The last Muslim ruler of Al-Andalus (Spain)

Abu Abdallah Muhammad XII of the Nasrid dynasty was the last Muslim ruler of Granada (Spain).  The Spanish called him "Boabdil" which was probably the Spanish rendering of the Sultan's Arabic name.  He was proclaimed Sultan in 1482. By this period Muslims had lost almost the whole of Spain except Granada, which too was a "tributary state" subordinate to the stronger Catholic kingdom of Castile. According to this agreement, the Muslim emirate of Grenada was allowed to remain independent but there was a pressing condition.  To avoid invasion by Castile, Granada had to pay an annual sum in gold to the Castilian monarch, which meant the Muslims were forced to pay to expand the wealth of their enemies.  When Muhammad XII  invaded Castile in 1484 to regain the former ascendency of the Nasrids, he was taken prisoner at Lucena, a town in southern Spain in the province of Corboba.  He was held prisoner between 1484 and 1487. He  obtained freedom and was able to recover his throne in 1487 by consenting to continue holding Granada as a tributary kingdom.  However, in 1491 Muhammad XII was summoned by Ferdinand and Isabella to surrender the city of Granada.  When he refused, Granada was besieged by the Castilians. On 2 January 1492, Muhammad XII was compelled to surrender.  Granada was lost and the last Muslim emirate of al-Andalus fell.  Christian banners and crosses were forcibly displayed from the Alhambra Palace on the same day.

Despite all odds stacked up against them, militarily and otherwise, the Granadans fought valiantly. One Spanish chronicler expressed his respect for the Muslim soldiers, “the Moors (Muslims) put all their strength and all their heart into the combat, as a courageous man is bound to do when defending his life, his wife, and his children.”  The biggest problem with the Muslim hierarchy at Granada was infighting .. not too different from present regional politics in the Muslim world.  Unlike aforetime, the Christians remained unified in their war against Granada.  In contrast, a political turmoil was stirring up among leaders and governors in Granada, filled with intrigues and collaborating with the Christian kingdoms for wealth, power and land.  Treacherous plots and conspiracies went so far that the Sultan's uncle, Muhammad XIII, rebelled against his nephew, igniting a civil war in Granada.  King Ferdinand took complete advantage of the events. He supported the Sultan's uncle with weapons and soldiers to fight his own nephew and other members of his family.  Blinded by greed and ambition, the Sultan's uncle was unable to perceive that the Spanish King was only trying to weaken Granada and capture the last bastion of the Muslims in Spain.  With the fall of Granada, the culture of a cohesive multicultural society was over in Spain.  Ferdinand and Isabella were devout Catholics who staunchly supported the Inquisition.  They and their successors did everything to erase every bit of evidence of the long Muslim rule over Spain.  They moved to establish a traditional Christian society.  In reaction, when some remaining Muslims of Granada refused, they were brutally crushed.  Most of them fled.  Those who couldn't flee were forced to convert to Christianity.

According to information found in Christopher Columbus' handwritten journal referred to as 'Diario de las Derrotas y Caminos,' he was apparently present in Spain at the time Grenada surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella.  The first page of his journal contains the following:  "After your Highnesses ended the war of the Moors who reigned in Europe and finished the war of the great city of Granada, where this present year (1492) on the 2nd January I saw the royal banners of Your Highnesses planted by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of the said city.  I saw the Moorish Sultan issue from the gates of the said city and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses."

After Sultan Muhammad XII was exiled and as the royal party moved south on their way out of Granada, he reined his horse and stopped near a mountain pass to look back at his beloved city one more time, the Alhambra palace and the green valley beneath it. He was unable to contain himself and broke down into tears.  On seeing him cry, his mother, Ayesha, reportedly taunted him saying :  "You did weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man." (ابك اليوم بكاء النساء على ملك لم تحفظه حفظ الرجال )  -  "Ibki l-yawma bukā'a n-nisā'i ʿalā mulkin lam taḥfuẓhu ḥifẓa r-rijāl."   A stone marker  still commemorates the spot where the Sultan stopped, looked back at Granada and wept - a landmark of history.

Muhammad XII was offered an estate in a mountainous area between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean Sea.  But he refused to accept it, and instead, crossed the Mediterranean to Fez (Morocco) where he lived for the rest of his life.

Shortly after surrendering Granada, Muhammad XII sent a lengthy letter to the Marinid rulers of Morocco asking for refuge. The letter is lengthy, eloquent and beautifully worded.  As stated in Wikipedia, the letter "begins with a long poem praising the Marinids, followed by a prose where he laments his defeat and asks forgiveness for past wrongdoings of his forefathers against the Marinids."  The entire text was reported by al-Maqqari, a renowned 17th century Algerian historian.  Below is a portion of Muhammad XII's letter to the rulers of Morocco:

"The lord of Castile has proposed for us a respectable residence and has given us assurances of safety to which he pledged by his own handwriting, enough to convince the souls. But we, as descendents of Banu al-Ahmar, didn't settle for this and our faith in God does not permit us to reside under the protection of disbelief. We also received from the east many letters full of goodwill, inviting us to come to their lands and offering the best of advantages. But we cannot choose other than our home and the home of our forefathers, we can only accept the protection of our relatives, not because of opportunism but to confirm the brotherhood relationship between us and to fulfill the testament of our forefathers, that tells us not to seek any help other that of the Marinids and not to let anything obstruct us from going to you. So we traversed the vast lands and sailed the tumultuous sea and we hope that we would not be returned and that our eyes will be satisfied and our hurt and grievous souls will be healed from this great pain."

The Sultan's request was accepted.

Historical reports on the final years of Muhammad XII's life in Morocco are conflicting.  According to Al-Maqqari, when Muhammad XII left Granada, he crossed the Mediterranean to Melilla which was an autonomous Spanish city in the northern coast of Africa having a common border with Morocco.  From Melilla, he travelled to Fez in Morocco.  In Fez, he built a palace where he lived with his family until his final days in 940 AH or 1534 AD.   He was buried in Fez.  He left behind two sons, Yusef and Ahmed.  Al-Maqqari reported that he met both sons of the former Sultan in 1618 and found that they were living in a state of poverty, dependant on Zakat for their livelihood.  A Spanish chronicler named Luis del Marmol Carvajal who claimed to have lived for several years in the north African Berber regions with the former inhabitants of Muslim Granada wrote in his diary that Muhammad XII died somewhere close to the Black Sea region during the war between Marinids and Saadians.  The Saadians (originating from Bani Zaydan) were another Arab dynasty that ruled Morocco from 1554 to 1659.  The Spanish chronicler hasn't clarified whether Muhammad XII was killed in battle or died a natural death.  However, Al-Maqqari's version is considered much more reliable.


Invasion of Grenada.

Farewell to Granada by the last Muslim King.

Source of above image:  Tumblr

Torture methods by the inquisitors in Spain after the fall of the Muslims.

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Al-Humbra Palace

Taken in Andalusia (Spain), June 2012
Source: Flickriver

Architecture around the windows of Al-Humbra Palace.

Uploaded by  Javier Carro - Created: 2005:10:02 13:18:04
For details of attribution check the following link:


Ceiling of Al-Humbra Palace.

Uploaded by Liam987 - Created March 10, 2012  
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Moorish Traces in Granada by Dorothy Boyer Watercolor ~ 18 1/2 ins x 15 7/8 ins 
Art by Dorothy Boyer - "Moorish Traces in Granada"
Source:  'Dorothy Boyer Fine Art'