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January 16 Lecture- Jibarti Reading

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McGill University
Islamic Studies
ISLA 210
Laila Parsons

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 about  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
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