Letter: CUL Or.1081 2.4

Letter CUL Or.1081 2.4


Input date

In PGP since 2020


Letter in Judaeo-Arabic to a certain Abū Ṭāhir containing interesting technical details of the capitation tax administration. The writer heard from Manṣūr al-Dimashqī "may God protect him" (possibly identical with the recipient Abū Ṭāhir—otherwise how is Abū Ṭāhir connected to the story?) that he has been drawn into the matter of Mūsā b. al-Maghribī's capitation tax. Mūsā had been selling off his qumāsh (household furnishings? his wife's dowry?) when he went to the governor (al-wālī), possibly of al-Benha, and said "this man [presumably the letter writer] is my guarantor (ḍamīnī), and I make my payment in Malīj." The governor said, "Impossible! Show me your acquittances (barāwātak)." Mūsā brought the acquittances. The sequence of events becomes blurry around here due to the missing ends of lines. A speculative reconstruction is as follows: The governor said that he had been ordered to collect the capitation tax from a group of people who still owed it for "years 8 and 9" but it then transpired that the record (al-jarīda) in the tax bureau (al-dīwān) showed that someone else had already collected their capitation taxes—perhaps because they, like Mūsā, were registered elsewhere? The governor then says he will take the list to the authorities (al-sulṭān) and report that these people actually live in his district. The text in the margin is fragmentary but mentions the capitation tax farmer in Malīj (ḍāmin al-jawālī bi-Malīj) and, later, "let him pay it in al-Benha." The upper margin is lost. When the story resumes on verso, someone—perhaps the governor of al-Benha—is saying, "I will not let you off without a capitation tax payment for year 8, as the authorities (al-sulṭān) have ordered." The writer continues, "We are in a difficult situation with him [perhaps the tax farmer of Malīj]." The writer concludes by beseeching Abū Ṭāhir at least twice not to "oppose (tuʿāriḍ). . . [something or someone] that is in al-Benha." The meaning of this is not immediately clear. Perhaps the writer, in Malīj, is now facing trouble with the local tax farmer, because the governor of al-Benha is trying to transfer the tax revenue to his own district, and the writer wishes Abū Ṭāhir and Mūsā would not stir up any further trouble with the authorities. See Moss. IV,7 (L 12) for another use of עארץ in relation to the capitation tax. The references in this letter are quite opaque, and there are probably many other interpretations consistent with what remains of it. ASE.