Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leo Africanus: Commentary 2

In this week’s reading of Leo Africanus, we see Hasan face two personal challenges (amongst his family feeling Spain to Fex, Morroco): the death of his grandmother, and his start to school. Hasan explains, what I would refer to as “grueling,” mourning period that he and his family must go through. Condolence ceremonies for six days, then after a twenty-day period, there are three additional days of mourning. Being someone who has lost a family member for almost three years in a row, I could not imagine spending nearly 30 days a year in mourning – feeling sadness for myself. As if mourning for an extended period of time was not enough for Hasan, his father and uncle decide (despite his young age) that because he has excelled above others, he is ready to enter school.

It was in school that Hasan makes sort of his “first friend” at school, Haron. They go on plenty of interesting excursions together – one leading them to a taven where Hasan finds his father. Beginning to question his father’s actions, Hasan engages into a fight with his father regarding his sister, Marium’s arranged marriage to his father’s new business partner, Zwarali. The marriage ends up being called off, and feeling embarrassed and frustrated, Zwarali had Marium taken away to a Leper colony. This surprised me because I would think that a father would not let his daughter be taken away, all because of a failed arranged marriage.

There are two things I would like further clarification on. First being – why the so long mourning period? I know that during this time period, rituals were very big and important, and treated with much care but to carry on for nearly 30 days? Is this really necessary? Why did they feel it was so important to do such a thing? Second thing for clarification would this idea of an “arranged marriage?” Again, I know that culture during these times was much different – but I would expect a family from such a religiously diverse area would not fall into such thought. Any thoughts?


  1. I think the 30 days of mourning was there out of respect for the person who died. During that time, custom and rituals were very important, but so was respect. Respect for them was 30 days of mourning. Losing a family member sometimes requires more or less than 30 days depending on the person, everyone grieves in their own way. Also arranged marriage was part of these people's culture. A diverse religious background was had, but if that is what they still believed then that is what they did. What a person believes is what they are most likely going to live by.

  2. I agree with Jess and would also like to mention that death was considered a spectacle. Mourners were hired for the specific purpose of making a more dramatic scene. In response to your second thought, I would consider Mariam and the Zarwali's engagement as more of a business transaction than an arranged marriage. Women, since they did not have nearly the same amount of power or control as men, were used to further their men's aspirations. Even Hasan's marriage to Fatima was merely a marriage out of respect for another man's wish as well as society's conventions.