International Journal of Middle East Studies


Legal–Religious Elite, Temporal Authority, and the Caliphate in Mamluk Society: Conclusions Drawn from the Examination of a “Zahiri Revolt” in Damascus in 1386

Lutz Wiederholda1

a1 Lutz Wiederhold is Middle East Librarian, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, 06098 Halle, Germany.

The following study is aimed at describing social, political, and religious aspects of Mamluk society in the context of a political disturbance in Damascus in 1386. It is mainly based on historiographical and prosopographical evidence. Readers who are familiar with medieval Islamic chronicles and biographical dictionaries will know that these sources do not provide satisfactory answers to all the questions concerning the socio-political structure of Islamic societies as raised by modern scholarship. Nevertheless, the information collected in the course of our examination will permit us to draw conclusions concerning three major issues of Mamluk and Islamic history, respectively:


Author's note: Parts of this article were written during my stay at the Oriental Institute in Oxford (1994–95), generously supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and at the Department of Oriental Studies, University of Kiel (1995), made possible by equally generous funding provided by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. I thank Professor W. Madelung and Professor U. Haarmann, whose kind invitation enabled me to work at these institutions for a period of time. Some sections of the text were presented in a paper at “The Mamluks in Bilad al-Sham: History and Archeology,” the eighth conference of the ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies, held at the American University of Beirut, 1–4 April 1997. U. Haarmann, W. Madelung, and D. S. Richards read draft versions of the article and made a number of valuable comments. Also, I am indebted to R. S. Humphreys and the journal's anonymous readers for helpful suggestions concerning the contents and organization of the text. Needless to say, any remaining mistakes are mine.