Through the Eyes of Jūdhar: Reconstructing the Tenth-Century World of a Fatimid Chamberlain
Alibhai, Ali Asgar Hussamuddin
MetadataShow full item record
CitationAlibhai, Ali Asgar Hussamuddin. 2018. Through the Eyes of Jūdhar: Reconstructing the Tenth-Century World of a Fatimid Chamberlain. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is the study of the life and world of a medieval slave and eunuch named Ustādh (the master) Jūdhar (d. 972) who diligently served the first four Fatimid caliphs in North Africa in the tenth century. He began his career as a young page in the royal palace and rose through the ranks of Fatimid society eventually becoming a quasi-vizier and the third most powerful individual in the state. His life story and sixty-two years of service in the Fatimid court coincides with the history of the Fatimid dynasty in Ifrīqiya and the Maghrib between 909 - 972. Jūdhar’s history can be read alongside the history of this time period from the eyes and experiences of a slave and eunuch of the court.
After his death, Jūdhar’s biography (Sīra) was written in the Fatimid court of Egypt by his chief-secretary, al-Manṣūr al-Kātib, as a memoir consisting of epistles, personal letters, conversations, and narrations of events from the Ustādh’s life. The Sīrat Ustādh Jūdhar is both a historical document and literary work. As a historical document, the Sīra consists of archival material from the Fatimid chancellery and eyewitness accounts of the inner workings of the early dynasty. However, al-Manṣūr al-Kātib also wrote the text by selecting material which would portray his master Jūdhar as the most perfect and exemplary servant. In this manner, the Sīra was written as a didactic manual consisting of stories of good courtly conduct (adab) for other courtiers to emulate in order to achieve social mobility.
This dissertation reconstructs the world of Jūdhar through analyzing the text of the Sīra and explicating embedded narratives of upward social mobility from the life story of Jūdhar. Historically, Ustādh Jūdhar was a slave, a ṣaqlabī (white European), and a eunuch, all marginalized identities in the medieval Islamic world. Despite these factors, Jūdhar continued his climb up the social ladder of Fatimid society. The research presented in this dissertation contrasts Jūdhar’s marginalization with his social mobility by identifying and explicating his acquisition of various forms of social, economical, and cultural capital from narratives within the text. At the same time, the dissertation contextualizes the life and experiences of Jūdhar by reading the embedded narrative with contemporary sources written during Jūdhar’s lifetime in the Fatimid court and broader Islamic world.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121246
- FAS Theses and Dissertations