Despite the calamities of the fourteenth century, the Black Death, the disintegration of political power, and the destructive rivalry between North African and Andalusī rulers, the correspondence of two scholars and ministers, Ibn al-Khaṭīb and Ibn Khaldūn, reveals a network of intellectual contacts maintained above the fray. As Ibn al-Khaṭīb’s famous essay, the “Art of Being a Minister,” made clear, the intelligentsia saw itself as both within and above the political milieu. The conferring of diplomas from teacher to student was based as much on personal loyalty as on scholarship. In the same century, however, many members of the intellectual club, including Ibn Khaldūn and his teachers, complained that rulers limited the traditional freedoms of the scholars and ministers. Ibn Khaldūn articulated these moves as assaults on true scholarship. The intellectuals writing the history of the fourteenth-century Mediterranean were not simply agents of the rulers they worked for; rather, even as rivals they saw themselves as guardians in a family of letters, linked more by the ijāza than by blood. They were, or at least aspired to be, members of an intellectual class that transcended political and, sometimes, religious boundaries.
George MakdisiThe Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press1981) 239; Louis Gardet La Cité musulmane: vie sociale et politique (Paris: Vrin 1954).
Richard W. Bulliet“Orientalism and Medieval Islamic Studies,” in The Past and Future of Medieval Studiesed. John Van Engen (Notre Dame in: Notre Dame University Press 1994) 94–104 94. The situation since Bulliet’s article has improved dramatically in terms of the number of monographs and translations. On biographical and onomastic studies specific just to al-Andalus see the large series of books under the title “Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Andalus.” For a survey there is vol. 8 the study of Manuela Marín and Manuela Ávila Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Andalus: Vol viii. Biografías y género biográfico en el occidente islámico (Madrid: csic 1997).