Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Leaving Iberia: A Muftī, His Fatwās, and the Islamic Obligation to Emigrate

History Lecture Series presents Jocelyn Hendrickson Ph.D.

Mon, April 14, 2014 | The Union - Sinclair Suite (3.128)

3:00 PM

Leaving Iberia: A Muftī, His Fatwās, and the Islamic Obligation to Emigrate

During the fall of al-Andalus (known to Christians as the reconquista) some of the first substantial Muslim populations came under permanent non-Muslim rule. For centuries, Muslims had lived alongside Jews and Christians who accepted a subordinate, dhimmī status. Christian conquest inverted this hierarchy and thus presented novel and difficult questions for Muslim jurists. Could Muslims accept minority status under Christian rule, or must they emigrate to Muslim-ruled territory?

Scholars interested in Islamic legal responses to Christian conquest have devoted generous attention to the legal opinions (fatwās) of one jurist in particular, Fez’s chiefmuftī Ahmad al-Wansharīsī (died 1508). In this talk, I explore multiple ways o reading al-Wansharīsī’s infamousfatwās obligating Iberian Muslims to leave their conquered homelands. Did these texts speed the “downfall of Spanish Islam”? Do they represent Islamic law at its medieval worst, strict and inhumane? Or were they a thinly veiled commentary on the lesser-known Reconquest, the expansion of Portugal into Morocco? Are the questions posed to al-Wansharīsī “true” stories?

This talk critiques the perceived exceptionalism of the Iberian Muslim predicament, takes a fresh look at Muslim-Christian relations in North Africa, and considersfatwās as narratives of indigenous resistance and political critique.


Josie Hendrickson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and History & Classics at the University of Alberta. Her research focuses on Islamic legal history in medieval and early modern North Africa and Iberia. She has published articles in Islamic Law and SocietyJournal of Spanish Cultural Studies, and MELA Notes: Journal of Middle Eastern Librarianship.

Sponsored by: Middle Eastern Studies, Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, and the Religious Studies Department

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