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Apresentação de Teses

The Discourses of Holy War and the Memory of the First Battles of Islam. Al-Andalus, 10th - 13th centuries. Tese de doutoramento em História Medieval, apresentada à Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2020. Orientação dos Professores Carlos de Ayala Martínez e Mercedes García-Arenal

Javier Albarrán Iruela
p. 435-458

Texto integral

1Beyond the imposing walls of Theodosius and at the foot of the hill where the famous Pierre Loti café sits –a place where you can enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the Golden Horn, there is one of the most sacred corners of Istanbul: the mosque known as Eyüp Sultan. This building, pilgrimage destination and a sacred place chosen by thousands of adorned children who celebrate the rite of circumcision, was ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II to house the tomb where it is believed that the remains of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī (d. 674) rest.

  • 1 BONNER, Michael Jihad in Islamic History. Doctrines and Practices. Princeton: Princeton Universit (...)

2After the fall of Constantinople in the year 1453, the remains of this companion of the Prophet Muḥammad, who was killed and buried under the walls of the Byzantine capital during the first Islamic siege of the city, were rediscovered in this location1. In this way, Mehmet connected the city of the Bosphorus to the Islamic sacred history, thus creating a link of legitimacy between the early days of Islam and the Ottoman conquest. Significantly, it was in this memory locus of holy war and of the origins of the umma, where the Turkish sultans received the sword of Osman (‘Uthmān Ghāzī, d. 1326), founder of the dynasty, in a performance representing the ascension to power. Furthermore, it was also the place where they blessed their ceremonial weapons before each military campaign.

3This is not the only place in Istanbul where the remembrance of jihād and the battles of the early Islamic community are revealed through the evocation of the Muslim warriors who participated in them, as well as in the primitive attacks on Constantinople. In the mosque known as the Arabs’ Mosque (Arap Çamii), in the district of Galata, rests the presumable tomb of Maslama b. ‘Abd al-Mālik, the Umayyad commander who led the siege to the Byzantine city in the year 715. The popular tradition says that he founded the mosque and that the first call to prayer over Byzantium was issued from there. In addition, between Sultanahmet and Hagia Sophia, right next to the great square formed by the ancient Roman hippodrome, lies the alleged tomb of ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Shāmī, who was the banner-bearer of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī himself.

4In these locations, particularly in the Eyüp Sultan mosque, the two main issues that occupy this doctoral dissertation intermingle: the ideology of holy war and the memory of the first battles of Islam. The Ottoman sultans used the memory –and the symbolic capital– of one of the protagonists of the inaugural Islamic expansion as part of the staging of their jihād expeditions, as well as a framework in which the dynastic continuity and its legitimacy were ritualized.

5This research examines how both parts of this binomial were developed and linked to each other in al-Andalus; that is, my aim was to study the articulation of the discourse of holy war and its relation to the remembrance of the maghāzī and the futūḥ. Likewise, I have analyzed with special interest how jihād and memory constituted a main power tool, as it was also for the Ottoman rulers. Therefore, this Ph.D. dissertation, framed within the fields of Medieval History and the knowledge of the Islamic West, is intended as a contribution to several grounds of debate on historiography and humanities, such as the study of religious violence –especially focused on the notion of holy war and jihād–, the analysis of the configuration of power and its legitimacy, or the so-called Memory Studies.

6The time framework I have chosen for this study covers the period between the rise to the throne of ‘Abd al-Raḥmān III until the fall of the Almohad caliphate, from the year 912 to 1269. As for the geographical framework, although my focus is primarily on al-Andalus, I will also refer to the reality of the Islamic West as a whole. Both scenarios are inseparable from numerous points of view: demographic, intellectual, economic, religious, cultural, etc. In addition, the vast majority of powers established in the Andalusi territory were also settled, to a greater or lesser extent, in the Maghreb, from the Umayyads of Cordoba to the Almohads, including the Almoravids or the Zirids.

7The choice of the Andalusi context as a framework for this study has also allowed me to bring a new perspective to a historiographic debate that has been developing among specialists for decades: was the Andalusi society unreceptive to the ideology of jihād?

  • 2 For a good synthesis of this historiographic debate, see GARCÍA FITZ, Francisco Las Navas de Tolo (...)
  • 3 BARCELÓ, Miquel “Vísperas de feudales. La sociedad de Sharq al-Andalus justo antes de la conquist (...)
  • 4 ʿABD ALLĀH – Mudhakkirāt al-amīr ʿAbd Allāh, ākhir mulūk Banī Zīrī bi-Gharnāṭa (469-483) (...)

8The hegemonic historiographic vision presents the Andalusi population as lacking a “warrior spirit”2. The scarce militarization of the Andalusi society in comparison with the Christian kingdoms of northern Iberia has been underlined as one of the historical and structural causes of al-Andalus’ own disappearance3. One of the evidences that are most invoked when explaining the alleged scarce militarization of Andalusi society is a text of the well-known Memories of ‘Abd Allāh, the Zirid king of Granada, that talks about the military reforms that Almanzor carried out at the end of 10th century, and the impact they had on al-Andalus. The ‘Amiri leader would have suppressed the recruitment that affected the whole of the inhabitants of al-Andalus to leave military obligations in the hands of a professional army composed mainly of Berber mercenaries. Thus, the military function was exclusively in the hands of the central power and ceased to permeate the social network4.

9Researchers have also stressed that from the Zirid king’s speech “they were not prepared to fight”, “they were not people of war” it should be deduced that the poor inclination of Andalusi society towards warlike purposes would not have begun with Almanzor’s reforms, but were rather the reflection of a social configuration unfavorable to a “warrior spirit”. This issue has led scholars to affirm that in the Muslim populations of al-Andalus there was some difficulty in assuming ideological and discursive presuppositions such as that of holy war.

  • 5 URVOY, Dominique Sur l'évolution de la notion de Ğihād dans l'Espagne musulmane”. Mélanges de la (...)

10In this sense, Dominique Urvoy, for example, argued that the religious elites of al-Andalus were not able to reinvent the concept of jihād, so that the Muslim population was not involved in the fight against Christians, and the dependence of the Maghrebi armies became increasingly important. He also defended that in the entire Andalusi period only one jurist, who had been linked to the holy war, could be highlighted: Abū ‘Alī al-Ṣadafī, better known as Ibn Sukarra5.

  • 6 GUICHARD, Pierre – Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana…, pp. 528-529; GUICHARD, Pierre Esp (...)
  • 7 GUICHARD, Pierre – Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana…, pp. 116, 136, 198 ff.; GUICHARD, Pi (...)

11However, the scholar who has contributed the most to prop up this historiographic vision has been the great reformer of Andalusi studies: Pierre Guichard. He pointed out that, ideologically, the Andalusi social environment was very little receptive to the notion of holy war, that there was a “lack of sensitivity to jihād6. Moreover, he saw a structural inferiority of al-Andalus in the lack of dedication of resources to maintain a military sector comparable to the feudal elite. Likewise, he also questioned the development in the 12th century, in al-Andalus, of a true mobilizing ideology of holy war, at the same time popular and official, comparable to the one that effectively encouraged the eastern “counter-crusade” under the Zenkids, Ayyubids and Mamluks. In addition, he defended, as Urvoy had already done, that great intellectuals such as Ibn Ḥazm and Ibn Rushd were unable to innovate in the ideology of holy war. This was nothing more than an instrument of state policy that did not respond to any demand from popular sensibility7.

  • 8 Some researchers have already qualified these assessments. See, for example, LAGARDÈRE, Vincent (...)

12Certainly, this relationship that has been established between a poorly militarized Andalusi society and a poor rooted notion of holy war in al-Andalus is very problematic and needs to be qualified8. For example, such an argument would then lead us to affirm that the greater militarization of feudal social structures is due, among other things, to a strong presence of holy war ideology, which is something difficult to sustain.

13The historiographical vision of the scarce warlike, warrior and jihād spirit of the Andalusis has perhaps been propitiated by a reductionist perspective of the phenomenon of holy war, as well as by a somehow uncritical and “literalist” reading of certain texts such as that of ‘Abd Allāh, without attending to the ideological and legitimizing factors present in these sources. In this Ph.D. dissertation, therefore, I have tried to contribute with new arguments and perspectives to this debate, especially to the question of whether or not jihād's notion and ideology had important roots in al-Andalus.

  • 9 Alexander P. Bronisch wrote a good summary of them. BRONISCH, Alexander P. Reconquista y Guerra S (...)

14The concept of “holy war” has been used, in different religious traditions, to describe diverse phenomena: war acts inspired directly by the divine will, military confrontations led by religious authorities, wars carried out in defense of religion or for its expansion, campaigns in which combatants are spiritually remunerated, etc9. In this study, I propose a way of application of this concept through which all these different but at the same time, I believe, compatiblerealities can be covered. For this aim, I have focused on two issues. First, the set of images and symbols of the discourse of holy war, through which it can be affirmed that we are facing a war action that was understood as sacred by those who carried it out. Second, its functionality as a power tool in different contexts will be underlined.

15Therefore, holy war is basically an ideology of justification of violence acting as a discursive tool which appeals to sacred elements accepted and shared by those to whom it is addressed. Thus, I underline the perspective of those who carry out the holy war. With its articulation, a great legitimation framework is constructed for carrying out different actions in order to obtain and consolidate authority. Also, this ideology –the discursive tool that we call holy war– has a specific language that manifests through a symbology and its own features, as well as a mise-en-scène, a liturgy and rituals that have been described, especially by the German tradition, as the “phenomenology of holy war”.

16The discursive features that I have considered most important when analyzing holy war and its language, and therefore detecting its presence, are those listed below. In turn, as we shall see, they have their own elements of ritualization.

17- God’s presence in war and divine help to his warriors. It can be seen through images such as the appearance of angels in battle or miracles. Likewise, there are also a series of symbols and rituals that show the direct participation of God in war: blessed banners, war liturgy and use of relics as means of connection with the divinity in the military context, carrying out campaigns on festivities considered sacred, etc.

18- Missionary nature of war and defense of the “true” religion against adversaries conceptualized as enemies of God. It manifests itself, for example, through rituals such as the invitation to conversion, campaign announcements or the purification of conquered territory and the destruction of the enemy’s religious symbols.

19- Meritorious, and even salvific, nature of war from a religious point of view. The best discursive evidence of this feature is martyrdom, although there are also others such as the need for warriors to enter into battle in a state of purity.

20All these discursive features and this phenomenology have been taken into account and studied in this dissertation when analyzing the discourse of holy war in al-Andalus.

  • 10 Patricia Crone stated that, although “holy war” is a term of the Western tradition, it seems approp (...)

21On the other hand, this broad approach to the analysis of holy war leads me not to limit this notion terminologically in the Arab-Islamic lexicon. That is, although the term jihād has been used as the main synonym for holy war, where it has been necessary and evident following my conceptual proposal10, there are other words such as ghazwa, qitāl, ḥarb or fatḥ that I have also used in that way. And, even, I have also defined as holy war other phenomena in which some of the discursive features mentioned above are present, although in the sources they are not described with terms relative to the semantic field of war.

  • 11 BONNER, Michael Aristocratic Violence and Holy War. Studies in the Jihad and the Arab-Byzantine F (...)

22The second issue on which I have focused my proposal for the conceptualization of holy war is its functionality as a power tool, as I have said before. The discourse of holy war and its conduction and realization became a powerful instrument for the construction of authority and political justification. In order to study this feature of holy war I have used the model of centralized versus decentralized jihād that Michael Bonner proposed for the eastern context of the Arab-Byzantine frontier, and that other scholars like Deborah Tor later on developed11.

23This model defends that the central authority, represented by a warrior-ruler, a ghāzī-sultan, pursues the monopoly of religious violence, especially of holy war, and the legitimacy it confers. Jihād centralized thus becomes a political tool against the centrifugal power of, for example, border lords or warrior-scholars, who in turn also use jihād decentralized as a means of legitimization and construction of authority. That is, this model emphasizes the struggle that various powers hold for the political and symbolic capital granted by the leading of holy war.

24Regarding the memory of the first battles of Islam, I have considered the maghāzī and futūḥ texts as the main producers and reproducers of this remembrance. Halfway between historiographical texts and epic narratives, these reports broadly refer to the first battles and conquests carried out by the Islamic community. Particularly, the military expeditions led by the Prophet Muḥammad in the case of the maghāzī, and the conquests made by the first caliphs of Islam in that of the futūḥ.

25Although I have not limited the study of the memory of these first Islamic expeditions to these genres, they have been the most important tool for it. In this sense, my methodological proposal to analyze these works is inserted in the epistemological trend that understands “memory” as the repeated impulse to remember the past from shifting perspectives in the present. That is, the phenomenon of production, reproduction, circulation and transformation of narratives about a collective past; remembering as an act of creation of meaning in the present that intertwines current topics of interest with reports about the past.

  • 12 NORA, Pierre “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire”. Representations 26 (1989), pp. 7 (...)
  • 13 MA‘MAR B. RĀSHID Kitāb al-maghāzī. Ed. Sean W. Anthony. New York: New York University Press, 2014 (...)

26As events of a “golden era”, the narrations of the first battles of Islam become lieux de mémoire, a notion created by Pierre Nora and a concept that I have used in my approach to the maghāzī and futūḥ12. Places of memory are signals and references, such as facts, objects, places or institutions, which represent certain values, symbols of collective interest that become part of the memory. Likewise, as Sean Anthony says, “maghāzī are also sites of sacred memory”, events and stories of sacred history that left their mark on the collective memory of the community of believers13. They are also disputed episodes, whose memory generates identities, consensus and obligations.

  • 14 ASSMANN, Jan Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge: Harvard Un (...)
  • 15 On the use of memory in the discourse of jihād see, for example, ANOOSHAHR, Ali The Ghazi Sultans (...)

27In summary, when studying the commemoration of the first battles of Islam through its reports and narrations and, to a lesser extent, other memory mediators as objects or rituals what I have carried out is an exercise in “mnemohistory”. Coined by Assmann, this term “is concerned not with the past as such, but only with the past as it is remembered. It surveys the story-lines of tradition, the webs of intertextuality, the diachronic continuities and discontinuities of reading the past”14. My focus has been on the history of memory, that is, I understand that the episode itself, in this case the expeditions of early Islam, is less important for my study than the way it is remembered or forgotten. Therefore, the interest has not only been the reality of the maghāzī and futūḥ, but their subsequent impact, reception, reinvention and recontextualization, the creation of memory around them. Thus, one of the aims of this dissertation has been to study how the process of “memorialization” and commemoration of the first battles of Islam constituted an important element of the conduction and legitimization of holy war in al-Andalus and the Islamic West15.

28On the other hand, in addition to the works of maghāzī and futūḥ, for the realization of this Ph.D. dissertation I have used a wide range of Arab-Islamic sources that include chronicles, biographical dictionaries, legal and doctrinal texts, or documentary and epistolary material. I have also tried to complement the information obtained about some episodes in the Islamic sources by resorting to Christian works. Moreover, I have used several manuscripts most of them from Moroccan archives and libraries, but also some of them preserved in France and Spain that have helped me, above all, to examine in greater detail that memory of the first battles of Islam. The most important of them are the Gayangos XVIII manuscript of the Royal Spanish Academy of History, which contains a compendium of futūḥ works titled al-Durr al-nafīs; the manuscript 3/164 of the Ibn Yūsuf library in Marrakech, which includes the text titled Ḥijāb mawlā-nā Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr, a talisman that evidences the sanctification process of the Almohad caliph due to the conduction of holy war; and, finally, the manuscript 296 of the al-Qarawiyyīn library in Fes, which contains a maghāzī work from the Almohad period titled Kitāb al-rawḍāt al-bahiya al-wasīma fī ghazawāt al-nabawiyya al-karīma.

29Therefore, throughout this doctoral dissertation, I have shown how jihād and its leadership became a powerful device for the construction of authority and political justification. What I have called centralized holy war and its embodiment in the figure of the ghāzī-caliph, was but a powerful political tool manifested through the attempt to monopolize the discourse of religious violence, of jihād, by the different central powers that ruled in the Islamic West. I have seen how in the Umayyad Caliphate period the sources point out that holy war was an obligation, “the greatest of duties”, and that the Umayyad sovereign did not stop fulfilling it, fighting against the enemies of God. The triumph in this endeavour, moreover, brought safety as well as well-being to his population, according to the chroniclers.

30Likewise, this position as a defender of Islam and its community was one of the main reasons that justified the auctoritas that he possessed. The campaigns launched by the Cordovan power were a magnificent political asset with a strong discursive component directed towards the internal audience. It is not surprising that, when describing the government of ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Sanchuelo, the chroniclers commented that, under his rulership, the war expeditions ceased, the civil war was declared and the dynasty was destroyed, thus transmitting the idea that it was the victorious leadership of holy war even though the sovereign did not physically lead the campaign, as in the case of al-Ḥakam II which had prevented the disintegration of al-Andalus.

31That is to say, that jihād and its discursive performance must be understood not as a reflection of a permanent confrontation between religions, but as one of the power tools that Cordova had, which served diverse purposes. Therefore, although the main enemies in the discursive articulation of jihād and its leader, the ghāzī-ruler, were the infidels, throughout the Umayyad period holy war was also directed against other opponents who, a priori, were not Christians. They were discursively turned into enemies of God through a policy of takfīr, usually implicit, although sometimes quite explicit, and in that way the war carried out against them was sacralised.

32Similarly, holy war was also an effective tool for centralization and for the control of the frontier: the fight against the infidel served as a justification framework for the control and submission of centrifugal powers, thus becoming a powerful element of cohesion whose main aim was, on many occasions, more internal than external.

33On the other hand, I have shown how the discourse of centralized holy war was completed and presented through a series of rituals and symbols a protocol of jihād that I have analysed through elements such as exhortations, parades, banners, announcement of victory or the creation of a particular season for the fight against the infidel that allowed the sacredness of its actions to be recognizable and recognized by the audience.

34In the Taifa era, a period characterized more by the struggle between the different rulers and the pacts with the Christian kingdoms than by the leading of jihād, there are some traces suggesting that, despite this negative context, the discourse of holy war and the use of the figure of the ghāzī-ruler continued to be an effective ideological device. However, this could only be implemented on limited occasions, due to the situation of political fragmentation and the Christian advance of the period. The paradigmatic example is that of the reconquest of Barbastro, where al-Muqtadir, presented as king-warrior, obtained great legitimacy and authority with his victory.

35The model of centralized holy war reappeared strongly with the Almoravids, a dynasty linked from its origins to the conduction of jihād. Its fulfilment, headed by Yūsuf b. Tāshufīn, winner of the battle of Zallāqa, was the most repeated argument by the sources to justify the arrival and conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Berber Empire. Likewise, with the Almoravids the combination of jihād with asceticism in the case of centralized holy war is observed for the first time. The appearance of this binomial – more related to an individual character of jihād – makes visible the transmission of notions between the centralized and decentralized models of holy war.

36In this period, jihād was also an effective tool of centralization, of unification of the different independent Islamic powers that operated in the region. In this sense, the Almoravids justified their conquest of the Taifa territories due to their failure in the realization of holy war, as well as their rebellion. For this aim, and as can be seen in the fatwa with which al-Ghazālī responded to the request of Abū Muḥammad b. al-‘Arabī, they came to sacralise the fight against the Andalusi rulers.

37Although in the Taifa period we find almost no ritualization of holy war or at least the sources do not depict it, perhaps due to the shortage of campaigns of this type , under the Almoravid rule this phenomenology of jihād is recovered. However, it will do so to a lesser extent than in the Umayyad period, maybe because of the lack of contemporaneity of the sources we have available to carry out the analysis, owning to the loss of the Caliphate dignity, or to a lower consolidation of the organizational and administrative structures of the Almoravid power.

38As for the Almohad period, holy war and the figure of the ghāzī-sultan were one of the main axes of this movement, reaching absolute levels. Since the beginning, this image of the warrior-ruler appears in Ibn Tūmart’s depiction in the sources, although this idea will be best shaped by his successors, ‘Abd al-Mu’min, Abū Ya‘qūb Yūsuf and Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr. After Las Navas and the death of al-Nāṣir, it seems that this political and rhetorical discourse was abandoned, although some evidence leads me to think that the appeal to holy war might have continued to be an effective legitimation tool for the caliphs.

39Once more, the Almohad period shows, perhaps more clearly than any other through the progressive process of ḥisba, takfīr and, finally, jihād, that holy war and its discursive performance not only served to confront the infidels and obtain significant legitimacy, but it was also a powerful tool for the unification of the Islamic territory and for cohesion and centralization of power. All those Muslims who did not adhere to the Almohad movement and who did not recognize their power, were converted into infidels, and the struggle against them was sacralised. The Almoravids and Ibn Mardanīsh were the main victims of this policy.

40The power with which the Almohads launched the centralized holy war model and its ritualization even exceeded that of the Umayyad caliphate. The recovery of the Caliphal dignity, together with the development of an enormous level of war religiosity, made the jihād “protocol” to be intensely developed. The vanguard of the Almohad army, the so-called sāqa, is the best example of this process.

41However, as I have stated, so that violence can be justified through religion, and in order to define holy war as a political tool, its discourse needs to be effective: it must produce a result in the audience to whom it is addressed, who must accept and adhere to that speech legitimizing violence and the authority that it confers.

  • 16 IBN ḤAYYĀN – Al-Muqtabas V. Al-Muqtabas li-Ibn Ḥayyān al-Qurṭubī (al-juzʾ al-khāmis). Eds. Pedro C (...)

42In this sense, I have shown how the different powers analysed used various devices to address their audience and to attract and link it to the discourse of holy war, an ideology that, therefore, would be alive and effective amongst the Andalusi society. The pre-campaign parades, for example, were used by the ruler as propaganda to demonstrate that he fulfilled his duty to conduct jihād, and also served as a public ostentation to “propitiate the spirits of the people”16, that is, to involve his community in his warlike actions, thus obtaining legitimacy through popular support.

43Another of the procedures was the sending of letters, both of exhortation to holy war and of victory, which were read in the different great mosques and that, therefore, were addressing the whole of the umma. If these public readings were not effective, what was the point of its performance? A good example is the Almohad kutub al-fatḥ, or the letter written in Marakech by the Almoravid kātib, Ibn Abī al-Jiṣāl, on March 25th of 1114 on behalf of the emir ‘Alī b. Yūsuf, and addressed to the entire people of al-Andalus. In this text, among other things, jihād was exhorted and believers were asked to beg God for the triumph.

44Victory rituals were also part of this same phenomenon that suggests that the Andalusi society, or at least a part of it, was fully involved in that ideology of holy war. The sources even show us the attendance to these ceremonies of scholars that travelled long distances for it. The ritualization of the architecture where these ceremonies were carried out in the Almohad era, through its decoration with inscriptions related to jihād, would have helped to complete this process.

45Along with the centralized model of jihād, a decentralized model of the fight against the infidel appeared, which also gave legitimacy to its protagonists, questioning and thus limiting the authority of the rulers through the disputation of the monopoly of the leadership of holy war.

46In the Umayyad case, for instance, this peripheral model is observed clearly through the figure of the governors or lords of the frontiers, and of the volunteers who settled in the thughūr. Linked to this, and through the circulation and analysis of works, such as al-Fazārī’s Kitāb al-siyar or Ibn Abī Zamanīn’s Kitāb qudwat al-ghāzī, the merits of those who participate in combat, the bonding of asceticism with jihād, or the correct intention, niyya, of the combatant, I have also traced the existence of a certain “individual” nature of holy war. Undoubtedly, this phenomenon is perfectly illustrated in the figure of the scholar-warriors. A significant number of members of the religious and intellectual elite of al-Andalus participated in war activities, many of them considered as jihād, as volunteers, thus contributing to the existence of that holy war of “individual” tendency. Moreover, I have been able to verify that the notion of the fight against the infidel and in defence of Islam as a socially meritorious war that granted prestige and recognition, existed among Andalusi society. The fulfilment of ribāṭ is also part of this reality, an issue that I have been able to analyse through the examples found in the different biographical dictionaries. The privileged area for this practice, undoubtedly due to the number of settlements and the amount of military activity that was taking place, was the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula, around the eastern sector of the Duero River and along the Ebro.

47Throughout the chapters of this doctoral dissertation, I have also analysed the specific language of holy war, its features and its own symbology. The three fundamental discursive elements that I have examined are martyrdom, the best image of the salvific character of the struggle; the divine help in battle represented through symbols such as takbīr, premonitory dreams or the appearance of angels; and the performing of the victory of the true faith through the purification of the enemy and his possessions. The presence of these features, to a greater or lesser degree, in the three periods analysed, have led me to conclude that, without doubt, there was an important development of jihād ideology in al-Andalus, and that this was a powerful discursive tool used by the different powers.

48However, certain issues allow me to trace some changes in the discourses of holy war between the different periods. For example, from the eleventh century onwards, and due to the advance of the Christian kingdoms, a providentialist vision of war will be enhanced with its eschatological reading, as can be seen in the letter of Abū Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Barr about the fall of Barbastro, in the Fatḥ al-Andalus, or in the explicit appearance of the idea of “God's judgment”. Moreover, in the Almohad period I have added a fourth discursive feature that takes on special prominence: the linking of the metaphor of light and its idea of rebirth or revival with the ideology of holy war.

49After the analysis of the different discourses of holy war and its phenomenology, symbology and representation, I have studied how the memory of the first battles of Islam was part of the ideological dimension of jihād. For this purpose, I have examined the data related to the production and transmission of maghāzī and futūḥ works in al-Andalus during the different periods.

50In the Umayyad Caliphate era, the circulation of this type of texts was constant (mainly those of Ibn Isḥāq/Ibn Hishām and Mūsā b. ‘Uqba), although works of this genre were barely written in the Andalusi territory. The memory of the futūḥ was transmitted not through this type of works, but through general “histories”, such as the chronicles of Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ, al-Ṭabarī and Ibn Abī Khaythama. It seems, therefore, that at this stage there was an important transmission of the memory of the first battles of Islam, but not a production of it, at least not mediated by texts of maghāzī and futūḥ. This remembrance was expressed in an unsystematic way, only through sporadic images that highlight the existence of that cultural memory and its use, but without a methodical nature. The best example of this phenomenon is the urjūza of ‘Abd al-Ramān III that Ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi included in his al-‘Iqd al-farīd. The Umayyad caliph was depicted performing the same holy war that Muḥammad had accomplished, thus renewing the triumphant and victorious cycle that the Prophet had already launched. Additionally, in the discourse of jihād, the instrumentalization of the memory of the first Islamic expeditions was combined with the commemoration of the “war memory” of the Umayyad dynasty itself, as I have shown through the cases of Abū Sufyān or the battle of Marj Rāhiṭ. This issue must be linked to the historiographical process, promoted by the Cordovan court, which took place in al-Andalus in the 10th century with the composition of works such as Ibn al-Qūṭiyya’s Ta’rīkh iftitāḥ al-Andalus. The Umayyads attempted to reconfigure the narrative about their past and clearly bond it with the previous path of the dynasty in Damascus.

51As for the Taifa and Almoravid period, there was an exponential growth in the composition and transmission of works in which the first expeditions and conquests of Islam are a main issue. The most important texts on which the memory of the Prophet's expeditions was built remained to be the Ibn Isḥāq’s/Ibn Hishām’s Kitāb sīrat rasūl Allāh, followed by the Durar fī ikhtiṣār al-maghāzī wa al-siyar by the Andalusi Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr. That is, the works produced in al-Andalus began to have importance. Regarding the futūḥ texts, sources of this genre did circulate in this context: for example, Sayf b. ‘Umar’s Kitāb al-ridda wa al-futūḥ, al-Azdī’s Kitāb futūḥ al-Shām or Ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥakam’s Kitāb futūḥ Miṣr wa Ifrīqiya. Works of this type were also produced in the Andalusi territory, such as Abū ‘Umar al-Ṭalamankī’s Futūḥ al-Shām or Ibn Ḥazm’s futūḥ epistle. It can be said that in this period there was an increase of the transmission and production of the memory of the early days of Islam, and of the remembrance of the triumph of the umma, thus creating a counter-present in response to the territorial retreat.

52The work by Abū ‘Umar al-Ṭalamankī is a clear example of how the model of decentralized holy war was also legitimized through the memory of the first battles and conquests of Islam. Al-Ṭalamankī, in the framework of ribāṭ and of the growing Christian threat, found in the memory of the futūḥ the ideal vehicle for exhortation to jihād. Meanwhile, in his Durar fī ikhtiṣār al-maghāzī wa al-siyar, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr summarized the Prophet’s expeditions through works such as those of Mūsā b. ‘Uqba and Ibn Isḥāq through Ibn Hishām. The analysis of the materials he decided to include convey the idea of ​​the importance of the defence of Islam and the need to resist infidelity in order to obtain the final triumph, particularly in times of notorious danger. That is, in recovering the figure of Muḥammad and the first Muslims, he made a call to the resistance of the umma in a context in which no one led jihād or protected the borders. Similarly, in the Risāla fī jumal futūḥ al-islām, Ibn Ḥazm makes use of the memory of the Islamic expansion with the aim of provoking a reaction on the Andalusi society in a period of fitna and retreat, a matter closely related to the revitalization trend of a certainly offensive jihād that he suggests in another of his works. For this aim, he underlines the need for a holy war of a centralized nature and uses the experience of figures such as that of Maḥmūd of Ghazna –whom he “turned” into a ẓāhiri– to give a solution for al-Andalus. In his Jawāmi‘ al-sīra al-nabawiyya –his summary of the Prophet’s biography–, the survival in al-Andalus of a pro-Umayyad filter when commemorating the battles of the Prophet can be perceived, a reality that could also be seen, although to a lesser extent, in Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s work. Moreover, contrary to the tendency observed in the Durar, Ibn Ḥazm’s text seems to bet more on an unlimited jihād.

53In the Almoravid context, a recontextualization of the first battles of Islam was carried out related to the conduction of holy war by the ruler. As in the Umayyad period, this commemoration did not occur through a specific production of works, but through a series of images meaningful for the Islamic cultural memory, such as the comparison of the battles of Yarmūk, al-Qādisiyya or Badr with the victory of Zallāqa, which are displayed, above all, in the historiographical discourse.

54In the Almohad period, the linking of the centralized holy war with the memory of the first battles of Islam, through the production of specific works on this theme, reached its peak. Moreover, the general use of memory as a discursive and legitimizing tool reached its zenith, an issue that undoubtedly has to do with the fact that the Mu’minid movement presented itself as the rebirth of a golden age. I have studied this recontextualization of the past, and particularly its connection with the jihād discourse, by analysing several elements: the creation of a parallel with the life of the Prophet; the recovery and imitation of the early days of Islam; the recourse to the Andalusi past through the Umayyad memory, the revival of the fatḥ al-Andalus, and the memory of the great Iberian battles; the remembrance of the Almohad period itself; and the commemoration of the first battles of Islam.

55As for the number of transmissions of maghāzī and futūḥ works, it remains quite stable with respect to the Taifa-Almoravid period, taking into account that the latter was longer. However, the production of this type of works almost doubled. The most important texts on the expeditions of the Prophet remained to be Ibn Isḥāq’s/Ibn Hishām’s Kitāb sīrat rasūl Allāh, followed by texts written in al-Andalus such as al-Suhaylī’s Kitāb al-rawḍ al-unuf fī sharḥ al-sīra li-Ibn Isḥāq, composed in the Almohad period itself, and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s Durar fī ikhtiṣār al-maghāzī wa al-siyar. On the other hand, the works dedicated to the life of Muḥammad produced in al-Andalus were of various types, thus confirming the interest in this topic in the Almohad era: from exegetical comments of Ibn Isḥāq/Ibn Hishām’s Sīra, like that of al-Suhaylī, to works directly dedicated to narrating the maghāzī, such as those of al-Kalā‘ī and Ibn al-Qaṭṭān. Secondly, futūḥ texts such as al-Azdī’s Kitāb futūḥ al-Shām and Sayf b. ‘Umar Kitāb al-ridda wa al-futūḥ continued to be transmitted, and al-Balādhurī’s Kitāb futūḥ al-buldān reached al-Andalus for the first time. Likewise, works of this genre were also composed in the Almohad context itself, specifically the Kitāb al-ghazawāt by the Andalusi Ibn Ḥubaysh and al-Kalā‘ī’s Kitāb al-iktifā’.

56Regarding these works, Ibn Ḥubaysh’s and Ibn al-Qaṭṭān’s were directly commissioned by the Almohad caliphs, a phenomenon that we had not testified so far in any of the previous periods analysed and that shows the degree of the use by the Mu’minids of the memory of the first battles of Islam. However, this discourse, although it was emphasized to the maximum, is not original, since it must be rooted in the process of revitalization and commemoration of the maghāzī and the futūḥ initiated in the eleventh century by authors such as al-Ṭalamankī. That is, the Almohads, in their policy of updating the early days of Islam, understood as a golden age, brought to its maximum splendour a trend that had begun previously.

57Thus, Ibn Ḥubaysh’s Kitāb al-ghazawāt, in addition to participating in the Mu’minid attempt to build its project as a return to a pure origins, also played an important role within Abū Ya‘qūb Yūsuf’s ideology of jihād and its exhortation, for whom the work was written. As for al-Kalā‘ī’s Kitāb al-iktifā’ fī maghāzī al-muṣṭafā wa al-thalātha al-khulafā’, it was written in a context of setback and decomposition of the Almohad power in al-Andalus and the Maghreb, situation in which this work is presented as an instrument with which to seek, through the example of the Prophet and the first Muslims, the individual war effort of each believer. Finally, Ibn al-Qaṭṭān’s Kitāb al-rawḍāt al-bahiya al-wasīma fī ghazawāt al-nabawiyya al-karīma, became one of the discursive tools with which the caliph al-Murtaḍā, through the creation of a parallel between the times of the Prophet, those of Ibn Tūmart, and his own, tried to revitalize a dying Almohad movement.

58In conclusion, contrary to the generalized historiographical cliché that has been discussed before, I believe that the discourses of holy war were fully active, in force and rooted in al-Andalus between the 10th-13th centuries. Likewise, these were not a mere rhetorical tool used by the central powers without any echo on the umma. On the contrary, the society of the Islamic West adhered to these discourses, making them a source of legitimacy and authority, and even participated in them, as I have shown, mobilized through the existence of an “individual” notion of jihād. The presence, as have been shown, of a remarkable “culture of martyrdom”, also evidences that reality. Moreover, these discourses were deeply developed through their ritualization, symbology and phenomenology. It can also bestated that the memory of the first battles of Islam was a fundamental discursive component of this reality, an element that helped its legitimacy and its strength as a power tool.

59For all these reasons, I think that it is not possible to assert, as has been done, that the lack of jihād’s ideology was one of the reasons for the scarce militarization of Andalusi society something that undoubtedly need also to be clarified and, above all, it is not possible to argue that was one of the causes of the impossibility to resist the Christian advance. Likewise, if we approach some of the specific arguments that have been made in this regard, we will realize that they are not quite solid. Let me take a look on three of them. As I have mentioned, Noth and Urvoy defended the almost total non-existence of scholar-warriors in al-Andalus, something that I have denied through the analysis of several biographical dictionaries. Not only there were scholars that participated in war activities, but also this fact granted social prestige. Also, Urvoy, and subsequently, Guichard, affirmed that Andalusi ‘ulamā’, such as Ibn azm, were unable to propose a renewed vision of the idea of holy war with which to try to curb Christian advance. In this regard, I have shown how the Cordovan scholar himself, among others, proposed a new reading of jihād, oriented to the resistance against the infidel, not only in his legal works but also in his texts of maghāzī and futūḥ. The different works of this typology that I have analyzed for the Taifa-Almoravid and Almohad periods must be understood in this sense, that of a renewal and revitalization of the discourse of jihād by the religious elites and the different powers.

  • 17 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds. Los musulmanes ante la conquista cruzada de Jerusalén (1099 (...)
  • 18 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, pp. 115, 163.
  • 19 ALBARRÁN, Javier “‘He was a Muslim knight who fought for religion, not for the world’. War and re (...)
  • 20 ALBARRÁN, Javier “‘He was a Muslim knight who fought for religion, not for the world…”, pp. 191-2 (...)
  • 21 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, p. 68.
  • 22 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, p. 68.
  • 23 Ibn al-Zakī (d. 1192), the preacher in charge of giving the victory sermon after the conquest of Je (...)

60On the other hand, authors like Guichard have also argued that comparing the situation of the Islamic West with that of the East evidences this lack of ideology of holy war in al-Andalus. However, a careful analysis of both realities shows that they share many of the elements I have been examining. The figure of the ghāzī-ruler developed equally with rulers such as Nūr al-Dīn and Saladin17, who likewise used the link between asceticism and jihād18; there was an equivalent ritualization and phenomenology of the holy war19; the appearance in the sources of volunteers is similar20; the importance of the niyya in warlike context was emphasized21; faced with a situation of growing threat, the providentialist conception of war was underlined22; and the memory of the first battles of Islam was an important element of jihād’s discourse23. Moreover, at both ends of the Mediterranean, the rulers commissioned works related to holy war, which were even transmitted amongst both territories. That is, if the so-called “counter-crusade” triumphed in the East, it was not because there was a greater spirit of holy war or because this ideology was more developed, but simply because the political situation was very different.

61Finally, many of these holy war features were shared between not only the Islamic West and the East, but also between other religious traditions, as I have noted throughout this dissertation. The symbology of the Christian holy war, its discourse, its phenomenology and its ritualization had much in common with the reality of jihād. There is no doubt that both traditions, with a common anthropological substrate, were in permanent contact and fed each other, thus creating a transcultural discourse and culture of holy war.

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1 BONNER, Michael Jihad in Islamic History. Doctrines and Practices. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 79; COOK, David Martyrdom in Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 23-30; PICARD, Christophe Sea of the Caliphs: The Mediterranean in the Medieval Islamic World, Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018, pp. 57-58.

2 For a good synthesis of this historiographic debate, see GARCÍA FITZ, Francisco Las Navas de Tolosa. Barcelona: Ariel, 2012, p. 266 and the following; GARCÍA SANJUÁN, Alejandro “La noción de yihad en la época nazarí: el tratado de Ibn Hudayl”. in AYALA, Carlos, PALACIOS, Santiago y RÍOS SALOMA, Martín (Eds.) Guerra santa y cruzada en el estrecho: el Occidente peninsular en la primera mitad del siglo XIV. Madrid: Sílex, 2016, pp. 369-398; SUÑÉ, Josep “El ejército andalusí y su actuación guerrera según la historiografía: aspectos desatendidos y explicaciones renovadas”. Índice Histórico Español 131 (2018), pp. 115-139. For the rest of the studies dedicated to the analysis of jihād in al-Andalus, see the bibliography included in the PhD dissertation itself.

3 BARCELÓ, Miquel “Vísperas de feudales. La sociedad de Sharq al-Andalus justo antes de la conquista catalana”. in MAÍLLO, Felipe (Ed.) España. Al-Andalus. Sefarad: síntesis y nuevas perspectivas. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1988, pp. 99-112; BARCELÓ, Miquel “El Califa patente: el ceremonial omeya de Córdoba o la escenificación del poder”. in PASTOR, Reyna (Ed.) Estructuras y formas de poder en la Historia. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1991, pp. 51-72; MAÍLLO, Felipe ¿Por qué desapareció al-Andalus?. Buenos Aires: Cálamo de Súmer, 1997, pp. 18-19; GUICHARD, Pierre – Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana: los musulmanes de Valencia. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia, 2001, pp. 525-527.

4 ʿABD ALLĀH – Mudhakkirāt al-amīr ʿAbd Allāh, ākhir mulūk Banī Zīrī bi-Gharnāṭa (469-483), al-musammā bi-Kitāb al-tibyān. Ed. Évariste Lévi-Provençal. Cairo: Dār al- Maʿārif, 1955, pp. 16-17.

5 URVOY, Dominique Sur l'évolution de la notion de Ğihād dans l'Espagne musulmane”. Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez 9 (1973), pp. 335-371.

6 GUICHARD, Pierre – Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana…, pp. 528-529; GUICHARD, Pierre Esplendor y fragilidad de al-Andalus. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2015, p. 283.

7 GUICHARD, Pierre – Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana…, pp. 116, 136, 198 ff.; GUICHARD, Pierre Esplendor y fragilidad…, pp. 281 ff.

8 Some researchers have already qualified these assessments. See, for example, LAGARDÈRE, Vincent “Évolution de la notion de djihad à l'époque almoravide (1039-1147)”. Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale 161 (1998), pp. 3-16; BURESI, Pascal – “La réaction idéologique almoravide et almohade à l'expansion occidentale dans la péninsule Ibérique (fin XIe-mi XIIIe siècles)”. in L'expansion occidentale (XIe - XVe siècles) Formes et conséquences XXXIIIe Congrès de la S.H.M.E.S. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2003, pp. 229-241; GARCÍA SANJUÁN, Alejandro “La noción de yihad…”, pp. 369-398; TORRÓ, Josep – “Was the Christian conquest of al-Andalus irreversible?”. Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 4/1 (2012), pp. 59-65; SUÑÉ, Josep “Indicios de participación ḏimmí o muladí en los asedios carolingios a Tortosa (804/806-809)”. Anuario de Estudios Medievales 46/2 (2016), pp. 975-1008; SUÑÉ, Josep Ǧihād, fiscalidad y sociedad en la Península Ibérica (711-1172): evolución de la capacidad militar andalusí frente a los reinos y condados cristianos. Ph.D. Dissertation, Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 2017.

9 Alexander P. Bronisch wrote a good summary of them. BRONISCH, Alexander P. Reconquista y Guerra Santa. La concepción de la guerra en la España cristiana desde los visigodos hasta comienzos del siglo XII. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2006, p. 277 and the following.

10 Patricia Crone stated that, although “holy war” is a term of the Western tradition, it seems appropriate to describe the war ordered by God, which is how, according to her, jihād was conceived. As she argues, “[t]he holiness lays entirely in the fact that God’s will was being done”. CRONE, Patricia God’s Rule: Six Centuries of Medieval Political Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, pp. 362-363. On the other hand, my conceptual proposal also avoids legal limits to the concept of jihād according to legal treaties. That is, I will not seek to verify whether a campaign is “legal” or not analyzing whether it meets all the requirements of the legal doctrine of jihād. I believe that the discourse of holy war in Islam and its presentation in various types of sources is much broader, more complex and multifaceted.

11 BONNER, Michael Aristocratic Violence and Holy War. Studies in the Jihad and the Arab-Byzantine Frontier. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1996; TOR, Deborah Privatized Jihad and Public Order in the Pre-Seljuq Period: The Role of the Mutatawwi‘a”. Iranian Studies 38/4 (2005), pp. 555-573; TOR, Deborah Violent Order: Religious Warfare, Chivalry, and the ‘Ayyār Phenomenon in the Medieval Islamic World. Istambul-Wurzburgo: Orient-Institut-Ergon Verlag, 2007. What I have called decentralized jihād, Tor called it “privatized”. A good summary of that model can be found in HAUG, Robert “Frontiers and the State in Early Islamic History: Jihād Between Caliphs and Volunteers”. History Compass 9/8 (2011), pp. 634-643.

12 NORA, Pierre “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire”. Representations 26 (1989), pp. 7-24. See also HO TAI, Hue-Tam “Remembered Realms: Pierre Nora and French National Memory”. The American Historical Review 106/3 (2001), pp. 906-922. For an example of the use of the concept of “place of memory” in Islamic studies see HARTMANN, Angelika “Rethinking memory and remaking history: methodological approaches to ‘lieux de mémoire’ in Muslim societies”. in PELLITTERI, Antonino (Ed.) Maǧāz: culture e contatti nell’area del Mediterraneo. Il ruolo dell’Islam. Palermo: Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Palermo, 2003, pp. 51-61; BORRUT, Antoine Entre mémoire et pouvoir. L'espace syrien sous les derniers Omeyyades et les premiers Abbassides (v. 72-193/692-809). Leiden: Brill, 2011, pp. 177-228.

13 MA‘MAR B. RĀSHID Kitāb al-maghāzī. Ed. Sean W. Anthony. New York: New York University Press, 2014, p. xviii.

14 ASSMANN, Jan Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997, p. 54. One of the first examples of “mnemohistory” in Medieval Studies is DUBY, George – Le dimanche de Bouvines 27 juillet 1214. Paris: Gallimard, 1973.

15 On the use of memory in the discourse of jihād see, for example, ANOOSHAHR, Ali The Ghazi Sultans and the Frontiers of Islam. A comparative study of the late medieval and early modern periods. London-New York: Routledge, 2009; SHOSHAN, Boaz The Arabic Historical Tradition and the Early Islamic Conquests. Folklore, Tribal Lore, Holy War. London: Routledge, 2016.

16 IBN ḤAYYĀN – Al-Muqtabas V. Al-Muqtabas li-Ibn Ḥayyān al-Qurṭubī (al-juzʾ al-khāmis). Eds. Pedro Chalmeta, Federico Corriente y Mahmud Ṣubḥ. Madrid-Rabat: Instituto Hispano-Árabe de Cultura-Kulliyat al-Ādāb, 1979, p. 157.

17 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds. Los musulmanes ante la conquista cruzada de Jerusalén (1099-1187). Madrid: La Ergástula, 2017, pp. 79, 115, 163.

18 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, pp. 115, 163.

19 ALBARRÁN, Javier “‘He was a Muslim knight who fought for religion, not for the world’. War and religiosity in Islam: A comparative study between the Islamic east and west (12th century)”. Al-Masaq: Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean 27/3 (2015), pp. 191-206.

20 ALBARRÁN, Javier “‘He was a Muslim knight who fought for religion, not for the world…”, pp. 191-206.

21 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, p. 68.

22 ALBARRÁN, Javier El sueño de al-Quds…, p. 68.

23 Ibn al-Zakī (d. 1192), the preacher in charge of giving the victory sermon after the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin, said: “You have renewed for Islam the glorious days of al-Qādisiyya, of the battle of Yarmūk, of the siege of Khaybar and the impetuous attacks of Khālid b. al-Walīd”. IBN KHALLIKĀN Kitāb wafayāt al-aʿyān wa anbāʾ abnāʾ al-zamān. Trans. Barón De Slane. Paris: Oriental translation fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1843-1871, vol. II, pp. 635-636.

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Javier Albarrán Iruela, «The Discourses of Holy War and the Memory of the First Battles of Islam. Al-Andalus, 10th - 13th centuries. Tese de doutoramento em História Medieval, apresentada à Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2020. Orientação dos Professores Carlos de Ayala Martínez e Mercedes García-Arenal»Medievalista, 28 | -1, 435-458.

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Javier Albarrán Iruela, «The Discourses of Holy War and the Memory of the First Battles of Islam. Al-Andalus, 10th - 13th centuries. Tese de doutoramento em História Medieval, apresentada à Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2020. Orientação dos Professores Carlos de Ayala Martínez e Mercedes García-Arenal»Medievalista [Online], 28 | 2020, posto online no dia 01 julho 2020, consultado o 17 abril 2021. URL:; DOI:

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