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCharles Reginald HainesChristianity and Islam in Spain (756-1031) → online text (page 3 of 15)