Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010


The system of relationships between the Maghreb and the Mashreq. The role of the ulema. Tarajim and rahalat as historical sources (393) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Palermo (Italy)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Maria Grazia Sciortino

· NOT_DEFINED language: English / Français

· NOT_DEFINED description: The History of the Muslim World has always been characterized by a strong and uninterrupted system of contacts and cultural exchanges between the Maghreb and the Mashreq. The pilgrimage to Mecca and the ‘talab al-'ilm’ (travel for the sake of acquiring religious knowledge) are two of the most important and best known typologies of travels usually performed by muslim people, with particular regard to the islamic scholars or ulema. This is widely demonstrated by the existence, in the Arab historiography, of a peculiar typology of historical sources that are the tarajim or biographical dictionaries and the rahalat or travel accounts. The importance of these particular sources is more evident than many scholars argue. For decades, in fact, the history of the Maghreb has been unprecisely considered -mainly by a certain Western historiography of orientalistic school - as apart from the Mashreq context, in spite of the numerous and manifold evidences, in all ages, of maghrebian and mashreqian historians. Hence the urgence of analyzing the Arab history from within, with the support of those Arab historical sources often considered as minor whereas they are fundamental. In addiction to the aforementioned sources, it is important to remind the Archive Documents, whose historical relevance does not need any further clarification.

Chair: Dr. Maria Grazia Sciortino, University of Palermo

Paper presenter: Prof. Giovanna Calasso (Full Professor of History of Islamic Countries, University ‘La Sapienza’, Rome), “The importance of the maghrebian rahalat as historical sources: the case of Al-‘Abdari”.
Abu Abdallah Muhammad al-Abdari al-Hihi was a Moroccan scholar, ‘alim and traveller. He was born in Haha, a village in the south of Morocco. He is the author of The Moroccan Journey (Al-Rihlah al-magribiyyah), an account of his journey to Mecca in 1289, originally entitled Rihlat al-Abdari (al-Abdari''s Journey). In his work Al-Abdari gives us plenty of informations concerning the social and cultural level of some important maghrebian cities, such as Tunis, Tlemcen, Alexandria etc.. Furthermore the analysis of his play allows us to understand the most important historical events occurred in the thirteenth century Muslim world, with particular regard to the relationships between the Maghreb and the Mashreq.

Paper Presenter: Dr. Maria Grazia Sciortino (Ph.D. in Islamic Studies: History and Philology, Temporary Assistant Professor in History of Islamic Countries, University of Palermo), “The presence of mashreqian ‘ulema at Ahmad al-Mansur’s court according to the maghrebian tarajim of the period”.
The Sixteenth Century was a period of extreme importance and centrality concerning the relationships between the Maghrib and the Mashriq, and more specifically between the Maghrib al-Aqsa -at the time dominated by the Sa’dian Shurafa -and the Arabic-Ottoman World, here intended not only as the Mashriq or Bilad al-Sharq, but also as the maghrebian territories under ottoman control. The uninterrupted system of contacts between maghribi an mashriqi ulema was intensified by the far-seeing political strategy of Ahmad al-Mansur al-Dahabi, probably the most important and best known Sa’dian sovereign who, as an alim and poet, improved his court by surrounding himself with ulema coming from the Maghrib as well as from the Mashriq. The extraordinary cultural development that characterized the reign of Al-Mansur is widely documented by a peculiar typology of Arabic historical sources: the tarajim books. By analyzing some biografical dictionaries of sa’dian period, this study will stress the most relevant aspects of the aforementioned phenomenon, with particular regard to the contacts and cultural exchanges between maghribian and mashriqian ‘ulema.

Paper presenter: Tea Pitiurishvili (Tbilisi State University), "Iranian Shi'a Ulama and Constitutional Revolution: Means, Objectives and Effects"
The paper deals with the bases and background of strange features of the activities of Iranian Shi’a Ulamas during the whole modern history. Before the Constitutional Revolution there did not exist a politically motivated non-religious power which would have been able to oppose the government. Such a role was performed by the clergy. The power were divided within the frames of the religion and the monarchy, i.e. ‘state’. ‘Nation’ denoted the religion and the congregation, and ‘state’ the monarchy. The Constitutional Revolution of 1905 became the first attempt to establish the western values liberalism, secularism and nationalism in Iran. Participation of Ulamas in it, their paradoxical alliance with secular liberals has been an unprecedented phenomenon in Muslim world, which was caused by their specific traditional role. The links between the clergy and secular ideologies were based on recognition of their common enemies: Shah’s tyranny and imperialism. They fought one and the same forces, but the motive of the struggle of the clergy was based on a totally different outlook. Both had one opinion in common of some issues. Besides, the religious leaders wanted the Qur’an principles to become the basis of the society and Shariah a basic law. At the first stage of the Revolution there was a certain likeness between the religious and secular ideologies in the question of supporting the Constitutional Governance but gradually they conceived that this process would stress the separation of religion from the state. The clergy could mobilize workers, servants of religious institutions and market traders. One part of Ulamas had analyzed Al-Afghani’s ideas of fulfilling reforms in the Islamic countries before resisting the West and supported his religious reformation ideas. The other part of them conceived the liberal ideas well, but the only question they took interest in was the reformers’ novelties, namely the question of separation of religion from the politics. Conclusively, modern values gradually fell within the system of the traditional values and defined the political direction of the conservative leaders. The idea of compatibility of Islam with constitutionalism found reflection in the plan ‘Shari’a-permissible’ Constitutionalism, which added a new article to the basic law dealing with the right of veto of five theologian-lawyers against Parliament’s decisions not complying with Islamic principles. However, because of the dissension among the clergy, the attempt to set up a council of five mujtahids failed.