Andrea Lee Castonguay

HistoryUniversity of Notre Dame

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2016 IDRF Program

HistoryUniversity of Notre Dame

Keeping the Faith: Maliki Fuqaha, the Almoravid Dynasty, and the Sunnization of North Africa c. 1000 -1150 CE

This dissertation asks "how did North Africa become the heartland of Maliki Sunni Islam that it is today" and argues that the transformation of the region came about due to the Almoravid dynasty (1048-1149), an Amazigh (Berber) dynasty that rose to power via Sunni Islam. My doctoral dissertation will directly challenge contemporary scholarly beliefs regarding the unimportance of the medieval North African Muslim community by mapping out the extensive connections North African fuqaha' (religious scholars) had with their eastern brethren and how these scholars gave rise to the Almoravid Dynasty (1048-1149 CE). This dynasty from the Sahara promoted the orthodox Maliki madhab (school) of Sunni Islam throughout North Africa which led to the school's dominance in the region to the present day. My dissertation will reconsider the historical and religious significance of the Almoravids in several key ways. First, I will investigate the religious landscape of North Africa and the development of Sunni Islam prior to the eleventh century, especially the region's transformation from a Late Antique Christian society to an Islamic society heavily influenced by tribal loyalties and Arabization; second, my work will reveal the symbiotic relationship between the fuqaha' and the dynasty throughout the period, and will lead to a revision of the established narrative which argues that ties between the Almoravids and the Maliki fuqaha' only appeared during the reign of 'Ali ibn Yusuf (1106-1143) ; and third, I will chart the growth and expansion of the fuqaha's network in North Africa to the territorial expansion of the dynasty in order to provide the first visual map of the expansion of Maliki Sunni Islam in the region.