Ženka, Selecting a new emir & unofficial bay’a in Nasrid Granada

The selection of a new emir and unofficial bay’a in Nasrid Granada (14th and 15th century)

Ženka, Josef (Institute of Near Eastern and African Studies, Charles University, Prague)

In this paper, I wish to examine the customs and practices that took place during the transition of rule from one Nasrid emir to another, and which preceded the large ceremonial oath of allegiance. Due to the absence of clearly defined rules of succession, a very small group of the ruling elite took part in the selection of a new ruler. This ruler, selected, confirmed and sworn in by the unofficial act then participated in the large ceremonial oath of allegiance, in the presence of the most eminent legal scholars and officials. This first informal and personal bay’a was understood as a natural and indispensable custom and was one of the crucial reasons for the gradual weakening of the role of emir to the benefit of a very narrow group of people. From the death of Isma’il I, the unofficial succession process gave to the ruling elite a considerable power and changed the large bay’a of the general khassa and amma into a mere ceremonial event, and the written bay’a into a mere legal formality. The aim of this paper is to show that some so far very sparsely interpreted informal customs constituted an important aspect of the succession in Nasrid Granada, alongside more fully-developed legal acts.