Conceptualising Urbanity, Reinterpreting Coexistence: A ḥisba Manuscript of the Late Ottoman Era in Tunis
A ḥisba Manuscript of the Late Ottoman Era in Tunis
De Gruyter, Berlin, Boston, 2022
Religion and Urbanity Online
Religion and Urbanity Online, Rau, Susanne; Rüpke, Jörg
The object of this article is to reflect on the relationship between religion and urbanity in the pluri-communal society of late-Ottoman Tunis. The main point is to illustrate the complex articulation between religion and urbanity, subject to theological, social and political conflicts of interpretation in the context of the geopolitical tensions of the late-Ottoman period. I will also demonstrate that urbanity, under a definition including aspects of civic organisation of intercommunal coexistence, was of central value in local society both at a practical and theoretical level. The article illustrates the importance of ḥisba, a notion of Qur’anic essence regulating public life, public space, commercial transactions as well as individual and collective behaviours. Choosing ḥisba as an entry point for discussions on religion and urbanity allows one to reflect on the importance of principles of religious nature in social regulation but also on their constant discussion and reinterpretation in changing contexts. This angle of analysis invites the reader to challenge existing visions of Islamic law as a static corpus. It also suggests, as ḥisba regulation was part of the civic sphere, to insist on the entanglement between a constantly reinterpreted form of religious morals and public life. Attention to processes of redefinitions of ḥisba in the late Ottoman era allows one to reflect on the use of arguments of religious nature in political debates and tensions in the context of geopolitical changes. The article is based on the study of an Arabic manuscript from the collection of the Tunisian National Library as well as on a critical reading of the existing literature on the role of religion in urban social regulation.