Writing about the Mawlid al-Sharīf in Eighth/Fourteenth-Century Maghrib: A Sufi-Legal Discourse

In: Journal of Sufi Studies
Kameliya Atanasova Religion, History, Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA USA

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Recent scholarship on the relationship between premodern Sufism and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) has highlighted the overlap between Sufis and jurists at the level of social and intellectual life. Despite this growing body of studies on Sufi-jurist dynamics, the role of Sufi metaphysics in this intellectual intersection remains unexplored. To address this gap, I provide a close reading of an entry in the Miʿyār al-muʿrib, a fatwa collection written in the ninth/fifteenth-century by Aḥmad al-Wansharīsī (d. 914/1508) that deals with the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, the mawlid al-sharīf. The entry in Wansharīsī’s collection consists of three interconnected texts: a fourteenth-century fatwa by Ibn ʿ⁠Abbād al-Rundī (d. 792/1390), a metalinguistic commentary by Wansharīsī, and an excerpt from the Janāʾ al-jannatayn, a treatise by Shams al-Dīn b. Marzūq al-Tilimsānī (d. 781/1379) on the preeminence of the Night of Birth (laylat al-mawlid) over the Night of Power (laylat al-qadr). I analyze this triad of texts in order to create a road map for understanding the intersection of Sufi metaphysical and legal discourses. I begin by situating my argument within existing scholarship on Sufi-jurist dynamics in the premodern period (pre-thirteenth/nineteenth century). Next, I introduce readers to the main historical figures in the article – Ibn ʿ⁠Abbād, Ibn Marzūq, and Wansharīsī. In the third and fourth parts of the article, I explore these interconnected texts and argue that Wansharīsī uses Ibn Marzūq’s excerpt on the mawlid as a kind of precedent text to help his readers decipher Ibn ʿ⁠Abbād’s fatwa. In this way, the fatwa compiler links the two texts and their corresponding Sufi metaphysical and juridical elements.

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