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THE HISTORY OF
6
Translated from the Arabic by
SIMON OCKLEY
Revised, with an Introduction by
A. S. FULTON
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
PUBLISHERS
,
INTRODUCTION
THIS little philosophical romance, one of the
Printed in Great Britain at
T h e Westminster Press, London, W.9
and bound by
A. W. Bain & Co., Ltd.
most interesting works of the Middle Ages,
was written in Muhammadan Spain towards
the end of the twelfth century.
Since the early days of Muslim conquest,
when the Arabs forced their way along North
Africa and in 7 I I crossed into Andalusia, those
regions had seen the rise and fall of many
Muslim states, varying in territorial extent and
not of uniform doctrinal complexion. At the
period we now speak of the puritanic Berber
dynasty of Almohads dominates the whole stage,
and Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf, claiming the proud
title Commander of the Faithful, second of his
line, rules from his capital, the City of Morocco,
over all North Africa, from the Atlantic shore
to the borders of Egypt, as well as a large tract
of Southern Spain. This empire he inherited
from his father, ‘Abd al-Mu’min, who had
conquered it in his own lifetime in a series of
brilliant campaigns lasting about thirty years,
and most of it had been torn from the grasp of
another great Berber house, the Almoravids.
Except in the Balearic Islands the power of the
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I N T R O D U C T I O N
I N T R O D U C T I O N
Almoravids was now extinct. Their sultans had
always formally recognised the supremacy of
the ruling Caliph at Baghdad. Abu Ya‘qub,
however, like all his house, brooked no dictation
from the Eastern Caliphate-either temporal or
spiritual. He was lord of the Muslim West, and
the religious doctrine on which his empire
. rested was that laid down by his spiritual
ancestor and founder of the Almohad sect, the
Berber Mahdi Ibn Tumart, one of the many
Mahdis or Rightly Guided Ones of Islamic
history, divinely sent to fill the earth with
justice, who died in I I 30 (or I I 2 8) and whose
grave at Tinmal in the Atlas mountains was
now a holy place.
Briefly, this reformed doctrine demanded
two things: in belief, a purely spiritual conception of Allah; in conduct, a literal acceptance
of Koranic teaching. In the first place every
anthropomorphic element must be swept out of
religion ;secondly, Muhammadan law must be
based on nothing but the actual statements of
the Koran and the words and deeds of the
Prophet Muhammad as transmitted by authentic
Tradition. “ Reasoning,” said the Mahdi, “ can
have no place in the divine Law.” The name of
the sect wasGZ-Muwahhidun, i.e. the Unitarians,
or in its Spanish form, AZmohades. Any Muslims
who rejected its puritan principles were destined
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for hell-fire and must be helped thither at every
opportunity by the swords of the faithful; indeed, in the eyes of the Almohads, the spiritual
condition of such heretics was just as hopeless
as that of the Christians, who had by this time
succeeded, to the vexation of Islam, in restoring
their sway over much the larger part of the
Spanish peninsula. The first three centuries of
Muslim rule in Spain had been distinguished
on the whole by a high level of culture and
religious tolerance unparalleled anywhere in
contemporary Christendom. But these later invasions from Africa, first by the Almoravids and
then by the Almohads, established a regime of
Berber fanaticism, the brunt of which fell
cruelly on the non-Muslim inhabitants and
compelled many of them to fIee for refuge into
Northern Spain and Provence.
In view of this ruthless theology which the
Caliph publicly enforced, it is somewhat of a
surprise to discover that his private delight was
philosophical speculation and the society of
thinkers far removed from orthodoxy. But of
this we have abundant evidence. I n his scheme
of life speculation and practical politics appear
to have dwelt severely separate. It was one thing
to preside, as he often did, over the discussions
of the intelligentsia in Marrakush and Seville,
but quite another to discharge his office as Com7 -
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I N T R O D U C T I O N
mander of the Believers. For preserving the