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Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus

Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Islamic Iberia

by Janina M. Safran

Publication Year: 2013

Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the medieval Islamic state in Iberia, endured for over 750 years following the Arab and Berber conquest of Hispania in 711. While the popular perception of al-Andalus is that of a land of religious tolerance and cultural cooperation, the fact is that we know relatively little about how Muslims governed Christians and Jews in al-Andalus and about social relations among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus, Janina M. Safran takes a close look at the structure and practice of Muslim political and legal-religious authority and offers a rare look at intercommunal life in Iberia during the first three centuries of Islamic rule.

Safran makes creative use of a body of evidence that until now has gone largely untapped by historians-the writings and opinions of Andalusi and Maghribi jurists during the Umayyad dynasty. These sources enable her to bring to life a society undergoing dramatic transformation. Obvious differences between conquerors and conquered and Muslims and non-Muslims became blurred over time by transculturation, intermarriage, and conversion. Safran examines ample evidence of intimate contact between individuals of different religious communities and of legal-juridical accommodation to develop an argument about how legal-religious authorities interpreted the social contract between the Muslim regime and the Christian and Jewish populations. Providing a variety of examples of boundary-testing and negotiation and bringing judges, jurists, and their legal opinions and texts into the narrative of Andalusi history, Safran deepens our understanding of the politics of Umayyad rule, makes Islamic law tangibly social, and renders intercommunal relations vividly personal.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for generous fellowship support for this project. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the Pennsylvania State University for granting me a resident scholarship for one semester, ...

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pp. 1-34

In 711 Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Berber conqueror of al-Andalus, and his warriors landed at Gibraltar. Legend has it that the prophet Muhammad appeared to Tariq as he slept onboard the vessel that carried him across the straits from the northern tip of Africa to the southern promontory of the Iberian Peninsula. ...

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1. The Structuring of Umayyad Rule

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pp. 35-80

The words of warning in this chapter’s epigraph close a speech Mundhir ibn Sa'id al-Balluti delivered in praise of the caliph 'Abd al-Rahman III al Nasir li-Din Allah during a reception for an embassy from Constantinople held in the palace (qaṣr) of Cordoba in 949. The thrust of the speech was to remind the audience of the obedience they owed ...

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2. Society in Transition

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pp. 81-124

In the immediate postconquest era the divide between conquerors and conquered in al-Andalus was marked in a number of ways. The conquerors were distinct by virtue of their origins, religion, language, social organization, manners, and customs. However, with the establishment of Muslim rule, identity markers began to shift. ...

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3. Between Enemies and Friends

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pp. 125-167

The father in the story related in this chapter’s epigraph, Ibn Waddah, was actively involved in protecting his community from innovation and heresy.1 He compiled a collection of hadiths of the Prophet and reports from the early community of Muslims in his Kitab al-bida', the earliest extant Andalusi treatise dedicated to the subject of innovations. ...

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4. Borders and Boundaries

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pp. 168-208

The central question in the mas’ala (legal question; pl. masā' il) of the epigraph is one of legal status (legal implications follow) complicated by the crossing of legal jurisdictions: Is the individual in this case to be treated as an apostate, a ḥarbī (an individual from the Domain of War) or a Muslim1 ...

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pp. 209-220

The title of this book, Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus, refers to the idea of definitive boundaries between Muslims and Christians and Jews—an idea rooted in the Qur’anic history of humankind and the sunna of the Prophet, embodied in Islamic law, and expressed in signs and acts integral to Islamic culture. ...


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pp. 221-236


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pp. 237-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780801468018
E-ISBN-10: 0801468019
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451836
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451833

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1