The Ornament of the World

by María Rosa Menocal
Start Free Trial

Mother Tongues Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on April 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358

Menocal begins this chapter in 855 with the words of the Christian Paul Alvarus, bemoaning the fact that the Arabic language had spread so readily while Latin was being forgotten. Alvarus’s complaint serves to show how bustling Cordoba was, given that the official language of Cordoba was so far-reaching. It also demonstrates the culture wars occurring among Christians and Muslims. Christians were converting by the hundreds, and children born to mixed Christian and Muslim marriages were considered Muslim. Even those that were not converting to Islam were embracing Islamic culture and learning the dominant language (Arabic) in order to do so. Jews were also embracing this culture, having been repeatedly displaced and now finding a religion that allowed them to escape persecution and exile. Still, sects of radical Christians saw this adoption of Arabic culture as a threat, even while biblical texts were being translated into Arabic. Some of these groups openly denounced Islam and Muhammad. These individuals were beheaded, and little came of their martyrdom at the time, though they were glorified in later Christian writings as those Christians who had resisted forced conversion. Menocal closes this section of the chapter wondering if they had, indeed, resisted forced conversion or if they were simply “out-of-control radicals.”

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The reality is that Jews and Christians were considered dhimmi, or people recognized as religious equals worthy of protection under Islamic law. They were not forced to change their faith; however, they were charged a special tax and were not allowed to publicly display their religion. These laws were practiced with varying degrees of severity, and sometimes largely ignored, but when political and religious pressures mounted from rival groups, they were enforced more heavily. For Jews, this was a small issue, as their religious practices were usually private, but this was a demotion for Christians. Paired with the conversions and Arabization of many Christians, Christianity’s flock was rapidly thinning. Islamic culture had much to recommend itself, including modern infrastructure and massive libraries. At the same time, across the world, Latin was a failing language, and thus cultural products, such as art and texts, no longer used or glorified this language.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

The Mosque and the Palm Tree Summary

Next

A Grand Vizier, a Grand City Summary