Furūsiyya (Arabic: فروسية) is the historical Arabic term for knightly martial exercise during the Middle Ages, during the Crusades and Mamluk period in particular, especially concerned with medieval Islamic martial arts and equestrianism. The body of Arabo-Persian "Furūsiyya literature" includes the genre Faras-nāma, which is an encyclopedic compilation of facts relating to horses.
It was a concept and noble art that included the arts of war and hunting, equestrianism, tactics and strategy, and certain games like chess (reflection, concentration, skill and moral qualities within that game). The practice was reserved to male elite (Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of Muslim Knight, page 9). This art was practiced from Afghanistan to Muslim Spain, prior to Mongol Conquest in the East and Spanish Reconquista in the West during the 13th century, and saw its greatest achievement in Mamluk Egypt during the 14th century.
The term is a derivation of faras "horse", and in modern Standard Arabic means "equestrianism" in general. The term for "horseman" or "knight" is fāris (also an Arabic given name, and the origin of the Spanish rank of Alférez).
Disciplines of furusiyya
The three basic categories of furūsiyya are horsemanship (including veterinary aspects of proper care for the horse, the proper riding techniques), archery, and charging with the lance. Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya adds swordsmanship as a fourth discipline in his treatise Al-Furūsiyya (ca. 1350).
In a narrow sense of the term, furūsiyya literature comprises works by professional military writers with a Mamluk background or close ties to the Mamluk establishment. These treatises often quote pre-Mamluk works on military strategy. Some of these works were versified for didactic purposes. The best known of these versified treatises is the one by Taybugha al-Baklamishi al-Yunani ("the Greek"), who in ca. 1368 wrote the poem al-tullab fi ma`rifat ramy al-nushshab.
Furusiyya as an ethical code
However, furūsiyya also appears to have retained a wider meaning of "the continuing ethos of manly endeavor of early Islam", comparable to the contemporary European notion of chivalry. The full range of meanings of the term includes the meanings of horsemanship, hippology, and farriery on one hand and chivalry or heroism on the other.
Furusiyya faris (whether free like Usama ibn Munqidh or slave professional warriors like ghulams and mamluks) were trained in use of following arms: spear, lance, bow and arrows, cavalry or saddle axe (Tabar Zin) (hence Mamluk body-guards known as Tabardariyya), war hammer, javelin, sword, mace, dagger, and sabre. They were also trained in wrestling, and their martial art skills were to be honed first on a ground and then perfected when mounted.
The following is a list of Furūsiyya literature of the 9th to 15th centuries.
- Kitāb al-khayl - Abī ʻUbaydah Maʻmar ibn al-Muthanná (died 209 AH)[dubious ] Al-Asma'i
- Al-sabq wa al-ramī - ʻAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad Ibn Abī al-Dunyā (died 281 AH)
- Faḍl al-ramī - Sulaymān ibn Aḥmad Ṭabarānī (died 360 AH)
- Al-sabq - ʻAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad Abū al-Shaykh al-Aṣbahānī (died 369 AH)
- Faḍāʼil al-ramī – Abī Yaʻqūb Isḥāq ibn Abī Isḥāq al-Qarrāb (died 429 AH)
- Tabṣirat arbāb al-albāb fī kayfīyat al-najāt fī al-ḥurūb min al-anwāʼ wa-nashr aʻlām al-aʻlām fī al-ʻudad wa-al-ālāt al-muʻayyanah ʻalá liqāʼ al-aʻdāʼ - Marḍī ibn ʻAlī al-Ṭarsūsī (died 589 AH)
- Mustanad al-ajnād fī ālāt al-jihād – Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn Jamāʻah al-Ḥamwī (died 733 AH)
- Al-Furūsīyah wa-al-manāṣib al-ḥarbīyah (The book of military horsemanship and ingenious war devices) - Najm al-Dīn Ḥasan al-Rammāḥ, commonly known as al-Aḥdab (died 1295 / 695 AH)
- Faraj al-Makrūb fī aḥkām al-ḥurūb wa muʻānātihā wa-mudaratiha wa-lawazimiha wa-ma yasu'u bi-amrihā - Yūsuf ibn Aḥmad (known as Sulaymānah), written before 830 AH.
- ultimately root frs "to crush, to break", apparently because of the horse's hooves crushing the ground. See Lane p. 2366f.
- edited as Dar al-Kutub al-'Almiyya, Cairo, 1976; and again by Nizam al-Din al-Fatih, Madina Munawwara: Maktaba Dar al-Turath, 1990. "Furusiyya covers four disciplines: the tactics of attack and withdrawal (al-karr wa-l-farr); archery; jousts with spears; duels with swords. [...] Only the Muslim conquerors and the knights of the faith have fully mastered these four arts." (107, 25ff.)
- ed. and trans. Latham and Paterson, London 1970
- Nicolle, Saracen Faris, page 8-9.
- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr (2007), al-Nashīrī, Zāʼid ibn Aḥmad, ed., Al-furūsīyah al-Muḥammadīyah, Dār ʻĀlam al-Fawāʼid lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawzīʻ, pp. 7–9
- Bashir Mohamed, The arts of the Muslim knight; the Furusiyya Art Foundation collection (2008), ISBN 978-88-7624-877-1.
- James Waterson, The Knights of Islam: The Wars of the Mamluks Greenhill Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-85367-734-2.
- D. Ayalon, Notes on the Furusiyya Exercises and Games in the Mamluk Sultanate, Scripta Hierosolymitana, 9 (1961)
- U. Haarmann, 'The late triumph of the Persian bow: critical voices on the Mamluk monopoly on weaponry' in: The Mamluks in Egyptian politics and society, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN, 9780521591157, 174-187.
- David Nicolle, Saracen Faris, 1050-1250 AD, Osprey, London (1994). ISBN 1-85532-453-9.
- David Nicolle, Arms & Armour of the Crusading Era 1050-1350, Islam, Eastern Europe, and Asia, London 1999.
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