Mezquita de Grenada

Dear readers,

Alhamdulillah (=praise and thanks to God) I am returned after completing a very educational and blessed tour of Andalusia. The tour was run by Andalucian routes, a company that offers tours of the ‘western Muslim world’ (as Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia/Islamic Spain used to be known) not just for pleasure, but with a definite educational slant. They also work with empowering ‘ghetto-ized’ Muslim youth in the UK, via teaching them their history. And they work to bring back to modern-day Europe, the spirit of co-existence and mutual respect between different faith groups that the Andalusian kingdoms of old Europe were famous for. So famous that a term was coined to describe this – ‘convivencia’. Check out Project Convivencia for more information on the work Andalucian routes staff do on this front. The tour was organized by the Swiss Muslim Events group and included by invitation, Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, who is well known in western Muslim circles. One of the earliest western Muslim scholars, he has in addition to his formal Islamic knowledge training, a Masters and PhD from McGill University and specializing in History. He has made some fascinating documentaries on the old very rich (in wealth and knowledge) African kingdoms of Mali and Timbuktu. Here is a link to a short video on this topic. Do check them out, you may be quite surprised at what you find.

There are many special places we visited, in addition to the better known Alhambra and the Mezquita of Cordoba. And there were special people we got to meet, skilled artists and pure souls. What a blessing it is to be able to travel in this way. I pray you all also have these opportunities! For this post, I will only talk about a rather new place in Granada – a mosque that was built a few years ago. It is the main mosque in Granada, and called the Mezquita de Granada in Spanish.

The Mezquita (easy to figure out that the Spanish word for Mosque comes from the Arabic ‘Masjid’) de Granada was built recently. It is on a hill that overlooks the Alhambra. It is built in the Moroccan style, which by no accident, is very much the Spanish style of building. In front of the masjid is a beautiful garden, with roses and jasmine and little fountains. Pictures below. The sound of the rippling water, the wind that blows the fragrance of the flowers as you sit in the welcome shade of the trees, and you feast your eyes on the flowers and yes, even the still resplendent walls of the Alhambra that evokes so much memory of history and of wise lessons of life.. and you wait for the Muazzin (=the person who makes the azan) to call the Azan (=call, the poem sung to inform the faithful it is time to pray) to prayer…what bliss! It was a piece of paradise. I made a video of the muazzin giving the call, I missed the first couple of lines. It is the first time I have heard the azan in this way, not through a loud-speaker. It must have always been like this in the past. It is very beautiful to hear the human voice wafting on the wind like this, sans technological input. No wonder the minarets (from where the muazzin makes the call) are high…the minaret on this mosque was not too high, yet I was surprised we could hear, though we were quite far away. Also I loved the style the azan was delivered in, distinctly European overtones I thought! I love this about the Azan, you will hear different styles (though the words and the language has never and will never change) depending on where in the world you are.

The garden is open to all, but the mosque is very small and can’t hold too many people, so it is not open to anyone except Muslims as yet. We were there on the Friday and got to participate in the Friday prayer. It was the first time I heard the khutbah in Spanish 🙂 (khutbah= literally meaning ‘speech’. the name of the two sermons given in place of two of the units of the noon prayer on Fridays. So we listen to the two sermons and then only offer 2 more units of prayer, thereby completing the prescribed 4 units of the noon prayer. There are guidelines of what a sermon should include and should not include in our tradition. Now that I am studying all of this, I sigh more thinking of how little the sermons I have sometimes heard in places like the subcontinent conform to this model. But I digress). It was a beautiful experience praying next to my Spanish brothers and sisters, many of whom can trace back their ancestors to Spanish Muslims who lived in Andalucía centuries ago.

Even more beautiful was to be able to attend the sunrise prayer there…walking up the hill in the night when it is darkest just before dawn, and then to sit in the quiet of the mosque. The Imam recited from Quran after finishing the offering of the prescribed short dawn prayer. He is a hafidh of Quran (one who has memorized the Quran. Hafidh is a beautiful word, it is translated as memorizer, but really it comes from the root word which means guardian or protector. And Al-Hafidh is one of the ‘names’ of God. It means then ‘The One of who protects’. And God is the ultimate and only real protector of all. But this is an example of the metaphysical meanings that Arabic is able to capture, as to memorize something denotes that one is then a protector and guardian of it). And he sat there and recited for a long time from memory. A young man, likely his student, was siting in front of him and reciting as well. I was following along with my mushaf (the actual written copy of the Quran) and not a single mistake could I detect in the recitation of the Imam, Al-hafidh al-Quran (=the hafidh of Quran. A title given to a memorizer of the Quran as Muslims greatly respect people who have done this). Allah ihfidhhu (= O Allah protect him!)

Here are some pictures of the ‘Mezquita’

The garden, facing the front of the masjid
The garden, facing the front of the masjid
A view of the Alhambra from the mosque garden
A view of the Alhambra from the mosque garden
cool fountains and the sound of flowing water
cool fountains and the sound of flowing water
The masjid, you can see the minaret where the muazzin gives the azan from in the distance
The masjid, you can see the minaret where the muazzin gives the azan from in the distance
Children love to play with water!
Children love to play with water!
The muazzin is ready to begin
The muazzin is ready to begin

When the Moors ruled in Europe

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

Bi fadhlillah al-adheem (= by the immense bounty of God, the most High) I am currently in Spain, in the province of Andalusia which is the modern form of the Arabic name, Al-Andalusia. Al-Andalusia comes from how the Arabs called the ‘Vandals’, the old European tribes that lived in this area.

Now many of my readers, as indeed I was a few years ago when yet again, this period of lost history was revealed to me, would be surprised to know that there was a long period of Islamic rule in Spain. It began only 80 years after the death of the prophet (peace be upon him) and ended with what the Spanish call ‘The reconquest’ and Inquisition of the 15th century – a period of over 700 years. Yet, my history books certainly never breathed a word of it. It is a very interesting history and Muslims derive many teachings by it. It is also very interesting how many Islamic civilizational practices came into European culture by it, such as for example the ‘three course meal’ and apparently even the tradition of traveling musicians ‘troubradours’.

I am most interested also for a personal reason which I will share; Sri Lankan Muslims are commonly considered descendants of Arab traders who settled over the centuries (and integrated with the local communities, via marriage and adopting local languages while Arabic was preserved only in the written form and that too with interesting variations on the text itself…that are now being corrected with the Internet-age), however we are ethnically called ‘Ceylon Moors’. I always wondered where the term Moor came from. Some said it was because the British who coined it during their rule of what was at that time Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) were only familiar with Muslims from Spain so they called any Muslim a Moor. That seems rather simplistic to me. An alternative I have heard is that we may indeed be descendant of those Spanish Muslims who fled Grenada when it fell to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who then initiated a brutal and comprehensive inquisition which lasted many decades if not centuries. This happened in the year 1492 CE, the same year the same couple blessed the voyage of Chistopher Columbus! Its outcome is that the Muslim history in Europe was almost wiped out. But not quite, and this is good, for no matter what religion or group we belong to, history is a common human treasure and must be preserved.

Having said that, I will endeavor to share more of what I learn here, but for now a very well produced documentary from a great historian, Bettany Hughes, that will introduce the subject well I believe and that I feel you will enjoy. It is called ‘when the Moors ruled in Europe’

BTW I can’t help but say that I love the segment where Bettany speaks with a very honorable princess of the modern-day Royal family in Spain (if I recall correctly). I love the way she holds herself, her simplicity and her clear presentation of facts.

Enjoy, peace be with you all