A Matter of Speech: Language of Social Interdependency in the Early Islamicate Empire (600-1500)

Event Description

The Petitioner Osman Hamdi Bey, undated

The Petitioner-Osman Hamdi Bey, undated

A Matter of Speech
For the final conference of the Embedding Conquest: Naturalising Muslim Rule in the Early Islamic Empire (600-1000) project we will focus on the rhetoric of social dependency. How is language used to describe, establish, cancel, exploit, and manipulate relationships in the early Islamicate empire? We want to examine how relationships between individuals, and between and within groups, are referred to, and how other forms of solidarity underwriting social cohesion are cultivated and perpetuated.

What words, expressions and visual tools are used to frame social relationships? And how are they employed to initiate, operationalise and maintain those relationships? How are connections between groups and individuals defined and how are those formulations implemented to shape and manage, but also end, such associations? How is language employed to establish ties by labelling relationships in organised ways and invoking commonalities and shared experiences that confirm the presence or absence of connections and how are these used to realise tactical goals?

Beyond the words that are used, we are also interested in material aspects, such as the way speech is presented on the writing surface through calligraphy, ornamentation, layout, in public and private contexts and how this contributes to the presentation of links and bonds.

Thursday 8 December 17.00 – 18.00 Vossius
Tahera Qutbuddin (Chicago University)
Arabic Oration: Aesthetics of Orality, Persuasion, and Authority Negotiation in Early Islam

Across the mosques, homes, battlefields, and open town spaces of the Middle East in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, religion, politics, and aesthetics coalesced in the richly artistic public performance of spontaneous Arabic oration (khuṭbah). Exquisite in rhetorical craftsmanship, speeches and sermons by the Prophet Muḥammad, ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, and other political and military Muslim leaders were also the major vehicle of policymaking and persuasion, and the primary conduit for dissemination of ethical, religious, and legal teachings. The oration’s dynamic speaker-audience interaction played out in the public space to negotiate facets of power and authority. Being formal and authoritative, oration in the early Islamic period was delivered from a position of leadership. Being spontaneously articulated before a live, peer audience, it was highly interactive. Drawing on ten years of research for her recently published book, Arabic Oration: Art and Function (Brill, 2019), Tahera Qutbuddin will discuss the major features of classical Arabic oration, with a focus on its oral aesthetics, persuasion, and negotiation of authority.

Friday 9 December 17.00 – 18.00
Linda Gale Jones  (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona)
Framing Gender Oppositionality in an Aragonese Muslim Community: The Hortatory Sermons of Aḥmad al-Misārīmī (c. 1401)

The Kitāb Zād al-wā‘iẓ wa-rawḍ al-ḥāfiẓ (The provisions of the hortatory preacher and the garden of the Qur’anic memorizer) is a unique unedited Arabic manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library (MS. Borg. ar. 130). The copyist and probable author Aḥmad ibn Qāsim al-Misārīmī, who completed the work in 1401, produced a text that combines an instruction manual for the Muslim hortatory preacher (wā‘iẓ), an anthology of some 30 of his own sermons, and instructions for the Qur’anic memorizer (ḥāfiẓ). My presentation will focus on four of al-Misārīmī’s sermons: sermons 13, 14, and 15, which describe the qualities of pious ascetic men, and sermon 16, which discusses the qualities of “striving devout women.” I will analyze how al-Misārīmī deploys rhetoric to shape hierarchical gender relations. Specifically, I will compare the preacher’s strategic selection of Qur’anic verses, hadiths, and ascetic Sufi exempla and other rhetorical elements in the sermons addressed to men with those he used in the sermon directed at women. The evidence suggests that while al-Misārīmī’s male audience indeed consisted of Muslim ascetics or Sufis, the composition of the all-female audience is unclear. Recent scholarship on gender in premodern Islam (Shaikh, Bauer, Geissinger et al) has focused attention on the messages of gender egalitarianism in the Qur’an, exegesis, and the traditions of asceticism (zuhd) and Sufism (taṣawwuf). My research reveals how gender inequality could be promoted in an ascetic milieu by demonstrating how al-Misārīmī uses language and rhetoric to undercut the discourse of gender egalitarianism and extol instead traditional hierarchical relations between men and women based on an ideology of “gender oppositionality” (Duderija, Alak & Hissong). Finally, I will comment on the implications of the gender relations reflected in al-Misārīmī’s sermons addressed to men and women given the historical context of a community of Aragonese Muslims living under Christian rule in the late Middle Ages.


Thursday 8 December

09.00 – 09.15 Opening remarks

09.15 – 10.00 Hasan al-Khoee (Institute of Ismaili Studies)
The ‘Appeal to Commonality’ Topos: The Public Speeches of the Second fitna and Structural Antecedents of the Mission Topos of 2nd/8th century Theological Epistles

10.00 – 10.45 Muhammad Nasr Abdulrahman (King Faisal University – Saudi Arabia)
A message from the Fatimid Caliph in Egypt to a da ͨi in India. An example of the literature of exchanged messages between the Fatimid caliphs and their da ͨis.

10.45 – 11.15 Coffee break

11.15 – 12.00 Samuel Peter Cook (University of Oslo, Faculty of Theology)
Adapting Coptic apocrypha for reading aloud: reader, audience, and text interaction in the Monastery of Saint Macarius

12.00 – 12.45 Tamer el-Leithy (Johns Hopkins University)
Epistolary Rule The Patriarchal Letter-‘Archive’ of Kirullus III (1235-1243)

12.45- 15.00 Lunch: Babask

15.00 – 15.45 Nicholas Kyle Longworth (University of Chicago)
Dependency & Privilege in ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Katib’s (d.750 c.e.) “Letter to the Secretaries”

15.45 – 16.30 Michael Payne (Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich)
A Found Poem by an Unknown Abū ʿUthmān: Interpreting al-Jāḥiẓ’s “Risāla ilā Abī l-Faraj b. Najāḥ al-Kātib”

16.30 – 17.00 Tea break

17.00 – 18.00 Keynote I: Tahera Qutbuddin (Chicago University)
Arabic Oration: Aesthetics of Orality, Persuasion, and Authority Negotiation in Early Islam

18.00 – 19.00 Drinks for all
19.15: Conference Dinner

Friday 9 December

09.00 – 09.45 Giuseppina di Bartolo (University of Cologne) and Federico Montinaro (Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen )
Hierarchies behind and beyond words. An historical and linguistic analysis of the correspondence of the Melkite patriarchates under Muslim rule in the second half of the 9th century

9.45 – 10.30 Ana Miranda (University of Lisbon)
Cohesion and discord among the ʿulamāʾ of al-Andalus

10.30 – 11.15 Kasra Shiva (Institute of Ismaili Studies)
Rhetoric of Social Interdependency and Community Making: References to the Ismaili Community in the Poetry of Nizari Quhistani

11.15 – 11.45 Coffee break

11.45 – 12.30 Deborah G. Tor (University of Notre Dame)
The Language of Group Belonging and Cohesion in the 11th and 12th-Century Middle East

12.30 – 13.15 Shuaib Ally (Institute of Islamic Studies McGill University)
Keeping in Touch through Verse and Prose: 14th-century Mamluk Letters between al-Ṣafaḍī and his Contemporaries

13.15 – 15.15 Lunch: Leidse lente

15.15 – 17.00 City walk & refreshments

17.00 – 18.00 Keynote II: Linda Gale Jones (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona)
Framing Gender Oppositionality in an Aragonese Muslim Community: The Hortatory Sermons of Aḥmad al-Misārīmī (c. 1401)

18.00 – 19.00 Drinks for all
19.15 Conference Dinner

Saturday 10 December

09.15 – 10.00 Kate Pukhovaia (Leiden University)
Articulating sayyid-tribal alliances in Zaydi Yemen through poetry

10.00 – 10.45 Pamela Klasova (Macalester College)
The Eloquent Tyrant: Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf and his Speeches in Umayyad Iraq

10.45 – 11.15 Coffee break

11.15 – 12.00 Albert de Jong (Leiden University)
Cracking a very tough nut: the meaning of ‘Iranian’

12.00 – 13.00 Petra Sijpesteijn and the Embedding Conquest team members (Leiden University)
Summary and project outcomes

13.00 Lunch: Grand Café van Buuren

End of the programme




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