The legacy of the famous Al-Qalalusi still endures

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Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 March 2024 Saturday 03:28
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The legacy of the famous Al-Qalalusi still endures

* The author is part of the community of readers of La Vanguardia

It is not strange that the legacy and very existence of the scholars who once populated this land fade with the passing of the centuries. Nor is the effort of researchers to return them to the collective memory of citizens unrelated.

I remember the words of the municipal archivist of Estepona, Alfredo Galán, regarding one of them. His impulse led to the personal discovery of the life and work of what could be considered the first poet of Estepona and his land: Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Idris b. Malik b. 'Abd al-Wahid b. 'Abd al-Malik b. Muhammad b. Sa'id b.' Abd al-Wahid b. Ahmad b. Yusuf al-Quda'i, known as al-Qalalusi.

The learned al-Qalalusi would be born, according to the chronicles of Ibn al-Qadi, in the year 1210 AD, in Zãhir Istabûna, on the outskirts of Estepona. An expert in the Arabic language, in meter and rhymes, astronomy and history, he composed wonderful works in these subjects.

He would study in Granada, with important teachers of the time and would also participate in the cultural life of Fez and Marrakech, through his letters and teachings, questioning a possible trip to Fez at a very advanced age. Showing great interest in Islamic law, religion and the division of inheritances, he would dedicate part of his literary production to inheritances, as well as to Istibuna and its benefits, being a prolific writer and thinker.

We have news of all this through the work carried out by Jorge Lirola Delgado and José Miguel Puerta Vílchez, commissioned by the Ibn Tufayl Foundation for Arab Studies, which edited a seven-volume collection since 2004, containing extensive knowledge about wise men and scholars. of Al-Andalus, called the Library of Al-Andalus.

Al-Qalalusi, who could have taken this name as a pseudonym, in reference to the fortress or tower called Calaluz, signaling its connection with an area in Sierra Bermeja, appears in the essay of the 19th century Arabist, Francisco Pons y Boigues, as El Kallosi (Arabic-Spanish historians and geographers. Madrid, 1898).

According to Pons, he was an illustrious writer, who in addition to the works of his production, accumulated a very rich library that he would bequeath to an academy or scientific institution in Malaga after his death, which he attributes to 1307, caused by a plague epidemic that broke out in the Iberian Peninsula. .

The Encyclopedia of Al-Andalus, by Lirola Delgado (2004), questions Pons' sources, as well as his reference to the plague and guarantees, having Ibn Jatib as a source, that the death of the wise man al-Qalalusi occurred in his native Estepona, to which he dedicated the work The Hidden Pearl, about the excellences of Istabuna (of which no copy survives), in 1308.

Virgilio Martínez Enamorado, prestigious medievalist from the University of Málaga, approaches the poet in El fin de Al-Ándalus en la Serranía de Ronda (Editorial La Serranía, 2007); a study of the phenomena that led to the Mudejar revolt in the Serranía de Ronda and the El Havaral region, in Alto Genal (Málaga), which he coordinates together with José Antonio Castillo Rodríguez (University of Seville).

Martínez Enamorado relates the geographical place name of Calaluz with the nickname al-Qalalusi, highlighting his role as "notable" among the people of Estepona, being able to take this nisba (Arabic adjective that indicates origin, belonging or affiliation) from his ancestors. In the search for the place that Calaluz would refer to, Enamorado points out the area of ​​Cerro del Canalizo, in the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, as well as possible towns in its surroundings, making Calaluz an administrative division within the region or, On the contrary, a region in itself.

In the vicinity of this enclave, the battle or battle of Calaluz would have taken place, the only one in which the Mudejars would triumph and in which Alonso de Aguilar (1447-1501), brother of the Great Captain, would lose his life in the context of the Mudejar revolt in the mountains of Ronda (1499-1501).

The hypothesis of the location of Calaluz originally proposed by Professor Martínez Enamorado differs from that presented by the archaeologists Ildefonso Navarro Luengo and José María Tomassetti Guerra, as well as by Professor José Suárez Padilla (UMA) and the researcher Javier Martos Martín, who place the place of Calaluz on a hill called Los Realillos, Real Chico, del Castellón or Calalui, where the remains of a tower or fortification applicable to the mythical location are located, between the municipalities of Estepona and Casares.

The situation of Calaluz in Los Realillos would gain strength from the superficial survey of the site carried out by José María Tomassetti in 2010, which would add information following the discovery of elements of material culture, attributable by dating to the 9th and 10th centuries AD. C. (Navarro Luengo, I., Suárez Padilla, J. and Martos Martín, J.: Sierra Bermeja. A vision from the Archeology and traditional uses of the mountain. Takurunna no. 6-7, 2016-2017, p.p. 147 -166).

Regardless of the location of the Calaluz fortification and the aforementioned battle, al-Qalalusi would live two centuries after that Mudejar uprising at the beginning of the 16th century, although not free of wars.

In the year 1275 AD. C., the sultan of the Merinids, Abu Yusuf Yaqub, would land in Tarifa and take, after forming an alliance with the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, the Granada territories south of the Christian border, set near the squares of Vejer de la Frontera , Alcalá de los Gazules and Ronda (the first two in Christian hands) and even the medina of Marballa (Marbella).

The surrender of the cities of Tarifa, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Castellar, Jimena, Casares, Gaucín, Ronda, Marbella and Estepona, as well as their domains and farmsteads, would take place within the scope of the war against Alfonso the Andalusian possessions (Torremocha Silva, A.: El Puerto Bahía de Algeciras, 3000 years of history: centenary of the La Galera and Villanueva docks -1913-2013-. UNED, 2013, p.p. 100-103).

The Marinid issue should not be taken lightly. The great port city of Malaga would join their cause between 1278 and 1280, when it would return to the hands of the Nasrid sultan of Granada, Muhammad II. However, al-Qalalusi's Estepona would remain loyal to the Merinites, as researcher Teo Rojo points out in his History of Estepona, volume I (Ayuntamiento de Estepona, 2005). The medina of Istibuna would become a border territory, between the struggles of the Merinids and the Nasrids, to dominate the peninsular surface that they still retained.

We do not know if al-Qalalusi was in the city of Istibuna in June 1292, at which time Muhammad II of Granada, after its siege, took the town from the hands of the Marinids and settled there to begin new campaigns towards the west. We do know of the good relations of our scholar with the academic circles of Fez, Marrakech, Malaga and Granada, prominent centers in the scientific field on both shores of the Strait of Gibraltar, which would give him a notable reputation in the Islamic world and before any political faction of this.

Abu Bakar Ibn Idris al-Qalalusi would die in Estepona, around 1308, months before the troops of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán (Guzmán the Good), unsuccessfully attacked the medina, which resisted the attack of the Castilians, causing the defenders 3,000 casualties. Christians, and Guzmán the Good himself may have been among the fallen (September 1309).

In the Royal Library of the Monastery of El Escorial, we can consult part of the literary creations of al-Qalalusi, preserved in the manuscripts Arab 288 and Arab 330. Among its pages is a complete work on ink: its production, coloring and treatment .

In 2022, the researcher and artist, born in Beirut and living in London, Joumana Medlej, transcribed into modern Arabic, translated into English and edited the work Tuhaf al-Khawas (al-Qalalusi, 13th century), holding a digital exhibition at the which reproduced the colors of the ink, according to al-Qalalusi's instructions, pointing out that the author is the only one known (from the Islamic world) who describes the technique for obtaining the litmus color, which we perceive as violet blue.

And al-Qalalusi continues to surprise and teach us more than 700 years after having lived on the Mediterranean shores that we live today, at the foot of the Sierra Bermeja, reaching new students from places like Estepona, Beirut or London with his teachings. .