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. He inscribed himself on the title pages of both manuscripts as Aḥmad Efendī Ḥasībī-zādeh in the year 1265/1849. Today, we revisit the identity of this person.

First, in both cases Ḥasībī-zādeh’s full note reads as follows, although it is scratched out partly in MS Landberg 704:

وقف المرحوم شمس الدين محمد بن طولون الحنفي على مدرسة ابي عمر في صالحية دمشق نجزه بعد الاستغلاس جناب احمد افندي حسيبي زاده اعطاه الل ٰه مراده
في ٢ ذي القعدة سنة ١٢٦٥

ّMoreover, in both cases it is seconded on the lower left corner by another note, identifying Ḥasan b. Ibrāhīm al-Bayṭār al-Shāfiʿī (d. 1272/1856) as an owner of the manuscripts.  Whereas the latter is well-identified, Ḥasībī-zādeh posed more of a concern. That is, initially. 

In fact, Linda Schatkowski-Schilcher’s Families in Politics allows us to establish Ḥasībī-zādeh’s identity. The name seems to refer to Aḥmad b. ʿAlī al-Ḥasībī (d. 1876), a member of an ashrāf family which had reached Damascus in the late 17th century. His father ʿAlī was instrumental in establishing the family’s elite status. Not only did he hold a deputy judgeship; he also changed the family’s name from al-ʿAṭṭār to al-Ḥasībī, which, according to Schatkowski-Schilcher, denoted nobility (209). Moreover, he married two of his daughters to members of the ʿAzm dynasty.

The passage on Aḥmad al-Ḥasībī himself deserves being quoted at length:


ʿAli’s son Ahmad (1791/92 – 1876/77) was favored by the Ottoman government with a grant of land in different villages in the vicinity of Damascus, probably around Qatana, a short distance to the south-west and on the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon facing Damascus. It was he who was named to the majlis and remained there until 1860. It is, unfortunately, not revealed in the sources why the government favored Ahmad in this way. We may suppose that the land grant was similar to previous measures the government had taken to reward faithful service and to gain influential allies in Damascus. In any case, Ahmad became wealthy, moved the family residence from the quarter of ʿUqayba to that of Qanawat and reinforced ties with the ʿAzms by marrying his daughters into that family […].

Ahmad Hasibi was transported into exile […] in October 1860. He also returned […] after being transferred to Izmir and Istanbul where they were released. Nothing more appears in the sources about him in the years before his death in 1876/77 while on the pilgrimage.

Linda Schatkowski-Schilcher. Families in Politics. 209.

Although this is not much in terms of biographical information, it suffices to identify al-Ḥasībī’s status among the local elites as well as, as a result, his role in the transmission of the two Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts. Regarding the former, the addition of the honorifics “Efendī” and “-zādeh” bespeak this status. Regarding the latter, their purchase by al-Bayṭār occurred well before al-Ḥasībī’s fall from favor in the aftermath of 1860. Should we then assume that al-Ḥasībī was himself an owner? Or could we interpret the proximity of both annotations in a different way?

Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Landberg 704, fol. 1a

Their assemblage is identical in both cases and they seem to relate to each other. As al-Ḥasībī held official positions, could he have been the arbiter in the purchase by al-Bayṭār? Can we thus assume that al-Bayṭār acquired this manuscript in 1849, perhaps in an auction under al-Ḥasībī’s supervision? This date of acquisition would make sense considering that “in 1847/48 [he] had spent an extended stay in Istanbul at the invitation of Sultan ʿAbd al-Majid” (Families in Politics, 166). If he was rewarded financially in comparative terms to al-Ḥasībī,  this might have awarded him with the means for extending his manuscript collection. 

It seems that by the mid-19th century ownership of Ibn Ṭūlūn autographs had become somewhat of a status symbol. Those figures involved in their transmission that we can identify exclusively belonged to the higher echelons of Damascene society. Those appear to have been the only ones who could afford their purchase and therefore felt at ease to leave traces of their engagement in the manuscripts. 

Cite this article as: Wollina, Torsten, "Aḥmad Ḥasībī-zādeh and Ibn Ṭūlūn MTMs", in Damascus Anecdotes, March 3, 2019, https://thecamel.hypotheses.org/1196.

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