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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Reflections on “Speaking without Knowledge” (17:36)

One of the most important Qur’anic injunctions (and one which is usually flaunted and ignored by many Muslims today) is the following: “And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge” or (alternatively translated) “Do not follow or accept that of which you have no knowledge” (17.36)

وَلا تَقْـفُ ما لَـيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْـمٌ

According to the great Qur’an commentator, Qatada (d. 735), the essential meaning of this verse is: “Do not say, `I have seen’, when you did not see anything, or `I have heard’, when you did not hear anything, or `I know’, when you do not know, for God Almighty will hold you accountable for all that.”

Important Assassinations in Medieval and Early Modern Islamic History: A Short List

This (very short) piece is inspired by an interesting article on ( that looked at various high-profile assassinations in Europe during the Middle Ages. As in European history, so too in Islamic history many high-profile leaders and political figures met their demise as a result of an assassin’s blade (or poison!). The following are just some of the most significant victims of assassination between roughly 640 and 1810:

[For the sake of brevity, I have decided to keep each entry short since much more details can easily be found in various articles and books about each figure. If anyone is interested in any particular individual or would like a source reference, leave a comment below and I’ll provide additional information] (more…)

Fin de règne berbère Almohade en Andalousie, avènement d’Ibn Hud et des Nasrides :

Histoire Islamique

Guerrier élite berbère Almohade  Guerrier élite berbère Almohade

Abû al-`Alâ’ Idrîs al-Ma’mûn 1227–1233

 (second prétendant à la succession des Almohades de Marakesh, soutenu par le souverain chrétien Ferdinand III de Castille).

An de l’hég. Ga4 (de. J.-C. 1227). Abou-Aly Edris, âgé de trente- neuf ans , jouissait d’une grande considération parmi les Almohades. Il, savait allier la prudence à la valeur, et s’était couvert de gloire dans l’Afrique orientale (Ifriqya : Constantinois, Tunisie, et Tripolitaine), sous le règne de son neveu al-Mustansir.

Pourvu depuis du gouvernement de Séville, il y étais regardé comme le prince le plus capable d’arrêter les progrès des chrétiens.

Afin d’honorer la ville de Malaga, où il était né, il y avait fondé, l’année précédente, un superbe palais, nommé l’Alcaçar des Seïds, et exécuté sous sa direction ; mais les talents supérieurs d’ Al-Mamoun ne purent lutter contre les coups de la fortune et la fatalité des circonstances .

L’Espagne (Al-Andalus)…

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Famous Historical Muslims of Hellenic/Greek Origin

Islamic civilization currently encompasses every major culture, ethnicity, race, and language on the planet. The pages of Islamic history are filled with the emergence of many different ethno-linguistic groups, from regions as far apart as West Africa and Central Asia, as important political and cultural forces, which greatly impacted the direction of Islamic civilization. Unfortunately, despite this reality, Muslim history has often been presented as a series of accomplishments revolving around Arabs, Persians, and Turks, to the exclusion of all other groups. The rich histories of hundreds of Muslim ethnic, racial, and linguistic groups have too often been overlooked or overshadowed by this mistaken approach towards Muslim history which has identified Muslim history with a very specific cultural and geographic context.

One particular group of Muslims that has played an important role within Islamic civilization as scholars, administrators and warriors have been Hellenes/Greeks. While the many contributions of Greek Christians to medieval and early modern Islamic/Islamicate/Middle Eastern civilization have been highlighted, especially in the context of intellectual exchange and the transmission of philosophical/medical knowledge, the history of Greek Muslims is all but unknown to most people. Greek, in the context of this post, is not meant in any ethno-nationalistic sense, but is intended to signify individuals or groups who belonged to lands and cultures where Hellenic languages and civilization predominated, whether 9th-century Sicily, 13th-century Anatolia, or the 19th-century Aegean. A variety of processes—ranging from enslavement and conquest to voluntary conversion and political opportunism—contributed to the integration of many Greeks into Islamic civilization from the seventh century to the present.

The following are only a handful of some of the most famous names of countless Greek Muslims who played an important role throughout Islamic history. As one will notice, a large number of the names come from the Ottoman period. This is largely due to the fact that there are far more historically-documented cases of Muslims of Greek descent during the period of Ottoman rule in western Anatolia and south-eastern Europe (areas where Greek speakers were concentrated most heavily) than there are for earlier periods of Islamic history. Significantly, many of the Greek Muslim men and women listed below who played an important role within this empire were a product of the devşirme system, which was one of the key aspects of the Ottoman imperial system during the pre-modern period. From the fifteenth century onwards, there was a major effort on the part of the Ottomans to lessen their reliance upon traditional military and political elites and concentrate power instead in the hands of those who had passed through the devşirme system. At a later date, I plan on providing some more concrete thoughts on the devşirme system, slavery and society in the pre-modern Islamic world. For now, however, I have attached a list of further reading below (feel free to recommend additional works) for those serious about learning more about the interrelationship between slavery, social mobility and socio-political developments in Islamic history. (more…)

Intermarriage between Muslim and Christian Dynasties in Early Medieval Iberia (711-1100)

The following is my own summary translation of pp. 33 to 38 of Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Sālim’s book al-Jawānib al-Ijābiyah wal Silbīyah fī al-Zawāj al-Mukhtalaṭ fī al-Andalus (Rabat, 1994). Although it is heavily dependent upon the perspective of (later) Arabic primary sources and contains some errors, this is a particularly interesting passage that sheds light on the extent of the intermarriage between Muslim and Christian dynasties in early medieval Iberia,. The main primary sources relied upon by the author include the anonymous Akhbār Majmū‘ah, Ibn al-Qūṭīya’s Tā’rīkh Iftitāḥ al-Andalus, Ibn al-Khaṭīb’s A‘māl al-A‘lām, Ibn Idhārī’s Bayān al-Mughrib, al-Maqqarī’s Nafḥ al-Ṭīb, and Ibn Khaldūn’s Kitāb al-‘Ibar.

The Taifa Kingdoms (ca. 1010-1090): Ethnic and Political Tensions in al-Andalus during the 11th Century

Following the collapse and disintegration of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba during the civil wars of 1009–1013, al-Andalus fragmented into about 20-30 kingdoms known as the party kingdoms, reyes de taifas or mulūk al-tawā’if. Some of these emirates, such as the Taifa of Silves, were little more than self-governing city-states while others, such as the Taifa of Seville, controlled large swathes of territory. Although there were three Taifa periods—the first from 1010 to 1110, the second from 1144-1172, and the third from roughly 1220 to 1270—I will be focusing this post on the first Taifa era, which is what scholars usually mean when they refer to the “Taifa Kingdoms.” I thought it would be useful to simply lay out the names and ethno-tribal origins of the ruling families of the various Taifa kingdoms in order to demonstrate the complex political situation that had arisen in 11th-century al-Andalus. Although the question of “ethnicity” is certainly a troublesome one in the medieval period (not least in al-Andalus!), the concepts of “Berber,” “Arab,” and “indigenous Iberian” (muwallad) were all deployed and utilized by various factions in the Taifa kingdoms during the 11th century. Rather than attempt any major analysis (I’ve provided a list of further reading for those interested in learning more), it seemed like a good idea to clarify the tribal and “ethnic” background of each of ruling families of the Taifa kingdoms.


Imágenes de Granada. 25: La Granada de la Plataforma de Ambrosio de Vico

Granada in the Early Modern era

Alberto Granados

En el último cuarto del S. XVI y en plena contrarreforma, el Arzobispo don Pedro de Castro y Quiñones encargó al arquitecto Ambrosio de Vico que realizara un plano de la ciudad. Quienes observen la llamadaPlataforma de Vico y observen la leyenda, encabezada por todas las iglesias locales, podrán observar el énfasis en hacer de nuestra ciudad todo un escaparate de la más pura ortodoxia religiosa.

Téngase en cuenta, que la Plataforma coincide en el tiempo con el gigantesco fraude de loslibros plúmbeos, con el que algunos moriscos trataron de simular una aparición milagrosa que eliminaba las distancias entre cristianismo, islam y judaísmo, conjurando con ello el miedo a la Inquisición. La aparición de dichos libros y del cuerpo de San Cecilio, provocó un renacer de la fe y la ciudad se llenó de cruces, especialmente en el camino que conducía al nuevo Monte Sacro o Sacromonte.

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