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Bell & Howell Information and Leaming
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Education and Training
Under the Mamliiks
Sevak Joseph Manjikian
Institute of !stamic Studies
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec
February, 1998.
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
in partial fulfilment ofthe requirements ofthe
degree ofMaster of Arts.
o Sevak Joseph Manjikian, 1998
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Notes on Transliteration
Chapter 1. Mamlük Training
Chapter II. Religious Education under the MamIUks
Chapter III. Training ofthe Awliid al-Nas
Author: Sevak Joseph Manjikian
Title: Education and Training under the Mamlüks
Department: Institute ofIslamic Studies
Degree: Master of Arts
This work analyzes the methods the Mamliik Sultanate (1250-1517) used to train
and educate its military and religious elite. Three separate classes of people are
examined: the Mamlüks, the religious elite (Çulama) and finally the children of the
Mamlüks (aw/ad al-nas). It is demonstrated that in order for the Mamlük Sultanate to
function properly, both military and religious scholarship were needed.
During the
Mamlük period, these methods of training and education were not applied in a uniform
Auteur: Sevak Joseph Manjikian
Titre: L'éducation et l'entraînement durant la periode du sultanat mamlük
Département: L'Institut des études islamiques, Université McGill
Diplôme: Maîtrise
Cette thèse analysera les méthodes utilisées par le sultanat mamlük (1250-1517) afm
d'entraîner et d'éduquer son armée et ses fonctionnaires religieux Culama-').
différents groupes d'individus seront étudiés: ce sont les mamliiks, l'élite réligieuse, et les
enfants des mamliiks (awlaï:J al-nas).
Cette thése cherchera à démontrer qu'il était
nécessaire d'encourager le développment de l'éducation religieuse et de l'entraînement
militaire afin d'assurer le bon fonctionment du sultanat manllük.
Durant la période
mamlük, ces méthodes d'entraînement et d'éducation ne furent pas appliquées de manière
Arabie words in eommon use in the English language are not italieized. Proper Arabic
names are not italicized and titles of articles and monographs appear in their original
forIn. The transliteration system ofthis work is as foUows.
~ Initial: unexpressed
') Medial and Final: )
DH ;;
z ,)
V owels, diphthongs.
A:' 1:
w ,?
1 1: \$ fi: .J
Long with tasbdId·
AY: cS
ta marbü!a:
in it/8fa:
A number of people and organizations have assisted me in completing this work.
Professor Donald P. Little supervised tbis project and offered suggestions and criticisms
which were very helpful.
l am greatly appreciative of his support, patience and
encouragement and remain grateful to bave had the opportunity to work with him.
Steve Millier and Wayne St.Thomas both provided me with valuable support at the
Islamic Studies Library.
Dawn Richard and Ann Yaxley have been especially
encouraging and helpful with administrative matters. Roxanne Marcotte assisted me in
translating my abstracto The Institute of Islamic Studies provided me with fellowships
which partially funded my academic endeavors, the Indonesia-Canada Islamic Higher
Education Project and the Islamic Studies Library, especially Salwa Ferahian, further
assisted me through employment.
On a personal note, 1 would like to thank a number of individuals who indirectly
supported my studies. Rees Kassen, Gregg Logan, Loai Louis, Roslyn Macey, Cheeco
and the late Emilo remain unfailing friends; in persan and in spirit. AU my colleagues
at the Institute of Islamïc Studies, whose list includes the entire student body and
library staff: have helped create a dynamic atmosphere in which to learn. Margo Plant
has brightened my life immeasurably and bas been a steady source for my spiritual
fulfilment. Finally I would like to thank my father Hagop, brother Naraig, sister Lalai,
and especiaUy my motber Diroubie who bas been an inspiring educator and wonderful
parent. 1 am tmly blessed to have such a loving family. You have aIl provided me with
everything 1 could ever want \vhile ooly asking for my happiness io retum. To you 1 say
Military training and religious education within the Mamlük Sultanate (1260-1517) were
valued assets which served the ruling military eHte on a number of levels_
The Sultanate
flourished during a precarious period ofhistory. Mongol invasions from Asia and Crusader armies
from Europe threatened Mamlük borders while Mamlük factïonalism pressured the internaI
stability from within. Faced with these imposing threats a capable military force with a training
infrastructure \vas required of the Sultanate. Force alone, however, would not ensure Mamlük
stability. Internal cohesion needed to be maintained through an already existing Islamic
framework which dominated the social landscape of the empire. In order to foster social
religious elites were needed to staffeducational institutions as well as carry out judicial functions.
Finally, education further served the military eUte by preparing their offspring (aw/ad a/-nas) with
either religious or military skills. These skills allowed the children of the Mamlüks to participate
within eUte circles which would have othenvise been denied them due to the non-hereditary
structure ofMam1ük society.
A great deal of scholarship has recently appeared that has discussed, in varions detail and
forro, the military and religious education within Mamlük society. This work will attempt to
piece together the diverse array of scholarship and provide sorne synthesis to Mamlük educational
structures which emerged throughout the bistoI)' of the empire. What will surface from this study
is that Mamlük society had a definite need for the promotion of militaty and relïgious education.
Ho\vever, throughout the history of the empire, no rigid systems developed during their tenure.
In theoryt Mamlüks were white military slaves, imported white still children from Central Asia
and the Caucasus. 1 These boys were purchased for the purpose of staffing the various military
structures which dotted the Middle Eastern landscape during the medieval period.
consisting of slave soldiers were immortalized in Middle Eastern myths and legends follo\ving
their various exploits on the field of battle. One of the most impressive and successful examples
of the military slave system was the Mamlük Sultanate which controlled Egyptian and Syrian
territories during the 13th-15th centuries.2
The regime, which came into being following the assassination of the Ayyübid prince Türan
Shah in 1250, was a peculiar Islamic empire.3 Its UDiqueness stemmed from the fact that it was
govemed by emancipated military slaves. This marked a profound change in the govemorship of
Egypt and Syria. The Ayyübid empire was ruled by members of the Kurdish Ayyübid family
(descendants of ~al34 al-Dln, d.1193), whereas the Mamlüks were former Turkish or Circassian
slaves who had no royal lineage on which to base their rule. These former slaves perpetuated the
system of their govemance by purchasing slaves whom they trained in the art of war and
subsequently placed within the regime's military structures. As these slaves were manumitted,
These two geographic regions represent the areas where a majority of the Mamlüks originated
during the Mamlük Sultanate. They \Vere not, however, the sole source for military slaves. There
also existed Armenian, Persian, Mongol, and Kurdish slaves who made up part of the Mamlük
A great deal of attention has been focused on the Mamlüks of Egypt and Syria by modem
scholarship because of the vast amounts of original source material which is available.
Information in the fonn of official correspondence, biographies and historical texts have provided
modem scholarship with fust-band accounts ofthis Medieval Middle Eastern society.
The Delhi Sultanate of Iodia (1206-1526) is another example of an Islamic empire wbose
origins stem from slave soldiery.
they were able to eompete for the various high-raoking positions \vithin the Mamlük system. The
Mamlük Sultanate did not operate on traditional dynastie cycles. Rather it was a non-hereditary
system whieh saw the most powerful amir promoted (often through election) to the Sultanate
following the death (or assassination) of the previous sovereign.4
This work will foeus on the training and education of Mamlük elites who participated in
military and religious affairs. The fust chapter will discuss the military training system \vhich
evolved under the early Sultans. Obviously for the military regime to survive~ well-structured
training programs were required. Borrowing from their Ayyübid predecessors as well as initiating
new military standards, the early Mamlük Sultans, Baybars (1260-1277) and QaliWÜD (12791290)~
implemented highly discipllned training regimes. The systems of training they introduced
however, followed by subsequent Sultans. What will emerge from the analysis of
military training is that different Sultans, while recognizing the importance of training, could not
maintain the high standards of the founders.
The second ehapter will analyze the system of higher religions education which flourïshed
during Mamlük rule.
Mamliiks needed to harness the existing Islamic social order which
flourished in Syria and Egypt if they were to thrive. Moreover in order to provide legitimacy for
their mIe, Isiamic symbols (which included educational structures), needed to he maintained.
What transpired \Vas an influx of re li gious endowments whieh produced a flowering ofeducational
Although the system was non-hereditary, one family did manage to hold a monopoly over the
Sultanate during the Ba4ii period. Under the Qaliwüoids (1279-1382) a quasi-dYnastie system
The construction of buildings sucb as mosques, khanqahs and madrasas helped
conserve Cairo's status as an inteUectual center of learning during the Mamlûk regime. These
reasons alone were not the ooly motivations for Mamlük spoosorship of educatiooal institutions.
Issues ranging from religious piety to fioancial secmity also influenced the Mamlûk endowmeot of
religious institutions of higher learning.
This chapter will demonstrate that a need for
maintaining scbolarly institutions was present throughout the history of the regime. However,
this need did not translate iDto uniform educational structures; rather the locations at which one
acquired an education were varied.
The third chapter will discuss the education and training of the aw/iid a/-DM (sons of
Mamlüks). This chapter will demonstrate that due to the non-hereditary nature of Mamlük
society, a need emerged for the training and education of Mamlûk progeny. As was in the case of
military training and religious education, uniform systems \vhich prepared the Hw/ad al-oiis did
not exist; ratber, different Mamlüks employed different strategies for the education and training of
their sons.
Ultimately, this study will attempt to demonstrate that education and training played a vital
role \vithin Mamlük society. In order to prepare military and civilian elites with the skills needed
to assume their respective functions, education and training were required. However, the paths
that \vere taken to provide for these skills were not dependent
formalized structures. Rather
diverse methods tlourished during the Mamlük period. What follo\vs is an analysis of these
structures and institutions.
The study of the MamlUk Sultanate is a relatively healthy branch of Middle Eastern
scholarship. PartIy due to the availability ofnumerous primary sources, the sociallandscape along
\Vith the history ofthe Sultanate is slowly being pieced together. In terms of the military training,
one can refer to a great Many books and articles concerning the Mamlüks and retrieve the
foLlowing infonnation: Mamlüks mostly came ta Egypt as non-Muslims, underwent military and
religious education and were thus qualified ta enter the military elite which ruled Egypt and Syria.
For the purposes of this paper however, a more detailed analysis is required in order gain a
broader understanding on the nature ofmilitary training during the Mamlük periode
Ayalon's works L'esclavage du MamelouR, "Notes on the FUTÜsiyya Exercises and Games in
the Mamlük Sultanate'ttÎ, 'The Mamlük Novice: on his Youthfuiness and on his Original
Religion"7, and "Studies on the Structure of the Mamlük Army "8 furnish insightful infonnation
conceming the manner in which slave boys were enslaved, transported and purchased by Mamlük
Sultans and amlrs. Rabie's article "The Training of a Mamlük Fans"9 provides a more focused
David Ayalon, L'esclavage du Mamelouk, in OrientalNotes and Studies, Vol. 1 (Jerusalem:
Israel Oriental Society, (951).
6 Ayalon, "Notes on the FUTÜsiyya Exercises and Games in the Mamlük Sultanate", in Scripta
Hieroso/ymitana, Vol. 9 (1961), pp. 31-62.
7 Ayalon, "The Mamlük Novice: On his Youthfulness and on his Original Religion", in Revue
des études islamiques, Vol. 54 (1986), pp. 1-8.
8 Ayalon, "Studies on the Structure of the Mamlük Anny", in Bulletin ofthe Schoolof
Oriental and Atiican Studies, Vol. 15 (1953), pp. 203-228, and Vol. 16 (1954), pp. 448-476.
Hassanein Rabie, "The Training of the Mamlük Fans", in War, Technology and Society in
the Middle East, ed. V.J. Parry and M.E. Yapp (London: Oxford University Press, (975), pp.
analysis ofmilitary instruction employed by the early Mamlük Sultans. Ôztopçu's translation of
Munyatu' I-Ghuzilo along with Scanlon's A Mus/im Manual of Wall provides insight on
methods of training wbich were detailed in tbese t\VO respective training manuais. Shatzmiller's
article "The Crusades and Islamic Warfare- a Re-Evaluation,,12 describes why more military
manuaIs were produced during the Mam1ük period than any previous period of Islamic history.
Mamlük training made ample use of eunuchs who staffed the military barracks in whicb young
slaves received their formatiolL Ayalon's articles flThe Eunuchs in the Mamlük Society "13 and
"On the Eunuchs in Islam" 14 both cover tbis phenomenon. Moreover, Marmon's work Eunuehs
and Sacred Boundaries in IsJamic SoeietyS, in addition to Patterson's Slavery and Social Dcath/6
provides further data conceming the eunuch's role in facilitating military training.
Levanoni bas
recently fOTmulated a new theory describing the decline of mi lit ary training, which appears in her
Kurtulus Oztopçu, Munyatu' I-Ghuzat (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).
11 George Scanlon, A Mus/im Manual ofWar (Cairo: American University at Cairo Press,
12 Maya Shatzmiller, "The Crusades and Islamic Warfare-a Re-Evaluation", in Der Islam, Vol.
69 (1992), pp. 247-288.
13 Ayalon, "The Eunuchs in the Mamlük Sultanate", in Studies in Memory ofGaston Wiet, ed.
Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press, 1977), pp. 267-295.
14 Ayalon, "On the Eunuchs in Islam", in Jerusalem Studies in Arabie and Islam, Vol. 1 (1979),
pp. 67-124.
IS Shaun Marmon, Eunuchs and SacredBoundaries iD Islamic Society (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995).
16 Orlando Patterson, Slavery and SocialDeath (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982).
book A Tumiog Point in Mam1ük HistOry.17 Ayalon's book Gunpowder and Fireanns in the
Mam1ük Sultanate/ discusses the Mamlük inability to relinquish traditional calvary training in
favour of new military technology.
article "Literary Activities in the MamIiïk Halls and Barracks,,19 has
demonstrated that young MamIüks received sorne instruction in Arabie writing and grammar.
Eckmann's article "The Mamliik-Kipchak Literature,,20 provides a review of different Turkish
dialeets spoken by MamIûles while also furnishing examples of literary worles produced by the
military class.
Haarmann's articles "Ideology and History, Identity and Alterity: The Arab
Image of the Turk from the Abbasids to Modem Egypt
and "Arabie in Speech, Turkish in
Lineage,,22 expIain that despite the rare instances where Mamlüks partieipated in scholarly
activities, their efforts were often ignored or down-played by the culamïi.
Amalia Levanoni, A Tuming Point in Mamlük History: The Third Reign ofal-N8$ir
Mu/Jammad ibn QalaWÜD (1310-1341) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995).
Ayalon, Gunpowder and Firearms in the MamlUk Kingdom: A Challenge to a Mediaeval
Society (London: Frank Cass, 1978).
Barbara Flemming, "Literary Activities in Mamlük Halls and Barracks", in Studies in
Memory OfGastOD Wiet, ed. Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press,
1977), pp. 249-260.
Janos Eckmann, "The Mamlük-Kipchak Literature", in Central Asiatie Journal, Vol. 7 (1962),
pp. 304-319.
Ulrich Haarmann, "Ideology and History, Identity and Alterity: The Arab Image of the Turk
from the Abbasids to Modem Egypt", in lntemational Journal ofMiddle East Studies, Vol. 20
(1988), pp. 175-196.
22 Haarmann, "Arabie in Speech, Turkish in Lineage: Mamliiks and their Sons in the IntelleetuaL
Life of Fourteenth-Century Egypt and Syria", in Journal ofSemitic Studies, Vol. 33 (1988), pp.
One of the most recent works covering education during the Mamlük period is Berkey's The
Transmission of Know/edge iD MedievaJ Cairci3 in which the author outlines the world of
learning in Mamlük society.
Chamberlain's Know/edge and Social Practice in MedievaJ
Damascus (1190-125014 complements Berkey's analysis by demonstrating ho\v the urban
religions elite maintained their status within MamIük society. These two studies also explain that
higher religious education was not based on systematic structures, but rather focused on personal
relationships struck between a student and hislher teacher. Rosenthal's translation of Ibn
KhaldÜD's MuqaddimaJlSprovides fust-hand descriptions of educational patterns of medieval
society, while Leonor Fernandes' article "Mamlük politics and Education,,26 attempts to answer
why the Mamlüks were so eager to fond institutions ofhigher learning.
Sartain's book Jalil aJ-dJn al-Suyüf127 chronicles the life of a prominent scholar while also
describing the nature of education during the later Mamlük period. Mean\vhile Brinners article
Jonathan Berkey, The TransmissioDofKnow/edgeinMedicvalCairo: A SociaJHistoryof
Islamic Education (princeton: Princeton University Press, (992).
Michael Chamberlain, Know/edge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus, /190-1350
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Ibn KhaldÜD, Thc Muqaddimah :an IntroductioD to History, Vol. 3, trans. Franz Rosenthal
(princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969).
26 Léonor Fernandes, "Mamlük Politics and Education: The Evidence from T\vo Fourteenth
Century Waqfiyya'\ in Annales Is/amologiques, Vol. 23 (I987), pp. 87-98.
27 Elizabeth Sartain, Ja/al a/-din al-SuyUfJ; Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
"The Banü ~~ra,,28 analyzes the history of one prominent family which produced a number of
scholars during the Mamlük period. Pedersen's Tbe Arabie BooV9 brings to light the importance
and limitations of written material in Muslim society. And Petry's The Civilian Elite ofMedieval
CairdO analyzes the occupational patterns ofthe' u1aniil and ~üR classes ofCairo.
Educational structures such as the madrasa, masque, and fdJanq8b have been discussed in a
variety of\vorks; Cres\vell's The Muslim Architecture ofEygpl', offers excellent descriptions of
major religious structures and their architectural themes. Fernandes' book, The Evolution ofa
$uD Institution in Mamlük Egypt: the Khanqi!l2, traces the history ofthis particular institution,
while her article "Three ~üfi Foundations in a 15th Century Waqfiyya'33 provides specifie
information pertaining to the layout and occupational patterns of three institutions built by
Sultan al-AshrafBarsbay.
28 William. M. Brinner, "The Banü S~ra: A Study in the Transmission of a Scholarly
Tradition", in Arabica, Vol. 7 (1960), pp. 167-195.
Johannes Pedersen, The Arabic Book trans. Geoffrey French. (princeton: Princeton
University Press, (984).
Carl Petry, The Civi/ian Elite ofCairo in the LaterMiddle Ages (princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1981).
K.A.C. Cres\vell, TheMuslimArcbitectureofEgypt, Vol. 2 (Ne\v York: Hacker Art Books,
Fernandes, The Evolution ofa $üli InstitutioD in Mamlük Egypt: The Khanqah (Berlin:
Klaus Schwartz Verlag, (988).
Fernandes, "Three $üfi Foundations in a 15th Century Waqliyya', in Annales Is/amologiques,
Vol. 17 (1981), pp. 141-156.
Sorne areas ofMamlük society are relatively poorly studied in modem sources; this is certainly
the case of the children ofMamlUks (awliid a/-Dasle Haarmann's articles: "The Sons of Mamlüks
as Fief-Holders in Late Medieval Egypt n34 and "Arabie in Speech, Turkish in Lineagen35 shed light
on a subject which has often eluded Many modem historians.
Meanwhile, Ayalon's article
"Studies on the Structure of the Mamliik Army"36 elucidates on the awliid aJ-nas'participation in
the I:Ialqa.
A number of other worles have also commented on Mamliik education and training. Although
they do not specifically focus on the two themes, they do provide sorne valuable supporting
information. Thorau's The Lion ofEgypr 7 provides an excellent review of the rule of Baybars alBunduqdan. Stephen Humphreys' article "The Emergence of the Mamlük Army"38 covers the
initial military reforms ofBaybars, while Irwin's The Middle East in the Middle Age,l9 and Holt's
34 Haannann, "The Sons ofMamliiks as Fief-holders in Late Medieval Egypt", in Land Tenure
and Social Transformation in the Middle East, ed. TarifKhalidi (Beirut: American University
in Beirut, 1984), pp. 141-168.
35Haannann, "Arabie in Speech"
36Ayalon, "Studies on the Structure"
37 Peter Thorau, The Lion ofEgypt: Sultan Baybars [and the Hear East in the Thirteenth
Century, transe P.M. Hait {London, New York: Longman, 1992).
38 Stephen Humphreys, "The Emergence of the Mamlûk Army", in Studia Islam/ca, Vol. 45
(1977), pp. 67-99, and Vol. 46 (1977) pp. 147-182.
39 Robert Irwin, The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mam1ük Sultanate 1250-1382
(London: Croom Helm, 1986).
The Age ofthe Crusades40 offers analyses ofthe Barltii and Circassian periods of Mamlük history.
Lapidus' work Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages 41 is a rare example of a text which
attempts to shed sorne light on social history during the Mamlük period. And Irwin's article
"Factions in Medieval Egypt,,42 elucidates a major historical theme which flourished throughout
Mamlük history. Petry's t\VO related texts Twilight ofMajesty 4J and Proteetors or Praetorians 44
explain the final years of the Mamlûk Sultanate and its inability to adapt to changing military
Modem scholars have produced various commentaries on the reLigious life of the Mamlük
Sultanate. Little's "Religion Under the Mamlùks,,4S describes the significance religion had for the
military elite. His article "The Nature of Khanqihs, Ribi/s, and Zawiyas under the Mamlüks,,46
offers a brief review ofexisting scholarship on these $iïfI quasi-educational institutions, while also
Peter Holt, The Age ofthe Crusades: The NearEast ûom theEleventh Centuryto 1517
(London: Longman, 1986).
Ira Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the LaterMiddle Ages (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
42 Irwin, "factions in Medieval Egypt", in Journal ofthe Royal Asialic Society (1986), pp. 228246.
Petry, Twilight ofMajesty: The Reigns ofMamluk Sultans al-AshrafQiiytbay and Qiin~iïh alGhawriin Egypt (Seattle: University ofWashington Press, 1993).
Petry, Proteetors orPraetorians? The Last Mamlük Su/tans and Egypt's Waning as a Great
Power(Albany: State University ofNe\v York Press, 1994).
Donald P. Little, "Religion under the Mamlûks" , in The M uslim Worltl, Vol. 73 (1983), pp.
Little, "The Nature of Khiinqihs, Ribii!s, and Ziiwiyas under the Mamlüks", in Islamic
Studies Presented to Charles J. Adams, ed. Wael Hallaq and Donald P. Little (Leiden: E.J. Brill,
introducing the idea that sorne idJanq8bs were also built specifically for women.
Popular Culture in Medieval Egypt demonstrates the importance Sufism had for the non-Mamlük
local population. Annemarie Schimmel's article "Sorne Glimpses of the Religions Life in Egypt
during the Later Mamlük Period" also provides sorne insight into the importance of Sufism in
Egypt and Syria.
Mamlük scholars have an abundance ofprimary sources at their disposaI. The wealth of these
sources, which include historical, bibliographic, philosophical, religious, and legal documents,
have provided Mam1ük scholarship the luxury of critically analyzing and comparing one text
against another. Little's An Introduction to Mamlük Historiography 47 is a study of different
primary sources which discuss the reign of al-~ir Mupammad. His articles; "An Analysis of the
Relationship Behveen Four Mamlük Cbronicles for 737-745,,48 and "Al-~afiidi as Biographer of
his Contemporaries"49 offer further historiographical analysis.
Fernandes' article "Notes on a
Ne\v Source for the Study of Religious Architecture during the Mamlük Period: The
Waqfiyya,,50 and Haarmann's "Mamlük Endowment Deeds as a Source for the History of
1991), pp. 91-106.
Little, An Introduction to Mamlük Historiography: An Ana/ysis ofArabic Annalistic and
Biographical Sources for the Reign ofan-Malik aJ-N8$ir MulJammad ibn Qala'ÜD (Wiesbaden:
Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH, 1970).
48 Little, "An Analysis of the Relationship between Four Mamlük Chronicles for 737-45", in
JournalofSemitic Studies, Vol. 19 (1974), pp. 252-268.
Little, AI-$afiidi as Biographer ofhis Contemporaries", in Essays on Islamic Civilization
Presented to Niyazi Berkes, ed. Donald P. Little (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976), pp. 190-211.
50 Fernandes, "Notes on a New Source for the Study ofReligjous Architecture During the
Mamliik Period: the Waqfiyya" in Al-Abbath, Vol. 33 (1985), pp. 3-12.
Education in Late Medieval Egypt"SI exp Iain that despite sorne shortcomings, waqfdocuments
provide the modem scholar \vith excellent insigbts into Medieval society in general and education
in particular.
Despite the healthy state of Mamlük studies, a number of historiographical problems
complicate the field. Modem scbolarship is mostly based on the accounts of prominent scholars
who produced their work during the Mamlük period. They include the works of Taql l-din APmad
al-Maqnzl (d.1442) and Abü
al-M~asin lamaI
al-din Yüsufibn Taghii Birdi (d.1469-1470). Both
authors undertook their historical reviews almost one hundred-years after the events which they
discuss. Within their worle, scholars offer a great deal of praise and adoration for the early Sultans
of the B$ii period while maintaining a critical view oftheir own rulers. Meanwhile, historians
who lived during the actual periods they discuss \vere often court empioyees and overstated their
patron's achievements. These historians include Mu4y1 al-din ibn 'abd al-~âhir (d. 1292) and N~ir
al-mn Shiifi' ibn'Alf (d.1330) who produced their texts during the early Baqii period.
These inconsistencies aside, a wealth of information exists conceming Mamlük society. So
far, however no general \vork describing Mamlük education exists, ooly studies of specifie aspects.
From these sources this paper will attempt to piece together a general understanding of military
training and religious education. Ultimately the study will conclude that education and training
in Mamlük society did Dot follo\v rigid patterns. Rather, religious and military pedagogy proved
Haarmann, "Mamlûk Endo\vment Deeds as a Source for the History of Education in Late
Medieval Egypt", in al-Abhath, Vol. 28 (1980), pp. 31-47.
to be a multi-dimensional component ofsociety.
The Mamruk Suftanate (l250-l5l7) was a society in wbich a military class, consisting offanner slaves, carœ
to dominate the political and economic Iandscape ofSyria and Egypt. The Mamruks' ability to govem society
came fiom their military strength. The military wœ a standing professional anny which, according to Ayalon's
assertion, consisted ofthree distinct categori~ the RoyalMamr~ the aniirs' Mamruks and finaDy the ~al
The Royal Mamruks were those slave soldiers who were purcha-;ed, trained and rnanumitted by the Sultan.
During their time spent wdergoing militéllY training, strong bonds (ldJushOashiyya) were forged bet\veen the
Sultan and his Mamruks and between fellow Mamruks. The streogth derived fiom these Ioyalties enabled the
Sultan ta maintain his position ofpower. From these troops the Sultan would choose a group ofelite members
ta make up bis persona! entourage (!dJ~).2 These particular Royal Mamiuks were also afforded great
privileges, most notably the ability to command a smaIl retinœ ofpersonal Mamfuks who were financed by
iqta~ Qand tenures) which the Sultan dispensed.
These aniirs were c~ed according to rank ioto three levels
in which each rank gained its tide fiom the number ofMamruks an aniir \Vas permitted ta purchase and train.
They included the ranks of aniir of ten, forty, and one hundred.3 The Marnruks belonging ta the aniùs
(mamaIik af-lD11ara') constituted an important part ofthe Mamfllk: anny. Ayalon explains that these troops "did
"Studies on the Structure", p. 204.
2Holt, TheAgeoftheC~ p.223.
3Humpbreys, "The Emergence of the Mamruk Anny", pp. 167-176. Dœpite the existence a ~em of
militaxy ranking, in practice the ranking scheme was fluid and often did IlOt function according to the conceptual
model explained above.
not have acœss to the fust-rate militmy scbools in which the [Royal Mamrub] grew ~ and studied''Regardless of their limited militaty strength, these Mamruks aIso shanxi with their patron a bolXi or
khŒlxfimiyya which often cballenged the Sultao's position atop Mamruk society during periods of
factionalisms The hQ major group within the Mamruk standing anny \vas the tfalqa This regiment will he
covered in greater detaîl in the final chapter, but sorne preIiminary remarks are necessary. Once an elite corps of
troops dming the Ayyübid period (1169-1250), the regiment had become a depository for soldietS who were IlOt
ofslave origin during the Mamruk era Thœ the IJaJqa Wé5 male ~ of difkteut groups which inclWed adult
Egyptians, aw1idaf.nasand Mongol soldiers who periodi~ defected to Eg)]lt.
The importance ofmilitary training cannot he overstated. In oIder to provide hitmelfwith a capable and loyal
retinue ofRoyal Mamrub, the reigning Sultan wa-; required to train newly arriving slave boys into military units
capable offrustrating the numeroœ threats facing the empire. Ayalon places a gœat deal ofimportance on the
Royal Mamfuks; he maintains that "[s]o long éti the Mamfuk kingdom was wealthy and powerful, and so long as
its army was well-trained, and ruled with an iron hand, the feeling of fellowship or khus/xlâshiyya COINituted a
positive factor.,J6 In order to prepare sœh a unit, militai}' training needed to follow systematic methods.
Throughout this work the tenn ~ematicwill represent a method of militai)' education which incorporated a
number of stages towards advancement. Sœh rœans were pmsued by the early Mamiuk Sultans, Baybars al-
BtmduqdaÏi (1260-1277) and Qalawiin al-Alff (1279-1290).
Ayalon, "Studïes on the Structures", p.460.
5 Hmnphreys, IslamicHistory:aFramework for fnquiJy
6 Ayalon,
"StlXlies on the Strœtme", p.211.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 145.
The early Mamruk Sultans (&ybars and QaIiwiD) faced three imposingtbreats to theirruIe. These inclWed
external threats in the fonn ofthe invading Mongol and Crœader armies and internai. faetionaJism in the fonn of
competing senior arriès. A number ofltleéNIreS were taken to combat these threats. Treatiœ were signed with
the Mongols, and Mamruk aniirswere provided with material wealth in the fonn of iqtii~in arder to maintain
loyalty. These strategiœ 5de, the Sultan's abilityto maintain bis power and protect bis tenitory was u1timately
secured through bis Royal Mamruks whose SŒœSS was largely dependent upon the training they received
Writing during the reign of Sultan. al-N"~ Faraj (1405-1412) 4Umar ibn Ibrih1m al-AwSi al-~ (\vho smred
the Sultanate as a gap a/- ~(anny jtxlge» expIained the importance ofttaining and Ioyalty. In bis manual of
war entitled Ta5ija/-Kurüb fi T~lral-J;lurüf1 the authorwrites:
It is required of one ofthe annywho seeks to go out
to meet the enemy and engage him in battlethat he he
brave, damtless, trained in the art of war, familiar
with its atfairs, greatly patient with [being]
distant [from home], and \Vith the hardships of
marching, [capable of] withstanding dangers without
anxiety or annoyance or sIacking or negligence;
being, in addition to this, strongly
to the person he is serving, counseling him,
painstaking in œsisting him, prefening bis life
to one's own Iife, atteoding to that which he needs by
\vay ofservice, giving him bis du: services, obeying
7These were by no means the œly threats experienced by the Mamfuks. They were also pressured by Bedouin
tribes \vho periodically threatened pilgrim caravans which were bound for Mecca throughout the empire's
history. See PetIy, Twilight ofM'!iesty, pp. 154-155. They aIso faced a fractured society in Syria which
consisted ofIsma ills against whom Baybars launched ajihin See In~ The Middle East in the Middle A~
pp. 4849. Moreover the Mamruks were a1so thœatenedon economic fionts fiom variOŒ European commercial
powers dming the Iater part ofthe fifteenth centuly. See Ayalon, "Sorne Remarks on the Economie Decline of
the Mamruk Sultanate", in Jerusa/em StWies iD Arabie andIslam, VoL 16 (1993), p. 110.
8Scanlon points out that the ambor ofthis statement ,vas not a military man; rather he was a tepresentative of
the people ofthe pen (ah! aJ-kitib). Moreover he descn"bes the maoual as a '\vorle ofthe second rank" that ''reeks
ofthe hlmny and the courtt rather than ofthe camp and battlefiekl" See Scanlon, A MŒlim Maoua/oEWar, p.
him to the extent oflœ power and bis capability.9
Thœ weIl trained and highly loyal troops were essential in deflecting the various pressures a Sultan or aniir
faœd This chapter will analyze Mamruk training by fust examining the "c~cal Mamruk system" whicb w~
fostered during the reigns ofBaybars and QaIiwün. Under these two Sultans, miIitary training w~ canied out
by systematic methods; its thorouglmess reflected the extemal dangers which threatened the borders of the
Mamruk Sultanate. The second section will examine the faltering training 001Iffi which surfaced mder the
Sultan al-N""~ MltJ1ammad (1310-1341). Underb5 rtIk\ tIainingstandards fell ~ bnbetyw~ intIodu:ed ~ a
means of acquiring Ioyafty. Finally the thiId section will discœs the Royal Mamruks' loss of fighting grit and
their eventual defeat at the hands of the Ottomans. This Joss w~ partly a symptom of the fahering militaJY
preparedness that had become endemic during the 14-1Slh century.
This chapee will concltde that aIthough
methods ofsystematic traming were vital elements ofSŒCeSSful rule in the Mamruk Sultanate, they were oot
ahvays applied in a rigoroœ fmon.
Mamfuk training W~ focused on thœe important goals that were exilemely valuable to the Sultanate. FiIst it
educated the newly acquired slave boys in the valœs ofIslam. Second, military training provided for a stroog
anny. Third, the rigorous training proglëIIm, which the slave ooys were put tbrougb, promoted strong feelings of
loyalty. These loyalties were directed at fèDow Mamruks and their masters (ustidh). An important element of
this training system\vas the slave boys' seclusion and separation fiOm the rest OfEgyptiéDl society. By isolating
them, their masters were able to "empham.e their elite, alien stat15" which limited the possibility that the troops
would assimilate with the general society.IO The resuIt of their separation manif~ed itself in the Mamruk
9Ibid, p. 72.
lOpetIy, Civilian E/iteofCaim iD tbeLaterMiddJeA~ p. 16.
disregmd for Egyptian society and heigbtened seme of byalty towards one's auNer and tèllow Mamruk. li
These goals were fulfiIIed mder the iiIï.6iyya exertises. The term cames a number of meaoings which range
from ho~ to military training. Ibn Tagbii BiIdi (d.I469-70)12 states that:
"FlJliSyya is something different fiom bravery and
intrepidity, for the brave man would throw down bis
adversaly by sbeer courage, wbiIe the hoIseman is the
one who handles bis hœ;e wen in bis charge and in
bis retreat and who knows what he needs in matters
pertaining to bis boIse and bis al'Im and the
arrangement ofan this in a manner that he may
follow the ruIes known and established aIOOng the
people of this art.',l3
His definition suggests that firiisiyya drills are the calvary s~ a Mamruk W~ requirOO to 1115er in order to
cany out bis duties. The tenn aIso ha'; been defined as the actual methods of training Mamruks underwent in
order to prepare them. for their military careers. For instance, David Ayalon conuneots that "firrïsiyya embraced
all that the horseman had to master, by systematie training, in orderto become an accomplished knigbt." 14·
11Ibid, pp.l 6-17.
12When Ibn Taghii Birdi expressed these thougbts, there existed a sharp distinction between the quaIity of
training which was sponsored by Baybars and QaIiwün and the methods oftraining which were utilized by the
majority of the CiIcassïan Sultans. The scbolar sbould he aware that many of Ibn Tagbïi BiIdi's critical
cornments conceming the contemporary situation whieh existed during bis day were olen peppeted with
nostalgie myths ofthe péN whieh may or may DOt have existed during the earlier period ofMamruk rule. See
Ayalon, "Some remarks on the Economie Decline ofthe Mamluk Suitanate", p. 110.
I3Quoted from Ayalon 's "Notes on the FUTÜsiyya Exereises and Games in the Mamlük
Sultanate", p. 34.
Sultan BaybaIS, baving secured bis position atop the Mamruk militmy, fOlIowing the vidory al ~ Ayn TaIït
(1260), reoognized the need for arder and stability. Towards this end, the new Sultan took varioœ practical
measures towards insuring bis S1.EœSS He establisbed the "sbadow CaIiph" who provided the regime with the
neœssaxy Islamic legitimacy needed to mie over Mœlim. territories. IS In arder to maintain Egypt's strategie
superiority over the Franks and Mongo~ Baybars began an mprecedented program ofmilitary reconstm::tion.
This included the erection ofdefensive fortifications al the barber ofRosett~ rebuiIding the fort at Alexandria
and repairing the BaQii headquarters on Raw~ Island aIong with a hast ofother public works projects.16 These
consolidative measures would DOt aIone guaraotee complete control over bis empire. In aJdition to these steps,
Baybars recognized the need fur a strong army.17 Therefore incl1Xled amon~ bis numerom; projects w~ the
constrœtion ofa new military school (tabaqa).18 It w~ within this school that the Mamruks would ocquire their
religious awareness mld militaI)' training while developing loyalties towards their rrumer and fellow comrades in
anns. 19
ISThorau, TheLioD ofEgypt, p.113.
16The reasons for the sWden increa;e in the construction üf nx>sque8, EZJadTasas,
canals and dykes \vere multifaceted. Stimulating the economy, and. promoting Islam were seen ~ necessary projects for establishing bis
legitimacy a'i an Islamic ruler. See Thorau, Tht: Lion ofEgypt, pp. 101-102 Rabbat refutes the daim that
Baybars rebuilt the barracks on Raw!Ja Island, He maintains that although initially p~ the construction w~
scrapp;rl becauc;e sepamte bamtcks could have produ:ed a faction which would have threatened bis mie. See
Nasser O. Rabbat, The CitadelofCairo: a New Interpretation ofMamlükAn:hitccture (New York EJ. Brill,
1995), p. 102.
12 Reuven Amitai-Preiss, Mœgos aDdMamruks: TbeMamlük1lJdJânid War, 1260-/281 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 19(5), pp. 71-77.
Ayalon, L'esclaYa::,oeduMameJouk, pp. 9-10.
19Rabbat, TIx: CitadelofCairq p. 133.
The early Mamruk anny
very active dwing the initial years of the Suftaoate. Holt maintaiΠtbat
"[t]hroughout BaybaIS'S reign, Syria remained bis principal pœoccqWion.,r20 The Mamf"uk nemesis in Syria
came in the fonn ofthe-llkhinid Mongols, Anœniaos and Franks who continued to operate within the borders of
Syria21 The Mongol siege at the fortress ofal-Ife (1264) on the E~es
the first major confliet \vithin
Mamiuk bordels the Mongols participated in following the Battle of ~ Ayn rafiit. In January of 1265, Baybars
left Cairo ta make bis way to al-Ifn in arder to ~ the fort. However, he remained in Pabtine upon hearing
ofthe news that the Mongols b~ been defeated in their atteJ.q)t to take the fortless."" With the bulk of the
Mamruk anny in the vicinity ofCrŒader fortificatio~ Baybars tumed aD the Franks in April of1265 in orderto
finther redu::e their power in the region.23 His exploits in Pabtine witnessed a triumph for the Mamruk anny ~
the CIl&Ider cilies ofCaesarea, Haïfa and Atsüf were captured and destroyed.24 In AugtS of 1266 Mamruk
Annies had entered Cilîcia and captured a nlDlber of cities but failed in conqœring the Anneniao capital at
Sis.25 In 1274, however, Baybms would once again enter Cilicia this lime capturing Sis in March of1275.26
Sultan. QaIawün would aIso face a great deal ofopposition fiom the Mongols who coDtinued to threaten the
borders ofSyria Bolstered by Annenian troops, the Mongols engaged the Mamruk anny in October of 1281 at
The Mamruks were able to defeat tbis anny and once again temporarily hait Mongol ambitioΠin
20 Holt,
TheAgeoftheC~ p. 91.
21 Amitai-Preiss,
Mongols andMamT~ p. 106.
22Ibid., pp. 113-114.
23 Ibid., p.
24Holt, TheAgeofthc~p.95.
25 Amitai-Preiss, Mongols andMamTuks,
p. 118.
26Ibid, p.l35.
Syria27 With the threat of an inunediate Mongol comter-attack uoIikely, QaIiwiDt directed bis military
towards the remaining Frankish states (who were able to maintain sorne territory fiom behind the wa& of a
nwnber oftheir fortifications). In April of 1285, the Sultan defeated the Hospitaliers who were stationed at the
fortress ofal-Marqab. Later in April of1289, QaJiwün attaclœd the Genoese al: the port city ofTripoli. Wben
QaIawiin died in
12~, the only
CrŒader fortification remaining in the Levant w~ the fortress of Acre which
fell to QaIawiin's son al-AshrafKhalil in 1291.28
During its infancy, the Mamruk Empire W~ on a constant war footing against its neigbbOIS. In arder for the
Mamluks to he successful in their campaigos, a wen trained military
Thus Baybars and
QaIawiin placed a great deal ofemphess on military training, ensuring that it w~ systematic, rigorous and strict.
Great care was taken obtaining young Mamruks and thoroughly training them in the art ofwar which incllded
horsemanship, archery and lance games. Young Mamruks spent a nmnber of years within the walls of the
barracks and were granted very few privileges. During this lime, the kuttibiyya(yolllg Mamiuks) underwent a
nwnber ofstages offonnation before receiving their manumission and subsequent military é5Signments. These
systematic training nonns were Iater viewed as the "traditiooal Mamruk way" by su:ceeding Sultans and
historians.J° Arnitai-Preiss, conmenting on Baybars' geoeral contribution ta Mamruk history, points out that he
"laid much of the ground work for the next 250 years of Mamiuk ruIe...,,31 The same cao he said of bis
27Holt, Age ofthe Cn&Jdes, p.l02.
28Ibid., p. 1<».
29Levanoni, TumingPoint, p.6.
30Ibid., p.14.
Reuven Amitai-Preiss, ''The Mamruk Officer Chtis Dming the Reign of Sultan Baybars", in War and
Societyin the Eastern Mediterraneat1, 7-1./' CetJtœ~ ed. Yaacov Lev (Leiden: EJ. BriII, 1997), p.267.
contribution towards training patterns young MamIiiks œdetwent. AIthough IlOt app6ed with the same degree
of severity throughout its eotire bistoty, Mamruk training prograam fuUowed the principles establisbed by
Baybars. Before aoalyzing the actual training within the waIls ofthe tabaqas, the age and manner in which the
slave boys arrived in Egypt should he discl&ied. This will be foUowed by a briefdescription ofthe barm:lCs stai[
Baybars employed Turkish slave boys from Central Asia ~ bis primaly source for the Royal Mamf"uk
regiment he recruited fullowing bis asœnsion to the Suitanate_J2 These boys, who were entering the age of
puberty, were acquired by slave traders who in tum sokl tbem to either the Sultan or to bis aniirs.
Ayalon maintains that:
the age ofpubertywas the ideal one for the foonation
On the one band he \vas sufficiently
yoœg to be sbaped and llDuIded, militarily and
othetWise, according to the 6gbts of bis new faith
and of bis patron. On the other band, he was
sufficiently oId to absotb in the steppe or the
ImœtainoŒ rugged area the b$ic warlike qualities
which could he acquired in the special conditions of
bis comtly oforigin.34
Ibn KhalaUll (1332-1406) commenting on the general importance ofslave soldiers in Islamic amlÏes explains that
they nembrace Islam with the detennination of true believers while retaining their norrudic virtues, which are
undefiled by vile nature, unmixed ,vith lœtful pIeasures, lmmarred by the babits ofcivilization..."3S Another
reason why slaves were used as recruits centIed aromd the masterlmawli(client) relationship. T aIœn
mm their
32Faced with a great need for trained troops, BaybaIs aIso accommodated Mongol troops (wilidiyya), along
with sorne KUIdish Ayyiibid troops within bis anny. See Humphreys, "The Emergence ofthe Mamiuk Anny",
pp. 155-161.
33 Ayalon,L'esclavageduMarnebu/ç,
34Ayalon, ''The Mamrnk: Novice",
pp. 34.
familiar SUlTOlD1din~ and relocated tho\&tlkk ofmiles away fiom their homes, slaves reg3Ided their na1ers as
adopted parents al) they provided themwith food, sbelter and employment. Thm, faced with very few prospects
outside the barra:ks, slave boys developedstmog 10yaIties towards their Olétiters.
The means by which the slaves were transported fiom the Asian Steppe to Egypt differed according to the
existing geo-political situation. In sorne ca;es, slaves were transported via sea routes through the Bosphollti and
DardaneIles-36 Slaves were aJso transported over land. rodes througb the Anato6an peninsuJa. At varying tiIœs
these routes were threatened by Ottoman,-Dkh8nid, Annenian, Byzantine and Cmsader states. In oIder for the
Mamfiiks to secure a safe and dependable slave trade, wars were \vaged and treaties were negotiated The priee
ofslave boys varied depending on the availability, quality ofthe stock and general economic climate ofthe time.
For instance, when Baybars was purchased, the sources place bis priee at 40 diDirs.37 This figure is rather paltry
considering BaybaŒ ~ one of the strongest Sultans of the Mamf"uk empire. Nearly two htmdœd years
later, a Iesser known slave by the name ofYcmbak: al-Mœbidd aN bis mtiter, Sultan Mu'ayyad Shaykh (14121421),2,000 dinirs.38 Thus, there were no set priees for the slave boys; rathermarket trends sœh as availability
and inflation detennined theircosts.
Having been recently pmch~ and finding them;elves in fureign surrowdings, the YOlmg slaves belonging
35 AyaIon, "Mamrukiyyit", in Jt:rl&liem StlX1ies iD Anlbicand/siam,
VoU (1980), p. 345.
36 AyaIon. "Aspects ofthe Mamruk Phenomenon: Ayyiïbids, Kurds and Turks", in Der Islam, VoL 54 (1977),
37 AyaIon,
L ~lavageduMameJoulç p.7.
to Baybars and QaIiwün were plaœd in barracks acconIing ta their raœ.39 The Ioyalties fèllow Mamfuks
fostered amongst themselves t.ed ml their ethnie origins played a significant role tbroughout Mamrok: histOl)'.
Drawing from the strength oftheir COI1llD)I1 backgroUllds, the different ethnie gro~ oien fonned political
factions dwing periods ofintemal mrest.
Hait maintains that the ''bistory ofthe Mamrok: sultanate is
dominated by the struggle of factions originating in this way.,r41 At the tabaqas, young Mamruks would he
provided with their religioΠand military training.42 Central to the operation of the tabaqaswere the ewochs
(muqaddam) who staffed the barracks and were chatged \Vith maintaining the discipline of the kuttibiyyll.
David Ayalon comments that "witholt the ewœhs the mîlitmy schools, which fonned the comerstone ofthe
Mamruk military aristocracy, could hardly function properfy.,r43 The heOO eunuch (mlX[adcfam al-.suhiDiyya)
was appointed by the Sultan and mooaged the opaation ofthe barracks. His role included the supervision ofthe
other emlUchs (mlXJaddam a/-Ji~ who were, in tum, delegated ta perform various mies \vïthin the walls ofthe
barracks. These figures included those who excelled in specifie fields ofreligion and warfare and who instrŒted
the Mamruks in these respective disciplines.44
Rabie, ''The Training ofa Mamruk rans", p. 153. The segregation ofslaves according to their race further
promoted the concept of1dJ~ Ethnie simiIarities sœh ~ being able to speak the simiIardialects in the
barracks fostered loyaIties amon~ the boys.
4~or further information on this phenomenon see Irwin's UFactions in Medieval Egypt" in
JOUTI1a/ ofthe Royal Asiatie Society (1986), pp. 228-246.
41Holt, TheAgeofthe~ pp. 138-139.
fonnation riding took place at the vanOlS hippodromes (maydiD) which suaouoded the
CitadeL These hippodrome; also hosted the variOŒ fùrÜ5iyya games. See Rabie, ''The Training ofa Mamruk
fans", pp. 157-158.
42Fmther training in
Ayalon, ''The Emuchs in the Mamruk Society", p. 268.
44 Shaun Mannon,
EwldJs arx/Sacnx/BoundariesIn IsIamic 5œietx pp. 11-12
The logic behind employing ewœhs within the barracks centred on the principles ofIoyaity êDl protection.
Eunucbs experienced a pandoxical relatiombip with the populatiœ of the CitadeL Having hem
eunucbs were seen by many éti "freaks" becaœe oftheirpecutiardistinctiveness. Ridiculed for being "dirty" and
"swemy' they were feared and ostracized in mN ofthe societies that Œili200theirservices.45 This social reality
100 them to become dependent on their patrons, œsulting in a heigbteoed sense of loyalty. It w~ this intense
fidelity that drew the Mamfuk elite to the use ofemucbs. Moreover, their inability to have familles suited the
non-hereditmy nature ofMamfulcsociety. Wlth DO means ofreprodŒing themselves, "there WC6 no daogerthat
the e1.D:ll.l:h would set up a dyncmy of bis own, which would come into conflict with bis patron or with bis
patron's dynasty.'.46 In effect,just éti the slave boys were coveted fortheir Ioyalty, 50 too \Vere the emuchs prized
for their allegiance in a masterlmawli ammgement.47 FmaIly, becaœe of the petV5ve hotmSeXUa1ity and
paedophilia within the ranks ofthe Mamruks, eunucbs acted êti bauiers between the older and yomgeI' members
ofthe .tabaqas.
Actual training of the Royal Mamruks fust began with religious instruction.
biographer, Ibn SbadaM
Accotding to Baybm'
the Sultan "arranged a teacher for each group ofMamfuks who would
450rlando Patterson, S/avery andSocialDeatb, pp. 321-324.
AyaIon, "On the Emuchs in Islam" p.71.
47The rn.cs:er/mawliirelationship was the comerstone for SŒœSS within the Mamiuk empire. It ensured that a
slave or eunuch would remain dependent on a nuNer and hence not Câ in a manner which could he interpreted
as tbreatening. By becoming the client ofa patron, the fonnerwas awarded protection by the latter.
48 AyaIon, "On the Emœhs inIslam", p. 72. For information conceming Mamfukhomosexuality see Stephen
O. MUlIaY and Will Roscoe, ls/amic Hormst:XlJllk; Cu/turr:, History, and Litera/un: (New York New York
UniversityPress, 1997), pp. 161-173.
teach them in prayer...".49 Taugbt bycmœhs andmembers ofthe &lJ1aIm: Mamruks reœived religioŒ Iessoos
in a systematie method. When the 1aJttibiyya first entered the barracks they were iœtructed in the Arabie
language and writing. A numberofmanœcripts written by the young Mamruks provide scholars with evidence
to suggest that they spent sorne of their earJy education Ieaming Arabie.50 Moreover, basic concepts of the
Quran and padith \Vere provided to them in otder to acculturate them to IsIam.51
As the boys grew oIder,
e1ements oftheology, shaii&aand Bqhwere addedto their lessons to further broaden theiremieulum.S2 Agreat
dea1 of the modem scholaIship which desaibes the reIigioŒ training of the laitibiyya cornes fimn a famoœ
passage in whieh al-MaqDii has detaiIed the process. In bis book entÏtled Kitab al-Mawa'i? wa-I-Ptibir 6 Dhikr
al-Khi.!af wa-l-Athir, al-MaqiiZi states that YOlD1g Nfamfuks were fust taught Arabie calligraphy and later
versed in more demanding subjects byeunœhs who \Vere fatjih (experts) in fields ofreligion and grammar. Their
instruction during the early Babii period was intense and lookplace evety clay. Al-Maqim describes the process
when the meIChant pœsented to the Sultan a
Mamruk, he enteredhim in a group of bis race, and handed
him over to a eœœh for the pmpose of leaming to wrïte. FiJst
they began to teach him what was necessaIY for him in
the Quran. And each group had its teacher who appeared
each day and instIUcted in the undetstanding of the Book
of Gad, and the practice of writing and ruIes of s!Jaii#;a
and the attendance ofprayer and spiritual mIes.53
49Levanoni, TU111iIJgPoint, p. 17.
50BarbaraFlemmin~ '~itermy Activities in the MamrnkHalIs andBmm::ks", p.259.
51 Rabie,
''The TrainingofaMamrukFaris", p.l54.
52Ayalon, L'esclavageduMameIouJçp.13.
l-<lin APmad ibn ~Ali al-MéqÙ21, Kitib aJ-Mawi~wa-J-/(tib8r fi Dbikr aJ-KhiJaJ wa-l-Atbir Vol ~
ed. 'Abdal-Rahman al- ~AdaWi (BuIaq:1853), p. 213.
Their beliefin Islam, bowever ~ WeB am important fiom the standpoint ofacquiring Iegitimacy to mie
over IsIamic tenitOlY. As guardiaos ofIslam, the Mamruks were required to acknowledge the importance of
Islam and demonstrate their wiDiugness to defend the Faith. These
feelin~ of Ioyalty
towards Islam were
greatly shaped during the initial religioœ education they reœived at the bamcks. Despite these efforts, the
Mamiuk c~ gained a reputatiOll for being ''viIlain, brutal, bJoodtbirsty, and Cunning.,,54 For Mance, the
&U/amâ' during the Mamruk period often regarded the Mamiuks as mere waniors devoid of culture. Many
ou/ami' feit that the Mamruks' onJy IOle in society \V$ to provide "political stability for, and give financial
support ta, the reIigioœ-academic ~em.,.ss This view, which regarded the Mamruks as n:aely
Islamic tenitory has reœntly rome under sorne criticism Haannann has demonstrated that ahhough the 'uIama'
did not always respect the Mamliiks ~ Mœlirm, sorne of the warriors developed a devotion to Islamic leaming.
These individuals included Sanjar al-Dawidiii (d.1299-1300) who is reported to have nude the ~ajj six times
and spent over fifty years stOOying /ladith.56 Other Mamruks who excelled in religioŒ sciences were AqŒh alIftikhaii al-Shibli (d1299-1300), Sanjar al-Iftikhàii (dl340), and Sanjar al-Jawuli (dl345).57 Tbese individuals
were exceptional Mamfuks who derronstrated a proficiency in the religious sciences. However for the rmst part,
the ôu/ama' attempted to bar Mamruk participation in the field ofreligious Ieaming.58 This, however, did not
deter the Mamruks from taking part in a number ofreligious activities. Mamliiks are recognized for endowing
54Hammann, ''Ideology and History", pp. 181-184.
55 H ammann, "Arabie in Speech", p. 83.
56 Ibid., pp.
57Ibid., p. 98.
58Haannann points out that "[f)or the 'u1ami'the maintenance ofthis final banier (i.e. lœeping the Mamruks
out of academic and legal institŒions) had become an issue ofSUlVÎvaI, after the Mamruks bad abrogated for
thermelves 50 many other respoDS1bilities that bad fOnnerly been their own." sec Haannann, '1deology and
HistOIY", p.I83.
numeroΠinstitutions ofreligioΠleaming, prormting and maintaining the "sbadow Caliph", and mdertalcing a
ntmberofjihiKIsagainst the Mongols, CrœadeIs, Annenians and Sb1~a.59
The u1timate goal of religioΠtraining was to provide Mamruks with an understanding of Islam which
fumished them with a Iink to the society they ruIed60 Little explains that if the Mamruk was to "adapt to bis
new environment and become a full member of the
~em in
which he found him;elf and enjoy the many
henefits it ofièred, he had no chaice bu to adopt IsIam.'.6 1 Their achievetœDts in religion and scholalship ~de,
Mamfuk responsibility did not lie in the stlIiy and transmission ofreligioΠknowledge. Rather theirprimaly role
\Vas the protection ofSyrian and Egyptian teuitory ftom extemal tbreats while al the same tiIœ bolstering the
power ofthe Sultanate agaiIN: would be œurpeIS ftom within the raoks ofthe Mamruk militalY structure. This
taskrequired a corps ofloyal and wen trained Royal Mamruks.
Milital)' training during the early BaI}Ii period began when the young Mamruks reached their mid-teeos.
According ta al-Maqnzi, once the laitibiyya ''reached adulthood, they started to teach him \varfare, such as
archery,[and] throwing the spear..."62 Agam, mxIem scholars rely on the fmmœ passage in al-Maqilii's Khi.taf
59These religious strategies cao aJso he interpreted as political moves. Numeroœ Mamruks endowed schools
based on financial and political motives. The establishment of the "shadow Caliph" ~ been portrayed as a
means of acquiring fslamie Iegitimacy. And the campaigns against the Mongols, CIŒaders, Annenians and
Sm 'a cao. he viewed is garpolitieal struggIes which had more to do with connœrce and maintaining the slave
trade then protecting Islamie tenitories fiom non-Muslim threats. For infonnation on these alternative views
see; Berkey, The Transmission ofKDowJedge, pp. 130-142 (establishment ofschools). Little, ''Religion wder
the Mamruks", p. 172 (economic considerations).
the Mamruks did adopt Islamic principles, they did not ~ate themselves from their ethnie
heritage. Forinstance a Turkishdialect was the !mguaôal1caofthe Mamruks within their barracks.
60 Although
6 1Little, ''Religion mdertheMamrulcs",
62 Al-Maqnzi,
ai-Khi.taf, VoL 2, p.213.
which described the training and edœation ofthe Royal Mamruks.63 Scholars are tOrtunate wheo analyzing the
actual fùriisiyya exercises. Tbese training Illaluals, WIitten by experts in the diffeœnt fields ofMamruk martial
~ provide valuable
insigbt on the strŒtures ofthe JinByya exercises wbich incllde the \lie ofweapoos and
horsemanship.64 Moreover, they cover some bé&c rnetI10œ ofmedicine and veterinaly scienœ.65 Shat2miller
points out that these manwœ ofwar becarre Imre and Imre common following the reign ofthe Suhan ~aIiQ
b. Ayyüb (1240-1249). Sbe maintains that two fa:t0lS intluenœd the tise in military literature; first
existence ofa standing anny, wbile the second eatalyst was the "evolution ofa sopbNieated training systelIL.'.66
Perhaps the most
descriptions of the fùrii5i»'a games are derived fium Ibn Tagbii Birdi who
provided detailed accomts ofthe varioœ games and exerdses wbich made ~ the fùrÜiiyyaprogram during the
Cïrcassian period.67 His expertise in this field stem; fium bis background é6 a member ofthe awlid a/-oas.
Little insists that althougb he Wé6 renowned for bis historical work, Nl!iÏJm az-Z8bira ff Muliik~ waI-Qibira,
''by birth and association he belooged more to the abl-as--sat1"[people of the swotd] then to the ahJ aJ-qalam
[people of the pen].'t68 Therefore, when analyzing bis accoœts ofmilitary training, the scholar mœt take inlo
account bis actual participation in the fùrii5i»'a game;.69
63The peISOI1al biographies Ofvari015 Mamluks aJso give dues as to the structure ofmilitary training. See
Levanoni, TlJ111ÏDgPoiD~p.17.
64Rex Smith, MedievalMus/imHorsemanship (London: The British Library, 1979), p. 6
65Ibid., p. 5.
66 Shaztmiller ,"The CrŒades aodIslamic Warfare- a Re-Evaluation", p. 1:72.
67 Ayalon,
''Notes on the FlJIiSiyya Exercises", p. 32.
68Little, An Introduction toMamlükHistoriograp/Jy, p. 87.
69 Ayalon provides sorne information co~-mng Ibn Tagbii Birdi's militmy training. According to Ayalon he
was taught by sorne of the greatest mNers such é6 Aniir Aqbugbi al-TinDi13. See Ayalon, ''Notes on the
FlJlÜsi»'a Exercises", pp. 32-33.
Beca1.5e the Mamruk WarriOlS were primarily ca1vaIy men, great care was taken to impart to them proper
riding techniques. During the early Balfti period their training was condŒted according to a systematic method.
Flemming points out that becaœe many of their riding inmu:t0lS weœ older Mamliiks, Iessons were often
conducted in Turkish dialects.70 During their mt Iessons, instruction was provided on the proper methods of
motmting and disnxnmting hoISeS. This was facilitated tbrough the use ofclay models before lDOving on to live
horses. Having mastered ba9c mountïng techniques their
mu~ïn (tea::hers) taugbt
them riding styles such
as cantering trotting and gaIloping. These skills \vere then augmented with Iessons cooœming proper methods
ofriding in battle fonnation. Once sorne proficiency in horsemanship was acq~ YOtmg Mamïuks \Vere then
provided \vith weapons training?l In a fùriSyya manual written in the Mamfuk-Kipchak language entitled
MUI1yatU'l-Ghuzitcopied in 1446, the author urges the pupil to properIy amer riding skills. According to the
manual a young kuttib7(sing) should:
tum [bis] attention to matteIS related to horsemansbip.
And undeIstand the art ofhor.ieIl1aDShip weil, until you
have In'Nered this, (since) horsemen defeaL their
enemies in this way. The good sttdent is he who
considers these matteIS thoroughly, and he searches
into those thin~ that 1have descnëed to you (before).
Andheshould he patient in (canying) them (out)
wtil he leams them fuIJy and they stay in bis mind
(pennanently). He who h~ begm to Ieam Olr science
and finds it difficuit and cannot gœp it at first
should not get depressed since in the beginning ail
sciences are difficult. This science in partieular is
IIX>re diffieult than ail (the other) sciences, (becaœe)
50 many sciences andaafts are gathered in it.
One manner in wbich the Mamruks perfected their riding techniqœs was througb their participation in polo
7°Aemming, "LiteraI)' Activities in the Mamliik:HaDs and Barracks", p. 251.
7 1Rabie,
''The TrainingofaMamfukFaris", pp. 154-155.
72ÔZ!opçu, MlJlJyatu'J.Gbuzit, pp. 55-56.
matches and othee hippodrome (mayr/.i1) games Held al variO\5 hippodromes throughom Caïro, these garDeS
attracted many spectatOIS. Moreover, dœ to the great inteœst in the toumaments during Baybars'
in\itations needed to he sent to leading llIliirs and govemors in order to accomnxxIate all those who wisbed to
The hippodrome games constituted an important component ofMamlükmilitary training. Ayalon points out
that "[n]o intensive cavahy training is possible for any length oftime in dilapidated bïppodromes.,,74 Under
BaybaŒ and QaIawün, a greater number ofhippodromes were coostructed than during the
C~an period
(1382-1517). Baybars construeted two hippodromes, Maydin al-~ (1267) and Maydan al~abéq (1267).75
These hippodromes were utiJi2Pd tIltil the reign of al-N"~MÙ}ammad, who converted the Maydim al~abaq
ioto a garden (bU5tinl and de&1royed the
Maydan al-~ becaU'"ie the flow of the NUe had threatened the
fotmdations ofthe hippodrome.77 WIthin the hippodromes themselves, Mamruks nmtered the finer points of
riding which included such things ~ fonnati011 maneuveIS and momted weapon training.
The ability of the Mamfuks to commancl such impIessive victories over the Mongols and CIUSaders stem;
mm their skills in combining horsemanship and archety.78
73 Ayalon,
A great deal oftime W~ required to teach yomg
'Notes on the Furiisiyya ExeIeises", p. 54.
74lbid., p. 37. Also Ayalon, GUI1pOwderandFirearnB, p. 52.
7SThese two hippodromes repla::ed the Maydàn al~abili (1243) which had served the Ayyiibid regime. The
flow of the NUe had changed and weathered away the Ayyübid hippodrome. See Ayalon, GUIlpOwder and
Fireanns s p.53. Also Rabbat, The Ci/adelofCairo, pp. 104-105.
i6Ibid, p. 105.
77 AyaIon,
GlJDpowdcrandF~ p. 53.
D. Latham, 'Notes on MamrukHoISe-Archers", in BulJetiD ofthe SchoolofOrienta/ andAJiican Studies,
Mamfuks the basic skills ofproper archery. Once again, dmngthe early BaI)ii peri~ a systematic approŒh was
employed in olrlerto instill proper tecbniqœ. AIcbery nmters would fust instruct their p\4>iIs on the proper grips
and then gradually move to actual target practice. Having leamt these s~ the stldeot W~ then given training
on how to shoot an arrow while trounted on a Jmving boise. Latham explains that tbese games were used "as a
means afdeveloping the skill and agility ofborse-éEhers.,,79
Anather weapon usai by the Mamrukw3lIÏorw~the lance. Lance games(blJl1ii1) enabled yomg Mamluks
ta acquire proper methods ofemploying the Ianœ in battIe.sO These skills aJso took time ta develop, requiring
patience and a great deal ofpractice. Having gained sorne backgromd in riding, lanœ lllé9ers wau1d slowly
introduce the kutt8biyya to methods of employing the lance in battle. Once the preliminary fessons were
completed, games were int:rochx::ed as a means ofperfecting the MamlüIés skills. One afthese games was büjis.
This game consistedofseven wooden targets fixed on top ofone another; placed at the peakafthis structure was
a metal ring. Mamruks attempted ta bit the metal ring with their lances \vhile riding their borses.SI During the
reigns ofBaybars and QaIawUn, robes ofhonor were graoted ta those Mamruks who were able ta bit the targets
successfully. The importance placed on these war games characteri2es the statœ given ta training by these twa
early Sultans. Presmnably, ritua1izing training exercises into cultural. events suggests that excellence in military
skills were marks ofhanar in the early BaI.n1 period. For instance, lance exetcises were inCOlpOrated in a religiaŒ
processian known ~ the maftmilwbich traveledthrough Caïro signaling the beginning afthe I:fajj season.
VoL 32 (1969), p.257.
79Ibid, p. 2&>.
8~abif; "The Trainingafa Mannukraris", pp. 156--157.
81 Ibid,
p. 156.
Ayalon daims that following the reign of al-W~ir Mu1}ammad, the training progrcuœ utilized by the two
early Sultans were IlOt ùq)lemented.82 Levanoni mxlifies this thesis by maintaining that it w~ in fa:t dUlingalN"3$ir Mul;1ammads Iast reign that the training programs ofthe Mamfuks took a drastic tum. For various reasons
during and after al-N"~iI's reign, the Sultanate choose not to apply the strict and ~ematic methods oftraining;
rather they weœ replaced with bribery é5 a meaos ofsecuring Ioyalty. The resuIt oftbis pennissive method of
estab1ishing Ioyalty proved. distitrous for the Mamruk SWtanate. As Sultans became accustomed to providing
payments in orcier to foster loyalty, stringent rœthods of training (previously 1BXl to secure fidelity) began to
Analyzjng the extemal and internal threats during the rule of al-N""~ MuIJammad cao. help explain why
training began to falter during bis reign. As discœsed above, the initial years of the Mamruk Sultanate were
marked by a rapid suxession of campaigns throughout Syria When
MUQammad é5SUDled the
Sultanate for the thi:rd time in 1310, Syria W(ti solidly controlled by the Mamruks. Holt comments that for ''the
fust time since the inception ofthe Mamruk Sultanate sixty years before, there W(ti no danger fiom an extemal
enemy.,t83 UnIike the two earlier Sultans, Baybms and QaJawün, al-N""~ MuQammad did IlOt spend a great deal
oftime in Syria on campaign. Rather he W~ able to place mœh ofSyria t.mder the govemorship ofTankiz al-
I:Ius3nii.84 Holt links this securitywith the faltering standards ofmilitmy training. He explains that, "[w]ith the
82 Ayalon. ''Notes on the Furüsiyya ExeJCises", pp. 4445. Also Ayalon, GlIl1pOwder andFiJeanm, pp. 52-59.
Rabie, "The TrainingofaMannukraris p.l54 aod p.163.
83Ho1t,Ageofthe~p.114 .
passing ofthe extemal threat in Syria and Egypt even the traditional training came to he neglected. The cavahy
exercises encouraged by the carly sultans and the hippodromes they built fen ioto disœe.'.ss
Internal factors aIso caused al-~~ Mubammad ta ~ the inportance ofstrict and ~ematic milit3IY
training. In her book A TumingPoint in Mam/iikHistory. the 11JirdReign ofa1-N:awMu!J3I11I1W Ibn QaJmviïn
1310-1341, Levanoni explaim that the faetionalism that confionted al-N""~ MuQammad, when he took control
ofthe Suhanate in 1310, caused him to impIement dramatic changes to the existing training &ructuI'eS. At that
time, a number ofsenior aniirs clashed with each other in order to detemUne who would become the ataheg
(regent) and mie over the Sultan.86 Having been oœted and exiIed twice as a resuIt ofeartier leadeIship disputes,
was determined to maintain bis position as Sultan when he ~ conboL of the throne in 1310. His
greatest fear was that internaI. opposition, in the form. ofhis late father's Mamlüks, would continue to threaten bis
rule. In order to coUIlter this threat, al-~~ purged the military's ranks of the aniirs and Mamruks that had
served under bis father enabling him to estabIish a higb.Iy centralized autocracy.87 Next, he augmented bis own
retinue of Royal Mamruks by wdertaking a massive recruitment drive. Using a method unheard ofduring bis
fathers reign, al-N"~ Mtd)ammad purchased the loyaities ofhis Mamruks \Vith payments of'lIattery and gold"
rather then fostering the militaI)' deconun which had previoœly been established through intense training. 88
Al-Maqiiz1 states that ''[t]he mamluk and bis Iru5ter are mutually satisfied in this [permissive] way, moreover,
85Ibid, p. 148.
TumingPoint, p. 30.
87Ibid., p.28.
88Ibid., p. 33.
when the mamluk sees riches with bis eyes and in bis heart he forgets bis comtIy and follows bis master.,t89
By Ù11pOrting new Mamluks whiIe êW;o purging the ranks ofrmre experienœdMamruks and aniir$0, al-~~
\vas faced \Vith a shortage of qualified personnel to staff bis militmy.91 He atteJI1'led to co~e for this
shortage by rapidly promoting bis own Mamruks into high ranks without training them thorougbly. For
instance, one of bis senior am1rs, Q~ was prom:>ted to bis lofty rank "ooly five years after bis arrivai. in
MeanwhiIe, those who were educated in the tabaqas underwent a training regiIœ whicb
markedly different than the Mamruks oftbeprevioœ generation. Duringthe reigns ofBaybars and Q~ the
Mamfuks who lived in the t~l6Weregranted vety fewpriviIeges until they graduated and were ~gned posts
the militaI)'.93 In an effort to secure loyalty fiom bis ~ aI.-N"~ paid bis Mamruks véN
money which \Vere descn"bed by one historian as ''beyond an 1imits.'84 Mamruk sources are filIed with incidents
describing al-N"~its pennissive payments to bis troops. Al-Maqiiz1 explains that "on the clay oftheir arrivai he
89Ibid., pp. 31-32.
90The Mamliik historian al-sh~'i (dI355) states that ''It was connmnplaœ and typical ofSultan al-Malik al~3.?its policy that if a mamluk or amir achieved greatness, he would rid himselfofhim and appoint a younger
man in bis pIace in onferto protect [himself] from bis cuoning and ill-will" See Lev~ TumingPoint, p. 31.
9IIbid., pp.28-29.
92The promotion of Qa\~ to taqdünat alf(connnander of one thoŒaDd) underlines this point. This
Mamf"uk carne ta Egypt in bis 18th year seDing leather goods. The Sultan, taking a fancy to the young ~
purchased him and promoted him without enrolling hint in the traditional training program. Q~ explains
himselfthat "I \Vas bougbt by the sultan and became one ofthose closest to him; he made me amir, awarded me
commander ofone thousand and gave me the band ofhis daughter, wbile others went fiom the tnders directly to
the militaI)' schools.', Ibi~ p. 35.
93 Ayalon, LésrlavagcduMameIoulç p.16.
94Levanoni, TumingPoint; p.56.
bestowed upon these Mamliiks fine clothing, golden sasbes, horses and grants, to impress them.,85 He goes on
to claimthat al-N'"~
did not preserve bis fatber's cœtom of alvancing the
mamluks through ail the stages ofserviœ so that he (the Mamluk)
would gain experience thmugh training...
gradually ~ bis pay fiom three dinms a month
to ten dinars, and later transfer him to a service
post, but resolved
to fill their
(the mamluks) needs
in one fèn swoop \Vith high wages.96
Coupled \Vith the payments the MamIiiks received was the la discipline that existed within the walls of the
barracks. In 1331 'Anbar al-Sakhmti, the eunœh in charge of discipline at al-N"~ MulJammad's bamcks, Wé5
dismissed becaŒe he couId DOt control the behavior ofthe young Mamruks.97 C1early the systematic method of
training empIoyed by previoœ Sultans bad given way to a system ofopportuoism and COITUption.
In an effort to
quiekly estabIish a group ofloyal troops, al-~~ir Mul)ammad provided material weaIth and redu:ed the amount
of training Mamruks reœived. Moreover, he was able to do this without wonying a great deal about extemal
tbreats dœ to the security whieh nowexisted in Syria and the Levant.98 These unorthodox Iœthods of military
promotion and the poor training that typi:fied the mie of al-N"~ would set the stage for the future decline in
Mamrukmilitmy standards.
As oider and Imre experiencedMamruks were purged, al-N"~s inexperienœd troops began to dominate the
9SIbid, p. 55.
97Ibid, p. 60.
98During al-Na~ir's mIe, a truee was established with the Mongols following a treaty which
was drafted in 1323.
military structures ofthe Sultaoate.
Poorly trained, undisciplinai and depeodent on material pIenty, it Wé5 ~
a matter oftime before respect for mhority coDapsed. Duringthe reign offiaybars and Q~ discipline was
the comerstone for maintaining Mamliik loyalty.l00 Witholt discipline in the ranks, respect tOr alâbority in al~~its anny
began to crumble.
LevéllOOÏ bring.'i to ligbt a number of examples wbere troops openly
demonstrated against the Sultan. AcclSomed to reœiving their pay on a reguIar ba9s, fifleen huodred Royal
Marnruks 0pen1y protested against al-N"* on March 23, 1321 when their salaries were delayed 10 1 The once
solid respect for authority wbich bad chara;terized the eady BaJp1 period gave way to Mamluks openly
protesting and demanding to meet the Sultan face to face. The effect ofthis decline in military deconm \vas that
possessed a degree of political power which could he manipulated by senior aniirs. In one
instance a Dote was discovered on the Sultan's bed waming him. of an ~ation plot planned by two ofhis
senior aaiùs.
~fiibugha al-Fakhii.
reacted to this news by imprisoning the two aniirs, Tasbtamur I:Iumm~
Akh4ar and
The tabaJaMamfuks, incited by senior aniirs, demaoded that the two jailed men he set
free. Faced with little choice, al-N""~ complied with bis Mamruks' demands. I02 Clearly militaI}' discipline could
not he maintained under such conditions. The bluning ofhierarchies between junior and senior members ofthe
military society would have dnNic effects for future Sultans following al-N"~s reign.
The decline in military standards did DOt, however, signal the innnediate end of the fùrïsiyya games. Rather
99These troops aJso incltded Mamruks who were pUIChaW as adults. In attempting to recruit a loyal anny, al~~ placed adult members ofbis famiIy ioto the Marnruk anny. Moreover, he also incorpornted a nmnber of
awlirla/-nâ5into the ranks ofthe arroy. Sec Levanoni, TumingPoint, p. 36.
looIbid, p. 19.
Ibid., p. 62
I02Ibid, pp. 64-65.
al-~~ MuI;l3lIlI1Yd buih three new hippodromes, dermnstrating bis interest in providing sorne form oftraining
to bis
The fim hippodrome, Maydin al-~~m Wéti coostrocted in 1312-1313 and was 10cated
between F~~ and CaiIO. This particular 1lippcxIroIœ Wé6 œed mtil the œign of the fust C~an Sultan
Barqiq (1382-1399). The second hippodrome built by al-N'"~ was the Maydin al-Mihir (1320) which served
as a breeding ground for bis borses. The third, and final, hippodrome built by the Sultan was the l11a)dio at
SiIyaqus which was compIeted in 1325.104 Despite al-N'"~s attetq)ts to continœ sorne fonn oftraining, none
ofthe fullowing Ba1}ii Sultans who sœœabi him buiJt hippodromes.
Momo~ ~ time passed,
the general
maintenance ofthe remaining hippodromes ren ioto disrepaïr. The ensuing resuIt was an inevitable decline ofthe
fi.oüsiyya games.
Although some of the Iater Bal}ii Sultans attempted to ~ablish tIaditional MamIük training ~
these efforts mostly failed and the permissive training regimes continued During bis fifty-nine days spent as
Mamfuk Sultan, Abû Bakr(1341) realiztxl that the only way he could maintain controloverthe Sultanate was to
re-establish a strong militmy. He attempted to do this through the reintroduction ofthe training methods ltilizen
by bis grandfather, QaIawün. One contempolary historian pointed olt that Abü Bakr 'was detennined oot to
change the rules laid clown by bis grandfather al-M~ [QaIawün], and abrogate the changes made by bis
103This suggests that although al-~~ initiated the trend which negatively intluenœd the quality ofMamluk
militmy training, he did not do 50 consciously.
I04This hippodrome served the Sultan éti a recreational. estate rather then a training ground for bis troops.
Levanoni points out that the complex héd a 1dJïmqi!J, gardeos, and a ntmber ofpalaces. The lavish celebrations
which took place there were éD1 economic strain on the Sultaoate following bis death in 1341. By 1396 the
practice ofattending the hippodrome w~ stoppcd and the hippodrome itselfwas eventuaUy dismantled and its
blockswere sold for 100 dinirs. Sec I.evanoni, TlmÏ1JgPoint, p. 160.
father. nlOS AbüBaIa's attempts ta revivetraditional trainingmethods were, bowever, short lived. ~gthe
loyalty of al-N'"~s Mamrulcs, ~ (the fonner Mamliik of al-~~) exiIed the new Sultan. The fanner
Mamfuks of al-N"~ were, however, quite fickle in their stgX)lt for their new rm9er and bis regiment. Two
months ailer Qav,:sün had purcha;ed tbeir ~ tbrougb ''many promises", the fanner Royal Mamruks rose
against him l06 Besides Abii Bakr, otber Sultans peliodically attempted to revive the tirŒiyya gmœs. Sultan
aI-AshrafSha'bin (1363-1367) afiaid ofbeing bIamed for the <lectine of the milit3lY g~ attempted to reinstitute an emphasis on the fürii;iyya ~l07 Sba'ban himself explained tbat ''1 do tbis lest the arts (or
branches) ofthe fùrüs1ya die during my reign and in my days."IOB However, bis attempts at reviving militaIy
training were not SlNained following bis tenure ~ Sultan.
Ibn Tagbil. Birdi claiIm tbat when the first C~an Sultan, BartlÏXI, tookover the throne in 1382, he 'would
graduate one cIass ofMamruks onIy after a long period oftiIœ, and after anotber long period, would graduate
another. This was the procedure adopted by the first ruIers.,,109 Prior ta Barqi"qs reign, the time Mamruks spent
at the tabaqaswas reIatively short in comparison ta the time spent mder Baybars and Qaliwün (who were the
"first rulers" to whomIbn Tagbii Birdi was refening}.110 Ahbough Batqlq adopted a stringent training program
which included a longer training period, bis actions did not Iead ta a loyal and Imre cobesive milit3lY force. In
1388 one of bis aniirs, Ya1bugbi al-N"~ revolted against bim and temporarily oœted the Sultan. Upon bis
IOSIbid, p. 79.
Ayalon, GlIDfJOwderarxlFirr:aDm, p.55.
108 Ibid,
p. 83.
p. 55
l09Levanoni, TumingPoiDtp. 90. Also AyaIon, LésclavageduMamcJouk~. 18.
retum to the Sultanate, Barqiq began paying bis Mamlüks in éD atteqJt to secure their Ioyalty. This however
prodoced mixed results. One ofbis Mamruks Nawriiz al-1J3fi?i atteqJted to kill the Sultan. Ibn l)ajar al'AsqaImïi (dl449) records that "the sultan awardt'd bim [NélWl'i2] an amïrate, prormted bim, and made bim
aniir ikhÜt; and he wanted to kiIl the sultan." C1earIy then, during the period bet\veen the earIy Balfti Sultans
(rougbly 1260-1290) and the inaugural C~an Sultan (1382) the time spent mdergoing militmy training W~
shortened and the quality ofMannuktroops tèll, a maIady wbich Barqi"qwas aIso wable to remedy.
The unorthodox methods of obtaining Ioyalty througb payments and the Iike had numeroœ detrimental
effects on the Sultanate. Young Mamruks, accœtomed to having theirneeds ~ anticipated material wealth.
When these payments were denied they would often protest. Therefore, througb neœssity in the effort to
maintain order, these permissive means of geuerating Ioyalty were subsequently employed by later Mamruk
Sultans at the expense of ~ematic militmy training programs.ll1 Ibn T aghii Birdi paints a negative picture of
Mamfuk training programs which were practicedduring bis lifetime. He states:
A salute to that time and its people! How excellent
were theirdeeds, how becoming were the ways in which
they considered the edŒation of their yomg and the
honorwhich they extended to their elderly. Because
of this they ruled the land and the people Yielded to
them. They won the hearts of their subjects and gained
high office. But our times are the exact opposite of
theirs, conunanders are backward [in their ignorance]
and the young evil-mïnded ..112
II°Levanoni, TumingPoint, p. 95, and p. CJ7.
regent YaIbugbi al-'Umaii (who maintained bis position fiom 1360-1366) attempted to alter the
pemrissive trends by reintroducing strict military training as a means ofestab1ishing loyal troops. His efforts
were met by protests ftom the Sultan's senior 811iirs and jmior Mamfuks who ~ated YaIbugbi. Ibid, p.
[l2Ibid., p.4.
Although graduai, there cao he no do. that the decline in MamIük militmy standards calœ abom during al~~s reign due to bis introdŒtion ofbribery œ a means ofestablishing loyalty.113 This trend would continue
for much of the remaining years of the Mamruk Suftanale. Scholars have pointed towards a number of clœs
which occUIred during the
C~m period
confinning this negative trend. They inclWe appraising the
condition and mmber ofbippodromes in the SWtanate and analyzing the state of the maftmilproœssions. 114
However, befOle examjning these ~ a briefhistorical.review orthe initial years orthe CiIcassian period is
neœssary in arder to evaIuate the threats which the MamfukSWtanate faœd.
At the outset ofthe C~an period, the Mamruk militmy wœ ptt on 00ge when the Mongols, headed by
Timur Leng, invaded Syria and captured Damascœ in November of 1400. Timur's control ofSyria w~ short
lived as bis anny feIl to the fon::es ofthe erœtging Ottoman Empire at the battIe ofAnkara in JuJ;y of1402115
Syria once again passed to Mamruk bands btt not without a number ofobstacles. The invson ofTimur Leng
had laid waste to much of the Mamluk administrative structures in Syria With ndimentaty foundations of
central control remaining in the region illllllfrliately fàllowing the Mongol witbdrawal, Syria was able to hast a
nwnber of dissatisfied Mamruks who opposed the mIe ofSultan al-N""~ Faraj (1405-1412). For instance in
1405 three Mamruks b~ in Syria; y &1beg al-sha'bin1, Jaqmaq, and Mal}mldi, attacked the Citalel ofCairo
the decline in Mamruk discipline was "manifested at the beginning ofthe C~an
periodl! and that breaches in militmy deconm during the BaI)ii period were merely "sporadic manifestations".
See AyaIoD, ''The Circassians in the Mamfuk Kingdom", in foUl11a/ ofOIientaJ arxJ Afiieat1 Stzx/ies, Vol 69
(1949), p. 146.
113 Ayalon maintains that
"Notes on the FlJli6i)'Y8 Exeœises", pp. 4445, and GlJlJpowc/er arxJ Fireanm, pp. 52-54. Also
Rabie, ''The Training ofa Mamrukrarisu, pp. 162-163.
115Holt,AgeoftheC~p.179 .
but were mable to overtbrow the yomg Sultao.I16 Following their faiIed attempt: to
the Sultaoate,
Jaqmaq proclaimed himself Sultan of AIeppo and n:diœcted tax revenues destined for the Citadel towards
himselt: Althougb Jaqmq wa-; kiDed in a battle in Mesopotamia,
al-N""~ Faraj
invaded Syria five times
between 1406 and 1412 in 0Ider to quen the ambitions of other aoiirs who threateoed Mamruk autbority in
Syria This flnionalism would oontinœ during the initial years ofthe CircaWan perlod (rougbly 1399-(461) ~
a nmnber of individuals vied for the Sultanate. During this period, one Sultm stood out and brietly led the
Mamruks to victoI)' against extemal powers in ~ Palestine, and the COéR of the Red Sea Under the
tutelage ofAshrafBarsbay (1422-1438) the ~[amruks took a temporary respite from their internal factionalism
and concentrated on re-gaining effective control ofthe region. Holt describes the period ofBarsbay's Suftanate
as the "Indian summer of the Mamruk Sultanate." ll7 However, this briefinterltde would SOCIn give way ta
renewed factionaIism and civil war following Barsbay's death.
Hoh maintains that a great deal ofthe Mamrukinfigbting was a result of the general Iack ofdiscipline within
Mamruk ranks. He points out that ''[a]s the insubordination of the Mamluks ~ their quality as soldiers
declined. In earlier days the Mamluk warrior bcd been a supetb hoŒman figbting with lance and bo\v, carefully
trained, strictly discipIined, and sIowly promoted in accordance with bis ment and experienœ. By the mid-
ninth/fifteenth century this Wi5 no longer the ~."118 During the C~an period the practice of training in
hippodromes went into decline. David Ayalon insists that the poor state of the
"inevitably undennined the very foundation of military training and consequently sapped the Mamlük anny's
116Ibid., p.
1 l1Ibid, p.
118Ibid., p.
strength." 119 This trend began wben BaR}1q took over the Sultanale and inaugurated the C~an period in
1382. Becaœe ofthe tense relationsbips which hademerged between himselfand bis Marnruks, he abolisbed the
practice offreqœnting bippodromes.120 Moreover~ throughow the C~an period, 110 new hippodromes were
built until the Iast Mamruk Sultan, Q~ al-Ghawii (l501-1516)~ built one in 1503. When aoalyzing the
number of hippodromes in the Mamluk: Sultanate, it becomes apparent that the maydin al Silyiqus, buih in
1325, was the Iast hippodrometo he builtbefore al-Ghawiiconstrœtedbismaydinin 1503.121 Also duringtbis
period anumber ofthese hippodromes were abaodooed ~ oftbeirpoor~ate ofrepaie. Along with the poor
state of the
activities sœh as the polo and aœhery tomnaments were also curtailed. The
importance once placed on these events W(ti DOW relegated to infiequent occurrences during the Cim5sïan
period l22 With the Mamruk hippoc:frorŒs in a state of decline and ceremonial games not being observed
consistently, militaxy training would CODtinœ to falter.
Another pieœ ofevideoce which demonstrates the dwindling military skil5 ofthe Mamruks cao he infem:d
fiom analyzing the state ofthe ma/Jmilprocessions. This religious procession which annomced the arrivaI ofthe
ijajj season involved horsemen anned with lances who escorted a covered litter tbrougbout the streets ofCaïro.
The Mamfuk escort included forty hoI'SeIœD who were desigoated as ~.HDaIllfuks (lanceIs) and were
100 by a commander of a thoœand referred to as a mu~ al-rarnrni/Ja. Forty days prior to the start ofthe
festival this detacbment would. train twice a day. The pnxession W(ti sœpended a number of times during the
GlJIJIlOwdt:randFireanm, p. 54.
12oIbid., p. 53 and p. 55.
121The constrœtion of al-Ghawn's hippodrome coïncides \vith threats facing the Mamruk Empire fiom their
northem rivais the Ottomans.
''Notes on the Flll'i6i»aExercises", pp. 54-55.
CiIcassian period due to the IackofMamlüks who \Vele capable ofbandJing Ianœs in the apptuptiate maoner. l23
For instance, in 1444 Sultan Jaqmaq (1438-1453) sœpeoded the mafunil becaUle he could oot find qualified
Mamruks. Moreover, the sourœs maintain that the bebavior that Mamruks had detnotNrated during the
religious procession often degenaated into disgraœful acts wbich provided Jaqtml further reBm to abolish the
celebration. 124 In 1453 Sultan InaI (145~1) revived the parade bit "enoomteml great difficulty in finding a
suitable commander" to Iead the procession. And in 1467 the mafunilprocession
canceled by Sultan
Khu;bqadam (1461-1467) and W~ DOt œnewed during Qiytbiy's reign (1468-1496).125 The sœpension of the
maf1mil procession suggests that during the CÏIC5ian perlod a Jack of adequate training in lance skills had
become the nOIm aIongwith a general Iackofdiscipline ammgst the Mamfuks.
Clearly the systematic Mamruk training prograIm which were developed under Baybars and QaIiwUn had
been altered greatly. In its pŒe, Ioya1ty W$ secured through payrœnts and otherpennissive means. The result
ofthese measures created aMamruk annywhich W~ insuboIdinate on a nmnberof~ons thereby ~g
the outbreaks offactionalism which gripped mœh ofthe empire's history. This trend began during the reign of
al-~~MuI}amrnad and \vouldcontinœ lDltil the finalMamruk Suhan al-Gbawii.
Fearing a defeat al the bands
ofthe Ottoman anny, led by Sultan Selim 1(1512-1520), al-Ghawii reintrodœed systematic training progl'Cllm
while also building a new hippodrome. Ironical1y the rejuvenation of the 1ùrüsiyya skilh were aIso one of the
causes for the Ma:miuk defeat to the Ottomans. While the Mamruks ~ened to improve the state of their
123Ibid., p. 51.
124 Ibid
hippodromes and re-introdœe ~emâic, aIbeit traditionaI, training
within their raoks126, the
Ottomans had hem equipping their annywith fireaut& 127 Ultimately the reintrodŒtioo ofthe tin6iyyagames
proved to be strategicaIly insignificant in ligbt ofthe firearns œed by the Ottomans..128 The bâtie of Malj
Dabiq of 1516 would witness a MamIük defeat ta the Ottomans which paved the way for their final defèat in
petIy, Twilight ofM'!}ë:sty, p. 216.
GlJl1jXJwderandFbearms, p.lIO.
According to the lfih century historian Ibn ZunbuJ, the Ottoman use offireanm enabled them to defeat
the Mamfuk anny at Marj Dabiq. See Ayalon, GUI1pOwdt:r arxJ Fireanm, pp.86a97. However acconling ta
another historian, the Mamruk army w~ able to capture a nmnberofOttoman standards which Ied Selim to caIl
for a truce during the battle. This howeverdid IlOt take place; a Iœy defection by al-Ghawii's senior amàsopened
up the Mamfuk anny fordefeat. See PetIy, PmtectasOTPraetorians, p. 25. Also PetIy, Twi1ig/Jt ofMajesty, pp.
The previous chapter demonstrated the need for a reliable cadre ofRoyal Mamlüks in detlecting
the numerous extemal and internai threats the Sultanate faced.
Extensive military training
programs were employed as the primary means of establishing a dependable and loyal military
force during the initial years of the Mamlük Sultanate. However, no matter how \vell trained the
Mamliik military was, it a10ne could not assure the survival ofthe Mamlük. system. The MamLüks
needed to portray themselves as protectors of Islam in order to rule effectively. Moreover, in
order to lay claim, as the Mamlüks did, to the guardianship of Islam, they aIso needed the support
(or compliance) of the society they commanded.
In an effort to gain legitimacy over the
population they govemed, the Mamlüks penetrated Islamic structures which tlourished beneath
the walIs of the Citadel. 1 Religious education was one such arena which the Mamlüks adopted
and fostered. Their endowments of institutions ofbigher learning maintained Cairo's position as a
major cultural centre in the Middle East following the Mongol invasions which wreaked havoc on
centres oflearning such as Baghdad and Khurisin. 2 By establishing schools and a paralleL system
of academic patronage, the military elite exhibited an Islamic appearance which would help
promote their legitimacy to rule.
Essentially the "regime did not govem from without, but
Sorne ofthe means ofeLiciting reLigious sanction from the population were the Mam.lük
maintenance of the Abbasid CaLiph, ensuring safe passage to the HoLy Sites, declaring holy wars
Uihids) against Crusaders and Mongols and establishing a number ofcharities.
2Cairo's role as a major cultural centre was bolstered as scholars and artisans escaping the
Mongol invasions entered the city in order to continue their work. See Creswell, The Muslim
Architecture ofEgypt, Vol. 2, p. 166.
merged political control with economic and social roles." J
The importance of education in Islam cannot be overstated.
Numerous scholars have
chronicled the importance assigned by Muslim societies to education as one of the most important
steering forces within Islamicate culture.4 The Mamlük Sultanate was no exception; it actively
utilized religions education as an element of its ru le. Although the Sultanate did not mimic
entirely what preceded their rule~ it is undeniable that individual Mamlüks were keenly 3\Vare of
the gains to be achieved through the endowment of educational institutions. These institutions
supplied a religious and learned elite
that functioned within varions roles which
maintained societal cohesion. Based on the occupational patterns established by Popper, modem
scholars have been able to conclude that the
assumed positions on legal, scholarly-
educational, and religious career paths. s
What follows is an analysis of the institutions that were endowed by the Mamlüks which
trained the
' ulama' and
classes who participated in the religions life of Mamlük society.
Two notions will surface from this study.
First, education during the Mamlük Sultanate
encompassed a diverse array of institutions such as the madrasa, khinq8h, and mosque. 6 These
3Ira Lapidus, Muslim Cities, p. 78.
4Marshall Hodgson, The Venture oflslam, Vol.2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (974),
5Petry, The Civilian Elite, p. 129.
60ther educational institutions flourished during the Mamlük periode They included the ribaf,
institutions resembled one another on a number of organisational, structural and pedagogical
levels. The paraUel services and similar cmriculum suggest that religious education onder the
Mamlüks was a fonnalized affair based on systematized structures. This, however, was not the
case; rather religious education was essentially informai and was mostly focused on the
relationships between teacher and student.7
Shaykhs (professorslteachers) provided lessons at
diverse locations ranging from the institutions of higher leaming such as the madrasa, khanqah
and mosque, down to mundane locations such as
shops, gardens and other public and
private spaces. In one famous episode Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328) lectured from the window of his
Alexandrian prison cell.s Ultimately institutions did not graut students ijazas (teaching
certificates); rather shaykhs bore the responsibility of awarding degrees.
If education was
conducted on such informai lines and dependent on personal contacts, what led to the
establishment ofso many organized institutions ofhigher learning?
The second issue tbis chapter will raise is why Mamlüks funded so many educational
institutions. What will become apparent is that their endowment of religious institutions had
both pious and political overtones. The Mamlüks needed to demonstrate to the non-Mamlük
population their interest in religious matters.
This recognition was crucial for establishing
legitimacy to command Islamic territories. Meanwhile, religious institutions served as a fonn of
financial security for one's family in a military society which provided few official means of
zawiya and dm- aJ-padith.
7Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 50.
passing along \vealth from one generation to the next. Before exploring these two related themes
however, an understanding ofeducation in an Islamicate context is necessary.
One ofthe numerous Arabic words for knowledge is ~jJm9, and the transmission ofknowledge
bas stood as one of the most significant social forces within Islam. Every Muslim, past and
present, employs the life of the Prophet Mu4ammad as a rale-mode1. Within the realm of the
learned elite, one medium used to transmit
message has traditionally been
education. Coupled with the ward of God in the form of the Quran, Islam derives a great deal of
its orthodox inspiration from the traditions (hat/iths)
that further chronicled the life of the
Prophet. lo Another form of knowledge in the Islamic world is one which is based on mystical
issues. Practiced by those who either consciously define themselves as $üDs or those who do not
label themselves as such, manfa (understanding of God or "the light of gnosis') provides its
adherents with a personal knowledge ofthe Divine. 11
Education within Islam, fust and forernost, was a means of "pass[ing] on the cultural heritage
from one generation to the next.,,12 ln tbis manner, the transmission of ortbodox knowledge, bas
8Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopedia ofIslam (New York: HarperCollins, (989), p.176.
9For further information see Franz Rosenthal, The Triumph of Knowledge:the Concept of
Kno~vledgein Medieval Islam (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970).
1°Fazlur Rahman, Islam (Chicago: University ofChicago Press, (979), p. 181.
IIRosenthal, Triumph ofKnowledge, p. 164.
-Hodgson, Vcntlll"C ofIslam, Vol. 2, p. 438.
traditionally taken on a normative approach which provided "guidelines by which men and women
should live.,,13 These legalistic reguIatioDS established social and moral order throughout the
IsIamic world which were expressed in the sbaiica (Islamic law). In arder ta he suceessful in
ruling Muslim territories, political leaders had to acknowledge the important combination of
re li gIon
and 1aw. 14
Meanwhile, Islamic society has aIso possessed a
hunger for a more
spiritualistic approach towards the Divine. In meeting these demands, esoteric knowledge or
ma nEa was utilized by people as a means of gaining a more personal relatioDship with God.
Orthodox medieval Islamie education was marked by a striking conservatism which was most
pronounced with the importance given to memorization and rote leaming as pedagogieal tools.
At an early age, elite Muslim children, earmarked for scholarly careers, were taught passages trom
the Quran and various IJadlths which they committed to memory. A person who was able to
memorize the Quran in its entirety was known as
IJati~ and
was praised for his/her remarkable
This reliance on rote learning and memorization did oot come ta an end wheo
children left the kuttabs (Quran schools). Rather, tbis instructional strategy was aIso employed
throughout Islamic institutions which specialized in higher religious education.
As Muslim armies acquired vast tracts of territory during the cooquests, foreign customs and
ideas began ta permeate the new faith. Thus, the dependence
rote leamiog was motivated, in
Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 5.
14George Makdisi, The Rise of CoUeges: mstilutions of Leaming in Islam and the West
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981), p.8.
part, by the rapid spread of Islam. By promoting memorization, Islamic knowledge focused itself
on the past (most notably on the Quran and the IJaditbs) in an etTort to maintain the faith's
orthodoxy against encroaching philosophies and customs. In this manner, older scholars were
valued for their tradition al views as the faith attempted to thwart the "wealth of new impressions
and different views of the world."IS Maintaining a tradition of an unbroken iSDad (chain of
authority) to the Prophet and his Companions was the principal means ofpreserving the Prophetic
Iegacy of Muq,ammad. 16 Thus "rote leaming was appropriate to a conservative society, in wbich
the best to be hoped for was to ümit the inevitable decline in the next generation. nl7
In this fashion, knowledge was acquired from various scholars who lectured throughout the
Islamic world. Similar, in sorne ways, to the master/maw/a system which characterized the
relationship between a Mamlük and bis patron, scholars also conducted themselves in a
hierarchical manner.
F azlur Rahman comments that this method was "rather passive and
receptive than creative and positive" .18 Students seeking higher education would often attend
lectures given by prominent scholars who taugbt varions subjects. These lectures could take place
in a myriad of locations such as organized centres of leaming and informaI places. 19
ISRosenthal, The Triumph ofKnow/edgc, p. 93.
16Makdisi, The Rise ofCoUeges, p. 140.
17Hodgson, The Venture ofls/am, Vol. 2, p. 442.
18Rahman, Islam, p. 191.
19Sartain, Ja/aI a/-din a/-Suyü!l, Vol. 1, pp.120-I21.
the system appeared very rigid and steeped in conservatism, there existed a striking fluidity and
accessibility \vithin the transmission of knowledge. Islamic education was not reserved for one
particular class of people; rather education flowed through a number of social classes.2o AlGhazill's (1058-1111) rise from a humble background underlines this notion. This scholar grew
to great prominence and fame for the controversial \vork he produced during his lifetime; yet bis
background was one of limited financial means.
Despite its emphasis on understanding the Divine, mystical leaming shared sorne
characteristics with orthodoxy. As was the case \Vith orthodox scholarship, esoteric learning was
greatly dependent on shaybXs who provided students with knowledge, or ma nfa, conceming
their particular subject. Similar to orthodox teachers, $ü6 shaylchs serve as the basis of one's
education, not the institution at which the lessons \Vere provided. However, the $üli teacher is
quite distinct from the orthodox shaykh. Idris Shah points out that the $üli master is a ··guide
philosopher and friend" who ··endeavors to make available to the leamer the materials which \vill
develop his consciousness.".21
Within this esoteric realm, students focus on group exercises
(iJUrfÜT) and the recitation ofmystical texts (dhila} as a part oftheir leaming process.
Dming the Medieval period, prominent students and professors (both orthodox and $ü6)
20Rosenthal, The Triumph ofKoowledge, p. 335.
!IIdries Shah, The$ü6s (London: The Octagon Pres~) (977), p. 350-351.
seldom remained in one locality.22
Rather they were very mobile and often traveled great
distances in search ofother weil known schoIars (not institutions ofhigher learning). Throughout
Islamic history, different cities emerged as important centres of leaming as they attracted the
brightest and best minds of the time. Often associated with strong political regimes, cities as
diverse as Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Cordoba., Bukhara, and Delhi aIl drew scholars from
varions corners of the Islamic worId. As the Mamlük dynasty emerged as one of the strongest
Islamic forces in the eastem Mediterranean during the medievai period, Cairo was able to remain
a celebrated centre of leaming while other cities to the east suffered under the initial Mongol
invasions. 23
Cairo, during Mamlük mIe, was a popular destination for scholars and students alike. For
instance the prominent Maghribl scholar, Ibn Khaldün (1332-1406), lived in Cairo while serving
the Sultanate as a qaqJOudge) before he died. The large academic population and the institutions
which housed them have prompted one modem observer to describe Cairo as a "city of schools.,,24
The local and foreign scholars who staffed the centres of learning in Cairo operated \Yithin a
number of educational institutions. Within orthodox religious centres of learning (such as the
madrasa and masque), scholars concentrated their studies on Islamic jurisprudence.
As Sufism
22Petty, CiyjJian EBte:! p.37.
23Under the Fa!imids Cairo was aIso a centre for Islamic learning and culture. Al-Azhar stands
out as the most noticeable illustration ofthe cultural heritage ofCairo under the Fa!imids.
24Berkey, Transmission ofKDowledgc; p.4S.
grew ta become an accepted religious movement, ldJanqaJJs also began to otier classes in
jurisprudence along with their emphasis on mysticalleaming. The Mamlük Sultanate recognized
a11 four schools of law with lessons in Shafi1, l:Ianafi, Milild and l:fanbaIi Dqh available to
students in Mamlük Caïro. However, the focus on Dqh did not preclude other fields of learning.
Within the institutions of higher education, lessons in tafSir (Quranic exegesis), IJadith, and
grammar were also taught "but only as anciUaries to the study of law.,,25 Scholarship
the "foreign sciences" such as philosophy, theology, medicine and mathematics were mostly
studied outside the institutions of higher religious leaming within informai study circles or
apprenticeships.26 However, inside the walls of the various religious institutions, jurisprudence
remained the "jewel of the crown. ,,21 The multiplicity of subjects available ta the student at
various institutions demonstrates the non-structured nature of education in Mamlük society.
Ultimately no officiai curriculum existed which guided the educational patterns of those who
opted to pursue the path ofthe scholar. 28
The study of Bqh was not limited to organized institutions. Informai gatherings of scholars
aIso operated throughout the region. Students often gathered around learned shaykhs in iJalqas
25Ibid., p.7.
26Charles Michael Stanton, Highcr LeamiDg iD Islam: The Classical Period, A.D. 700-1300
(Maryland: Rowmand and Littlefield, 1990), p.53.
Transmission ofKDowlcdge, p.82.
Sartain, falil al-dID al-Suyü!i, Vol.l, pp.119-124.
(study circles) and received lectmes for a nominal fee. 29 Berkey daims that "the attention
demanded by the prevalence of endowed institutions of leaming in medieval Syrïa and Egypt has
perhaps obscured the degree to which the Islamic teaching system remained informai and
unaffected by its institutional framework down to the end of the Middle Ages.,,30 The infonnal
nature of Islamic education was in part motivated by the importance placed on one's teacher as
opposed to where one acquired hislher education.
AI-Sakhiwl (d.1497), the Mamlük historian who wrote the biographical dictionary a/-l)aw'
a/-Liïmi~ li
Ahl a/-Qam
describes the lives of learned scholars who operated during the
latter period of Mamlük bistoty. His descriptions give detailed information conceming the posts
and stipends held by the various shaykhs chronicled. However, within some of the reports,
scholars are cited for their excellence in teaching, but institutions at which they taught were not
mentioned. Shihib al-clin Atunad b. 'Ïsi al-~anhaJï al-Azhan al-Miilild (d.1423), a teacher of
Quranic studies and mentor to a number ofrenowned scholars, serves as a case in point. The l)aw'
does not mention \vhere he taught or that he received any stipends. Yet he is described as
"diligent in teaching from dawn to dusk u31 This suggests that his lessons \vere conducted on an
infonnal basis. However, despite this fact, he was able ta inspire a number of his students to
29Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p.86.
30Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledgc, p. 86.
3I Ibid.,
p. 88.
The manner in which students were taught underlines the principle of personal identification.
Shaykhs, who had studied under earlier scholars, lectured and dictated (often from memory) to
students who would gather in IJalqas.
As mentioned above, importance \vas placed on
memorization and rote leaming. Although Islamic scholarship made ample use of manuscripts,
the pedagogical system itself was focused on oral transmission from teacher to pupil33
Legitimacy was derived from attending a shaykh's study circle, not from reading texts. The early
14th centwy thinker Ibn Jama'a states that instruction should not he sought from those ''\vho have
studied the hidden meaning of pages......34 Therefore, similar in sorne ways to the Mamlük
training system which promoted loyalty to a patron, a student was bound to his teacher. 35 Berkey
claims, "an education was judged not on loci but on personae...36
33Ibid., p.24.
34Ibid., p. 26.
35Makdisi points out that this relationship bet\veen student and teacher resembles that of the
Prophet and his companions. "The companions of the Prophet were his constant fellows. They
would carry on his teachings after him, and disseminate them. They were the first 'ulami', the
first Iearned men of Islam. They were his spiritual heirs, as were those who would come after
them, and so on, down through the centuries, each generation deriving its authority ultimately
from the Prophet, through the transmission of the generations preceding it." See Makdisi, Rise of
Colleges, p. 129.
36Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 23.
Chamberlain has examined educational practices in Damascus during the early Mamlük era
His analysis supports the claim that religious leaming was not exclusively
institutionalized within the walls of educational centres. Chamberlain insists that the madrasas
(and by extension other educational institutions) of Damascus were not only sources ofeducation;
rather they were also sources of income and status for members ofthe civilian elite. The stipends
provided at educational institutions were the goals of the educated elite. He explains that U[t]o
the a yan [civilian elite] madrasaswere important social institutions~ with Many purposes that had
nothing to do with education. ,,37 Berkey sums op this notion of the limited importance Medieval
scholars pIaced on institutions ofhigher leaming when he states "an education was judged not on
loci but on personae."38
Understanding the roIe of education in Mamlük society requires an acknowledgment that
structures resembling "states" or other corporate bodies did not flourish. 39 Rather~ powerful
househoIds govemed territory under the auspices of the Mamlük Sultan. The amirs who headed
each household followed personal agendas which were often devoid of central control from the
Citadel of Cairo. One important aspect of their govemorship of areas such as
Damascus~ Tripoli~
Aleppo and Jerusalem was their sponsorship of educational institutions. These endowments
provided them with "a means of supporting the civilian elites upon whom they depended as a
37Chamberlain, Knowledgcand Socia/Pracfice, p.91.
39 Ibid .,
Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 23.
p. 176.
channel of influence into the city, as agents of social cootrol and legitimization, and as religious
specialists." 40 These institutions held man$ibs(stipendiary postS)41 that further provided lucrative
payments and social status to scholars who qualified for them. To the civilian eUte, attaioing
social status and honour meant acquiring a man$ib.42 Therefore education not ooly took the fonn
ofpiety, but it also became a vehicle for upward mobility.
The positions which the 6uJami Pcould fill were numerous in scope. Scholars mostly found
employment in three sectors of society: legal, religious-scholarly, and educational.
legal milieu, members of the
Within the
\Vere employed as sbaykbs (teachers of jurisprudence),
mu/ltasibs (market inspectaIS), sbibids (notaries), and the various Ievels of qa.dis Oudges) within
the Suitanate. Concerning the scholarly \vorld, the 6ulami' assumed positions such as mu7ds
(repetitors), mudanis (professors), and kh8zin al-kutubs (librarians). Finally, the most natural
career path which the 6ulami Pfound employment in was the religious sector. Within this realm
they operated as imams (prayer leaders), kha!ibs (preachers), muqrPs (Quran readers),
(revered persons), and $üfis (mystics).43 According to Petry, these ~ulami' constituted a learned
40Ibi d.,
p. 90.
41 Li Guo questions Chamberlain's usage of the word man$ab rather then the more commonly
used tenn man$ib. See Guo Mamlük Historiographie Studies: aState of the Art", in Mam1ük
StudiesRcview, Vol. 1 (1997), p. 25, note 46.
42Chamberlain, Knowledgc and SocialPractice, p. 92.
43For a detailed description of each of these professions, please see Petry's Civilian Elite, pp.
class whose career paths were different but whose education was similar.44
Within the
institutions of higher learning (bath informai and formai) which &ulama' attende<i, their studies
mostly focused on fiqh.
Despite the evidence which suggests that education was mostly based on informai structures,
organized institutions of higher leaming flourished \vithin Mamlük society. Three important
examples are the madrasas, khanqihs and mosques which were to he found throughout the various
cities of the Mamlük empire. Although making an effort to demonstrate the informaI nature of
Islamic education in Damascus, Chamberlain maintains that institutional centres such as the
madrasa "were important relïgious institutions, in that the leamed often resided in them, prayed in
them, interacted with one another in them, and taugbt students in them. ,,45
To gain a full
understanding of education during the MamlUk period, a familiarity with the major institutions of
higher learning is required. In each instance an interesting phenomenon
throughout the
history of the Mamlük Sultanate. During the early period of the Sultanate, these institutions
mostly operated \vithin a relatively narrow mandate, either offering courses in fiqh, facilitating
existential learning or acting as places of worship.
However, over Ume, these independent
institutions merged into multi-functional complexes such as the mosque-madrasa or the mosque-
44Ibid., p. 312.
45Chamberlain, Knowledge and SocialPractice, p. 85.
The madrasa was a school which centred on jurisprudence as its core subject matter. An
important feature of the madrasa was the availability of funds to sponsor students and teachers.46
First developed at Nishapm, early madrasas focused on the educational needs of its members and
the community at Iarge. 47 Under the auspices of the Seljuk vizier Ni?im aI-Mulk, the madrasa
became the champion of Sunnl education in an effort to deflect heresy.48 The fust significant
Mamlük madrasa which appeared during the early B~ period was the Zihiriyya founded by the
Sultan al-Zahir Baybars in 1263. This institution resembled the
~alilliyya, the
most noteworthy
Ayyiibid madrasa, which was located on the Bayn aI-Q~raYD.49 The school was one of the fust
post-Ayyübid madrasasestablished by the new regime and would later evolve ioto one ofthe most
prominent centres of Shifi 'i and ijanafi jurisprudence in Caïro.so
Apart from lessons in
jurisprudence, the madrasa aIso offered courses in IJadith, and qira&it (Quranic reading).Sl Upon
completion of a course, students were granted ijazas by their teachers which attested ta their
ability to teach the materiai. During Baybars' ruIe, he promoted aIl four schools of law into
4~erkey, Transmission ofKnowlcdge, p. 47.
47Hisham Nashabe, MusUm Educationalmstitutions (Beirut: Librarie du Liban, 1989), p.8.
For a complete description ofthe madrasa see Makdisi's The Risc ofCoUcgcs.
49Tbis street was the location of Many ofCairo's prominent education al institutions which were
built during the Ayyübid and Mamliik periods. They include the Kimiliyya (1229), Zahiriyya
(1263), Man~ûriyya (1285), al-Manstin (hospital) al-Man~ür1 (1284), N~iriyya (1304), and
Barqüqiyya (1385). (The Barqüqiyya was the only institution founded on the street during the
Circassian period.) See Petry, CiviOan EOte, pp. 330-333.
50Ibid., p.331.
relative positions of prominence.
Baybars endowed. The
This move also affected the architecture of the madrasa
utilized the cruciform, four-Iwiil design which would later he
reproduced in many of the madrasas built by later Mamlük
Sultans and amirs. 52
architectural feature incorporated an enclosed, or exposed, courtyard surrounded by four recessed
lwans (halls) where each of the four schools of law was taught.53 A Dumber of the Mamlük
madrasas which were built following the 4ahiriyya, encompassed sorne of its architectural and
pedagogical themes while at the sam.e time expanding their mandates to iDclude other services_
When al-N~ir Mu{1ammad re-assumed the Mamlük throne in 1299, he set out to complete the
madrasa which had originally been endowed by the exiled Sultan, al-'Adil Kitbughi. S4 Completed
in 1304 the
~~iriyya madrasa
provided classes in ail four madhhabs (schools of law). Although
the four madhhabs had been granted official sanction under Baybars, the ~~iriyya, apart from the
~ahiriyya, was one of the few schools which offered courses in ail four schools.
5lBerkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 61.
52Jose Pereira, Islamic Sacred Architecture (New Delhi: Books and Books, (994), pp. 76-78. By
the end ofthe Circassian period, the cruciform style had been transformed from four distinct areas
which could each contain a separate /Jalqa to a Mere stylistic motif: See Amy Whittier Ne\vhall,
The Patronage ofthe Mam1ük Sultan Qa 'it Bay, 872-901/ 1468-1496, PhD. Dissertation (Harvard
University, 1987), p. 130.
53Pereira, Islamic Sacred Architecture, p. 77.
54Creswell, MusUm Architecture ofEgypt, Vo1.2, p. 238.
55Ibid., pp. 128-129. Many scholars have assumed that the four schools of law were taught
within the four lwins which characterized the architectural style of the madrasa. This view is not
however completely accurate. Although following the architectural layout of the four [win
structure, it should be not automatically assumed that aU four schools of law were taught if this
architecturallayout ofthe school was based on the four-lwaD crucifonn style where each madhbab
occupied its own distinct Iwan. S6 The madrasa also housed a minaret, suggesting that the faithful
were called to worship al the madrasa. However, although sorne form ofworship took place at the
madras14 it was not the primary Cocus of the school's activities; rather it mostly served as an
educational centre.57
This pattern of
combining education and worship would continue
throughout the remainder of the Mamliik Sultanate.ss The madras~mosque complex of Sultan
I:Iasan (1356-1363) oost illustrates this point of merging educational and spiritual institutions.
Utilizing a cruciform plan, the structure's qibla-IwaD (hall facing Mecca) served as a
(congregational mosque) where the Hu/ha was read on Fridays.S9 Moreover, space was reserved
for the teaching of aU four schools of law. 60 A mausoleum for the Sultan's family also graced the
institution where $ü6s often worshipped.
ft was at the various mausoleums, located in the
Mamlük madrasas, where ~ü6s infused their esoteric practices with the more orthodox customs of
the 'ulami'.
Thus over the course ofMamlük history, the madrasa evolved from an institution
style was present. Other examples of a school which taugbt the four different rites were the
madrasa of Sultan I:Iasan (1356-63) and the Ashrafiyya madrasa established by Sultan al-Malik
al-AshrafBarsbây in 1424.
56Creswell, MusUm Architecture ofEgypt, p. 239.
57Robert Hil1enbran~ Islamic Architecture: Form, FunctioD and Meaoing (Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press, 1994), p. 197.
58 Berkey,
Transmission ofKnowledgc, p. 55.
59Ibid., p. 67.
Islamic Architecture, p. 196. Each school of law also housed small masjids
(mosques) which were used on a daily basis to support worship. See Berkey, Transmission of
Knowledge, p. 67.
6o Hi llenbrand,
which mostly focused on the teacbing of 6qh into an institution at which prayer and esoteric
activity took place.
The madrasa did not, however, command a monopoly over the realm of education during the
Mamliik Sultanate. Other institutions aIso fostered knowledge. The ldJaoqiboffered many ofthe
services found at the madrasa. The most noticeable difference between the two institutions was
that during the early Baqii
the khanqah catered mostly ta the esoteric needs of the
By the thirteenth century Sufism was no longer perceived to he the pariah
movement that it had once been seen.62 Over the course of Islamic history, Sufism gained public
and official recognition (thanks in part ta the writings of al-Ghazali). Sufism offered adherents
an alternative to the shaii1a minded 'uJamïi who preached a conservative and highly legalistic
faith. V arious
~üfi orders (faTiqas)
emerged throughout the Islamic world and catered to specifie
local customs. In Mamlük Cairo, for instance, the influence of Sufism was
great that sorne
reports claim 10,000 muiids (followers) hadjoined ~üfi orders. 63 Whether or not this number is
an exaggeration, there was no denying that Sufism played a prominent role in Mamlük society.
The military class viewed the ~üfi sages as bearers of "good fortune" when they dwelled in
61Boaz Shoshan, Popular Culture in Medieval Cairo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1993), p. 18.
62Rahman, Islam, pp. 150-151.
63Shoshan, PopularCulture, p. 12.
nearby communities.64 Moreover, Mamlüks ofTurkic origin regarded Sufism as an indirect link
to their native pasto Often originating from Central Asia, Many of the foreign
Mamlüks sponsored spoke a similar dialect and shared Many customs with their patrons. Tbese
similarities between the military and esoteric castes influenced the Mamlüks to support ~üfiS.6S As
Sufism gained momentum and approval from the Mamlüks, 1dJiDqibs naturally became important
spirituaL educational and poIitical institutions.66 However, tbis acceptance did not open every
career opportunity to the
For instance, they were not weil represented in the bureaucratie
fields. This limitation aside, Fernandes lists a number of occupations in which $ü6s did find
employment. The most prevalent form of employment they participated in was in the field of
· 67
reli glon.
There, they occupied such positions as imims, Quran readers, kiitibs (scribes),
muwaqqits (those who scheduled prayers) and various khidims(assistants).68 As Sufism became
more accepted within Cairo's society, individual ~üDswere also trained in Dqh. Their exposure to
legal education allowed them to assume a number of positions which the orthodox
traditionally held.
These included jobs within the religious-scholarly and legal professions
mentioned earlier.
Moreover, Mamlüks often appointed foreign $ü6s to important religious
positions because of the loyalty they would demonstrate towards their sponsors. Fernandes
remarks that the link
had with society "gave the ruling class indirect control of the
Petry, Civilian Elite, p. 268.
66Ibid., p. 139.
EvolutioD ofa $ü6 InstitutioD, p. 54.
population by lessening the risk ofsocial uprisings instigated by the relïgious clasS." 69
Similar to the funding of madrasas khanqihs were financed through waqfs established by
wealthy members of the Mamlük community.7o The endowments for ldJanqibs were however
limited in number during the early BaIp-l period. At the outset ofthe Mamlük Sultanate orthodox
·ulamii' did not give full sanction to iü6s nor to their esoteric teaching methods. Offering an
alternative and more populist social and moral order9 Sufism challenged the political and religious
clout of the orthodox &ulamii'.
A1though Sufism was popular amongst the Mamlük class, the
military did not pursue ambitious attempts to endow khanq8hs. 72
For instance during much of
the Ayyübid and early Mamlük period (roughly 1169-1286), only three khiinqiihsthrived in Cairo;
one of which was the khanqiih of Sa'id al- Su'adi' {founded by ~ali4 al-Din in 1174).73 This
limited number demonstrates the important role the orthodox &ulamii' played in the Mamlük
Sultanate. Although the Mamlüks were able to claim the guardianship of Islam, the &ulamii'
continued to define what constituted orthodoxy.74 For instance they were able to have $üfis
68 Ibi d., pp. 58-59.
69Ibid., p. 102.
70Ibid., pp. 73-94.
71Rahman, Islam, p. 151.
Evolution ofa $üB mstitution, p. 100.
73Ibid., p. 99.
74Ibid., p. 100.
dismissed from their posts for relatively petty reasoos. In one instance a chief judge (qât/i al-
quqi/) dismissed a
~ü6 shaykb from
bis position wheo the latter failed ta stand and acknowledge
the j udge's presence. 75 With political and moral clout on their side, the çuJama' were able ta
frustrate the ruling class's desire ta endow Sufism duriog the Ayyuoid and early Balpl period.
Ho\vever, faced with the cootinued Mamlük favoritism towards mystics, orthodox officiaIs
\vere unable to curb the growing influence Sufism had on society. Once the Mongol and Crusader
threats were weIl in check and the need to promote religious orthodoxy abated, the opposition the
cu/ami' harbored was challenged. 76 As more and more khiïnqâhs were endowed, the antagonisms
against the $ü6s nurtured by the çuJama' were placated within a system of academic patronage
fostered by the Mamlük hierarchy. Members of the çuJama: once staunch opponents of Sufism,
were DOW appointed to teaching posts within $ü.6institutions.77 ~vloreover, a number of orthodox
scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya and al-Suyü!i maintained sorne affiliations with $üiT schools
further legjtimizing Sufism. 78 By the fourteenth cent ury, acquiring teaching positions within
khinqahs became very competitive. 79 This occurred in part because "Sultans and grand amIrs
77 Ibi d.,
p. 101.
78Sartain, JaliJ al-dio al- Suyü/i, Vol. 1, p. 34.
79Chamberlain argues that the acquisition of teaching positions and academic stipends existed
within an atmosphere of B/na [struggle]. Acquiring honor and prestige during the Mamlük period
for civilians frequently meant pursuing an academic career. With limited academic seats
available, competition was commonplace amongst the a Yân. Chamberlain, Knowlcdge and Social
lavished substantial sums to endow the kbanqilJJ' which in tum drew prominent members of the
civilian elite to compete for teaching positions.8o As orthodoxy fused with the esoteric virtues of
Sufism "the khanqah ,vas allowed an especially fertile period of development."Sl
Thus the
khanqahs of the Mamliik period would combine manfawith the orthodox leaming or &ilm.
As Sufism gained acceptance within the orthodox community, Mamlüks actively supported
$üfis and sponsored a large number of foreign-barn mystics to study and teacb at tbe convents
theyendowed.82 Similar ta the merging of educational and spiritual services found at madrasBS,
khanqahs aIso evolved into multi-functional institutions.
However, this phenomenon did not
occur during the early Mamlük periode For instance, when
Muq.ammad endo,ved his
khanqah at Siryaqiis in 1324, he distinguished it from his ~~iriyya madrasa by limiting the
teaching of liqh to the latter. However, this separation between orthodox liqh and Sufism soon
broke down. Fernandes points out that by the late fourteenth and early fifteenth cent ury, k1Janqihs
"incorporated sorne of the functions of madrasas and jarm&s'. 83 A former Mamlük of al-N~ir
Mu.qammad by the name of Mughultay al-JamaIi founded a khanqih in 1329.84 This institution's
Practice~ pp.
Civilian Elite, p. 139.
81Femandes, Evolution ofa $üJiInstitution, p. 101.
82Ibid., p. 102.
83Ibid., p. 33.
84Ibid, p. 34.
waqf provides ample evidence that the waqif(founder) set aside fonds for the study ofIJanafi 6qh
and IJadith in addition to its mystical functions.
$iïfl education was facilitated with the aid of a shayldJ who guided studeots in mystical
prayers and repetitive chants which enabled one to reach an understanding of God. Traditionally
individuals who wanted to devote themselves to
within khanqahs riba!s or zawiyas.
Iifestyles would often find sanctuary
Through the endowment established by the khanqab ~
founder, a student was provided with basic necessities which could include lodging, food, and a
cash stipend.85 According to the scholar Shams al·din Mu{:1ammad b. Allmad al-MinhiJÎ al-Asyüti
(b.1410), students studying at sü6 institutions had a number of duties which constituted their
activities during the course ofthe day. Guided by shaykhs, students would read passages from the
Quran which were then followed by recitations of ~ü1i texts. These ritual fonns of worship were
also augmented by individual study and meditation. 86
Education was oot Iimited to the madrasa and khiinqih complex in Mamlük society.87
Masques (masjids and jamits ) aIso took part in facilitating tiJm. 88
The mosque complex
85Berkey, Transmission ofKrJowledge, p. 56.
86Little, "The Nature of Khi'nq8bs, Riba,s, and Zawiyas Under the Mamlüks", pp. 98-99.
87Humphreys, flThe Expressive Intent of the Mamlük Architecture of Cairo: a Preliminary
Essay", in Studia Islamica, Vol. 35 (1972), pp. 82·83.
88 An institution at which prayer is perfonned is commonly referred to as a masjid A masjid at
which the khu!ba is read from is called ajSmit.
represented the pre-eminent religious structure in !slamicate society and it has
facilitated religious instruction as part of its role in caterîng to the spiritual needs of the Muslim
community. Berkey notes that n[flor centuries before the advent of the madras~ mosques were
the only public venue for higher Islamic education. n89 However, during the early Ba4rl period the
lines of distinction between the mosque and madrasa were relatively sharp. For instance, during
Baybars' reign, the Sultan endowed two distinct institutions: one which provided spaces for
worsbip and another which offered Iessons in Dqb.. The Mosque of Sultan Baybars, which opened
in 1269, was utilized primarily as a place ofworship.90 Meanwhile, Baybars' Zâhiriyya madrasa
focused primarily on Bqh. However, as was the case \vith the madrasa and khanqih, the narro\v
mandates ofthe mosque saon took on a nomber of diverse functions.
Berkey maintains that mosques began to "resemble madrasas in that -
through the
munificence of the original builder or that of a later benefactor - they offered formaI,. endowed
courses in the Islamic religious sciences.,,91 For instance, the congregational masque ofThn TüIÜD,
restored by Sultan L8Jîn (1297-1299), was provided with a nomber ofprofessorships. Meanwhile,
as Sufism became an acceptable fonn of religious expression, mosques took on a number of
characteristics which were once the domain of the khinqih. The masque of al-Jishanlàr (1306)
and al-Malik (1319) bath represent the mosque-khinqah motif where Uthe notion of the masque
89Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 54.
90Creswell, Muslim Architecture ofEgypt, Vol. 2, p. 155.
9lBerkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p.54.
as an independent building or at any rate as an independent space was discarded".92 The 1dJ8Dqâbmadrasa endowed by al-Mu'ayyad Shaykh further provides an example of the merging of distinct
religious institutions iuto single multi-functional structures. His complex, completed after his
death, incorporated areas for studying Dqb along with spaces reserved for prayer and worship
while aIso housing a nomber of $üfis who participated in the daily affairs of the institution.93
Moreover, the complex was also ajamr as the ldJu!bawas read on Fridays.94
After analyzing the different institutions of higher religious education in Mamliik society an
underlying theme emerges. Over the course of the Mamlük Sultanate, educational institutions
began to merge and coalesce into centralized multi-faceted institutions.95
The movement from
the focused one-dimensional institution towards that of the multi-functional educational complex
deserves sorne explanation. Unfortunately the sources do not provide specifie answers for this
question; therefore sorne speculation is in order to understand why educational institutions
coalesced into the intricate complexes which dotted the Mamliik landscape. There is no doubt
that the economic fortunes of the Mamlüks were wavering during the fifteenth century.96 As
agricultural production fell, so too did tax revenues and the necessary capital needed to fund
92Dogan Kurban, MusUm ReUgious Architecture, VoL 2 (Lieden: E.J. Brill, (985), p. 5.
93Femandes, Evolution oEa $ü6 InstitutioD, p. 41.
95Pereira, Islamic Sacred Archjtect~ pp. 65-74.
96Petry, Protectors orPraetorians? p. 102.
institutions of higher religious education.97 The merging process was also brought about by the
acceptance of Sufism and the interactions between orthodox
and $iïfi mystics. FinaUy
education within the Islamic tradition was an act of piety. Berkey comments that [s]tudy, like
prayer, was an activity that could only be undertaken effectively in a state of ritual purity."
Therefore it is quite natural for schools to combine an element of worship in order to facilitate a
state of purity.
Despite the thriving religious architecture which housed Many scholars and students during
the Mamlük period, on the whole, education remained focused on teacher/pupil relationships. If
education during the Mamlük period was informai and based mostly on personal relationships, one
is naturally inclined to ask why were so Many institutions of higher learning founded by the
The establishment or founding of an institution was normally based on or govemed by the mie
of waqf(religious endowment). A waqfwas a private endowment which reflected the individual
motives of a person and not that of the state. Theoretically, the waqf was established as a pious
97 Annemarie Schimmel, "Some Glimpses of the Religious Life in Egypt during the Later
Marnlük Period", in Islamic Studies, Vol. 4 (1965), p. 337. This reference deaIs mostly with ~iili
98Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledgc, p. 55.
act by a wealthy wiqif who set aside funds for an institution of hislher choosing.99 These
donations could support programs as diverse as fountains, bazaars, gardens, charities, and of
course, educational institutions. 100 The inspiration for establishing an endowment was focused on
obtaining qurbi (closeness to God) and the benefits the waqfwould provide its patron in the
afterlife. 1ol
Although Mamlük training focused on military ski lis, their initial religious
indoctrination grounded their beliefs in Islam. This being the case, a number of Mamlüks who
endowed religious institutions ofleaming did so as acts ofpiety. Assuming the Sultanate near the
end of the Mamlük empire, al-Ashraf Qaytbay was regarded as a pious individual. One chronicle
maintains that,
"His lifestyle was correct. He never drank wine, nor indeed
any inebriating substance. He was learned in religious
science, widely read. He even authored pious litanies
that are recited in mosques to this day. He had faith
in mystics, honored scholars, respected rights ofthe peopleacknowledging the status each merited."102
With such a religiously grounded characterization, one cao speculate that Qaytbay's motivations
for endowing bis mosques, madrasas and khinqihswere partly influenced by his piety.103
99Within the text of the waqf document, a founder provided information pertaining to the
operation of an institution. For instance, data regarding the number of staff employed at an
institution and their respective salaries would often be included in a waqf document. See
Fernandes, Evolution ofa $ü6lnstitutioD~p. 90.
lOOIbid., pp. 3-4.
101Makdisi, Rise ofColleges, p. 39.
102The excerpt is taken trom Ibn Iyas's Ta 'iikh Mi~ al-MashhÜT hi Bada'jf al-ZuhÜT fi Waqi7 f
al-DuhÜI: pp. 325-326. Translation is provided by Petry in TwiDght ofMajesty, p. 15.
I03Ibid., p. 56 and p. 80.
Alongside piety existed a host of less altruistic motives for the foundïng of religious
George Makdisi provides a number of these ulterior motives.
They include a
founder's attempt "to escape taxation, to thwart the excesses of a son's prodigality, or to gain
control of the popular masses by having their religious leaders in one's pay..,I04 These political,
social and financial considerations were taken into account by the Mamliiks who employed them
to greater or lesser degrees. The Mamlük MankütimlU', the Dâ&ib a/-sa/faDa (viceroy) who served
under Sultan LaJÏn, alienated a number of leading amlrs through bis economic policies. lOS AlMaqiiii explains that the viceroy caught wind of plans to assassinate him which were being
circulated by a number of disenchanted Mamlüks.
In an effort to safeguard bis fortune,
Mankütimur endowed a madrasa which was completed two months before he was assassinated. 106
Mankütimur, '.vell aware of the law of the waq{ avoided the confiscation of his fortune by
endowing a religious institution which bis family continued to administer in exchange for stipends
paid by the endowment. Ultimately, the waqfiyya was a legally binding document under the
shan&a. This being the case, the waqfofIered a relatively high degree of security for those who
endowed educational institutions. Attempting to divert its funds from the original mandate was
considered to he an infringement of !stamic law.
Supported by the shaii&a, Many Mamlüks
I04Makdisi, Rise ofCoUeges, p.39.
IOSUnder Sultan Lajin, Mankütimur undertook a rawk (redistribution) of the existing iq!a&s
which were in the hands of a number of powerful amlrs. This move angered sorne of the amlrs
whose incomes were curtailed through the redistribution. Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledgc, p.
utilized the lawofthe waqfas a means of endowing educational institutions such as the masque,
madrasa and khanq8b.
The Mamlük Sultans and arnirs had "few if any attributes of sacred kingship." 107 Born
outside the realm of IsI~ these foreigners needed a means to insert themselves into the social
fabric of the community they ruled in arder ta gain legitimacy from the local civilian elite. The
religious eUte had grown accustomed to the frequently changing bands that govemed them. They
perhaps saw this constant shifting of power as Divine Will "Thou givest the Kingdom to whom
Thou will, and seizest the Kingdom from whom Thou will." (3:25ioS What was required of the
miUtary eUte was the maintenance of the moral and religious values to which the greater
community adhered. 109 In the case ofEgypt and Syria, Islam defined the moral order, and thus the
Mamlüks needed ta place themselves within its belief system. One historian has commented that
"through the establishment of institutions devoted ta its transmission, the Mamlüks were able to
link their names ta the most valued asset of the society over which they ruled." llo Therefore as
Mamlüks assumed prominent positions within Egyptian and Syrian society, they endowed
religious institutions as political gestures which placed them at the heart of the social system
107Chamberlain, Knowledge and SocialPractice, p. 49.
108Quran (3:25). Interpreted by Arthur A. Arberry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p.
109Roy Mottahedeh, Loyalty and Leadership in
University Press, 1980), p. 188.
IIOBerkey, Transmission ofKDowledge, p. 134.
Ear/y Islamic Society (princeton: Princeton
which defined the oorms ofsociety.111 The fact that Most institutions bore their founders' names
further stresses this point. Identification with Islam was the goal Many Mamlüks had in mïnd
when they eodowed religious institutions. Ultimately this identification fostered their legitimacy.
Chamberlain maintains that n[b]y funding madrasas, powerful households could insert themselves
ioto the cultural, political, and social life of the city, and tum existïng practices to their own
benefit.,,112 Thus, what evolved was a symbiotic relationship between the Mamlüks, 'ulama'and
~üfj classes.
These groups depended on one another for mutual benefits and together they played
an important roIe in shaping the educationallandscape orthe Mamlük Sultanate.
1Il Ibid.,
p. 134.
1 I2Chamberiain,
Knowlcdge aDd SocialPractice, p. 52.
The final group of elites that
win he analyzed in this work are the children of the Mamlüks
(awlid al-nas) who participated in both military and religious arenas. Unfortunately, in contrast
to the two previous chapters, very few sources explain how the 8w/id al-Dis were educated and
trained. Modem scholars are therefore left to speculate as to the nature oftheir education and the
influence it had developing their potentiaL This limitation aside, no study of elite Mamlük
education and training would be complete without discussing the 8w/id al-Dis.
The awlad al-Dis were members of the aristocracy in as much as they were born into their
elite positions. This being said, they were theoretically barred from entering the ranks of the
regular Mamliik army in which theïr fathers served as full members.
Mamlük military society
\vas marked by a non-hereditary nature which excluded Mamlük offspring from inheriting any
militmy and political power held by their fathers.
This limitation not-withstanding, a large
number of awlad al-Dis were able to participate in military affaïrs. Through a unit known as the
I:Ialq3, the awlid al-Dis were permitted to joïn the auxiliary units of the army. Outside limited
military careers in which they were permitted to serve, the aw/id al-Dis played an important role
in the realm of religion and scholarship. A nomber of Mamliik offspring entered the ranks of the
urban elite as scholars and religious figures. 1 In order to fonction in both these military and
1Lapidus, Muslim Cities, p. 69. The 8wlad a/-nas also functioned within the various government
bureaucracies throughout the empire. These officiais were required to undergo sorne foon of training in
order to prepare them for their positions. A detailed discussion on the education of the administrative
class exceeds the scope of this paper. For information concerning this subject see Bernadette Martel-
scholarly spheres, the aw/ad a/-Das required sorne form of education and training. However, not
aIl 8Jvlad al-nas followed identical methods of leaming; different ed1Jcational paths were pursued
by different individuals. Within the limits of the available
this chapter will attempt to
shed sorne light on the training and education ofthe aw/ad al-Das.
Despite the fact that the aw/ad al-Das were active in the higher echelons of Mamlük society,
their participation in the scholarly and military elite was not without drawbacks_ Because they
were situated between two distinct cultures, military and scholarly, their careers were often
frustrated. Haarmann illustrates that "neither of the societies benveen which they stood normally
allo\ved them to become full members.,,2 The non-hereditary nature of military life ensured that
when a member ofthe aw/ad al-Das seized political power, senior aniIrs who had not profited from
the ne\v administration would often respond with hostility. For instance, when al-Ashraf Kahlll
assumed the Sultanate following QaliiWÜD's death, bis reign was disputed by a number of highranking amlrs \vho were successful in assassinating the new Sultan.3 Meanwhile, the 'u/amii:
reacting to what they perceived ta be a Turkish seizure of Islamic territory, "punished the awliid
al-nis for a11 the humiliations they suffered".4 For instance they did this by not recording in
Thoumian Les civils et l'administration dans l'état militaire mamlulc (Damacus: Institute français de
Damas, 1991).
!Ulrich Haarm~'1O, "Sons ofMamlUks as Fiet:holders in Late Medieval Egypt'\ p.l44.
3The point of contention which sparked the anger of the senior amll'S was KhaIil's continuation of
Qalawüo's poliey of acquiring Cireassian slaves as new recruits for the Mamlük army. Fearing a loss of
power and status a number of Turkish amlrsformed a faction which opposed Khall!. See Holt, The Age of
the Crusadcs, pp. 105-106.
4Haarmann, "Sons of Mamlüks", p.l44.
biographical dictionaries those Mamliik offspring who wrote favorably ofthe Mamlük class.
These limitations aside, a number of aw/iïd aJ-Dâs were able ta inherit political standing from
their fathers. The most obvious transfer of family status which occurred during the Mamlük
Empire was under the QaliWÜDids (1279-1382). This miniature dynasty was able to create a
system ofhereditary succession. Other instances exist in which the sons ofMamlüks were able to
achieve status otherwise denied ta their particular class_
Levanoni points out that during the
reigns of Baybars and QalâWÜD, the mies of exclusion were occasionally broken as a total of
eleven amJrs were sons of Mamlüks. s
The reign of Sultan I:Iasan (1354-1361) offers another
example of aw/ad a/-D.5participating in elite levels of the politicallmilitary society. In an effort
ta reduce the power of existing Mamlük amlrs, Sultan I:Iasan promoted ten aw/id a/-nas to the
rank of amJr of a hundred.6
Furthermore, he chose not ta advance existing Mamlüks ta lofty
positions within his govemment, opting instead ta favor the aw/ad a/-nâs in an attempt ta win
loyalty. The rules and customs which excluded non-slaves from elite positions within the military
were relatively flexible and were not adhered to by the letter. 7
Therefore, before analyzing the
education and training of the 8w/ad a/-D.5, it is paramount ta understand that their raies within
the Mamlük Sultanate were tluid. This tlexibility marked the aw/ad a/-D8s. Although they were
theoretically barred from certain positions, political circumstances arase which pennitted their
SLevanoni, Tuming Point, p. 42.
6Ayalon, "Studies on the Structures", p. 457.
Ayalon, L'esclavage, p. 24.
During the reigns of Baybars and QaliWÜD, admittance into the elite levels of the Mamlùk
military society \vas reserved for non-Muslim slave boys who were trained and educated in the
systematic methods discussed earlier. Born Muslims, the aw/ad a/-nBs carried attributes which
excluded their entry into the regular Mamlük: arroy.
David Ayalon states that to become a full-
fledged Maml~ a non-Muslim slave ongin was crucial.8 The aw/8d a/-nBs were bom within
Islamic territories and were by birth Muslims carrying Arab names as opposed ta the Turkish
names of their fathers. 9 Moreover, as Muslims, they did not qualify for slave status due to
Quranic regulations forbidding the enslavement of fellow Muslims and members of the dhimma
(Jews or Chrîstians).IO Their inability to joïn the Mamlük corps did not hinder their participation
in the military. A special unit known as the I:Ialqa accepted freebom Muslims, such as the aw/ad
into its ranks. As soldiers within this unit, they received sorne training in the arts of
The I:Ialqa was a military unit whose history dates back ta the reign of~al311 al-Din (d.1193).
Its position as the Sultan's bodyguard \vithin the Ayyübid anny established its elite stat08. 11 At
the outset of the Mamlük empire, the regiment was able to hold on to its bigh stat08. This was
SIbid., p. 24.
~aarmann, "Arabie in Speech", p. 109.
IOSernard Lewis, Race and Slavery iD the Middle Eas~ (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), p.7
Ayalon, "Studies on the Structure", pp. 448-449.
partly due to the influx of fully trained soldiers, in the form of the w8Jidiyya (Mongol deserters
and Syrian immigrants), who helped maintain the military prowess of the unit. 12 These adult
soIdiers were already fully trained and capable calvary troops. However, the eHte status which the
J:Ialqa enjoyed did not prevail throughout the course of Mamlük history. Following
Mu4ammad's rawk a1-D~iJ7(land redistribution) in 1315, the
iqfa~ which
financed much of the
J:Ialqa's activities were centralized and redistributed to the Royal Mamliiks. 13 In addition to this
setback, the steady flow of wàJidiyya troops, which had augmented the l:Ialqa with qualified
calvary, dwindled following al-~ir M~ammad's rule. l4 As their numbers declined so too did
the military po\ver and subsequent status of the I:Ialqa. This suggests that there existed no
internaI training mechanism which would have strengthened the I-Jalqa's military strength from
within; or if one was in existence it was not effective. Moreover, during the Circassian period,
members of the I:Ialqa were permitted to sell their remaining iq!aCs to common citizens who did
not have any military background. ls During the course ofMamlük history, it became an accepted
nonn for members of the :ijalqa to avoid military service by paying a pre-detennined amount to
the Sultanate. These factors combined and resulted in a steady decline in the I:Ialqa's status and
military prowess. 16 The I:Ialqa's decline in military skill did not go unnoticed. In 1388, during a
12Ayalon, "The Wifidiyya in the Mamlük Kingdom", in lslamic Cu/ture, (1951), p.98-99.
13Ayalon, "Studies on the Structure", pp.542-453.
14Ayalon, "The Wafidiyya in the Mamlük Kingdom", p. 93.
IS Ayalon,
"Studies on the Structure", p.453.
16Humphreys provides an alternative tbeory as to why the fJalqa declined in standing. He points to
Baybars' break with the Ayyiibid Sultanate as the cause for the secondary status of the regiment. Fearing
a resurgence from the remaining Ayyiibid principalities in Syria, Baybars centralized the strength of bis
period of successional unrest in the empire an amir by the name of Mintish is reported to have
commented that the l:IaIqa was "weak and unfit..,,17 This critical assessment of the ~alqa was
perhaps fonnulated following the occasional archery tests which its members were required ta
undergo. 18
As Baybars delegated freebom troops away from his inner circle and his Royal Mamlüks, t\VO
interrelated differences began to emerge between the slave soldiers and the 8w/ad a/-Das who
entered the I:Ialqa. According to Humphreys, most ofthe members of the Ifalqa were recruited as
adults. 19 This being the case, the members of the l:IaIqa were not provided with the same intense
training as their counterparts in the regular Mamlük army. Trained and educated in the fabaqas,
the Mamlüks shared a camaraderie (khushdashiyya) and fighting quality which was far superior to
that of the I:Ialqa's.20 Moreover, adults, including the aw/ad a/-Das, who entered the fJalqa were
not trained and educated in the same manner as the Royal Mamlüks who had theoretically begun
their training as children. Without the intensity and concentrated military training fostered within
the walls of the barracks while relatively young, it can he presumed that Egyptian-bom fJalqa
army by employing slaves. "By relegating the great majority of Cree-barn soldiers to a secondary unit, he
ensured the political and military domination of the mam/iik." He fin1her points out that "tbis social
change of course confirmed an ethnic one: the Kurds [the ethnic origin of the Ayyübids] would henceforth
have no opportunity to reclaim a major position in the army...." See Humphreys, "The Emergence of the
Mamluk Army", pp. 163-164.
AyaIon, ItStudies on the Structure", p. 454.
18Haarmann, liSons ofMam1üks", p.l42.
19Humphreys, "Emergence of the Mamlük Army", p. 163.
"Studies on the Structure", p. 456.
troops were inferior to Mamliik soldiers ofslave ongin who were fully trained.
Prior to theirentry into the l:Ialqa, the aw/ada/-Daswere educated in the homes oftheir fathers
by local teachers or at primary schools which were often "annexed to the various institutions of
" 21
h1·gher 1eamlng.....
Beginning with grammar lessons in the Arabic language, the early
education which the aw/8d a/-Das received resembled the early education elite non-Mamlük
children were provided. When child.ren tumed seven or eight, they began to concentrate on the
Quran by committing it to memory.22 What differentiated a number of aw/ad a/-nas from
ordinary Egyptian children was their access to the Turkish dialects spoken by the Mamlüks who
origjnated from the regions of the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Children who were
born to parents ofTurkish extraction were more likely to have sorne knowledge ofthese languages
than children who \Vere raised in Arab homes.23
When the aw/id al-Dis entered the age of majority, they were provided with "pay, foodstuffs,
meat, and fodder".24
jqJa~ provided
Later on they were granted jq!a~ and military posts within the l:Ialqa.25
the awlad a/-nas access to wealth and status othenvise denied to them due to
2lHaarmann, "Arabie in Speech" ,p. 105. and Berkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 28.
UBerkey, Transmission ofKnowledge, p. 28.
23Haarmann, "Arabie in Speech", p. 92.
24 Ayalon,
"Studies on the Structure", p.4s6. A1so Levanoni, TlH11ing Point, p.43.
Ayalon, "Studies on the Structurel" p.4s6.
the non-hereditary nature of society. Lapidus comments that the l:Ialqa "was created expressly for
the purpose of finding a socially and financially suitable employment for the sons of former
officers. ,,26 However, the sae and wealth of jq!a~s the awlad a/-nas received were generally
inferior to those that were granted to the Royal Mamlüks.27 Under Baybars and Qaliwün (except
for the eleven aw/ad a/-nas who were granted amirates) the aw/ad a/-nas were awarded modest
ranks within the I:Ialqa. 28
As mentioned above, the awliid al-nas were not confined to the lfalqa. Benefiting from a loase
application of Mamlük norms, Many served in the regular Mamlük army. FoUowing QalawÜD's
death in 1290, the Mam1ük Sultanate feU iuto disarray as high-ranking amJrs competed for the
Sultanate. For the next twenty years, the amlrs, employing a principle of dynastie succession,
utilized various sons of QaliWÜD as figureheads in order to gain legitimacy.29 Also during this
period, thirty-nine aw/ad al-nas entered the ranks of the regular Mamlük army and were granted
amirates.30 When al-~~ir Mu4ammad reassumed the Mamlük throne in 1310, he continued the
practice of allowing aw/iid aJ-nas eutry into the Mamlük army. Levanoni has collated the names
of ninety-three amJrs from the various sources she consulted who served in
26Lapidus, MusUm Cilies, p. 116. Perhaps bis language is too extreme, as demonstrated earlier, the
I:Ialqa was aIready a functioning militéUY unit prior to the emergence of the Mamlük Sultanate.
27Levanoni, Tuming Point, p.43.
30Ibid., p.44.
Mamliik regiments.
31 She explains that the "appointment and advancement paths of the sons of
mamluks during the rule of al-~ir MuIJ,ammad were often identical to those used for his Sultani
Mamluks -among the sons of mamluks and the Royal Mamluks alike one May find soldiers
whose promotion was totally divorced from objective military criteria.,,32
For instance,
Mu1].ammad ibn Baktamur al-H~inù, a son of a high ranking amir, was granted the post of amJr
of ten at the tender age of thirteen.33 The practice of allowing sons of Mamlüks entry iuto the
Mamliik anny continued dtning much of the Qaliwünid dynasty. Its zenith was perhaps reached
during Sultan I:Iasan's rule during which he promoted the aw/ad al-Das over those soldiers who
were of slave origine Levanoni was able to uncover a total of two hundred and fifty-seven amIrs
who were aw/ad al-Dasfrom 1341 uotil the end ofthe Qali\viinid period.34
The awlid al-Das bridged the gap between the native society and the military elites through
their participation in the field of religion. Haarmann points out that during the 14th cent ury,
nearly half of the aw/id al-Dis "combined their academic career...with an army post."3S However,
owing ta the nature of the non-hereditary military system, and the faltering status of the l:Ialqa,
many members of the alv/ad al-Das opted out of the military and sought exclusively scholarly
32Ibid., p. 47.
34Ibid., p.49.
"Arabie in Speech" , p. 108.
careers.36 In this realm, their educational backgrounds were similar to the pedagogical patterns of
other Muslim scholars who came from the Nile Valley.
As demonstrated above, the awlad a1-Das were provided with basic education at home or in the
elementary schools which were attached to large religious institutions. Upon completion of their
elementary studies, they had the opportunity to attend lessons within institutions of higher
learning. Similar to the nature of learning detailed in the previous chapter, the awliïd a/-niïs'
education focused on Bqh which was tougbt by leamed shay!dJs along with subjects outside the
field of law. These professors were either attached to formaI institutions of higher leaming or
lectured in informai spaces.
Members of the awliïd a/-nas could also participate in the "foreign
sciences" in much the same way as their Egyptian counterparts. For instance along with bis
studies in iJadIth the famous biographer of Mamlük descent ~alitt al-din Khanl ibn Aybak al~afadi (d.1363) aIso probed mathematics, literature and grammar. 37
Finally, awlad al-Dis had
ample access to $Ufiinstruction as the esoteric interpretation of the Faith gained acceptance from
the orthodox
Similar to students of non-Mamlük descent, the awliïd aJ-Diis sougbt personal ties with their
professors as means of gaining access to the leamed elite. Their education was not characterized
by the institutions they attended, but rather focused on the professors under \vhom tbey studied.
"Studies on the Structure", p.45S.
37Little, "Al-~afiidi as Biographer ofhis Contemporaries", pp. 206-207.
As in the case ofother scholars, the aw/ad al-Das sought these personal contacts with leamed men
in order ta collect
gazas which would attest to their contact \Vith the
Although no
official curriculum existed, the aw/âd a/-Das followed an educational path which was similar ta
pedagogical methods pursued by other scholars. For instance the curriculum for those who
sought religious education was based on informaI lessons of
6qh and other weIl
established texts which the student attempted to memorize. Within this structure, conservatism
remained the key to learning; in order to become a member of the
~uJama~ the
aw/ad al-Dis could
not deviate from the accepted sunna.
The previous chapter utilized Carl Petry's research as a guide in describing the career paths of
the &ulama'. However, this source provides very titde information conceming the careers of the
awlid a/-nis. This limitation aside, other secondary sources provide sorne insights conceming the
occupations ofthe aw/âd al-DMfollowing their education. Haarmann points out that the awlid aJDaswere able to achieve a "total submersion in the local religious and scholarly life.,,38 He points
out that a number of Mamlük children were employed at the various dawawlD (bureaus) of the
Mamlük court. The awlid al-Das were aIso well represented in the religious sciences as jurists,
qiqis, theologians, $Ufis, and /Jadith scholars.39 Moreover, a number ofMamlük offspring became
experts in grammar, poetry, mathematics and calligraphy.40
38Haarmann, IIArabic in Speech", p. 108.
39Ibid., pp. 106-109. Also Lapidus, MusUm Cities, p. 117.
4~aannann, "Arabie in Speech", pp. 106-109.
The waqf administrator (napr aJ-waql) was a special position members of the Hw/ad a/-Das
could occupy. As demonstrated in the previous chapter~ Mamliiks often endowed an institution of
higher learning for the purposes of securing one's personal finances within his family's structure.41
Often the controllership of an endowment would rest with the founder until his death. When the
the position of napr would faU to the "most rightly guided" (al-arshad) male
descendent. This post would assure that sorne incorne would he made available to the
Moreover, in an effort to maintain the wealth of the endowment for the henefit of the
Mamlük's family's financial security, a founder would often designate high-ranking bureaucrats
and amJrs to help oversee the waqi: Berkey maintains that this arrangement was struck within the
institution's deeds in arder to "discourage tampering with or confiscation of its endowments.,,42
The respoDsibilities ofthe n8?ir aJ-waqf focused on a number of administrative duties concerning
the endowment.
For instance, matters dealing with an institution's finances were the
responsibility of the napr. Another important raIe which the contralIer carried out was selecting
and appointing scholars within the endowment.43
Ultimately in a society which was non-
hereditary, offering male decedents the apportunitY ta assume positions as niprs enabled
Mamlüks to pass on wealth and stat05.44 Thus, in order to perform their designated duties sorne
fonn ofeducation was therefore required.
4lBerkey, Transmission ofKnowledgc;I p. 136.
42Ibid., p. 65.
43Petry, Civilian Elite; p. 213.
44Berkey, Transmission ofKnowlcdgc;I p. 142.
Along with their roles as religious fimctionaries, numerous representatives from the 8w/ad a/niismade important contributions in the realm. ofhistorical scholarship. For instance, information
conceming the furüsiyya games are greatly enhanced by Ibn Taghii Birdi's descriptions. This
historian was provided with military training at a young age and was thus able to comment on the
state of the military with some degree of knowledge. Moreover, Ibn Dawidar1 provided positive
descriptions of the Mongols which has enabled modem scholars to assume that Many Mamliiks of
Mongol origin shared sympathies with their ethnic kin.4S And within his thirty-volume worlc, a/Waff bi-al- Wafàyat, the biographer al-~afadi chronicled the lives of scholars beginning "from the
time ofM$ammad to the author's own day.,,46 With the help ofthese and other scholars, Mamlük
history and biographical information was recorded and preserved for later generations to analyze.
Haarmann comments that these scholars of Mamliik descent possessed the "latitude of
eccentricity and independence of mind which the aw/ad al-DiS could enjoy if only they were ready
to use it.,,41 Fortunately, despite sorne pressure exerted by the orthodox çuJama: children of
Mamlûks actively participated in the scholarly world ofMamlûk society.
Attempting to shed sorne light on the military and religious education of Mamliik offspring
remains problematic. With the limited information available, the history of the aw/ad al-DiS is
4SHaarmann, "Arabie in Speech" , p.lli.
46Little, "Al-~afâdi as Biographerofhis Contemporaries", p. 195.
47Haarmann, "Arabie in Speech", p.112.
somewhat difficult to piece together. What cm he gathered from the available information is that
the aw/id al-Dis required some form of education in order to secure positions within the military
or scholarly elite. Moreover, the education and training they participated in, paralleled theii" fluid
roles within society. There were no specifie educational paths one followed; rather the aw/iid aI-
nas could either join the l:Ialqa, enter the Mamlük military (if permitted), pursue higher education
or in sorne cases, pursue both a higher education and a military career. Within the structure of the
ijalqa, their training was different trom the military training which their Mam1ük fathers endured.
Meanwhile, apart from the Turkish which was spoken in many Mamlük homes, educational
patterns which the 8w/id a/-nis followed were relatively similar to that of the local population.
Finally, these findings are somewhat general in their conclusions. It must he made clear that there
were thousands of aw/id al-DM who pursued sorne fonn of education in order to gain status in the
military or the scholarly worlds. Scholars would he remiss if they were to assume that the aw/id
al-Dis followed a uniform system ofeducation.
The preceding chapters have described the nature of elite education and training which
operated during the Mamlük Sultanate.
Having discussed both military training and higher
religjous education, a number of underlying themes have emerged throughout this study. First,
these two reaIrns of learning were marked by fluid characteristics. Rigid pedagogjcal systems did
not flomlsh; rather, different methods of instruction provided various paths to access elite
positions within Mamlük society. Mamlük Sultans did not always adhere to the systematized
military training programs established by Baybars and Qaliwüo. Furthermore, religious education
was not uniformly applied; rather a student was able to seek knowledge in various locations. The
second theme this work has discussed was that the fluid methods of training and education were
essential components of society. Without the military training which harnessed the fighting skills
of slave soldiers, Islamic society would have surely been threatened in the Levant and Egypt
following the Crusader and Mongol invasions. Meanwhile, in order to maintain the existing
Islamic social order throughout Mamlük territory, higher religious education was necessary for
training religjous functionaries. Finally in an effort to pass along wealth and status, education
served the children of the Mamlüks as a means ofentering either the military or scholarly elite.
The inconsistent application of military training was a result of a two interconnected factors.
Levanoni has demonstrated that during the role of al-N~ir Muq.ammad, the systematized training
programs which were implemented by Baybars and Qaliwüo were not followed. Rather military
training turned towards permissive and lax methods. Moreover, kuttabiyya were provided with
privileges unheard of during the rule of the two early Sultans. The effeet of the diminished
training programs resulted in insubordinate Mamlüks and amlrs who were ftee ta wield sorne
political clout. As loyalty became a commodity no longer guaranteed, factionalism placed a
number of destabilizing pressures on the Sultanate. Senior amlrs who mostly acted in unison
with the Sultan frequently rebelled against their leader foUowing
Mu4ammad·s reign.
Within this framework, the Sultan \vas not "a figure above the struggle for power. Rather. he is
frankly recognized as a member of the military elite. a man constantly engaged in a deadly
struggle \vith other members ofthis elite..."(
The second factor which promoted the inconstant application of military training was the
tapering off of extemal threats from Mongols and Crusaders.
Although the Mongols did
periodically threaten Syrian territory after the Battle of ~ Ayn Jilüt (1260), the constant war
footing which Baybars and Qaliwiin sustained was abandoned during the mie of
Mu4ammad. Moreover, following al-Ashraf Khalil's victory over the last remaining Crusader
fortress of Acre in 1291, Syrïa was relatively free of external European foes which would have
necessitated a strong military responses on the part of the Mamlüks. Thus as the need for weil
trained troops abated, Mamliik training ,vas not always systematically applied following the early
Baltii period.
Meanwhile, throughout the history of the Mamlük Sultanate, higher religious education
flourïshed both within institutions of learning and outside. The endowment of large numbers of
religious institutions by individual Mamlüks did not create a homogeneous educational system;
IHumphreys IsJamic HistoIY, p. 145.
rather, religious education cootinued to fonction 00 a persona! basis. /jazas were oot granted by
the institutions; rather sbay1dJs bore the responsibility of awardiog degrees. Thus, institutions
mostly served as convenient spaces in which teaching was conducted along with worship and $ü6.
activity. However, due to the personal nature of education, leaming flourïshed beyond the walls
of the numerous centres in such informai spaces as gardens, homes, and markets. Thus education
maintained traditional Islamic characteristics which were not based on rigid systems ofpedagogy.
Although this method of leaming flourished throughout the Mamliik empire, individual
Mamlüks endowed institutions for the pmpose of fostering religious knowledge. Their reasons for
funding these centres of education were multi-faceted and included pious, financial and political
considerations. Despite the efforts of the native Çulami' to diminish the cultural contributions of
the Mamlûks, many members ofthe military elite held deep religious convictions which inspired
them to endow their institutions. However, nornerous Mamlüks, in an attempt to pass on family
wealth and status, converted their fortunes into religious institutions which were relatively safe
from confiscation. Finally, Mamlüks needed to demonstrate to the Muslim population tbat they
were sincere Islamic leaders who were willing to protect the Faith. Thus, the endowment of
institutions ofhigher learning proved to he convenient expressions ofreligious interest. Although
they altered the physical landscape of cities such as Cairo and Damaseus, the Mamliiks did not
influence the pedagogieal nature of education. It remained based on the personal ties a student
struck with his/her teacher, or put simply, education remained Islamic.
Religious education and military training provided routes for acquiring elite status. In a
society which was marked by non-hereditary principles, Mamlüks utiUzed education as a means of
furnishing their offspring with elite st atus. The aw/ad al-DM could either follow military, or
religious careers. In both instances, sorne education and training was required. However, the
application of the education and training the aw/ad al-DM received was not uniform.
Mamlük offspring chose strictly military or religious careers, and followed the appropriate
training which prepared them for their specifie possitions.
Meanwhile, others chose a
combination of both military and religious life, thereby acquiring training in both fields. Thus
similar to their positions within Mamlük society, the pedagogical patterns of the 8w/ad a/-nas
were also flexible.
Both forros of education, military and religious, were essential components of Mamlük
society. There can be no doubt that the Islamic society of Syria and Egypt was protected by the
Mamlük army against Crusader and Mongol forces. Despite the frequent insurrections caused by
factional strife, the Mamlük Sultanate was able to control a vast empire during a volatile period of
Middle Eastern history. Their ability to secure the borders of Egypt and Syrïa was the result of
their military capabilities. Mean\vhile, the military oligarchy could not rule civil society without
the numerous religious functionaries which provided social cohesion in a society ruled by
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