World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


MEETING PLACE OF TWO OCEANS (MAJMA'AL-BA'RAYN): MULTI-DIMENSIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF MIDDLE EAST - 1/5: Diversity and Uniformity in the Muslim West (004) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: MON 19, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Sophia University (Japan)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Masatoshi Kisachi

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The Muslim West (Occident musulman in French and Occidente musulmán in Spanish) is a designation given to a historical area which encompassed both sides of the Gibraltar strait, al-Maghrib and al-Andalus. Although we do not find an exact equivalent term for this modern designation in medieval Arabic literature (al-Gharb al-Islami in Arabic is surely a modern innovation), many scholars have often applied it in reference to the above-mentioned area surrounding the straight. Actually, there are many aspects that justify the use of this unifying designation. Both sides of the strait share a Mediterranean climate, the Maliki School of law was dominant among Muslim intellectuals throughout this area, the Almoravid and Almohad empires each ruled both sides of the strait, commercial activities spread across both coasts, and so on. This historical area seems to be distinct from other parts of the Islamic World, particularly the Middle East. On the other hand, we would be remiss to omit the differences between al-Maghrib and al-Andalus. We might say that al-Andalus was a more sedentary society, that the Maghribi people had more tribal solidarity, that Berber languages were indigenous in al-Maghrib whereas Romance languages were so in al-Andalus, and so on. If we overlook this diversity and examine only the common aspects of the two regions, we may misconstrue the subtle relationship between them. Over-exaggerating the unity of the two regions had even lead to political abuses of history, as in order to justify the colonial rule of Morocco, or to reclaim the lost Islamic al-Andalus. In this panel session, each speaker will present a case study on this theme, focusing on both diversity and uniformity in the historical Muslim West. These presentations will help us understand the efficacy and limitations of this designation of a Muslim West. We will discuss the contexts and extents to which the notion of a Muslim West is valid. The discussion will be done also about whether inhabitants of this region have a common identity vis-à-vis the rest of the Islamic World, al-Mashriq in particular.

Chair: Abdelahad Sebti (Université de Mohammed V)

Paper presenter: Masatoshi Kisaichi (Sophia University), “Andalusian People in the Ulema Societies in the 12th and 14th Century Maghreb Cities”
In the year 711A.D, the Muslim people passed through Gibraltar and invaded into Spain. From that time on, the Spanish Andalusia region became a part of the western Muslim world together with the Maghreb (included the Ifriqiyya). This resulted in both regions experiencing a political unification for certain periods of time, especially the Almoravid and Almohad times. From these circumstances did the Maghreb and Andalusia come to form a branch of Muslim societies which differs from the Muslim societies in the East (the Mashriq)? Even if it is so, what was the main contributing factor to the separate branch of Muslim societies based on the unity of the people in the Maghreb and Andalusia area?
From the 12th century onward, many scholars, merchants and others came from various districts to Maghreb cities such as Fes, Tlemcen, and Bijaya, forming ulema societies. People from Andalusia were an important element to these societies, especially in Fes and Bijaya from the 12th to the 13th century; it was also found that many Andalusian people and Maghrebians were living among each other in this society.
Was there the common sense between the “western Muslims” or Andalusians and Maghrebians? Of course some Andalusians merged into the Maghreb societies and some of them didn’t merge resulting in their vacation. After the second half of the 15th century, Muslims from Andalusia immigrated into the Maghreb societies in large numbers to take refuge from the imminent threat of the Reconquista.
This paper aims to consider and outline the relationships between the Andalusian people and Maghrebians among the ulema societies in Fes, Tlemcen and Bijaya before the large influx of refugees from Andalusia.

Paper presenter: Kentaro Sato (Waseda University), “Yannayr and Ansara: Seasonal festivities in the Muslim West”
In addition to the legal Islamic festivals (al-‘īd) that were universally celebrated throughout the Islamic World, the Muslim people of the Muslim West (al-Maghrib and al-Andalus) held their own unique local festivities. Each year, on the 1st of January, the New Year’s Day of the Julian calendar, they celebrated yannayr. On this day, people invited relatives and friends to share luxurious foods special for this occasion. Another was on the 24th of June, when they celebrated al-‘anṣara. On this night, they built a bonfire and jumped over it, while wishing for prosperity.
These festivities originated in the pre-Islamic traditional seasonal festivities of the Meditteranean basin. Yannayr came from the feast of the winter solstice, and al-‘anṣara similarly corresponds to the feast of the summer solstice. Although the ulama always rejected these festivities, Muslim people in the Muslim West nevertheless gave them up. In the rural areas of Maghribi regions, the tradition of celebrating these two festivals endured as late as the early twentieth century.
Such festivals based on pre-Islamic traditions are found in every part of the Islamic world. And yannayr and al-‘anṣara were often mentioned as nayrūz (nawrūz) and mihrajān, using names of two Persian seasonal festivals. However, these traditional Persian festivals had nothing to do with those of the Muslim West. It was called so, just because both of them were non-Islamic festivals. The area which we can found yannayr and al-‘anṣara corresponds to the region of the Muslim West. These two festivities provide evidence that the Muslim West had common local traditions that distinguished it from other parts of the Islamic world, in particular from the Middle East.
On the other hand, we do see regional variations in the practice of these festivities. The aim of this presentation is to show both the uniformity and diversity of the Muslim West through the practice and acceptance of this pre-Islamic tradition of seasonal festivities.

Paper presenter: Yuga Kuroda (Waseda University), "The Views of Muslims held by Iberian Peninsula Christians"
It is well known that the duplicitous relationship between Christianity and Islam has long been one of both conflict and convivencia (coexistence). Recent research shows this also in the history of the medieval Iberian Peninsula and Maghreb. We see the Crusades and Jihad on the one hand, convivencia and certain mutual understandings on the other.
This presentation discusses the Christians’ views of Muslims, in those days known as “Moors”, as the sociological "other" in medieval historical source texts that aimed to create a more comprehensive view of the Islamic World. In looking at the opinions of researchers on this issue, we will first examine the Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris (The Chronicle of Emperor Alfonso VII), a chronicle from the twelfth century, and then some other examples from late medieval Castilian sources.
We conclude that the Christians of the Castilian kingdom did not consider these Muslims of the West Islamic World to be homogeneous, but rather well diversified. The Christian sources reflected the split between the Andalusi Muslims and other North African Muslims. The Andalusi Muslims, referred to in the Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris as Hagareni, and in other sources as Moros de aquende mar (Moors on this side of the sea), were, in a sense, the Christians’ true “neighbors”, with whom they associated the harmony or unrest of their daily lives. The Moros de allende mar (Moors from beyond the sea), or Moabites as cited in the Chronica, were much more consistently described as religious enemies, though not always antagonistic. Thus, Hispanic medieval Christians held a more multifaceted view of the Muslims of the Islamic World, what we now call “The Muslim West”, than was previously thought.