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Prohibiting the Pilgrimage: Politics and Fiction in Mālikī Fatwās

This study inventories and analyzes Mālikī legal opinions (fatwās) discouraging or prohibiting the pilgrimage to Mecca (the ḥajj) for Muslims in the Islamic West (al-Andalus, North Africa, and West Africa) from the eleventh through nineteenth centuries.

This distinctively Mālikī discourse initially may have reflected the risks of long-distance travel from the western periphery to the central Islamic lands. From the twelfth century, most of these texts reflect a ruler’s unstated desire to keep his subjects and their resources at home. Jurists produced fatwās that justified in religious legal terms a regional dispensation from, or even prohibition of, the ḥajj; that masked the political motives for doing so; and that the lay public could grasp readily. The crafting of such complex opinions is explored, including the use of two “fictional” elements: dissemblance, or a discrepancy between the jurists’ actual and stated rationales, and the use of imaginative stories as illustrative aids.

Muslim jurists working within the Mālikī school of law, dominant in the Islamic West (al-Andalus and North Africa), have been discouraging or prohibiting the pilgrimage to Mecca for Andalusī and Maghribī Muslims since at least the eleventh century. When the Almoravid ruler asked Ibn Rushd the Grandfather (d. 520/1126) if jihād or the ḥajj is more meritorious for Andalusīs, Ibn Rushd protested that the answer was obvious. The merits of jihād are innumerable, while Andalusīs and Maghribīs are all exempt from the ḥajj because of their inability to perform it; further, Muslims risking the dangerous journey would incur sin. Ibn al-Munayyir (d. 683/1284) prohibited the pilgrimage for anyone who feared he might delay or mis-pray even one daily prayer on the journey. Aḥmad al-Burzulī’s (d. 841/1438) voluminous fatwā compilation includes more opinions discouraging the ḥajj than describing its proper performance. Sultan Muhammad Bello, ruler of the Sokoto caliphate in Nigeria (r. 1815–1837), warned would-be pilgrims not to allow Satan to lure good Muslims onto the road to Mecca.

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Bibliographic Information

Title: Prohibiting the Pilgrimage: Politics and Fiction in Mālikī Fatwās

Author:  Jocelyn Hendrickson

Published in:  Islamic Law and Society, Vol. 23: Issue 3,19 Jul 2016

 Language: English

Length: 78 pages

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