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letter.pdf NOTES ON A FRAGMENT OF A PRIV ATE LETTER OF THE FIRST CENTURY A.H. M.J. Kister Papyrus 47 in Arabic Papyri from Hirbet al-Mird, edited by Adolf Grohmann (Louvain-Leuven 1963, Bibliotheque de Museon, vol. 52, p. 57, PI. XXI) is dated by the editor to the first century of the Hijra (seventh century A.D.). As the papyrus thus belongs among the earliest documents in Arabic, it is clearly crucial to make every effort to reach as correct and accurate a reading and a translation of it as possible. Grohmann's reading of the document, his commentary and his rendering are as follows: Fragment of a private letter Mird 5, 2. 1st century A.H. (VIIth century A.D.). Light-brown, coarse papyrus. 7 x 18,7 cm. On the recto five lines are written in black ink parallel to the horizontal fibres in regular, thick somewhat slanting characters, pointing to the first century A.H. The verso is blank. The papyrus is torn off at top and bottom, the original margins remain on the left and right sides. Prototype: original (Phot. 40826) . •••••••••• [ .•• I ~I.; 1 d.:>~ ~.>:! 01 ill 1 ~ ~~ ~ r i i 0 01.; ~ ~.>:! Lr:'] ?I.; d~ [. 1.[ 1.)1..9 ~ ] I[ ~ ~1 l[.J5:] 2. 3. 4. 5. And verily, I pray God that He may cause me to profit by you and ......... , and that He may not revile your day; is your day not excellent? But when [thils [my let/tIer has reached you .. 238 Notes In his Addenda (on p. 105) Grohmann records a reading of two phrases suggested by G. Levi della Vida: wa-an Iii yadina yawmuka illd bi-khayrin, "and that He may not judge your (doom-) day save in the best way": thus the word yawmuka in line 4 is considered redundant and should be deleted according to Levi della Vida's correction; the word khayr is accordingly read bi-khayrin. The text as given: alii (or: illii) yawmuka khayr is explained by Grohmann: "one has to presume that the writer was not expert and that, therefore, errors in style and expression are by no means unexpected". But the reading and the corrections offered seem unsatisfactory. The verb in line 3 can neither be read yadina referring to "the dooms-day"; nor can it be read yudayyina with the sense of "reviling". It should be read yudbira. The word yawmuka in line 4 is in reality a verb to be read ya'ummuka. The text does not need any amendation or deletion and should be read: ]$ .u.J1 Ltd d:> ~ ~J-:!.):I~ 01 .! 'lI1 1. [ 2. and I beg God to Iet me derive pleasure from (being with) you 3. and ( ?) and that your day should not turn its back 4. but that good (things, e.g. Iuck, prosperity etc.) should turn their face towards you. And when (my Ietter) comes to you ... A NOTE ON THE CONVERSION OF EGYPT TO ISLAM Yohanan Friedmann In his article entitled "The conversion of Egypt to IsIam"l, Professor Ira M. Lapidus provides the reader with an extensive survey of material relevant. to the spread of Islam in Egypt from its conquest by the Arabs until the tenth century A.D. At the beginning of the article he observes that "the history of the conversion to IsIam, in Egypt or elsewhere, remains a surprisingly obscure subject on which Arabic sources almost never comment"," And, Israel Oriental ibid., p. 248. Studies 2 (1972), pp. 248-262. 1 2 Notes 239 indeed, the article presents more material about the relationship between the Muslim rulers of the country and the Egyptian population than direct information about the conversion process. The attitude adopted by the Arabs towards the churches of Egypt, aspects of Muslim jurisprudence in the country and the numerous Coptic rebellions are extensively dealt with. Referring to the rebellion of2l6-217 A.H./831-832 A.D., Professor Lapidus maintains that the suppression of this outbreak "seems ... to have set in train the movement of mass conversions to Islam". Al-Maqrizi is said to have alleged that after this rebellion was crushed, "the majority of the villages of Egypt became Muslim"." The passage referred to in support of this argument reads: ... intaqada al-qibt fisanat sitta 'ashrata wa mi'atayn fa-awqa'a bihim al-afshin hatta nazalti 'ala hukm amir al-mu'minin 'abd allah alma 'mtin fa-hakama fihim bi-qat! al-rijdl wa bay' al-nisti' wa al-dhurriyyaJabt'a wa-subiya aktharuhum wa-min hina 'idhin dhallat al-qibt fi jami' ard misr wa-lam yaqdir ahad minhum ba'da dhdlika 'aid al-khuriij 'aid al-sultdn wa ghalabahum al-muslimiin 'aid 'timmat al-qurd fa-raja'u min al-muhtiraba ilti al-mukdyada wa- 'sti'mal al-makr wa al-hila wa-mukdyadat al-muslimin:" The phrase which was taken as indicating the conversion of most Egyptian villages to Islam is wa - ghalabahum al-muslimun 'aid 'dmmat al-qurd. Indeed, a number of scholars understood the phrase in question in this manner. G. Wiet. whose following statement seems to be based on the passage quoted above, says: "Des lors, ecrit Makrizi, Ies Coptes furent obeissants, et leur puissance deflnitivement aneantie; aucun d'eux ne fut en me sure de se revolter ou meme de resister au gouvernement, et les musulmans eurent la majorite dans les villages."! Following Wiet, A. Fattal writes: "Depuis, ecrit Maqrizi, les Coptes furent as servis sur toute l'etendue de I'Egypte et les Musulmans commencerent Ii prevaloir en nombre dans la p1upart des villages.?" These translations seem incompatible with the text. The expression wa ghalabahum al-muslimtin 'ala 'dmmat al-qurii cannot mean that the majority of the Egyptian villages became Muslim. Ghalabahu 'alayhi means: "He overcame him in contending for it; he took it or obtained it from him by superior power or force". 7 The passage in question therefore merely means that the Muslims suppressed the revolt, regained control over the rebellious villages and presumably resumed the collection of taxes. This interpretation ibid., p. 257. Al-Maqrtzi, Kittib al-mawa'iz 1270 A.H., vol. 2, p. 494'-6. wa al-i'tlbdr fi dhikr al-khitat wa al-dthtir, Cairo J 4 s G. Wiet, L 'Egypte arabe de la conquete arabe a la conquete ottomane. Cf. idem, f5.ib~, EI', vol. 2, pp. 994b, 997b, 998b. Paris 1937, p. 75. 1958, p. 282. 6 A. Fattal, Le statut legal des non-Musulmans 7 Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, s.v. gh-l-b. en pays d'Islam. Beyrouth 240 Notes is evident also from the latter part of the passage quoted above: it clearly says then when the Coptic rebellion was defeated, the Copts refrained from taking to the field and reverted to tactics of trickery and deceit. Al-Maqrizi gives an identical description of these events in his general account of the Coptic rebellion. Having described how al-Afshin crushed the revolt of 216217 A.H./8 31-83 2 A.D., he says: .. fa-lam yaqdir ahad minhum (i.e. min alqibt) 'ala al-khuruj wa-lti al-qiyam 'ala at-sultan wa-ghalaba al-muslimun 'ala al-qurti fa- 'ada al-qibt min ba'd dhaltka ilti kayd al-isltim wa ahlihi bia 'mal at-hila wa-al-makr." The reaction of the Copts to their defeat was not massive conversion to Islam, but a change in their opposition tactics. In his reference to al-Maqrfzi's remark that "never has a people been so converted all at once?", Lapidus has been misled by Fattal ". Al-Maqrizi's passage quoted by Fattal is not taken from the description of Coptic rebellions in the ninth century A.D., but rather from a chapter on "the virtues of Egypt" (fada'il misr). The passage deals with events at Pharaoh's court during Moses' appearance there. It reads: "From amongst the people of Egypt were the magicians. All of them became believers in one hour. No community except the Copts is known to have embraced Islam within an hour ... When they witnessed what they witnessed, they became assured that this (i.e. the miracle performed by Moses) is from heaven ... and said: We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron.lI ... Tubayyi' said: "No group became believers within an hour like the Copts" - (wo-innahu kana min ahlihti at-sahara wa-qad dmanu jami'an fi sd'a wdhida wa ·Ia yu'lamu jama'a aslamat fi sd'a wahida akthar min jamd'at al-qibt ... . fa-lammti 'ayanu md 'ayanll ayqanu anna dhdlika min al-samti' ... wa qalll dmannd bi-rabb al- 'alamin rabb musd wa hdrtin ... qdla tubayyi': md amana jama'a qattu ji sa 'a wtihida mithl jamd'at al-qibt)!". It is not the intention of this writer to venture an opinion on the substantive question concerning the process of the conversion of Egypt to Islam or on the dates marking important stages in the development of this process. However, if the ninth century A.D. is to be considered a period in which massive conversion to Islam took place, the argument ought to be supported by evidence other than that presented. • 9 10 11 12 Al-Maqrizi, op. cit" Cairo 1270 A.H., vol. I, pp. 79 infra - 80 supra; ed. G. Wiet, Cairo 1911, vol. 1, pp. 334-335. Lapidus, op. cit., 257, note 19. A. Fattal, op. cit., p. 282. Sura 20, v. 70. Al-Maqrizj, op. ctt., Cairo 1270, vol. I. p. 25; ed. G. Wiet, vol. I, pp, 102-103.