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Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 57: The Golden Age of Al Andalus, Part 3

Chapter 25 - The Golden Age of Al Andalus, Part 3 - 1753 to 1762

1753 began with a flurry of deaths and coronations all across Europe, as headstrong teenagers ascended to rule over continent-spanning empires. Beginning in the east, the scion of the Rurikid line was crowned Tsar of Smolensk after the death of his elderly father, with Pavel already looking towards westward expansion into Poland and Germany.

Further north, another ó Kildare was crowned High King of Ireland, Scotland and England. A fervent colonialist, Clemens II had his sights set on matching the worldwide empire of the Almoravids, no mean ambition.

Posing the greater danger to Al Andalus, however, was the rise of a new king in France. The fallen powerhouse of Europe had suffered through a long stretch of feeble, week-willed monarchs that had overseen the utter collapse of France, but King Aton VI finally broke that chain, with the exceptionally-gifted youngster bent on dragging his country back into prominence.

A number of disasters and wars also broke out all across the world, with the most notable in Europe being the outbreak of a bloody civil war in Austria, as pretenders and rebels rose up all across the Balkan empire, from Vienna to Kosovo.

Moving back to Iberia, however, unrest and tumult have been simmering for decades now. It seemed as though everyone in Qadis was against one another, with Sultan Ali III lambasting and criticising the Majlis to no end, the nobles blaming the Sultan for their recent decline in fortunes, the Merchants determined to oppose the Taifas by any means possible whilst the clergy detested everyone who wasn’t them.

And as sparks begin flying, it isn’t surprising to assume that conspiracies against Sultan and crown were quick to emerge.

Sultan Ali was already… fragile-minded, to say the least, and he would absolutely not stand for any dissent against his rule. Before the Sultan could confront the Majlis, however, bad news arrived from the north.

War with France.

King Aton had already proven himself single-minded and resolved, having united his vassals under his rule through pure force, and was now ready to deal with the many rivals surrounding France. Provence would come in due time, but the young king evidently saw Al Andalus as the easier target, declaring war by sending almost 70,000 soldiers pouring across the Pyrenees early in 1755.

This, as Aton no doubt hoped, only plunged Qadis into further chaos and disarray. Even weakened as it was, France was still richer than Al Andalus, and could undoubtedly field much larger armies than her southern neighbour. Sultan Ali knew he would need all the help he could get, and was quick to send envoys and messengers to Andalusia’s allies, few as they were.

Unfortunately for him, only more bad news followed, as the Archduke of Bavaria opted to decline the call-to-arms and break off his alliance with Iberia.

The Sultan and Majlis both were initially furious, but the Archduke’s reasons quickly made themselves clear over the next few weeks, as fanatic revolutionaries rose up in cities all across the grand duchy.

Ali had neither the time nor will to spare on matters outside Iberia, however, and his attention quickly turned to the war in the north. Of course, huge loans were immediately taken out from banks and merchants all across the Mediterranean, with the influx of gold used to raise a small army of mercenaries.

The Sultan worked quickly and quietly, and by the end of the year, he had managed to piece together a 40,000-strong force. He also confirmed Ismail Wannaqo as Supreme Commander of Andalusi armies, with the general beginning the march north shortly afterwards, engaging the French just as the fortress in Navarra was about to succumb.

The narrow mountain passes were running with blood before night had arrived, with the Andalusi using their terrain to slaughter tens of thousands of Frenchmen. What the Andalusi had in courage and discipline, however, they lacked in numbers - and that was not a problem the French faced.

After hours of thick and bloody fighting, Wannaqo Ismail gave the order for retreat, and the Andalusi pulled back from the drenched passes.

In doing so, the commander abandoned the Muslim-majority province of Navarre to be raped and pillaged by the French, who showed no mercy as they pushed southwards. The regional fortress was quickly surrounded at land and blockaded at sea, surrendering mere days after the battle of Banbaluna.

For many in Qadis, this was the final straw. Grand Vizier Marzuq of the Majlis Assembly actually blamed Sultan Ali for the loss at Navarre, claiming that he shouldn’t have had a hand in either planning or executing war stratagem. Worryingly, this only attracted more aristocrats to his throng, with the deviant traitors laying all the blame at the feet of the Jizrunids.

Sultan Ali, seeing which way the wind was blowing, chose to quietly escape from the capital a few hours later. Surrounded only by his immediate family and household guard, the sultan fled northward and towards Tulaytullah, the eternal loyalist stronghold.

This, obviously, was not met well in the Majlis, with the vast majority of the assembly now accusing the Sultan of cowardice. Ali, in turn, named the aristocrats traitors and defectors, no doubt secretly sworn to aid the French.

Whilst tensions between the Sultan and his Majlis began to flicker, the Andalusi army was still stationed in the north, where Supreme Commander Wannaqo was focused on nothing more than throwing back the French invaders, who were swarming around the Pyrenees by now.

Seeing a breach in their lines, Wannaqo decided to push towards Girona, where a 40,000-strong army was laying siege to the well-stocked provincial fortress. With his spies reporting that the nearest enemy reinforcements were still hundreds of miles away, the Andalusi commander decided to engage the besieging force, hoping to seize victory before they could arrive.

The battle was long, but the Andalusi knew the local terrain far better than the French, and were able to use this knowledge to their advantage as a series of ambushes and traps forced the enemy to abandon their siege and flee westward.

Allah was still with the Andalusi. For now, at least.

Whilst Ismail Wannaqo dedicated himself to the war in the north, the war of wills between Sultan Ali and the Majlis al-Shura only grew deadlier. Late in 1755, news reached Ali that the Taifas were not simply set on humiliating him - they were determined to overthrow the entire Jizrunid dynasty, surely the largest and greatest of dynasties to emerge from the Medieval Era.

There could be no doubt about it - the Majlis would rebel. For Ali, this had gone far enough, and he immediately sent word to Supreme Commander Wannaqo ordering him to abandon the northern front and return to Tulaytullah, where he would prepare to march on Qadis. Within days, however, the Majlis did the exact same - commanding Wannaqo to swear his loyalty to them, or face the chopping block as a traitor.

Ismail Wannaqo had a choice to make, but he was only a man, and could not simply decide between the Sultan of Al Andalus (however mad) and the Majlis al-Shura (however corrupt).

Thus, rather than make the choice at all, the commander decided to focus all his efforts on the French instead. If the Sultan and Majlis wanted his head, they could come and get it, but until then he would continue pinning down and defeating the French, starting with the second battle of Garundah.

Having pulled off a shocking victory and captured more than 20,000 Frenchman at Girona, the Supreme Commander pushed westward on a forced march, where another French army had descended and besieged Qila.

Again, the Andalusi were outnumbered, but they could not be matched in pure professionalism and discipline - the last remnants of a bygone era. Through a number of skilled manoeuvres, the Andalusi seized another impressive victory below the walls of Qila, slaughtering and chaining some 15,000 Frenchmen by day’s end.

As Wannaqo covered himself in glory in the north, the Sultan and Majlis were doing everything in their power to raise armies of their own, though it wasn’t proving to be an easy task.

And as though that weren’t enough, news of blockades all across the Iberian coast quickly travelled to Qadis, with the cities and harbours demanding food and men to keep from starving and to stave off the French, who utterly outclassed the Andalusi on the seas.

The Majlis (or the nobles, specifically) weren’t exactly eager to throw away thousands of dinars just to keep a few peasants from starving. This did more than anger city governors, however, as even the League of Merchants began protesting the lack of protection they now suffered on the seas.

Thus, as neither the Sultan or the Taifas did much to stem the growing unrest, factions quickly began breaking off from the Majlis, each with their own vision of a future Andalusia.

The most dangerous of these splinter factions, undoubtedly, was the clergy. Religious conflict had been brewing for decades now, and with the Shia Jizrunids finally at their weakest, the imams and muftis making up the Ulema cast off their masks and publicly declared themselves Sunni faithful. These clergymen fled to Qurtubah, where they began forming an army of fanatical Sunni peasants, arming them with guns, swords, knives, sickles, pitchforks and anything else that held an edge.

It is never a good idea to arm peasants with guns, however, doing nothing but sow the seeds of future revolution in Al Andalus.

Needless to say, unless something was done about it very soon, Iberia would explode into an ugly canvas of vicious invaders, warring factions, bloody infighting and genocidal fanatics. Al Andalus itself was fast becoming an impossibility.

Sultan Ali himself did not take any of this too well, as one might’ve expected. His advisors did everything they could to keep him cool and rational, however, convincing him that loyalists would flock towards Tulaytullah before long, determined to serve their Sultan and sultanate. So Ali listened, and agreed, and waited.

That is, until the puppet show.

In one of the busiest streets in Tulaytullah, a notable shadow puppet theatre began running a series mocking and insulting the Sultan, portraying him as a weak-minded fool who’s ambitions went only as far as his harem. A particularly popular scene in the show depicted a drooling, inept Ali trying and failing to cut his meat, only for his hand to slip and slice clean through his... manhood. Not a pretty scene, but one that always drew raucous laughter from the crowds of Tulaytullah.

The moment Sultan Ali caught wind of this satirical puppet show, he sent his armed guard to imprison and execute everyone responsible for it, as well as anyone caught watching it.

And it didn’t end there, this only threw open the floodgates of madness. Ali - now called the "Mad Hunchback" behind his back - began a systemic purge of anyone he suspected to be a spy or double agent, executing dozens of high-ranking advisors without so much as a trial. From there, he started murdering his own guardsmen, chroniclers, painters and chefs, with his paranoia knowing no end. All of this culminated in the imprisonment of his own wife, with Sultana Butayna confined to the oubliette for suspected adultery.

Whilst Tulaytullah descended into hysteria, Supreme Commander Wannaqo decided to chance a risky venture, crossing into Navarre and laying siege to the local fortress, still held by the French. Of course, it wasn’t long before the enemy caught word of his advance, quickly pushing south and engaging the Andalusi.

Wannaqo had the advantage of numbers, however slight, but the French still held Navarre and much of its environs. The battle raged for over two days without rest, with the French taking far greater losses than the Andalusi, but once again it was Ismail Wannaqo who gave the order to retreat - he was not prepared to lose his entire army for the mere possibility of recapturing Navarre.

News of this loss quickly spread through Iberia, and with the Andalusi army weaker than ever, the Majlis finally felt confident enough to rise up in revolt. Led by none other than Marzuq Aftasid - the rich but rather dim Grand Vizier - the powerful nobility managed to pool their resources and raise a huge army for their cause, capturing Qadis within hours, and from there striking out to seize neighbouring cities.

Sultan Ali had managed to raise an army of his own, but it was nowhere near strong enough to match that of the Taifas. So once again, the Mad Hunchback sent urgent requests for reinforcements to Ismail Wannaqo, with the commander ignoring them all.

Instead, Wannaqo pushed north to engage the French once again, this time when they decided to chance another siege of Qila. Ismail quickly marched towards the city and engaged them, confident he could throw them back - that is, until another 50,000 Frenchmen poured onto the battlefield from nowhere.

Wannaqo was a gifted commander and clever tactician, but even he could defeat numbers three times his own. So after a brief but bloody fight below the stone walls of Qila, he was forced to fall back once again, resigning the Castilian city to its fate.

This loss only precipitated the outbreak of more revolts and rebellions, with Muslim Catalonian separatists rising up in Urgell and Barcelona, and Andalusi particularists rioting in Qadis and Tulaytullah,

These were mere annoyances compared to the massive rebellion that broken out in Qurtubah, however. The Sunni imams had spent the past few years arming and training the peasantry, and now united under a so-called “Mahdi”, they declared war on the Jizrunids and Majlis both, vowing to see the Mahdi rule over all of Iberia.

To the north, meanwhile, the French had managed to breach the walls of Qila and capture the city. With its fall, much of Iberia now stood open for the French, with only Tulaytullah and Burtuqal defending the south from the blue onslaught.

Not prepared to die in defense of the Majlis, Sultan Ali immediately sent envoys to treat with King Aton. The Andalusi had little leverage in the negotiations, of course, and were ultimately forced to submit to French demands - ceding Labourd, Vizcaya and Navarre to King Aton, as well as the promise of huge war reparations.

Of course, Sultan Ali didn’t have thousands of dinars simply lying around the halls of Tulaytullah, and was forced to take out yet more loans just to honour his first few payments.

The number and size of the loans the Jizrunid sultans had taken out over the past few decades were… considerable, to say the least. Every other week, dozens of merchants and emissaries and diplomats would crowd the royal court, all desperate to remind the crown of the debts yet to be paid, of the yearly interest rates, of the climbing obligations owed to them.

By 1760, the Sultan’s privy council was sick of it - they simply didn’t have the means to repay the loans. So early in the year, they were forced to finally declare bankruptcy, reneging on all financial obligations owed to foreign banks and merchants, simply blaming it all on the Majlis.

And whilst all this was happening, yet more rebellions broke out all across Iberia. The peasantry began burning and looting in Marriya and Tauranga, more particularists rose up in Qadis and Qurtubah, and thousands of Christian separatists revolted in major Castilian and Portuguese cities.

Sultan Ali had, until this point, been using Tulaytullah as his base of operations. Rebellions and revolts were constantly breaking out all around him, however, and his small army was nowhere near enough to quell them all. And unfortunately for the Mad Hunchback, it didn’t end there. Having suffered under his recent streak of madness, the peasantry of Tulaytullah were beginning to stir against the Sultan, all they needed was a man to lead them.

That man made himself know late in 1760: Abd-al-Qays Jizrunid, a noble of the Sunni branch of the royal family. Abd-al-Qays somehow managed to piece together an army of his own, mostly comprised of Andalusi defectors and volunteers, all united by their hatred of Sultan Ali.

Under the leadership of Abd-al-Qays, this Sunni Jizrunid army quickly stormed into Tulaytullah, pushing straight towards the royal palaces and the Mad Hunchback.

Sultan Ali must have been informed of the coup mere moments before it broke out, however, because he managed to slip out of the palaces unseen. Abandoning his wife and children, he quickly fled across Iberia with a small armed guard, escaping to Granada - the historic stronghold of Shia Jizrunids, where he could still find support for his claim.

Though it certainly doesn’t need to be said, this has to be the lowest point in the entire history of Al Andalus, a point from which recovery is almost impossible. Majlisi rebels, Sultanic loyalists, religious fanatics, pretender uprisings, revolutionaries, separatists and peasants, all are raping and pillaging their own land, slowly burning Iberia to smoulders.

And to think, it all started with the revolt of the Majlis.

The first of the rebels to finally secure their freedom were insurgents in north-eastern Iberia, with the separatists capturing Barshaluna and there proclaiming the formation of a Muslim Catalonia, led by a local Sunni emir.

They were quickly followed by none other than the Majlis, however, who had managed to secure dominance over large swathes of land stretching from Qadis to Lishbuna. They were forced to stop there, for fear of overextending, though Grand Vizier Marzuq wasted no time in announcing his intention to reclaim all of Iberia for the Majlis.

These are the first of the rebels to break away from Al Andalus, and they certainly won’t be the last. By the end of the decade, Iberia is sure to become a patchwork of warring emirates, taifas and principalities, all fiercely rivalled to one another and determined to reunite the peninsula.

The dream of Al Andalus, it would seem, is beginning to fade.

World map:

Taken just before rebels started to enforce their demands. Cherish that Iberia.