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

Thursday 8 December 2022 - Saturday 10 December 2022
Keynotes are open to all and will be followed by drinks, please register.
University Library
Witte Singel 26-27

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. 


Osman Hamdi Bey - The Petitioner


Muhammad Nasr Abdulrahman (Ain Shams University)

Shuaib Ally (Mc Gill University)

Samuel Peter Cook  (University of Oslo) 

Giuseppina di Bartolo  (University of Cologne )

Albert de Jong   (Leiden University) 

Hasan al-Khoee (Institute of Ismaili Studies) 

Pamela Klasova (Macalester College) 

Tamer el-Leithy  (Johns Hopkins University) 

Nicolas Kyle Longworth (University of Chicago) 

Federico Montinaro (University of Tübingen) 

Michael Payne (Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich) 

Kate Pukhovaya (Leiden niversity) 

Ana Luísa Sérvulo Miranda (University of Lisbon) 

Kasra Shiva (Institute of Ismaili Studies) 

Deborah G. Tor (University of Notre Dame)   


The programme can be downloaded as pdf of the right side of this page

Join the keynotes or the conference

The keynote is followed by drinks, all are invited. If you are interested to join the keynotes or other parts of the conference please email: emco@hum.leidenuniv.nl

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

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