An owner of Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts: ʿAbd al-Salām al-Shaṭṭī

As Ibn Ṭūlūn wrote several hundred works and did so almost five hundred years ago by now, it stands to reason that the corresponding manuscripts might have changed hands several times over since their creation. Moreover, later readers, owners, and book traders were instrumental in the survival and recognition of those manuscripts as Ibn Ṭūlūn’s. This post explores one of those people whose personal collections included such manuscripts.

A small composite manuscript of four Ibn Ṭūlūn texts is now kept at the Egyptian National Library under the call number MS 21201 Tafsīr. This manuscript contains several ownership and reading notes by one ʿAbd al-Salām b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muṣṭafā b. Maḥmūd al-Ḥanbalī. Those notes are dated between 1862 and 1867. One note (fol. 2a) also identifies another earlier owner of part of the manuscript as ʿAbd al-Salām’s uncle ʿAbd Allāh al-Māḥamarī(?). 

This was not the only Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscript in ʿAbd al-Salām’s possession—he also owned a collection of transmission certificates—which sparked my interest. This post dives deeper into who ʿAbd al-Salām was and what other books could be found in his book collection. However, this is not the first time, he appears on this blog, and it should be mentioned that another Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscript was probably in his father ʿAbd al-Raḥmān’s possession. That biographical work, however, does not bear any evidence that ʿAbd al-Salām was its owner after his father. 

In a recent partial survey of manuscripts from the Taymūriyya Library, now part of the Egyptian National Library, I came across ʿAbd al-Salām’s name and handwriting several more times. Two instances give more detailed information on his identity. MS Majāmīʿ Taymūr 362 contains two identical reading notes (ṭālaʿahu) by “ʿAbd al-Salām b. shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (dead) b. shaykh Muṣṭafā (dead) al-Shaṭṭī al-Ḥanbalī al-Qādirī”. One of those is dated 1280 AH, i.e. 1863/64. Another note (kātibuhu) on the final page of MS Majāmīʿ Taymūr 155 identifies him further as “the Ḥanbalī imām in the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus”. It is dated 12.11.1284/06.03.1868. 

It appears thus that this owner was a rather important figure in his own time. Thankfully, the nisba al-Shaṭṭī allows for a search on (biographical) databases. Indeed, has an entry for an ʿAbd al-Salām al-Shaṭṭī. This entry also points to one more manuscript that was in his possession around 1280/1863-64 and is now MS Arab 337 at the Houghton Library in Harvard. Boris Liebrenz has made me aware of the much larger numbers of manuscripts that the Orient digital database refers to. Altogether, his engagements with around thirty manuscripts can be identified. All of them seem to have occurred within roughly one decade during the 1860s. It thus appears that he built his library from different sources when he was in his twenties. 

Moreover, a search on the menadoc repository later, it becomes apparent that ʿAbd al-Salām was important enough to be mentioned in Linda Schatkowski-Schilcher’s Families in Politics: Damascene Factions and Estates of the 18th and 19th centuries. He appears only once and the only additional information offered are his life dates (1840/41 – 1878-79) and that he traveled to Istanbul, Egypt and the Hijaz during his lifetime (179).

Yet, the book is valuable in that it illuminates ʿAbd al-Salām’s familial background (177-179; especially the—exclusively male—family tree on page 178). The Shaṭṭīs had reached Damascus in 1766-67, when the three brothers Khiḍr, Maḥmūd Jalabī, and ʿUmar came as merchants from Baghdad. Those brothers would become the founders of three different branches of that family. ʿUmar’s descendants were the most successful in establishing themselves as ʿulamāʾ. They would hold positions as Ḥanbalī muftīs, khaṭībs, and mutawallīs. And therefore, this branch is the one Schatkowski-Schilcher focuses on. Although ʿAbd al-Salām’s lineage is included in the family tree, neither his father nor his grandfather nor his great-grandfather receive any attention. 

More information might be included in two books by a later son of the main branch. Muḥammad Jamīl al-Shaṭṭī (b. 1882/83) wrote two biographical works on the Ḥanbalīs in and beyond Damascus: Mukhtaṣar ṭabaqāt al-ḥanābila (Damascus 1339/1920) and Rawḍ al-bashar fī aʿyān Dimashq fī al-qarn al-thālith ʿashar (Damascus 1365/1946) apparently include biographies of ʿAbd al-Salām but I have not yet consulted either.

In any case, ʿAbd al-Salām seems to be an interesting example of the coexistence of manuscript and print culture in mid-19th-century Syria. In addition to the manuscripts he owned, he also published a print edition of Awrād al-Ustādh ʻAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī, a collection of Sufi prayers (Damascus: al-Maṭbaʻah al-Dūmānīyah, 1281/1864-65). Moreover, there are strong indications that he compiled several of the above-mentioned manuscripts in their current form, which is traceable through his marginal annotations. What happened with his collection after his untimely death in 1878-79, awaits further research.

Cite this article as: Torsten Wollina, "An owner of Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts: ʿAbd al-Salām al-Shaṭṭī", in Damascus Anecdotes, February 10, 2019,

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