Abul Wahid Ismail, Sultan of Granada
In the 1300s, the future did not appear to be bright for Muslim Spain. The once magnificence of a vast, richly prosperous, industrialised, responsible and united Caliphate had been extinguished some six generations before.
The many historic monuments, landmarks, grand mosques, public buildings, libraries, universities and anything with even a vestige of Islamic influence or creation had vanished under a storm of total annihilation of Islamic heritage by Christian liberating armies.
Strategic cities fell one after the other in the last century, as did individual small kingdoms that arose in the vacuum following the collapse of a strong central executive government.
Spain was a ghost of its former self, severely shrunk in size and squeezed in between several hostile neighbours, all of whom were Christian, and wished to see an end to any semblance of Islam in the Peninsula.
Unlike earlier centuries, no strong overseas empire appeared on the horizon to resurrect Islam in Spain and offer Iberian Muslims a new beginning and second chance to revive their lost prestige.
Something had changed however, but not to the favour of Muslims. The two strongest States in Spain, Castile and Aragon, had set aside their personal differences and agreed to eliminate Granada, one of the last footholds of Islam left in Europe. By 1390, it would be the last Muslim State in Spain.
The two Christian monarchs, Ferdinand IV of Castile and James II of Aragon, began with the siege of Algeciras and Almeria, but were forced to withdraw without any immediate or lasting results.
Shortly after the siege, a palace revolution brought Abul Wahid Ismail to power. Although, each ruler was actually a king in behaviour and tastes, the state recognised itself as a Caliphate.
It is said, the Christians sowed dissention following their embarrassing defeat among the ruling classes and misunderstandings between them led to the eventual overthrow of the Caliph. A strong caliphate meant more losses, a weak caliphate however presented opportunities.
Nevertheless, once on the throne, Abul Wahid Ismail, proved to be a capable, efficient and outstanding ruler. During his reign, science made advances under his personal patronage, clocks came into existence and several public buildings were inaugurated.
The emergence of a strong leader gave rise to the possibility of striking fear into the hearts of the Christians. The Christians had normally taken the initiative and usually with devastating results.
In 1319, five years into his reign, this time allied with the Marinid Empire in Morocco; a Muslim dominion that sometimes had close relations with Granada, the Muslims attacked first.
The Christians suffered a crushing defeat; losses were too many to count, but the reality of losing to a tiny state and even that a Muslim nation could not be realised or accepted.
Another confrontation was not too far away and this time, the Christians would not be as easily humbled. Preparations were made for the final assault on erasing Islam permanently from the Iberian Peninsula.
The Battle of Sierra D’ Elvira 1325
Two hundred thousand Christians under twenty-five different rulers from within Spain and even across Europe assembled on the plains of Sierra D’Elvira, near Granada.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Batardah of Castile, the assault was to be carried into the boundaries of Granada. Nothing short of complete encirclement and capitulation was acceptable.
Bishops and clergy prayed for the final obliteration of Islam from Spain through this battle and an archbishop personally blessed each and every one of the twenty-five different rulers prior to the battle.
On the other side, the Muslims had few men at arms and even less weaponry. What they did have was Abul Wahid Ismail and his unreserved conviction in the delivery of Divine assistance.
Before the battle commenced, Caliph Abul Wahid Ismail prayed to Allah for victory and then instructed General Al-Ghazat to lead a vanguard of five hundred men to meet the Christians.
The order seemed strange, even senseless and almost certainly suicidal to modern (Non Muslim) analysts, but the loyal general complied. An army of two hundred thousand was to face just five hundred Muslims in battle. An amazing spectacle indeed.
The scene of the encounter was just outside the state’s boundaries; hence the Christians would surely reach the very gates of the city by nightfall, provided they won the battle earlier that is.
The five hundred Muslims, mostly lightly clad and dressed in simple military uniform in comparison to the Christians, then marched outside the city and all gathered in close proximity to their Christian adversaries ahead of them. What went through their minds as they saw the magnitude of their heavily armed opponents before them, only Allah knows?
The Christians must have seemed shocked to see so few of their enemies on the frontline on the other side of them. To them it was relishing to believe the battle could so easily be won and perhaps in a space of a few hours, maybe even less.
The dream of finishing the chapter of Islam in Spain must have come a step closer, especially as even superior military might and the best of strategists couldn’t help the Muslims now.
General Al-Ghazat assembled and organised the soldiers according to the orders given to him and then made final preparations for the battle ahead. It was to be a momentous occasion for both the Cross and the Crescent.
As the battle went under way, both forces threw themselves into the thick of the storm and proceeded to win early domination. In the first phase of the battle, the Christians seemed to have the edge as they smashed through the first few lines of defence.
It was however, at this stage another legion of soldiers appeared, a fresh regiment of troops hidden close to the scene of the skirmish. This army of men was a little larger; approximately five thousand in number, and it was led by the Caliph, Abul Wahid Ismail himself.
The secrecy of its existence, exact time of appearance in the battle and location had remained hidden even from many of the soldiers already engaged in the battle itself. The emergence of the new force sealed the result of the encounter and turned the tables in the Muslims favour. The battle was nothing short of a rout.
One hundred thousand Christians were slain, while a further seven thousand were taken prisoner. Among those killed included the Commander in chief of the Christians along with his twenty-five guards and his son was one of those captured.
In comparison, Muslim fatalities were relatively light and perhaps surprisingly so in some ways when judging how large the armies of their enemies were that day. Despite the initial successes of the Christians in the first phase of the battle, only thirteen Muslims in total were killed.
The battle was among the greatest of its kind, a truly historic encounter with dynamic proportions given the size of both forces and reflects the inner confidence, skill and responsible management of the victors involved.
The victory further demonstrates the power of Du’a, certainty, assurance and passion in invoking and requesting Allah’s Guidance and possessing knowledge it is incumbent upon Him to help the believers.
Five thousand five hundred men defeating two hundred thousand in any battle, modern or historical, seems tremendously ridiculous, unimaginable and unattainable in military terms, irrespective of losses incurred by the winning side (and even more ludicrous given that only thirteen Muslims died) almost to the point of pure fantasy taken from the latest science fiction novels, but it is perfectly understandable in a spiritual sense.
The knowledge of assistance of Almighty Allah to all who ask of Him and meet the criterion for His help shows the depth-ness of sincerity and self-appraisal we all want and need.