Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The formation of Islam: The view from below

By examining the impact of Islam on the daily life of those living under its rule, the goal of this project is to understand the striking newness of Islamic society and its debt to the diverse cultures it superseded. Questions will be the extent, character, and ambition of Muslim state competency at the time of the Islamic conquest; the steps - military, administrative and religious - by which it extended its reach; and what this tells us about the origins and evolution of Muslim ideas of rulership, religion and power.

Duration
2009  -   2015
Contact
Petra Sijpesteijn
Funding
ERC Starting Grant ERC Starting Grant

This project aims to write a history of the formation of Islam using the vastly important but largely neglected papyri from Egypt. Until the introduction of paper in the 10th C., papyrus was the Mediterranean world’s primary writing material. Thousands of papyrus documents survive, preserving a minutely detailed transcription of daily life, as well as the only contemporary records of Islam’s rise and first wave of conquests. This project is dedicated to developing the potential of this extraordinary resource.

The prevailing model of Islam’s formation is based on sources composed by a literary élite some 150 years after the events they describe. The distortions this entails are especially problematic since it was in these first two centuries that Islam’s institutional, social and religious framework developed and stabilised. To form a meaningful understanding of this development requires tackling the contemporary documentary record, as preserved in the papyri. Yet the technical difficulties presented by these mostly unpublished and uncatalogued documents have largely barred their use by historians.

This project is a systematic attempt to address this critical problem. The project has three stages: 1) a stocktaking of unedited Arabic, Coptic and Greek papyri; 2) the editing of a corpus of the most significant papyri; 3) the presentation of a synthetic historical analysis through scholarly publications and a dedicated website. By examining the impact of Islam on the daily life of those living under its rule, the goal of this project is to understand the striking newness of Islamic society and its debt to the diverse cultures it superseded. Questions will be the extent, character and ambition of Muslim state competency at the time of the Islamic conquest; the steps – military, administrative and religious – by which it extended its reach and what this tells us about the origins and evolution of Muslim ideas of rulership, religion and power.

The ERC project The formation of Islam: the view from below is to write a history of the formation of Islam using the vastly important but largely neglected papyri from Egypt. Until the introduction of paper in the 10th c., papyrus was the Mediterranean world's primary writing material. Thousands of papyrus documents survive, preserving a minutely detailed transcription of daily life, as well as the only contemporary records of Islam's rise and first wave of conquests.

The prevailing model of Islam's formation is based on sources composed by a literary elite some 150 years after the events they describe. The distortions this entails are especially problematic since it was in these first two centuries that Islam's institutional, social and religious framework developed and stabilised. To form a meaningful understanding of this development requires tackling the contemporary documentary record, as preserved in the papyri. Yet the technical difficulties presented by these mostly unpublished and uncatalogued documents have largely barred their use by historians.

This project is a systematic attempt to address this critical problem. The project has three stages:

  1. a stocktaking of unedited Arabic, Coptic and Greek papyri;
  2. the editing of a corpus of the most significant papyri;
  3. the presentation of a synthetic historical analysis through scholarly publications and a dedicated website.

By examining the impact of Islam on the daily life of those living under its rule, the goal of this project is to understand the striking newness of Islamic society and its debt to the diverse cultures it superseded. Questions will be the extent, character, and ambition of Muslim state competency at the time of the Islamic conquest; the steps - military, administrative and religious - by which it extended its reach; and what this tells us about the origins and evolution of Muslim ideas of rulership, religion and power.

Prof. Petra M. Sijpesteijn

Project leader

Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2027 
E-mail: p.m.sijpesteijn@hum.leidenuniv.nl 

Office and postal address: 
Witte Singel 25 / M. de Vrieshof 4, room 109b 
2311 BZ Leiden, The Netherlands

Dr. Jelle Bruning

Within the FOI project, Jelle Bruning has written an historical PhD thesis entitled "The rise of a capital: On the development of al-Fusṭāṭ’s relationship with its hinterland, 18/639-132/750" (defended in 2014). In this thesis, he studied the relationship between Egypt's Arab capital, al-Fusṭāṭ, and its Egyptian hinterland. The main topics addressed are the political, administrative, military, and relationship between Alexandria and al-Fusṭāṭ and the political, administrative and juridical relationship between al-Fusṭāṭ and Upper Egypt.

Jelle Bruning is currently affiliated to Leiden University as a university lecturer.

Dr. Janneke H.M. de Jong

Janneke de Jong works on the edition and study of Greek papyri from the first two centuries after the Arab conquest of Egypt.

Dr. Marie A.L. Legendre

Within the FOI project, Marie Legendre wrote a PhD thesis entitled "Pouvoir et territoire: l'administration islamique en Moyenne-Égypte pré-ṭūlūnide (642-868)", which she defended in 2013. She studied in this thesis the development of the administrative context of the towns of Antinoë/Anṣinā and Hermopolis from the Byzantine to Muslim period. She also studied the relationship between the local administrations and the administrative organization of the province and empire.

Marie Legendre is currently affiliated to Aix-Marseille Université.

Dr. Gesa Schenke

Within the FOI project, Gesa Schenke, a specialist in Coptic Studies and Papyrology, is responsible for discovering and editing new documents from the early Islamic period written in Coptic, the Egyptian language at the time. To obtain this goal, she is consulting material in various European papyrus collections, such as the Berliner and Kölner Papyrussammlung in Germany, the collection of the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the British Library in London.

Gesa Schenke is currently affiliated to the University of Oxford. 

Dr. Khaled Younes

Within the FOI project, Khaled Younes wrote a PhD thesis entitled "Joy and sorrow in early Muslim Egypt. Arabic papyrus letters: text and context", defended in 2013. In this thesis, he edited 43 personal letters written on papyrus, and dating from the 7th through 9th centuries. On the basis of these and other papyri, Younes studied emotions related to family matters, feasts and festivities, health, and death.

Khaled Younes is currently affiliated to Menoufia University (Egypt).

Sijpesteijn, P.M.

  • The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside , editorial together with. A. Delattre & M.A.L. Legendre (forthcoming).
  • Prisons and control of the early-Islamic Egyptian countryside. Forthcoming in The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, ed. A. Delattre, M.A.L. Legendre & P.M. Sijpesteijn.
  • ḥadīth fragment on papyrus. Forthcoming in Der Islam 92 (2015).
  • Documents and the history of the early Islamic world , editorial together with. A.T. Schubert (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2014).
  • Making the private public: A delivery of Palestinian oil in third/ninth-century Egypt. Studia Orientalia Electronica 2 (2014): 74-91. 
  • An early Umayyad papyrus invitation for the ḥajjJournal of Near Eastern studies 73 (2014): 179-190.
  • Locating Arabic papyrology: Fiscal politics in medieval Egypt as a test-case for setting disciplinary boundaries and standards. Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 51 (2014): 217-228.
  • Shaping a Muslim state: The world of a mid-eighth-century Egyptian official. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Financial troubles: A Mamluk petition. In Jews, Christians and Muslims in medieval and early modern times: A festschrift in honor of Mark R. Cohen, ed. A. Franklin, R.E. Margariti, M. Rustow, U. Simonsohn (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 352-366.
  • An Arabic land lease from Ṭuṭūn. In Papyrological Texts in Honor of Roger S. Bagnall, ed. R. Ast, H. Cuvigny, T. Hickey & J. Lougovaya (Durham, NC: The American Society of Papyrologists, 2012), pp. 101-106.
  • Coptic and Arabic papyri from Deir al-Balāʾizah. In Actes du 26e Congrès international de papyrologie, ed. P. Schubert (Geneva: Librairie Droz S.A., 2012), 707-714.
  • Taking care of the weak: An Arabic papyrus from the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. In Inediti offerti a Rosario Pintaudi per il 65° compleanno (P.Pintaudi), ed. D. Minutoli (Florence: Edizioni Gonnelli, 2012), 289-294.
  • Une nouvelle lettre de Qurra b. Šarīk: P.Sorb. inv. 2345. Annales islamologiques 45 (2012), pp. 257-268.
  • Building an Egyptian identity”. In The Islamic scholarly tradion: Studies in history, law, and thought in honor of Professor Michael Allen Cook, ed. A.Q. Ahmed, B. Sadeghi & M. Bonner (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 85-106.
  • Army Economics: An Early Papyrus Letter Related to ‘Aṭā’ Payments. In: Margarati, R., Sabra, A., Sijpesteijn, P.M. (Eds.), Studies in the Social and Economic History of the Medieval Middle East. Essays in Honour of Avram L. Udovitch, pp. 245-265. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2011.
  • Building an Egyptian Identity. In: Ahmed, A.Q., Bonner, M., Sadeghi, B. (eds.), Scholars and Scholarship of the Islamic World, pp. 97-123. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2011.
  • Multilingual archives and documents in post-conquest Egypt. In: Papaconstantinou, A. (Ed.), The Multilingual Experience in Egypt, from the Ptolemies to the 'Abbasids, pp. 105-126. Burlington: Ashgate, 2010.
  • Baqt; Hijra; Nessana; Quran; Akhmim; Barabra. Encyclopaedia of Islam 3, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2010.
  • De woestijn als archief: sporen van de vroege islam in papyri. Geschiedenis Magazine 42/2 (2010).
  • Muhammad. Wiley-Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Ancient History, Oxford, 2010.
  • North American papyrus collections revisited. Al-Bardiyyat 1 (2010), pp. 5-18.
  • Studies in the Social and Economic History of the Medieval Middle East. Essays in Honour of A.L. Udovitch. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2010. Editorial together with R. Margariti and A. Sabra.
  • A mid-eighth-century trilingual tax demand to a Bawit monk. In: Sijpesteijn, P.M. (Ed.), The Administration of Monastic Estates in Late Antique and Early Islamic Egypt (American Studies in Papyrology), pp. 102-119. Oxford, 2009.
  • Arabic Papyri and Islamic Egypt. In: Bagnall, R.S. (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, pp. 452-472. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Landholding Patterns in Early Islamic Egypt. Journal of Agrarian Change 9 (2009), pp. 120-133.

Bruning, J.

  • Egyptian control over the Egyptian-Nubian frontier between A.D. 600 and 750. Forthcoming in The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, ed. A. Delattre, M.A.L. Legendre & P.M. Sijpesteijn.
  • A legal sunna in dhikr ḥaqqs from Sufyanid Egypt. Forthcoming in Islamic law and society 22/4 (2015).
  • A reused piece of paper with a personal letter and a list. In Coptica Argentoratensia: Textes et documents de la troisième université d’été de papyrologie copte (Strasbourg, 18-25 julliet 2010) (P.Stras.Copt.), ed. A. Boud’hors, A. Delattre, C. Louis & T.S. Richter (Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2014), 219-205.
  • The rise of a capital: On the development of al-Fusṭāṭ’s relationship with its hinterland, 18/639-132/750”. PhD thesis: Leiden University, 2014.
  • Veroveren met Gods zegen, bekeren zonder zwaard: interview met Hugh Kennedy. Geschiedenis magazine 45/2 (2010), pp. 24-27.

De Jong, J.H.M.

  • People and payments: Some recovered tax assesments from eighth century Aphrodito. Forthcoming.
  • The decreasing role of Greek in the documentary culture of Early Islamic Egypt. Forthcoming in Proceedings of Multilingualism and Social Belonging in the Late Antique and Early Islamic Near East, ISAW New York (9-10 June 2014).
  • Imperial discourses and documentary papyri from Alexander to the Abbasids. Forthcoming.
  • Arabia, Arabs, and ‘Arabic’ in Greek documents from Egypt”. Forthcoming in Islamic history and civilization studies: Proceedings of the Fifth International Society for Arabic Papyrology Conference (Tunis, March 2012).
  • Greek as a minority language”. Forthcoming in The late Antique history of early Islam: Muslims among Christians and Jews in the East Mediterranean, ed. R.G. Hoyland. [With A. Delattre.]

Legendre, M.A.L.

  • The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, editorial together with A. Delattre & P.M. Sijpesteijn (forthcoming).
  • Caliphal estates and state policy over landholding: Theory and practice between literary and documentary evidence from early Islamic Egypt. Forthcoming in The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, ed. A. Delattre, M.A.L. Legendre & P.M. Sijpesteijn.
  • Arabic sources and Coptic monasteries: an impossible dialogue? The case of Bāwīṭ after the Islamic conquest”. Forthcoming in Proceedings of the Third congress of Arabic papyrology (Vienna, 2009), ed. A. Kaplony & C. Römer.
  • Perméabilité linguistique et anthroponymique entre copte et arabe: Exemple de comptes en caractères coptes du Fayoum fatimide, avec en Annexe: Répertoire des anthroponymes arabes attestés dans les documents coptes”. In Coptica Argentoratensia: Textes et documents de la troisième université d’été de papyrologie copte (Strasbourg, 18-25 julliet 2010) (P.Stras.Copt.), ed. A. Boud’hors, A. Delattre, C. Louis & T.S. Richter (Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2014), 325-440.
  • Réutilisation, notes et ratures: Une lettre fragmentaire et un recensement de bétail dans un papyrus arabe de la bibliothèque Laurentienne. Analecta papyrologica 25 (2013): 159-170.
  • Pouvoir et territoir: L’administration islamique en Moyenne-Égypte pré-ṭūlūnide (642-868)”. PhD thesis: Leiden University, 2013.

Schenke, G.

  • Forthcoming contributions to Oxford dictionary of Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  • Micro- and macro-management: responsibilities of the head of the monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit”. Forthcoming in Proceedings of the Xth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Rome September 2012, ed. A. Bausi et al.
  • Christian women in early Islamic Egypt: A public minority”. Forthcoming in Minorities: legal, cultural and economic perspectives. Continuity and change in the Mediterranean 6th-10th century, ed. R.G. Hoyland.
  • Monastic control over agriculture and farming: New evidence from the Egyptian monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit concerning the payment of APARCHE”. Forthcoming in The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, ed. A. Delattre, M.A.L. Legendre & P.M. Sijpesteijn.
  • Kölner ägyptische Papyri (P.Köln ägypt.) II: Koptische Urkunden der früharabischen Zeit. Forthcoming in 2015 [Abhandlungen d er Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste, Sonderreihe Papyrologica Coloniensia IX].
  • A potter’s way of bookkeeping: A tally stick from early Islamic Egypt”. Forthcoming in 2015.
  • Quellentexte zur Geschichte Ägyptens in spätantiker und früharabischer Zeit. Forthcoming in 2015.
  • Kölner Papyri: P.Köln XIV, editorial together with C. Armoni, J.-L. Fournet, M. Gronewald & K. Maresh (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2015). 
    • P.Köln XIV 000: Liste von Gefangenen.
  • Rashid ibn Chaled and the return of overpayments. Chronique d’Égypte 89 (2014), 202-208.
  • Neue Fragmente des Kölner Kodex 3221: Textzuwachs am koptischen Testament des Iob, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 188 (2014), 87-105.
  • A codex fragment of the Gospel of John in Sahidic”, Journal of Coptic studies 15 (2013), 149-157.
  • Selected papers from the ICCoptS 9 (Cairo 2008), editorial together with C. Askeland & A. Delattre, in Journal of Coptic studies 15 (2013), 3-235.
  • Das koptisch hagiographische Dossier des Heiligen Kolluthos: Arzt, Märtyrer und Wunderheiler. Leuven: Peeters, 2013.
  • Kölner Papyri: P.Köln XIII, editorial together with. M. Gronewald, J. Lundon, K. Maresh & Ph. Schmitz (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2013). 
    • P.Köln XIII 549: Matthäus 6,33-7,25: Aus der Bergpredigt. 
    • P.Köln XIII 550: Johannes 13,5-35: Fußwaschung und Liebesbekenntnis.
  • The Testament of Job (Coptic Fragments): A new translation and introduction”. In Old Testament pseudoepigraphica: More noncanonical scriptures, ed. R.J. Bauckham & J.R. Davila (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 1:160-175.
  • Two entagia from Cambridge. Chronique d’Égypte 88 (2013), 372-378. [With N. Gonis.]
  • BKU III 340: An unusual entagionChronique d’Égypte 86 (2011), 383-385. [With N. Gonis.]
  • Das Orakel des Heiligen Severus. Archiv für Papyrusforschung 57/1 (2011), 65-72.
  • Kölner Papyri: P.Köln XII, editorial together with C. Armoni, M. Gronewald, J. Lundon, K. Maresch & F. Reiter (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2010). 
    • P.Köln XII 491: Steuerquittung. 
    • P.Köln XII 492: Das Martyrium des Phileas von Thmuis. 
    • P.Köln XII 493: Zauberformular. 
    • P.Köln XII 494: Liste mit Personen. 
    • P.Köln XII 495: Quittung.
  • Zwei Schultexte der Bodleian Library in Oxford: Das Gebet eines frommen Sünders, ein Psalmenvers und Fragen zur Reihenfolge des koptischen Alphabets. Archiv für Papyrusforschung 56/2 (2010), 290-293.

Younes, K.

  • Arabic letters of condolence on papyrus. Forthcoming in Islamic history and civilization, ed. M. Malcycki (Leiden: Brill).
  • New governors identified in Arabic papyri. Forthcoming in The late Roman and early Islamic Mediterranean and Near East: Authority and control in the countryside, ed. A. Delattre, M.A.L. Legendre & P.M. Sijpesteijn.
  • Texte coranique (Sourate 19, versets 73-98 ou ‘Sourate Maryam (Marie)’). In Alexandrie la divine, ed. C. Méla & F. Möri (2 vols; Geneva: La Baconnière, 2014), 2:1101.
  • Textile trade between the Fayyūm and Fusṭāṭ in the IIIrd/IXth century according to the Banū ʿAbd al-Muʾmin archive. In Documents et histoire: Islam, VIIe-XVIe siècle, ed. A. Regourd (Paris: Droz, 2013), 313-334.
  • Joy and sorrow in early Muslim Egypt. Arabic papyrus letters: text and content. PhD thesis: Leiden University, 2013.
  • Review of E.M. Grob, Documentary Arabic private and business letters on papyrus: Form and function (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010), Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 49 (2012), 375-378.
  • A trilingual scribe from Abbasid Egypt? A note on CPR XXII 17”, Archiv für Papyrusforschung 58/1 (2012), 97-100. [With L. Berkes.]

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