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Products for grant HB-258214-18

The Cosmopolitan World of Learning at al-Azhar, an Islamic School in Cairo, 14th to 17th Centuries
Irfana Hashmi, Whittier College

Grant details:

The Lockers of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ghunaymi al-Ansari at al-Azhar Mosque, 1634 to 1637 (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Lockers of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ghunaymi al-Ansari at al-Azhar Mosque, 1634 to 1637
Author: Irfana Hashmi
Abstract: Lockers were central to the quotidian functioning of al-Azhar as a center of Islamic teaching and learning. Students and scholars used lockers to store quires, codices, writing materials and instruments, vessels, kettles, utensils, bread, bedding, clothing, headgear, and valuables. Over time, lockers took the form of capital, which, if inherited or purchased, could be parlayed into financial gain, and, occasionally, into locker empires (shares in multiple lockers). Ottoman sijill records from 1530 to 1650 show that usufruct rights to lockers passed through family networks and circulated beyond those directly associated with al-Azhar. When Shaykh Ahmad al-Ghunaymi al-Ansari died in 1634-5, the renowned Arabic grammarian and scholar of dialectical theology (kalam) had built a locker empire at al-Azhar; at the age of 80, he held usufruct rights to eight lockers in the Fuwwat fraternity. This paper studies the social lives of Ahmad’s lockers following his death, the reallocation of three lockers to students and scholars of al-Azhar, and the inheritance and sale of five lockers by his son Kamal al-Din and widow Kulthum. This paper builds on the insights of Arjun Appadurai, Celia Lury, and Igor Kopytoff, who demonstrate that a biographical approach to material objects, for example, the study of ‘paths’ and ‘life histories’ of objects, can illuminate their human and social context. This approach, when applied to al-Azhar’s lockers, can offer insight into the everyday lives of Muslim educational institutions, and the values of the men and women connected to them.
Date: 11/15/2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Middle Eastern Studies Association Annual Meeting Website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Program Session
Conference Name: Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting (Beyond Islamic Art: New Approaches to the Material Culture of the Middle East)