Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus is extremely refreshing after the previous readings in this class because it is a collection of a man’s memories that convey important parts of history as opposed to a list of events, people, and places overtime. This reading personally reminded me of The Kite Runner because it is incredibly eye opening to a society entirely foreign to me. In this reading the majority of the stories are from when Hasan was very young, so they are told based on how he remembers his parents describing them to him. We learn how his family came to be, how Granada falls from a great city to a conquered land, how many people had to deal with the difficulties in taking refuge, and how religion and the notion of magic play a significant role in their lives. After the many troubles with war in Granada are described, Hasan and his family leave, only to deal with more difficulties such as dealing with not being welcome in Salma’s family’s home. The reading finishes abruptly with Hasan’s father telling his mother that they are divorced since she snuck into his room one night with a “magical” perfume, even though it was with good intentions.
I was shocked by stark differences from our society early on in the reading since it began with the story behind Muhammad and his two wives, Salma and Warda. It was both strange that he was betrothed to his cousin Salma at a very young age and that he held a Christian woman, Warda, captive as his second wife. Then, Salma’s words were the most astonishing to me: “For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom.” These words were so strong because of course I have no way of relating to them, experiencing nothing even close to make me say such things. Also, I found the stories of unsafe roads to be intriguing since we have discussed in class how that has influenced trade for merchants in the past.
I found the role of religion to be the most interesting throughout this reading. The idea of having multiple wives, the elaborate ceremony for a son’s circumcision, the extreme conflict between different religions, and the overall fear of God were fascinating. Also, the story about Muhammad quickly beginning to pray on his rug facing Mecca even though he was at the time being robbed was an exciting story, especially since his commitment to religion is what made the bandits leave. My question would be, if this extreme level of religion influenced our society in America, how do you think our culture would be different today?