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Ibn al-Furat

Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm b. ʿAlī al-Miṣrī al-Ḥanafī (1334–1405 CE), better known as Ibn al-Furāt, was an Egyptian historian, best known for his universal history, generally known as Taʾrīkh al-duwal wa ’l-mulūk ("History of the Dynasties and Kingdoms"), though the manuscripts themselves call it al-Ṭaʾrīq al-wāḍiḥ al-maslūk ilā tarājim al-khulafā’ wa ’l-mulūk.[1][2]:29 Ibn al-Furat's work is of particular importance for modern scholars due to its high level of detail and the mostly verbatim use of a wide variety of sources, including Christian and Shia authors suspect to mainstream orthodox Sunni historiography. Some of these works survive only through Ibn al-Furat's reuse of them.[1]

Life [ edit ]

The earliest and fullest account of Ibn al-Furat's life is provided by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani. He records that Ibn al-Furat was born to a well-known and learned family, in Cairo in 807/1334. Lacking independent means, Ibn al-Furat made a living partly through undertaking bureaucractic tasks such as working as a notary public and issuing marriage contracts. However, he also attained expertise in hadith, gaining hadith licenses from Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Mizzi and Al-Dhahabi, both based in Damascus. He taught and preached at the Muʿizziyya school in Fustat. Little more is known about his life.[2]:38-39

Work [ edit ]

Al-Furat's history survives, incomplete, in only a single set of volumes. Those covering the period before 1107 CE seem to have been drafts, and those covering 1107 CE onwards to have been fair copies. All include verbatim quotations of other sources, and make careful use of rubrication, catchwords, spaces for extra information, and annotations; consequently, Fozia Bora has argued that the collection should be seen not simply as a narrative history but rather an archive of sources. The surviving volumes and their contents are as follows:[2]:29-36

years covered manuscript notes
(CE) (AH)
'Patriarchs from Seth to Isaac' (vol. 3) London, British Library Or. 3007 draft
'Sassanian kings to Jahili poets' (vol. 8) Paris, MS Blochet 5990 draft
'early period' (vols 9-11) Bursa, Inebey Library, Huseyin Çelebi MSS, 782-84 draft
early Islamic history Paris, MS de Slane 1595 A scribal copy, annotated by Ibn al-Furat.
1107-27 501-21 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 117 fair copy
1128-48 522-43 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 118 fair copy
1149-66 544-62 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 119 fair copy
1167-71

1190-92

1194-1202

563-67

586-68

591-99

Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 120 (incomplete) fair copy
1203-26 600-24 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 121 fair copy
1227-40 625-38 Rabat, no classmark fair copy
1241-59 639-58 Vatican Library, MS Arab 720 fair copy
1260 659 lacuna
1261-72 660-71 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 122 fair copy
1273-83 672-82 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 123 fair copy
1284-96 683-96 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 124 fair copy
1297-1386 697-788 lacuna
1387-96 789-99 Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. A. F. 125 fair copy

Ibn al-Furat's history seems never to have been copied wholesale, but was sold by his son and was used by scholars based in Cairo and Damascus over the next couple of centuries, proving influential as both a narrative and a repository of sources. How it came into its present libraries is not known.[2]:30-31

In Morton's summary of Bora's assessment of Ibn al-Furat's historiographical technique,

his prime ambition was not to advance a monolithic discourse or to make any claim to religious superiority, but rather to collate and present sources from the period itself, giving priority to eyewitnesses or especially well-informed authors. For this reason, he was fully prepared to include extracts from texts written by Ismāʿīlī authors and [...] it seems that he did not attempt to manipulate these texts (i.e. by reworking them or editing them to achieve a specific political/religious/cultural goal). Thus, they were generally left in their original condition, complete with a full attribution to their provenance. Nor, it seems, did he attempt to gather only those extracts that were consistent with a single overarching discourse. [...] Ibn al-Furāt’s work should be viewed as that of an archivist; a representative of a “bookish” Mamlūk culture closely concerned with the textual traditions that it had inherited.[3]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ a b Cahen 1971, pp. 768–769.
  2. ^ a b c d Fozia Bora, Writing History in the Medieval Islamic World: The Value of Chronicles as Archives, The Early and Medieval Islamic World (London: I. B. Tauris, 2019), ISBN 978-1-7845-3730-2.
  3. ^ Nicholas Morton, book review of: Fozia Bora, Writing History in the Medieval Islamic World: The Value of Chronicles as Archives (London: I. B. Tauris, 2019), Al-Masāq: Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean, 31 (2019), 367-69, doi:10.1080/09503110.2019.1662598.

Further reading [ edit ]

Sources [ edit ]

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