A teaching certificate

Teaching and audition certificates have become all the rage in the social history (of knowledge production) of the Medieval Middle East during the last decades. Ibn Ṭūlūn allegedly complained that he lost most of those he received from his teachers in the turmoil of of revolts and reconquests of Early Ottoman Damascus.  Yet, some actually have survived and even been edited by Muḥammad Muṭīʿ al-Ḥāfiẓ under the title Nawādir al-ijāzāt wa-l-samāʿāt (Beirut 1998).

In turn, some certificates he issued in turn to his own students do survive as well, dispersed in manuscripts in Berlin, Istanbul, Alexandria and Princeton. So far, 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. I hope to present all of them here in the near future.

The first one (see below for the attachment) is the earliest among them and also one of the shortest. It is found on fols. 30a-b in MS Wetzstein I 134 at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. In fact, Ibn Ṭūlūn might have been only the scribe but not the authority of this document, as it documents the transmission of a work elaborating on the merits of Damascus (faḍāʾil) from his teacher ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Nuʿaymī who was himself present. Fittingly, the ijāza follows directly a copy of another faḍāʾil work by Ibn Qāḍī Shuhba.

Even though it sits right in the middle of the volume, the ijāza carries two paratextual elements on the second page that indicate a later compilation of that codex. One is a reading note and the second a library stamp, both of which indicate one Ḥāmid b. Ismāʿīl al-Taqī as a temporary owner around 1314/1799. Below the reading note, there is another annotation which seems to indicate a price (all are included in the transcript).

This ijāza has some interesting information concerning Ibn Ṭūlūn’s social and intellectual environment. For once, the presence of his life-long friend, the Meccan scholar Jār Allāh Muḥammad Ibn Fahd stands out. Following Ibn Ṭūlūn’s own journey to Mecca, where he received several ijāzas from members of that family, he seems to have reciprocated by taking Jār Allāh under his wings in Damascus, and he frequently refers to his presence in other works as well.

Secondly, this session took place a mere half year before the Ottoman conquest of the city and in a garden (bustān) in Qaṣr al-Labbād, an area in the vicinity of Barza and Qābūn, north-east of the old city. The geographical designation is used until this day. In contrast, the three other sessions all took place in mosques. Nonetheless, at this one several Egyptians and Meccans were present, among them the imām of the Shrine of Abraham.

Ibn Ṭūlūn refers to this event in his chronicle as well (Mufākahat, vol. 2, 7), where he adds that the judge Karīm al-Dīn Ibn al-Akram decides to move ḥadīth studies there. Most of the participants met at the jujube tree in front of the judge’s house to travel there. In this account, al-Nuʿaymī is only mentioned as one and not even the first of those present, whereas the ijāza shows that he must have been rather one of the central figures in the following session.

Finally, the annotations mentioned above might indicate a later assemblage of the manuscript codex. Even though the text prior to the ijāza was copied contemporarily to its creation (the colophon gives the year 913/1508), it is not the work referred to in the ijāza. Instead it refers to a faḍāʾil work by the Mālikī author “Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Muḥammad b. Shujāʿ al-Rabaʿī” (d. 444/1052-53).

The transcript of ijāza is an xml file and uses TEI XML for the manuscript description. In this I have followed the fihrist guidelines. Minor structural markup indicates page breaks. Place and personal names have been marked up as well in a very simple manner.   Every annotation on the two folios has been entered into a different <div> section.

Yet, the use of TEI is not completely coherent when it comes to point where I was unsure in my reading of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s handwriting. These instances are marked by a “(؟)”; sometimes two possible readings are given divided by a “/”. These uncertainties are indicated on the level of individual words.

Addition: All four ijāzas have been uploaded to github.

DOT conference in Jena, Germany (September 18-22 2017)

Following the good experiences at our panel at the School of Mamluk Studies Conference in Beirut, Christopher Bahl and me have submitted another, larger panel on the transmission of manuscripts at the (unaptly named) Deutscher Orientalistentag in Jena this year.

Throughout Tuesday, 19 September, we are going to have a total of eleven papers on manuscript transmission, ranging from the 15th to the early 20th century. As the last time, this announcement begins with our CfP, before I elaborate on some of the themes we aim to elaborate on in that day. Again, this is a joint production of Christopher and me.

Reading the social world of medieval manuscripts: Cultural practices of transmission and their sociabilities

Scholarly practices in the premodern Islamicate world were geared towards a diverse set of transmissional frameworks and articulated through a variety of social encounters. Scholarship over the years has pointed out the centrality of everyday-life practices intended to preserve and transmit knowledge (Berkey, 1992; Chamberlain 1994). More recent studies have emphasised processes of textualisation and textual perusal (al-Musawi, 2008; Hirschler, 2012; El-Rouayheb, 2014). It is well established by now that written transmission did not only complement oral traditions but also transformed and competed with it (Blecher 2013, Burak 2015).

In this panel we will focus on the social contexts and preconditions of manuscript use and production, thus exploring connections between reading and writing practices and their specific sociabilities across the medieval and early modern Islamicate world. This will be conducted in two steps: firstly, we aim to differentiate between different modes of manuscript transmission. We generally distinguish between practices of reproduction and preservation. Under reproduction, on the one hand, we group teaching (including the creation of students’ copies), commercial copying, note-taking, and citation and discussion in other works (e.g. in/of biographical works or the sharḥ and mukhtaṣar genres). Preservation, on the other hand, is concerned with practices of book collection (libraries), book compilation (binding in majāmīʿ), restoration, and, arguably, indexing and catalogisation. Both had important implications for the synchronous circulation and the diachronic transmission of ideas, texts, and manuscripts. How were different genres circulated? What do manuscripts tell us about these contexts and the intended use or audiences?

Secondly, we ask how these modes were related to social contexts of transmission. How can we make use of readers’ notes, colophons, handwriting, or the format and layout of manuscripts to trace trajectories of texts within different social sites, such as book markets, mosques, madrasas, courts and their libraries as well as domestic settings? How did these sites relate to each other? Finally, how did the social and cultural significance of manuscripts and their use change across these sociabilities?

Since the day will consist of four sessions, each of those will highlight one theme. The first session emphasizes contexts of circulation, with presentations by Nir Shafir on early modern pamphleteers, Astrid Meier on court dealings with books, and Gülfem Alici, who focuses on Sufi manuals.

The second session moves the discussion towards preservation, namely in libraries. Stefan Knost investigates a waqf library in Aleppo. In combination with Christopher Bahl’s exploration of a royal library in Bijapur there should arise some interesting contrasts and points of comparison. Konrad Hirschler begins from the perspective of a donor in his presentation on a rather large-scale book endowment in 15th-century Damascus.

Hirschler’s vantage-point will be taken up again in the first afternoon session, which concentrates on scholar’s corpora and personal libraries during the Early Ottoman period (as understood from the “Arab Lands” perspective). Mustafa Altug Yayla will investigate modes of reproduction with regard to translations from Arabic into Ottoman Turkish in the 16th-century. Zacky Khairul Umam draws on al-Musawi to unearth the wide networks of 17th-century Hijazi scholars which rested to a high degree on the exchange of writings. Geographically, Torsten Wollina’s subject is located between those two. The talk concentrates on Damascene multiple-text manuscripts as a mode of publication, preservation, and possibly reproduction.

The final session addresses the transmission – and often remediation – of manuscripts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Print is obviously the elephant in the room here, and Kathryn Schwartz approaches it through investigating the impact of commissioners of print runs on autochthonous perceptions of written heritage. This offers itself for obvious comparisons with Simon Leese’s presentation on Arabic book production in Bhopal.

The day will be closed by an additional half-hour discussion to draw together the different approaches and perspectives that have been raised during the sessions.