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  • When Muhammad Kissed Ferdinand January 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    What do Beachcombing and Osama Bin Laden have in common? Diabetes? Permanent facial hair? Exclusive education in London? Start up fund from the CIA? No, no, no, no and no.

    The answer is, of course, a love of Al-Andalus.

    Al Andalus, as Osama himself would tell us were he a blogger, was the last Muslim kingdom in Europe. Compromising the bottom quarter of the Iberian Peninsula it was very approximately equal to modern Andalusia.

    From 711 to 1238 Al-Andalus was an independent Islamic State. Whereas from 1238 to 1492 ( a fateful year for many reasons) the Emirate of Granada (essentially What was Left of Andalusia after the Christian Kings of Castille had Taken Several Bites Out of It) became a subject of Castille. The Emirate could not though survive in the full-of-our-selves Christian climate of late medieval Spain. And in the late fifteenth century Castille decided to take out its southern client. It goes without saying that Goliath crushed David and the last generation of the Emirate’s existence is a melancholy list of fortresses and cities falling to the monarchs of Castille and Aragon.

    For Osama bin Laden and for many Islamists Al-Andalus is a lesson inwhat will happen to the Islamic world should they cease to fight ‘the Crusaders’, a point ObL often makes in his tape recordings and broadcasts. He points not just to the defeat of the Emirate’s armies in battle, but also to the ‘cultural genocide’ that followed as Muslims were driven to exile, conversion, death by the zealous Inquisition and its minions.

    For Beachcombing the Emirate is more a lesson in the impermanence of human achievements and a Forgotten Kingdom that makes him go weak at the knees. In his childish way though, he always particularly recalls one moment that symbolises the last Muslim thaw in Europe and that involves, strangely, a kiss.

    In 1491 Granada itself the final stronghold of Muhammad XII, last Emirate of Granada was placed under siege by Castille: Muhammad had refused to surrender the city to his Christian overlords. The siege itself seems to have been half-hearted and inevitable – no Osama up on the battlements – the odds were just too great. Then finally on 2 January 1492 Muhammad bowed to the superior odds and sent down his surrender. Everything was carried out according to those curious rules of medieval etiquette that transcended even the Islamic-Christian divide and that the modern world would so brutally do away with.

    The Moorish king with about eighty or a hundred on horse, very well dressed went out to kiss the hand of their Highnesses. The Moorish king was received with much love and courtesy and there they handed over to him his son, who had been a hostage from when he had been captured, and as they stood there, there came about four hundred captives, who were in the enclosure, with the cross and a solemn procession singing the Te Deum Laudamus, and their highnesses dismounted to adore the Cross to the accompaniment of the tears and reverential devotion of the crowd… and the Moorish king and the Moors who were with him for their part could not disguise the sadness and pain they felt for the joy of the Christians, and certainly with much reason on account of their loss, for Granada is the most distinguished and chief thing in the world…

    Muhammad afterwards, passed across the seas to Morocco where his end is not even reliably recorded.

    Four days after ‘the kiss’, on Epiphany no less, Ferdinand and Isabel made their official entry into Granada – at that time one of the most beautiful cities in the world – and worshipped their God, naturally, in Muhammad’s chief mosque. Later Ferdinand would make one of Muhammad’s daughters his mistress, then he would reject her and she would become a nun – Beachcombing shivers at the thought, especially given yesterday’s post

    The only concession granted to Muhammad concerned the transcendent Alhambra, a shimmering ghost of another age. Washington Irving, of all people, said it best:

    ‘When the religious ceremonies were concluded, the court ascended to the stately palace of the Alhambra and entered by the great gate of Justice. The halls lately occupied by turbaned infidels now rustled with stately dames and Christian courtiers, who wandered with eager curiosity over this far-famed palace, admiring its verdant courts and gushing fountains, its halls decorated with elegant arabesques and storied with inscriptions and the splendour of its gilded and brilliantly painted ceilings. It had been a last request of the unfortunate [Muhammad] and one which showed how deeply he felt the transition of his fate, that no person might be permitted to enter or depart by the gate of the Alhambra, through which  he had sallied forth to surrender his capital. His request was granted; the portal was closed up, and remains so to the present day – a mute memorial of that event.

    Beachcombing would love to learn whether this gate story is true: IW gives inadequate oral sources: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    In writing this Beachcombing was horrified to learn that Salman Rushdie has written about the fall of Granada. Beachcombing is going to try and put this permanently to the back of his mind to prevent a sullying of ‘the kiss’. Nothing personal, but many years ago Beach read Midnight’s Children and he’s still not over it.