Institut für den Nahen und Mittleren Osten



ISAP VII Conference Abstracts

Mohamed N. ABDELRAHMAN GAD (King Faisal University): An Unpublished Arabic Document from Mamluk Jerusalem: Ḥaram Šarīf no. 646

Documents from the Ḥaram Šarīf are considered to be among the most important historical sources from Mamluk Jerusalem because there are so few narrative or documentary sources, that chronicle the city in this period. In addition, they are the oldest extant documents concerning the affairs of the city's Muslim community. Among the important Ḥaram Šarīf documents are those related to the social situations in Jerusalem during the Mamluk era.

The Ḥaram Šarīf document no. 646 (recto and verso) contains a description to the multiple marriages and divorces of Zumurrud bint ʿAbd Allāh, a freed slave woman living in Jerusalem in the late fourteenth century. This document has a five contracts are written on one piece of paper, including the recto and verso sides.

The document contains a marriage contract on recto and a succeeding divorce agreement on verso. As well as another marriage contract and divorce agreement on the same verso. All contracts are related to Zumurrud and are drawn up in accordance with the usual Muslim law and procedure; all contracts are dated in the Muslim era.

The marriage contracts of Zumurred were both highly monetized and extremely short. In less than two years (February 1389 to January 9, 1391 CE) Zumurrud was married three times (Zumurrud’s final recorded marriage is to Muḥamamd ibn ʿAlī al-Salḥādī, a weaver. This marriage contract is found on a separate piece of paper (The Ḥaram Šarīf document no. 610) and is dated January 9, 1391 CE). A review of this document provides an idea of how marriage and divorce worked in the Jerusalem community during the Mamluk era. Thus, from several points of view this document is different enough from other known marriage and divorce contracts.


Hazem Hussein Abbas ALI (Beni-Suef University): Reconstructing Dhū l-Rumma's Poem Through an Unpublished Document from the P.Cair.Arab. Collection

The document no. 1235 verso from the Cairo Arabic Papyrus Collection is a poem for Dhū l-Rumma (77-117 AH), an Umayyad poet. By comparing the text with poem no. 46 which had been edited by Macartney (1919), I found many differences both in the number of verses and their sequence, and in the reading of single words. One may think that some verses had been lost, especially that the document suffered damage. This paper will present a complete reading of the text, discuss whether the poem is complete or not, depending on full reading on recto which it is a part of the oldest surviving complete tafsīr by Abū l-Ḥasan Muqātil ibn Sulaymān al-Balkhī‎ (d. 150/767).


Nuraddin AMAN (Addis Ababa University): The Arabic and ʿAjemi Manuscripts in South Eastern Ethiopia: Origin, Circulation and Accessibility

Ethiopia has a rich corpus of different ancient manuscripts produced by foreign and native scholars of the country. This important heritage has not been properly explored. Taking into consideration the discovery of the old manuscript, the present research will intend to investigate the origin, circulation and accessibility of the Arabic and ‘Adjamī manuscripts in one of the least studied areas of south eastern Ethiopia. In fact, the literary tradition flourished in the region during the establishment of various medieval Muslim Sultanates of Ethiopia. The expansion of Islam and its traditional education in this area had played a big role in producing Arabic and ‘Adjamī manuscripts on diverse topics. Therefore, this study has employed descriptive method of analysis and has found out that most of the oldest manuscripts disseminated in this area deal with the history of Islam, Islamic panegyrics, politics, poems, personal biography, parables, theology, etc. We will present a general description of the manuscripts from this area.


Tomasz BARAŃSKI (University of Warsaw): The Arabization of Lower-Rank Officials in Early Islamic Egypt: A Reconsideration of Two Bilingual Tax Receipts from the Heracleopolites/Ihnās

It is widely known that the process of introducing the Arabic language into the Egyptian administration after the Arab conquest was rather limited and slow, especially during the first 50 years of the new political situation. The Arabic papyri began to occur in large quantity only from the time of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān’s governorship onwards. Since then, more and more Arabic documents came into being, but they were primarily written on the top echelon of the Egyptian administration, which means they were created by high-rank officials in the capital city of Fustat, not in the hinterland.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence contradicting this scenario. The main source against it is a bilingual Arabic-Greek tax receipt (SB XVIII 13771) dated 57/677 by Karabacek (PERF 573) already in the late 19th c. Later on, the papyrus was reedited by Stoetzer and Worp, who added the second possible date, namely 88/707. They also mentioned another similar text (SPP VIII 1198), which had most probably been issued by the same person - ʿAbd ar-Raḥman ibn Abī ʿAwf. The latter papyrus has been dated, in accordance with the former document, to four different years within a time span from the 2nd half of the 7th century to the beginning of the 8th century. The tax collector in question seems to have been a pagarch (Ar. ṣāḥib al-kūra) or financial officer (Ar. ʿāmil), so we can certainly categorize him as a middle- or low-rank official. The Arabic text of the documents was written by a different scribe than its Greek counterpart. However, both scribes responsible for drafting every single document seem to have been mere subordinates of the tax collector.

In my paper I attempt to compare the two papyri to each other, as well as to various tax receipts from early Islamic Egypt. I propose a reading of the unpublished Arabic part of SPP VIII 1198, which permits to establish the precise dates of both documents. Furthermore, I seek to determine the historical meaning of the presented material by referring to traditional Muslim historiography.


Samer BEN BRAHIM / Mahmoud KOZAE / Rima REDWAN (Freie Universität Berlin): Digital Approaches to a Mutable Textual Tradition: Kalīla wa-Dimna in Manuscripts from the 13th to 19th Centuries

Since the evolution of the computers took off, researchers in philological studies have been striving to understand all sorts of potentially helpful digital methods and apply them to the widest extent. This interest caught the attention of researchers and practitioners in the field of computer science which has led to the emergence of many technical research communities, i.e. the field of digital humanities, and industry sectors dedicated for developing specialized tools and solutions for philological research. Regarding the issue of studying old texts and manuscripts, there are multiple computer-assisted approaches for optimizing literally each aspect of philological analysis. Starting with codicological aspect, there are many innovative tools for digitizing the text of a manuscript, describing each of its significant characteristics, and storing them in a clearly structured form, accessible for researchers who may not have physical access to the manuscript itself. The well digitized manuscript, or body of manuscripts, can be further studied by a multiplicity of techniques for stylistic and intertextual analysis. In addition to that, statistical and quantitative methods are instrumental for linguistic analysis and for gaining insights into the stemmatological status of related manuscripts.

Kalīla wa-Dimna is of special significance for the history of the Arabic language and culture; in addition to its widespread dissemination among many other cultures and its imbrication with these. Nonetheless, the research on Kalīla wa-Dimna is still deficient: the book remains without a proper Arabic critical edition or even a clear understanding of its origin and transmission. This deficiency has persisted due to the difficulty of the task and despite huge academic interest. Looking at the success of philologists of other languages, the utilization of digital methods has great potential in clearing many issues but poses many challenges due to the fact that the tools usable for the Arabic language are still relatively underdeveloped. Overcoming the challenge of developing tools that are optimal for any type of research involving the Arabic language is extremely intricate and protracted. The best approach is to consider Kalīla wa-Dimna and its alternating linguistic registers of Arabic as a special case, to establish a concrete theoretical framework for this spectrum of registers, and to start by constructing a digital corpus of its manuscripts based on the peculiarities of this characterization.


Lajos BERKES (Humboldt-Universität Berlin): Greek as an Administrative Language in the 8th-century Caliphate

It is well known that Greek administrative documents are attested for more than 150 years after the Islamic conquest in Egypt. In this paper, I am going to provide an overview of the changes of the Egyptian Greek papyrological evidence in the 8th century: for what kind of documents was Greek used in the 8th century and how did these patterns change over time? Why did Greek survive till the late 8th century and why was it abandonned then? I am going to compare the conclusions drawn from the Egyptian evidence with what is known from other provinces of the Caliphate in which Greek was employed as an administrative language. Our evidence for these territories is circumstantial, since these regions have not produced papyrological archives on the scale which could be compared with Egypt. However, narrative sources contain hints which allow comparison with Egyptian papyri.


Gideon BOHAK (Tel Aviv University): Arabic Manuals of Twitch Divination from the Cairo Genizah and from Qusayr

Twitch divination (palmomancy, Zuckungsliteratur, ʿilm al-ikhliādj) is the art of foretelling events in a person’s life from the involuntary twitches of different members of his body (for example, “(If) his right foot (twitches), he will go on a journey; and (if) his left (foot twitches), he will find riches”). Its origins may be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, and it enjoyed a lasting popularity throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and in numerous languages. In the Cairo Genizah - the used-paper storage room of a medieval synagogue - there are fragments of twitch divination texts in Aramaic, and especially in Arabic, but these fragments have received almost no scholarly attention in the past (for minor exceptions, see Simon Hopkins, A Miscellany of Literary Pieces from the Cambridge Genizah Collections, Cambridge, 1978, pp. 67-71 and the brief note by Esther-Miriam Wagner and myself in Moreover, among the Arabic fragments found in the Red-Sea port of Qusayr, one twitch divination text was published by Li Guo, Commerce, Culture, and Community in a Red Sea Port in the Thirteenth Century: The Arabic Documents from Quseir, Leiden: Brill, 2004, No. 81. Unfortunately, Guo misread the text, and identified it as an amulet, and his erroneous reading and identification are still found on the Arabic Papyrology Database. In my talk, I will survey the Arabic twitch divination texts from the Cairo Genizah, and show how they can help us make sense of the contemporaneous, and very similar, text in P.QuseirArab. I 81.


Jelle BRUNING (Leiden University): Organizing the War Fleet in Early-Islamic Egypt

From the mid-640s CE, Muslims increasingly engaged in naval warfare. Initially supporting their efforts to conquer Byzantine territory and later institutionalized as yearly raids, naval expeditions were an important feature of the early-Islamic djihād polity. From the beginning, Egypt was directly involved in such warfare. A large part of many of the fleets were constructed in Alexandria and on al-Rawḍa opposite Fusṭāṭ, and many Christian Egyptians served as artisans at Egypt’s arsenals or as sailors on the fleets’ galleys and auxiliary vessels. As a result, the organization of the fleet has left many traces in contemporary documents. These documents are written in Arabic, Coptic and Greek, by and large span the period 675-740, and include official letters, financial records, legal documents and private letters. The importance of this material for our knowledge of the Muslim fleet, and the Muslim army in general, has long been recognized.

Recent research shows that the period between the conquest of Egypt in the early-640s and the establishment of Abbasid rule over the province in 750 witnessed drastic changes in the Muslim polity and along with it the Muslim authorities’ administration of Egypt. Until now, documents related to the organization of the war fleet have been studied without proper consideration for chronological differences. To what extent the organization of the war fleet, or the fleet itself, changed in the first 150 years of Muslim rule over Egypt remains largely unknown. In light of the recent developments in the field of early-Islamic history and the importance of the papyrological material on the fleet and early-Islamic (naval) warfare in general, this question is pertinent.

My paper maps developments in the organization of Egypt’s war fleet between ca. 640 and 800. The papyri provide detailed information on local as well as empire-wide organizational matters and their impact on local communities. When compared with sources on contemporary political history, changes visible in the papyri can be understood within the context of developments that took place at the level of the caliphate. The paper will argue that in the period under discussion there were three major waves of development (to be dated to ca. 660, 700, and 750) in the fleet’s organization on an imperial level and that these developments directly affected the local organization of the fleet. In short, my paper contributes to a better understanding of the historical context of papyri on the Muslim fleet.


Ursula BSEES (University of Vienna/University of Cambridge): Some from the Zabur, some from the Prophet: Religious Advice Collected as Seen in P.Vind.inv. A.P. 1854a+b

P.Vind.inv. A.P. 1854 is a newly discovered literary papyrus. The four-page text, paleographically datable to the 3rd/9th century, does not only add to our limited knowledge on the language and layout of Arabic literary papyri. It also shows, among Islamic sources, citations from the Books of Psalms. While it is unmistakably clear that the writer was Muslim, he must have had one of the early translations of the Book of Psalms into Arabic at his disposal.

This paper will look into the use to which the text might have been put by its writer, as well as put it into its historical context, meaning a time when translations into Arabic made religious knowledge from sources other than traditional Islamic scholarship accessible to an Arabic-reading public.


Lahcen DAAÏF (Université Lumière Lyon 2): The Archive of a Christian Wealthy Family from Ṭuṭūn

Some thirty years ago Youssef Ragheb identified the archive of the Banū Djirdja, a wealthy Coptic family who lived in the village of Ṭuṭūn in the 10th and 11th centuries. The archive is scattered around the world in several collections (Berlin, Chicago, London and Vienna) and consists mainly of legal deeds but also of letters. In our paper we will give a preliminary overview of the content of the archive and of this family’s life in Ṭuṭūn.


Rocio DAGA PORTILLO (LMU Munich): Writing in Arabic After the Christian Conquest: Toledo Documents Comparing Islamic and Christian Arabic Documents

After the conquest of Toledo in 1085 Christian, Jews and Muslims kept writing in Arabic for a period of 230 years. The Fondus of the Toledo Cathedral and the Convent of St. Clement preserved 1075 legal documents (11th-14th centuries) written in Arabic. These legal documents witness the introduction of paper in Christian Spain by preserving the earliest dated document in paper (1116). Moreover, most of the documents are written in parchment and are contracts of sales which mirror the social and economic interaction of the different social groups as well as the political weight of the Christian king and Churchmen.

By comparing Islamic and Christian Arabic Documents we intend to investigate the concept of law applied in Toledo after the Christian conquest, the legal interaction of the different social groups and the continuity-discontinuity of the legal praxis. Photos of Documents will be provided.


Alon DAR (Leiden University): Power or Persuasion: Qurra b. Sharīk's Letters

Qurra b. Sharīk served as the Umayyad governor of Egypt in 90-96/709-714, a period that early Muslim sources depict as marking the centralization of political power and administrative apparatuses in early Islam. His letters to Basileios, one of the local pagarchs in Aphrodito (middle Egypt) survive in Greek and Arabic papyri and contain valuable information concerning administrative procedures and the manifestation of political power. In many of these letters, Qurra is scolding and reprimanding Basileios for his professional performance, mainly regarding tax-collecting and the concealment of fugitives, as well as for what Qurra understood as Basileios’ lack of cooperation with the central government.

Arietta Papaconstantinou and others have suggested that Basileios’ independent actions propelled the Muslims to appoint their own administrators, who did not rely on local support. Papaconstantinou based her argument on the rhetoric of power manifested in Qurra’s letters. Following her analysis, I too argue that Basileios acted as an independent authority. However, I propose a different analysis of Qurra’s use of language in his letters. The paper will focus on what may be called his use of “explanation and justification,” reflecting the governor’s expectations of the functioning of the political-administrative apparatus as well as good governorship. Showing the role of the governor as power-broker between the caliphal court in Damascus - mainly interested in tax revenues and land cultivation - and the local population in the provinces, I argue that Qurra’s growing frustration with Basileios was also a result of pressure from the caliph’s court, since Qurra held an instrumental role in the implementation of the caliphal needs and policies. Similarly, I analyze Qurra’s criticism in the light of Basileios’ relation with the governor and with his local constituency. These analyses allow me to then discuss who actually ruled these lands, at what administrative level decisions were made, and to speculate how centralization of power was achieved in this period. Finally, I question what function explanation and justification served in administrative correspondence? Were they structural (stylistic or rhetorical) features of administrative correspondence at the time, or is the case of Qurra unique in this sense?


Janneke DE JONG (Leiden University): Who Did What in Eighth-Century Aphrodito? Some Observations on Tax Documents and Prosopography

Ever since the publication of papyrus documents from eighth century Aphrodito, and especially since Bell’s monumental edition of several hundreds of these, this archive has been known to papyrologists. The papyri range in date between the last two decades of the 7th century and the first four decades of the eighth century CE. Preserving more than 400 documents in three languages (Greek, Coptic and Arabic), this archive offers a unique glimpse in the (financial) administration on the local level in Egypt under Umayyad rule. Papyri belonging to this archive have found their way into various collections.

Yet, the texts also present numerous difficulties and many aspects of Aphrodito’s fiscal administration are still obscure. Perhaps this is the reason why the archive has received relatively little scholarly attention. However, this seems to be changing due to the increasing interest in Egypt’s Early Islamic history.

One aspect that deserves to be examined is the social composition of eighth century Aphrodito. The papyri contain thousands of names, that have not yet been thoroughly studied. Apart from being valuable for onomastic information, these names have the potential to be investigated for social relations in Aphrodito. In my paper, I will discuss whether and how the fiscal documentation can be used to study the social relations underlying Aphrodito’s fiscal-administrative management.


Fred DONNER (University of Chicago): The Earliest Extant Arabic Letter? Several Puzzles in Search of a Solution

An Arabic papyrus in the collections of the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago, OIM E17861, appears on the basis of both its palaeography and its content to be extremely early. The letter-forms are consistent with a seventh-century date, and the content of the letter, which discusses the distribution of a relatively small amount of money among several people, is unremarkable, except for the fact that among the addressees and people mentioned in the letter is ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, along with several other people whose names are suggestive but otherwise not fully defined. Assuming this is to identified with the famous ʿUmar who became the second caliph, the letter must date to before his death in 644 CE.

The possibility that the letter is a later forgery must be considered. Besides the palaeography, however, several aspects of the letter’s content suggest that the letter is unlikely to be a forgery. Forgeries are generally made for a purpose, but this letter asserts no claims to property, political or religious authority, or social standing, and it does not identify ʿUmar or any of the other persons mentioned in it as being anyone special, so it is not clear why a later forger would bother to fashion such a letter.

If the letter is authentic and does date from the first half of the seventh century, which would make it the earliest Arabic letter so far discovered, its form and content bear some interesting implications. Its form is the same as that found in later Arabic letters, suggesting that by the early 7th century CE Arabic epistolography was already well developed, implying that Arabic letters had been written for a long period before the date of the letter. In content, it uses “standard” monotheistic phrases like bi-sm Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm, but contains no further hints to confessional identity that could allow us to classify its writer or audience as Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Radiocarbon dating of papyri appears to be unreliable and has not helped to date this letter.


Maher A. EISSA (Fayoum University):More Late Coptic Texts from the National Archive of Egypt

In a previous ISAP conference (2014, Munich), Anne Boud’hors and I gave a general presentation about the Coptic collection of National archive of Egypt. The main goal of that lecture was to give an overview of the entire Coptic collection, to classify it and to focus on the important pieces. They are documents written on papyrus or paper and belong to a late period (second half of 9th to 11th centuries). In the workshop of „Christians and Muslims in Early Islamic Egypt“ (2016-Heidelberg), I myself gave another presentation about a very remarkable Late Coptic letter from the collection. The importance of this collection stems from the fact that they contain a rare collection of documents related to the daily life in Egypt in the period of disappearing usage of the Coptic language. Only recently a few Coptic texts have been published. Late Coptic texts have been generally neglected, because of their writing, extremely difficulty to decipher, their orthography and syntax, often no longer standardized, and their frequently bilingual environment, which can have several aspects.

The number of late Coptic texts is certainly important, but the difficulty of these texts delayed their publication. Late Coptic texts pose a number of problems of their own. However, they have their particular interest. Studying them will increase our knowledge of the language behaviours and passing the Coptic into Arabic in Egypt in this period. Therefore, in this paper, I will study and publish three more late Coptic texts in The National Archive of Egypt, namely P.Cair.Copt. inv. 18, 953, and 1130.


Yousry ELSEADAWY (Freie Universität Berlin): Scribes and Manuscripts: The Scribes of Arabic Manuscripts: A Historical and Codicological Approach

The purpose of this contribution is to present a larger study investigating the working practices of the scribes of Arabic manuscripts from the beginning of the manuscript age until the 7th/13th century, with special focus on Arabic manuscripts preserved in Egyptian and German libraries. This material will be compared to the handbooks for scribes, such as those composed by Ibn Qutayba (d. 889), Abū Bakr al-Ṣūlī (d. 946) and others. The value and interest of this approach lies in the fact that little has been written about Arabic scribal culture in terms of work flow and of the professional ethics and the duties of the scribal class. A more precise understanding of the practices of Arabic scribes and their manner of working will help explain the media revolution that took place in Abbasid times in Baghdad and its implications for later centuries.

The main aim of this project is to sketch a panorama of Arabic scribal culture, including its ethics and the rules of scribal conventions. Furthermore, it aims to expand our knowledge of the scribal process itself and throw light on the culture of the scribes. The following questions will be of central importance: (1) What is meant by “copying” (nisākha)? What are the relevant concepts for it in pre-modern Arabic-Islamic culture? (2) How did the copying of a manuscript proceed? Which were the exactly steps? (3) What was the education of the scribes? Is it possible to establish subtypes of scribes? How did their different background affect their products? (4) What were the ethics and rules of the scribal profession? Can we recognize traces of the theoretical discussions that dominated the classical Arabic literature, especially the adab al-kātib treatises, in the actual manuscripts? Or is the theoretical discourse separate and without any concrete link to the practice?


Esther GAREL (IFAO Cairo): People of Edfu: Some Considerations on Onomastics and Prosopography in the Papyri from the Early Arab Period

The documentation of the 7th century coming from Edfu, written both in Greek and Coptic, is particularly rich from the point of view of onomastics given the number of lists of tax-payers or accounts preserved in the archive of the pagarch Papas (years 670). The collective project of editing the Coptic side of the archive, kept at the IFAO, brings new material to an already abundant documentation and sheds new light on the society in Edfu in the second half of the 7th century.

The names found in these documents are often very peculiar. Some are typical names of Upper Egypt, attested in documents ranging geographically from Djeme to Elephantine ; some are old Greek names, which resurface in the 7th century although they disappeared from the Greek documentation; others are not otherwise attested and it is not always possible to reconstruct their etymology. In these cases, the question of a Nubian presence in Edfu has to be raised (see for example the ethnical designation Νοβα in some Greek documents).

On the other hand, the edition of the Coptic documents of the Papas archive will allow to complete the image of how the civil administration 30 years after the conquest was working and to understand better the distribution of Coptic and Greek, depending on the persons who write or are written to. In this respect, the paper will aim at drawing a prosopography of the people in contact with Papas in his correspondence.


Eugenio GAROSI (LMU Munich/University of Basel): An Early Islamic Validity Cause: P.Ness. 56 Revisited

P.Ness. 56 (Nessana; 67/687) is a quittance settling the termination of a labour contract between one al-Aswad b. ʿAdī and the otherwise unknown monk Kyrin. The papyrus is one of the earliest Early Islamic Arabic documents recording private financial transactions and one of the few of its kind redacted in a bilingual (Arabic/Greek) version. Despite referring to the same content, however, the Arabic and Greek texts outline two different scribal and legal frameworks. P.Ness. 56 thus offers a privileged window on the coexistence of two parallel, but separated clerical practices in the aftermath of the Muslim conquest of the Near- and Middle East. In the first part of my paper I will present a new reading of the Arabic text. I will then proceed to discuss the differences between the Arabic and Greek version with particular regard to the respective formal and formulaic features and to the legal practices seen at play. Finally this paper draws from coeval Arabic papyrological and epigraphic evidence to determine the extent and the chronology of the use of the validity clause employed in P.Ness. 56.


Abdullah AL-HATLANI (Leiden University): What’s in a Name? Names, Kunyas, and Nisbas in Islamic-Era Inscriptions from Arabia

Islamic-era inscriptions are generally formulaic, containing the names of the inscriber, prayers for forgiveness, and a date. A huge number of inscriptions have been discovered in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt. This paper has two major aims, the first one is to describe the formulaic structure of Islamic-era graffiti, identifying which parts were stable and which were moving, and a description of the structure of personal names and titles based on the epigraphic evidence itself. We will then explore how patterns in naming practice intersect with social factors, such as class or region. The corpus under investigation comes mainly from Saudi Arabia and Jordan and provides a unique eye-witness to how naming practices were used by everyday people, which, as it will be shown, can differ in some respects from the rigid system described in literary sources.


Edmund HAYES (Leiden University): The Epistolary Imam: Comparing the Correspondence of the Shii Imam with Documentary Letters

Within the hadith collections of the Twelver Shia, a corpus of letters is ascribed to the Shii Imams, said to have been written between the mid-8th and the end of the 9th centuries CE. This body of correspondence is centrally based on petitions, demands and requests, and their responses. The Imam’s letters include demands for money, letters of appointment of his agents, and letters of cursing and excommunication. Letters from his followers include requests for gifts, travel requests, requests for legal rulings and for blessings. These letters are well known among scholars of Shiism, but have never been studied as letters “per se.”

In this paper I compare the corpus of letters ascribed to the Imams surviving in literary sources with letters on papyri from Egypt and other materials from Khurasan from the same period. Documentary sources allow us to more deeply understand the corpus of Imamic letters as stylistic and rhetorical products of their time, and to better understand the questions of authenticity which must necessarily be asked of them. Likewise, the Imams’ letters provide a rich reservoir of information about the practical usage of letters as instruments of power (both practical and sacral) and the means of their sending and preservation. The transmission history of letters of the Imams is particularly detailed due to the sacral importance of the words of the Imams which required that Shii followers of the Imams made fairly detailed comments about circumstances of production, delivery, handwriting, materials, and preservation of letters. This gives us an important reservoir for comparing epistolary practices. The Imamic correspondence is comparable to both private letters, to the extent that Imams are private individuals, but also to chancery letters in the performative, quasi-governmental dispatch of orders. It is also comparable to the letters of the Jewish community present in the Genizah, indicating how a far-flung minority community maintained community connectivity and boundaries.

Said Reza HUSEINI (Leiden University): Thinking in Arabic, Writing in Sogdian: Diplomatic Relations Between the Arabs and the Local Rulers in Transoxiana in the Early Eighth Century

This research deals with the morphological study of two letters written in Sogdiana between 719-721 CE. The first one is a petition in Arabic issued by Dhewashtich, the ruler of Panjikent to the Arab amīr al-Djarrāḥ ibn ʿAbd Allāh appealing for his son. The second one is in Sogdian issued by the Arab amīr ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Ṣubḥ to Dhewashtich ordering him to collaborate with the Arabs and warning him against disobedience. Interestingly, this Sogdian figure is known not only from these two letters, but also appears in other letters and is mentioned in Chinese chronicles.

The Arabic letter, which is written on leather and is issued by Dhewashtich projects him as a mawlā and puts him in a lower position than the Arab amīr. It uses the semi-Shahāda and Arabic praise formulae which were not usual for a Sogdian ruler. In contrast, the Sogdian letter written on Chinese paper and issued by ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Ṣubḥ precisely follows the structure and formulae that were common for the Arabic letters in this period. Moreover, it uses Sogdian translations of the opening praises and the Bismala making it historically significant. Though it is written in Sogdian, it does not follow the Sogdian letter structure or formulae.

The structural analysis of these letters raises two main questions: (a) Why did this Sogdian ruler and the Arab general not issue letters in their “own languages”? (b) What are the reasons that the letter in Sogdian follows the Arabic letter structure and formula and not the Sogdian letter writing system? This paper attempts to provide some answers to these questions offering a better understanding of the relation between the Arabs and the local rulers in Transoxiana in the early eighth century.


Ahmed KAMAL MAMDOUH (Cairo University): Two Unpublished Personal Letters from al-Ashmūnain

Although there is a large number of important papyri and documents in the Egyptian National Library, few papyri of this collection have been published since the publication of the 6th volume of Grohmann’s Arabic Papyri in the Egyptian Library (1962).

There is a lack in the available information about the history of Egyptian provinces because historical sources have focused on the capital. Thus, Arabic papyri are the most important source of information on the history and civilization of Al-Ashmūnayn and other Egyptian provinces. Personal letters are one of the most important types of preserved papyri and documents. From them we can much learn about social and economic life, the nature of relations between members of family, as well as people in society.

In this research, two new documents are published for the first time, each being a personal letter related to al-Ashmūnayn. The first one (P.Cair.EgLib. inv. 1241) was written on paper, and had been sent to al-Ashmūnayn. On recto, 10 lines remain, and two more lines have been written on the right edge from top to bottom. All lines were written by a trained hand. The letter starts as usual with the Basmala, and asks the person to whom the letter was sent. Then comes the main part of the letter, which is about blame and advice from a father to his son. On verso, the address is written in one line. The second letter (P.Cair.EgLib. inv. 1035) was also written on paper, had been sent to al-Fusṭāṭ, and mentions the name of the city of al-Ashmūnayn. On recto, 4 lines remain about blame and ask to send some needed items. On verso, there are 2 lines: greetings from some people to the person to whom the letter was sent.


Tamer EL-LEITHY (Johns Hopkins University): Traveling Deeds: The Circulation of Private Legal Documents in Late-Mamlūk Damascus (1480-1500 AD)

Of the five main social sites of archiving practices - those of legal, religious, educational, and state institutions as well as the family - recent studies have understandably focused on state practices, examining surviving documents and/or bureaucratic manuals. By contrast, this paper focuses on private and family archiving practices, specifically the undiscussed vector of documentary circulation, or patterned transfers of private legal documents. It is based on close readings of al-Taʿlīq, a diary-cum-chronicle by the modest Damascene professional witness and notary Aḥmad ibn Ṭawq (d. 1509). In addition to describing public events, ibn Ṭawq recorded details of legal and financial transactions he witnessed and inscribed (as well as noting the role of documents in other conflicts).

The form and language of these entries suggests they were intended as practical aides- memoire: the Taʿlīq thus occupies a unique interstitial space between narrative chronicle and legal-logbook. The logbook entries record a vibrant, if hitherto invisible, documentary traffic, or patterned transfer of complete, legal documents from families to other sites. While some cases are straight-forward, scores of others are more complex, e.g. cases when a notable dies and Escheats-Bureau officials rush to his residence to inventory not only property, but also his “collection of documents” and then purposefully transfer them to other locations.

A careful analysis of these transfers - by occasion, type, destination, etc. - reveals an interesting intersection of familial and official archiving practices, often working at cross purposes. The Taʿlīq’s dense, granular coverage reveal a quotidian rhythm of documentary culture - and highlight both the life-cycle of documents and temporality of private collections, including their patterned dispersal at specific moments and events.


Daisy LIVINGSTON (SOAS London): Late-Mamlūk Archival Practices on Ice: The View from Sultan al-Ghawrī's Waqf Archive

The scholarly discussion surrounding the non-survival of state archives from the pre-modern Islamic world is familiar to Arabic papyrologists. Generalisations made in the past regarding the inclination, or lack thereof, of medieval Islamic societies to maintain systematic archives, have been effectively challenged in recent papyrological studies. Highlighting the significance of surviving documents as sources for the history of the pre-modern Islamic world, and offering in-depth investigations of the production and usage of documentary genres, Arabic papyrology has added nuance to our understanding of contemporary archival practice. Despite this, the identification of actual contemporary archives remains a challenging task.

It is not, however, impossible. High-profile documentary material surviving from the period of the Mamlūk sultanate offers special potential not only to reconstruct a wide array of archival practices, but also to outline groups of documents that constitute contemporary archives. In this paper, I introduce one such archive: the waqf archive of the penultimate Mamlūk sultan Qanṣūh al-Ghawrī (r. 906- 922/1501-1516). This collection of nearly 300 documents, kept today in Cairo’s Wizārat al-Awqāf, was brought together during the reign of this sultan. During this period, al-Ghawrī established substantial waqf endowments, the proceeds of which were overwhelmingly dedicated to his funerary complex that still stands today in Cairo.

In the first part of the paper I argue that the internal and material features of the surviving documents reveal the coming-together of a complex and interconnected multiple-piece archive, united within the legal, ceremonial, and architectural, framework of this significant waqf foundation. Because of the specific way in which this archive came into being, I also suggest that it offers a lens onto archival practices extending well beyond al-Ghawrī’s personal waqf activities. In the second part of the paper, I address a question of broader methodological significance. Here, I argue that, owing to the specific historical moment of this archive’s conception, immediately prior to the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, it should be considered an archive “frozen in time.” Though this renders the archive exceptionally valuable to those interested in documentary and archival history, it also problematises the historical view of archival practice that emerges. Introducing al-Ghawrī’s waqf archive as a case study, this paper offers an exploration of waqf-related archival practices within a distinct historical context, whilst also testing the limits of the surviving source material to address questions such as these.


Saied EL-MAGHAWRY MOHAMED (Sadat City University): Wheat Through Arabic Papyri in the World Wide Collections: Rare Unpublished Texts

Wheat is considered one of the most important attested agricultural crops in Arabic papyri, especially the papyri which discuss poll and kharādj taxes, revenues of Baīt al-Māl, shipping and commercial transactions, the tools used for its harvesting- its weight and finally baking it to be bread).

In this paper, I will discuss three unpublished Arabic papyri which include important information about this crop. (1) P.Heid. inv. Arab. 147 dated to the 2nd/8th century with information about its kinds and good qualities. (2) P.Vind. inv. A.P 2796 dated 280/893 discusses important information about this crop, other crops and the amounts of poll and kharādj taxes which had to be paid by the Dhimmis. (3) P.Cair. inv. Ar. 801 dated Muḥarram 527/22 December 1132. It discusses the cultivation and harvesting of wheat, its measuring units (irdabb, wayba, kayla and al-qadaḥ), moreover, its shipping and trade not only in Egypt but also to many countries of the Arab world.


Matt MALCZYCKI (Auburn University): Livestock Sales and Social History

Historians are using papyri more than they ever have in the past, and the purpose of this paper is to keep that momentum going. This research tries to build on work that Ragib did in Actes de vente d’esclaves et d’animaux d’Égypte médiévale (2006). As Ragib made clear, one can learn much about medieval Islamic society from studying contracts of sale. The evidence is fragmentary, so it is difficult to sketch a complete picture, but the information is nevertheless revealing. A mule might sell for five dinars while a good camel might bring nearly ten. Sheep were worth but a fraction of a single cow or bull. The monthly fee for an ox could cost as much as the annual rent on a house. These kinds of details add texture to the narrative accounts of medieval Islamic history, but they are not the end of the story. Historians might be able to extract yet more information from these sources.

For example, P.Vente 25 is a sales contract in which two brothers agree to purchase a two horses, a mare and a filly, from another man. Ten and a half dinars change hands, so it is not a small transaction. The buyers have Coptic names but the seller has both a Coptic name and a Muslim name. The document repeatedly refers to the seller’s family which was apparently still Coptic. The contract also refers to sale as “Islamic” and the scribe and all the signed witnesses have Muslim names.

On the surface this document looks like a simple sales contract, but a closer reading raises many questions. Did the Coptic parties view an Islamic contract as a better way to protect their investment? Did they have a choice? Did becoming Muslim give the seller enhanced social standing? Was he trying to flaunt this prestige in front of his former co-religionists? Were the references to the seller’s Coptic family merely part of legal formula or did they suggest that the family might contest the sale?

These are the kinds of questions this paper hopes to address though an examination of records of livestock transactions. Livestock transactions are a good point of reference because the amounts of money were often large, so the records are very detailed. At the same time, the surviving records are numerous, but not so abundant as to be an unmanageable sample size.


Tamer MOKHTAR MOHAMED (Helwan University): Four Arabic Inscriptions on Wooden Panels

The art of engraving on wood was much developed in Egypt in the early 4th/10th century, and most of the wooden pieces preserved from that period are decorated with floral and geometrical decorations, and sometimes patterns of birds and animals, while only some few wooden artifacts are decorated with Kufic calligraphy inscriptions.

The Museum of Islamic art in Cairo has some rare wooden panels dated back to the 4th/ 10th century, one of them to 318 AH. These panels are unpublished and unstudied before. They are registered at the museum's archives as “Contracts of houses property.” These panels are imporant because some are dated and carry the name of the house owners, because the inscriptions on these panels indicate that they were public advertisement and a proof of the houses property, and because they are carried out on wood, not on papyrus as usual, or paper.

This paper aims to publish, study, and analysis the inscriptions on the four wooden panels, as well as studying the type of the calligraphy. They are registered at the Museums' archives as follows: (1) no. 11791; house property contract dated 318 AH; (2) no. 12640, small house property contract, undated; (3) no. 14772, house property contract, undated; (4) no. 16333, house property contract, undated.


Tarek M. MUHAMMAD / Noha A. SALEM (Ain Shams University, Cairo), Tārīkh Mulūk al-Qusṭanṭīniyya, “The History of the Kings of Constantinople”: An Attempt to Know its Author and Sources

The Arabic manuscript Tārīkh Mulūk al-Costantinyyah, “The History of the Kings of Constantinople”, is preserved in the Egyptian National Library (in al-Maktaba al-Taymūrīya). Until now, as we know, no copies in other languages are preserved. manuscript consists of 166 folios with three lacunae (on folio 85, 119, 129). The first folios that are talking about the time of Constantine I (r. 324-337) are lost and so are the remaining pages of the time of Leo III (r. 717-741). Thus, it begins with the ninth year of the reign of Constantine I and ends with the first year of the reign of Leo III.

Every folio consists of 15-18 lines. It is written in informal Arabic, which means that its author was a simple monk or a foreign monks who had studied either in Egypt or in Palestine. We assume also that the author was one of the Orthodox monks who came to one of the Egyptian or Palestinian monasteries after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks. He possibly put this text for his colleagues or for the visitors of the monastery to remind them of the history of the Orthodox Church, i.e. of the history of the Byzantine Emperors.

It is very interesting to find an Arabic Manuscript speaking about Byzantine history. Our edition will be followed with by English translation with a commentary. We noticed we that the author depends on Byzantine and Eastern sources.


Ahmed NABIL MAGHRABY (Sadat City University): Fragment of a Lost Hadith Collection of al-Muʾtamar ibn Sulaymān al-Taymī Preserved on Paper

This paper studies the Arabic paper P.Cair.IFAO Edfou ar. 14. It is datable on palaeographical grounds to the 4th- 5th/10th-11th centuries. This is a literary paper containing number of variant traditions and constitutes one folio from a codex of a lost ḥadīth collection of al-Muʿtamar ibn Sulaymān al-Taymī (d. 187/802) transmitted by one of his pupils whose name is unknown to us.


Cecilia PALOMBO (Princeton University): Power, Exaction, and Paternalism in the Enforcement of Taxation: The Egyptian Monastic Context, 2nd‒3rd Centuries

In Early Islamic Egypt, administrative documents conveying orders and demands often took the form of, or disguised as, personal letters. Ordering letters of this kind were produced at all levels of administration, at the chancery of high and middle-level officials, by local scribes, and by local authorities, including religious figures. With all their linguistic and formulaic diversity, ordering letters from the first three centuries of Islamic rule tell us about the same interlace of power dynamics - by expressing a mixture of compulsion, intimidation, moral authority, and paternal protection. This paper considers a few examples from a corpus of administrative letters that were produced at, or received by, Egyptian monastic centres between the second and the third century AH. All the examples considered belong to a monastic context, and they are concerned with requests of payment and final demands.

As part of the Leiden-based ERC project “Embedding Conquest,” the paper analyses the vocabulary of these letters as an expression of uneven social relationships. By considering various letter types (orders, notifications, demands, and threats), I will use the restricted, local and particular institutional context in which they were produced to raise broader questions about the location of coercive power in the Early Islamic period. If we assume the point of view of the tax payers, with whom did that power lie? What strategies did local leaders have to balance coercion with protection, and where did protection come from? Can we distinguish between different kinds of coercion, based on differences in epistolary formulary? By looking at expressions of hierarchy in this selected epistolary corpus, I will highlight three sources of ambiguity in the enforcement of taxation: the ambiguous relationship between political and religious leaders concerned with taxation; the ambiguous role of monastic leaders towards the tax payers in their double role of religious guides and semi-officials; and the ambiguous language of personal letters in expressing administrative orders.


Nils PURWINS (Freie Universität Berlin): The Noble Ones of Ērānšahr: About wuzurgān, āzādāz, dahīgān, shahrīgān

The constitution and development of the aristocratic estate of Ērānshāhr from the time of the Sasanian empire up to the Early Islamic empire in the 9th century is an interesting question, which involves several problems of sources and scientific disciplines.

Not for the first time – but most prominent – the chain of Iranian noble titles is to find in the Narseh inscription of Paikuli (NPi; 3rd century CE): shahryārān/shahrdārān, wispuhrān, wuzurgān, āzādān (sometimes with the kadag-khwadāyān), which represented the two main powers of the empire: The kingship with the ruling Sasanian familiy clan and the officials (shahryārān/šahrdārān, wispuhrān) on one side and the all the other noble houses (āzādān, kadag-khwadāyān) on the other, the wuzurgān as powerful officials who were members or lords of these noble houses had a mediating function. This chain was often thematically repeated by Zoroastrian Middle-Persian and Manichean Middle-Iranian literary sources (4th-11th centuries), while the Islamic Arabic and Persian literary sources and the Christian Syriac literary sources of the 8th-12th centuries refer to the dahīgān and shahrigān as aristocratic landowners, which we can also find in the Middle-Persian sources of the 7th century. Scholars of the 20th century analysed these titles often singularly depending on their scientific discipline or try to bring them in an order with different results.

The view on the documents of Tabārestān (7th-8th centuries), Bactria (3rd-8th centuries) and some Sasanian bulles and seals (6th-7th centuries) brings, in combination with these literary sources of different origin, new light in this topic of the aristocratic estate of Ērānshāhr and its development in the late Sasanian empire and the Early Islamic empire. Of special interest in this discussion will be (a) the Middle-Persian document Tab. 12 (PYE 71= 722/3 CE) from Parishwārgār=Tabārestān, a request of village people because of aridity, which refers to dahīgān; (b) the Bactrian document BD Y (ca. 771/2 CE), a legal declaration in form of an open letter, which refers to āzādān; (c) the Middle-Persian bulles I/100=B369, III/47 (6-7th centuries), which are refering to kadag-khwadāyān.

The following questions are of interest in this examination: (a) constitution of the aristocratic estate in Ērānshāhr in the Late Sasanian empire; (b) development up to the time of the documents; (c) exact meaning of the rank titles wuzurg, āzād, čashmag, dahīgān and shahrigān; (d) the meaning of kadag-khwadāy in the constitution of Ērānshāhr.


Eline SCHEERLINCK (Leiden University): "We will not require anything of you, except for…:" Permits, Protection and Problem Solving in Early Islamic Egypt

The effects and effectiveness of governmental policies on taxation and restrictions on the circulation of people in Early Islamic Egypt is evidenced in the papyrological record. One perspective comes from Arabic and Greek papyri produced in the offices of the higher levels of the administration. Yet, how the policies were carried out and adapted to the realities of life in the villages and monasteries of the countryside, is shown particularly in the Coptic documentation produced in those local contexts. The “safe conducts,” in Arabic, and “protection letters,” in Coptic, are two document types that are related to taxation and to governmental restrictions on the circulation of people. The former serve as travel permits for a limited amount of time, while the latter promise some sort of protection from harm to the addressee, who is often, but not always, instructed to “come to his house”.

It has been recently suggested that the Coptic “protection letters” served more or less the same purpose as the Arabic “safe conducts”, but that they did so on a local level and were related to short distance travel. While this is partly a fruitful approach, the diverse nature of these Coptic documents demands further investigation of their multi-faceted relationship to governmental regulations on taxes and travel.

I compare the Arabic “safe conducts” and Coptic “protection letters,” in terms of structure, formulary, language, content, context and material aspects of the documents, with special attention to the description of the protection offered, as well as of its conditions and its limitations. The role played in the texts by movement, in forms such as travel or flight, sheds light on the varied ways in which the Arabic and Coptic documents offer different expressions of the same policies and regulations on circulation of people, but do not always necessarily have the same purpose. I propose an interpretation of the Coptic “protection letters” also as instruments of problem solving by which local officials and other authoritative agents exercised their power over the tax payers, particularly with regard to tax distribution and payment.


Petra SIJPESTEIJN (Leiden University): “After God, I turn to you:” Religious Expressions in Arabic Papyrus Letters

A large number of published and unpublished Arabic papyrus letters from Egypt dating to the 8th and 9th centuries CE concern requests for help and intercession. In some letters aid, mostly material, is asked for in general terms, but others address a specific case in which the addressee is asked to intervene. Religious expressions and invocations appear in these letters as they do in other letters in different forms and formats. Using examples of published and unpublished letters, this paper examines how religion and religious formulations operate in these letters. Religious expressions were part of the regular repertoire of letters at this time, but references to religion also appealed to certain associations and sentiments, reinforcing boundaries of exclusion and inclusion, which the scribes and senders of these letters used to support their requests.

To examine how this worked, I will first focus on how religious expressions and blessings appear as part of epistolary custom, style and rhetoric. Then, I will show how the use of religious language, invocations and claims is used to make specific assertions and statements, to address particular sentiments, and to establish (group) identities or individual preferences. By doing this, I aim to distinguish between the application of religious expressions in the structural framework of a religious society, including instances of God-talk, versus a functional use of religion.


Johannes THOMANN (University of Zurich): Scientific Texts-Books and their Application in Practice: Interdependencies of Literary and Documentary Evidence of Scientific Activities

There exists no general survey on docmentary evidence of scientific activities in the premodern Islamic World. Literary evidence of the sciences is abundant. Thousands of codices form the 9th to the 15th centuries are extant. In contrast, documents of scientific activities of the same epoch are scarce in many disciplines. An exception is magic, a field in which numerous documents exist and on which a number of studies have been published. Less studied is the documentary evidence for astrology.

In the present paper a number of astrological documents will be presented: Horoscopes, almanacs, ephemerides and a few other types. Their content will be compared to literary sources. It will be shown that the astrological concepts found in documents differs considerably from those described in literary sources. They are less learned and more popular. As in many other fields, documents are closer to every day life than treatises written for an intellectual elite.


Mathieu TILLIER (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne) / Naïm VANTHIEGHEM (CNRS Paris): A Quranic Manuscript on Papyrus From the End of the 7th Century and the Beginning of the 8th Century in the Hamburg Staatsbibliothek

The vast majority of the Hamburg collection of papyri has been edited in the 20th century by Albert Dietrich. Since then nothing more was published. During a visit in the collection in 2011 we identified seven damaged folios containing Sūrat al-baqara. The text is written in a Ḥidjāzī script that can be dated on palaeographical grounds to the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century. The text is sometimes divided into verses. In our paper, we will propose a codicological and philological study of the manuscript and will try to replace it in the context of the Egyptian Quranic tradition


Vincent WALTER (Leipzig University): “For you know about my life and the prison I am in:” The Late Coptic Paitos Dossier

In this paper, I will present a dossier of four unpublished Coptic letters written by a man named Paitos. Today, the texts are housed the papyrus collections of Columbia University in New York City, University College London and the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire in Strasbourg. All texts are written on paper, indicating a date in the 10th or 11th centuries CE. They are written in a pure Fayyumic dialect, so a location within the Fayyum oasis has to be assumed as their provenance.

Remarkably, the texts were not only sent by the same person, but they seem to be written over a relatively short period of time as they are concerned with interrelated events. The issue connecting the four texts appears to be the well-known phenomenon of tax evasion. In the first letter, Paitos tells the addressee that he has been ordered to return to his plot of land by his guarantor, a Muslim named Abū l-Qāsim. In the second letter, Paitos puts the addressee in charge of his plot of land until harvest time as he has since been imprisoned and cannot oversee it himself. In a third letter, Paitos sends more detailed instructions regarding the harvest and how to proceed with its yield, and he also briefly mentions that he has been set free. The contents of the fourth letter and its place in this sequence of events are less clear due to its fragmentary state.

While we know about the issue of tax evasion in early Islamic Egypt from a wide range of sources, most of our information is from the perspective of the administration rather than that of the landowners directly affected by rising tax rates. Therefore, this dossier promises to offer valuable insights and to further illuminate our understanding of tax evasion and its consequences for the population of rural Egypt.

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