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Muhammed II (also known by his epithet al-Faqih, "the canon-lawyer", born c. 1235, reigned from 1273 until his death in 1302) was the second Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula, succeeding his father Muhammad I. Already experienced in matters of state when he ascended the throne, he continued his father's policy of maintaining independence in the face of Granada's larger neighbours, Castile and Marinid Morocco, and an internal rebellion by his family's former allies, the Banu Ashqilula.

Muhammad II
Sultan of Granada
Reign22 January 1273 – 8 April 1302
PredecessorMuhammad I
SuccessorMuhammad III
Bornc. 1235
Died8 April 1302
IssueMuhammad III; others
HouseNasrid dynasty
FatherMuhammad I

After he took the throne, he negotiated a treaty with Alfonso X of Castile, in which Castile agreed to end support for the Banu Ashqilula in exchange for payments. When Castile took the money but maintained its support for the Banu Ashqilula, Muhammad turned towards Abu Yusuf of the Marinids. The Marinids sent a successful expedition against Castile, but relations soured when the Marinids treated the Banu Ashqilula as Muhammad's equals. In 1279, through diplomatic manoeuvring, Muhammad regained Málaga, formerly the center of Banu Ashqilula power. In 1280, his diplomacy backfired when Granada faced simultaneous attacks from Castile, the Marinids and the Banu Ashqilula. Attacked by his more powerful neighbours, Muhammad exploited the rift between Alfonso and his son Sancho, as well as receiving help from Volunteers of the Faith, soldiers recruited from North Africa. The threat subsided when Alfonso died in 1284 and Abu Yusuf in 1286; their successors (Sancho and Abu Yaqub, respectively) were preoccupied with domestic matters. In 1288 the Banu Ashqilula emigrated to North Africa at Abu Yaqub's invitation, eliminating Muhammad's biggest domestic threat.

In 1292, Granada helped Castile take Tarifa from the Marinids on the understanding that the town would be traded to Granada, but Sancho (now Sancho IV) reneged on the promise. Muhammad II then switched to the Marinid side, but a Granadan–Marinid attempt to retake Tarifa in 1294 failed. In 1295, Sancho died and was succeeded by Ferdinand IV, a minor. Granada took advantage by conducting a successful campaign against Castile, taking Quesada and Alcaudete. Muhammad also secured the cession of Tarifa in negotiations with Castile, but he died in 1302 before this agreement was implemented.


Early lifeEdit

Muhammad was born c. 1235 to the Nasrid clan, which originated from Arjona.[1] In 1232, his father (also named Muhammad) established the independence of the town, and it later grew to a sizeable independent state in the south of Spain, centered on Granada after the loss of Arjona in 1244.[2] In 1257, the elder Muhammad declared his sons Muhammad and Yusuf his heirs.[3] As heir, the younger Muhammad was involved in matters of state, including war and diplomacy.[4] By the time of his father's death in 1273, he was aged 38, an experienced statesmen, and known by the epithet al-Faqih (the faqih, the canon-lawyer.[5]).[4]

Rule: 1273–1302Edit


Map of the Nasrid Emirate of Granada. The frontiers changed over time and the map might not correspond to the territories held during a specific point of Muhammad II's rule.
Granada and its neighbours in 1360 (borders might differ slightly from those during Muhammad II's reign)

In the 1230s, Muhammad's father Muhammad I set up the Emirate of Granada, which became the last independent Muslim state in the Iberian peninsula.[2] Granada was located between two larger neighbours, the Castile to the north and the Marinid state centred in today's Morocco to the south. Castile's objectives were to keep Granada in check, prevent it from raiding Castile and force it to continue paying tribute, which was an important source of income.[6] On the other hand, the Marinids saw the protection of the Muslims in the Iberian peninsula, as well as participation in jihad against the Christian expansion there, as their duty as Muslims and as a way to increase their legitimacy.[7] By the time of Muhammad II's rule, Granada's main objective was to maintain independence from these two powers, preserve the balance of power, prevent an alliance between them, and control towns on the Castilian frontiers and ports on the Strait of Gibraltar, such as Algeciras and Gibraltar.[6]

Besides these two foreign powers, Granada was also challenged by the Banu Ashqilula, another Arjona clan which was initially allied with the Nasrids and whose military strength had helped establish the kingdom. They rebelled against Muhammad from at least 1266 and received assistance from Castile, then under rule of Alfonso X who wanted to keep Granada in check. Castilian forces sent to Granada to help the Banu Ashqilula ended up rebelling against their masters, which was welcomed by Muhammad.[8]

Accession and negotiation with Alfonso XEdit

On 22 January 1273, Muhammad I fell from a horse and died of his injuries. The younger Muhammad took the throne as Muhammad II. As he was the designated heir, the transition of power went smoothly. His first order of business was to deal with the Ashqilula rebellion and the Castilian rebels who had been allied to his father and welcomed in Granadan territories. Relations with the Castilian rebels, who were led by nobleman Nuño González de Lara and had been useful in checking both Castile and the Banu Ashqilula, weakened as both sides were concerned about losing each other's support after the succession. Alfonso was also interested in reconciling with some of the rebels.[8]

Muhammad then entered into negotiations with Alfonso—if he could secure Castile's alliance, he would not need to worry about losing the support of the rebels.[8] In late 1273, he and some of the rebel leaders visited Alfonso at his court in Seville, where they were welcomed with honour. Alfonso agreed to Granada's demands—to end his support for the Ashqilula—in exchange for Muhammad's promise to be Alfonso's vassal, to pay 300,000 maravedis each year in tribute, and to end his co-operation with the rebels. However, once the payment was made, Alfonso reneged on his part of the bargain, maintained his support for the Banu Ashqilula and pressed Muhammad to grant them a truce.[9][10]

Marinid expeditions against CastileEdit

Frustrated by Alfonso, Muhammad sought help from the Marinids, ruled by Abu Yusuf Yaqub.[11] While Alfonso was away on a journey to meet Pope Gregory X, leaving his realm under his heir and the regent Ferdinand de la Cerda,[12] Muhammad sent envoys to the Marinid court.[11] Abu Yusuf has expressed interest in fighting the Christians in Spain since 1245, and now, having gained control of the former Almohad capital of Marrakech and unified most of Morocco, he had the power and the opportunity to do so.[13] In April 1275 Abu Yusuf mobilised an army which included 5,000 cavalry under the command of Abu Zayyan. Three months later Abu Zayyan crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed at Tarifa. He established a beachhead between Tarifa and Algeciras, and began raiding Castilian territory up to Jerez.[11] Ferdinand de la Cerda marched to meet the Muslim forces, but he died on 25 July 1275 in Villareal.[13]

With the beachhead established and the Castilian territories reconnoitred, Abu Yusuf sent more troops across, including his own household troops, ministers, officials and North African clerics. Abu Yusuf himself crossed to Spain in 17 August 1275. He then met with Muhammad and the leader of the Banu Ashqilula, Abu Muhammad, who came with their armies. The Marinids treated the Nasrids and the Ashqilula as equals, and Muhammad, offended at being seen as an equal to his rebellious subjects, left the army after three days.[14] In September 1275 this army won a major victory against Castile at the Battle of Ecija. Nuño González, now fighting for Castile, was killed. According to Marinid chronicles, the Ashqilula contributed much to this victory and their leaders were present, while Granadan forces contributed little, with Muhammad himself stayed in Granada.[15]

Abu Zayyan celebrated the victory in Algeciras and sent the head of Nuño González to Granada.[16] This likely offended Muhammad, who abhorred this type of cruelty and might have respected or even befriended his former ally. He embalmed the head in musk and camphor and sent it to Castile to be interred properly with his body.[17] Marinid sources portrayed this as an attempt by Muhammad to "court [Alfonso's] friendship".[18][16] At this point, the Marinids became more friendly with the Banu Ashqilula and less symphatetic towards Muhammad.[16]

After losing a naval battle off Tarifa, Abu Yusuf, wary of being cut off from Morocco, decided to return home. Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and Castile agreed to a two-year truce in late December 1275 or early January 1276. Before Abu Yusuf left, Muhammad's court poet wrote a poem expressing fear of Castile's power and appealing for the Marinids' continued help. Abu Yusuf left Spain and landed at Ksar es-Seghir on 19 January.[19]

Abu Yusuf and the Marinids returned to Spain in June 1977. Initially they were joined by the Banu Ashqilula and campaigned without Muhammad and the Nasrid forces. The Marinids defeated the Castilian forces outside Seville on 2 August and took several castles along the Guadalquivir before retiring to Algeciras on 29 August.[20] Abu Yusuf marched again on 30 October, this time joined by Muhammad near Archidona. They took the castle of Benamejí, encircled Córdoba and pillaged the surrounding towns. Either Alfonso or the towns affected by the war sued for peace, which was accepted by Muhammad and Abu Yusuf. Abu Yusuf retired to Algeciras on 28 November, concluded a truce on 24 February 1278, and returned to Morocco in May. Although the Marinids had won a battlefield victory and the Muslim forces plundered multiple towns, they failed to take any major settlement or permanently annex territories.[21]

Diplomatic manoeuvring up to 1280Edit

During Abu Yusuf's second expedition, the Banu Ashqilula handed over Málaga—their center of power—to their new ally.[16] This decision was motivated by the fear that they could not defend it against Granada.[22] The Marinids occupied it in mid-February 1278,[22] and Abu Yusuf appointed his uncle, Umar ibn Yahya to be governor.[23][10] Muhammad was alarmed at this Marinid encroachment on his domain, reminiscent of the actions of the Almoravids and Almohads, two previous North African Muslim dynasties which had annexed Al-Andalus after initially intervening against the Christians. He encouraged Yaghmurasen of Tlemcen to attack the Marinids in North Africa, and Castile to attack the Marinids' Spanish base at Algeciras.[23] Abu Yusuf, overstreched and attacked on multiple fronts, pulled back from Málaga and handed the city to Muhammad on 31 January 1279.[24][23] It was also alleged that Granada bribed Umar ibn Yahya by giving him the castle of Salobreña and fifty thousand dinars.[23] With Málaga in its hands, Muhammad then helped the Marinids defend Algeciras, possibly feeling guilty about the sufferings of the besieged Muslims in the city. Joint Marinid–Granadan forces defeated the Castilian besiegers in 1279. Castilian sources at the time seemed to not to realise the Granadan involvement and thought they were defeated solely by the Marinids.[25]

War on two frontsEdit

The manoeuvring that saw the gain of Málaga and prevented Castile from taking Algeciras angered both the Marinids and Castile. Both, as well as the Banu Ashqilula, attacked simultaneously in 1280.[26] The Marinids and Banu Ashqilula moved towards Málaga, unsuccessfully attacking the region of Marbella in the south.[26][27] Castile attacked from the north, led by the Infante Sancho (later Sancho IV), who was checked by the North African Volunteers of the Faith. They were so integrated with Granada that they still defended Granada against Castile despite Granada also being at war with the Marinids.[26] On 23 June, pro-Granadan troops ambushed a large Castilian force at Moclín.[27] In June 1981, Castile invaded again, led by Alfonso himself and accompanied by Infantes Sancho, Peter and John.[28] They defeated Muhammad in a battle near Granada's walls on 25 June, but after the failure of the negotiations that followed, the Castilians left Granada.[28]

At the end of 1281, Alfonso sent Sancho to Granada for further negotiations and Muhammad agreed to renew his vassalage to Castile. However, Alfonso accused Sancho of acting treacherously and of appropriating Muhammad's tribute. A rift broke out between the king and his son, which weakened the Castilian threat to Granada.[29] Alfonso ended up asking for the Abu Yusuf's help against Sancho, and the two monarchs campaigned together against Sancho's partisans in Castile.[30] Meanwhile, Muhammad sealed an alliance with Sancho at Priego in late 1282.[31] At the end of 1283, Abu Yusuf attacked Málaga and this forced Muhammad to sue for peace. Mediated by Abu Yusuf's son, Abu Yaqub Yusuf, they agreed to reconcile and attack the Christians together.[32]

Alfonso died in 1284, and was succeeded by Sancho. Sancho was friendly towards Granada and pulled back the Castilian troops, while Muhammad declared his vassalage to him.[33][34] In 1286 Abu Yusuf died and was succeeded by his son Abu Yaqub. At the beginning of his reign Abu Yaqub was more preoccupied with his domestic affairs, and so withdrew his forces from the Iberian campaign. In 1288 Abu Yaqub offered the Banu Ashqilula lands in North Africa. The clan took up the offer and emigrated en masse from Granadan territory.[34][10]

Tarifa campaignsEdit

The Marinids retained outposts in Iberia, including Tarifa, an important port town on the Strait of Gibraltar. In 1290, Muhammad came to an arrangement with Sancho and the ruler of Tlemcen. Castile would attack Tarifa, Granada would attack other Marinid possessions, and Tlemcen would open hostilities against the Marinids in North Africa.[35] According to the agreement, Castile would then hand Tarifa to Granada in exchange for six border fortresses.[34] In November and December 1291, James II of Aragon met Sancho and agreed to join the war against the Marinids.[36] In October 1292 Castile, with assistance from Aragon's navy and supplied by Granada, succeeded in taking Tarifa.[37] Castile also took the six border fortresses from Granada as agreed, but refused to cede Tarifa even after Muhammad met with Sancho in Córdoba in December.[38][39] Granada, feeling cheated, then switched sides to the Marinids. Muhammad travelled to North Africa and met Abu Ya'qub at Tangier on 24 October, bearing many gifts and asking his friendship and forgiveness. Both monarchs agreed to an alliance against Castile.[40] In 1294, the Marinids and Granada unsuccessfully besieged Tarifa. The town would never be in Muslim hands after this point. After this failure, the Marinids decided to withdraw to North Africa. Granada proceeded to retake its former outposts, including Algeciras and—after some local resistance—Ronda.[38][39]

Final years and deathEdit

In 1295, Sancho died and was succeeded by his 9-years-old son Ferdinand IV.[41] During his minority Castile was governed by a regency led by his uncle, Infante Henry.[41][42] His cousin, Alfonso de la Cerda made a rival claim against the throne, supported by James of Aragon.[43] Muhammad exploited this situation to strike at Castile: in late 1295 he captured Quesada and routed a Castilian army at the Battle of Iznalloz.[43] Ferdinand was also attacked by Aragon, Denis of Portugal, and his uncle, Infante John.[43] In 1296, Granada and Aragon concluded a pact of friendship and agreed to split their objectives: Murcia would go to Aragon and Andalusia to Granada.[42][43] In June 1296, Infante Henry made peace overtures to Muhammad, offering to hand over Tarifa, but this broke down when the town's commander, Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, declared that he would not hand it over even if ordered to do so.[44][45] Late that year, Granadan forces defeated Infante Henry near Arjona and nearly captured him.[46] Henry's horse was captured, but Muhammad ordered it returned in a gesture of chivalry.[47]

The Marinids joined the war to support Granada and defeated Castile in a major battle near Seville in May or June 1299; they then laid siege to Tarifa.[48] Castile renewed the offer to yield Tarifa in exchange for an alliance with Granada, but this was again frustrated by Alfonso Perez's refusal to comply.[48] The war continued and Muhammad took more border fortresses, including Alcaudete in June 1299, and raided Castilian cities including Jaén and Andújar.[45] In April 1301, Muhammad and James renewed their alliance, although James secretly sent supplies to the besieged Christians in Tarifa.[49] On 6 September, Pope Boniface VIII declared Ferdinand the legitimate king of Castile, weakening the resolve and legitimacy of his Christian enemies.[49] In September 1301, Granada and Castile concluded negotiations, and Tarifa was to be ceded to Granada.[45][50] This agreement was ratified in January 1302, but before it was implemented, Muhammad died on 8 April 1302 (8 Shaban 701 AH).[50][45] He was succeeded by his son, Muhammad III. There were allegations that Muhammad III, perhaps impatient to assume power, had poisoned his father, although this was never confirmed.[51][52][53]

Evaluation of ruleEdit

Muhammad built on the nascent state created by his father, and continued to secure his realm's independence by alternatively allying with other powers, especially Castile and the Marinids, and sometimes encouraging them to fight each other.[6][54] A sense of identity also emerged in the realm, united by religion (Islam), language (Arabic), and an awareness of an ever-present threat to its survival from its Romance-speaking Christian neighbours. Historian Ibn Khaldun commented that these ties served as a replacement for asabiyyah or tribal solidarity, which Ibn Khaldun thought was fundamental to the rise and fall of a state.[55]

Muhammad's reign also saw the expansion and institutionalisation of the Volunteers of the Faith (also called ghazis in Arabic): soldiers recruited from North Africa to defend Granada against the Christians. Many of them were members of tribes or families which became political exiles from the Marinid state. Some of them settled in the city of Granada, establishing the quarter of Zenete (named after Zenata), and some in the western areas of the realm, such as Ronda and the surrounding area.[42] They received payments from the state, but often came into conflict with the locals in the areas they settled. When, in the early 1280s, Granada came into conflict with the Marinids, the Volunteers remained loyal and defended Granada against Castile, when it attacked at the same time.[26] Over time, the Volunteers became Granada's most important military force, numbering 10,000 at the end of Muhammad's rule and eclipsing Granada's locally recruited army. Their leader, the shaikh al-ghuzat, held an influential position in Granadan politics.[56]

Territorially, Muhammad consolidated his realm and gained several strongholds in the Kingdom of Jaén, including Quesada and Alcaudete.[49] He lost Tarifa to Castile, and the agreement made before his death for it to be returned was never implemented.[51] The internal threat from the Banu Ashqilula was eliminated, and the Marinids lost their holdings in Al-Andalus.[54] Muhammad also oversaw a large-scale fortification project for the kingdom's defences,[57] as well as an increase in trade with Christian Europe, especially with Italian traders from Genoa and Pisa.[58]



  1. ^ Kennedy 2014, p. 279 states that he was 38 when taking the throne in 1273
  2. ^ a b Harvey 1992, pp. 39–40.
  3. ^ Harvey 1992, p. 33.
  4. ^ a b Kennedy 2014, p. 279.
  5. ^ Harvey 1992, p. 36.
  6. ^ a b c Kennedy 2014, p. 280.
  7. ^ Kennedy 2014, p. 281.
  8. ^ a b c Harvey 1992, p. 151.
  9. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 153.
  10. ^ a b c Kennedy 2014, p. 284.
  11. ^ a b c Harvey 1992, p. 154.
  12. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 62–63.
  13. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 65.
  14. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 155—156.
  15. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 156—157.
  16. ^ a b c d Harvey 1992, p. 157.
  17. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 67.
  18. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 67–68.
  19. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 69–70.
  20. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 72–73.
  21. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 73–74.
  22. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 74.
  23. ^ a b c d Harvey 1992, p. 158.
  24. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 76.
  25. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 158–159.
  26. ^ a b c d Harvey 1992, p. 159.
  27. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 78.
  28. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 81.
  29. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 82.
  30. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 83.
  31. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 85.
  32. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 86.
  33. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 89.
  34. ^ a b c Harvey 1992, p. 160.
  35. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 159–160.
  36. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 97–98.
  37. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 101.
  38. ^ a b Harvey 1992, pp. 161–162.
  39. ^ a b Kennedy 2014, pp. 284–285.
  40. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 103.
  41. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 112.
  42. ^ a b c Harvey 1992, p. 162.
  43. ^ a b c d O'Callaghan 2011, p. 113.
  44. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 114.
  45. ^ a b c d Harvey 1992, p. 163.
  46. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, pp. 114–115.
  47. ^ O'Callaghan 2011, p. 115.
  48. ^ a b O'Callaghan 2011, p. 116.
  49. ^ a b c O'Callaghan 2011, p. 118.
  50. ^ a b Latham & Fernández-Puertas 1993, p. 1022.
  51. ^ a b Harvey 1992, pp. 163, 166.
  52. ^ Kennedy 2014, p. 285.
  53. ^ Harvey 1992, p. 163, citing Ibn al-Khatib: "A story was put about that [Muhammad II] had been poisoned by a sweetmeat administered by his heir." Kennedy 2014, p. 285: "It was alleged that [Muhammad III] had in fact poisoned his father."
  54. ^ a b Catlos 2018, p. 341.
  55. ^ Harvey 1992, pp. 163–164.
  56. ^ Kennedy 2014, pp. 282–283.
  57. ^ Kennedy 2014, p. 283.
  58. ^ Harvey 1992, p. 161.


  • Catlos, Brian A. (July 2018). Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. London: C. Hurst & Co. ISBN 978-1787380035.
  • Harvey, L. P. (1992). Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31962-9.
  • Kennedy, Hugh (11 June 2014). Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of Al-Andalus. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-87041-8.
  • Latham, John Derek; Fernández-Puertas, Antonio (1993). "Nasrids". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P.; Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VII: Mif–Naz. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 1020–1029. ISBN 90-04-09419-9.
  • O'Callaghan, Joseph F. (2011). The Gibraltar Crusade: Castile and the Battle for the Strait. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812204638.
Muhammad II of Granada
Cadet branch of the Banu Khazraj
Born: c. 1235 Died: 8 April 1302
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Muhammad I
Sultan of Granada
Succeeded by
Muhammad III