Tag Archives: Sufism

Vanity Post 2: The Changing Legacy of a Sufi Shaykh

This second installment revisits a piece I originally wrote in 2015 about narrative construction in Arabic chronicles from 15th- to 17th-century Damascus. It takes a micro-perspective to explore the construction of narratives focused on one series of events or ‘story’. As in the first instance, the PDF is attached at the end.

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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

New Publication on Narratology in Arabic Historiography

Finally, Mamluk Studies 15: “Mamluk Historiography Revisited – Narratological Perspectives” is out. The edited volume brings together twelve articles on perspectives on specific works or larger clusters of works. My own contribution, “The Changing Legacy of a Sufi Shaykh: Narrative Constructions in Diaries, Chronicles, and Biographies (15th–17th Centuries)”, investigates the development of how knowledge on one specific person was shaped and adapted with growing temporal distance.

The person in question was introduced here in several posts during February 2018: Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī. The article adds a more cohesive analytical framework to the sources presented on the blog before, and in in itself investigates the early formation of historical writing about his person. It presents and analyses four, mostly chronographical accounts on the same events and argues that each text does generate different meanings from these events.

The methodology is predominantly adapted from Gerard Genette and centers around the notion of “narrative time”, and its three emanations of temporal order, duration, and frequency. The article demonstrates how their application serves in the four accounts by Ibn Ṭawq, In al-Ḥimṣī, and—twice—Ibn Ṭūlūn to create quite divergent narratives out of the same events.

Finally, it complements the sources on Mubārak already presented here and adds accounts from three chronicles on the great clash between Mubārak and the local Mamluk emirs. Through different narrative treatment and contextualization, the retelling of the same event comes to represent divergent motivations of those texts.