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Ulrich Haarmann Memorial Series



Custodians of the Holy Sanctuaries: Rasulid-Mamluk Rivalry in Mecca

For almost two centuries, relations between the Rasulids of Yemen (1229–1454) and the Mamluks were characterized by a strong competition over political and economic supremacy in the Red Sea region. This rivalry was most forcefully apparent in Mecca which became the focus of political and religious contest following the destruction of the Abbasid caliphate in Bagdad in 1258. The Rasulid sultans used important emblems of political power, such as the sponsoring of architectural projects in Mecca, the sending of the kiswah and the maḥmal, the striking of coins, and the distribution of gifts, all of which contributed towards reinforcing their regional and local legitimacy.



From Turks to Mongols: David Ayalon’s Vision of the Eurasian Steppe in Islamic History

Although David Ayalon (1914–98) is primarily known as a Mamlukist and many will consider him the father of Mamluk studies, he also turned his attention to other weighty matters in the study of Middle Eastern and Islamic history. Among these were the important relations between the Muslim dominated Middle East and the Eurasian Steppe, the original home of the nomadic Turks and Mongols. A related subject that Ayalon explored was the relations of the mostly Turkish Mamluks of Egypt and Syria with the Mongols. In the early 1970s he examined if Mongol law (Yasa) had been implemented in the Mamluk Sultanate, as claimed by some scholars. Ayalon’s conclusion was a resounding negative answer, but along the way, he opened up new vistas of source criticism, together with innovative ideas on both Mongol and Mamluk history.



The Waqf of a Physician in Late Mamluk Damascus and its Fate under the Ottomans

This book comprises the edition and analysis of a waqf-scroll documenting the charitable foundations of a Damascene physician, Ibn Ḥubayqa, established in the last years of the Mamluk reign. The document is regularly updated and corroborated by courts and judges of all madhhabs throughout the first century of Ottoman rule in the city. Two principal reasons make this document, which is now held at the American Unversity of Beirut, stand out: First, the general scarcity of pre-Ottoman archival material from Damascus, notably the near-complete absence of original waqf-deeds from the city. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the many surviving endowment documents from Mamluk Egypt, a fact that means a severe geographical imbalance in our knowledge of this important institution’s history. Second, the profession of the endower and his descendants as prominent physicians makes this a welcome addition to our knowledge of a group that left otherwise very few traces in the literary sources. This scroll allows us to investigate how this physicians’ family participated in the spread in personal ownership of rural agricultural lands in the Damascene hinterland in the late Mamluk and early Ottoman period. Finally, the edition and analysis of this rare document will help us better understand the process of transition from the Mamluk to the Ottoman law-court system.



Conceptualizing Frankish-Muslim Partition Truces in the Coastal Plain and Greater Syria

This paper is an attempt to clarify the development, function, and conceptualization of shared‐revenue arrangements between Franks and Muslims in the Coastal Plain (al-Sāḥil) and Greater Syria (Bilād al-Shām) in the medieval period. I first catalogue truces that established partitions while assessing their defining characteristics. I then analyze how Frankish and Muslim conceptualizations of property and territory may have informed two slightly different notions of partitioning. Based on an analysis of these conceptualizations of ownership and territory, I argue that the only basis for partition truces in the Frankish‐Muslim context was a division of revenue that resembled tributary status.



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 Jordan as an Ottoman Frontier Zone in the Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries

Gül Şen’s study offers a reconsideration of the area covered by present-day Jordan under Ottoman rule during the sixteenth through the eighteenth century. Despite its political and strategic importance over the ages, the former Mamluk- and later Ottoman-ruled region has remained an understudied area eclipsed by other territories in the former Ottoman province of historical Syria (Bilād al-Shām). By applying a combination of approaches, putting an emphasis on ‘transition’ instead of dynastic division and considering the geographical reorientation as the ‘empire’s frontier’, the author reframes Jordan as a frontier during a transitional period and sets it into the larger picture of Ottoman provincial administration. Thus, she offers a fresh understanding of Ottoman rule beyond the conventional assessments. Further, she argues that in order to understand the multilayered experiences of the imperial administration in this frontier zone, various historical perceptions should be examined. Appealing to interdisciplinary approaches, the study is a contribution to the complex history of the Arabic-speaking provinces of the Ottoman Empire.



Date Palm Production in Rasulid Yemen

There is a rich corpus of texts about agriculture during the Rasulid era (13th–15th centuries CE) in Yemen. One of the most important crops at the time was the date palm (nakhl), which was grown in the Tihāma coastal region, Najrān and Ḥaḍramawt. This essay provides a translation and analysis of the section on date palms in the 13th century agricultural treatise Milḥ al-malāḥa fī ma‘rifat al-filāḥa, written by the Rasulid sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf ‘Umar. Details are provided on the varieties of dates, their cultivation, pollination and protection from insects and diseases. 

The Author 

Daniel Martin Varisco is an anthropologist and historian with extensive experience in Yemen with a focus on the history of Yemeni agriculture and the history of the Rasulid period. He has taught at Hofstra University in New York and Qatar University and currently serves as President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.


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A King of Two Seas? Mamluk Maritime Trade Policy in the Wake of the Crisis of the 14th Century

The onslaught of the plague, possibly exacerbated by climate change, caused a crisis in 14th century Egyptian agriculture. Shifts in ownership from the state to private hands or pious foundations put further stress on the state’s traditional fiscal base. Christ argues that the sultans increased taxation and state intervention in response, and that control of the international transit trade turned out to be particularly profitable. In order to tap it more effectively, the Mamluk sultanate reinforced ties with the Venetians in the Mediterranean and the Rasulids in the Red Sea. Relations were grounded in an ambiguous language of gift exchange which allowed for the harmonization of nominal hierarchical difference and de facto bilateral, symbiotic exchange. On the basis of shared trade interests, the Mamluks delegated power over the ‘Two Seas’. This delegation was not perfect though; the Mamluks also sought to establish a direct if only seasonal fiscal presence in the Egyptian gateways of this trade in Alexandria, Upper Egypt and the Hijaz , thus combining power delegation on the seas with tighter control in the ports in order to channel the lucrative transit trade through their Cairo power base.

The Author

Georg Christ is a Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History at the University of Manchester. Recent works include “Decline or Deindustrialization? Notes on the Entangled Histories of Levantine and European Industries in the Late Middle Ages”, Comparativ 26, 3 (2016): 25–44. He is currently at work on a book about maritime trade regimes in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 14th century, especially Veneto-Mamluk relations.


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Numismatic Nights: Gold, Silver, and Copper Coins in the Mahdi


Based upon an analysis of the so-called Mahdi A manuscript of Alf Layla wa Layla—preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale—and the wider context of Mamluk numismatic history, Schultz explores what this version of the famous collection of stories can tell us about coinage in the Mamluk Sultanate. He first revisits the debate over the date of this manuscript’s transcription. While Muhsin Mahdi concluded that this manuscript was transcribed in eighth/fourteenth century, Heinz Grotzfeld argued that the manuscript was a ninth/fifteenth century product. Grotzfeld based his conclusion on the basis of the mention in the manuscript of gold coins known as “ashrafī ” dinars, and he identified these coins as those dinars struck in 829/1425 during the reign of sultan al-Ashraf Barsbāy. Schultz demonstrates how the numismatic evidence overwhelming supports the later date, while also allowing for a date of transcription slightly earlier than the mid-century date favored by Grotzfeld. The second part of the essay gives multiple examples of how the language of money and commercial transactions found in several stories help corroborate other interpretations of monetary circulation in medieval Egypt and Syria.

The Author

Warren C. Schultz (Ph.D., Islamic History, University of Chicago) is a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where he serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the American Numismatic Society. Schultz is the author of many articles and chapters on the monetary history of the medieval Islamic world in general, and the Mamluk Sultanate in particular. He has served as a numismatic consultant for several archaeological excavations, and is currently studying archaeologically-found coins from the Mamluk provinces of southern Bilād al-Shām. His interest in the Mamluks was sparked by a graduate course in 1986 taught by Carl Petry, a seminar which set in motion the creation of the Mamluk Bibliography Project and eventually the journal Mamluk Studies Review.


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The Battle of ʿAyn Jālūt: A Paradigmatic Historical Event in Mamlūk Historical Narrative

The battle of ʿAyn Jālūt was perceived as a dramatic historical event that responded to the deep crisis and despair that prevailed in the Muslim world in the wake of the Mongol invasion and the termination of the Abbasid caliphate, the symbolic religious leadership of the Muslim world. It was conferred the status of a paradigmatic historical event in Mamlūk historical literature far beyond the time it took place. As such it was used by the powerful groups of the Mamlūks and the ʿulamāʾ, the religious learned scholars as a vehicle to express their stance or claims in ongoing discourses on legitimacy, authority and power and voice their social and political interests. While the Mamlūks used their military achievements to legitimize their political position and base it on their divine chosen role to support Islam and defend the Muslims, the ʿulamāʾ reduced their importance by placing the Battle as a part of cyclic events that prove the divine protection of Islam. They used primordial Islamic images and figures, and past events to show that this victory was not only a military achievement but mainly the revival of the primal experience of Islam. For them it was a replication of the path of the Prophet Muḥammad, and they as dedicated religious leaders were its true heroes.

The Author

Amalia Levanoni, Prof. emeritus, President, the Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel, Department of Middle Eastern History, Haifa University, Mount Carmel, Haifa. 1990 Ph.D. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Islamic History. 1993 Fellowship, Eberhard Karls University, Tubingen, Germany. 1997 Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, Oxford. 2001–2004 Associate Member, Center of Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Chicago. 2002 Visiting scholar, Center for Near Eastern Studies, the University of Chicago. 2004–2007 Chair, Department of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa. 2005–2007 Member, Fulbright Foundation Committee, United States-Israel Educational Foundation. 2007 Visiting Scholar, Princeton University, Princeton. 2013 Fellowship, Annemarie-Schimmel-Kolleg for the History and Society of the Mamluk Era (1250–1517), Bonn University, Bonn.


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Ibn Taimiyya - A Social Market Economist avant la lettre?

Based on a reading of Ibn Taimiyya's Al-Ḥisba fī l-Islām, Jörn Thielmann argures for some structural similarities between Ibn Taimiyya's understanding of market economy and the ideas of some proponents of Germany's social market economy, like Walter Eucken, Alfred Müller-Armack or Ludwig Erhard, which made their way into the German constitution, the Grundgesetz. Besides more conventional presentations of the moral nature of ḥisba, Ibn Taimiyya develops a short concept of human society based on reflections on the human nature by Aristotle in his Politeia. Here, he shares the same assumption as hundred years later Ibn Khaldūn. He also shows very deep insights into the functioning of markets and thus fills the so-called Schumpeterian gap that assumes that between antiquity and Thomas Aquinas nothing important has been written on economics. Thielmann demonstrates that this treaty is an original contribution to economic thought. These reflections emerge out of the particular historical circumstances of Ibn Taimiyya's time: the Mongol threat and grain riost. Securing food supply in the big cities has been the main prerogative of the Mamluk rulers. To counter the Mongols, stability in society was needed.

This fresh look at controversial figure of the Islmaich history of thought provides proof of the complexity, richness and originality of his thinking beyond the usual stereotypes.

The Author

Jörn Thielmann (Ph.D., Islamic Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum) is since January 2009 Managing Director of the Erlanger Zentrum für Islam und Recht in Europa EZIRE at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg. From 2003 until 2008, he headed the Kompetenzzentrum Orient-Okzident Mainz (KooM). Having worked on legal pluralism and Islamic law in Egypt at the CEDEJ in Cairo and on the political economy in Algeria at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he is currently doing ethnographic fieldwork on Islamic fields in Germany.


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Staging the City: Or how Mamluk Architecture coopted the Streets of Cairo

This essay explores the monumental intent of Cairo's Mamluk architecture by focusing on al-Darb al-Ahmar, a major thoroughfare along the route of royal processions that linked the citadel to the heart of the city. With a rather restrained number of architectural components, Mamluk patrons competed with each other in endowing monuments along the street that emphasized verticality, visibility, and domination of their urban surroundings. Al-Darb al-Ahmar was consequently transformed into a venue of exhibition where the Mamluks displayed their elaborate spatial, visual, and ceremonial grandeur and ultimately signs of their power. These Mamluk buildings attest to the outstanding monumental properties of Mamluk architecture and frame a street that, despite its deteriorating state, still exudes a bygone royal majesty.

The Author

Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. An architect and historian, his scholarly interests include Islamic architecture and cultures, urban history, and post-colonial criticism. His most recent books are: Mamluk History Through Architecture: Buildings, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (London, 2010), and an edited book, The Courtyard Hous between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (London 2010). A forthcoming book, al-Nagd Iltizaman (Criticism as Commitment), will be published in 2014 in Beirut.


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Is there a Mamlūk culture?

Egypt and Syria were governed during a quarter of a millennium (1250–1517) by a military aristocracy of non-Arab manumitted slave-officers. Did this unique regime create during that long period a distinctive culture? The answer to this question seems to be positive. The hypothesis that a Mamlūk culture can be identified is propped up in this article through a condensed account of contemporary literature, architecture and political discourse which were produced in the realm of the Mamlūk sultanate.

The Author
Yehoshua Frenkel got his Ph.D at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem with a thesis on “Rule, Society and Islam in Southern Morocco (during the 15th–17th centuries)”. Today, he is Senior Lecturer at the University of Haifa where he teaches social and juridical history of the Medieval Arabic speaking Islam.

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Land Tenure and Mamluk Waqfs

The most important change in the land tenure system that occurred in Mamluk Egypt and Syria after the mid-fourteenth century was the expansion of the amount of agricultural land designated as waqf (Islamic religious endowment). This book shows how the expansion of waqf lands and the growing socio-economic influence of waqfs changed the mechanisms of Mamluk rule based on the iqṭāʻ system, a military-land system in which the rights of tax collection from arable land were allotted to the Mamluks in exchange for their military service. Through the discussion, it will become clear that, under the decline of the iqṭāʻ system, the Mamluks employed the waqf system as a vehicle for sustaining their power and rule, through which they acquired financial and social influence.


The Author
IGARASHI, Daisuke, Ph.D. (2006) in History, Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan), is Part-time Lecturer at Chukyo University (Nagoya, Japan) and Visiting Researcher at the University of Tokyo. Igarashi has published on Mamluk political, social, and economic history in Japanese and American journals.


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Ibn Taghrībirdī's portrayal of the first Mamluk rulers

The 15th century historian Ibn Taghrībirdī was one of the sons of Mamluks who succeeded in building a scholarly career. His knowledge of the language, customs and values of the Mamluk court allowed him to present the actions of the ruling elite in a manner that often differed from the reports of his scholarly colleagues. The present article examines the picture that Ibn Taghrībirdī painted of the rulers Shajar al-Durr, Aybak and Quṭuz. His presentation is contrasted to the portrayals provided by his two teachers Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī and al-Maqrīzī.

Irmeli Perho is Docent in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Helsinki. She is teaching Islamic subjects and Arabic language. She has previously published ”Climbing the ladder: social mobility in the Mamluk period,” in Mamluk Studies Review, 15/1 (2011) and ”Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawziyyah’s Contribution to the Prophet’s Medicine,” in A Scholar in the Shadow: Essays in the Legal and Theological Thought of Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawziyyah, ed. Caterina Bori & Livnat Holtzman (2010).

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Sports as Performance: The Qabaq-game and Celebratory Rites in Mamluk Cairo

Drawing on narrative sources, literature, and art, this essay purviews sports and sporting events in Mamluk Cairo through a case study of one particular game, the qabaq horseback archery. It then discusses the use of sporting events in Mamluk celebratory rites from the perspective of power, performance, and production of pleasure.


Li Guo (PhD, 1994, Yale University) is Professor and Director of The Program in Arabic Language and Culture, The Department of Classics, University of Notre Dame (Indiana, 46556, USA; [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]). He is the author of Early Mamluk Syrian Historiography: ­al-Yūnīnī’s Dhayl Mir’āt al-zamān (Brill, 1998), Commerce, Culture, and Community in a Red Sea Port in the Thirteenth Century: The Arabic documents from Quseir (Brill, 2004), and The Performing Arts in Medieval Islam: Shadow play and popular poetry in Ibn Dāniyāl’s Mamluk Cairo (Brill, 2012).

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Power and Patronage on Display: Mamluk Art in the New Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum

The renovations of the galleries of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art completed in 2011 brought about changes to the way the museum's Mamluk collection is displayed. While employed on the New Galleries Project from 2008-2011, Dr. Kenney conducted research and developed interpretative materials connected with the Mamluk art reinstallation. Here, she analyses how the new Mamluk display relates to the surrounding exhibits and how its narratives are presented for the general museum audience. Following this, she profiles three objects from the collection - elements from a wooden minbar, an inlaid metalwork ewer, and a large marble jar - as examples of the aesthetic and documentary interest that the museum's collection holds for Mamluk studies specialists.

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Between Riots and Negotiations

Most political histories of the Mamluk regime which ruled Egypt and Syria focus on the roles of the Sultans and Mamluk officers. When the non-elite are mentioned in the discussion of Mamluk politics, they remain a footnote to the larger drama, implying that the options available to them were restricted to violence or impotence. This article takes issue with this generalization and argues there was a role for the non-elite. One aspect of popular political participation, especially in urban centres, that is more evident in the sources is protest. The reports that survive suggest a more nuanced balance of power that involves a spectrum of urban protest from riots to negotiations. Despite the absence of formal institutions managing this participation, the non-elite of Cairo, Damiette, Damascus and Aleppo “interfered” in the political process to safeguard what they believed to be their interest or customary rights and to right what they perceived as wrongs committed against them, acting as checks of sorts on the political process. The surviving reports of protest in Egyptian and Syrian cities indicate that negotiation was an integral part of daily politics.

They also allow us to put a human dimension to the transition processes that Egypt and Syria were undergoing in the late middle ages, and to link the micro-history with the macro-history to better appreciate the challenges that the Mamluk order was facing. As a new world-system centered in Europe was developing in the 14th century, trade routes and the economic balance of power were shifting against the Mamluk regime’s interests. This, in addition to competition in the region and the devastating effects of the recurrent waves of plague, left the Mamluk state in financial difficulties. Many of the policies the regime resorted to in order to address the fiscal crises led to protests. This period of transition also saw the rise of new groups especially in urban centers, and the beginnings of a new civic consciousness at least on the part of scholars as is reflected in medieval Arabic historiography. Rather than an autocratic military regime totally divorced from its people and a passive and subservient population that stoically endures exploitation, protest allows us to glimpse a more vibrant and dynamic picture of life and politics in medieval Egyptian and Syrian cities.

The Author

Amina Elbendary is currently Assistant Professor and Middle East History Unit Head of the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations where she teaches courses on early and medieval Arab-Islamic history, Islamic political thought and socio-cultural history. She obtained her PhD from the University of Cambridge (2007). She has previously published “The historiography of protest in late Mamluk and early Ottoman Egypt and Syria,” International Institute of Asian Studies Newsletter 43 (Spring 2007), “The Worst of Times: Crisis Management and al-shidda al-ʿuzma,” in Money, Land and Trade: An Economic History of the Muslim Mediterranean, ed. Nelly Hanna (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2002), and “The Sultan, The Tyrant and the Hero: Changing Medieval Perceptions of al-Zahir Baybars,” Mamluk Studies Review 5 (2001). She is currently finalizing a manuscript on urban protest in late medieval Egypt and Syria.



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"The Most Beautiful, the Noblest, and the Best" - Inventories of Physical and Human/Social Natuer

The Islamic writings of excellences (faḍāʾil) serve to describe the worldly order in the state of perfection. No matter which objects they depict, their common denominator is a complete lack of any deficiencies. No negative semantic is to be found bewailing anything imperfect or corrupted and demanding a remedy: the state of perfection is a necessary attribute of the worldly order.


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The Perfect ʿālim according to ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Jabartī’s Historical Works

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Jabartī’s (1753–1825) ʿAjāʾib al-āthār is the swan song of Arabic traditional historiography, composed by an author aware of the crucial role of European imperialism and its impact upon Islamic civilization. In composing this historical masterpiece, al-Jabartī was able to combine the Islamic religious and secular sciences of his day, and to do so as a critical author sensitive to the Islamic value system of justice and welfare. The study of Professor Shmuel Moreh from the Hebrew University reveals for the first time the traits of an ideal Muslim ʿālim as an advisor to the Mamluk rulers. Al-Jabartī’s main recommendation is to adhere to the Quranic principle “to enjoin good and forbid evil”. Thus he could criticize the tyranny of Muḥammad ʿAlī and the corruption of his contemporary religious scholars. The second principle is: “Power leads to corruption and oppression.” Therefore, the ʿulamāʾ should abstain from acquiring political power and from asking Mamluk emirs for favors. They should behave according to Qurʾanic regulations. Al-Jabartī believes that God rules the Universe through reward and punishment, and that Muḥammad ʿAlī’s restrictions on the influence of the ʿulamāʾ is a punishment from God for not following Islamic Law. By massacring the Mamluks (1811), the new ruler was able to implement his vision of a modern Egyptian state.

The Author
SHMUEL MOREH is Emeritus Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the Institute of Asian and African Studies of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was formerly Professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan and Chair of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at Hebrew University (1979–1981).
During his career, Professor Moreh spent many periods abroad, namely as a Fellow at the Center for Near Eastern Studies of UCLA and as a Visiting Professor of Arabic Literature at UC-Berkeley’s Center for Near Eastern Studies, the G. von Grunebaum Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UCLA, and the Universities of Bonn (Germany), London University (SOAS), Manchester (UK), Life Member of Clare Hall (Cambridge-England), Helsinki University (Finland), Leiden University (The Netherlands), Oxford-Yarenton (England), Maryland University (USA), and Edinburgh University, Scotland.
Awarded the Israel Prize Laureate in 1999, Professor Moreh has received fellowships and grants from the Israel Academy for Scientific Research (Jerusalem), CNRS-Paris, The British Council Scholarship, The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), The German Israeli Foundation (GIF), The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) (Paris-France), and Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and Yarenton-Oxford (England).