Sunday, September 25, 2011

Urban planning and Islam as a unifier in medieval Morocco

The following post serves to make use of some dissertation writing that won't be of much use, it turns out.

In Morocco, urban planning has a history of softening and blurring tribal lines, in part using Islam as a unifier. As cities formed, tribal groups moved in together as a unit, occupying physical spaces with clear boundaries separating them from other tribal units.[i] During the 13th and 14th centuries in Morocco [and possibly up till the 17th century], depopulation was a significant problem. The ‘rite du drap’ was adapted to unify communities within cities. When a local woman’s labor became difficult, school boys, at the behest of their teacher, would walk around the neighborhood suspending a sheet with an unbroken egg and uttering prayers bidding god to intervene on the woman’s behalf to induce birth. The practice was a unifier across communities, as the procession eventually widened beyond tribal communities, thus expanding the sense of obligation of other city-dwellers from their immediate families to the unborn of the community struggling to enter the world. It is an example of Islam acting as a unifier up against customary practice. This phenomenon is a promising example of the success of Islam in counteracting divisive customary law, especially for the well-being of women. Caveat—this bridged communities in the ancienne medina (old city), but it is not certain that it expanded into the Merenid’s ville-nouvelle established in 1276.[ii]

The practice that did bridge the ancienne medina with the new city the two was the ‘rite des pantalons.’ Abdelhaqq, founder of the Merenid dynasty, was a saint with powers of baraka or blessings.[iii] The ceremony of the pants describes the practice of bringing the pants and/or coat of the blessed Abdelhaqq to the woman experiencing a difficult labor to wear. Donning Abdelhaqq’s clothing (long after he had died) eased the woman’s difficulties and expedited the birthing process.[iv]

[i] Abdessamad Dialmy, Le Féminisme Au Maroc, 1st ed. (Casablanca: Les Editions Toubkal, 2008), 62.

[ii] Ibid., 63.

[iii] Ibid., 65.

[iv] Ibid., 67.

Monday, September 5, 2011

UPDATE: Who are Abdelhakim Belhaj, Abdel Hakim al-Hasadi, and Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq?

UPDATE: We have our answer. BBC was right and NYT was wrong. On 31 August a correction appeared here stating that
Abdelhakim Belhaj and Abdel Hakim al-Hasad are two different people.

Abdelhakim Belhaj (also known as Abdel Hakim al-Hasadi and Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq) is the former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), currently called
the Islamic Movement for Change. According to NYT, Abdelhakim Belhaj is the same person as Abdel Hakim al-Hasadi. According to BBC, Abdelhakim Belhaj is the same person as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq. Who is right?