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Papal Involvement in the Muslim West

Arabic-Islamic historiography of the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries from the Maghreb and the shrinking sphere of al-Andalus only rarely refers to the pope.

Al-Marrakushi, who finished his history of al-Andalus and the Maghreb around 621/1224, mentions neither Rome nor the pope.132 Ibn Sa'id (d. 685/1286) ignores Rome and the pope in his historiographical work, but brings up both subjects in his geographical work, where he mentions the location of Rome giving a short definition of the city as ‘the residence of the pope’ (qaHdat al-baba).133 In his history of the Maghreb and al-Andalus, finished in around 712/1312-13, Ibn 'Idhari mentions Rome in various contexts,^4 but only refers to the pope once. Elaborating on a passage taken from Ibn Hayyan that is also reproduced by the later Ibn al-Khan b, Ibn 'Idharl mentions a ‘master of the golden church in Rome’ (sahib kanisat al-dhahab bi-Ruma) who received a richly adorned image of Jesus sent by a certain Charles (Qarulush).135 The lemma on Rome in al-HImyarl’s (13th-14th cent.) geographic encyclopaedia al-rawdal-mi tar only contains data already known from the works of Ibn Rustah and al-Bakri.136 The anonymous geographical-historiographical work dhikr bilad al-Andalus, probably produced in the Maghreb of the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries, fails to mention the pope and only refers to Rome in connection with ancient Roman rule over the Iberian Peninsula.^7

Ibn al-Khaub (d. 776/1375), the influential wazir of Granada, is the only Western Muslim scholar who provides original and comparatively recent information on the pope. In a chapter dedicated to the Christian realms of the Iberian Peninsula that draws on the report of a Jewish emissary from Castile, the court physician Yusuf b. Waqar al-Isra’ili, Ibn al-Khan b addresses papal support for the creation of Portugal in 1179. The pope had acknowledged the kingship of a certain duke called Alfonso (Alfunsh),

who was called duke (duqan) and after that king (malikan) by permission of the pope, the highest priest (al-qissis al-aZam) in RomeM8 [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Another reference to the pope dates back to the thirteenth century. According to this passage, reproduced later by al-MaqqarI (d. 1041/1632), the taifa-ruler Abu 'Abd Allah b. Hud of Murcia sent a certain Abu Talib b. Sab'In to the pope in Rome. Ibn al-Khafib identifies Abu Talib with the brother of Abu Muhammad b. Sab'In, the scholar said to have written a reply to the so-called ‘Sicilian questions’ ascribed to Frederick II and/or his entourage.[8] [9] [10] Ibn al-Khafib describes the circumstances of this delegation as well as Abu Talib’s reception as follows:

Our teacher Abu l-Barakat reported: Our teachers from among the Oriental scholars reported to me that the amir Abu ‘Abd Allah b. Hud concluded a peace treaty with the tyrant of the Christians (taghiyat al-nasara). The latter then broke the treaty, failed to fulfil the stipulations and compelled the former to turn to the greatest comes (al-qumis al-a‘zam) in Rome. He delegated Abu Talib b. Sab'In, who is the brother of the above-mentioned Abu Muhammad, as his ambassador to lay the existing treaties before him. He [Abu l-Barakat] reported: When he reached the residence (bab) of this aforementioned person in Rome, a country not frequented by Muslims, and his cause was examined and he was asked about his identity, this priest (al-qiss) spoke the following words to those of their scholars (‘ulama’ihim) who stood around him, their meaning being translated to Abu Talib: “Know that, among the Muslims of our day, there is no-one more knowledgeable about God than the brother of this man.’440

According to Michele Amari, Abu 'Abd Allah b. Hud, the vassal of Fernando III of Castile and Leon, decided to get in touch with the pope after having been chased from his residence in Murcia by Fernando’s son, the future Alfons X, in 1243. Pope Innocent IV (sed. 1243-54) acceded to the papacy in exactly this year and was, Amari claims,

a man of science who, before his exaltation, had passed as a friend of Frederick II. Consequently, it does not seem improbable that Innocent had heard about this philosopher [i.e. Ibn Sab'In] who, one or two years before, had sent rather remarkable answers to the emperor.141

Amari’s argument tallies with the fact that Innocent IV knew Frederick II personally and resided in Rome until 28 June 1244, when pressure exerted by the emperor drove him from the city.142 Juan Torres Fontes, Robert Burns, and Paul Chevedden believe that the embassy took place around twenty years later, in 1264-65, i.e. in the pontificate of Urban IV (sed. 1261-64) or Clemens IV (sed.

1265_68), both of whom did not reside in Rome.143 According to their argument, the plea for help must have been formulated shortly before the ta fa-principality ultimately succumbed to Christian rule in the wake of the great Mudejar-revolt of 1264.144 Finally, Anna Akasoy points to the fact that the ta ifa-ruler Abu 'Abd Allah b. Hud ceased to rule in 635/1238. If at all, the breach of an armistice in 1234 or Fernando’s conquest of Cordoba in 1236 could have incited Abu Talib’s mission to Rome. Since she questions Frederick’s authorship of the so-called ‘Sicilian questions’, she also formulates doubts as to the authenticity of the mission, but provides no explanation as to why and to what end Ibn al-Khatlb’s report should have been construed.145

Ibn al-Khati b claims to have received news about the embassy not from Iberian but from Middle Eastern informants via the intermediary Abu l-Barakat. Arabic- Islamic scholars in touch with the courts of Frederick II and his son Manfred come to mind as potential transmitters.^6 Amari assumed that a Muslim ruler from the Iberian Peninsula would have only appealed to the pope ‘as a last resort’ and would have preferred to conceal this embassy vis-a-vis his Muslim neighbours. This could explain why Ibn al-Khatib had to draw on Oriental informants and why historiographers from the Muslim West apart from him and the compilator al-Maqqari failed to report on this diplomatic mission.147

It remains unclear why Western Muslim historiography and geography contain so little information about one of the leading representatives of high and late medieval Latin Christendom. On the Iberian Peninsula, this may have to do with the fact that the papacy mainly operated in the background, supporting the Christian drive to the south and the establishment of a Christian infrastructure in the ‘reconquered’ territories instead of maintaining its own direct relations with the peninsula’s Muslim rulers.148 This does not rule out that some Arabic-Islamic scholars were aware of the papacy’s contribution to the ‘Reconquista’. Al-Qalqashandi’s (d. 821/1418) use of the honorary title ‘Supporter of the Pope’ (zahir papa Rumiyya with the Persian letter ‘o’) for the king of Aragon (al-ridAraghun) implies knowledge about existing links between Iberian Christians and the bishop of Rome.149

While the lack of Andalusian records seems explicable, the absence of records on the pope in the Maghreb and North Africa defies all explanation. In 1076, Gregory VII responded to a letter by the Hammadid ruler al-NasuTh0 In 1199, Innocent [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

III commended the Trinitarian order as a means of exchanging captives of war to the Almohad caliph al-Nasir.^1 In 1219, Honorius III appealed to the Almohad caliph al-Mustansir to ensure that Christians under his rule had the right to practise their faith.152 In 1233, Gregory IX urged the Almohad caliph al-Rashid to accept the Christian faith, warning him that enmity towards the latter would force the pope to call back those Christians in the caliph’s service.^3 In 1235, Gregory IX responded to the Hafsid ruler Abu Zakariya’ Yahya and sent a Franciscan envoy for further negotiations.^4 In 1246, Innocent IV asked the same ruler as well as his governors in Bejai'a and Ceuta not to obstruct the work of the bishop Lope Fernandez de Ayn and his Franciscan entourage in their efforts to provide pastoral care to Christians in the Hafsid realm.155 In the same year, Innocent IV thanked the Almohad caliph al-Sa‘ld for the benefits and privileges granted to the church in his realm and congratulated him on a military victory achieved with the help of Christian mercenaries called into the country by his predecessors. Urging the caliph to accept the Christian faith, he appealed to him to grant secure places of refuge near the coast to the Christians of his realm, since several of them had become victims of recent unrestV6 In 1250, Innocent IV received a letter by al-Sa‘ld’s successor, Abu Hafs Umar al-MurtadaV7 Not satisfied with the caliph’s response, Innocent IV criticized the Muslim ruler for his failure to protect the Christians in his realm in 1251, threatening to call back all Christians under his rule if he refused to comply with the pope’s demandsV8 However, in spite of this intensive exchange of letters, neither the late medieval papacy nor its correspondence with several Almohad and Hafsid rulers is mentioned in Arabic-Islamic sources from Ifriqiya and the Maghreb.

  • [1] al-Marrakushi, al-mujib, ed. Dozy. 133 Ibn Sa' id, al-jughrafiyya, ed. al-'Arabi, p. 169.
  • [2] 134 Ibn 'Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 1, p. 17 (emperor Heraclius); vol. 2,
  • [3] p. 2 (Roman Spain), p. 14 (Roman Seville), p. 18 (Roman conquest of Jerusalem), p. 294 (Romanpilgrims to Santiago de Compostela).
  • [4] Ibid., vol. 2, p. 108: ‘wa-huwa—a' ni Qarulush—alladhi ' amala su rat ' Isa min thalathimi’at ratlmin dhahab khalis, wa-saffaha bi-l-yaqut wa-l-zabrajad, wa-ja' ala laha kursiyan min dhahab khalismufassas bi-l-yaqut wa-l-zabrajad aydan, fa-lamma akmala dhalika, sajada lahu wa-asjada lahu jami'ahl Ifranja fi dhalika al-ta'rikh, thumma dafa'ahu ila sahib kanisat al-dhahab bi-Ruma.’ Cf. IbnHayyan, al-muqtabis II-2, ed. Makki, pp. 130—1; Ibn al-Khatib, a'mal al-aiam, ed. Levi-Proven^al,p. 67. See Chapters 6.2.1. and 7.2.2.
  • [5] 136 al-Himyari, al-rawdal-mitar, ed. 'Abbas, lemma ‘Ruma’, pp. 274—6, esp. 275: ‘yudabbir amra-hum bi-Ruma al-babah. wa-yajib ala kull malik min muluk al-nasara idha ijtama a bi-l-babah anyanbatih 'ala l-ard bayna yadayhi, fa-la yazal yuqabbil rijlay al-babah wa-la yarfa' ra’sahu hattaya’muruhu al-babah bi-l-qiyam.’ Cf. Ibn Rustah, al-a4aq al-nafisa, ed. de Goeje, pp. 128—32, al-Bakri,al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 803—05, pp. 478—9.
  • [6] dhikr bilad al-Andalus, ed./trans. Molina, pp. 84, 87, 89—91.
  • [7] Ibn al-Khatib, a'mal al-a^lam, ed. Levi-Proven^al, pp. 331, 336: ‘thumma malaka ba' dahuibnuhu Alfunsh wa-tasamma duqan, thumma ba da dhalika malikan, bi-idhn al-baba al-qissis al-a zambi-Ruma.’ Cf. Jarar, zaman (2004), p. 190.
  • [8] Their ascription to Frederick II is questioned by Akasoy, Philosophie (2006) and defended byMandala, ‘Prologo’ (2007), pp. 25—94, both with further literature.
  • [9] Ibn al-Khatlb, al-ihata, ed. Than, vol. 4, pp. 34—5: ‘wa-haddathanI shaykhuna Abu l-Barakat,qala haddathanI ashyakhuna min ahl al-mashriq, anna l-amIr Aba 'Abd Allah b. Hud, salama taghiyatal-nasara, fa-nakatha ahdahu, wa-lam yafi bi-shartihi, fa-idtarrahu dhalika ila mukhatabatihi ilal-qumis al-a'zam bi-Ruma, fa-wakkala Aba Talib b. Sab'In, akha AbI Muhammad, al-mutakallamanhu, wa-l-istizhar bi-l-'uqud bayna yadayhi. qala fa-lamma balagha bab dhalika al-shakhs al-madhkurbi-Ruma, wa-huwa balad la yattasil ilayhi al-muslimun, wa-nuzira ila ma bi-yadihi, wa-suila an naf-sihi, kallama dhalika al-qiss man dana minhu mahahahu min ulama ihim bi-kalam, turjima li-AbITalib bi-ma ma'nahu, i'lamu anna akha hadha laysa li-l-muslimIn al-yawm a lam bi-llah minhu.’
  • [10] Amari, ‘Questions’ (1853), p. 252; cf. Horst, Sultan (1997), p. 92. 142 Roberg, ‘Innozenz IV’ (1991), cols 437—38.
  • [11] Roberg, ‘Urban IV’ (1997), col. 1284; Hayez, ‘Clemens IV’ (1983), cols 2141—42.
  • [12] Torres Fontes, ‘Tratados’ (1997), pp. 43—53; Burns and Chevedden, Cultures (1999), p. 233.
  • [13] Akasoy, Philosophie (2006), pp. 14—15.
  • [14] On these scholars, see Hasse, ‘Mosul’ (2000), pp. 145-63; Leder, ‘Kaiser’ (2008), pp. 82—91.
  • [15] Amari, ‘Questions’ (1853), pp. 251—2.
  • [16] Vones, ‘Einflussnahme’ (2011), pp. 400—1. On various forms of papal activism on the IberianPeninsula cf. Linehan, Church (1971); Vones, Historia (1980); Engels, ‘Sudwesten’ (2001), pp. 82, 84,86—7; Linehan, ‘Legation’ (2001), pp. 236—56; Herbers, ‘Papsttum’ (2002), pp. 25—60; Fleisch, ‘Rom’(2008), pp. 135—89; Vones, ‘Papsttum’ (2009), pp. 157—71; cf. Deswarte, Chretiente (2010), with afull overview.
  • [17] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a'ha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 6, p. 176; vol. 8, p. 36. On the title as such, seevol. 6, p. 89.
  • [18] Gregorius VII, Registrum, ed. Caspar (MGH Epp. selectae in us. schol. 2/1), cap. III,21,pp. 287—8.
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