Muslim Legal Responses to Christian Occupation in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century North Africa

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:00 AM
Room 101 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jocelyn Hendrickson , Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA
Islamic legal rulings (fatwās) on the obligation to emigrate from Christian-controlled Iberia to Muslim-ruled territory have received generous scholarly attention, primarily focused on those rulings of North African jurist Ahmad al-Wansharīsī (d. Fez, 1508) which are preserved in his vast compilation of Mālikī fatwās, al-Micyār al-Mucrib.  This paper seeks to reframe the context in which these fatwās are studied by introducing a lesser-known body of rulings written in response to Christian occupation in the Maghrib itself in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.  These fatwās were preserved by jurist cAbd al-cAzīz al-Zayyātī (d. 1055/1645) in his al-Jawāhir al-mukhtāra fī-mā waqaftu calayhi min al-nawāzil bi-Jibāl Ghumāra (Selected Jewels: Legal Cases I Encountered in the Ghumāra Mountains), a two-volume fatwā collection which remains in manuscript in Morocco.  After offering an inventory of the relevant rulings in al-Jawāhir al-mukhtāra and placing them in historical context, my analysis will focus on a group of fatwās by four jurists in particular:  cAbd Allāh al-Waryāglī (d. 894/1488-89), cĪsā b. Ahmad al-Māwāsī (d. 896/1491), Ibn Bartāl (d. ca. 900/1495), and al-Wansharīsī himself.  All four jurists were active in Fez in the last quarter of the fifteenth century and appear to have been presented with the same or similar set of questions regarding Muslim-Christian relations in and around Portuguese-occupied Moroccan ports.  Analysis of their responses not only suggests that these relationships were an urgent matter of state concern at the time, but that al-Wansharīsī’s infamous 1491 fatwā on emigration from al-Andalus, Asnā al-matājir, must be understood in the context of this earlier set of rulings.  This study thus links the juristic discourses on conquered Muslims in Iberia and the Maghrib in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, argues for their mutual influence, and critiques the perceived exceptionalism of the Iberian Muslim predicament.
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