Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti
Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti
|Title||Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti|
|Era||late 8th century – 9th century|
|Region||Horn of Africa/North Africa|
|Main interest(s)||Islamic philosophy, Islamic Jurisprudence, Egyptian history|
|Alma mater||Al-Azhar University|
Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti (853–921) (Arabic: عبد الرحمن الجبرتي), full name: Abd al-Rahman bin Hasan bin Burhan al-Din al-Jabarti (Arabic: عبد الرحمن بن حسن بن برهان الدين الجبرتي), often simply known as Al-Jabarti, was an Egyptian scholar of Somali descent and chronicler who spent most of his life in Cairo.
Little is known of al-Jabarti's life. According to Franz Steiner, he was born in the village of Tell al-Gabarti in the northern Delta province of Beheira, Egypt. Abdulkader Saleh asserts that al-Jabarti was instead born in Cairo.
Al-Jabarti was born into a prominent family of ulama with ties to the Egyptian scholarly and political elite. Al-Jabarti's father was Hassan Al-Jabarti, A learned and highly venerated man in Cairo. It is believed that Hassan Al-Jabarti travelled from Zeila to Cairo during the mid 18th century. Zeila at the time was the capitol of the Ottoman Zeila Sanjak in the Horn of Africa. Al-Jabarti's paternal family had Banu Hashim ancestry. According to his writings, his name comes from his "seventh-degree grandfather," Abd al-Rahman, who was the earliest member of his family known to him. The older Abd al-Rahman was from the Jabarah ( located in the Horn of Africa ). He visited the Riwaqs of the Jabarti communities in Mecca and Medina before making it to Egypt, where he became Sheikh of the Riwaq there and head of the Jabarti community (Muslims from the Horn region).
Al-Jabarti's father was a Hanafi religious scholar and served as the director of the al-Jabarti residence hall for students at al-Azhar University, a title al-Jabarti inherited following his father's death in 1744. As a result, al-Jabarti was trained as a Sheikh at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Through his family ties, al-Jabarti gained access to prominent scholars al-Muradi and al-Murtada, both of whom influenced his decision to write about Egyptian history. He began keeping a monthly chronicle of local events, from which he compiled his three most famous works. The last and lengthiest of these documents, which is generally known in English simply as Al-Jabarti's History of Egypt, sometimes as The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Events, and known in Arabic as Aja'ib al-athar fi al-tarajim wal-akhbar (عجائب الاَثار في التراجم والاخبار), became a world-famous historical text by virtue of its eyewitness accounts of Napoleon's invasion and Muhammad Ali's seizure of power. The entries from his chronicle dealing with the French expedition and occupation have been excerpted and compiled in English as a separate volume entitled Napoleon in Egypt. He was one of the first Muslims to realize the significance of the wave of modernity that accompanied the French occupation, and the gulf that existed between Western and Islamic knowledge "shocked him profoundly".
According to Marsot, at the end of his life, Al-Jabarti chose to be buried in Tell al-Gabarti, the town to which he traced his descent.
Al-Jabarti is known for three works: Tarikh muddat al-faransis bi-misr (The History of the Period of the French Occupation in Egypt), completed in late 1798, Mazhar al-taqdis bi-zawal dawlat al-faransis (Demonstration of Piety in the Demise of French Society), completed in December 1801, and ‘Aja’ib al-athar fi’l-tarajim wa’l-akhbar (The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Events), which was much longer than and comprised elements of his first two works. The History of the French Occupation in Egypt chronicles the first seven months of the three-year occupation of Egypt by the French. In this work, in addition to chronicling factual events, al-Jabarti criticizes the social and moral depravity of the French, embarks on an extensive correction of the grammar in the French Proclamation, and expresses general feelings of anger towards this invasion. His second work, Demonstration of Piety in the Demise of French Society, is much less well known than his other two. The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Events is by far al-Jabarti's most famous work, as well as his longest. This work covers the history of Egypt from 1688 to 1821 but was banned in Egypt in 1870 due to its critical approach of Muhammad Ali Pasha's reforms, among other controversial criticisms. Towards the end of the 1870s the ban on his book was lifted, and it was printed in part in 1878 by the press of Alexandria newspaper Misr, and in full in 1880 by the Bulak printing press.
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- al-Jabarti, 'Abd al-Rahman. History of Egypt: 'Aja'ib al-Athar fi 'l-Tarajim wa'l-Akhbar. vol.1. Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart. 1994.
- Abdulkader Saleh, "Ǧäbärti," in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: D-Ha. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005, p. 597.
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- Christopher de Bellaige, The Islamic Enlightenment. The Struggle between Faith and Reason: 1798 to Modern Time, (New York, Liveright, 2017), ISBN 9780871403735, 6 and 33.
- Marsot, Afaf Lutfi el-Sayyed. "A Comparative Study of Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti. and Niqula al-Turk," Eighteenth Century Egypt: The Arabic Manuscript Sources. Los Angeles: Regina Books, 1990.
- Dammen,, McAuliffe, Jane. Islam. Miles, Jack,. New York. ISBN 0393355020. OCLC 1004556269.
- Karabell, Zachary (2003). Parting the desert: the creation of the Suez Canal. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40883-5.
- Shmuel Moreh, translator (1798). Napoleon in Egypt: Al-Jabarti's Chronicle of the French Occupation. ISBN 1-55876-070-9.