The Mozarabic Rite, also called the Visigothic Rite or Hispanic Rite, is a form of Christian worship within the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Western Rite Orthodoxy of the Orthodox Catholic Church and in the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church. Its beginning dates to the 7th century, and is localized in the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania). The “Mozarabs” is a scholarly term for the Christians living under Muslim rulers in Al-Andalus

The cross to Andalucia or the Iberian Peninsula was in 711 AD and the Islamic expansion was put to an end in Western Europe in 714 in the battle of Buatie in the depth of France. The Muslim Spain or Andalucia has survived as a propsper society of different ethnics and langauges. In fact, the society was bilingual or trilingual. Besides Arabs, Berbers, Jews, and inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, Vandals, Celtics, and other European races have mixed with the new comers of Arabs and Berbers. Arab and Berber intermarriages were very common also.In terms of Languages, the official language was Arabic. Berber, Hebrew, and Iberian Romance langauges existed.  One common Iberian Romance Langauge that existed within Muslim spain was spoken what is known later as Mozarabic.

Mozarabic, more accurately Andalusi Romance, was a continuum of closely related Romance dialects spoken in the Muslim controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula, known as Al-Andalus. Mozarabic descends from Late Latin and early Romance dialects spoken in the Hispania from the 5th to the 8th centuries and was spoken until the 14th century.[2]This set of Latin dialects came to be called the Mozarabic language by 19th century Spanish scholars who studied medieval Al-Andalus, though there never was a common language standard. The term is inaccurate, because it refers to the Christians who spoke Andalusi Romance, as a part of the Romance dialectic linguistic continuum in the Iberian Peninsula, but it was also spoken by Jews and Muslims, as large parts of the population were converted to Islam. The word Mozarab is a loanword from Andalusi Arabic musta’rab, مُستَعرَب, Classical Arabic musta’rib, meaning “who adopts the ways of the Arabs“.

Aljamiado letters

Aljamiado letters

Aljamiado is Mozarabic too. Mozarabs are those Christian who lived within Muslim Spain and  spoke an Iberian Romance Latin language close to Catalonese but written in Arabic alphabets and scripts, forming Aljamiado. It does not exist anymore but it contributed in adding Arabic origin words to the later Iberian Langauges such as the Castilian and the Portuguese.

 For example, at some point of time, Catalon and Aragonese were two languages spoken besides Castilian in Spain. In Northwest Spain and above portugal, a language known as Galician is spoken also till today. However, Galician speakers interacted with the Mozarabs as they advanced down in the Reconquesta forming Portuguese as a seperate language with a lot of Arabic borrowed words and seperate from Galician. Politics also changed languages. The fact that as Castilian became the official language or what is known today as Spanish, was in fact pushed by the Spanish crown and influencing all the languages under the kingdom including Galician itself and widening the differences between Portugese and Galician eventhough they share one origin.


 Arabic influence on the Spanish language overwhelmingly dates from the Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492.The Spanish language, also called Castilian, is a Romance language that evolved from the Roman Vulgar Latin in the area of Burgos, Cantabria and La Rioja in what is now northern Spain, the early Kingdom of Castile, prior to its southward expansion. Loan words from Arabic thus entered Castilian during its earliest formative period,[citation needed] particularly as the number of Arabic speakers in the neighboring lower reaches of the Ebro valley gradually increased in the 8th and 9th centuries. This lexical influence reached its greatest level during the Christian Reconquista, when the emerging Kingdom of Castile conquered large territories from Moorish rulers in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. These territories had large numbers of speakers of Arabic, as well as many who spoke local Romance dialects (Mozarabic language) that were heavily influenced by Arabic, both influencing Castilian. Arabic words and their derivatives had also been priorly brought into Castilian by Mozarab Christians who emigrated northwards from Al Andalus in times of sectarian violence, particularly during the times of Almohad andAlmoravid rule in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The degree to which the Arabic language percolated through the Iberian Peninsula varied enormously from one area to another and is the subject of academic debate. However, it is generally agreed that Arabic was used among the local elites, Muslim and Christian, and that the prevalent vernacular in many areas was Mozarabic, a continuum of Arabic-influenced local Romance dialects. Only the southern Emirate of Granada in the time of the Nasrid dynasty, which had had a large influx of Arabic speakers as the Reconquista advanced, became totally Arabized, or at least no evidence of a local Romance in the late Middle Ages has been found.

Much of the Arabic influence upon Spanish came through the various Arabized Romance dialects that were spoken in areas under Moorish rule, known today by scholars as Mozarabic. This resulted in Spanish often having both Arabic and Latin derived words with the same meaning. For example, aceituna and oliva (olive),alacrán and escorpión (scorpion), jaqueca and migraña (migraine), alcancía and hucha (piggy bank).

Top 10 Spanish Words of Arabic Origin

Granada felt to the Spanish Crown in 1492, January 2nd. Muslims and Mozarabs were left to live in Spain under the agreement of Granada.
bautizoHowever, later crowns pushed for conversion of Muslims in Spain and caused the revolt of 1500-1502. Also later, Arabic was banned and Muslim dress was banned also causing the revolt of 1568-1572 that was barely put down  by the help of John of Austria. Finally, the presecution of Muslims contributed to the cooperation between Spanish Muslim and Turkish Ottoman Empire faciliating an asualt on Southern Spanish shores, leading to final expelling of Muslims in Spain in 1609. Thus, ending the period of direct interaction between Arabic and other Iberian Romance languages.

Aljamiado (Spanish: [alxaˈmjaðo]; Arabic: عَجَمِيَةtrans. ʿajamiyah) or Aljamía texts are manuscripts that use theArabic script for transcribing European languages, especially Romance languages such as Mozarabic, Portuguese,Spanish or Ladino.

According to Anwar G. Chejne,[2] Aljamiado or Aljamía is “a corruption of the Arabic word ʿajamiyah (in this case it means foreign language) and, generally, the Arabic expression ʿajam and its derivative ʿajamiyah are applicable to peoples whose ancestry is not of Arabian origin”. In linguistic terms, the Aljamía is the use of the Arabic alphabet to transcribe the Romance language, which was used by some people in some areas of Al-Andalus as an everyday communication vehicle, while Arabic was reserved as the language of science, high culture and religion.

Aljamiado text by Mancebo de Arévalo. c. 16th century

Aljamiado text by Mancebo de Arévalo. c. 16th century

The systematic writing of Romance-language texts in Arabic scripts appears to have begun in the fifteenth century, and the overwhelming majority of such texts that can be dated belong to the sixteenth century.[3] A key aljamiadotext was the mufti of Segovia’s compilation Suma de los principales mandamientos y devediamentos de nuestra santa ley y sunna, of 1462.[4]


In later times, Moriscos were banned from using Arabic as a religious language, and wrote in Spanish on Islamic subjects. Examples are the Coplas del alhichante de Puey Monzón, narrating a Hajj,[5] or the Poema de Yuçuf on the Biblical Joseph(written in Aragonese[6]).

Poema de Yuçuf.

Manuscript of Aljamiado Poema de Yuçuf, 14th century

Usage by the Moors/Moriscos during the persecution of Muslims in Spain

This disastrous moment did not in any way, however, mark the end of Islam in Spain. Rather, it marked the beginning of a new phase of clandestine or crypto-Islam, a transformation of traditional Islamic life to the new straitened circumstances. The brain drain that resulted from the near total exile of Islamic elites from the peninsula meant that it became very difficult to receive formal instruction in Islamic religion, law, and even in the classical Arabic language.

Although some crypto-Muslims in places such as Granada and Valencia continued to speak colloquial Andalusi Arabic, the new prohibitions eventually ensured that almost none had any real proficiency in Classical Arabic, and even fewer were able to compose original texts in the language. Once Philip the Second prohibited the Arabic language itself in 1567, it became extremely dangerous to have any book written in Arabic in one’s possession. This applied equally to works of poetry, law, history, or fiction as it did to the Qur’an and its commentaries.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, just as the struggles between Catholics and Protestants were reaching a fever pitch on the European continent, Islam went underground in Spain

Baptism of Moorish converts

Baptism of Moorish converts


The end of publicly organized Islamic life during the period did not mean the end of Islamic cultural practice or even of Islamic literature in Spain, however. Spanish Muslims continued to smuggle books from Granada and North Africa into Christian realms, but given the near total death by burning of Classical Arabic studies, the distribution and consumption of Islamic texts underwent a curious transformation.

Granada 1529,barefoot Morisco women - home dress.drawing from Christoph Weiditz, Augsburg

Granada 1529, barefoot Morisco women – home dress, drawing from Christoph Weiditz, Augsburg

Moriscos began to adapt classical texts on Islamic topics into Spanish, the only language that most Spanish Muslims were able to understand. And yet, though the Moriscos could not read Classical Arabic, they clung tenaciously to the Arabic alphabet, the letters in which the Qur’an was written, and wrote their Spanish-language religious treatises in the Arabic letters of the Qur’an.

Moriscos in Granada", drawn by Christoph Weiditz (1529)

Moriscos in Granada”, drawn by Christoph Weiditz (1529)

So was born Aljamiado literature, written in Spanish using Arabic letters. It was called Aljamiado from the Arabic word `ajamiyya, the language of the `ajami, or non-Arabs. This was a term that had been applied throughout Islamic history to the vernacular languages of non-Arab Muslims, such as Farsi or Tamazigh (Berber).

Like many writing systems, the Arabic alphabet had been adapted to write several languages of Muslim communities such as Farsi, Urdu, and even Uigur. Aljamiado literature was the only example of Muslims using the Arabic Alphabet to write in a Romance language.

First page of an Aljamiado manuscript, a sixteenth-century Spanish text in Arabic letters in Maghribi style.

First page of an Aljamiado manuscript, a sixteenth-century Spanish text in Arabic letters in Maghribi style.

Authors composed a wide variety of Aljamiado texts. The lion’s share are religious treatises, including basic primers and compendia of Islamic religious practice and thought. There are narrative poems and prose legends celebrating key figures from the Qur’an, devotional poetry, Qur’anic exegesis. But there is also an imaginative literature that includes exemplary tales, translations of the accounts of the epic battles of Islamic expansion, and even an Islamicized version of a popular romance novel, the Amores de Paris y Viana, the Romance of Paris and Viana.

Aljamiado played a very important role in preserving Islam and the Arabic language in the life of the Moriscos. After the fall of the last Muslim kingdom on the Iberian peninsula, the Moriscos (Andalusian Muslims in Granada and other parts of what was once Al-Andalus) were forced to convert to Christianity or leave the peninsula. They were forced to adopt Christian customs and traditions and to attend church services on Sundays. Nevertheless, some of the Moriscos kept their Islamic belief and traditions secretly through the usage of Aljamiado. 11225 Bloemaert, Abraham (Gorinchem 1566 - Utrecht 1651) De doop van de kamerling 1620-1625 olieverf op doek 219 x 153.6 cm ; met lijst 237 x 172.5 cm Collectie Centraal Museum, Utrecht, bruikleen Instituut Collectie Nederland 1954

Baptism of the Moor

In 1567, Philip II of Spain issued a royal decree in Spain, which forced Moriscos to abandon using Arabic on all occasions, formal and informal, speaking and writing. Using Arabic in any sense of the word would be regarded as a crime. They were given three years to learn the language of the Christian Spanish, after which they would have to get rid of all Arabic written material.

The Arabic alphabet is read from right to left, capital letters indicate velarization. A dot below a letter indicates aspiration. The arrow direction indicates how each letter is written

The Arabic alphabet is read from right to left, capital letters indicate velarization. A dot below a letter indicates aspiration. The arrow direction indicates how each letter is written

Moriscos translated all prayers and the sayings of their prophet Mohammed into Aljamiado transcriptions of the Spanish language, while keeping all Qur’anic verses in the original Arabic. Aljamiado scrolls were circulated amongst the Moriscos. Historians came to know about Aljamiado literature only in the early nineteenth century. Some of the Aljamiado scrolls are kept in the Spanish National Library in Madrid.


Arabic language influence on the Spanish language

Styles of Calligraphy -Aljamiado

Aljamiado From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aljamiado: An Iberian Romance Language


References and notes

  1. Jump up^ The passage is an invitation directed to the Spanish Moriscos or Crypto-Muslims so that they continue fulfilling the Islamic prescriptions in spite of the legal prohibitions and so that they disguise and they are protected showing public adhesion the Christian faith.
  2. Jump up^ Chejne, A.G. (1993): Historia de España musulmana. Editorial Cátedra. Madrid, Spain. Published originally as: Chejne, A.G. (1974): Muslim Spain: Its History and Culture. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, USA
  3. Jump up^ L.P. Harvey. “The Moriscos and the Hajj” Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 14.1 (1987:11-24) p. 15.
  4. Jump up^ Summa of the principal commandments and prohibitions of our holy law and sunna“. (Harvey 1987.)
  5. Jump up^ Gerard Albert Wiegers, Islamic Literature in Spanish and Aljamiado 1994, p. 226.
  6. Jump up^ MENÉNDEZ PIDAL, Ramón, Poema de Yuçuf: Materiales para su estudio, Granada, Universidad de Granada, (1952) p. 62-63