ASK Working Paper
In 887/1482, two Damascene Ḥanbalī judges, Nāṣir ad-Dīn Muḥammad b. Zurayq (d. 900/1495) and Naǧm ad-Dīn ʿUmar b. Mufliḥ (d. 919/1513), stood accused of confiscation of waqf property and were summoned to Cairo to be interrogated and investigated by Sultan Qāʾitbāy. In this article I investigate this incidence of waqf manipulation, the lives of the accused parties after this event, and the ways in which later biographers, particularly Ibn Zurayq’s favorite student Šams ad-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ṭūlūn (d. 953/1546) and Ibn Mufliḥ’s grandson Akmal ad-Dīn b. Mufliḥ (d. 1011/1603), sought to reframe the event and, thereby, the legacy of the participants.
This paper is part of a larger project that will attempt to reconstruct the socio-economic dimensions of Damascus at the end of the Mamluk period, and which is primarily based on Ibn Ṭawq’s diary. The paper summarizes the author’s earlier study of divorce in Damascus life and focuses on marriages and bonds with female slaves and concubines. It argues that while, generally speaking, Damascus men were monogamous, quite a number owned slaves and concubines who mothered children. The paper illustrates these general conclusions by references to pertinent examples that Ibn Ṭawq provides.
The Maryut Basin was famous in antiquity for its freshwater lake and brisk economic activity. The basin was later infamous as a saltmarsh in the Ottoman period. In between (from the Islamic Conquest - 640 CE – to the end of the Mamluk period – 1517) – the basin it is said to have been a neglected brackish lake where freshwater from the few remaining irrigation canals from antiquity did battle with seawater from the Mediterranean. This article will argue that irrigation system development (1170-1315) may have allowed for farming (summer cropping in particular) of the south-east half of the Maryut Basin. The hypothesis is therefore that: the south-east section of the Maryut Basin and the lands bordering the basin, were part of a thriving and growing agricultural economy in the 1170-1315 period.
This article reexamines wages in Egypt using new evidence not analyzed in my previous study of the late Mamluk economy (Borsch, The Black Death in Egypt and England, 2005). The results show that wages for unskilled labor fell precipitously from the 1300s to the 1400s and stayed at a very low level thereafter. Shown in the figure below are the primary quantitative results from approximately 300 wage listings from the late thirteenth century to the late seventeenth century.
Al-Bīmāristān al-Manṣūrī (the Manṣūrī hospital), founded by the sultan al-Manṣūr Sayf ad-Dīn Qalāwūn (r. 678-689/1279-1290) at a moment of cultural shift, is both the object of this study and a lens through which to view the links between medicine, politics and culture in Mamluk Egypt and Syria. The exploratory research described here is intended to result in a history of this hospital that will cast light on aspects of the intellectual history of the Mamluk period that, despite several recent groundbreaking studies, still remains largely unknown and underappreciated. Two approaches have been used: 1) source analysis with primary focus on two documents, the diplomas for the riyāsat aṭ-ṭibb (chief physicianship in Egypt and Syria) and the tadrīs al-bīmāristān (chair of medicine at the hospital) examined with respect to their structure and three themes (ǧihād, ʿilm, and medical education) and 2) network analysis focusing on individuals who had some affiliation to the hospital whether as founder, later donor, physician, administrator, student, or patient. Although we have barely scratched the surface here, the paths followed seem promising as strategies to arrive at more than a descriptive history of the hospital and to provide insights into the role of the hospital within the context of the medicine, politics and wider intellectual currents and culture of the period. The textual analysis of two diplomas of appointment indicates that in addition to other possible purposes, the hospital was intended both to elevate the status of medicine as a discipline by rendering this foreign science less controversial in the Islamic context by demonstrating that medicine (ʿilm al-abdān) was integral to the religious sciences (ʿilm al-adyān) and ultimately to advance the Islamization of the medical profession. The analysis of networks of individuals with affiliations of various kinds to the hospital promises to yield insights into the links between medicine and power within the context of the wider cultural and intellectual environment. To date, this type of analysis also shows that despite the ǧihādī, exclusionary language and intentions of the documents at the formal level, actual relationships and networks at the time of the founding of the hospital were in fact more inclusive at the informal level at least at the beginning of the Mamluk era. This exploratory research opens new paths for studying the history of Mamluk society and intellectual history while raising more questions than it answers, such as, most basically, what role the hospital played in these developments?
There is a considerable body of literature today on urban space in Mamluk studies. This is in large part due to the nature and survival of the textual sources, which reflect an urban bias and are preserved in city archives. Architectural studies of Mamluk cities also abound, as many monuments and even entire neighborhoods of the period have been preserved in the urban fabric of modern Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo, and Jerusalem. The same cannot be said, however, about the rural lands under Mamluk rule - namely settlements of village and sub-village size – about which we know precious little. While textual sources, and particularly documentary ones, can produce some information about rural life, if they are carefully mined, it is the archaeological record that offers us the greatest promise for reconstructing the physical structure of rural settlements, their function(s) and development over time, and details of the lives of the people who lived there. The focus of the 2013 excavation season at Tall Hisban, co-sponsored by the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of the University of Bonn, was to investigate the settlement associated with the Mamluk citadel and to explore the many factors that may have contribute to its growth, decline, and transformation over time.
The following essay is a preliminary, non-technical assessment of that fieldwork, highlighting the most important results relevant to a study of Mamluk-era rural life and raising important questions about changing relations between state and village in the seventh/ fourteenth century.
The present brief contribution aims to shed light on a particular source, namely on official reports about natural disasters. These documents, known as maḥḍar (pl. maḥāḍir), were recorded by an inspector or an inspection team, following a severe event. They are a potential source for the study of Mamluk historical geography and have not been adequately studied until now.
The present paper evolved from a historical-legal research project. While searching for information about properties in Hebron (al-Ḫalīl), which the offspring of the ṣaḥābī Tamīm al-Dārī claimed, I stumbled upon a popular story. In this story Tamīm is portrayed as a hero who has been kidnapped by ǧinns and endured ordeals and adventures on remote islands. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the text and its reception by the Mamluk society. Inter alia, I will describe the audiences, and will try to elucidate the supposed connections between Tamīm the historical character and Tamīm the literary hero.
Since there is slight positive evidence to indicate that this text is “Mamluk,” one may ask why my talk is about a “sīra šaʿbiyya” in the Mamluk environment? What makes it “Mamluk”? What is Mamluk in the story? My answer is based primarily upon circumstantial evidence, and I will return to it at the closing section of this paper.
The economic and cultural rise of parts of the ʿāmma due to the particular economic and infrastructural conditions of the Mamluk era fostered the emergence of new intermediate levels of literature that were situated between the literature of the elite and that of the utterly ignorant and unlettered populace, between the Arabic koiné (al-ʿarabiyya al-fuṣḥā) and the local dialects (ʿāmmiyya-s), between written and oral composition, performance and transmission. The following paper proposes to analyze the composition of three Mamluk adab-encyclopedias and their treatment of poverty and wealth in light of the social milieus of their authors and publics.
Burhān al-Dīn Ibrāhīm al-Biqāʿī’s ego-document is at the heart of the present paper. The author provides a rich account of Mamluk military operations in Cyprus and al-Qashtīl al-Rūj (Château Roux/Kastelorizo/Castellorizo) Island. It is not an impartial or “objective” story, but rather an observer-participant report of a naval expedition by a well-known administrator and writer. The detailed text reflects the author’s self-presentation and interpretation of events and deeds. It casts light on historiography under the Mamluks, as well as on the history of the Eastern Mediterranean in the 15th century.
The Mamluk Sultanate has been considered as the arena in which the "Mamluk principles" were expressed most clearly. According to the prevalent view among modern scholars, in the Mamluk Sultanate dynastic and hereditary tendencies were rather weak. Generally, students of the Mamluk Sultanate tend to underestimate the importance of relationships based on blood ties, marital ties and ethnic solidarity. Instead, they emphasize the importance of mamlūk connections.
It is here argued, that throughout the entire period of the Mamluk Sultanate blood ties, marital ties and ethnic solidarity were more important than it is commonly believed. Notwithstanding this, significant changes in patterns of social ties are noticeable after the transition to the Circassian period. Only then a considerable decline of the social and political importance of the nuclear family occurred, and mamlūk ties became increasingly significant. This change led to an erosion of the dynastic and hereditary practices. This change did not arise from the alleged principle that non-mamlūks were unfit for holding key positions. It was rather the result of circumstances unique of the Circassian period.
The study compares the profiles of judges (qāḍīs), deputy qadis (nāʾibs), and the personnel of the courts in Damascus mainly in the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Although both the Mamluks and the Ottomans were committed to the Sharīʿah law, their legal and administrative practices and policies were quite different. This was the result of the obvious political realities and the status of Damascus within the Mamluk and the Ottoman states. Damascus in the transition period is a good test case, owing to the many excellent sources in sixteenth century Damascus, that were even richer than the sources of Cairo during the same period. The involvement of the qadis with the local population under both rules and their relations with the center (Cairo and then Istanbul) are recorded in the chronicles, biographical dictionaries and other literary and documentary sources of Damascus. The social and cultural differences between the local (Arabic speaking) qadis and the Turkish speaking nominees from Istanbul call for an extensive comparative study.
This paper deals with the question how one occupant of 15th-century Damascus perceived his hometown and how he transferred this perception into writing. The key witness in this endeavour is the notary Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad b. Muḥammad, known as Ibn Ṭawq (834-915/1443-1510). He amassed a lengthy account encompassing several decades of his life. As Li Guo stated in a recent review article: “It is evident that the author’s motivation and impulse for writing the diary lay in his consummate interest in the wellbeing of himself, his community […], and his place: Damascus and its suburbs.” But is this really his place? Is it restricted to the city and the suburbs?
In this paper, the author aims to address the question of whether 15th-century Damascenes made a distinction between the city and the countryside. This question will be approached from two directions. Firstly, does the author describe the rural geography differently from the urban one? Does he make a distinction between a physical entity of the city and its surroundings? And secondly, does he single out any groups as alien or different because of their rural background?
The present paper is an attempt to define the ways in which the process of radicalization of Islam influenced the medical culture of Egypt and Syria under the Mamluks. Both the transformation of medical culture and the impact of this transformation on medical theory and practice are discussed, above all, in the context of the inter-faith antagonism. The work is in progress, so some of the interpretations are of preliminary character and require further investigation.
As an area of research, the microcosm of non-Muslim physicians living and working in the Mamluk state is rather capacious and non-uniform. As such, it can be approached from a number of perspectives. On the most obvious level, the subject belongs, on the one hand, to the social history of medicine; on the other, it forms a part of the history of inter-communal and inter-faith antagonisms. The present study aims at investigating the area where medical culture and inter-communal conflict overlapped. This area constitutes in fact a rather complex puzzle in which the issues of sickness and health were interwoven with ideology, politics, and propaganda based both on the “time-honored tradition” of blaming the doctor and the fear of (and animosity towards) the religious Other. In other words, this is interdisciplinary research, focused on the social aspects of medicine, inter-communal antagonism, and the interaction between them.
Approaching such a complex subject matter from just one of the possible perspectives would mean depriving it of its rich and multifaceted context. In order to make the study comprehensive, I have decided to apply a mode of inquiry which is sometimes used by historians of the Alltag, and which allows the scholar to combine many different instruments, including those that are typical for fields such as anthropology, sociology, or social psychology. This mode also makes it possible to make comparisons with other cultures.
The Kolleg will provide an institutional center for a period of eight years for the 50-60 Mamluk scholars who are dispersed all over the globe. The concept emphasizes two issues: Firstly, the Kolleg members will provide long-lasting impulses for Mamluk Studies through their individual projects (a specific “Mamluk Studies” series, a Compendium on the History and Society of the Mamluk Era, an online bibliography, articles in the Mamluk Studies Review). In addition, the Speaker will, supported by a research professorship (“Annemarie-Schimmel-Chair for Mamluk Studies”), and in cooperation with four of his Bonn colleagues [Mathias Becher (Medieval History), Ralph Kauz (Sinology), Peter Schwieger (Tibetology), Reinhard Zöllner (Japanology)] integrate the Mamlukists by means of topic-oriented annual programs (1st Year: The Mamluk Empire in its “Global” Context , 2nd Year: Economic Areas of Interaction, 3rd Year: “Rule” in the Mamluk Empire - A Cross-cultural Comparison, 4th Year: Culture-specific Narrative Strategies in Mamluk Era Historiographical Sources) into interdisciplinary and innovative research topics. Young Arabic scholars will receive focused support within a group of scholarship recipients that will be integrated into the Kolleg.