The Letter and Its Response: The Exchanges between the Qara Qoyunlu and the Mamluk Sultan: ms Arabe 4440 (BnF, Paris)

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In their manuals, chancery scribes often discussed the differences between initial letters (ibtidāʾ) and their responses (ǧawāb), yet one question persists: which one was of higher status? Basing their reflections on literary criteria, secretaries were divided. Most of them granted the response more value, since it required greater skill and literary dexterity from its author. While the mubtadiʾ had the entire choice of terms, structure, and prolixity, the muǧīb was challenged by the letter’s wording. Others, however, considered both tasks equal in difficulty, since all secretaries were required to act as both mubtadiʾ and muǧīb. Despite this debate among secretaries, initial letters and responses were different in nature and require distinction.

In this article, I discuss the issue of letter writing (initial and response) within the Mamluk chancery of Cairo. I base this paper on the study of a sample of letters exchanged between the Qara Qoyunlu governor Pīr Būdāq (d. 870/1466) and the Mamluk sultan Īnāl (r. 857/1453-865/1461) as preserved in an unpublished munšaʾa (ms Arabe 4440, BnF) and containing both the initial letters sent by Pīr Būdāq and the responses produced by the Egyptian chancery. After briefly presenting the letters and the context of their reception, I focus on their style and the different elements of their structure, going on to compare them to the rules of letter-writing as described in the chancery manuals of the period (i.e. theme, quotation, status). Finally, I address the nature of the Mamluk responses in the framework of the aforementioned debate.

Dans leur manuels, les secrétaires de chancellerie discutent souvent des différences entre les lettres initiales (ibtidāʾ) et leur réponses (ǧawāb). Néanmoins une question demeure : laquelle était de statut plus élevé ? Fondant leur raisonnement sur des critères littéraires, les secrétaires sont divisés. La plupart attribue à la réponse la plus grande valeur, car elle nécessitait plus d’habilité et de dextérité littéraire de la part de son auteur. Alors que pour la lettre initiale, le mubtadiʾ avait l’entière liberté du choix des mots, de la structure, de la prolixité, le muǧīb était mis au défi de la formulation posée dans la lettre initiale. D’autres, cependant, considéraient chacune des tâches égales en difficulté, car après tout, tous les secrétaires devaient pouvoir œuvrer à la fois en tant que mubtadiʾ et muǧīb. En dépit de ce débat entre secrétaires, il est clair que lettres initiales et réponses étaient de nature différente et dès lors se doivent d’être distinguées.

Dans cet article, nous aborderons la question de la rédaction des lettres (initiales et réponses) au sein de la chancellerie mamlouke du Caire. Nous fondons cette étude sur l’analyse d’un corpus de lettres échangées entre le gouverneur Qara Qoyunlu Pīr Būdāq (m. 870/1466) et le sultan mamlouk Īnāl (r. 857/1453-865/1461), tel qu’il est conservé dans un munšaʾa inédit (ms Paris, BnF, Arabe 4440). Ce corpus comprend à la fois les lettres initiales envoyées par Pīr Būdāq, ainsi que les réponses produites par la chancellerie égyptienne. Après une brève présentation du corpus et du contexte entourant sa réception, nous nous concentrerons sur l’étude du style des lettres et des différents éléments de leurs structures et nous les comparerons avec les règles de rédaction telles qu’elles nous sont transmises dans les manuels de chancelleries de la période (i.e. thème, citation, statut). Enfin, nous analyserons la nature des réponses mamloukes dans le cadre du débat mentionné ci-dessus.

This article is in English.

Arabica

Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies / Revue d'études arabes et islamiques

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References

1

Adrian Gully, The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, p. 155-156; al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā fī ṣināʿat al-inšāʾ, Cairo, al-Muʾassasa l-miṣriyya l-ʿāmma li-l-taʾlīf wa-l-tarǧama wa-l-ṭibāʿa wa-l-našr, 1963 (reimpr. 1st ed. Cairo, al-Maṭbaʿa l-amīriyya, 1913-1919), vi, p. 323-325.

2

Ibid., vi, p. 323.

3

Ibid., vi, p. 324-325.

8

Ibid., p. 187.

14

Ibid., p. 371.

17

Manz, Power, Politics and Religion, p. 42-43. In Azerbaijan: Abū Saʿīd until 835/1431, and Ǧahānšāh from 838/1434. In Iraq (Baghdad): Iṣfahān had defeated his brother Šāh Muḥammad and also recognized Šāh Ruḫ’s authority.

22

Woods, The Aq-Qoyunlu, p. 74.

23

Manz, Power, Politics and Religion, p. 262.

24

Woods, The Aq-Qoyunlu, p. 74.

26

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 232, 242. Sultan Ǧaqmaq promulgated an edict (marsūm) addressed to the Dulqadirid ruler of Elbistan, Sulaymān b. Nāṣir al-Dīn Beg, to prevent him from welcoming the Aq Qoyunlu rebel. The following year, however, Ǧaqmaq welcomed in Cairo Ǧahāngīr’s son who was seeking for asylum: ʿAbd al-Bāsiṭ b. Ḫalīl, Nayl al-amal, v, p. 330; al-Saḫāwī, al-Tibr, iii, p. 86.

27

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 241; al-Saḫāwī, al-Tibr, iii, p. 49. Maḥmūd was Ǧahāngīr’s uncle who had rebelled and seized Erzincan in 850/1446 to the detriment of another Aq Qoyunlu, Šayḫ Ḥasan. Ǧahānšāh replaced the deposed governor back in the city. Woods, The Aq-Qoyunlu, p. 74.

28

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 247.

29

Ibid., p. 247; id., Nuǧūm, xv, p. 431-432. The governor of Ḥamāh had taken part of the rebellion on Ǧahāngīr’s side.

30

On 13 muḥarram 855/ 15 February 1451: al-Biqāʿī, Iẓhār al-ʿaṣr li-asrār ahl al-ʿaṣr: taʾrīḫ al-Biqāʿī, ed. Muḥammad Sālim b. Šadīḍ al-ʿAwfī, Gizah, Haǧar li-l-ṭibāʿa wa-l-našr wa-l-tawzīʿ wa-l-iʿlān, 1992-1993, i, p. 79-80; or in ṣafar/March: al-Saḫāwī, Waǧīz al-kalām fī l-ḏayl ʿalā duwal al-islām, ed. Baššār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf, ʿIṣām Fāris al-Ḥarastānī and Aḥmad al-Ḫaṭīmī, Beirut, Muʾassasat al-risāla, 1995, ii, p. 657-658; id., Tibr, iii, p. 87-88; Ibn Iyās, Badāʾiʿ, ii, p. 289. On 9 ṣafar, Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Nuǧūm, xv, p. 432-433; id., Ḥawādiṯ, p. 260-261; ʿAbd al-Bāsiṭ b. Ḫalīl, Nayl al-amal, v, p. 332.

31

Al-Biqāʿī, Taʾrīḫ, i, p. 80.

32

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 260-261.

33

Ibid., p. 261.

34

Al-Biqāʿī, Taʾrīḫ, i, p. 80.

35

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 261, also mentions the taking over Diyār Bakr and Ǧahānšāh’s submission to the sultan’s authority.

36

Ibid., p. 261; al-Saḫāwī, Waǧīz, ii, p. 657-658.

37

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 261.

38

Ibid., p. 261-262. They left two days after the reception.

40

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 262.

47

Ibid., ii, p. 335-336; Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 519-520. Since 856/1452-857/1453, Uzun Ḥasan had started attacking Qara Qoyunlu possessions in Armenia, and by 858/1454, he even pushed further to Āmid and Erzincan, held by the Qara Qoyunlu amir ʿArabšāh, and to Mosul and Sinjar. Woods, The Aq-Qoyunlu, p. 80-81.

48

See al-Biqāʿī, Taʾrīḫ, i, p. 226; Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 519-520. I could not identify this amir with certainty.

49

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 519-520.

52

Al-Biqāʿī, Taʾrīḫ, ii, p. 290.

53

Ibid., ii, p. 290-293 copied Ǧahānšāh’s letter in his history. According to this copy, Ǧahānšāh only sent Īnāl friendly words.

58

Jackson and Lockhart (eds), Cambridge History of Iran, vi, p. 114.

60

Jackson and Lockhart (eds), Cambridge History of Iran, vi, p. 164; Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Nuǧūm, 16, p. 350, however, reports that Pīr Būdāq was killed by Ǧahānšāh himself.

61

Woods, The Aqquyunlu, p. 96.

63

Al-Saḫāwī, Waǧīz, ii, p. 797.

65

Ibn Taġrī Birdī, Nuǧūm, xvi, p. 384.

68

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, viii, p. 168.

70

Adrian Gully, The Culture of Letter-Writing in pre-modern Islamic society, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, p. 8.

71

Richards, Mamlūk Administrative Documents, p. 14.

72

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, viii, p. 168-232; iv, p. 5-251.

73

Ibid., viii, p. 233.

74

Ibid., vii, p. 235.

76

Ibid., p. 487-488.

78

Ibid., p. 183-186.

79

Ibid., p. 184.

80

Ibid., p. 184.

83

Ibid., p. 178.

84

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, vii, p. 294.

89

Malika Dekkiche, “Diplomatics or Another Way to See the World,” in Mamluk Cairo: A Crossroad for Embassies, ed. Frédéric Bauden and Malika Dekkiche, Leiden, Brill (forthcoming, 2017); id., Le Caire, Carrefour des ambassades, i, p. 292-436.

90

Ibid., i, p. 292-436; id., “The Correspondence,” p. 154-155.

91

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, vi, p. 301-302; al-Saḥmāwī, al-Ṯaġr al-bāsim fī ṣināʿat al-kātib wa-l-kātim, ed. Ašraf Muḥammad Anas, Cairo, Maṭbaʿat Dār al-kutub wa-l-waṯāʾiq al-qawmiyya, 2009, ii, p. 641.

94

Al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, vi, p. 306-312; al-Saḥmāwī, al-Ṯaġr, ii, p. 641.

96

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, viii, p. 233-244.

97

Ibid., viii, p. 244-245. This theme is not in use anymore during the Mamluk period.

98

Ibid., viii, p. 246-251.

99

Ibid., viii, p. 252-259.

100

Ibid., viii, p. 259-262. This theme is not in use anymore during the Mamluk period.

101

Ibid., viii, p. 263-274.

102

Ibid., viii, p. 274-290.

103

Ibid., viii, p. 290-298.

104

Ibid., viii, p. 299-303. This type of letter is rare.

105

Ibid., viii, p. 303-305.

106

Ibid., viii, p. 306-307.

107

Ibid., viii, p. 308-310.

108

Ibid., viii, p. 310-311. This type of letter was abandoned during the Mamluk period.

109

Ibid., viii, p. 312-313.

110

Ibid., viii, p. 313-328. This theme is not in use anymore during the Mamluk period.

111

Ibid., viii, p. 328-333.

112

Ibid., viii, p. 333-335.

113

Ibid., viii, p. 336-339. This type of letter was rare during the Mamluk period.

114

Ibid., viii, p. 339-341.

115

Ibid., viii, p. 341-346. This type of letter was abandoned during the Mamluk period.

116

Ibid., viii, p. 346-351.

117

Ibid., viii, p. 351-356.

118

Ibid., viii, p. 356-357. During the Mamluk period, this type of letter was only addressed to the viceroy and the local population.

119

Ibid., viii, p. 357-358.

120

Ibid., viii, p. 358. It should be sent according to the necessary delay and with appropriate gifts.

121

Ibid., viii, p. 366-367.

123

Ibid., viii, p. 368.

124

Ibid., viii, p. 368.

125

Ibid., viii, p. 368-369. Here, too, al-Qalqašandī quotes Ibn Ḫalaf without giving further details as to whether this theme of response was still used.

126

Ibid., viii, p. 369.

127

Ibid., viii, p. 369-370.

128

Ibid., viii, p. 370. al-Qalqašandī expands the theme of the initial response from the excuse in case of defeat to include the excuse in case of military faults that dealt to the seizure of the sultan’s army.

129

Ibid., viii, p. 370.

130

Ibid., viii, p. 370-371.

131

Ibid., viii, p. 371. This type of (initial) letter was abandoned during the Mamluk period, but al-Qalqašandī does not specify one for the response.

132

Ibid., viii, p. 371.

133

Ibid., viii, p. 372-373. al-Qalqašandī confirms here that this theme was not in use anymore during the Mamluk period.

134

Ibid., viii, p. 373-374.

135

Ibid., viii, p. 374.

136

Ibid., viii, p. 374.

137

Ibid., viii, p. 374.

138

Ibid., viii, p. 374-375.

139

Ibid., viii, p. 375.

140

Ibid., viii, p. 375.

142

Ibid., viii, p. 275-277.

145

Ibid., p. 201-202.

146

Al-Qalqašandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā, viii, p. 369-370.

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