Andalusian Fiqh concerning non-Muslims: The Discrepancy Between Written Formality and Daily Reality (900-1250)

Andalusian Fiqh concerning non-Muslims: The Discrepancy Between Written Formality and Daily Reality (900-1250)

Auteur: Rafik Dahman


Nations prosper by their merits, as long as these [merits] remain. If their merits perish, they perish.

– Aḥmad Shawqī (d. 1932)

Perhaps the most romantic and edifying part of Islamic history when it comes to
multi-ethnicity and multi-religiosity is the conquest and Muslim governance of Spain and the
‘Far West’ (al-Maghrib al-Aqsā), i.e., Morocco. As Spain was quantitatively spoken
conquered by Berber-Moroccan soldiers rather than by Arabs from Syria, Morocco and
Muslim Spain (henceforward Andalusia) remained socio-religiously and politically tight to
each other. A striking fact thereby is the great distance from the legislative capital of the
Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, while leaving no trace of reign between the two lands. In
other words, it seems as if the Umayyad dynasty aimed well-considered to express its powers
until the outer parts of the then known world, without showing much interest in the areas in

The Muslim conquest of Andalusia was engineered by the Umayyad lieutenant Ṭāriq
Ibn Ziyād (d. 720) in the year 711, less than a century after the death of the Prophet
Muhammad (d. 632). At an almost irrational short period of time the Muslims were able to
subject Christian-Visigoth Spain to their rule, despite the great difference in the number of
soldiers and civilians in disadvantage of the Muslims. This might be considered one of the
two grand reasons of our concern for the historic patriotism among many Muslims nowadays;
the reference to the power that Islam possessed in the ‘good old days when Muslims behaved
well’. The second possible reason for a shared retrospective  patriotism among many
Muslims is a rather sensitive and complex one. Some Muslims often portray themselves as
descendants of a tolerant, liberal, and highly civilized people under whose Muslim rule non-
Muslims could profess their religion in perfect freedom and protection, while they claim to
receive nowadays hegemonic dominance, aggression, racism, and scapegoating for in return.
The Muslims with these and similar convictions see the hand of their Andalusian forefathers
been spit by the very mouth that was fed by it. These two thoughts -or rather feelings converge
in the strong notion among many Muslims that the medieval Muslim triumphs were
achieved through strict observance of God’s Law, in contrast to the contemporary
misfortunate situation of the Muslims due to the alleged violation of and deviation from God’s
Law. “We once were one people, then…when we ruled the world according God’s Law. We
then started to become a fragmented and ruled people, now…when we started to neglect His
Law”, as the famous preacher Abdulhamid Keisk (d. 1998) screamingly said in a sermon.

The focus of this thesis is not on Andalusian Islamic law concerning non-Muslims in
itself; the number of works studying this question is rather representative. Nor is the focus
solitarily on the question whether and to what extent laws concerning non-Muslim were
theologically constructed and motivated; literature about this subject is scarce, but still selectable.
Instead, the general focus of this thesis is on the question whether Andalusian Islamic law-literature (fiqh)
concerning non-Muslims was daily reality, or merely written formality,
and -if a reality- to what extent.


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Thesis Andalusian Fiqh concerning non-Muslims

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