Author: Torsten Wollina

Comes a man from the East

Ibn Tulun’s chronicle Mufākahat al-Khillān contains a curious anecdote, in which a man from “the lands of Ḥasan Bāk” comes to Damascus and just takes over the Kujujāniyya Khānqāh, which was in the hands of one of the most powerful men in town, the Shāfiʿī chief judge Shihāb al-Dīn Ibn al-Farfūr. [Rajab 892]…

Sufis in war: an update

In my article “Between Beirut, Cairo, and Damascus: Al-amr bi-al-maʿrūf and the Sufi/Scholar Dichotomy in the Late Mamluk Period (1480s–1510s)” I proposed that several groups named in the sources as Sufis could have resembled paramilitary groups. They were viewed as cohesive bodies of men exactly because they would act as…

Aḥmad Ḥasībī-zādeh and Ibn Ṭūlūn MTMs

Last year, my article on different modes of transmission of Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts was published in the Journal of Islamic Manuscripts. One figure that was ostentatiously involved in the certification of the manuscripts Chester Beatty Library, MS Ar. 3101 and Staatsbibliothek, MS Landberg 704, I could not identify by that time.…

A First Global Distribution of Ibn Tulun manuscripts?

Ibn Tulun is usually perceived as an inherently local author with a decidedly local readership, that is before the late 19th century. And while the global distribution that emerged around 1900 has been addressed occasionally here before and by other scholars, this piece will question the general assessment of Ibn…

How important was Ibn Tulun’s uncle Yusuf?

The funding period of the research cluster Dyntran: Dynamics of Transmission draws to a close very soon. The exchanges in this cluster have proven influential on my research since its inception in 2015. The focus on the social and especially familial contexts of writing has become a core element of…

2018 in Retrospect / Perspectives 2019

2018 was easily the most successful year of this outlet yet. New pieces have been published at at a very stable rate of at least two per month. Almost by accident Sunday has been established as the regular day of publication. Some of them, such as “Let’s talk survival bias“,…

On the governor’s court in Late Mamluk Damascus

In the coming week, the German Historical Institute in Paris hosts a conference on new court history. Organized by Pascal Firges (DHIP) und Regine Maritz (Walter Benjamin Kolleg, Bern), “Towards a New Political History of the Court, c. 1200‒1800” will attempt, from comparative perspectives, to delineate “Practices of Power in Gender,…

Placing Ibn Tulun: Evidence from the Majallat al-Majmaʿ al-ʿilmi al-ʿarabi

As I have indicated before, the age when Ibn Tulun was most widely read might well have been the early 20th century. Ahmad Taymur had copies and photographic reproductions made of several of his works, and historians like ʿIsa Iskandar al-Maʿluf and Salah al-Din al-Munajjid also collected his works. Al-Munajjid…

Visualizing Education and Knowledge Organization with Palladio 2

To be frank, there was something wrong with the visualizations in the last post, and I did not feel like letting that stand. Thus, here I address some of those issues. Network discipline to person, main cluster [disciplines in light, people in dark]This is how the network should look or,…

Visualizing Education and Knowledge Organization with Palladio 1

After having looked at Ḥadīth transmission recently, I wondered about the other side of knowledge transmission, namely the wider curriculum of the ʿulamāʾ. Thankfully, Ibn Ṭūlūn talks at length about his own education in his autobio/-bibliography al-Fulk al-mashḥūn. There he lists ḥadīth studies and 25 other disciplines. In total, works relevant…

Visualizing female actors in Hadith networks with Palladio

Perhaps more than any other area of permodern Arabic literature, genres concerned with ḥadīth transmission offer themselves for a network approach. Even small collections provide a plethora of names and put them in relation to each other. Someone hears one tradition from someone and then relates it to someone else,…

Into a bicycle history of the Middle East

And now, to something completely different: the bicycle in Middle Eastern History. Whereas today the bicycle is – arguably – mostly known as a vehicle for leisure, around 1900 it was not only a major means of individualized transportation but it also stipulated the restoration and expansion of road networks that…

Let’s talk survival bias

How many manuscript copies were produced of any given texts? How many were circulating at any given time? When were they lost, discarded or destroyed?  How often are the works penned on their pages cited in other texts by the same or different authors? These questions lie at the very…

Visualizing Ibn Tulun’s manuscript corpus: (1) From Palladio towards Gephi

It has been a while since I presented my first visualizations of Ibn Tuluns manuscript corpus with Palladio. Palladio is an easy-to-learn tool that works in your browser and thus is independent of your operating system. You just put your data in several simple tables and upload them there. Then…

An ijāza for Ibn Mufliḥ

Akmal al-Dīn, a scion of the prominent Ḥanbalī Ibn Mufliḥ family, was mentioned here several times before and was probably the most visible of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s students in terms of engagement with his writings. Ibn Mufliḥ copied them, annotated and rubricated them, and also added material to some of them.…

Ijāzas or Samāʿāt?

Almost a year ago, I first wrote about Ibn Ṭūlūn’s teaching certificates (ijāzāt) and made a somewhat loose promise: I could identify five teaching certificates (ijāza) in Ibn Ṭūlūn’s handwriting. The four I have seen are between two and five pages long and were all written between 922/1516 and 943/1536.…