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Full Access Simulation and Dissimulation: Religious Hybridity in a Morisco Fatwa

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Simulation and Dissimulation: Religious Hybridity in a Morisco Fatwa

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Catholic religiosity became the central premise for law and order in sixteenth century Spain. Consequently, many Muslims left the Peninsula, and those that remained were forced to choose between renouncing Islam and becoming martyrs. In 1504, the Mufti of Oran wrote a fatwa to the Moriscos in Spain allowing them to simulate a Catholic religiosity while dissimulating an Islamic religiosity. He declared that even without formally practicing Islam, they were true Muslims as long as the “intention of their hearts” was pure. Mediated by simulation and dissimulation, gestures of guilt ensued as many subjects undermined dominant ideologies in order to preserve their traditions. This essay reads these movements between Christianity and Islam as signs of hybrid religiosity, theorizing that, contrary to what the Church-State prescribed then and what cultural and political historians have concluded thereafter, the notion of religiosity in Spain transcended institutionalized dogma. The Appendix at the end of this study includes an unedited version of this fatwa, transcribed, translated, and with paleographical commentary. I owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Devin J. Stewart, who inspired me to seek out this lost version of the fatwa of the Mufti of Oran.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA, Email:


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