Ijāzas or Samāʿāt?

Almost a year ago, I first wrote about Ibn Ṭūlūn’s teaching certificates (ijāzāt) and made a somewhat loose promise:
I could identify five teaching certificates (ijāza) in Ibn Ṭūlūn’s handwriting. The four I have seen are between two and five pages long and were all written between 922/1516 and 943/1536. I hope to present all of them here in the near future.
In the meantime, one more item has received an entry and in March 2018 I finally got my hands on the final one I had not seen yet (I have uploaded the file to github like the others). It is part of a Majmūʿa kept at the library of the Baladiyya of Alexandria which I have already mentioned in a recent entry (“A whole Majmūʿa copied? MS Majāmīʿ 315”). The inclusion of this new item requires a modification to the above-quoted assessment: Are all of these really ijāzas or are samāʿāt among them? In short, yes there are and they have been misidentified in the catalogues. And I found out, go me! More precisely, two items are samāʿāt: the one in the Alexandria manuscript (Baladiyya al-Iskandariyya, MS Alex. Fun. 183, fol. 104a) and the second one is actually the first one to have received an entry, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, MS Wetzstein I 134, fols. 30a-b. That means that out of three entries about ijāzas (this one included) only one was actually devoted to ijāzas. But it makes sense to discuss here how ijāzas and samāʿāt differ from one another, even where such a small corpus is concerned. The length of the text seems to qualify as a criterium in the case of the item from Alexandria which is only half a page/nine lines long. However, it does not hold up in the other case from Berlin, whose 36 lines are equal to those of an ijāza Ibn Ṭūlūn granted to Akmal al-Dīn Ibn Mufliḥ in 943 (Süleymaniyye U Kütüphanesi, MS Laleli 3747, fols. 192a-193a). Yet, as I have explained in the entry on the Berlin manuscript, the text has a lot to say about the context of this act of transmission, which might account for the greater length. This has to be seen against the background that in this case Ibn Ṭūlūn received and did not transmit knowledge. The second criterium, which is more solid, is the wording in introducing the respective item. The items from Alexandria and Berlin begin with a simple al-ḥamdu li-llāh on a separate line, whereas the other three items are introduced with bi-sm Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm wa-huwa ḥasabī, also on a separate line, followed by the Hamdallah within the text body. The third criterium is the terminology in the beginning of the text proper. In fact, I should have noticed already a year ago that the item in MS Wetzstein I 134 begins with the word samiʿa. But it took a second instance in the Alexandria manuscript for me to notice it. It might help to restore my credentials that both texts mention the issuing of ijāzas. The other three items, however, show a different and more active engagement with works that are mentioned in the respective texts. They either recite (qaraʿa) or discuss (ʿaruḍa) them and receive a license for these endeavours. If we connect this to Garrett Davidson’s distinction between transmission for devotional purposes and and as part of structured education (on Davidson’s work, see entries here and here), a clear functional distinction between these samāʿāt and ijāzas emerges. This distinction is supported by the diverging venues where these reading sessions took place. The ijāzas were issued exclusively in established institutions of learning: the Umayyad Mosque and the Ottoman Salīmiyya Mosque. Compare this to the sites of the Berlin and Alexandria items: the former records a recitation “in a garden (bustān) in Qaṣr al-Labbād, an area in the vicinity of Barza and Qābūn” (see Tuluniana 3: A teaching certificate) and the latter records recitations at the sultan’s maṣṭaba near Qābūn and the Shrine of Abraham (maqām al-khalīl) close to Barza. The last place, in particular, was integrated in the sacred landscape of Damascus and Ibn Ṭūlūn himself devoted two treatises to it: Qudrat al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām Khalīl and Manḥ al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām al-Khalīl. One aspect that I have not yet addressed is obviously the content of transmission. In both the cases from Berlin and from Alexandria, the content appears more devotional than part of a formal education. The subject of the Berlin samāʿ is “a work elaborating on the merits of Damascus (faḍāʾil)”. The other samāʿ mentions two of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s smaller works. One is the ḥadīth treatise Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī manṭaq al-ṭayr wa-l-dawābb, which incidentally begins on the verso of the same folio (fols. 104b-105b). The second work, Sharḥ al-ṣudūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr, is likewise concerned with animals. I was recently made aware that this text might even be a rendition of a classic tale. In any case, the contents are another clear indicator that these two documentations were concerned with transmission outside of formal education.

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