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Jamāl al-Dīn al-Asnawī

(190 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Jamāl al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥīm ibn al-Ḥasan al-Umawī l-Qurashī l-Asnawī Date of Birth: 1304/5 Place of Birth: Asna Date of Death: September 1370 Place of Death: Cairo Biography Al-Asnawī was a fairly prolific though generally unremarkable writer. He moved from his native town of Asna (Isna) in Upper Egypt to Cairo in 1321/22, where he excelled in his studies, and he soon became a renowned teacher at various mosques in the city. He then moved into the administration of the Mamluk state, where he stayed for some year…

Roger II of Sicily

(581 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Biography Roger was a member of the ruling dynasty of Normans who had conquered much of southern Italy and Sicily during the late 11th century. On the death of his brother, Simon de Hauteville, in 1105, Roger became Count of Sicily, ruling independently upon his maturity in 1112, as well as claiming Calabria. On the death of the Norman ruler of Apulia in 1127, Roger claimed that as part of his territory as well, although his attempts to unify Sicily and Apulia were resisted by both the pope, who declared a crusade aga…

John of Joinville

(418 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Jean de Joinville Date of Birth: Probably early 1225 Place of Birth: Joinville, Champagne, France Date of Death: 1317 Place of Death: Joinville Biography John of Joinville came from a relatively important family from the Champagne region of France. Born in the 1220s, he became the seneschal of the county upon his father’s death in 1233, as the family had held this position for generations, and he also became squire to count Thibaut IV of Champagne in 1241, thus receiving a knightly education. Joinville’s family had a s…

 Dialogus disputationis inter Christianum et Sarracenum

(175 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
'Dialogue of a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim' Dionysius the Carthusian Date: Mid-15th century Original Language: Latin Description This tract is an (almost certainly fictitious) account of a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim. In style it follows quite closely earlier Eastern Christian works in the genre of ‘the monk in the emir’s majlis’, although it transposes the debate to Europe. As might be expected, the Muslim eventually acknowledges the correctness of Christianity. Significance The style of this tract shows how Eastern Christian responses to Islam…


(401 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn ʿUmar ibn Muḥammad al-Ṭamīmī l-Māzarī Date of Birth: Probably 1061 Place of Birth: Unknown; though it has been convincingly argued that it was in Ifrīqiya Date of Death: 1141 Place of Death: Al-Mahdiyya, modern Tunisia Biography Despite his laqab, which refers to the town of Māzar on the southern coast of Sicily, it seems al-Māzarī was born in Ifrīqiya to a father who had emigrated from the island before the Norman conquest. He pursued his studies in Sfax and either Mahdiyya or Sūs, and became the chief…

 Ta’rīkh Mayyāfāriqīn wa-Āmid

(958 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Ta’rīkh MayyāfāriqīnThe history of Mayyafariqin and Āmid, History of Mayyafariqin Ibn al-Azraq Date: 1164-65 and 1176-77 Original Language: Arabic Description The Taʾrīkh Mayyāfāriqīn is a chronicle which, while generally focused on the area around Mayyāfāriqīn and Āmid in Diyār Bakr, includes discourses which are wide-ranging both geographically and historically. The chronicle probably originally started with the life of Muḥammad, as there are a number of missing folios at the beginning of MS BL Or. 5803, before the…

 Contra perfidiam Mahometi

(338 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘Against the perfidy of Muḥammad’ Dionysius the Carthusian Date: Around 1452 Original Language: Latin Description This work was commissioned as part of a preaching tour conducted by Nicholas of Cusa (q.v.) across Germany in the early 1450s in an attempt to raise support for a crusade against the Ottomans. The tract itself contains two main sections; the first is devoted to refuting the charges levelled against Christianity in the Qur’an, while the second is an attack on Muḥammad himself. The work seems to be based primarily on earlier writings on the subject from various m…

Orderic Vitalis

(659 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Biography Orderic was born in Mercia in 1075 to a Norman father and English mother. His father was a clerk in the retinue of Roger of Montgomery, later the earl of Shrewsbury. Orderic was given a rudimentary education at a newly-built local abbey, before his father sent him away at the age of ten to the abbey of St Evroul, never to see him again. Despite his importance as a historian, little is known of Orderic except a few details that can be gleaned from his own work, so his life at the abbey is something of a mystery. His studies at St Evroul probably last…


(2,234 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘Travels’ Ibn Jubayr Date: Sometime between 1185 and 1217 Original Language: Arabic Description Ibn Jubayr’s Riḥla details the ḥajj and subsequent travels he undertook from his Andalusian homeland in 1183-85. His route took him from Granada to Ceuta, and thence by ship to Sardinia and Alexandria. Once there, he travelled south through Egypt to the pilgrim port of Aydhab on the Red Sea, and from there crossed to Mecca, where he performed the obligatory devotions. He did not then go straight back to al-Andalus, but…

 Historia ecclesiastica

(1,540 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Ecclesiastical history Orderic Vitalis Date: Mainly between 1123 and 1137, with additions until 1142 Original Language: Latin Description The Ecclesiastical history was written, at the request of the abbot of St Evroul, as an historical record of the abbey, but it soon grew to become a much wider historical work. Starting with the life of Christ, the Apostles and subsequent popes in Books 1 and 2, it describes the events in a chronological framework that adds little to previous writings. It is with Book 3 that the …


(377 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Legal opinion Al-Māzarī Date: First half of the 12th century Original Language: Arabic Description This fatwa is contained in al-Wansharīsī’s (q.v.) Asnā l-matājir, the later scholar using it as a foil for his own opposing opinion concerning the permissibility of remaining in territory that has been conquered by non-Muslim forces and is now dār al-ḥarb. The fatwa discusses the two related questions of whether it is permitted to remain in formerly Muslim territory, and whether the opinions of judges who have been appointed by infidel rulers are valid. In answer to the first question…

Ibn al-Jawzī

(560 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Abū l-Faraj ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn al-Jawzī Date of Birth: 1116 Place of Birth: Unknown Date of Death: 1200 Place of Death: Baghdad Biography Ibn al-Jawzī was known as a historian, qāḍī, and preacher of the Ḥanbalī legal school. He started his career as a preacher in the Baghdad house of the Ḥanbalī leader Ibn Hubayra, and his stature quickly grew to the point where he was asked by the Caliph al-Mustanjid (r. 1160-70) to preach sermons in the palace mosque, denouncing schismatics, among others. He then became a…

 Al-kalimāt al-muhimma fī mubāsharat ahl al-dhimma

(648 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘Important words about the treatment of the People of protection’ Jamāl al-Dīn al-Asnawī Date: After 1349; possibly between 1354 and 1359 Original Language: Arabic Description This tract is one of a large number of anti-Christian polemics written in Mamluk Egypt during the 13th and 14th centuries. It has a number of titles in the different manuscripts. The British Library version is entitled Al-kalimāt al-muhimma fī mubāsharat ahl al-dhimma, while the Tunis version has Risāla fī ʿadam istikhdām ahl al-dhimma wa-ʿadam tawliyatihim al-Muslimīn (‘Treatise on not employing the p…

William of Tyre

(1,029 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Willelmus Tyrensis, Guillaume de Tyr Date of Birth: about 1130 Place of Birth: Jerusalem Date of Death: 29 September, 1184, 1185, or 1186 Place of Death: Unknown, though almost certainly somewhere in the Kingdom of Jerusalem Biography William was born in Jerusalem, the crusader capital, around the year 1130, probably to a non-noble family of burgess stock. When he was about 15, he went to western Europe to be educated, and studied liberal arts, theology, and canon and civil law at Paris, Orleans, and Bologna. He returned to the Hol…

Abū l-Maʿālī

(200 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Abū l-Maʿālī Muḥammad ibn ʿUbayd Allāh Date of Birth: Unknown; probably mid-11th century Place of Birth: Unknown; probably Iran or further east Date of Death: Unknown; probably early 12th century Place of Death: Unknown; possibly Ghazna Biography What little we know of Abū l-Maʿālī is gained from snippets in the introduction to his Bayān al-adyān, as there is no mention of him in biographical or bibliographical dictionaries. He seems to have been a civil servant in the court of Ghazna, and he was well educated, although we know of only one work by …

 Kitāb al-i‘tibār

(941 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Instructions Usāma ibn Munqidh Date: 1183 Original Language: Arabic Description The Kitāb al-i‘tibār is an autobiographical work, dictated by Usāma when he was almost 90, and  its contents reveal to the reader aspects of medieval Islamic society rarely seen in other writings. There are other autobiographies, but they do not have the same richness or appeal of material as Usāma’s work. Through a number of anecdotes, the book shows methods of warfare, medicine, ways of life, modes of thinking, geographical locations and aspects of the lives of ordinary Muslims in 12th-century Syria th…

 Unknown title; possibly Gesta orientalium principum

(281 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Gesta orientalium principumThe deeds of the rulers of the East William of Tyre Date: About 1180 Original Language: Latin Description This work was a history of the Muslim world written by William after, he claims, a request by King Amalric, and covering the period from Muḥammad to his own day. Copies of it circulated in Europe in the medieval period, but no extant manuscript is known, and our knowledge of its existence and our evidence for it come solely from references to it in the Chronicon, which William was writing simultaneously. The only explicitly named source William used was the Annal…

The archives of the Roman Inquisition on Malta

(48 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Maltese Inquisition archives Date of Birth: Place of Birth: Date of Death: Place of Death: Biography Primary Sources of Information Secondary Sources of Information Works on Christian-Muslim Relations The archives of the Roman Inquisition in Malta Alex Mallett


(1,154 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Franks (Arabic Franj or Ifranj) were originally a Germanic people who migrated from the East into the Western Roman Empire, beginning at the end of the third century CE, and gradually became the dominant political force in Western Europe. The term probably came into Arabic through the Byzantine Greek term Frangoi, which itself came from the Franks; it was used by mediaeval Muslims as a generic term for all the Latin Christians of Europe, despite their knowledge of more specific ethnic terms, such as English, French, German, and Slav. It was often used in contradistinction to al-Rūm, the…
Date: 2019-08-29

Dandanakan, battle of

(571 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The battle of Dandanakan (Ar. Dandānaqān or Dandānqān) was fought between the Ghaznavids and the Seljuks (Saljūqs) in 431/1040 on a plain outside the now-lost town of Dandanakan, about 40 miles southwest of Marw. The battle was the culmination of several years of conflict between the two sides, with the Seljuks, approaching from the Central Asian steppes, attempting to wrest control of Khurāsān from the Ghaznavids, based to the southeast at Ghazna, in modern-day Afghanistan. The immediate cause of the battle was the Seljuk takeover of Khurāsān several months before t…
Date: 2019-08-29

Dilmaçoğulları beyliği

(808 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Dilmaçoğulları beyliği (also known as the Dilmaç Beylik) was one of many petty Turkish polities formed in parts of Anatolia, the Jazīra, and the Caucasus following the battle of Manzikert (463/1071), and little is known about this relatively insignificant dynasty. It was founded by a Turk named Mehmed around the year 478/1085 after he was given Bitlis as ikta (iqṭā)ʿ by the Seljuq sultan and was centred on Bitlis and Erzen in far eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus from the end of the fifth/eleventh century to the mid-sixth/twelfth, while they also hel…
Date: 2019-08-29


(840 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Īnālids (İnaloğulları, Yinaloğulları, r. 488–579/1095–1183) were one of the many petty Turkish dynasties that became established in Anatolia in the decades following the Saljūq victory over the Byzantines at the battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert) in 463/1071, which resulted in the opening of that region to permanent Turkish domination. The dynasty was centred on the town of Amid (Āmid, modern Diyarbakır), and lasted from around 488/1095 until it was ended by Salāḥ al-Dīn’s (Saladin’s, 532–89/1138–93) capture of the capital in 579/1183. Little scholarly research has been car…
Date: 2019-08-29


(574 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Arzan (Syriac: Arzōn; Armenian: Artsn, Arzn, Ałzn) was a town designated by the Arabs to be in the Arabian Peninsula, near the frontier with Anatolia. It was the seat of a Syriac bishopric between the first/seventh and fifth/eleventh centuries. Its location meant that it was often affected by the battles between the Byzantines and Persians in the centuries before Muslim domination. It was reportedly attacked by Lakhmid Arabs under al-Mundhir III around 520 C.E., and possibly again in 527 C.E. Th…
Date: 2019-08-29

ʿAmmār, Banū (Syria)

(784 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Banū ʿAmmār were a dynasty established in 462/1070 by Amīn al-Dawla Abū Ṭālib al-Ḥasan b. ʿAmmār, qāḍī of the Syrian coastal city of Tripoli, which had, until then, been ruled by a Cairo-appointed Fāṭimid governor. Following a pattern set by others in Fāṭimid-ruled settlements in Syria, al-Ḥasan b. ʿAmmār made himself ruler of the town upon the death of the previous governor, thereby creating a dynasty that was to last until 502/1109. The death of this first of the Banū ʿAmmār rulers of Tripoli only two years later (464/1072) meant that he had little time to make…
Date: 2019-08-29

Alp Arslan

(1,932 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Alp Arslan (Alp Arsān, lit., brave lion), whose full name was ʿAḍud al-Dawla Abū Shujāʿ Muhammed b. Davud Çagri Beg Alp Arslan (Muḥammad b. Dāwūd Çağrı Bey Alp Arslān), was the second sultan of the whole Great Saljūq Empire (r. 455/1063 to 465/1072). He was born around the year 421/1030, the son of sultan Çağrı Bey, who ruled the Saljūq Empire jointly with his brother Tuğrul Bey (Ṭughril Beg from 431/1040, until his death in 452/1060. At a young age Alp Arslān led the armies of his father on camp…
Date: 2019-08-29

Çaka Bey

(733 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Çaka (or possibly Çakan) Bey was a Turkish emir who founded an Islamic polity based on the town of Smyrna (modern İzmir) in or just before 473–4/1081, one of a number of states set up by Turkish military strongmen in Anatolia in the years following the Saljūq victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert (Malazgirt, 463/1071). Very little is known about his activities during his period of rule, and our knowledge is based almost exclusively on The Alexiad, a Greek biography of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos written by his daughter Anna towards the middle of the sixt…
Date: 2019-08-29

 Talbīs Iblīs

(785 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The devil’s deception Ibn al-Jawzī Date: Late 1190s Original Language: Arabic Description This work is a lengthy discussion about the numerous ways in which Ibn al-Jawzī believes Satan deceives the members of various sects, those who practice rituals, and various types of people, including the intelligent, the ignorant, observant Muslims, Shīʿīs, and followers of other religions. The number of people covered is deliberately so wide in order to ensure that no-one is omitted – that Satan deceives everybody. H…

 Radd ʿalā ahl al-dhimma wa-man tabiʿahum

(497 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘Refutation of the dhimmis and those who follow them’ Ghāzī ibn al-Wāsiṭī Date: 1290-93 Original Language: Arabic Description Radd ʿalā ahl al-dhimma wa-man tabiʿahum is a vicious attack on Coptic Christians (and, less often, Jews), which consists almost entirely of anecdotes describing their supposed duplicity. It was one of a number of anti-Christian treatises written in the jihād atmosphere of the Mamluk empire with the aim of inciting popular antagonism against Christians, and a tone of bitterness runs throughout. The main criticism within the piece is that Christians …

Ibn Jubayr

(274 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Abū l-Ḥusayn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Jubayr Date of Birth: 1145 Place of Birth: Valencia Date of Death: 29 November 1217 Place of Death: Alexandria Biography Ibn Jubayr was born in Valencia to a father who was a civil servant in the town, and into a family that had come to al-Andalus in 740, only a few years after the Islamic conquest. He gained an education in religious studies and adab, before himself becoming a civil servant in the court of Granada. It was here that his travels began: after he was urged to drink wine by the governor, he was recompensed for it by…

Ghāzī ibn al-Wāsiṭī

(231 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Shihāb al-Dīn Ghāzī ibn Aḥmad ibn al-Wāsiṭī Date of Birth: Unknown; mid 13th-century Place of Birth: Aleppo Date of Death: 1312 Place of Death: Aleppo Biography Little is known about Ghāzī ibn al-Wāsiṭī. He was employed for a time by al-Malik al-Ashraf of Homs (r. 1245-62), the last of the Ayyūbid rulers of that town, and his time there seems to have been ended by the arrival of the Mongols. He moved to Egypt, where he held various posts in the Mamluk bureaucracy in Cairo until he fell from favor and was forced to move to Aleppo. He was a kātib, which probably means he was part of the middle-r…

 Unknown title

(1,507 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
ChroniconA history of deeds done beyond the sea William of Tyre Date: Between about 1170 and 1184, when the narrative abruptly breaks off Original Language: Latin Description William of Tyre's history of the crusader states is one of the most magisterial works in 12th-century Latin historical writing. Sweeping in its scope, both geographically and temporally, it covers the whole history of the crusading movement up to 1184, including the long period of 1127-84, which would otherwise be a large gap in the Latin historical record. It is th…

Usāma ibn Munqidh

(477 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Usāma ibn Murshid ibn ‘Alī Date of Birth: 1095 Place of Birth: Shayzar Date of Death: 16 November 1188 Place of Death: Damascus Biography Usāma is the best known of the Banū Munqidh clan of Shayzar. He lived in the town from his birth until 1131, when he joined the ruler Zangī at Aleppo and, due to a family dispute over the succession, returned only once, the occasion of his father’s death and also the siege of the town by the Byzantine Emperor John Comnenus in 1138. After leaving Shayzar for the last time, he eschewed…

 Bayān al-Adyān

(704 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Enumeration of the religions Abū l-Maʿālī Date: 1091/92 Original Language: Persian Description The Bayān al-Adyān is an encyclopaedia of sorts, listing and describing the various religious sects which were known to Abū l-Maʿālī. Completed in 1091/92, as the author relates, Kafafi, p. iii, believes it is the earliest extant Persian book on religions. It was written after Abū l-Maʿālī took part in a discussion about pre-Islamic religions and Islam at the royal court, presumably in the city of Ghazna, whose libr…

 Al-ta'rīkh al-Manṣūrī

(601 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘The Manṣūrī history’ Ibn Naẓīf al-Ḥamawī Date: Almost certainly early 1230s Original Language: Arabic Description The work is a political history of the world from the creation up to the year 1233, dedicated to the Ayyūbid ruler al-Manṣūr, and is one of three known works by the author. The other two were a chronicle until the year 940, and a now lost universal history, of which Al-taʾrīkh al-Manṣūrī is but a brief summary. For the period up to 1192, Ibn Naẓīf al-Ḥamawī used ʿImād al-Dīn’s chronicle Al-bustān al-jāmiʿ as the main basis of his writing, and Al-taʾrīkh al-Manṣūrī does not diff…

Ibn Naẓīf al-Ḥamawī

(282 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Abū l-Faḍā’il Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʿAlī ibn Muzhir ibn Barakāt Date of Birth: Unknown; presumably second half of the 12th century Place of Birth: Unknown; maybe Ḥamā Date of Death: Unknown; sometime in the mid-13th century Place of Death: Unknown, though likely to have been Homs Biography Little is known of Ibn Naẓīf al-Ḥamawī beyond what can be gleaned from his chronicle. He was a member of the influential Banū Naẓīf clan of Ḥamā, and was a high-ranking official in the administration of the Ayyūbid ruler al-Malik al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn…

 Chanson de Jérusalem

(1,182 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The song of Jerusalem (though the French title is almost always used) The Old French Crusade Cycle Date: About 1135 Original Language: Old French Description The Chanson de Jérusalem is an Old French epic poem running to almost 10,000 lines. Its central theme is the siege and capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade in 1099, and it covers the period from the arrival of the crusading army in mid-June until a battle against the Muslims shortly after the capture of the city, which is believed to be the battle against the Fatimids at Ascalon on 12 August. Like the chansons de geste, the poem i…

Dionysius the Carthusian

(535 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
Denys the Carthusian; Denys van Rijkel; Denys van Leeuwen Date of Birth: 1402/3 Place of Birth: Rijkel, Limburg, now in Belgium Date of Death: 1471 Place of Death: The Carthusian monastery of Roermond, Limburg, now in the Netherlands Biography Dionysius was born in the small village of Rijkel in the first years of the 15th century. He attended a prestigious school in Zwolle from 1415 and, after finishing there in 1417, decided to become a monk. At his age, he was too young for the Carthusians, so he went to study philosophy and theology, particular…

 La vie de Saint Louis

(1,697 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
‘The life of St Louis’ John of Joinville Date: October 1309 Original Language: Old French Description The Life of St Louis was written by John of Joinville following a request by Joan of Navarre, the countess of Champagne and the wife of Louis’ grandson. Her purpose in commissioning the piece was to glorify Louis in two ways – for his sanctity in word, and for his sanctity in deed – and the work is split into two sections accordingly. While this was the primary goal of the work, John had several reasons of his own …

 The Assizes of Roger

(610 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
The Assizes of Roger Roger II of Sicily Date: Sometime between 1139 and 1154 Original Language: Latin Description The Assizes are the laws for Norman Italy issued by Roger sometime after his coronation. They were for a long time believed to be the same as the Assizes of Ariano mentioned by the chronicler Falco of Benevento in 1140, although it is now generally thought this is not the case. The Assizes of Roger are 44 laws (with an extra seven in the Monte Cassino manuscript) for his territory and stipulations for the penalties for transgressing them, the majority of…

 The archives of the Roman Inquisition in Malta

(1,344 words)

Author(s): Mallett, Alex
- The Maltese Inquisition archives Date: 1561-1798 Original Language: Italian Description In the Cathedral Archives in Mdina, Malta, are the records of the Roman Inquisition’s Maltese operation, which lasted from 1561 until its abolition following the French seizure of the island in 1798. The Roman Inquisition, one of three (along with the Medieval and the Spanish Inquisitions), was tasked with protecting the spiritual well-being of the Catholic population of the island by investigating un-Catholic practic…
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