Shiʿism in al-Andalus

Shiʿism in al-Andalus

Al-Andalus (the Islamic civilization in the Iberian Peninsula) was the western continuum of the Umayyad state and its culture. After its fall in the eastern part of the Islamic state in 750 CE, ʿAbd. al-Raḥmān b. Muʿāwiyah b. Hishām b. ʿAbd. al-Malik (d. 788) al-fātiḥ (the conqueror) re-established the Umayyad state in Cordoba in 756. The Umayyad authority in al-Andalus (and occasionally north-west Africa) peaked when ʿAbd. al-Rḥmān III (d. 350/961) al-Nāṣir li-Dīn Allāh (The proponent of God’s faith) founded the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba in 929. Hence Arabic-Islamic Andalusian culture has shown minimal tolerance, rather than support, for Shiʿi Islamic beliefs.

We can trace the anti-Shiʿi influence starting from the pre-Umayyad emirate period, known as the wulāh (governors) period 710-788. A significant figure in that period of al-Andalus was al-Ṣumayl b. Ḥātim b. Jadhaʿ b. al-Shamir b. dhī al-Jawshan (d. 759), the great-grandson of the killer of al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī. Al-Ṣumayl was the leader of the ʿadnāniyyah Arab tribes in al-Andalus, and a heroic figure in the Andalusi historical literature. He was praised for his “brave, helpful, generous and openhanded”, mannerism, by many Andalusi historians as addressed by Ibn al-Abbār, regardless of Al-Ṣumayl family heritage. Another interesting anti-Shiʿi influence in al-Andalus is the kunya which usually follows the name Yūsuf. Those titles are generally derived from the influence of admired historical figures. In the east, we mostly see Abū Yaʿqūb as a kunya for Yūsuf, after the quranic prophet Yaʿqūb and his son Yūsuf. However, in the Andalus the kunya for a person named Yūsuf was Abū al-Ḥjjāj (while Abū Yaʿqūb was used in the post-Ṭāʾifa period, circa 1091). Yūsuf Abū al-Ḥajjāj refers to no other than the cruel Umayyad leader al-Ḥajjāj b.Yūsuf al-Thaqafī (d. 714), who is known for his loyalty to the Umayyads against their enemies, especially the ʿAlids. Examples of renowned Andalusian Abū al-Ḥajjājs include, Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. Sulaymān al-Aʿlam (d. 1102), Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. ʿAlī al-Quḍāʿī (d. 1147), Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. Muḥammad al-Unārī (d. 1154) and Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. Muḥammad al-Balawī (d. 1208). In the east, Abū al-Ḥajjāj is occasionally found as a Damascene name, which once was the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. ʿAbd. Al-Raḥmān al-Mizzī al-Dimashqī.

Interestingly, I found one rare occasion of a supposedly Shiʿi person that needs more investigation: Abū al-Ḥajjāj Yūsuf b. Muḥammad al-Miṣrī, the kātib al-sirr (the confidante) of the Fatimid caliph. This case can either be explained by the confused identity of the Egyptians under the Fatimid authority or the non-sensitive attitude of the Fatimid towards names, as we see some Fatimid officers with the name of ʿUmar and ʿUthmān. Take for example Ibn ʿUmar al-ʿAddās the vizier of the Fatimid caliph al-ʿAzīz and ʿUthmān al-Ḥājib the secretary of al-Ḥākim. It is worth saying that ʿAbd. Al-Rḥmān III was the main villain of the Fatimid caliphate since they shared north African borders; they both claimed caliphate, and the Umayyad were Sunnis and descendant of the opponents of ʿAlī and al-Ḥusayn, while the Fatimid were Ismaili Shiʿi.

Studies on Shiʿism in al-Andalus are few. Perhaps the leading study in the field is al-Tashayyuʿ Fī al-Andalus Mundh al-Fatḥ Ḥattā suqūṭ al-Khilāfah by Maḥmūd ʿAlī Makkī. Because Makkī did not define Shiʿism in his work, he applied the term to a range of political and theological tendencies. Makkī for instance considered the movement of al-Ruʿaynī to be Shiʿi because the latter allowed mutʿa marriage (temporary marriage) that was valid in Shiʿi fiqh jurisprudence. Al-Ruʿaynī called himself Imām, and his followers paid him zakāt though he did not claim an ʿAlid lineage. Therefore, I disagree that similarity in jurisprudential laws means the two sects are related.

Moreover, Makkī noted that Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, who composed one of the most significant works al-ʿIqd al-Farīd (the Unique necklace), refers to radical Shiʿi movements, e.g., sabʾiyyah and mughayriyyah but never mentions the ismāʿīliyyah, although they had controlled north Africa by that time because of political reasons. I would rather believe that Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih’s purpose of mentioning those specific Shiʿi movement when he composed his book is to show, as he said: “that the readers of this our book may know that our Western land, despite its remoteness, and that our country, despite its distance, has a good share of verse and prose.” (trans. Boullata).

Another interesting case is the riots against ʿAbd. Al-Raḥmān I by ʿAbd. Allāh b. Saʿīd and al-Ḥusayn b. Yaḥyā which Makki considered as Shiʿi in nature, because their grandfathers, ʿAmmār b. Yāsir and Saʿd b. ʿUbāda, respectively, were supporters of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib.

Makkī also mentioned some of the Andalusi who travelled to Iraq and returned to al-Andalus, like Muḥammad b. ʿĪsā, to be influenced by the Iraqis who were known as being supporters of Shiʿism in the broader sense. Makkī based his argument on the Andalusi historian al-Khushanī who mentioned that Ibn ʿĪsā praised ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib and looked up to him, which makes us wonder, again, about the definition of Shiʿism in Makki’s work. Makkī also argued that a riot led by a Berber who claimed ʿAlid descent and called himself Muḥammad b. ʿAbd. Allāh or Ibn Fāṭima was Shiʿi in nature. This riot was contemporaneous with the Shiʿi movement in the east, which could have influenced the ideology of the riot, especially since the phenomenon of claiming ʿAlid descent was common in Andalusi history.

The Banū Ḥmmūd, for example, also claimed to be of ʿAlid lineage and claimed the caliphate in al-Andalus just after the fall of the Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba. They did not subscribe to the Shiʿism of the Ismailis and Twelvers, although they used poets to support their legitimacy by praising their lineage. Ibn Maqāna (or Magāna, derived from the Latin word magnum), in his poem praising Idrīs b. Yaḥyā b. ʿAlī b. Ḥammūd said:

Yā banī Aḥmada yā khayra l-warā li-ʾabīku-m kāna rifdu l-muslimīn


khuliqū min māʾi ʿadli-n wa-tuqā wa-jamīʿu n-nāsi min māʾi-n wa-ṭīn

anẓirū-nā naqtabis min-nūriku-m inna-hū min nūri rabbi l-ʿālamīn

O! family of Ahmad, O! the best of the people; from your father was the gift of the world

They were created of water and piety, whilst everyone else is of water and mud

Let us see you [to] obtain some of your light, it is of the world’s lord’s light

In my paper Sharʿiyyat al-Sulṭa wa-l-Shiʿr Fī Andalus Mulūk al-Ṭawāʾif, I argue that the main argument of the Banū Ḥammūd claim of the caliphate was their ʿAlid lineage. Their poets, especially Ibn Maqāna, strategically focused on their religious right in the caliphate and that it is the way to end the chaos of the Ṭāʿif period, although they were culturally Berber.

Another significant figure who praised the Banū Ḥmmūd is Ibn Darrāj. He was a poet who lived most of his time under the care of his patron Ibn Abī ʿĀmir the powerful Ḥājib (prime minister) of the Umayyad caliphate, yet in his praise of ʿAlī b. Ḥammūd, he says:

wa-antum khalāʾifu dunyā wa-dīnin

bi-ḥukmi l-kitābi wa-ḥukmi l-ʿuqūl

and you are the inheritors of the world and religion;

By the law of the Book and the law of logic

Khalāʾif in the context of this line means inheritors, but it is also the plural of khalīfah as they are derived from the same root k-l-f. Does that make Ibn Darrāj Shiʿi in his or his patron’s beliefs? Or it could be a result of following a pattern known to the poets to verify the legitimacy of the ʿAlid, which was established by the ʿAlid poets like al-Kumayt and as-Sayyid al-Ḥimyarī in the earlier eastern conflict between the ʿAlids and Umayyads?

ʿUbāda b. Māʾ al-Samāʾ mentions the word tashayyuʿ in praising ʿAlī Ibn Ḥammūd. He said:

wa-ʿindī ṣarīḥun min walāʾika muʿriqun

tashayyuʿuhū maḥḍun wa-bayʿatuhū batlū

my loyalty to you is clear and deep-rooted;

in which the tashayyuʿ (support) is pure and the (oath of) allegiance is settled

Also here, the poet uses the polysemy word tashayyuʿ. On one hand, it coheres with Banū Ḥammūd claim and it is offensive to their opponents, i.e., the Umayyads, and on the other hand, in the context, it indicates the original meaning of the term: support.

The above examples show signs of political support for ʿAlid in post-Umayyad caliphate al-Andalus rather than Shiʿi belief as understood against the Sunni faith.

Ibn Ḥazm, the well-known Islamic scholar and writer, mentioned Shiʿi in more detail, although he was loyal to what was left of the Umayyads, who were rejected by the Andalusi people then. Ibn Ḥazm included Ismailis because this approach coheres with the scope of his book al-Milal wa al-Niḥal.

In north Africa, Shiʿi political entities that had been established earlier, like the Idrīsīd, were politically Shiʿi but religiously Sunni ʿAlid, unlike the Fatimid caliphate. The Ismaili faith could be the most apparent Shiʿi influence in al-Andalus if we consider that Ibn Hāniʾ al-Andalusī had converted to the Shiʿi Ismaili faith when he was in al-Andalus before crossing to north Africa. In my study, The Ismāʿīlī Influences of Ibn Hāniʾ al-Andalusī’s Metaphorical Language, I argue that Ibn Hāniʿ (d. 973) may have been exposed to Ibn Masarrah’s neo-platonic school of thoughts that was banned yet existed in al-Andalus. This philosophical school led him to seek freedom in faith and an atmosphere where he could express his thoughts in poetry, and he found such a need in Ismaili Shiʿism. Ibn Hāniʾ initially praised the two sons of Jaʿfar b. ʿAlī al-Andalusī, wulāh (governors) of the far west of Africa by the Umayyad before they switched their loyalty to the Fatimid, who eventually returned back to the Umayyad. None of Ibn Hāniʾ’s poems composed in al-Andalus had reached us (except for one, according to some), although he was 23 or 27 when he crossed the sea to Fatimid. This could be explained by the fact that he regretted his poetry in al-Andalus. Ibn Hāniʾ’s poetry in praising the two sons of Jaʿfar b. ʿAlī al-Andalusī has a very mild Shiʿi connotation in comparison to those that he composed when he met the caliph al-Muʿizz li-Dīn Allāh saying:

mā shiʾta lā mā shāʾati l-aqdārū

fa-ḥkum fa-anta l-wāḥudu l-qahhārū

fa-kaʾannamā anta n-nabiyyu Muḥammadun

wa-kaʾannamā anṣāruka l-anṣārū

it is what you wish, not what times want to;

So reign, O! the only almighty;

As though you are the prophet Muḥammad;

And as though your supporters are the Anṣār (the supporters of the prophet)

In the later period of al-Andalus, signs of Shiʿism are not noted. The establisher of the Almohad dynasty claimed that he was al-Mahdī (but he clearly mentioned his father’s name: Tōmart) in spite of his well-known lineage to the Berber tribe of Maṣmūda. Almohad’s belief was a mixture of mysticism and Ašʿarī beliefs, while the later states of al-Andalus, i.e., Banū Hūd and then the Nasrid sultanate of Granada were both known as Sunni states.