This chapter addresses the social and geographic mobility of West African ʿulamāʾ in the 10th/16th–11th/17th centuries by analyzing the biographies of sūdānī scholars made by Aḥmad Bābā al-Tinbuktī (d. 1036/1627) and other contemporary sources from premodern bilād al-sūdān. Although all the available textual evidence is clearly self-centered, focusing almost exclusively on Timbuktu, in the case of the Timbuktu Chronicles, and on the author’s own household, in the case of Aḥmad Bābā’s tarājim, it permits to catch a glimpse at both aspects of the intellectual life of the region. Aḥmad Bābā’s household, the Aqīt clan, appears as paradigmatic of social mobility through specialized scholarship. The central role of Egypt (Cairo) as a center of learning for the sūdānī learned elites in this period will also be analyzed, to the detriment of North Africa. Finally, a special remark will be made on the author’s reflections on the political leadership of the ʿulamāʾ, which could be interpreted in terms of the self-consciousness of the Ṣanhāja trading elites in a context of lack of regional authoritative power, that of the decay of the Songhay Empire.
Despite his scholarly influence and contribution in the medieval Muslim world and beyond, modern academic studies on the life of Imām al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085) are rare. The existing studies mention a brief biography of Imām al-Ḥaramayn as a form of introduction to a larger project, which is essentially inadequate to understand the development of his scholarship and professional career and his role and contribution in the formation of Sunnī orthodoxy in the eleventh century. In order to understand Imām al-Ḥaramayn’s place in the Islamic intellectual history more comprehensively, this article focuses more on how Imām al-Ḥaramayn’s mobility shapes his religious credential, scholarly career, and intellectual reputation in the context of the Saljūq’s political project of Sunnī political unity. By examining biographical dictionaries, secondary literature, and Imām al-Ḥaramayn’s writings, this study argues that his mobility enabled him to gain a well-established credential and authority within Sunnī-minded scholars, scholarly career, and intellectual reputation that makes him able to offer a new understanding of Sunnī orthodoxy in the Saljūq era.
This chapter examines state literature in Iran during the period of Afghan rule which followed the overthrow of the Ṣafavids in 1135/1722. The new Afghan Hotakid dynasty consolidated their claim on Iran’s imperial throne through a number of civil institutions. Chief among these was the Secretariat, responsible for producing state literature. Through examining the Hotakids’ edicts, seals, diplomatic correspondence, peace treaties, and other state literature produced by the Secretariat, the chapter seeks to identify and analyse the epistolary practices which served to legitimate the Hotakid state. The professionals who staffed the Secretariat, the scribes and secretaries, drew upon a number of concepts and practices from the Ṣafavid era to construct a discourse in which the Afghan ruler emerges as an exemplar of Persianate imperial authority and just rule. Even the reversal in state religious ideology – from Shiʾi to Sunni – was expressed using the epistolary language and motifs of late Ṣafavid state literature. The establishment of a new state religion also led to the introduction of Sunni officials in the Chancellery, altering its denominational composition. All these arguments serve to demonstrate the inter-dynastic professional mobility at play among Chancellery staff.
This study examines the interrelatedness between professional mobility and the production of Islamic political thought. It argues that the diverse professional careers of the two Shāfiʿī-Ashʿarī jurists and Sufis, Ibn Ṭalḥa (d. 652/1254) and Ibn Jamāʿa (d. 733/1333), shaped the political ideas and stylistic features of their treatises. The first case study examines Ibn Ṭalḥa’s al-ʿIqd al-farīd li al-malik al-saʿīd (The unique necklace for a content king) and offers clues on the impact of the author’s professional mobility under the Artuqids and late Ayyubids on his original and eclectic style. It shows that Ibn Ṭalḥa’s work was an amalgamation of genres of advice literature that reflected the diversity of his professional background. The second case study relies on Ibn Jamāʿa’s three extant political treatises to study the expansion of the author’s political theory alongside his thriving career and professional mobility under the Mamluks. This examination, which covers Taḥrīr al-aḥkām fī tadbīr ahl al-Islām (Drafting ordinances towards running the affairs of the people of Islam), allows the shift in Ibn Jamāʿa’s postulations on political authority in Islam to be traced.
This paper challenges the established paradigm that state and scholars in the Umayyad period were antagonists, engaging in a prolonged power struggle over who would become the authority on Islamic doctrine and religion. It argues that the intellectual and political spheres of the early Islamic period are too closely intertwined to be forced into a binary model and thus deserve a more thorough investigation. At the same time, it challenges the narrow definition of scholars as “religious,” as the men of learning at the time commanded a broad range of subjects, encompassing not only matters of faith, but also pre-Islamic history, Arabic language and poetry, as well as legal issues. By way of a case study, it focuses on two scholars hailing from Medina, Qabīṣa b. Dhuʾayb (d. ca. 86/705) and Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī (d. 124/742), who each make their way to the caliphal court in Damascus. The paper both tracks their spatial mobility in the pursuit of a better life and studies their professional mobility within the Umayyad state. To illustrate the terms of interaction between these scholars and the political authorities, it assesses their motivations in moving to the Damascene court, analyzes their initial encounters with the rulers as portrayed in the sources, and examines their scholarly qualifications vis-à-vis the official posts they were entrusted.
The Andalusī ʿulamāʾ enjoyed a great power. At times, they constituted a threat for the rulers who, on the other hand, needed their support. Judges were a fundamental piece in this tug of war; they were ʿulamāʾ, but they were appointed by the ruler and, in consequence, they were closer to the political power. In this contribution I aim to examine the way in which the consecutive Andalusī rulers employed different types of professional mobility (vertical/social, horizontal, i.e. movements between legal/religious and administrative posts- and spatial mobility) as a political strategy to keep the ʿulamāʾ controlled. Were specific policies applied particularly successful? Professional mobility was a crucial aspect in the political and intellectual life of all the medieval Islamic societies but, oblivious to the Eastern madrasa system, al-Andalus followed its own conservative institutional development. The study of the particular process of scholarly professionalization in al-Andalus will help us improving our knowledge on the social dynamics in the premodern Islamic West. A recently created digital resource, the PUA database (see details below), has been essential for the completion of this study, since it allowed the performance of diverse searches that have shed light on specific aspects, such as the inclusion of commoners in the judicature or the increase of spatial mobility in concrete periods among other issues.
Ibn Taymiyya is one of the most studied and known ʿulamāʾ of the Medieval period. While his fatwas and positions on dogmatic, legal, philosophical and political matters have aroused the interest of researchers and are beginning to become well-known, his mobility has been less frequently investigated. Contemporary chroniclers of the 7th/13th–8th/14th centuries and Ibn Taymiyya’s own writings provide numerous and informative details concerning his life, which allows us to trace with precision, to determine and to understand his mobility during his lifetime. While this article occasionally analyses certain passages of Ibn Taymiyya’s life, it is not intended to be an exhaustive biographical investigation; rather, this article focuses on Ibn Taymiyya’s mobility and examines certain aspects that allow to better understand his character and psychology, and therefore his interests and positions on theological, law, philosophical and political questions. Moreover, examining Ibn Taymiyya’s patterns of mobility improves our knowledge of the Mamluk era’s ʿulamāʾ and their role in the social and political spheres of the sultanate.
Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s biographical work, Kitāb Tārīkh Baghdād, contains biographies of thousands of ḥadīth scholars associated with Baghdad. The last part includes a record of 32 female scholars (muḥaddithāt) who lived between the 2nd/8th century and al-Baghdadi’s own days in the 5th/11th century. What these women had in common was their relationship to the transmission of ḥadīth that they acquired mostly from their male relatives, who belonged to the ʿulamāʾ religious scholars’ network. This article explores the professional, social, and geographical mobility of these women by trying to answer questions related to their education and access in the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries. The material allows us to conclude that alhough the muḥaddithāt, with few exceptions, had limited geographical and professional mobility, they increasingly added to the social capital of their families.
The professional mobility of the Muʿtazilī theologian and Qāḍī ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī (d. 415/1025) and his connivance with scientific and political circles have contributed not only to his scientific success but also to his access to the highest function of chief judge (qāḍī al-quḍāt). After his training in ḥadīth in Hamadhān and theology in Basra – where he would have switched his Ashʿarī obedience to join the Muʿtazilī circle – he went to Baghdād to follow the teachings of Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Baṣrī (d. 369/980) who recommended him to Ibn ʿAbbād (d. 385/995), advisor and future vizier of the Būyid leaders Muʾayyid al-Dawla (d. 373/984) and Fakhr al-Dawla (d. 387/997). In a Shīʿī ideological and political context ʿAbd al-Jabbār, as a Sunnī scholar, was named qāḍī al-quḍāt of Rayy. His relationship to political power extended his legal authority to the provinces of Jurjān, Tabaristān and Hamadhān. Through the study of historical sources, this article examines how the social mobility have contributed to the professional advancement of this qāḍī and, also under the light of his spatial mobility, uncover his administrative and legal influence that has spread to other functions and other provinces. To what extent did his circle of knowledge help him in his professionalization and career advancement? How did political power enable his success, while leading – years later – to his removal? I will argue that even though the social mobility of ʿAbd al-Jabbār had allowed him to acquire theological knowledge and to reach the highest function of qāḍī al-quḍāt, it is for strategic reasons of power that he was deprived later of exercising this function.