A House of Worship for Every Religious Community: The History of a Mālikī Fatwā

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This essay traces the incorporation of a sixth/twelfth century fatwā supporting the construction of churches in North Africa in the Mālikī madhhab and provides insight into practices of Mālikī legal interpretation in the Maghrib in the ninth/fifteenth century. In his fatwā, the Cordoban jurist Ibn al-Hājj (d. 529/1134) addressed a novel situation involving the relocation of Christians from al-Andalus. This fatwā was selected by the Tunisian jurist al-Burzulī (d. 841/1438) for commentary in his Jāmi' masā'il al-ahkām. He discussed Ibn al-Hājj’s opinions with reference to al-Mudawwana and al-Wādiha, and later commentaries, and made a connection to church building in Tunis. In the late ninth/fifteenth century, three jurists writing in response to anti-Jewish attacks in Tamantīt, in the Tuwāt oasis (Algeria), cited Ibn al-Hājj’s fatwā, as redacted by al-Burzulī, in their opinions on the destruction of a local synagogue. Each jurist treated Ibn al-Hājj’s fatwā as a relevant legal precedent. At the same time, each reevaluated the parameters of Mālikī debate about non-Muslim houses of worship to assert his distinct opinion about the synagogue of Tamantīt and the position of the Mālikī madhhab on non-Muslim houses of worship in Muslim lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-218
Number of pages40
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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