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Swearing by God: Muslim Oath-Taking in Late Medieval and Early Modern Christian Iberia

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AbstractThis paper examines Muslim oaths found in Christian legal texts in late medieval and early modern Iberia, especially in the Crown of Aragon. Whereas lawmakers in Castile used Castilian to record Muslim oaths, in the kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia these formulas appeared in Arabic, though written in Latin characters. This paper traces the evolution of these Arabic formulas during four centuries, from the abbreviated forms of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, such as “baylle ylloe,” to the more elaborate forms of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which include references to the qibla (the direction of prayer), the Qurʾān, and Ramadan. Comparing these formulas with those found in Muslim legal compilations produced in Christian Iberia shows that despite different emphases (on location, timing, and manner of oath taking), both Christian and Muslim legal texts recognized and established that Muslims swear by God. Although attitudes towards Muslims grew increasingly hostile in the latter Middle Ages, this analysis of Muslim oaths shows that Arabic continued to mediate the legal interaction between the two communities and that Islamic rituals, as mentioned in the oaths, were still very much a part of the multicultural landscape of late medieval and early modern Iberia.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of Notre DameNotre Dame, IN


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