Mudéjar (//, also US: /- - -/-,, Spanish: [muˈðexaɾ], Portuguese: [muˈðɛʒaɾ]; Catalan: mudèjar [muˈðɛʒəɾ]; Arabic: مدجن, romanized: mudajjan, lit. 'tamed; domesticated') refers to the group of Muslims who remained in Iberia in the late medieval period despite the Christian reconquest.
Mudéjar was originally the term used for Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not initially forcibly converted to Christianity or forcibly exiled. The word Mudéjar references several historical interpretations and cultural borrowings. It was a medieval Castilian borrowing of the Arabic word Mudajjan مدجن, meaning "tamed", referring to Muslims who submitted to the rule of Christian kings. The term likely originated as a taunt, as the word was usually applied to domesticated animals such as poultry. The term Mudéjar also can be translated from Arabic as "one permitted to remain", which references Christians allowing Muslims to remain in Christian Iberia. Another term with the same meaning, ahl al-dajn ("people who stay on"), was used by Muslim writers, notably al-Wansharisi in his work Kitab al-Mi'yar. Mudéjars in Iberia lived under a protected tributary status known as dajn which references ahl al-dajn. This protected status suggested subjugation at the hands of Christian rulers as the word dajn resembled haywanāt dājina which meant "tame animals". Their protected status was enforced by the fueros or local charters which dictated Christians laws. Muslims of other regions outside of the Iberian Peninsula disapproved of the Mudéjar subjugated status and their willingness to live with non-Muslims.
Mudéjar was used in contrast to both Muslims in Muslim-ruled areas (for example, Muslims of Granada before 1492) and Moriscos, who were forcibly converted and may or may not have continued to secretly practice Islam.
The Treaty of Granada (1491) protected religious and cultural freedoms for Muslims in the imminent transition from the Emirate of Granada to a Province of Castile. After the fall of the last Islamic kingdom in the Battle of Granada in January 1492, Mudéjars, unlike the Jews who were expelled that same year, kept a protected religious status, although there were Catholic efforts to convert them. However, over the next several decades this religious freedom deteriorated. Islam was outlawed in Portugal by 1497, the Crown of Castile by 1502, and the Crown of Aragon by 1526, forcing the Mudéjars to convert or in some cases leave the country. Following the forced conversion, they then faced suspicions that they were not truly converted but remained crypto-Muslims, and were known as Moriscos. The Moriscos, too, were eventually expelled, in 1609–1614.
The Muslim population in Castile originally immigrated from Toledo, Seville and other Andalusi territories. They were not original to the land in Castile. Muslim immigration into Castile was sponsored settlement by the Kingdom of Castile. It is hypothesized that the slow-growing Christian population demonstrated a need to bring more people into Castile. Primary documents written by Castilians in the 13th century indicate that Muslims were able to maintain some agency under Christian rule. The Mudéjars were able to maintain their religion, their laws, and had their own judges. The Mudéjars in Castile spoke the Romance languages and dialects as their Christian neighbors.
Aragon and Catalonia
Like the Mudéjars in Castile, Aragonese and Catalan Mudéjars also spoke the Romance languages of their Christian counterparts. However, unlike the Mudéjars in Castile, there were Muslim villages in Aragon and, to a lesser extent, in south-western Catalonia which populated the land before the Christian reconquests, setting up a history of Muslim cultivation and population of the land. Besides the large Muslim populations in Granada and Valencia, the Aragonese Muslim peasants were the most well-established Muslim community in the region, while in Catalonia Muslim authoctonous presence was limited only to the Low Ebro and Low Segre areas. Aragonese and Catalan Muslims were under the jurisdiction of the Christian Crown and were designated a special status. This status applied to the Mudéjar cultivators, the exarici, and this status made them subservient to their Christian superiors because by law, they were required to cultivate the land of royal estates. However, this status was also beneficial as the law suggested that this land be passed down through Muslim family members. Despite their expulsion at the end of the Morisco period, the Mudéjars in Aragon left evidence of their style in architecture, while in Catalonia only some reminiscences of this can be appreciated in some Gothic churches and cathedrals in some shires of Lleida.
In the 13th century, the Aragonese Christians conquered Valencia. Unlike in Aragon and in Catalonia, the Mudéjar population in Valencia vastly outnumbered Christians in the area. In Valencia, the majority of communities were peasant, Arabic-speaking and Muslim. Although there was a disparity between Christians and Muslims, it is important to note that a Christian king ruled over Valencia, and not a sultan or an imam and this shaped the experience of Mudéjars in this region. An effect of Christian rule were the outbreaks of rioting against Mudéjars in Valencia. Mudéjar communities were frequently attacked by Christian rioters, despite being protected by the Crown. Violence against Mudéjars in Valencia was common.
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- "Mudéjar". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
- "Mudejar". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
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- Harvey 1992, p. 4.
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