DYNTRAN Panel at DOT 2017, Jena

Asien, Afrika und Europa
Jena, September 18th-22th, 2017

DYNTRAN Panel, September 20th, 2017 (Room SR 225)
“Dynamic of Transmission of Knowledge
in the Early Modern Middle East”

The purpose of this panel is to present some of the ongoing research from the DFG-funded project Dynamics of Transmission (DYNTRAN). The panel deals with issues such as the role of family and kin networks in the passing of knowledge and authority between generations, the role of institutions and the socialization of knowledge, as well as its categorization and diffusion. Our team will examine case studies from the two main regions studied by DYNTRAN, namely Mamluk and Ottoman Egypt, and Safavid and Qajar Iran.

Discussant: Konrad Hirschler

9h-9h30 • The role of the son-in-law in Mamluk Households of the 15th century
Albrecht Fuess

So far the role of son in-laws in the Middle Eastern context has been understudied although it is known that high officials could bolster their political prestige and their claim to power by marrying or being married to a royal Princess. For example in Ottoman Turkish Dāmād (deriving from old-Persian, bridegroom, son-in-law, but also brother in-law) even developed into an official title for “in-laws”. The same seems to be holding true for the Mamluk context. Marrying into the sultans’ families enhanced the economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital of Mamluk in-laws. However a first preliminary impression is that “in-law” ties where actually concluded immediately after the death of the old Sultan, so it was not him who made the arrangements, whereas “son-in-laws” who had married a Sultan’s daughter during the lifetime of the reigning sultan did not ascend the throne. It seems, however, that these ties had to secure the actual rule of a Sultan, as it can be seen in the case of two powerful amirs and son-in-laws of Sultan Inal, the dawadars Burdbak and Yunus al-Aqba’i. This contribution will take a further look at the royal Mamluk in-laws in order to verify or invalidate this first impression and to take our knowledge of Mamluk sons-in-law a bit further.

9h30-10h • Sayyid Families of Mashhad and the Guardianship of the Shrine of Imam Reza
Christoph Werner

With the rise in importance of the shrine complex around the tomb of the Eighth Shiite Imam and the establishment of substantial endowments to support it, the question of guardianship over the mausoleum became more pronounced from the 15th century onwards. Several families of Sayyid descent in the region of Khorasan took up functions at the sanctuary of Mashhad and thus created lineages of guardians and administrators there. The present contribution assesses the development of these families along the framework of “Dynamics of Transmission: Families, Authority and Knowledge in the Early Modern Middle East, 15th -17th Centuries”  and asks how these families were able to transmit their authority under changing political, economic and confessional conditions and in how far they were able to transmit not only administrative careers and positions, but also wider concepts of cultural and religious heritage. We will look at biographical works on these families, as far as they are available, and trace their presence in other contexts, i.e. scholarly, poetical, artistic.

10h-10h30 • Interreligious Controversies in Safavid Iran
Alberto Tiburcio

Towards the end of the Safavid period, the court of Shah Sultan Husain sponsored two projects of scriptural translation and interreligious refutation. One was the translation of the Gospels by Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Khātūnabādī, and the other was the Bible translation and extended commentary by the Portuguese convert ‘Alī Qulī Jadīd al-Islām. In a slightly later time-period, the famous chronicler and scholar Shaykh Hazīn Lāhījī composed a short risālah addresing some of the same topics. The aim of this paper is to present a schematic overview of the historical circumstances that led to the composition of these works, and to the social transmission of these works. More importantly, I will examine the different strategies through which these authors engaged, appropriated, and reinvented some of the tropes of the polemical genre. I place special emphasis on the three authors’ treatment of the notion of scriptural tampering (taḥrīf)—that is to say, the believe that Jews and Christians had falsified the scriptures to serve their theological interests—and of the theme of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John and its Muslim reading as a proof of the prophecy of Muhammad. I argue that, while many of the tropes used in religious polemics are often dismissed as commonplaces, the different ways in which these authors approach them attest to a certain degree of innovation within the conventions of the genre in the Early Modern period.

11h-11h30 • A Jewish Family that Turned Shīʿī Muslim in 18th-Century Yazd: Transmiting Religious Knowledge beyond Boundaries
Dennis Hal  (Ben Gurion University of the Neguev)

In pre-modern Persia, Jewish converts to Twelver Shīʿism and their descendants were important cross-cultural intermediaries of religious knowledge, who instigated the dissemination of Jewish texts and thus enriched the intellectual encounters between Jews and Shīʿī Muslims. Based on a close examination of previously unstudied Persian manuscripts held by libraries in Iran and Iraq, this paper will examine the relation between two anti-Jewish works by Ismāʿīl Qazvīnī, a converted Jew, and his son Ḥājjī Bābā Qazvīnī Yazdī. It suggests that kinship was a major factor for the transmission of knowledge between generations of scholars, as well as beyond the cultural-religious boundaries of Jewish communities in Iran.

11h30-12h • Families, Fortunes, and Geography: Connections through variation in occupation and locality amongst Ottoman Cairene families
Anthony T. Quickel

This paper will discuss the occupational diversity and geographical spreading of families, especially those of merchants, in Ottoman Cairo. Families in early Ottoman Cairo were diverse societal units that included members from across various social strata and who participated in a variety of economic activities. A family may have renown within its own time, and thereafter, for a particular economic or societal activity; examples abound: families of judges, traders, or Sufi shaykhs. However, this sort of familial specialization or association with a particular vocational field did not preclude the possibility of some members of the family group from working in other spheres of activity. Furthermore, individual constituents of the larger family grouping often carried on multiple occupations simultaneously; an ‘ālam (scholar) might also serve as a landowner or as a trader or vice versa. This sort of occupational diversity within the lives of families and its individual members meant that complex webs of social interactions existed. In addition to the professional variety of members within a family, a geographical spreading of family members also occurred. From the Maghreb to Bilad al-Sham, and especially within the Red Sea Basin, various branches of merchant families established themselves creating a network of connectors that facilitated and strengthened trading activities. Combined with the occupational diversity within Cairo itself, which stretched vertically within society, this geographic spreading helped to create a horizontal and physical network for merchant families as well. These variations in occupations and localities amongst Ottoman Cairene families, therefore, both aided in commercial and professional networking, as well as helped to bind together the empire through trade and family ties, while maintaining Cairo as an important node for the activities of the region even after its political gravitas had waned.

12h-12h30 • Educational venues in Medieval Damascus, seen through the eyes of Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 1176) and his “successors”
Paula Manstetten (PhD candidate, SOAS)

The Damascene topography of learning changed significantly during the medieval period. A scholar visiting in the 5th/11th century would have found his peers convening in study circles in the Umayyad mosque, neighbourhood mosques, and houses of scholars. A century later, numerous new structures, e.g. madrasas and khānqāhs, had been erected, offering more exclusive teaching venues to scholars. But how relevant was it, in the eyes of medieval Damascene scholars, where in the city the transmission of knowledge took place? And what does the attitude of the sources to recording (or not recording) the names of specific teaching venues tell us about the significance of locations in the educational system? More broadly, was the rise of venues like the madrasa a sign of an increasing institutionalisation of education? According to scholars like Berkey (1992), where education took place mattered very little to medieval scholars. The core structure of education was the informal, personal relationship between teacher and disciple. This did not change after the rise of the madrasa. The anchor point of his argument is that biographical dictionaries almost never mention where classes took place or where someone studied, but meticulously record the names of a scholar’s teachers and students. Although the shaykh undoubtedly had a pivotal role in the educational system, this paper will show that the validity of a static “shaykh-over-venue” paradigm is questionable. My point of departure is Ibn ʿAsākir’s (d. 571/1176) voluminous biographical dictionary History of Damascus, written in the decades in which the madrasa first appeared in Damascus. Ibn ʿAsākir’s attitude to educational venues can be studied on the basis of his topographical survey of Damascus, the biographical entries he provides, and the numerous “sample” ḥadīths with isnāds in the biographies, a surprising number of which records where the transmission took place. I will compare these findings with sources written in Ayyūbid and Mamlūk Damascus, e.g. the topography of Ibn Shaddād, the biographical dictionaries of al-Dhahabī and al-Subkī, as well as muʿjams and samāʿāt documents. On the basis of this diachronic comparison, I will show that, while the authors of biographical dictionaries did not systematically record locations, mentions of specific venues are far from absent. The same applies to other genres used by scholars to document their education, like muʿjams and samāʿāt. In the aftermath of the appearance of the madrasa and similar venues, the frequency of such mentions increased, and the context in which locations were recorded changed. While Ibn ʿAsākir’s topographical survey made no reference to education, later topographies used educational venues as one of the main organisational categories. The results suggest that the sources bear witness to the beginnings of a process of institutionalisation of the transmission of knowledge.