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Article

Karl-Heinz Golzio

[al-Murābiṭūn]

Islamic dynasty that ruled parts of the Sahara, Morocco, Algeria and Spain from 1056 to 1147. The Sanhaja Berber chief Yahya ibn Ibrahim, on returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, founded a reform movement intended to strengthen orthodoxy among the Saharan Berbers, who were only superficially Islamisized, but according to many Arab historiographers they adhered to Kharijite doctrine. With the support of the Malikite jurist Ibn Yasin and the Lamtuna Berber chiefs Yahya ibn ‛Umar and his brother Abu Bakr, a fortress for a Muslim brotherhood (Arab. ribāṭ) was established on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River. The fortress soon became a centre for the tribes living nearby, and the increasing power of those who lived there (al-murābiṭūn) led to the submission of all the Sanhaja tribes. Their renewal of Islam showed strong ascetic trends along with a simple piety that resulted in a holy war against the corrupt culture and errant Muslims of the Maghrib. In ...

Article

Bazaar  

Mohammad Gharipour

Bazaar, which is rooted in Middle Persian wāzār and Armenian vačaṟ, has acquired three different meanings: the market as a whole, a market day, and the marketplace. The bazaar as a place is an assemblage of workshops and stores where various goods and services are offered.

Primitive forms of shops and trade centres existed in early civilizations in the Near East, such as Sialk, Tepe in Kashan, Çatal Hüyük, Jerico, and Susa. After the 4th millennium BC, the population grew and villages gradually joined together to shape new cities, resulting in trade even with the remote areas as well as the acceleration of the population in towns. The advancement of trade and accumulation of wealth necessitated the creation of trade centres. Trade, and consequently marketplaces, worked as the main driving force in connecting separate civilizations, while fostering a division of labour, the diffusion of technological innovations, methods of intercultural communication, political and economic management, and techniques of farming and industrial production....

Article

Fatimid  

Jonathan M. Bloom

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) from ad 909 to 972 and in Egypt from ad 969 to 1171. The Fatimids were Isma‛ili Shi‛ites who traced their ancestry back to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, via Isma‛il, the seventh Shi‛ite Imam. They believed that their rightful position as leaders of the Muslim community had been usurped by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The first Fatimid success was the toppling of the Aghlabid rulers of Ifriqiya in 909. The Fatimid leader ‛Ubayd Allah assumed the title of caliph and the regnal name al-Mahdi (reg 909–34). He soon moved his capital from the hostile religious environment of Kairouan to Mahdia on the Mediterranean coast, a base more appropriate for the expected Fatimid conquest of the rest of the Islamic world. The port soon became a centre for Mediterranean commerce, whose revival was one of the cornerstones of Fatimid prosperity. The indigenous Berber population of North Africa rose in repeated rebellions, often fomented by the Fatimids’ Umayyad rivals in Spain. In 947 the caliph ...

Article

Muslim  

[Muslim ibn al-Dahhān]

(fl c. Cairo, 1000).

Arab potter. Twenty complete or fragmentary lustreware vessels signed by Muslim are known. A fragmentary plate with birds in a floral scroll (Athens, Benaki Mus., 11122) is inscribed on the rim ‘[the work of] Muslim ibn al-Dahhan to please … Hassan Iqbal al-Hakimi’. Although the patron has not been identified, his epithet al-Hakimi suggests that he was a courtier of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim (reg 996–1021). The other pieces, bowls or bases from them, are decorated with animals, birds, interlaced bands, inscriptions and floral motifs. One complete bowl (New York, Met., 63.178.1) shows a heraldic eagle, a second (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A., 14930) has a central griffin surrounded by palmettes, and a third (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A., 15958) has a design of four white leaves surrounded by an inscription in kufic offering good wishes. Muslim also countersigned objects made by other potters and may have been the master of an important workshop. His work represents the zenith in the animal, floral and abstract decoration of Egyptian lustrewares of the Fatimid period (...

Article

Qasir  

Arabic School, 11th century, male.

Active in the middle of the 11th century.

Painter.

Qasir is known to have worked in Qasir and Cairo.

Article

Sedrata  

Margaret Graves

Site of a settlement in the Sahara in the early Islamic period, near the modern-day Algerian city of Ouargla. Sedrata was briefly the capital of the Khariji sect in North Africa until it was destroyed in the 11th century.

In the 7th century, the Kharijites, a highly conservative opposition party that rejected both the succession of ‛Ali b. Abu Talib as well as that of his rivals, fled from persecution to the Maghrib. The Rustamid dynasty of Kharijites established their capital at Tahart (now in western Algeria), but fled from there to Sedrata in 909 when the Fatimids invaded. The Kharijites remained at Sedrata until it was destroyed in 1077; leaving Sedrata they took refuge in the oasis towns of the Mzab Valley in Central Algeria, where the Kharijite tradition has survived to the present day. The austere architectural tradition of these towns is rather hard to reconcile with the sophisticated and intricate stucco decoration found at Sedrata....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Rachel Milstein

[Codex Petropolitanus ; Leningrad Codex]

Illuminated Hebrew Bible (St Petersburg, N. Lib., MS. Firk. Heb. I B 19A), copied in Fustat, Egypt, in 1008–10. Written in ink and lavishly illuminated in gold, blue, and red at the end, this codex of 491 vellum leaves is the only complete Hebrew Bible from the early medieval Near East. It was copied between 1008 and 1010 by Shmuel ben Ya’aqov for Mevorakh ben Yoseph in Fustat (Old Cairo), probably in a Karaite milieu. (The Karaites are a Jewish sect that denies the Talmudic rabbinical tradition and recognizes the Scriptures as the sole and direct source of religious law.) By the 14th century the manuscript was given to the Karaite Synagogue in Damascus and in that town it was purchased by Abraham Firkovich (1786–1874) in the 19th century.

Following a common practice in medieval Hebrew Bibles, the illumination of the St Petersburg Bible comprises mainly micrographic Masoratic notes (sets of grammatical variations taken from the Holy Script). These notes, together with Psalm verses and blessings, form discrete, monochromatic, and semi-abstract motifs in the margins of the text, or serve as outlines in full-page compositions. The scribe of the St Petersburg Bible points out in the colophon that he himself added the vocalization and the Masorah. These assume a decorative form of roundels only under the verses of the first song of Moses (Exodus 15:10–19, fols 40...

Article

Muslim dynasty that ruled the Yemen from 1047 to 1138. The Sulayhids, who ruled as representatives of the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, were responsible for restoring Isma‛ili Shi‛ism to the Yemen. The dynasty was founded by ‛Ali ibn Muhammad al-Sulayhi (reg 1047–67), who had come under the influence of a Fatimid missionary; after the missionary’s death, the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (reg 1036–94) named ‛Ali as Fatimid agent in south Arabia. In 1046 ‛Ali and 60 men from his tribe began to set up the rule of the Fatimids in the Yemen, and in 1047 they fortified the mountain village of Masar to the west of San‛a’. In the early 1060s ‛Ali obtained sovereignty over Zabid and San‛a’, which he made his capital in 1063, and asserted himself over the Ma‛nids of Aden. From 1063 he sent the annual covering (Arab. kiswa) for the Ka‛ba at Mecca, a sign of his power and prestige. In ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

Muslim dynasty that ruled in parts of North Africa and Spain between ad 972 and 1152. The founder of the dynasty, Ziri ibn Manad (d 972), was a Sanhaja Berber in the service of the Fatimid caliphs, who ruled from Tunisia. In 936 Ziri founded Ashir, the family seat, in the Titeri Mountains 170 km south of Algiers. His son Buluggin (reg 972–84) was appointed governor of North Africa when the Fatimids left Kairouan for Cairo. Under Buluggin, his son al-Mansur (reg 984–96), and his grandson Badis (reg 996–1016), the Zirids greatly enlarged their territory, expanding into northern Morocco, where they came in conflict with the Umayyads of Spain. By 1015 the Zirid domain had become too large to be governed from Kairouan alone: the Zirids retained control of the eastern half, while the western portion was granted to Buluggin’s son Hammad (reg 1015–28), who established his capital at the Qal‛at Bani Hammad to the east of Ashir. In ...