State document: Yevr.-Arab. I 1986

State document Yevr.-Arab. I 1986


Input date

In PGP since 2022


Letter from an unnamed Fatimid official in Alexandria to Najīb al-Dawla. Dating: second half of the eleventh century. 36 lines preserved, written in an elegant chancery hand with very wide line-spacing. Najīb al-Dawla is a higher-level official than the author of the letter, but the author also has quite a bit of command and responsibility, and the ability to issue to levy and cancel taxes and to issue decrees on the spot in a region of the delta, so perhaps he is a local governor — although he refers to a different ʿāmil in his letter. The author writes to report to Najīb al-Dawla on his activities in the delta and in a village called Tarūja, which is southeast of Alexandria. Topics, in order of appearance: 1. Soldiers who have taken an oath of loyalty to the Fatimid dynasty. 2. The author's postponement of one leg of his journey, to Tarūja, until the coming Thursday, which will cut short his time with the governor. 3. A state occasion attended by all the soldiers, leaders and elders of the city (unclear which city), as well as its governor and its postmaster, on which occasion a certain adopted son of the Sharīf repeated an admonishment to the leaders of said city and to the Banū Qurra. 4. The arrival of the addressee, Najīb al-Dawla, and his touring with the addressee around the rest of the districts to collect taxes. 5. The soldiers’ protests about staying in the garrison, which furnish the author with an excuse for failing to fulfill his other duties, perhaps collecting taxes. 6. The author's success in eliminating crime in a certain district thanks to a tax-farm of 400 dinars that paid for policing. The elimination of crime allowed him to reward the district by lifting taxes on popular foods (al-maṭāʿim al-ḥabība), provisions and necessities, a policy he announced by writing [decrees], reading them in the town and having them sent to the rest of the districts. 7. The delay of the endorsement of a certain memorandum concerning the writer. 8. The return of the author's son to him. 9. The author's wish to receive more official duties from Najīb al-Dawla, a request he expresses with what might be a raʾy clause (but there is a lacuna). 10. A visit that the author made to the aforementioned adopted son of the Sharīf, Abū Ṭālib al-Ḥusayn, at his estate (which is named, but there is a lacuna); there, he ran into Ḥusay[n] and Ḥasan b. Mahdī and […] b. Jābir the captain (khardar). The letter was cut up and turned into ten bifolios that were folded into a single quire; on this, the well-known late-eleventh-century Qaraite ʿAlī b. Sulaymān wrote extracts in Hebrew and Arabic script of Kitāb al-anwār wa-l-marākib by the tenth-century Iraqi Qaraite al-Qirqisānī. ʿAlī b. Sulaymān included two colophons with his name (fols. 5r and 17r), but neither is dated or mentions a place of writing. ʿAlī b. Sulaymān was active in Jerusalem ca. 436/1045, where he studied with some of the well-known Qaraites of the Dār al-ʿIlm, and then in Tinnīs ca. 1057 and Fustat ca. 1080, where he signed and dated colophons (see Borisov [1954]). He may have been active as late as 1103, according to a colophon with a problematic date of 415 (is this [1]415 Sel., or 1103? a hijrī dating would be too early). Assuming his floruit was 1045–1103, our letter would date to ca. 1050–1100; this also assumes, as was the usual practice, a relatively brief turnaround time between state-related documents being discarded and their being reused. Where and how did ʿAlī b. Sulaymān acquire the letter? Was he active in state circles in Egypt in the late eleventh century? He was close with Sahl b. al-Faḍl al-Tustarī, a muʿtazilī philosopher-theologian who was a government administrator in Jerusalem in the 1090s under the Seljuks; but the letter reflects an Egyptian Fatimid context, not a Syrian Seljuk one, so al-Tustarī is unlikely to be its author, unless he had an otherwise unattested appointment in Egypt before his appointment in Jerusalem. The FGP images are missing a folio between what it labels folios 14r and 15r. This would be folio 11 according to the pencilled numbers on the bottom of the recto pages of the manuscript, and it would have been part of a blank verso of the original letter. MR