Notes on Reason, Language and Conversion in the 13th Century in the Iberian Peninsula

Maribel Fierro

Institute of Philology, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid

For an Arabist – as in my case – specialised in the intellectual and religious history of the Islamic west, the figure of Ramon Llull is associated with a study by Professor Dominique Urvoy, published in 1980, in which he places Lullian thought within some Islamic coordinates.1 Part of Professor Urvoy’s earlier and later bibliography, including his fundamental studies on the Almohad doctrine and intellectual life in al-Andalus in the 12th and 13th centuries, have much to do with his interest in delimiting what these Islamic influences could be on Llull and the common points between the two religious-cultural contexts that would have allowed understanding of the Lullian doctrines by those – the Muslims – he sought to convert.2

Remember that Ramon Llull was born in Majorca after it had been re-conquered by King James I in 1228-1229, after 25 years of having been under Almohad control (the Almohad conquest had taken place in 1203). The religious concerns I will address have to do with the relation between reason, language and religious conversion.

Language is Not Necessary to Know God: the Case of The Self-Taught Philosopher

One of the first works written in the Almohad era was The Self-Taught Philosopher by Ibn Tufayl (d. 581 of the Hegira/1185 AD).3 It is a work that deals with the different ways that man can attain knowledge of the Divinity, in a hierarchy whose upper level is occupied by Hayy b. Yaqzan, the self-taught philosopher; that is, someone who through the use of reason comes to understand the necessity of the existence of a God creator and, with the addition of intuition, comes to have a mystical vision of Divinity.4 All of this in a state of compete isolation; that is, without any influence from other men, as Hayy b. Yaqzan grows up alone on a desert island where he had been abandoned after his birth.

Ibn Tufayl, native al-Andalusian from Guadix, introduced Averroes in the Almohad court5 and his interests coincided greatly with those of the philosopher. However, Ibn Tufayl was above all a mystic, highly influenced by two eastern mystics, Avicenna (d. 428/1037) and al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111). The latter’s influence can be seen in the fact that he includes two versions of the birth of Hayy b. Yaqzan: one that had him born by spontaneous generation and another in which he was born of a father and mother. The first version has Avicennian roots and the second is what Averroes would have supported, who expressed his total disagreement with the possibility of spontaneous generation.6 Ibn Tufayl also includes in his book the fact that Hayy b. Yaqzan achieves knowledge of God through rational effort without the help of language; that is, through thought formulated from within without the help of words. Having grown up on a desert island, Hayy has no one to learn how to speak from. It is only once he has attained the highest level of knowledge of God that he makes contact with another human being, Absal. The latter, seeking withdrawal and distance from society, arrives on the desert island inhabited by Hayy and meets him there and teaches him to speak when he is 50 years old. Ibn Tufayl describes what happened as follows: “Seeing [Absal] that Hayy did not speak, he felt reassured about the dangers to which his new companion could expose his devotion; he took it upon himself to teach him language, science and religion, with which he would obtain great reward and come closer to God. Absal began to teach him how to speak. First he showed him objects, saying their names; he repeated them and made him reproduce them. Hayy spoke them as they were shown to him; in this way he came to teach him all the names, and gradually managed to teach him how to speak in a short period of time.”7

However, once he has taught him the language, what Absal discovers is that in science, religion and mystical knowledge of God, Hayy has great advantage over him. It is then when Absal himself becomes a disciple of the “self-taught philosopher”.

Reason Does Not Exist in Man without Language

We now know the impossibility of language being acquired in circumstances similar to those imagined by Ibn Tufayl (or by the author of Tarzan of the Apes). But our ideas about language are not the same as those held at that time. Consider the famous experiment attributed to Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250):8 in order to discover the “natural” language of the human being, he confined several newly-born children so that they would grow up without contact with any adults. All the children soon died, despite being fed, and none of them spoke. This would not have taken the Cordoban Ibn Hazm by surprise, who one century earlier had already warned: “without language there is no way that even one man can exist and survive.”9

For Ibn Hazm too, as for other medieval Muslim thinkers, the origin of language had to be necessarily divine. The need for revelation was extended to include the origin of all the human sciences and arts because man alone could know nothing: “[…] we know with certainty that sciences and arts could never be acquired by man, guided only by his natural forces and without the help of teaching […] So it is with language, without which education, the subsistence of individual life, or social relations cannot be conceived; it is impossible that it would have been invented by common agreement of men, if it were not through another language; therefore it is clear that a first notion of any language has been necessary […] It is impossible for all this to have been invented without teaching. Therefore, perforce, we must affirm that, by necessity, there must have existed one man or more who God first taught all of this, without the intervention of a human master, but through direct inspiration, which those who received it were sure of. However, this is the definition of prophetic revelation; therefore, the existence of one or several prophets is necessary. Apodictic confirmation of this reasoning is the following: for any man lacking this experience of all this knowledge and art it is absolutely impossible to ever invent them himself. This occurs with those born deaf and dumb, who can never educate themselves to speak or even articulate the consonant sounds.”10

For Ibn Hazm, a situation like that of Ibn Tufayl was, therefore, impossible: the self-taught philosopher would never have been able to know God with only the help of his reason and, above all, without acquiring language.

Al-Ghazali and the Murcia grammarian Ibn Sida (d. 458/1066) concur with Ibn Hazm in refuting those who believe that language could originate from mutual agreement between men with the same argument (that is, some prior language is necessary to establish human convention as the origin of language). Al-Ghazali and Ibn Sida deal with the mechanism of gestures and signs, considered as a substitutive preface of oral language. This issue emerges when al-Ghazali approaches the three possibilities of the origin of language; that is, that it had originated through divine teaching, that it had emerged through mutual agreement between men or that it had been invented by one person: “Even one intelligent man could have imagined how to fulfil that need and the possibility of naming the things through the grouping of letters, thereby inventing the language that he would later make known to others through signs and simultaneously repeating the words, again and again, as parents do with a small child, or as the deaf person communicates his state of mind through signs.”11

We have here the same process through which Absal teaches Hayy. Ibn Sida also reflects the arguments of those who deny that it has been possible to produce language through divine teaching, saying: “it is indispensable for the start of languages to be through mutual agreement, based on observing objects and gestures. However, it is impossible to say that the Eternal agreed with any of the men, given that such an agreement would have to be with signs and gestures, which is only done with certain members of the body, which God does not possess.”12

A Curious Work by Averroes: How a Deaf Person is Invited to Enter Islam

The deaf have a distinguished presence in the texts we have just seen. Sign language has traditionally been used to attempt communication between the deaf and those who are not. In the medieval Islamic world, there are references in legal texts to this language under the expression isarat ma,rufa: it was a language necessary for matters related to the repudiation and marriage of deaf people, but there was no security over its validity.13

Among the works written by the 12th century Muslim wise man Ibn Rusd there is one with a strange title: How to Invite a Deaf Person to Enter Islam (Kayfa yud ’à l-asamm ilà l-dujul fi l-islam).14 Having not been preserved or a work of which I know any equivalent, one can only speculate about its possible content.

The need for revelation was extended to include the origin of all the human sciences and arts because man alone could know nothing

The Muslim wise man who wrote the work and who I have called Ibn Rusd is no other than Averroes, who died in 595 of the Hegira/1198 AD, around 35 years before the birth of Ramon Llull (the exact date of Llull’s birth is unknown, but it is thought that he was born in 1232). For western readers, Averroes is first and foremost a philosopher, but he was more than that: he had a profound knowledge of his own religious tradition and specifically of Islamic law and, therefore, he was appointed cadi by the Almohad caliph. It also seems that he must have belonged to the new intellectual elites (the talaba) created after the Almohad revolution.15 This had been presented as a movement of purification of Islam: purification of the dogma with a ferocious attack on anthropomorphism, purification of the customs to eliminate the innovations that had been introduced into the ritual practices of Muslims and to return to the true Islam, that of the era of the Prophet and of the first Muslims.16 This programme of purification and renewal, legitimised by a messianic figure that emerged from the Berbers of the south of the present Morocco – the Mahdi Ibn Tumart – supported the proclamation of the Almohad caliphate on the part of ’Abd al-Mu’min, disciple of the Mahdi, also of North African Berber extraction. Both ’Abd al-Mu’min and his descendants encouraged a vast programme of educational and intellectual reform. In order to separate the masses from false beliefs and practices it was necessary to appoint some “officials” instructed in the correct beliefs and practices and who in their turn could communicate them to the ordinary people.17 All of this fostered the development of an enormous pedagogical literature in all areas of knowledge, both traditional and rational. It was then, for example, when the versified pedagogical works became popular, which helped the memorisation and transmission of knowledge.18 I have said traditional and rational knowledge because the Almohads did not confine themselves to reviving the faith but also gave a great thrust to philosophy and the so-called “knowledge of the ancients”, as Professor Miquel Forcada has clearly shown in recent studies.19

Averroes was one of the young men distinguished for their intelligence and was recruited to serve the Almohads among their intellectual elites, leaving a (lost) written work in which he narrates exactly how this recruitment to what he refers to as his “entry” into the Almohad cause took place (Maqala fi kayfiyyat dujuli-hi fi l-amr al-’aziz wa-ta’allumi-hi fi-hi wa-ma fuddila min ’ilm al-Mahdi), using the same expression as in the aforementioned work: How to Invite a Deaf Person to Enter Islam (Kayfa yud’à l-asamm ilà l-dujul fi l-islam). In the case of this last work (remember that it must be considered lost), of which Averroes talks, was it a metaphorical or a real deaf person?

Was it a Real Deaf Person?

Averroes might well have posed the question of how to teach a deaf person to understand the concept of God, because this question goes hand in hand with one of the central concerns of the time: the achievement of an adequate knowledge of God. In general, the question must not have been considered relevant if the deaf person had been born in a Muslim context. By imitating those close to him, he would learn to pray and to behave as the Muslims behaved, in such a way that they would take him for a Muslim. But the question becomes complicated if the aim was to know if he really believed in what Muslims must believe to be considered as such, especially in a period like the Almohad, in which learning a profession of faith considered orthodox was a crucial aspect. One must keep in mind that the Almohads imposed on the Muslims who lived in territory governed by them the memorisation of the Almohad creed, whose dogmatic content had to distance them from the danger of anthropomorphism20 and therefore of infidelity.21 How could one be sure that a deaf person understood the subtleties between a correct formulation about divine unity and an incorrect one?

Another possibility, always within the supposition that the deaf person in Averroes’ work was a real one, was that what was under discussion was the conversion of a non-Muslim deaf person to Islam. Let us suppose that we are dealing with a Christian who for some reason had lost the capacity to hear: how would he be taught the concept of divine unity in order to rake up from his mind the Trinitarian dogma? Could such a thing be done without using words, language? Linking with the text by Ibn Tufayl, would it be possible for thought to exist without language?

Was it a Metaphorical Deaf Person?

But as the work has not survived, there is another possibility that the title refers to a metaphorical deaf person, someone who does not want to hear the message of the true religion and convert to it. These deaf people are spoken of in a Koranic aleya which was especially enjoyed by the Almohads (Koran, 8: 22):

20. O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Apostle and do not turn back from Him while you are here…!

21. And be not like those who said, We hear, and they did not obey (wa-la takunu ka-alladina qalu sami,na wa-hum la yasma,una).

22. Surely the vilest of animals, in Allah’s sight, are the deaf, the dumb, who do not understand (inna sarra al-dawabb ,inda Allah al-summ al-bukm alladina la ya,qiluna).

23. And if Allah had known any good in them He would have made them hear, and if He makes them hear they would turn back while they withdraw.

24. O you who believe! Answer Allah and His Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life; and know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, and that to Him you shall be gathered!

Julio Cortés, in the Spanish edition, explains in a note that the deaf and dumb of the Koranic aleya are “those who suffer spiritual deaf-muteness; that is, those who, as if they had not heard the preaching of the Prophet, remain mute before it.”22

For the Almohads, as I have already noted, their interpretation of Islam was the only correct one and, therefore, those who did not accept it or questioned it were necessarily in error. Not only were other monotheists, like the Jews and the Christians, separated from the true religion but also the Muslims who did not profess the Almohad creed. What could be done with those who did not wish to “hear” the truth? In the early times of the movement, there was no hesitation to resort to extreme physical violence to impose the Almohad dogma: there were forced conversions of Jews and Christians23 and pressure for the Muslims to convert to the Almohad creed.

As Dominique Urvoy has pointed out, these methods later became less common,24 especially because a hierarchical adjustment was being established in function of the diverse intellectual capacity of people. It should not surprise us that Averroes, who wrote a commentary on the profession of faith by Mahdi Ibn Tumart,25 approached the question of how to take the true Islamic message to those metaphorical “deaf people” and devoted such effort to reflecting on the distinct ways that men know and learn. In Koranic verse, the “deaf-mutes” are not only so (in a spiritual sense), but also “do not reason”. This can be interpreted in the sense that they cannot be convinced through rational arguments – whether dialectic or demonstrative –, to which only a reduced group of people have access, and there are more who arrive at the first (that is, theology) than those who arrive at the second (that is, philosophy).26 Therefore, what remain are the rhetorical arguments, those which reach the masses above all through admonitions and sermons. The Almohads devoted special attention to cultivating the art of preaching to win and keep followers.27 Was Averroes’ text specifically about this, of how to preach to Muslims not yet won over to the Almohad cause to make them understand the new doctrines? Was it also about how to Islamise Jews and Christians, within that dark episode of Almohad history, which was the forced conversion of those who lived in Muslim territory as dimmies; that is, under statute of protection which guaranteed that they could continue with their beliefs and rituals?

The versified pedagogical works became popular, which helped the memorisation and transmission of knowledge. I have said traditional and rational knowledge because the Almohads did not confine themselves to reviving the faith but also gave a great thrust to philosophy and the so-called “knowledge of the ancients”

The 13th Century and the Dream of Conversion

In the Almohad era, one of the most debated questions was the existence of different religious opinions and beliefs, inside and outside Islam, a question that was seen, in general, as a problem to be resolved.28 If, on the one hand, as we have seen, the intention was to oblige the Muslims to respect the profession of Almohad faith and there were attempts at forced conversion of the Jews, on the other it was also in the Almohad era when among the Sufis an open vision of religious pluralism developed, as happened in the case of the mystic Muhyi l-din Ibn ’Arabi, who died in the Orient in 638 of the Hegira/1240 AD, after having abandoned the Iberian Peninsula many years before.29 His complex doctrine, about which so much has been written, has as one of its central tenets the relationship established between reason and imagination: “Through reason man can know, but not see; through unveiling man can see, but not know” and his acceptance of the need for the revealed religions to be different, because the dispositions of human beings are different.30 This is also the case of the mystic Ibn Hud, another al-Andalusian who emigrated to the Orient (d. 699 of the Hegira/1300 AD), disciple of Ibn Sab’in and as a follower like him of the doctrine of the “unity of existence” (wahdat al-wuyud) and interested in medicine and philosophy.31 It is said that Ibn Hud had the custom of inviting Christians and Jews to attend his classes and he offered the possibility of following the path of Moses, of Jesus or of Muhammad, which does not mean that Ibn Hud was willing to offer guidance in accordance with the Jewish or Christian religion, as Moses and Jesus are recognised prophets in Islam. Moreover, it is said that Ibn Hud used to make the sign of the cross, that in his teaching he used the works of Maimonides and religion was indifferent to him; in other words, he seems to be a defender of an inter-confessional doctrine.32 Another case is that of al-Harrali (d. 637 of the Hegira/1240 AD), a mystic who sent a letter to the religious authorities of Tarragona, where several members of his family lived in captivity. In the letter he affirmed the unity of the human race, saying that if people were more conscious of their mental and physical affinity, they would not spill each other’s blood, and he added that in the religion of Abraham there was a common base for Muslims and Christians. The doctrine he based this on was again that of the wahdat al-wuyud, according to which the historical religions are no more than the manifestations of the same truth.33 The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men by Ramon Llull forms part of this current: three wise men (a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim) present their monotheistic arguments to an old gentile, who is seeking the path to God, and all three emphasise the common elements of the three religions.

When Ramon Llull went through his own personal process of conversion, one of the goals proposed was to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity, which is why he developed his famous Art over a period of forty years precisely with this objective. His approach to the conversion of the infidels was based on the need to find principles common to the members of the three monotheistic religions, principles which could then be used for the dialogue which had to lead to the conviction of the truth of Christianity. The development of these principles presupposed knowledge of the other religions and this is why Llull made the effort to learn Arabic.34 Llull realised that the controversy based on scriptural texts made no sense, because each part would cling to its own hermeneutics and therefore there could be no real debate.35 In order to have a real debate, each party had to be prepared to test the veracity of its own religion and this posture, together with the combination of the rational and the mystical, separates Llull from his other contemporaries, like Ramon Martí, who were also set on achieving “the dream of conversion.”36 For Llull, Christians, Jews and Muslims participated in a common culture and common issues and he believed, therefore, that there was common ground to establish a debate. His Art is demonstrative and therefore sufficiently general to be able to be addressed to as wide an audience as possible. Given that the elites of the Muslims were versed in philosophy and were rational peoples, and given that, for Llull, reason was the innate capacity that permits human beings to find truth, the debate was the only way of being able to convert these elites, those who the rest of the population would follow.37

For the Almohads, as I have already noted, their interpretation of Islam was the only correct one and, therefore, those who did not accept it or questioned it were necessarily in error

If truth is the same and if reason, together with imagination or intuition –as the Sufi and philosopher Ibn Tufayl wanted to show –, allows access to this truth, for those who thought that reason does not exist in man (at least in the common man) without language all that was needed was to find the words to transmit this truth that had to be by definition comprehensible for all. Llull’s Art can be understood as the search for these words translated into distinct languages, among them Arabic and Latin, but also Catalan, in the same way that Alfonso X would use Galician and Castilian to carry forward his cultural and political project. The common people must also access truth, something already practised by the Almohads when using the Berber to address the non-Arabic-speaking masses.

Llull failed in his missionary efforts. On the one hand, his method came up against resistance from scholastic theologians of the University of Paris, for whom the doctrines of the Catholic faith were not rationally provable.38 On the other, he did not manage to convince the Muslims when he visited Bougie and Tunis, even though he learned Arabic and used a method rooted in Islamic civilisation. His attempt is another reflection of how the relationship between reason, language39 and conversion was conceived in the 13th century.


[1] D. Urvoy, Penser l’Islam. Les présupposés islamiques de l’“Art” de Lulle, Paris, Vrin, 1980. On the scope of Islamic “influences” in Llull, see by the same author his study “Dans quelle mesure la pensée de Ramon Llull a-t-elle été marquée par son rapport avec l’islam ?”, published in this same volume.

[2] D. Urvoy, “La vie intellectuelle et spirituelle dans les Baléares musulmanes”, Al-Andalus, 37, 1972, pp. 87-132; D. Urvoy, “La structuration du monde des ulémas à Bougie au VIIe/XIIIe siècle”, Studia Islamica, 43, 1976, pp. 87-107; D. Urvoy, Le monde des ulémas andalous du V/XI au VII/XIII siècles, Geneva, 1978; D. Urvoy, “Les Musulmans et l’usage de la langue arabe par les missionaries”, Traditio, 34, 1978, pp. 416-27; D. Urvoy, “Les emprunts mystiques entre Islam et Christianisme et la véritable portée du Libre d’Amic”, Estudios Lulianos, vol. XXIII, no. 1, 1979, pp. 37-44; D. Urvoy, “Les musulmans pouvaient-ils comprendre l’argumentation lullienne ?”, Estudi General. El debat intercultural als segles XIII i XIV. Actes de les I Jornades de Filosofia Catalana, Girona, Col·legi Universitari de Girona, no. 9, 1989, pp. 159-170; D. Urvoy, Pensers d’Al-Andalus. La vie intellectuelle à Cordoue et Séville au temps des empires berbères (fin XIe siècle – début XIIIe siècle), Toulouse, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/Centre Régional de Publication de Toulouse,1990; D. Urvoy, “Sur un aspect de la combinatoire arabe et ses prolongements en Occident”, Arabica, XXXIX, 1992, pp. 25-41; D. Urvoy, “L’idée de christianus arabicus”, Al-Qantara, XV, 1994, pp. 497-507.

[3] A recent study on his life and work is that of L.I. Conrad, “An Andalusian Physician at the Court of the Muwahhids: Some Notes on the Public Career of Ibn Tufayl”, Al-Qantara, XVI, 1995, pp. 3-14.

[4] These different aspects are approached in several of the studies brought together by L.I. Conrad (ed.), The World of Ibn Tufayl: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Hayy ibn Yaqzan, Leiden, Brill, 1996. On the influence of the work of Ibn Tufayl in a Christian context in the 13th century, see A.M. Montero, “A Possible Connection between the Philosophy of the Castilian King Alfonso X and the Risalat Hayy ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufayl”, Al-Masaq, vol. 18, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1-26.

[5] N. Morata, “La presentación de Averroes en la corte almohade”, La Ciudad de Dios, CLIII, 1941, pp. 101-122.

[6] See on this M. Rashed, “L’averroïsme de Lauro Quirini”, in A. Bazzana, N. Bériou and P. Guichard (eds.), Averroès et l’averroïsme (XIIe-XVe siècle). Un itinéraire historique du Haut Atlas à Paris et à Padoue, Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2005, pp. 316 and 317.

[7] Ibn Tufayl, El filósofo autodidacto [Risala Hayy ibn Yaqzan], translation by Ángel González Palencia, edited by Emilio Tornero, Madrid, Trotta, 1995, p. 107.

[8] D. Abulafia, Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor, London, Pimlico, 1988.

[9] M. Asín Palacios, “El origen del lenguaje y problemas conexos, en Algazel, Ibn Sida e Ibn Hazm”, Al-Andalus, vol. IV, no. 2, 1939, pp. 253-282.

[10] Ibid., pp. 254 and 255.

[11] Ibid., pp. 267.

[12] Ibid., pp. 271.

[13] I would like to thank my colleague Vardit Rispler-Chaim for his help on this point.

[14] A. Yates, Ibn Rushd as Jurist, doctoral thesis, Cambridge, 1991 (unpublished), p. 17; M. ibn Sarifa, Ibn Rusd al-hafid. Sira wata’iqiyya, Casablanca, 1999, p. 29. The only source that mentions this work by Ibn Rusd is Ibn ’Abd al-Malik al-Marrakusi.

[15] On all these points, see: D. Urvoy, Averroès. Les ambitions d’un intellectuel musulman, Paris, Flammarion, 1998 (Spanish edition: Averroes: las ambiciones de un intelectual musulmán, Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 1998); S. Stroumsa, “Philosophes almohades ? Averroès, Maïmonide et l’idéologie almohade”, in M. Fierro, P. Cressier and L. Molina (eds.), Los almohades: problemas y perspectivas, Madrid, CSIC/Casa de Velázquez, 2005, pp. 1,137-1,162; É. Fricaud, “Le problème de la disgrace”, in A. Bazzana, N. Bériou et P. Guichard (eds.), Averroès et l’averroïsme (XIIe-XVe siècle). Un itinéraire historique du Haut Atlas à Paris et à Padoue, Lyons, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2005, pp. 155-190.

[16] M. Fierro, “Doctrina y práctica jurídicas bajo los almohades”, in M. Fierro, P. Cressier and L. Molina (eds.), Los almohades: problemas y perspectivas, Madrid, CSIC/Casa de Velázquez, 2005, pp. 895-935.

[17] É. Fricaud, “Les talaba dans la société almohade (le temps d’Averroès)”, Al-Qantara, XVIII, 1997, pp. 331-388.

[18] M. Fierro, “The Teaching of the Five Pillars of Islam in Sixth/Twelfth Century al-Andalus”, Workshop “Education and the Individual in Mediterranean Muslim Societies”, Salamanca 15-17 October 1998, European Science Foundation, Program on Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World (soon to be published).

[19] M. Forcada, “Síntesis y contexto de las ciencias de los Antiguos en época almohade”, in M. Fierro, P. Cressier and L. Molina (eds.), Los almohades: problemas y perspectivas, Madrid, CSIC/Casa de Velázquez, 2005, pp. 1,091-1,135 (including reference to other previous studies).

[20] H. Massé, “La profession de foi (’aqida) et les guides spirituels (morchida) du Mahdi Ibn Toumert”, Mémorial Henri Basset, part II, Paris, 1928, pp. 105-121. The extraordinary dissemination of these texts explains why they were translated into Latin: M.-Th. D’Alverny and G. Vajda, “Marc de Tolède, traducteur d’Ibn Tumart”, Al-Andalus, XVI, 1951, pp. 99-140 and 259-307, Al-Andalus, XVII, 1952, pp. 1-56.

[21] One of the most debated questions in the 11th to 12th centuries was related to the correction of the faith of the common people: see on this F. Griffel, “Toleration and Exclusion: al-Shafi,i and al-Ghazali on the Treatment of Apostates”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 64, 2001, pp. 339-354.

[22] El Corán, edition prepared by Julio Cortés, Barcelona, Herder, 2002.

[23] J.-P. Molénat, “Sur le rôle des almohades dans la fin du christianisme local au Maghreb et en al-Andalus”, Al-Qantara, XVIII, 1997, pp. 389-414; M. Fierro, “La religión”, chap. V: “Judíos, cristianos y musulmanes”, in M.J. Viguera (coord.), “El retroceso territorial de al-Andalus. Almorávides y almohades. Siglos XI al XIII”,part VIII, vol. 2, Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1997, pp. 523-528.

[24] D. Urvoy, Averroès, Les ambitions d’un intellectuel musulman, Paris, Flammarion, 1998, pp. 56 and 57.

[25] See on this D. Urvoy, “Les professions de foi d’Ibn Tumart. Problèmes textuels et doctrinaux”, in M. Fierro, P. Cressier and L. Molina (eds.), Los almohades: problemas y perspectivas, Madrid, CSIC/Casa de Velázquez, 2005, pp. 739-752.

[26] Ibn Rusd, Le livre du discours décisif (Fasl al-maqal), introduction by Alain de Libera, translation by Marc Geoffroy, Paris, 1996; W.M. Watt, “Philosophy and Social Structure in Almohad Spain”, The Islamic Quarterly, vol. VIII, no. 1-2, 1964, pp. 46-51.

[27] M. Fierro, “La religión”, chap. V: “Judíos, cristianos y musulmanes”, in M.J. Viguera (coord.), “El retroceso territorial de al-Andalus. Almorávides y almohades. Siglos XI al XIII”,part VIII, vol. 2, Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1997, p. 503.

[28] Ibid., p. 460; M. Fierro, “The Legal Policies of the Almohad Caliphs and Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-mujtahid”, Journal of Islamic Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, 1999, pp. 226-248.

[29] W.C. Chittick, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-’Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity, Albany, Suny Press, 1994; Claude Addas (Ibn ’Arabi ou La quête du Soufre Rouge, Paris, Gallimard, 1989, p. 278) disagrees with Miguel Asín Palacios when the latter affirms that Ibn Arabi’s futuhat are full of political hatred towards the Christians.

[30] W.C. Chittick, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-’Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity, Albany, Suny Press, 1994, pp. 123, 128, 129, 155-160 and 165. A very similar posture is that adopted by Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) almost two centuries later: see I. Bocken, “Nicholas of Cusa and the Plurality of Religion”, in B. Roggema, M. Poorthuis and P. Valkenberg (eds.), The Three Rings: Textual Studies in the Historical Trialogue of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Leuven, Peeters, 2005, pp. 163-180.

[31] J.L. Kraemer, “The Andalusian Mystic Ibn Hud and the Conversion of the Jews”, Israel Oriental Studies, XII, 1992, pp. 59-73. On his master Ibn Sab’in you can consult the recent study by A. Akasoy, Philosophie und Mystik in der späten Almohadenzeit. Die Sizilianischen Fragen des Ibn Sab’in, Leiden, Brill, 2005.

[32] On the existence of a relativist atmosphere (there is no way of proving which religion is the true one) and its possible influence on the conversion of Jews to the dominant religion, Islam, see S. Stroumsa, “On Jewish Intellectuals Who Converted in the Early Middle Ages”, The Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society and Identity, Leiden, 1995, pp. 179-197.

[33] P.S. van Koningsveld, “Muslim Slaves and Captives in Western Europe during the Late Middle Ages”, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 6, no. 1, 1995, pp. 5-23.

[34] In his book entitled Desconhort (Grief), the following is stated with reference to this process: “Ramon, how can you believe that through preaching / the Saracens shall wish to be baptised, / because according to what Muhammad has commanded / of those who speak ill of him none shall remain / and his reasons none will want to hear? / It seems to serve little to go there./ And, what is more, the man who knows not / the Arabic language, through interpretation / little can achieve with them; / and if the language is learned, long can it take. / I advise you, therefore, to go to God to pray,/ and on a high mountain with me to meditate: Ramon Llull, Obra escogida. Vida coetánea. Libro de maravillas. Arbol ejemplifical. Desconsuelo (bilingüe). Canto de Ramon (bilingüe), introduction by Miquel Batllori, translation and notes by Pere Gimferrer, Madrid, Alfaguara, 1981, p. 475.

[35] The same posture on the need not to use scriptural arguments and limit ourselves to the rational is found in the Islamic world: see on this the article by M. Cook in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam (2007), to be published, as well as the collective volume The Majlis: Interreligious Encounters in Medieval Islam, H. Lazarus-Yafeh et al. (eds.), Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, 1999 (with previous bibliography). Another issue to be born in mind is the unequal relationship of power that used to exist between those who preached to convert and their audiences, an aspect dealt with by Miquel Barceló, “”…Per sarrains a preïcar” o l’art de predicar a audiències captives”, Estudi General. El debat intercultural als segles XIII i XIV. Actes de les I Jornades de Filosofia Catalana, Girona, Col·legi Universitari de Girona, no. 9, 1989, pp. 117-131. Llull’s attempt to convert Muslims within their own territory (stays in Bougie and Tunis) perhaps tried to avoid this inequality, along with Llull’s conviction in the forcefulness of his method.

[36] R. Burns, “Christian-Muslim Confrontation: The Thirteenth Century Dream of Conversion”, Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 80-108.

[37] H.J. Hames, The Art of Conversion: Christianity and Kabbalah in the Thirteenth Century, Leiden, Brill, 2000, p. 88. This description of the Muslim elites as being versed in philosophy corresponds to a reality characteristic of the Almohad period.

[38] Ch. Lohr, “Ramon Lull and Thirteenth-Century Religious Dialogue”, Diálogo filosófico-religioso entre cristianismo, judaísmo e islamismo durante la Edad Media en la Península Ibérica, Turnhout, Brepols, 1994, pp. 117-129.

[39] Llull also addresses questions related to language in his Liber de affatu, edition by A. Llinarès and A.J. Gondras, Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Âge, 51, 1984, pp. 269-297 (I am grateful to Alexander Fidora for this reference). On this occasion I will not consider the question related to the need for a universal language. For this see U. Eco, La búsqueda de la lengua perfecta, Barcelona, Crítica, 1999.