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The Formation of Islamic Life and Space in Palestine from the Arab Conquest until the Mamluk Period

Dr. Daniella Talmon-Heller, Dr. Miriam Frenkel & Dr. Milka Levy-Rubin


This research aims at the reconstruction of the process by which life and space in Palestine became Muslim (seventh-fifteenth centuries). Such a reconstruction entails both the examination of the ongoing process of spatial Islamization, and of processes amongst the conquered communities - Christian, Jewish and Samaritan - which allowed this significant change.
Spatial Islamization is researched via three trajectories:

  1. By determining the chronology of the construction of Islamic institutions (mosques, sanctuaries, madrasas and sufi establishments), their geographic spread in the region, the social contexts of their establishment or appropriation from other religious groups and their later maintenance.
  2.  By tracing the development of Islamic rites, beliefs, and ritual calendars in Palestine.
  3. By analyzing the discourse and topoi employed by the Arabic sources that deal with the transformations in question.

 The research of the processes which the local conquered communities underwent focuses on changes in their settlement pattern, the penetration of the Arabic culture and language (Arabization), and the process of conversion to Islam and the resistance to it, especially in the early Islamic period. The research regarding the dimensions and effects of this process may be complemented by an examination of the holy places, institutions, rites and customs which remained unchanged. We anticipate that the integration of the changes evident in both the conquering and the conquered communities will allow us to draw a clearer picture of the transformation of life and space in Palestine as a whole.
The study is based on a systematic survey of both the Muslim and the non-Muslim narratives, religious and legal sources, and the integration of the textual evidence with the findings of relevant studies of epigraphy and archaeology. The analysis employs the tools of philology, history, historical anthropology and religious studies.

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