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The historical development of the structure of medieval Arabic petitions

  • Geoffrey Khan


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1Three petitions of the Fātimid period’, Oriens, xv, 1962, 172209; ‘Petitions from the Ayyūbid period’, BSOAS, XXVII, 1, 1964, 132; ‘Petitions from the Mamlūk period (notes on theMamlūk documents from Sinai)’, BSOAS, xxix, 2, 1966, 233–76.

2A Fātimid petition and “small decree” from Sinai’, Israel Oriental Studies, III, 1973, 140–58.

3Le plus ancien document arabe de I'Asie Centrale’, Sogdyiskii Sbornik (Leningrad 1934), 5290. (Reprinted in Krachkovsky, I. J., Izbrannye Sochineniya, I, Moscow-Leningrad, 1955, 182212).

4 cf. SAPNC, 14 (commentary). For abbreviations used in this article see p. 30.

5 cf. SAPNC, 15 (commentary).

6 I am grateful to the Syndics of Cambridge University Library for granting me permission topublish this document and also other documents from the Cambridge University Library manuscript collections.

7 The sense of lī which is intended here is often expressed in blessings in other papyri moreexplicitly by the verb ’amta‘a, e.g. ’amta‘ ani allāh bi-ṭūlmuddatika (APRL, VII, 31,1. 2).

8 It is not clear what precisely the writer was referring to by the term al-wakāla.

9 Legal proof (bayyina) was frequently equated with testimony (shahāda), cf. Tyan, E., Histoire de l'organisation judiciaire en pays d'Islam (Leiden, 1960), 237. The use of the verb 'abāna with thesense of ‘testifying‘ is also found in other Arabic papyri, e.g. SAPNC, 9, 1. 8 and 10, 1. 4.

10 Literally; ‘to convey to me that which he would send to me of produce (mughallatan).’

11 The same expression is found in other Arabic papyri, e.g. Michaelides P. A 568 (bimāyuthībuhu allāh bihi al-janna 'in shā’a allāh).

12 Literally ‘I shall pray for preservation for you ⃛ as a supplication’. The ‘Tomb’ and the ‘Minbar’ are those of the Prophet in the Mosque of the Tomb in Medina. These are frequentlyvisited by pilgrims in conjunction with the ḥajj to Mecca.

13 The meaning seems to be that the writer has performed the pilgrimage once for himself andonce as the representative of the addressee's father.

14 cf. SAPNC, 14 (commentary).

15 For an analysis of the features of script which can be used to date Arabic papyri, cf. SAPNC, introduction.

16 For the name Turabī, cf. al-Dhahabī, Kitāb al-Mushtabih (ed. P., De Jong, Leiden, 1881), 31; Ibn Ḥajar, Tabṣīr al-muntabih bi-taḥhrīr al-mushtabih (ed. Muḥammad, al-Bijāwī, revised by Muḥammad, ‘All al-Najjār, 4 vols., Cairo, 19641967), 134. The nisba al-Bustabānī seems to be acontracted form of al-Bustanbānī (cf. al-Sam ‘ānī, al-Ansāb (Hydrabad, 1962 ff.), II, p. 221, n. 3), deriving from the Persian bustān bān ‘keeper of a garden’.

17 Literally: ‘prolong your life, amīr’, see the textual notes.

18 For involutio in Arabic documents cf. Karabacek, J., ‘Die Involutio im arabischen Schriftwesen’, Silzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaft, cxxxv, Wien, 1896, Abhandlung, V.

19 In the earlier Middle Ages the term ruq'a (literally ‘small piece, scrap’) was used to refer to apetition, cf. Stern, , Oriens, xv, 1962, 190. By the Mamlūk period the term qiṣṣa was preferred, cf. al-Qalqashandī, , Kitāb ṣubḥ al-’a‘shā (14 vols, Cairo, 19031918), vi, 202.

20 The expression tahayya'a li-fulān in the sense ‘somebody is able to do something’ is quite common in the papyri, e.g. AB, p. 1, 11. 89 (shay' lā yatahayya' lī ta'tiyatuhu), AB, 19, 1. 5 {lamyatahayya'lī jibāyat shay), AB, p. 32,11. 1112 (lāyatahayya' lahu mukhālafatuka), AB, 58,1. 4 (bi-mātahayya’ ‘ndi), SAPNC, p. 28. v. 5 (fa-’in tahayya’laka).

21 The name in the MS could also be read as al-Khuraym, al-Khuzaym or al-Huraym, cf. al-Dhanabī, , Kitāb al-Mushtabih (ed. P., De Jong), 185. al-Dhahabl cites these names without thedefinite article. For the addition of the definite article to names cf. al-Qalqashandī, , Ṣubḥ, VIII, 147–8.

22 For the use of the word ‘inda with this sense in medieval Arabic accounts cf. Little, D, Acatalogue of the Islamic documents from al-Ḥaram aš-Šarīn Jerusalem (Beirut, 1984), 361.

23 cf. al-Qalqashandī, , Ṣubḥ, VI, 302, where the taqdīr of ra'yaka ft⃛ is said to be ra ra'yakafī⃛ See below.

24 Most Genizah fragments which are cited in this article will be published in my forthcomingbook, Arabic documents from the Cairo Genizah.

25 According to literary sources a similar construction (wa-li-mawlānā ‘uluww al-ra’y fī⃛) wasused in fourth/tenth century Irāq, see below. One must take into account that none of the earlier extant papyrus petitions written in Egypt are addressed to the court of the political ruler, with theexception of APEL, 172, to the caliph al-Mu‘tazz billāh, but only the initial blessing and the addressof this document have survived. The possibility cannot be excluded, therefore, that an expressionsuch as li-mawlānā al-ra'y al-‘ālī fī kadhā wa-kadhā was used in petitions written in pre-Fāṭimid Egypt which were addressed to the political ruler. Nevertheless a diachronic development in the use of the 'in ra'ā/ra'ayta construction did occur. As will be shown below, by the Fāṭimid period the 'in ra'ā/ra'ayta formula began to be felt as inappropriate in petitions addressed to people of higher authority than the writer. It was gradually dropped in petitions and replaced by other formulae.

26 i.e. the caliph. The feminine form taṣaddaqat refers to the ‘caliphal presence’ (al-ḥaḍdra).

27 For examples, cf. the documents published by Stern, , in Oriens, xv, 174–83. Cf. also Khan, ‘Apetition to the Fāṭimid caliph al-Āmir’ (to appear in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society).

28 e. g. T-S Ar. 4.10 [a petitiontoa Fāṭimid qā'id] (wa-l-‘abd yas 'al’ an ⃛ ), ENA 3974.3 [a petition to a Fāṭimid princess in the reign'of al-Ẓāhir](via-'and' as 'al mawlālanā khallada allāh mulkahā wathabata ‘izzahā at-tawjīh lil-qā'id⃛).

29 cf. Stern, , BSOAS, XXVII, 1, 1964, p. 9, n. 24.

30 Stern, left the words undeciphered. The reading wa-l-qudra is preferable to the suggestion of Richards, to read wa-l-fikra (Israel Oriental Studies III, 1973, 152), cf. al-Qalqashandī, , Ṣubḥ al-A ‘shā, VI, 303 cited below.

31 Abū Hilāl, al-Ḥasan b. ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sahl al-‘Askarī (d. 395/1005) studied in Baghdad, Basraand Isfahan. His handbook of rhetoric Kitāb al-Ṣinā'atayn al-Kitāba wa-l-Shi'r was composed in 395/1004 (Encylopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v, al-‘Askarī).

32 Elsewhere in his book al-‘Askarī cites an 'in ra'ayta construction which exhibits the rhetorical phenomenon of 'i'tirāḍ (starting one construction, beginning a second in the middle of the first andthen returning to finish the first): fa-'in ra'ayta 'an tasma‘ al-'udhr wa-taqbalahu fa-law lam takunshawāhiduhu wāḍiha wa-'anwāruhu Id'iha la-kāna ftal-haqq 'an tahab dhanbī li-jaza'ī wa-'idhlālīishfāqiwa-ld tajma' 'alayya law'a laka wa-raw'a minkafa'alta ' Ifyou should resolve to listen to theexcuse and accept it—and if the evidence for it does not shine out clearly you must attribute my faultto my grief and my letting you down to my concern and do not think that I have both affection foryou and fear of you—then do so '(ed. Muḥammad, 'Amln al-Khanjī, Istanbul, 1320/1902–3), 313. Asimilar type of divagation (though shorter) is attested the in ra'd construction of the petitionsMichaelides P. 1397 and Michaelides P. A 767 verso (see above).

33 An Istanbul manuscript contains a large portion of this work (Süleymaniye, Fatih 4128). In a section concerning the solar and lunar calendars the author states that the current year is 437 A.H. Cf. Saleh, Abdel Hamid, ‘Une source de Qalqašandī, Mawādd al-Bayān, et son auteur, ‘Alī b. Halaf’, Arabica, XX, 1973, 192200.

34b, Abd ar-Raḥīm. ‘Alī ibn Shīth (557–625/1162/3–1228) was secretary of al-Mu'aẓẓam ‘Isā (cf. Stern, BSOAS, XXVII, 1, 1964, p. 8, n. 21). al-Qalqashandī quotes from his work Ma'ālim al-Kitāba. The passage in question occurs on pp. 49–50 in the edition of Q. al-Bāshā, Beirut, 1913.

35 This occurs, for instance, in reports sent to the Sulṭān (vm, 54) and also in correspondence to high dignitaries (vm, 172). Another related phrase which occurs in high level Mamlūk correspondence is wa-l-ra'y al-‘ālī ‘a'lāhu allāhu ta'ālā ‘a'lā (vm, 175).

36 b, Abū Isḥāq Ibrahim. b, Hilāl. b, Ibrāhim. al-Ṣābi’, Zahrūn al-Ḥarrānī (313–384/925–994) was appointed in 349/960 by the al-Dawla, Buyid Mu'izz as the chief secretary of his Chancery in Baghdad and also served in the Chancery of his successor ‘Bakhtiyār, Izz al-Dawla. As his name indicates, he belonged to the Sabian sect. (Encylopaedia of Islam, 1st ed., s.v. al-Ṣabi’).

37 al-Faraj, Abūb, Abd al-Wāḥid. al-Babbagha’, Naṣsr ‘the parrot’ (313–397/925–1007) was a poet who for part of his life served the Ḥamdānid ruler, Sayf al-Dawla. After the death of Sayf al-Dawla he moved to Mosul and finally Baghdad where he died (Encylopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., S.V., al-Babbaghā’).

38 ‘Alīb, Ibn Ḥajib. ‘b, Abd al-‘Azīz. al-Nu'man, Ibrahim (340–423/951–1031) was a secretary and anthologist who lived in Buyid ‘ Iraq (Encylopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., S.V., Ibn Hadjib).

39 cf. Stern,‘ Two Ayyūbid decrees from Sinai’, in idem, ed., Documents from Islamic chanceries (Oxford, 1965). 15–17, 34–5. 233–76.

40 cf. Stern, Oriens, xv, 1962, 172209;BSOAS, XXVII, 1, 1964, 132;BSOAS xxix, 2, 1966,

41 I am grateful to Dr. Ragheb, Y. for drawing this document to my attention.

42 T-S 20.32 contains a draft of a petition to al-Ḥākim, but it breaks off after the tarjama and initial blessing. ENA 4020 f. 65 [ed. Goitein, S. D., Jewish Quarterly Review, XLIV, 1954, 301–2 and Gil, M., Palestine during the first Muslim period (Tel Aviv, 1983), II, document no. 312] is a petition to a Fatimid caliph which, by its contents, seems to have been written during the reign of al-Hakim, but the beginning of the document is not extant.

43 cf. Gaudefrpy-Demombynes, M., ‘Notes sur l'histoire de l'organisation judiciaire en pays d'Islam’. Revue des Etudes Islamiques, 1939, 121–2.

44 Ed. R., Guest, The Governors and Judges of Egypt (London, 1912), 604.

45 Tome quarantieme de la Chronique d'Egypte de Musabbihī, ed. Ayman Fu'ād, Sayyid and Thierry, Bianquis (Cairo, 1978), 29, 37.

46 Passages de la Chronique d'ṣgypte d'lbn al-Ma'ḿun, ed. Ayman Fu'ād, Sayyid (Cairo, 1983), e.g. 27, 43.

47 ibid., 21.

48 In the blessing of the petition to al-Hākim, Louvre Fonds Rémondon 1, the initial element ṣalawāt is replaced by salām. This is also attested in the document T-S AS 180.140, which appears to be some kind of prayer for al-Mustansir.

49 cf. Goitein, S. D., ‘Prayers from the Geniza for Fatimid caliphs, the head of the Jerusalem Yeshiva, the Jewish community and the local congregation’, Studies in Judaica, Karaitica and Islamica presented to Leon Nemoy on his eightieth birthday (Bar-Ilan, 1982), 57. See also the preceding note.

50 Israel Oriental Studies, III, 141.

51 ibid., 151.

52 Stern, S. M., Fatimid Decrees (London, 1964), nos. 5 and 6.

53 cf. Stern, Oriens, xv, 206 ff.

54 I have identified two other Genizah fragments of petitions opening with a blessing on al-Ḥāfiẓ (T-S AS 150.195 and AS 184.198), but these do not preserve enough text of the original document to allow one to establish who the addressee was.

55 For the full title of Badr al-Jamālī, cf. al-Maqrīzī, Khitat II, 442, Wiet, M. Gaston, Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, Première partie: Égypte. Tome deuxième—Ègypte [Mémoires publiés par les membres de l'lnstitut Français d'Archéologie Orientate du Caire, vol. LU] (Cairo, 1930), 147 ff.

56 Muyassar, Ibn, Akhbār Miṣr (ed. M. H., Massé, Cairo, 1919), 7582;Ẓāfir, Ibn, Akhbār al-duwai al-munqatfa (ed. A., Ferré, Cairo, 1972), 9899.

57 Al–Maqrīzī, , Khiṭaṭ II, 16 records his title as ‘amīr al-juyūsh sayf al-'islām. Cf. also Muyassar, Ibn, ed. Massé, , 75 and al-Qalānisī, Ibn, Dhayl Tārīkh Dimashq (ed. H. F., Amedroz, Leyden, 1908), 229, where he is described as ‘amir al-juyiish.

58 Ibn Muyassar, 89 ff., Ibn Zāfir, 102 ff. The Genizah has preserved drafts of another petition to Ibn al-Salar (T-S 13J20.5—in Hebrew script), one of which contains the date 545/1150. The opening formulae, however, are omitted. They were no doubt added in the final version of the document.

59 cf. Stern, Fāṭimid decrees, no. 7.

60 cf. al-Qalqashandī, , Ṣubḥ X, 421 (al-sayyidai- ‘ajall al-'ādil ‘amīr al-juyūsh), al-Muyassar, Ibn, 89.

61 Richards, ibid., 157.

62 Not only was the titulature of the viziers in the second half of the Fāṭimid period fixed on the model of that of Badr al-Jamālī but also the blessing ‘aḍada bihi al-dīn wa-‘amta'a bi-ṭūli baqā'ihi ‘amīr al-mu'minīn wa-'adāma qudratahu wa-'a'lā kalimatahu, which is found in Badr's inscriptions, cf. M. Von Berchem, Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, Première partie, Égypte [Mémoires publiés par les membres de la mission Archéologique Française au Caire, vol. xix] (Paris 1903), nos. 32, 33, 38,39. For its occurrence in the inscriptions of subsequent viziers cf. Matériaux I, nos. 40 (al-Ma'mun) [= Matériaux I, ii, no. 586], 41 (al-Ma'mun) [= Matériaux I, ii, no. 587], 46 (Ṭalā'i’), 523 (Ṭalā'i’), 545 (al-Ma'mun).

63 These titles also occur in Saladin's inscriptions, cf. Wiet, G., ‘Les inscriptions de Saladin’, Syria, 1922,315.

64 For the titles of al-'Ādil cf. Stern, ‘ Two Ayyūbid decrees from Sinai’, 11, 18–25.

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The historical development of the structure of medieval Arabic petitions

  • Geoffrey Khan


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