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Abstract

This article examines the social meaning of philology in Arabic from the perspective of a contemporary Indian Shīʿī Muslim community, known as the Alawi Bohras. Rather than approaching philology as a tradition of canonical texts, it considers philology as a social act: a set of practices that are imbedded socially in the community. We focus on the community’s khizāna, or manuscript treasury, and investigate its social role as a sacred site of philology, its Arabic manuscripts being only accessible to the highest clerics. Even though inaccessible to believers, the khizāna manuscripts have rich social lives as objects of concealment, agency, and healing. These social lives precisely lay bare the encounter between the philological and the community. As a study in social codicology that explores this encounter, the case of the Alawi Bohras is an invitation to rethink the social meaning of philology and manuscripts in Muslim societies.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

The article examines the efforts of Muḥammad al-Mahdī al-Fāsī (d. 1605) and his readers in the Ottoman domains to reconstruct an authoritative version of Muḥammad b. Sulaymān b. Abī Bakr al-Jazūlī’s (d. 1465) Dalā’il al-khayrāt. In his commentary on the Dalā’il, al-Fāsī recorded his collation of multiple versions of al-Jazūlī’s work. The commentary and its contribution to a notion of an authoritative and authorial version of Dalā’il al-khayrāt accompanied al-Jazūlī’s text in its journey to the eastern parts of the Islamic world and helped readers there bridge a two-century gap in the transmission of the work. The article studies the manners in which Ottoman readers/reciters of Dalā’il used al-Fāsī’s commentary to create a channel to al-Jazūlī and the divine. In so doing, the article seeks to draw attention to additional functions of the genre of the commentary in the Islamic tradition. Moreover, by focusing on the textual practices of al-Fāsī and his Ottoman readers, the essay argues that the act of collation of the multiple versions of Dalā’il al-khayrāt was in and of itself an ethical act of devotion that manifested the readers’/reciters’ quest for proximity to al-Jazūlī.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article explores how the encounter of Arabic with Tamil discourses on language limited as well as enabled a particular instantiation of Islamic discourse. It argues that, rather than allowing a hyperglossic extension of Arabic grammatical and poetical discourses to Tamil, Muslim Tamil poets clearly demarcated the respective domains of Tamil and Arabic grammar, thereby making each relevant only to the language it originally defined. The prime space of interaction between the two languages was afforded by Arabic vocabulary, as Tamil grammar implicitly permitted the utilization of Arabic words in Tamil poetry. The equalization of the two languages in the realms of grammar and poetics was, however, threatened both by Arabic’s simultaneous status as a divine language and by the porousness of the boundary between the two languages occasioned by ignorance of the system of equivalences created through learned discourse.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article takes part in the recent project of reevaluating the place, role, and importance of different forms of engagement with Arabic and Arabic manuscripts in seventeenth-century Spain, and more broadly in Europe, by focusing on a single institution—the royal library of San Lorenzo of the Escorial. I examine if, and how, the Escorial fits within the new narrative of the history of Arabic in seventeenth- century Spain. Did the presence of an exceptionally sizeable collection of Arabic texts facilitate, hinder, or have no effect on the new Orientalism of the seventeenth century? More specifically, the article explores four questions: (1) What did Spanish and European scholars think about the collection of Arabic manuscripts in the Escorial? (2) What did the Hieronymites, the friars in charge of the library, do with its Arabic manuscripts? (3) What did the Hieronymites think about the study of Arabic? and (4) What access to the collection, if any, did Spanish and European scholars have? The answers to these questions suggest that the Escorial became a shrine of Arabic knowledge, to which scholarly pilgrims sought access, and that during seventeenth century Spain preserved its reputation among European orientalists as an important site for the study of Arabic.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article draws from historical treatises on Arabic grammar, alongside modern theories of untranslatability and translation ethics, to argue for both the practical feasibility and the ethical potential of accounting for the grammatical Arabic dual inflection in English translations of Arabic literature. It considers the dual to possess certain formal qualities—of sound, sense, affective impact, and ontological significance—that require a correspondingly material and embodied mode of engagement from the translator, which is described here with reference to my own published translation of a contemporary Lebanese novel. Ultimately, I propose that such an approach enables new and more ethical ways of reading from an Anglophone audience.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

By producing certain types of knowledge and discourse and rendering medieval sources such as Ibn Khaldūn into the terms of that discourse, colonial Orientalists delimited what it was possible to know about both the medieval and modern Maghrib. Concerned with the narrative of the “Arabization” of the Maghrib distilled out of Ibn Khaldūn by colonial scholars, the field of Arabic dialectology attempted to use linguistic research on modern Arabic to buttress this narrative while employing it to categorize its results. This article examines how particular categories such as divisions of “Bedouin” dialects originated through this type of colonial scholarship, and how they have lived on until now as the categories into which current research is fit.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

The article traces the transformations in Arabic editorial practices from the mid-19th century through the early decades of the 20th-century. Focusing on the publishing world of Cairo, the article examines some of the major political, cultural and technological conditions that shaped editorial choice and technique. The article explores continuities as well as ruptures with traditional Arabic-Islamic editorial practice, and assesses the impact of 19th-century European philological and historical scholarship. Particular attention is given to examining innovation in editorial practice, textual form, and modes of research over the course of a century.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article aims to highlight sociolinguistic aspects of an Arabic text from the sixth/twelfth century, its reception, and the commentaries on it. Soon after its publication, the linguistic treatise Durrat al-ghawwāṣ fī awhām al-khawāṣṣ by al-Ḥarīrī (d. 516/1122) became a model for discussing the subject of laḥn (solecism) in Arabic, and remained so throughout the following centuries. Rather than attributing this to fixed practices of premodern commentary culture, the article seeks to explain the scholars’ lively and nuanced engagement with Durrat al-ghawwāṣ by focusing on their identification with the social group of the khāṣṣa, which distinguishes itself through language mastery, and by connecting the interest in linguistic treatises to sociocultural developments in the Arab-Islamic realm during the Mamlūk and Ottoman periods.

In: Philological Encounters
In: Philological Encounters
Muqarnas 36 features a stunning variety of Islamic art genres, ranging from monumental architecture, manuscripts, textiles, and tiles, to inscriptions, material objects, and forgery. It sweeps across India, Iran, and Turkey, and concludes in Britain, with the discovery of an Ashmolean Museum objet d’art that is not exactly what it is advertised to be.
The volume begins with an overview by Finbarr Barry Flood of the architecture, calligraphy, epigraphy, painting, and portable arts of pre-Mughal Islamicate South Asia. Pre-Mughal court culture has always played second fiddle to the overwhelming hegemony and brilliance of the Mughal dynasty but in its regional heterogeneity it is more than worthy of study. This is followed by two essays examining manuscript illumination: Cailah Jackson, 2017 winner of the Margaret B. Ševčenko Prize in Islamic Art and Culture, discusses two manuscripts illuminated by Mukhlis ibn ʿAbdallah al-Hindi in thirteenth-century Konya; and Denise-Marie Teece treats the early sixteenth-century Safīna manuscript (Biblioteca Reale Ms. Or. 101), its illuminator Ruzbehan al-Modhahheb, and its unique six-page preface. A Byzantine stole with embroidered Arabic inscriptions in the collection of Vatopediou Monastery on Mount Athos is the subject of the fourth essay by Nikolaos Vryzidis. The volume’s seven essays conclude with three investigations into Ottoman art history: the blue-and-white tiles of the Baba Naqqaş style of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, as prominently displayed in the Muradiye Mosque in Edirne (Patricia Blessing), the architectural book Risāle-i Miʿmāriyye of the seventeenth-century Caʿfer Efendi and in particular his notes on surveying and the architect’s cubit (Gül Kale), and the evolution of the late sixteenth-century Ottoman custom of requiring the sultan to be victorious over the non-Muslim enemy and to only use spoils from the holy war in the construction of a sultanic mosque (Samet Budak).
The Notes and Sources section continues with Bill Hickman’s analysis of the tantalizing calligraphed tiles of the now destroyed mosque built for the Sufi shaykh and poet Eşrefoğlu Rumi (d. 1469?), and two communications about artifacts on British soil: a wooden box, believed to have contained the heart of Abbot Roger de Norton (d. 1291), with an Arabic inscription that is now deciphered by Barry Knight, 147 years after its discovery; and a gorgeous Persian luster bowl in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, which when subjected to UV examination, revealed that it was a product of extensive repair, or “restoration,” over the centuries. A systematic examination of the bowl and its remarkable history by Francesca Leoni and her colleagues uncovers a level of fakery of antiques that, it is suggested, might be prevalent in museum ceramic collections.