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Amina Nawaz

PhD Student, Middle Eastern Studies

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Current Research

I study the devotional manuscripts of sixteenth century Spanish Muslims known by historians as Moriscos. They are written in combinations of Arabic and Romance vernacular, which intertwine both language and script, and criss-cross an array of subjects, ranging from excerpts of the Qurʿān nestled between the accounts of a merchant, to a detailed narration of the parable of the prodigal son within a text outlining the merits of 'the night of power' or laylatu'l-qadr in the Islamic calendar. These manuscripts require making sense of texts that can be both surprising and beautiful.

By the first quarter of the sixteenth century, all of the Muslim communities of the Iberian Peninsula were forcibly baptised into Christianity. Much of the current scholarship on the Moriscos understands their manuscripts within a framework of crypto-Islam, or the underground internal texts of communities outwardly attesting to a Christian faith, but inwardly maintaining Islamic beliefs and practices. In my research, I attempt to contextualise the Moriscos and their extant writings within their wider Mediterranean environment in order to explore to what extent the Moriscos were 'unique' and if indeed they were as 'crypto' as we think. Thus I focus on the language and content of their extant sixteenth and seventeenth century devotional manuscripts with the aim of better understanding the communities that wrote and owned them, within the broader world(s) in which they lived. In so doing, I hope also that we may learn more about the early modern Mediterranean and the communities who peopled its shores.



Other Research Interests

Most Morisco manuscripts are written in combinations of Arabic script and Romance languages known as Aljamiado. While my doctoral thesis focuses on this particularly 'Spanish' variant, I am very interested in other forms of Aljamiado, from the subcontinent, the Balkans, the far east and Africa (to name only a few). This speaks to a broader interest in learning about how Muslims in different parts of the pre-modern world engaged with the beliefs and practices of their faith, within wider social, intellectual and geographical contexts, for as so many historians have noted, it is in the works and lives of 'ordinary folks' that we so often encounter the extraordinary.