Pull or Push? Andalusi Emigrants in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:30 AM
Balcony N (New Orleans Marriott)
Maribel Fierro, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales–Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw a wave of emigration of Andalusi scholars to the Eastern Islamic lands that is usually explained as resulting from the Christian military advance in the Iberian Peninsula and the political turmoil of the times. Both the Almoravids and Almohads – militant movements which had based their legitimacy in the re-activation of jihad – eventually proved unable to halt the Christian conquest of Muslim territory in the Iberian Peninsula: while most Muslims had no option but to continue living under Christian rule, some left and, among them, many belonged to the religious elites. On the other hand, the religious policies of the Almohads – with their ‘forced conversion’ of non Almohad monotheists (Jews, Christians and also Muslims) to Almohad tawhid – also contributed to the wave of emigration, as shown by a number of biographies in which Andalusi and Maghrebi scholars mention violence or the fear of violence as the initial motive for their emigration (the case of Maimonides could be included in this category). In my paper, I will explore the lives of those emigrants who belonged to the world of scholarship (ulama’), paying special attention to their success – or lack thereof – in integrating themselves into their host societies. In general, these were success stories, as has been demonstrated for example by Louis Pouzet in his study of the Andalusi and Maghrebi scholars active in Damascus. My interest lies in determining what these emigrant Andalusis brought with them that made such success possible.
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