Saturday, October 31, 2009
This book is about Leo Arficanus, whose life we know very little about. The author creates this story and fills in the gaps of this mans life and history. The beginning of the book describes Leo Arficanus' early life when he is a boy living in Grenada. The story describes his father as having two wives. One of which is Leo's mother, and the other is a Christian slave. I have always found situations like this very interesting. Being acustomed to our society and culture, I can't imagine it being socially acceptable for a man to have multiple wives.
As the story continues, the man with two wives (Muhammad) gets both women pregnant at the same time, which does not go over well with either woman. The sense of competition is enhanced between the two wives. Interestingly enough, one of the women has a boy and other has a girl. The reader quickly see's the importance of a man having a son over a daughter in this culture as Muhammad pays little attention to his daughter and only focuses on the newborn son.
I'm interested in learning how the difference in religions between the two wives will be significant in the story. What will the juxtaposition of a Muslim mother and Christian mother mean for the development of the relationships?
Friday, October 30, 2009
What I found interesting was about the structure of a family. How people in other countires will perform polygamy and think that it is acceptable. It's interesting to see how things have changed and also to compare their morals. Why are most polygamists male oriented and the women more of a possession to men. What has caused women to feel like they have no say or value?
I found it interesting that women of this time liked the idea of a polygamous relationship. Although it is looked down upon on today in a way that it is viewed as disgusting it was actually a smart, efficient way to live. This is my opinion. I do agree that it is out of the question in today's society but it did make sense to me of why they felt a polygamous relationship may be beneficial to everyone involved. My question is: What do you think the turning point of polygamy was that made people view it as something negative?
This week’s class discussion focused on “microhistory”, defined as looking at one individual’s life to study history. Our reading, Leo Africanus, is the This is nearly the opposite of what we have been doing until now. We are no longer looking at the world system as a whole, but one man’s experiences while traveling. The individual approach for studying history must be approached cautiously however, as one man’s experiences can only be generalized so far. A “great man’s” actions may affect thousands of people, or most of society, but he is still only one man. Using only a microhistory perspective can add rich detail to a historical study, but it must be used in combination with a more overarching survey.
The style of Leo Africanus particularly relates to historical perspective. The book is written as a fictional memoir of the life of a real man. Some of the events are very close to historical fact, while others are completely fabricated in order to tell a good story. And while the fabricated parts may be historically relevant, and based in fact, we must remember that not everything in the book actually happened. This book can help us put a more human face on the Middle Ages, but it is still a second hand, and fictionalized account.
I also reflected on how much liberty Maalouf can take while maintaining a historically accurate story. Everything in the book, all of the characters Leo Africanus encounters, and all of his experiences are realistic, but not all of them actually happened. The book may not be reliable as a textbook, but reading it is still worthwhile, yet I wonder, how much Maalouf can fabricate before the book is no longer worth considering a historical text and becomes a novel for enjoyment only.
One thing, which was brought up in class, is what is the difference from today and now? To think there ideas just 500 years ago are accepted in today’s standard is just ludicrous. I do not understand how someone could have multiply partners in marriage. Jealousy today would run wild; could you even image one woman with multiply male partners? No just ridiculous. To compare polygamy to being an only child is just wild. That is not even close to what we think or see today.
I wish he would have answered more questions about the slavery that was happening. I think this is something that is just not highlighted about in very many books and I would like to know more about it and how it really affected people around them.
This week we began reading Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, which is a much different read from our past two books. Told in first person, we are giving fictional accounts of what life was like in Grenada during the 15th century. Hassan, our narrator, shares stories with us as they were told/passed down to him by his older family members. In this beginning section of the book, we read about hot topics in Grenada such as: women, alcohol, religion, and of course – war.
Because of its religious diversity (Christianity, Muslim and Judaism), Grenada seems almost as the perfect setting for this story. With such a widespread religious composition, I have to admit I was surprised when I read about Hassan’s father’s affair with a Christian slave girl, Warda. Why am I surprised? I guess it may be ignorant of me, but I would assume that in a city so religious-heavy – I wouldn’t expect one to have affairs, but I suppose I’m wrong. But I have to say – I was even more appalled to learn that his father’s wife, Salma, was also his cousin! Now I know – things of this nature were more common during this period of time, (and again this may be ignorant of me) but I think that is completely wrong, in more ways than one.
What I wanted to know more about would have to have been about the religious diversity. And maybe this will be covered later in the book, but what were the percentages of people in each religious category? I would like to know, how did they religiously interact with each other? Surely, some religions felt their religion was superior to others – how did this effect culture in Grenada during the 15th century?
When Hasan speaks about himself, he never really identifies himself with one culture or nation. But he is constantly classifying others. The passage that stuck with me was:
“I, Hasan the son of Muhammad the weigh-master, I, Jean-Leon de Medici, circumcised at the hand of a barber and baptized at the hand of a pope, I am now called the African, but I am not from Africa, nor from Europe, nor from Arabia. I am also called the Granadan, the Fassi, the Zayyati, but I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road, my county is the caravan, my life the most unexpected of voyages.”
His life truly is based on reactions to events. He is continuously changed by society rather than society changing for him. When I was googling him, I found numerous photos of him and was interested to see the different perspectives.
One reason I think religion is so much more valuable in America than in Europe is the history of each country. In Europe there has been a lot of unrest change in the government that America has never experienced. Communism, for example, is a government that took over many countries for as much as 50 years. Communism was extremely anti religion and after that rule people were lost in religion. There was not the history in the families to carry on the tradition so religion became of less importance. In America we have never been ruled by communism, nor had a president that was anything but Christian. People look up to the government no matter what is the rule. Most people in America are Christian, so that has never been questioned in such a degree as in Europe.
The nuclear family has always been an important value with Christian moral views, but in places like Middle East, people have different morals and values that do not include monogamy. In history having many women for many kids is considered normal in a lot of the Middle East. The practicality of having many women was to have children to work for you, mostly boys. These children were expected to work and they all had their place. In American history having children was also used for work, but that mentality has changed. In America today work and education is more important than the Middle East. Education and work beyond the family has not moved into a period of women being educated.
Leo Africanus serves as a breath of fresh air in this class as well as my entire curriculum from dry textbooks to a more interesting literature portraying a culture in a more sympathetic, relatable way. I’m really excited about this narrative approach and the way that Maalouf sets his story to the background of historical events. It is a much more entertaining way to learn the history and culture.
Leo Africanus begins in the 15th century with Muslim Spain, a place I don’t know much about. The first story tells of a man, Hasan, living in Granada. His story gives us great insight into the society. His father had multiple wives, his mother and father were cousins, marriages were arranged at very early ages, there was great military power, the leaders (sultans) were uncaring and selfish, Granada was a trade center, and my favorite subject thus far, the Spanish Inquisition.
The Inquisition was led by Ferdinand and Isabella who were Christian Spaniards who demanded the ‘reconquest’ of Spain from the Muslim and Jewish hold that had occurred in their recent history. The Spanish Inquisition is notorious for its brutality. There were no limits to extermination, it was basically convert to Christianity or be expelled. It was amazing to have a firsthand account of these events which brought it to life as opposed to being a topic of interest in a history textbook. Hasan had to flee Granada and due to these traumatic events, he really wasn’t able to stay in one place for the rest of his life.
In regards to the Inquisition, I drew a lot of parallels from it to modern Europe. Today, there are many similar events and wannabe revolutions similar to the Inquisition in order to expel Muslims mostly from the fairly homogeneous Christian nations of Western Europe. Examples are the skinheads in England, Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. But none of these figures have been able to start a major revolution or expulsion of these other races/religions. Do you think it’s possible for something similar to the Inquisition to happen today in one of these nations?
To retell history is a daunting task, but to combine it with narrative is almost impossible. It seems that Amin Maalouf has done the impossible with “Leo Africanus”, combining history and narrative, and doing so seamlessly and eloquently. He has taken a man whose life little is known about, and filled in every detail to create a story both compelling and fluid.
The book opens with the story of Africanus’ early life, as a youth in Grenada. It tells the tale of his family, his father and his two wives, one a Christian slave, and the other his mother, a Muslim woman, from his arranged marriage. There is a story of a rivalry and distress, not only among the two women, but within the two religions that inhabit the city. Both women become pregnant at the same time, and this enhances the rivalry of the women. However, they begin to bond over their shared abusive relationship with Muhammad (thank goodness for abuse!). When their children are born, Warla has a girl, and Muhammad is instantly disinterested. Salma has a boy, thus securing her place as the mother of Muhammad’s first son. The story then continues with a recounting of Salma’s childhood among the civil war in Grenada, and more events of Grenada.
What was most interesting was the situation in the family of issues brought on by polygamy. The fact that this was acceptable for a man in this society is very interesting just in how it is so different from our own society. What was it that made it okay for a woman to “imprisoned” as Salma is described in the book. She is simultaneously described as free. How would she actually feel about this?
Now, Leo Africanus may not be the story of the “average man” or the “man on the street.” He certainly is an exceptional figure whose travels, if matched, can almost certainly not be bettered by any other figure in history (Marco Polo, the commonly thought of traveler, merely visited strange lands, Leo Africanus lived in them, and with the people of them). However, this is not an example of the “great man” that was discussed earlier when we talked about Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Leo Africanus is a relatively average man in terms of societal standing, which we can see from the relatively average circumstances of his birth. Certainly this average situation seems better off when one considers slaves and the super-poor, yet those groups were not at the time considered part of society. To retroject a term onto the time period, his upbringing was comparable to that of gentlemen of later English society. From here he is able to visit and understand various cultures and religions and ways of thinking. Yet none of this is from the point of view of the great rulers.
So why is it valuable that we study him?
I believe that we study someone like Leo Africanus first of all because of the variety of cultures and worlds he is able to provide insight on. We can see what life was like in Italy with the Pope, in Muslim held Spain, in North Africa, etc all trough the eyes of one observer and one participant, removing one variable that is often seen in contemporary accounts. Also, through the study of a relatively average person, we can see a more accurate and vivid account of what life was like at the time, as well as a different view of rulers than what is often seen in official accounts sanctioned by those rulers. It is of course important to study the great and powerful, the poor and discounted, as well as those that occupy the middle ground between the two. Leo Africanus has important things to share with us that we can learn from. Studying the average allows us to see a different part of history, and to better understand what we had already heard from other sources.
One thing that shocked me from off the bat was that Hasaan’s father and mother were cousins. I understand that in many cultures and in history this was a normal occurance, but due to my culture from growing up in the United States in the 20th century, their marriage repulses me. Also I found that the cohabitation of so many religions astounding, as well the competition between the pregnant women entertaining. I enjoyed finding out that they were able to bond when they were put through a humiliating event together, because I found that very lifelike. I feel as though when people go through a big event together it seems to bring them closer, and I like how the author included this. What do you think about it? But what amazed me the most was solely how the author was able to work in many historical events in such an intriguing way and fit them into the life of young Hasaan.
What I wondered though was why in the culture was Warda, the Christian slave woman, considered to be a free woman after giving birth. What do you guys think about this? I would think that she would be outcast or something for giving birth as a mistress, what makes this culture different? What reasoning do you think they have behind deciding that a slave who gives birth is no longer a slave?
Grenada proceeds to enter a civil war after war is declared on the neighboring Christian empire with no hope full outcome. Eventually, the Grenada is separated into two warring regions between the Sultan and his son. This personal account even gives a view when dealing with revolts as in “Age of Empires,” chapter twelve. It is later told of Grenada’s eventual defeat by the hands the Castilians by the use of siege equipment, cannons, and time.
Alcohol at the time is still sold, yet illegal. The cohabitation of so many different languages and business transactions amazed me. It is possible for such religions to exist with one another, yet in Granada the Castilians sought to recapture Granada and convert it populants why? Granada is referred to a large city which is hard to supply when not in times of war, so did the Castilians capture Grenada for religious aspects, or purely conquest?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Although it is very easy to get wrapped up in the lavish descriptions of wars and celebrations the main point of the book relates directly to all of our other readings; the connection between areas in the 15th century global system. Leo Africanus was one of the first detailed source of knowledge to Europeans about other parts of the world system. His travels were vast; he was taken prison in Rome, escaped to Istanbul and had many other global adventures. He represents the connection between the global system; the trade and travel that made our global system today possible.
Overall, I loved the first reading assignment of this book. Its was informative and fun to read. I also thought the portryal of women was accurate for this time period...but that is a completely different discussion..maybe for next time!
The story of "Leo Africanus" begins with The Book of Granada in which we meet Hasan, the central character who will become a great traveler and scholar in his adulthood. First, we learn of the story of Hasan's father and mother, which reveals a great deal of cultural knowledge. The first story focuses on the competition between Hasan's mother and his father's second wife. The competition of who can get pregnant first, but more importantly, who can bear a son first. Following the story of Hasan's birth and intimate description of his circumcision and the following large celebration, we also hear from many other voices of this time period. Stories from Hasan's uncle, father, and again his mother show us the social, cultural, and political atmosphere of the time.
Obviously, throughout the first part of the book, the role of religion in society is stressed again and again showing its importance. From the story of "Noah's flood" to the old shaikh who condemns the "wine drinkers and poets" of the community and finally the veililng of women in the communities. Furthermore, this overly religious shaikh is mocked and made fun of for blaming the people's sins for the eventual fall of Granada. But when this prediction comes true, he was no longer mocked. The religiousity of the people is palpable in every page of the book. It truly portrays the atmosphere of 15th century Islamic Spain.
Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus begins with the birth of the narrator, Hasan. Through the narrator’s voice, the reader learns about life in Granada and Fez during the late 1500s. Hasan’s birth is a great triumph for his mother, Salma, because it cements her status above that of her husband’s mistress, Warda, who “only” gives birth to a daughter. The reader is then informed of assorted religious happenings. Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali lost favor as sultan when he became too extravagant. He imprisoned his wife and children and did whatever his mistress told him to do. He even sent detachments of troops to challenge Christian holdings which began a war that the Muslims could not hope to win. However, Boabdil, one of Abu’l-Hasan’s sons managed to escape and usurp his father’s position as sultan through a violent civil war. The Castilians continued to advance and eventually laid siege to Granada. Dignitaries and all who would speak were called to give their opinion on future actions to the sultan. Al-Mulih, the sultan’s principal confidant, adamantly suggested surrender. Astaghfirullah, a shaikh, spoke against this notion and revealed that Al-Mulih had already orchestrated the terms of surrender with a spokesperson of King Ferdinand. Although surrender was not desirable, it was the best option, so the people voted in favor of it. The Castilians took over the city, and the Muslims were encouraged to leave. Warda, who had been a Christian, found her brother and was forced to leave Muhammad. Muhammad was not satisfied with this, so although he leaves with Salma and Hasan in order to reach Fez, he sets it up so that Warda finds them again on the boat. Salma does everything she can to regain her husband’s affection, but when he discovers her pouring an elixir on him, he immediately divorces her.
I found the interaction between religion and mysticism very interesting. Salma, and eventually Muhammad, come to rely on Gaudy Sarah to tell them about news of the world, as well as various predictions. Salma takes a potion offered by Sarah in order for her to conceive a child, which theoretically works. She also visits numerous soothsayers to discover how to bring Muhammad back to her and takes an elixir to help her do so. Amulets and charms are sewn into children’s clothing to ward off the “evil eye.” Despite their devout worship and exile for religious reasons, the family seems to be more opportunistic. They will try anything just in case their religion does not come through. I am not sure yet how far this extends, but I think it may be possible that the family is religious more through tradition and mores of the society versus anything else.
I thought it was extremely interesting that Warda was a slave but was given the status of free woman once she gave birth to a child. Does that mean that she could have left her husband with no consequences? That clearly would not have been in her best interests since she was completely provided for and treated well, but I really would have liked to know if that was possible. As a slave, she had been able to go about unveiled, but in public in the book, she is veiled, despite her being Christian. Was that part of a mark of her being a “free woman”? What does being “free” entail in this society? I then found it intriguing that Juan, the brother of Warda (Esmeralda), felt that Warda had still been a captive and was only free once the Christians took control of the city. If she became a free woman with the birth of her daughter, was she not then no longer a captive? As is proven later when Warda rejoins Muhammad, she apparently wanted to stay with Muhammad whether she was free or not, although her reasons are not necessarily clear.
Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus is a refreshing contrast to the more factual styles of our previous readings. Rather than viewing history from a macro perspective and simply providing a record of important people and figures, this text is written from a first person perspective. Not only does this narrative make for an easier read, but it also gives a personal view of the individual impact of large-scale historical events. While we have read and discussed facts and figures about a variety of cultures and their interactions in this time period, these cultures cannot be fully appreciated or understood without first-hand accounts like Maalouf’s.
A prime example is the chapter describing the Year of the Hostelries. Previous readings certainly described the rise and fall of cities heavy with culture. Those readings, however, did not go into the dynamic detail of this reading. In this chapter, Hasan is still a child, and the hazy, dreamlike state with which he describes Fez matches that of a childhood memory. In his description, it is apparent that while he had spent his entire childhood in the capital of Granada, his past city of residence did not match the vibrancy and bustle of Fez. The narrator’s description provides greater transparency than a listing of cities and the dates of their success.
Another striking description in this chapter is that of the plague. The plague is mentioned in all historical texts about this time period, but this view is unique in its inclusion of the emotions and reactions to the disease. “The whole of Fez was living in fear of this disease; it spread so quickly no man seemed able to escape it…The whole town became an enormous infected area, and no medicine proved effective against it.” It is this palpable fear that further defines the plague as more than a disease but as an almost living monster that cannot be stopped. The narrator even uses some sarcastic humor in describing how the blame was spread for the arrival of the plague, with each group of people blaming another. This commentary certainly helped me identify more with the cultures of the time period.
Through all of the reading, the importance of religion stands out. A primary example is when Muhammad pulls out his prayer rug and prays in the midst of being robbed, demonstrating that the responsibility to answer the call to prayer precedes all else. In addition to insight on religion, the narrator describes family interactions involving Muhammad’s wives and concubines and the shame and embarrassment that revolve around them. It is very interesting that Hasan’s uncle greets him but treats everyone else very coldly. Is this abandonment of family acceptable given the distance they traveled or is Muhammad’s punishment deserved?
These major events are also particularly eye-opening to the differences between our culture and the Muslim and Spanish culture in the 15th century. What is particularly surprising to me is the treatment of women at the time. Women were discluded from many family traditions, and their only real role in life was to provide children – boys. A woman’s emotions were not taken into account, nor were her wants/ dreams. Because of the mentality/ brutal consequences, women, like Salma, could not even voice their opinions to their husbands. This treatment of women stands in stark contrast to the way cultural movements of the 20th century- what a long way we’ve come. However, I donk it’s important that we consider the way women are still treated in the Middle East and Africa. The treatment of woman seems to have remained stagnant in many Islamic countries/communities.
I was almost confused, yet pleasantly surprised at the interaction between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It seems as if these religious groups live in segregated communities and socialize mainly amongst themselves, yet I did not sense a significant amount of tension between the groups when they did socialize. Why and when did tension increase over time? Why couldn’t these three religions remain living peacefully near each other?
This book is exceedingly more interesting and enticing than the past ones. This book describes the period in which we were studying from the point of view of a single person. This shows a much more personal account of the facts we are used to learning about in class and in books. The first few chapters also give you an idea what the life of a Muslim woman in that time period. The book describes a husband that took on two wives after a few years with the first one and not receiving any children. Then it is the wife the bears the son that becomes important. Women were not allowed to leave the house without being veiled and usually accompanied by a man. They also had/have no say in whether they agree with their husbands taking on another wife or not.
The book describes the political situation, which was one of powerful monarchies. And also the attitudes of the people who lived under that rule. Obviously this was during the time of struggle between the Christians and Muslims because there were many comments against Christians as well as Jews. Also, The book describes the war with the Spanish under Ferdinand and Isabella. I think this is very interesting because before reading this book I understood the facts but I did not truly understand the situation. I think this book will really make this time period and what we have studied hit home.
--Dorothy R Smith "Bunny"
This book takes a very different perspective on history than the previous two books, it is told through the eyes of one man and his experiences. In this week’s reading, Hasan introduces himself and his family. He talks about his father’s multiple wives and about his birth celebration. He first explains the dynamics between his father’s two wives, one being his mother and the other woman being a slave girl. His mother and father were cousins and engaged to be married from an early age. At the time of Hasan’s birth, he said it was Ramadan and people broke the fast celebrating his birth. Also, he talks about the Sultan Albu’l-Hasan ‘Ali that held military parades to exhibit his power in Granada. Hasan said that on the 10th day of the parade, there were many fights breaking out and one man was killed and several were wounded. The sultan did not care so much about his country, but rather only pleasuring himself with fortune and slave girls. The sultan was extremely disliked and ended up being removed from power July 14th, 1482.
I thought the dynamics between Salma and Warda were interesting. Salma hears a quote from Gaudy Sarah stating, “For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom,” This quote was really interesting because even though Salma was the free woman, she envied Warda being a slave because she was able to go out “unveiled, sing, dance, pour wine, wink her eyes…” It is interesting because society does not have high expectations for how a slave girl should act and thus, in a way she ends up having the freedom to be herself without restraint.
I found the chapter “The Year of Astaghfirullah especially interesting. Society was a lot different. I never realized there was as much cohabitation between people of different religions as there was. Jews and Christians are mentioned living and doing business with each other. I also didn’t know how much of a social taboo drinking was. Although it was condemned in the Islamic faith muslim vendors still shamefully sold and drank it. We learn that Shaikh Astaghfirullah spends much of his sermons on how alcohol furthers one from God and how many hypocritically sit in prayer while “last night they were prostate in their cups.”
I really enjoyed this reading. This book gave me a much better understanding of what life was like in the late 1400s. I look forward to reading more and learning more about Leo Africanus’ life.
However, this global city exists under a dark cloud of invasion, molestation, and exploitation. It is invaded by Christian-Spaniards under Ferdinand and Isabella during the "Reconquest" of Spain against the Muslims and Jews who before had been living in the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries. The Spanish Inquisition, notably brutal, forcefully converted or expelled Jews and Muslims from "Al-Andalus". Hasan, in this story, lives through these tumultuous events, and as he foreshadows in his narrative, he is never again able to stay in one location for the rest of his life; he will be called Leo Africanus, but, as he says in the introduction, he is not African...
I have called the city of Granada a "global city". So I wonder: does the fact that Granada was on the global stage in the late fifteenth-century account for its invasion and "reconquest" by Ferdinand and Isabella? or was it all simply about religion?
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?
Anyways, I definitely like Leo Africanus way more than the other books. Probably because this is an actual story, but it's also really interesting. I can't wait to read the rest of the book :)
This week’s commentary reflects on the start of Amin Maalouf’s novel, “Leo Africanus.” His writing style is fictional, but she uses historical events and people to add validity to the story. The book takes place in Grenada, Spain during the late 15th century. This location was chosen purposely to depict Grenada’s mixture of religions; mainly Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. Additionally, Maalouf aimed to give a contextual representation of society, especially in terms of family structure.
Pages 1-100 introduced Leo Africanus’ family. His mother Salma was late to conceive, causing her husband Muhammed to bring home a slave-girl, Warda, for a mistress. Ultimately, they both become pregnant, and Salma is lucky enough to birth Muhammed’s first son. This sets the stage for Africanus’ life while conveying the struggle and hardships women endure in the 1400s.
I appreciate Maalouf’s literary interpretation of Leo Africanus’ life. I think I am enlightened by history in a new way because the style of her writing is so fictional. Although I am vaguely familiar with Grenada’s history in the 15th century, the story seems well researched and historically accurate to a degree. I am excited to gain a worldly and realistic perspective of this era that I have not yet attained.
My question is in regards to the machismo nature of the society portrayed. How has the flow of globalization brought this heavily male dominated order to be? How does present-day Grenada relate/contrast to that of the country during the 15th century?
This book is much different from the ones we have previously read and is much more interesting to me. The part that stuck out for me was something I remember talking about in class was that it is very difficult to force ones religion, culture, and beliefs on areas that already have their own established. Even when the Spanish took back what the Muslims attempted to control.
My question is if any country today will ever be able to force religion and cultures on another country. And if they do conquer those aspects of a country will they be able to hold it and claim it as part of country.
During that time span, Muhammad began to lose interest in his wife because of her infertility. The rumors which were floating around were finally confirmed when Muhammad returned home with another woman. Her name was Warda and he acquired her from a soldier. Salma’s barrenness was finally solved when she was presented with a special elixir to put in a glass of orgeat syrup. It was given to her by a woman named Gaudy Sarah and was intended to entice Muhammad to come to Salma. Finally, with Sarah’s help Salma became pregnant. However, Warda also became pregnant, causing Muhammad to rejoice at the thought of having two sons. The race was on between the women for the birth of the first son. Wada gave birth first, to a baby girl named Mariam. Muhammad barely looked at his first born child, disappointed that Mariam was born a girl. Salam’s gave birth to a baby boy, reuniting her with Muhammad, who ended up only caring for this section of his family.
I found this multiple family situation to be very interesting. While I was reading, all that kept popping up in my head was some sort of throw back edition of Jerry Springer. We have a couple who is arranged to be married as children; the only catch is that they are cousins. Now, they finally get married but over time the husband begins losing interest in his wife. He goes out and picks up some other woman, who is considerable more beautiful then his current wife and begins to keep her as a mistress. The husband then proceeds to have children with both women, abandoning his mistress and first born child, which was a girl to be with his wife and his first born son. These circumstances really painted the picture for me. All I kept seeing was Muhammad on stage being grilled with questions while sitting between his two families.
My question is does anyone else get this picture in their head or am I just nuts? Maybe it’s a different show for you like Maury?
I feel as if religious motives can be exploited by people to justify any act if you try hard enough. The records of documented crimes against the Spanish Church are laughable. For instance, Luis de Stangel was accused of heresy for his belief and practice of the Jewish faith. To avoid punishment, Stangel composed a written confession; and consequently, he was later charged with heresy and perjury. It was assumed that after he had written his confession that he was lying so he also was charged with heresy.
Things like slavery can also be justified through religious means. The natives of Africa were considered heathens, as they were not Christians, and it was assumed that it was the holy duty of Christians to enslave them so that they would convert to Christianity and experience salvation.
Religion is really a difficult subject for me, as I went to Catholic school for the majority of my academic career. I see how that is is blindly followed and so easily exploited so that few will benefits. I mean, if it wasn’t for modern science the Pope might still be torturing people who thought the Earth moved around the Sun. One of my favorite quotes is that “you can believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God if you want. But it strikes me as odd, that Shakspeare—a mere mortal, was so much better in terms of basic writing skills”. I would constantly bring up that since man wrote the Bible from what was inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and man is inclined to sin… couldn’t it have been written down wrong?
I do not believe that a person has to be religious to have ethics and morals. I don’t need to believe in God to not want to kill people, or kick puppies. I think morals and ethics are inherent to people. Besides most major religions follow the same basic code of conduct of being a good person.
The life of Leo Africanus reminds me of the fable of Prester John in that both were the Christian that lived among the Muslims and were seen as a tool to defeat the Muslims. I do find it ironic that it alledges that Leo Africanus reconverted back to Islam before his death. It makes me feel as if he too was using religion for his own personal gains, like escaping oppression from Christians.