A Morisco’s Appeal To The Ottoman Sultan

In Europe, the late 15th and early 16 centuries were periods of great political upheaval. On one hand, the Ottoman Empire was gaining momentum and it would soon emerge as the biggest force of its times, whereas on the other hand, al-Andalus (present-day Spain) was reeling and on the verge of collapse.

Under Islam, Spain came to be known as a land of progress and widespread development. However, infighting among the Muslim states of al-Andalus and several other factors led to the collapse of the social and political structure of the entire region. In 1492 CE, the last Muslim state of the region, the Emirate of Granada, fell to the Catholic Union of Castile and Aragon. The Muslim inhabitants of the land were given three choices: convert, depart or perish. 

By 1502, Catholicism was the official religion of the land, and all other faiths, most notably Islam, were abolished. In the midst of such religious oppression, in the year 1502, an anonymous Andalusian poet wrote a heart-warming appeal for help, addressed to the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II.

Given below is an excerpt from the English translation of that poem. The poet remains unknown till date.

A Morisco’s Appeal To The Ottoman Sultan

So when our cavalry and foot soldiers had perished and we observed that no rescue was forthcoming from our brethren,

And when our victuals had diminished and our lot had become hard indeed, we complied, against our will, with their demands, out of fear of disgrace,

And fearing for our sons and daughters, lest they be taken captive or cruelly slaughtered,

On the condition that we were to remain like the Mudejars (Andalusian Muslims) before us, namely the inhabitants of the old territory,

And that we were to be allowed to remain in enjoyment (of the right) to call to prayer and (to celebrate) our ritual oration, while we were not (to be required) to abandon any of the prescriptions of the Religious Law;

And that whosoever among us desired (to cross) the sea was to (be allowed to) do so in safety, to the land of the (African) coast with all the property he wished,

As well as many other stipulations, surpassing fifty by the number of five.

Then their Sultan (Fernando of Aragón) and grandee said to us: “What you have stipulated is granted to you in more than its entirety,”

Showing us documents containing a pact and a treaty, saying to us: “This is my amnesty and my protection (over you),

So remain in enjoyment of your possessions and homes as you were before, unharmed.”

Yet when we came under their treaty of protection, their treachery towards us become apparent for (he) broke the agreement.

He broke the compacts he had deceived us with and converted us to Christianity by force, with harshness and severity,

Burning the books we had and mixing them with dung or with filth,

Though each book was on the subject of our religion. Yet they were cast into the fire with scorn and derision,

Nor did they spare a single volume belonging to any Muslim, or any tome which one could read in solitude.

Whosoever fasted or prayed and his state came to be known, was in every instance cast into the fire,

And whosoever of us failed to go to their place of unbelief, him did the priest severely punish,

Slapping him on both cheeks, confiscating his property, and imprisoning him in a wretched state.

Moreover, during Ramadan, they spoiled our fast time after time with food and drink,

And they ordered us to curse our Prophet and to refrain from invoking Allah in times of ease and hardship.

They even overheard a group chanting his name, and they later suffered a grievous injury at their hands,

For their judges and governors punished them with beatings, fines, imprisonment, and humiliation.

Whosoever lay dying, and did not have in attendance one who could preach (their religion to him), in their deceit, they would refuse to bury him,

Instead he was left lying prostrate on a dung heap like a dead donkey or animal.

(They committed) many other similar, shameful deeds, as well as numerous wicked acts.

Our names were changed and given a new form with neither our consent nor our desire.

Therefore, alas for the exchanging of Muhammad’s religion for that of the dogs, the worst of creatures!

Alas for our names when they were exchanged for those of ignorant non-Muslims!

Alas for our sons and daughters who go off every morning to a priest

Who teaches them unbelief, idolatry, and falsehood while they are entirely unable to circumvent (the Christians) by any trick!

Alas for those masjids that have been walled up to become dung heaps for the infidel after having enjoyed ritual purity!

Alas for those minarets in which the bells have been hung in place of the Muslim declaration of faith!

Alas for those towns and their beauty! Through unbelief they have grown very dark!

They have become strongholds for the worshippers of the Cross, and in them the latter are safe against the occurring of raids.

We have become slaves; not captives who may be ransomed, nor even Muslims who pronounce their declaration of faith!

Hence, were your eyes to see what has become of our lot, they would overflow with abundant tears.

So alas! Alas for us! Alas for the misfortune that struck us, namely harm, sorrow, and the robe of oppression!


“Morisco Appeal to the Ottoman Sultan”; Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources. Ed. Olivia Constable. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2012.

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Sufyan bin Uzayr

Founder-editor of Muslim Memo. :)

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