Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Lía Schwartz

Committee Members

José Miguel Martínez-Torrejón

Araceli Tinajero

Gerardo Piña-Rosales

María del Carmen Sean de Casas

Subject Categories

Islamic Studies | Modern Literature | Other History | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Other Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Spanish Literature


Perennial Philosophy, Monomyth, 16th Century Spanish Literature, Aljamiado Morisco, Kitab al-anwar, Miraj, filosofía perenne, monomito, Mahoma en textos aljamiados, literatura aljamiado-morisca, literatura del Siglo de Oro español, cripto-musulmanes, literatura española del siglo XVI, Libro de las luces, Libro de la escala


Besides highlighting the legitimacy of Islam, a religion that was prohibited by the Spanish Inquisition during the 1500’s, Aljamiado-Moriscoliterature has been distinguished by its secrecy, hybridity, ethnocentrism, proselytism, and emphasis on the chaotic reality of the clandestine social group considered to be the "last Moors" of Spain. The Spanish-Muslims or Moriscoswrote this underground literature in the Spanish language, utilizing Arabic characters. The work of historians and “moriscologists” such as L.P. Harvey, Luce López-Baralt, María Teresa Narváez, Vincent Barletta, among others, have examined the practical role and didactic value that —at various levels— these hybrid texts had for the 16thCentury Moriscos, how this secret community reacted to their manuscripts, and in what way these documents helped them to strengthen their Islamic faith and identity. However, the interdisciplinary and theoretical approach followed by scholars in the field of Aljamiadostudies, have not explored in depth the possible role that the concept of Transcendence (or the existence beyond the physical level) had among the Crypto-Muslims during the 1500’s. The conception that humans can inhabit in a spiritual realm beyond the physical world, exists in all Eastern and Western religions. This metaphysical hypothesis has been studied by the Traditionalist or Perennialist School of Thought.

My dissertation studies principles of the Perennial Philosophy existing in two 16thcentury Aljamiadolegends about the life of Prophet Muhammed: the Kitāb al-anwār (Book of Lights)and the Kitāb al-Miʿrāj (Book of Muhammad’s Ladder). I defend that these pseudo-biographical texts could have been read by 1500’s Crypto-Muslims from inquisitorial Spain, as metaphors concerning their daily struggle in search for their future entry into the Alŷanna(Paradise), metaphysical dimension promised in the Qur'an to those Muslims who remain loyal to Islamic precepts (or exotericaspects of the religion). In my study of these Aljamiado-Moriscolegends, attention is given to universal symbols, images and passages that, according to the Perennialist School of Thought, allude to Transcendence. Additionally, reflecting on Joseph Campbell’s theories on the ancient archetypal template known as “monomyth” or the “Hero’s journey”, I examine how, in both accounts, Allah’s Messenger appears as a hero who goes on adventures, portraying the fundamental progression or phases of the prototypal protagonist: “departure”, “initiation” and “return”.

This research demonstrates that theBook of Lightsand the Book of Muhammad’s Ladder, in many aspects, promote the notion that a Divine reality exists beyond the physical world, and that Islamic devotees could achieve this Supreme Realm by the observance of their faith and pious practices, as they keep their eyes on Muhammad, ideal model of the diligent Muslim. My study concludes that both Crypto-Islamic narrations could have aroused in 16thCentury Moriscosreaders and listeners the desire to adhere vehemently (but clandestinely) to their religious (or exoteric) practices, as well as to face adversities with courage and tenacity, bearing in mind that —just like their Islamic hero— their faith, spiritual exercises and constancy would lead them towards the Alŷannaupon their death. This understanding is in perfect consonance with the point of view defended by exponents of the Perennial Philosophy.