An interesting trend I’ve noticed when tracing hits back to their sources for this blog, is that a rather large contingent of internet comment thread denizens seem to have decided that the majority of the paintings I post here don’t depict Europeans.
I mean, not only are actual European patrons of these works commonly depicted in Adoration scenes (in other words, portraits of the people who paid for the paintings), but they’re also all wearing very distinctly European clothing….but I guess having dark skin just negates everything else that makes logical sense in context. There are also plenty of Adoration of the Magi scenes that feature only white people. I’ve also gone on before about the Guild of Saint Luke, and how artists of the time had to adhere to certain standards and practices that included using live models for their work.
As I have said countless times before, I cannot force anyone to Learn U a Thing.
Cierto rey reunió a sus médicos y les dijo: “Hacedme conocer un remedio con el cual no sea posible enfermedad”. Cada uno se puso hablar de medicinas y de cómo habían de ser aplicadas, salvo, el más sabio y anciano de todos, que les contradijo, afirmando: “El príncipe no os ha preguntado nada de eso. Que me autorice a hablar”. El rey le contestó entonces: “Habla, pues tú eres la mina de la sabiduría y de la filosofía”. Y aquel médico dijo: “El remedio, oh rey, con el que no es posible enfermedad, es que cuando comas, aunque sólo haya sido dos bocados, dejes todo aquello que exceda de la saciedad de tu hambre, y que no te llenes. Con este remedio no hay necesidad de médico”.
Algo así se cuenta de (Harun) al-Rasid, pues habiéndole sido presentada una escudilla con comida, dijo al comer: “Esto es, a la vez, alimento y medicina; pero cuanto excediese de ello, sería dolencia”. Todo hombre, en efecto, debe tomar de los bienes del mundo tan sólo aquello a que está acostumbrado.
El siglo XI en primera persona (las memorias de Abd Allah,
último rey zirí de Granada, destronado por los almorávides en 1090)
On this day in 1492, the kingdom of Granada fell to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic monarchs of Spain. With the capitulation of Granada, the last Muslim foothold in Spain was lost, thus ending a 700 year presence in the area of al-Andalus which had once been a flourishing Muslim civilisation. By the mid 13th century, Granada was the last remaining Muslim kingdom, and signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Castile that ensured the emirate’s survival so long as it paid tribute. However the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469 united the most powerful Christian kingdoms of Spain - Aragon and Castile - and set the united Christian monarchy on a course of final reconquista which required the defeat of the last vestiges of Islam. After a lengthy siege, plagued by division in Grenada, King Boabdil surrendered to the Spanish. Part of the reconquista involved forced cultural homogeneity, leading to the expulsion of Jews in 1492 and the 1502 order for all Muslims to convert to Christianity; those Muslims who refused were eventually expelled from Spain in 1609.
Most of what will be said are from vague and mostly unreliable sources so just
treat this more so as a story and less as a history lesson.
Military campaigns under Caliph Uthman
During the reigns of Umar and Uthman bin Affan, the Muslims became powerful and
economically successful naval power in the Mediterranean. Under Umar, both
Egypt and Syria were given permission to create navies which were used against
the Byzantines successfully. Gradually they became one of the greatest naval
powers at the time, both militarily and economically.
Before the Islamic conquest of Western Africa, Judaic Berbers would often
launch raids against Visigothic Iberia. Whether this was solely for profit or
because of the abuses that the Christian Visigoths committed against the Jews
in Iberia is up to speculation. During the reign of Uthman bin Affan, Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, North Africa
was conquered and in time Iberia became the next target.
Islamic Empire during Uthman’s reign – 654 AD
According to Muslim historian, Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari [Events of the Year
26 (646/647)], 2 generals (with the help of the newly conquered Berbers) were
sent to raid the coast of Spain and maybe even establish colonies.
“He also assigned command over the [Egyptian] army to the two Abdallah
al-Fihri’s, reinforced them with [additional] men, and sent them against Spain.
He ordered the two of them and Abdallah Bin Sa’d to combine forces against the Ajall.
There after Abdallah bin Sa’d would remain in his province [namely Ifriqiyah]
while the other two would continue toward their own province [namely Spain].”
“Uthman bin Affan sent in647-8 (AD), Abdullah bin Nafiah bin al-Husayn and Abdullah bin Nafi’
bin Abdul al-Qays at the head of a force to Spain via Ifriqiyah (Africa) and
“The affair of al-Andalus continued to be like the affair of Ifriqiyah till the
time of Hisham Bin Abd al-Malik; the Berbers protecting their land and those in
al-Andalus remaining in their own state.”
The men later met the governor of Egypt, Abdullah bin Saad, and while there
Caliph Uthman sent a letter saying:
“Verily. Constantinople is to be conquered from the direction of the sea
only. Now, if you conquer al-Andalus you are surely to share the reward and
commendation with the conquerors of Constantinople, till the end of time. And,
peace be upon you.”
According to Abu l-Fida: “Uthuman ordered Abd Allah Bin Nafi Bin
al-Husayn to march in the direction of al-Andalus. He therefore fought in that
direction, and then returned to Ifriqiyah.”
invasion of Iberia
Spain at this time was fragmented and weak, parts of it were racked with
plague. Coins show that there was a dispute in terms of rule, likely between
the usurper Roderic (last Visigoth king of Hispania, 710 and 712) and King Wittiza
(and Achila II, believed to have been Wittiza’s son).
[Roderic] tumultuously invaded the kingdom [regnum] with the encouragement of the
Before the death of Wittiza’s, he sent his two sons (Evan and Siseburto) to
Tangier (in modern day Morocco) where they are believed to have been one of the
invasion’s instigating forces. Soon Roderic became king of southern Hispania while
Achila II was king of the northeast (Girona, Zaragoza, Tarragona, and Narbonne).
As part of their custom, Count Julian of Cueta (Septum) sent his daughter to
Roderic to be educated and as a sign of loyalty but Roderic is said to have raped
and impregnated her.
Tariq ibn Ziyad was appointed governor of Tangiers in 711 AD by Musa bin Nusayr
(governor of Ifriqiya and Tariq’s former slave owner), he would soon play an
important role in the invasion of Iberia. Julian of Cueta asked for help from
Tariq ibn Ziyad against Roderic and so using Cueta as a base to launch their raiding
Cueta, previously known as Septem (or Septa)
Julian of Cueta had forts in Hispania as well as merchant vessels so he decided
that he would ferry Tariq bin Ziyad’s army secretly into Hispania. Tariq’s army
consisted of Arabs and a majority of recently converted Berbers, Tariq himself
is believed to have been a Berber. It is believed that Musa bin Nusayr, another
Berber general, didn’t take part in this invasion because it was supposed to
just be a raid but when it proved to have been much more successful than
expected, he crossed over into Hispania and helped Tariq the next year.
On the 29th of April 711 AD Tariq ibn Ziyad’s forces landed in
Hispania, he set foot on the Rock of Gibraltar, which now bears his name (Jabal al Tariq, “mountain-of-Tariq”. The
mountain on the side of modern Morocco was called Jebel Musa, after the other
Berber general, Musa bin Nusayr).
Western face of The Rock of Gibraltar
Historian, Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, states; “the people of Andalus did not
observe them, thinking that the vessels crossing and recrossing were similar to
the trading vessels which for their benefit plied backwards and forwards.”
Tariq bin Ziyad took many cities without a fight, many of which fled the cities
to the hills for safety, hinting at the possibility that Berber raids were
common enough that the people became accustomed to simply fleeing. Other cities
are thought to have openly accepted the Berbers, as the Visigoths had proven to
be cruel and harsh rulers, discriminating and forcefully converting
non-Christians. It is said that before the Battle of
Guadalete, Tariq bin Ziyad ordered his men to set their own boats on fire.
Before the battle that would decide the future
of Spain, Tariq gave his men a sermon: “Oh my warriors, whither would you flee?
Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope
of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more
unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your
enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance,
but vou, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for
life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy.
If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if
you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your
enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put
far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this
monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a
splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves
freelv to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers
which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the
fore, where the chance of life is always least.
Tariq bin Ziyad by Aslam Rahi
Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy
supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and
rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have
heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful
Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which
gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal
kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen
you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you
shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country.
Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to
obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this
country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will
belong to yourselves. Remember that I place myself in the front of this
glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies
meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick,
tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing.
If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering
you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can
confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to
Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the
conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers
will no longer defy you.” - al-Maqqari, The Breath of Perfume
Maimonides explains in one of his responsa that “the dye with which women dye their hands for adornment, known in Arabic as al-hinna” is acceptable for use and does not constitute a barrier for ritual immersion in the miqva (and a number of other Spanish rabbis rule similarly, including Shlomo ben Aderet and Menahem Me’iri); but elsewhere he criticizes the practice of having grooms wear henna for their wedding, and young boy dancers performing with henna and women’s adornments, even “in public, in the synagogues, in the midst of the congregation and community of Israel,” which he sees as violating the biblical prohibition on cross-dressing.
Unfortunately after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 henna fell under the purview of the Inquisition, and was strongly discouraged as a symbol of Muslim or Jewish identity. The Sephardi Jews who fled to North Africa or the Ottoman Empire continued to use henna, and they continued to use the Old Spanish name for it, alhenya.
See here, here, here, and here for some more discussion. Let me know if you have more questions!
A lot of controversy has spurred since the casting choice for the Assassin’s Creed movie (feat. Michael Fassbender for the protagonist for a film set in 15th Century Spain)
Being Spanish myself, I’d like to give my two cents on the topic.
First of all, it’s not white-washing due to the fact that it’s not a latino actor. We are not latinxs. We are Europeans.
Yes, it’s Southern Europe. Yes, we have darker skin (as Italians, Greeks,… do). And yes, the history of this country is built on so many different cultures and ethnicities, including Roman invasion, and almost two centuries of Al-Andalus have left an Arab trace.
Yes, I’d have liked that the actor put in place for a movie set in Spain was actually Spanish, because there are Spanish actors perfectly fit for the role, and it’d given the movie more accuracy than Fassbender (who’s actually German)
But. We’re not latinos. Much as we might be seen “less” by Northern European countries, much as we might be POC, we’re still. Not. Latinos.
And frankly, calling us that is an insult. Not for me, nor for us, but for the real Latinxs.
It’s an insult to History.
You’re quite literally equiparating us with the very same people whose land we conquered. We stole. The people whose blood was spilled, whose culture was burnt to a crisp.
There’s a reason South American countries speak the same language as us. And it’s built on Imperialism, oppression, and so, so many lives taken away. The language was imposed, the Old Gods forbidden. It was an imposition. It was a genocide.
We don’t get to be called the oppressed.
Because we were -are- the oppressors.
Being put in the same place as the very same people we killed is an insult. To History. To truth.
Hispano-Moresque ware is a style of initially Islamic pottery created in Al Andalus or Muslim Spain, which continued to be produced under Christian rule in styles blending Islamic and European elements. It was the most elaborate and luxurious pottery being produced in Europe until the Italian maiolica industry developed sophisticated styles in the 15th century, and was exported over most of Europe. The industry’s most successful period was the 14th and 15th centuries.
I’m writing a fantasy novel with a main character who is a queer Muslim woman. Despite (or perhaps because of) her strong faith, she often finds herself butting heads with her more traditional coreligionists. (The culture she’s from is based on medieval Al-Andalus, and so is a little more liberal and cosmopolitan than the more conservative cultures she encounters – she’s a political adviser, so meets diplomats and politicians from other countries.)
Her belief in Islam never wavers, but at several points in the novel she engages in debates with other Muslims on issues mainly related to gender and sexuality that make her frustrated and angry. What are the sort of pitfalls or harmful assumptions that I, as a white, non-Muslim should be particularly aware of?
Thank you for your time and for sharing your expertise.
I want to start off by saying that Al Andalus was one of the most, if not the most, forward-thinking and liberal places of that era so I’m finding it highly unlikely that this woman would come across others there who are against women having rights. They were all also open to debate and discussion. Even if there were a few rotten eggs, I think using those minorities as an example in your book only feeds into the false stereotype of muslims being close-minded.
However, I could totally see this character coming across extremely conservative Europeans (Mod Kaye mentioned that as a Muslim woman was building the world’s first university in Al Andalus, women were being accused of witchcraft) and having to debate women’s rights with them by pointing out their logical fallacies and showing them the equality Islam demands. I think for that time period it’s a much more realistic and interesting story.