The Futūḥ Mișr as a Starting Point for Teaching Christian-Muslim Relations in the Medieval Mediterranean

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM
Maryland Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Giovanna Palombo, University of California, Berkeley
This presentation will focus on ways to overcome the scarcity of Arabic historical documents in translation and highlight one particularly valuable less-known source. First, it will discuss the early Arabic chronicle entitled Futu mișr wa'l maghrib wa'l andalus (The Conquest of Egypt and North Africa and Spain) and how the history of medieval North Africa is of great importance in the early development of Christian-Muslim relations in the Mediterranean region. As its Egyptian author, Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (d. 871), used numerous sources and oral reports, the chronicle is the earliest surviving account of the Muslim conquest of Egypt and the Maghreb (e.g., the Islamic West) including Spain. When teaching the Medieval Mediterranean, the Futūh Misr can provide a relevant point of entry into the medieval Islamic world. Moreover, the chronicle could serve as a representative text in tracing the early development of Muslim Spain, the history of which well encapsulates both tensions and fruitful exchanges among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The second part of the presentation will address ways to confront several challenges for non-Arabists (both teachers and students) in dealing with the southern and eastern shores of the region, particularly that of finding an adequate number of primary sources translated from Arabic into English.  A handout listing a selection of sources originally written in Arabic across the medieval Islamic world and currently available in English translation will be provided as a reference. The presentation will also make note of the ways in which material culture (especially architecture) can provide effective tools for conveying sophisticated notions of syncretic culture and cultural borrowings to students.
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