Studi arabo-islamici e mediterranei vol. XXII - 2008
Atti del Convegno
I Fatimidi e il Mediterraneo
Il sistema di relazioni nel mondo dell’Islam e nell’area del Mediterraneo nel periodo della da‘wa fatimide (sec. X-XI): istituzioni, società, cultura Palermo 3-6 dicembre 2008
Accademia Libica in Italia Università degli Studi di Palermo
Studi arabo-islamici e mediterranei vol. XXII - 2008
Atti del Convegno
I Fatimidi e il Mediterraneo Il sistema di relazioni nel mondo dell’Islam e nell’area del Mediterraneo nel periodo della da‘wa fatimide (sec. X-XI): istituzioni, società, cultura
Palermo, 3-6 Dicembre 2008
Accademia Libica in Italia Università degli Studi di Palermo
STUDI E RICERCHE SUL MONDO ARABO-ISLAMICO E MEDITERRANEO Direttore: Ibrahim Magdud
Comitato Scientifico: Abdunahman Shalgam, Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, Antonino Pellitteri, Aghil Barbar, Ibrahim Magdud, Franca D'Addelfio
Comitato Consultivo: Mohamed Dweeb (Un. di el Margheb), Angelica Hartmann (Un. di Giessen), Khairia Kasmiah (Un. di Damasco), Mahmud Makki (Accademia della Lingua Araba, Cairo), Jean Paul Pascual (Un. di Aix-en-Provence), Yordan Peev (Un. di Sofia), Vincenzo Strika (Ist. Un. Orientale di Napoli), Abdul Hadi Al-Tazi (Accademia Reale del Marocco), Afif Turk (Un. Araba di Beirut), Frederick De Jong (Un. di Utrecht)
Hanno collaborato: Mohammed Abdellaoui, A.M. Abusbee, Mohammed Afifi, Dionisus A. Agius, Ammar Al Soumer, Angelo Arioli, Abdallah Ar-Rahebi,Cristiana Baldazzi, Paolo Barresi, Giulio Basetti-Sani, Alessandro Bausani, Stefano Berrettini, Lucia Bonafede, Giuseppe Bonaffini, Salvatore Bono, Laura Bottini, Ibrahim Al-Kadiri Boutchich, Daniela Bredi, Anna Brosolo, Giulio Brunella, Massimo Campanini, Ali Chebbi, Adriana Chirco, Agostino Cilardo, Federico Cresti, Giovanni Curatola, Wassim Dahmash, Lorenzo Declich, Rita Del Prete, Marco De Michelis, Rita Di Meglio, Elio Di Piazza, Erminia Dispensa, Rita Dolce, Mahmoud Edeek, Ahmed Etman, Brahim El Kadiri Boutchich, Samiha ElKalioubi, Milad A. Elmagrahi, Issam El-Zaim, Maria Grazia Enardu, Mustapha Ennaifer, Ahmed Etman, Alvaro Galmésde Fuentes, Francesco Gabrieli, Michele Giacalone, Jessica Giordano, Maritsa Gregorian, Laura Guazzone, Mahmoud Halawi, Bràhim Harakat, Muhammad Hassan, Axel Havemann, 'Ali S. Husneini, George Jabbur, Fuad Kabazi, Khairia Kasmieh, Wajih Kawtharani, Saad Khalil Kezeiri, Luana Lucidi, Pasquale Macaluso, Maria Amalia Mastelloni, Sheila Mclntyre, Muhannad Mobiadeen, Giovanni Montaina, Matteo Monteleone, Antonietta Nassi, Maria Chiara Nataloni, Martiniano Pellegrino Roncaglia di Villanova di Reggiolo, Antonino Pellitteri, Stefano Pellò, Bartolomeo Pirone, Abdul-Karim Rafeq, Lucia Rostagno, Abdallah Saaf, Salem Sari, Gianroberto Scarcia, Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, Maria Grazia Sciortino, Hassen Slama, Patrizia Spallino, Vincenzo Strika, Zoltàn Szombathy, Maria Tedesco Zammarano, 'Abderraliman Tlili, A. Magid Turki, Guido Valabrega, Rita Dolce. Stampa: Sprint s.a.s - Palermo
Alifbâ, Accademia Libica - Via Ricasoli 29, 90139 Palermo, Italia Tel. +39 091 332347 Fax +39 091 585859 www.accademialibica.com Alifbâ ospita articoli nelle lingue europee e in lingua araba © Accademia Libica in Italia
Mohamed Hassen, L’espace maritime ifriqiyen à l’époque fatimide
Jonathan M. Bloom, Islamic Art and Architecture in Sicily: How Fatimid is it?
Paul E. Walker, Kutāma, Kalbids and Other Westerners: the Maghāriba in Cairo
Shainool Jiwa, Historical representations of a Fatimid Imam-caliph: Exploring al-
Simonetta Calderini, Women and trade during the Fatimids
Maqrīzī’s and Idrīs’ writings on al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh
Delia Cortese, The political and economic contexts of Fātimid female patronage
during the reign of al-‘Azīz (365/975-386/996)
William Granara, Rethinking Muslim Sicily’s Golden Age: Poetry and Patronage at
Giovanna Calasso, La politica interreligiosa fatimide tra tolleranza e coercizione.
the Fatimid Kalbid Court
Riflessioni sulla categoria del muslimānī nell’Egitto dell’XI secolo Gianroberto Scarcia, Tra Africa ed Iran: incontro senza scontro
Fathi Nasib Muhammad, Al-Fikr as-Siyy…s† wa ad-D†n† f† al-‘A¡r al-F…¥im†, Ru’yah
Naqdiyyah 158 166
Abdeslem Charmate, Al-’Adab al-Mutawassi¥† f† al‘Ahd al-F…¥im† Lotfeyya El-Gabayli, ’Athar al-ðaÿ…rah al-Isl…miyyah f† Ÿiqilliyah, ’Imtiz…º al-
ðaÿ…ratayn al-‘Arabiyyah wa al-’Ur™bbiyyah, al-‘Ahd al-F…¥im† Nam™dhaº 185
Brahim El-Kadiri Boutchich, Al-F…¥imiyy™n wa Mashr™‘ Grazw al-Andalus: Sir…‘
khil…fatayn isl…miyyatayn f† Gharb al-Ba|r al-Mutawassi¥ khil…la al-Qarn 4 H/10
Presentazione Il tema della ri-lettura della storia, dell’Islam, con particolare riferimento alle relazioni tra dinastie e società nel bacino del Mediterraneo in epoca medievale e moderna, secondo una periodizzazione di tipo eurocentrica, è da qualche tempo al centro di un dibattito stimolante che coinvolge orientalisti, intellettuali e storici occidentalisti. La produzione storiografica siciliana della prima metà dell’Ottocento, poca nota al di fuori dell’ambito regionale, avvalendosi dei risultati prodotti dalla ricerca arabistica in senso stretto, dedicò, in un’epoca di transizione e di ricomposizione degli assetti politicoistituzionali dell’isola, importante spazio al «problema» della presenza dell’Islam nella Sicilia, con particolare riguardo all’epoca fatimide, periodo in cui diversi fattori concorsero alla formazione di una pretesa cultura siciliana distinta. La suddetta produzione va analizzata come intimamente legata allo svolgimento di idee e di sentimenti, impossibile da scindere o da isolare, senza rischiare, come da qualche parte si sottolinea giustamente, di sottovalutarla e/o di impoverirla. E’ interessante rilevare il dato che la moderna storiografia siciliana, nel porsi di fronte al «problema», non solo allo studio, della presenza dell’Islam nella più grande isola mediterranea, rappresentò un fenomeno complesso, per molti aspetti, originale e anticonformista rispetto a tendenze storiografiche dominanti nell’Europa del tempo. Ciò va rilevato, sia che si analizzino altre esperienze europee della stessa epoca, sia che si guardi alla ricerca storica siciliana dei nostri tempi, compresa quella propriamente arabistica, al cui interno approcci come quelli tracciati da Michele Amari a metà dell’Ottocento continuano a costituire consolidati percorsi e non sembrano, almeno per il momento, divenire oggetto di ri-considerazione. Questo interessa, invece, la cultura orientalistica spagnola, alle prese con la specifica «questione» della presenza dell’Islam nella penisola iberica. È fuori discussione che «on ne peut guère ajouter que des broutilles à l’immortelle Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia», come sosteneva Marius Canard, l’islamista francese che grande impegno profuse nello studio di importante aspetti della dawla fatimide. È vero altresì che ri-vedere la storia dell’Islam in Sicilia, a cominciare dalla rilettura delle fonti consultate dall’Amari, sia avvertito da più parti come un bisogno implicante: l’ampliamento del campo di indagine; l’individuazione di nuovi materiali da utilizzare; la riproposizione di «problemi», nel tentativo di arricchire non soltanto ciò che si considera storia culturale, ma di precisare l’idea stessa di storia politica relativa alla presenza dell’Islam nella Sicilia e nell’area mediterranea più in generale . La sequela degli avvenimenti a cui ci hanno abituato le tradizionali fonti arabo-musulmane, dall’Amari raccolte ed analizzate, in gran parte dovute alla penna di storici musulmani maghribini vissuti in epoca posteriore ai fatti narrati, possono infatti spingere il ricercatore a ritenere definitivi noti giudizi storico-politici sulla storia della dinastia fatimide. Quindi le recenti scoperte archeologiche, i nuovi ed importanti studi a carattere socioeconomico, l’edizione di fonti arabo-islamiche, si pensi a quelle sciite e ismailite, fino a qualche tempo fa sconosciute ai più e ignote all’Amari, ancora oggi sono solo in parte utilizzate. Esse presentano delle novità che ripropongono la ridefinizione del ruolo della Si-
cilia nel quadro della appartenenza al D…r al-Isl…m, come «terra di frontiera» (ÅhaÐr) e di gih…d. Tema interessante questo, per cui si rinvia ad alcuni studi siciliani di Umberto Rizzitano sulla politica dei governatori fatimidi a Palermo, i cosiddetti kalbiti o Bani Abi’l-Husayn (in Storia e cultura nella Sicilia saracena, 1975), e i saggi di A. Pellitteri, I Fatimiti e La Sicilia X sec. (1997); “The Historical-ideological Framework of Islamic Fatimid Sicily with reference to the Works of the Qadi’l-Nu’man” (al-Masaq 7/1994). È partendo da tale consapevolezza che gli organizzatori di questo Convegno sui Fatimidi hanno richiesto a tutti gli studiosi partecipanti, arabi, europei ed americani, l’impegno volto a proporre con rigore scientifico nuovi materiali sulla dawla fatimide all’epoca della sua affermazione in Ifriqiyyah, delineando con maggiore precisione le modalità della trasmissione dei saperi e della ricezione degli stessi in ambito mediterraneo, non mancando di approfondire il quadro delle relazioni tra la più importante isola in mano ai musulmani e l’imamato fatimita nel sec. X, sotto i diversi aspetti della storia politica e di quella culturale, della struttura del sistema istituzionale, della società e della tendenze giuridiche e dottrinali, nonché artistiche. L’opera storica e storico-esortativa del Q…ÿ† al-Nu‘m…n, q…ÿ†’l-quÿ…t fatimita, morto a Fustat nel 973, pur senza aggiungere importanti novità nell’esposizione degli avvenimenti già noti, propone allo studioso una più nitida cornice storico-politica all’interno del quale inserire il discorso sulle relazioni mediterranee nella prima epoca fatimide. Da tale punto di vista l’opera di edizione di fonti sciite e d’epoca fatimide è senza dubbio fondamentale. A tal fine si riconosce al The Institute of Ismaili Studies di Londra un ruolo di primo piano come contributo alla discussione sul tema al centro dei lavori di questo Incontro internazionale di Palermo. Si ringrazia pertanto il Presidente dr. Farhad Daftary, nonché amico nostro e della scuola palermitana di islamistica, per avere accettato di essere presente attivamente a Palermo e per aver offerto il patrocinio dell’importante Istituto londinese che dirige. Se è vero che la crisi politica del mondo dell’Islam, allorquando a partire dal 937 dinastie e clan familiari si ritagliavano il proprio potere personale (mulk), va sicuramente considerata cornice entro cui delineare un più preciso profilo storico-politico degli avvenimenti accaduti in quel secolo nel mondo islamico in generale e quindi nella Sicilia musulmana, la seguente considerazione di Ibn ðawqal, talvolta banalizzato, spesso considerato tout court un appassionato propagandista al servizio dei califfi-imam sciiti nel Nordafrica, può considerarsi una chiave di lettura che gli articoli proposti in questo volume di Atti, mettono in evidenza. Scriveva infatti in Surat al-ard il grande geografo arabo-musulmano vissuto nel sec. X, a proposito della situazione politica dell’Egitto ikhshidita e della aggressività di Bisanzio nel Mediterraneo orientale: «il potere (mulk) è inesistente; il signore (almalik) pensa solo ai propri interessi; l’uomo di scienza (al-‘…lim) è dedito alle ruberie ed è corrotto, senza che alcuno intervenga; il giurisperito (al-faq†h) si comporta come lupo affamato che sa destreggiarsi di fronte ad ogni evenienza ed approfitta di tutte le opportunità a lui offerte; il commerciante è un mentitore palese, tutto gli viene permesso in fatto di illiceità; i territori con le loro popolazioni sono lasciati in balia dei nemici».
Antonino Pellitteri Ibrahim Magdud
L’espace maritime ifriqiyen à l’époque fatimide
Depuis l’Antiquité, la conception de la Mare nostrum des romains, appelée à partir de la IIème moitié du IIIème siècle Mare Mediterraneum, est plurielle. A part la division tri-partite en mer occidentale, médiane et orientale, on y distinguait 21 subdivisions, telle que la mare Tyrrhenum, ou Balearicum. Les dénominations arabes de cette mer sont également multiples: mer des Rûms (Bahr al Rûm) selon Ibn Rustuh et Ibn Al Athîr, mer du Shâm (bahr al shâm) selon Al Idrîsi, mer du Maghreb (bahr al Maghrib ou al Maghribî) selon Ibn Hawqal et Yâqut, et à une échelle locale en face de Kairouan, on parlait des mers de Tunis, Sousse, Mahdia, Sfax et Gabes1. Cette côte méridionale de la méditerranée, aussi bien que la côte septentrionale, était fort animée et dynamique tout le long de l’Histoire, et notamment au Haut Moyen Age. Seulement, les données archéologiques concernant l’Ifriqiya demeurent peu concluantes, tant que les épaves qui gisaient au fond de la Méditerranée et témoignant du dynamisme des relations commerciales entre les différentes contrées, ne sont pas analysées, et que les ports ensablés ou engloutis au fond des mers ne sont pas étudiés 2. Par suite, la principale source utilisée jusqu’à nos jours est constituée par les sources littéraires, que ce soit arabes ou bien latines et grecques. Notre étude focalisée sur l’évolution de l’espace maritime se réfère à une approche à la fois historique, géographique et archéologique, et à des sources écrites diverses, tels que les ouvrages de jurisprudence (fiqh). A ce sujet, les informations sont plus précises à l’époque fatimide, à cause du rôle socio-économique et politique de la navigation, * 1
Faculté des Sciences Humaines et Sociales de Tunis
2 E.E. Rice, The sea and history, p. 21 (traduction arabe, Alim al Ma’rifa, Kuwayt 2005, p. 21). X. De Planhol, l’Islam et la mer, Paris, Perrin, 2000. Ceux-ci pensaient, sans raison, que la partie septentrionale, ayant des données naturelles plus favorisées et mieux dotée par des installations portuaires, a connu une navigation plus importante que celle de la frange méridionale de la Méditerranée.
concrétisée par les rivalités entre les grandes puissances, et en l’occurrence les Fatimides, les Omeyades et les Byzantins. En effet, l’ouvrage d’Al Jawdhari, tout comme Al Muqtabis pour Al Andalus, montre bien l’intérêt porté par l’Ifriqiya à la mer. Quant aux fetwas malékites et au traité de Akriyat al Sufun, ils concernent l’organisation de la vie navale en Ifriqiya. Sachant que l’histoire maritime prend plusieurs dimensions géologiques, historiques, archéologiques, et technologiques, les livres et articles concernant ce sujet ne sont pas rares. Nous évoquons à titre d’exemple les études récentes de C. Picard, un ouvrage d’A. Pelliteri sur les «fatimides et le Sicile» etc. Nous essayons de traiter ce sujet en trois niveaux: les bases de la construction navale, la nouvelle carte des installations portuaires et la constitution de l’espace maritime s’étendant entre Barqa et Oran. I - Les bases de la construction navale à l’époque fatimide
1 - Le problème du bois: Durant la période antique, plusieurs essences de bois de charpente sont produits sur place, en Ifriqiya et au Maghreb, notamment le bois du chêne, du frêne, de l’olivier, du pin, du pistachier, du cèdre et de l’orme ; le reste des variétés tels que l’acacia, le cyprès, l’érable, le hêtre, le mûrier, le noyer et le sapin sont importés en cas de nécessité en dehors de l’Afrique3. Il est possible que la matière de base n’a pas connu une grande évolution au X ème siècle, à part que le mûrier, le noyer et probablement le cyprès et le hêtre sont cultivés en Afrique du nord, puisqu’ils sont mentionnés dans les textes de l’époque. Mais, on n’est pas en mesure pour le moment d’évaluer correctement l’importance de chaque essence dans la construction des bateaux. Comme le bois était importé de la Sicile en premier lieu, il parait que les monts Saint Marco et que les régions nord ouest d’Etna, Nebrodi, Madronita produisaient le meilleur bois, dont les principales variétés sont, d’après Yaqut, le pignon, le pin et le cèdre. Depuis le IX e siècle, les émirs aghlabides octroyaient des terres en iqta’ aux anciens vétérans, à condition de leur procurer le bois nécessaire à la construction navale dans le port de Syracuse. Au Xe siècle, une importante quantité de bois (‘ud) a été transportée sur le bateau de Jawdhar à Mahdia 4. 3 A. Barkaoui, A propos du bois de construction des bateaux cartaginois, Séances scientifiques, INP, p. 50. l’équivalent en arabe de ces termes est le suivant: le chêne: ballout, sindayân, le frêne: dardaâr, murrân l’olivier: zaytûn, le pin: sanawbar, le pistachier: al fustuq, le cèdre: al urz: al dardâr, bouquisa; l’acacia: sant, aqaâqiya, le cyprès: sarw, l’érable: qayqab, le hêtre: zân, murrân, le mûrier: tût, le noyer: jawz et le sapin: tannub,jins min al sanawbiriyât. Et s’il n y a pas une règle à appliquer pour la charpente, du moment que les essences de bois varient d’un bateau à autre, les bois les plus utilisés pendant la période antique sont le chêne, le pin et le sapin. 4 Al Jawdharî, Sirat al Ustâdh Jawdhar, Le Caire, s.d., p.121. Yaqut, Mu’jam al buldân, p. 418. Sayyid Abdelaziz Salim, Tarikh al bahriyya al islamiyya, p. 58. H.H. Abdelwahhâb, Waraqât, T2, p. 30. A. Pelliteri, El Fatimiti e la Sicilia, p. 83.
La reconquête de Taormine et de Rametta fût l’ultime effort fourni par les fatimides pour soumettre la partie orientale de l’île. Les habitants de ces régions conquises sont astreints à une corvée qui est la coupe du bois. Ce qui explique leur fuite en direction du territoire byzantin et la carence du bois. C’est ainsi que Jawdhar a fait don du bois de son magasin personnel à l’arsenal pour construire les mâts et vergues 5. Les constructeurs des bateaux (al nashshâûn li-sufun) entraient à Malte, conquise par les Aghlabides depuis 255 H/870, puisque le sapin (sanawbar al dheroui) y abandonnait. L’auteur de Akriyat al sufun précisait que le bois est transporté de Malte, ainsi que les planches(umud) qui étaient extraites de Pantellaria. Al Bakri ajoutait qu’on y retrouve le pin, le frêne (‘aarar) et l’olivier, destinés à être transporté à la Sicile6. En Andalousie, le bois est mentionné dans plusieurs régions, et notamment à Tortosa où le bois de construction des mats est extrait des pins appelés charbîn. Il en est de même à Gades, Ibiza et Silvès7. Malgré l’intervention des Byzantins auprès de l’église pour empêcher l’exportation du bois vers la rive sud de la Méditerranée, et leur tentative pour mettre fin à ce trafic, Venise et Amalfi étaient les deux ports les plus importants de la rive nord de la Méditerranée qui fournissaient certains essences de bois à l’Ifriqiya au X e siècle8. Quant aux différentes étapes de la préparation du bois pour la construction du navire, elles ont été relatées dans un passage de G. Malaterra datant de 1079, en ce qui concerne la Sicile normande de traditions orientales 9. 2 - La construction navale, technique et organisation: La navigation au Xème siècle a utilisé la boussole, le portulan, la carte nautique, les nouvelles techniques (détermination de la latitude, voile triangulaire), et les nouveaux procédés de construction de bateaux10. 5
F. Dachraoui, op. cit., p. 392. Daoudi, kitab al amwâl, p. 436. Jawdhari, Sirat Jawdhar, p. 176.
Yahiya Ibn Umar, “Kitab al akriya”, C.T., 1983, n°123-124, p. 48. Al Bakri, Masalik, TI, pp. 486-487:
Yâqût, Mu’jim, TIV, p. 30-31. C. Picard, la mer et les musulmans d’occident, p.161. En 971 les byzantins ont brûlé, à titre d’exemple, trois bateaux vénitiens chargés de bois en destination de Mahdia et Tripoli. 9 G. Malaterra, pp. 212-213. En effet, l’acquisition du bois passent par les étapes suivantes: sélection des essences, abattage des arbres par les bûcherons, transport et stockage. - Engager les maîtres - charpentiers et les menuisiers à tailler et raboter le bois. - fabriquer le gouvernail (en utilisant le fer). - construire la structure du navire - boucher les fissures - construire les voiles - préparer l’équipage. 10 J. Vernet, Ce que la culture doit aux arabes d’Espagne, Paris 1978, p. 257. 7 8
En effet, l’architecture navale a connu le passage du système antique «sur bordé premier» à un autre système médiéval «sur membrure première» ou «construction sur squelette» ou «sur couples». Cet aspect technique adéquat à la pénurie du bois dans le monde musulman, pourrait être perçu comme une évolution qui a facilité l’expansion musulmane en Méditerranée occidentale. Ce n’est pas un hasard que cette période coïncide avec la construction de l’arsenal de Rawdha en Egypte en 54/674 et de celui de Tunis en 76/696. D’ailleurs la similitude du système sur membrure au large de la Turquie et de la Provence, attestée par les 2 épaves sarrasines du X ème siècle de Cannes et d’Agay A, et celle de Serçe Limani (du XI ème s., en Turquie) prouve que cette technique s’est propagée en Méditerranée. Sachant que la conception de cette technique se base sur le maître gabarit pour déterminer la forme des membrures, et un autre instrument en bois, la tablette d’acculement, le vocable gabarit, appelé aussi galibo en italien, ga’libo en espagnol, garbi en provençal, dérive fort probablement du mot arabe qâlib. Ce qui verse dans l’hypothèse du développement de cette technique à partir du 7 ème siècle, tout en tenant compte de la spécificité de chaque région, en fonction des moyens disponibles et des techniques de construction utilisées11. A partir du 9ème et notamment au 10ème s., la terminologie nautique n’a cessé de se développer. Les textes arabes, aussi bien que latins, font mention de certains vocables en relation avec les types de bateaux, les éléments du navire, et les acteurs de la navigation: Ainsi, un type de navire militaire appelé sandal a été mentionné à l’époque fatimide, sachant que le sandal est un arbre cultivé en Inde de deux types: rouge ayant un bois solide et blanc avec un bois fragile de bonne odeur. D’autres navires de guerre sont appelés shînî ou marâkib harbiyya. La flotte militaire ou escadre (al ustûl)12. Alors que le navire de transport (al marqab al hammâl) est destiné vraisemblablement au transport du bois ou du blé, les vocables qârib, safîna, marqab, marâquib al Sultân, pourraient signifier aussi bien transport des marchandises que navires de guerre 13. 11 A. Darmoul, “les épaves sarrasines, Conribution à l’étude des techniques de constructions navales musulmanes en méditeranéennes”, L’homme et la mer, Actes du 3ème Congrès des Cultures de la Méditerranée Occidentale, Jerba, Avril 1981, pp. 152-165. J.P. Joncheray et Ph. Sénac,” Une nouvelle épave sarrasine du haut Moyen Âge”, Archéologie Islamique, n° 5, Paris 195, pp. 25-34. E; Rieth, «Des épaves médiévales aux chantiers navals traditionnels tunisiens: une histoire croisée de l’architecture navale en Méditerranée», Bateaux et ports méditerranéens, bilan et perspectives, Tunis 2006, pp. 90-91, 97, 99. P.Pomey et E. Rieth, Archéologie navale, Paris, pp. 12-46. 12 Dachraoui, Le Califat fatimide au maghreb, pp. 383-384. Sirat Jawdhar, p. 97:
Qazwini, ajâ’ib la makhlûqât, p. 226. Al Maqdisî évoque les shawâni, lorsque les navires sont réunis à Chypre en vue d’une expédition militaire. Nu’mâ, Majâlis wal musâyarât, p. 194. 13 Nu’mân, op.cit., p.180, 194. Ibn Idhâri, Al bayân, T1, p. 178 (expedition contre Sant’Agata di Calabria):
Par ailleurs, certains termes ayant attrait à la construction du bateau sont mentionnés, tels que: La quille (qa’ al marqab) mentionnée dans une responsa (nâzila) datant du X e siècle14. – la quille (rijl, sukkâna) – la proue (sadr al markib) - le mat (ou sawâri ) et la vergue (al qariyya- al qarâya), servant à porter la voile. Il est clair que le mat et les accessoires de la voile utilisent un genre de bois solide, que les Fatimides apportaient de la Sicile1. Les autres outils employés sont: les cordes (hibâls), les clous (masâmir), le bitume (zift et qutrân), la cire (chama’)16. De même, la terminologie concernant les acteurs de la mer devient variée: - Sâhib al bahr, mutawalli al bahr ou mutawalli khazâ’in al bahr: Il s’agit en fait d’un officier adjoint de l’amiral, responsable des dépôts et magasins de l’arsenal, et non le chef de la marine ou l’amiral lui-même. Husayn Ibn Ya’qub qui était sâhib al bahr sous Al Mu’iz, dépendait du pouvoir de Jawdhar. Dans un chapitre de la Muqaddima consacré aux institutions royales, Ibn Khaldun notait que le sâhib al ustûl (le commandant de la flotte), appelé almiland (almalland) au Maghrib, avait une fonction officielle. Il va de soi que sa place dans le pouvoir est importante, et seconde le calife et le grand qadi. Seulement le calife fatimide n’a guère désigné un amiral, et commandait directement les opérations maritimes à partir du port de Mahdia. - En dehors du propriétaire du navire (sâhib ou rabb al safîna, appelé nâkhudha en persan), les véritables acteurs de la navigation commerciale sont: le capitaine (al ra’is, rabbân), les marins (nawâtiyya), et les soldats de la marine, appelés al-ustuliyyiûn17. Notons que les différents entre le propriétaire (sâhib ou rabb al safîna) et le locataire sont réglés par une précise juridiction mise en place. Les causes de ces conflits sont multiples, telles que: le changement de destination du navire, suite à une forte tempête que ce soit pour les traversées de la mer entre l’Ifriqiya et le nord de la Méditerranée(Sicile, Andalousie etc.) ou le cabotage (al rîf al rîf) entre 14 Ibn Abi Zayd (mort en 386 H/996) a été interrogé sur un navire qui est arrivé au port de Mahdia, et qu’une tempête a fait que sa quille a heurté le fond de la mer (qâ’im al bahr). 15 Nu’mân, majâlis, p. 194: rijl qâribihim, Ibn Jubayr, Rihla, p. 311: sanaha al markab bi sukkânihi wa huma rijlâhu allati yusrafu bihimâ. 4uyun al Akhbâr, p. 89: Kutiba ‘al sudur al marâquib al harbiyy: hadhihi al muntaquima. Al Jawdhari, Sirat al Ustath Jawdhar, p. 119. L’esclavon Jawdhar disposait dans ses magasins de ce bois de «de bonne qualité»:
Al Râchidi, Al ta’rîj wa-l tabrîj, p.180:
Ibn Khaldun, La Muqaddima, (edition de Beyrout, Dar al kitâb al Lubnâni), p. 447.
Alexandrie et l’Ifriqiya par exemple, sachant que le cabotage était utile pour charger et décharger les marchandises; ce qui a été prouvé par la diversité du matériel transporté retrouvé dans les épaves sarrasines. Dans le kitâb Akriyat al sufun, l’auteur cite plusieurs exemples de nolis, à destination de Tripoli, Sousse, Tunis, Alexandrie, Barqa et notamment Mahdia. La traversée entre Mahdia et la Sicile n’est pas évidente: à deux reprises, elle a échoué: dans le premier cas le bateau s’est arrêté à Kelibia; dans le 2ème, il a dû rebrousser chemin18. En somme, la construction navale a connu une nette évolution au Xème siècle. L’utilisation de la haute mer est attestée par les documents de Jeniza, dans les voyages entre Almeria et Alexandrie. Toutefois, le cabotage reste largement pratiqué, non pas par mesure de retard technologique, mais pour des utilités de transaction commerciale19. II - Nouvelle carte des installations portuaires (ports, arsenaux et fortifications)
1 - La navigation en Ifriqiya à l’époque Aghlabide: ports, rîbât/s et arsenaux: La principale caractéristique de la navigation pendant cette période est une nouvelle organisation de la mer, qui est concrétisée par la coexistence de trois éléments: le port, l’arsenal et le fort (ribât) . a - Les ports et rîbât/s: on peut distinguer trois zones dans la mer de l’Ifriqiya au IX e siècle: la zone occidentale comportant les ports de Tabarqa , Bône, Marsa al Kharaz (La Calle), Qal’at Khattâb, Jijel, Skikda, Danhâja (marsa Danhâja), Marsa al Dajâj etc.20 - la zone insulaire, avec les îles (de la Sicile, de Malte etc.). - la zone méridionale concernant la Tripolitaine. - la principale frange littorale orientale s’étendant de Bizerte jusqu’à Gabes, est constituée successivement des mers de Tunis, Sousse, Mahdia, Sfax, et Gabès. Les ports sont attestés par une série de ribats qui deviennent plus rapprochés dans
18 M. Ibn Umar, «Kitab Akriyat al sufun», Les Cahiers de Tunisie, Tome XXXI, n° 123-124, Tunis, 1° et 2° tr. 1983, pp. 13, 16, 18, 23, 25, 35. 19 Y. Lev (“the fatimid navy, byzantium and the mediterranean sea”, in Byzantion, Tome LIV, fascicule 1, Bruxelles, 1984, pp. 227, 251) avance sans raison que la navigation fatimide n’a pas pratiqué la haute mer, et que les fatimides qui ont participé à 12 batailles, et n’ont gagné que six, ne pourraient pas être qualifiés des maîtres de la Méditerranée, surtout qu’ils n’ont pas pu limiter le pouvoir de la marine byzantine, qui a pu conquérir la Crète et Chypre. 20 Ya’qûbi, Buldân, p. 351.
le Sahel, entre Hergla et Sfax. Le IXème siècle a connu la fondation de nouvelles ville-ports, telles que Monastir, Qasr Zyad et notamment Sfax21. Il s’agit en fait de la frange littorale utile, en relation directe avec Kairouan. Et comme les ports sont très rapprochés, la théorie des « échelles puniques» de P. Cintas, distantes de 35 à 40 km et servant au repos des navires avant de continuer leur route n’est pas vérifiée pour le XIème et Xème siècle.
b - Les arsenaux à bassin double: - L’arsenal de Tunis: Certes, les Arabes qui ont fondé Kairouan ont évité de s’installer sur le littoral de peur des incursions byzantines au VIIème siècle. Toutefois, ils n’ont jamais abandonné la côte depuis l’arrivée des premiers conquérants en Byzacène en 27h/647 et notamment depuis la fondation de l’arsenal de Tunis en 74 H/694 par le wâli Hassan Ibn Nu’mân. Alors que les berbères se sont chargés du transport du bois de charpente, l’arsenal de Tunis a été mis en place grâce à l’ingéniosité de 1000 techniciens coptes 22. «L’arsenal de Tunis, disait al Bakri, touchait au port et le port au lac (La goulette), lequel communique avec la mer. A sud du port, un château construit en pierre d’une manière très solide. Au nord du port, s’étend une clôture de pierre semblable à une muraille. Pour entrer dans le port les navires doivent passer entre la muraille du château et celle-ci; une chaîne de fer, que l’on peut tendre à travers ce passage, empêche au besoin, les bâtiments d’y pénétrer et d’en sortir». Ce port a été en liaison directe avec l’Andalus depuis sa conquête, et notamment avec la Sicile et le territoire byzantin à l’époque fatimide. Alors que la durée du cabotage entre Tunis et Ténes est de 10 jours, la traversée de la mer de Ténes en direction de Tudemir (sud est de l’Andalus) est d’une seule journée 23.
21 Bakri, op. cit., p. 669. Labîdi, Manâquib Abî Ishâq, p. 33: A propos de Qasr Ziyâd, il disait: (Sâhiba ustûl al sultân fî ‘askarin adhimin wa saqâliba wa ma’ahu khalqun mina–l bahriyyîn wal zawîliyyin fi-l salâsil). Maliki, Riyâdh al nufûs, T2, p. 222:
L’importance de Sfax, caractérisée par le flux et le reflux de la mer, est attestée par la présence d’une série de fortifications qui l’entourent: Mahrès Botria, Al Luza, Qasr Zyâd (sa vocation à l’époque fatimide est transformée en dépôt pour le matériel de l’arsenal), Jabala, Abi-l Ghusn, Maqdamân, et Rihâna. 22 Bakri, Masâlik, p. 38. 23 Nu’mân, Majâlis, p. 201. Bakri, op. cit., p. 39, trad. pp. 84-85. Ya’qubi, Buldân, pp. 353-354:
- L’arsenal de Sousse, l’avant port de Kairouan: Depuis la deuxième moitié du IIème s. / VIIIème s., les fortifications maritimes (ribâts) construites ont consolidé la place des installations portuaires entre Bizerte et Sfax, et plus précisément entre Sousse et Sfax, qui étaient les deux seules agglomérations (qariya) du littoral24. La mer de Sousse attestée par al Bakri s’étend sur une côte de plus de 50 km, de Lamta au sud à Horrea Caelia (Ahirgaliyya) au nord. L’arsenal de Sousse, d’après la description d’al Bakri, est munie d’une grande porte, utilisée pour le passage des navires reliant l’arsenal au port du coté est25. Cette solide infrastructure portuaire, dont certains éléments sont encore conservés (tels que les deux moles, une brise-lame) a abrité une importante flotte militaire, qui a servi à la conquête de la Sicile en 212 H/825 26. En bref, l’espace maritime de l’Ifriqiya a connu une nette évolution, d’abord dans le sens d’un rétrécissement à partir de 124 H/742 suite à la perte de la wilaya d’Ifriqiya de son hégémonie sur le Maghreb extrême et central. Désormais, l’Ifriqiya aghlabide correspond à celle de l’époque romaine. Ainsi, ses ports et mouillages s’étendent de Marsa al Dajâj et Jijel jusqu’à la Tripolitaine. Toutefois, la période fatimide est caractérisée par une nouvelle expansion du territoire maritime, couvrant à la fois le district de Barqa et l’ancien territoire des Rustumides de Tahert au Maghreb central.
2 - La vocation maritime de Mahdiyya: La fondation de cette ville avait facilité l’hégémonie sur l’Egypte, comme étant une étape nécessaire pour arriver à la prise de la capitale abbaside. D’après la division tripartite du Maghreb par Ibn Hawqal (qui l’a visitée en 336H/947), elle fait partie d’une aire maritime plus vaste, s’étendant de Tripoli jusqu’à Cherchel. A l’intérieur de cette division même, les sources géographiques arabes, et en l’occurrence Al Bakrî, distinguaient entre plusieurs mers: ceux de Tunis, Sousse, Mahdia, Sfax, Gabès, Tripoli etc. En ce qui concerne le port, il est à noter qu’on retrouve ce genre de structure taillée dans le roc à l’intérieur de la terre, aussi bien en Ifriqiya (ceux de Tunis et de Sousse) qu’en Orient (Akka et Tyr)27. 24 Ibn Abi Zayd, Al nawâdir wa –l ziyâdât, ms 5728, 261 a. Ces deux agglomérations ont été dotées de mosquée- cathédrale, d’après les sources juridiques. 25 Bakri, masâlik, p. 35. Située sur une colline, Hadrumetum à l’époque romaine, devenue Justuniapolis à l’époque byzantine, cette ville a été entourée d’une muraille construite par les soins de l’esclavon Ftâta en 245 H/860. En 206/822, l’esclavon Masrûr a construit le minaret du ribât, comme l’atteste l’inscription in situ. 26 Bakri, al Masâlik wa-l Mamâlik, édition de Tunis, p. 688. A. Lezine, Deux villes d’Ifriqiya, pp. 80-90. 27 Maqdisi, op. cit., pp. 163-164: le port de Akka, tout comme celui de Tyr, est entouré d’une muraille, et muni d’une porte voûtée qui contrôlait le passage des navires à l’aide d’une chaîne
Le témoignage d’Al Bakri concernant le port de Mahdia est confirmé par son état actuel: «le port se ferme au moyen d’une chaîne de fer que l’on tend entre deux tours situés de chaque côté de l’entrée du bassin; quand on veut laisser entrer un navire, les gardes des tours lâchent un bout de la chaîne, ensuite ils la rétablissent dans son état ordinaire; par cette précaution, on se garantit contre les tentatives hostiles des Rûms»28. Ainsi, les données historiques et archéologiques réunies nous aident à avoir une certaine conception de l’arsenal de Mahdia (dar al sinâ’a, dar sinâ’a –t – mawlâna). A l’instar de ceux de Malaga, Séville, Almeria, Tortosa, Alaeya en Turquie, il paraît que celui de Mahdia est un endroit clos, partiellement couvert, entouré d’une muraille flanquée de tours, d’après le Carmen pisanorum. Tout comme celui d’Almeria, il était construit par le Calife, symbolisant l’autorité. Les termes utilisés dans la biographie de l’eunuque Jawdhar rendent compte de ses différentes fonctions, tels que: - dâr al bahr: mentionné deux fois dans riyâdh al nufûs et une autre dans sirat Jawdhar. Il n’est synonyme ni du terme arsenal, ni d’un château princier. Il s’agit probablement d’un ouvrage de guerre, faisant partie de l’espace arsenal29. - khazâin al bahr, ou hawâij al bahr wa ghayruhâ min al khazâin: les magasins qui servent au stockage du bois, à l’abri des altérations provoquées par les variations de la température30. Ainsi, les fonctions de cet arsenal sont multiples: technique (stockage du bois et des autres matériaux dans les deux salles voûtées, et construction navale à ciel ouvert), administratif (approvisionnement et gestion du chantier, fiscalité) et même politique31. En ce qui concerne son emplacement, la véracité de l’hypothèse d’A. Lézine reste grande, à savoir l’existence de deux lagunes: bassin rectangulaire secondé par un 2 ème probablement circulaire. Il s’en suit que le port et l’arsenal sont liés par une porte, et que l’arsenal qui contient 200 navires est taillé dans le roc à l’est du château. Quant au deuxième arsenal dont les vestiges sont restés à côté de la grande mosquée, il serait moins important que le 1er, et probablement tardif, car il n’est mentionné que par Marmol (qui a visité la ville en 1550), alors que les autres Al-Bakri, op. cit., p. 30, trad. 67. F. Dachraoui, op. cit., p. 391. 30 Jawdhari, Sirat al ustadh Jawdhar, voir les pages suivantes: 28 29
C. Picard, Les arsenaux musulmans de la Méditerranée et de l’Océan Atlantique (VVème-XVème siècle).
sources (Bakri, Ibn Hammâd et Tijâni, témoins oculaires) le situent à l’est du château d’Al Mahdi 32. D’après Al Bakrî, l’arsenal, dont la construction est formée de 2 voûtes, contenait 200 navires. Pour son emplacement précis, Al Maqrîzi ajoutait: «Al Mahdi a ordonné de tailler dans le roc à l‘intérieur de la ville un arsenal qui pourrait contenir 200 navires. L’édifice est munie d’une porte, à l’instar de celui de Sousse». Ce détail est confirmé par la description du Carmen Pisanorum: «D’autres pénètrent dans un port fait admirablement, et saccagent l’arsenal («darse») et toutes les tours, Ils tirent d’ici 1000 navires” 33. Par conséquent, la construction des installations portuaires de Mahdia qui ont drainé le trafic maritime et terrestre au dépens de Sousse, a eu des conséquences majeures sur l’organisation de l’espace maritime et terrestre du triangle vital: Kairouan- Sfax- Sousse en particulier, et de la Méditerranée occidentale et centrale en généal. L’activité de cet arsenal, qui est en forte relation avec le pouvoir central, ne se traduit pas seulement par les guerres et les conflits, mais également par les échanges économiques et les contacts humains.
3 - Nouvelle carte des ports et des arsenaux fatimides: Il va de soi que le réseau portuaire a connu des mutations majeures, de l’Antiquité au Moyen Age, que ce soit au nord de la Méditerranée ou bien au sud34. Son évolution, caractérisée par la multiplication des ports et des structures portuaires, s’est opéré en fonction du développement du commerce maritime méditerranéen; les conflits qui surgissaient ne sont pas loin des convoitises écono-
32 A. Louhichi a essayé de réfuter la thèse de l’existence de deux arsenaux à Mahdia, en s’appuyant sur le texte tardif de Marmol et sur les données archéologiques retrouvées dans l’arsenal conservé actuellement près de la grande Mosquée. Nous tenons à remarquer que: - L’étude de l’arsenal nécessite une étude exhaustive des sources. A part Marmol qui est tardif, trois autres sources confirment les dires d’AL Bakri. Il en de même pour les sources latines. - Les autres détails mentionnés dans le texte d’al Bakri, ne sont pas admis (la capacité de contenir 200 navires), ou bine ne sont pas évoqués, tels que l’arsenal taillé dans le roc, la porte de l’arsenal par laquelle entrent les navires. - L’identification des deux salles voûtées mentionnées par Al Bakri aux vestiges en place n’est pas sûre, d’après l’auteur lui-même. Notons que ces salles ne servaient pas à abriter la fabrication des navires, mais plutôt le matériel nécessaire (bois, fer, cordes, goudron etc). Il paraît d’ailleurs que des entrepôts privés, et en l’occurrence celui de Jawdhar, contenaient également ces matériaux. - L’étude comparative avec les deux arsenaux de Sousse et de Tunis démontrent l’existence d’un arsenal relié au port. 33 Bakri, Masalik, edit. De Slane, p. 30. 34 G. Jehel, La Méditerranée médiévale, de 350 à 1450, Paris 1992, p. 122. Cet auteur considérait que «dans l’ensemble le réseau portuaire à l’époque médiévale recouvre celui de L’Antiquité», et que « les Arabes ont contribué à la remise en état et au développement de nombreux ports d’origine romaine, Cadix, Cartagène, Ceuta, Mahdiya» (sic!).
miques des puissances en place. Ibn Hawqal mentionnait les ports suivants: Azîla,Tanger, Ceuta, Nâkûr, Oran, Ténes, Jazâ’ir Beni Mazghanna, Tabarqa, Tunis, kélibia, Mahdiyya, Tripoli, Barqa; certains sont évoqués en relation avec la Sicile et l’Andalousie. Il faut noter que la liste des ports mentionnés par d’Al Bakri mérite une attention particulière, dans le but de dresser une carte de ces ports et arsenaux. De nouveaux arsenaux sont construits, en l’occurrence à Marsa al Kharaz: «un port y a été construit nouvellement, disait Al Bakrî, et on y fabrique les navires militaires qui servent à conquérir le pays des Rûm/s (en passant par le point le plus proche qui est l’île de Sardaigne)35. III - Constitution de l’espace maritime politique et économique fatimide, de Barqa à Oran
La mer Méditerranée ou bahr al rûm est appelée désormais, du point sa partie méridionale, bahr al Maghrib ou al maghribî. Le calife Al Mu’izz utilise aussi le terme mare nostrum (Bahrunâ), en disant: « Sans les encouragements du Calife andalous aux Byzantins, ces derniers n’auraient jamais osé pénétré dans notre mer et franchir le passage maritime entre la Sicile et l’Ifriqiya», «lors du passage des bateaux andalous dans notre mer et notre royaume» 36. Elle était divisée, selon Ibn Hawqal, en deux parties: occidentale et orientale. La première qui s’étend de l’Egypte jusqu’à Tanger, se divise elle-même en 4 sousespaces: Egypte, Barqa, Ifriqiya jusqu’à Ténes, Ceuta et Tanger, alors que la partie orientale concerne Byzance, et toute la partie méditerranéenne de l’Europe jusqu’à l’Espagne. En somme, le centre de gravité de la carte dressée par Ibn Hawqal serait Mahdia alors que les points limites seraient: Barqa à l’est et Ténes à l’ouest37.
Bakri, op. cit., p. 55. Himiyarî, al Rawdh al Mi’târ, p. 538:
Comme l’a essayé de démontrer un récent article le peuplement d’origine berbère de l’île n’est pas une idée à rejeter, car dans le sens contraire, une communauté sarde installée en Ifriqiya aurait donné son nom au jardin califal situé au nord de Kairouan de 30 km et appelé Sardagna. Actuellement, il aurait laissé la place à l’oued Sardaniya et à une agglomération homonyme. Voir: G. Contu, « Sardinia in Arabic Sources», Magâz, Culture e contatti nell’area del Mediterraneo, Il ruolo dell’islam, a cura di A. Pellitteri, Palermo 2003, pp. 43-50. 36 Nu’mân, Al majâlis wa-l musâyarât, pp. 174, 176. 37
Ibn Hawqal, Sûrat al ardh, pp. 64-65, 70.
Extension de l’espace maritime fatimide vers l’est: Du côté est, les ports de Barqa, Syrte et Tripoli connaissaient un grand trafic commercial avec Byzance, l’Orient et le Maghreb. Il est fort probable que le port de Barqa, aussi bien que celui de Tripoli, était doté d’un arsenal38. A partir de cette zone maritime, les expéditions en direction de l’Egypte abbaside ont commencé tôt. A part l’escadre de 15 navires militaires (marqaban harbiyyatan) en direction de Tripoli en 300 H/912, les autres escadres ont pris pour cible l’Egypte. En dépit d’une certaine exagération, le fils d’Al Mahdi, Al Qâ’im a commandé 200 navires, en direction de l’Egypte, et débarqua près d’Alexandrie 302 H/91439. Une 2ème expédition a été également préparée en direction de l’Egypte en 307/920: 80 navires, disait Ibn Al Athir, sont venus à la rescousse d’Al Qâ’im, commandés par L’esclavon Sulaymân et Ya’qûb Ibn Ishâq. La bataille avec la flotte abbaside partie de Tarsûs et équipée du feu grégeois (naft) a eu lieu à la Rosette (Al Rashîd); elle s’acheva par une défaite cuisante des Fatimides, malgré la supériorité de leur flotte (100 navire contre 50)40. En somme, Barqa faisait désormais partie du territoire fatimide; mais l’Egypte ne serait conquise entièrement qu’en 361H / 972.
L’espace de la navigation des fatimides et des Byzantins: frontières et zones de convoitises Du moment que les Byzantins perdirent les deux grande îles durant le IXème siècle: la Crète en 209/824) et la Sicile (en 212/827), Ibn Khaldûn a évoqué la prédominance de la marine arabo- musulmane dans la Méditerranée au IVème/Xème s., idée qui est peu contestée par la majorité des historiens modernes41. Alors que le deuxième califeAl Qâ’im et ses fils organisaient des expéditions à partir de Mahdiyya, en direction de Gênes, les Beni al- Husayn de Sicile, vassaux des fatimides, n’ont cessé d’étendre leur espace, au dépens du territoire byzantin et italien42. Ibn Hawqal, op. cit., pp. 70-72. Ibn al Athîr, op. cit., T 6, p. 147, 161. Ibn al Abbâr, al Hulla, T1, p.287. Ibn Idhâri, op. cit., T1, p. 171. Ibn Khaldun, Ibar, T4, pp. 38, 207. 40 Ibn Al Athîr, Al kâmil, T 6, p. 161. Abu-lFidâ, Al mukhtasar fî târikh al basher, T 2, p. 96. Amari, Biblioteca Arabo-Sicula, p. 61. 38 39
41 Certes, l’expédition Byzantine contre Damiat en 853/239 a sécoué l’empire abbaside, mais la flotte fatimide, puissante et bien organisée, n’a pas connu un tel échec devant les byzantins. 42 Ibn Khaldun, La Muqaddima, (edition de Beyrout, Dar al kitâb al Lubnâni), p. 447.
Les multiples expéditions en direction des byzantins sont organisées à partir de Mahdia ou de la Sicile en 301/913, 306/918, 310/922, 311/923, 315/929, 317/931 etc.: - La première est une réplique à l’incursion du gouverneur de la Sicile Ibn Qurhub qui attaqua et brûla la flotte fatimide dans le port de Lamta en 301/913. Mais on n’a pas de données précises sur cette campagne qui se solda par l’échec du maître de la Sicile43. - En 306 H/Août 918, la marine fatimide a conquis Reggio dans la Calabre, alors que les navires dépêchés par Ibn Qurhub contre cette campagne sont perdus dans la mer. - En 310/922, la défaite de la Rosette (Al Rashîd) n’a pas eu d’effet à long terme sur l’activité fatimide en Méditerranée Occidentale. En effet, le commandant Mas’ud al Fatâ a pu conquérir la forteresse de Sant Agata, près de Reggio. - En 311/923, la flotte fatimide, sous le commandement de J’aafar Ibn Ubayd, organisait un raid plus vaste sur le sud de l’Italie. Après avoir passé l’hiver en Sicile, elle attaqua la région de Tarento au début de 311/avril 924. Le 11 jumâda 313/3 septembre 925, elle prît le chemin de retour à Mahdia, avec un butin de 1100 prisonniers. - En 315 H/929, une escadre de 44 navires, commandée par Sâbir al Fatâ, est partie de Mahdiyya pour accoster les ports de la Sicile, avant de faire des razzias en direction de la région de Calabre, contrôlée par Byzance. L’année suivante, Sâbir a recommencé la même incursion en pillant Tarento. Mais, la peste qui ravagea son armée l’obligea à quitter les lieux. En naviguant le long de la côte tyrrhénienne, il conclut des traités avec Salerno et Napoli, avant de rentrer à Mahdia, chargé de butins. Lors de la seule bataille navale qui se déroula en 317/931, il a pu avec ses 4 navires, vaincre la flotte byzantine, composée de 7 navires. Ainsi, les byzantins ont accepté de payer une tribut annuelle aux fatimides44. - A la fin du règne d’Al Mahdi (Rajab 322 H/juin 935), une autre expédition de 20 navires sous le commandement de Ya’qûb Ibn Ishâq, a été organisée en di43 44
Dachraoui, op. cit., p. 384. Ibn Idhâri, op. cit., pp. 192-194.
rection de Gênes. De retour à Mahdia, avec 800 prisonniers, il attaqua des navires près du littoral de la Corse et de la Sardaigne45. - En 335 H/946, les byzantins profitèrent de la révolte d’Abu Yazid pour appuyer une révolte en Sicile contre les Fatimides. La riposte de ces derniers s’est manifestée par l’attaque Reggio en 339/950. Cette politique expansionniste qui a continué au début du règne du 2ème calife fatimide, a été évoqué par les poètes, et notamment Ali Ibn al Iyyâdi et Ibn Hâni46. - Alors que la période d’Al Mansur est caractérisée par la révolte d’Abu Yazîd, celle de son prédécesseur Al Mu’izz a connu une reprise des incursions. En 345/957, les habitants de Reggio, ont demandé aide au roi de Byzance Constantin VII (923959), suite à l’expédition de Hasan Ibn Ali Ibn Husayn47. Malgré la supériorité de leur nombre, ils ont connu une défaite cuisante48. - Toutefois, la trêve avec les fatimides a facilité aux byzantins la conquête de l’île de Crète le mois de jumada 350/juillet 960. Malgré l’appel à la rescousse de ses habitants, cette île convoitée par les Fatimides, n’a pas pu être libérée des Byzantins, car le gouverneur de l’Egypte, Kâfûr l’Ikhshidite, refusa de coopérer avec Al Mu’izz pour organiser une expédition commune, alors qu’ Al M’u’izz était occupé par le départ vers l’Egypte. Les émissaires crétois envoyés à Al Mu’iz ont beau essayé d’insister sur l’intérêt que représente La Crète pour l’Egypte, et donc pour l’Ifriqiya, dans le sens où elle est la porte de Constantinople, en plus de ses richesses en métaux et en matériaux pour la constructions navales, mais le contexte général n’est pas favorable pour la reprise de l’île49. 45
Dâ’I idris, op. cit., p. 584-586. Ibn Khatîb, A’mâl al aalâm, p. 123. Nu’mân, Majâls, p. 166. 49 Ibn Athir, al kamil, T7, p. 5. Ibn Khaldun, histoire, T4, p 450-451. Al Majalis wal musayarat, Hawliyyart, n° 2. nu’mân, majâlis, p. 446: 47 48
- En 353 H/964, une nouvelle épisode des hostilités entre ces puissances navales débuta par la destruction de la flotte byzantine accostant en Sicile en 354 H/965. L’année suivante, les Byzantins demandaient de nouveau une trêve à al Mu’iz, qu’il ne tarda pas d’accepter, avant son départ pour l’Egypte. En somme, la frontière de cet espace est plutôt d’ordre économique que politique et idéologique. Elle serait au nord ouest l’île de Sardaigne, conquise par le maître de Daniya Mujâhid al-Amiri en 405 H/1014, au nord est la Calabre et à l’est la Crète. A part les épaves, les sources littéraires (et notamment Ibn Hawqal) témoignet des fortes relations commerciales entre les deux zones.
Rivalité maritime entre Omeyyades d’Andalousie et Fatimides: Il va de soi que les zones maritimes dépendant théoriquement de Cordoue et de Kairouan sont des régions périphériques par rapport au pouvoir de ces capitales. Ces régions ont connu parfois une tendance centrifuge de constitution de principautés indépendantes: exemple: la république des marins de PéchinaAlmeria, la principauté de Nakûr50.
La conquête de Nâkur: Une lettre adressée par le calife al Mahdi installé à Raqqâda à l’émir de Nakûr, Saîd Ibn Sâlih en 304 H/916, lui demandant d’ adhérer à son pouvoir et d’accepter son imamat. Mais la réponse de ce dernier était négative. Ainsi, Al Mahdi ordonna à son gouverneur de Tâhirt, Masâlat Ibn Habus, de préparer une expédition en direction de Nâkûr. Le retentissements de cette victoire à Kairouan était grand, alors que les Beni Sâlih qui s’exilaient à Malaga et Pechina, demandaient le soutien de Cordoue. Après avoir séjourné 6 mois dans la ville, Masala déléguait le pouvoir à un des ses fidèles appelé Dalûl. Seulement, le pouvoir des fatimides dans la ville ne tarda pas de s’effriter, après une scission entre le kutamien Dalûl et les Ismaïlites (appelés Mashâriqa), alors que le jeune prince de Nâkûr Salih Ibn Saîd n’a pas pu échapper à l’hégémonie Omeyyade, puisqu’il «a propagé l’ idéologie (du calife Omeyyade) dans ses contrées»51 . Dés cette période, le pouvoir des Bani Salih à Nakûr périclita, au profit de nouvelles forces centrifuges: Musa ibn Abi-l Afiya qui a pu conquérir, à partir de Miknâsa, un espace s’étendant jusqu’à la région de Tahirt, et Muhammed Ibn Khazar des Beni Yefrin qui a pu mettre fin à Masala52.
50 P. Guichard, “ l’intégration des Baléares au pouvoir omeyyade de Cordoue”, V Jornades d’etudis historics locals, Palma de Mallorca, 1987, pp. 57-58. 51 Ibn Khaldun, Ibar, T6, p. 285. Ibn Idhâri, al Bayân, T1, p. 178: “addukhul fi ta’atihi wal taddayuna bi imâmatihi”. Al Bakri, Masâlik, p. 95. Ibn al Abbâr, Al hulla al sayrâ, T1, p.194. M. Ismâil, Al Adârisa, p. 79. La guerre a fini par une victoire des fatimides, dans un lieu qui n’est pas loin de la ville; Ce qui explique les préparatifs de l’émir Saîd Ibn Sâlih: il transporta ses trésors et sa famille dans une île, avant d’affronter les fatimides. Mais il périt dans la bataille, et Masâla entra dans la ville le jeudi 3 muharram 305 /917. 52 Bakri, op. cit., p. 127. Ibn Abi Zar’a, op. cit., pp. 83-85. Ibn Idhari, op. cit. T1, p. 194, 200. Ibn khaldun, op. cit., T6, p. 285.
A partir de 317/929, Mousa Ibn Abi ‘Afiya, le nouveau allié de Cordoue, a pu conquérir le pays entre Tanger et Tâhirt. En plus d’une expédition menée par le gouverneur de Tâhirt Masala Ibn Habûs qui a préféré diriger ses armes contre Fès, et non Nakûr afin de stopper cette expansion, l’esclavon Masrûr, chargé par le calife Al Qâ’im de guider une autre expédition, a pu reconquérir quelques places. Après la fin de la révolte d’Abu Yazîd en 336 H/947, ll faut attendre la grande expédition de Jawhar en 347/958-59 pour pouvoir reconquérir tout le Maroc, à l’exception de Ceuta et Tanger qui demeurèrent sous la domination omeyyade53.
- L’expédition d’Alméria: Tout comme le port-arsenal de Mahdia, celui d’Almeria, muni d’un tour, est construit par le calife omeyyade Abderrahmân III, pour faire face aux Fatimides. Il est divisé en deux parties: la première abritait les navires de guerre avec le matériel et l’équipement, alors que la deuxième est consacrée au commerce des différents métiers (qaysariyya). Quoique la construction navale soit pratiquée dans plusieurs lieux en Andalousie, Al Udhrî consacrait ce terme uniquement à Almeria; en effet, tout comme l’arsenal de Tyr, les navires du «sultan» organisaient des razzias en direction du nord et du sud. Depuis l’avènement de l’amiral Muhammad Ibn Rumâhis, l’arsenal d’Almeria servait à préparer les escadres en direction de la côte méditerranéenne nord et sud: en 329/941, les navires arrivent à Tortosa, puis à Barcelona, en vue d’assurer la libre navigation au niveau de cette cité qui était passé sous la domination des chrétiens. Deux ans plus tard, une expédition vers les pays des Francs a été préparée. A partir de 333/944, la côte de Ceuta a été touchée par cette escadre, et en 334 h/945 celle de l’Ifriqiya 54. En réplique à cette politique maritime Omeyyade, Al Mu’izz donna l’ordre à son gouverneur de la Sicile d’organiser l’expédition en direction d’Almeria en 343/18 juillet 955. Les bateaux sont incendiés dans l’arsenal, et le navire commercial du roi qui a intercepté le bateau fatimide a été capturé 55.
Ibn Idhâri, al bayân, T1, p. 183. Ibn Zar’a, Rawdh al Kurtâs, p. 80. Dâ’i Idris, op. cit., p. 262 . Al Udhrî, p. 81-83, 86. Al Râzî, la description de l’Espagne, p. 67. Ibn Ghâlib, «Farhat al anfus», Majallat Ma’hid al makhtûtât al arabiyya, n° 1, 1955, p. 283. 53 54
55 Da’I Idris, op. cit., p. 583. Du coté des Andalous, 70 navires attaquèrent La Calle (Marsa al Kharaz) et les environs de Sousse. Au même moment que Cordoue et Constantinople préparaient une alliance contre les fatimides, une ambassade omeyyade leur proposait une trêve, rejetée néanmoins par les maîtres de Mahdia.
Une zone convoitée par les deux puissances: Oran-Tanger L’espace maritime situé entre le Levant Andalous et la côte nord maghrébine, n’est soumis à la flotte andalouse qu’au milieu du IXème siècle, sachant que la liaison entre les deux côtes était étroite, en raison des déplacements des marins andalous entre la côte maghrébine et andalouse. D’après Al Bakri, les relations commerciales et humaines entre les deux rives étaient intenses56. Parmi ces places, la ville port d’Oran a été créée par les marins Andalous en 290 H/904; elle a été dotée, tout comme Mahdia, par deux ports: un petit port, adjacent à la muraille de la ville, et mal abrité et un deuxième plus grand appelé par les sources: al Marsâ al kabîr; il est situé en aval de la montagne, à l’ouest de la cité de deux milles. Ce port représentait un important point d’articulation dans les relations entre Cordoue et Mahdia. Son emplacement en face de la côte andalouse était favorable aux transactions avec le califat omeyyade. En effet, les géographes arabes n’ont cessé d’insister sur ces routes maritimes qui reliaient Oran à Almeria, Carthagène et Alicante.57 Dès leur avènement, la convoitise des fatimides sur la ville n’a cessé de s’éveiller, par l’intermédiaire des tribus alliées et soumises à Kutâma. En 298/911, les Azdâja, alliés des Kutâma, sont venus à la rescousse des premiers habitants, Beni Yezguin, afin de faire face très probablement aux tribus alliés de Cordoue. Désormais, Oran dépendait de la wilâyat fatimide de Tahert, et c’est Hamîd Ibn Dawwâs (ou Dâoud) Ibn Sûlât, le gouverneur de celle-ci qui désignait le nouveau maître d’Oran: Muhammed Ibn ‘Awn58. En 317/929, la prise de la ville par les Zenata de Maghrâwa, avec leur chef Muhammed Ibn Khazar, au nom du calife omeyyade Al Nâsir. La réaction fatimide n’a pas tardé de parvenir à la ville n’est qu’éphémère. En effet, l’expédition guidée par le fils du Mahdi, Abderrahmân, avait pour mission de mettre fin à ce mouvement et de châtier l’Omeyyade en détruisant les fortifications maritimes entourant la ville. Toutefois, les Fatimides était obligés d’abandonner cet espace pour un certain moment, jusqu’à la fin de la révolte d’Abu Yazîd en 336/ 94759. Une coalition pro-omeyyade, formée par les Zénètes Maghrawa (avec leur Chef Muhammad Ibn Khazar) et Yefren (avec Ya’la Ibn Muhammad) a pu mettre terme au pouvoir de M. Ibn ‘Awn sur Oran en 343 /354. Dans ce contexte troublé, d’alliances qui se nouent et se dénouent facilement, on comprend la séparation de la coalition de Zenata, par le changement de M. Ibn Khazar d’allié, au profit des
Levi-Provençal, Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane, T I, pp. 349-351. P. Guichard, op. cit., p. 59. Maqdisi, Ahsan al Taqâsim, p. Idrisî, Nuzhat al mushtâq, p. 128. Ibn Saîd, Kitâb al jughrâfiya, p. 140. 58 Ibn Khaldûn, Ibar, T6, p. 176, 233. Bakri, Masâlik, p. 59 Ibn Hayyân, Al Muqtabis, TV, p. 306. Dachrâwi, Le califat fatimide, pp. 142, 151-156, 206, 223-241. 56 57
Fatimides. Lors de l’expédition du général Jawhar en 347/958, la soumission de Ya’la aux maîtres de Kairouan n’a pas empêché sa mort et la mise à sac de sa capitale Ifkân 60. Il en en ressort que l’espace fatimide, aussi bien terrestre que maritime, a oscillé durant cette période entre Tahert et Tanger, avec comme centre de cet oscillation: Oran. Cet espace intermédiaire entre les deux grandes puissances n’a pas tardé de tomber sous l’hégémonie des Zenata, après le départ des Fatimides en Orient en 361 H/972. Reste à expliquer ces rivalités: s’agit –il tout simplement d’une animosité traditionnelle entre Hachémites et Omeyyades, ou bien de manifestations des rivalités économiques? L’occupation des Fatimides des grands centres commerciaux, tels que Sijilmâsa, Fes, Oran et Tâhirt, et l’hégémonie des Omeyyades sur Tanger, Ceuta, Nâkur, militent pour l’importance de la cause économique. En supposant que l’installation d’Al Mahdi au début à Sijilmâsa n’était pas chose fortuite, il a porté un grand intérêt à l’ouest dès son avènement. La conquête de Nâkur a ouvert la porte à une lutte acharnée entre les puissances méditerranéennes de l’ouest, tant que Cordoue a ressentie le danger fatimide, consistant à contrôler aussi bien les itinéraires maritimes que terrestres du Maghreb Extrême, reliant la route de l’or de Ghana aux ports septentrionaux, et à priver par là même l’Andalousie de l’or du Soudan61. Cette rivalité s’est manifestée par plusieurs aspects, tels que la constitution d’un réseau d’informateurs dans les deux camps, la nomination d’Al Nâcir par le titre Califal en 317/929, la campagne de dénigrement menée dans les deux camps, l’occupation andalouse de Tanger, Ceuta, Melila, les traités de paix signés entre Cordoue et les royaumes chrétiens, pour pouvoir affronter l’ennemi principal, de même du côté fatimide le contrôle l’axe routier Ghana- Sijilmâsa, Fès, Nâkûr et Sijilmâsa- Tâhirt- Kairouan.
En conclusion, une rivalité maritime s’est déclenchée entre les fatimides d’une part et les omeyyades et byzantins d’autre part. En effet, les fatimides ont pu mettre la main totalement sur le passage entre la Sicile et l’Ifriqiya et essayé de conquérir le détroit de Messine. Ce qui rend la navigation pour les andalous à la merci de la volonté du calife fatimide. Malgré les précautions prise par les fatimides, en mettant des garnisons dans les ports ifriqiyens du côté septentrional, ces places étaient attaqués par des escadres andalous. En dépit du caractère accentué
60 Ibn Khaldûn, Ibar, T7, pp. 36-45, Ibn Abi Zar’a, Rawdh al Qirtâs, p. 118. Golvin, Le Maghreb Central sous les Zirides, p. 35. 61 H. Janhâni, Dirâsât fi l târikh al iqtisâdî wa-l ijtimâ’î lil Maghrib al islâmi, Beyrouth 1986, pp. 155-177.
de cette rivalité maritime à l’époque d’Al Mu’izz, ce dernier fait semblant d’ ignorer les motifs des réactions brutales et prises à la hâte des omeyyades 62. Certes, la nouvelle carte de la Méditerranée est caractérisée par un nouveau tracé d’une ligne de séparation est ouest, allant du nord de la Syrie jusqu’à l’Andalousie, en passant par les îles de Crète et de Sicile. Seulement, ce tracé qui est en rapport avec la politique fatimide expansionniste, n’est ni rigide, ni final, et n’a pas empêché les enchevêtrements civilisationnels, ni les relations commerciales, sociales et culturelles entre les deux rives63. Malgré son caractère méditerranéen, l’espace maritime fatimide est différent de celui d’Athènes et de Rome dans l’Antiquité ou de Pise, Gênes et Venise à partir du XIIème siècle, ou bien de l’espace espagnol et portugais à l’époque moderne. Alors que les limites de l’Ifriqiya,selon Sahnûn, ne dépassait guère Tripoli à l’est et Tobna à l’ouest64, la façade maritime s’étend désormais de Barqa jusqu’à Oran, et même de Tanger à Alexandrie, et de la Sicile jusqu’à la Calabre. Dés l’avènement de cette dynastie, Al Mahdi ne cachait pas ses visées expansionnistes sur le Maghrib et le Mashriq, à la fois, en comparant ces deux aires avec les deux mains d’une même personne65. Pour les fatimides, la mer n’est ni le début, ni la fin d’un territoire, car il est bien intégré à un vaste espace économique terrestre et maritime. Ils ont mené la guerre maritime, tout en l’alternant avec la paix, pour exercer le commerce, afin de combler le besoin en bois et en esclaves dans l’empire naissant.
62 Nu’mâ, Majâlis, pp. 168, 193: «on ne comprend pas,dit il, pourquoi ils sont si pressés et énervés, malgré la grande distance qui nous sépare». Al Mu’iz disait: «quand est ce que nous avons empêché les andalous d’aller au pèlerinage ou bien de voyager là où ils voulaient» 63 Contrairement à ce que certains chercheurs essayent de démontrer, la puissance de cette flotte n’est pas à contester, car la coalition andalouse et byzantine qui a essayé de faire face aux fatimides a échoué. Il en est de même pour ceux qui évoquent la carence «d’esprit maritime» chez les sud méditerranéens ou ceux qui tiennent encore à la théorie de H. Pirenne, concernant la coupure entre Sud et nord de la Méditerranée à partir du 7 ème siècle. A ce propos, Pirenne (La Méditerranée médiévale de 350 à 1450, Paris 1992, p. 44) écrivait: “Aux poles extrêmes du monde méditerranéen, entre les Pyrénées et l’Ebre d’une part, entre le Taurus et l’Euphrate de l’autre, le monde Chrétien et le monde musulman se font face dans une sorte d’équilibre instable et decisive”. 64 Dâwudi, Al amwâl, p. 70 (haddu ifriqiya min trabuls ilâ tbna). Voir l’article de synthèse de C. Picard qui a refute cette thèse: ”L’échec maritime musulman”, La puissance maritime, sous la direction de / C. Buchet, J. Mever, et J P Poussou, pp.123-142. 65 A. M. Abbadi, Tarikh al Bahriyya al islamiyya fi misr wal sham, pp. 76-77. D’après al Abbadi, la flotte fatimide a étendu son pouvoir de Gibraltar à Beyrouth. Nu’man, Majâlis, p. 252.
Jonathan M. Bloom*
Islamic Art and Architecture in Sicily: How Fatimid is it?
The tenth century was a period of great importance in the history of Islamic art throughout the Mediterranean basin. Starting from the west, in the Iberian peninsula, the neo-Umayyad dynasty (756-1031) of Cordoba sponsored a flowering of the arts in many media, ranging from architecture and carved wood and ivory to cast metals and textiles. While few, if any, manuscripts are known to survive from al-Andalus, there can be no doubt that many were made, even if we may question the veracity of the report that the library of the neo-Umayyad caliph al-Hakam contained some four hundred thousand books. Only one is known to survive. In Ifriqiya, the region of North Africa roughly corresponding to modern Tunisia, the Fatimid dynasty (r. 909-1171) built upon the legacy of the Aghlabid dynasty of governors, who had ruled the region in the ninth century for the Abbasids of Baghdad, by commissioning mosques and palaces, manuscripts, textiles, and small works of art. The Fatimids decided in 973 to leave Ifriqiya for Egypt, leaving the province in the hands of their Zirid and Hammadid lieutenants, who are believed to have remained in relatively close contact with their Fatimid overlords until the definitive break between the two regions in the middle of the eleventh century. The Zirids and Hammadids not only continued to occupy and refurbish the Fatimid palaces at Mahdiya and at Sabra-Mansuriyya outside Kairouan, but they also built new palaces at such sites as Ashir, the Qalâ€˜a of the Bani Hammad, and Bijaya in present-day Algeria. Excavations over the last century conducted at these sites have uncovered a variety of architectural and decorative material, but only selected remains have been published in a satisfactory manner and a coherent overview of Islamic art and architecture in eleventh-century North Africa remains to be written. *
Boston College, U.S.A.
It has often been argued that North African culture flourished until the middle of the eleventh century, when the Bedouin depredations of the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym, who had been unleashed in retaliation for the Zirids’ and Hammadids’ break with Cairo, disrupted the infrastructure and spelled the cultural decline of the region, but the modest nature of early Fatimid art in Ifriqiya suggests that there had never been much of a florescence from which to decline. Despite some significant cultural activity in such isolated centers as Kairouan, North Africa had not been poised to become a major center of artistic creativity at the advent of the Fatimid caliphate, and North African rulers evolved slowly into enlightened patrons of the arts. Even the richest rulers had only limited means to realize their ambitions. Despite bombastic poetic descriptions of palaces said to rival the legendary palaces of Khwarnaq and Ghumdan, the surviving architecture is ultimately quite simple, even parsimonious, in its construction and decoration, especially when compared with contemporary experiments in such regions as al-Andalus or Khurasan, where some of the most exciting features of Islamic architecture—intersecting arches, ribbed vaults, and muqarnas, for example—were being developed at that very time. The almost total absence of examples of decorative arts, again when compared to what was happening in contemporary al-Andalus or Khurasan, suggests that the relative poverty of early Fatimid art is not merely an accident of survival but was a function of the scarcity of the local resources. Certainly there was plenty of money in the Fatimid treasury, but money wasn’t enough to make up for the modest artistic life that North Africa’s narrow coastal strip with its reduced agricultural basis could have supported on its own in the centuries before the Fatimids arrived. In Egypt, a brief flowering of artistry during the Tulunid period at the end of the ninth century seems to have been followed by something of a hiatus under Ikhshidid rule in the early tenth, although the appearance of dated inscriptions in floriated kufic script during this period shows that Egyptian artisans in this period had nothing to be ashamed of. With the arrival of the Fatimid caliphs in 973, however, the arts took off like fireworks, with the construction of splendid mosques, palaces and shrines decorated with carved stone, wood, and plaster, the weaving of yards of linen and silk textiles, luster ceramics, carved rock crystals, etc. The sudden increase in the quantity and quality of artistic production in Egypt during the early Fatimid period might suggest that North African artisans who came along with the court were responsible for this cultural florescence, but a more nuanced interpretation of the evidence suggests that the founding of the new Ismaili capital attracted talented people, including artisans, from such regions as Northern Syria and Basra in Iraq where the arts had flourished in previous centuries. Our knowledge of the arts of Palestine and Syria in the eleventh century, however, is woefully fragmentary. Sicily, located at the gateway between the eastern and western Mediterranean basins, sat squarely in the middle of all this artistic activity, and it seems difficult to imagine that it would have escaped the artistic storms circling around it. The Agh30
labids had conquered the island from North Africa in the ninth century; in the tenth century the Fatimids inherited the island, along with the islanders’ enthusiasm for rebellion. The first Fatimid leader sent his general Abu Sa‘id to subdue the islanders and in 916-17 he built al-Khalisa, a citadel opposite the older town of Palermo. Just three decades later Hasan ibn ‘Ali al-Kalbi seized power and established a dynasty of governors which lasted until the Norman conquest nearly a century later. By all accounts this was a brilliant period for cultural life on the island. Ibn Hawqal, who visited the island in 972, described the prosperous city of Palermo with its five quarters and many mosques. On the coast outside the city there were many ribats frequented by warriors for the faith of whom Ibn Hawqal thought little. The Palestinian geographer al-Muqaddasi visited the island a few years later. He said that the buildings of Palermo are red and white and built of stone and mortar; there were congregational mosques in the city and in al-Khalisa. The Muslims, he wrote, “have no island more splendid, more prosperous, or with more cities.” Of all this splendor virtually nothing has survived. A Koran manuscript on parchment made at Palermo in 372/982-3 and now divided between the Khalili Collection in London and the Nuruosmaniye Library in Istanbul confirms the activities of Muslim calligraphers and religious scholars, but otherwise modern researchers have identified only four examples of pre-Norman architecture on the island: at Cefalà Diana the remains of a bath, and in Palermo the remains of a building, perhaps a mosque, contained within the Church of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti, parts of the Favara palace and perhaps some work within the Torre Pisana. None of these remains is particularly impressive and they seem quite at odds with the enthusiastic accounts of the tenth-century travelers. They certainly do not prepare us for the extraordinary flowering of architecture and art in Sicily after the Norman conquest of the island in the second half of the eleventh century. Such buildings as the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, dated to the 1130s [fig. 1], or works of art such as the stupendous silk mantle of King Roger II, a hemicircle (diam. 3.42 m) of red silk embroidered in gold thread and pearls and featuring a central tree separating addorsed lions attacking camels, made in the court workshop at Palermo in 1133-34 [fig. 2], or the ovoid box encrusted with ivory and a black substance in the treasury of the Cappella Palatina and dated to the same period [fig. 3], reveal a sophisticated and developed artistic vocabulary that is the product of many and varied sources. The Norman court in Sicily is justifiably famed for its cosmopolitan character, and many examples of the Norman architecture and art of Sicily in the twelfth century include features found in contemporary western Medieval and Byzantine art. These include floor pavements and wall decoration related to so-called Cosmati work in Rome [fig. 4] or the figural mosaics in Norman churches that are deeply dependent on Byzantine models. Many works of Norman Sicilian art also include features related to contemporary Islamic architecture and art elsewhere in the Mediterranean lands, suggesting that Norman artisans were closely dependent of 31
the work of their Muslim predecessors and contemporaries. Among these features are palace pavilions set amidst large pools, decoration with blind arcading and intersecting arches [fig. 5], muqarnas or stalactite vaulting [fig. 6], geometric patterns, carved woodwork panels, etc. As we have seen, however, the Sicilian evidence is so fragmentary that it is difficult to determine whether such features were already characteristic of Sicilian architecture of the Aghlabid and Kalbid periods. If they were not already local, from where else might they have come? Some of these novel features, such as blind arcading, are also found in the architectural remains of the palaces of the Fatimid successor-states in North Africa, including Ashir and the Qal‘a of the Bani Hammad, as well as in Fatimid metropolitan architecture in Cairo itself. Lucien Golvin, who excavated at Ashir in the 1950s, found remains of intersecting arch decoration there which he dated to the tenth century, long before it appeared in Sicily. Many of the buildings of the Qal‘a, which are in a terribly fragmentary state, are believed to have been decorated with blind arcading, which also became a characteristic feature of Sicilian Norman architecture. A few muqarnas elements were discovered at the Qal‘a, and it is thought, therefore, that Sicilian artisans were in relatively close contact with their contemporaries on the North African mainland, all of whom would have shared in an international artistic language, the so-called “Fatimid koiné,” reflecting more-or-less proximate reflections of the court architecture and art of the Fatimid imam-caliphs in Egypt. To illustrate this international Mediterranean language, the paintings on the muqarnas vaults of the Cappella Palatina are regularly compared with paintings on Fatimid-period lusterwares, the carved wooden panels from the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio [fig. 7] are compared to those made for mosques in Egypt [fig. 8], and the inlaid decoration on the Palermo ivory casket is likened to a Fatimid-period panel discovered in Egypt. Although there are no muqarnas ceilings from Fatimid Egypt, the Fatimid-era painted muqarnas elements from the bath of Abu Su‘ud in Cairo [fig. 9] are thought to represent lost examples from Egypt. Documents and historical texts from Fatimid Egypt describe sumptuous silk textiles embroidered with figural scenes, but the Fatimid textiles actually discovered in Egypt are largely fragmentary inscribed tiraz linen cloths with limited decoration. To illustrate what Fatimid textiles must have been like, almost every textbook on Islamic art (my own included!) illustrates the extraordinary Mantle of Roger II. Such parallels are apparently confirmed by the recent work of Jeremy Johns, who has found striking parallels between the titulature and chancellery formulas used by the Norman and Fatimid courts in the twelfth century. In sum, the Fatimid sources of Sicilian art seem assured. Yet there are several problems with this attractive explanation. First of all, most of the parallels occur in the twelfth century, when the Norman star was ascending but Fatimid power and art were on the decline. By then the culture of metropolitan Egypt had little, if anything, to do with that of North Africa, so it is 32
Fig. 1 - Palermo, Cappella Palatina, interior
Fig. 2 - Coronation robe of Roger II, Vienna, Schatzkammer. After Bloom & Blair, Islamic Arts, fig. 122
Fig. 3 - Wooden box encrusted with ivory and a black substance. After Gabrieli and Scerrato, fig. 159
Fig. 4 - Palermo, Cappella Palatina, mosaic pavement
Fig. 5 - Monreale, Cathedral, intersecting blind arcading on the apse.
Fig. 6 - Palermo, La Ziza, muqarnas vaulting
unlikely that ideas could have passed from Egypt through Ifriqiya to Sicily at that time. Rather they would have had to travel directly from Cairo. Secondly, the sudden emergence of a mature Norman art in twelfth-century Sicily suggests that Sicilian artists had already been active in the late tenth and eleventh centuries, when Kalbid power was strongest, even if none of their work survives. Logically, one would imagine that the sources for this art were to be found in nearby Ifriqiya, but again, the evidence there is fragmentary and quite unsatisfactory. Several years ago I published a study of the geometric mosaic pavement of the Cappella Palatina in a volume honoring Robert Hillenbrand. Over a century ago the first scholars to have studied the pavement linked its technique to contemporary Roman and Byzantine pavements but its geometric designs to Islamic art, notably the art of the Fatimids in Egypt. Having studied the arts of the Fatimid period extensively, I could find no parallels in the art of the Fatimids, who only began to use geometric designs somewhat hesitantly towards the end of the eleventh century. I suggested that the geometric design of the pavement had nothing to do with Fatimid art, but much more to do with the arts of the Almoravid dynasty (10401147) in North Africa and particularly in Spain. Geometric designs virtually identical to those in the stone pavement appear in the wooden mosaic decorating the minbar made at Córdoba in 1137 for the Almoravid congregational mosque at Marrakesh [fig. 10]. The pavement and the minbar share a similar under-and-over strapwork design which creates geometric shapes in the interstices. Another connection between Sicily and the arts of the Islamic west is the enigmatic Palermo casket. This ovoid wooden box is decorated with a series of figural roundels between bands of poetry inscribed in naskh script, themselves enclosed by decorative bands or geometric ornament. These are composed of tiny square tiles drilled and then filled with mastic. The casket is routinely compared to one relatively coarse Egyptian example of this technique, despite the naskh inscription that looks distinctly unlike typical Fatimid inscriptions, but the Kutubiyya minbar from Córdoba is decorated with thousands of such tiles in exactly the same technique. Muqarnas vaulting was used not only in the Cappella Palatina but also in the Ziza palace and other buildings in Palermo. While muqarnas are known from the late eleventh century in Egypt, no muqarnas vaults survive from Fatimid Egypt and none is known to have been erected there. Muqarnas were used, however, not only in the subsidiary vaults of the Almoravid Qubbat al-Ba‘adiyyin in Marrakesh, but also in the vaults of the central aisle of the Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, which Almoravid patrons remodeled extensively, presumably by Andalusian artisans following metropolitan Cordoban models [fig. 11]. Indeed, the closest parallel to the Cappella Palatina ceiling is found in the Qarawiyyin mosque. I am not suggesting that the church ceiling was modeled on that in the mosque; rather, the mosque ceiling in Fez probably reflects many now-lost ceilings in mosques and palaces in the Almoravid capital at Córdoba. 34
Another feature that connects the architecture of Sicily with that of al-Andalus is the idea of a palace with large pools of water in the courtyard. This feature, while common in North African palaces of the Aghlabid, Fatimid, Zirid and Hammadid periods, is unknown in Fatimid Egypt, although it is also common in the
Fig. 7 - Palermo, S Maria dellâ€™Ammiraglio, carved wooden door panel
Fig. 8 - Cairo, al-Aqmar Mosque, carved door panel
Fig. 9 - Painted plaster muqarnas from the bath of Abu alSuâ€˜ud, Cairo. After Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pl. XXXIVa
Fig. 10 - Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque, Marrakesh. After Bloom et al., Minbar, fig. 44
palaces of Umayyad al-Andalus. Perhaps the nearby Nile made the conspicuous consumption of water unnecessary in Egypt, but large pools were not part of Fatimid palace design in Egypt. It is possible that Sicilian patrons based their palaces on the nearby palaces of Ifriqiya, where the extravagant use of water had a long history; it is also possible that the Sicilian patrons based the designs on the far more splendid palaces of the Cordoban caliphs in al-Andalus. Yet another distinct feature of Norman Sicilian architecture is decoration with interlaced and cusped arches. This interlaced motif could have been borrowed from North Africa, where such decoration was found in a single example at the Zirid palace of Ashir. The use of cusped arches in Sicily, as on the backrest of Roger’s throne in the Cappella Palatina [fig. 12], makes it much more likely that such decoration was inspired by Córdoban examples, for cusped and interlaced arches are two of the hallmarks of Islamic architecture in the Iberian peninsula [fig. 13]. They are unknown in Fatimid Egyptian art. Sicily under Islamic rule had been renowned for its silk textiles, and the industry flourished there under the Normans. The set of coronation robes of the Holy Roman Emperor and Empress in Vienna, of which the most famous is the stupendous mantle of Roger II, form the basis for understanding the silk textiles of Norman Sicily. There can be no question that a silkweaving tradition had been established in Sicily as early as the tenth or eleventh centuries, but few—if any— early Sicilian textiles have yet been identified, although some once thought to be Sicilian are now attributed to Spain, or vice verse, once again showing the close relationship between the two regions. These artistic connections between Sicily and al-Andalus are only confirmed by contemporary eyes. Geographers routinely compared the island with Spain, and writers were deeply inspired by its literary culture. In the tenth century Ibn Hawqal remarked on the great number of mosques in Sicily and said that he “had never seeen such a number in any one of the major cities, even those twice as large as Palermo. In fact, I have not heard anything like it except what they say about Cordova.” The Sicilian poet Ibn Hamdis (1055-1132) spent the period 1079-91 in alAndalus before emigrating to North Africa. Exiled from his beloved Sicily, “his diction, imagery, themes and structures, as well as his poetic temperament, developed a particular Andalusian flavor.” The Spanish traveler Ibn Jubayr, who visited the island in 1185, said that Palermo was a “wonderful place, built in the Cordova style” because both cities had in the middle of the new city and old one. He also compared the continuous villages and farms to the qabaniya (campania) of Cordova, although the Sicilian soil was choicer and more fertile. His affectionate epithet for the island was “daughter of al-Andalus.” The many and continuous relations between Sicily and the western Mediterranean in the arts and literature suggest that the identification of the sources of Sicilian culture in Fatimid Egypt may have been overstated in the past. There can be 36
Fig. 11 - Fez, Qarawiyyin Mosque, muqarnas vault in central aisle.
Fig. 12 - Palermo, Cappella Palatina, detail of west wall.
Fig. 13 - C贸rdoba, Congregational mosque, cusped arches above mihrab.
no question that Sicily’s fortunes remained closely tied to those of nearby North Africa—indeed Roger conquered Jerba in 1134, Tripoli in 1145, Mahdiya in 1147, Souuse, Sfax and Gabes in 1148 and Bone in 1153—and some diplomatic and cultural relationship continued with Fatimid Egypt. Western Islamic ideas would have come to Sicily either directly from the caliphal court at Córdoba and its successors in the eleventh century or indirectly through North African intermediaries, who had been as dependent culturally on the neo-Umayyads as they had been on the Fatimids. At the same time, recent research by scholars such as David Knipp has indicated that other sources for the Norman art of Sicily in the twelfth century can be found in the Islamic architecture and art of northern Syria; the Normans, after all, had important connections with the Crusader Principality of Antioch. In sum, barring the discovery of new tenth - and eleventh - century buildings and works of art in Sicily, we are forced to imagine what they might have been like. On the one hand, I believe that the enthusiastic descriptions of geographers should not be take too seriously, just as the enthusiastic descriptions of Fatimid cities in North Africa probably overstate their splendor. The Kalbid rulers of Sicily did not have the resources of either the Fatimids in North Africa or the neo-Umayyads in al-Andalus. Pre-Norman Palermo was probably not a serious rival to Mahdiya or Sabra-Mansuriyya, let alone to Córdoba. On the other hand, however, we can imagine that Sicily’s central position in the Mediterranean meant that its cultural sources were not limited to nearby Fatimid Ifriqiya alone, but that maritime trade connected the island with more distant Mediterranean shores. Although the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line, human geography is far more important for understanding how art and ideas traveled.
- Andaloro, Maria, ed. Nobiles Officinae: Perle, Filigrane e Trame di Seta Dal Palazzo Reale di Palermo. Catania: G. Maimone, 2006. - Bellafiore, Giuseppe. Architettura delle età islamica e normanni in Sicilia. Palermo, 1990. - Bloom, Jonathan M. “Almoravid Geometrical Designs in the Pavement of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo.” In The Iconography of Islamic Art: Studies in Honour of Robert Hillenbrand, edited by Bernard O’Kane, 61–80. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. - ———. Arts of the City Victorious: Islamic Art and Architecture in Fatimid North Africa and Egypt. London: Yale University Press, 2007. - ———. “The Introduction of the Muqarnas Into Egypt.” Muqarnas 5 (1988): 21–28. - ———. “The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque.” In The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque, Jonathan M. Bloom, Ahmed Toufiq, Stefano Carboni, Jack Soultanian, Antoine Wilmering, M., Mark D. Minor, Andrew Zawacki, and El Mostafa Hbibi, 3–29; 104. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. - ———. Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. - Bloom, Jonathan M., Ahmed Toufiq, Stefano Carboni, Jack Soultanian, Antoine M. Wilmering, Mark D. Minor, Andrew Zawacki, and El Mostafa Hbibi. The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. - Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. Art and Ideas. London: Phaidon, 1997. - Contadini, Anna. Fatimid Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1998. - Déroche, François. The Abbasid Tradition: Qur’ans of the 8th to the 10th Centuries AD. Edited by Julian Raby. The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art. London: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1992. - Dodds, Jerrilynn D., ed. Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. - The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition. Eds H. A. R. Gibb and others. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960. - Ettinghausen, Richard. “Painting in the Fatimid Period: A Reconstruction.” Ars Islamica 9 (1942): 112–24. - Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. - Gabrieli, Francesco, and Umberto Scerrato. Gli Arabi in Italia: Cultura, Contatti e Tradizioni. 1989. Milan: Garzanti/Scheiwiller, 1979. - Galdieri, Eugenio. “Sull’architettura Islamica in Sicilia, Lamento di un Architetto Ignorante Sopra una Architettura Inesistente.” Rivista Degli Studi Orientali 71 (2000): 41–73. - Golvin, Lucien. Le Magrib central à l’époque des Zirides: Recherches d’archéologie et d’histoire. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1957. - ———. “Le Palais de Zîrî à Achîr (Dixième siècle J.C.).” Ars Orientalis 6 (1966): 47–76.
- ———. Recherches archéologiques à la Qal‘a des Banû Hammâd. Paris, 1965. - Granara, William. “Ibn Hawqal in Sicily.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 3 (1983): 94–99. - ———. “Remaking Muslim Sicily: Ibn Hamdis and the Poetics of Exile.” Edebiyat 9, no. 2 (1998): 167–98. - Ibn Jubayr. The Travels of Ibn Jubayr. Translated by R. J. C. Broadhurst. London: Jonathan Cape, 1952. - Johns, Jeremy. Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal D*w*n. Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. - Knipp, David. “Image, Presence, and Ambivalence: The Byzantine Tradition of the Painted Ceiling in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo.” Byzas 5 (2006): 283–328. - ———. “Some Aspects of Style and Heritage in the Norman Stanza.” Römisches Jahrbuch der Bibliotheca Hertziana 35 (2003–4): 173–207. - ———. “The Torre Pisana in Palermo: A Maghribi Concept and Its Byzantinization.” In Wissen Über Grenzen: Arabisches Wissen und Lateinisches Mittelalter, edited by Andreas Speer and Lydia Wegener. Miscellanea Mediaevalia: Veröffentlichungen Des Thomas-Instituts der Universität zu Köln, Vol. 33, 745–74. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2006. - Lévi-Provençal, E. “Un manuscrit de la bibliothèque du calife al-ðakam II.” Hespéris 18 (1934): 198–200. - Marçais, Georges. Architecture musulmane d’occident. Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques, 1954. - Meunié, Jacques, and Henri Terrasse. Nouvelles Recherches Archéologiques à Marrakech. Publications de l’Institut Des Hautes Études Marocaines. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1957. - Monneret de Villard, Ugo. La Cassetta Incrostata della Cappella Palatina di Palermo. Monumenti dell’arte Musulmana in Italia. Rome: Collezione Meridionale Editrice, 1938. - al-Muqaddasī. The best divisions for knowledge of the regions [A|san al-Taqāsīm fī Ma‘rifat al-Aqālim]. Translated by Basil Collins, reviewed by Mohammad Hamid Alta’i. Great Books of Islamic Civilization. Reading: Garnet, 1994. - Pajares Ayuela, Paloma. Cosmatesque Ornament. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. - Ruggles, D. Fairchild. Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. - Sourdel-Thomine, J. and B. Spuler. Die Kunst des Islam. Berlin, 1984 - Terrasse, Henri. La Mosquée al-Qaraouiyin à Fès. Paris, 1968. - Tronzo, William. The Cultures of His Kingdom: Roger II and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. Princeton: Princteon University Press, 1997. - Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1996. - For a general introduction to the arts of this period, see Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001).
- For the arts of al-Andalus in this period, see Jerrilynn D. Dodds, ed., Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992). - For books in this period, see Jonathan M. Bloom, Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 120–21; for the single surviving manuscript, see E. Lévi-Provençal, “Un manuscrit de la bibliothèque du calife al-ðakam II,” Hespéris 18 (1934): 198–200. - Jonathan M. Bloom, Arts of the City Victorious: Islamic Art and Architecture in Fatimid North Africa and Egypt (London: Yale University Press, 2007), chapter 2. - Lucien Golvin, Le Magrib central à l’époque des Zirides: Recherches d’archéologie et d’histoire (Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1957); Jonathan M. Bloom, Arts, chapter 7. - Jonathan M. Bloom, Arts, chapter 2. - Jonathan M. Bloom, Arts, chapter 3. - The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, eds H. A. R. Gibb and others (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960), s.v. “Balarm”. - EI/2, s.v. “Kalbī”. - William Granara, “Ibn Hawqal in Sicily,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 3 (1983): 94–99. - al-Muqaddasī, The best divisions for knowledge of the regions [A|san al-Taqāsīm fī Ma‘rifat al-Aqālim], trans. Basil Collins, reviewed by Mohammad Hamid Alta’i, Great Books of Islamic Civilization (Reading: Garnet, 1994), 191–92. - François Déroche, The Abbasid Tradition: Qur’ans of the 8th to the 10th Centuries AD, ed. Julian Raby, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (London: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1992), no. 81. - Eugenio Galdieri, “Sull’architettura Islamica in Sicilia, Lamento di un Architetto Ignorante Sopra una Architettura Inesistente,” Rivista Degli Studi Orientali 71 (2000): 41–73. - On the Cappella Palatina, see William Tronzo, The Cultures of His Kingdom: Roger II and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo (Princeton: Princteon University Press, 1997); for the mantle and the box, see Maria Andaloro, ed., Nobiles Officinae: Perle, Filigrane e Trame di Seta Dal Palazzo Reale di Palermo (Catania: G. Maimone, 2006), nos I.1 and II.11. - Paloma Pajares Ayuela, Cosmatesque Ornament (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001). - Giuseppe Bellafiore, Architettura delle età islamica e normanni in Sicilia (Palermo, 1990). - Lucien Golvin, “Le Palais de Zîrî à Achîr (Dixième siècle J.C.),” Ars Orientalis 6 (1966): 47–76. - Lucien Golvin, Recherches archéologiques à la Qal‘a des Banû Hammâd (Paris, 1965), 96–100. - Richard Ettinghausen, “Painting in the Fatimid Period: A Reconstruction,” Ars Islamica 9 (1942): 112–24; Bellafiore, Architettura delle età islamica e normanni in Sicilia, figs. 120, 123, and 124; Ugo Monneret de Villard, La Cassetta Incrostata della Cappella Palatina di Palermo, Monumenti dell’arte Musulmana in Italia (Rome: Collezione Meridionale Editrice, 1938).
- Jonathan M. Bloom, “The Introduction of the Muqarnas Into Egypt,” Muqarnas 5 (1988): 21–28. - Anna Contadini, Fatimid Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1998), 39ff. - Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, Islamic Arts, Art and Ideas (London: Phaidon, 1997), fig. 122; Andaloro, Nobiles Officinae: Perle, Filigrane e Trame di Seta del Palazzo Reale di Palermo, I.1. - Jeremy Johns, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal D*w*n, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). - Jonathan M. Bloom, “Almoravid Geometrical Designs in the Pavement of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo,” in The Iconography of Islamic Art: Studies in Honour of Robert Hillenbrand, ed. Bernard O’Kane (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), 61–80. - Tronzo, Cultures, 29–37, esp. 35–37. - Jonathan M. Bloom, et al., The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998). - Jonathan M. Bloom, “The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque,” in The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque, Jonathan M. Bloom, et al. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998), 9–10. - Jacques Meunié and Henri Terrasse, Nouvelles Recherches Archéologiques à Marrakech, Publications de l’Institut Des Hautes Études Marocaines (Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1957). - Henri Terrasse, La Mosquée al-Qaraouiyin à Fès (Paris, 1968). - D. Fairchild Ruggles, Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). - For Maghribi palaces in this period, see Georges Marçais, Architecture musulmane d’occident (Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques, 1954), 78–88; for those of al-Andalus, see Ruggles, Gardens. - Andaloro, Nobiles Officinae: Perle, Filigrane e Trame di Seta del Palazzo Reale di Palermo, 45–78, 164–212, 252–58, etc. - Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art (London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1996), s.v. “Islamic art, §VI, 2, i, c, Textiles, Spain and North Africa,” by Anne. E. Wardwell. - Granara, “Ibn Hawqal,” 97. - William Granara, “Remaking Muslim Sicily: Ibn Hamdis and the Poetics of Exile,” Edebiyat 9, no. 2 (1998): 170. - Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, trans. R. J. C. Broadhurst (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952), 348–49. - Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, 350. - EI/2, s.v. “Siqiliyya”. - David Knipp, “Some Aspects of Style and Heritage in the Norman Stanza,” Römisches Jahrbuch der Bibliotheca Hertziana 35 (2003–4): 173–207; David Knipp, “The Torre
Pisana in Palermo: A Maghribi Concept and Its Byzantinization,” in Wissen Über Grenzen: Arabisches Wissen und Lateinisches Mittelalter, ed. Andreas Speer and Lydia Wegener, Miscellanea Mediaevalia: Veröffentlichungen Des Thomas-Instituts der Universität zu Köln, Vol. 33 (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2006), 745–74; David Knipp, “Image, Presence, and Ambivalence: The Byzantine Tradition of the Painted Ceiling in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo,” Byzas 5 (2006): 283–328.
Paul E. Walker*
Kutāma, Kalbids and Other Westerners: the Maghāriba in Cairo
When the Fatimid caliph al-‘Azīz began to sense his own impending death, he carefully arranged for the succession of his son al-ðākim by entrusting the eleven year old boy’s fate to two senior figures in the government: the chief judgechief dā‘ī Mu|ammad b. al-Nu‘mān (son of the great Qāÿī al-Nu‘mān) and alðasan ibn ‘Ammār. The transition went well until the critical moment for the public ceremony of swearing allegiance. A prominent group of Kutāma Berber officers deliberately stayed away. To do so constituted a serious act, a sign of their displeasure, even rebellion. Ibn ‘Ammār taking the lead in an attempt to quell the insurrection, went out to listen to their complaints. They insisted among other issues on the removal of Ibn Nasturius, the head financial officer of the state, and that henceforth the person who supervised matters, financial and otherwise, pertaining to themselves should be one of their own. The threat posed by these renegade troops had its effect. To calm the situation, it was decided that Ibn ‘Ammār should be appointed chief executive to run the government and see to the complaints of the Kutāma.1 He in turn readily agreed to their demands, increasing to eight the dispersements made to them in a year, each man to receive eight dinars. In the presence of al-ðākim, they were also to be given a bonus that very day of twenty dinars. The funds were brought out and the bonuses given as specified, and in front of the young imam. A possible rebellion on the day that al-ðākim’s reign began was thus quickly averted.
University of Chicago, U.S.A. On Ibn ‘Ammar see in addition to al-Maqrīzī’s Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’ bi-akhbār al-a’imma al-fā¥imiyyīn alkhulafā’, vol. I, ed. Jamāl al-Dīn al-Shayyāl and vols. II-III, ed. Mu|ammad ðilmī Mu|ammad A|mad (Cairo, 1967-1973) under the years in question, this author’s Kitāb al-Muqaffā al-kabīr, ed. M. al-Ya‘lāwī. 8 vols. (Beirut, 1991), bio. #1204, 3: 433-41. * 1
The conditions leading to this incident and what came of it were the result of long festering animosities between, on the one hand, the Kutāma and other Westerners (the Maghāriba) and, on the other, Turkish and Daylami soldiers who formed an opposing collection of Easterners (the Mashāriqa).2 Al-‘Azīz cultivated the latter particularly by importing great numbers and generously providing for them in his army and government. Over the course of his reign, the Kutāma noticed their role in Egypt and Syria shrinking, with a steady lost of power and prestige. The elevation of Ibn ‘Ammār was, in their view, a positive indication that the situation was about to change in their favor once again. In fact matters began auspiciously. Ibn ‘Ammār was appointed wāsi¥a with full honors and then a special title: Amīn al-Dawla. He was the very first Fatimid to have such a title. A decree read out publicly in the central mosque by the chief justice, repeated Ibn ‘Ammār’s title, Amin al-Dawla, and stipulated that all persons must dismount in his presence, a high honor indeed! Additional favors were shown the Kutāma; most of their chieftains received gifts of horses as well as money. In the middle of the following month, a ceremony of honor was arranged for Salmān b. Ja‘far b. Falā|, the leading Kutāma commander, who was girded with a sword embellished with gold, presented with a horse with a golden saddle, along with four other horses with their equipment, and much fine cloth, all in anticipation of his departure with an army for Syria. Commanders under him were also honored in a similar fashion. Funds and arms in large amounts were assembled to travel with his army. Yet another month later, on the feast of sacrifices, al-ðākim rode to the festival square for prayers. He gave the sermon himself. Those who mounted the minbar-pulpit included, most significantly, the qadi Mu|ammad b. al-Nu‘mān, Barjawān, the palace eunuch in charge of al-ðākim, and Ibn ‘Ammār, the three most important officials of the new administration.3 In general, however, Ibn ‘Ammār’s policies, although gladly embraced by the Westerners, were shortsighted. He, for example, emptied the royal stables of its horses, bestowing on the Kutāma two thousand five hundred of them. Many more went with a force of Kutāma headed for Syria. He sold so many of the remaining horses, mules, dromedaries, and donkeys that prices fell so far that a female camel sold for six dinars, a donkey that had once fetched fifty now went for four. The Turks and others lost their privileges; the palace staff likewise. There were 10,000 slave girls and eunuchs in the palace. He ordered those that wanted to be sold, sold, and those that asked to be freed, freed, all in an effort to raise funds and curry favor. Many of the Easterners simply left Egypt, either singly or in groups. 2 Michael Brett (The Rise of the Fatimids, p. 161) traces the beginning of this rivalry in Egypt back to the year 323/935, i.e. prior to the Fatimid conquest. See also his comments on p. 345. 3 Itti‘ā©, 2: 7.
As the younger Kutāma were given commissions, they began to play the role of grandees, laying hands on married women in the street, plundering people in the alleyways and elsewhere. Complaints against them multiplied, but no one reined them in. Finally matters reached the point where they attempted to interfere with some of the young Turks with the intention of seizing their clothing. The evilness of this act led to a fight in which one of the Westerners and one of the Turks were killed. Leaders of each side quickly assembled their men, two factions ready to fight. Ibn ‘Ammār backed the Westerners. Each invoked harsh language against the other and the situation only grew worse. A number were killed and others wounded. With the conflict gaining in intensity, Barjawān rode from the palace to mediate, but the Turks meanwhile set out to plunder the house of Ibn ‘Ammār, eventually taking from it more than they had recently lost to the Kutāma.4 In the end Ibn ‘Ammār realized that he had been wrong, and that he had lost control of the government in the process. Giving up, he departed Cairo for his home in Fustat. After slightly less than eleven months, his tenure as chief executive was over. A month later al-ðākim graciously summoned him back to Cairo and restored many of his privileges—back to the level he had attained in the days of al-‘Azīz— and his house there, but he no longer rode in processions or met with anyone other than his personal servants and he did not govern again.5 The Turks, however, neither forgave nor forgot. Ibn ‘Ammār remained confined to his house in Cairo until three years later when he was at last given permission one day to ride to the palace where he dismounted with all the other people and waited as they did. A group of Turks used this very opportunity to kill him. Ibn ‘Ammār is often said by later historians—some of whom even knew better—to have been a Kutāma chieftain. He was not, but rather of Arab descent, a member of the old Arab nobility transplanted to North Africa. His family came from the Kalb, a Yemeni tribe. Ibn ‘Ammār’s grandfather had served the first Fatimid caliph and died fighting for him in Sicily. His son ðasan became the Fatimid governor of Sicily, the first of the Kalbid Amirs. A second son, ‘Ammār, provided al-Qā’im and then al-Man¡ūr, with key military support against the rebel Abū Yazīd. He was later, under al-Mu‘izz, commander of a flotilla sent to raid Byzantine territory but drowned tragically returning from it to Sicily when a severe adverse wind trapped and destroyed his entire fleet. Subsequently, the son, Ibn ‘Ammār, accompanied his uncle ðasan in 352/962 on a campaign against the Christian held city of Taormina and then the fortress of Rametta in the far northeastern corner of Sicily. Taormina surrendered but Rametta held out. As the siege al-Nuwayrī, Nihāyat al-arab fī funūn al-adab, 28: 171-72. Abu’l-Qāsim ‘Alī Ibn al-Ÿayrafī, al-Ishāra ilā man nāla al-wizāra, ed. Ayman Fuad Sayyid (Cairo, 1990), p. 57, mentions a letter sent to Ibn ‘Ammar’s uncle to explain the errors of the nephew. 4 5
wore on, ðasan left his nephew in charge and returned to his home base. Meanwhile the Byzantines prepared and dispatched a large force, by sea and by land, to relieve Rametta. An army landed at Messina and marched inland. A much smaller force under Ibn ‘Ammār confronted and defeated it decisively. The Byzantine commanding general died in the battle and his army was thoroughly decimated. It was a tremendous victory for the Muslims, much to the credit of Ibn ‘Ammār.6 Later Ibn ‘Ammār returned to North Africa and to serve with al-Mu’izz, eventually playing a part in the conquest and move to Egypt, where he himself remained through the last years of al-Mu’izz and the whole period of al-‘Azīz. For the dying caliph to have called for him must indicate both the high esteem he had earned from long years of service and the reputation of his military victories won on behalf of the Fatimid dynasty. But, it is also likely that Ibn ‘Ammār, like others of his family and some of the Sicilian nobility, had converted to Ismaili Shiism in earnest.7 The chief judge, Mu|ammad b. al-Nu‘mān, the other man summoned to take responsibility for the succession, was head of the da’wa—the Ismaili appeal— in addition to being chief justice. To entrust the fate of the dynasty to these two, and they are the only ones named in this connection, makes special sense if both were Ismailis. Thus Ibn ‘Ammār began his period of regency merely as the trusted confidant, in part the result of his Ismaili devotion, to the dying caliph. As representative of the North African Westerners, he then assumed a greater status, regent not merely for the transition but for the affairs of government at large. Stressing here this particular series of events and looking at them closely serves to highlight the culmination of a growing antagonism between the Westerners and Easterners under the Fatimids in Egypt. It likewise reveals clear signs of the declining influence of the former group. The brief period of Ibn ‘Ammār’s ascendancy proved to be both, a high point and a confirmation of their eventual lost of status. It also helps to define exactly what the term “Maghāriba” meant in this context. Note that the Westerners, among whom Ibn ‘Ammār was regarded as its leading member, comprised Arabs as well as Berbers, true Maghribīs from Ifrīqiya along with the Ÿiqillīs (and possible Andalusīs)—that is, any one from west of Egypt. For the purpose of this paper we will employ the principle al-Maqrīzī used for his great biographical dictionary the Muqaffā. He intended in that work to provide a biographical entry for everyone directly connected to Egypt from the time of the Arab conquest until the year of his birth (776/1374). He included only those that had come to Egypt (with, however, some curious additions: the Fatimid caliph al-Man¡ūr was born in the Maghrib and died there; he never visit Egypt; and yet 6 Heinz Halm, Das Reich des Mahdi: Der Aufstieg der Fatimiden (Munich, 1991), English trans. M. Bonner, The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids (Leiden, 1996), pp. 359-60, trs. 405-06. 7 The case is apparently clearest with regard to A|mad b. al-ðasan. See Halm, Empire, trs. 405.
when al-Mu‘izz moved to Cairo he brought with him the bodies of his immediate ancestors, among them al-Man¡ūr, who thus qualified for an entry in the Muqaffā. Similarly a rebel against the Zirids who was eventually caught, killed and decapitated, had his head sent on to Egypt by them. He also met the criterion). The subject of the Maghāriba in Cairo, even so restricted, is as vast as it is important. Not nearly enough work has been done on it, although some features are better known than others. The role of the Kutāma in Egypt and Syria, for example, is critical, particular in regard to the military and its success or lack thereof over the first three, four or possibly more decades of Fatimid rule. And yet there exist few, if any, good studies devoted to the subject.8 The Kutāma Berbers had supplied the major contingents of the Fatimid army going all the way back to the first rising in the Maghrib. The army of Jawhar that conquered Egypt was largely Berber, mainly Kutāma. In contrast to many other Berber groups, moreover, the Kutāma from the earliest days were converts to Ismaili Shiism. They had accepted the Fatimid caliphs with some passion and religious devotion. Their loyalty was unquestioned. But, as the Fatimids had pushed from Egypt, where they encountered little or no resistance, into Syria, their successes were mixed with failures, particularly in any conflict with Turkish soldiers, who proved to be much better trained and equipped. A relatively small force of Turks under the command of Alptakīn in Damascus inflicted a humiliating defeat on the army of Berbers troops led by Jawhar. The Fatimid general then reported to al-‘Azīz that the Kutāma had been disappointing in the confrontation with these Turks. Thereupon the caliph turned against them and began to create for himself regiments of Turks and other professional soldiers from the east. Unlike the Kutāma who came to the army as ethnic recruits, thus retaining their tribal allegiances, the easterners entered the Fatimid military as individuals, or as small groups, each having accepted the patronage of their employer, in this case the caliph. Their motives were thus more mercenary than religious. But their skill in combat, honed by youthful professional training and advancement in accord with merit, gave them a decided edge over the clan affiliated levees. Over the long course of al-‘Azīz’s reign, the standing of the Kutāma diminished steadily and that of the Turks rose. At the accession of al-ðākim, the commander in charge of Fatimid forces in Syria was Manjutakīn, a Turk. There were now many Turks in Egypt, along with other Easterners. 8 Much material is available, both in the sources and in the writings of Bianquis and Halm and I note here Musa Laqbal’s Dawr Kutāma fī ta’rīkh al-khilāfa al-fā¥imiyya mundhu ta’sīsihi ilā munta¡af al-qarn al-khāmis al-hijrī (Algiers, 1979), which is largely devote to the North African period rather than Egypt. However his chapter four entitled “Kutāma wa’l-nufudh al-fā¥imī fī Mi¡r wa bilād al-Shām mundhu al-fat| ilā nihāyat al-qarn alkhāmis al-hijrī” (pp. 457-76) is relevant. The book itself is unfortunately exceedingly hard to find in western libraries. There are only two copies in North America.
And yet when the Persian traveler and Ismaili dā‘ī Na¡īr b. Khusraw described the Fatimid army on parade in 439/1047, more than 80 years after the initial conquest, he reported that the Kutāma numbered at least 20,000, a mounted cavalry of considerable size. One major question about them concerns their immediate origin. Were these Kutāma newly recruited from the Maghrib or were they predominantly, or possibly entirely, the offspring of earlier generations that came to Egypt and remained there? Na¡īr comments about the Easterners (Mashāriqa, Turks and Persians) that he had observed on the same occasion that they mostly had been born in Egypt, even though they nevertheless retained their ethnic designations. One interesting bit of information may help suggest an answer about the Kutāma. In the year 376/986, the Fatimids in Cairo dispatched a missionary (dā‘ī) to the Kutāma. This man’s original purpose was to generate among them renewed enthusiasm for military service in the Fatimid armies of the east. This was a matter of no consequence to the Zirid governors of the Maghrib, who accorded him their hospitality and provided money and the means to pass on to the region of the tribes he was sent to recruit. Once there, however, Abu’l-Fahm, the dā‘ī in question, began to promote his own cause (rather than that of the Fatimid imams), forming an army of rebellion and minting coins in his own name. Belatedly, alarmed by this growing insurrection, the Zirids angrily suppressed it as soon as they could.9 Did they blame Cairo? It is possible but there is no clear evidence of long-term consequences. Nevertheless, surely the Fatimids would have thought twice about sending any more such recruiters. In the long run it is quite likely that the Kutāma in Egypt formed, eventually, a disappearing remnant of the former army brought to Egypt with al-Mu‘izz. AlMaqrīzī even says as much. In commenting on the advent of Badr al-Jamālī and his importation of Armenian troops, he reports that, “the Kutāma were henceforth eclipsed and thereafter became merely a part of the general population, after once having constituted the elite notables of the state.”10 Significantly, in the list of groups in Fatimid military regiments over the final 70 years, the Kutāma, to the best of my knowledge, never appear. Ethnic designations, however, tend to give way to names associated with the wazirs who first created the militias in question, such as Juyūshiyya, AfØaliyya, and more. Perhaps individuals, maybe even large numbers, of Kutāma joined one of these groups without our being now able to detect that fact. About their continued loyalty and the possibility of adherence to the Fatimid cause in later times, however, we possess one potentially important piece of evidence. In the confusion generated by the succession crisis following the death of 9
Itti‘ā©, 1: 263. Khi¥a¥ (AFS ed.) 3: 32.
the caliph al-Mustan¡ir, several of his sons departed Egypt rather than accept the imamate of their youngest brother al-Musta‘lī. Another son, Nizār, who also claimed the imamate, fled Cairo for Alexandria, where, after a year of struggle, he was eventual captured and most likely killed. When these events unfolded Nizār was already 49 or 50 and the father of sons of his own. Some of them—we have no idea how many there may have been—joined at least three of their uncles, Mu|ammad, Ismā‘īl and ¦āhir, somewhere in the west, that is, in the Maghrib. Thus a small coterie of dissidents and Nizārī supporters gathered somewhere in the West waiting for an opportunity to reassert their claim(s) to the imamate. In 526/1132 a son of Nizār, Abū ‘Abdallāh al-ðusayn—one who had fled Egypt in 488/1095—now ended his concealment by gathering a sizable force and setting out for Egypt. The ruler of that time, al-ðāfi©, managed to subvert the leaders of al-ðusayn’s army and when it arrived within reach, had him arrested and killed, whereupon his troops disbanded.11 The pitiful end of this al-ðusayn was, however, not the final attempt of these Western Nizārīs to make good on their claim to the imamate. In 543/1148 another army appeared from out of the Maghrib, led this time by a man who, according to al-Maqrīzī’s entry, merely claimed to be a son of Nizār. His fate at the hands of al-ðāfi©, after an early success, was almost exactly that of al-ðusayn in the earlier incident.12 Yet again in 556/1161 (according to alMaqrīzī) or 557/1162 (according to others), during the reign of al-‘Āÿid, Mu|ammad, the son of ðusayn, again approached Egypt from the West and made an appeal for support. He put together a large group of followers, assumed the name al-Mustan¡ir, and resolved to move to take Cairo. Ibn Ruzzīk, the wazir, however, easily duped him into thinking that he would personally raise the da‘wa in his favor and, by such false promises of favor, lured Mu|ammad to his tent where he was arrested. Thereafter he was transported to Cairo and killed.13 What is important is that in Ibn al-Qalānisī’s account of the incident in 543/1148, he specifies that the army that advanced with the pretender toward Alexandria was comprised of Kutāma (among others). Evidently the Kutāma, under the right circumstances, could still be counted on to support the Fatimids and to travel to Egypt and fight on their behalf, long, long after their earlier period of involvement in the east. Another group of Berbers in Egypt that require investigation is a bit more of a mystery. They are the Ma¡āmida (Ma¡mūdīs). It is not a question of identifying their ethnicity and origin. They are, after all, the tribe from which Ibn Tumart came and, Itti‘ā©, 3: 147. See Itti‘ā©, 3: 186, which likely follows Ibn al-Muyassar (p. 139). There is another account in Ibn alQalānisī, p. 302. The similarity of the two cases of 526 and 543 might be mistaken as one and the same but alMaqrīzī reports them separately. 13 Itti‘ā©, 3: 246. 11
with him, as the Mahdi later formed the Muwa||idūn, the Almohads. Much before that, however, the Ma¡āmida entered Egypt under the Fatimids and there constituted a separate group in the army, another element of the Maghāriba.14 Na¡īr reports that they were an infantry15 and were 20,000 in number. He says further that they had their own quarter in Cairo.16 Yet we do not know how or why or when they first joined and serve the Fatimids in Egypt. Who recruited them and under what conditions? The earliest citation of Ma¡mūdī troops occurs in an account of the siege of the citadel of Aleppo in 416/1025 by the Mirÿāsids. We have the name of the commander of Ma¡āmida who had a role, albeit unintended, in bringing about the Fatimid loss of Aleppo.17 A second report concerns the selection of the last Fatimid governor of Damascus much later in 468/1075. Again the new man was a Ma¡mūdī, likewise the head of a regiment of his fellow Berbers. He was Zayn al-Dawla Inti¡ār b. Ya|yā.18 Over the next decades there is no further information and it is commonly assumed that the Ma¡āmida played no role in the period. Nonetheless, they eventually reappear. In contrast to the Kutāma, the Ma¡āmida are cited by name in the lists of the various contingents of the army. A notable example come from the historian Ibn al-¦uwayr and from the final decades of Fatimid rule. The order of caliphal procession he records puts the Ma¡āmida first of the named regiments (just before the Ray|āniyya, Juyūshiyya and others). The only other ethnically defined groups are Turks, Daylamis, Kurds, and Ghuzz. With the exception of the Ma¡āmida, none are Westerners.19 Another aspect of my topic concerns various individual Westerners who came to Egypt in the later periods. The era of Badr al-Jamālī, which followed immediately after years of chaos—the ayyām al-shidda—saw, as far as we can tell, little or no immigration from western regions. There is evidence that Badr may have been quite hostile to the possibility. His son al-Afÿal was, however, decidedly the opposite. Almost from the commencement of his rule in 487/1094, westerners began to arrive and the influx continued from then on unabated. A few examples must suffice here. The Andalusian Umayya b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Abi’l-Ÿalt al-Dānī, author of the Risāla al-mi¡riyya, is an interest place to start. This man came to Egypt seeking patronage. He stayed from 489/1096 to 506/1112 but eventually left, going back to the Maghrib disappointed. Another Andalusian Abū Bakr Mu|ammad al-¦urtūshī, who was a major scholar of Maliki law, reached Egypt about the same time after al-Musabbi|ī, ed. Ayman Fuad Sayyid & Th. Bianquis, pp. 69, 74, 75. There are two different readings of Nā¡ir’s Persian text here. One sipāh would mean ‘infantry soldier’; the other siyāh means ‘black’ and thus the Ma¡āmida were ‘blacks’ rather than ‘infantry’ according to the latter reading, which, orthographically, differs but slightly from the first. See Thackston’s 1986 edition of his translation, p. 48, note 21. 16 Nā¡ir b. Khursraw, (2001) p. 66. 17 Yahya, Tadmuri ed. pp. 478-79; Bianquis, Syrie, p. 455. 18 Ibn al-Qalānisī, pp. 99, 108, 109; Bianquis, Syrie, p. 649. 19 Paula Sanders, Ritual, Politics and the City in Fatimid Cairo, pp. 91, 93. 14 15
extensive travels further east. In Alexandria he met and married a local woman and then stayed the rest of his life. His fame brought others and led to the formation of a school with him at it center. In his case, however, and that of his followers, the center for them was Alexandria and not Cairo, which most rarely visited. In addition they were Sunnis and thus not supporters of the Fatimids. One more example should be mentioned if only in passing. ‘Abbās b. Abi’lFutū| b. Tamīm b. Mu‘izz b. Bādīs al-Ÿinhājī was the son of Zirid royalty. His father, Abu’l-Futū|, and his wife suffered imprisonment in the Maghrib as a result of an attempted assassination of his brother the Zirid ruler. Eventually they with their son were sent into exile in Egypt. There they were accorded honors. When Abu’l-Futū| died soon afterward, the mother married ‘Alī b. al-Sallār, the governor of Alexandria. The transplanted Maghribi son, ‘Abbās, benefited from these connections, which later helped him to attain the high rank of wazir (from 548 to 549). The rest of his story is, however, quite sordid, feature as it does the murder of a caliph. It need not detains us here. Better, given the location of the conference for which this paper was written, namely Palermo, to return to an earlier case, to come, as it were, full circle, and to rejoin the Kalbids and the topic of their involvement with Egypt and Cairo. By common consensus the high point of Arab rule over Sicily occurred during the long reign of Yūsuf b. ‘Abdallāh, the seventh of the Kalbid amirs. Normally it is stated that his control ended in 388/998, when he suffered a stroke that rendered the left side of his body useless. However, al-Maqrīzī reports a different date. He says explicitly that this event happened at the end of Rajab in the year 403 (midFebruary 1013) and that only then did he turn over the reins of government to his son Ja‘far. We thus have between the two dates a discrepancy of fifteen years. Without knowing more about why some source say 388, it is hard to judge which is correct. However, al-Maqrīzī adds a useful fact. He claims that Ja‘far already possessed a sijill issued by al-ðākim that provided for him to succeed his father in such an event (the incapacity of the latter). The caliph also granted this son the title Tāj alDawla wa Sayf al-Milla by means of a subsequent decree. Then, later, the caliph sent him a further distinction, a higher honor, by augmenting his title (laqab) by the term “al-Malik”.20 Other than an extreme honor, the exact meaning of this term in this situation is unclear. A report from Egypt in 408/1017 mentions al-ðākim’s determination to bring under control the proliferation of titles. He decreed that year that all, save eight or nine of those in effect, were to be annulled. Among those exempted, most significantly, were Thiqa al-Dawla, the title of Yūsuf, which as the ruler of Sicily was still in effect, and Tāj al-Dawla, the title of his son Ja‘far.21 20 21
On Amir Ja‘far, see Maqrīzī’s Itti‘ā© 2: 99, 161; his Muqaffā, 3: 66-67; Nuwayrī’s Nihāya, 24; 376. Ya|yā, ed.-French trs., pp. 420-21.
As is reasonably well known, Ja‘far was challenged by one of his brothers who led a revolt against him in 405/1014. That attempted coup was put down soon enough and the offending brother killed. However, policies pursued by Ja‘far remained quite unpopular. Because his brother had had the support of Berber and slave troops, he decided to drive both groups out of Sicily. In addition a close advisor of his urged him to institute a system of taxation that, although in practice elsewhere in the Islamic world, had not been applied on the island.22 Eventually, growing unrest put the tenure of Ja‘far into serious jeopardy. With forces threatening to bring down the government, the old amir had himself carried out before the mob on a litter. The date given is the 6th of Mu|arram 410 (May 14, 1019). Sight of the still respected ruler calmed the situation, but Yūsuf nonetheless heeded the demands of the people and deposed Ja‘far by replacing him with yet another son, A|mad (called al-Ak|al). Further threats of violence and fear for the well being of Ja‘far prompted the old man to send him away from Sicily altogether. Accordingly, Ja‘far left Palermo for Cairo in the aftermath of these troubles in 410. Al-Maqrīzī and al-Nuwayrī indicate that the father departed the Island soon afterward, likewise on his way to Egypt. Al-Nuwayrī further reports that the father took with him the astonishingly large sum of 670,000 dinars, plus goods and the like. Life in Cairo for the two retired amirs of Sicily must have been sweet and comfortable. The father appears to have joined his son in Egypt, although there is little or no record of him there. The years 410 to 414 for Egypt are not well documented. Perhaps the father died shortly after arrival. For the son, however, we have a report from 415. On the first of Shawwal of that year (December 6, 1024), in celebration of the feast, the caliph, as was his custom, marched in procession to the mu¡alla for prayers and the ‘īd khu¥ba. The Egyptian historian al-Musabbi|ī was himself present on this occasion and he left us a detailed account of this event. After leading prayers, the caliph al-®āhir mounted the minbar. Once up, he called out the names of those he hoped to honor by asking for them to climb up after him. One of the honorees on that day was Tāj al-Dawla, the former ruler of Sicily.23 Although al-Musabbi|ī rather matter-of-factly comments that Tāj al-Dawla happened not to be present when this occurred, that he was so named must indicate that he was still alive and living in Cairo at the end of 415. Otherwise his name would not have been included. It also suggests that Ja‘far had found an honored place in the Fatimid capital and its court where he remained a member of the local elite—and a most important member of the Maghāriba—some five years, perhaps much more, after leaving Sicily.
Jeremy Johns, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Dīwān (Cambridge, 2002), p. 26. The text of al-Musabbi|ī at this point gives the name simply as Tāj al-Dawla Ibn Abi’l-ðusayn but adds to it the phrase Ÿā|ib Ÿiqilliya kāna. Bianquis and Sayyid ed. p. 66; Millward, 185. In any case the family name in many Arabic sources is Ibn Abi’l-ðusayn after the founding ancestral figure of the Kalbids. 22 23
- Abbas, Ihsan, al-‘Arab fī Ÿiqilliya. Beirut, 1975. - ———, Mu‘jam al-‘ulamā’ wa’l-shu‘arā’ al-¡iqliyyīn. Beirut, 1994. - Beshir, B. I, “Fatimid Military Organization,” Der Islam 55 (1978): 37-56. - Bianquis, Thierry, Damas et la Syrie sous la domination fatimide (359-468/969-1076). 2 vols. Damas, 1986-89. - Brett, Michael, The Rise of the Fatimids: The World of the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the Tenth Century CE. Leiden, 2001. - Colin, G. S., “Ma¡mūda,” EI2. - Gabrielli, Francesco, “L’antologia di Ibn as-Ÿairafī sui poeti arabo-Siciliani,” Bollettino, Centro di studi filologici e linguistici siciliani 2 (1954); 39-54. - Ibn al-Qalānisī, Abū Ya‘lā -ðamza, Dhayl ta’rīkh Dimashq, ed. H. F. Amedroz. Leiden and Beirut, 1908; - Ibn al-Qa¥¥ā‘ al-Ÿiqillī, al-Durra al-kha¥īra, ed. Bashīr al-Bakūsh, Beirut, 1995. - Ibn Khallikān, Wafiyāt al-a‘yān, ed. Ihsan Abbas, Beirut, 1994; trans. De Slane. - al-I¡fahānī, al-‘Imād al-Kātib, Kharīdat al-qa¡r wa jarīdat al-‘a¡r. Baghdad, 1955. - al-Jamal, ‘Abd al-Ra|īm Yūsuf A|mad, al-Shi‘r wa’l-shu‘arā’ fī Ÿiqilliya al-islāmiyya. Cairo, 1996. - Johns, Jeremy, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Dīwān, Cambridge, 2002. - Laqbāl, Mūsā, Dawr Kutāma fī ta’rīkh al-khilāfa al-fā¥imiyya mundhu ta’sīsihā ilā munta¡af al-qarn al-khāmis al-hijrī. al-Jazā’ir, 1979. - Lev, Yaacov, “Army, Regime and Society in Fatimid Egypt, 358-487/968-1094,” IJMES 19 (1987): 337-366. - ———, “The Fatimid Army, A.H. 358-427/968-1036 C E.: Military and Social Aspects,” Asian and African Studies 14 (1980): 165-192. - al-Maqrīzī, Tāqī al-Dīn, Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’ bi-akhbār al-a’imma al-fā¥imiyyīn al-khulafā’, vol. I, ed. Jamāl al-Dīn al-Shayyāl and vols. II-III, ed. Mu|ammad ðilmī Mu|ammad A|mad. Cairo, 1967-1973. - ———, al-Khi¥a¥ (al-ma‘rūf bi’l-mawā‘i© wa’l-i‘tibār bi’dhikr al-khi¥a¥ wa’l-āthār, ed. Ayman Fuad Sayyid. 5 vols. London, 2002-05 - ———, Kitāb al-Muqaffā al-kabīr, ed. M. al-Ya‘lāwī. 8 vols. Beirut, 1991. - al-Musabbi|ī, al-Mukhtār, al-Juz’al-arba‘ūn min Akhbār Mi¡r. Pt. 1 (historical section), ed. Ayman Fuad Sayyid and Th. Bianquis. Cairo, 1978. Pt. 2 (literary section), ed. ðusayn Na¡¡ār. Cairo, 1984. - ———, Akhbar Misr in the Years (414-415 A.H.), ed. W. G. Millward. Cairo, 1980. - Nā¡ir b. Khusraw, Safarnāma, Engl. trs. W. M. Thackston Jr., Nā¡er-e Khosraw’s Book of Travels, Bibliotheca Persica, 1986; ed. with Eng. trs. by Thackston, Costa Mesa, CA, Mazda, 2001. - al-Nuwayrī, Shihāb al-Dīn A|mad, Nihāyat al-arab fī funūn al-adab, vol 24, ed. ðusayn Na¡¡ār and ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Ahwānī. Cairo, 1973.
- ———, vol. 28, ed. Mu|ammad Mu|ammad Amīn and Mu|ammad ðilmī Mu|ammad A|mad. Cairo, 1992. - Sanders, Paula, Ritual, Politics and the City in Fatimid Cairo. Albany, 1994. - al-Shayyal, Gamal el-Din, “Ibn al-Ÿayrafī”, EI2. - Umayya b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, Abu’l-Ÿalt al-Dānī, al-Risāla al-mi¡riyya, ed. ‘Abd al-Salām Hārūn in Nawādir al-makh¥ū¥āt, vol. 1 (Cairo, 1972), pp. 5-56. - Walker, Paul E., Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and Its Sources. London, 2002. - ———, Caliph of Cairo: The Remarkable Story of the Ruler Who Vanished, the Mysterious Case of al-Hakim, Commander of the Believers. London, 2009. - Ya|yā b. Sa‘īd al-An¥ākī, Ta’rīkh, ed. I. Kratchkovsky with French trs. by A. Vasiliev, Patrologica Orientalia 18 (1924): 699-833 and 23 (1932): 347-520; part III, ed. Kratchkowsky, French trs. by F. Micheau and G. Troupeau, Patrologica Orientalia 47 (1997): 373-559. Ed. ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Salām Tadmūrī. ¦arābilis, Lubnān, 1990.
Historical representations of a Fatimid Imam-caliph: Exploring al-Maqrīzī’s and Idrīs’ writings on al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh
It is a happenstance of history that the two most comprehensive extant sources on the Fatimid era (909-1171 CE) were composed by two 15th Century scholars: Taqī al-Dīn A|mad b. Alī al-Maqrīzī (d. 845/1449) and ‘Imād al-Dīn Idrīs (d. 872/1468). Although they composed their works almost three centuries after the Fatimid dynasty had waned, their writings assume primary source significance as, in constructing their narrative, they draw upon a spectrum of earlier North African, Egyptian and Iraqi, Sunni and Ismaili sources, which have not survived the vagaries of time and circumstance. Though they were contemporaries and died within two decades of each other, both authors, the first an Egyptian Sunni Shāfi‘ī jurist, the second a Yemeni, ¦ayyibī Ismaili Chief Dā‘ī, have significantly different interests and motivations when writing about the Fatimid era. Their belief in the purpose of history, their methodology in using source material, the focus of their narratives as well as their target audience make their approaches to recording Fatimid history distinctive. This provides a relatively rare opportunity to study two discrete perspectives from which to understand and examine Fatimid historiography. The reign of the fourth Imam-caliph, al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh (341-365/953975), an exemplary sovereign in whose era Egypt is brought under Fatimid sway, thus transforming their North African state into a Mediterranean empire, has received focussed attention from both al-Maqrīzī and Idrīs. Their respective works, the Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’bi-akhbār al-a’imma al-Fā¥imiyyin al-khulafā’1 and the ‘Uyūn Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. Vol. 1, ed. Jamāl al-Dīn al-Shayyāl (Cairo, 1967); vols. 2-3, ed. Mu|ammad ðilmī, Mu|ammad A|mad (Cairo, 1967-1973). I am currently preparing an annotated translation of the chapter on al-Mu’izz from the Itti‘ā©, which is to be published as Towards a Shī‘ī Mediterranean empire: Al-Mu‘izz, Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo (London, 2009). * 1
al-Akhbār wa Funūn al-Athār2 together provide comprehensive coverage of the life and times of al-Mu’izz, with both writers drawing from sources available to them but which, unfortunately, are no longer extant. An examination of their notions, purposes and expressions of history consequently forms the focus of this paper.
The Historians Taqī al-Dīn al-Maqrīzī was an erudite Sunni polymath who dedicated much of his considerable scholarship to the study of Egypt. Born, bred and buried in Cairo, al-Maqrīzī had a distinguished career in the public service of the Mamluk administration. He had the privilege of growing up in a learned environment on both the paternal and maternal sides of his family.3 His maternal grandfather was an eminent ðanafī jurist, who held a number of important judicial posts and composed numerous treatises. His paternal grandfather was a ðanbalī and an established hadith scholar who was in charge of a premier Damascene institution.4 Al-Maqrīzī thus had the unusual advantage of being nurtured in a variety of Sunni madhhabs. Upon gaining certain stature in the learned circles of his time, alMaqrīzī chose to adopt the Shāfi‘ī madhhab. Al-Maqrīzī’s interest in the Fatimids stemmed from two principal factors. Firstly, he regarded them as the premier Muslim dynasty that made Egypt the nucleus of their empire, investing their attention and resources in the country and therefore contributing to its development. The second factor was genealogical: though he was a Shāfi‘ī jurist, al-Maqrīzī traced his ancestry to the Fatimids, considering himself a scion of the sixth Fatimid Imam-caliph al-ðākim bi ‘Amr illāh (375-411/996-1021).5 Idrīs ‘Imād al-Dīn’s connection to the Fatimid house was more integrally tied to his very being than al-Maqrīzī’’s was to his claimed pedigree. Born in 794/1392 at Shibām in the Mount ðaraz region of Yemen, Idrīs belonged to the prominent al-Walīd branch of a Yemeni Qurayshi Ismaili family, which had provided leader-
2 ‘Imād al-Dīn Idrīs, ‘Uyūn al-Akhbār wa Funūn al-Athār, ed. M. al-Ya‘lāwī as Ta‘rīkh al-Khulafā’ alFā¥imiyyūn bi’l-Maghrib: al-Qism al-Khā¡¡ min Kitāb ‘Uyūn al-Akhbār (Beirut, 1985). I am working on an annotated translation of the chapter on al-Mu’izz from the ‘Uyūn. 3 His curriculum consisted of Qur’anic studies, Hadith, Arabic grammar, literature and fiqh – a standard curriculum for boys born with his background. See Franz Rosenthal’s article on ‘al-Mak. rīzī’, EI2, vol. 6, pp. 193-4. 4 See N. Rabbat, ‘Who Was al-Maqrīzī? A Biographical Sketch’, Mamluk Studies 7/2, 2003. 5 In the abundant biographical references to al-Maqrīzī by his contemporaries, friends and foe alike mention an enigmatic facet of his lineage, that of his descent from the Fatimid caliphs. The climate during his Sunni Mamlūk era meant any open claim to descent from the Fatimid imam-caliphs would have been detrimental to alMaqrīzī. For a fuller discussion of al-Maqrīzī’s lineage see S. Jiwa, forthcoming introduction in Towards a Shī‘ī Mediterranean Empire (London, 2009) as well as P. Walker, ‘Al-Maqrīzī and the Fatimids’, Mamluk Studies 7/2, 2003, pp. 88-97 and N. Rabbat, ‘Who Was al-Maqrīzī? (2003).
ship of the Musta‘lī ¦ayyibī da‘wa from the 7th/13th Century. Idrīs was invested with this responsibility by his uncle ‘Alī b. ‘Abd Allāh in 823/1428, thus becoming the 19th Dā‘ī al-mu‘laq (Chief dā‘ī) of the Yemeni ¦ayyibī tradition. As the ¦ayyibī imam was believed to be in concealment (satr), the chief Dā‘ī assumed supreme responsibility for the material welfare and spiritual wellbeing of the believers, making him, in effect, the de facto ruler of the community.6 In his role as the Chief dā‘ī, Idrīs had a vested interest in privileging the Ismaili imamate as the most deserving inheritors of the prophetic mantle. Idrīs succeeded to the leadership of the Ismaili community in Yemen at a particularly turbulent time in its history when interactions between the various regional factions were strained and volatile. As relations between the contending Shī‘ī groups in the region, particularly the Zaydis7 and the ¦ayyibī Ismailis, had been historically intransigent, Idrīs sided with the Sunni ¦āhirid8 sultan to combat the Zaydis in northern Yemen. He established an upper hand over them by wresting several castles and citadels from them. Thus, in assuming the mantle of leadership, Idrīs became embroiled in the arduous political manoeuvring and the military jockeying for power with the competing regional groupings. He embraced this role and excelled at it such that over the forty years that spanned his appointment, he developed a reputation for being an intrepid general and finally as a honed statesman. The strictures of the battlefield did not limit Idrīs’ interests only to the Yemeni landscape. He played an important role in maintaining linkages between the ¦ayyibī da‘wa in Yemen and India. The trend of educating adherents to the ¦ayyibī da’wa from Gujarat was continued by Idrīs’ successors until the eventual ascension of an Indian, Yūsuf b. Sulaymān, as the twenty-fourth Dā‘ī al-mu¥laq in 1539. This event facilitated the eventual transfer of the ¦ayyibī da’wa headquarters from Yemen to Gujarat in 1567.9
6 The rise to power of Abbasids in 154/750 drove a number of Shī‘ī groups underground, including the Ismailis whose Imams were concealed from public view as they clandestinely opposed Abbasid rule in a period known as the Dawr al-Satr (period of concealment). The concealment of the Imams became a marked feature of Ismaili cosmology. The ¦ayyibī da’wa maintained that Imam ¦ayyib initiated a new period of concealment upon his disappearance thus rendering the authority of his representative, the Dā‘ī al-mu¥laq, absolute. On the dawr alsatr see F. Daftary, The Ismā‘īlīs: Their History and Doctrines (Cambridge, 2nd revised ed., 2007), pp. 87-128. 7 The Zaydīs’ are a branch of the Shia who backed the revolt of Zayd b. ‘Alī b. al-ðusayn in 740. They formed a distinct community over time who rejected the Imami notions of na¡¡ [authorative designation] and ‘ilm [authoritative knowledge] as integral to the position of a legitimate Imam. The Zaydī state in Yemen was founded in by al-Hādī ilā al-ðaqq in 284/897 and continued in various form until the 20th century. Though sharing a common Shia heritage the Zaydī and ¦ayyibī communities of Yemen would become inextricable enemies over time. See W. Madelung, Zaydiyya, EI2 8 F. Daftary, The Ismā‘īlīs, pp. 189-90. 9 F. Daftary, The Ismailis, p. 279.
The Fatimid court wrangling over succession catalysed two succession crises that were to split the Ismaili da‘wa following the death of the Fatimid Imam-caliph al-Mustan¡ir in 1094. The death of the Musta‘lian Imam-caliph al-Āmir in 1130 caused the second such split, whereby the succession of ‘Abd al-Majīd al-ðafi© was rejected by Queen ‘Arwa of the Sulayhid dynasty (d. 1138) in Yemen in favour of the infant ¦ayyib.10 Maintaining the continuity of the Fatimid tradition became one of the hallmarks of the ¦ayyibī da‘wa. It played a major role in ensuring the transference of the vast corpus of Fatimid literature from Egypt to Yemen where it was to find a safe haven. As the Dā‘ī al-mu¥laq, Idrīs was the executive custodian of this intellectual and literary collection. However, Idrīs was not merely an avid bibliophile. He was a prolific writer who wrote in prose and verse on Ismaili history and doctrines. His works have withstood the test of time and continue to be studied within the Ismaili communities and by scholars of Ismaili studies.11 Over the course of time, the majority of the primary Ismaili and indigenous sources that he had drawn upon in crafting his narrative have been lost due to time and circumstance. Consequently, his works have gained the distinction of becoming one of the premier Ismaili sources for the Fatimid age, as they give voice to these otherwise silenced expressions. Moreover, because of Idrīs’ native knowledge and engagement in the region, his writings form the bedrock of Yemeni Ismaili history and doctrine from the 5th/11th century to the author’s demise in 1468. Portrayal of the Fatimids The Fatimids receive significant coverage in several of al-Maqrīzī’s compositions whose scope and range include the three main categories of mediaeval historiography: chronicles, topographies and biographical dictionaries. Moreover, the access that they provide to some vital, non-extant Egyptian as well as Fatimid primary sources, earn him a distinctive reputation in Fatimid historiography.12 The works that merit particular attention are: Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’, Mawā‘i© wa’l-i‘tibār
10 The Ÿulay|ids were an Ismaili dynasty that ruled over parts of Yemen from 1047-1138. Established by Alī b. Mu|ammad al-Ÿulay|ī [d. 1066 or 1080] the dynasties most famous regent would was Queen Arwā bt. A|mad [d. 1138] who maintained that ¦ayyib was the legitimate heir of al-Āmir and appointed the first Dā‘ī alMutlaq as his representative. See Daftary, The Ismailis, pp. 261-276 and G.R. Smith, Ÿulay|ids, EI2, Vol. 9, pp. 815. 11 To the present day Bohora students of the ¦ayyibī da’wa in the Jāmi’a al-Ÿayfiyya (Ÿayfi college) in Surat, India are required to produce a copy of the ‘Uyūn transcribed from a primary handwritten copy which is checked by the college professors and then kept in the college library. A. F. Sayyid, The Fatimids and their Successors in Yaman (London, 2002), p. 12. 12 Al-Maqrīzī quotes from non-extant sources such as the Ta’rīkh mi¡r of Ibn al-Muyassar (d. 1278-9) as well the eyewitness accounts of many distinguished Fatimid court historians including Ibn Zūlāq (d. 386/996), al-Musabbi|ī (d. 420/1029) and Ibn al-¦uwayr (d. 617/1220) which survive only as excerpted quotes in alMaqrīzī’s works.
fī dhikr al-khi¥a¥ wa’l-āthār and Kitāb al-muqaffā’ al-kabīr.13 The Khi¥a¥ provides unique insights into the topographical facets of Cairo, a city founded by al-Muizz in 969 CE, while the Muqaffa records invaluable biographical accounts of the prominent figures of Fatimid society. The rarity of the Itti‘ā© lies in the fact that it is al-Maqrīzī’s only chronicle that focuses exclusively on the two and a half century history of the Fatimids, from its inception in North Africa to its demise in Egypt. As comprehensive as al-Maqrīzī’s works are on the Fatimids, nonetheless, they need to be supplemented with other sources, particularly Ismaili writings. The paucity of Ismaili historical works is well recognised. However, a unique work in this genre, and one which provides valuable information about the Fatimids from an Ismaili viewpoint, is the multi-volume historical work ‘Uyūn alakhbār wa funūn al-athār by Idrīs ‘Imād al-Dīn. Composed circa 838/1434, the text begins with the inception of Islam, noting the virtues of Prophet Muhammad and his cousin and son in law ‘Alī b. Abī ¦ālib and highlights the legitimacy of the latter’s appointment as the premier successor to the Prophet. He then continues the chronological account of the life and times of the rest of the Ismaili imams, eventually validating the Mustali-¦ayyibī branch of the imamate. He continued the narrative until his own demise in 872/1468.14 One of the criticisms levelled at Idrīs’s historical writings is that they have significant flaws and limitations. Husayn Hamdani,15 the leading Ismaili scholar to draw attention to Idrīs’ scholarship, cautions that Idrīs’ “books are not free of occasional partially and prejudice, of either excessive devotion or fierce polemics, resulting not infrequently in distortions of what really happened and the omission of certain events.”16 Wladimir Ivanow,17 the pioneering Russian scholar of Ismaili studies, was more scathing in his indictment stating that Idrīs “is hopelessly indisal-Maqrīzī’s Kitāb al-muqaffā’ al-kabīr, ed. M. al-Ya‘lāwī (Beirut, 1981). In his subsequent historical texts titled Nuzhat al-afkār wa rawØat al-akhbār (The Pleasure of Thoughts and the Garden of Information) and the RawØat al-Akhbār wa nuzhat al-asmār (A Garden of Information and Diverting conversations), Idrīs’ pursues a more specific focus, namely, to relate the history of the Ismaili dawa in Yemen from its commencement in the 2nd/8th Century until his own time. The latter is also particularly valuable in furnishing biographical information about Idrīs and shedding light on his contribution to the ¦ayyibī da‘wa in Yemen. For full biographical details see A.F. Sayyid, The Fatimids and their successors in Yaman, pp. 12-13 also see H. Hamdani, The doctrines and history of the Ismā‘īlī da‘wat in Yemen as based on the dā‘ī Idrīs ‘Imād alDīn’s Kitāb zahr al-ma‘ānī and other works, Unpublished PhD Thesis, p. 23; A.F. Sayyid, The Fatimids and their successors in Yaman, pp. 12-13. 15 Husayn Hamdani (1901-1962) was a pioneering scholar in Ismaili studies whose primary contribution was working on a collection of manuscripts preserved by his family in Surat, India, that contributed greatly to a truer understanding of Ismaili history. 16 A.F. Sayyid, The Fatimids and their successors in Yaman, p. 14. 17 Wladimir Ivanow (1886-1970) emigrated to India in the early 1920s where he was provided access to Ismaili manuscripts by the Nizari Imam, Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III (1885-1957) and where he authored numerous studies and edited several primary Ismaili texts laying the foundations for modern studies in Ismaili history. 13 14
criminate in mixing up Ismaili sources with anti-Ismaili, never specifying them, and thus often placing the reader into the position of helplessness in separating information which one may regard as authentic, from that which is often obvious fiction and insinuation of hostile propaganda. Similarly, he does not discriminate between history and legend, the events as they were in reality and as they should have been according to various religious schemes.”18 These perceived shortcomings raise a number of fundamental questions: What is Idrīs’ view of history? What is his purpose in writing the ‘Uyūn? Who is its principal audience?
Teleological view of history As the Chief Dā‘ī in the ¦ayyibī Ismaili tradition, Idrīs’ weltanschaung is informed by the teleological perspective which views events in human history as an unfolding of divine design and purpose. Consequently, occurrences in the world are understood and interpreted as reflections of the divine order and sequence. The distinctive esotericism derived from the eternal, unchangeable truths of religion (|aqā’iq) and the allegorical exegesis of the scriptures (ta’wīl), which became cornerstones of Ismaili thought, thus fulfil the function of offering a comprehensive view of the universe and its manifestation in human history. Adopting a semi-cyclical and semi-linear conception of time, the Ismailis developed a cyclical view of history according to which, “mankind is consummated in seven eras of various durations; each one inaugurated by a speaker-prophet or enunciator (nātiq) of a revealed message, which in its exoteric aspect contains a religious law. The prophets of resolution (‘ulul ‘azm)19 of the first six eras of this heiro-history were: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Each of these first six nātiqs was succeeded by a spiritual legatee or executor (wa¡ī), also known as the foundation (asās) or silent one, who interpreted the inner, esoteric (ba¥in) of the revealed message to the initiated. Each wa¡ī was followed by imams who were the completers of the message and guardians of the exoteric and esoteric meaning of the scriptures and the laws. There were variances in the status, function and finality of these imams during the formative centuries of Ismaili thought. In pre-Fatimid times the seventh imam of the sixth era, Mu|ammad b. Isma‘īl, was considered to be the final imam whose messianic resurrection would reinstate piety and justice in the world. In Fatimid thought, this role was extended to each imam all of whom fulfil the role through each cycle of time.20 Consequently, the initial, predetermined, seven cycle F. Daftary, Ismaili Literature: A bibliography of sources and studies (London, 2004), p. 7. The Qur’anic phrase ‘ulul ‘azm is mentioned in 46:35 where it states, “Therefore patiently persevere, as did (all) apostles of absolute resolution”. 20 This caused a major rupture in the Ismaili fold with those who challenged this shift and clung to what they considered to be the original doctrine coalescing into a movement which came to be called the Qaramita. 18 19
cosmology was extended to countless cycles, “leading the sacred history of mankind from its origins to the Great Resurrection.”21 Essentially, the ¦ayyibī da‘wa maintained the Fatimid doctrinal stance, articulating facets of esoteric doctrine that gave ¦ayyibī gnosis its distinctive character. Notably, it attributed a soteriological purpose to the creation of the primordial universe. The redemption of the spiritual Adam and the salvation of the “celestial archetypes of the earthly proclaimers of the mystical da‘wa became the posterity of the spiritual Adam.”22 The earthly representative of the spiritual Adam was the first, universal Adam who inaugurated the cycle of cycles. He was the first repository of the imamate, the primordial imam, who was the ultimate exegete of the scriptures. He also instituted the terrestrial da‘wa hierarchy whose raison d’être was to imbibe and propagate the supremacy of the imamate and its interpretation of the faith so as to secure the salvation of the believers. This da‘wa hierarchy assumed paramount importance in the ¦ayyibī scheme. The imamate was considered to be in a period of concealment (dawr al-satr), thus delegating the prerogative of providing the temporal and spiritual leadership of the ¦ayyibī Ismailis to the Chief Dai of the time. He was deemed to have unique access to the imam. As the 19th Chief Dai within the ¦ayyibī tradition, ‘Imād al-Dīn Idrīs diligently sought to execute this responsibility through all means available to him including his own scholarship. Expectedly, the most comprehensive doctrinal expose of ¦ayyibī esotericism is his Zahr al-Ma’ānī fi taw|id al-mubdi’, a text that continues to be among the primary sources of instruction on the |aqā’iq in the ¦ayyibī communities to this day. Similarly, Idrīs’ primary motive in composing the ‘Uyūn al-akhbar, his monumental treatise on the inception and key contours of Ismaili history up to his time, was to record for the da‘wa and its followers the historical unfolding on the terrestrial plane of the divine plan that had been designated for the imamate and its da‘wa. The fact that this work was written primarily for an internal audience, which then preserved it as a vital component of its da‘wa heritage, may well have contributed to its fortuitous survival. Al-Maqrīzī’s works have become part of the Muslim historical repertoire for, however, very different reasons, principal among them being the fact that he was an esteemed Shafi jurist and a renowned scholar of his age. Expectedly, his interest, purpose and approach to the Fatimids vary significantly from that of Idrīs. Khaldunian approach to history As an intellectual protégé of Ibn Khaldun (732-808/1332-1406), al-Maqrīzī paid tribute to the pre-eminent philosopher of history in the Muslim world saying 21 22
F. Daftary, Ismailis, p. 291. F. Daftary, Ismailis, p. 293.
that he was, “the elite that the age brings only rarely.”23 Among the many teachers, jurists and scholars that al-Maqrīzī encountered in his quest for knowledge and learning, Ibn Khaldun’s seminal scholarship played a formative role in shaping alMaqrīzīs intellectual consciousness and historical outlook.24 Al-Maqrīzī’s historical writing is permeated by Ibn Khaldun’s philosophical premise articulated as in the Muqqadimah that, “the inner meaning of history involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth, subtle explanation of the causes and origins of existing things, and deep knowledge of the how and why of events. History, therefore, is firmly rooted in philosophy.”25 Consequently, al-Maqrīzī concludes that it is, “unlike any other work, the essence of knowledge and science, and the product of sound intellect and understanding.”26 Moreover, “it reveals the truth of things, events and news; it explains all the state of the universe and reveals the origin of all beings in an admirable and plain style.”27 Ibn Khaldun’s novel sociological analysis to account for the rise and fall of dynasties appears to have persuaded al-Maqrīzī that his own period of Mamlūk rule was one of decline and that it had been accelerated by societal, administrative and financial dysfunction. The Khaldunian notion of a symbiotic link between royal authority, justice and the maintenance of order in society formed the basis of al-Maqrīzī’s thesis that “the financial disarray of the early 9th/15th century is solely a result of the injustice of the ruling class, which results in a corrupt appointment system, excessive taxes and the promotion of a bad currency. This linking of injustice with social trouble echoes Ibn Khaldun.”28 Al-Maqrīzī also undertook a systematic study of the development of the Muslim polity so as to delineate successful models of governance. It is evident that he regarded the Fatimid caliphate as one such viable model which had the additional advantage of being located in Egypt, his beloved homeland. In writing about the Fatimids, al-Maqrīzī’s judicious approach to his sources is highly unusual and remarkable for his times. His discerning historical judgement is evident in this reflective critique of the relevance and authenticity of the sources: But reflect, may God have mercy on you, into the heart of reality, and weigh the [historical] reports just as you would weigh the good amongst the coins; avoid pas23 Ma|mūd al-Jalīlī, “Tarjamat Ibn Khaldūn lil-Maqrīzī,” Majallat al-Majma‘ al-‘Ilmī al-‘Irāqī 13 (1966) p.220 as cited in Anne F. Broadbridge, Royal Authority, Justice, and Order in Society: The Influence of Ibn Khaldun on the Writings of al-Maqrīzī and Ibn Taghrībirdī, Mamluk Studies, 7/2 (2003), p. 234. 24 After arriving in Cairo in 784/1382, Ibn Khaldun taught courses at the Al-Azhar and then other madrasas where he attracted numerous students, one of whom would be al-Maqrīzī who was aged 18 at the time. A plethora of literature exists pertaining to his life and works, as enumerated in M. Talbi, ‘Ibn Khaldūn’, EI2, vol. 4, pp. 825-831. 25 Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. F. Rosenthal as Prolegomena (New York, 1958) p. 6. 26 As cited in Broadbridge, ‘Royal Authority, Justice, and Order in Society’, p. 234. 27 Al-Maqrīzī, Durar al-‘uqūd, p. 224. 28 Broadbridge, ‘Royal Authority, Justice, and Order in Society’, p. 238.
sion and desire and ascertain the truth. And what you will realise about the majority of the attacks against them [the Fatimids] is that the despicable reports, especially those pertaining to expelling them from the Muslim fold (ahl al-Islam), are seen only in the books of the easterners, of the Baghdadis and the Syrians, like the Munta©am of Ibn al-Jāwzi, the Kāmil of Ibn al-Athīr, the Tārīkh Halab of Ibn Abi ¦āyy, the Tārīkh al-‘Imād of Ibn Kathīr, the work of Ibn Wāsil al-Hamāwī, the text of Ibn Shaddād, the writings of al-‘Imād al-Isfahāni and others like them. But in the books of the Egyptians, who were cautious in narrating their reports, you will not find anything similar. Let wisdom guide your intellect, and defeat the armies of prejudice, and recognise the truth, and you will be well guided if God most High wills it.29 In reviewing the reign of al-Mu‘izz, al-Maqrīzī candidly discusses the biases embedded in the reports of ‘eastern historians’ (i.e. from Iraq and Syria) and provides a reasoned argument for his views. He states: The author [al-Maqrīzī], may God have mercy on him, says, the matter is not as Ibn al-Athīr has mentioned, for the esteemed Egyptian legist and historian Abū’lðasan b. Ibrāhīm b. Zūlāq, may God have mercy upon him, has related in his work, Kitāb sīrat al-Mu‘izz, and which I have read in his own handwriting, a day-to-day account from the time when al-Mu‘izz entered Egypt until he passed away... Ibn Zūlāq was better informed than Ibn al-Athīr about events in Egypt, particularly those concerning al-Mu‘izz, as he was present and witnessed them, being as he was among those who came into his [al-Mu‘izz’s] presence and greeted him... He narrates the events he witnessed and the matters reported to him by high-ranking and trustworthy members of the state as mentioned in it [the Sīra]. Ibn al-Athīr, on the other hand, has based his information on the Iraqi and Syrian historians. It is clear to those who have delved into the sciences of his day that the latter are much prejudiced against the Fatimid caliphs and say abominable things about them, despite the fact that their knowledge of the conditions in Egypt is extremely limited. Often, I have seen them relating in their histories events in Egypt, stories which are not accepted by intelligent scholars and rejected by those skilled and informed about the history of Egypt. The people of each region know best about their own events, and so the Egyptian historians know best about what took place there.30 Although al-Maqrīzī’s critique of his sources is extremely valuable, he does not use criticism as a pretext to circumvent or even marginalise those authors or their writings. Instead, he draws on the full range of sources mentioned above to present a comprehensive and balanced overview of al-Mu‘izz’s reign and character. Itti‘ā©, vol. 3, pp. 345-6 Itti‘ā©, vol. 1, p. 232. As was the practice among medieval Muslim writers, al-Maqrīzī completes this critique with the Qur’anic phrase, ‘But over all endued with knowledge is One, the All-Knowing’ (12:76). 29 30
Al-Maqrīzī’s attitude is influenced by his eclectic upbringing which contributed to a marked affinity to the Ahl al-Bayt (the Family of the Prophet). Notably, he maintains a striking fluidity in his definition of the term,that transcends the normatised Sunni and Shii interpretations. His inclusion of the Fatimids in this category is evident in the first phrase of the title of his dedicated work to them, Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’. A |anīf (pl. |unafā’),31 as understood in medieval literature, is a sincere Muslim, a ‘believer in the original and true religion, that is, someone who transcends the sectarian division that prompted the Sunnis to denigrate vehemently both Ismaili doctrine and the genealogical claim of the Fatimids.’32 Hence, in the very title used by al-Maqrīzī to address his potential readers, he invites them to rise above the sectarian conflicts that abounded in his time, and which he self consciously chose to transcend, following in the footsteps of Ibn Khaldun. Nonetheless, al-Maqrīzī’s primal interest in Egypt is strikingly evident as he devotes less than a tenth of his 140 page chapter in the Itti‘ā© to al-Muizz’s activities in North Africa, with the majority of the work focusing on the Fatimid preparations, arrival and establishment in Cairo. In fact, al-Muizz’s 22 year reign reflects the exact opposite. He reigned almost 20 years in North Africa spending only the last few years in Cairo. Fortunately, Idrīs ’work redresses this imbalance. North Africa remains the focus of two-thirds of his 216 page chapter in the ‘Uyūn covering al-Muizz’s life and times making it the most comprehensive extant source for that phase of al-Muizz’s reign. Al-Mu’izz: through the lens of the Itti‘ā© and the ‘Uyūn Idrīs begins his narrative on al-Mu’izz by praising God for the provision of the imams as a means of salvation. He introduces him as a continuing link in the ongoing cycle of the imamate, establishing his spiritual pedigree through the progeny of various other prophets including Abraham as follows: He [al-Mu’izz] is the seventh of the second heptade of imams of the cycle33 of the Prophet Mu|ammad (SAS) who rose after the legatee (al-wa¡ī), the Commander of the Faithful ‘Alī, and the fourth of four imams of the [period of] manifestation (al-©uhūr), the first of whom was his grandfather Abū Mu|ammad the Imam al-Mahdī bi’llāh (SAS)…34
31 Originally this meant those who had deviated from their forefathers. In that sense the Prophet was referred to in early life as a |anīf. See W. Montgomery Watt, EI2, vol. 3, pp. 165-6, ‘|anīf’. 32 Rabbat, ‘A Biographical Sketch’, p. 9. 33 For the Ismaili cyclical view of the religious history of mankind, its premises and aspirations, including the initiation and closure of the final era, see Daftary, A Short History, pp. 53-5. 34 First Fatimid Imam-Caliph; reigned 297/909-322/934. The principal sources on him include: Qādī alNu‘mān, Iftitāh al-da‘wa, ed. F. Dachraoui (Tunis, 1970); trans. Hamid Haji, The Founding of the Fatimid State: the rise of an early Islamic Empire (London, 2006); Ja‘far al-ðājib, Sīra; trans. Marius Canard, L’autobiographie d’un chambellan du Mahdī ‘Obeidallāh le Fātimide’, Hespéris (1952), 279-324, repr. in Miscellanea orientalia, London 1973; and Idrīs, ‘Uyūn, ed. Ya‘lawī, vol. IV, pp. 25-241. See F. Daftary, The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines (Cambridge, 1990); W. Madelung, EI2, vol. 4, ‘Ismā‘īliyya’, pp. 198-206, and vol. V, ‘al-Mahdī’, pp. 1230-40.
In the time of the Prophet Ibrāhīm al-Khalīl,35 there were four [prophets]: Ibrāhīm al-Khalīl, the Prophet who was the Messenger of his cycle, to whom God sent the revelation and said: ‘“I will make thee an Imam to the nations.” He pleaded: “And also (Imams) from my offspring!”’36 With him were Ismā‘īl, Is|āq and Ya‘qūb. Then at the time of Mūsā b. ‘Imrān he had with him his brother Hārūn, Yūsha‘ b. Nūn and Fin|ā¡ b. Hārūn. Subsequently, during the time of our Prophet Mu|ammad (SAS), the best of the prophets and their seal by whose prophethood and messengership God completed the messenger-prophets, He distinguished him among all His creation and made his law (sharī‘)37 immutable until the Day of Judgement. During his era there was his brother and helper, his supporter in establishing the religion of God and his aide, the father of the imams of his progeny and his son-in-law, ‘Alī, his legatee (wa¡ī), the Commander of the Faithful and the seal of the legatees (khātim al-wa¡iyyin), and their two sons al-ðasan and al-ðusayn.38 With Ja‘far al-Ÿādiq were his sons Ismā‘īl b. Ja‘far and his grandson Mu|ammad b. Ismā‘īl, three imams in one era. That was also the case with alMahdī bi’llāh, al-Qā’im bi Amrillāh, al-Man¡ūr bi’llāh and al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh. Indeed, the imāma can only reside with one [imam] after the other, with the one who is distinguished by its merits and is deserving of its exalted status. He indicates his successor and designates him (yanu¡¡u ‘alayhi)39 and makes his successor evident to the adherents of his da‘wa (mission), and surrenders the imamate to him. The virtues of al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh were apparent and the worthiness of his succession to his pure ancestors was evident. The chapter on al-Mu’izz thus commences with situating him in a pre-determined, primordial worldview concerning the nature and manifestation of the institution of the Imamate. The work continues in this vein until all the perceived 35 Biblical Abraham, mentioned several times in the Qur’an. For his role in Muslim tradition see R. Paret, EI2, vol. 3, p. 980, ‘Ibrāhīm’. 36 Qur’an 2: 124. 37 Lit. ‘the path to be followed’; the standard term used for Muslim law; the totality of the Islamic way of life. 38 Al-ðasan b. ‘Alī b. Abī ¦ālib (c. 625-669) and al-ðusayn b. ‘Alī b. Abī ¦ālib (c. 626-680) were grandsons of the Prophet Mu|ammad through his daughter Fā¥ima. Supported by the people of Iraq, al-ðusayn fought Mu‘awiya’s son, Yazid, at Karbala, where he along with several members of his family and seventy-two of his companions were massacred, an event that is annually commemorated by the Shi’a to this day. L. Veccia Vaglieri, EI2, vol. III, pp. 240-3, ‘ðasan b. ‘Alī b. Abī ¦ālib’; L. Veccia Vaglieri, EI2, vol. III, pp. 607-615. 39 Na¡¡ (pl. nu¡ū¡), from which the verb na¡¡a derives, is a technical term for the particular text in the Qur’an or hadith that justifies a ruling and is also used to indicate the matn (text of the Qur’an), as opposed to the isnād (chain of transmission in hadith). In Shi‘i tradition na¡¡ refers specifically to the imam’s designation, based on divine knowledge, of his successor. For the conceptual and historical origins of the term see na¡¡: M.A. Amir-Moezzi, The Divine Guide in Early Shi‘ism, trans. David Streight (Albany, NY.: SUNY, 1994); M. Bar Asher, Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imami Shī‘īsm (Jersusalem: The Magnes Press, 1999); S. Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi‘a Islam (London and New York: Longman, 1979); Arzina Lalani, ‘Nass’, The Qur’an: an Encyclopaedia, ed. Oliver Leaman (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 488-51.
essential qualities of the imam in the Ismaili Shī‘ī tradition as it had shaped by that time including his divine designation (na¡¡), his inspiration, knowledge (‘ilm) and his inherent enlightenment (nūr) have been noted. Al-Maqrīzī, on the other hand, expectedly begins with a factual, annalistic, biographical account, stating: He succeeded his father at the end of Shawwāl – it was also said on Friday, the 17th 341 [7 March 953]. He took over the administration of matters of state on 7 Dhu’l-ðijja 341 [25 April 953]. Then he permitted the people to come unto him and sat in audience for them. They saluted him as their caliph. He was twenty-four years old at the time. He was born in al-Mahdiyya at four hours and four-fifths on Monday, 11 RamaØān 317 [18 October 929] and ruled for twenty-three years, five months and seventeen days. This recounting of the beginning of the account of al-Mu’izz provides a tangible illustration of the contrasting perspectives on historical writing between alMaqrīzī and Idrīs. Similarly, as both texts progress in their narrative, marked differences are apparent in their approaches. While both authors provide substantive chronological accounts of al-Muizz’s reign, Idrīs regularly infuses his narrative with anecdotes that reinvigorate the eminent status and inimitable qualities that made al-Muizz the sole imam-caliph of his time. Many such anecdotes are similarly augmented with the precedents of similar stories from earlier imams and prophets. The value of the ‘Uyūn as a primary historical text also stems from the fact that Idrīs was the head of the ¦ayyibī da‘wa. The stewardship of the corpus of Fatimid literary texts that were transferred to Yemen in the 11th century meant that Idrīs was able to draw upon an array of sources whose content is only accessible to us through the prism of the ‘Uyūn. Several accounts in the ‘Uyūn from the Sīrat al-Kutāma are a prime example of this. This Fatimid text, which is no longer extant, was written by Haydara b. Mu|ammad b. Ibrahim40 who lived during the reign of the Fatimid Imam-caliph Al-ðākim bi ‘Amr illāh (966-1021). In reporting on the life and times of al-Muizz, for instance, Idrīs quotes extensively from the Sirat alKutama to provide the most comprehensively annotated bio-bibliography41 of the erudite Fatimid jurist, al-QāØī al-Nu‘mān b. Mu|ammad al-Tamīmī (d. 363/973), who is credited with establishing the foundations of Fatimid law.42 On Haydara b. Mu|ammad See P. Walker, Sources, pp. 142 and 193; Poonawala, Biobiibliography, pp. 93-4 This has been translated by S Jiwa in An Anthology of Ismaili Literature, ed. H Landolt, et. al (London, 2008), pp. 59-66. 42 In this regard see his well-known work Da‘ā’im al-Islām which became the source-book for future jurists of the Fatimid state, ed. Asaf A.A. Fyzee (Cairo, 1951-60); revised and annotated by I.K. Poonawala (Oxford and New York, 2002). On his writings see Biibliography of Ismaili Literature (Malibu, 1977), pp. 51-68. In Wafāyāt al-A‘yān (Beirut, 1968), Ibn Khallikān gives a comprehensive account of the Nu‘mān family based on al-Musabbi|ī and Ibn Zūlāq, see De Slane’s translation, Ibn Khallikān’s Biographical Dictionary, Paris, 1842-71, vol. 3, pp. 565-74 40 41
In recounting the key events during al-Mu‘izz’s reign, Idrīs’ extensively refers to al-Nu’man’s Kitāb al-majālis wa’l-musāyarāt43 (Book of Audiences and Gatherings) which provides a first-hand rendition of events as they unfold in the Fatimid court, particularly during the time of al-Mu‘izz. The fortuitous survival of this text provides an instructive opportunity to review how Idrīs systematically utilises a range of source to weave a coherent historical narrative. It also illustrates how he synthesises his material to maintain what he perceives to be the authentic Fatimid literary tradition.
Concluding remarks Al-Maqrīzī and Idrīs’ rendering of the life and times of al-Muizz provides an instructive case-study of the focus, scope, purpose and perimeters of what constitutes historical narratives in Fatimid historiography. Al-Maqrīzī strives to present what he considers to be an accurate account, through a reasoned examination of the source materials available to him. Adopting what would today be considered an empiricist, Rankean approach; he notes an expressed preference for sources that are in close spatial and geographic proximity to the events they are describing. For ‘Imād al-Dīn Idrīs the purpose of recording terrestrial history is to faithfully understand and record the unfolding of a primordial divine purpose in the ¦ayyibī Ismaili doctrinal and cosmological structure of the universe. So, while the recording of human engagements is necessary and important, essentially it serves a larger, symbolic ethos and function. Hence, for Idrīs the defining paradigm of the acceptability of a source was whether it resonated with this worldview, regardless of its eastern or western, Sunni or Shii provenance. Consequently, the Itti‘ā© and the ‘Uyūn complement and supplement each other in providing as historically accurate and as symbolically representative a rendering of the Fatimid weltenschaung as is possible within our current purview of primary sources.
43 Al-Nu‘mān b. Mu|ammad al-Tamīmī al-QāØī, Kitāb al-majālis wa’l-musāyarāt, ed., al-ðabīb al-Faqī, Ibrāhīm Shabbū| and Mu|ammad al-Ya‘lāwī (Tunis, 1978)
Women and trade during the Fatimids
The focus of this paper is on the involvement in international “trade” or commerce between Ifriqiya (ifrīqiyā), Egypt and Sicily, of three women during the Fatimid era, two of whom were from the ruling elite and one commoner. References to women’s “trading” activities, which ranged from being sponsors to acting as sedentary investors and sellers,1 come from varied sources, some literary some documentary. The aim of this study is to examine the female involvement in trade as depicted in the selected sources, to identify some of the purposes these narratives might have served to fit with the authors’ broader agendas, and to explore the issues these references raise for the wider study of women and commerce. The recording of the link between these women and trade in the Mediterranean points to an area of research, which has so far been largely overlooked in the study of medieval Muslim societies. The first documents under discussion are eleventh century letters exchanged between Jewish traders, which are part of the Cairo Geniza collection. On the basis of such correspondence, we are informed that commercial cargo was loaded on the so-called markab al-sayyida, and that this ship was sailing the Mediterranean between Ifriqiya, Sicily and Egypt.2
Roehampton University, London. The role of elite women as brokers or facilitators of trade deals and negotiations is not discussed in this paper. See for instance the role that Sitt al-Mulk played in attempting to secure a deal with the Byzantine emperor around 1021-2 CE, which included lifting trade sanctions in the Byzantine domain against Muslim traders in Cortese, D and S Calderini, Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam, Edinburgh: EUP, 2006, pp. 125-6. 2 I would like to sincerely thank Professor Yaacov Lev of Bar-Ilan University for having first pointed out to me the references to the markab al-sayyida found in Ben-Sasson, Menahem, The Jews of Sicily 825-1068: documents and sources, Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1991 (in Hebrew) and to Prof Amikam Elad of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for helping me with the translation into English of the relevant passages. * 1
In a letter dated 1059-1060, a merchant named Solomon, who lived in Sfax, instructs his partner Judah, who normally resided in Egypt, to “be present while the cargo is loaded in the ship [in Egypt]… seven [bales?] of this cargo will load in the big ship and one in the ship of the Lady (markab al-sayyida) and to send everything to Sicily”.3 Another letter, written by Jacob ben Isma‘īl al-Andalusī in 1060 from Palermo to Nahray ben Nissīm, who was a highly respected wholesale merchant based in Fustat,4 states “I sent four ra¥l of silk; they were packed for you in the package of Khallūf ben Mūsā ben al-Sā’igh and I covered it and loaded the package of silk in the ship of the Lady”. 5 Yet another letter, written by Khallūf ben Mūsā ben al-Sā’igh al-Barqī from Sicily to his partner Yeshū‘ā/Joshua ben Isma‘īl in Fustat makes mention of the same ship. In it, Khallūf informs his partner that Joshua’s merchandise has arrived in Sicily and that in return, Khallūf sends other commodities in two bales: one, containing clothes, wax, ropes and saffron was loaded in the big ship and the other, with clothes, in the [small] ship of the Lady.6 What was the identity of this lady, who was (or had been) the owner of such a merchant boat, which carried silk, flax, and other commodities on the Mediterranean routes between Sicily, Egypt and Ifriqiya? Most likely, she was a Zirid princess, known as Umm Mallāl (d. 414/1023), the daughter of Man¡ūr (d. 386/996), second leader of the Zirid dynasty. The Zirids ruled Ifriqiya on behalf of the Fatimids until 440/1048, when al-Mu‘izz b. Badīs, Umm Mallāl’s nephew, changed the Zirid allegiance, for some ten years, in favour of the ‘Abbasids. On the basis of the available information, by the time these letters were written Umm Mallāl had been dead for some 40 years. During her lifetime, her status at the Zirid court is reflected in the prominence she was given in the sources and by their description of her public recognition. On the evidence of such references, the historian of North Africa, Hadi Idris Rogers, infers that she acted as al-Mu‘izz’ regent.7 3 See document 11: the bales contained flax cloth, embroidered textiles, jewellery, perfume, curtains, mortar for perfume in Ben-Sasson, M. , The Jews of Sicily, pp. 57-65. We have some information about the circumstances of Solomon: it was difficult for him to trade in Ifriqyia, hence he wanted to move his trade to Sicily, and for this reason he had bought a house in Mazara. 4 There are numerous references to Nahray ben Nissīm throughout S.D. Goitein’s A Mediterranean Society (henceforth MS), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967-88, 5 vols, for some information about him and his business activities see for example vol. 1, pp. 153-5; for his biography see Gil, Moshe, Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2004, pp. 705-21. 5 See document 65, in Ben-Sasson, M., The Jews of Sicily , p. 281 (ref folio b, line 7) 6 Ben-Sasson, M., The Jews of Sicily, document 82, pp. 373-4. This document is not dated but can be placed in the mid 11th century. For further correspondence between the two partners and their problematic relationship, see Goitein, S. D., Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders, Princeton: PUP, 1973, pp. 119-27. 7 Idris, H. R., La Berbérie orientale sous les Zīrīdes, Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1962, esp. vol. 1, pp. 73-225 passim. See also extensive coverage of her in Golovin, L., Le Magrib central a l’époque des Zirides, Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques, 1957. When dealing with the women of the Zīrid dynasty, both authors rely extensively on Ibn ‘Idhārī’s Bayān al-Mughrib. See also Cortese, D. and S. Calderini Women and the Fatimids, esp. pp.589 and 93.
Specifically, her role in trading activities is supported by an earlier letter dated circa 1020 and written by a leading Jewish merchant in Qayrawan, who traded with Egypt, where he states that Umm Mallāl bestowed her favours onto him, for which he was much honoured and grateful as that assured the safe transportation and quick delivery of his merchandise.8 From these and other letters it emerges that the ship of the Lady was a small merchant sea-ship, which accompanied the bigger ship, that of the “sultan” alMu‘izz b. Badīs, on sea journeys. It goes without saying that the business of owning a ship was a profitable one due to the transportation fares and dues calculated on the basis of the type and volume of cargo transported. In turn, individual owners of sea vessels had to be very rich to be able to afford the cost of maintenance and repairs and to off- set the possible loss of cargo or even of the ship itself. The scholar Solomon D. Goitein (d. 1985) suggested that the ship of the Lady, which he understood to have been owned either by Umm Mallāl or/and (perhaps after Umm Mallāl’s death) by Mu‘izz’s sister Umm al-‘Ulū (d. in Sousse in 445/10534), was one of the ways in which the elite woman in question invested her wealth.9 To my knowledge, there is only another elite woman10 under the Fatimids, who is reported as having owned a ship, specifically a silver-decorated river boat (‘ushārī), approximately two decades after Umm Mallāl’s death. She was Ra¡ad (d. after 1078), the influential mother of the Fatimid imam-caliph al-Mustan¡ir. On the basis of al-Maqrizi’s account, Ra¡ad’s ushārī was one of the Nile river pleasure boats, owned by the elite, used for their convenience and paraded during official ceremonies; on the other hand, many of the ‘ushārīs sailing the Nile were prevalently used as profit-making cargo or passenger vessels.11 Goitein, S. D., Letters, pp. 79-82. Goitein, S. D., MS vol 1, p. 310. 10 Yet another possible instance of a Fatimid female courtier who owned a small ship comes from an undated document from the Geniza collection (most probably from the eleventh century). Such a document refers to the loading of goods on ships at the port of Alexandria, and mentions a markab al-jiha, a courtier whose full title was probably jihat al-din or jihat al-dawla. This document has been published by Miriam Frenkel in her book (in Hebrew) “The Compassionate and Benevolent”. The Leading Elite in the Jewish Community of Alexandria in the Middle Ages, Jerusalem: The Ben Zvi Institute, 2006, p. 271 doc. 13. Dr Frenkel, however, doubts that the jiha in question was a female. 11 This large Nile royal boat was made for Ra¡ad by her former master: Ibrahīm ibn Sahl al-Tustarī when he was in charge of the wisā¥a in 436/1044, in al-Maqrīzī, Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’, ed. al-Shayyāl, J. and M. ðilmī, Cairo: Lajnat i|yā al-turāth al-islāmī, 1387-93/1967-73, vol 2, pp. 293-4 (but see Gil, Jews, p. 670 where, on the basis of a passage from al- Maqrīzī’s Khi¥a¥ the ship, said to weigh 400 kg, was bought by al Tustarī instead for the caliph al-Mustan¡ir). Egyptian historian Nurīmān ‘Abd al-Karīm A|mad argues that Ra¡ad’s ‘ushārī was of a type only used in official ceremonies such as the opening of the Khalīj and other festive occasions in al-mar’a fī Mi¡r fī’l-‘a¡r al-fā¥.imī, Cairo: al-hay’a al-Mi¡riyya al ‘āmma li-’l-kitāb, 1993 (henceforth al-mar’a), p. 58. On the other hand, Goitein frequently reports that a number of pleasure boats, and particularly the ‘ushārī, were also used for commercial transport on the Nile; see MS, vol 1, pp. 295, 305, 309 etc. For the ‘ushārī as a “domedcabin gondola” see Agius, D A. Classic ships of Islam: from Mesopotamia to the Indian Ocean, Leiden: Brill, 2008, pp. 301-3, and as a ferry and merchant boat on the Nile, see Agius, op cit, pp. 309-10. 8 9
With reference to the markab al-sayyida, on the basis of the documentary sources from the Geniza collection, that an elite woman (Umm Mallal or whoever she might have been at the time) was involved in trade is given as a matter of fact, as a result of her status, influence and wealth, all of which are reported and observed from the point of view of merchants, who could turn them to their advantage to secure or safeguard their business transactions. The second example of a woman involved in international trade is taken from th a 12 c. fatwā by the famous Maliki jurist of Ifriqiya Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Māzarī (d. 536/1141). Presumably as a result of a dispute concerning the share of profit to be allocated to two trade partners, the ruling states: “… a woman entrusts her jewellery, a golden ring and a big silver bracelet, to somebody in charge of going to sell them in Sicily to buy some wheat/grain (¥a‘ām), which he would sell off in Mahdiyya, each of the two parties will have half of the profit”.12 This fatwā provides an insight not only into the modality of a business transaction but also into the ways in which a commoner raised the money for a commercial enterprise. Not unlike the elite lady (or ladies) referred to in the first case, this woman used the wealth she acquired through -most likely- dowry or inheritance to raise the funds; the items of jewellery she sells, i.e. the ring and the bracelet, are typical of those listed in the sources as female possessions that can easily be converted into cash or traded. The use of an agent as travelling partner in the business enterprise is made necessary not only because of the dangers of long distance travel and of the difficulties of transporting goods, but also to allow the woman to keep her modesty and status while still involved in more visible activities such as trade and commerce. It is relevant though, that the woman in question does not use a guardian and directly deals with a male agent, from which it may be inferred that she was probably mature and, perhaps, a widow. As for the share al-Māzarī allocates to her, it seems to be not as advantageous as that given, on the evidence of near contemporary notarial records from the port city of Genoa, to an equivalemt sedentary investing partner. In the Italian city, the investing partner, when s/he does not travel, would receive three quarters of the profit while the travelling partner, who invests his time and labour, would normally get/ receive only one quarter.13 The final narrative, most likely an anecdote, is relevant more as an example of male attitudes and political agendas linked to women and trade than for provid-
Idris, H. R., La Berbérie, vol 2 p. 667 where the transaction is said to have amounted to eleven dinars minus one rubā‘ī. 13 Angelos, M. “Urban women, investment and the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages” in Mitchell, L. E. (ed) Women in Medieval Western European culture, New York and London: Garland, 1999, p. 265. 12
ing specific details about trade as such. In the section on the Fatimid imam-caliphs of his Khi¥a¥, the 15th century Mamluk Egyptian historian al-Maqrizī states that the imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz’s consort (umm al-umarā’), possibly Durzān (d. 385/995), had sent from Ifriqiya a young slave girl (¡abiyya) to be sold in Egypt, that her agent (wakīl) had taken care of the matter in Egypt in order to sell her and that he was asking for her 1,000 dinars. One day there came to him a young lady on a donkey to examine the young girl, she negotiated with him over the price and eventually bought the girl for 6,000 dinars. It turned out that this lady was the daughter of the Ikhshidid leader Mu|ammad b. ¦ughj (d. 334/946), that she had heard of this slave girl and, when she saw her, was so infatuated with her (shaghafathā) that she bought her, to enjoy her company.14 The agent then returned to Ifriqiya and told the story to al-Mu‘izz. As that day some Kutāma chieftains (shuyūkh) were at the palace, the imam-caliph requested the agent to narrate again the story of the daughter of al-Ikhshidi in their presence, which he did. Al-Mu‘izz then said to the chieftains: ‘O brothers, hurry up to march against Egypt: there is no obstacle there. When people arrive at the point of feebleness that a woman from the prince’s family goes out by herself to buy a slave for her personal use, that indicates how slack her men are in terms of honour and how they lack jealousy’.15 By judging male honour by the measure of female dignity, al-Mu‘izz’s words can be interpreted as meaning that no dynasty with any honour left would subject a woman of high rank to the humiliation of exposing herself in public to carry out market transactions. Whether or not one can attribute any factual veracity to such an anecdote, al-Mu‘izz’s assessment of the situation in Egypt proved correct as the Fatimids’ conquest of that region was rapid and went virtually unchallenged. As far as international trade is concerned, from this passage we can gather that the Fatimid “first lady” is portrayed as involved in a business transaction and yet she still maintains her propriety by making use of a male intermediary. We also learn that slaves were considered a commodity, and their ownership was obviously a sign of wealth. Though almost certainly notional, the asking price and the eventual price paid for the slave girl in the passage were very high indeed, even considering the young age of the girl, and therefore only affordable by the extremely rich.16 That the sum paid was so much higher than the asking price can give rise to a number of interpretations. One 14 al-Maqrīzī, Taqī al-Dīn, Kitāb al-Mawā‘i© al-i‘tibār fī dhikr al-khi¥a¥ wa’l-āthār, London: Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1423/2002, vol 2, pp. 186-7. A similar passage is also found in al- Maqrīzī, Itti‘ā© al-|unafā’, ed. al-Shayyāl, vol 1, p. 100. 15 al-Maqrīzī, al-Mawā‘i©, London: Al-Furqān, vol 2, p. 187. 16 According to some 12th century documents from the Cairo Geniza, the price of a female slave fluctuated around 20 dinars, the same price as an expensive book, when the average salary of a labourer was less than a dinar per month!
centres on the business acumen of the agent, who saw the buyer’s interest in the “commodity” and hence could raise the price; another reading highlights the representation of the buyer’s naivity, hence carrying the writer’s value judgment on the buyer and, by extension, on the dynasty she represents. Both interpretations seem to stem from a narrative metaphorical juxtaposition between the two women: the seller and the buyer, the smart lady with business initiative and the naïve buyer who pays six times the asking price, the lady with impeccable and proper behaviour and the princess who goes out to buy in person, riding a most humble donkey. Even from a cursory reading of the passage reported by al-Maqrizī, it is evident, however, that the focus of the narrative is not on the business transaction, nor on the ladies’ wealth, but on the imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz’s assessment of the situation in Egypt prior to its conquest. In other words, the princess’ purchase in person of a slave girl is for him an indication of the state of decline of the Ikhshidid dynasty, and al-Mu‘izz can use the story as a propaganda tool to win over the support of the Berber Kutāma chieftains in his plan to conquer Egypt. Indeed this story is framed within a broader narrative in which al-Maqrizi makes frequent use of alMu‘izz’s direct speech. The imam-caliph’s rhetoric is illustrated as part of carefully staged meetings with the Kutāma chieftains, the aim of which was to show the strength, probity and seriousness/commitment of the Fatimid dynasty as opposed to the weakness, licentiousness and decadence of the Ikhshidids and other contemporary dynasties.17 Reading between the lines, such a business transaction could in fact have been an undercover operation for intelligence work in situ, not an unusual occurrence for the Isma‘ili merchants-cum-missionaries. To what extent can the three examples above be useful for a wider understanding of the role played by women in international trade during the Fatimid era? In the chapter on women’s work of her seminal book Labour in the medieval Islamic world (1994), Maya Shatzmiller identifies a difference in legal and social attitudes towards working women and, furthermore, in the attitudes generally displayed towards, on the one hand, labour and, on the other, commerce. Shatzmiller specifies that while the latter, commerce, was generally respected, the former (labour) was despised.18 She further links the two main activities to social rank and notes that higher social groups would be engaged in more lucrative activity and that commercially active women, mainly urban based, would be given more benevolent rulings when legal cases concerning them were brought to the courts. 17 al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-Mawā‘i©, London: Al-Furqān, vol 2, pp. 183-7. al-Mu’izz’s speeches are quoted from Ibn Sa‘īd, ‘Alī ibn Mūsā, al-Nujūm al-zāhira (ed. ðusayn Na¡¡ār, Cairo: Dār al-kutub, 1970), pp. 39-40, based on the Sīrat al-a’imma by Abu’l-‘Alā ibn Muhaddhab who was a Fatimid writer from Qayrawan whose family had followed al-Mu’izz to Egypt and who lived during al-ðākim’s caliphate. 18 Shatzmiller, M, Labour in the medieval Islamic world, Leiden: Brill, 1994, ch 7 “women’s labour”, for the statement on commerce see p. 365.
In the three examples under analysis, despite the very different nature of the sources used, we find no contempt for, nor condemnation of, the trade activities the women were reported to have been engaged in. After all, attitudes towards women and trade were shaped by -and in turn shaped- widely available narratives about Khadīja, the prophet Muhammad’s first wife, who, reportedly, run a caravan business between Arabia and Syria. The only negative attitude we detected was in the polemical and propagandist statements by the imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz in the last source and that concerns the lack of propriety in following the segregation rules for an elite woman such as the daughter of the Ikhsidid ruler, but not, of course, for the Fatimid imam-caliph’s consort who, through an agent, had sold her slave. On the basis of the evidence available to date, there are, however, only very few references to women who, during the Fatimid era, were involved in international trade. More can be unearthed about women in local commercial enterprises and activities, albeit on a smaller scale.19 In respect of elite or court-linked women, a more marked emphasis can be identified on recording their wealth during the Egyptian phase of the Fatimid dynasty, due to factors such as the increased economic prosperity of the dynasty, but also due to changed and projected perceptions of the dynasty as having come of age and as competing in wealth and sophistication with other rival dynasties. In turn, the increased wealth and riches of the caliphal women during the Egyptian period, could be the result of a changed financial attitude on the part of the imam-caliph towards supporting and maintaining his own family. As one may infer from Michael Brett’s remarks on the changing trade practices among the members of the Fatimid caliphal family, in North Africa women and male relatives of the early imam-caliphs appear to have been fully dependant upon the allowances that the imam caliphs bestowed on them. 20 In Egypt, on the other hand, while the male relatives of the imam-caliph continued to remain fully dependant on such allowances, court women were able to acquire much wealth through a diversified system of salaries, gifts as well as revenues, and allocations, for example from custom duties and land grants/tax farms (iq¥ā‘). For both commoners and elite women, it is significant that the two more substantial examples of female involvement in long-distance trade in this paper are dated to the 11th and 12th centuries, a period when the economic transition had already taken place in the Fatimid empire and, beyond, in the Mediterranean countries, from a limited to a wider and more diversified economy. That both examples deal with maritime commerce is also indicative of the
See Cortese and Calderini, Women and the Fatimids, pp. 199-205, and especially pp. 202-3. Brett, M., The Rise of the Fatimids: the World of the Mediterranean & the Middle East in the Tenth Century CE, Leiden: Brill, 2001, pp. 261-2 19
broader Mediterranean prosperity, which, in the case European countries like France and Italy, led to a significant increase in the number of women investing in commercial long-distance ventures.21 Even though a direct link between Fatimid court women and trade or commerce is not clearly spelt out in the sources at our disposal, the inventories of the goods the elite women owned may provide a clue as to their indirect involvement in large scale trading and financial enterprises. That their involvement was indirect is illustrated by the references to the use of agents, who could have been the same high officials or viziers the court women favoured, or, as in the case of commoners, business partners or associates acting as agents. As for the court women’s involvement in trade or commerce, it is exemplified by their reported activities as sponsors of mercantile carriers, like in the case of Umm Mallāl or the Lady of the markab al-sayyida, as recipients of revenue from trade-related activities, like in the case of Sitt al-Mulk, who received income from custom duties, or as repositories of goods traded. The huge numbers of textiles, particularly linen, which these elite women owned could not be explained otherwise, nor could the variety and amount of spices, perfumes etc. which feature in their inventories.22 As for non-elite women, while references to international trade such as that of the lady trading in grain, are thus far very rare, relatively more numerous are the recorded instances of women who run local small or medium size businesses, especially, but not exclusively, to do with ‘cottage industry’ products.23 Even the references to weaving and spinning, which were by and large the women’s main occupations, are unsystematic and at times contradictory. Is the paucity of information on female occupations and enterprises linked to the type of sources used and the aim of their writers? Could it also be related to the unglamorous, unexceptional character of the information provided? The problematic nature of literary sources has already been pointed out. The most likely sources where more information is likely to be found about ordinary women’s involvement in trade and commerce 21 See in this regard the studies by Mark Angelos, especially his “Urban women, investment and the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages” in Mitchell, (ed) Women in medieval western European culture, pp. 25772 and his “Investment and credit” in Schaus,M. (ed.) Women and gender in medieval Europe: an encyclopedia, New York and London: Routledge, 2006, 407-8 where the instance is discussed of women from active port cities like Genoa who, having become cash rich thanks to new inheritance patterns, profitably invested in maritime commerce to counties as far as Morocco and Syria. The sources on which Angelos draws are above all notarial records and court rolls. 22 For further details of court women’s wealth, see Cortese D and S. Calderini, Women and the Fatimids, pp. 148-163. 23 For women selling milk in Zīrid Ifrīqiya see Golovin, L., Le Magrib, p.179; on Egyptian women see Shatzmiller, M., Labour, p. 349; on Jewish women selling cooked beans and cakes see Goitein, S.D., MS, vol. 1, p. 129. For an alternative entrepreneurial activity see Nasir-i Khusraw, Sefer nameh, p.152 quoted in Cortese, D., Women, p. 202.
are indeed documentary ones, as shown by the outstanding findings from the Geniza documents and Shatzmiller’s study of legal manuals and |isba and fatwā collections. With all the possible caveats, is it still legitimate to formulate the question as to why, during the Fatimid period in particular and the medieval Islamic period in general, there are so few references to women’s involvement in trade? In addition to the fact that international and large scale domestic trade were primarily a male activity for reasons of personal security and custom, I believe that in addressing this question, two main clarifications ought to be made: the type of sources used in looking for evidence and how to define “female involvement in trade”. Because the aim of most literary sources was not that of recording the activities of individuals -even less of the women- who carried out trade transactions, the few references to women in them are all but incidental or, as in the case of the reported narrative in al-Maqrizi, these references served specific agendas. As already mentioned, more information can be gathered from documentary sources, commercial documents such as the Geniza letters, or legal records. Moreover, as a result of social attitudes and ethical/theological norms in medieval Islamic societies, very few women could directly and visibly be involved in trade, especially in international trade, and they would use male agents for their transactions. Nevertheless, as it emerges from studies of documentary records relating to Ottoman women,24 as well as from Shatzmiller’s research25 on medieval female labour and property in Islamic societies, women were involved in what has been termed as “hidden trade”. Women established their own businesses inside the household, became entrepreneurs by investing some of their dowry, and, for longdistance trade, could serve as sedentary investors.26 Trade carried out by women, especially by commoners, was hidden not only because of the social norms on female modesty and male pride (a male was expected to be the economic supporter of the females in his household) but also because of more tangible/material reasons: taxation. A statute in the Geniza collection imposes a ban on men and women, who dye silk in their homes, as, by carrying out business in private, they would deprive the tax farmer (ãamīn) of his income.27 Because women did not usually belong to guilds, 24 See for instance Ronald C. Jennings, “Women in Early 17th century Ottoman judicial records: the Sharia court of Anatolian Kayseri “ in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, xviii, (1975), pp. 53114 esp. pp. 108-9 and Gerber, H. “Social and economic position of women in an Ottoman city, Bursa, 1600-1700” in International Journal of Middle East Studies, 12 (1980), pp. 231-44. 25 See Shatzmiller, M., Labour in the medieval Islamic world, especially chapter 7 on women’s labour and, by the same author, Her Day in Court: Women’s Property Rights in Fifteenth-Century Granada Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2007. 26 See for instance the case of the 17th century Bursa female investor who gave her money to a merchant to buy large quantities of Persian silk, in Gerber, H. “Social and economic position of women”, p. 235. 27 See Goitein, S., MS, vol 2, pp. 66-7 and note 147 p. 536, and p. 360.
they were not registered to pay the dues and taxes of a specific trade, and hence, their work carried out from home, was harder to detect, supervise and tax.28 All in all, the three cases examined in this study, while providing fragmentary, yet valuable, information on women’s involvement in long-distance commercial activities, are exemplary of some of the limitations which can be encountered in the study of women and trade in Islamic medieval societies. Relying especially on literary sources and lacking the equivalent of the sijillāt records which abound for the Ottoman period, the overall picture of the actual participation of women in trade during the Fatimid period is at present hard to draw. A more satisfactory outcome of research on the subject will derive from the analysis and contextualization of documentary and legal documents, as already shown by the invaluable work of scholars such as Goitein and Shatzmiller, and, by the examples of the Geniza letters and the fatwā by al-Māzarī examined in this paper.
28 See Maya Shatzmiller’s argument on the organization of women’s labour, especially with reference to the textile industry, in her Labour, pp. 357-61.
The political and economic contexts of Fātimid female patronage during the reign of al-‘Azīz (365/975-386/996)
Fātimid female patronage of religious and secular building works, private and public, ranging from hydraulic pumps to impressive mosques, from gardens to mausoleums is a phenomenon that remains unique, for its size and extent, in the western Mediterranean lands of the medieval Islamic world. Yet, such phenomenon did not appear in a vacuum. In the pre-modern Islamic and Byzantine worlds, patronage was a pursuit that we find associated with several royal and aristocratic women across the eastern Mediterranean and beyond.1 Already in the late 2nd/8th3rd/9th centuries, we find, at the ‘Abbāsid court, celebrated instances of patronesses such as Hārūn al-Rashīd’s influential mother al-Khayzurān (d. 173/798), credited with having bought in Makka the house in which the Prophet Muhammad was allegedly born and having turned it into a mosque. Hārūn’s wife Zubayda (d.216/8312) is named as the sponsor of several constructions, including an extensive water-supply network along the pilgrimage route to Makka.2 Makka was also the place where other works were undertaken in the name of the ‘Abbāsid caliph alMuqtadir (d.320/932) and his mother, Shaghab, among them, a hospital which was opened in 306/918.3 At the Byzantine court, high-ranking women, contemporary Middlesex University, London. See Atil, E., “Patronage by Women in Islamic Art”, in Asian Art, vol. 5 (1993) no. 2 and Fairchild Ruggles, D. (ed.), Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies, New York: SUNY, 2000. 2 The ultimate work on al-Khayzurān and Zubayda remains Abbot, N., Two Queens of Baghdad: Mother and Wife of Hārūn al-Rashīd, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946. See pp. 118-120 and 239-247 on their patronage. 3 On Shaghab’s patronage and the power she exercised at court see El-Cheikh, N. M., “Gender and politics in the harem of al-Muqtadir”, in L. Brubaker and J.M.H. Smith (eds), Gender in the Early Medieval World, East and West, 300-900, Cambridge: CUP, 2004, pp. 147-164. For an overview of acts of female patronage surrounding the pilgrimage to Makka see Tolmacheva, M., “Female Piety and Patronage in the Medieval Hajj”, in G.R.G. Hambly (ed.), Women in the Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999, pp.161-179. * 1
with the Fātimids, directed their patronage particularly towards the building of religious institutions such as nunneries and convents: places of prayer, protection and refuge which at times also served as centres of intellectual and literary activities. For example, in the 11th century Eirene Doukaina, wife of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118) founded the convent of Our Lady of Grace in Constantinople where her daughter Anna and granddaughter Eirene distinguished themselves as literary patrons. From the 6th/12th century onwards female architectural patronage in the eastern Mediterranean lands of the Islamic world became an increasingly widespread phenomenon. At the end of the 6th/12th century in Damascus, Sitt al-Shām, sister of the Ayyūbid Sultān Salāh al-Dīn, endowed two mardasas and a Sufi khanqah.4 Her legacy resonated in the building strategies of other women in the Ayyūbid and Mamlūk courts.5 Further afield, in Iran, Yemen and Central Asia, a number of women belonging respectively to the Saljūq, Rasūlid and Tīmūrid dynasties commissioned important architectural works and had major monuments named after them. Eventually it was the women of the Ottoman dynasty, the valide sultān in particular, who, more than others, marked the territory by making the most extensive female contributions to the history of Islamic religious architecture at the outset of the modern period.6 In North Africa we find several splendid examples of female acts of patronage. One of the most famous and oldest extant mosques of Morocco, the Qarawiyyīn mosque in Fez, was initially built in 245/859 by order of Fātima bint Muhammad al-Fihrī. She was originally from Qayrawān and commissioned the mosque upon inheriting a fortune from her father that she secured by building the edifice.7 By the early 5th/11th century, female patronage in North Africa took the 4 Women’s patronage in Ayyūbid Damascus during 6th/12th and 7th/13th century compares with earlier Saljūq élite patronesses (5th/11th c.), as in both cases the types of buildings they endowed were, in order of preference: madrasas, Sufi khandaqs and, in much smaller percentage, mausoleums. This reveals a pattern of patronage not dissimilar from male patronage and, as far as Saljūq and Ayyūbid benefactors are concerned, it points to a choice of sponsored buildings as an expression of their dynasties’ strongly Sunni educational policy, with the additional considerations of political, popular and wide-ranging appeal through the establishment of Sufi “hospices”. See Humphreys, R. S., “Women as Patrons of Religious Architecture in Ayyūbid Damascus”, Muqarnas, vol. 11 (1994), pp. 35-54; Lev, Y., “Charity, Pious Endowments and Royal Women in Medieval Islam”, in K. D’Hulster and J. Van Steenbergen (eds), Continuity and Change in the Realms of Islam, Leuven-Paris-Dudley: U. Peeters, 2008, pp. 413-422. 5 On Mamlūk female architectural patronage see al-Harithy, H. “Female Patronage of Mamluk Architecture in Cairo”, Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review, vol. 1 (1994), no. 2, pp. 152-174. 6 On the building activities of Ottoman women see for example Thys-Senocak, L., Ottoman Women Builders: The Architectural Patronage of Hadice Turhān Sultān (Women & Gender in the Early Modern World), Farnham: Ashgate, 2007. 7 See Golovin, L., Essai sur l’architecture religieuse musulmane, vol 4: L’art Hispano-Musulman, Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1979, pp. 191-2 where two accounts are given on the identity of Fātima. Interesting to note the possible connection with Islamic Spain where, according to one sources, Fātima’s father had emigrated from.
shape of charitable acts such as, under the Zīrīds, providing thousand of shrouds for the victims of plague as well as donating splendid Qur’anic manuscripts such as those especially commissioned by the women of the Zīrīd court for the Great Mosque of Qayrawān. Notable examples are those commissioned in the early 5th/11th century by Fātima, the wet nurse of al-Mu‘izz b. Bādīs, his sister Umm al‘Ulū and his aunt Umm Mallāl.8 The very ‘public’ character inherent in acts of patronage raises questions about the nature, extent, motivations and impact of this type of female agency because of the marginality –typically, and at times, stereotypically - associated with women in the Islamic world, past and present, whether royal or common. In this paper I will address these questions à propos of Fātimid royal architectural patronesses, focusing on the most prolific, Durzān (d. 385/995), nicknamed Taghrīd, consort of the Fātimid imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz (d.365/975) and mother of his successor, al‘Azīz (d. 386/996). Her name is linked to the several constructions in the Cairo/Fustāt area, mentioned in sources but no longer extant, which include the Qarāfa mosque, a qasr, a hammām, a garden, a well and a hydraulic pump to feed a cistern as well as a pavilion, a basin in the courtyard of the Ibn Tulūn mosque and a mausoleum.9 References to Durzān in primary sources contemporary to her period are extremely limited and we are mainly dependant on the 9th/15th century Mamlūk historian Tāqī al-Dīn al-Maqrīzī for all we know about her building activities. For this reason- rather than on textual scrutiny – my answers will be based on the ‘circumstantial evidence’ provided by the contextualised analysis of the political and economic climates that prevailed in Egypt at the time of her ascribed architectural patronage. The broader view is to suggest alternative interpretative keys that may open additional lines of investigation to be considered when revisiting existing analyses of female patronage in the broader Islamic world. To what extent and in what way were the Fātimid royal women - personally or through their agents - in control as decision makers or having a say in the financ8 Umm Mallāl’s manuscript is partly extant. Roy, B., and Poinssot, P., Inscriptions Arabes de Kairouan, Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1950, Vol.2, fasc. 1, pp. 27-32; Idris, H. R., La Berberie Orientale sous les Zirides, Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1962, vol.2, p. 417, p. 771; Golvin, L., Le Maghrib central a l’epoque des Zirides, Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques, 1957, pp. 159-61. 9 The main primary source for references to Durzān’s building activity is al-Maqrīzī, Tāqī al-Dīn, alMawā’iz wa-‘l-i‘tibār bi-dhikr al-khītat wa-‘l-athār [Khītat], ed. A. F. Sayyid, London: al-Furqān, vol. 2, pp. 284, 364-5, 576, 580; vol.4, part 1, pp. 74, 288; vol. 4, part 2, pp. 904-05. For discussions and analyses see Cortese, D. and Calderini, S., Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam, Edinburgh: EUP, 2006, pp. 167-71; Bloom, J. M., “The Mosque of the Qarafa in Cairo”, Muqarnas, vol. 4 (1987), pp. 7-20; Raghib, Y., “Sur deux monuments funéraires du cimitière d’al-Qarafa al-Kubra au Caire”, Annales Islamologiques, vol. 12 (1974), pp. 67-83; Raghib, Y., “La Mosquée d’al-Qarafa et Jonathan M. Bloom”, Arabica, vol. 41 (1994), pp. 419-421; Gayraud, R.P., “Le Qarafa al-Kubra, dernière demeure des Fatimides”, in M. Barrucand (ed.), L’Égypte Fatimide, son art et son histoire, Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1999, pp. 443-464.
ing, commissioning, location, nature and even ‘design’ of the buildings and architectural works carrying their names? What does it mean when, on the basis of evidence in literary or epigraphic sources the construction of buildings is ascribed to a woman of the Fātimid dynasty? The analysis of the topographical work on Egypt, al-Mawā‘iz wa-‘l-i‘tibār bi-dhikr al-khītat wa-‘l-athār (Khītat henceforth) by alMaqrīzī (d. 845/1441) reveals at least five levels of a patron’s personal involvement in the process of building an architectural structure, ranging from the choice and acquisition of site and allocation of funds to contributing physical work.10 Such degrees of involvement are, however, identifiable with regard to male patrons and mainly datable to the Mamlūk period. As for female patrons, their involvement would be primarily that of financial sponsorship but even that type of participation is hardly ever openly stated in the records of their activities. Similarly, while the reasons behind the architectural patronage by Fātimid (and other) men of power are somewhat transparent - even when not openly stated - ranging from public display of personal or dynastic authority to financial status and investment, piety and selfpromotion, the motivations behind female patronage are rarely so manifest. This is primarily because our understanding of the very notion of ‘power’ blurs with reference to the women of medieval Islamic dynasties. In his article on the mosque of al-Qarāfa, published in Muqarnas in 1987, Jonathan M. Bloom analyses the circumstances that might have favoured Durzān’s building of the mosque as well as other structures in al-Qarāfa, an area south of Cairo typically associated with burials and funerary architecture because of its celebrated cemetery. In his publication, Bloom analyses data emerging from the study of tombstones, arguably pointing to a campaign of ‘shi‘itization’ - conducted some time before and soon after the Fātimids’ arrival in Egypt – that appeared to have been particularly successful among the female population. Within this framework, Bloom suggests that Durzān, and her daughter Sitt al-Malik, could have taken advantage of the long established tradition of devotion to female ‘Alid saints in Egypt dating back to pre-Fātimid times and ‘use it to exercise power’, expressed through the construction of important buildings in al-Qarāfa.11 While the idea of a clear link between a female exercise of power and building activity may be applicable to the women of a number of Islamic dynasties, such a link is not so clear cut when looking at the Fātimids. The figure of Durzān in particular is problematic because of the peripheral roles that she is said to have played at court - such as that of a singer at her son’s parties. This characterisation
Jarrar, S., “ Al-Maqrizī’s Reinvention of Egyptian Historiography through Architectural History”, in D. Behrens-Abouseif (ed.), The Cairo Heritage: Essays in Honour of Laila Ali Ibrahim, Cairo, New York: AUC, 2000, p. 47. 11 Bloom, J. M., “The Mosque”, p.17. 10
sits in marked contrast with her patronage of important buildings. In the very limited sources referring to her, Durzān is never portrayed as a ‘career’ woman; there is no evidence that she had any overt influence on court politics, or, that she overtly exercised power of any sort. There is no evidence that she had to plot in order to secure her son’s accession to the throne even though she might have had reasons for manoeuvre given that her son’s designation was – potentially -not without controversy. In nominating his successor, the imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz had overlooked his eldest son Tamīm (d.374-5/984-6), not once, but twice: first by appointing as heir-apparent his second son, ‘Abd Allāh (d. 364/975), and, second, following the death of the latter, by nominating the younger Nīzār who was to take the dynastic name al-‘Azīz. 12 There is however no evidence to suggest that al-‘Azīz’s designation, witnessed on al-Mu‘izz’s death bed by the general Jawhar and the imam’s physician Mūsā b. al-‘Azar, was either forced or challenged. Finally, it is not Durzān but one of her contemporaries, ‘Ā’isha, concubine of ‘Abd Allāh, that is singled out by medieval chroniclers and historians as one of the most powerful women of the court. Yet, ‘Ā’isha is not associated with acts of patronage despite reports of her extensive wealth.13 Therefore, if architectural patronage is an expression of exercise of power, whose power are we dealing with in the case of Durzān? Durzān’s building activity coincides with a major upward shift in her status from ‘mere’ consort of al-Mu‘izz to queen mother of the reigning al-‘Azīz, a shift that occurred at a particularly crucial time in Fātimid history. Durzān becomes a widow and queen mother in 365/975, that is, only two years after the Fātimid imamcaliph al-Mu‘izz had moved to his new capital, Cairo, north of the commercial city of Fustāt. The death of al-Mu‘izz happens during a ‘transformation’ period for the Fātimids: from being a North African ‘provincial’ dynasty to becoming one with imperialistic ambitions, once settled in - and settled for – Cairo.14 This transformation manifests itself in the ‘elevation’ of the court to ‘royal court’, as shown by the adoption of an increasingly elaborate court ceremonial; by the urban expansion of Cairo/Fustāt in order to reflect its status as a capital with imperial kudos; by a grow-
12 Tamīm’s exclusion was probably due to internal family dissent caused by Tamīm’s likely collusion with his cousins in a plot against the imam-caliph. Another reason might have been Tamīm’s sexual indiscretion. See Sirat Ustadh Jawdhar, French transl. by Canard, M., Vie de l’Ustadh Jaudhar (contenat sermons, letters et rescrits des premiers califes fatimides), Alger: J. Carbonel, 1958, pp. 96, 100, 115 and 120, n. 467. 13 al-Musabbihī, Muhammad b. ‘Ubayd Allāh, Akhbār Misr, A. F. Sayyid and T. Bianquis (eds), Cairo: IFAO, 1978, vol.1 p.105. 14 The argument that the Fātimids ‘settled for’ Cairo in convincingly presented by Jonathan M. Bloom in his “The Ceremonial and Sacred Space in Early Fatimid Cairo”, in A. K. Bennison and A. L. Gascoign (eds), Cities in the Pre-Modern Islamic World: The urban impact of religion, state and society, London, New York: Routledge, 2007, pp. 96-114.
ing degree of complexity in the management of the regime culminating in the adoption of the institution of the vizirate and the formal appointment to the post of vizier of the Iraqi Jew-turned-Muslim Ya‘qūb b. Killis in 368/978-9.15 At this juncture, Durzān finds herself to be the very first Fātimid queen mother, with capital ‘Q’ and capital ‘M’ since she is the first to become mother of imam-caliph within a newly established ‘royal’ court, the organization and functioning of which had been de facto taken over by Ibn Killis (d. 378/989 or 380/991). After the arrival of al-Mu‘izz in Cairo, Ibn Killis was initially placed in charge, with ‘Uslūj (or‘Aslūj) b. al-Hasan, of the Fātimid treasury, revenues and all the state financial affairs. In time, his portfolio of offices expanded further, but we are told by al-Maqrīzī that in 365/975 he relinquished his duties in the dīwān in order to fully dedicate himself to overseeing al-Mu‘izz’s affairs in his palace.16 A sign of the formalization of Durzān’s ensuing status as queen mother is reflected in her being the first Fātimid royal consort and mother of an imam recorded as being addressed with the title of ‘Sayyida’. Her status as queen mother became formally sanctioned two days before the death of al-Mu‘izz since the ‘Sayyida’ is reported to have summoned the high dignitaries of the regime, including Ibn Killis, to the death bed of the imam-caliph.17 Al-Maqrīzī reports that it was only days before his death, that al-Mu‘izz had formally nominated al-‘Azīz as his successor. The creation of a fully-fledged royal court meant devising hierarchies and diversifying the allocation of political, executive and symbolic powers among royal family members, personnel and holders of offices. In this light, Durzān, by becoming the first proper Fātimid queen mother, is propelled to become a locus of symbolic power of the first order which would, in turn, signal the empowerment of those (men) who operated in her orbit. It should be noted that – at this stage- the locus of power would have been primarily the queen mother and not the ‘queen’, that is, the wife of the imam-caliph. To invest power ‘potential’ in his wife was a risky business as she could be easily disposed of by the royal spouse. Even in the event of her giving him a male child, her power ‘shelf life’ was very limited indeed if her son was not chosen for succession. For the high dignitary of a royal court in the making the ‘creation’ of a personality of high status close to the ruler such as his mother served him with a new
15 On the life and career of Ibn Killis see Lev, Y., “The Fātimid vizier Ya‘qūb ibn Killis and the Beginning of the Fātimid Administration in Egypt”, Der Islam, vol. 58 (1981), pp. 237-249. 16 al-Maqrīzī, Tāqī al-Dīn, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’ bi-akhbār al-a’imma al-fātimiyyīn al-khulafā’, Jamāl al-Dīn Shayyāl (ed.), Cairo: Dār al-tahrīr li’l-tab‘ wa-‘l-nashr, vol.1, p. 225. Y. Lev, op. cit. p. 241, based on al-Maqrīzī, clarifies that in the previous year the dīwān was transferred from Dār al-Imāra, outside Cairo, to a chamber within the Royal Palace. This could imply that rather than relinquishing his duties, Ibn Killis managed his offices from the very heart of the court. 17 al-Maqrīzī, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’, vol.1, p. 229.
sphere of action. By working directly or through delegates for the queen mother he would secure further proximity to the ruler as well as widen his power base within the court. An example can be drawn by looking at the power assigned to/or retained by the queen mother in another Islamic dynasty contemporary to Durzān’s period. Once the wife of ‘Adūd al-Dawla (d. 372/983), the Baghdad-based Shī‘ī Būyid rival of al-‘Azīz, became queen mother of his successor, Samsam al-Dawla, she had aspiring viziers fighting to assign their respective protégés to her service. Through them, the viziers could attract her favours to themselves, thus consolidating their place at court. To be secretary to the queen mother was made into the second most important position after the vizier.18 Al-Maqrīzī reports that the Jāmi‘ al-Qarāfa and the Qasr al-Qarāfa, were built by Durzān in 366/977, through alHasan (or al-Husayn) b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Fārisī, indicated as muhtasib. Nothing is known of this figure but the nisba ‘al-Fārisī’ clearly points to the mashriqī, Persian, origin of this officer. The appointment - at the early stage of the Fātimid rule in Egypt - of mashriqīs, ‘Easterners’, to key offices, coinciding with Ibn Killis’s (himself an ‘Easterner’) take-over of the administration of the regime could be interpreted as part of Ibn Killis’ plan to gradually marginalise or limit the hold that the maghribī, North African, contingent had on the Fātimid royals and their court.19 At the time under discussion, Ibn Killis had not only taken charge of the private affairs of the court but had also the hisba, among other offices, under his control. The fact that the administration of finance, inheritance matters, hisba and internal affairs of the court converged in one person just prior to Durzān’s sudden emergence as ‘builder’ suggests that Ibn Killis, either directly or through his team, was the most likely mastermind (and effective controller) behind her nominal activities. To further support the view that points to Ibn Killis and his team of officers as the shadow agents behind Durzān’s architectural patronage, are the circumstances surrounding a mysterious cover up that took place in the intervening period between the death of al-Mu‘izz in Rabi II 365/Dec 975 and Durzān’s constructions in al-Qarāfa, the Jāmi‘ in particular, completed in Ramadān 366/May 977, a period of 17 months. Al-Maqrīzī reports, on the authority of the Fātimid historian Ibn Zulāq, that al-Mu‘izz’s death was kept hidden for 8 months thus effectively moving forward, as far as the general public was concerned, the date of al-‘Azīz’s succession to 366 Dhū’l hija/Aug 976.20 Because of their complexity and size, we can 18 On ‘Adūd al-Dawla and life at the Būyid court see Kraemer, J. D., Humanism in the renaissance of Islam: the cultural revival during the Buyid age, 2nd ed., Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992. 19 This process of ‘easternization’ was particularly visible and relevant in the army. By the end of al-‘Azīz’s reign, the rivalry between maghāriba and mashāriqa was fully blown, with the latter finally having the upper hand. For evidence of mashriqī officers charged with the hisba under Ibn Killis soon after al-Mu‘izz’s arrival in Cairo see al-Maqrīzī, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’, vol.1, p. 217. 20 al-Maqrīzī, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’, vol.1, p. 229
assume that Durzān’s building projects, the mosque and the qasr in particular, took longer than 9 months from inception to completion. This would mean that at the very least the initial plans for such buildings were made at a time when al-Mu‘izz was dead but not ‘officially’ so and al-‘Azīz was ruler, but only in pectore of the high dignitaries around him. Again, Ibn Killis emerges as the best placed person to oversee and manage the affairs of the court throughout this power vacuum, which would include building plans promoted by the royals. Was the initiating of new highly visible buildings by attributing them to Durzān part of a court policy to keep a ‘business-as-usual’ public profile in this interim period? Did the muhtasib al-Fārisī –through Durzān- try to take advantage of this vacuum for self-promotion? Was Durzān advised to quickly invest in brick and mortar her inheritance, acquired upon al-Mu‘izz’s death, to protect it from the dangerous exposures of her time: taxes, confiscation and devaluation of the dīnār? Finally, were the Fātimids, by promoting Durzān as builder, introducing a novelty in dynastic PR in the western Mediterranean Islamic world while trying to be on a par with their ‘Abbāsid rivals where the tradition of royal female architectural patronage was already long established and well known? It is perhaps no coincidence that, in the immediate aftermath of Ibn Killis’ death, with the institution of the vizirate falling into total turmoil, very limited royal female architectural patronage is recorded to have taken place. Sitt al-Mulk (d. 414/1023), the spinster half-sister of the imam-caliph al-Hākim, who affirmed herself as the court ‘prima donna’, is credited with the building of public baths and gardens. A cistern is attributed to the mother of the imam-caliph al-Zāhir (d. 427/1036).21 This will be the state of affairs until the full ‘resurgence’ of the institution of the Fātimid vizirate under the Armenian general Badr al-Jamālī (d. 487/1094). The arrival at the Fātimid court of Badr al-Jamālī during the reign of the imam-caliph al-Mustansir (d. 487/1094) marked the beginning of a major shift in the imam-caliph-vizier power relationship, with the power of the caliph becoming only nominal and the effective rule resting in the hands of the vizier. This role reversal meant, among other things, that the vizier no longer had an interest in allocating power to an already existing queen mother. Instead, he saw her as a potentially dangerous figure that needed to be sidelined. The fraught relationship between Badr al-Jamālī and Rasad, mother of the imam-caliph al-Mustansir, is testimony to this and projected on the landscape: Badr al-Jamālī was the big builder of his time while no architectural activity is ascribed to Rasad with certainty.22
21 Indicated as ‘Sayyda Rasad, mother of al-Zāhir’, this could be in fact al-Zāhir’s wife, since his mother is more typically known as Ruqayya. Bloom, J. M., “The Mosque”, p. 17. 22 On Rasad see Cortese, D., and Calderini, S., op. cit., pp. 110-114.
With the viziers now poised to play dynastic politics to their advantage by, among other means, seeking to marry their daughters to the caliphs’ sons (a notable example being the marriage between Badr al-Jamālī’s daughter and al-Mustansir’s son) we see – when it comes to court women - the locus of power being transferred from the queen mother to the jihāt, the consorts of the caliph and ‘establishment’ non-royal women. The status of some of these women became advertised or confirmed through the visibility that the architectural patronage granted them. A prime example is the building activity attached to the consort of the caliph al-Āmir (d.524/1130), ‘Alam al-Āmiriyya.23 The fact that the momentum of Fātimid female architectural patronage - and indeed the lack of it – appears to coincide with particularly significant phases in the history of the Fātimid vizirate, suggests a correlation between the extent and quality of Fātimid female patronage and court politics as orchestrated by the vizier in charge. An intriguing question raised by Durzān’s architectural patronage relates to the concentration of her building activity in one particular area outside Cairo, alQarāfa. Although this area is typically associated with its famous cemetery, the nature of Durzān’s buildings and the urban context in which they are reported to have appeared show that they were primarily intended to serve al-Qarāfa’s living residents. There is indeed sufficient evidence pointing to al-Qarāfa as an urban, inhabited space for the living between the 4th/10th and the 5th/11th centuries. Here are few of the several indicators: the incursion – discussed below - in that area by maghāriba in search of housing, thus clearly pointing to al-Qarāfa as a well established living quarter; the eye witness account of the 4th/10th century Arab geographer al-Muqaddasī who mentions the mosque of al-Qarāfa in the context of the rapid urban expansion he saw taking place in the area between Cairo and Fustāt;24 we have references to mundane services supplied for its residents ranging from various water supplies and mills to hammāms and ovens, some built near the Durzān’s qasr during the reign of al-‘Azīz; the Fātimid chronicler al-Musabbihī (d.420/1029) refers to the qarāfiyya as the inhabitants of the area and records one episode involving dwellers, houses and shops in that quarter;25 the famous 5th/11th Fatimid physician Ibn Ridwān proclaims al-Qarāfa as one of the best residential areas of the capital.26 23 On ‘Alam’s building activities and those of other court women during the late phase of the Fātimid period see Cortese, D., and Calderini, S., op. cit., pp. 171-176. 24 al-Muqaddasī, The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions. A Translation of Ahsan al-Taqāsim fī Ma‘rifat al-Aqālīm, B. A. Collins (tr.), Reading: Garnet Publishing, 1994, p.183 (additional paragraph from the version MS C). 25 al-Musabbihī, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 57;58. 26 Ibn Ridwān, ‘Alī, Daf‘ madar al-abdān, M.W. Dols (tr.), Medieval Islamic Medicine. Ibn Ridwān’s treatise ‘On the Prevention of Bodily Ills in Egypt, ‘A. G. Jamāl (ed. Arabic text), Berkley and London: Univ. of California Press, 1984, pp. 105-9.
The fact that building activity in Cairo – obviously a prime location – is reported to have been reserved to the imam-caliph and very few high dignitaries, while a royal woman appears to have been ‘relegated’ to build, even if just nominally, in a supposedly less sought-after neighborhood, could invite gendered ‘essentialist’ interpretations equating the worth of gender to the worth of land. I suggest instead that the choice of al-Qarāfa - whether made by Durzān or, more likely, on her behalf- must have been dictated by political and economic concerns rather than gender discrimination. The building of Jāmi‘ al-Qarāfa and the qasr must be therefore examined within the broader context of the urban and demographic turmoil that ensued in Cairo/Fustāt soon after the arrival of al-Mu‘izz and his vast maghāriba contingent from Ifrīqiyā. In reporting the events concerning the Fātimids for the year 363/973, al-Maqrīzī tells us that the maghāriba ‘swarmed’ in the areas of al-Qarāfa and al-Ma‘āfir and settled there by expropriating the houses of the local residents and deporting them elsewhere.27 In time, the maghāriba were further displaced and eventually recalled by order of al-Mu‘izz to settle in Cairo. The fact that, less than three years after these events, a qasr was erected in al-Qarāfa and Jāmi‘ al-Qarāfa was built in the quarter of al-Ma‘āfir, on the site of a pre-existing mosque called Masjid al-Qubba, points to a policy of regeneration and a ‘claiming’ of the area in order to provide new facilities for the residents; to appeal and appease those maghāriba who had remained in the area despite al-Mu‘izz’s recall; to accommodate the religious and commercial needs of a demographically expanding area as a growing number of people moved from further afield closer to Cairo to serve the court;28 to ‘Fātimidise’ the landscape, as the raising of large scale structures meant the razing to the ground of already built vast spaces and land purchase or confiscation and to secure a convenient ‘corridor’, crossed by a strategic route, between establishment Cairo and commercial Fustāt. A number of factors point to the pursuing of a ‘regenerative’ policy as underlying Durzān’s building activity in that particular area: the mostly ‘muscular’ quality of her constructions (a mosque, a fortress, various hydraulic services) and the appointment of the muhtasib as the person in charge of carrying out the works. It should be noted here that the roles of the muhtasib - typically indicated as market inspector- are somewhat obscure for the Fātimid period.29 On the whole, he
al-Maqrizī, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’, vol. 1, p. 145. Cf. al-Muqaddasī, who, having visited Cairo/Fustāt, comments about a handsome mosque, called alQarāfa, built by Umm al-Maghribī, standing in the area around Fustāt that, by his time, had expanded all the way up to Cairo. Noteworthy is his use of ‘umm al-maghribī’ to name of the builder of the mosque, instead of the more commonly used ‘Durzān’ of ‘Taghrīd’, perhaps as a result of witnessing how Durzān and her mosque were popularly referred to in al-Qarāfa. al-Muqaddasī, op. cit., p. 183. 29 Sayyid, A.F., La capitale de l’Égypte jusq’a l’epoque fatimide: al-Qahira et al-Fustāt: essay de reconstruction topographique, Beirut: F. Steiner, 1998, p. 673. 27 28
could be described as a municipal officer, responsible for - among other things- the repairing of houses and erection of shops, public safety, cleaning of the streets, repairing of the city walls and the ensuring of water supplies.30 As for the ‘Fātimidisation’ of the landscape outside Cairo, at an ideological level, that took the shape of advertising the dynasty by ‘marking’ the land with ‘Fātimid’ buildings such as the Jāmi‘ al-Qarāfa, which was ostensibly built in the style of the more famous alAzhar in Cairo.31 In more practical terms, there is evidence that, over time, the female members of the imam-caliph had substantially ‘Fātimidised’ the territory by acquiring and investing in lands and properties just outside Cairo as well as in Cairo itself. We are told that in 399/1009 the imam-caliph al-Hākim confiscated the lands of his mother, of his sister, of his aunts, of his wives and his favorite concubines as well as their properties and all their shares consisting of houses, gardens and baths which were in Fustāt and Cairo and particularly within their environs.32 A reading of the architectural landscapes of Cairo and al-Qarāfa, during the period under discussion, through an economic lens, leads me to interpret Durzān’s patronage in the light of an economic discourse in which the construction of the queen mother as symbolic figure of power may be seen as having played a useful and profitable role.33 The Ismā‘īlī Persian missionary and poet Nāsir-i Khusraw (d. after 465/1072-3) who visited Egypt in 439/1047 tells us that all the property in Cairo belonged to the imam-caliph as no one could own either houses or real estate there, except those the imam had commissioned to build.34 This preserve of exclusive rights presented disadvantages and advantages. On the one hand it caused property stagnation, on the other, however, exclusivity meant that any chance of competition in the property market, within Cairo, was automatically removed, thus securing – for the imam’s benefit - the all important scarcity value. This meant that, if the imam was not able to gain revenues through buying and selling properties - as a whole or in shares - scarcity value enabled him and the few other owners in Cairo to charge and maintain high rentals. It is difficult to estimate the number of properties existing in Cairo in the early years of al-‘Azīz’s reign but the
Cahen, C.and Talbi, M., “Hisba” Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971, vol. 3, p. 488. al-Maqrīzī, Khītat, vol. 4, part 1, p. 288. 32 al-Antākī,Yahyā b. Sa‘īd, Tā’rīkh, I. Kratchkovsky and A.Vasiliev (partial eds. and tr.), “Histoire de Yahya-ibn Sa ‘ïd d’Antioche”, Patrologia Orientalis, vol. 23 (1932), fasc. 3, p. 491. 33 The main guiding principles of scarcity value and externalities I rely on for my argument here are based on Harford, T., The Undercover Economist, London: Little, Brown, 2006. 34 His claim however should not be taken too rigidly. By ‘sultān’ he might have actually meant the royal family and its closest entourage. After all, women of the Fātimid royal family are reported to have owned properties in Cairo, as the confiscations already mentioned demonstrate. Nāsir-i Khusraw’s (qv) own experience as lodger in Cairo also points to the existence of landlords other than the imam. It is however safe to assume that the imam, his immediate family and his closest high dignitaries monopolised all aspects relating to property in Cairo. 30
eye witness account of Nāsir-i Khusraw is somewhat illustrative of the scenario presented above. He gives us some figures that, even allowing for some exaggeration on his part and changes in urban development, can still be considered indicative given that his visit took place some 70 years after the time under discussion. He reports that in Cairo there were at least 20,000 shops which were all owned by the sultan (i.e. the imam-caliph), mostly let at 10 maghribī dīnārs per month and none for less than 2 dīnārs. The caravansarays, bath houses and other public buildings were so many that it was impossible to calculate them. Both in Cairo and Fustāt there were 20,000 rented out houses that belonged to the imam. The rent was collected every month. At his time of visiting a 4-storey house in Cairo was rented out at 11 maghribī dīnārs per month. Nāsir-i Khusraw laments that in the one he rented only three floors were occupied. He tells us that he asked the owner if he could let the top floor to someone else for about 5 dīnārs per month. The owner refused on account that he would rather leave that floor vacant as he would visit the city every now and then. As it turns out, Nāsir comments, during a whole year the owner did not come more than twice.35 Nāsir-i Khusraw’s predicament clearly shows that scarcity value in Cairo left him – as a lodger - with no bargaining power! One problem with scarcity value is that its steady profitability relies amongst other factors on the financial stability on the part of the ‘demand’, to meet the significant scarcity rent expected by the ‘supply’. We can therefore assume that the growing number of court officials, staff, emerging merchant classes, and all those who sought the privilege to live and work in Cairo, had also to be made able to meet high rents since there would be no point in charging rents that people could not afford to pay! Since, in turn, the revenues of existing Cairo tenants or aspiring ones came –at least in part- from lands, properties and real estate outside Cairo, it became imperative for the administrators of the court to find a way by which lesser worthy, lesser profit yielding lands or properties in neighboring areas outside Cairo would be turned into more sought-after, higher yielding ones.36 Where does the ‘construction’ of Durzān, as locus of power, fit in this economic discourse? Durzān, as queen mother, was the only senior royal, beside the imam-caliph, whose status could be safely, visibly advertised. To ascribe buildings to royal brothers, thus potentially signalling their power, was asking for genealogical trouble and possible factionalism; to promote the imam’s children as
35 Nāsir-i Khusraw, Sefer Nameh, Relation du Voyage de Nassiri Khosrau, C. Schefer (ed.), Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1970, pp. 127; 132-3. 36 Evidence that land owners outside Cairo were soon targeted as source of state revenue at the outset of the Fātimid administration of Egypt is shown by the report that as soon as Ibn Killis and ‘Uslūj took over the overseeing of the landed estates, they increased taxes , a move that was met with remonstrations by the people, alMaqrīzī, Itti‘āz al-hunafā’, vol.1, pp. 146-47.
‘powerful’ was ineffective as, until the actual moment of succession, the outcome of the succession lottery was effectively open. The queen mother was the only royal figure whose loyalty could not be questioned since her own status was sanctioned by the blood link with the reigning the imam-caliph. For the high dignitaries at the Fātimid court to project the queen mother as a figure of prestige and distinction through imposing architectural patronage in al-Qarāfa meant not only to provide services to people while safely advertising the dynasty in an additional way but also - and more importantly in economic terms - to generate positive externalities that would increase the value and desirability of properties and real estate in the neighbourhoods graced by her landmarks. The owners of these estates would reap financial benefits that would in turn, enable them to meet the higher expenditures in Cairo!37 That Durzān’s buildings played a significant role in transforming al-Qarāfa into an upmarket, sought after area can be gathered from al-Maqrīzī’s remarks that in Fātimid times the nobility was known to gather at her mosque and the area around the qasr she built became a favourite meeting point during festivals and celebrations for the caliphal palace entourage, and the owners of the houses of court employees who did not reside at the palace.38 In conclusion, patronage is an investment – spiritual, temporal or both - and people who patronise expect a return. We don’t know what Durzān gained – spiritually or materially - from her acts, but certainly there was a lot to be gained for those men who acted in her name and very likely with her money, as well as the beneficiaries of her seemingly philanthropic work. The mainly religious and socially-oriented acts of female patronage in the pre-modern Islamic world may point to spiritual edification as the dominant intention behind acts of patronage. Indeed in several instances such intention is found stated in inscriptions or documents accompanying the deed. However, the very ‘worldliness’ of such activities calls for us to step outside gendered assumptions that female patronage automatically equates to the pious, charitable and meritseeking qualities or aspirations of the patron. Political and other mundane considerations were also at play. The implementation of act of patronage meant having friends and making new ones, relations, networks, bases of power, access to the court but also, especially for the woman, to have access outside the court.39 In this light, the flourishing of female patronage in Fātimid Egypt, the Mediterranean and
al-Maqrīzī, Khītat, vol. 4, part 1, p. 288. al-Maqrīzī, Khītat, vol. 2, pp. 445; 449. 39 My arguments lead me to share some of the concluding remarks on female patronage in medieval France found in Y. Hen, “Gender and the patronage of culture in Merovingian Gaul”, in L. Brubaker and J.M.H. Smith (eds), op. cit., pp. 217-233. 37 38
beyond call us to question issues of marginality and strict gender boundaries typically associated with women in the Islamic past. What we have here are women who through either nominal or active patronage mediated links between secular and religious arenas and found themselves situated in the fluid intersection between court, religious organizations and industry. Above all, in the face of the stern gender exclusivity romantically associated with the harem, they demonstrated the subtle, nuanced interactions and interconnections between female and male realms in the medieval Islamic world.
Rethinking Muslim Sicily’s Golden Age: Poetry and Patronage at the Fatimid Kalbid Court
Introduction The transition from the Aghabid Sunni emirate to the Fā¥imid Shi’ite caliphate in early 10th century Ifrīqiyā1 presents one of the most interesting and challenging questions in reconstructing the history of Muslim Sicily. The unpredictable, irrational reaction among segments of the Sicilian population, in accepting and then rebelling against the new Fā¥imid governors, culminating in the violent insurrection of 938 until 945 and the subsequent peace which would lead within thirty years to a period of peace and prosperity, defies any clear cut logical explanation, especially in light of the scant information in the extant sources. Moreover, contemporary historians, from Marius Canard (1960) and more recently Antonino Pellettieri (1996), have argued persuasively that the dominant narrative of Islamic Sicily, continuing in the post Amari scholarship, remains too heavily dependent upon biased Sunni sources, thereby obfuscating Fā¥imid contributions to Islamic history in Sicily which are much richer and nuanced that what we have accepted. The master Arab chroniclers of our historical period, Ibn al-Athīr (d. 1233), al-Nuwayrī (d. 1333), and Ibn Khaldūn (d. 1406), all Sunni historians, agree that the reign of Abū al-Futū| Yūsuf (989-998) constitutes a period of relative peace, prosperity, and cultural florescence in Sicily. To what, then, may we ascribe this ‘golden age’ phenomenon, given the structural devastation and political animosity still festering among the Sunni populace toward their Shi’ite governors? I revisit this question with the suggestion that the Fā¥imids used the power of the state, especially the ‘Royal Court’ as a site of habitus, broadly defined as * 1
Harvard University, U.S.A. Modern Tunisia, along with areas stretching from eastern Algeria to western Libya.
a “complex of cultural codes involving behavior, language and aesthetic perceptions that govern interactions,2” in which men of government and culture came together to share in a specific Sicilian Islam irrespective of religious or political differences. I argue that court patronage as a broad social institution, as crafted and executed by the Fā¥imid princes following the devastating local insurrections from 938-45, created relationships, linkages, and loyalties that trumped any residual tensions that lingered between a minority government and a skeptical majority. This paper will focus primarily on poets, poetry, and panegyrics as areas of shared culture to which contacts, linkages and loyalties were formed. From a general discussion of Fā¥imid poetics, I sift through the shards of poetry that remain of Ibn al-Khayyā¥, known as the most prolific and employed panegyrist for the Kalbid princes, in an attempt to reconstruct a habitus.
I The Fā¥imid revolution of 909 put a violent and decisive end the autonomous Aghlabid ruling dynasty that ruled Ifrīqiyā since 810 and propelled ‘Ubayd Allah al-Mahdī to establish the first Shi’ite Ismā’īlī dynasty in Islamic history. The Fā¥imid’s swift and undivided attention to Sicily was natural given that the Muslim conquest of the island was arguably the greatest Aghlabid political achievement, and one from which the Fā¥imids had much to benefit in the way of commercial, economic and military expansion. However, despite direct Fā¥imid appeals to the Sicilian Muslims with lavish praise for the courage of their jihad and promises of continual economic and military support,3 the early years were not easy, as large segments of the population, Aghlabid clients and loyal devotees to Sunni Malikism, were suspicious of a new Shi’ite government. The failure of the first two Fā¥imid appointees in Sicily and the subsequent election by acclamation of the native Sicilian A|mad ibn Qurhub to power with a wide base of support, i.e., the backing of both Arab Palermo and Berber Agrigento, were undoubtedly internal responses to the rapid changes taking place in Ifrīqiyā. Ibn Qurhub’s reluctance to accept the mandate to rule the island adds confusion to the already chaotic and speculative accounts of events. It was only after the Sicilians gave Ibn Qurhub their assurances of staunch and loyal support did he grudgingly acquiesce to Sicilian demands that he assume governorship of the island.
2 My thanks to Erez Naaman of Harvard University whose judicious and insightful use of habitus to the poetry and patronage at the Buyid Court of medieval Baghdad poetry has drawn my attention to Bourdieu’s ideas. 3 See: al-QāØī al-Nu‘mān, Iftitāh al-da‘wa. (Edited by Farhat Dachraoui.) Tūnis: Dār al-tūnisiyya li altawzī‘, 1975.
Ibn Qurhub’s pledge of allegiance to the caliph al-Muqtadir in Baghdad and his attacks on the mahdi’s naval forces were followed by the Agrigentans’ rebellion against him and their eventual recognition of Fā¥imid authority. As more towns followed suit, the rebellion against Ibn Qurhub spread throughout all of Muslim Sicily, including Palermo. He was captured, taken prisoner, and sent, along with members of his inner circle, to the mahdi in Raqqāda. When asked why he rebelled, Ibn Qurhub minced few words in explaining to the mahdi that the Sicilians were prone to disobedience and rebellion against their leaders, and that the only way to control them was with an iron fist. Ibn Qurhub and his followers were executed and the mahdi immediately dispatched to Sicily a large army to reassert his control. Modern historians have interpreted, subtly by Amari, openly by Aziz Ahmad (A History of Muslim Sicily, Edinburgh 1975), that Ibn Qurhub’s rise to power was a reaction of Sicilian Sunnism against Fā¥imid Shi’ism. In 937, the Muslims of Agrigento arose in revolt against their Fā¥imid governor, Sālim Ibn Rāshid. He was able to put down the insurrection, but, as a backup, he requested reinforcements from the mahdī who responded with a huge battalion under the command of Khalīl ibn Is|āq. The vacillation on the part of the Sicilians between allegiance to and defiance of their Fā¥imid governors— and by extension, of al-Mahdiyya itself— at this point in time defies, once again, any one clear-cut explanation. The heavy injections of Ifrīqiyan and other foreign troops, iron-fist rule, and economic exploitation in the form of taxation all played some role in Sicilian discontent. But when Khalīl ibn Is|āq arrived in Agrigento, the inhabitants came out to greet him en masse, as woman and children overwhelmed him with stories of atrocities committed against them by Sālim. Not to be outdone, other towns in Sicily followed suit. When the Sicilians acclaimed their allegiance to the mahdi, Khalīl pledged his support to them. By trickery Sālim seized the opportunity and pitted the Sicilians against Khalīl. He called their attention to the huge army dispatched to Sicily, and he succeeding in convincing them that the mahdi had sent Khalīl to exact revenge for their uprising. At this time Khalīl decided to build the fortress town of al-Khāli¡a along the port of Palermo, thus stoking the flames of Sicilian suspicions toward Fā¥imid intentions. Furthermore, the fact that he tore down parts of the old urban center to construct it, and his choice of its strategic position by the sea providing the Fā¥imids quick and easy access to reinforcements from al-Mahdiyya, all added fuel to local Sicilian [Sunni] suspicion. In response, the Sicilians dispatched an embassy to Constantinople seeking its assistance, while Khalīl sought and received reinforcements from al-Qā’im, the new mahdi in Ifrīqiyā. The next few years witnessed a civil war with broader ‘super-power’ dimensions, pitting Sicilian Muslims against their leaders in Ifrīqiyā, and the Fā¥imids against the Byzantines. Despite Khalīl’s success in ending the insurrection, Sicily in its aftermath suffered its many consequences. In addition to the obvious decrease in population, 97
from death in battle to emigration of substantial numbers of Muslim citizens, there was the smoldering residue of animosity in what had now become an even more brittle relationship between the island and its North African rulers. The fact that Sicilians could seek the military assistance of the Byzantine enemy against their own patrons and co-religionists must have had a severe impact on the fragile network of alliances and balances that kept the Muslims together. Also, the island suffered mass starvation between the years 940-2, to which the pillaging and burning of land and crops, had undoubtedly played a role.
II The family of the tribe of Kalb of the Banī Wabāra came to rule Sicily in the same way many others before them had come to do: by way of service and unflinching support for the rulership in North Africa. The rebellions of 937 and mass starvation in Sicily, along with the Khārijite anti-Fā¥imid campaign in North Africa (943-7) in which the Kalbids contributed to its suppression, brought the Kalbids to power in Sicily. They ruled the island at first under constant supervision of the mahdi, but gradually came to enjoy a greater degree of autonomy. The Fā¥imid move to Cairo in 972 under the mahdi al-Mu‘izz would decrease, but not altogether eliminate, Fā¥imid hegemony over Sicily. The Kalbids were masterful military officers, and they were quick to assume leadership of the Sicilian jihad. On the other hand, Muslim-Christian relations within and immediately around Sicily had become more varied and complex by this time. The number of treaties increased as did the number of confrontations. Added to this richness and complexity was the Sicilian - Maghrebi - Egyptian trade axis created by the newly established Fā¥imid dynasty of Egypt. At the heart of this axis lay a lucrative and bustling commerce that brought together Muslim, Christian, and Jewish merchants, craftsmen, importers/exporters, and shippers from the Mediterranean basin. While the Fā¥imid caliphate directed its efforts and energies towards the East, its Kalbid clients were reaping the benefits of the calm that followed military successes, at home and abroad, to build their infrastructure in Sicily. The three decades following the reign of A|mad ibn al-ðasan al-Kalbī (d. 969) were relatively peaceful and prosperous ones for Sicily, as the new quasi-autonomous Kalbid ruling family enjoyed the confidence of both the Fā¥imid mahdi and the majority of the Sicilian Muslims. This period of internal stability came to a high point the nine-year rule of Abū al-Futū| Yūsuf ibn ‘Abdallah, from 989 to 998. The chroniclers lavish high praise on him, and since little is recorded in the way of wars with the Christians or civil strife among the Muslims, it is safe to assume that the island passed through one of its more peaceful and prosperous periods. Unfortunately, Thiqat al-Dawla, by which Yūsuf was popularly known, suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed in 998. He transferred the affairs of 98
state to his son Ja‘far (r. 998-1019) and retired.4 Although the Kalbid dynasty after Yūsuf would succumb to fratricide and internal bickering, following Ja‘far’s execution of his rebellious brother, ‘Alī, the Kalbids would hold on to power in Sicily via Yusuf’s younger sons, A|mad al-Ak|al (r. 1019-1037) and al-ðasan al- Ÿam¡ām (1040-1053) until the island’s government dissolved into petty fiefdoms.
III The description of Palermo in 972 bequeathed to us by the acerbic Arab geographer and chronicler Ibn ðawqal (Ÿurat al-arØ) includes the image of mass unemployment among hordes of what he described as dim-witted and cowardly scholars and teachers who, in their quest to avoid their duty to jihad, spend their days loafing around the mosques and pestering honorable women. The account, however hyperbolic and comic it may appear, can be best read when bearing in mind the Sicilian rebellions and the crushing Fā¥imid response which lead to the dismantling of many buildings of old Palermo to build the new fortress city of al-Khāli¡a only thirty years before Ibn ðawqal’s arrival. One could safely assume that the major centers of Sunni Mālikī power and learning were the first to make it on the proverbial chopping board, and their many former employees found themselves with nothing and nowhere to work. To what, then, might we attribute the success of the Kalbid princes, especially during the reigns of Yūsuf and his son Ja‘far (9891019), in consolidating power and winning over, if the [Sunni] chroniclers are to be believed, vast segments of the Sicilian population? Modern historical studies amply emphasize Fā¥imid domestic and foreign policies as equal areas of strength: from civilian architecture and other public works, the building of powerful navies and arsenals, to agricultural technology and lucrative mercantile networks, the Fā¥imids expanded their relations beyond the borders of Dār al-islām. In Sicily, they kept the jihad economic engine well greased, benefitting from revenue booty, peace treaty taxes, land and protection taxes, trading in slaves, and commercial outposts in the conquered territories of southern Italy. The Fā¥imid project of building a complex system of government and administration, as highlighted in the Cairo of the 11th century, has an early and pale reflection in Kalbid Palermo.5 The construction of al-Khāli¡a as exclusive “Fā¥imid” space, with its proximity to the sea and its own religious, social and cultural specifications, was an attempt (similar to their building of al-Mahdiyya on the Tunisian coast in 921) to usher in their period of Muslim Sicilian history. The genius and success of this pro-
Historians differ on the last year of Ja‘far’s reign. Canard, Marius. “Le Ceremonial Fatimite et le Ceremonial Byzantin: Essai de Comparaison.” Byzantion XX: 1951. Canard argues that the vast pomp and ceremony of the Fā¥imid High Egyptian Court contrast with a more simple, austere form during their earlier North African period: 417-8. 4 5
ject is reflected in the re-appropriation of “local materials” in the reconstruction. In ways similar to the use of old stones and other architectural remnants from Old Palermo to build al-Khāli¡a, the Fā¥imid princes tapped into the reservoir of Sicily’s political, military, financial, and cultural elites to craft their state. The extant bio-bibliography of Islamic Sicily yields a significant number of scholar poets and poet princes, strongly suggesting that poetry as an intellectual and cultural medium was flourishing throughout political and cultural circles. For, scholars - both religious and secular - the importance of poetry was connected to the study of language and philology which was a dominant aspect of the Sicilian Islamic curriculum.6 Since a great deal of linguistic studies drew on examples from the massive corpus of pre-Islamic and post Islamic poetry, it was natural for Sicilians to master, imitate, and then compose their own poetry on the models from the literary canon. More surprising is the number of Kalbid princes some of whom dabbled and others who devoted themselves entirely to the art of poetry. Additionally, we see a number of scribes and other government functionaries also producing poetry. Here, we can begin to imagine in more vivid detail a court culture in which men from different stations united in common cause.7
IV The ascendency of Abū al-Futū| Yūsuf to the throne in Sicily in 989 came eighty years after the success of the Fā¥imid revolution in North Africa. During this time the mahdis had succeeded in laying the foundations of an empire, and central in the process of their state building was the institution of the royal court. As Marius Canard (1951) has argued, the early Fā¥imid leaders, as architects of a revolutionary movement, were challenged on the one hand by the need to remain faithful to their platform of simplicity and austerity, especially in light of their successful campaign against Aghlabid corruption and excesses, and on the other by their need to create an aura of political legitimacy and power that would rival their arch enemies, the Abbasids of Baghdad. With no previous experience in government, and with no ethnic or territorial ties to bind them, as Canard reminds us, the Fātimid mahdis of North Africa, and their Kalbid clients in Sicily, were well served by creating a strong central and unifying court complex based on incorporating various constituent parts to articulate, expand, and execute their new power.
6 W. Granara, Islamic Education & the Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Sicily.” Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in Honor of George Makdisi. London: E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004. 7 See two recently edited biographical dictionaries on Sicilian poets: Mu‘jam al-‘ulamā’wa al-shu’arā’ al¡iqilliyīn. (ed. I.‘Abbās). Beirut: Dār al-gharb al-islāmī, 1994; and Ibn al-Qa¥¥ā‘al-¡iqillī, al-Durra al-Kha¥īra fı shu‘ar’ aljazīra. (ed. Bashīr Bakkūsh). Beirut: Dār al-gharb al-islāmī, 1995.
The court of the Sicilian Kalbid princes in 989 was most likely modeled, at least in several aspects, on centuries of royal court complexes. Again, as Canard has persuasively demonstrated, the Fā¥imids of North Africa and Sicily, and later in Cairo, had ample access to both Byzantine and Abbasid models from which they could borrow, imitate, or vary upon, in structuring their own court. The existence of Byzantine Greek and Sicilian Christian scribes, registrars, artisans, and physicians who worked in the various branches (dīwān pl. dawāwīn) of government, reflect both the Fā¥imid strategy of tapping into “local” resources and their ability to look beyond the narrow confines of their sect in undertaking their ‘nation-building’ project. One must imagine the vast complex of royal princes, family members and their clients (mawālin), military officers, chamberlains, accountants, equerries, palace guards, physicians, domestics, nannies, tailors and cooks, concubines, singing girls, and, above all, poets. These were people chosen from Ismā’īli Fā¥imid and Kalbid loyalists, Sicilian, North African and a few Andalusian sunnis, Arabs and Berbers, native Sicilian and Byzantine Christians, Serb and African slaves, Jewish merchants and scholars, Persians, and possibly a handful of Khārijites who worked their way into the system. At this point, I raise again two questions: (1) how did the Fā¥imids succeed in creating a thriving court given the religious, political and social animosities that still smoldered among the many segments of Sicilian society at this time?; and what role did poetry play in court life? The proliferation of poets and poetry recorded at this time in Sicilian Muslim historiography clearly attests to the importance of culture in crafting the Fā¥imid state and its social structures, but how did it contribute to the articulation of Fā¥imid specificity within the Sicilian context? Pierre Bourdieu’s duo concepts of habitus and field (champ) as an analytical model may be highly useful in addressing these questions and providing some insight into the composition and dynamic of court culture and the centrality to poetry in its diffusion. By habitus I borrow both the basic idea of a “system of durable, transposable dispositions,” and its more popular interpretation as “a feel for the game, a practical sense that inclines agents to act and react in specific situations in a manner that is not always calculated and that is not simply a question of conscious obedience to rules.” By field, I see “as structured space with its own laws of functioning and its own relations of force independent of those of politics and the economy, except obviously, in the case of the economic and political fields.”8 The institution of a royal court, well developed and prominent in both ancient (classical) and medieval Near Eastern and Mediterranean societies, may well be read as
8 Bourdieu, Pierre. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature. (Edited and introduced by Randal Johnson). New York: Columbia University Press, 1993: 5.
field with its own set of laws, customs, and hierarchal structures. As public or national space it is built on symbolic capital where “accumulated prestige, celebrity and a consecration of honor” all converge. It is headed by the king (figurehead) who enacts laws and commands loyalties that generate a series of reciprocal relationships that descend the hierarchal order. Within this structure I read poetry, or to be more specific, the profession of panegyric poetry, as subfield to the court. The role of court panegyrists in fabricating, imaging, or reinforcing the political legitimization of rulers, especially those presiding over a hostile kingdom or facing threats from internal rivals or external enemies, has been thoroughly investigated throughout literary history. Suzanne Stetkevych’s explication of a “mythic concordance” between patron and poet, binding the two into a reciprocal exchange, is also helpful in understanding the broader social dynamics that operate within the court.9 In her study of the illustrious Fā¥imid court poet in Cairo, al-Mu’ayyad fī alDīn al-Shīrāzī (d. 1078), Tahera Qutbuddin outlines what she considers to be poetic motifs essential to what may be call a specific Fā¥imid poetics. Prominent among these motifs is the image of the imām as subject of praise (mamdū|): the descent of the imam from the Prophet Muhammad and ‘Alī and his explicit designation and contiguity of his rule; the image of the imam as both servant and representative of God; the imam as signified (mamthūl) for theological objects and concepts; his attributes and functions; his role in prophethood; and his standing in regard to his followers and enemies.10 Although my sketchy summary here fails to do justice to Qutbuddin’s very thorough work, it does provide a sufficient sense of Fā¥imid panegyric aesthetics of the classical period.
V Abū al-ðasan ‘Alī ibn Mu|ammad bin ‘Alī al-Rub‘ī, best known as Ibn alKhayyā¥, not only survives among the many poets of Muslim Sicily but stands out prominently among them through a small but significant amount of verses still intact. Although what remains of his work does not seem to include complete poems, we do have a sufficient sampling that includes references to historical figures to situate his poetics in both political and literary history. He survives mainly through the anthology on Arab Sicilian poets by Ibn al-Qa¥¥ā‘ (1042-1122) who lavishes great praise on both Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s prose and poetry.11 9 Stetkevych, Suzanne. The Poetics of Islamic Legitimacy: Myth, Gender, and Ceremony in the Classical Arabic Ode. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002: 84; and 281-2. 10 Qutbuddin, Tahera. Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shīrāzī: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature. Leiden: Brill, 2005: 143-218. 11 Ibn al-Qa¥¥ā‘, Abū al-Qāsim ‘Alī ibn Ja‘far. al-Durra al-kha¥īra fī shu‘arā’ al-jazīra. (ed. Bashīr alBakkūsh. Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1995: also; see I.‘Abbās, Mu‘jam al-’ulamā’wa al-shu’arā’ al-¡iqilliyīn: 128-147.
Nothing is recorded of his formal education which lead I|¡ān ‘Abbās to the hasty and questionable conclusion that, unlike other poets from Sicily who were primarily philologists and linguists, Ibn al-Khayyā¥ was “only a poet.”12 His linguistic and poetic training, when viewed in both the broader context of Muslim Sicilian intellectual history and his treatment in later anthologies, suggest a cultural formation similar to his Sicilian contemporaries. Without actually knowing his religious or political proclivities, one can at least assume that he straddled the SunniShiite divide, and that his life and work lay somewhere between a dominant Māliki Sunni majority and a Fā¥imid Shi’ite minority. Ibn al-K|ayyāt’s profession as a court poet was a long one, beginning sometime within Abū al-Futū| Yūsuf (r. 989-998) and extending into the reign of Ibn alThumna, that is, from as early as 989 until as late as 1055, coinciding with the ‘golden years’ of the Kalbid dynasty and lasting into the period of divided rule among the petty warlords. The endurance of his career and his success in survival among the inner court may well be attributed to his position vis-à-vis the habitusfield paradigm. However traditionally Sunni Sicilian Islam may have been in many areas of public life, it nevertheless did not prevent Ibn al-Khayyā¥ from possessing a “feel for the game,” and he mastered all the symbols, codes and rules that apply to the world of court panegyrics. As the Kalbid princes reached out to the various constituent parts of Sicilian society, Ibn al-Khayyā¥ and his likes responded in kind, respecting and taking advantage of both the symbolic and cultural capital that accrued within the system. Ibn al-Khayyā¥ fashioned a panegyric poetics with a Fā¥imid specificity in several ways: firstly through the skillful use of takhallus, the bridging between two sections (gharaØ), or what P. Smoor describes as “a give and take between the conventions of poetry and the politics of the mu|dathūn and the inflexible doctrines of the religious establishment.”13 And in accordance with contemporary aesthetics, we see the bridging of the ghazal (love song) with the praise (madī|) as a prominent feature in what survives of Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s verses. This strategy allowed the poet to assert his position within the subfield of canonical Arabic poetry while demonstrating his “feel for the game” as set by Fā¥imid politics. Secondly, we have a discernible triumvirate of topoi that supports the idea of a Fā¥imid specificity: (1) the decree of succession (|ukm al-ta‘āqub) that legitimizes Fā¥imid rule; (2) the imām’s (re: patron) supernatural knowledge of the esoteric, both religious and worldly; and (3) a limitless generosity that seals the contractual relationship between patron and poet. I|sān ‘Abbās, al-‘Arab fī ¡iqillīyā. Cairo: Dār al-ma‘ārif,1959: 208. Smoor, Peter (1991) “Fatimid Poets and the “takhallus” that Bridges the Nights of Time to the Imam of Time.” Der Islam 68: 232-62. 12 13
It should be noted, before proceeding to the three topoi, that Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s poetry contains verses that give us glimpses of perilous times and oppressive government, evidence that he was not totally beholden to the political hierarchy, nor deaf and blind to political realities. On the one hand, in the fashion of Sicilian exile poets like Abū al-‘Arab and Ibn ðamdīs, he laments the loss of Sicily’s earlier paradisiac period:
- Need we remind you that Sicily after you has become the proverbial slab of meat on the butcher’s block? - You left behind the remnants of your beauty amidst its rabble, likes flowers that wilt among the ashes of destruction. - You were among those whom God created to sparkle with life, and you were entrusted by Him to fuse beauty and generosity. - You hail from the brightest stars in the firmaments, those men who stood up against the enemy like lions in battle. On the other hand, he warns against any kind of political dissent:
- Insulting monarchs is a sure path to death, so beware of insulting monarchs! - In forgiving you of your faults, they insult you, and in punishing you they kill you.
That said, I turn to the three themes that articulate in the most concrete terms Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s allegiance to the Fā¥imid court. The first and most powerful is the theme of successful rule (|ukm al-ta‘āqub) that establishes the Fā¥imids, from the Prophet Mu|ammad and the stipulation (na¡¡) of ‘Alī, down to the current rulers. Although it was common knowledge that the caliph-imam at this time was in 104
Egypt, the Kalbids could bask in the poetic imagery of power and royalty by virtue of their delegation of power and their association with Fā¥imid rule in Sicily.
- Seek guidance in the caliphate, exalted and praised in ‘Ali who follows Mu|ammad [A|mad].
- Do not rejoice nor despair of any momentous event, for whatever good or evil comes to you will not endure. - For in every matter, however long its success may be, there is the decree of succession, in darkness and in light.
- I see that all things have their rotation (dawla), that the decree of succession operates therein. - Do not rejoice nor despair of anything, whatever ceases to exist comes back in another state.
A dominant strategy in Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s panegyrics is the combining of two or more figures, father and son, or son and father, and at times two brothers, into one composition, bestowing the aura on legitimacy on the entire ruling family. In a poem in praise of Prince ðasan al-Ÿam¡ām, Mustakhla¡ al-Dawla, which begins with long (l-14) ghazal, with mixing clusters of a¥lāl, nasīb, rahīl,14 wine song,
14 That is, visiting an abandoned ruin, lamenting a lost love, and departure into the desert, the constituent parts of the classical tripartite qa¡ida.
singing girls and celestial images of starts and moons, we see the decree of succession embedded in the praise:
- A king, girded by kings through fathers and sons who ascend [to the throne] surrounded by them. - The chosen one (mustakhla¡) among caliphs, and the son of its kings, he is the father to them all, as long as the sea moistens wool. - Had you not gained enduring glory by chance, you would gain it through he who is born to you.
In another poem addressed to ðasan al-Ÿam¡ām, which begins with a ghazal and includes a lament for his lost youth after six decades:
- The king of all kings, were it not for the issuance of his loin, who will in turn sire kings [born] with crowns. - A moon, whose father is a full moon, he himself became a full moon once he was born.
The second themes that runs through Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s verses which supports his allegiance to the Fā¥imid cause is the possession of esoteric or hidden knowledge that resonates with the Ismāīlī ©āhir/bā¥in (exoteric/esoteric) binary.
- In his mind hidden matters appear clearly, and his sees thoughts as soon as they come to mind. 106
- Perspicacious, he speaks of esoteric issues as a matter of fact, as though his observations were made in the deepest thoughts.
- It is as though the secrets of Creation are encased in glass, which you both see clearly through your esoteric knowledge, - as though the secrets of outward appearances have been made manifest to you, in the shape of letters in the secrets of hearts, - If, some day, a cloudy intention appeals concealed, it resurfaces the following day, its veil lifted.
Thirdly, we see the generosity of princes as the basis of a contractual relationship (“mythic concordance”) between poet and patron, a long standing motif in Arabic panegyric poetry, but one reworked into a Fā¥imid/Kalbid idiom that proffers praise not only for the subject patron (mamdū|) but for all Kalbid princes, past, present and future. The image of generosity comes in the forms of material benefit and protection. In a poem addressed to ðasan al-Ÿam¡ām, also beginning with a ghazal in which he laments his passing youth and refers to himself as sixty-something, we see:
- Poetry is like the ocean; its shore spits out its scum, while its pearls lay lodged in its depths. - If I were able to ascend the highest stars, I would string you a necklace if there were a way to its place of ascent. - If I regaled you praise that bore results, it is only the munificence of your giving that has allowed me to do so. 107
And, in another fragment:
- I now bask in the protection of ‘Ali the son of A|mad; - my saddled was unpacked in his abode, between an eagle and a northern star; - his is the kingdom (dawla) in which I longed to gain my fortune.
Some Preliminary Conclusions: The life and work of Ibn al-Khayyā¥ is situated at the ironic junction that marks medieval Muslim Sicilian history: a time and place when Arabic scholarship and culture reaches its apogee while Muslim Sicilians begin their political fragmentation and decline. Like many a court poet of his time, he was forced to sing the praises of a righteous (real or imagined) ruler while bearing witness to chaos, treason and defeat that scarred his world. While his poetic fragments give voice to critical views and cynical forecasts, Ibn al-Khayyā¥ remained a consistent and, by all accounts, sincere patron to the Kalbid ruling family. His panegyrics, while remaining well within the boundaries of canonical mu|dath (modernist) poetry, mastering its language, idiom, and generic strictures, enabled him to give expression to the Fā¥imid cause, articulating his allegiance to Ismā’īlī doctrines, and his loyalty to the Fā¥imids’ chosen deputies in Sicily. Ibn al-Khayyā¥’s panegyrics play a small but significant part in reconstructing the Fā¥imid contribution to Muslim Sicilian history. In the aftermath of the insurrections of 938, the Fā¥imids, by way of their Kalbid deputies, were able to pick up the pieces and bring Arabic and Islamic institutions back on track. By way of a politics of resilience, accommodation and flexibility, the Kalbid princes reached out to the broader Sicilian community, Muslims, Christians and Jews, merchants, soldiers, and poets, to build their state (dawla). We can imagine in the verses of Ibn al-Khayyā¥, however fragmented and sparse they survive, the life of the Kalbid court in Palermo as national space, at times public and at times private, in which the fields of culture were bound by a habitus as envisioned and executed by a family of military commanders who sought the pleasures and stability that Sicily could offer.
La politica interreligiosa fatimide tra tolleranza e coercizione. Riflessioni sulla categoria del muslimānī nell’Egitto dell’XI secolo È ben noto che la politica dei Fatimidi nei confronti dei non-musulmani è stata in genere molto tollerante. Ebrei e cristiani servivano abitualmente nell’amministrazione, come del resto era stata e continuerà ad essere tradizione in ambiente sunnita, e molti di loro sono menzionati per nome nella cronaca dello storico al-Musabbi|ī (m. 1030). Ricordo soltanto, per dare la misura del livello di influenza e di ricchezza di cui poteva godere l’élite dei dhimmī, due brevi ma eloquenti storie registrate nel suo diario di viaggio da Nā¡ir-e Khusraw, presente al Cairo nel 1047 al tempo di al-Mustansir. Le due storie riguardano una un personaggio cristiano, l’altra un ebreo. Il cristiano, che Nā¡ir dichiara di avere conosciuto lui stesso, è definito “uno degli uomini più ricchi d’Egitto”. La storia gli è stata evidentemente riferita: un anno in cui la crescita del Nilo era stata scarsa e il prezzo del grano era salito alle stelle, il gran vizir aveva convocato il ricco cristiano per chiedergli quanto grano avrebbe potuto vendere o fornire in prestito, affinché il califfo potesse provvedere ai suoi sudditi. La risposta del cristiano era stata che le sue riserve di grano avrebbero potuto “garantire il pane per sei anni alla popolazione del Cairo”. E a quel tempo, precisa Nā¡ir-i Khusraw “la popolazione del Cairo era cinque volte quella di Nishapur”. L’altro episodio riguarda un gioielliere ebreo, ricchissimo e assai vicino al califfo (era l’incaricato di acquistare i suoi gioielli), contro il quale un giorno i soldati si rivoltarono e lo uccisero. Il califfo reagì inviando tempestivamente ventimila soldati a cavallo a riportare l’ordine e i familiari del gioielliere ebreo ebbero garantiti protezione e risarcimenti1. Altro piccolo episodio significativo è quello raccontato da Musabbi|ī: nel 415/1024 (?) - quatUniversità “La Sapienza”, Roma. Naser-e Khosraw’s Book of Travels (Safar-nama), translated by W.M.Thackston Jr., New York, The Persian Heritage Foundation, 1986, p. 56, p. 58. * 1
tro anni dopo la scomparsa di al ðākim - il figlio quattordicenne del medico di corte cristiano Ibn Abī ‘l-Faraj muore e viene seppellito nell’area del palazzo reale fatimide. Un episodio che, come ha osservato Lev, “viola tutte le norme di segregazione sociale fra musulmani e cristiani che, ovviamente, si applicavano anche ai cimiteri”2 L’informazione, come ho detto, è trasmessa da Musabbi|ī, storico di corte, particolarmente legato ad al-ðākim e tuttavia sunnita convinto. L’apertura e la tolleranza caratterizzavano dunque anche i rapporti “interni”, tra musulmani di diversa appartenenza. E se il grado di osservanza delle regole di segregazione sociale agli alti livelli della corte era in generale molto scarso, mentre la gente comune doveva osservare regole di comportamento più strette, tuttavia le feste religiose cristiane vedevano abitualmente una partecipazione in massa di musulmani.3 Questo essendo il clima, la politica di al-ðākim (386-411/996-1021), con le sue misure persecutorie, ha rappresentato una brusca discontinuità. Lo confermano anche le parole di al-An¥ākī, che riferendo della decisione di al-Hākim di sostituire i segretari cristiani con dei musulmani, afferma: giacché tutti i suoi segretari e servitori, nonché i medici del suo impero erano cristiani, eccetto un esiguo numero di segretari (illā nafar yasīr min al-kuttāb).4 Venti anni fa Yaacov Lev pubblicava un articolo intitolato “ Persecution and conversion to Islam in eleventh century Egypt”.5 Il lavoro era centrato sul tema più ampio dell’islamizzazione dell’Egitto, i suoi tempi e le sue cause, sui rapporti tra musulmani e dhimmī in particolare tra X e XI secolo e sulla rilevanza degli episodi di persecuzione e di coercizione alla conversione nel corso complessivo del processo di islamizzazione dell’Egitto. Un’analisi approfondita all’interno della quale alcune osservazioni dell’autore attirano l’attenzione sul problema della sincerità della conversione all’Islam da parte di ex-Gente del Libro, che emerge in modo acuto durante il regno del califfo al-ðākim. Ricordo brevemente alcuni fatti: sotto il califfato di al-‘Azīz (975-996) era stato nominato amministratore capo il cristiano Ibn Nas¥urus, suscitando forte disapprovazione e proteste, che avevano portato alla sua destituzione. Tuttavia in seguito Ibn Nas¥urus viene riassunto con i poteri di fatto di un vizir. Il risentimento popolare per le brutali misure da lui prese nella repressione di gravi disordini scoppiati al Cairo contro dei mercanti italiani, condurrà a chiedere per la seconda volta
2 Y. Lev, “Aspects of the Egyptian Society in the Fatimid Period”, in: Vermeulen-Van Steenbergen (eds.), Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras, Leuven 2001, pp. 11-12; cfr. Tome quarantième de la Chronique d’Egypte de Musabbihi, édité et présenté par A.F. Sayyid et Th. Bianquis, pp. 79, 107). 3 Musabbi|ī, op. cit., pp. 70-71 (Lev, Persecutions, p. 81). 4 Ta’rīkh al-An¥ākī, ed. Tadmuri, Tarabulus (Lubnan), 1990, p. 295 (Cronache dell’Egitto fatimide e dell’impero bizantino, traduzione a cura di B.Pirone, Jaca Book, 1998, p. 261). Sul ruolo di medici e kuttāb cpome mediatori tra le autorità musulmane e le comunità cristiane, v. S.Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, II, pp. 241-43. 5 Asian and African Studies, 22 (1988), pp. 73-91.
la sua destituzione al nuovo califfo al-ðākim, salito al trono undicenne nel 386/996. E la reggenza, dopo circa un anno, deciderà di giustiziare Ibn Nas¥urus. Tuttavia, tra il 387/997 e il 392/1002 il capo dell’amministrazione sarà nuovamente un segretario cristiano, Fahd ibn Ibrāhīm. E anche lui, con suo fratello, in seguito a una cospirazione sarà messo a morte.6 Tutto questo evidenzia la sostanziale indifferenza da parte del potere per l’appartenenza religiosa delle più alte cariche amministrative, e la tensione fra questo atteggiamento, essenzialmente pragmatico - i copti erano eccellenti amministratori - e i sentimenti ostili della popolazione musulmana della capitale, che produce oscillazioni e bruschi cambiamenti nella politica governativa. Fra il 394-403/10041012, una serie di misure fortemente vessatorie nei confronti delle comunità dhimmī vengono prese, come è noto, per iniziativa di al-ðākim: distruzione di edifici di culto - evento culmine la distruzione della chiesa del Santo Sepolcro a Gerusalemme - di monasteri e sinagoghe, imposizione, resa effettiva con ripetute ordinanze, dei segni vestimentari distintivi, con alcune aggiunte rispetto a quelli tradizionali; forti restrizioni imposte alle pratiche del culto e alla celebrazione delle feste religiose. L’effetto cumulativo delle persecuzioni di al-ðākim è stato un movimento di conversioni all’Islam. Nel 1012 al-An¥ākī segnala le prime conversioni fra gli shuyūkh al-kuttāb e i funzionari del fisco, conversioni che fanno da elemento trainante: in effetti molte altre ne seguirono fra la gente comune (al-‘awamm). Al-An¥āki parla anche di conversione di ebrei, ma senza chiarirne la consistenza numerica7. Complessivamente il fenomeno rimase circoscritto soprattutto alla capitale ma il precario equilibrio nei rapporti fra musulmani e dhimmī ne venne profondamente scosso. Ma ecco che verso la fine del califfato di al-ðākim ha luogo uno spettacolare capovolgimento. Il califfo fatimide dà il permesso di restaurare chiese e sinagoghe, ma soprattutto, sollecitato da una petizione di cristiani che fondavano la loro richiesta sul fatto di essere stati costretti a convertirsi all’Islam8, al-ðākim, clamorosamente, consente ai convertiti di ritornare alle confessioni originarie di appartenenza. Anche dopo la scomparsa di al-ðākim, nel 1021, sotto il suo successore al-Zahir, verranno confermati i diritti da lui concessi ai dhimmi 9, e verrà anche permesso eventualmente di emigrare, cosa che già era stata consentita da al-ðākim e di cui aveva potuto approfittare lo storico al-An¥ākī, trasferitosi ad Antiochia nel 405/1014-15.10
Ibid., pp. 76-77. Al-An¥ākī, op. cit., p. 297 (trad. it. p .263). 8 Così al-An¥āki riferisce le loro parole: “wa qalū lahu inna alladhī dakhalnā fīhi min al-ta©āhur bi-dīn al-islām lam yakun bi-ikhtiyārinā wa lā bi-raghbatin minnā” (al.An¥ākī, Ta’rikh, ed. Tadmuri, p. 357; trad. Pirone, p. 307) 9 Lev, “Persecutions”, cit., pp. 86-87. Viene anche stipulato un accordo tra Fatimidi e Bizantini: i primi consentono la riapertura della Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro a Gerusalemme, mentre i Bizantini accettano di riaprire la moschea che a Costantinopoli era usata dai prigionieri di guerra musulmani. 10 M.Canard, “al-An¥ākī”, Encyclopédie de l’Islam, II ed., I, p. 531. 6 7
Il punto maggiormente degno di attenzione in tutto questo è rappresentato ai miei occhi dalla disparità di trattamento, alla fine, di coloro che, sebbene con grande titubanza, ritornarono alla loro religione di origine: alcuni poterono farlo senza subirne danno, mentre altri, e proprio quelli che dopo la conversione si erano comportati da musulmani osservanti, finirono con l’essere giustiziati11. Una disparità di trattamento che verte su un tema cruciale: in cosa consista la conversione all’Islam. Le parole della professione di fede pronunciate davanti a testimoni evidentemente non sono state considerate sufficienti a fare di tutti i neoconvertiti dei veri musulmani, e dunque della loro apostasia una vera apostasia. Coloro che sono stati giustiziati per apostasia erano quelli che avevano fatto seguire alle parole della professione di fede una condotta da musulmano osservante. La pena capitale è stata dunque comminata dal potere ismailita in ubbidienza a un principio che, è interessante osservarlo, coincide con quello seguito in materia dalla scuola malikita, unica fra le scuole giuridiche sunnite che per considerare valida una conversione, e conseguentemente valida e perseguibile una apostasia, richiede la dimostrazione, con le opere, dello |usn al-islām, di essere “buon musulmano”12. Ma se la questione di che cosa dovesse considerarsi “vera” conversione all’Islam non ha mai trovato una risposta univoca, ciò che non era considerato sincera conversione si trova compendiato dal termine al-muslimānī, usato in questo contesto per designare il neo-convertito copto, un termine che ha una chiara connotazione negativa e addirittura offensiva13. Come dire finto musulmano, musulmano di nome. Con tutto il sospetto e il disprezzo che questo comporta. Un episodio riferito dallo storico al-Musabbi|ī, ne offre un’eloquente illustrazione. L’episodio ha avuto luogo al Cairo nel mese di rabi’II dell’anno 415 (?/ ) e mette in scena il copto Ibn Abī Raddād, l’addetto alla manutenzione del nilometro14, e lo sharīf Abu ¦ālib al11 Sebbene, come osserva Lev (ibid. 88), affermare che coloro che si limitarono ad aderire formalmente all’Islam non abbiano subito alcun danno dal loro riconvertirsi alla religione precedentemente professata sia un argumentum e silentio, poiché nulla di esplicito viene detto in effetti della loro sorte, l’accento posto da storici contemporanei, sia musulmani (Musabbi|ī) che cristiani (An¥ākī), su casi di esecuzione come quello di un tal Abu Zakariyya che, dopo la conversione, aveva condotto una vita da musulmano osservante e aveva perfino effettuato il pellegrinaggio alla Mecca, al ritorno dal quale aveva fatto apostasia dall’Islam, sembra essere sufficientemente eloquente. Per la notizia su Abu Zakariyya, si veda Musabbi|ī, op. cit., p. 90: “wa kana qad kataba hadīthan kathīran ‘an rasūl Allāh wa qara’a ‘l-qur’ān wa lazima ‘l-masjid wa |ajja ilā Makka thumma irtadda ba‘da dhalika wa ‘āda ilā dīn al-na¡rāniyya”. (cfr. al-Antaki, Ta’rikh, ed. Shaykhu, p. 238). Musabbihi dà notizia anche dell’ uccisione per crocefissione di un giovane cristiano di cui non viene detto il nome, che si era convertito all’islām e aveva compiuto il pellegrinaggio: “thumma ‘āda fa-tana¡¡ara wa ¡uliba”) (ibid. p. 99). Diverso invece il caso di al-‘Adanī al-Muslimānī, ricchissimo, e imparentato con un musulmano di cui un suo figlio aveva sposato la figlia ancora bambina, che ricevette la preghiera funebre nel jāmi’ al-‘atīq del Cairo e fu sepolto ai piedi del Muqa¥¥am (ibid., p. 109). 12 Cfr. R.Peters-G.J.J. De Vries, “Apostasy in Islam”, Die Welt des Islams, XVII,1-4, p. 3, 6. 13 Lev, “Persecutions”, cit., p. 89 14 L’ultimo nilometro era stato fatto costruire dal califfo al-Mutawakkil sull’isola di Rawda a Fustat. L’incarico di curarne la manutenzione era stato affidato al copto Abu Raddad, e la funzione rimase ereditaria all’interno della famiglia fino al tempo di al-Maqrizi (m. 846/1442). Cf. J. Ruska-D.R. Hill, “mik.yās”, E.I., nouvelle ed., vol.VII, p. 40.
‘Ajamī, il responsabile della costruzione, che viene accusato da Ibn Abī Raddād di sfruttare i deboli e i poveri senza pagarli. Lo sharīf incollerito lo zittisce apostrofandolo con le parole: “Taci convertito, canaglia!” (Uskut yā muslimānī, yā sifla”). A cui Ibn Abī Raddād risponde: “Che Dio mi guardi, o musulmano figlio di musulmano, queste parole sono ben più adatte a te che sei un persiano bastardo! (a‘ūdhu bi’llāh yā muslim ibn muslim wa lakin anta awlā bi hadhā ‘l qawl minnī li-annaka ‘ajamī da‘ī)”. Lo sharīf fa bastonare a sangue il muslimānī, e lo tiene in arresto, prima di rimandarlo a casa; ma in quello stesso giorno, scrive al-Musabbi|ī, si diffonde in città la notizia che lo sharīf Abu ¦ālib al-‘Ajamī, insieme ad al-Jarjarā’ī, sono stati uccisi.15 Una storia sinistra, che mette in scena un copto convertito e un musulmano non-arabo e un incrocio di insulti in cui il termine muslimānī è tanto più sentito come un insulto in quanto la famiglia copta dei Banū Raddād si era convertita all’islam da generazioni, mentre è interessante sentir dire con disprezzo “‘ajamī da‘i” dalla bocca di un copto. Mi sembra che nessuno sia tornato a osservare più da vicino questo tema e le implicazioni del termine al-muslimānī, pl. musālima di cui pure si fa menzione in vari studi che trattano del periodo fatimide e di quello mamelucco; studi che tuttavia non focalizzano mai su questa denominazione dei convertiti la loro attenzione16. E’ appunto su questo che mi soffermerò per qualche considerazione - che presento qui in forma ancora provvisoria e con molti interrogativi che restano aperti - nel quadro della politica interreligiosa fatimide, ma anche nel quadro più ampio del fenomeno delle conversioni all’islam in età medievale e del modo di pensare la conversione all’islam quale emerge dalle fonti islamiche del tempo; un tema questo di cui mi sono occupata in un precedente lavoro in cui utilizzavo come supporto documentario il dizionario biografico di Ibn Sa‘d e da cui emergeva la natura “processuale” della conversione all’Islam a partire dal momento definito dal verbo aslama o dakhala fī ‘l islām: momento che più che rappresentare l’evento rivelatore di un percorso di mutamento interiore, appare come l’evento promotore di un mutamento – interiore ed esteriore - che si realizzerà una volta entrati all’interno della comunità17. 15 Tome quarantième de la Chronique d’Egypte de Musabbi|ī, edité et présenté par A.F.Sayyid et T.Bianquis, IFAO, Le Caire 1978, I, Partie historique, pp. 37-38. 16 D.Little, che pure ha dedicato due fondamentali studi al tema dei convertiti ex-cristiani nel periodo mamelucco (“Coptic Conversion to Islam under the Bahri Mamluks”, 692-755/1293-1354, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 39, 1976, pp. 552-569, e “Coptic Converts to Islam during the Bahri Mamluk Period”, in: Conversion and Continuit: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands, Eight to Eighteenth Centuries, M. Gervers-R.J. Bikhazi (eds.), Toronto, PIMS, 1990, pp. 263-288), si limita a dire a proposito del termine muslimānī “a term coined for converts to Islam” (“Coptic converts”, cit., p. 264). 17 G. Calasso, «Récits de conversion, zèle dévotionnel et instruction religieuse dans les biographies des “gens de Basra” du Kitāb al-¥abaqāt d’Ibn Sa‘d», in: Conversions islamiques. Identités religieuses en Islam méditerranéen, dirigé par M.Garcìa-Arenal, Paris, Maisonneuve&Larose, 2002, pp. 19-47.
Comincerò da alcune annotazioni preliminari circa la ricorrenza del termine muslimānī nelle fonti: a mia conoscenza esso non ricorre nelle fonti islamiche storico-biografiche orientali, mentre è documentata la presenza della forma plurale almusālima nelle fonti storiche arabe di Spagna del IX- X secolo18; qui al singolare si trova di preferenza al-islāmī (plur. asālima) per designare il convertito locale di provenienza cristiana o ebraica19, come risulta da testi di tipo giuridico quali il formulario notarile di conversione redatto da Ibn al-‘A¥¥ār nel X secolo, studiato da P.Chalmeta20; in entrambe le forme, singolare muslimāni, e pl. musālima, il termine ricorre in cronache dell’Egitto fatimide (varie ricorrenze nelle Akhbār Mi¡r di alMusabbi|ī, 977-1030) e analogamente in quelle dell’Egitto mamelucco (Maqrīzī, Suyūtī, Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Ibn Taghribirdi); caso del tutto a sé, il nome al-muslimānī compare nell’opera del geografo Abū ‘Ubayd al-Bakrī, il Kitāb al-mamālik wa ‘lmasālik, con riferimento a una storia di conversione ambientata nel Bilād al-sūdān. Un caso isolato e certo non direttamente pertinente rispetto al contesto fatimide, ma interessante sia per mettere a fuoco i differenti significati che la stessa parola ha assunto in differenti contesti, sia per evidenziare la scarsa attenzione che questo ha ricevuto negli studi che del tema dell’islamizzazione e della conversione all’Islam hanno fatto il loro oggetto di ricerca. Per quanto dunque il caso sia marginale, o forse proprio perché dai margini si può talvolta comprendere meglio ciò che avviene al centro, ho pensato di cominciare da qui la seconda parte del mio percorso. Ad esempio in Ibn al-Qu¥iya Nel commento al documento di conversione di un cristiano, il qāØī Ibn al-‘A¥¥ār (v. nota 20) scrive: “E il modo corretto è di dire al-islāmī, come noi facciamo, poiché gli si dà la nisba di islām. Invece chi dice aslamī, gli sta dando la nisba di Aslam, che è una tribù araba” (Formulario notarial, p. 406). Come nota M.Penelas tuttavia la nisba “al-islāmī” non si trova pressoché mai nei dizionari biografici, e osserva: “May be it would be to clear an indication of the individual’s non-muslim origin. Moreover, Ibn al-‘A¥¥ār words may reflect that people who converted to Islam adopted the nisba al-Aslamī instead of the appropriate al-Islāmī, so hiding their non-Muslim origin” (“Some remarks on conversion to Islam in al-Andalus”, al-Qantara, XXIII,1, 2002, p. 199). Per quanto riguarda l’Egitto mamelucco, D. Little segnala che nei dizionari biografici (Safadī, Ibn Hajar) i convertiti sono identificati dalla nisba al-Qibti, o al.muslimani, o al-aslami (“Coptic Converts to Islam” - v. infra nota 26 - p. 268) e osserva: “It is noteworthy that in some cases, a person’s previous religious affiliation stuck with him as a part of his name, his nisbah, which it seems to me is an indication that some converts, at least, were never fully assimilated in to Muslim society”. Cfr. anche C.F. Petry, The Civilian Elite of Cairo in later Middle Ages, Princeton 1981. Quanto alla forma al-muslimānī nei testi arabi di Spagna, non ho potuto consultare il testo di Ibn al-‘Attar (Kitāb al-wathāyq wa’l-sigillāt di Ibn al-A¥¥ār, ed. critica P. Chalmeta-F. Corriente, Madrid 1983; studio e traduzione a cura di P-Chalmeta-M.Marugan, Formulario notarial y judicial de Ibn al-Attar (m. 399/1009), Madrid 2000) per verificare se essa vi si trova usata in alternativa a al-islāmī, come sembrerebbe doversi desumere dalle parole di Pedro Chalmeta, che, a proposito degli effetti giuridici della conversione all’Islam, scrive: “Todos los supuestos que afectan al-islāmī/muslimānī (observese que no se utiliza muslim, reservado para el “musulman viejo”) se deriven del possible choque entre determinados aspectos de la antigua creencia-derecho extinguida con determinados puntos de la naciente confesion-ley” (“Conversion e Islam”, Anuario de Historia del Derecho Espanol, 77, 2007, p. 564). Posso tuttavia citare la collega M.Fierro, che qui ringrazio, per avermi informato che non le risulta che il termine ricorra nel testo del giurista al-‘Utbi, del X secolo (v. infra, nota 25); anche al collega Luis Molina non risulta che il termine muslimānī ricorra nelle fonti andaluse da lui consultate. 20 Si veda P. Chalmeta, “Le passage à l’Islam dans al-Andalus au Xe siècle”, Actas del XII Congreso de la UEAI (Malaga, 1984), Madrid 1986, pp. 161-183 e ID., “ Conversion e Islam”, cit., pp. 563-586. 18 19
Si tratta di una notizia che riguarda un sovrano africano (siamo nella zona di Ghana), un non meglio identificato “re di Malal”, di cui viene narrata la storia di conversione. In un periodo di grave carestia in seguito a una terribile siccità, il sovrano, dopo che i suoi riti di impetrazione della pioggia non hanno ottenuto alcun risultato, si rivolge per aiuto a un devoto musulmano ospite nelle sue terre. Il musulmano lo invita a riconoscere il dio unico e la missione di Mu|ammad, e ad osservare le leggi dell’Islam, assicurandogli che questo porterà al pronto scioglimento delle difficoltà che lo affliggono. Tanto lo esorta che il re decide “con intenzione sincera” – riferisce al-Bakrī - di abbracciare l’Islam (fa lam yazal hattā aslama wa akhla¡a niyyatuhu). Il musulmano gli insegna i principi base della sua religione, gli prescrive una purificazione totale e, la sera della vigilia del venerdì inizia a pregare, seguito dal re. All’alba Dio invia una provvidenziale, abbondante pioggia: il re fa spezzare gli idoli e espelle i maghi. Lui, i suoi discendenti e la khā¡¡a continueranno ad essere fedeli all’Islam. Ma la massa dei suoi sudditi, dice al-Bakri, è rimasta idolatra (wa ahl mamlakatihi mushrikūna): “Da allora essi hanno dato ai loro sovrani il titolo di al-Muslimānī” (fa-wasamū mulūkahum mudh dhāka bi-‘lmuslimāni). Circa quarant’anni fa, un lavoro di J.L. Triaud centrato sul tema dell’islamizzazione del Mali,21 attirava l’attenzione sulla storia riferita da al-Bakrī e percorrendo le fonti arabe a lui successive (da al-Idrīsī, a Ibn Khaldūn a Ibn Ba¥¥u¥a, fino ad al-‘Umarī) mostrava come di questa vicenda si perdano totalmente le tracce, per ritrovarla sorprendentemente in un testo kharigita ibadita del XVI secolo, senza peraltro che il nome al-Muslimānī vi compaia. Il silenzio delle fonti arabe sunnite successive ad al-Bakri potrebbe essere, secondo Triaud, espressione di una volontà di glissare sul ruolo che i kharigiti molto probabilmente hanno avuto nel diffondere l’Islam in quest’area. Quanto all’origine del nome muslimānī, Triaud, accettando l’osservazione di V. Monteil che vi riconosceva la forma persiana dell’arabo muslim22, ne dava per acquisita tale origine ipotizzando una presenza di mercanti persiani nella zona. Cosa possibile, certo, anche se non specificamente documentata in quest’area. E tuttavia già De Slane aveva notato che un altro termine, che al Bakrī indica come quello “usato dagli Arabi” per designare la gente di Gao (Kawkaw), è, questo sì, di evidente origine persiana: “al-Bozorkāniyyin”23. Scrive Triaud: “La présence sur les routes du Soudan de marchands persans… n’a d’ailleurs rien d’invraisemblable. Mais si ce terme de Muslimani est bien une forme persane, on peut déjà remarquer que ce ne sont pas les sujets du roi qui lui 21 «Quelques remarques sur l’islamisation du Mali des origines à 1300», Bulletin IFAN, t.XXX, sér. B, n°4, 1968, pp. 1329-1352. 22 Al-Bakri. Routier de l’Afrique blanche et noire du Nord-Ouest. Traduction nouvelle de seize chapitres, avec notes et commentaires, par V. Monteil, Bulletin IFAN, t. XXX, série B, n.1, 1968, p. 113. 23 Description de l’Afrique septentrionale par Abou Obeid el-Bekri, traduite par M.G. De Slane, Paris, Maisonneuve, 1965, p. 342.
ont donné ce titre. … C’est sans doute parce que l’histoire a été rapportée, peut-être dès l’origine, par un persan, que la forme de « Muslimani » a été ainsi véhiculée jusqu’aux archives de Cordoue»24. Il riferimento agli “archivi di Cordova” ai quali avrebbe potuto attingere al-Bakrī è dovuto al fatto che l’autore ha sempre vissuto a Cordova, non ha viaggiato nei paesi descritti nella sua opera e dunque riferisce notizie di seconda mano. Senza entrare nel merito della questione dell’origine del nome - la forma persiana di muslim è mosalmān25, e una sorta di fusione dei due termini dovrebbe aver dato come esito la nisba al-muslimānī dei testi arabi - torniamo sul fatto che alBakrī afferma, anche se per sentito dire, che furono i sudditi del “re di Malal”, dopo la sua conversione all’Islam, a dare a lui e ai suoi il titolo di al-Muslimānī. Ma come avrebbero potuto avergli dato questo nome? Al-muslimānī è indubbiamente una denominazione coniata da dei musulmani per designare un neo-convertito. E’ plausibile allora ipotizzare che il sovrano recentemente convertito all’Islam sia stato così denominato da dei musulmani, verosimilmente mercanti - non necessariamente persiani - presenti nella zona, avvezzi a denominare così i nuovi convertiti, e che questo nome sia stato adottato dai sudditi africani non musulmani del re di Malal, che ovviamente ignoravano la particolare coloratura del termine e la sua connotazione negativa in altri contesti; e quel titolo che essi daranno da allora in poi ai loro re potrebbe implicare anche qualcosa di onorifico (legato alla memoria di un evento fasto), se non fosse che, malgrado l’esempio del loro re, essi sono rimasti legati alla propria religione tradizionale. Una situazione molto diversa comunque da quella descritta a un paio di pagine di distanza da al-Bakrī26, che dando notizia di un altro re africano, tal Qanmar b. Basi, afferma che corre voce che sia musulmano, ma che nasconda (ovvero, che debba nascondere) la sua religione. Quanto ai mercanti musulmani che avrebbero potuto essere all’origine del nome al-Muslimānī dato al re africano da poco convertito all’Islam, non sarebbe difficile pensare a una loro provenienza dall’area ifriqyana-egiziana, cioè di ambito fatimide: la vicenda ha luogo in una zona strategica del traffico trans-sahariano, in cui i Fatimidi hanno avuto un ruolo rilevante anche se probabilmente da ridimensionare rispetto alla tesi di Lombard 27. Quello che con sicurezza possiamo registrare è che nell’ambiente africano del bilād al-sūdān, in un’epoca imprecisata ma precedente la metà dell’XI secolo, in una società non islamizzata né arabizzata, al-muslimānī non è il neo-convertito
Triaud, op. cit., pp. 1348-49. Circa il suffisso -ān del participio presente in persiano, si veda Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, herausgegeben von W. Geiger und E. Kuhn, Strassburg 1898-1901, B. and I, 2. Abt., p. 176. 26 Al Bakri, ed. De Slane, p. 179. 27 Cfr. M.Brett, Ibn Khaldun and the Medieval Maghrib, Aldershot, Variorum Reprints, 1999, p. 348 sgg. 24 25
o il finto convertito, ma il convertito all’Islam tout court. Al-muslimānī = muslim. Prestigio e alterità dell’Islam in questo contesto si coniugano nell’uso da parte dei sudditi di Mallal di un termine straniero e non decifrabile nelle sue implicazioni. I dati che abbiamo presentato sono rimasti fino ad ora slegati fra loro: Lev, studiando il fenomeno delle conversioni forzate nell’Egitto fatimide e attirando l’attenzione sulla denominazione muslimānī, pl. musalima, presente nelle fonti storiche egiziane della prima metà dell’XI secolo, non accenna minimamente ai musālima delle fonti storiche e giuridiche spagnole di almeno un secolo prima, o al re al-muslimānī di al-Bakrī, che scrive pochi decenni dopo Musabbi|ī; Triaud da parte sua, cercando di ricostruire la vicenda del re al-Muslimānī narrata da alBakrī non pensa ai muslimānī delle cronache fatimidi egiziane di epoca circonvicina (Musabbi|ī muore nel 1030 e il testo di al-Bakrī è stato finito di comporre nel 1068). Ma a me sembra che un nesso in tutto questo possa essere rintracciato. Il punto centrale, al di là dell’origine di queste denominazioni, con le loro varianti, è il messaggio che esse veicolano: muslimānī e islāmī, con i loro plurali musālima e asālima, sono tutti termini della stessa radice di islām e di muslim, ma che da muslim e dal suo plurale muslimūn vogliono differenziarsi in modo riconoscibile. Queste denominazioni, così come sono utilizzate nei testi, ci dicono che i neo-musulmani non sono considerati come dei muslimūn, i “vecchi” musulmani, quelli di nascita, che nel contesto della Spagna, come dell’Egitto, sono degli Arabi. Ma quale che ne sia l’origine, muslimānī è comunque un termine che appartiene alla stessa area semantica. Nelle fonti storiche arabe di Spagna il termine, nella forma plurale al-musālima, è usato per indicare gli ex-cristiani locali convertiti all’islam di prima generazione - laddove i muwalladūn, con i quali si trovano spesso associati nei testi storici (al- muwalladūn wa ‘l-musālima), sarebbero i loro discendenti, o comunque coloro che hanno aderito all’islām essendo già culturalmente arabizzati28. 28 Si veda P. Chalmeta, “muwallad”, E.I., vol. VII, pp. 809-810 e “mozàrabe”, E.I., vol. VII, pp. 248-251. La voce musālima, cui rinvia Chalmeta (“mozarabe”, E.I., p. 249), non è mai stata pubblicata nemmeno nei Supplementi. Si veda anche P.Crone, “mawla”, E.I., seconda ed., vol. VII, pp. . Su tutta la complessa problematica del processo di islamizzazione in al-Andalus, analizzata attraverso lo studio della raccolta di masā’il del giurista cordovano al-‘Utbi (m.255/869), rimandiamo a A.Fernandez Félix- M. Fierro, “Cristianos y conversos al-islam en al-Andalus bajo los Omeyas. Una aproximacion al proceso de islamizacion a través de una fuente legal andalusì del s. III/IX ”, Anejos de AEspA, XXIII, 2000, pp. 415-427. Si veda in particolare l’analisi delle denominazioni dei cristiani e dei cristiani convertiti all’islam, in cui il termine muwalladun è esplorato nelle sue diverse sfumature di significato, lette all’interno di un processo di acculturazione che ha avuto come esito finale la conversione all’Islam (pp. 424-425). Quanto al termine musālima, “conversos al islam”, è soltanto citato nella sua forma plurale mettendo a confronto espressioni come “al- muwalladūn wa ‘l na¡āra” e “al muwalladūn wa ‘l musālima”, per mostrare che le fonti storiche distinguono i muwalladun dai cristiani, ma anche dai convertiti all’Islam; diversamente da Chalmeta e da Crone, e già da E.Lévi-Provençal (L’Espagne musulmane au Xe siècle, Paris, Larose, 1932), Fierro dunque non interpreta il termine muwalladun come riferentesi, in modo univoco, ai discendenti dei musalima, ma inizialmente ai cristiani arabizzati, la cui assimilazione linguistica e culturale sarebbe poi approdata a quella religiosa.
Espressioni come al-muwalladūn wa ‘l musālima, al-musālima wa ‘l-na¡āra, nelle fonti storiche di al-Andalus, ci parlano dunque di distinzioni e insieme di legami, di distinzione fra i convertiti locali, dunque non-arabi, di prima e seconda generazione, rispetto ai loro ex-correligionari, i cristiani – da cui sono distinti, ma con cui si ritiene mantengano dei legami che spesso li fanno stare dalla stessa parte – e di distinzione rispetto ai musulmani arabi, con la connotazione negativa legata alla differente appartenenza etnica e alla gerarchia fra ‘arab e ‘ajam. Una connotazione negativa che in oriente si è legata per tutto il periodo omayyade al termine mawlā, mawālī, che senza nulla dire, dal punto di vista lessicale, su appartenenza etnica o religiosa, ma definendo soltanto la persona come “cliente”, ha, di fatto, designato la categoria del musulmano non arabo. Nelle fonti fatimidi invece, così come sarà in quelle mamelucche, è riconoscibile qualcosa di più: il termine muslimānī, pl.musalima, che già lessicalmente ha a che vedere con l’essere musulmano, appare usato con una connotazione offensiva connessa con la recente adesione all’Islam, implicando l’idea di una manifestazione soltanto esteriore di Islam (alladhīna a©harū ‘l-islam, v. Maqrizi) e dunque di una dissimulata continuità di appartenenza alla precedente fede religiosa. Un termine che al- Musabbi|ī, storico di corte, registra nella sua cronaca, ma che sembra essere stato usato anche nella lingua parlata, come illustrato dall’ episodio già menzionato che ha per protagonista il copto Ibn Raddād, l’addetto al nilometro, e in cui è riportato nella forma del discorso diretto uno scambio di parole insultanti. Notiamo inoltre che se Musabbi|ī registra il termine al-muslimānī, al-An¥ākī che è un cristiano, non ne fa mai menzione. E anche questo non è privo di significato. Sebbene inestricabilmente connesso con problemi di interesse, politico da parte del potere fatimide, legato in primo luogo alla sicurezza interna, economico e sociale per i convertiti che svolgevano funzioni amministrative di alto livello e con elevate retribuzioni, l’uso del termine muslimānī in opposizione al termine muslim testimonia l’emergere in Egitto di una sensibilità o comunque di un’attenzione al problema della sincerità della conversione di un individuo all’islam, più precisamente di un individuo di religione cristiana all’islam; un’attenzione che acquista ora una piena visibilità. La politica del califfo al-ðākim, con il suo oscillare fra coercizione alla conversione e concessione di ritornare alla propria religione di origine, con gli esiti diversi che questo ha prodotto, mette massimamente in evidenza il problema. E si potrebbe ricordare il dibattito accesosi già secoli prima a Bisanzio fra l’imperatore e la Chiesa, a partire dalle misure adottate da Eraclio nei confronti degli Ebrei29, costretti a convertirsi al cristianesimo abiurando: misure in 29 Si veda G. Dagron-V. Déroche, Juifs et Chrétiens dans l’Orient du VIIe siècle, Collège de France. Centre de Recherche d’Histoire et civilisation de Byzance, Travaux et mémoires, 11, 1991, p. 28 sgg. V. anche, Ibid., Doctrina Jacobi nuper babtizati, edition et traduction par V. Déroche, pp. 259-273.
cui l’intolleranza per l’esistenza nell’impero di minoranze non cristiane – espressa nella coercizione a convertirsi - viene paradossalmente a coniugarsi con l’intolleranza per la non sincerità della conversione (necessità dell’abiura). Una conversione forzata, dunque un battesimo forzato, che fa temere, agli uomini della Chiesa – ostili a queste misure - il rischio di profanazioni. Un rischio che non ha luogo di essere temuto nell’Islām, che non conosce sacramenti, mentre il timore della finta conversione legata a motivi di interesse – che aveva probabilmente dettato nel primo secolo dopo le conquiste una politica che non aveva incentivato, ma semmai ostacolato il movimento delle conversioni - si coniuga qui o si alterna con il timore di mescolanze, ibridazioni. Il fatto che l’attenzione al problema della conversione di un individuo all’Islam dal punto di vista del “foro interno” del convertito emerga nell’Egitto della prima metà dell’XI secolo, da meno di cinquant’anni governato dalla dinastia sciita ismailita dei Fatimidi, ma con una popolazione musulmana a maggioranza sunnita, e non nel resto del mondo islamico del tempo, governato da poteri sunniti, sembrerebbe suggerire che la condizione di minoranza egemone dei fatimidi ismailiti in Egitto possa in qualche modo esserne all’origine. E’ l’emergere del timore di un nemico interno. E forse l’esperienza della clandestinità e della taqiyya da parte della comunità ismailita, nata come una “minoranza della minoranza”, può aver giocato un ruolo indiretto nell’attivare questa sensibilità verso un problema che in ambiente sunnita aveva fino a quel momento suscitato scarsa attenzione. La connotazione offensiva di “finto musulmano” legata al termine muslimānī, - dunque muslimānī vs. muslim – emerge in una società da secoli islamizzata e arabizzata come quella egiziana, e dunque consapevole di sé e insofferente di fronte a una minoranza non musulmana socialmente competitiva, in un periodo contrassegnato da un fenomeno eccezionale di coercizione alla conversione da parte di un potere sciita ismailita, dottrinalmente elitario e “straniero” rispetto alla tradizione dell’islam egiziano, e che teme per la sua sicurezza interna. Una congiuntura storica in cui convergono e entrano in tensione una serie di situazioni limite. Il termine muslimānī torna ad essere presente nelle fonti storiche egiziane del periodo mamelucco30, nel momento in cui si replica una situazione che vede la classe degli amministratori copti, cristiani al servizio del sultano, occupare ancora posizioni di elevato prestigio e possedere ingenti patrimoni, in una società ormai a netta maggioranza musulmana; suscitando rivolte popolari che spingeranno alcuni sultani a usare misure coercitive alla conversione. Il neo-convertito copto torna ad essere oggetto di sospetto sia da parte della popolazione che del potere,
30 Le fonti relative ai musālima nel periodo mamelucco bahrī, sono esplorate in profondità in due studi sopra citati di D. Little (v. supra, n.15).
quello mamelucco, in questo caso sunnita. Una casta militare straniera, che tutto separa dalla popolazione egiziana: l’origine etnica, la lingua, la mancanza di radicamento nella tradizione islamica. L’estraneità e la separatezza dei due poteri, fatimide e mamelucco, lontani – anche se per cause del tutto dissimili - dalla società musulmana locale, sembra aver attivato una sensibilità verso simulazione e dissimulazione in ambito religioso che ha trovato nella comunità cristiana autoctona il suo capro espiatorio e nel denominativo al-muslimānī la sua espressione verbale.
Tra Africa ed Iran: incontro senza scontro
Sentirsi, quando si è a casa propria, al centro del mondo, ecco un’abitudine abbastanza comprensibile in ogni impero che si rispetti. Cina e Iran ne sono un esempio clamoroso, anche per la perfetta corrispondenza reciproca dei colori che distinguono i quattro punti cardinali, pur se solo la Cina ha attribuito una tinta precisa, il giallo, al centro in questione. L’Iran ha preferito invece definire sé stesso come una sorta di spazio/tempo utopico (cioè archetipale, ma a lunga scadenza definitivo), segnato dal mezzogiorno, quel nimruz che denomina anche l’ombelico dell’Altipiano Iranico, bagnato dalle acque primigenie del suo lago vivificante. Nel mito, un mezzogiorno di stabilizzato tepore (gli Iranici provenivano, pare, da gelide terre boreali), anche se, poi, astronomi puntigliosi, di nuovo gelidi nella loro sopravvenuta scientificità, hanno reinterpretato il motivo (si trattava in pratica del momento di dolce relax dell’arcadico pasto meridiano nel “precinto d’oro”) nel senso che, quando sul Mar di Cina cala il sole, e sulle Isole Fortunate, a ovest dell’Atlante, il sole sorge, nel beato milieu del vecchio continente l’orologio segna le ore dodici. Il nord è dunque nero, il sud è rosso, l’est è di oriental zaffiro, cioè verdazzurro, l’ovest è bianco. E, nel caso dell’Iran, i quattro punti sono indicati da quattro mari che, tutti e quattro, hanno conservato a tutt’oggi il loro colore nel nome1. Su un tentativo iranico di recupero del giallo, ma come rifiuto del nero e non come segno di centralità, si tornerà tra poco.
Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia. Cfr. G. Scarcia, Bahr-i ahzar, Muhit-i Islami, in Studi arabo-islamici in onore di R. Rubinacci nel suo settantesimo compleanno, Napoli, Istituto Universitario Orientale, pp. 583-592. * 1
Le Colonne d’Ercole dell’Iran sono quindi sulla costa fenicio-libanese, in quel di Tarso e di Tartus, toponimi connessi con l’Estremo Occidente anche quando questo si è allontanato ancor di più; e dove il Monte Casios, la più occidentale concretizzazione antica del Monte Vittoriale/Jabal al-Fath/Monte Qâf, sede della Fenice/‘Anqâ, segna quasi per davvero lo spartiacque netto tra luce e tenebre, almeno negli equinozi2. Tutto ciò che si trova a ovest di un corrispondente fiume liminale, talora chiamato addirittura Oceano, è allora una sorta di mondo barbarico da civilizzare, ove si abbia il coraggio di solcare le onde di quel pallido mare dei morti, abitato da mostri spaventosi3 (così anche, più tardi, per l’Islam: non a torto, si potrebbe talora e tuttora osservare). Hybris che costò ai persiani clamorose sconfitte in terra greca, e anche la misteriosa sparizione dell’esercito inghiottito dalle sabbie sulla via di Siwa. Ecco però l’ellenismo che sposta il baricentro del cosmo sul Mediterraneo: e sappiamo – anche da certo cinema egiziano – che, stavolta, compiacenti geografi hanno individuato il centro del mondo in Alessandria, alla confluenza tra via Abû Dânyâl e via Rashîda, ove esso si trova tuttora riagghindato a caffè da belle époque. Ciò non toglie che, a tutt’oggi, il tuffo in quell’Occidente pur tanto e da tanto tempo civilizzato (anche – e molto – da persiani divenuti musulmani) faccia al viaggiatore ‘ajamî un’impressione di relativa disarmonia, di un barocchismo troppo carico, angoloso ma anche zuccherino se raffrontato agli snelli minareti di casa e alle levigate cupole simili a inermi ma sublimi uova à la coque dell’Altipiano. Canditi parvero, gli arredi della corte d’Egitto, anche a Nâsir-i Khusraw4. Chi parla ha avuto la ventura, per ragioni di storia personale, di compiere il suo primo viaggio in Oriente partendo da Est, cioè di scoprire l’Islam mediterraneo – che oltretutto gli appariva più vicino ad Amalfi che non a Isfahan – essendosi già abbondantemente assuefatto alla normalità, e quotidianità, dell’Islam iranico. E qui va aggiunto che, essendo egli, da giovincello, un apprezzatore del solo Islam, diciamo, preraffaellita, anzi addirittura tardantico, non prendeva in seria considerazione, neppure là in Iran, cosa che fosse più tarda dell’assalto mongolo alle terre dell’Islam. Eccolo dunque alla ricerca di un plausibile consonante Iran nell’Egitto fatimida, in perfetta noncuranza di tutto quanto fosse occorso dopo. Ma là l’arco detto persiano, pur ritornato anch’esso, un po’ più tardi, nel patrio Altipiano, col vertice corretto a punta, gli faceva l’impressione di un uovo deformato 2 Cfr. G. Scarcia, Cosroe secondo, San Sergio e il Sade, in Studi sull’Oriente Cristiano, IV, 2 (Miscellanea Metreveli),Roma, pp. 171-227. 3 Cfr. R. Favaro, Teratologia abissale ai confini del mondo, in Da Ulisse a… Il viaggio negli abissi marini tra immaginazione e realtà, Atti del VI Convegno Internazionale (Imperia, v6-7-8 ottobre 2005), a cura di G. Revelli, Pisa, ETS, pp. 121-133. 4 Cfr. la traduzione di A. Magi in Quaderni, II, Roma, Istituto Culturale della Repubblica Islamica d’Iran in Italia, 1991, p. 95.
da un Cristoforo Colombo che volesse imporre alla sua tecnica imperizia una soluzione facilona nella sua apparente geniale ovvietà. Ma soprattutto non gli garbavano quella sorta di complicati arnesi da meccanico, di ferruginosi utensili, di complicate chiavi inglesi, che erano i minareti di alHâkim (certo, chissà quando anch’essi rabberciati sulle loro autentiche basi nell’aspetto in cui oggi li vediamo), che gli parevano più un innesto di faticata civiltà sugli spunzoni africano-primigeni delle “cattedrali-formicai” del Sâhil, che non un’eco sia delle ciminiere d’Iran sia delle torri romane di Siria. Fantasie, anzi fisime, davvero adolescenziali. Ma non solo perché, con più pacata educazione sentimentale, anche in tanto e fruttuoso levitare egli avrebbe ben potuto cogliere la vitalità di quel grano iranico, di quell’erba medica che non muore mai su terreno islamico, della quale proprio in questi giorni sembra accorgersi, molto tardi e con certo stupefacente stupore, un Tahar ben Jelloun, in visita all’ultramoderno ricchississimo Museo del Golfo (Golfo Arabo, se proprio si vuole, ma assai ricco di iranismi). Non solo, dico, perché, a ben guardare, non sono affatto limitate al nuovo centro egiziano del mondo, queste iniezioni sui territori d’Occidente, d’oltre Mar Bianco, d’oltre Sahara. D’accordo che, beninteso, l’iranocentrismo può giocare brutti scherzi, come quando ancor recenti prese di posizione, strappando la Sicilia ai Fatimidi per ricollegarla con filo diretto, quasi telematico, alla Persia, finiscono per lasciare ingiustamente orfani di Persia i Fatimidi medesimi. Senza spiegare, inoltre, perché, una volta che Sicilia e Spagna siano state tutte e due avviate al buon gusto da persiani, i risultati estetici di un meticciato che sarebbe sempre “inter-ario” risultino poi così diversi nei due casi: dei visigoti + i persiani e dei persiani + i normannizzati vichinghi. Una maggiore esperienza mi convince peraltro del fatto che fin quelle che ho chiamato cattedrali del Sâhil sono ben altro che spunzoni su fango, per quanto sia dato giudicare, pur in quel caso, dal continuo dissolversi e riplasmarsi di tanto fango. Alla domanda, posta là sul Niger da Dorothée Gruner5 io mi sentirei tranquillamente di rispondere adottando la prima alternativa, e intravedendo piuttosto la via egiziana che quella andalusa per la penetrazione laggiù dell’Islam, essendo l’Iran, come al solito, in quanto tale e in quanto elemento dell’eredità tardantica, un ingrediente pressoché imprescindibile. Tengo presente e addito come esemplari, nel dire questo, le due moschee rivierasche, nel Mali, di Seku Bango e di Dowa Attara (figg. 1-4). Ma ecco un altro caso di confluenza Africa-Iran con epicentro tematico egiziano ed ideologicamente fatimida, o almeno ismailita di famiglia fatimida. Dunque, è universalmente noto che il capodanno iranico si chiama Nawrûz, eventualmente
D. Gruner, Islamsiche Tradition oder autochtones Erbe, in Paideuma, 35, 1989, pp. 93-113.
arabizzato in Nayrîz. Letteralmente, Nuovo Giorno, dizione in sé non troppo perspicua ma che può avere a che vedere con la lettura islamica - anche se non soprattutto tale - che è duplice: primo giorno della creazione, quantomeno degli umani, e novissimo giorno della medesima, ovvero giorno della resurrezione dei corpi6. C’è grande incertezza, nelle letterature islamiche, su quando tale Nawrûz vada celebrato nel calendario7. Al solstizio estivo della concreta situazione storica del momento in cui l’Iran si fece Islam, ovvero all’equinozio di primavera di una tradizione mitica locale. Ambedue le varianti hanno addentellati ben noti nella fenomenologia universale. Il dilemma, che non è poi il solo, dipende dal fatto che l’anno solare iranico è un anno vago, cioè si sposta nel tempo lungo le stagioni. Lentamente (più lentamente dell’anno luni-solare della Mecca premuhammadica), ma inesorabilmente. Tale e quale l’anno dell’antico calendario egizio, nel quale aveva grande rilevanza liturgica il levare eliaco di Sirio, o Alpha Canis Maioris. Anzi, del calendario iranico quello egizio potrebbe (dovrebbe) avere costituito il modello. Con l’avvento del monoteismo, si parla di Nawrûz anche in Egitto, quantomeno in ambito palatino. E, sia in Iran sia in Egitto, questo anno vagante è stato ufficialmente bloccato. In Iran hanno provveduto a tanto, in maniera scientificamente irreprensibile, solo e tardi, i sobri Selgiuchidi, per cui il Nawrûz è stato fissato sull’equinozio di primavera essendo poco tempo prima “tornato”, a forza di vagare, all’Ariete di sua tradizionale supposta pertinenza. E ciò accadeva intorno all’anno Mille, momento oltretutto ricco di ominose suggestioni millenaristiche su tutti i fronti del monoteismo. I Fatimidi hanno ereditato, comunque chiamandolo sempre Nawrûz, il più antico capodanno copto, fissato, per calcoli rispettosi anch’essi della posizione dell’anno vago al momento risalenti già all’invenzione del calendario giuliano (riforma di Giulio Cesare) alla fine di agosto, al termine della canicola. Ciò nonostante, è evidente che Sirio, o Alpha Canis Maioris, in Egitto come ovunque, continuava a levarsi al momento giusto, cioè all’inizio della canicola, e la cosa è fondamentale perché ha a che vedere con le vicende del Nilo, il protagonista della vita nel paese. Con il cristianesimo, la divinità preposta alla piena del Nilo, Iside, ha ceduto le sue funzioni all’arcangelo Michele, e il Nilo è rimasto “santo” (anche per i musulmani, del resto, il Nilo va definito mu’min), e date rituali di rilievo quali il 6 gennaio ed il 13 settembre sono anche diventate feste cristiane. Pour cause. Le celebri Nozze di Cana, per esempio, con la loro trasformazione dell’acqua in vino, hanno a che vedere con la
6 Cfr. G. Scarcia, Gao/Basilea: incontro/scontro di civiltà nel Dì del Giudizio?, in Il Filo di Seta. Studi arabo-islamici in onore di Wasim Dahmash, Roma, 2008, pp. 213-222. 7 La questione, e tutti i problemi calendariali che seguono, sono stati ripetutamente indagati da S. Cristoforetti, vedi con particolare riguardo all’Egitto, Id., Izdilâq: miti e problemi calendariali del fisco islamico, Venezia, 2003.
transcromatizzazione del Nilo, e non per nulla Tabarî ci ha conservato (ed. De Goeje, prima series, II, p. 731) la variante che vede Maria affaccendarsi in lavori agricoli in una fattoria nilotica; e noi ce la possiamo immaginare - oltre che come la sempre egiziana Iside Lactans - col suo pargolo taumaturgo prima nel ‘marsupio’, poi agganciato alle vesti, poi, a dodici anni, autore di quel suo primo miracolo. Quanto all’Iran, nonostante la fissazione equinoziale selgiucchide, si registrano ampie tracce sia della posizione solstiziale sia – e questo è oggi il punto – di una posizione canicolare di tipo isiaco. È il mito del fanciullo divino ucciso, smembrato, ricercato e ricomposto, che in Egitto è quello di Iside, nel mondo semitico quello imperniato su Tammuz, nel mondo ellenistico quello di Adone dilaniato dal cinghiale. (Ne potrebbe essere almeno in parte un’eco anche il recupero neoclassico, adrianeo, di Antinoo). Il motivo è insomma diffuso ovunque, lungo secoli anzi millenni, tra Mediterraneo e Vicino Oriente, da Tarquinia8 a Samarcanda9, ed è un mito di rinnovamento. Dunque è possibile che l’Iran popolare abbia conosciuto anch’esso, da qualche parte, una sorta di capodanno canicolare oltre a quello solstiziale e a quello equinoziale. Specularmente ecco che anche in Egitto vi sono tracce precise, viceversa, di un capodanno equinoziale (coincidente per l’esattezza col 25 marzo dell’Annunciazione cristiana, essa stessa per eccellenza un “nuovo giorno”10) oltre a quello ufficiale e a quello tradizionale. Le cose paiono poi – semplicemente paiono – complicarsi ulteriormente, visto che anche l’Iran ha il suo inno avestico alla fertilizzante acquosa Sirio, celebrata peraltro in un mese, Tir, che in Iran è piuttosto sterilizzante che non fertilizzante (le piogge di stelle del momento, per intenderci, sono quelle della notte di San Lorenzo della gran calura, forse una sorta di malevola controparte); ma ecco che quello stesso Tir iranico si ritrova una sua secondaria, letteraria, accezione autunnale, mentre anche il verdeggiante Khidr/Elia (20 luglio) è chiamato in causa con analoghe funzioni11. Tutti questi pasticci sono da imputare alla concorrenza tra calendari vaghi e calendari fissi, o, peggio ancora, fissati in luoghi diversi ed in momenti diversi. Quelli che sono indubbi sono due punti soli.
1- Il Nawrûz è giorno, in Islam tutto, sia di Creazione sia di Resurrezione: anzi è l’uno in quanto è l’altro. Ne è testimone nientemeno che Bîrûnî, anche se non leg8 L. Fiorini, Topografia generale e scavi del Santuario, in Gravisca. Scavi del Santuario greco, [Bari], Edipuglia, 2005, vedi in particolare pp. 193-194. 9 S. Cristoforetti, Il mito di Ârish e il “fanciullo divino” di Samarcanda, in Folia Orientalia, 42/43, 2006/2007, pp. 145-157. 10 Cfr. ancora G. Scarcia, Gao/Basilea, cit. 11 Cfr. A. Augustinović ofm, “El-Khader” e il Profeta Elia, Gerusalemme, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, 1971, specie pp. 53-60.
gibile, in questo punto, nella vulgata di Schacht degli Âthâr al-Bâqiyâ, ma solo nell’integrazione di Sal’e: “Dalle parole di cAbd al-Samad ibn cAlī, che riferisce tale tradizione al nonno cAbdallāh ibn cAbbās, si ha che nel giorno di nawrūz donarono al Profeta – Iddio Lo benedica e Lo conservi – una coppa d’argento, nella quale era contenuto Halwā’. ‘Che cos’è ciò?’ – chiese il Profeta. Gli risposero: ‘È [per] il Nawrūz’. ‘E che cos’è il Nawrūz?’ - si informò il Profeta. Gli risposero: ‘Una grande festa presso i persiani’. ‘Già’ - disse il Profeta - ‘è il giorno in cui Iddio rianimò la massa’. Gli chiesero: ‘Che cos’è questa massa?’. Rispose: ‘Sono coloro che uscirono dalla terra in cui erano – e ce n’erano migliaia, ricolmi del terrore della morte. E Iddio aveva detto loro: è vostro destino, la morte!, e poi li rianimò in quel giorno, restituendo loro l’anima. Ed Egli diede un ordine al cielo, e il cielo si sciolse su di loro in pioggia. Perciò gli umani si diedero come regola di versare dell’acqua in quel giorno. [corsivi miei].12”
Qui l’elemento caratteristico, e canonico, di morte-resurrezione-fertilità, dello scioglimento del cielo in pioggia, è certo più africano che iranico. Afro-egiziano, peraltro, almeno sin dai tempi di Lucano, che individuava nelle piogge stagionali la paternità sûdânî della piena del Nilo. Curiosamente, proprio le “cattedrali” rivierasche del Niger, maggiormente esposte alle acque celesti, appunto ed esattamente in canicola crollanti e risorgenti, ne sembrano un paradigma perfetto. Ma cerniera tra piogge tropicali e resurrezione salvifica è il Nilo di sempre, sulle cui sponde, oltretutto, ha sede la variante più fortunata della Fenice (e i Fatimidi non mancavano di esporla, quella ‘Anqâ, avendola solo essi intrappolata, in una gabbia del loro giardino zoologico).
2- La versione ismailita estrema, materialistica, dahrita, dualistica o mulahidita o blasfema quanto e come si vuole, della “definitiva resurrezione” contempla anch’essa una data precisa e si tratta di una data canicolare. Riferisce Juwaynî: “I loro irreligiosi e spudorati seguaci, che avevano quasi abolito la pratica della sharia, consideravano segni dell’apparizione del promesso Imam il fatto di commettere peccati e di bere vino. Perciò quando un Hasan vergognosamente detto ‘alâ dhikrihi al-salâm suc-
Cfr. sempre G. Scarcia, Gao/Basilea, cit.
cedette a suo padre, i suoi seguaci e sostenitori giunsero ad ogni estremo per rendergli onore, a cagione delle loro credenze relative al suo imamato. Egli da parte sua, ora che la sua autorità era assoluta, non li rimproverava né li puniva per il fatto di proferire tali assurdità, anzi, nei primi giorni che seguirono la sua ascesa, cominciò ad abolire o a modificare pratiche illegittime ed usanze islamiche… e nel ramadan dell’anno 559 (luglio-agosto 1164) ordinò che fosse costruito un pulpito in uno spazio aperto ai piedi di Alamut, in modo tale che la qibla fosse in direzione opposta a quella solita dell’Islam. E quando venne il 17 ramadan (8 agosto) comandò che gli abitanti delle sue terre, convocati in Alamut, si raccogliessero in quello spazio aperto. Quattro grandi stendardi dai quattro colori, bianco, rosso, verde, e giallo (in sostituzione del nero abbaside?) furono fissati ai quattro pilastri del pulpito. Quindi salì sul pulpito e dichiarò ai quei perplessi miserabili di aver aperto ai musulmani la porta della misericordia, e spalancato i cancelli della compassione, inviando un pegno della sua pietà; aveva convocato i suoi eletti servitori e li aveva liberati dei doveri dei fardelli e dei compiti della sharî’a (e anche, pare, delle regole della grammatica araba, come più tardi altri calunniati riformatori) portandoli alla resurrezione. […] La resurrezione è il momento in cui gli uomini giungono a Dio e i misteri e le verità di tutto il creato sono rivelati e gli atti di obbedienza aboliti, perché in questo mondo tutto è azione e non v’è resa dei conti, ma nel mondo a venire tutto è resa dei conti e non v’è azione. Tale la resurrezione promessa e attesa in tutte le religioni e in tutti i credi. Mai più venerare Dio cinque volte al giorno, dovere solo formale: ora, in resurrezione, la gente sta sempre con Dio nel cuore e deve mantenere i tratti dell’anima costantemente rivolti alla presenza divina in quanto tale è la vera preghiera13”.
Perché, dunque, questa necessità ismailita radicale, di radice fatimida, di precisare che l’evento è del 17 ramadan? Un aggancio alla morte di Khadîja in quel giorno ricordata non parrebbe così essenziale, ma l’etimologia ardente del mese, in connessione con lo sha’ban che precede, possono richiamare non solo l’oggettiva occorrenza in canicola nell’anno 559/1164, ma anche una situazione reale, naturale, dei tempi anteriori alla Legge, rinnovabili adesso che la Legge medesima è “superata”. Certo, andrebbe pur contestualmente indagato l’aspetto astrologico del momento. Ma a questo punto conviene ricordare anche le note considerazioni di
Cfr. G. Scarcia, Ripensare la creazione, Roma, 2001, pp. 90-91.
Goitein a prosito di Laylat al-Barâ’ e Laylat al-Qadr nel loro reciproco rapporto e proposta connessione con il Capodanno ebraico14. Singolarissima possibile triplice coincidenza, dunque, di questo definitivo capodanno ismailita con quello ebraico, oltre che con l’ipotetico capodanno caspico (il misterioso Nawrûz-i Tabarî di alcuni autori) e con quello sotiaco, il più limpido di tutti, approdante dall’Egitto assieme ai devoti dell’Imam legittimo. Né è tutto, perché Khidr/Elia non è solo, in canicola, tra coloro che hanno un singolare rapporto privilegiato con la morte: vi sono anche i Sette Dormienti ovvero Ashâb al-Kahf. I quali ricordano poi proprio Adone/Tammuz nell’essere protagonisti di una vicenda che non è di banale morte e resurrezione, bensì di resurrezione e morte. Si noti del resto quella affermata validità dell’evento per tutte le religioni, e a me si consenta di ricordare un’ulteriore coincidenza, sempre canicolare. Certo, nel 1164, San Domenico, anche se di nascita oltre che di morte canicolare, doveva essere ancora concepito, tanto meno era morto e canonizzato, né era un infante destinato a dormire per un lustro nel ventre di sua madre. Sua madre, tuttavia, si apprestava a sognare il suo ben noto cagnolino, piccolo ma nel cristianesimo ben più maior di qualunque altro canis, che avrebbe arso il mondo intero. San Domenico è celebrato, oggi, l’otto agosto, ma dopo aver saltellato su diversi giorni della canicola (primo e quattro agosto). Io ho la passione – stabilmente adolescenziale questa – di tentare di rivivere con sensazioni mie proprie i grandi eventi della ierostoria nel luogo e nel momento giusti (che so, gli equinozi sul Casios affrontando le schioppettate delle guardie di frontiera hanafite che si aspettano sempre assalti da Salâmiyya, la ricerca del millenario figlio del cipresso di Zoroastro a Kâshmar…) così, eccomi ad affrontare la canicola del Tabaristan un otto agosto di qualche anno fa, a un’altitudine che moderava un po’ la calura ma non le toglieva i suoi fiammeggianti tratti di allucinazione dannunziana - da hashish naturalmente, non da vino - e a pensare o proporre questa mia ipotesi fatimido-nilotica. Naturalmente, pare che non succeda nulla, sul posto, un po’ come in tanti paesaggi pittorici rinascimentali in cui la gente sullo sfondo pensa ai fatti suoi quotidiani (viandanti pensierosi, soldati che giocano a tric-trac, lavandaie alla fonte…) senza accorgersi di quanto accade in primo piano ma in altra incommensurabile dimensione, tra Calvari, Assunzioni, Trasfigurazioni e simili. O come in certe immagini pubblicitarie di oggi in cui elefanti o superman volano sopra strade oberate dal solito traffico. Comunque, io ci provo, a tendere l’occhio, e mi capita anche di trovare un miniaturista dailamita contemporaneo da cui riprendo la figura 5. E un po’ più tardi, per di più, mi occorse di leggere che in una variante del Geste de Simon de Monfort, il devastatore alla mongola dell’Alamut albigese, il braccio secolare dell’intolleranza dei grandi manager della politica
Discussione in M.P. Plessner, s.v. Ramadan, in EI2.
ortodossa quali appunto un San Domenico e un Nizâm al-Mulk, tutto, anche là in Linguadoca, accadeva all’ombra di un Monte Vittoriale, un Jabal al-Fath, un Fîrûz Kûh, come in Tabaristan15. So bene che, oggi, i catarologi hanno idee molto diverse da quelle di cinquanta anni fa (i tempi di Henri Corbin) sull’iranicità di fondo di quel movimento definito dualista-manicaico-mazdakita-mulahidita-paulicianobogomilo, ma ciò non toglie che la fenomenologia salvifica abbia tratti precisi di trasversalità nell’inevitabile tentazione, soprattutto in canicola ma non solo, di popolare di angeli, o di fervidi fantasmi di accaldata materia, lo iato terribile che in ogni religione si è costretti a constatare tra Creatore e creatura. Mi rendo conto del fatto che questa ecumenica fenomenologia finisce con l’indebolire e non già con il rafforzare l’ipotesi di una radice, di un seme fatimida in quell’occasione, in quel Rinnovamento conclusivo dell’ismailismo estremo e “novissimo”, ma ciò non vuol dire che si debba rinunciare a esprimere, con le presenti note, tale pura ipotesi.
Jacopo da Varazze, Legenda Aurea, ed. Magini, Sismel2, s.d., II, p. 720, note 36 e 37.
Università degli Studi di Palermo Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia
Accademia Libica in Italia
CONVEGNO INTERNAZIONALE DI STUDI
I FATIMIDI E IL MEDITERRANEO Il sistema di relazioni nel mondo dell’Islam e nell’area del Mediterraneo nel periodo della da‘wa fatimide (sec. X-XI): istituzioni, società e cultura
Palermo 03-06 dicembre 2008 Palazzo Steri (Sala Magna) INTERVENTI
Roberto Lagalla (Magnifico Rettore dell’Università di Palermo), Farhad Daftary (Institut of Ismaili Studies), Mohamed Hassen (Università di Tunisi), Gianroberto Scarcia (Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia), Brahim El-Kadiri Boutchich (Università Moulay Ismail, Meknes), Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti (Università “La Sapienza”, Roma), Mohannad Mobiadeen (Philadelphia University, Amman), Shainool Jiwa (Institut of Ismaili Studies), Fathi Nasib Muhammad (Redattore della rivista “Fadaat”), Abdeslem Charmate (Università “Al-Fateh” Tripoli), Verena Klemm (Università di Leipzig), Paul Walker (University of Chicago), Othman Mathlouthi (University “Al-Fateh” Tripoli), Giovanna Calasso (Università “La Sapienza”, Roma), Abdelmounim Al Mahjoub (University “Al-Fateh” Tripoli), Mohamed Ali Koundi (Università al-Asmariya, Libia), Simonetta Calderini (Roehampton University, London), Delia Cortese (Middlesex University, Londra), Khalid Ibrahim al-Mahjubi (University of al-Jabal al-Gharbi), William Granara (Harvard University), Jonathan Bloom (Boston University), Jeremy Johns (Università di Oxford), Claudio Lo Jacono (Università L’Orientale di Napoli), Antonino Pellitteri (Università di Palermo), Ibrahim Magdud (Accademia Libica in Italia).
Con il patrocinio di Ministero degli Affari Esteri
The Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization
Institute of Ismaili Studies (Londra)
Universita` degli Studi di Palermo
Universita` degli Studi di Catania
Accademia Libica in Italia
Universita` degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria
Fondazione Universitaria Italo-Libica
Universita` degli Studi di Messina
Mercoledì 3 Dicembre Palazzo Steri, Sala Magna
Seduta di apertura e saluti delle autorità
On. Raffaele Lombardo
Presidente della Regione Siciliana
Prof. Roberto Lagalla
Magnifico Rettore dell’Università di Palermo
S.E. al-Mungi Bousnina
Presidente The Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization
S.E. Hafed Gaddur
Ambasciatore della Gamahiriyya Libica a Roma
Dr. Farhad Daftary
Direttore dell’Institute of Ismaili Studies di Londra
Prof. Giuseppe Silvestri
Presidente della Fondazione Universitaria Italo-Libica
Prof. Vincenzo Guarrasi Preside della Facoltà di Lettere
Prof. Laura Auteri
Direttore del Dipartimento di Scienze Filologiche e Linguistiche
Prof. Antonino Pellitteri
Titolare della cattedra di Storia dei Paesi Islamici
Prof. Ibrahim Magdud Accademia libica in Italia
Cena di gala Hotel Sole
Giovedì 4 Dicembre Palazzo Steri, Sala Magna Ore 9:30
Institute of Ismaili Studies
Mohamed Hassen Università di Tunisi
L’espace maritime ifriqiyen à l’époque fatimide
Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia
I Fatimidi in Africa e l’Iran: Incontro senza scontro
Brahim El-Kadiri Boutchich Università Moulay Ismail, Meknes
Al-Fatimiyyun wa mashru‘ razw al-Andalus: sira‘ khilafatayni islamiyyatayni fi gharbi al bahr al mutawassit khilala al qarn 4 H/10 Othman Mathlouthi
University “Al-Fateh” Tripoli
The Spell of the Fatimid Model Discussione Ore 11:00
Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti
Ore 11:30 – II seduta
Università “La Sapienza”, Roma
Abdelmounim Al Mahjoub Università “Al-Fateh” Tripoli
Al-da‘wa al-Hakimeyya … min dawr atta’awil ila dawr al-tawhid Shainool Jiwa
Institute of Ismaili Studies
Historical representations of a Fatimid Imam-caliph: Exploring al-Maqrizi’s and Idris’ writings on al-Muizz li Din Allah Fathi Nasib Muhammad
Redattore della rivista “Fadaat”
Al-fikr al-siyasi wa’l-dini fi’l-‘asr al-fatimi. Ru’ya naqdiyya Antonino Pellitteri
Università di Palermo
Discussione Ore 13:30
La storiografia araba contemporanea di fronte al “problema” fatimide Pausa Pranzo III seduta
Università di Leipzig
University of Chicago
Kalbids, Kutama and Other Westerners: The Maghariba in Cairo Giovanna Calasso
Università “La Sapienza”, Roma
La politica interconfessionale dei Fatimidi tra tolleranza e coercizione: riflessioni sulla categoria del “muslimani” nell’Egitto dell’XI secolo Abdeslem Charmate Università “Al-Fateh” Tripoli
Al-adab almutawassiti fi al‘ahd al- fatimi
Mohamed Ali Koundi
Ore 17:30 – IV seduta
Università al-Asmariya, Libia
Roehampton University, London
Women, Trade and Work during the Fatimids Delia Cortese
Middlesex University, Londra
The Political and Economic Contexts of Fatimid Female Patronage Khalid Ibrahim al-Mahjubi University of al-Jabal al-Gharbi
Ishkaliyyat al-ta’rikh li’l-dawla al-fatimiyya
Venerdì 5 Dicembre Palazzo Steri, Sala Magna Ore 9:00
Brahim El-Kadiri Boutchich
Università Moulay Ismail, Meknes
William Granara Harvard University Rethinking a Golden Age for Muslim Sicily: Culture and Politics at the Fatimids Kalbid Court.
Discussione Ore 12:00
Jonathan Bloom Boston College, Norma Jean Calderwood University How Fatimid is it? The sources of ‘Islamic’ Art in Sicily
Sala Magna di Palazzo Steri
Presentazione del volume Introduzione allo studio della storia contemporanea del Mondo arabo di Antonino Pellitteri (Editori Laterza, 2008)
Ne discutono alla presenza dell’autore: Roberto Lagalla (Magnifico Rettore dell’Università di Palermo), Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti (Università di Roma La Sapienza), Claudio Lo Jacono (Università L’Orientale di Napoli), Ibrahim Magdud (Accademia Libica in Italia).
Sono previsti gli interventi di: Mohamed Edweeb (Rettore dell’Università El Mergheb, Libia), Daw Al-Fituri (Università El Mergheb), Zyad Ali (Unione degli scrittori libici), Carmela Baffioni (Università “L’Orientale”, Napoli), Antonino Buttitta (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Enrica Cancellieri (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Leonardo Capezzone (Università “La Sapienza”, Roma), Mohannad Mobiadeen (Philadelphia University, Amman), Vera Costantini (Università “Ca’ Foscari”, Venezia), Rita Dolce (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Lofteya El-Gbayli (Unione degli scrittori libici), Abdurrazaq Ganbur, Al-Amin Alabdallah, Fraj Al-Arabi (Accademia Libica), Salma Khadra Jayyusi (East-West Nexus/PROTA), Ninni Giuffrida (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Jeremy Johns (Università di Oxford), Maria Amalia Mastelloni (Direttore del Museo Nazionale Arte Orientale, Roma), Giovanni Montaina (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Francesco Noci (Università “La Sapienza”, Roma), Giovanni Ruffino (Università degli Studi di Palermo), Monica Ruocco (Università degli Studi di Palermo). Sabato 6 Dicembre
Tracce islamiche a Palermo (visita dei principali monumenti)
• COMITATO SCIENTIFICO prof. Antonino Pellitteri prof. Ibrahim Magdud
• SEGRETERIA ORGANIZZATIVA Franca D’Addelfio, Maria Grazia Sciortino, Carlo Giordano, Zarifa Garofalo, Daniele Sicari, Lahoucine Khabid, Luca D’Anna
• UFFICIO STAMPA E AUDIO Manfredi Pellitteri, Federico Gatto
• CONTATTI Tel. 0916560256 - Fax. 0916560296 (Cattedra di Storia dei Paesi Islamici) Tel. 091 332347 - Fax 091585859 (Accademia Libica in Italia) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Published on Feb 18, 2010
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