Historical question about royal hostages

I’m working on a short story loosely based in an alternate history version of Spain during the Reconquista, about a ruler of one of the Muslim emirates who is taken prisoner during the war and changes his faith.

I haven’t read a lot of history, but I gather that usually royal hostages weren’t tossed in prisons, but treated like royalty in the courts of their enemies. True? I assume that this kind of hostage would usually be ransomed, eventually, but if he converted, what would the consequences be? Would he dare let himself be ransomed? Would he be used as a figurehead in the new government? Would he just end up in exile or a nicely furnished prison the rest of his life, writing religious poetry?

Royal hostages could have been formally treated like royalty (as is given proper respect) but wouldn’t necessarily live in luxury. They could be put in some acceptably comfortable small castle in the middle of nowhere, for instance. Being put in a damp cell and “unfortunately” dying there can’t be totally excluded, either, depending on the political situation. Essentially anything is possible from living at the court to being quickly murdered.
I can see a religious conversion being a huge issue, in any case. A guy born Christian and staying Christian while serving a Muslim overlord, no problem. A Muslim converting to Christianism and being accepted back? I can’t see that happening (even though there might be actual examples of that, I wouldn’t know for sure).

Ancient Rome frequently had as ‘hostages’ the young children of the rulers of lands Rome had conquered. They were treated quite well, snd placed with foster families of roughly equivalent status. Part of the goal was to get them from a young age inculcated into the ‘Roman mindset’ and the way of life in the capitol of the world. Thinking that it was possible they would someday go back to their native lands, and would have some legitimate claim to the leadership there. And the Roman forces might support them, since having as ruler one of the traditional family would keep the people more content. And if he had spent several years in Rome, and now thought with a Roman attitude, that would keep better relations with Rome, too.

In general, people who’d converted while held prisoner didn’t go back, but it’s not as if they couldn’t. After a while, every domain had mixed-religion populations (some more mixed than others) and, although people of the same religion did tend to live together, it was self-organization (living close to the butcher who did things your way and to the appropriate temple was more convenient than living on the other end of town) rather than ordered from above. There were quite a few mixed-religion marriages at the highest levels, children would usually be raised in the mother’s religion but not always. Musa ben Musa, aka Muza ibn Muza, wasn’t: Muslim father and son, Christian mother; his elder half-brother was the second King of what later became known as Navarre - giving Wikipedia because every other source I get is in Spanish, and despite what Wiki says his mother’s name was known: Oneca.

Tudela was one of the few places to get a separate walled Muslim-only area, but this was when the town had been back in Christian hands for a couple of centuries, after the Muslims went to the King complaining that their children would come home impure after playing with (and maybe sharing the mid-morning snack of) children from other religions - what the Muslims wanted was to have everybody forced to live their way, what they got was “ok, so let’s get y’all new housing where those of you who don’t want to get impure by mistake can be sure of not catching any Christian or Jewish bugs”, and moving there was voluntary so not everybody did. There were cases of cities which had several independent burroughs with different laws, which may even have gone to war with each other, but they weren’t organized by religion (Pamplona’s burroughs, which did indeed attack each other several times, were organized roughly by “immigrants from Northern Europe”, “Roman law” and “Basque law”).

I didn’t say that Christians and Muslims wouldn’t live side by side. What I’m specifically skeptical about is the possibility to convert to the opposite side’s religion (in this case, a Muslim converting to Christianism in a Muslim city, or a proeminent individual coming back to Muslim territory after having converted while he was a prisoner).

The examples you gave don’t address this specific issue.

The examples I recall of people returning or not after conversion are from stories, not history. Thing is, unless there was some terrible trouble when Lord José returned as Lord Yusuf after his 10-year imprisonment, bringing along his Muslim wife and a couple of kids, there simply was nothing to record formally. Many domains weren’t very record-prone in the first place: laws, treaties, meetings of Parliament would be recorded, but “Lord José now wants people to call him Lord Yusuf” wouldn’t, not in a time when there was no judicial procedure for changing one’s name.

Throughout 8 centuries and many changes of ruling family/es on all domains, there were many different policies on subjects such as whether a lord or governor had to be the same religion as his liege, which is about the only case I can think of where someone returning after conversion would have more/different problems than someone who lived in that location and was that religion from birth. There were IIRC a few Jewish governors/mayors: those were never the same religion as their liege; there were Christian lords who had Muslim lieges and vice versa.

But they would be apostates. Wouldn’t this bring a death sentence in both Christian and Muslim held areas?

Thanks for the help! I’ve decided that my convert isn’t going to go back to his people. I think they would murder him as either an apostate or a traitor or both. Martyrdom isn’t where I want this to go. :rolleyes:

There was a minor debate a while ago, before one of Obama’s trips, whether he was technically under a muslim death sentence. As the child of a muslim father, technically he should be muslim; by professing Christianity, he was apostate and subject to a death penalty.

Seriously - nobody except a raging fanatic looking for an excuse to act would take that literal a view of Islam.

However, in countries where Islam is taken seriously, even today, death is supposed to be the penalty.

As usual, Wikipedia:

So in 1500, in an Islamic society locked in mortal combat with Christian Spain, where religion as much as ethnic dividedefines the conflict, I don’t think a person returning to a Islamic country as a member of the ruling family, and a Christian, would last too long.

Uh? No. By that reasoning, half the population of any town which got conquered back and forth during the first hundred years or so would have been put to the knife!

You seem to be confusing the Spain of the Reconquista (where that mindset would simply not have been practical, theology be damned) with the general situation during the Renaissance, when centralization of power in the hands of kings was linked so closely to religion (cf. the Tudor sisters, the “so the price so the people” rule in Germany, the expulsions in Spain, etc.). While Islam did have harsher anti-apostasy rules than the Christian side, the actual situation changed a lot depending on who was in charge in a given location and time, enough that a fantasy story which is clearly identified as such can run the whole gamut from “burn the apostate!” to “meh”.

One example of someone who “went back” is Abu Zayd of Valencia. But he went back with the conquering army of his patron James I of Aragon and didn’t publicize his conversion until after the Aragonese were firmly in control. And of course he didn’t convert while in any sort of captivity, nor was he captured in battle.

It seems Abu Zayd did not tell anyone untl he was safely under Christian control. We’re looking for examples of muslims who converted, and then went back to their muslim society and told their social circle they were Christian.

As for villagers, I assume the situation that applied was “under duress”. If they did not convert, the implication was they would be killed. If the muslims reconquered the town, all the population needed was to say they were forced.

But conversion wasn’t forced: people converted either to kiss ass, to avoid taxes (in Muslim lands), for love… in any case, because the new religion was better for them, but this did not involve “convert or be killed”. “Kill everybody in the village who doesn’t convert” would not have made sense, it wouldn’t have been practical when those 800 years of almost constant warfare (not just between the two religions, but across and inside each) meant that a town could sometimes spend upwards of 100 years playing rope with the border. Not so much in those lands that weren’t particularly fertile, but many towns in the Ebro Valley or Levante swung back and forth for centuries.

After all, the previous “rulers” (with comas because they spent more time killing each other than ruling) had also been from a different religion than the majority of the people (the Goths were Arrians until they converted as a consequence of the 3rd Council of Toledo in 589, in a rare case of the rulers deciding it was more effective to join the religion of the ruled). And the ones before them had ruled over a mosaic of religions which had slowly become sort of unified into a Christianity which wasn’t still everybody’s religion in 711 (there were Jews, Pagans and many Christians which were closer to Pagan than Christian).

A couple of fun anecdotes regarding Spain during the ≈700 years of “Reconquista”:

-At some point, every army in the land (be it from a “Muslim” or “Christian” kingdom) had soldiers from all three religions (Jewish, Muslim and Christian). Quite a few times kingdoms fighting a war would agree on an extended “God’s truce”: Armies would fight only from monday to thursday, as friday, saturday and sunday were sacred to a lot of people in both armies.

-There was a battle in which a Muslim king fielded an army composed exclusively of Christian mercenaries against a Christian king who fielded an army composed exclusively of Muslim mercenaries. I don’t remember who won, but I think the whole situation must have been somewhat awkward.