The Appointment of Don John of Austria and The Death of Ibn Ummaya:

By July 1569, King Philip II of Spain was hearing reports that the jihad was growing and not shrinking in spite of the large number of troops committed to the combat efforts and the appointment of Don John, (the King’s half brother), as the overall commander of all operations to quell the ‘insurgency.’ A Ministerial inquiry was held in September 1569, and the Marquess of Mondejar was questioned about the sincerity of his efforts to root out the Muslim threat. Some ministers in Philip’s court even went as far as to suggest that the Marquess’s “…dispatches to the King…had grossly exaggerated the number of Moors [Muslims] that his troops had killed, (ibid, 168).” Ibn Ummaya’s forces stood at a healthy 7000 Garnatan Muslims, about 500 Turks and Maghribi’s, (if you will, the ‘foreign’ mujahideen), and about seventy cavalrymen, (ibid, 170). The local mujahideen included those called by Spanish writers such as Deigo Hurtado de Mendoza, ‘Monfees,’ which in Arabic means exiled or outlawed. These ‘outlaws’ were people that had fled to the mountains to escape the oppression of the Christian forces and their attempts at forcefully converting Muslims. They formed communities in the mountains to practice their faith openly and organize the societies upon Islam. The Messenger of Allāh (صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم) said:

عن أبي سعيد الخذريِّ رضي الله عنه؛ أنّ رجلا أتي النبيّ (ص)، فقال: أيّ النّاس أفضل؟ فقال:

رجل يجاهد في سبيل الله بماله و نفسه

قال: ثمّ من؟ قال:

مؤمن في شعب من الشّعاب؛ يعبد الله ربّه، ويدع النّاس من شرّه 1

“Abu Sa’id Al Khudri narrated: A Man asked about the Prophet (صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم): ‘Who is the best of people?’ The Prophet (صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم), replied: ‘A believer who fights in the Cause of Allāh with his life and property.’ He [the man] asked: ‘Who is next?’ He replied: ‘A believer who stays in one of the mountain paths worshipping Allāh and keeping people secure from his mischief

Their chief occupation reportedly was, (other than farming), ‘banditry’ against Christians. However, they were by no means ‘criminals,’(as portrayed by the Spanish), as what they did in the midst of Dar al Harb is completely legal and justified in the Sharia. They conducted raids against the Christian trade routes and in Christian villages to obtain spoils, (knowing full well that frontal strikes against the Spanish army were not realistic due to their few numbers). In other words, they were the ‘Islamic terrorists’ of their time. However, we must put the above number in perspective, as 7600 men is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of troops possessed by the Spanish Army, which was by now becoming a global superpower. Thus, here they were, 7600 mujahideen in the mountains giving nightmares to a global superpower!

Ibn Ummaya had managed to stave off  the more than 10,000 man combined Spanish army and decided to move on Adra and siege it. When that was not successful, he moved onto the town of Berja where they tried to siege the city by destroying the city walls with their two cannons. Unsuccessful in that endeavor as well, they decided to destroy the lands under the Marquess de Velez by destroying its water works and gardens. When that was accomplished, Ibn Ummaya turned the army towards Andarash. Here comes the strange part of this account of Ibn Ummaya and here I can only rely on the report of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. In Andarash, Ibn Ummaya settled down and ruled as if the war was over. Apparently, even his own commanders were baffled and the people began voicing their criticisms of him. Then his most senior commanders started leaving him due to his rash decision making, and they were Commander(s) Nacoz of Garnata, Malik of Basta, Giron of Al Munakkab, Garral of Velez, Moxaxar of the Almeria valley and Ibn Mequenun. Even Ibn Ummaya’s most senior commander Faraj Ibn Faraj, left him. The voices of discontent got louder and the loudest of them were the Turkish contingent of mujahideen who complained of the Ibn Ummaya’s incompetent leadership. His apparent incompetency was costing him the loyalty of his troops. In response, Ibn Ummaya had elected Abdullah Ibn Abu, (a cousin of his), as the general of his forces and, essentially, as his deputy as well. Ibn Abu was intelligent, well spoken, widely respected and an experienced fighter. He also claimed to be of Ummayad lineage, (ibid, 176).

In spite of problems with his troops and their lack of trust in him, he sent his Turkish contingent towards the village of Albunuelas in the Lecrin valley. The plan was to send them towards the village without telling them the final objective of the mission. Only at the last moment, by way of a courier carrying orders, would they know the objective, (as to avoid spys detecting orders). Thus, 400 Turkish and 200 Berber mujahids carrying Arquebuses set out from Andarash with captain(s) Husseini and Caravaji. They had marched approximately 40 km and reached Cadiar when a messenger arrived delivering a message from Ibn Ummaya for the men to turn and march approximatly 30 km northeast all the way to Ferreira over the mountains, (and in effect abandon the mission):



This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. A rumour, (albeit false), was rife in Andarash about Ibn Ummaya that he was secretly in negotiation with the Spanish, (as his predecessor, Abu Abdullah had been almost 80 years ago). This from a people that had been oppressed for more than fifty years under Spanish tyranny, with no help appearing from Muslim countries, (and the rulers of past were traitors and collaborators, i.e. Abu Abdullah of Garnata). It has to be assumed, that the people assumed the worst from Ibn Ummaya and were in no mood to be betrayed once more and go back to slavery to the Christians, (that is to assume that Ibn Ummaya was a traitor, which is clearly untrue). This was followed by the last chapter in the sad, but strange story of Ibn Ummaya.

Two of the primary sources for this section on the Al Bushra jihad, Marmol and Mendoza, spoke of reports from the Muslims that Ibn Ummaya had become tyrannical and corrupt. Admittedly, these Christian authors embellished their accounts with obvious falsehoods, however the corruption allegation rings true for a number of reasons:

  1. His sudden ending of hostilities against the Spanish and putting down arms during a war.
  2. The question that logically follows that is “how can you trust the words of the kuffaar?” My answer: you don’t have to. You just have to look at the history in that it is proven that Ibn Ummaya was chosen as the Emir of the Muslims in Al Bushra and by October 1569 he was no longer the Emir, (presumably killed). He was replaced by Ibn Abu who we will talk about later
  3. Correspondence between Ibn Abu and the Uthmanis was cordial, (as can be see in the reply to the Uthmani khalifa Salim II by Ibn Abu in Febuary of 1570 in Appendix X). The Uthmanis in their correspondence recognized him as the sultan/emir, (thus indicating their approval). Presumably the Uthmanis having sent men from the province of Algiers had intelligence of the workings of the jihad and its leadership in Al Bushra, (and subsequently the death and replacement of Ibn Ummaya). Why would they support or even tolerate a ruler, (i.e. Ibn Abu), that they thought was treacherous and/or had traits that would defame Uthmani participation in the jihad over the previous ruler, (Ibn Ummaya)?
  4. So, if we were to add these factors together, it would indicate that the Uthmanis, at the very least, went along with the assassination of Ibn Ummaya, if not supported it, (for the valid reason that he was not fit to lead due to his ineptitude and corruption).

It is not unheard of, that great mujahideen or pious and ascetic leaders of the Muslims have engaged in an about face due to a variety of reasons. We spoke earlier of the leaders of the Afghan Jihad and their assisting the Americans after the Raids of Manhattan and Washington, (save a few such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and more recently Gulbuddin Hekmatyaar). Corruption is a temptation that every human is prone to and sometimes in a moment of weakness of iman, Shaytan is able to plant this disease in the minds of righteous people. It might have been that Ibn Ummaya felt that victory was impossible now that the Uthmanis were saying in a ‘diplomatic’ fashion that they would not be able to help the Muslims of Al Bushra after initially promising them adequate aid to fight the Spanish, (see Appendix W). In fact the Uthmani Khalifa, Salim II wrote in a letter to Ibn Ummaya in January 1569:

“It has reached our majesty that the disbelievers, May Allāh destroy them and lead them astray, have disarmed you and prevented you from speaking Arabic and they rape your women, and they inflict all types of injustice and wrongdoings upon you… We have learnt that you have received some weapons from Algiers and that made your hearts firm so you managed to cause them many losses.  So praise be to Allāh for giving victory to the Muslims and may Allāh ordain for them permanent success against the disbelievers and May He lead them astray.  All the written and spoken news [about you] came in detail to our majesty.  All the news which is related to your situation is surrounded in my noble and royal knowledge and my concerns always revolve around you.”

However, he concludes by ‘diplomatically’ stating:

“Additionally, we expect on relying on your Islamic enthusiasm, deep-rooted in your land, never tiring from showing your jealousy of this lasting religion [Islam], so make apparent [to the Spanish] your many abilities and grievances in the war against the humiliated disbelievers. And it is hoped from the scholars, reformers and the Muslims not to refrain from supplications day and night for the conquest to be made easy and for victory in the triumphant ghazwa and don’t slacken in informing us continuously about the situation of that land.”

In other words, they meant “we urge everyone to supplicate for you and really hope you win, but we can’t help you, (the best we can do is to tell the governer of Algiers to send you token help). However, do keep us informed of developments.” In light of the breaking of the Uthmani promise, perhaps Ibn Ummaya felt there was no point in fighting and thus, essentially, put down his arms and started busying himself with worldly affairs, and perhaps at this point the greed and corruption set in and Allāh knows best.

A dispute reportedly arose between a close confidante of Ibn Ummaya, Diego Alguacil, and himself over Deigo’s second wife. It is reported that Ibn Ummaya was taken by her beauty and wanted to take her as his concubine, (or possession of the right hand), instead of marrying her, (in spite of her being a Muslim and hailing from a good family). Ibn Ummaya ordered him to divorce her and give her to him. As a result, Diego, reportedly fearing for his life, fled from Andarash to the mountains where we he encounted more rebels that were opposed to Ibn Ummaya. A few days later, his second wife, who is reported to be in Ibn Ummaya’s possession sent a message to him that Ibn Ummaya had sent out the Turkish and Berber mujahideen towards the Lecrin Valley under the command of Ibn Abu, (as was mentioned previously). She also mentioned the king’s secret intent on joining the troops himself with his own detachment of troops for the mission. After receiving this message, Diego lay in wait for Ibn Ummaya’s messenger, (who was to deliver the orders for troops to divert to a secondary location). Diego captured the messenger, interrogated him and killed him after taking Ibn Ummaya’s letter from him. Fortunately for Diego, his nephew had deserted from Ibn Ummaya prior to Deigo and he had been a secretary for Ibn Ummaya, (which meant he knew Ibn Ummaya’s seal and signature). Both nephew and uncle teamed up together to destroy the real letter and forge a second one which ordered Ibn Abu:

  1. March his Turkish and Maghribi troops to Mecine de Bomabaron, (5 km North East of Cadiar), where he finds troops from the district and another company of troops under the command of Deigo Alguacil
  2. Once his troops were asleep, Ibn Abu was ordered in the letter to kill them all with the help of the troops from Mecine de Bombaron, (perhaps Deigo was exploting friction between the local mujahideen from Al Bushra and the foreign mujahideen from the Maghrib and Turkey, if there were any in reality).[2]
  3. Finally, the letter orders that Ibn Abu should kill Deigo Alguacil, (which is a clever move on Deigo’s part as it takes suspicion away from him as he himself was meant to be a target according to the forged letter).

Diego and his nephew finished concocting the letter, then sent it to Ibn Abu, (who was in Cadiar at the time), by way of one of Deigo’s trusted men. When Ibn Abu received it, he was understandably shocked by its contents and he and his staff discussed its implications before discussing it with their Turkish captains, Nabil, Ali Al Rais, Muhammad Al Rais and Hassan. In addition, Deigo also showed up claiming that he had received an indentical letter to kill Ibn Abu. One of the many things that was perhaps discussed is that these mujahideen especially, (the Magrhibi’s and Turks), had come so far to aid the Muslims and to make the word of Allāh the uppermost, and now the king intended to deal with them in such a treacherous way? Finally, Ibn Abu discussed the issue with Husseini and Caravaji, (the Turkish captains). Deigo then produced a packet of Hasheesh which he claimed he was ordered by Ibn Ummaya to give to all the mujahideen to make them go into deep sleep, (and thus making it easier to kill them).Therein, these fabrications were made to appear as the truth, Ibn Abu, the Turkish captains and Deigo joined up together in a plot to dethrone Ibn Ummaya. At this meeting it was also resolved that Ibn Abu should be the new Emir, (ibid, 179). They joined up their troops and headed towards Andarash stealthily. The guards of the town let them in since they were familiar faces. The troops proceeded to Ibn Ummayas palace, and therein they seized him and took him out of his palace in the presence of Ibn Ummaya’s ministers. The strange part of this account, (which might be further proof of my hypothesis), that he had 24 bodyguards, 400 soldiers that served as his personal troops about 1600 troops from Andarash that were loyal to him and not one of them came to his aid or resisted his captors, (ibid, 180). Without trial and minimal questioning, Ibn Ummaya was hung then next day on October 20, 1569, wherein Ibn Abu was then the official Emir of the Muslims in Al Bushra.

Even if this account is completely fabricated, we must reflect on the role of Deigo Alguacil in all this. We, in the Muslim ummah, have many Deigo Alguacils amongst us and many are ready, when they are even slightly wronged, to let their emotions rule them and to fight the Emir. They forget Allāh (سبحانه و تعلى) saying:

وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُم أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَاناً وَكُنتُمْ عَلَى شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُمْ مِّنْهَا كَذلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allāh, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allāh’s favor on you, for you were enemies of one another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His grace, you became brethren, and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allāh makes His Ayat clear to you, that you may be guided[3]

And in Sahih Muslim regarding this Ayah, Abu Hurayra (رضي الله عنه) said that the Messenger of Allāh (صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم) said:

إِنَّ اللهَ يَرْضَى لَكُمْ ثَلَاثًا، وَيَسْخَطُ لَكُمْ ثَلَاثًا: يَرْضَى لَكُمْ أَنْ تَعْبُدُوهُ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا، وَأَنْ تَعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا،وَأَنْ تَنَاصَحُوا مَنْ وَلَّاهُ اللهُ أَمْرَكُمْ. وَيَسْخَطُ لَكُمْ ثَلَاثًا: قِيلَ وَقَالَ، وَكَثْرَةَ السُّؤَالِ، وَإِضَاعَةَ الْمَال

It pleases Allāh for you to acquire three qualities and displeases Him that you acquire three characteristics. It pleases Him that you worship Him Alone and not associate anything or anyone with Him in worship, that you hold on to the Rope of Allāh altogether and do not divide, and that you advise whoever Allāh appoints as your Leader. The three that displease Him are that you say, `It was said,’ and, `So-and-so said,’ asking many unnecessary questions and wasting money.[4]

Lets not confuse this with the issue of rightful rebellion against the ruler for his repeated violation of the Shariah after repeated warnings and

  1. His ruling by other than the shariah,
  2. Advocating for kufr law
  3. and/or fighting against Muslims and
  4. Taking the kuffaar as his awliya.

Ibn Ummaya’s case is slightly murky due to the lack of reliable facts to formulate a ruling with, and the fact that he was the rightful ruler selected by the shura and did prosecute the jihad, and did implement the shariah and did not impose non shariah taxes. Anyone attempting to make this an analogy to House of Saud or the rulers of the ‘Islamic’ Republic of Pakistan, (those who neither rule by Allāh’s law, nor conduct jihad fee sabilAllāh, nor get rid of non shariah taxes while allying with the kuffaar), would indeed be making a perverse analogy.

[1] Sahih Bukhari, Hadith #: 2786

[2] As silly and unreal as it would seem, this has happened in the recent past, but to name a few instances, we could start with the Afghan jihad where the friction between arabs and afghans was palpable. Many of the Arab youth that came couldn’t come to grips with the shirk practices of some afghans, (shrines, tawassul etc.). The youths were quick to denounce them, and the Afghans, (a proud people), in return would then become angered and felt alienated. This was described by Shaykh Abu Musab Al Suri in ‘Muslims in Central Asia and The Coming Battle of Islam,’ when he said,

“The enemy realized this weakness…and lit the spark to start the fire for disagreement between Muslims of the people of Central Asia…and their brothers, especially Arabs, under the pretext of disagreement between the doctrines and beliefs of ‘Wahhabism.’ They applied this tag [of Wahabbis] to all Arab Mujahideen, and unfortunately, many of the ignorant practices of many Arab Mujahideen themselves only invite such attempts at division…(Suri, 31).”

In Bosnia to a lesser degree, and more so in Kosova, the mujahideen arrived in these lands not taking into the account the cultural background of these lands and found themselves aghast at the strange and sometime obviously unIslamic practices of the Muslims of these lands. It seems that none of them appreciated the truly nationalistic nature of the Kosovo war. In fact in Kosova, the KLA, Kosovo Liberation Army, wasn’t too fond of the ‘foreigners’ who were seen as a nuisance and repeatedly the KLA and the local intelligence services would block access to foreign mujahideen into Kosova to fight the Serbian occupiers!  Tim Judah, an American author investigating the war in kosova, asked the UN and the KLA about the foreign mujahideen: “Asked about a number of ostentatiously Muslim recruits seen on the ferry whom UN sources said they had too seen but who then disappeared and were never seen again, Zharku [Shabir Zharku was in charge of foreign recruits for the KLA] said that the KLA wanted no help from Islamic fundamentalists.

‘They came to offer their help but we declined. Once you accept you have to play their game and were not interested in that…this is not a religious struggle.’ In the event, and despite dire predictions, fundamentalists and indeed religion as a whole did not play a role in the war, (Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge, 175).”

To underline this, Abu Hamza (A’amaad Al Husseyni), the president of the Organization for the Ansar [foreign mujahideen that came to aid the Muslims in Bosnia] and former mujahid in Bosnia, described the cluelessness of the Bosnians regarding the foreign mujahideen at 6:59 in ‘Kataiba Al Motaardeen’ an Al Jazeera documenteary about the foreign mujahideen in Bosnia:

“The Bosnians with a strange face, asked us: ‘why did you come here? Don’t you know you will be killed? You left your land [and things of this sort to come here]…’ they did not have the clear religious understanding as to why we [the foreign mujahideen] came here [Bosnia] and we tried to correct them on this matter and explaining to them but to no avail, because at the time, some Bosnians were spending money to leave Bosnia [and not arriving and staying as the mujahideen did]!”

[3] Surah al Imran, Verse 103

[4] Sahih Muslim


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