World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Ulama' in the later middle ages: Socio-economic and intellectual aspects (312) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Prof. Dpt. of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa (Israel)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Amalia Levanoni

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The panel will dwell on socio-economic and intellectual aspects of urban 'ulama in Islam between 11th-16th centuries. The papers will show ''ulama'' scholarship and dogmatic discourse, their social, their political and academic networks, and their economic position and relate them to their strategies for social survival.

Chair: Michael Winter, Tel Aviv University

Paper presenter: Manueal Marin, CCHS-CSIS, Social mobility and socio-economic background among Andalusi scholars
Biographical dictionaries on `ulamâ’ are one of the richest sources for the study of urban elites in al-Andalus. Biographical data on `ulamâ’ living during the 11th - 13th centuries will be presented and analyzed around the following subjects: definitions of wealth and poverty, the origins of wealth among scholars (urban or rural properties, trade, administrative jobs), scholarship and crafts, and scholarship as a factor for social mobility among Andalusis.

Paper presenter: Li Guo, University of Notre Dame (USA), Ibn Taymiya and Ibn al-Hajj on Music and Dance
This paper is aimed at a close reading of the chapter on music and dance, which is part of Ibn al-Hajj’s general manual on ethics titled al-Madkhal ila tanmiyat al-a’mal bi-tahsin al-niyyat (‘An introduction to the development of moral behavior through the improvement of virtuous motives’). Its content, style, and major arguments will be analyzed, then compared with Ibn Taymiya’s (d. 1328) denunciation of music and dance, summarized in his Risala fi al-sama’ wa-al-raqs (‘On music and dance’). This is to be followed by a synthesis that seeks to frame this anti-music discourse within the Sunni ‘ulama’s anti-Sufi campaigns in Egypt and Syria in the post-Mongol era.

Paper presenter: Amalia Levanoni, University of Haifa, The Taqariz: A Source for the Study of 'Ulama's Intellectual and Social Organization
The taqariz (s. taqriz), though a genre that tend to be formulaic in form and style, are important source for the study of Mamluk cultural history. Beyond the standards of knowledge and ethical values a Muslim 'alim should aspire to, the taqariz extend valuable information about the dynamics within the ''ulama'' social and educational networks. The taqar’z occasionally reveal details about the practices individual scholars utilized to navigate within their miliue.The paper will dwell on the taqariz written in praise of a panegyric biography composed by Shams al-Din Muhammad Ibn Nahid (757-841/1356-1438) in 819/1416 for the Mamluk sultan al-Mu'ayyad Shaykh (815/1412-821/1421) entitled al-Sira al-Sharifa al-Mu'ayyadiyya. The paper will investigate the background of this elitist group of 'ulama and the motives that led them to compose the taqariz for Ibn Nahid. Then, an attempt will be made to place the case of these taqariz in the general context of the ''ulama'' negotiations for heirarchy, struggle for ranking status and the standards of inclusion and exclusion within their sector.

Paper presenter: Michael winter, Tel Aviv University, 'Ulama of Damascus and Ottoman 'ulama during the late Mamluk and early Ottoman periods' relations and comparisons
Since the mid-fifteenth century, after the conquest of Constantinople, the empire established its religious training system, which was becoming more elaborate and developed. The Ottomans became self-sufficient in the training of their scholars, teachers, medrese professors, imams, preachers and judges. The empire developed a rigid and hierarchical structure of government, and this included the ‘ilmiyye, the learned establishment. Never before in Islam had the madrasas been formally graded into several categories, as did the Ottomans. The Ottoman innovation was that the training and teaching in the various ranks of the top medreses determined the exact rank of the judicial position to which the graduate or the former müderris (professor) would be entitled. In classical Islam, higher education was mainly individualistic, between a student and a teacher, who awarded a personal license to teach (ijaza). Under the Ottomans, it was the medrese that awarded the ijaza after the student passed an examination. After the Ottoman conquest of Syria and Egypt in 1516-17, the Arab lands became Ottoman provinces, and the relations between Arabic-speaking and Turkish-speaking ‘ulema assumed a new shape. Now the Turkish ‘ulema represented the rulers. The senior scholars were called mollas, maw’l’in Arabic. Those who were appointed as chief judges in the cities of Syria and Egypt were superior to the Arabic-speaking, local qadis, who could hold only the lower positions in the provincial judicial hierarchy. The new situation was full of ambiguities. Since the Arabic language has always been the basis of Islamic religious learning, it was taught in the Ottoman medreses. Yet, the Arabs had natural advantages over their Turkish counterparts in this essential skill. There is ample evidence that immediately after the Ottoman conquest, Arab ‘ulema accused the Ottoman scholars of ignorance of the Shar’ law. In spite of their ability to read, and sometimes also to write, Arabic, the Turks’ ability to speak the language was inevitably limited. In time, this changed gradually, since many Ottoman ‘ulema became fluent in Arabic, and Arab historians praised their Islamic learning. The Ottomans respected the long tradition of Muslim scholarship of the madrasas of the Arab lands, al-Azhar in particular.