When Christians couldn’t read nor write

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THE Moors were people who lived in Morocco. 

That’s the reason they called it that. 

The word ‘moor’ meant black. 

It meant black people. 

In ancient times all Africans were called Ethiopians or Kushites. And, in the Middle Ages, the Africans were called Moon·

The word ‘moor’ literally means black, so the Moorish people were the black people. 

In medieval times, the name Moor was not restricted to the inhabitants of Morocco, but it was customary to refer to all Africans as Moors. 

The highly ambiguous word ‘negro’ had not yet been invented. This word ‘negro’ came up when the slave-trade came in. 

In other words, you have a lot of little fish floating around in the ocean. 

They’re little fish and they have various names. 

But if you put them in cans they all become sardines. 

So when they put the blackman in slavery, he became a negro. We know from the contemporary records which have come down to us from the era of medieval Moorish supremacy that the Moors did not consider themselves as whitemen. 

The Moors in North Africa were converted to Islam during the 7th Century. 

An army of 12 000 Africans was recruited and placed under the leadership of the Moorish general, Tarik. 

Tarif was an officer in Tarik’s army. 

He led the first expedition to Spain to find out what the Moors had to face. 

The army landed at a place later named Tarifa in honour of Tarif. He set up a Custom house there. 

He found out that they had no serious opposition to face in Spain. Tarif and his small detachment plundered Algericas and other towns and returned to Africa with their boats loaded with spoils. 

There was a kingdom of the Visigoths — the western Goths. 

There was a Greek governor in a place called Ceuta on the African coast. 

The story is that Count Julian (the Greek governor) sent his daughter on a vacation to visit King Roderick and he raped his daughter. 

Julian persuaded the Moors to invade Spain because he said it was unprotected. 

All they had to do was walk in and take it. 

General Tarik and his army landed on an isthmus between an escapement, then called Mons Calpe, and the continent of Europe. After that, Mons Calpe was renamed Gebel Tarik – The Hill of Tarik – or, as we now call it, Gibraltar. Tarik’s African army captured a number of Spanish towns near Gibraltar, among them, Heraclea. 

Then he advanced northward into Andalusia. 

The Visigothic King, Roderick, learned of the invasion and raised an immense army for the defence  of Spain. 

The two opposing armies met in battle near Xeres not far from the Gaudalete River.

After overruning most of the Iberian Peninsula, the Moors pushed on through to France, where they were repulsed with heavy losses at Poitiers by the Franks under Charles Martel – the grandfather of Charlemagne. 

After his significant setback, they retired into Spain and there laid the foundations of a new civilisation. 

The country was immeasurably enriched by their labours. 

They, for instance, introduced the silk industry into Spain. 

In the field of agriculture, they were highly-skilled and introduced rice, sugarcane, dates, ginger, cotton, lemons and strawberries into the country.

The Spanish city of Cordova, in the 10th Century, was very much like a modern city. 

Its streets were well paved and there were raised sidewalks for pedestrians. 

At night, one could walk for 10 miles by the light of lamps, flanked by an uninterpreted extent of buildings. 

This was hundreds of years before there was a paved street in Paris, France, or a street lamp in London, England. 

The population of Cordova was over a million. 

There were 200 000 homes, 800 public schools and many colleges  and universities. 

Cordova possessed 10 000 palaces of the wealthy, besides many royal palaces, surrounded by beautiful gardens. 

There were even 5 000 mills in Cordova at a time when there was not even one in the rest of Europe. 

There were also 900 public baths, besides a large number of private ones, at a time when the rest of Europe considered bathing as extremely sinful, and to be avoided as much as possible. Cordova was also graced by a system of over 4 000 public markets. 

The Great Mosque of Cordova, another grand structure, had a scarlet and gold roof, with 1 000 columns of porphyry and marble. It was lit by more than 200 silver chandeliers, containing more than 1 000 silver lamps burning perfumed oil.

The marvellous cities of Toledo, Seville and Granada were rivals of Cordova in respect to grandeur and magnificence. 

According to De Fontenelle: “The Moors of Granada, a small black people, burned by the sun, full of wit and fire, always in love, writing verse, fond of music, arranging festivals, dances and tournaments every day.” 

Education was universal in Moorish Spain, being given to the most humble, while in Christian Europe, 99 percent of the people were illiterate, and even kings could neither read nor write. 

You had Moorish women who were doctors and lawyers and professors. 

Jewish scholars studied under the Moors and then went to England and set up a scientific school at what later came to be Oxford University. 

The Moors furnished the knowledge and the Jews collected it. 

The Jews were intermediaries. 

The Moors and Christians were fighting each other and the Jews formed a bridge between them. 

The Omayyad Dynasty survived in Spain until 1031, but it was obviously in a state of decline by the year 1000. 

Abd-er-Rahman III, one of the greatest of the Moorish monarchs, reigned for 50 years (911-961), and both stabilised and expanded the territories of his dominions. 

The Moors were a very tolerant people. 

The Moorish rulers lived in sumptuous palaces, while the monarchs of Germany, France, and England dwelt in big barns, with no windows and no chimneys and with only a hole in the roof for the exit of smoke. 

In the year 1048, the Emir Yahia of Morocco visited Mecca. 

Here he met a religious reformer, Ibn Yasin, whom he persuaded to return home with him to teach his doctrines to the Moors. 

Ibn Yasin, with a few followers, set his headquarters on an island in the Senegal River in West Africa. 

The new movement proved to be popular and the leader named his disciples Morabites (Champions of the Faith), which in time was changed to Almoravides. 

A crusade was urged by Ibn Yasin, the purpose of which was to maintain the truth, to repress injustice and to abolish all taxes not based on law. 

The leadership of the Almoravides, which started in Upper Senegal, was assumed by the Emir Yahia. 

After consolidating his position in south-western Morocco, Yahia died in 1056 and was succeeded by his brother, Abu Bekr, who led his armies to further victories. 

Abu Bekr retired to southern Morocco and turned over the northern part of the country to his cousin, Yusuf Tachefin, who soon became the master of north-west Africa.

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