Furūsiyya ( 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 the martial arts and equestrianism of the Golden Age of Islam. 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. This art was practiced throughout the Muslim world, 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.
The faris or "knight" (whether free like Usama ibn Munqidh or unfree professional warriors like ghulams and mamluks) was trained in use of various weapons such as spear/lance/javelin, bow and arrows, saddle axe or Tabar Zin (hence Mamluk body-guards known as Tabardariyya), sword/sabre, hammer/mace, dagger, etc. They were also trained in wrestling, and their martial art skills were to be honed first on foot and then perfected when mounted.
List of known Furusiyyah treatises (after al-Sarraf 2004, al-Nashīrī 2007)
- Najm al-Dīn Ḥasan al-Rammāḥ, commonly known as al-Aḥdab (died 1295 / 695 AH) "Al-Furūsīyah wa-al-manāṣib al-ḥarbīyah" (The book of military horsemanship and ingenious war devices)
- Yūsuf ibn Aḥmad (known as Sulaymānah), written before 830 AH, "Faraj al-Makrūb fī aḥkām al-ḥurūb wa muʻānātihā wa-mudaratiha wa-lawazimiha wa-ma yasu'u bi-amrihā"
- "Al-ʿAdīm al-Mithl al-Rafīʿ al-Qadr," Istanbul, Topkapı Sarayı Library MS Revan 1933
- (pseudo) Najm al-Dīn al-Aḥdab, "Kitāb al-Furūsīyah" (added title), Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2829
- Muḥammad ibn ʿIsá ibn Ismāʿīl al-Hanafī al-Aqsarā'ī, "Nihāyat al-Sūl wa-al-Umnīyah fī Taʿlīm Aʿmāl al-Furūsīyah," London, British Library MS Add. 18866
- Abū al-Rūḥ ʿIsá ibn Hassān al-Asadī al-Baghdādī, "Al-Jamharah fī ʿUlūm al-Bayzarah," British Library MS Add. 23417, Madrid, Escorial Library MS Ar. 903
- Alṭanbughā al-Husāmī al-Nāṣirī, known as Aṭājuq, "Nuzhat al-Nufūs fī Laʿb al-Dabbūs," Dār al-Kutub al-Miṣrīyah MS 21 furūsīyah Taymūr
- Badr al-Dīn Baktūt al-Rammāḥ al-Khāzindārī al-Zahirī, "Kitāb fī ʿIlm al-Furūsīyah wa-Laʿb al-Rumḥ wa-al-Birjās wa-ʿIlāj al-Khayl," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2830 (fols. 2v.–72r.)
- Abū Bakr al-Bayṭar ibn Badr al-Dīn al-Nāsirī (Ibn al-Mundhir), "Kāshif al-Wayl fī Maʿrifat Amrāḍ al-Khayl" (or "Kāmil al-ṣināʿatayn fī al-Bayṭarah wa-al-Zardaqah"), Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2813
- ʿUmar ibn Raslān al-Bulqīnī, "Qaṭr al-Sayl fī Amr al-Khayl," Istanbul, Süleymaniye Library MS „ehid ʿAlī Pasha 1549
- Sharaf al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Mu'min ibn Khalaf al-Dimyāṭī, "Faḍl al-Khayl," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2816
- "Al-Furūsīyah" (untitled fragment), British Library MS 9015
- hunting treatise (untitled), Alexandria, Egypt, Maktabat al-Baladīyah MS 1201/1
- Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Ghālib Ibn Akhī Hizām al-Khuttalī, "Kitāb al-Furūsīyah wa-al-Bayṭarah," Bayezit Public Library Veliyüddin Efendi MS 3174
- Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Ghālib Ibn Akhī Hizām al-Khuttalī, "Kitāb al-Furūsīyah wa-Shiyāt al-Khayl," British Library MS Add. 23416
- Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Ghālib Ibn Akhī Hizām al-Khuttalī, "Al-Kamāl fī al-Furūsīyah..." (added title), Istanbul, Fatih Mosque Library MS 3513
- Muḥammad Ibn Manglī al-Nāṣirī, "Al-Adillah al-Rasmīyah fī al-Taʿābī al-Harbīyah," Istanbul, Ayasofya Library MS 2857
- Muḥammad Ibn Manglī al-Nāṣirī, "Al-Tadbīrāt al-Sulṭānīyah fī Siyāsat al-Sināʿah al-Harbīyah," British Library MS Or. 3734
- Muḥammad Ibn Manglī al-Nāṣirī, "Uns al-Malā bi-Waḥsh al-Falā," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2832/1
- Abū Muḥammad Jamāl al-Dīn ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Maymūn, "Kitāb al-Ifādah wa-al-Tabṣīr li-Kull Rāmin Mubtadi' aw Māhir Naḥrīr bi-al-Sahm al-Tawīl wa-al-Qaṣīr," Istanbul, Köprülü Mehmet Pasha Library MS 1213
- ʿAlā'al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Abī al-Qāsim al-Naqīb al-Akhmīmī, "Hall al-Ishkāl fī al-Ramy bi-al-Nibāl," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 6259
- ʿAlā'al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Abī al-Qāsim al-Naqīb al-Akhmīmī, "Naqāwat al-Muntaqá fī Nāfiʿāt al-Liqā," British Library MS Add. 7513/2
- Rukn al-Dīn Jamshīd al-Khwārazmī, untitled, British Library MS Or. 3631/3
- "Kitāb fī Laʿb al-Dabbūs wa-al-Sirāʿ ʿalá al-Khayl," Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 6604/2
- "Kitāb al-Hiyal fī al-Hurūb wa-Fatḥ al-Madā'in wa-Hifz "al-Durūb," British Library MS Add. 14055
- "Kitāb al-Makhzūn li-Arbāb al-Funūn," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2826 "Kitāb al-Makhzūn Jāmiʿ al-Funūn," Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2824
- Husām al-Dīn Lājīn ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Dhahabī al-Husāmī al-Tarābulṣī al-Rammāḥ, "Kitāb ʿUmdat al-Mujāhidīn fī Tartīb al-Mayādīn," Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 6604/1
- "Al-Maqāmah al-Salāḥīyah fī al-Khayl wa-al-Bayṭarah wa-al-Furūsīyah," Dār al-Kutub al-Miṣrīyah MS 81 furūsīyah Taymūr
- Marḍī ibn ʻAlī al-Ṭarsūsī (died 589 AH), "Tabṣirat arbāb al-albāb fī kayfīyat al-najāt fī al-ḥurūb min al-anwā' wa-nashr aʿlām al-aʿlām fī al-ʿudad wa-al-ālāt al-muʿayyanah ʿalá liqā' al-aʿdā'," Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Huntington 264
- Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sakhāwī, "Al-Qawl al-Tāmm fī (Faḍl) al-Ramy bi-al-Sihām," Dār al-Kutub al-Miṣrīyah MS 2m funūn ḥarbīyah
- "Sharḥ al-Maqāmah al-Salāḥīyah fī al-Khayl," Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 2817
- al-Hasan ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAysūn al-Hanafī al-Sinjārī, "Hidāyat al-Rāmī ilá al-Aghrāḍ wa-al-Marāmī," Topkapı Sarayı Library MS Ahmet III 2305
- Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Qāzānī al-Sughayyir, "Al-Mukhtaṣar al-Muḥarrar," Topkapı Sarayı Library MS Ahmet III 2620
- Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Qāzānī al-Sughayyir, "Al-Hidāyah fī ʿIlm al-Rimāyah," Bodleian Library MS Huntington 548
- Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Qāzānī al-Sughayyir, "Sharḥ al-Qaṣīdah al-Lāmīyah lil-Ustādh Sāliḥ al-Shaghūrī," Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar 6604/3
- Jalāl al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Abī Bakr al-Suyūṭī, "Ghars al-Anshāb fī al-Ramy bi-al-Nushshāb," British Library MS Or. 12830
- Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aḥmad al-Tabarī, untitled fragment, British Library MS Or. 9265/1
- Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aḥmad al-Tabarī, "Kitāb al-Wāḍiḥ (fī ʿIlm al-Ramy)," British Library MS Or. 9454
- Taybughā al-Ashrafī al-Baklamīshī al-Yunānī, "Kitāb al-Ramy wa-al-Rukūb" (added title), Bibliothèque Nationale MS 6160
- Husayn ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Yūnīnī, "Al-Nihāyah fī ʿIlm al-Rimāyah," Ayasofya Library MS 2952
- Abū al-Naṣr al-Qāsim ibn ʿAlī ibn Husayn al-Hāshimī al-Zaynabī, "Al-Qawānīn al-Sulṭānīyah fī al-Sayd," Fatih Mosque Library MS 3508
- Abī ʿUbaydah Maʿmar ibn al-Muthanná (died 209 AH), "Kitāb al-khayl" Al-Asma'i
- ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad Ibn Abī al-Dunyā (died 281 AH), "Al-sabq wa al-ramī"
- Sulaymān ibn Aḥmad Ṭabarānī (died 360 AH), "Faḍl al-ramī"
- ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad Abū al-Shaykh al-Aṣbahānī (died 369 AH), "Al-sabq"
- Abī Yaʿqūb Isḥāq ibn Abī Isḥāq al-Qarrāb (died 429 AH), "Faḍā'il al-ramī"
- Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn Jamāʿah al-Ḥamwī (died 733 AH), "Mustanad al-ajnād fī ālāt al-jihād"
- 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).
- Shihab al-Sarraf, 'Mamluk Furūsīyah Literature and Its Antecedents', Mamlūk Studies Review VIII.1, (2004), 141-201.
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