By John Tolan
Hybrid Cultures in Medieval Europe: Papers and Workshops of in International Spring School, edited by Michael Borgolte (Akademie Verlag, 2010)
Abstract: Throughout the Mediterranean world in the Middle ages, Jews, Christians and Muslims interacted in streets and in marketplaces, shared meals, undertook joint economic ventures, traveled together. These interactions were, in theory, governed by a host of legal strictures. Yet the clerical elites who were often the guarantors of these religious/legal traditions often reacted with realism and pragmatism, adapting the seemingly rigid constraints of religious law to specific needs. Two examples are used to illustrate this, from the writings of twelfth-century ifriqiyan mufti al-Māzarī and thirteenth-century canonist Raymond of Penyafort.
Introduction: From Baghdad to Barcelona, Jews, Christians and Muslims rubbed shoulders in streets and in marketplaces, shared meals, undertook joint economic ventures, traveled together, etc. Each of the three major religions, moreover, was split into a plethora of divisions and sects: Jews into Karaites and Rabbanites; Christians into orthodox, Melkites, Jacobites, Catholics, Nestorians; Muslims knew not only the Shiite/Sunni division but also the varying influence of the four Madhabs.
Throughout the medieval oikoumene, rules regulated the relations between members of these different groups. While one religion was associated with the ruler, his dynasty, and his religiously-based political ideology, deviant groups might be banned altogether; but in general, one or more religious groups were allowed to exist as minorities within the dominant society. Their rights to practice their religion were acknowledged, but often they did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as the majority. This is the situation of dhimmi, protected but subordinated Jews and Christians, throughout the Muslim world in the Middle Ages. It is also the situation of Jews in Byzantium and much of Western Europe, and of Muslims in the Christian kingdoms of Spain, in Sicily, and in the Latin Levant.