Devotional Annotations: Preserving the Family’s Memory in Arabic Manuscripts
2. Ottoman Domestic Devotion
Only recently a growing literature, both contemporary and historical, has begun to explore more or less ‘ordinary’ devotional experiences, as well. Among those, Marion Katz’s work on several pillars of religiosity is particularly noteworthy.7 This being said, a certain shift towards ‘domesticity’ during the Ottoman period is visible in, particularly but not restricted to, court cultures, which witnessed a transformation of domestic space itself.8 In Ottoman Egypt, the houses of higher military officers (amīr/umarāʾ) gained functions that before were served by public building projects. Their residences featured a dīwān chamber for semi-public receptions and gatherings. Likewise, the scholarly or literary sessions (majālis) enjoyed by large parts of the “bourgeoisie” were moved from communal to domestic settings. The same shift apparently affected education, including the establishment of private libraries in separate rooms or niches, where guests could read or borrow books.9On the other hand, the study of […] the interaction between religious specialists and believers, the body or of devices aiming at the senses has often been carried out by scholars from the field of Cultural Anthropology […]. This labour division has unfortunately led to a tendency which has further deepened the division: studies of Islamic religious practice have tended to focus on the seemingly sensational, on the so-called ‘different’ […]. Valuable as these works are, showing the great diversity of Islamic practices and lending deep insight into individual forms of it, they have at the same time suggested—often without intention—that the use of aesthetic sensation or bodily techniques is limited to the extra-ordinary practices and groups of Islam.6
Whereas it is difficult to establish which books were written in domestic settings, it is clear that they were used there. In fact, the memoria functions of books can only be understood against the background of their circulation between private and endowed libraries and a wider readership. A book was a tangible object that connected one’s present to the great figures of the past or to one’s forefathers—and promised to offer the same for oneself in the future. This was not to be achieved by storing it away. Its value was realized only by its future readers and copyists.14
Through their traceable circulation, manuscripts could become carriers of baraka: “The devotional value of a book was thus not only enshrined in the text but in the object itself. The transmission of baraka dependeds on direct interaction between people—and apparently between people and books.16” Moreover, baraka was accumulated through the same circulation which it helped fuel. The relationship between this complex notion and the modes of production, reproduction, and preservation of texts17 was thus more than complex itself. It was certainly a factor which informed al-Qarmashlī’s penning of a list of birth dates and bespeak of a hope that those dates and more so the names attached to them would be remembered.Baraka is seen as a force that augments the good, increases fertility and which helps people to make the right decisions; it keeps people grounded and gives strength; it makes an individual healthy and is conducive to ‘sound’ relations between the people. Baraka, one is told, is helpful in respect of remorse and forgiveness. Moreover, baraka is said to be a preventive force against the machinations of the demons and the effects of the Evil Eye. […] Baraka is thought to be an exclusively positive force and this characteristic trait bestows upon baraka a unique rank: it is of divine origin—from an emic perspective as well.15
3. Simple Lists of Names and Dates?
3.1. MS Daiber II 146
- Kalimat bayān madhhab al-ṭāʾifa al-Yazīdiyya wa-ḥukmihim wa-ḥukm al-amwāl al-kāʾina bi-aydīhim (fols. 1v-7r): a text on the Yezidis and the conditions should they convert to Islam by “al-Ṣāliḥ”; followed by a commentary by “Mụhammad al-Barqalʿī”.
- Excerpts from Anwār al-Tanzīl by al-Bayḍāwī on the first three Suras of the Qurʾān (fols. 7r-v).
- Fragment of a legal work (fols. 7v-8v).
- Risālat al-tunbāk (fols. 9r-10r) by Muḥyī al-Dīn al-Jazārī: a legal treatise on smoking.
- Al-Qaṣīda al-lāmiyya fī al-tawḥīd (fols. 10r-31v) by ʿAlī b. ʿUthmān al-Farghānī al-Ūshī: a creed; with the commentary Nafīs al-riyāḍ li-iʿdām al-amrāḍ by Khalīl b. ʿAlā al-Dīn al-Bukhārī (ca. 750/1349)
- Nubdha fī taʿrīf awsāf sayf ʿAlī karramahu Allāh wa-ḥarasahu al-musammā bi-dhī al-faqār (fols. 32r-v) by Muḥammad b. Niʿma al-Qarmashlī (see below)
- Badīʿ al-maʿānī fī sharḥ ʿaqīdat al-Shaybānī (fols. 33r-69r): a commentary on al-Shaybānī’s creed by the Damascene scholar Najm al-Dīn Ibn Qāḍī ʿAjlūn (d. 866/1472)
- Dhāt al-shifāʾ fī sīrat al-nabī wa-l-khulafāʾ (fols. 70v-93r) by Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Jazarī (d. 833/1429): poem on the biographies of the Prophet and the first four caliphs; followed a historical survey concluding with the Ottoman sultan Bayezid’s conquest of Constantinople.
- Āmina, daughter of Ḥawwāʾ, born 3 Ramaḍān 1276/25 March 1860
- Fāṭima, daughter of Sittiyya, born on the night of Muḥammad’s Nightly Journey, i.e., 27 Rajab 1277/8 February 1861
- Ḥawwāʾ, daughter of Ḥawwāʾ, born one hour after the evening prayer on a Wednesday night in the second half of Jumādā II 1278/December 1861
- Ummat Allāh, daughter of Maryam, born shortly before the afternoon prayer on Saturday, 15 Ramaḍān 1278, 3 Adhār/16 March 1862
- Raqiyya, daughter of Muḥammad Saʿīd, born on Monday night, 26 Jumādā II 1280, 25 Tishrīn II/6 December 1863 [she then lived 11 nights and died]
- Muḥammad ʿAzīz, son of Muḥammad Ṭāhir, born in the night of the Bayram, i.e., 1 Shawwāl 1281/27 February 1865
- Āsya, daughter of Muḥammad Saʿīd, born in the night of 6 Dhū al-Ḥijja 1282/22 April 1866
- Muḥammad(?) on 7 [Jumādā I around the afternoon prayer 1284/6 September 1867] and he lived until 30 Tammūz, 12 Rabīʿ II of the following year/2 August 1868, his age was one year
- Muḥammad Badr al-Dīn, born one hour after the morning prayer on Monday, 22 Kānūn II, 9 Shawwāl 1284/3 February 1868, then died on the seventh day after his birth in his first year
- [Fol. 70a] Ḥawwā, daughter of Mullā Muḥammad, born around the afternoon prayer on Thursday, 3 Jumādā II, 13 Tammūz 1257/23 July 1841
- Her sister Maymūna, born one hour after the call to the evening prayer on Thursday night, 21 Adhār, 6 Rabīʿ II 1262/3 April 1846
- Muḥammad Rashīd, son of Muḥammad Saʿīd, born in the first half of Tuesday night, 22(?) Tishrīn II, 8 Muḥarram 1267/13 November 1850
- Ḥafṣa, daughter of Muḥammad Saʿīd [from Āmina], born in the first third of Monday night, 26 Shaʿbān, 10 Kānūn 1270/24 May 1854
- Zaynab, daughter of Muḥammad Saʿīd [from Sittiyya], born in the beginning third of Monday night, 4 Jumādā I, 10 Kānūn II 1274/21 December 1857
- Fāṭima, daughter of Ḥawwāʾ, born just after sunrise on Friday, 11 Jumādā II, 2 Kānūn II 1277/25 December 1860
- ʿĀʾisha, daughter of Muḥammad Saʿīd from his wife Āmina, born on the last night of 1275, i.e., 30 Dhū al-Ḥijja 1275/20 June 1860
- The final entry does not give a name but only states “10 days on 22 R(ajab) ‘85/8 November 1868” which might refer to the time of writing this list.
3.2. Earlier Examples
- ʿAbd al-Malik, born 1 Rajab 1161 (1171?)/27 June 1748 [left of the colophon, vertical script]22
- Nafīsa, born 2 Ramaḍān 1162/16 August 1749 [left of the colophon, horizontal script, below no 1]
- Ḥalīma, born 27 Dhū al-Qaʿda 116(4?)/17 October 1751(?) [lower left corner of the page, below no 2, horizontal script]
- ʿAbd al-Raḥīm, born 16 Jumādā I 1167/11 March 1754 [right of colophon, horizontal script]
- ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, born 16 (26?) Jumādā II 1167/10 (20?) April 1754 [right of colophon, horizontal script, above no 4]23
- Much of this entry is hidden by a paper slip carrying the stamp of the Taymūriyya Library, thus neither the name nor the person’s gender can be identified. They were born in Ramaḍān of one year between 1168 and 1171/1754–1758 [below the colophon, right of no 3 and below no 4, diagonal script]24
- ʿAbd Allāh “the last son/child”, born 15 Shaʿbān 1172/13 April 1759 (top right of colophon, above no 5, vertical script)
4. Biographical Literature
Through the participation in the transmission of Prophetic traditions, one could approximate the Prophet, and by collecting short chains of transmission (isnād), the distance created by historical time itself could be bridged. Those works were themselves essentially lists of biographies with a focus on giving the name and life dates of their biographees as well as information on their place in the transmission of Prophetic traditions. However, with the development of the genre, more information as to their lives and characters was included, perhaps in service to wider and different audiences. And with the diffusion of ḥadīth transmission, details about more and more lives would be recorded in writing, if not always in the biographical literature as such.In this understanding of a generation, the Prophet’s generation is the first and each act of transmission creates a new generation, each generation consisting of all those people who had the same number of links of transmission separating them from the Prophet. In a degenerative model of temporality, the Prophet’s founding generation is, of course, the best of all generations and each successive generation is of less merit than the one before it. Thus, the short chain of transmission brought “one closer to the generations of merit” and by attaching oneself to a short chain of transmission one could belong to a generation superior to the one he would be considered to belong to in a conception of generation based on years.29
5. Consolation Literature
Bauer’s research topic has the advantage that the expression of emotions can be traced and analyzed in a much more comprehensive manner than is allowed even by Ibn Ṭawq’s short eulogies. In contrast to both, the scribes who inserted information on family members into manuscripts they owned, compiled, or even commissioned could not claim similar textual authority. Nonetheless, the inclusion of these lists should be viewed as a product of similar concerns and sentiments. Even though a list of dates is hardly “a work of art”, it might give the scribe some feeling of control and thereby “relief from the experience of helplessness”. It certainly constitutes a, however little, “means to break the speechlessness of death”. Moreover, the juxtaposition of deceased children with those who lived on, might ease the feeling of loss. On the pages, they are back with their family. It does not necessarily contradict the call for ṣabr when the names of deceased ones are included. Rather, the terseness of those notes indicates an adherence to the notion. Even where they remain speechless, the naming of the deceased alone points at what is not being said outright. One could say, that whereas medieval scholars used biographical materials as a model for mourning, those scribes proceeded in almost the opposite way, creating biographical entries for the children they mourned. The concern with the well-being of their offspring in this world, and the next, certainly does qualify this seemingly simple practice as a devotional practice.[…] poetry—including its artistic and playful element—can be helpful in coping with the grief of the loss of one’s own beloved, for poets as well as for their public. It may help the poet to prove his own abilities to create a work of art, and by way of the act of active creativity he may cope with the experience of loss. He may find relief from the experience of helplessness and passive suffering and prove to himself that he still has a share in life. Even more important may be the fact that a poem (or any other work of art) is a means to break the speechlessness of death, to resume communication and thereby to reassume a social role without having to interrupt the process of mourning.40
Conflicts of Interest
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In the case of composite manuscripts, a rebinding of pre-existing contents with a few blank pages would create a new composite manuscript. For MTMs, blank pages could appear especially at the end of quires when a copied work did not correspond exactly with the number of leaves in that quire.
The parentage of the entries 10 and 11 is more difficult to identify as all three generations of males share the first name Muḥammad. The honorific “mullā” does not really tell us which one of them was their father. However, judging by their dates of birth it seems most likely that they too, were Muḥammad Saʿīd’s children.
As this entry is the only one which calls the son a “blessed son”, I assume it refers to the scribe’s firstborn. Therefore, the earlier date would make more sense.
I am rather uncertain of my reading in the case of nos. 4. and 5. It might well be that both were born on the same day and that the order in which their names are written on the page recreates that of the basmalla: bi-smi llāhi al-raḥmān al-raḥīm.
For the later date, see the following entry no. 7; concerning the earlier date, I speculate that the entry’s position on the page indicates that it was added after the two sons born in 1167.
Quoted from (Sajdi 2013, p. 1)
For a selection of both forms, see (Ibn Ṭūlūn, Ghuraf n.d., pp. 20a, 25b, 82b); (Ibn Ṭūlūn, Dhakhāʾir n.d., pp. 30b, 44b, 52a, 90a–90b); (Ibn Ṭūlūn, Taʿlīqāt n.d., p. 59a).
Giladi names another treatise from the mid-16th century. At around the same time, the Damascene scholar Ibn Ṭūlūn also authored “Tabrīd al-fuʾād ʿan mawt al-awlād” and “al-Tabyīn al-marsakh fī ḥikam aṭfāl al-muslimīn fī al-barzakh” whose titles suggest they belonged to the same genre. (Giladi 1993, p. 371; Ibn Ṭūlūn 1929, pp. 31–32)
Cf. (Wollina 2013).
Cf. (Liebrenz 2016).
Cf. (Daub 2016).
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Wollina, T. Devotional Annotations: Preserving the Family’s Memory in Arabic Manuscripts. Religions 2019, 10, 376. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060376
Wollina T. Devotional Annotations: Preserving the Family’s Memory in Arabic Manuscripts. Religions. 2019; 10(6):376. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060376Chicago/Turabian Style
Wollina, Torsten. 2019. "Devotional Annotations: Preserving the Family’s Memory in Arabic Manuscripts" Religions 10, no. 6: 376. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060376