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Christian Sahner
1/ This week we're exploring medieval through the work of Nābulusī (d 1262), an Ayyubid bureaucrat and all-around crank (who hated peasants and ) A new book on Nābulusī (by Y. Rapoport) gives clues about when Egypt (esp. the Fayyūm) first became Muslim
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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2/ The Fayyūm is an agricultural oasis 60 miles SW of . In the 13th c. it was a real backwater, and Nābulusī was dispatched there to conduct a survey of the villages and their revenues. His report is an unparalleled source about rural society and economy in
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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3/ There's lots in it about demography. Turns out most of the population of the Fayyūm was Arab, Muslim, and tribal in its makeup, while a small minority was Coptic, Christian, and non-tribal. But it wasn't always so:
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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4/ Rapoport argues that 2-3 generations before Nābulusī's visit, the Coptic Christian peasants of the Fayyūm started converting to Islam, and this entailed adopting new Arab tribal identities (as members of the Banū Kilāb, Banū ʿAjlān, and the Lawātiyyūn)
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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5/ This is an exciting (and potentially controversial) finding because it suggests that the emergence of an Arab, Muslim majority in the the Fayyūm owed not to the arrival of outside nomads, but to cultural and religious "costume changes" within the native Coptic population
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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6/ Put simply, most of the "Arabs" of the Fayyūm may have simply been "ex-Copts." Something similar probably happened in other parts of the Middle East where Islamization and Arabization occurred as a kind of one-two punch (e.g., , North Africa, , , etc.)
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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7/ This sheds light on a much bigger historical point: On the eve of in the 7th c., relatively few people across the Middle East considered themselves to be Arabs (they were , , Himyarites, Aramaeans, , etc.)
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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8/ But in the modern day, many descendants of these same people regard themselves as , speak , and are . Considering that very few ancient peoples were displaced by the conquests, and that relatively few Arabs settled across the M.E. at this point ...
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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9/ We are left to wonder: How did everyone suddenly become an Arab? Nābulusī and Rapoport provide one possible answer. Check out this impressive book here:
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Christian Sahner Dec 4
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10/ Plus the English translation of Nābulusī's Fayyūm register (by Rapoport and Shahar) here:
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زياد مرسي Dec 4
Thank you for the very informative and intriguing thread.
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