Granada on the southern coast of Spain was to stay in Muslim hands until 1492. Its fall came centuries after other Muslim areas fell to the Christians. This article highlights some of the important legacies of Muslim Granada.

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Alcazar de Genil interior

Summarised extracts from a full article:
Granada- The Last Refuge of Muslims in Spain by Salah Zaimeche

Granada produced a large number of scholars. The names of the best known are included here:

Al-Mazini al-Andalusi al-Gharnati was born in 1080-1081 in Granada; died in 1169-1170 in Damascus. An Hispano-Muslim geographer, in 1114-1115 he was in Egypt, but he must have returned to his country not long afterwards; in 1117 he left Spain, sailing to Egypt via Sardinia and Sicily; in 1122-1126, he was in Baghdad; in 1130 in Abhar, Jibal; in 1131 at Sakhein (or Saqsin) on the Upper Volga—he spent many years in that region.[1] In 1135-1136 he was in Bulghar (near Kazan, on the Volga); in 1150-1151 in Bashgird, Hungary, in 1160 in Baghdad; after that he resided in various places in Khurasan and Syria— for example, in 1162 he was in Mosul. He died in Damascus in 1169-1170.[2] Travel to the East was very common among Andalusi fuqahâ' (scholars of Islamic laws), and it was typical to read in a biographical account that a man had travelled in the lands of the East (tâfa bilâd al-mashriq) and that he had done so "in search of knowledge" (fîtalab al-'ilm).[3] To a certain extent, the pilgrimage destination of Mecca determined the places visited (e.g., Qayrawân, Alexandria, Cairo, all places with scholarly communities), but the search for specialized knowledge deflected scholars to, for example, Basra and other Iraqi centres to study subjects such as grammar.[4]

Al-Mazini, was a contemporary of another illustrious geographer, al-Idrisi, born before him, and dying three years after him. Al-Mazini was more of a cosmographer in the old Islamic way than a systematic geographer, yet he gives information which is unobtainable anywhere else. He wrote various geographical works: (1) in Baghdad in 1160, Al-mughrib 'an bad. 'ajaib al-Maghrib (Collection of singularities relative to some of the marvels of the Maghrib); (2) in Musul in 1162, Tuhfat al-albab wa nukhbat al-a'jab (Gift to the hearts and choice of wonders); (3) Nukhbat al-adhan fi 'aja'ib al-buldan; (4) 'Aja'ib al-makhluqat (Wonders of the creatures).[5] It would seem that 3 and 4 are completely or partly identical with 1 and 2. His accounts of foreign countries are largely anecdotal and include many fables. The Tuhfat is divided as follows: Introduction; (1) general description of the world and its inhabitants, men and jinn; (2) singularities of various countries, (3) seas and islands, extraordinary animals living in them; (4) caverns, fossils, etc.[6] After many years of travel he settled down in the Near East-as much as a restless person of his type could settle down anywhere - and finally died in Damascus.[7]

Ibn Tufayl is another well known scholar from Granada. He was an Hispano - Muslim scientist and physician. He was born about 1100-1110 in Wadi Ash, modern Guadix, northeast of Granada. He was a physician in Granada; later secretary to the governor of the province; in 1154-1155 he became a secretary to the governor of Ceuta and Tangier; finally he worked as physician to the Almohad Abu Ya'qub Yusuf I (sultan 1163-1184). Ibn Tufayl was among the illustrious scholars who lived and worked in the Almohad court, especially under the third Caliph, Abu Yaqub, where they constituted a sort of corporation presided by one amongst them.[8] Alongside Ibn Tufayl were Ibn Rushd and Ibn Zuhr, and many more scientists and scholars found sanctuary and served the Almohad rulers.[9] When old age obliged Ibn Tufayl to resign his position at the service of the Almohad rulers in 1182-1183, he was succeeded by his friend Ibn Rushd.[10] He died in Marrakech in 1185-1186. Ibn Tufail wrote one of the most original books of the Middle Ages, a philosophical romance called after its hero, Haiy ibn Yaqzan. [11]

The story itself includes a sketch of a natural classification of the sciences, a discussion of spontaneous generation, and miscellaneous scientific information. It was translated into Hebrew, and Moses ibn Joshua of Narbonne (second half of the fourteenth century) wrote a commentary upon it in 1349.[12]

Ibn Tufail wrote two medical treatises, and gave advice to Ibn Rushd with regard to the latter's commentaries and to his Kulliyat a tib, which was known as collegiate in the Latin world.[13]

It was he who suggested to al-Bitruji the latter's modification of the theory of homocentric spheres.[14]

A large number of Muslim scholars transited between Granada and North Africa. The historian Ibn Khaldun, the philologist Abu Hayyan, Ibn Battuta, and the vizier-cum-litterateur Ibn al-Khatib frequented this court.[15] The passport given to the great scholar Ibn-Khaldun by Mohammed V., King of Granada, was interestingly written in rhyme.[16]

Ibn-al-Khatib, of Granada, whose marvellous erudition was displayed in the greatest of his works: The Universal Library; an immense epitome of the literary and historical facts obtainable in his time.[17] Besides their patronage of the arts, literature, and science, the Nasrid sultans cultivated a consciously Islamic civilization[18] where women had their share of participation, too. Hence, Zainab and Hamda, the daughters of Zaid, the bookseller who lived at wadi al-Hima in the neighbourhood of Granada, were both ‘excellent poetesses, thoroughly versed in all branches of learning and science.'[19]

The second reign of Muhammad V (1362-1391) witnessed the apogee of Nasrid culture in Granada, when much of the Alhambra was built; silks and other textiles of unsurpassed quality were widely exported; irrigation and agriculture flourished as never before.[20] But it was earlier, in 1248, that Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar (1232-73) ordered the erection of Spain's most famous edifice, the Alhambra (i.e., ‘the red').[21] The date of the construction of the Alhambra very probably dates from even earlier. The dates mentioned here are, however, the more certain ones. Regardless, the chosen site was a mountain crag bounded by deep ravines, and looking down upon two rivers, the Darro and the Genil. The Emir found there a fortress, the Alcazaba, dating from the ninth century; he added to it, built the great outer walls of the Alhambra and the earlier of its palaces, and left everywhere his modest motto: '`There is no conqueror but Allah." [22] The immense structure has been repeatedly extended and repaired. Following the principles of military architecture as developed in Eastern Islam, the unknown architect designed the enclosure first as a fortress capable of holding 40,000 men.[23] The more luxurious taste of the next two centuries gradually transformed this fortress into a complex of halls and palaces, nearly all distinguished by unsurpassed delicacy of floral or geometrical decoration, carved or stamped in coloured stucco, brick, or stone. In the Court of the Myrtles a pool reflects the foliage and the fretted portico.[24] Behind it rises the battlemented Tower of Comares, where the besieged thought to find a last and impregnable place of refuge. Within the tower is the ornate Hall of the Ambassadors; here the emirs of Granada sat enthroned, while foreign emissaries marvelled at the art and wealth of the tiny kingdom; here Charles V, looking out from a balcony window upon the gardens, groves, and stream below, mused, "How ill-fated the man who lost all this!',[25] In the main courtyard, the Patio de los Leones, a dozen marble lions guard a majestic alabaster fountain; the slender columns and flowered capitals of the surrounding arcade, the stalactite archivolts, the Kufic lettering, the time-subdued tints of the filigree arabesques, make this the masterpiece of the ‘Morisco style'.[26] Perhaps in their, enthusiasm and their luxury the Muslim architects and artists here pressed their art beyond elegance to excess; where all is ornament, the eye and soul grow weary even of beauty and skill. This building has survived a dozen earthquakes; the ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors fell, but the rest remained.[27] In sum this picturesque ensemble of gardens, palaces, fountains, and balconies suggests both the climax and the decay of Muslim art in Spain: a wealth gone to extravagance, a conquering energy relaxed into a flair for ease, a taste for beauty that has subsided from power and grandeur to elegance and grace.[28]

Al Hambra Palace

In the nineteenth century, a new wave of travel literature swept over Europe in the decades after Waterloo, culminating in one of the most widely read books of the century: The Alhambra (1832) by Washington Irving. This understandably went through numerous editions in the land of its author: from the time of the welcoming review in the New York Mirror in June of the year of publication its success was assured.[29] It is of some significance that Mrs L.C. Tuthill in her History of Architecture from the Earliest Times (Philadelphia 1848) has, as Gerald Bernstein noted, five pages on `Arabian Architecture' of which three consist of direct quotations from Irving's book.[30] This may suggest a relative scarcity in America of Owen Jones's book on the Alhambra which, the New World apart, was circulating badly enough in Britain, no doubt in part because of its bulk. But then Irving's volume, lacking in visual analysis yet replete with romantic narrative, scored heavily on a number of counts: small size, comparative cheapness, and human content.[31]

The same man, Washington Irving also wrote a great work on the conquest of Granada,[32] and also left us memorable lines of his trip to the place. Thus, in one of his letters date May 28, 1828, he says:

`The Arab conquest brought a higher civilisation and a nobler style of thinking into Gothic Spain. The Arabs were a quick witted, sagacious, proud-spirited, and poetical people, and were imbued with Oriental science and literature. Wherever they established a seat of power, it became a rallying place for the learned and ingenious; and they softened and refined the people whom they conquered.'[33]


`They (the Muslims) deserved this beautiful country, for they won it bravely, and they enjoyed it generously and kindly… Everywhere I meet traces of their sagacity, courage, urbanity, high poetical feeling, and elegant taste. The noblest institutions in this part of Spain, the best inventions for comfortable and agreeable living, and those attitudes and customs which throw a peculiar and Oriental charm over the Andalusian mode of living may be traced to the Moors.'[34]

The Muslim legacy of Granada spread widely in space and time. Muslim construction skills also meant that architects from Granada were employed by Castilian monarchs in the construction of palaces, and even by orthodox prelates in the ornamentation of cathedrals.[35] But it was not the only form of legacy. Much of the Muslim legacy has been victim to time and upheavals of all sorts, but traces of this splendour survive. The Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo is a bijou thirteenth-century villa set in beautiful gardens; the Alcazar de Genil was built in the mid fourteenth century as a palace for the Nasrid queens. Several other examples of Nasrid domestic architecture survive.[36]

The Casa del Cabildo Antigua has as its core a fourteenth-century college founded by Yusuf I, and beneath the modern restorations of the Corral del Carbon may be discerned a Muslim inn, Alhondiga gedida (al-funduq- al-jadid, the new inn).[37] Some of the nine original Muslim bridges over the Darro were incorporated into the urban fabric when the river was partially covered; the best-preserved of them is the Puente del Genil (qantarat Shanfl). The Church of S. Maria occupies the site of the Great Mosque, the Church of S. Ana was also originally a mosque, and the towers of the churches of S. Jose and S. Juan de los Reyes utilize minarets.[38] The covered market now known as Alcaiceria (al-qaysarrya) was burned down in 1843 but was rebuilt using the original pillars. Nearby is the Bibarrambla Plaza (rabbat Bab al-Ramla, "Sand Gate"), which in medieval times was the scene of tournaments, feuds, and a form of bullfighting, there are also two Muslim baths, including the "Nut-tree Bath," Bano del Nogal, near the eleventh-century Puente del Alcalde (qantaratal- qadi), "Bridge of the Judge").[39]

[1] G. Sarton: Introduction to the History of Science; The Carnegie Institution; Washington; vol 2; p. 412.

[2] G. Sarton: Introduction; 2; p. 412.

[3] T. Glick: Islamic and Christian Spain; op cit; p. 285.

[4] T. Glick: Islamic and Christian Spain; p. 285.

[5] For more on Al-Mazini, see:

Gabriel Ferrand: Le Tuhfat al-albab edite d'apres les MSS. 2167, 2168, 2170, de la Bibliotheque Nationale, et le MS. d'Alger (Journal Asiatique, vol. 207, 1-148, 193-304, 1925) Arabic text followed by an analysis, partial translation and notes; this is not yet the complete edition which we need, but it brings us much nearer to it (Isis, 11, 424).

Haji Khalifa: Lexicon (vol. 2, 222, no. 2548, 1837; vol. 4, 189, no. 8072, 1845; the author's name is written differently in each note).

J. T. Reinaud: Geographie d'Aboulfeda (vol. 1, cxi-cxiii, 1848).

[6] G. Sarton: Introduction; op cit; 2; p. 412.

[7] G. Sarton; ii; p. 300.

[8] G. Deverdun: Marakech; Editions Techniques Nord Africaines; Rabat; 1959.p. 261.

[9] R. Landau: Morocco: Elek Books Ltd, London 1967. p. 431.

[10] G. Sarton: Introduction; op cit; II; pp. 354-5.

[11] G. Sarton: Introduction II; pp. 354-5.

[12] G. Sarton: Introduction II; pp. 354-5.

[13] In 1255, in Padua, Italy, Bonacossa translated the Kulliyat (The Book of generalities (on medicine) of Ibn Rushd into Latin from Arabic in 1255.

[14] G. Sarton: Introduction II; op cit; pp. 354-5.

[15] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; op cit; p. 653.

[16] S.P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire; The Lippincot Company; Philadelphia; 1904; vo III; p. 446.

[17] S.P. Scott; III; p. 458.

[18] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; op cit; p. 653.

[19] Sayid Amir'Ali: A Short History of the Saracens, (569 at foot) in A. Shalaby: History of Muslim Education. Beirut: Dar al Kashaf, 1954., p. 28.

[20] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; op cit; p. 653.

[21] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; Simon and Shuster, New York; 6th printing; 1950. p. 316.

[22] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; p. 316.

[23] W. Irving: The Alhambra; 1832; 47.

[24] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; p. 316.

[25] S. Lane Poole: Moorish; op cit; 225.

[26] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; op cit; p. 316.

[27] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; p. 316.

[28] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; p. 316.

[29] John Sweetman: The Oriental Obsession; op cit; pp.217-8.

[30] John Sweetman: The Oriental Obsession pp.217-8.

[31] John Sweetman: The Oriental Obsession pp.217-8.

[32] W. Irving: The Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada; Geoffrey Crayon Edition; New York; 1850.

[33] W. Irving: The Spanish Papers; Riverside Edition; Philadelphia, 1868; pp. 519-20.

[34] W. Irving: Letters; vol ii; (1823-38); Edited by Ralph M. Aderman; Herbert. L. Kleinfield and Jennifer. S. Bank; Boston; 1979; p. 315.

[35] S.P. Scott: History; op cit; vol 2; p. 22.

[36] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; op cit; at p. 653.

[37] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; p. 653.

[38] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; p. 653.

[39] R. Hillenbrand: Granada; p. 653.

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