Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 40: My Spanish Visits
Spain is probably the only country in the world that has witnessed 700 years of Islamic rule with splendor. The Islamic Quranic teachings and treasures profited not only the Muslim Spain but also the rest of the whole world during this golden age. The Muslims entered Spain when the Spanish were suffering from tyranny and despotism. At that time, the whole of Europe was in a pathetic state.
Once a Muslim King of Spain despatched a General to assess for conquest some European countries, particularly England. After touring up and down the country, he gathered information relative to military needs and submitted a report to the King. The General in his report said:
“In my view England can be conquered in a matter of days but what use will such a victory be when the general population live like animals, where, due to swamps, quagmires and dust the economy is in a miserable state.“
Thereafter the Spanish King abandoned any idea of conquering England.
Since education was then confined to the clergy and the hermits, these two classes were amongst the rich. At that time, in Europe, the majority of the agricultural property was in the ownership of the Church. The public suffered from extreme poverty.
The moral condition of the European Kings was worse than that of animals. It was such intolerable state of affairs that attracted the attention of the Muslims towards Spain. When the Muslims attacked Spain it was being ruled by a tyrant named ‘Roderick’ and the general population was tired of his mismanagement and tyranny. In other words, lava was simmering within. Count Julian, an influential General, was the then Governor of Sabetha. Having had enough of the atrocities, he contacted Moosa bin Naseer, the ruler of Morocco and requested him to rescue the poor people of Spain from the tyrannical rule of Roderick. After having secured permission from the Caliph and after having studied in detail the report of a delegation that he sent to Spain to verify the account presented by General Julian, he commissioned a freed slave named ‘Tariq Bin Zyad’ to attack Spain.
In the month of July in 701 (Hijri 92) Tariq landed at the Spanish coast. After a bloody battle, he inflicted heavy losses on the opponents. King Roderick vanished and no one knew if he had been swallowed by the earth or had been drowned in the sea.
Such were the conditions in the early days of the Muslim entry into Spain. Then, not only in Spain but in the whole of Europe the Muslims spread the light of the Quranic teachings far and wide The Spanish soil was barren, infertile and sandy, where no fruit trees other than olives grew, where ignorance and poverty prevailed and where the general public had no idea what their rights were. Within a few centuries after the country was taken into the guardianship of the Muslims, it became the centre of education, information, skills, Sciences, technology, poetry and literature. Under the Muslim rule, Spain surpassed all other countries in Europe. The Muslim engineers introduced a system of irrigation that resulted in plentiful production of food grains. Stable economic conditions were established that were badly needed by the whole of Europe.
Unfortunately, towards the end of their rule the Muslims set aside the Holy Quran. In the middle Ages the Muslim scholars themselves blemished the beautiful features of Islam with their customs, their innovations and their tendency to associate others with God. The Islamic sun began to decline all over Spain. Mutual quarrels and promiscuity crossed the threshold of the palaces. Having lost any meaningful and real contact with the Faith the Muslim scholars became greedy and as a result, a well established government of over 800 years suddenly collapsed and ended in ruins. In a state of utter helplessness, the Muslims left Spain. After their departure, the Christian rulers engaged in Barbarianism to a degree, which had no equal. They either destroyed or turned into Christian Churches all the beautiful and grand Mosques. Even the gardens and canals so meticulously made laid out by the Muslims just vanished from the face of the earth. On certain days, hundreds of thousands of Muslims were massacred. Stringing tiny little Muslim children on their lances, they demonstrated their Bohemianism.
Surely, in the heart of every Muslim child these legends have been giving rise to aspirations to see Spain and examine the remains of a Majestic era. I too had such ambitions since my childhood and my dream was fulfilled in 1960 when in the company of Sahibzada Mirza Mubarak Ahmad, Wakeel ut Tabsheer, I saw the outdated Muslim splendor.
I was privileged to accompany Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III to visit Spain for the second time in 1970. How fortunate was this humble person to be given an opportunity to once again visit Spain, which could provide a new life to the historic and spiritual memories. Through his benevolence, Huzoor included me in his entourage.
In June 1970 the Spanish soil was restored to spiritual life with greater glory than in the past. After nearly four centuries the sterile soil of Spain once again witnessed the advent of a spring.
On 25th June, Huzoor, along with his entourage left London for Spain by air. In this historic journey, apart from Hadhrat Begum Sahiba, the following accompanied Huzoor:
Sahibzada Mirza Mubarak Ahmad, Ch. Zahur Ahmad Bajwa, Ch. Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Saleem Nasir and this humble servant (B.A. Rafiq). It was a flight that lasted about two hours. Huzoor became somewhat restive as we approached Madrid. When the Madrid Airport came into view, he turned back and said:
“I can hear the tramp of the hooves of Tariq’s horses. Can you also hear them?”
In an agonizing manner, Huzoor repeated this question two or three times. I was ready to testify that a sagacious saint, who outshone Tariq is about to bless the Spanish soil. Tariq landed in Spain with the might of his swords. Later on, again by the use of a sword the majesty and grandeur of the Muslims in Spain was blown to smithereens. Now a victorious General of Islam and Ahmadiyyat, who has memorised the whole of the Holy Quran, carrying messages of peace and love was landing on the same soil. This entry of the Muslims into Spain will, God willing, is permanent and everlasting. Now Ahmadiyyat will bring about a spiritual revolution in Spain. Since this victory will not be achieved through the use of force but through prayers, messages of love and peace it will last for ever. Inshallah.
My sentiments and thoughts had created turbulence in my very being. I was proud at being so fortunate as to be included in the vanguard of the spiritual army that would triumph over Spain. A country where for centuries past Muslims had spread Quranic teachings that had made the land lush; the land where later on the Muslims faced devastation in a state of utter helplessness. Once again an era had just dawned through which, it is destined that the Islamic spiritual triumphs will begin. When we were about to land at the Madrid Airport, I was drenched in such thoughts. Through my spiritual eyes, I could see hundreds of angels, all standing in rows waiting to welcome my master. I felt as if, in the spiritual world, this blessed day is being celebrated with pomp and ceremony.
When Huzoor disembarked from the aeroplane Moulvi Karam Ilahi Zafar, our Missionary in Spain, along with his family, was there to welcome him. We moved to a Hotel in Madrid where we stayed for two days. Arrangements were made for our travel to the Andalusia Province by road. We left for Cordoba on the 27th June. During the Islamic rule of all the towns in Spain Cordoba was a gem. It was truly worthy of being described as the ‘Wedding of the Land’. A sturdy wall surrounded the town. The whole town had well laid out wide roads. Its citizens adorned themselves by wearing robes and decorations of knowledge. Thousands of students attended the Cordoba Islamic University. Students all over Europe and Asia considered it a great honour to be admitted to this academy. There were any numbers of scholars. The great Ibn Rushd also lived in Cordoba.
The Royal Palaces built on the pattern of Islamic architecture further enhanced the magnetism of the town. The town was spread over an area of ten miles. The Muslim Caliphs had decorated the town with rare trees and bushes brought from all over the world. In order to supply water to the gardens, with great effort, some hills around Cordoba were cut so that the canals could carry plentiful clean and pure water. It was because of this water that Cordoba became a ‘garden town’. It was in Cordoba where to remember his native land Abd ur Rahman, the first Monarch of the Umayyad dynasty planted a date tree brought from Damascus. That was the very first date tree planted in Spain. Abd ur Rahman was a literary person and also a poet of a high order. Through this tree, he had sentimentally linked Spain with his native land. Perhaps he kept on gazing at the tree for hours.
The gardens of Cordoba were famous all over the world. These gardens not only had fragrant flowers of different colors and hues but also all kinds of fruit bearing trees that provided shade and portrayed a semblance of the heavens. In the gardens in Europe, the early Arab settlers were the very first to arrange trees and bushes in rows. The art of landscaping of gardens was in fact a creation of the Muslims. Along with their keenness on physical beauty, they possessed incisive eyes with which they could scrutinize the spiritual objects.
Cordoba accommodated many beautiful Mosques. The Jamia Mosque of Cordoba was the greatest of them all and was adorned with beautiful features. In 784 A.D. Amir Abd ur Rahman started work on this Mosque and after his demise his son completed the structure in 793. This Mosque is a rare example of Islamic architecture. After these two Kings, some others Kings tried to further beautify and extend the Mosque. One of them had all the floors laid with marble; one of them had all the pillars gilded; one of them added very tall minarets and one of them provided arrangements for ablution and showers. To comprehend the extent of the Mosque it may be mentioned that there are 1,293 pillars and for illumination 400 chandeliers were provided. The niche and the pulpit were decorated with the very best timber and ivory. To complete this task 36,000 ivory tusks and a large quantity of expensive timber were used.
From Madrid to Cordoba
Along with his entourage, Huzoor left Madrid for Cordoba on 27th June. The whole route was dry and barren. Here and there one could see orchards of grapes and olives. Judging from the houses and cafes alongside the road it appeared that the region was impoverished. We made two or three stops on the way and reached Cordoba in the evening. In its splendor the modern day Cordoba is not even 1,000th part of the Cordoba during the Islamic regime. At one time, it had no equal in the whole of Europe and today it consists of dilapidated buildings. We stayed at the Melia Hotel. The next day We went to visit the famous Cordoba Mosque.
As Huzoor entered the Mosque a Professor, who taught in one of the Cordoba colleges, being deeply influenced by the Huzoor’s countenance, approached him, shook his hand and with great deference offered to show him round the Mosque. Huzoor went inside the Mosque guided by the Professor and in the archway, in spite of centuries having passed, saw verses of the Holy Quran written in gold. ‘Ayat ul Kursi’ was easily legible. Inside the archway, to prevent people entering, an iron fence had been fixed. Without being asked, a guard opened the door and invited Huzoor to enter the archway. All those who accompanied Huzoor also followed him. They were all bursting with emotion. Standing in the archway Huzoor raised his hands and prayed. That was an historic moment indeed. Photographs were taken. A part of the Mosque had been transformed into a Church. Huzoor said
“After all, why did the Christians not convert the whole of the Mosque into a Church. There was nothing to stop them. The reason appears to be that the Christians feared that if the whole of the Mosque became a Church how they could fill it with worshippers. In a way, it was an admission of the lack of confidence. After all, the Muslims had made the Mosque as vast as they felt that the Muslim worshippers would fill it.”
At any one time the Mosque could accommodate 30,000 worshippers. That is perhaps the biggest Covered Mosque in the whole world.
Departure for Granada
The following morning we were to leave for Granada and Huzoor decided that after leaving the hotel we should make a stop at the Mosque and Al Qasr. At one time Al Qasr was the residence of the Muslim Governor of Cordoba. Even now, the beautiful fountains, gardens, shaded trees and rows can be seen in the same condition as they were during the Muslim regime. The trees and the flowers undergo a change but the pattern remains the same. Bearing in mind the local climate and the peculiarities of the soil an attempt was made to grow the same flowers as those planted by the Muslims.
In the afternoon, we left for Granada. The surface of the road was good but due to the absence of shady trees along the road, the heat of the sun became unbearable. Granada is situated at the foot of the hills and the journey from Cordoba to Granada was pleasant as the entire route passed through fertile hills. There were plenty of olive orchards and here and there, one could also see grape vines. As the road passed through an undulating region, occasionally driving on the hills was somewhat hazardous. Alongside the road, one could see signs showing the names of the villages. We noticed that the name of some villages began with ‘Al’ for example ‘Al Kala’, Al Kaza’. The term ‘Al’ is derived from Arabic. Other differences, which we noticed was that the Andulucian people, compared with people from other regions, were taller, healthier and the colour of their hair and eyes was darker. The reason for this seems to lie in the fact that they also had Arab blood in their veins.
Alongside the road there were plenty of cafes and restaurants. Because of the heat, soft drinks were being consumed in plenty.
We reached Granada in the evening and Huzoor stayed in the Granada Palace Hotel situated in a part of Alhambra. This hotel has been built on the top of a hill. Therefore charming Granada can be seen clearly. In Granada, my thoughts went back five centuries when it portrayed a beautiful specimen of Islamic culture and civilization. Due to the presence of a large number of scholars and poets, most towns had become centers of learning. There were thousands of beautiful Mosques and baths. It was from Granada that the last Muslim ruler, Abu Abdullah was exiled. Alhambra is the heart of Granada, which had assumed great fame. A great distinction of this Palace is that here, there and everywhere the words ‘La Ghalib Illa Allah’ have been engraved. In whichever direction you look, you can see these words.
It is related that when Ameer Abd ur Rahman went to see the Palace, he paused at the entrance for a few minutes and then suddenly returned to the palace from which he came. A little later, the courtiers approached the King and enquired as to why he did not pass through the gate of the Palace. The King said:
“When I reached the entrance to the Palace, influenced by its vastness, its beauty, its architecture and the tastefully laid out gardens, for a moment arrogant feelings touched me. At that moment, I said to me; ‘Oh Abd ur Rahman, display of your importance is shirk. My heart shuddered and I came back without seeing the Palace. I was determined not to return to the Palace until here there and everywhere there is evidence of the dominance of the Almighty so that the thought of pride and arrogance do not enter my mind."
Only after these words had been engraved did the King move into the Palace. So much has been written about the splendour and architecture of Al Hambra that perhaps no other building has had so much written about it. Every part of the Palace is worth seeing. However, the ‘Court of Lion’ is a rare specimen of the Muslim Expertise.
The next day Huzoor went to see Alhambra. Chaudhry Muhammad Ali took note of the Quranic verses and other Arabic inscriptions and Huzoor took a number of photographs.
Huzoor stayed in Granada for two days. Early one morning Huzoor said that during the previous night when he was enabled to pray for the resurgence of Islam in Spain he received the revelation in Arabic which clearly pointed out that at the appointed time Islam would once again be dominant in Spain and that, Inshallah, that would come to pass through Ahmadiyyat.
Move to Toledo and Madrid
After staying in Granada for two days, Huzoor moved towards Toledo and Madrid. Toledo was the capital of Spain when Tariq invaded Spain. Even after Tariq’s conquest, Toledo continued to be the capital of the country. Later on, during the Muslim rule the capital was moved to Cordoba and then to Granada. Toledo is situated on top of a bare and desolate hill. At a lower level, a river flows around the town, which provides security like a trench. Even now, in spite of desolation three Mosques still exist. One small Mosque had been privileged as according the historic records Tariq bin Zyad offered his first Salaat in it. In the current era, in accordance with the Divine Plan, Nasir e Deen, Khalifa tul Masih III also offered a prayer there.
Close to the Mosque, there is a huge gate. When Huzoor passed through the gate he met a University Professor who told him that during the Islamic rule that particular gate was reserved for the exclusive use of the Khalifa. It was destined that Huzoor would one day passed through the same gate as if he was inaugurating the second phase of Islam in Spain. Toledo is a small town, to see the Mosques that are now under the charge of the National Trust very many tourists visit it. The Trust ensures that they are cleaned and are properly looked after.
In 2002 my son Mahmood Ahmad invited Salima and me to accompany him on a tour of Andulucia.We travelled to Malaga, from where we rented a car and travelled to Cordoba and Granada. We also visited the Ahmadiyya Mosque and Mission house in Cordoba.