Pro­fessor de Castilla, thank you so much for this won­derful pre­sen­tation, this is such exciting work! One of the aspects of your current project on the history of the Qur’an which is so com­pelling and timely is that you are tracing the Qur’an’s fate – as sacred text and scripture, as well as a physical object — within various vastly dif­ferent, but con­tem­po­ra­neous and inti­mately inter­con­nected, worlds. One of these worlds com­prised the Iberian Muslim com­mu­nities which were under violent attack in the 15th and 16th cen­turies and who sought to pre­serve their her­itage and com­munal prac­tices through Qur’anic man­u­scripts them­selves; another is the elite world of the imperial Christian court in Spain as well as the wider world of Christian European bib­lio­philes, book col­lectors, ori­en­talists, clergy, and nobility who all had some stake or interest in the col­lection of Qur’anic man­u­scripts as physical objects, for a variety of reasons. The Qur’anic man­u­scripts and the other Islamic reli­gious texts you’ve dis­cussed emerge as the lifeline for com­mu­nities trying to pre­serve a her­itage which was under attack, but they also emerge as cul­tural arte­facts which were sought after for both destruction and preser­vation by the western Chris­tians they came across. 

The cod­i­co­logical work which you’ve been car­rying out raises so many ques­tions about the social and cul­tural life of the man­u­script. Your work on what you’ve termed Morisco Qur’ans, for example, illu­mi­nates so much about the history of Qur’anic man­u­scripts which were native to the Iberian peninsula itself. However, these Qur’ans faced a tumul­tuous history as a result of the violent expul­sions and bans on Islamic learning and culture which Muslims faced in Spain throughout the late 15th and early 17th cen­turies. As these par­ticular man­u­scripts demon­strate, Moriscos — that is, Muslims who were forced to convert to Chris­tianity in Spain, many of whom con­tinued to practice their religion in secret — turned to various ways to express their faith and maintain their beliefs and prac­tices. As you’ve demon­strated in your pre­vious research, for example, they might turn to writing the Qur’an in aljamiado, an Islam­i­cized romance dialect, or they might create abridged copies of the Qur’an — some­times written in several lan­guages. The con­di­tions which resulted in the wide­spread con­fis­cation and, often, destruction of the Qur’an and other Arabic texts which we see in the 16th Century thus, in part, led to the pro­duction of these unique Morisco Qur’ans during the Inqui­sition and other periods of heightened hos­tility towards the Muslim com­mu­nities of early modern Spain. This hos­tility towards the Qur’anic man­u­script as object, however, stands in striking con­trast to the event which you’ve dis­cussed today: that of Emperor Charles V’s con­quest of Tunis in 1535, in which man­u­scripts of the Qur’an were not sought for destruction, but rather were sought after as spoils of war, and which sub­se­quently found their way across Europe, including Spanish libraries, and which are the subject of your talk today.

This brings me to a central theme which emerges in your work: the ambiva­lence between what we might term, even if just for heuristic pur­poses, Islam­o­phobia and Islam­ophilia, two tra­di­tions with long and very inter­sected his­tories. The variable fates of the Qur’anic man­u­script in Western, or Christian, Europe — an object of derision to be destroyed, or an object to be admired for its aes­thetic beauty or studied for its intel­lectual and the­o­logical content — reflect the often rad­i­cally ambivalent atti­tudes exhibited towards Islam itself in the early modern world, and, indeed, the Medieval and Modern worlds which came before and after. You posited a striking and par­tic­u­larly evocative con­trast today: on the one hand, the image of Emperor Charles V’s des­ig­nation of the Alhambra in Granada — the most iconic example of Islamic archi­tecture on the peninsula — for the site of his palace in the 16th century; on the other hand, the brutal tri­bunals and Inqui­si­tionary activ­ities which were taking place at the same time. For many, such a con­trast will cer­tainly bring to mind Edward Said’s Ori­en­talism, which dis­cussed exactly this sort of colonial appro­pri­ation which entailed a mix of both admi­ration and derision. 

Your expertise straddles both the Medieval and Early Modern worlds, so your work also makes the point that Christian interest in the Qur’an and ele­ments of Islamic art such as its archi­tecture actually extends far back past the reign of Charles V. I’m inter­ested in similar phe­nomena in the High Middle Ages; Alfonso X, the famed thir­teenth century King of León-Castile, is a great example of someone who appre­ciated (and sought to learn more about) Islamic culture and her­itage, both for its sci­en­tific and philo­sophical knowledge as well as for its aes­thetics, for example in music, poetry, art, and archi­tecture, but his reign also saw the con­tinued dete­ri­o­ration of Muslim (and, for that matter, Jewish) life under Christian rule. This sort of ambiva­lence is seen in a wide variety of Medieval European cul­tural arte­facts; for example, the chivalric depic­tions of Saladin in French lit­er­ature, or the trope of the wise Moorish sage in Iberian and even Arthurian lit­er­ature, all coex­isted with the vio­lence of Cru­sades in the Near East and in Spain and with the forced expul­sions of Muslims from recon­quered ter­ri­tories, as well as with the mon­strous depic­tions of Muslims endemic to other lit­erary sagas such as the Chanson de Roland. Many lit­erary texts contain these ambivalent depic­tions within the same corpus — take, for example, Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria, a col­lection of 420 devo­tional songs which might depict blood­thirsty and violent Muslim invaders in one song and benev­olent Muslims who have tran­scended that per­ceived bar­barity in the very next (and it bears men­tioning again that the same is true of Jewish sub­jects treated in the Cantigas). One might even (cau­tiously, but I think nonetheless impor­tantly) draw par­allels to ambivalent minority cul­tural rela­tions today, for example, the extreme pop­u­larity of music by black musi­cians such as Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston or Prince in a country where Black people con­tinue to face sys­temic racism, dis­crim­i­nation, neg­ative stereo­typical por­trayals, and derision against move­ments such as Black Lives Matter (#Black­Lives­Matter).

I would also like to discuss, a bit more com­par­a­tively, the history of the Qur’an in Medieval Latin Chris­tendom versus the early modern period. In the twelfth and thir­teenth cen­turies, we see eccle­si­astics, for example, develop a very deep intel­lectual com­mitment to the study of the Qur’an, and people like Peter the Ven­erable, who was the abbot of Cluny in the twelfth century, and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, the arch­bishop of Toledo in the thir­teenth century, actually com­mis­sioned the Qur’an to be trans­lated from Arabic into Latin, along with many other Islamic reli­gious texts which were then dis­sem­i­nated among clerics to aid in their study — and polemical rebuttal of — Islam. Many clerics even learned Arabic itself in order specif­i­cally to read the Qur’an in its original lan­guage, for example, Ramon Llull and Ric­coldo da Monte Croce and other men­dicant friars. So we see large eccle­si­as­tical interest in attaining knowledge from the Qur’an; I would love to hear your thoughts about whether you con­sider this picture to change in the six­teenth century, and whether we see dif­ferent types of people inter­ested in these man­u­scripts than we might have seen in the Middle Ages, and indeed whether or not we see these sorts of intel­lectual or polemical interests change according to geog­raphy and nationality.