Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Religious Studies & History and Classics, University of Alberta

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Religion, Emory University
The Jurisdiction of Orthodoxy: Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities in Medieval Spain

This dissertation examines the North African Islamic juristic discourse concerning the legal status of Muslims who remained in Spain as members of minority religious communities during and after the Christian Reconquest of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. Analysis will focus on the legal opinions, or fatwas, issued by jurists in the region's dominant Maliki school of law in response to new legal cases which arose following the creation of this Muslim diaspora in Spain and which addressed the status of Muslims living under non-Muslim rule. Although this project proposes to cover a centuries-long event, very few relevant fatwas have thus far been identified and discussed; my research will contribute at least two yet-to-be examined texts, identified during a year of pre-dissertation research in Morocco and Tunisia, to the approximately one dozen currently addressed by the literature. The positions adopted and legal arguments presented by the authors of these fatwas will be analytically mapped in relationship to established Maliki doctrine of the period, as represented in several key legal genres. These genres will include the school's authoritative manuals of substantive law, commentaries on these manuals, and exegesis of the Qur'anic verses and prophetic Hadith (reports about Muhammad's life) cited by jurists as supportive of their arguments in these fatwas. This relationship between established law and individual legal opinions issued in a time of political and social upheaval will shed light on the process of change in Islamic law and on the dynamic intersections of Islamic law and society. Emphasis on the Muslim-Muslim, majority-minority aspects of this discourse will also deepen our understanding of the construction, maintenance, and jurisdiction of Islamic legal orthodoxy. This project will make wider contributions to the study of diaspora religious communities, religious legal change, and Islamic law and identity.