Fri 29 April 2016 | PhD defence Mònica Colominas Aparicio | ‘The Religious Polemics of the Muslims of Late Medieval Christian Iberia. Identity and Religious Authority in Mudejar Islam’ | University of Amsterdam

On Friday 29 April 2016, Mònica Colominas Aparicio, NISIS PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, defended her dissertation entitled ‘The Religious Polemics of the Muslims of Late Medieval Christian Iberia. Identity and Religious Authority in Mudejar Islam’.  

Time: 13.00 hours
Venue: Aula – Oude Lutherse kerk, Singel 411, Amsterdam.

The Religious Polemics of the Muslims of Late Medieval Christian Iberia. Identity and Religious Authority in Mudejar Islam

This dissertation investigates the politics of identity of the Muslims in Late Medieval Christian Iberia, Mudejars, expressed in their literature of religious polemics against the Christians and the Jews. Mudejars had sworn allegiance to the Christian authorities through treatises of surrender and could practice Islam publicly in exchange for paying taxes. At the outset, treatises were generally respected but starting in 1499 CE in Granada, and continuing in 1516 and 1526, the Mudejars of the northern Crowns of Navarre and Aragon were forced either to convert to Christianity or to emigrate. Together with the pressure exerted by the Christian majority society, the Mudejars also faced the criticism from their co-religionists in Muslim lands who contested their exceptional subjugation to Christian rulers, who regarded their dwelling among and their loyalty to the ‘unbelievers’ with contempt; some of them even demanded their immediate emigration. To these problems, we need to add their direct competition with the Jewish minorities for the favours of their Christian lords.

The central question addressed in this study is how Mudejar authors of polemics articulated notions of identity and religious authority in relation to the Christians and the Jews, and importantly also to other Muslims in their works in the period prior to the forced conversions and persecutions in the sixteenth century. In order to answer this question, Colominas Aparicio examines the corpus of polemical literature preserved in Arabic and in Aljamiado (Spanish in Arabic characters) codices in the light of the processes of inclusion and exclusion and the power asymmetry just described.

She begins by inquiring into the characteristics, production and consumption of treatises of polemics by the Mudejars and into the identity of the authors of these works. She also places this literature in the tradition of medieval Muslim polemics with the Christians and the Jews in the Middle Ages. Moreover, she discusses the various ways in which polemical discourses provided authoritative frameworks of Islamic normativity which helped to legitimize the residence of the Mudejars in the Christian territories. She argues that alongside the primary aim of the polemics which was to refute the views of their religious opponents, the discourses against the Christians and the Jews in Mudejar treatises were also a tool to advance Islamic knowledge and to strengthen the government and social cohesion of their communities. Her analysis of this literature takes an interdisciplinary approach whose purpose is to counterbalance the often biased outsider views found in the contemporary Christian sources which disregard the agency of the members of these Muslim minority communities in constructing their self-image and their share in the shaping of interreligious Iberian narratives.


Mònica Colominas Aparicio

Born in Barcelona, Mònica Colominas Aparicio studied Arabic Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam and obtained a BA degree in 2009 (cum laude). In 2010 she completed the MA Arabic Language and Culture (cum laude) with a thesis on al-Shayzarī's twelfth century treatise on love entitled Rawḍat al-qulūb wa-nuzhat al-muḥibb wa-l-maḥbūb ('The green garden of the hearts and the pleasure of the lover and the beloved'), under the supervision of Dr. A. Schippers. She also studied Classical Guitar at the Conservatory Liceu in Barcelona and the Conservatory of Amsterdam (from 2002), where she received a BA degree in 2006.  

In 2008 she spent several months at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC), and in 2010 she collaborated as editorial intern at the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam. From 2003 until 2012 she has been guitar teacher at Music School Fluxus, and from 2011 until 2012 she taught Spanish at the University for Applied Sciences (TIO).

She conducted her PhD research at the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Prof. Gerard Wiegers, Dr. Richard van Leeuwen (University of Amsterdam) and Prof. Mercedes-García Arenal (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC, Madrid). The project has been funded by the Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies (NISIS) and a preliminary research has been supported by a grant from the Catharine van Tussenbroekfonds.  On May 2016 she will start her work as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department I of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) within the Project ‘Convivencia: Iberia to Global Dynamics, 500-1750’ within the Project ‘TheFormation of Epistemic Networks and Centers of Knowledge in the Mediterranean, 5th to16th Centuries’.

She is interested in the relationships between Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Iberian Peninsula, the attitudes towards religious minorities during the Middle Ages, especially towards the mudejars, their manuscripts written in Arabic and in aljamiado. Within the arts, she is particularly attracted to poetry and music.

Last Modified: 09-05-2016