Guardians of Islam

Guardians of Islam: Religious Authority and Muslim Communities of Late Medieval Spain

Kathryn A. Miller
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Guardians of Islam
    Book Description:

    Muslim enclaves within non-Islamic polities are commonly believed to have been beleaguered communities undergoing relentless cultural and religious decline. Cut off from the Islamic world, these Muslim groups, it is assumed, passively yielded to political, social, and economic forces of assimilation and acculturation before finally accepting Christian dogma.

    Kathryn A. Miller radically reconceptualizes what she calls the exclave experience of medieval Muslim minorities. By focusing on the legal scholars ( faqihs) of fifteenth-century Aragonese Muslim communities and translating little-known and newly discovered texts, she unearths a sustained effort to connect with Muslim coreligionaries and preserve practice and belief in the face of Christian influences. Devoted to securing and disseminating Islamic knowledge, these local authorities intervened in Christian courts on behalf of Muslims, provided Arabic translations, and taught and advised other Muslims. Miller follows the activities of the faqihs, their dialogue with Islamic authorities in nearby Muslim polities, their engagement with Islamic texts, and their pursuit of traditional ideals of faith. She demonstrates that these local scholars played a critical role as cultural mediators, creating scholarly networks and communal solidarity despite living in an environment dominated by Christianity.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50983-1
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. INTRODUCTION The Muslim Exclaves in Christian Spain
    (pp. 1-19)

    Eight years after the Muslims living under the Crown of Aragon were forcibly converted to Christianity, a learned group of faqihs (scholars) met in secret in Zaragoza, Spain. Th eir conversation made its way into a Muslim religious text, the Tafsira , composed around 1534 by Mancebo, a traveling scholar from Arevalo in Castile.

    A whole company of honored Muslims had gathered in Saragossa, twenty Muslims, among whom were seven learned and renowned scholars, and after the noon prayer they began to discuss our suff erings, and each of them made a speech. Among the things said, many lamented the...

  7. CHAPTER ONE On the Border of Infidelity
    (pp. 20-43)

    There is little doubt that the first Christian Reconquest of Muslim lands on the Iberian Peninsula, the fall of Toledo, was a shock to the Islamic Mediterranean world. But it was more than one moment of crisis. Over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and again at the end of the fifteenth century, there was a series of what might be called aftershocks. Christians conquered Aragon and then a drumroll of conquests thereafter in Valencia, Murcia, and finally Granada in 1492.¹

    In each case the reaction of Muslims in the Islamic world was remarkably similar. Without the capacity...

  8. CHAPTER TWO From Dar al-Islam to Dar al-Harb: Landscapes of Mudejar Spain
    (pp. 44-58)

    The step from the Maliki jurists and their discourse to the Aragonese landscape is not an easy one. The fatwas that they issued may seem to have barely affected the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in Christian Spain. After all, the chief thrust of their rulings—the command to emigrate—was ignored by most Mudejars. Many jurists wrote as if they had little knowledge of Mudejar life, little sense of the actual threats to Mudejar Islam, and little understanding of the ways in which Mudejars handled these menaces.¹ And, due to the nature of the evidence,...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Transmitting Knowledge and Building Networks
    (pp. 59-79)

    Born to a line of educated, itinerant scholars, the polymath Muwaffaq al-Din Abu Muhammad ˓Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi followed the family habitus. After increasingly advanced studies in hadith, linguistics, and grammar, he journeyed to Mosul, eager for more sophisticated learning. Teaching and studying took him further afield to Damascus, then Jerusalem, then Cairo. After Saladin’s death in 1193, another round of itinerancy led al-Baghdadi to Jerusalem, Damascus, Turkey, and back to Baghdad, where he died. His autobiography, which details these circuits, centers on books read, memorized, and taught, on prestigious masters sought, found, weighed and occasionally found wanting, and on scholarly...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Write It Down!
    (pp. 80-104)

    The faqihs could be temperamental. The margins of their manuscripts and the fragmentary notes they exchanged occasionally turn personal: a gripe about lost papers, a complaint about a debt unpaid, a remark on a wish to emigrate to dar al-Islam. Some of these comments could have been made by modern university men and women. We hear a plea for indulgence, in Arabic, from a Mudejar to Muhammad al-Morabeti: this delinquent will look, one more time, among his things for those papers that Muhammad wants so badly.¹ Musa Calavera al-Qurashi complains that the manuscript he is copying is full of grammatical...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Pretending to Be Jurists
    (pp. 105-127)

    In 1403 a North African captive named al-Fasi arrived in Ateca, the eastern boundary of the Jalón Valley (in Aragon), where he found himself welcomed as a reciter of the Qur’an. “These provinces are in the power of the infidels,” he later wrote,

    but in them one can find those who follow the Prophet. Many of them are pious good men. They confess the oneness of God, they abide by the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and among them one finds those learned men, the faqihs, who are familiar with the laws as well as readers of the Qur’an. All...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Scholar’s Jihad, the Mudejar Mosque, and Preaching
    (pp. 128-150)

    According to al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), one of the most influential jurist-theologians of the Muslim Middle Ages, the scholar’s jihad (“striving”) consisted in traveling to the hinterland and teaching the unlearned:

    It is mandatory that there should be found in every mosque and quarter of the town a scholar (faqih) to teach people their religion, and similarly in every village. it is the duty of every scholar who has discharged his individual duties and is free to undertake a collective one to go out into the rural hinterland of his town, and to the Beduin, the Kurds, and the like, and...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Captive Redemption: From Dar al-Harb to Dar al-Islam
    (pp. 151-175)

    In 1417 a learned Moroccan Muslim, al-Fasi, on his way to perform the hajj, was taken prisoner in the eastern Mediterranean by Christian corsairs. Prompted by the merchant based in Majorca who bought him from his initial captors, he wrote back to his family in Fez asking to be ransomed. Francisco Rodrigues, the merchant, had turned greedy; he wanted two hundred gold coins. Al-Fasi despaired, for he feared that his community could not raise such a sum. Providentially, a Mudejar faqih who happened to be traveling through the islands heard of his plight and promised al-Fasi help. The faqih advised...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 176-182)

    At the Zaragoza council described by Mancebo of Arevalo, twenty Muslim scholars gathered to discuss the consequences of the royal edict promulgated almost eight years previously: Charles V’s declaration in November 1525 that Mudejars living in the Crown of Aragon must convert to Christianity or face expulsion from the peninsula.¹ Since the edict, mosques had been shut down, the call to prayer silenced, Arabic books and documents banned.² Four centuries of Mudejar existence in Aragon had come to an end with this dramatic rupture. Th e Mudejars were now Moriscos, at constant risk of exposure and arrest if their underground...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 183-242)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 243-260)
  17. Index
    (pp. 261-276)