Special Issue of Mamluk Studies Review

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Anthony Quickel


While the field of Mamluk studies continues to mature and deepen, the period’s environmental history remains undeveloped. The EGYLandscape Project (https://www.egylandscape.org/), started in 2019 with financing from the German Research Foundation, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the French National Research Agency, Agence nationale de la recherche, anf cohosted by the University of Marburg in Germany and the University of Aix-Marseille in France, has brought together scholars of Egypt’s environmental history studying the period between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. The present issue of Mamlūk Studies Review is a cross-section of some of the work of the project team and highlights the different avenues of inquiry that we have begun to undertake.

Albrecht Fuess

The Urgent Need for Cash: Thoughts on the Taxation of Land in the Late Mamluk Sultanate

The Mamluk realm depended on the organization of its income to ensure the functioning of the realm and provide inner and outer security for its citizens. The main source of revenue was the agricultural production of its landscape. It was, therefore, important to know how much cultivable land there was, how much of it could be taxed, and at what rate, so land had to be measured by state officials. In Egypt, this land survey was called rawk. The surveyors determined the exact area and quality of the cultivable land of villages and districts. The tax value of a specific piece of land was determined as a product of its quality and the corresponding area. The questions to be dealt with in the following are how the land was classified, what kind of income was produced for the state, and what events led to a considerable change in the Mamluk taxation system over the fifteenth century. In answering these questions, this article will first discuss the different kinds of land categories in the Mamluk taxation system. Special attention will be given to the balance between indirect land taxation, as seen in the classical iqṭāʿ system, and other forms of dealing with land income, which, as we will see, favored the so-called waqfization of land holdings in the Mamluk realm.

Zoe Griffith

Environment, Political Ecology, and the Culture of Waqf in the Eighteenth-Century Northern Egyptian Delta

This article explores the appeal of waqf as a property regime for the control of land and water resources in the eighteenth-century Egyptian Delta. Specifically, it focuses on the socio-economic and legal logics that informed local households’ use of waqf around the cities of Rosetta and Damietta (Ar. Dimyāṭ). Waqf was part of a strategy of capital accumulation, household formation, and social reproduction in Egypt, as it was throughout the early modern Ottoman Empire. Drawing on the rich surviving records of the Islamic courts of Rosetta and Damietta, I analyze a market in waqf property that in many ways approximated a regime of private property. The culture of the Islamic courts and the priorities of property holders in the northern Delta form the subject of the first three sections of this article. I also explore the environmental, geographic, and political limits of waqf property for creating and maintaining a stable land regime in the Delta at the end of the eighteenth century. In the final two sections, I discuss a divergence in the economic fortunes and political profiles of these two seemingly similar regions in the Egyptian Delta. This comparison sheds light on the local factors that shaped the implementation of waqf as a strategy for controlling land and water prior to the widespread introduction of private property on agricultural land in the nineteenth century.### Nicolas Michel (https://knowledge.uchicago.edu/record/5402?ln=en)

Nicolas Michel

Chefs-lieux et dépendances. La hiérarchie des agglomérations en moyenne Égypte, xive-xvie siècle

En survolant en avion la campagne égyptienne, on plus simplement en observant les photos satellite, on est frappé par le tissu continu de gros villages, dont l’étalement apparaît phénoménal. Ce tissu reprend un maillage bien visible sur les premières cartes topographiques, notamment celles du Survey of Egypt (publiées à partir de 1908), ainsi que sur les cartes du XIXe siècle telles que celles Linant de Bellefonds (1854) et de la Description de l’Égypte (dressées en 1798-1800). La comparaison entre les cartes du début du XIXe siècle et celles du Survey un siècle plus tard montre que l’habitat plus dispersé qui se décèle dans ces dernières est pour l’essentiel apparu durant le XIXe siècle, avec la multiplication des ʿizba-s ou grands domaines, dont les bâtiments d’exploitation ont fixé de nouveaux habitants, et des kafr-s ou naǧʿ-s créés, souvent en lisière de l’oekoumène, par sédentarisation des Bédouins. Les cartes antérieures à 1800, quant à elles, ne sont pas assez précises et exhaustives pour restituer visuellement l’aspect des campagnes égyptiennes. En revanche, nous disposons de documents cadastraux complets, issus de deux cadastres à but fiscal, le rawk ṣāliḥī conservé à travers la recension d’Ibn Mammātī (m. 1209), et le rawk nāṣirī (1315) à travers celles d’Ibn Duqmāq (m. 1406) et Ibn al-Ǧīʿān (m. 1480). En outre, al-Nābulusī a recopié un rapport d’inspection systématique de la province du Fayyūm, réalisé en 1245 . Ces auteurs ont agencé des listes de villages par ordre alphabétique à l’intérieur de chaque province, et ces listes, comme les cartes ultérieures, renforcent de manière redondante l’impression d’un habitat concentré en villages.

Yossef Rapoport

The Rise of Provincial Arab Ruling Families in Mamluk Egypt, 1350–1517

The fifteenth century was an age of Arab power in the Egyptian countryside. During the final century of Mamluk rule, Arab or Berber groups acquired power and authority in most provinces of the Delta and Upper Egypt, and become more visible to us than in previous centuries, both in chronicles and in biographical dictionaries. Arab elite families were also the beneficiaries of more iqṭāʿ grants and acted as officials of the Mamluk state, in some places replacing the kāshifs or governors. Their status was endorsed by the Ottoman conquerors, who formalized the key role of Arab and Berber ruling houses in provincial administration. This rise in the power of provincial Arab elites is well known but has not yet received a systematic study. While scholarship acknowledges that many Arab groups were engaged in sedentary cultivation and that Arab houses were co-opted into Mamluk bureaucracy, it still views them as chiefly pastoralist and opportunistic. The Arabs are seen as preying on the weakness of the Mamluk state, as opposed to settled agriculture, and as a cause of economic and political decline. This essay follows the rise of Arab and Berber provincial houses in Egypt from 1350 up to the end of Mamluk period. It makes three broad arguments that seek to better integrate the history of the Arab and Berber elites within wider trends in fifteenth-century Mamluk history. First, I argue that the Arab families that came to power in the fifteenth century emerged from within the peasantry, either as the armed elements of village society or landless peasants who lost their tenancy rights. Second, I argue that the prominence of provincial Arab and Berber ruling families in the fifteenth century should be seen as coming on the heels of a series of earlier major Arab revolts against Mamluk rule, mainly—but not exclusively—in Upper Egypt, with mass peasant participation. Third, I argue that the rise of Arab elite families was a side effect of the decline of the iqṭāʿ regime in Egypt. The fifteenth century saw a sharp drop in the number of villages given out as iqṭāʿ, and a steep rise in the number of villages either endowed as waqf or handed over to the sultan’s private fisc. When the iqṭāʿ regime was in its heyday, between 1250 and 1350, the officers of the Mamluk army went out to the countryside to collect the land tax directly, bypassing the need for a large provincial bureaucracy and garrisons. After 1350, and especially from the beginning of the fifteenth century, Mamluk power in large parts of the Egyptian countryside was increasingly limited. Instead, the state often devolved provincial powers to Arab ruling families, in an admission of Mamluk inability to collect taxes in several provinces in Upper and Lower Egypt. Arab elites, brutally suppressed in the first century of Mamluk rule, were now indispensable for maintaining control and delivering agricultural surpluses.

Heba Mahmoud Saad Abdelnaby

Treating with Birds: The Insights of Two Mamluk Sources about the Medical Benefits of Birds

Two important Mamluk sources that discuss animals, including birds, are the encyclopedic Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣār by al-ʿUmarī and al-Damīrī’s zoology book Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān. Although neither is a medical text, they both devote protracted parts to the medical benefits and pharmaceutical uses of birds. Since medicine, pharmacy, and dietetics were connected sciences correlated with human physical well-being and health, discussing birds primarily used as food necessitated the elucidation of their medical benefits and how to use them for treatment. Furthermore, the sources explained the usage of their parts, extracts, products, and droppings in both formal and folk medicine. This study explores the medical benefits of birds as presented in those two Mamluk sources to investigate the importance of substances of animal origin in the preparation of simple and compound medicines and folk remedies. Such an investigation can also shed light on other intellectual and social aspects of Mamluk society in Egypt.

Omar Abdel-Ghaffar

Taqlīd and Tillage in the Works of Two Taqī al-Dīns

Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī (683–756/1284–1355) and Taqī al-Dīn Ibn Taymīyah (661–728/1263–1328) were two prominent scholars that shared a name, a time period, and a geographic locale. They were, however, anything but colleagues: al-Subkī embodied the Cairo Sultanate’s administrative normativity; a chief judge and the father of a chief judge, al-Subkī stood in stark contrast to the oft-dissenting Ibn Taymīyah, the latter being no stranger to the Sultanate’s jail cells. The two scholars also diverged legally on many points: al-Subkī’s biography is replete with mentions of polemics against Ibn Taymīyah and vice versa. Despite their famous differences on points ranging from the eternality of hellfire to the legal status of oaths of divorce, the two men had a shared position on muzāraʿah, the sharecropping contract. The Hanbali Ibn Taymīyah concurred with his madhhab’s position on the topic, offering a new rationale to the classical position. The Shafiʿi al-Subkī, in contrast, admits that by adopting the opinion he articulates on sharecropping, he dissents with the dominant position of the madhhab, including the opinion of its revered eponymous scholar, Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820). This study explores the ways the two scholars dealt with this legal question and uses the question of sharecropping to better understand how scholars dissented or concurred with their madhhabs based on both legal and extra-legal factors.