My First Book Published on al-Andalus

This week my first book was finally published after years of travelling, researching, writing and editing. The book is a study of a very important Mediterranean diaspora that took place in the early 17th century and left an extraordinary imprint on the Mediterranean culture, especially in North Africa, namely the diaspora of the Moriscos (Arabs and Berbers forced to convert into Christianity under the pressure of the Inquisition Courts in the Iberian Peninsula, mostly in Spain).

In the year 711 AD, Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula, calling it al-Andalus and sowing the seeds of a fascinating renaissance characterised -mostly- by tolerance, coexistence and an appreciation for the arts and the sciences. With the fall of the last Andalusi Kingdom in Granada to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 AD, the Muslim rule in al-Andalus came to an end. Faced with discrimination and persecution, the Muslims there (first called mudejars, then moriscos after they converted to Christianity) survived one tragedy after another until the Spanish King Felipe III approved a decree calling for the final expulsion of all the Moriscos between 1609 and 1614 AD. It is estimated that some 350,000 Moriscos were forced to leave, accused -among other things- of practising Islam in secret, failing to integrate in the Spanish community and conspiring with the Ottomans against the Spanish Crown.

All the material in my work is based on research, interviews and accredited historical sources, presented in my book in a storytelling format. The title is ‘al-Andalus: History of the Diaspora’. It’s in Arabic, but for my friends/followers who cannot speak Arabic, below is an English translation of the back cover:

Al-Andalus was once a glorious chapter in the history of the Islamic Civilization (and humanity in general), before it finally turned into an epitome of the Paradise Lost as the Muslims succumbed to their internal conflicts and ignored the civilizing foundations that the Umayyads had lain centuries earlier. The tragedy of the diaspora that followed the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Moriscos in the seventeenth century is rich in incredible details about how these groups adapted to their new realities in North Africa and the Orient. The Moriscos left an exceptional imprint in all fields from architecture and urbanism to poetry and music. This book chronicles the memory of the diaspora through a selection of tales that trace the footsteps of the Andalusi migrants and celebrate their cultural legacy in the Mediterranean basin.

Mohammed Elrazzaz An Egyptian academic researcher and professor (Cairo, 1976). He studied History at the University of Granada and Cultural Management in Barcelona. He is Professor of Culture, Art History and Mediterranean Heritage at the International University of Catalonia where he obtained his MA back in 2010. Since 2013, he works for the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona.

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My Lecture in Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Tales of al-Andalus (2 Jan 2014)

(Scroll down for Arabic)
I am pleased to announce that I will be giving a lecture at Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) on 2 January 2014, titled ‘Tales of al-Andalus’ (2 hours, in Arabic). Through these tales, I will try to trace distance memories and present an alternative history of one of history’s most fascinating periods. The lecture starts at 18:00h and the tales are:

Bird of the Orient
Saint Matamoros
Between two ‘Hakams’
The Majus Crisis
A Manuscript’s Odyssey
From Yusufiya to Nasiriya
Ibn Khaldun’s Orange
The Hornachos Pirates

محاضرتي في مكتبة الاسكندرية: حكايات الأندلس (2 يناير 2014)
يسعدني أن أعلن عن قيامي بالقاء محاضرة في مكتبة الاسكندرية في 2 يناير 2014 بعنوان “حكايات الأندلس” (ساعتين، باللغة العربية). سأحاول من خلال تلك الحكايات أن أستحضر ذكريات بعيدة وأن أقدم تاريخ غير تقليدي لواحدة من أروع فترات التاريخ. تبدأ المحاضرة في تمام الساعة السادسة مساءاً، والحكايات هي:

عصفور من الشرق
القديس قاتل العرب
بين الحَكَمَين
محنة المجوس
رحلة مخطوط
من اليوسفية إلى الناصرية
برتقالة ابن خلدون
قراصنة هورناتشوس

Poster

Published: In the Footsteps of Andalusi Mystics & Intellectuals

Now that al-Andalus has become a ‘trending topic’ in the Arab World, another article of mine was published in Al-RAWI – Egypt’s Heritage Review, this time about the lasting legacy left by Andalusi mystics and intellectuals in Egypt, with a focus on Alexandria, Damietta and Cairo.

While al-Maghreb received a huge wave of Morsicos, Egypt and Syria had their fair share of Andalusi immigrations during earlier centuries. Celebrities like al-Mursi, Ibn al-Baitar and Ibn Arabi ended up settling and dying in both countries after having taught and shared their knowledge with devout followers.

The article tells it all, and the official website of the magazine is:
http://www.rawi-magazine.com/

Magazine CoverTopics in this IssueCover Page for my article

The delusional calls to ‘recover’ al-Andalus

Following the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (which they would call al-Andalus) in 711 AD, the Andalusi society eventually featured a very interesting ethnic and cultural mosaic. Then came the Reconquista, the Christian armies started gaining back territory slowly but surely, and the social mosaic became even more sophisticated. A couple of days ago, while lecturing on al-Andalus at Bibliotheca Alexandrina, I explained some interesting ‘elements’ of the Andalusi society:
1- Muwallads (muladíes مولدون)
These were the sons and daughters of Muslim conquerors and native Christian women. The term also extended to describe natives who converted from Christianity to Islam.
2- Mozarabs (mozárabes مستعربون)
These native Christians maintained their religion under Muslim rule, but adopted many elements or the Arab culture and language.
Later on, two more elements would come into play:
3- Mudajjan (mudéjar مدجنون)
As the Christian armies took back several cities, several Muslim communities chose to stay and live under Christian rule, maintaining their religion.
4- Moriscos (moriscos موريسكيون)
Following the surrender of Granada and the introduction of the Inquisition courts, scores of Muslims had to convert to Christianity, becoming new Christians of Moorish origin, better known as moriscos. They were finally expulsed from Spain (some 300,000 moriscos) between 1609 and 1614 under Felipe III following a tragedy that extended for over one century. The Jews were forced to leave much earlier (Sephardim), and also scores of them had to convert.

Obviously, from the Arab-Islamic viewpoint, al-Andalus was ‘lost’, while from the Western standpoint, it was ‘liberated’. Such is the case with history always: it can never be read in a unilateral way or a linear form, or based on a single discourse.

Calls among some Arabs to ‘recover’ al-Andalus are more than just absurd: they are delusional! For one thing, al-Andalus no more exists; because it is a historical concept and should always be treated as such. It was occupied by the Arabs and Berbers, but was never their homeland or their native territory. Moreover, calls to ‘recover’ territory just because, hundreds of years ago, it was under Islamic rule, is closer to intellectual terrorism than it is to rational thinking that would foster intercultural dialogue. With all the Islamic and Arab countries around the world that are lagging behind culturally and scientifically, wouldn’t it be a better idea to start with themselves and alleviate the suffering of their own people than ‘yearn’ for a land that their modern feet never stepped?

I yearn for al-Andalus myself, not the land but rather the state-of-mid, not the territory but rather the cultural renaissance, not the traditional geography but rather the moral one… and I will end it here.

Boabdil handing the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic Monarchs

My lecture on al-Andalus @ Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Jan 2nd)

On 2 January 1492, the last Muslim ruler of Granada, king Boabdil (Abu Abdalla al-Saghir), handed the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic Monarchs, bringing to an end the rule of Islam in al-Andalus in the present-day Iberian Peninsula.

What followed was a tragedy at all levels and it took the Catholic Monarchs no time at all to violate the vows they had made. The first to suffer were the Jews, then the Muslims, and even those that converted into Christianity did not survive the horrors of the Inquisition Courts. The definitive expulsion of the Moriscos (Muslims that had converted into Christianity) came in 1609 through a royal decree by Felipe III. Over 300,000 moriscos were kicked out, and this marked the beginning of a new episode of pain and passion: the moriscos diaspora in the Mediterranean.

On 2 January 2013, I will be giving a lecture titled ‘The Fall of al-Andalus: Reasons and Consequences’ at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. This is an open invitation. ANDALUS - Copy

Published: The Andalusi Legacy in Alexandria – I (Intro)

Few cities in the world can rival the glory of Alexandria’s radiant past. Throughout its history, Alexandria was always a cosmopolitan city (things changed in the 1950s). Much can be said about the city’s Ptolemaic rulers, its Hellenistic refinement, its Roman importance and its Coptic splendor. Nevertheless, one the most interesting chapters of the city’s history remains to be largely ignored: the Andalusi presence and culture in Alexandria, brought by medieval travelers, intellectuals, scholars and saints from al-Andalus (the name given to the territory governed by Muslims in present-day Spain and Portugal between 711 AD and 1492 AD).

My new series examines this ‘chapter’ as it tracks the footsteps of three of the most important and iconic Andalusi figures that left a lasting legacy in Alexandria and the Delta. Here is the link to the introductory article of the series, published 3 days ago:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/59252.aspx

Alexandria, the perfect destination for many Andalusi scholars and refugees