The Almoravids, who had taken over control of Granada in 1090, conducted periodic offensives in the Peninsula from their political base in North Africa, notably under their most successful leader, Yūsuf b. Tashfīn. In his fourth incursion into the Peninsula, in 1099, he set in motion campaigns for the assault on Valencia. After the Christians had abandoned Valencia in May 1102, the amīr Mazdalī took a force north and raided the city of Barcelona, destroying the churches there and razing the belfries to the ground. The bells were brought back to Valencia where they were converted into lamps, and hung in the great mosque.5 Whilst at his base in Granada, Yūsuf ordered the destruction of the church that stood by the Elvira gate of the city. This policy of destruction of specifically Christian buildings, in contrast to the observance of the dhimma status that had mainly marked the attitudes of Muslims towards non-Muslims in al-Andalus hitherto, was as unexpected as it was unwelcome. A natural response to religious persecution is the hardening of resolve of those persecuted. The situation concerning the nonMuslim community in Granada is, I believe, rather more complex. If there was a prominent Christian presence, then one would perhaps have expected a steady sequence of references to it since the collapse of the Ṭā’ifa kingdom in the 1080s. This does not seem to have been the case. One is led, therefore, to conjecture that either those practising Christians who maintained their faith must have kept an exceptionally low profile, or that they were so few as not to have made an impact. As the hostile measures intensified, it is quite conceivable that more inhabitants may have declared their adherence to Christianity. In the terminology used by Arab writers to denominate non-Muslims, the distinction between Christians
and those who were beneficiaries of the pact persisted. The former, as has been noted, were called naṣārā, and the latter mu‛āhidūn, those to whom the terms of a treaty applied. This was a religiously neutral term. In the history of the Almoravids written by As-Sayrafī of Granada who was the kātib (secretary) of the governor, Abū Bakr b. ‛Alī, 1126-38 AD, and which is therefore a contemporary account, one can see a sensitivity towards this distinction. The author singles out a major nonMuslim political figure in Granada at the beginning of the twelfth century, one Ibn al-Qallas who is described as mu‛āhid, a practice followed by Ibn ‛Idhārī and Ibn al-Khaṭīb. This description was not due to the fact that he was a Christian, which he may or may not have been. Ibn al-Qallas was, according to As-Sayrafī, the leader of the community of rūm, Romans or Greeks, but in this context, designating the indigenous population of the Peninsula. These rūm ‘tilled their land, lived in their villages and were presided over by ashaykh min ahl adīnihim [old (or venerable) men of their religion]’.6 These sheikhs were, in effect, the headmen of the district, responsible for their subjects, and they acted as a link between them and the Muslim governors of the province. No mention is made of priests or bishops, and I think that Ibn al-Qallas had a secular role in determining the well-being of the non-Muslim communities over a wide area. There is no indication that they were rebellious, nor that they were oppressed. Guided by their leaders, they would have been well versed in their obligations as possessors of the status of mu’āhidūn. Until the advent of the Almoravids, they had, in Andrew Handler’s words ‘led a peaceful, inconspicuous coexistence with few exceptions’.7 They were farmers and agriculturists in the rural areas, artisans and traders in the city, both far removed from military or governmental circles.