Jan 28

"The Architecture of War: Central Asian Ribats and the Notion of Jihad"

This talk is given by Melanie Michailidis, a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Art History. The event is part of the Mid-East Connections Lecture Series.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
4:30 – 6:00 pm / Gould Library Athenaeum

In the historiography of Islamic architecture, the ribat has been classified as a type of military fortress which proliferated along the frontiers of the Islamic world, namely North Africa and Central Asia, from the tenth through the twelfth centuries, to be used by fervent warriors of the faith as bases from which to prosecute jihad and expand the realm of Islam by defeating and converting the nomadic tribes who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia and the Sahara Desert.   By examining local histories of Central Asia, as well as geographical treatises composed by travelers who visited this region, it is clear that the Central Asian ribat should be seen in terms of defense rather than offense:  not as bases for forward operations motivated by religious fanaticism, but as places for settled people to retreat and defend themselves in the face of nomadic attacks. Excursions into nomadic territory in Central Asia, such as those led by the Samanid ruler Ismail b. Ahmad, can likewise be viewed as a way to lessen the need for defensive fortifications and further enhance a thriving economy, rather than as motivated solely or even primarily by a desire for religious expansion.

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