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Abstract

I intend to analyze the challenges that the presence of a hegemonic Christian power posed to Islamic law and its practitioners in the kingdom of Granada in the early 15th century. In so doing, I hope to explore the nature of Islamic law as a religious, legal, and political system. My primary aims will be to trace the limits of this system’s flexibility in the face of political necessity, and to examine the political role of its practitioners, the class of jurists, in Granadan society. Under the Naṣrid dynasty, Granada endured for over two hundred years as the only Muslim state on the Iberian peninsula – from its founding in 1238 as a tributary state under Castile until its eventual conquest by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. While Muslims in the rest of the peninsula grappled with the pressures of direct Christian domination, the Granadans were left in a more ambiguous position. In terms of its social organization and intellectual life, Granada was in most respects a quite typical Islamic society. Yet it was also, for most of its history, a vassal state of its more powerful Christian neighbor, with the sultan of Granada in theory owing his loyalty to the king of Castile – a fact he was at pains to conceal from his subjects. This tension between the Islamic character of the state and the reality of its subservient political position has to date been little explored.

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