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Accursed, Superior Men: Ethno-Religious Minorities and Politics in the Medieval Mediterranean

  • Brian A. Catlos (a1)

One of the most salient features of the medieval Mediterranean is that it was a zone of intense interaction and long-term cohabitation of members of various ethno-religious communities whose relations are usually conceived of as fundamentally adversarial. Yet Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived amongst each other in both the Christian- and Muslim-ruled Mediterranean, even during the era of the crusades. Typically, such relationships have been presented as either fundamentally hostile, or cordial, and as related to the “tolerance” that host cultures were inclined to demonstrate as a consequence of their own religious orientation. This paper takes a different, phenomenological approach by focusing on a specific manifestation of this interaction: the emergence of out-group political elites in confessionally defined societies. Through the medium of three case studies—a powerful Jew in Islamic Spain, a powerful Muslim in Norman Sicily and a powerful Coptic Christian in Fatimid Egypt—I demonstrate that the status of minority elites was related to concrete political circumstances grounded in the particular environment of the region, and that, despite cultural differences that might have distinguished them, these societies developed near-identical strategies for engaging with minority elites. The language of religious polemic, exclusion, and marginalization was present, but it tended to serve as a post factum rationalization for repression rather than its cause, and tended to be deployed decisively only in certain circumstances. This provides new insights not only into Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations, but the fundamental nature of Mediterranean history and society.

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1 Krey August. C., The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), 280.

2 In Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Islamic Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), 36.

3 The foundational work of Mediterranean Studies is Fernand Braudel's La méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II (Paris: Colin, 1949). Solomon Goitein also pioneered the notion of “Mediterranean History,” first in his article, The Unity of the Mediterranean World in the ‘Middle’ Middle Ages,” Studia Islamica 12 (1960): 2942; and subsequently in his monumental A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, 5 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). The most important reconsideration of the Mediterranean is Peregrine Horden and Purcell Nicholas's The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000), which takes an environmental approach to the nature of the Mediterranean. They characterize their book as being part of a “new thalassology.” See their The Mediterranean and ‘the New Thalassology’,American Historical Review 111 (2006): 722–40. David Abulafia has written a good deal on the Mediterranean; see, for example, his Mediterraneans,” in Harris W. V., ed., Rethinking the Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 6493; and, most significantly, his recent, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Other notable works include: Tabak F., The Waning of the Mediterranean, 1550–1870: A Geohistorical Approach (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Albera D., Blok A., and Bromberger C., L'Anthropologie De La Méditerranée = Anthropology of the Mediterranean (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2001); Baeck L., The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thought (New York: Routledge, 1994); Davis J., People of the Mediterranean: An Essay in Comparative Social Anthropology (London: Routledge, 1977); Matvejevi P., Mediterranean: A Cultural Landscape (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); and Wansbrough J., Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1996).

4 The historiography of the Medieval Mediterranean has suffered from what economist Nassim Taleb might characterize as the “triplet of opacity”: over-simplification of a complex phenomenon, retrospective distortion, and misleading categorizations arising out of the tendency of scholars to Platonify,” See The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (New York: Random House, 2007), 8.

5 For a recent critique, see Goody Jack, The Theft of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

6 By “ecumenian” I refer to religious cultures and ideologies that present themselves as having universal validity in terms of both truth-value and legitimacy, and exhibit pretensions or aspirations to global authority.

7 In areas where they existed in significant numbers, Rabbinical Jews, Karaites, and Samaritans each constituted independent communities.

8 This can be observed across the region, where it was common for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to participate in, imitate, or borrow practices from other religions. To cite examples at either end of the chronological spectrum, in the eighth century Christians in Spain were criticized for following Muslim and Jewish dietary codes, and Muslims were reported celebrating Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur, and Christians in ninth-century southern Italy “had trouble differentiating between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim laws and rituals,” while in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Muslims in the Balkans were availing themselves to baptism and seeking out the blessings of friars in order to hedge their religious bets. Recent work on Spanish Moriscos of this period suggests a syncretism so profound that the labels “Christian” and “Muslim” cease to be appropriate to describe religious identity. See Colbert E., The Martyrs of Cordoba (850–859): A Study of the Sources (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 5253; Ramseyer V., The Transformation of a Religious Landscape: Medieval Southern Italy, 850–1150 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 92; Norris H., Islam in the Balkans: Religion and Society between Europe and the Arab World (London: Hurst, 1994), 17; and García-Arenal M., “Religious Dissent and Minorities: The Morisco Age,” Journal of Modern History 81 (2009): 887920.

9 These tendencies can be observed across the medieval Mediterranean, particularly in Islamic lands where both Christians and Jews, readily adopted the Arabic language as a vernacular and literary medium, together with Arabo-Islamic socio-cultural mores, and styles of dress.

10 Previously, it was assumed that cultural, intellectual and technological transmission was essentially a one-way affair, with innovations moving from the Islamic to the Christian worlds with Jews sometimes acting as intermediaries/translators. The most firmly entrenched example of this notion is the idea that “the Arabs passed on Greek knowledge to the West,” as exemplified in scholarly and popular works such as De Lacy O'Leary, How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1949 [repr. 2001]); and Walzer R., Greek into Arabic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962). Recent work in this vein has tended to give Islamic culture more “credit” in contributing to the development of Western culture, but sticks to the same basic, teleologically infused and progressive narrative. See, for example, Rubenstein Richard E., Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages (Orlando: Harcourt, 2003); Lowney Chris, A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment (New York: Free Press, 2005); and Lewis David L., God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215 (New York: Norton, 2008). The notion of one-way transmission of culture has met with resistance first and foremost among historians of art and architecture, who have been more disposed to discern evidence of bilateral influence in the development of styles and the use of materials and motifs. In recent years this has been leading towards an important reappraisal of the notion of cultural innovation, one that presents cultural identity as ambiguous and fluid and exchange and transmission as polyvalent. See, for example, Brummett Palmira, “Vision of the Mediterranean: A Classification,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37 (2007): 955; Burman Thomas E., Reading the Qur'ān in Latin Christendom, 1140–1560 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Burnett Charles, “The Second Revelation of Arabic Philosophy and Science,” in Burnett Charles and Contadini Anna, eds., Islam and the Italian Renaissance (London: Warburg Institute, 1999), 185–98; Hames Harvey J., Like Angels on Jacob's Ladder: Abraham Abulafia, the Franciscans and Joachimism (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007); Hoffman Eva, “Pathways of Portability: Islamic and Christian Interchange from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century,” in Hoffman Eva, ed., Late Antique and Medieval Art of the Mediterranean World (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 317–47; Kinoshita Sharon, “Translatio/n, Empire, and the Worlding of Medieval Literature: The Travels of Kalila Wa Dimna,” Postcolonial Studies 11 (2008): 371–85; Mallette Karla, The Kingdom of Sicily 1100–1250: A Literary History (Pittsburgh: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); and Robinson Cynthia, “Trees of Love, Trees of Knowledge: Toward the Definition of a Cross-Confessional Current in Late Medieval Iberian Spirituality,” Mediterranean Encounters 12 (2006): 388435.

11 With the exception of the Corrupting Sea and Tabak's Waning of the Mediterranean, few larger monographic studies have addressed the nature of the premodern Mediterranean. There have, however, been a number of volumes of collected essays, including: Joyce MarilynChiat Segal, and Reyerson Kathryn, eds., The Medieval Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Contacts (St. Cloud, Minn.: North Star Press, 1988); Agius Dionisius A., ed., Across the Mediterranean Frontiers: Trade, Politics and Religion, 650–1450: Selected Proceedings of the International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 10–13 July 1995, 8–11 July 1996 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1997); Christine Verzár Bornstei and Goss Vladimir P., eds., The Meeting of Two Worlds: Cultural Exchange Between East and West during the Period of the Crusades: Studies in Medieval Culture (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, 1986).

12 There are a number of contemporary accounts and documents relating to the careers of Yūsuf b. Naghrālla and his father Ismaʿīl. The most important Arabic source is the Tibyān, written by ʿAbd Allāh b. Bulluggīn (or Buluqqīn), who reigned as the last Zirid king of Granada, and wrote an apologetic memoir while living out his years as an exiled prisoner of the Almoravids who deposed him. See Tibi Amin T., ed., The Tibyān: The Memoires of ʿAbd Allah b. Buluggīn Last Zīrīd Amīr of Granada. Kitāb al-tibyān, (Leiden: Brill, 1986). The most accessible source for the history of the taifa kingdoms, including Granada, is the idiosyncratic historical digest compiled by the Moroccan al-Maqqarī in the seventeenth century: ʿAḥmād b. Muḥammad al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-Ṭayb, 8 vols. (Beirut: Dār Ṣadr, 1968). It was published in partial English translation as The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain, 2 vols., de Gayangos Pascual, trans. (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1840). The main Hebrew source is Ibn Daud's Book of Tradition, which traces the history of the Rabbinate from its origins to the early twelfth century: Abraham b. David Halevi, A Critical Edition with a Translation and Notes of the Book of Tradition: (Sefer Ha-Qabbalah), Cohen Gerson D., ed. and trans. (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1969). Like the Tibyān, it is a work marked strongly by a “political” agenda. The best English-language history of the Zirid regime is Handler's Andrews, The Zirids of Granada, (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1974); although Hady Roger Idris'sLa Berbérie Orientale Sous Les Zirides, (Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1959) is more comprehensive. For an overall account of the taifa period, see Wasserstein David, The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings: Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 10021086 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985); and for a broader political context, Kennedy Hugh, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of Al-Andalus (London: Longman, 1996). Several books and articles have been produced on Ismaʿīl's life and oeuvre; for example, Weinberger's LeonJewish Prince in Moslem Spain: Selected Poems of Samuel Ibn Nagrela, (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1973); and Schirmann's JefimSamuel Hannagid, the Man, the Soldier, the Politician,” Jewish Social Studies, 13 (1951): 99126; and Jews under Umayyads and Taifas,” in Roth Norman, ed., Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict, (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 73112. For Yūsuf, see also Bargebuhr Frederick, “The Alhambra Palace of the Twelfth Century,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 19 (1956): 192258. For Jews in Spain, Ashtor's EliyahuThe Jews of Moslem Spain, 3 vols., Klein Aaron and Machlowitz Jenny, trans. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1973), is comprehensive, but dated and unreliable. Better is Gerber Jane, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York: Free Press, 1992). The world of the Jewish courtier-poets is best accessed through the works of Ross Brann, including, The Compunctious Poet: Cultural Ambiguity and Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); and Power in the Portrayal. Ismaʿīl's career, together with that of his son Yūsuf, is the subject of “The (Jewish) Man Who Would be King,” part one of Catlos Brian A., Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), 1566. For the Judeo-Arabic aristocracy as a whole, see Brann Ross, “The Arabized Jews,” in Menocal M. R.Scheindlin R. P., and Sells M., eds., The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Al-Andalus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 435–54; Wasserstein DavidJewish Élites in al-Andalus,” in Frank Daniel, ed., The Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society, and Identity (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 101–10; and Alfonso Esperanza, Islamic Culture through Jewish Eyes: Al-Andalus from the Tenth to Twelfth Century (New York: Routledge, 2008). For Muslim perspectives on Ismaʿīl, see Wasserstein David, “Samuel ibn Naghrila Ha-Nagid and Islamic Historiography in Al-Andalus,” Al-Qantara, 14 (1993): 109–26; and Emilio García Gómez, “Polémica religoisa entre Ibn Hazm e Ibn Al-Nagrila,” Al-Andalus 4 (1936): 128.

13 Bādis and Ismaʿīl's Jewish enemies were welcomed in Seville, and for a brief time during Ismaʿīl's reign Almería also had a Jewish wazīr, as did Zaragoza. See Roth Norman, Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 8788, 93–94.

14 By “Israel,” contemporaries referred, of course, to the Jewish people, rather than a territorial entity. This was an age of intense messianic aspiration among Rabbinical Jews, and some believed that Ismaʿīl himself might be the messiah (not the least, Ismaʿīl himself).

15 Jewish and Muslim sources concurred in this assessment of Yūsuf. See, for example, Daud Ibn, Book of Tradition, 7576.

16 Reports of the attack on the Jewish community of Granada are problematic. Ashtor evoked the assault in lurid detail, but his account of it was fantasy (Jews of Moslem Spain, III: 188–89). The only eyewitness account is that of ʿAbd Allāh b. Bulluggīn, thirteen years old at the time, who later recalled, “The Jew turned and fled for his life inside the palace pursued by the populace, who finally ran him down and did him to death. They then turned their swords on every Jew in the city and seized vast quantities of their goods and chattels” (Tibi, Tibyān, 75). Ibn Daud commented that Yūsuf “was killed on the Sabbath day, the ninth of Tebet 4827, along with the community of Granada and all of those who had come from distant lands to see his learning and power” (Book of Tradition, 76). Later Muslim chroniclers put the deaths in the thousands, but clearly exaggerated. See, for example, ʿIdhārī Ibn, Al-bayān al-Mughrib, 3 vols., Lévi-Provençal Évariste, ed. (Paris: Geuthner, 1930), III: 275–76. In fact, Ibn Daud reports that members of Yūsuf's own family, including his wife and son, not only survived the event but remained in the kingdom, where they lived out their years. The noted Rabbi Isaac b. Baruk settled in Granada shortly after the attack, and Moses b. Ezra, the great philosopher and linguist, was born in Granada and lived through the events of 1066. See Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d ed., s.v. “Mūsā b. ʿAzra.” For a reassessment of the attack, see, “What if there was a Pogrom and Nobody Came?” in Catlos, Infidel Kings, 62–66.

17 For Philip of Mahdia and Norman Sicily, see Birk Joshua, “From Borderlands to Borderlines: Narrating the Past of Twelfth-Century Sicily,” in Helfers J., ed., Multicultural Europe and Cultural Exchange in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), 931; Catlos Brian, “Who Was Philip of Mahdia and Why Did He Have to Die? Confessional Identity and Political Power in the Twelfth-Century Mediterranean,” Mediterranean Chronicle 1 (2011): 73103; idem, “Kings of Sicily, Kings of Africa,” in Infidel Kings, 127–79; and Epifanio V., “Ruggero II e Filippo di Al Mahdiah,” Archivo Storico Siciliano N.S. 30 (1905): 471501. The account also appears in most histories of Norman Sicily, for example, Idris, La Berbérie Orientale. I: 375–76; Brett Michael, “Muslim Justice under Infidel Rule: The Normans in Ifriqiya, 517–555 AH/1123–1160 AD,” Cahiers de Tunisie 43 (1995): 2021; Johns Jeremy, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 215–18; and Metcalfe Andrew, Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily: Arabic Speakers and the End of Islam (New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), 4750.

18 The Zirid dynasty of Ifrīqiya was the same clan that ruled over the taifa kingdom of Granada. After a feud in the late tenth-century between two branches of the family, over who would rule Tunisia in the Fatimid's name, Zāwi b. Zīrī, the leader of the losing faction, took his followers to al-Andalus to serve in the caliphal army.

19 There are three accounts of Philip's trial, one in Latin and two in Arabic. For the Latin text, probably written within a generation of the events, see Romuald, “Chronicon,” Garufi C., ed., Rerum italicarum scriptores 7, 1 (1935): 234–36. Two nearly identical Arabic accounts survive, one that the great fourteenth-century Maghribian historian/sociologist Ibn Khaldūn included in his “universal history,” the Kitāb al-ʿibar, and the other by Ibn al-Athīr, which was written sometime between 1280 and 1231. The scholarly consensus is that both were based on the writings of the refugee Zīrid prince ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Shaddād, who visited the Norman court at Palermo in 1156–1157 en route to his eventual home in Damascus, having been dispossessed of his lands by the Almoravid invaders. For the Ibn al-Athīr text, see ʿIzz al-Dīn b. al-Athīr, Al-Kāmil fī’l-ṭārikh, 13 vols., Tornberg C. J., ed. (Beirut: Dar Ṣādir, 1966 [Leiden: n.p., 1851]), XI: 187. For Ibn Khaldūn's version, see ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad b. Khaldūn, Kitāb al-ʿibar wa-dīwān al-mubtada', 7 vols. (Cairo, ʻAbd al-Maṭbaʻah al-Miṣrīyah bi-Būlāq, 1867), V: 204–5. English translations of the Ibn al-Athīr and Romuald accounts can also be found in Johns, Arabic Administration, 215–17; and Houben H., Roger II of Sicily (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 110–12. The Ibn al-Athīr text was translated into Italian: Amari M., Biblioteca arabo-sicula: Ossia raccolta di testi arabiciche che toccano la geografia, la storia, le biografie e la bibliografia della Sicilia, 3 vols. (Lipsia: F. A. Brockhaus, 1857), I: 479–80.

20 Romuald records, “Then, with the magistrates having spoken, having been tied to the hooves of wild horses, he was violently dragged to the lime kiln which was in front of the palace, where he was loosed from the feet of the horses, thrown into the midst of the flames, and was quickly burned up. Moreover, the other accomplices and collaborators in his iniquity were also given the death sentence (“Chronicon,” 236).

21 For the case of Ibn Dukhān, see Catlos B., “To Catch a Spy: The Case of Zayn Al-Dîn and Ibn Dukhân,” Medieval Encounters 2 (1996): 99114; and “Traitors and Spies,” ch. 8 in Catlos, Infidel Kings, 213–38. The story is reported by neither Muslim historians (e.g. Ibn al-Athīr), nor in the Coptic History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church; Sāwīrus b. al-Muqaffa‘ et al. , eds., Tārīkh batārika al-kinīsa al-miṣriyya, History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church, vol. 4, Atiya Aziz Suryal et al. , trans. (Cairo: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 1943). Contemporary references to the Christian official are found in the satirical poetry of ʿUmārat al-Yamānī (d. 1174 CE); see Derenbourg Hartwig, ed., ‘Oumâra de Yémen: Sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris: Leroux, 1897), I: 215, 294. The first narrative account of his fall appears in the polemic of al-Nābulusī, written some eighty years after the events, and edited in Cahen Claude, “Histoires coptes d'un cadi medieval,” Bulletin: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale 59 (1960): 133–50. If al-Nābulusī’s information is correct, we can place the execution of Ibn Dukhān sometime between 1160 (14 Rajāb, 555), when al-ʿĀḍid came to the throne, and September 1161 (19 Ramaḍān, 556), when Talāʿi' b. Ruzzīk, the wazīr, who is described as his employer, was assassinated.

22 Cahen “Histoires coptes,” 147. Zayn al-Dīn is quoting Qur'ān 5:76. For the particular context of al-Nābulusī's recording of the episode in the thirteenth-century, and the tale's afterlife, see “The Tale and the Telling,” in Catlos, Infidel Kings, 236–38.

23 For Christians and Muslims participating in each other's popular religious festivals, and for official patronage of Christian festivals by the Fatimid Caliphs, see Staffa Susan, Conquest and Fusion: The Social Evolution of Cairo A.D. 642–1850 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 4748, 68, and 383–84.

24 For the Crusaders' ambivalent attitudes toward native Christians, see Christopher Hatch MacEvitt, The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

25 For the Coptic minority in Egypt, see Brett Michael, “Al-Karaza Al-Marqusiya: The Coptic Church in the Fatimid Empire,” in Vermeulen Urbain and van Steenbergen J., eds., Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras IV (Leuven: Peeters, 2005), 3360; Eddé Anne-Marie, Micheau Françoise, and Picard Christophe, Communautés chrétiennes en pays d'Islam: du début du VIIe siècle au milieu du XIe siècle (Paris: SEDES, 1997); Grypeou Emmanouela, Swanson Mark, and Thomas David, eds., The Encounter of Eastern Christianity with Early Islam (Leiden: Brill, 2006); and van Donzel E., “Badr Al-Jamali, the Copts in Egypt and the Muslims in Ethiopia,” in Ian Richard Netton, ed., Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 297309. As elsewhere in the Islamic world, deliberate cases of martyrdom (such as by blasphemy) were rare. For an exception, see Armanios Febe and Ergene Boğaç, “A Christian Martyr under Mamluk Justice: The Trials of Ṣalīb (d. 1512), According to Coptic and Muslim Sources,” Muslim World 96 (2006): 115–44; this case bears startling similarities to the “voluntary martyrdom” movement by native Christians in ninth-century Islamic Córdoba. See, for example, Coope Jessica, The Martyrs of Córdoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversion (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

26 The dissolution of the Caliphate of Córdoba coincided with a period of consolidation and dynamism among the Christian principalities of the Iberian Peninsula, marking the beginning of what came to be known (and thus distorted) as the “Reconquest.” Castile-León, Aragón, and Barcelona each became involved in taifa kingdom politics as aggressors, allies, and protectors, seeking to extract tribute from the disunited Muslim kingdoms with the eventual aim of conquering them. Meanwhile, the Almoravids, a movement of Ṣanhāja Berbers from the Sahel, had taken over the former territories of the Caliphate in the Maghrib. In the late eleventh century they would be invited to al-Andalus by the desperate taifa kings, but they would come, not as allies and liberators, but as conquerors. So dissatisfied had many Andalusis become with Almoravid rule that the Castilian king, Alfonso VI, was able to present himself as the protector and patron of native Muslims. See Pidal Ramón Menéndez, La España del Cid, 2 vols. (Madrid: Plutarco, 1929), II: 760–64.

27 The Norman d'Hauteville family had arrived in southern Italy in the mid-eleventh century and began to aggressively carve out territory at the expense of local Latin Christian powers, Byzantines, and local Muslim lords. Sicily was conquered in the 1060s by Roger II's father, Roger Guiscard, Duke of Apulia. Roger II obtained royal title from the papacy and set out to consolidate and expand his holdings, focusing both on the Byzantine Empire and Zirid Ifrīqiya. The Fatimid Caliphate was a natural ally. The subjects over whom Roger and his successors ruled were overwhelmingly Byzantine by culture with a significant Muslim minority. As sovereigns of three distinct peoples—Latins, Byzantines, and Muslims—the Norman kings of Sicily purposely cultivated an ambivalent identity as reges, αυτοκράτορες, and mulūk.

28 Christians may have remained a numerical majority in Egypt as late as the fourteenth century, whereas Jews constituted a small but important minority in the Fatimid period. Bulliet's hypothesis of an early conversion of Egypt, with the large majority of conversions having taken place by 1000 CE, is now generally regarded as premature (and anyway, it relates to converted population rather than a total population). See Bulliet Richard W., Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 97.

29 There were Rabbinical, Karaite, and Samaritan communities in the Caliphate. For a recent study, see Rustow Marina, Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008). The importance of contemporary Jewish merchants in the caliphate is attested to by the “Geniza” documentation, which is the foundation of Goitein's A Mediterranean Society.

30 Two years after Ibn Dukhān's execution, the rival wazīrs Shāwar and Ḍirghām (see below) were struggling for control of Egypt. When a desperate Ḍirghām appealed to Amalric II of Jerusalem (1197–1205) for aid, Frankish forces entered Cairo in an unsuccessful attempt to prop up the caliphate.

31 The Norman kings were famous for not worrying about their subjects' religious beliefs. In an episode recounted by the Muslim traveler Ibn Jubayr, an earthquake struck Palermo in 1169. As the palace shook, William II (1166–1189) heard his various panicked servants invoking the protection of Allāh, whereupon he is said to have reassured them: “Let each invoke the God he worships, and those that have faith shall be comforted.” Broadhurst R.J.C., The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, Being the Chronicles of a Mediaeval Spanish Moor Concerning His Journey to the Egypt of Saladin, the Holy Cities of Arabia, Baghdad the City of the Caliphs, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (London: J. Cape, 1952), 341; cf. Ibn Jubayr, W. Wright, and M. J. de Goeje, eds., 2d ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1907), 325.

32 As it happens, al-Nābulusī himself served in the treasury and had been disgraced and imprisoned. After, he became something of a crusader (a grating, but here appropriate metaphor) against financial corruption in the Egyptian bureaucracy, and composed a lengthy tract exposing widespread malfeasance, which he dedicated to the Ayyubid sultan, al-Malik al-Šàlih Najm al-Dīn (1220–1249). See Owen C., “Scandal in the Egyptian Treasury: A Portion of the Lumaʿ al-Qawānīn of ʿUthmān ibn Ibrāhīm al-Nābulusī,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 14 (1955): 7080.

33 Lewis Bernard, “An Anti-Jewish Ode: The Qasida of Abu Ishaq against Joseph Ibn Nagrella,” in Lieberman Saul, ed., Salo Wittmeier Baron Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1975), 659–63.

34 For Ibn Ḥazm on the Banū Naghrālla and Jews, see Perlmann Moshe, “The Medieval Polemics between Islam and Judaism,” in Goitein S. D. et al. , eds., Religion in a Religious Age (Cambridge: Association for Jewish Studies, 1974), 108–10; and Eleventh-Century Andalusian Authors on the Jews of Granada,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 18 (1948): 269–90.

35 ʿAbd Allāh b. Bulluggīn, the last king of Granada, whose autobiography records Yūsuf's death, refers to the unfortunate wazīr with palpable hostility as “the Jew,” whose name ʿAbd Allāh evidently cannot bring himself to commit to paper. Yet the same author refers to Yūsuf's father, Ismaʿīl, respectfully as “Abū Ibrāhīm,” and praises him. This is understandable, since Ismaʿīl b. Naghrālla had brought prosperity and security to the kingdom and protected King Bādis, whereas ʿAbd Allāh believed that Yūsuf, the son, was a traitor who had been responsible for the murder of his own father, Bulluggīn.

36 Ismaʿīl's Jewish enemies plotted against the Jewish wazīr and his patron, the king Bādis, with the disenfranchised Zirid prince, Yaddayr. When their plot failed, they took refuge in Seville. Handler, Zirids of Granada, 53.

37 Romuald, “Chronicon,” 235. The ultimate source of the Arabic accounts was likely a Muslim or Muslims who witnessed the events.

38 As translated by Johns in Arabic Administration, 212.

39 See Ibn al-Athīr, Al-Kāmil fī'l-ṭārikh, XI: 187; and Ibn Khaldūn, Kitāb al-ʿibar, V: 204–5.

40 See Catlos, “To Catch a Spy,” 102.

41 Communal identity was defined primarily in terms of law, the authority of which was based entirely—whether explicitly or implicitly—on religious foundations. Consequently, diverse societies were characterized by a diversity of legal systems, each of which was considered valid (although the legal system associated with the majority community was held to be of a higher jurisdiction). The majority community could only concede such legitimacy in cases where minority religio-legal beliefs were regarded as being logically consistent and well intentioned, if mistaken—what I have described as a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

42 Translations of the Qur'ān are taken from The Qur'an, Khalidi Tarif, trans. (New York: Penguin, 2008).

43 The principle of the subjugation of non-Muslims (initially “People of the Book,” or Jews and Christians) to Islamic rule within a framework of tribute and protection goes back to the time of the Prophet. In the great age of Arabo-Islamic military expansion in the mid- to late seventh century, individual Muslim commanders negotiated vague, ad hoc tributary treaties of submission with the constituent communities of the various locales they conquered. Centuries later, as Islamic law coalesced, a tradition developed whereby it was held that there was a detailed and standard Islamic policy towards minorities that the Caliph ʿUmar had established when Jerusalem was conquered. In still later centuries, in zones where minorities came under social and political pressure from Muslims, the details of the “pact” were interpreted in increasingly restrictive and even punitive ways. In other regions, political convenience dictated the extension of the pact even to idolaters and polytheists (notably Hindus of the Indus and Ganges regions), groups specifically excluded from dhimma by Revelation. See, for example, Ayoub Mahmoud, “Dhimmah in Qur'an and Hadith,” in Hoyland Robert G., ed., Muslims and the Other in Early Islamic Spain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 2535; Fattal Antoine, Le statut légal des non-musulmans en pays d'Islam (Beirut: 1995); Donner Fred, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); Muztar A. D., “Dhimmis in an Islamic State,” Islamic Studies Islamabad 18 (1979): 6575; Bat Ye'or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (London: Associated University Presses, p, 1985).

44 This position was crystallized in the consilia of the early fourteenth-century canon jurist Oldradus de Ponte, who ruled, “Those [Muslims] willing to live in peace and quiet ought not to be interfered with.” See Zacour Norman P., ed., Jews and Saracens in the Consilia of Oldradus de Ponte (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990), 8082.

45 The legal position of Muslims and Jews was based on the legal position toward Jews and pagans as expressed in the late Roman law. For an overview, see Friedenreich David M., “Muslims in Canon Law, 650–1000,” in Thomas David et al. , eds., Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographic History, vol. 1: (600–900) (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 8398; and Friedenreich's “Muslims in Western Canon Law, 1000–1500,” in the same Thomas et al. collection, vol. 2: (1000–1500), 41–68.

46 A. García y García, Constitutiones concilii quarti lateranensis una cum commentariis glossatorum (Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1981), 108–9.

47 As a non-sovereign ecumenian community in the Medieval Mediterranean, Jews had limited opportunities to bring the weight of statal authority down on religious rivals. Nevertheless, medieval rabinnical responsa consistently condemned and vilified Jews who adopted non-Jewish ways and mixed in Gentile affairs. Jews in Muslim lands were free to launch polemics against Christians, and those in Christian lands against Muslims, and they did. However, the bitterest rivalries emerged within the Jewish community, particularly in struggles between Rabbinical Jews and Karaites, and Maimonideans and anti-Maimonideans. The battle against Karaism is a dominant theme in Ibn Daud's Book of Tradition, and Ismaʿīl b. Naghrālla was an ardent and proud participant. Centuries later, opponents of Maimonidean thought went so far as to denounce his writings to the Inquisition. For an overview, see Singer Isidore and Adler Cyrus, The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1908), s.v. “France,” 460–61.

48 This transition generally took place over the course of the first two centuries of Islamic rule. See, for example, Cotton Hannah, ed., From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), especially the essays in part V, “Greek into Arabic,” 352–481.

49 Ḥasdai b. Shaprūt was declared nasi (“prince,” or “patriarch”) of the Andalusi Jews in tenth-century Córdoba. He was an intimate confidant of the Emir-cum-Caliph ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III (912–961) and carried out a number of important diplomatic missions for him. His contemporary, the Christian aristocrat Rabīʿ b. Ziyād, also served the Caliph as a diplomat, and was rewarded with an appointment as Bishop of Elvira. See Christys Ann, Christians in Al-Andalus, 711–1000 (Richmond: Curzon, 2002), 108–34; Fletcher Richard A., Moorish Spain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 62.

50 This can be seen, for example, in the thirteenth-century Kingdom of Aragón, where Jews continued to dominate the royal administration into the 1280s, when the Uniones, a noble/municipal revolt, forced Alfonso III of Aragón (1285–1291) to yield a series of concessions, including a ban of Jews from formal administrative service. See Antón Luis González, Las uniones aragoneses y las cortes del reino, 2 vols. (Zaragoza: CSIC, 1975).

51 For the development of the Arabic language chancery of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, see Johns Jeremy, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Dīwān (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

52 Moore R. I., The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

53 The promulgations of the papacy regarding the restrictions placed on Muslims and Jews in Christian lands, for example, went largely ignored in lands which actually had significant minority populations. For example, in the Crown of Aragon a prosperous Jewish community participated openly in public life through the thirteenth century and beyond. See Assis Yom Tov, The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry: Community and Society in the Crown of Aragon, 1213–1327 (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1997).

54 The Angevin king Charles II (1285–1309) couched the enslavement in religious terms; it was clearly undertaken for pragmatic reasons, and without pressure from the Church. See “Pushing the Boundaries: Italy and North Africa (ca. 1050–ca. 1350),” ch. 3 of Catlos Brian A., The Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, ca. 1050–1614 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 90127.

55 Popular violence is another matter. For example, the devastating pogroms of 1391 that swept over the Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula were not sanctioned by the Church—quite to the contrary. Nor were they symptomatic of an inexorable decline of the status of Jews. Mark D. Meyerson's recent work on the aljama of Morvedre (Sagunt) shows that Jewish communities were able to re-establish a stable equilibrium vis-à-vis their Christian neighbors. A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).

56 Many went to Zaragoza, and others to Toledo, Seville, and Cordoba. Jews remained in Granada's capital and in provincial towns. In fact, not long after the Granadan massacre, the Jews of Lucena (a town north of the capital) staged a tax revolt. Jewish prosperity and security in the kingdom was only brought to an end by the arrival of the Almohads in 1148. See Handler, Zirids of Granada, 123–26.

57 After the brief tenure of Maio of Bari as chamberlain (see below), which ended in his assassination, power in the palace returned to the “palace Saracens.” One of the later crypto-Muslim slaves, the powerful commander (qā'id) Peter (Barrūn), did, in fact, defect to the Almohads and openly apostatize in 1167, when he sensed his position in the realm was no longer tenable. He went on to serve as a commander in their navy against the Normans. See Metcalfe, Muslims and Christians, 46–51, and Johns, Arabic Administration, 222–26.

58 In the mid-nineteenth century, Lane reported that many Copts were accountants, who served primarily in government bureaus. See Staffa, Conquest and Fusion, 248. As late as 1961, Coptic Christians owned 51 percent of Egyptian banks. Ibrahim Saad Eddin et al. , The Copts of Egypt (Cairo: Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, 1996), 12.

59 Tibi, Tibyān, 77, 80–81. Indeed, al-Nāya's assassin was a Christian notable loyal to the Zirid dynasty.

60 Indeed, in his desperation to defeat Shāwar, Ḍirghām formed an alliance with Amalric II (1197–1205), which lead to a brief Frankish occupation.

61 With the exception of the Qipchaks, who were introduced as slaves into the Mediterranean, specifically Egypt, all of these groups were ethnically narrow, warrior elites who came from lands on the Mediterranean's periphery that were, comparatively, religiously homogenous. They were relatively recent converts to Abrahamic religions and defined their “political” program in terms of enforcing orthodoxy through force.

62 See Bulliet Richard W., Islam: The View from the Edge (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

63 In 1099, Frankish Crusaders shocked Muslim opinion by first reneging on the surrender agreement made with the inhabitants of Maʿarrat al-Nuʿmān and, beyond this, eating some of their dead. In 1085, the Muslim community of Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of Castile in exchange for a broad range of liberties and safeguards. However, soon after the conquest the French Cluniac monk Bernard de Sedirac was named archbishop, and promptly contravened the various agreements. In 1066, Norman warriors conquered the Muslim town of Barbastro with papal blessing. When the inhabitants agreed to leave the town in return for their safety, the Normans agreed, but in the event swept down on the departing refugees killing the men and abducting the women. Both the Almoravids and Almohads took a rigorous approach to minorities, particularly when they first entered Islamic Spain. For the Almohad's deliberate annulation of the pact of dhimma, see Corcos David, “The Nature of the Almohad Rulers' Treatment of the Jews,” Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 2 (2010): 259–85, esp. 264–65.

64 See, for example, several works by Catlos: Contexto social y ‘conveniencia’ en la Corona de Aragón: Propuesta para un modelo de interacción entre grupos etno-religiosos minoritarios y mayoritarios,” Revista d'història medieval 12 (2002): 220–35; Cristians, Musulmans i Jueus a la Corona d'Aragó medieval: Un cas de «Conveniència»,” L'Avenç 236 (2001): 816; The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050–1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 404–8; and Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, ch. 10, “Deed,” and postscript, “Conveniencia, Intolerance … or ‘Questions Badly Put’?” 508–14 and 515–35, respectively.

65 The two poles of this debate were staked out in reference to medieval Spain by Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz and Américo Castro, and are articulated in the work of scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Maria Rosa Menocal, respectively. See, for example, Sánchez-Albornoz Claudio, España: un enigma histórico (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1956); Castro Américo, España en su historia: Cristianos, Moros y Judíos (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948); Lewis Bernard, What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East (New York: Perennial, 2003); and Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (Boston: Little Brown, 2002).

66 See Brann, Power in the Portrayal, 36.

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