15 Legitimating Sultanic Rule in Arabic, Turkish and Persian—Late Mamluk Rulers as Authors of Religious Poetry

In: Rulers as Authors in the Islamic World
Christian Mauder
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During the last fifty years of the existence of the Mamluk Sultanate, its rulers were not only confronted with the consequences of a severe economic crisis, recurrent outbreaks of the plague and troop mutinies. They also had to compete with their Ottoman, Safavid and Aq Qoyunlu rivals who thanks to their military successes and exalted lineages not only effectively countered Mamluk claims for regional supremacy, but also raised doubts about the very legitimacy of Mamluk rule itself. In their attempts to overcome this late Mamluk crisis of legitimacy, the Sultans Qāytbāy (r. 1468–1496) and Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 1501–1516) broke new grounds in Mamluk political culture by producing sizeable collections of primarily religious poetry in Arabic, Turkish and Persian. In their verses, these Mamluk Sultans presented themselves as not only pious, but also divinely chosen sovereigns who thanks to their linguistic competences and otherworldly insight were predestined to rule the Islamic world. Building on in part unpublished and largely neglected material, the study outlines the multilingual poetic production of these Mamluk Sultans, explores the religious and political significance of their writings, and sheds light on their reception by contemporaries and posterity.

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