A Fatwa Given to Muslims in Spain during the Inquisition

“[A] Legal Responsum (fatwa) for the Moriscos, 1504. This response was written by a religious scholar in Algeria in the 16th century in order to help the Moriscos who were living in Spain during the Inquisition. The jurist’s name was Ahmad ibn Bu Juma`ah al-Maghrawi al Wahrani. The fatwa was probably directed specifically towards the Moriscos living in Granada, because the Muslims living in Valencia and Aragon still enjoyed mudejar status at this time and were not subjected to conversion until the mid 1520s. Al-Wahrani advises the Moriscos in ways to maintain the spirit of their Islamic faith while changing the outward rituals so that they would not be detected as being Muslim by the forces of the Inquisition.”

Ed: The full text of the fatwa below.

Praise be to God and blessings and peace be on our Master Muhammad, his family, and his Companions.

After sending greetings to you from the writer [of this responsum], the most humble of God s worshipers and the one most in need of His mercy and bounty, Ubayd Allah Ahmad ibn Bu Jum`ah of Maghrawa, then of al-Wahran, may God grant his Grace and Protection to us all, asking you, out of your loyalty in your exile, to pray assiduously for a good outcome and escape from the terrors of this World, and to be gathered with the pious believers whom God has blessed, entreating you to hold fast to the religion of Islam, and to ordering those of your children who have reached maturity to abide by it, unless you fear that evil may befall you should they inform your enemy of your inner convictions. Blessed are those in exile, who are upright while those around them are corrupt. The person who remembers God among those who ignore Him is like a living person among the dead.

Know that idols are merely cut wood and hard stone that can neither harm nor benefit and that all things belong to God. God did not take a son, and there was never any other god along with Him. So worship Him and endure in order to worship him. You should pray, even if by a gesture, and you should give alms, even if you pretend it is a gift to one of your poor or an act of ostentation, because God does not look upon your outward forms, but upon your hearts. You should wash away pollutions, even by swimming in rivers. If you are prevented, you may make up at night the prayer belonging to the day.

If, at the time of prayer, they force you to prostrate yourself to idols, or to attend their prayers, then make firm your intention, and intend your legally required prayer. Face the idol which they face, while focusing on God, even if it is not in the direction of the qibla, for the obligation to pray in this direction is dropped with respect to you, as in the prayer of fear, which is performed in battle. If they force you to drink wine, then drink it, but without considering it permitted. If they force pork upon you, then eat it while rejecting it with your hearts, holding to the belief that it is forbidden. Behave similarly if they force some other forbidden act upon you. If they marry their daughters to you, then this is permissible, because they are among the People of Scripture. If they force you to marry your daughter to them, then believe that this is forbidden were it not for their coercion. All the while, you should reject this with your hearts, and were you to dint power, you would change it. Similarly, if they force you to engage in usury or other forbidden acts, then do it while rejecting it with your hearts. Then, take only your capital and give the rest away as alms, if you are sincerely devoted to God.

Whatever is difficult for you, send a message concerning it to us and we will guide you, God willing, according to that concerning which you write. I ask God to turn the wheel of fortune to Islam s favor, so that you may worship God in the open, by the power of God, without trials or tribulations, indeed through the victory of the noble Turks. We will witness on your behalf in front of God that you believed in God and accepted Him, and that it was my duty to respond to you. Peace be upon you all. On the date of the first of Rajab of the year 910 [December 8, 1504], may God recognize its goodness. May this message reach those in exile, God willing.

[Translated by Devin Stewart, Arabic text in Leonard Patrick Harvey, Crypto- Islam in Sixteenth-century Spain, in Actas: Primer congreso de estudios arabes e islamicos (Madrid, 1964): 163-183.]

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