Reflections on a Journey: Andalucia Day 3 & 4

by britishmisk

We decided to spend our third day in Granada touring the Christian sites of the city. We began by visiting the Monastery of San Jeronimo which was close to our hostel. For those who have an interest in Gothic Christian architecture it is a magnificent building with immense ornate decoration. However as my companion pointed out it is a stark contrast to Islamic architecture. Many medieval catholic buildings are dark, solemn places, a place of worship that rather seeks to focus on the suffering of Christ instead of the ornate beauty of God. So you have very little natural lighting, hard pews, idols of all kinds, usually of Christ suffering, towards which people can direct their prayers. Compare this to the Mosque of Granada we visited the day before; Wide windows with natural light, shining white marble, a single point of direction of prayer towards a Single God, no man made imagery, but rather natural calligraphic lines and patterns. A place you can feel the presence of God in, whereas when I enter a Church, I don’t get that feeling, everything is very “man-made”, from the images adorning the walls, to the Saint Paul inspired theology being taught.

From there we went to the Cathedral of Granada. Here the style is still quite Gothic, but it was quite different from the Monastery. White marble and natural light filled the vast space. The icon depicting King Ferdinand on his horse standing on a Moorish soldier was an interesting sight(!). Adjacent to the Cathedral is La Capilla Real, the burial place of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. I refused to visit it. I did not want to pay entry, and therefore contribute to an over exaggerate tomb of those who stepped on the remaining embers of what was once one of the greatest civilizations of the world. Though apparently it is the best example of Christian art and architecture in Andalucia, that wasn’t enough for me to change my mind.

After that we had pretty much seen what there was to see in Granada. Something to keep in mind of you do go, you could pretty much see what there is to see in about two days. From the cathedral we returned to the Masjid to pray Zuhr. We wandered around Albayzin and Granada for the rest of the day and made preparations to go to Cordoba the following morning.

We took a bus in the morning for Cordoba. At the bus station I was surprised to meet a group of backpackers from Pakistan. The only time my people ever decide to come to Europe is to work, so I was happy to see young Pakistanis as tourists exploring world culture, it made a change from the norm! The journey took three hours, and traveled along many side country roads and avoided the motorway. So as a result expect a lot of twisting and turning, something to keep in mind of you get travel sick easily. The scenery is magnificent however, endless groves of olive trees can be seen the entire way. The bus stops briefly at a small place called Baen, the olive oil heartland of Andalucia. But if you do decide to stop there, keep in mind, it’s a pretty quiet town that doesn’t really have much going on. Arriving at our hostel, we made our way to the Mezquita-Cathedral, the former Grand Mosque of Cordoba.

As like all Muslim cities, and the Albayzin area, Cordoba is no exception when it comes to winding streets in which it is very easy to get lost in. When you set out to search for the Mezquita, despite its immense size you will not see it until you reach it, that gives you an idea of how closely packed the streets are.

Entry to the Masjid is €8. Whenever I have read about Muslims visiting the Masjid, they have always been told by the staff at the ticket office not to pray in the Masjid, and once they enter they will get followed by the security staff to make sure they don’t. Thankfully this wasn’t the case for us (Despite the fact we were both brown and had beards). If you have a long beard or have sister who wears hijab traveling with you this is something to keep in mind.

Despite the number of photos you see of the Mezquita, like the pyramids, it cannot prepare you for the real thing. The number of pillars in the place are immense. Sometimes referred to as “The Forest of Pillars”, it’s not an exaggeration. Traveling past the numerous Christian icons and mini-chapels I went straight to see the Mihrab and Maksura. This was the area reserved for the Amir and his nobles, this little area of about a few square meters is one of the finest examples of Islamic art in the entire world. Words cannot describe it, so I have attached pictures:

The Cathedral built smack in the middle on the Masjid is also a decent piece of architecture, but no different to any other Grand Cathedral anywhere else. Indeed, King Carlos I who had ordered the Cathedral to built (Against the city council’s wishes) 300 years after it was conquered by the Christians, remarked on seeing the completed Cathedral: “You have built what you or others might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world.”

I will finish this post, with the words of someone else’s experience of the Masjid of Cordoba, somebody whose words I could never hope to imitate:

“The cycle of day and night [is] the engraver of events.
The cycle of day and night [is] the essence of life and death.
The cycle of day and night is a two-colored thread of silk
with which the being weaves its attire of traits.
The cycle of day and night [is] the lamentation of the musical-instrument of the origin
through which the being shows the vicissitudes of possibilities.
It tries you, it tries me;
the cycle of day and night is the examiner of the cosmos.
If you’re impure, if I’m impure
[then] it leads to your funeral procession, it leads to my funeral procession.
What else is the truth of your days and nights;
a surge of the time sans day and night.
All the marvels of the skills are transient;
the existence of world is ephemeral! The existence of world is ephemeral!

[The fate of] the beginning and the end is death, [the fate of] the unseen and apparent is death.
Be it an antiquated imprint or the latest one, its last destination is death.
Yet there exists a hue of eternity in this imprint;
the one that has been completed by some man of God.
The actions of the man of God get accelerated with [the help of] love.
The essence of life is love; death is forbidden for it.
hough the gush of the time is intense and fast
love itself is a tempest that restrains [other] tempests.
In the calendar of love, besides the contemporary age,
|there’re other ages too that don’t have names.
Love is the mainstay of Gabriel, love is the heart of Mustafa.
Love is the Messenger of God, love is the message of God.
The flower looks dazzling because of the intoxication of love.
Love is the undiluted wine, love is the wine-cup of a munificent drinker.
Love is the jurist of the Shariat, love is the commander of the army.
Love is the traveler because of which it passes through thousands of stages.

The lifeline streams out of the plectrum of love.
The radiance of life is due to love; the fire of life is because of love.

O Mosque of Cordoba! Your existence [too] is because of love.
Love is infinite time that’s beyond the cycle of transient time.
Be it painting, architecture, music poetry or calligraphy,
all these arts thrive on the intensity of love!
The intensity of love turns a stone into a heart
[and] it’s love that bestows depth of feeling, exhilaration and melody to the voice.
Your environ is charming, my songs are poignant;
you make the hearts bow before God, I make the hearts capacious.
The bosom of man isn’t inferior to the empyrean throne of God
though his body is made of earth and is mortal.
Though the angels [also] prostrate before God
but their prostration lacks poignancy.
[Though] I’m an infidel from India, behold my earnestness
[that] my heart prays benison for the Prophet, my lips do the same.

The zeal is in my tune, the zeal is in my flute;
the hymn of God is in my essence.
Your grandeur and beauty manifests the man of God;
he too is eminent and handsome, you too are eminent and handsome.
Your foundation is stable, you’ve countless pillars
[which look like] the rows of palm trees in the oasis of Syria.
The radiance of Sinai valley is spread over your nooks and corners;
this tall minaret of yours is the place of manifestation for Gabriel.
The pious Muslim can never be eliminated, for
his calls for prayers reveal the mysteries of Moses and Abraham.
His land is limitless, his sky is boundless;
the surge of his sea is spread over Tigris, Danube and Nile.
His reigns have been awe-inspiring, his tales have been extraordinary;
it was he who commanded the antiquated epoch to perish.
He’s the cupbearer to those who have taste, he’s the cavalier of the field of passion;
his wine is pure, his sword is of high trait.

He’s the soldier whose armor is [the belief in] one God;
under the shadow of swords his refuge is [the belief in] one God.

Through you the mysteries of the pious Muslim,
the warmth of his days, the poignancy of his nights,
his lofty position, his exalted thoughts,
his exhilaration, his passion, his humility, his dalliance, have been revealed.
The hand of God is the hand of the pious Muslim,
which is triumphant, effectual, resourceful [and] skillful.
[He possesses] the traits of both man and angel and the attributes of the Lord;
his heart, though carefree, is richer than the two worlds.
His expectations are few, his objectives are sublime;
his style is irresistible, his sight is captivating.
[He’s] soft while conversing, passionate while in action;
be it the battlefield or a social gathering [he’s always] pious and orderly.
His faith is the focal point of Truth
and the rest of the cosmos is illusion, sorcery and unreal.

He’s the destination of reason, he is the output of love;
he’s is the warmth of the assemblage in the circuit of cosmos.
You’re the Mecca of the designers, the apostle of the grandeur of Islam;
by virtue of you, the land of Spain has become as hallowed as that of Mecca.
If any other model, as exquisite as you, exists in this world
it is in the heart of a Muslim and nowhere else.
Alas! Those men of Truth! Those Arab cavaliers!
The possessors of ‘inspiring character’, the followers of truth and faith;
their rule has revealed this simple mystery
that the State ruled by the faithful is pro-poor, not monarchical;
their insights have trained the East and the West;
their reasoning was the guiding force in the darkness of Europe.
It is because of their blood that, even today, the Spanish people
are friendly, hospitable, simple and handsome.
In this country, even now, [people’s eyes] look like those of gazelle
and, even today, the arrows of their sights are enchanting.
The aroma of Yemen, even today, is mixed in its winds;
the tunes of Hejaz, even now, are fused in its songs.
In the eyes of the faithful your land’s estimation is equal to that of sky.
Alas! Your environ has not heard the call for prayer for centuries.
In which vale, at what destination,
the strong caravan of the zealous lovers [of God] got stuck up.
Germany has witnessed the Reformation
that has erased all the imprints of antiquated faith;
because of which the piety of the Pope has become an erroneous term
and the subtle ferry of reason sailed on its course.
France too has experienced the Revolution
that has changed the world of the Westerners.
The Roman nation that has been submerged in retrogressive culture
has, once again, become powerful because of the new ideas.
The soul of the Muslim nation too is experiencing similar unrest;
what lies ahead is a mystery of God that I can’t reveal.
Wait and see what spurts out of the seabed;
the blue dome [of sky] changes to what colour.
In the vale, surrounded by the mountain range, the cloud is swallowed up by the redness;
the sun has set leaving behind the mounds of rubies from Badakhshan.
The song of the farmer’s daughter is simple and poignant;
youth is like a tempest to the vessel of heart.
O stream of Kabeer! On your bank
someone is perceiving the dream of some other age.
[Though] the coming world is still covered with the curtain of destiny,
before my eyes its beginning is uncovered.
If I remove the curtains from the face of the [future] thoughts
the Western people won’t face up to my songs.
The life that has no place for revolution is death
[for] the spirit of the nation lies in struggle and revolution.
The nation, which takes stock of its actions in each age,
develops into a sword in the hand of death.
All the imprints are incomplete in the absence of love and endeavor;
melody is like a crude insanity in the absence of love and endeavor”

“Masjid-e-Qartaba” by Muhammad Iqbal

Taken from