The beginning of literature
in Aljamia language
by Alfredo Leyva Almendros
people from Al-Andalus cultivated poetry in a remarkable form, in all styles,
reaching a great degree of perfection and beauty. There was created a new style
named moaxaja. To compose it they made correspond the verses with the strophes:
the same measure and rime of the first strophe verses is reiterated in the
following ones. In those poems, charm and beauty reach their limits. Everyone
loved them in the country and the Andalusian people could recite them by heart,
because they were very easy to learn.”
these words, from the chapter dedicated to poetry of the book Introduction
to the history, Ibn Jaldún defined the poetical riches of the last remains
of the Arabic Al-Andalusian culture.
Aljamia (Alyamia) takes his roots from a very heterodox language which surged
from different wells. We could say that its origin is the Mozarabic, which is
mixed with vulgar Arab and Romance, in whose script appear Hebrew and Arab
reference we had from the Aljamian language is an anonymous treaty of botanic
from the IX century.
the first works entirely written in Aljamia are the Diwanes*: a
collection of poems about a variety of topics. They were normally odes, loads
and exaltations to the emir.
poetical modality named Moaxaja* (Wassaha) was constructed by five
strophes with a rhyming couplet at the beginning used sometimes as a refrain
and that formed a link of reference with each of the following strophes,
composed with three verses with proper rhyme, preceded by other two which
reproduced the rhyme of the initial couplet. They called the last couplet: Jarcha*,
that was the key or dénouement of the whole poem. Schematically, the rhyme would
be: AA bbbAA (AA) cccAA (AA). A curiosity of this type of composition
would be that they made reference to observations made by a woman, and that
while the majority of the poems were written by masculine hand. Others poetical
compositions written in Aljamia are the Zetel* (Zayal), and the Adab*.
long period of studies, the trove of manuscripts Mudéjar and Muslim, in the XIX
and XX centuries, informed with precision about the different Mudéjar and
Muslim languages along the geographical zones as Aragon,
Castile, Valencia and Granada. Following the studies realized in
1949, and principally from 1962 on, by Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, it is believed
that “the linguistic situation of the Spanish Muslims was not homogeneous. The
Castilian Mudéjars must have completely forgotten the Arab, because in 1462,
the major alfaqui of Segovia
had to edit in Castilian language the Suma of the principal commandments of the
Also in Aragon, the language was soon forgotten: those
who wanted their children to learn it, they sent them to Valencia, where it was still spoken
in many places. But still in those redoubts, there was not more than a few
persons those who could manage and write the literary Arab language. The Arabic
characters lasted with more vigour than the spoken language; this phenomenon
persisted and gave stability to the Aljamian literature.
written works were not important before the XV century. The lack of dates on
the manuscripts can be supplied by the situation, mostly parallel, reflected in
minutes and documents, all consequently dated.
Barceló told that the Arab language official situation in the Christian Kingdom
of Valencia, until the middle of the XVI century, when it was no more
officially recognised but was maintained until the expulsion, was “never
prohibited in the Kingdom of Valencia,
in spite the ecclesiastic authorities insisting again and again to impede the
Muslims to use it”.
Ana Labarta affirmed clearly that “the Muslim population of the Kingdom of
Valencia conserved, in the great majority, the use of the Arab language until
the day of the expulsion; so it is indicated in the contemporaneous references,
the following measures projected or undertaken by the authorities in order to eradicate
it, the fact that most of the Muslim women processed by the Inquisition of
Valencia needed an interpret, and the existence of Arabic written documents
along the whole XVI century and beginning of the XVII.”
what is told above and in a few lines, the situation of the Aljami language
would have basically the following results:
In Valencia and Granada, the Mudéjar and Muslim people were
using the Arab language in their every day life. They spoke it and used it in
all kind of written matters: public and private.
Mudéjar people of Aragon and
also maintained the utilization of Arab language for certain notarial documents
in the XII and XVI centuries; and thus, after being banished from the every day
apart the zones of Castile
the maintain of the Aljamia language is something exceptional and logic. It was
used during all the Mudéjar and Muslim period. The Mudéjars and the Muslims
also used the Romance language and the Latin characters. They used frequently the
two languages, depending of where and how; and the two alphabets too, with
similar variations, not uniformely:
language and Arab characters
Romance language and Arab characters (Aljamia)
Romance language and Latin characters
language and Latin characters.
linguistic situation of Mudéjars and Muslims influenced Juan Martínez Ruiz’
plans of investigation, because, as he says “it was thought that with the
seize of Granada,
Arab language and Muslim culture would have disappeared. But modern studies, we mention Miguel Griffin
invisible wall: Muslims and old Christians in Granada”) in an act of honour to
Peter Russel (Oxford, 198), it is remembered that until the last day of the
Muslims dwelling in Granada, the Arab was the only vivid language of a great
quantity of people, as for example the ones living in the Alpujarras”.
a list of some important Muslim poets and writers:
Principal Arab poets of Granada:
a - Ibn al-Zybayr, from Ronda (1261-1308),
cultiveted various literary styles and protected other writers. He wrote a History
of Spain that did not reach our days.
a - Ibn al-Yayyab, from Granada
(1274-1349), author of neoclassic casidas to Muslim emirs. His poems can be
read today in Generalife plaster works.
a - Ibn Luyun, from Almería (1264-1372),
wrote some rhymed proverbs and a treaty on agriculture.
a - Abu I-Barakat, from Velefique (1264-1372),
wrote the History of Almería, curiously disappeared, like the one
mentioned before. He was Ibn-al-Jatib’s teacher.
a - Ibn Jatima al-Ansari, from Almería (1323-1369),
physician and history scholar. He left us a beautiful Diwán, adorned with Word
wits, tawriyas or double sensed.
a - Ibn al-Murábi, from Málaga (¿-1349),
from whom it is conserved a diverting maqáma of the fest.
a - Lisán al-Dín Muhammad Ibn al-Jatib, from
Loja (1313-1375), disciple
of Ibn-al-Yayyab. He was a Katib’s son, and Katib was a son of Yusuf I
and Muhammad V. He alterned working as a poet and as a physician. He was also
Ibn Zamrak’s teacher. He wrote a History of Granada. His poems remain printed in the
more luxurious volume ever edited: the
Salon of Comares, in the Alhambra. He collects poemas and moaxajas for the Rayhanat al-tawsih; literary letters,
chancellor style, in rhymed prose for the Rayhanat al-Kuttab; and also maqámas.
a - Ibn Zamrak, from Granada (1333-1393),
disciple of Ibn al-Jatib. He is the author of an exquisite collection of
casidas and classic moaxajas. He has the major
epigraphic representation in La Alhambra: the fountain of lions and the Salon of
the Two Sisters (see illustration on page 000) are no
more than a little example of his talent.
a - Mohammad al Lajmí, from Granada, author
of the adab The reign of the bees.
a - Abu I-Hasan al-Nubahi, from Málaga (1313-1390)
continued the History of the judges from Cordoba by al-Jusani, in his Kitab
al-marqabq al ulya, and left us a maqáma: De la palmera (From a palm
a - Ibn Yuzai, from Granada (1321-1356)
was Ibn Batuta travel polygraph and biographer.
a - Ibn Jaldún, from Túnez (1332-1406),
descendant from Andalusians, author of some al-Muqaddimah or Prolegomenon to
an universal history.
settlements and conditions of the populations, geography, anthropology; ending with
a classification of the sciences. This
work is the first volume of his Book of the examples.
a - Ibn Asim, from Granada (1359-1426),
author of the adab Hada iq al-azhar, which includes Spanish-Arabic
a - Ibn al-Qaysi al-Basti is considered
as the last poet of Al-Andalus (Moorish Kingdom of Spain). His literary works
reflect the imminent fall of the Moorish reign in Spain.
that is told before, we could say that the Aljamia “is or could have been“ the authocthonous
language of Andalusia.
see this paper as an introduction, or preface, to what could be a major camp of
investigation, taking into account the historic, linguistic and literary
interest of such an important legacy left to us by our ancestors. Our land
culture lies on a solid base in spite of sometimes being relegate to
forgetfulness because of the super-position of other precedent cultures. It
could be a good idea to investigate on inferior stratums without which we could
not explain our actual idiosyncrasy and personality.
of this paper is to stimulate other persons more accurate than
I am in the matter, in order to bring light to
maintained, willingly and with so much craft, in the darkness, by the
(In the Spanish original version, you can see a monument to the great
Spanish-Arab philosopher, Averroes (Ibn Rusd).
This monument can be visited in Cordoba, Spain.
Averroes taught a philosophical doctrine based on Aristotle’s thought,
which provoked many controversies in European Universities.
He was born in Cordoba, in 1126; and died in Morocco, in 1198.)
ADAB. A word
whose ethical and social dimension in the Medieval epoch would have its
equivalence in the Latin word urbanitas, which means: courtesy,
urbanity, good behaviour; later on, an intellectual component defined by
the Latin word humanitas is added to it; meaning that the word adab
relies to the combination of knowledge included under the spelling of
humanities. In the Abasi epoch, its semantic area was restrained and
took the specific sense of necessary general culture to apply to
superior professions or functions (secretary, vizier, etc.). Resuming, the word
would have a different signification depending the epochs. The principal
signification would have been: rules for good social behaviour, general or
specified culture; and, in the modern time: literature properly
A series of verses, or better said, double verses with the same rhyme,
independent of the number of lines but with a uniform meter; normally with
three strophes of different extension:
The nasib, a sort of loving prelude remembering
past happiness in the camp, together with the loved person.
The rahil or description of a travel in the
The madih, panegyric; or hiya, satyr, in
which the person or tribe to whom the composition is directed, is loaded or
of poems, generally from an only author and mainly disposed in an alphabetical
Strophe of the end of a Moaxaja (Wassaha) Arab or Hebrew. The jarchas are short
songs, from two to four verses. They represent the most ancient lyrical poetry
conserved in a Romance language. His topic is love.
MOAXAJA (from the
Arab: Wassaha): Poetical composition in Arab or Hebrew language, in which there
was a strophe, taken from vulgar language, named Jarcha.
ZÉJEL (from the
Arab: Zayal): A composition with a variety of strophes, very popular in the
Moorish poetry of Andalusia. This is the
diagram: a refrain with two rhymed or loosed verses, and a series of strophes
composed with an eight syllabic mono-rhymed tercet; and another verse (return),
that retakes the rhyme of the initial refrain.
page, you have two examples: the first is a Spanish-Hebrew jarcha; and the
second, a Spanish-Arab one.
¿Qué faré yo o qué será de mibi?
non te tolgas de mibi.
(What shall I do, what shall I be?
don’t go away from me!)
Garid vos, ay yermanelas,
¿Com’ contenere meu mali?
Sin el habib no vivreyu
(Tell me, ah me! little sisters
How can I bear my pain?
I cannot live without my friend,
I shall fly to be near!)
Alfredo Leyva Almendros
Málaga: noviembre de 2002
version by Mariette Cirerol
(In the Spanish
version, an illustration representing a Spanish- Muslim ethnic type from Granada is to be seen.
Detail of a painting
from the XIV century, on the vault of the King’s Salon, in the Alhambra,