A First Global Distribution of Ibn Tulun manuscripts?

Ibn Tulun is usually perceived as an inherently local author with a decidedly local readership, that is before the late 19th century. And while the global distribution that emerged around 1900 has been addressed occasionally here before and by other scholars, this piece will question the general assessment of Ibn Tulun’s earlier reception as exclusively local, which might very well have been cemented only in the last century. To quote Kristina Richardson, “modern interest in Ibn Ṭūlūn has centered on his historical and biographical writings, though there is much evidence that Ibn Ṭūlūn’s reputation among early modern Ottoman Arabs was chiefly that of a learned ḥadīth scholar.” (The Evolving Legacy, 17) This modern reception has not only limited the current understanding of Ibn Tulun’s writerly production in terms of subject. Moreover, the “historical and biographical writings” on which “modern interest” concentrates, did not encompass all of Ibn Tulun’s writings in this field. It rather focuses on a few works, which are almost exclusively restricted to Damascus or perhaps Syria in Ibn Tulun’s own lifetime.  Thereby, modern scholarly reception has effectively recast Ibn Tulun as a very much localized scholar. Richardson contrasts this part of his legacy with the one as a ḥadīth scholar—and rightly so. The scholarship and transmission of Prophetic traditions have been inherently transregional fields from the beginning. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that even after their collection for the sake of establishing their credentials was concluded, their transmission retained these characteristics. This goes as much for people who traveled in pursuit of gaining short chains of transmission (isnād) as for those who lacked the means to traverse the world in search of them. As Berkey (1992) and Chamberlain (1994) have shown, ḥadīth was a discipline which permitted, if not asked for, the involvement of large parts of the population. Ibn Tulun was indeed very active in this field. By my count, he compiled more than a hundred works concerned with this field. Around thirty of those were collections of forty traditions (arbaʿūn), itself a very prominent genre at the time. While large parts of the chains of transmission in most of those can be called Damascene, they would also include people from other places, pointing to the transregional nature of the discipline also on the textual level.  Whereas Ibn Tulun did not seem to eager to travel, when he did go on the pilgrimage, he partly did so in pursuit of Meccan chains of transmission. The transmission certificates survive in a composite manuscript aside other certificates he gained in his hometown. He also dedicated a work to his experiences in Mecca. al-Barq al-sāmī fī taʿdād manāzil al-ḥājj al-shāmī (Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS Majāmīʿ Taymūr 79) relates his journey there and back again. On the pages that deal with his stay in Mecca, his attendance of recitations by members of the Ibn Fahd family feature very prominently. This might be ever more understandable as Ibn Tulun’s lasting friendship with Jar Allah Ibn Fahd seems to have begun during this time. This Meccan connection would be fostered further during the two longer sojourns of Ibn Tulun’s uncle Yusuf. This Meccan connection leads directly to the question of Ibn Tulun’s reception. While it is true that most manuscript copies of his works before the late 19th century were produced in Syria and specifically Damascus, it is important to acknowledge his endowed library had on these processes. In one place, a reader could access not only all (or later most) of his works individually but they could access the corpus as such. This allowed for cross-readings which bestowed additional levels of meaning upon each text. Everywhere else, people would only engage with his works in isolation. Moreover, as Ibn Tulun was by far no household name like al-Suyuti.

Ibn Tulun manuscripts abroad

Nevertheless, works ascribed to Ibn Tulun have made their way out of Damascus long before the 19th century. They are not many but they exist. They were distributed between libraries in nowadays Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. And they were exclusively copies in other hands. Ibn Tulun’s autographs would not leave Damascus before the 19th century.  Before I present those traveling manuscripts, a different form of reception should be addressed. Damascene biographers of the 16th and 17th centuries relied heavily on Ibn Tulun’s corpus in composing their—often massive—works. They did not necessarily copy Ibn Tulun works but they cited either them or him extensively throughout their works. In a similar vein, Richardson and others have pointed towards the mutual impact Ibn Tulun and Jar Allah Ibn Fahd had on each other’s authorial production.  These forms of reception are not as easily traceable as full or partial copies. But they might even be more insightful, as there we can see the relevance of Ibn Tulun’s works for an ongoing tradition of knowledge production. Jar Allah’s case, in particular, contradicts the narrative of a local scholar. Following their first encounter, the two retained a correspondence throughout their lives. Yet, Ibn Fahd was certainly not the only non-Damascene reader interested in Ibn Tulun’s writings. In order to substantiate my claim of a wider reception, let’s take some manuscripts as case studies. Those manuscripts experienced quite divergent manuscript histories but together they indicate that Ibn Tulun might have been more renown in his own time than previously assumed (beyond Damascus, that is). Today, those manuscripts are, respectively, in Tunis, Istanbul, and Madrid. Whereas in Istanbul there are several Ibn Tulun manuscripts in different collections, there is only one each in the other cities.

Ibn Tulun in Istanbuli collections

Although Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Library holds the most Ibn Tulun works among the collections discussed here, none of them raises a particular question of how they get there. In general, they were either obtained in or ordered from Damascus. Their trajectories are all rather straight-forward. What is interesting though, is when they came to Istanbul. Together, the manuscripts suggest a low but steady interest throughout the 16th to 18th centuries. 
  • al-Ghuraf al-ʿaliyya fī tarājim mutaʾakhkhirī al-ḥanafiyya: MS Şehid Ali Paşa 1924, copy from the 16th century?, copy was made from the autograph volumes, even indicating empty spaces in the source text, perhaps even during Ibn Tulun’s lifetime.
  • al-Shamʿa al-muḍiyya fī akhbār al-qalʿa al-dimashqiyya: MS Reis ul-Kuttab 1213, fols. 145a-167a, copied by Ibn Muflih (16th century) with additions from al-Muʿizza fīmā qīla fi al-Mizza, incomplete at the end
  • al-Iʿlām bi-ḥikm ʿĪsā ʿalayhi al-salām: MS Hafid Effendi 466, fols. 83a-100b, copy from 1080 AH
  • Ijāza kātibuh Akmal min al-Imām Muḥammad Ibn Ṭūlūn raḥimahū Allāh: MS Laleli 3747, fols. 192a-193a; a stamp on the final page refers to sultan Selim b. Mustafa (18th century).
The early interest could be attributed in part to Ibn Tulun’s student Akmal al-Din Ibn Muflih. His lavish calligraphy would well have stood out in any book market, and he remediated several Ibn Tulun texts with great success. In contrast to al-Shamʿa al-muḍiyya, Staatsbibliothek Berlin, MS Wetzstein II 408 which contains al-Risāla al-wāḍiḥa fī waṣf al-qarīna al-ṣāliḥa, was copied by him “in a madrasa in Istanbul” in Ṣafar 992,  and “it is what I found in the script of Ibn Tulun. I have copied it true to the letter”. Yet, this copy apparently made his way back to Damascus, where Wetzstein obtained it in the 19th century.  Later interest might equally have followed Damscene fashions reviving Ibn Tulun. One further Ibn Tulun work, al-Manhal al-rawī fī al-ṭibb al-nabawī, is preserved in Millet Genel Kütüphanesi, MS 1329 Fayzullāh. The copy was made by the Damascene judge Ramaḍān al-ʿUṭayfī in 1060, who also copied and read other parts of Ibn Tulun’s corpus.

Ibn Tulun in Tunis

MS 5031 of the al-Maktaba al-Aḥmadiyya in the Zaytūna Library, Tunis, is a small majmūʿa, which contains eight texts on 72 folios, all of which were written in the same hand. Ibn Tulun’s work covers 31 folios with thirteen lines per page:
  1. al-Shadharāt al-dhahabiyya fī tarājim al-a’imma al-iṯnā ʿašar ʿanda al-imāmiyya by Ibn Ṭūlūn,
  2. Naẓm qalāʾid al-ʿuqyān fīmā yūrith(?) al-faqr wa-l-nisyān by Raḍī al-Dīn Muḥ. Ibn al-Ghazzī
  3. Qaṣīdat fī madḥ āl al-bayt by Sharaf al-Dīn Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Maqarrī
  4. Akhbār al-shahīdayn [al-Ḥasan wa-l-Ḥusayn] by al-Haythamī
  5. [excerpts on the first four caliphs from Kitāb Ṣiffat al-ṣiffa by Ibn al-Jawzī]
  6. Qaṣīda fī madḥ mawlānā al-sharīf
  7. Ṣiffat al-nabī [pbuh] ʿan ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib
  8. Bayān dhikr al-ayyām li-l-aʿmāl
The manuscript has no colophon but it was probably compiled in the 18th century. Identical notes, e.g. on fols. 1a and 1b, credit “sayyid Yūsuf b. sayyid Manṣūr al-Ḥasanī, naqīb al-Sādāt al-Ashrāf [in] Marʿash, ʿAyntāb and teacher in Aleppo” as either reader or owner. The note on fol. 1b is dated 1129 AH. As this note is repeated throughout the manuscript, it might be prudent to view it as an endowment note.  In any case, the manuscript appears to have been produced in Syria. It contains works by several Syrian authors, including the authoritative Ibn al-Jawzi and the later scholars Ibn Tulun and al-Ghazzi. Even the qasida by al-Maqarri might have been copied from a Damascene manuscript. Ibn Tulun mentions another work in one of his biographical works:
He [i.e. the biographee ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Laṭīf b. Muḥ. al-Farāʿī al-Khurāsānī al-Ḥanafī (d. 939)] found in the book market Kitāb ʿanwān of al-Sharaf Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Maqarrī al-Yamanī al-Shāfiʿī. Then he came to Ibn Tulun amazed by it. It includes five “funūn”, 1) al-Ṣafaḥāt ʿilm al-ʿurūḍ (sic!); 2) ʿilm al-tārīkh; 3) ʿilm al-naḥw; 4) ʿilm al-qāfiyya (rhyme); 5) the entirety of these ʿulūm is Shāfiʿī fiqh. Ibn Tulun, “Dhakhāʾir al-Qaṣr fī Tarājim Nubalāʾ al-ʿAṣr”, Forschungs- und Landesbibliothek Gotha, MS Orient A 1779, fol. 35b.
This information on Maqarri might also suggest a different origin of parts of the manuscript (or, rather, its source texts). Him being a Yemeni author and Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythami (d. 974 AH) being an Egyptian, later Meccan, scholar reframes how we should view the texts in this manuscript. Its general concern seems to have been a description if not refutation of the Shia. This was framed by other texts which outline a good religious life more generally. The manuscript has no colophon but it was probably compiled in the 18th century. Identical notes, e.g. on fols. 1a and 1b, credit “sayyid Yūsuf b. sayyid Manṣūr al-Ḥasanī, naqīb al-Sādāt al-Ashrāf [in] Marʿash, ʿAyntāb and teacher in Aleppo” as either reader or owner. The note on fol. 1b is dated 1129 AH. As this note is repeated throughout the manuscript, it might be prudent to view it as an endowment note. In any case, the manuscript appears to have been produced in Syria. It contains works by several Syrian authors, including the authoritative Ibn al-Jawzi and the later scholars Ibn Tulun and al-Ghazzi. Even the qasida by al-Maqarri might have been copied from a Damascene manuscript. Ibn Tulun mentions another work in one of his biographical works:
He [i.e. the biographee ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Laṭīf b. Muḥ. al-Farāʿī al-Khurāsānī al-Ḥanafī (d. 939)] found in the book market Kitāb ʿanwān of al-Sharaf Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Maqarrī al-Yamanī al-Shāfiʿī. Then he came to Ibn Tulun amazed by it. It includes five “funūn”, 1) al-Ṣafaḥāt ʿilm al-ʿurūḍ (sic!); 2) ʿilm al-tārīkh; 3) ʿilm al-naḥw; 4) ʿilm al-qāfiyya (rhyme); 5) the entirety of these ʿulūm is Shāfiʿī fiqh. Ibn Tulun, “Dhakhāʾir al-Qaṣr fī Tarājim Nubalāʾ al-ʿAṣr”, Forschungs- und Landesbibliothek Gotha, MS Orient A 1779, fol. 35b.
This information on Maqarri might also suggest a different origin of parts of the manuscript (or, rather, its source texts). Him being a Yemeni author and Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythami (d. 974 AH) being an Egyptian, later Meccan, scholar reframes how we should view the texts in this manuscript. Its general concern seems to have been a description if not refutation of the Shia. This was framed by other texts which outline a good religious life more generally.  It is, however, unclear how the manuscript came from Syria to Tunis and how it was used there. The compilation seems much more relevant in the Mashriq where sizable Shia communities could be found. What can be said is that Ibn Tulun apparently was considered a notable authority on the subject beyond Damascus. His work is not only the largest work in the manuscript; it is also positioned prominently in the first place. Far away from his own corpus, this manuscript recast his work within a different, larger tradition.

Ibn Tulun in Madrid

Finally, we come to the manuscript, which initially sparked the writing of this essay. MS Arabes 545 in the Escorial collection in Madrid contains a work ascribed to Ibn Tulun. The title al-Kannās li-fawāʾid al-nās does not appear in his own work list, nor could I identify under a different title. Yet, it might be a corruption of Kunnāsh al-fawāʾid wa-laqaṭ al-farāʾid (Fulk, 44).  The manuscript consists of 271 fols. in one hand. Yet, I have doubts whether it contains, in fact, only one text. I cannot prove it but to me it seems it might be a copy of an entire multiple-text manuscript. The colophon states that the manuscript was copied in 978/1570 by Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Khazarātī(?). The manuscript lacks a proper title page so it is interesting how this text came to be associated with Ibn Tulun of all people. In his article “Traveling Libraries: The Arabic Manuscripts of Muley Zidan and the Escorial Library” (2014), Daniel Hershenzon illuminates the political history of the Escorial collection. It emerged through several ship raids by way of which the Moroccan sultan’s collection of almost 4,000 manuscripts was transformed into the most important collection in Spain. The Escorial collection further contains books confiscated from the Moriscos by the Inquisition, books acquired through purchase of bequeathing.  Does it then seem more likely that MS Arabes 545 was part of the sultan’s library or rather that it belonged to one of the other categories? The manuscript does not even have a real title page and in its placet he first page shows an ownership note places it with one ʿAbd al-Karīm b. ʿAlī b. Ilyās. Compare this to the description of the sultan’s collection by the royal interpreter of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, Francisco Gurmendi, which Hershenzon cites (545): “Four thousand books, less twenty of thirty, the majority untitled and more than five hundred of them unbound.” MS Arabes 545 fits right into this classification but a final assessment will have to await more research into the Escorial by Hershenzon and others. In any case, this manuscript is an outlier in terms of the geographical distribution of Ibn Tulun’s reception, having circulated in the western Mediterranean by the early 17th century. So, why was this manuscript attributed to Ibn Tulun when it lacks a title page? I did not find his name anywhere in the Arabic text and paratext of the manuscript either. Only the Latin description on fol. 211b mentions his name as “Ebn Tuluni”. The French catalogue entry which prefaces the scan I am basing my analysis on states, however, that title and author are given—correctly—on “la tranche inférieure”. While that does not seem to be included in the scan, there is another hint that this indeed was copied from an Ibn Tulun manuscript if not autograph.  Ibn Tulun used to begin his miscellaneous texts in a distinct and regular fashion. After the Basmallah and Hamdallah, he would usually introduce the text by stating its genre (taʿlīq) and title. This manuscript begins exactly in this way: “wa-baʿd fa-hādhā taʿlīq samaytuhu al-kanās (or al-kunnāsh?) li-fawāʿid al-nās…”. This phrasing is ubiquitous in his autograph corpus and can there serve to establish this manuscript as one of his own. Conclusions Already close to his life-time, Ibn Tulun’s reception went far beyond his hometown, if in small numbers. However, with the transfer of these manuscripts they stopped circulating. Hershenzon mentions that initially Muley Zidan’s manuscripts were assessed as objects whose material value was calculated (543-44).  Also in Istanbul, Ibn Tulun manuscripts stopped circulating once they became the property of the respective collector. This stood in stark contrast to their more participatory and ephemeral manuscript circulation in Damascus, which often frustrates researchers today.  Nevertheless, the fact that they reached those far-away places is telling in its own right about the relevance this Damascene scholar once had. It shows the potential that Ibn Tulun might have become more central to wider traditions of knowledge production in Arabic if, for one, Muley Zidan’s library had remained in Morocco. At the least, it indicates that research into manuscript and intellectual histories has to take a global perspective, even when examining processes long before the 19th century.
Bibliography
Berkey, Jonathan. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo. Princeton, 1992. Chamberlain, Michael. Knowledge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus, 1190-1350. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Hershenzon, Daniel. “Traveling Libraries: The Arabic Manuscripts of Muley Ziden and the Escorial Library.” Journal of Early Modern History 18 (2014): 535-558. Richardson, Kristina. “The Evolving Biographical Legacy of Two Late Mamluk Hanbalī Judges.” ASK Working Paper 16 (2014).
Cite this article as: Wollina, Torsten, "A First Global Distribution of Ibn Tulun manuscripts?", in Damascus Anecdotes, 17/02/2019, https://thecamel.hypotheses.org/1352.

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