World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 9-11am

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Mohammad Yusuf Siddiq (Professor, Dr., Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan)

Paper Presenter: Mohammad Yusuf Siddiq (Professor, Islamic Studies Dept., Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan), “Cultural Continuity in the Medieval World of Islam: A Reflective Look into Some Arabic Inscriptions from Alhambra, Andalusia, and Gaur, Bengal”
For centuries, the Islamic world witnessed a slow, but steady globalization and cultural continuity. Gradual expansion of maritime and commerce contacts, trade routes, spiritual and educational links, pilgrimage and travel activities and many other factors contributed to this development. Islamic inscriptions are one of the rare sources that help us capture the cultural ethos and continuity of medieval Islamic world. Indeed, certain Arabic verses with a theme deeply imbued in water cosmology in some monumental inscriptions both in Alhambra, Andalusia, and Gaur, Bengal attest to this cultural continuity. A well-known French colonial administrator in North Africa once compared the world of Islam to a resonant box: the faintest sound in one corner reverberates through the whole. This apt metaphor translates correctly the globalization and cultural continuity in the world of Islam. In spite of their many distinctive local cultural features, one finally discovers the most vibrant message of Islamic civilization - the unity within the diversity - that is visible throughout history in the Islamic world.

Paper Presenter: Muhammad Azizan Sabjan (Senior Lecturer- University Sains Malaysia), “Ibn Khaldun and his Remark on Christianity: a Study of his Muqaddimah”
Abdul Rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Khaldun (732-808/1332-1406) is universally considered as the founder and father of Sociology and Sciences of History. His masterpiece, the Muqaddimah, earns him an immortal place among historians, sociologists, philosophers and as such. The main theme of this monumental work is to identify psychological, economic, environmental and social facts that contribute to the advancement of human civilization and the currents of history. Needles to say, his influence on the subject of history, philosophy of history, sociology, political science, education and religious institution has remained paramount until today. This paper thus is of significance as it is a serious attempt to highlight as well as evaluate his remarks on religious institutions in Christianity. It is hoped that the study will provide a preliminary yet clear understanding of this issue, which hopefully can deepen our knowledge on how religious institutions develop and evolve as perceived by Ibn Khaldun in Muqaddimah.

Paper Presenter: Nizar F. Hermes (Lecturer, Dep. of Humanities- University of Toronto, Canada), “Why are they Shaving their Beards?: The Romans as 'Others' in Medieval Arabic Sources”
Around 886, a Syrian man by the name of Harun ibn Yahya was captured by Byzantine pirates in the seaport town of Ascalon. He was then taken to Constantinople where he was held as an as’r (prisoner of war) for several months. After his ransom, he did not return home preferring instead to embark upon a long European journey that took him as far as la città eterna, of which he left an eyewitness account. Fortunately enough, some fragments of this account were preserved by geographer Ibn Rusta in Al-A’laq al-Nafisa (The Precious Things) before later writers began to incorporate many of its passages, sometimes verbatim, without acknowledging Ibn Yahya as the original source. Despite its brevity and fragmentation, Ibn Yahya’s description of Rome is among the most valuable of its kind, not least because Ibn Yahya is among a handful of medieval Arab travellers who saw with their own eyes several of the mirabilia urbis Romae. This is in addition to the fact that this forgotten account captures well medieval Muslims’ fascination with Rome, which, as I will try to show, was first and foremost related to Rome’s place in Muslim apocalyptic beliefs. Contrary to the monolithic impression left by postcolonial theories of Orientalism, this paper makes a strong case that Orientals did not exist solely to be gazed at. Before this came to be so, they too had directed their gaze toward the European Other(s) in a way that mirrored in reverse the subject/object relationship described as Orientalism.

Paper presenter: Luigi Andrea Berto (Assistant Professor, Department of History, Western Michigan University, USA), “Exploring Muslim Otherness in Early Medieval South Italy”
The dissolution of the Lombard political unity and the weakening of Byzantine power in southern Italy, as well as the Muslim military activities in that area rendered the ninth and tenth centuries a crucial yet troubled period for the history of this part of the Italian peninsula. The narrative sources covering these centuries in the south outnumber and exceed in variety those of the rest of Italy and Southern Europe. In particular, I will focus on the three main chronicles of this period: the anonymous “Chronicles of Saint Benedict of Cassino”, written in the 870s describing episodes from the 830s to 860s, the “History of the Lombards” by Erchempert, a Cassinese monk, who composed his work towards the end of the ninth century and covers a period extending from 774 to c. 889, and the “Chronicle of Salerno”, an anonymous text, probably written in 977, that narrates events occurring between the second half of the eighth century and 974. Although the authors of these texts were monks, their works cannot be labelled as “monastic chronicles” as they are more interested in the secular world than in southern Italian monasteries. Moreover, Erchempert clearly states that his work is meant to be a lesson for the next generations. The goal of this paper is to take advantage of these particularities and to study how Christian authors described the Muslims and, in particular, to explore if they perceive the Saracens as “others” and if there is a uniform idea of Muslim otherness. In order to have a clear understanding of these perceptions, I will make some comparisons with the perception the same authors had of Franks and Byzantines. Finally, I will express some evaluations of recent historiographical approaches to this topic and assess the usefulness or the inutility of the so-called “post-colonial theories” for this area and period.