Moors

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This article is about the people. For other usages, see Moor (disambiguation).

The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula including present day Spain and Portugal) and the Maghreb and western Africa, whose culture is often called Moorish. The word was also used more generally in Europe to refer to anyone of African descent. The name Moors derives from the ancient tribe of the Mauri and their kingdom Mauretania.

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[edit] History

In 711, the Moors invaded Visigoth, Christian Hispania. Under their leader, an African Berber general named Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. They attempted to move northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains but were defeated by the Frank, Charles Martel, at the Battle of Tours in 732. The Moors ruled in the Iberian peninsula, except for areas in the northwest (such as Asturias, where they were stopped at the battle of Covadonga) and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees, and in North Africa for several decades. Though the number of "Moors" remained small, they gained large numbers of converts. According to Ronald Segal, author of "Islam's Black Slaves", some 5.6 million of Iberia's 7 million inhabitants were Muslim by 1200, virtually all of them native inhabitants. The Moorish state suffered civil conflict in the 750s.

The country then broke up into a number of mostly Islamic fiefdoms, which were consolidated under the Caliphate of Cordoba. Christian states based in the north and west slowly extended their power over the rest of Iberia. The Kingdom of Asturias, Navarre, Galicia, León, Portugal, Aragón, Catalonia or Marca Hispanica, and Castile started a steady process of expansion and internal consolidation during the next several centuries under the flag of Reconquista. The initial rule of the Moors in the Iberian peninsula under this Caliphate of Cordoba is generally regarded as tolerant in its acceptance of Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the same territories, though Jews were expelled in various periods and Christians relegated to 2nd class status under Muslims. The Caliphate of Córdoba collapsed in 1031 and the Islamic territory in Iberia came to be ruled by North African Moors of the Almoravid Dynasty. This second stage started an era of Moors rulers guided by orthodox Islam leaving behind the more tolerant practices of the past.

Moorish Iberia excelled in city planning; the sophistication of their cities was astonishing. According to one historian, Cordova "had 471 mosques and 300 public baths … the number of houses of the great and noble were 63,000 and 200,077 of the common people. There were … upwards of 80,000 shops. Water from the mountain was distributed through every corner and quarter of the city by means of leaden pipes into basins of different shapes, made of the purest gold, the finest silver, or plated brass as well into vast lakes, curios tanks, amazing reservoirs and fountains of Grecian marble." The houses of Cordova were air conditioned in the summer by "ingeniously arranged draughts of fresh air drawn from the garden over beds of flowers, chosen for their perfume, warmed in winter by hot air conveyed through pipes bedded in the walls." This list of impressive works includes lamp posts that lit their streets at night to grand palaces, such as the one called Azzahra with its 15,000 doors.<ref name="golden">Ivan Van Sertima, The Golden Age of the Moor (Journal of African Civilizations, Vol 11, Fall 1991), Transaction Publishers, 1991, ISBN 1-56000-581-5</ref> Without a doubt, during the height of the Caliphate of Córdoba, the city of Córdoba proper was one of the major capitals in Europe and probably the most cosmopolitan city of its time.

In 1212, a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of Alfonso VIII of Castile drove the Muslims from Central Iberia. However, the Moorish Kingdom of Granada thrived for three more centuries in the southern Iberian peninsula. This kingdom is known in modern time for architectural gems such as the Alhambra. On January 2, 1492, the leader of the last Muslim stronghold in Granada surrendered to armies of a recently united Christian Spain (after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile). The remaining Muslims were forced to leave Iberia or convert to Christianity. In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Inquisition in Spain, as one of many changes to the role of the church instituted by the monarchs. The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly -- known respectively as morranos and moriscos -- as well as at heretics who rejected Roman Catholic orthodoxy, including alumbras who practiced a kind of mysticism or spiritualism. They were an important portion of the peasants in some territories, like Aragon, Valencia or Andalusia, until their systematic expulsion in the years from 1609 to 1614. Henri Lapeyre has estimated that this affected 300,000 out of a total of 8 million inhabitants of the peninsula at the time.<ref>See History of Al-Andalus</ref>

In the meantime, the tide of Islam had rolled not just westward to Iberia, but also eastward, through India, the Malayan peninsula, and Indonesia up to Mindanao-—one of the major islands of an archipelago which the Spanish had reached during their voyages westward from the New World. By 1521, the ships of Magellan had themselves reached that island archipelago, which they named the Philippines, after Philip II of Spain. On Mindanao, the Spanish also named these kris-bearing people as Moros, or 'Moors'. This identification of Islamic people as Moros persists in the modern Spanish language spoken in Spain. See Reconquista.

[edit] Origins

The Roman Term "Maur" described the native inhabitants of North Africa west of modern Tunisia. Ancient to modern authors, as well as portraits, show them with a varity of features, just as the modern population contains. This was contrasted with other peoples described as "Aethiopes", or Ethiopians, who lived further south, and Egyptians, or "Aegyptus". As described above, they composed a variety of peoples in this region who probably had origins in the Sahara when it desiccated in the late Holocene period. Whether they were light skinned and blond hair, dark skinned, or somewhere in between, Dr. Keita has noted that this diversity was indigenous to the North African region, and not the result of foreign settlement (Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs).

Tariq ibn-Ziyad, born of a Berber chief, rose to the rank of general in the Moorish army and led an invasion to Iberia. On April 30, 711, Tarik and his forces landed on the Mediterranean coast of the peninsula with 7,000 troops. He immediately ordered the burning of the boats. This was done to assure his troops that there would either be victory or death.

[edit] Etymology

"Moor" comes from the Greek word mauros (plural mauroi), meaning "black" or "very dark", which in Latin became Mauro (plural Mauri). The Latin word for black was not mauro but niger, or fusco for “very dark”. In some but certainly not all, cases, Moors were described as fuscus. Due to the relevance of this population in the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Age, this term may have entered English —and other European languages less exposed to this group—via its Spanish cognate moro.

The derivative Maures described the peoples of North Africa in the Maghreb (west of modern Tunisia). Moors were distinguished from what the Greeks labeled "Aethiopes", or Ethiopians.[citation needed] Herodotus in his “the Histories” described two types of northern Africans: the light skinned Garamentes of northern Libya and the dark-skinned, “Trogdolyte Ethiopians” in the southern Fezzan and northeast Africa. In Frank Snowden’s book “Before Color Prejudice” the Garamentes were sometimes spoken of as “white Ethiopians”: “Melanogaetuli (black Gaetuli) and Leukaethiopes (white Ethiopians). Some Garamentes did live in the modern Fezzan of northwestern Africa and were described by Lucan as nigri (black), furvi (swarthy) and other diverse adjectives. According to the 1st century AD Roman poet Manilius, Moors represented a wide spectrum of color schemes with: Ethiopians, the darkest; Indians, less sunburned; Egyptians, mildly dark; and the Mauri, the lightest.

According to the older versions of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, during the Middle Ages and as late as the 17th Century, were described as being black, dark skinned, or swarthy in complexion. Modern texts, such as Webster's New World Dictionary, groups all moors together under the terms Arab and Berber which has caused individuals to omit the association with Africans that are racially considered "black". Considering that Berbers were a mixture of various shades of diverse nomadic groups comprised of East Africans, North Africans, West Africans and Sub-Saharan Africans the claims of racial heritage being of one specific group are at best dubious. The Arabs entered Africa initially conquering Egypt in 639 CE after conquering most of the Nile Delta. During this time slaves were taken and daughters were sold into harems as a tribute (jizya). This mixing genetically between Arab and African groups produced offspring from an already genetically diverse group of Arabs. The population in Egypt during this era consisted of Copts, Greeks, Jews (Hebrews) of various shades and Ethiopians. As the Arabs began moving across North Africa this same scenario became the norm. In the next few centuries, Egypt began taking on more Arab characteristics. An increasing number of Arabs moved into Egypt, some colonists (muhâjirûn), others (mawâlî) having lived in the bordering eastern desert for a long time. Eventually Arabic replaced Coptic and Greek as the spoken and official language of the country. The Copts also gave way to the general pressure to become Muslim, so that today only about 10% of the population are still Christian. Very many Copts became Muslim to marry a Muslim wife, for advantages in employment or business, to escape occasional persecutions or oppressive taxation and to emerge from a second-class status in the society.

Historian Wayne Chandler stated, "Although the term Moor has been put to diverse use, its roots are still traceable. Circa 46BC the Roman army entered West Africa where they encountered Africans which they called "Maures" from the Greek adjective 'mauros,' meaning dark or black." Though the word "Moor" may seem to have been meant to indicate Blacks, it in time came to be applied to Muslims in general, especially the Berbers. During the European Renaissance explorers, writers and scholars began to apply the term Moor to Blacks in general. (Information courtesy of Blacks in Antiquity by Frank Snowden, Golden Age of the Moor ed. by Ivan van Sertima, Black Brittanica by Edward Scobie and National Geographic Magazine)

In the Arab literature there is little mention of the word Moor. Rather Anthropologist Dana Reynolds contends that the Berbers emerged as the result of admixture between non-African populations who moved into the Maghrib during the second millennium BC and the more ancient African indigenous inhabitants. This would account for the variance noted among the Berbers even in ancient times. According to Roman documents, among the Berbers were the "black Gaetuli and black-skinned Asphodelodes." - (Courtesy of Dana Reynolds, Runoko Rashidi and Wayne Chandler)

St. Isidore of Seville, who was born in 560 AD and died in April 636 AD, wrote that Maurus means "black" in Greek. In the late 1400s, the Italian Roberto di San Severino in his writings clearly distinguishes between Moors and Arabs. In describing his journey to Mount Sinai, san Severino writes on the observance of the Muslim month of Ramadan, stating "Their 'Ramatana' lasts a month, and every day they fast. They neither eat nor drink until the evening, that is until the hour of the stars; and this custom is followed by the Moors as well as the Arabs."

In the eighteenth century English usage of the term, Moor began to refer specifically to African Muslims, but especially to any person who speaks one of the Hassaniya dialects. This language, in its purest form, draws heavily from the original Yemeni Arabic spoken by the Bani Hassan tribe, which invaded northwest Africa during the 16th and 17th centuries.

In Spanish usage, "Moro" (Moor) came to have an even broader usage, to mean "Muslims" in general (just as "Rumi", "from the Eastern Roman Empire", came to mean "Christian" in many Arabic dialects); thus the Moros of Mindanao in the Philippines, and the Moriscos of Granada. Moro is also used to describe all things dark as in "Moor", "moreno" and it has led to many European surnames such as "Moore", "De Muaro", and so on. The Milanese Duke Ludovico Il Moro was so-called because of his swarthy complexion.

Until the early twentieth century "Moor" was often used by Western geographers to refer to "mixed" Arab-Berber North Africans, especially of the towns, as distinct from supposedly more pure-blooded Arabs and Berbers; thus the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica defines "Moor" as "the name which, as at present used, is loosely applied to any native of Morocco, but in its stricter sense only to the townsmen of mixed descent. In this sense it is also used of the Muslim townsmen in the other Barbary states." But even then, it recognized that "the term Moors has no real ethnological value."


[edit] Human population genetics

Dr. Shomarka Keita, a biological anthropologist from Howard University, has suggested that populations in Carthage circa 200 BC and northern Algeria 1500 BCE were a very diverse lot. As a group, they plotted closest to the populations of Northern Egypt and intermediate to Northern Europeans and tropical Africans. Keita stated “ The data supported the comments from ancient authors observed by classicists: everything from “fair-skinned blonds to peoples who were dark skinned ‘Ethiopian’ or part Ethiopian in appearance.” Modern evidence showed a similar diversity among present North Africans, suggesting that migrations did not affect this area[citation needed]. Moreover, this “diversity” of phenotypes and peoples was probably due to “in situ” differentiation, not foreign influxes.

Since Homo Sapiens have lived in Africa longer than elsewhere, and given the size and different environments of the continent, it is easy to conclude that phenotype diversity there would be greater than elsewhere. Everyone from fair skinned, blue-eyed Berbers to West Africans with the stereotypical “negroid” features to East Africans of Ethiopia with “Near Eastern” features” can all be rooted to the continent itself and not to invasion. The modern differences between Egyptians, Algerians, Ethiopians, Nigerians and Sudanese exist for the same reasons it does between Chinese, Indians and Arabs: intercontinental diversification over tens of thousands of years. Albert Hourani, author of “History of the Arab Peoples” sums up the state of current knowledge: “ The expansion of the Banu Hilal and other Arab tribes (13th century), like the initial Arab conquests, does not seem to have involved sufficiently large numbers to transform the make-up of the Maghrebs population”.

[edit] Historical images

Image:Seti1a.jpg
Four peoples of the world: a Libyan, a Nubian, a Canaanite, and an Egyptian. A modern artistic rendering, based on a mural from the tomb of Seti I.
  • In portraits that go back to the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians often portrayed their surrounding cultures: Nubians, Libyans and Asiatics. The Libyans were shown with light hair and fair skin.
  • In pictures from Islamic Iberia during the 7th to 15th centuries, the Moors are portrayed , with some exceptions, looking no different than the native Iberians (distinguished only by their dress). Dark Skinned and East Africans were called “Zanj”.
  • When the Arabs arrived in North Africa during the 7th century AD, ending the Greco-Roman period, they also used various terms to describe the Berbers of this region. However, it was the area south of Egypt and the Berber-populations that was called “Bilad-al-Sudan” or “land of the blacks”, not the coastal regions.
  • There are also many pictures to be found of Berbers and Moors of obvious sub-Saharan African descent.

To draw any conclusions from these sources in their context (if that is possible) it is necessary to have experience as a historian and to have a thorough knowledge of the period and the iconographic conventions of that period. (See also: Berber people Origin and Berber people Lybyans & Numidians)

[edit] Other Moors in history

  • Estevanico, also referred to as "Stephen the Moor", explorer of what is now the southwest of the United States in the service of Spain.
  • Gildo was a Moorish chieftain who instigated a rebellion against the Roman Empire in 398.
  • Lusius Quietus was a Roman general and governor of Iudaea in 117. Originally a Moorish prince, his military ability won him the favor of Trajan, who even designated him as his successor. During the emperor's Parthian campaign, the numerous Jewish inhabitants of Babylonia revolted and were relentlessly suppressed by Quietus, who was rewarded by being appointed governor of Judea. Restlessness in Palestine caused Trajan to send his favorite, as a legate of consular rank, to Judea, where he continued his sanguinary course.
  • Saint Benedict the Moor (1526–1589) Benedict was born of African parents who were slaves on an estate near Messina, Sicily. Though of the lowest social rank, they are typically perceived as noble in heart and mind. As a baby, Benedict was freed by his master and, as a young boy, he showed such a devout and gentle disposition that he was called the "Holy Moor". While working in the fields one day, some neighbors taunted him on account of his race and parentage. His meek demeanor greatly impressed a Franciscan hermit who was passing by and who uttered the prophetic words: "You ridicule a poor Negro now; before long you will hear great things of him." Wishing to join these hermits, Benedict sold his meager belongings and gave the proceeds to the poor and then entered the community. After the death of the superior, Benedict was chosen his successor, though greatly against his will. When Pope Pius IV ordered all hermits to disband or join some Order, Benedict became a Friar Minor of the Observance at Palermo, and was made a cook. He was happy in this work since it enabled him to perform many little acts of kindness toward the others. His brethren were greatly edified by the saintly cook, especially when they saw angels at times helping him in his work. The Chapter of 1578 made him guardian, or superior, of the friary, though he protested that he was not a priest and, in fact, could neither read nor write. He was a model superior, however, and won the esteem and obedience as well as the love of his subjects. As superior, he gave free rein to his love for the poor, and no matter how openhanded he was, the food never seemed to give out. After serving as superior, he was made novice master, and to this difficult post he brought gifts that were evidently infused: he was able to instruct with an amazing knowledge of theology and to read the hearts of others. At his request, he was relieved of his office and again made cook, but he was no longer an obscure Brother, for thousands flocked to the friary, seeking cures or alms or counsel and help. He died after a brief illness, having foretold the hour of his death. His veneration has spread throughout the world, and the Negroes of North America have chosen him their patron. <ref>A Saint A Day by Berchman's Bittle, O. F. M. Cap. published by The Bruce Publishing Company, ©1958</ref>
  • St. Maurice, the Knight of the Holy Lance, is regarded as the greatest patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire. Rumored to be a Roman commander of Egyptian descent, Maurice is said to have gained sainthood after refusing to have his legion massacre a Christian uprising. Honored as early as 460, St. Maurice has had numerous artworks and structures—even a castle—dedicated to him. The existence of nearly three hundred major images of St. Maurice have been catalogued, and even today his veneration is seen within numerous cathedrals in eastern Germany.
  • Sir Morien and Sir Palamedes of Arthurian fame. Sir Gawain, whose life was saved on the battlefield by Sir Morien, is stated to have "harkened, and smiled at the knight's speech." It is noted that Morien was the fashion of his land. "Morien, who was dark of face and limb," was a great warrior, and it is said that: "His blows were so mighty; did a spear fly towards him, to harm him, it troubled him no whit, but he smote it in twain as if it were a reed; naught might endure before him." Sir Morien personified all of the finest virtues of the knights of the European Middle Ages. <ref>The English ethnologist and antiquarian scholar Gerald Massey writing in 1881 in his massive two-volume text, A Book of the Beginnings</ref>

[edit] Present-day Moors

Beside its usage in historical context Moor and Moorish (Italian and Spanish: moro, French: maure, Portuguese: mouro / moiro) is used to designate an ethnic group speaking the Hassaniya Arabic dialect, inhabiting Islamic Republic of Mauritania and parts of Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Niger and Mali.

In modern, colloquial Spanish the term "Moro" refers to any person who practices Islam, especially those born in the Maghreb or those born in Spain of Moroccan or Algerian heritage.

This usage has also been maintained in the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, where the local Muslim population in the Southern islands are called (and call themselves) "Moros" (see Muslim Filipino).

The Muslims in Sri Lanka trace their ancestry to the Arabic Moors that invaded North Africa in 640CE [citation needed]. Historically, European scholars have divided the Moors into two groups: African, and European-Arab Moors. (Arabic: البيضان, transliterated: al-bīḍānī) are nomads of Arabo-Berber origin. This represented the smallest group within the Moorish population. Moors were all one class and culture. Although darker skinned African Moors made up the majority of this group, race and ethnic division did not exist amongst Moors and there was no distinction in regards to race.[citation needed] Stanley Lane-Poole.

[edit] Moors in popular culture

  • A popular Cuban dish, consisting of white rice and black beans, is named (somewhat facetiously) "Cristianitos y Moros;" the rice representing the fair-skinned Christians, and the beans, the darker-skinned Moors.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] Bibliography

  • Jan Carew, Rape of Paradise
  • David Brion Davis, "Slavery: Black, White, Muslim, Christian"
  • Herodotus, "The Histories"
  • Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Genetic Haplotyes in North Africa"
  • Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Craniometric Data from North Africa
  • Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Further Craniometric Data from North Africa"
  • Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Bernal vs. Snowden"
  • Bernard Lewis, "The Middle East"
  • Bernard Lewis, "The Muslim Discovery of Europe"
  • Bernard Lewis, "Race and Slavery in Islam"
  • Stanley Lane-Poole, Turkey (1888) -
  • Stanley Lane-Poole, The Barbary Cosairs (1890) -
  • Stanley Lane-Poole, The History of the Moors in Spain
  • J.A. Rogers, Nature Knows no Color Line
  • Ronald Segal, "Islam's Black Slaves"*
  • Ivan Van Sertima, The Golden Age of the Moor
  • Frank Snowdon, "Before Color Prejudice"
  • Frank Snowdon, "Blacks in Antiquity"

[edit] External links

ca:Moro de:Mauren es:Moro eo:Maŭroj fr:Maures it:Mori (storia) he:מורים nl:Moren ja:ムーア人 no:Maurere nn:Maurarar pl:Maurowie pt:Mouros ro:Mauri ru:Мавры sl:Mavri sr:Маури fi:Maurit sv:Morer zh:摩尔人

Moors

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