Migratory flows (16th–19th century)

The expulsion of the Muslims in several moves

Within ten years of the Alhambra Decree, a Morisco rebellion against Archbishop Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros[1]'s decisions was quailed in the Albaicin (1501). Whereupon the Catholic Monarchs decreed the expulsion of the Muslims over 14 years of age, from Granada to start with, then, in 1502, from all the territories under the Crown of Castile. Thus, the decree targeted the Mudéjares[2] in Castilian cities who had lived for several centuries – and in peace – under Christian domination. In 1526, faced with another expulsion decree, most Aragonese Muslims became     Christians : they would henceforth be known as Moriscos[3], as would their descendants. A minority resolved to leave for North Africa. Thereafter the only unconverted Muslims tolerated in the Spanish states were slaves who were not affected by expulsion decrees.

Philip II[4]'s accession to the throne increased the uncertainty of the Moriscos' situation. The young king was determined to implement Catholic Reform in his realms and to fight “heresy”, be it among the Calvinists[5] in the Low Countries or, in Granada and Valencia, among the Moriscos whose conversion to Christianity was deemed suspect. To this end, from 1559 he deployed a program of expulsion and reclamation of the land. This policy was met with the 1568-1571 revolt started with a riot in the Albaicin in Granada. The leader of the rebellion was of Umayyad descent, no less, in the person of Fernando de Valor[6], who changed his name to Aben Humeya. His movement spread to the whole Lecrin valley eventually reaching Las Alpujarras. He was routed by Don John of Austria[7] and Granada's Moriscos were scattered throughout Spain. This event confirmed the Catholic populace in the belief that they were collectively at risk : Moriscos were painted as a potential danger, the greater since they were accused of complicity with the Catholic Monarchs' age-old foes : the Turks and the Barbary pirates.

Throughout the last third of the 16th century, distrust of the Moriscos grew. Some Spanish churchmen ascribed the failure of the Inquisition[8] 's measures, and more broadly the failure of evangelisation – whether demonstrable or not – partly to methodological failure. For the rest, they blamed the mode of implementation of the Granada reddition agreement negotiated with the defeated king Abu abd-Allah[9] and which provided permission for the Muslims to uphold their faith. Other churchmen, possibly with ulterior conversion ambitions, promoted a model of religious tolerance. They were supported in this by Aragon and Valencia's landed gentry, conscious of the opportunities for cheap labour it would afford them. Conversely, Catholic poor peasants perceived the Muslims and Moriscos as rivals. Meanwhile, the economic and social situation was deteriorating for a number of reasons : cost of the wars undertaken by Philip II ; drop in income flowing in from the New World colonies ; tax rises ; demographic drops (15% of the Castilian population, according to some sources) caused by epidemics and famine. The Duke of    Lerma[10] 's efforts to consolidate the regime could not suffice to assuage a social unrest which, exacerbated by the financial crises sought an outlet in the stigmatisation of a scapegoat.

Historian Fernand Braudel has analysed the Old Christians' state of mind, moved not by « racial hatred but by religious and cultural enmity » at the thought that the Moriscos were « embedded right at the heart (or as the Spanish say ‘the kidney') of Spain » in ever increasing number and, according to some claims, regrouping around fortresses and alcazars. Gone is the model of cohabitation between the believers of the three monotheist faiths, which, with its compromises and its episodic violent flare ups, had prevailed in Andalusia for nearly nine centuries (between the early 8th and late 16th centuries). During the summer of 1580 Seville is abuzz with rumours of a vast conspiracy supported by Morocco. The rumour is not entirely unfounded. The Saadian sultan Ahmad Ist al-Mansur Eddahbi[11] was indeed mounting a military expedition, but towards the Sudan, not directly towards Spain. Al Mansur justified his expedition on the basis of his need of Sudanese riches in order to reclaim Al-Andalus. For the purpose, he relied on the caution of Ulama quoting Shihâb al-Dîn al-Qarâfî[12], a revered Egyptian Maliki scholar who, three centuries earlier had promulgated a fatwa[13] authorizing the conquest of “Muslim land” if the aim was to build up military strength against the ultimate foe : Christian Spain. In the event Moroccan sources show that Al Mansur had neither the will nor the military capability to carry out such a project. His aim was to break the de facto stranglehold on Morocco wrought by Spanish Christians to the North and the Ottomans to the East in order to give it a fresh impulse.

In the summer of 1588 troubles in Aragon lead the Council of State to debate the internal danger to be fought without delay in order to avoid a repeat of the 1568 revolt. In 1600 a report was laid before King Philip III referring to negotiations between France and the Moriscos presenting them as “the enemy within”. At the beginning of the following year the Council of State received from a Spanish captive detained in Tétouan a letter begging Philip to act and cast all Moriscos out of Spain. Prisoner Bartolomé de Llanos y Alarcon, passed on information intended as a warning : « Many Spanish Moriscos are planning a revolt supported by the king of Morocco, indeed a Toledo Morisco, visiting the Turkish Sultan tries to convince him to mount a military expedition against Spain for it is home to more than 500,000 Muslims all committed to his success ». The Council of State's answer is plain: in substance « the Morisco question has to be dealt with once and for all for they are becoming an ever greater threat for the security of the Spanish States. They can make good any opportunity to rebel. They are truly Muslims ». Other reports reinforced this perception. In 1604 Spain signed a truce with England and, in 1609, with the United Provinces. The necessary conditions to take radical steps towards the Moriscos were now met.

The political decision was taken after a memorandum was set forth by Father Soprano driving three key arguments: the expulsion is described as a “divine” action adopted on “heavenly” counsel ; the Moriscos remain in thrall to their “Islamic Sharia” and their devotion to the Muslim faith is very deep ; the decision to expel them must be final. In his decree dated 1609, Philip III states his motives: the fruitless attempt of Christianisation of Iberian Moriscos ; the unsuccessful resort to the clergy and catholic scholars to settle the matter according to Divine wil ; the need to keep the Iberian Peninsula safe, starting with the kingdom of Valencia. The decision fell irrevocable : he had decided « to expel all the Moriscos from this kingdom and to have them exiled to Barbary ». The Muslim scholar Al-Hajjari[14], who lived through these events, also alludes to Morisco resistance to the Evangelisation and assimilation endeavours undertaken by the clergy and their Catholic Majesties. But in his view the real motives of expulsion owe much to demographic calculations in that, never being exposed to warfare since they were forbidden to carry weapons, nor to celibacy since they did not join the clergy, the moriscos would eventually have become numerically superior.

  1. Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436-1517)

    Spanish cardinal and statesman, he was a trusted adviser to Queen Isabella the Catholic (1451-1504). A member of the Franciscan order, several times Regent of Spain, he undertook to reform the Spanish clergy's practices with a view to ensure a closer observance of the rules. The founder of the University of Alcala de Henares, he directed the redaction of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, setting in parallel the Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions of the Bible.

  2. Mudéjares

    Derived from the Arabic word Mudajjan (domesticated), this name was given to Muslims from Spain who had become the subjects of Christian realms after the 11th century. Mudéjares made up Muslim clusters in the Iberian Christian world before they were forced to convert or leave. The Mudéjares spoke Castilian and wrote the romance language in Arabic script hence the term Aljamiado (foreigner's language)

  3. Moriscos

    From the Spanish word for a small moor : Muslims who converted to Catholicism nolens volens after the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile) abrogated the agreements that allowed them to uphold their faith and customs on Spanish soil.

  4. Philip II (1527-1598)

    Born in Valladolid, he was given a strict education and is known for his ascetic piety. He shouldered political responsibilities from an early age. In 1556, a few months after his father Charles V's abdication, he inherited an immense empire embracing Spain and its colonies. At home pushed for centralisation and unification. Abroad he waged war against France, then England and he had to quell a rebellion in the United Provinces. He incarnates both the Spanish Golden Age and the weaknesses which were the downside of might : costly wars, population flight to the American continent's colonies, Morisco exodus. King of Spain from 1556, he succeeded his father Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. During his reign he fought the European Protestant powers, notably England but his attempt to invade the country by sea (with the Invincible Armada) failed.

  5. Calvinism

    Christian doctrine named after Jean Calvin. Rooted in the Paulinian and Augustinian texts, it emphasises the absolute sovereignty of the Godhead and justification by faith. Calvinism spread swiftly from its Geneva base towards the United Provinces and the Kingdom of France where it formed the Huguenot movement ; it crossed the Pyrenees, there to be fought by the Spanish monarchs who, in accordance with Catholic magisterial teaching, saw in it a “heresy”.

  6. Fernando de Valor

    Fernando de Cordoba y Válor also known as the “king of the Moriscos” was born in the mid 16th century. He converted to Islam and adopted the Muslim name of Muhammad ibn Umayyah (Aben Humeya). A moving force behind the Morisco uprising in the Alpujarras which he lead against Philip II, he was murdered by his cousin, Aben Aboo.

  7. Don John of Austria (1547-1578)

    Spanish prince of the house of Habsburg, he was an illegitimate son of Charles V, and thereby half-brother to Philip II of Austria. Having opted for a military career, he lead the Holy League's fleet to victory over the Ottoman at the sea battle of Lepanto in 1571. He conquered Tunis and, between 1576 and 1578, went on to govern the Low Countries before dying of illness.

  8. Inquisition

    Institution set up by Pope Innocent III in the 13th century in order to fight “heresy”. First used against the Cathars or Albigensians, it became in the 15th and 16th century the instrument the Spanish church used, with the assent of the monarchs, to fight “heterodoxy” in all its forms, notably targeting the “new Christians”. We had here an institution that made it possible to transcend the mere union of the crowns (Castile and Aragon) to give Spain the Identity its two sovereigns wished for it. In a wider sense: an arbitrary and biased administration of justice.

  9. Abu abd-Allah

    (Boabdil in Castilian), Abu 'abd-Allah el Zogoybi (the unfortunate) or el Chico (the Little King) c.1459-1532. He succeeded his father in 1482 but was unable to resolve, either by negotiation or by force the internal rivalries between the emirate's leading families. After winning a first victory against the Christian armies in March 1483, he was defeated the next month before the city of Lucena. After five years of imprisonment, he recovered his throne only to be finally crushed by Queen Isabella the Catholic's troops. He found refuge in Fès.

  10. Grand Duc de Lerma

    Don Francisco Gomes de Sandoval y Royas, Duke of Lerma (c. 1552-16-25). Minister of Philip III, he was the first of the validos (powerful favourites) before being disowned by the king in 1618.

  11. Ahmad I al-Mansur Eddahbi (m. en 1603)

    Sixth Saadi Sultan, he seized power after the death of his brother Abd Al Malik at the battle of the Wadi al-Makhāzin (1578) also known as the Battle of the Three Kings or the Battle of Ksar el-Kebir. Al Mansur's reign marks the cultural and artistic rebirth of a Morocco in the making. Its growth is economically sustained by the cultivation of sugar cane on the one hand and, on the other, by the importation from Western Africa of gold seized after his victory over the Songhai Empire. Al Mansur established his empire on the strength of his religious policy and his mastery of balance of power diplomacy in his dealings with the Iberian and Ottoman powers.

  12. Shihâb al-Dîn al-Qarâfî

    Shihâb al-Dîn al-Qarâfî (1228-1285) is a scholar who lived under the Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties in Egypt. He is known for having championed the Maliki rites. His influence was widespread among Sunni Muslims.

  13. Fatwa

    Legal opinion based on Sharia law principles. It is, as a rule, rendered in answer to a question relating to Muslim law or praxis. It is a kind of Islamic case law.

  14. Abu al-Quâsim al-Hajjari (born v.1570)

    Renowned Morisco scholar who lived as a New Christian in Spain before fleeing to settle down in Morocco. He became a translator in the Sultan Al-Mansur's palace. In 1611, he is one of the Moroccan emissaries sent to France then to the Low Countries to set up relations between Morocco and those two States. He took the lead in supporting Moriscos expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.

AccueilAccueilImprimerImprimer Mohamed El Mazouni, Professeur à l'Université Ibn Zohr, Agadir (Maroc) Paternité - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de ModificationRéalisé avec Scenari (nouvelle fenêtre)