Taking Lessons From The Moriscos In Unprecedented Times

With the advent of Ramadhan this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools, colleges and universities have made a massive move to the online platform.

Cambridge Muslim College is one of them. This Ramadhan, they are bringing their college online for everyone, with a series of talks – online, live and every day – from renowned scholars around the world.

I had a look through their class schedule and decided to tune into one of their classes called Arts, Culture & History by Dr Amina Nawaz. Starting with the first session, Dr Amina delved into the topic of the Moriscos. Below are my notes on her brilliant lecture and why I believe that the Moriscos can teach us a thing or two in any given unprecedented time.

According to her, a lesser known story in the history of Andalusia, is what happened in the final century of the Muslims in Spain. Known as Moriscos due to hiding their Islamic beliefs and faith, the Muslims at the time started asking questions if they should stay there or move to Africa. Many did end up staying.

The communities that remained under Christian rule were known as Mudejar and the period was known as Mudejar Period. This period saw the invention and construction of a unique form of design, architecture and art. Below is an example of Mudejar Design. It’s fair to say that ‘they became a part of the fabric of the societies under christian rule and economically valuable‘. 

Mudejar Architecture

But this started to change. 

After Granada was conquered, Muslims were forced into converting to Christianity and so therefore they had to practise their faith discreetly. Despite the prohibition to openly practise their faith, they continued to adopt secrecy in practising their religion of Islam. 

To get a glimpse of how difficult this time may have been for the Moriscos, one only needs to refer to the Fatwa of the Mufti of Wahran at the time. Mufti Ahmad Bu Jumu’ah al-Maghrāwi wrote a Fatwa to the Moriscos in 1504 A.D. and allowed Islamic compulsory acts to be done indirectly
like tayammum done with a tap on the wall, ṣalāh made with the eyes, or zakāh given as a gift. He based his ruling on “compulsion” and even allowed ghusl to be done by swimming with the intention of ghusl. [1]

Between 1609-1613 Moriscos were finally expelled from Spain and made new homes in North Africa, Europe and Anatolia. 

However, whilst the Moriscos were in Spain, they contributed towards the arts and cultural history that we have today. 

Uncovered in the 1800s, there are scrolls of manuscripts in Madrid belonging to the Moriscos. These were discovered beneath a false floor in the Jewish Quarter in Zaragoza. Though somewhat damaged from bonfires of children, a priest saw what remained and collected them. Below is an example of Almajida; Spanish written in the Arabic script. It basically explains how the Asr Salah should be prayed.

What makes this remarkable is knowing that writing in Arabic was prohibited at the time. Yet still, the Muslims took the chance to express themselves and remind one another of their religious obligations at these difficult times.

Much of what could be unearthed were things like litanies, prayers and invocations which the Moriscos took it upon themselves to compile. This was instead of engaging in other futile discourses which presents to us what should be done in times of difficulties which they were going through. 

As you can see, much of what they wrote about in their time referred to bettering oneself spiritually. It referred to returning to the prophetic tradition which earlier generations of Muslims in Andalusia had forgotten to do. Resorting to the prophetic tradition was something that became non-existent whilst Andalusia was flourishing with education, wealth and people. It was only when the Morisco period arrived that they realised that this was the only smart way out. Living in survival mode enabled them to appreciate this more and I believe that it is for this reason, the initial stages of the Muslim rule in Spain and their latter stages were the most thought provoking and beneficial points in all of Andalusian history. Their story proves to us that hope in Allah is of utmost importance in all situations that come our way. 

It is for that reason, we can learn from the Moriscos that times like these require us to return to the statements of the Prophet PBUH, carry out our religious obligations and strive in doing our bit whilst we ride this out.

Ill end with a statement of Dr Amina Nawaz on the topic:

“It is so often with the vanquished, the defeated, and the humbled among us that undeterred devotion to Allah lives.”

We pray and hope that we can embody their level of devotion in order to get through difficult times in the best way possible!


2 thoughts on “Taking Lessons From The Moriscos In Unprecedented Times

  1. This was a very thought-provoking read. Jazakallah Khair for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ameen. My pleasure. Glad you found my notes useful 🙂


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