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The genealogy of a Sudanese Holy Family

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009


In the second volume of his History of the Arabs in the Sudan, the late Sir Harold MacMichael gave summary translations of a number of genealogical works ranging in scope from simple pedigrees of individuals to elaborate treatises which purport to demonstrate the kinship of numerous tribes and clans. None of the manuscripts used by MacMichael was older than the nineteenth century, although some probably go back to seventeenth-century originals and reputedly contain even earlier material.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1981

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1 MacMichael, H. A., A history of the Arabs in the Sudan, Cambridge, 1922, II, 6180Google Scholar.

2 For further information on Ismā'īl al-Walī and his sons, see Ibrahim, Mahmoud Abdalla, The history of the Isma'iliyya tariqa in the Sudan (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, London, 1980)Google Scholar.

3 Sudan Archive, University of Durham; MS no. 256/19. (?) al-Ṭāhirb. 'Abd Allāh: 97/5/11.

4 The ending in MacMichael's summary translation (paras, ccxxvii–ccxxxi) is not found in the MS used in this article. It substitutes the date of the transcription (26 Rabi'I 11331/4 March 1913) for that of the completion of the original work.

5 There are chronological difficulties in the data presented by Aḥmad al-Azharī in his account of Bishāra al-Gharbāwī (cf. below, pp. 268–9, 271–2).

(a) Bishāra is alleged to have been with Ibrahim al-Būlād in the eleventh Hijri century, corresponding to A.D. 1592–1689. At its earliest, this is almost certainly too late for Ibrāhīm al-Būlād: an earlier source says that Ibrāhīm began his teaching at the start of the reign of the 'Abdallābī viceroy, Shaykh 'Ajīb al-Mānjuluk, who died in 1019/1610–11 after ruling for 41 years (Ḍayfallāh, Muḥammad al-Nūr b., Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt fī khuṩūṩ al-awliyā' wa'l-uṩūṩāliḥīn wa-'l-‘ulamā' wa'l-shu‘arā' fi'l-Sūdān, ed. Ḥasan, Yūsuf Faḍl, 2nd edn., Khartoum, 1974, 41, 43Google Scholar). This would place his coming in or shortly after 978/1570–1. A slightly different but still earlier death-date for 'Ajīb is indicated by another old source, James Bruce's king-list (Bodleian Library, MS Bruce 18 (2), f. 55b), where the battle of Karkōj, in which he met his end, is dated 1016/1607–8. Ibrāhim al-Būlād's period of teaching seems to have been short, since the Ṭabaqāt (p. 46) credits him with having completed seven (probably annual) courses of lectures, and having taught 40 students. An ijāza given by his brother 'Abd al-Rahmān, who succeeded him as teacher, is dated 982/1574–5. The school continued under another brother and than a nephew. It may have been with one of these rather than Ibrāhim al-Būlād himself that Bishāra studied. MacMichael noted (Arabs, 78) that he is not mentioned in the Tabaqāt among the pupils of Ibrāhīm al-Būlād. On this family of teachers, see Holt, P. M., ‘The sons of Jābir and their kin: a clan of Sudanese religious notables’, BSOAS, XXX, 1, 1967, 142–57Google Scholar.

(b) The phraseology of the charter transcribed by Aḥmad al-Azharī (p. 11) suggests that both it, granted in 1145/1732–3, and the charter it confirms, were conceded to Bishāra al-Gharbāwi. If this is so, Bishāra must have lived in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, since the grantor of the first charter, Bādī b. Irbāt/Rubāṭ (Badi II) reigned, according to Bruce's king-list from 1054/1644–5 to 1091/1680. This would completely overturn the assertion that Bishāra was a disciple of Ibrāhīm al-Būlād.

6 Shuqayr, Na'ūm, Ta'rīkh al-Sūdān al-qadim wa'l-tiadīth wa-jughrāfiyyatuh, Cairo [1903], I, 139Google Scholar.

7 This name, usually transcribed as Mismār, is more probably Mismārr (for Musmārr), the participle from ismārra (XI form) ‘to become brown’. The vowel-shift u/i and vice versa is common in Sudanese dialect.

8 Cf. Kitāb ma'ārif furū' usul al-'Arab, f. 3a-b (MacMichael, , Arabs, II, 36Google Scholar). A document printed by al-Jalīl, al-Shāṭir Buṩaylī 'Abd, Ma'ālim ta'rīkh Sūdān wādi'l-Nīl, Cairo, 1955, 270–1Google Scholar, probably from the late seventeenth century, may be the announcement of this pedigree.

9 Jabir, 'Abd al-Raḥmān v. (Tabaqat, 105)Google Scholar, originally from Juhayna. Muhammad b. Surūr, originally a Ja'alī; cf. al-Dā'im, 'Abd al-Mahmūd Nūr, Azāhīr al-riyād fi manāqib al-'arif bi'llāh ta'ālā al-ustādh al-shayhh Aḥmad al-Ṭayyib, Cairo, 1954, 18—19Google Scholar.

10 The ṭāqiyya is the horned cap (umm qurayri) which was part of a ruler's insignia during the Funj sultanate, and which was also worn by the leading shaykhs of some religious orders. Cf. MacMichael, , Arabs, II, 248–9Google Scholar; Arkell, A. J., ‘Fung origins’, Sudan Notes and Records, XV, 2, 1932, esp. pp. 224–5 and Plate IGoogle Scholar.

11 Similar lists of dues are found in other Funj charters. Salīm, Muḥammad Ibrāhim Abū, al-Fūnj wa'l-arḍ, Khartoum [? 1967], 31–3Google Scholar, defines those here mentioned as follows:

ḥasab, a fine imposed as diya (blood-wite);

'āda, customary aid paid to a ruler on such occasions as a circumcision or a wedding;

'āna, customary service to a ruler;

jibāya, landed revenue;

'alūq, provision of fodder for the beasts of a ruler and his retinue.

Quwār is not given, while matūra is probably a variant of tūrāt, of uncertain meaning. Another interpretation of these terms is given by MacMichael in his commentary on the charter; Arabs, II, 79, note on lxxxiv. See also the list of dues occurring in the land-charters of Dār Fūr; O'Fahey, R. S., State and society in Dār Fūr, London, 1980, 103–4Google Scholar.

12 Cf. 'AḲlKA, in Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd edn.)Google Scholar.

13 Al-Risāla, a textbook of Islamic law according to the Mālikī school by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawānī (d. 386/996). The term is misunderstood by MacMichael, who translates it ‘apostleship’.

14 al-Rikābi, Ḥabīb Nasī was a holy man and miracle-worker who lived in the vicinity of Old Dongola: Ṭābaqāt, 155Google Scholar.

15 Khalīl b. Isḥāq (d. c. 776/1374), author of al-Mukhlasar, a standard compendium of Mālikī jurisprudence.

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