In 1779 the sultan of Morocco, Muḥammad bin ʿAbdallah (Muḥammad III, r. 1757–90), sent an ambassadorial delegation to Spain to ransom Ottoman-Algerian prisoners. The delegation was led by Muḥammad bin ʿUthman al-Miknāsī (d. 1799), who left a detailed account of the mission in his extant text Al-Iksīr fī fikāk al-asīr (The Elixir That Will Liberate the Prisoner). When juxtaposed on the historical record, al-Miknāsī's travelogue illustrates how Muḥammad III and the Moroccan religio-political elite navigated the complex Mediterranean web of religious identity, political allegiance, and ethnicity. Positing a division between “temporal” and “spiritual” sovereignty increases our understanding of how Muḥammad III substantiated his authority on multiple levels in relation to Spain, Ottoman-Algeria, and the Sublime Porte in Istanbul. While previous scholarship has focused on a religio-political aggression against the Christian Europeans, this article employs al-Miknāsī's travelogue to demonstrate how Muḥammad III halted religio-political aggression against Dār al-Ḥarb (Abode of War) and questioned the unity within Dār al-Islām (Abode of Islam).
Al-Miknāsī's Mediterranean Mission: Negotiating Moroccan Temporal and Spiritual Sovereignty in the Late Eighteenth Century
Peter Kitlas is a doctoral student at Princeton University in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. He received his MA from the University of Michigan, where he played an active role in the university's Mediterranean studies graduate student initiative, Meditopos. It was through this group—specifically co-organizing the conference, “Mapping the Mediterranean: Space, Memory, and the Long Road to Modernity”—that he became involved with the field of Mediterranean studies. His current PhD research focuses on diplomatic relations in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Muslim Mediterranean. Through an effort to “define” the ambassador, his research reevaluates the static understanding of “Islamic” diplomatic history in the early modern period. In doing so, he seeks to employ both Arabic and Ottoman sources to shed light on the complexities of intra-Islamic relations from political, social, and cultural perspectives.
Peter Kitlas; Al-Miknāsī's Mediterranean Mission: Negotiating Moroccan Temporal and Spiritual Sovereignty in the Late Eighteenth Century. Mediterranean Studies 16 November 2015; 23 (2): 170–194. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/mediterraneanstu.23.2.0170
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