Ibadis on (and in) the Margins

Manuscript Notes from the Buffalo Agency in Early-Modern Cairo

In: Journal of Islamic Manuscripts
Paul M. Love Jr. Al Akhawayn University Morocco Ifrane

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From at least the 17th century onward, a sizeable Maghribi Ibadi community lived, studied, and worked in the city of Cairo, centered around a trade agency, school, and library known as the ‘Buffalo Agency’ (Wikālat al-Jāmūs). Over nearly four centuries, this agency served as a hub for Ibadi intellectual activity and manuscript production. Despite its place of prominence in the history of early-modern Ibadi communities, manuscripts are some of the only surviving evidence of its existence. Using manuscript notes from and catalog data on manuscripts either held at the agency’s library or copied there, this article suggests that Ibadis were far from the small, isolated minority community in northern Africa they are often imagined to have been. Instead, the story of the Buffalo Agency points to the ways in which Ibadis very much belonged to the intellectual and commercial worlds of Sunni-dominated Cairo from the 17th–20th centuries.

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