JANUARY 16, 2012
Jibarti’s World: He lived in the
late 18 century Ottoman empire
and opens his account of
Napoleon’s invasion introducing
the political leaders in the region
at the time.
The center of the Ottoman Empire
was in Istanbul (Turkey).
The Ottoman Empire controlled
parts of Egypt, Sudan, the
Mediterranean Coast of North
America towards Morocco, Iraq,
Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, etc.
The Ottoman rule was extremely
flexible and there was very little
attempt to impose centralized
systems of government. Non-Muslims could practice their religion freely and many
served in the centre of the Ottoman government during the period Jibarti writes
Jibarti’s Ottoman world was intellectual which contradicts the claim that maintains
there was in intellectual decline in the Islamic world after the classical period in the
11 century. The traditional orientalist view sees it as a time of stagnation, and it
has been critiqued by many intellectuals.
Jibarti mentions the “Amirs” of Egypt, who were the Mamluks, and the rulers which
were part of the military households. The Mamluks ruled through cooperation with
the Ulema (intellectuals) and the merchants.
Lejeune in 1806 painted “The Pyramids” depicting the French pushing the Mamluks
back into the Nile in battle during the Battle of the Pyramids.
The Mamluks won the first battle and the French had to run, but the French began to
defeat the Mamluks in the next battle (The battle of the pyramids) after they were
able to regroup.
Jibarti is very critical of the Mamluks, who says are “immersed in their ignorance
and self-delusion,” and he states that the French saw themselves as following the
tradition of the Community of Muhammad in early Islam.
Jibarti is critiquing the ability of the Mumluks to rule (who he sees as are more
attached to worldly goods than Islam) and states that the French are more like the
early fighters so revered in Islam.
By 1820 the Mumluk army of Jibarti’s world would start to be seen as looking like
unruly crowds without discipline from the perspective of the reformers (although in
reality there was control and discipline).
Timothy Mitchel in his book “Colonizing Egypt” describes these changes in the
military and shows how the ponderous warfare of the 17 and 18 century was
now to seem like a foolish clashing of mere crowds, and the change in military
structure was also happening in Europe (the beginnings of 20 century Europe).
When Jibarti describes the army and states that the French have “signs and signals
among each other” we catch a glimpse of the future of the Egyptian military. Jibarti was trained at Al-Azhar in Cairo, and we know that the art and authority of
writing is the principle around which learning was realized, both established in
earlier centuries as endeavours to extend the authoritative support of its word. The
study and interpretation of this writing was a profession, requiring mastering
linguistic, philosophical and theological scholarship. They studied the Qur’an, and
the Hadith, the collections of sayings contributed to Muhammad, and then the major
commentaries and interpretations about the Qur’an. From there, they move onto
studies related to the reading of the Hadith, and onto systematic societies.
Being well trained in sciences of language, rhetoric, and means of expression gave
you access to texts of tradition and the authority to speak to them- the grammar was
an integral part of the process and in important part of the content→ In Jibarti’s
world grammar and content are not separate, which explains why he was so critical
of the grammar in Napoleon’s document.
This world was orientated around rigorous training and language which qualified
you to speak about the literature you would not otherwise have access to.
Jibarti’s response to the proclamation is a detailed list of the grammatical, colloquial
and syntax errors, phrase-by-phrase, and uses it to create picture of the ignorance
and corruption of the French, and the corrupt Arabic is a symbol for the corruption
of the French.
He criticizes Napoleon’s statements such as “I revere his prophet,” or those stating
his appreciation for Islam or the Qur’an and accused them of lying and stupidity.
In Jibarti’s mind he is mocking Napoleon’s claim to b