Abstracts of the Workshop “Of Prophets and Saints,” Madrid, 22-23 February 2018

Matthew Anderson (Georgetown University)

The Reception of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ within Mamlūk Blasphemy Literature

The Baḥrī Mamlūk period (c.1250-1390) witnessed the crystallization of Sunnī jurisprudence concerning blasphemy against the Prophet Muḥammad.  In particular, two treatises authored during this period synthesized previous developments and powerfully shaped the future trajectory of this legal field.  Al-Ṣarim al-maslūl ʿalā shātim al-rasūl (“The drawn sword against the one who vilifies the Messenger”) written by the influential Ḥanbalī jurist, Taqī al-Dīn b. Taymiyya (c.1263-1328), and al-Sayf al-maslūl ʿalā man sabba al-rasūl (“The drawn sword against the one who curses the Messenger”) by the notable Shāfiʿī jurist, Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī (c.1284-1355), together present the most comprehensive analysis of this jurisprudential question furnished by the Sunnī tradition.  In different ways, however, both of these works draw significantly upon the famed Kitāb al-shifāʾ by the Mālikī jurist al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (1083-1149).  This presentation probes the relationship between these texts by exploring the contrasting ways Ibn Taymiyya and al-Subkī utilized the Kitāb al-shifāʾ.  Their differing uses of al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s work not only significantly impacts these two treatises, it also provides a pathway for us to raise valuable questions about the structure and content of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ itself.

Fernando Baños (Universidad de Alicante)

The Moor and Evil in Medieval Castilian Hagiography

Twenty-seven years ago, just before the emblematic date of 1992, Spain commemorated its history as a cross of cultures.  On that occasion I studied the presence of Moors and Jews in medieval Castilian hagiography, specifically in twelve individual lives (six in verse and six in prose).  Given the presence of Moors and Jews in the Peninsula, and given the propagandistic nature of the legends of saints, which obey a basically Manichean worldview, one might expect that such minorities would have a frequent and relevant presence as a representation of evil.  On the opposite, hagiographers were more interested in a materialization of evil internal to Christianity: the heretics.

In this way, it can draw attention that half of the twelve individual lives do not mention Moors or Jews.  In all of them there is only one Jewish character, a surgeon who ends up converting to Christianity, in the Vida de San Juan de Sahagún.  The presence of Moors is greater, and that is why this time I focus on it, and specifically in two very different stories: the Vida de San Vitores and the Vida de San Isidoro attributed to the Arcipreste de Talavera.  I will not deal with Berceo’s three poems that mention the Moors, because they appear as enemies, but they do not offer material for characterization.

On the other hand, by focusing now on Vitores and Isidoro, we can appreciate an interesting relativization of the Moors’ evil.  Even though they are enemies of Christians, and even their executioners in the Vitores, and therefore they act with cruelty.  In contrast, sometimes they are characterized with a certain dignity.  The Muslim executioners accept the demands of the martyr Vitores.  In Isidoro we see that Muhammad is deceived by the devil, who appears to him as if he were an angel, but Muhammad believes he serves the cause of goodness.

Javier Castaño (ILC-CSIC)

Harbinger of Doom? Jews, Prophecy, and its Uses in Late Medieval Sefarad

Throughout the second half of the fifteenth century there is a growing interest among Jewish authors of Castile and Portugal on pseudo-epigraphic prophetic Hebrew (and Aramaic) texts.  While the attitudes and doctrines by some authors have been the object of extensive study, several anonymous texts containing prophetic-eschatological narratives are less known, as in the case of the Nebuat ha-yeled (“Prophecy of the child”).  The goal of this presentation is to analyse some of these narratives, their genealogy, their Iberian religious and social background, and their uses in the Jewish-Christian religious polemic (with the underlying problem posed by conversion and converts, as reflected in some inquisitorial trials), with an increasing hostility towards Christianity and its political structures.  No less important is to assess the impact of these texts within the Jewish community, and the internal debates it may have originated.

Manuela Ceballos (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) 

Relics and Bodies of Saints: Corporeality and Sainthood in Early Modern Spain

Not long after the death of Teresa de Jesús (1515-1582) her body was exhumed.  Her confessor, Father Jerónimo Gracián, and the nuns of the Discalced Carmelite convent in Alba de Tormes—where she had died—confirmed that the corpse was incorrupt and that it exuded an overpowering, sweet smell.  Incorruptibility of the body after death and the emission of a sweet scent (the “odor of sanctity”) are classic signs of sainthood in the Catholic tradition.  Gracián then cut off Teresa’s left hand to give to the nuns in the Discalced Carmelite convent in Avila, her hometown.  He also cut off the little finger from her right hand to keep for himself.  The nuns in Alba de Tormes were left with an arm.

After the disinterment, a detailed examination of Teresa’s body was conducted in order to determine her status as a saint.  The legitimacy of this process, which made use of various forms of medical and religious knowledge available at the time, relied on the premise that the body of a saint—its flesh, bones, blood, heart, scent—was materially different from that of an ordinary person.  Aware of her exemplary status, Teresa wrote extensively about the lived body (her own as well as the bodies of human and divine others) as both an impediment and a privileged medium for understanding the divine.  Focusing on Teresa, this presentation will discuss how narrative descriptions of the bodies of saints of the early modern period in Iberia and the devotional and political use of relics contributed to broader ideas about gender, sexuality, suffering, purity, and religious orthodoxy in Spain (in the context of its multi-religious history) and the Americas.

Elizabeth Evenden-Kenyon (University of Oxford) 

Iberian Saints, Prophecy and “convivencia”: The View from Early Modern England

In the late sixteenth- and throughout much of the seventeenth-century, English interest in and understanding of Portuguese and Spanish medieval history were far more nuanced (particularly in the case of Portugal) than current scholarship would suggest.  How the English “public,” scholars and clerics viewed the history of Iberian “convivencia” and religious (in)tolerance depended much upon their confessional standing in their home nation.  In particular, English Catholic interest in pre-sixteenth-century Portuguese and Spanish history varied in relation to how they responded to the introduction and maintenance of Protestantism in England.

As religious exile became a very real possibility for some, and for others an increasing ability to travel for trade (both of which tallied with improved literacy rates), the English capacity for historical tales (both real and fabulous) of Iberian saints and of Iberian engagement with Islam, fuelled the presses and the theaters of the capital.  In this session we will explore how Iberian religions of the book became a topic of fascination, vilification and sometimes, even, temptation to English men and women, throughout the early modern period.  We will consider, in particular, English interest in the Quran, representation of “convivencia” on the page and stage, and English-language portrayals of sanctity and holiness.

Maribel Fierro (ILC-CSIC)

Prophecy and “convivencia”: The View from the Arabic-Muslim Sources

Why did al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (1083-1149) write his Kitāb al-shifāʾ bi-taʿrīf ḥuqūq al-
musṭafā?  As proposed elsewhere (Maribel Fierro, “El tratato sobre el-profeta del Cadi ʿIyāḍ y el contexto almohade,” in Festschrift Concepción Castillo Castillo, Cordoba 2011, pp. 19-34; cf. Javier Albarrán, Veneración y polémica: Muḥammad en la obra del Qāḍī ʿIyā̄ḍ̦, Madrid 2015), its composition needs to be related to the rise of a political and religious movement, that of the Almohads.  Its Mahdism and its rejection of the traditional scholarly establishment represented a threat and a challenge to the centrality of the prophet Muḥammad and the Sunni ʿulamāʾ. Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s Kitāb al-shifāʾ and his biographical dictionary of Maliki scholars aimed at counteracting such threat and challenge, and in doing so al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ was led to “exaggerate” in the treatment of some of the issues he dealt with, as Ibn Taymiyya pointed out.  Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ included into the Kitāb al-shifāʾ a sectionmuch referred to both by Muslim authors and modern scholarsregarding the fate of those who insult the prophet Muḥammad, in which he deals with both Muslims and non-Muslims.  The protection of the prophet and of prophecy (taḥṣīn al-nubuwwa) was a recurring concern throughout the history of al-
Andalus and North Africa that reflected internal developments within the Muslim community as well as their interactions with non-Muslims.  As such it provides a useful
thread in order to explore such developments and interactions (cf. Maribel Fierro, The Almohad Revolution: Politics and Religion in the Islamic West during the Twelfth-Thirteenth Centuries, Farnham, Surrey, England 2012).  In my presentation I will concentrate on two examples taken from Arabic-Muslim sources: Ibn Ḥazm’s treatment of the pre-Islamic prophets and a trial for blasphemy in the early twelfth

Araceli González Vázquez (IMF-CSIC)

As Numerous as the Stars in the Mountains of Ghomara’s Sky”: Visions, Sharifianism, and Contemporary Local Understandings of Sainthood in Northern Morocco

In present-day oral accounts on the life and wanderings of the saint Sidi Ikhlef, who is said to be buried among the Ghzawa (province of Chefchaouen, Jbalan mountains, Morocco), we might find interesting contemporary discourses on Idrisid expansion, Sharifianism, and Sainthood.  Sidi Ikhlef is presented as a descendant of one of the twelve sons of Idrīs II (d. 828), and he is said to be the founder of an Idrisid Sharifian family which would settle down both in rural and urban localities of Northwestern Morocco: the Ulad Baqqal.  This Sharifian family is also said to have played a relevant role in early modern jihād against both the Iberian and Ottoman powers, mainly through the actions of two of their members, who are addressed primarily as mujāhidīn, and who are relevant Sufi saints in present-day Northern Morocco.  In this paper, I will present different oral traditions related to Sidi Ikhlef’s life which have been collected through ethnographic fieldwork carried out in rural localities of the province of Chefchaouen in the past years.  On the one hand, I will examine those Jbalan oral traditions which speak of Sidi Ikhlef’s origins, his arrival at the mountains of Ghomara, and his conflicts with the local qabāʾil of Beni Mesguilda and Ghzawa.  These accounts speak mainly of the Islamization of the Ghomaran and Senhajan territory.  On the other hand, I will  present the accounts which stress the role of the vision in dreams (ruʾyā) in the quest for the North, particularly one in which God announces that Sidi Ikhlef must head northwards because there, “in the mountains of Ghomara,” his descendants “will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.”  Interestingly, as they are transmitted in present-day rural settings, these discourses collaborate on the legitimization of the aforementioned Idrisid Sharifian genealogical line and their Sufi practices.  Thus, oral traditions transmitting local knowledge of past events stand as mnemonic items in the (re)actualization of Sharifianism and sainthood.

Racheli Haliva (Universität Hamburg)

Sources of Knowledge: Prophecy and Philosophy in Jewish Spanish Averroism—Isaac Albalag and Isaac Polqar

Isaac Polqar, the Jewish Averroist from the fourteenth century, is perceived to be one of the most radical defender of Averroes, oftentimes directly criticizing Maimonides. One topic in which he deviates from his two teachers, Averroes and Maimonides, is the way he perceives the dichotomy between the character traits of philosopher and the character traits of the prophet. According to the Maimonidean, Averroist, and Avicennian view, the prophet attains the highest intellectual level, for he receives emanations from the Active Intellect onto both his intellectual faculty and his power of imagination. In this sense, for both, Averroes and Maimonides, every prophet is necessarily a philosopher.

Isaac Albalag, another Jewish-Spanish Averroist from the second half of the thirteen century and the first half of the fourteenth century, makes a deliberate decision not claiming that prophets have no philosophical knowledge. In his view, prophetic knowledge is open only to prophets, while philosophy is open to anyone who is willing to devote her life to the philosophical investigation. In this sense, no one can determine what exactly is the knowledge that the prophet possesses.

Polqar, who anticipates Spinoza’s distinction between a philosopher and a prophet, separates the realm of philosophy from the realm of prophecy; while the philosopher receives the emanation from the Active Intellect directly onto his intellectual faculty, the prophet, on the other hand, receives the emanation onto his power of imagination, “skipping” his intellectual faculty.

This dichotomy between a philosopher and a prophet would imply that the ultimate man, the philosopher, in Polqar’s view, who is engaged in the theoretical sciences and conjoins with the Active Intellect, unlike the prophet, is governed.

Amir Hussain (Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles)

Reading al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s Kitāb al-shifāʾ in the Contemporary United States

The first English translation of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ, prepared by Aisha Abdurrahman Bewley (b. 1948), was published in 1991, and has remained in print ever since.  Bewley is a student of the Habibiyya branch of the Shadhili Darqawi tariqa headed by Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi (b. 1930), a Scottish convert to Islam.  As-Sufi was an early mentor of the American Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (b. 1958), one of the founders of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, the first accredited Muslim undergraduate college in the United States.  But as-Sufi was also an influence on the Muslim rock musician Richard Thompson (b. 1949), who has lived for over thirty years in Los Angeles.

In this presentation, I will discuss the reception of the Bewley translation among Muslims in the United States, exploring how the Kitāb al-shifāʾ is used in mosque settings and among Sufi groups.  The work is important for providing pious Muslims with information about the life of the Prophet, but it also serves as a reference for issues of blasphemy.

Fabrizio Lelli (Università del Salento, Lecce)

Elijah Hayyim of Genazzano and Isaac Abravanel on Prophecy: Italian vs. Iberian Interpretations of Divine Knowledge at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century

At the turn of the sixteenth century, a Jewish Italian author, Elijah Hayyim of Genazzano (c.1440-c.1510), wrote a short treatise entitled Iggeret Hamudot, a “Delightful letter” addressed to a former schoolmate, David of Montalcino.  In his epistle, Genazzano deals with some of the more frequently debated topics current in contemporaneous Jewish and Christian theological speculation.  Among the questions raised by Genazzano, that of the nature of prophetic knowledge and its association with the people of Israel plays a very crucial role.  If the author’s views on this subject seem to be triggered also by the impact of the contemporaneous prophetic understanding of Christianity held by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), the scholarly treatment of the topic is certainly grounded in the debate on prophecy which had occupied most of the Iberian scholars for centuries.  In particular, by commenting on Isaac Abravanel’s (1437-1508) Sefer ‘Ateret Zeqenim (“The book of the crown of the elders”), Genazzano stresses the contemporary “humanist” understanding of a mystical knowledge, by which man can attain theosophic truth and even prophetic status, through a speculation, which is in many ways reminiscent of Neoplatonism, and which replaces earlier and contemporary approaches to Aristotelian philosophy current in Medieval Judaism

Nuria Martínez de Castilla (EPHE, Paris Sciences et Lettres) 

The Prophet and the Grapefruits

In its sura 12, the Quran narrates in detail the life of the Prophet Joseph and everything that happened to him since he had a dream until he ended up victorious after a series of calamities and adventures with his brothers and the Egyptians, his initial dream being fulfilled in the end.  The nature of this story led people to parallel them with the life of the Prophet Muhammad who also had to flee his hometown, Mecca, and returned there victorious at the end of his life, to meet his Meccan “brothers” who had betrayed him and left him alone in the past.

The Quranic story of Joseph draws from the Biblical account found in the Book of Genesis, but it is narrated in an abbreviated form in the Quran, with some differences with respect to the Hebrew original.  This double reception of the life of Joseph also took place in Medieval Spain.  The story was translated into Arabic and Hebrew Aljamía, probably in the fourteenth century, and further transmitted among the Mudejar and Jewish communities through texts that differ not only from each other, but also from what is found in the Sacred Books.

Lucia Raspe (Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main & Jüdisches Museum Berlin) 

Jewish Saints in Medieval Europe: The View from Ashkenaz

In 1470, the cantor of the Jewish community of Regensburg was questioned by Christian interrogators interested in hearing the Jewish view of St Emmeram, the city’s patron saint.  The cantor confirmed that his coreligionists believed the saint had been a Jew named Amram, and that he lay buried not in the abbey bearing St Emmeram’s name but in the Jewish cemetery.  This was, he said, what he had been told by his parents.  Although the place was unmarked, the cantor was prepared to point out the hole in the ground that was believed to be the saint’s grave.  It was said among the Jews, he added, that Amram “helped them.”

The veneration of saints or their graves can hardly be considered a characteristic of
classical Judaism.  Nevertheless, the ubiquitous presence of Christian saints in the medieval German towns appears to have held at least some attraction for at least some of their Jewish inhabitants.  On the basis of the literary as well as archival sources of both Christian and Jewish provenance that have been preserved for Regensburg, we may be able to reconstruct an aspect of medieval Jewish culture that has not been given much attention to date.  My presentation will examine the grassroots veneration of saints that appears to have emerged among the Jews of late medieval Germany from several angles.  I will argue that while it is true that the Jewish legends reflect an astonishing degree of familiarity with Christian lore, they clearly functioned in the service of interreligious polemic.  Aiming to show that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, God’s covenant with Israel had remained in place, these tales are a monument to their narrators’ sense of self-preservation in the face of the success story of the Church.

Benito Rial Costas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Fermín de los Reyes Gómez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Some Remarks on the First Spanish Edition of the Flos sanctorum (c.1472-75)

In late medieval Europe, anthologies with the lives of the saints were in high demand.  In Castile, the most important of these works was the Flos sanctorum, which could be described as a free Spanish adaptation of the thirteenth-century Legenda aurea of Jacobus of Voragine.  Its first printed Spanish version, which is known as the Flos sanctorum con sus ethimologias, has received significant scholarly attention because of its importance for the history of Spanish hagiography.  But its printing and publication continue to be shrouded in mystery, since the only extant copy is an incunable (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/75533436/) that does not carry the name of the printer, nor any information about its place and date of publication.  While it is generally accepted that the book was printed in Castile between 1472 and 1475, there remains a lack of concrete factual evidence that would allow for contextualizing, more precisely, the book, its text, and its audiences in late fifteenth-century Spain.

In our presentation, we will discuss the state of scholarship on the publication history of the Flos sanctorum con sus ethimologias in order to explore its place in the history of letterpress publishing on fifteenth-century Spain as well as its relation to other contemporary versions of Jacobus of Voragine’s Legenda aurea.

Dagmar Anne Riedel (ILC-CSIC & Columbia University)

The Popularity of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ in the Ottoman Lands

It is possible to analyze the Ottoman reception of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ by al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (1083-1149 CE), because the bulk of extant and accessible manuscript copies in collections in Europe and North America are associated with the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) as demonstrated, for example, by the digitized holdings of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (http://orient-digital.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/) and Princeton University Library (http://library.princeton.edu/projects/islamic/).  While there are currently a few extant copies which were owned by Ottoman sultans (e.g., Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Library, Isl. MS 209), the majority are formal copies produced for the middle-brow book trade within the Ottoman sphere of political control, which, for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, included the coastal regions of modern-day Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria.  Since the Kitāb al-shifāʾ is considered an important document of the Malikī legal tradition (Ar. madhhab) during the transition from the Almoravids (1040-1147) to the Almohads (1121-1269), the Ottoman bias in the European and North American collections of Islamic manuscripts is noteworthy.  It reflects in part how from the early modern era onwards cosmopolitan cities like Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, and Cairo were centers of the international trade with manuscripts in Arabic script.  But it also illustrates how some works, despite their firm association with the Malikī legal tradition, were successfully integrated into Ottoman curricula, even though these were primarily shaped by the Ḥanafī legal tradition.  More problematically, the dominance of Ottoman material in European and North American collections veils, for example, that Kitāb al-shifāʾ manuscripts from the strongholds of the Malikī legal tradition in North and West Africa are underrepresented.

My working hypothesis is that the Ottoman reception continues to influence contemporary scholarship of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ among those who are not specialists of Islam in Iberia and Africa.  I therefore argue that the Kitāb al-shifāʾ can serve as a case study for the impact of this Ottoman bias, which tends to be ignored in current research on the intellectual and cultural history of the Islamic civilization.  In addition, the example of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ offers the opportunity to reflect how the interpretation of religious literature evolved over time.  In the early twelfth century, al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ drew on centuries of canonical literature about the Prophet Muḥammad (d.632), and in the course of its reception, the Kitāb al-shifāʾ itself became a canonical work which, moreover, transcended the regional boundaries of the Malikī legal tradition.

Patrick Ryan, S.J. (Fordham University) 

The Ghost of al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ: Almoravid Rigorism and its Survival in West Africa

Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ of Ceuta (1083-1149), a survivor of the Almoravid regime in the Almohad era, is famous for his Kitāb al-shifāʾ and its detailed enumerations of the virtues of the Prophet Muḥammad and the need to emulate them.  Some abbreviations of that text concentrate on the first three books of the Kitāb al-shifāʾ and neglect the fourth, especially its third and final chapter: “Concerning the Judgment on Anyone who curses Allah, His Angels, His Prophets, His Books and the Family of the Prophet and His Companions.”  This chapter broadens the scope of al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s condemnation of infidels (takfīr) to an extraordinary degree and has exercised much influence in the subsequent history of Islam in West Africa.  ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Maghīlī (d. c.1504), a Berber exiled from Morocco for his fanaticism, took on the role of apologist for the Askiya coup in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Songhay (present-day Mali), implicitly following the rigorous judgments of al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ.  The early nineteenth-century leader of the Sokoto jihad in northwestern Nigeria, Usumanu dan Fodio (ʿUthmān b. Fūdī, 1754-1817) justifies his declaration of takfīr on fellow Muslims with the exemplarity of al-Maghīlī and al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ.

Carole Slade (Columbia University)

Standards of Saintliness for Teresa de Jesús

For Teresa de Jesús sanctity required renouncing the values and pleasures of this world and embracing instead spiritual values and devotion to God.  This required cultivating qualities that entail suppression of the self or ego—humility, obedience, penitence—and control of the body—asceticism, chastity, fasting.  She made these virtues the essence of her rule for the Discalced Carmelite order she founded.

In her Life Teresa writes that God launched her toward sainthood with special “graces” and “good inclinations.”  In keeping with the Christian hagiographic model, Teresa exhibited precocious piety.  She made more detours than the typical saint, however.  She craved certainty about eternal salvation, but long tried to avoid the work of spiritual growth.

The types of Christian saint Alain Boureau identified through analysis of the Flos sanctorum—the “martyr-saint” and the “hermit saint”—help to explain Teresa’s childhood play.  With an older brother, she conceived a plan, probably never executed, to find some Moors, who, she expected, would instantly make her a martyr.  The children then tried to imitate the role of hermit, but the caves they built collapsed.

At 22 Teresa took vows at the Carmelite convent in Avila and at age 50 she converted the role of nun into founder of Discalced Carmelite order, the type Boureau names “defender [of the faith] saint.”

During the proceedings for her canonization, her contemporaries judged her largely by standards of sainthood she had articulated.  Several Inquisitors and priests scrutinized her books  for signs of heresy.  In 1591 the bishop of Salamanca, prompted by the incorruption of her body, initiated a small-scale survey of persons who had known her.  King Philip II later assumed the financing of nationwide interrogations about whether her life qualified her for sainthood.  In 1597, Philip sent the collected briefs to Pope Clement VIII with his endorsement of Teresa’s canonization.

Claude B. Stuzcyinski (Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan)

The Prophecies of Bandarra: Father Antonio Vieira and the Final Conversion of the Jews and the Conversos

According to traditional scholarship, if during the life of Goncalo Anes Bandarra, the shoemaker of Trancoso (1500-1556), his prophetic “Trovas” were particularly popular among New Christians of the first generations, for elaborating on biblical and messianic themes, after his death, they became popular among Old Christians and politicized for announcing the revelation of a hidden “Encoberto” powerful Portuguese king. In my lecture I will revisit the way the Jesuit Father Antonio Vieira (1608-1697) understood the “Trovas” of Bandarra. However, instead of emphasizing Vieira’s political identification of the “Encoberto” with King John IV, as usually stressed in current historiography, I will analyze the way he employed these popular prophecies to better understand the final conversion of Jews (and Converso Judaizers) to Christianity. I will claim that according to Vieira, the “Trovas” of Bandarra are also important from a theological and soteriological perspective, for shedding light on the mystery of the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles announced by St. Paul in Romans 11.

Jesús R. Velasco (Columbia University)

The Productivity of Perplexity

Perplexity (ḥīrah in the Arabic used by Maimonides) is a feeling, a pain in the guts, produced by the unavoidable necessity to philosophize and to interpret parables and other tropes in face of the legal sources.  In my address I will discuss the epistemological problems of the universe of convivencia from the perspective of the debates on the mutual adequacy between the law, on the one hand, and scientific, philosophical, and poetic research on the other.  I will focus, mainly, on the implicit response regarding perplexity offered by Alfonso X not as a piece of legal interpretationbut rather as a piece of legislation, the Siete Partidas.

Ruggero Vimercati Sanseverino (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)

Prophetology as a Strategy of Sunnī Revival: Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s Kitāb al-shifāʾ in Context

In the Islamic west, the twelfth century witnesses the emergence of new figures of religious authority which are accompanied by projects of religio-political renewal and the claim to preserve, in a situation of “spiritual alienation” (Fierro, 2000), the “Islam of the origins.”   The emancipation of sainthood and of philosophical thinking, the rise of Almohad messianism, the influence of Shāfiʿī’s legal epistemology and of hadith scholarship, and not at least the political situation in Andalus and in the East, set a challenge to the construction of Sunni identity on Mālikī fiqh and the authority of its scholars.  The oeuvre of the Mālikī hadith scholar al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (1083-1149) can be considered as a response to this challenge.  In his most famous work, al-Shifā bi taʿrīf ḥuqūq al-Muṣṭafā (“The remedy through the recognition of the rights of the Chosen Prophet”), the major reference of Sunni prophetology and of prophetic piety, the figure of the Prophet appears as an intellectual and spiritual resource which is mobilized in order to counteract the religious and political fragmentation of the Muslim community.

This paper deals with the Shifā, the first work in Sunni Islam which addresses in a systematic way the issue of the relationship between the believer and the Prophet Muhammad, especially as concerns its soteriological significance and its normative status. In view of the political decline of Sunni Islam, of al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s reformed Malikism and its defence against Almohad messianism, and the interreligious tensions in Andalus, this work will be analysed as representing a strategy of mobilization of intellectual and spiritual resources in order to cope with what is felt as a critical fragmentation of the Muslim community.

Last updated on 8 February 2018


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 706611.





















The workshop is sponsored by the Columbia University Seminar on Religion and Writing.








The workshop has received a SHARP seed grant.