The Moors were Islamic people of Arabian and Negro descent, who
invaded the Iberian Peninsula, which encompasses modern-day Portugal and Spain,
beginning in the Christian eighth century. They called the conquered land al-jazirat al-Andalus, but in later years, the term referred only
to the south of Spain and became Andalusia in modern times.
penetrated the interior and brought three-fifths of the peninsula under their control.
They gave their unique culture, rich language, and the religion of Islam to a
land that welcomed them at first, for the valuable riches and social order they
brought. Where superstition and ignorance once pervaded all elements of life,
the Moors brought intellectual pursuit and reasoning. Their blood mingled with
that of the Visigoths and produced a mixed race of individuals.
By Islamic law,
Muslim men could marry or have relations with non-Muslim women. Periods of
zealous anti-Christian and anti-Jewish views occurred and resulted in forced
conversion, but mostly, Christians and Jews enjoyed religious tolerance under
Moorish rule. Some families chose to convert willingly, for all the requisite
benefits including as the avoidance of certain taxes and the gains of political
and social advancement, while others practiced their former religion in secret.
on by religious fanaticism, bigotry, and jealousy of the Moorish achievements,
the people of the northern half of the peninsula began the Reconquista, a determined struggle against the Moors. Beginning in
the Christian tenth century, the rebellion spread slowly southward, until only
one Moorish kingdom remained, Granada, nestled within the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. The rulers of Granada were the Nasrid family.
The Nasrid family allegedly arrived in the peninsula during the
early stages of the establishment of Moorish rule. They claimed descent from
Sa’d ibn Ubadah, a chieftain of the Khazraj tribe in Arabia, a contemporary of
the Prophet Muhammad. Ibn Ubadah’s descendants settled in the Arjuno region and
served in the army of the Umayyad Caliphate, distinguishing themselves in their
military leadership as officers and generals.
A Map of Moorish Spain
Major cities of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy
Explore the setting of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy
Fatima, the heroine of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy, lived in a decadent but violent world. She witnessed the reign of the first seven Nasrid Sultans. In her connections to them, she was granddaughter, daughter, sister, mother and grandmother to some of the dynasty's most cultured and cruel men. I've often wondered, since chroniclers of the period tell us so little of Fatima's life, how she viewed the sudden changes that must have drastically altered the world around her. Fatima was truly a remarkable woman, a survivor. In writing about her, I hope the achievements of her family and her personal experiences will shed light on a lesser known era in history and literature.
Fatima possessed no political power of her own, but the sources indicate she had some interest in the machinations of the court. She would have been familiar with its rituals, if not its administration also. She would have seen the men in her life issue edicts that would direct the course of more than Andalusia's history. She would have been familiar with all the cities in the map above, having made her home in Granada and Malaga. Several of her male relations, including uncles, brothers and sons, would have governed each of those cities during her lifetime.
Her view of the Alhambra, as in the photos above, would have been different. Several parts of the complex did not exist while she lived or they were significantly altered after she died. The walls of the Alcazaba would have towered over her as a child. She would have also witnessed the construction of the Mexuar and the Generalife in later years. But the Patio de los Leones and the Partal existed only after her death.
Though born to privilege and power, Fatima would have learned all too easily that neither offered protection from tragedy and murder. She would have suffered the knowledge of her grandfather Muhammad I's fatal fall from his horse as a teenager. As a woman, the cruel poisoning of her father Muhammad II must have pained her deeply. She could not help but have been affected by the struggles between her brothers, the rulers Muhammad III and Nasr I. Her son Ismail I kept her husband Faraj under guard for the last seven years of his life and later, Ismail overthrew his uncle Nasr I and claimed the throne for himself.
After what should have been her greatest triumph as the mother of the monarch, Fatima personally witnessed another devastating blow as her son bled to death in her chamber from stab wounds inflicted by three of his cousins. Eight years later, Ismail's son Muhammad IV also died by violence, murdered with a lance when he was only eighteen. Fatima must have placed all her hopes for the future on her grandson Yusuf. I don't know when she died, but the chroniclers indicate that her passing occurred some time during Yusuf I's reign. Perhaps it was a blessing that she did not live to see his brutal murder twenty-one years after he took the throne.
The ancient Egyptians thought that speaking the name of the dead made them live again and granted them the honor of being remembered for eternity. I hope interest in Fatima's world will continue through new research into the Alhambra's past, the rulers of the Nasrid Dynasty and in the pages of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy.
About Butayna and Maryam in Sultana: Two Sisters
About the Nasrid Dynasty
A Genealogy Table of Related Characters from Sultana and Sultana's Legacy
A Genealogy Table of Related Characters from Sultana: Two Sisters and Sultana: The Bride Price
Wikipedia Project on the Nasrid Dynasty
For several years, I have helped contribute to the Wikipedia entry on the Nasrid Dynasty, donating the wealth of my research to expanding the available information. When I started researching the Nasrid period in 1995, the sources were deplorable or mired in legends and foolish fancies about Moorish culture and society. After amassing so much detail on the Moorish period in Spain and the last Muslim dynasty to rule a significant portion of the country, I had to pay it forward for future generations to learn more about a fascinating history and people. As much as some ridicule the data compiled on Wikipedia, I'm very proud to have added in any small way to the entries on the Sultans of the Nasrid Dynasty and my contributions will continue.