A Portuguese brand of Islam -I


Andaluzia was definitely a golden era for Islam. An era that left profound marks in the highest spheres of Islamic Theology, Mysticism, Phylosophy, Doctrine and Law. Beings Like Ibn Arabi the great Sufi Sheik sometimes refered to as Sheik Al-Akbar, The great mystical revolutionary Ibn Qasi and Poets Like Al-Muttamid were at the spearhead of a blossoming of arts, ideas and theological concepts.

The West of The Andaluz-the Al-Gharb which is nowadays Portugal was the birthplace of both Ibn Qasi and Al-Muttamid. Al-Lishbuna, nowadays Lisbon wasn't the capital but was already at the time an important Port and Cultural Centre where some sources indicate as one of the places where the Great Sheik Ibn Arabi studied.

The Al-Gharb was a meeting place for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. A place of reflection and exchange. Probably both of these stimulated by the wide open Ocean. With more than 800km of Atlantic Coast Portugal cannot but face the Sea. And this was to be one of the most important and marking aspects of Portuguese Islam.

Any detailed study of Islam in Portugal will undoubtely reach this conclusion, the close association between Islam and the Wide open Ocean. Most of the ribats, the morabits and important Cities were located by the coast or with direct acess by river-Al-Lishbuna, Xelb(Silves), Al-Kasr (Alcácer do Sal) and Al-Murtula (Mértola)-which was considered the last port of the mediterranean sea with acess through the Wadiana (Guadiana River).

It is therefore logical that most of the Poets and Mystics would find solace in the contemplation of the emptiness offered by that huge blue-gree mass of water. In the absence of the Desert and its contemplative and empty character, Portuguese Islam found its Desert in the Ocean.

Not only did this Ocean offer an interesting religious practice but it also held an important comercial aspect to the lives of the community supplying it with goods and the opportunity to exchange them.

The Portuguese coast (especially in the south) is populated by old monuments that mark this brand of Islam in Portugal. Monuments that more and more we seem to come across as the archeological works progress. The Ribat Al-Rhihana (Arrifana) and the Masjid of Torrão in al'Kasr seem to be some of the most relevant findings.