Category Archives: Surveying the Field

It is high time (for this blog) to engage also with the secondary literature in a more comprehensive way. This is what I do here.

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. Continue reading

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 such in military conflicts, being called upon or pledging allegiance to one faction or other. Continue reading

A note on Nelly Hanna’s “In Praise of Books”

Only recently, I finished reading Nelly Hanna’s 2004 monograph “In Praise of Books”. Honestly, while the book raises some interesting questions, it has not aged all that well.

But first, what is it about? It is less about the books mentioned in the title and more about “A cultural History of Cairo’s Middle Class, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century” as the subtitle clarifies. In this context, Hanna argues that the written word became more important than it was before, and that it now began to reach well beyond the academe of the time, namely the ʿulamāʾ circles. Continue reading