Read CHAPTER XI. of Christianity and Islam in Spain (756-1031), free online book, by Charles Reginald Haines, on ReadCentral.com.

SOCIAL INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.

Having considered the effects of Mohammedanism on doctrinal Christianity (there are no traces of similar effects on doctrinal Mohammedanism), it will fall within the scope of our inquiry to estimate the extent to which those influences were reciprocally felt by the two religions in their social and intellectual aspects; and how far the character of a Christian or a Mohammedan was altered by contact with a people professing a creed so like, and yet so unlike. This influence we shall find more strongly manifested in the action of Christianity on Islam, than the reverse.

It is well known that Mohammed, though his opinion as to monks seems to have varied from time to time, is reported to have expressly declared that he would have no monks in his religion. Abubeker, his successor,-if Gibbon’s translation may be trusted,-in his marching orders to the army, told them to let monks and their monasteries alone. It was not long, however, before an order of itinerant monks-the faquirs-arose among the Moslems. In other parts of their dominions these became a recognised, and in some ways privileged, class; but in Andalusia they did not receive much encouragement, though they were very numerous even there. Most of them, says the Arabian historian, were nothing more than beggars, able but unwilling to work. This remark, however, he tells us, must not be applied to all, “for there were among them men who, moved by sentiments of piety and devotion, left the world and its vanities, and either retired to convents to pass the remainder of their days among brethren of the same community, or putting on the darwazah, and grasping the faquir’s staff, went through the country begging a scanty pittance, and moving the faithful to compassion by their wretched and revolting appearance.” That Moslem monkeries did exist, especially in rather later times, we can gather from the above passage and from another place, where a convent called Zawiyatu l’Mahruk (the convent of the burnt) is mentioned. On that passage De Gayangos has an interesting note, in which he quotes from an African writer an account of a monastic establishment near Malaga. The writer says: “I saw on a mountain, close to this city, a convent, which was the residence of several religious men living in community, and conversant with the principles of Sufism: they have a superior to preside over them, and one or more servants to attend to their wants. Their internal regulations are really admirable; each faquir lives separately in a cell of his own, and meets his comrades only at meals or prayers. Every morning at daybreak the servants of the community go round to each faquir, and inquire of him what provisions he wishes to have for his daily consumption.... They are served with two meals a day. Their dress consists of a coarse woollen frock, two being allowed yearly for each man-one for winter, another for summer. Each faquir is furnished likewise with a regular allowance of sugar, soap to wash his clothes, oil for his lamp, and a small sum of money to attend the bath, all these articles being distributed to them every Friday.... Most of the faquirs are bachelors, a few only being married. These live with their wives in a separate part of the building, but are subject to the same rule, which consists in attending the five daily prayers, sleeping at the convent, and meeting together in a lofty-vaulted chamber, where they perform certain devotions.... In the morning each faquir takes his Koran and reads the first chapter, and then that of the king; and when the reading is over, a Koran, previously divided into sections, is brought in for each man to read in turn, until the whole is completed. On Fridays and other-festivals these faquirs are obliged to go to the mosque in a body, preceded by their superior.... They are often visited by guests, whom they entertain for a long time, supplying them with food and other necessaries. The formalities observed with them are as follows:-If a stranger present himself at the door of the convent in the garb of a faquir, namely, with a girdle round his waist, his kneeling-mat suspended between his shoulders, his staff in his right hand, and his drinking vessel in his left, the porter of the convent comes up to him immediately, and asks what country he comes from, what convent he has resided in, or entered on the road, who was the superior of it, and other particulars, to ascertain that the visitor is not an impostor.... This convent was plentifully endowed with rents for the support of its inmates, for besides the considerable revenue in lands which was provided by its founder, a wealthy citizen of Malaga, who had been governor of the city under the Almohades, pious men are continually adding to the funds either by bequests in land or by donations in money.”

The resemblance between these faquirs and Christian monks is sufficiently obvious, and need not be dilated upon: and though this particular convent was established at a later time, we cannot doubt that the influence, which produced such a modification of the very spirit of Islam, must have made itself felt much earlier. This is apparent in the analogous case of Moslem nuns, as a passage from an Arab writer seems to shew, where it is said that the body of the Moorish king, Gehwar (1030-1043), was followed to the grave even by the damsels who had retired into solitude.

But over and above copying the institutions of Christianity, Islam shews signs of having become to a certain extent pervaded with a Christian spirit. It is easy to be mistaken in such things, but the following anecdotes are more in keeping with the Bible than the Koran. Hischem I. (788-796) in his last words to his son, Hakem I., said: “Consider well that all empire is in the hand of God, who bestoweth it on whom He will, and from whom He will He taketh it away. But since God hath given to us the royal authority and power, which is in our hands by His goodness only, let us obey His holy will, which is no other than that we do good to all men, and in especial to those placed under our protection. See thou therefore, O my son, that thou distribute equal justice to rich and poor, nor permit that any wrong or oppression be committed in thy kingdom, for by injustice is the road to perdition. Be clement, and do right to all who depend upon thee, for all are the creatures of God."

The son was not inferior to the father, and capable, as the following story shews, of the most Christian generosity. One of the faquirs who had rebelled against Hakem being captured and brought into the presence of the king, did not shrink in his bigotry and hate from telling the Sultan that in hating him he was obeying God. Hakem answered: “He who bid thee, as thou sayest, hate me, bids me pardon thee. Go, and live in God’s protection."

Prone as the Mohammedans were to superstition, and many as are the miracles and wonders, which are described in their histories, it must be acknowledged that their capacity for imagining and believing in miracles never equalled that of Christian priests in the Middle Ages.

We hear indeed of a vision of Mohammed appearing to Tarik, the invader of Spain; of a miraculous spring gushing forth at the prayer of Akbar ibn Nafir; of the marvellous cap of Omar; of the wonders that distinguished the corpse of the murdered Hosein; of the vision shewing the tomb of Abu Ayub; but nothing that will bear a comparison with the invention of St James’ body at Ira Flavia (Padron), nor the clumsy and unblushing forgery of relics at Granada in the year of the Armada. Yet the following story of Baki ibn Mokhlid, from Al Kusheyri, reminds us forcibly of similar monkish extravagancies. A woman came to Baki, and said that, her son being a prisoner in the hands of the Franks, she intended to sell her house and go in search of him; but before doing so she asked his advice. Leaving her for a moment he requested her to wait for his answer. He then went out and prayed fervently for her son’s release, and telling the mother what he had done, dismissed her. Some time after the mother came back with her son to thank Baki for his pious interference, which had procured her son’s release. The son then told his story:-“I was the king’s slave, and used to go out daily with my brother slaves to certain works on which we were employed. One day, as we were going I felt all of a sudden as if my fetters were being knocked off. I looked down to my feet, when lo! I saw the heavy irons fall down broken on each side.” The inspector naturally charged him with trying to escape, but he denied on oath, saying that his fetters had fallen off without his knowing how. They were then riveted on again with additional nails, but again fell off. The youth goes on:-“The Christians then consulted their priests on the miraculous occurrence, and one of them came to me and inquired whether I had a father. I said ‘No, but I have a mother.’ Well, then, said the priest to the Christians, ’God, no doubt, has listened to her prayers. Set him at liberty,’” which was immediately done. As a set-off to this there is a remarkable instance of freedom from superstition recorded of King Almundhir(881-2). On the occasion of an earthquake, the people being greatly alarmed, and looking upon it as a direct interposition of God, this enlightened prince did his best to convince them that such things were natural phenomena, and had no relation to the good or evil that men did, shewing that the earth trembled for Christian and Moslem alike, for the most innocent as well as the most injurious of creatures without distinction. They, however, refused to be convinced.

This independence of thought in Almundhir was perhaps an outcome of that philosophic spirit which first shewed itself in Spain in the reign of this Sultan’s predecessor. The philosophizers were looked upon with horror by the theologians, who worked upon the people, so that at times they were ready to stone and burn the free-thinkers. The works of Ibnu Massara, a prominent member of this school, were burnt publicly at Cordova; and the great Almanzor, though himself, like the great Cæsar, indifferent to such questions, by way of gaining the support of the masses, was ready, or pretended to be ready, to execute one of these philosophers. At length, with feigned reluctance, he granted the man’s life at the request of a learned faqui.

Even among the Mohammedan “clergy”-if the term be allowable-there were Sceptics and Deists, and others who followed the wild speculations of Greek philosophy. Among the last of these, the greatest name was Averroes, or more correctly, Abu Walid ibn Roshd (1126-1198), who besides holding peculiar views about the human soul that would almost constitute him a Pantheist, taught that religion was not a branch of knowledge that could be systematised, but an inward personal power: that science and religion could not be fused together. Owing to his freedom of thought he was banished to a place near Cordova by Yusuf abu Yakub in 1196. He was also persecuted and put into prison by Abdulmumen, son of Almansur, for studying natural philosophy. Another votary of the same forbidden science, Ibn Habib, was put to death by the same king.

Side by side with, and in bitter hostility to, the earlier freethinkers lived the faquis or theologians. The Andalusians originally belonged to the Mohammedan sect of Al Auzai (711-774), whose doctrines were brought into Spain by the Syrian Arabs of Damascus. But Hischem I., on coming to the throne, shewed his preference for the doctrines of Malik ibn Aus, and contrived that they should supplant the dogmas of Al Auzai. It may be that Hischem I. only shewed a leaning towards Malik’s creed, without persuading others to conform to his views, but at all events the change was fully accomplished in the reign of his successor, Hakem I., by the instrumentality of Yahya ibn Yahya Al Seythi, Abu Merwan Abdulmalek ibn Habib, and Abdallah Zeyad ibn Abdurrahman Allakhmi, three notable theologians of that reign. Yahya returned from a pilgrimage to the East in 827, and immediately took the lead in the opposition offered to Hakem I. on the ground of his being a lax Mussulman, but, in reality, because he would not give the faquis enough power in the State.

In the reign of Mohammed (852) these faquis had become powerful enough to impeach the orthodoxy of a well-known devout Mussulman, Abu Abdurrahman ibn Mokhli, but the Sultan, with a wise discretion, as commendable as it was rare, declared that the distinctions of the Ulema were cavils, and that the expositions of the new traditionist “conveyed much useful instruction, and inculcated very laudable practices."

Efforts were made from time to time to overthrow this priestly ascendency, as notably by Ghazali, the “Vivificator,” as he was called, “of religious knowledge.” This attempt failed, and the rebel against authority was excommunicated. Yet the strictly oxthodox party did not succeed in arresting-to any appreciable extent-the progress of the decay which was threatening to attack even the distinctive features of the Mohammedan religion. It is a slight indication of this, that the peculiar Moslem dress gradually began to be given up, and the turban was only worn by faquis, and even they could not induce the people to return to a habit once thought of great importance.

But in other and more important respects we can see the disintegrating effect which intercourse with Christians had upon the social institutions of the Koran.

(a.) Wine, which is expressly forbidden by Mohammed, was much drunk throughout the country, the example being often set by the king himself. Hakem I. seems to have been the first of these to drink the forbidden juice. His namesake, Hakem II. (961-976), however, set his face against the practice of drinking wine, and even gave orders for all the vines in his kingdom to be rooted up-an edict which he recalled at the instance of his councillors, who pointed out that it would ruin many poor families, and would not cure the evil, as wine would be smuggled in or illicitly made of figs or other fruit. Hakem consequently contented himself with forbidding anew the use of spirituous liquors in the most stringent terms. Even the faquis had taken to drinking wine, and they defended the practice by saying that the prohibition might be disregarded by Moslems, who were engaged in a perpetual war with infidels.

(b.) Music was much cultivated, yet a traditionary saying of Mohammed runs thus: “To hear music is to sin against the law; to perform music is to sin against religion; to enjoy music is to be guilty of infidelity." Abdurrahman II. (822-852) in especial was very fond of music, and gave the great musician Ziryab or Ali ibn Nafi a home at his Court, when the latter was driven from the East by professional jealousy. Strict Mohammedans always protested against these violations of their law. The important sect of Hanbalites in particular, like our own Puritans, made a crusade against these abuses. They “caused a great commotion in the tenth century in Baghdad by entering people’s houses and spilling their wine, if they found any, and beating the singing-girls they met with and breaking their instruments."

(c.) The wearing of silk, which had been disapproved of by Mohammed, became quite common among the richer classes, though the majority do not seem to have indulged themselves in this way.

(d.) The prohibition of sculptures, representing living creatures, was disregarded. We find a statue, raised to Abdurrahman’s wife Zahra, in the Medinatu’l Zahra, a palace built by Abdurrahman III. in honour of his beloved mistress. Images of animals are mentioned on the fountains, and a lion on the aqueduct. We also hear of a statue at the gate of Cordova.

(e.) The Spanish Arabs even seem to have given up turning towards Mecca: for what else can we infer from a fact mentioned by an Arab historian, that Abu Obeydah was called Sahibu l’Kiblah as a distinctive nickname, because he did so turn?

(f.) A reformer seems even to have arisen, who wished to persuade his coreligionists to eat the flesh of sows, though not of pigs or boars.

There is good reason to suppose that all this relaxation of the more unreasonable prohibitions of the Koran was due to contact with a civilised and Christian nation, partly in subjection to the Arabs, and partly growing up independently side by side with them. But in nothing was this shewn more clearly than in the social enfranchisement of the Moslem women, whom it is the very essence of Mohammed’s teaching to regard rather as the goods and chattels than as the equals of man; and also in the introduction among the Moslems of a more Christian conception of the sacred word-Love.

Consequently we become accustomed to the strange spectacle-strange among a Mohammedan people-of women making a mark in the society of men, and being regarded as intellectually and socially their equals. Thus we hear of an Arabian Sappho, Muatammud ibn Abbad Volada, daughter of Almustakfi Billah; of Aysha, daughter of Ahmad of Cordova-“the purest, loveliest, and most learned maiden of her day;" of Mozna, the slave and private secretary of Abdurrahman III.

Again, contrary to the invariable practice elsewhere, women were admitted into the mosques in Spain. This was forbidden by Mohammedan law, the women being obliged to perform their devotions at home; “if,” says Sale, “they visit the mosques, it must be when the men are not there; for the Moslems are of opinion that their presence inspires a different kind of devotion from that which is requisite in a place dedicated to the service of God.” Sale also quotes from the letter of a Moor, censuring the Roman Catholic manner of performing the mass, for the reason, among others, that women were there. If the evidence of ballads be accepted, we shall find the Moorish ladies appearing at festivities and dances. At tournaments they looked on, their bright smiles heartening the knights on to do brave deeds, and their fair hands giving the successful champion the meed of victorious valour. Their position, in fact, as Prescott remarks, became assimilated to that of Christian ladies.

The effect of this improvement in the social position of women could not fail to reflect itself in the conception of love among the Spanish Arabs; and, accordingly, we find their gross sensuality undergoing a process of refinement, as the following extract from Said ibn Djoudi, who wrote at the close of the ninth century, will shew. Addressing his ideal mistress, Djehama, he says:-

“O thou, to whom my prayers are given,
Compassionate and gentle be
To my poor soul, so roughly driven,
To fly from me to thee.

“I call thy name, my vows outpouring,
I see thine eyes with tear-drops shine:
No monk, his imaged saint adoring,
Knows rapture like to mine!”

Of these words Dozy says:-“They might be those of a Provencal troubadour. They breathe the delicateness of Christian chivalry.”

This Christianising of the feeling of love is even more clearly seen in a passage from a treatise on Love by Ali ibn Hazm, who was prime minister to Abdurrahman V. (De-Ma. He calls Love a mixture of moral affection, delicate gallantry, enthusiasm, and a calm modest beauty, full of sweet dignity. Being the great grandson of Christian parents, perhaps some of their inherited characteristics reappeared in him:-“Something pure, something delicate, something spiritual which was not Arab."