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Muhammad XII of Granada
Sultan of Granada
Reign 1482 – 1483; 1487 – January 2 1492
Predecessor Abu l-Hasan Ali, Sultan of Granada
Successor Ferdinand II of Aragon King of Spain
Consort Morayma
Aixa (Sor Isabel of Granada)
Full name
Abu 'abd-Allah Muhammad XII (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد الثاني عشر‎)
House Nasrid dynasty
Father Abu l-Hasan Ali, Sultan of Granada
Mother Aixa
Born 1460?
Alhambra, Granada
Died 1533?
Fes, Morocco?
Religion Islam

Abu 'abd-Allah Muhammad XII (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد الثاني عشر‎) (b. 1460?; d. 1533?), known as Boabdil (a Spanish corruption of the name Abu Abdullah), was the twenty-second and last Nasrid ruler of Granada in Iberia. He was also called el chico, the little, or el zogoybi, the unfortunate. Son of Abu l-Hasan Ali, sultan of the Emirate of Granada, he was proclaimed sultan in 1482 in place of his father, who was driven from the land.

Muhammad XII soon after sought to gain prestige by invading Castile. He was taken prisoner at Lucena in 1484. Between 1484 and 1487, he was held prisoner. Power returned to his father and then in 1485 to his uncle Muhammed XIII, also known as Abdullah ez Zagal.

He only obtained his freedom and support to recover his throne in 1487 by consenting to hold Granada as a tributary kingdom under Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Castile and Aragon, and not to intervene to prevent the conquest of Málaga.

1487 saw the fall of Baeza, Málaga and Almería. 1489 saw the fall of Almuñécar and Salobreña. By the beginning of 1491, Granada was the only Muslim city left in Spain.


Surrender of Granada

The Capitulation of Granada by F. Pradille y Ortiz, 1882: Muhammad XII confronts Ferdinand and Isabella

In 1491, Muhammad XII was summoned by Ferdinand and Isabella to surrender the city of Granada, and on his refusal it was besieged by the Castilians. Eventually, on 2 January, 1492, Granada was surrendered. In most sumptuous attire the royal procession moved from Santa Fe to a place a little more than a mile from Granada, where Ferdinand took up his position by the banks of the Genil. A private letter written by an eyewitness to the bishop of León only six days after the event recorded the scene.

Sword of Muhammad XII

With the royal banners and the cross of Christ plainly visible on the red walls of the Alhambra: …the Moorish sultan with about eighty or a hundred on horseback very well dressed went forth to kiss the hand of their Highnesses. According to the final capitulation agreement both Isabel and Ferdinand will decline the offer and the key to Granada will pass into Spanish hands without Muhammad XII having to kiss the hands of Los Royes, as the Spanish royal couple became known. Muhammad XII indomitable mother insisted on sparing his son this final humiliation. The Moorish sultan was received with much love and courtesy and there they handed over to him his son, who had been a hostage from the time of his capture, and as they stood there, there came about four hundred captives, of this who were in the enclosure, with the cross and a solemn procession singing the Te Deum Laudamus, and their highnesses dismounted to adore the Cross to the accompaniment of the tears and reverential devotion of the crowd, not least of the Cardinal and Master of Santiago and the Duke of Cadiz and all the other grandees and gentlemen and people who stood there, and there was no one who did not weep abundantly with pleasure giving thanks to Our Lord for what they saw, for they could not keep back the tears; and the Moorish sultan and the Moors who were with him for their part could not disguise the sadness and pain they felt for the joy of the Christians, and certainly with much reason on account of their loss, for Granada is the most distinguished and chief thing in the world…

Christopher Columbus seems to have been present; he refers to the surrender on the first page of his Diario de las Derrotas y Caminos:

After your Highnesses ended the war of the Moors who reigned in Europe, and finished the war of the great city of Granada, where this present year [1492] on the 2nd January I saw the royal banners of Your Highnesses planted by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of the said city, I saw the Moorish sultan issue from the gates of the said city, and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses…


The Helmet of Muhammad XII

Legend has it that as the royal party moved south toward exile, they reached a rocky prominence which gave a last view of the city. Muhammad XII reined in his horse and, surveying for the last time the Alhambra and the green valley that spread below, burst into tears. When his mother approached him she said : "Weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man". The spot from which Muhammad XII looked for the last time on Granada is known as "the Moor's last sigh" (el último suspiro del Moro).

Muhammad XII was given an estate in Láujar de Andarax, Las Alpujarras, a mountainous area between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean Sea, but he soon crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Fez, Morocco. The Spanish royal secretary Fernando de Zafra mentions in his letter of 9 December 1492 that Muhammad XII and his followers leave Andarax which left one month to go to Tlemcen, where he stayed little longer. He left in September or October 1492. He explained that his wife died in Andarax is that it is buried in Mondújar.

Arabic historian Al-Maqqari of Tlemcen wrote that he would be moved to Fez with his mother, his sister and his two sons Ahmed and Yusef. According to Al-Maqqari, he died in 1533/1534 (in 940 A.H.) or in 1518 and refers precisely where his body was buried [1]. Their descendants lived in Fez in 1627/1628 (in 1037 A.H.) in difficult conditions.

Spanish chronicler Luis del Mármol Carvajal [2] wrote "Muhammad XII died near the Oued el Assouad (Black River) at ford told Waqûba during the war between Marinids (moroccan dynasty of Kingdom of Fez) and the Saadians (moroccan dynasty of kingdom of Marrakesh)". This source is also taken by Louis de Chénier, a diplomat of the King of France Louis XVI, in his Historical research on the Moors and History of the Empire of Morocco published in Paris in 1787,[3] but this hypothesis Marmol is considered unlikely by Mercedes Garcia-Arenal.

His daughter Aixa was taken by the Spanish and baptised Isabel. King Ferdinand celebrated the conquest of Granada by taking her as one of his mistresses, and she became the mother of one of his illegitimate sons, Miguel Fernández Knight of Granada (1495-1575). Later, she was cast aside by the King and became a nun as Sister Isabel of Granada.[4]

Finally, note that according to a rumor (which is where we trace over the net), yet to prove, since so far confirmed by any historical source, he died in 1494 in Tlemcen (current Algeria). A gravestone bearing the epitaph was found in 1848 in the royal necropolis of the Zianide dynasty of Tlemcen before being lost in 1898 after being presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889. But it seems it is rather that of his uncle Muhammad XIII az-Zaghall. It is indeed quite surprising, given the international impact of the World Exhibitions, that we have no written record or document of this important historical fact.

Muhammad XII in popular culture

  • He was the subject of the three-act opera "Boabdil, der letzte Maurenkönig", Op. 49, written in 1892 by the German composer Moritz Moszkowski.
  • Spanish composer Gaspar Cassadó wrote the Lamento de Boabdil for cello and piano, in memory of the moor.
  • Andalusian singer-songwriter and poet Carlos Cano dedicated a song to Muhammad XII in his album Crónicas Granadinas, titled Caída del Rey Chico.
  • Salman Rushdie's book, The Moor's Last Sigh, also features consistent references to Muhammad XII.
  • Louis Aragon's book Le Fou d'Elsa renders a dramatized and poetic version of the story of Granada's capture, which includes Muhammad XII as one of the two main characters present in the novel (Majnun being the other. Elsa, whom it could be argued is the second major character, is absent from the book.)

See also


External links

Muhammad XII of Granada
Born: 1460? Died: 1533?
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Abu l-Hasan Ali
Sultan of Granada
Succeeded by
Abu l-Hasan Ali
Preceded by
Muhammed XIII
Sultan of Granada
Granada captured by Spain


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