This book began as a dissertation at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilisation at the University of Chicago, under the supervision of Prof. John Woods. It is an attempt to explore the various ideologies of rule in the mediaeval Middle East and Central Asia, with particular interest in the period 658-807/1260-1405, as these ideologies were expressed in the diplomatic exchanges between Mamluks, Mongols, and ruling Turkic groups. The author has used Arabic and Persian primary sources with preference for sources produced in the Mamluk Sultanate. Therefore, both the ideological debate and the periodisation presented by A. F. Broadbridge are clearly Cairo-oriented.
The emergence of the Mongol domination brought about outstanding changes to the ideology of power. Their legitimacy was based on the belonging to a blessed dynasty, that of Genghis Khan, which was favoured by the Enduring Sky. The divine mandate granted to their lineage led to a universalistic ideology, which inspired the Mongol conquests until the early 1240s. In addition, the Mongols recognised forceful concepts of law, among them the yasa (jasaq) of Genghis Khan. Because of what Marshal Hodgson called the “Mongol Prestige,” the Mongol ideological model remained dominant throughout Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau, and Anatolia during the period under consideration. Even non-Chinggisid Mongols and Turkic warlords portrayed themselves as conservative protectors of the Chinggisid heritage.
The influence of their ideology spread to the Mamluks who tried to compensate for their lack of lineage by forging ceremonial ties with the Ayyubids or with the Ottomans. As for Islamic ideas of kingship, they were upheld when some Mongol sovereigns converted to Islam such as Berke (d. 1266) of the Golden Horde or the Il-Khan Ghazan (d. 1304), and it fused the Chinggisid and Islamic traditions. The irruption of the Mamluks is the other marking event of the period. Designed in conjunction with religious circles, the Mamluk ideology of power was based on antiquated Islamic concepts, primarily the notion of “Guardians of Islam.” When challenged by the conversion of some Mongol sovereigns to Islam, the Mamluks emphasised their image as guardians of the Holy Cities of Hejaz. This was apparent in the way they were organising ceremonies around the mahmal, and were sending the kiswah to Mecca. Other elements completed their image of the ideal Muslim sovereign, such as that of the warrior-king guardian of Islam (mujahid) or the service of justice.
The book starts with a chapter based on the general themes of the Mongol and Mamluk ideologies of power, followed by a presentation of formal ceremonies when sending embassies and letters, as well as their symbolic signification. The author also touches on the technical questions of ink, paper, and datation. The rest of the book is organised chronologically, following the periodisation of Mongol-Mamluk relations, and describes the sequence of correspondence between varied sovereigns. These diplomatic missions allowed sovereigns to publicly express their vision of sovereignty, and to justify their power in the face of their adversaries.
The first phase was that of the “establishment of ideologies (1260-93).” From the outset, relations between Mamluks and Il-Khans were marked by “mistrust, hostility, and war,” as symbolised by the execution by Mamluk Sultan Qutuz of Hülegü’s envoys who had come in 1260 to ask the Sultan to submit to Il-Khan rule. The question of servitude entered in the correspondence and would challenge Mamluk power for decades. In collaboration with ‘ulama’, Mamluk power was based on classic Islamic literature themes of Guardianship of Islam, of jihad, and portrays itself as the “martial patron of the other rulers in the region whom he encouraged to fight the Infidels in Iran” (p. 31). Adding to these themes was the notion of “precedence in conversion,” when Tegüder Ahmad’s conversion to Islam competed with him on this territory. On the contrary, the correspondence, the embassies, as well as the gifts exchanged between Mamluks and the Golden Horde expressed “friendship and solidarity in Islam against the Infidels in Iran.”
The second phase was “the age of the Il-Khanate conversion (1295-1316).” In order to confront the ideological spectrum of the Mongols’ conversion, the Mamluks used the theme of “precedence in conversion” and introduced the notion of “a hierarchy in conversion”. The threat was that much greater for Mamluk power, as that period was marked by Mongol military successes leading to the occupation of Syria, bringing about the defection of several Mamluk commanders to the Mongols. For his part, Ghazan, under the influence of Rashid al-Din, his vizier, engaged in a policy of “revitalisation of his own territory and the creation of a new order,” revived Islamic eschatological ideals, and assumed the title of mujaddid (Renewer). The author then analyses the correspondence between al-Malik al-Nasir and Ghazan during the three campaigns led by the Mongols in Syria between 1299 and 1303.
One of the letters, written by Ghazan in 1301, differs from the others in tone: it contains a proposition of alliance and friendship. The letter, like the Sultan’s reply, was interpreted as a Mamluk forgery written by chancery clerks aimed at restoring the image of the regime following the humiliating defeat of Wadi al-Khaznadar. However, recent works by Denise Aigle, based on a rigorous study of transmissions of texts in Mamluk chronicles and the vocabulary used, has led to the conclusion that these documents are not forgeries, but rather different versions of the same letter. One is purportedly an Arabic translation of the original written in Mongol, and the other is reported to have been translated into Arabic within the Il-Khanate (cf. Denise Aigle, “La légitimité islamique des invasions de la Syrie par Ghâzân Khân (699-700/1300-1302),” Eurasian Studies 5/1-2 (2006): 5-29, and ibid., “Les invasions de Ghâzân Khân en Syrie: Polémiques sur sa conversion à l’islam et la présence de chrétiens dans ses armées,” http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00387611/); see also ibid., “The Mongol Invasions of Bilād al-Shām by Ghāzān Khān and Ibn Taymīyah’s Three ‘Anti-Mongol’ Fatwas,” Mamluk Studies Review 11/2 (2007): 89-120).
The third phase was an age of “patronage and Muslim supremacy (1317-1335/716-736)” during the reign of al-Nasir Muhammad. It was marked by the Il-Khans’ renunciation of the ideal universal rule, the recognition by the Mamluks of the Il-Khans’ conversion to Islam, and the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two parties. From that point on, the Mamluk ideology of power was based on promoting al-Malik al-Nasir as the ruler of Islam in the region during pilgrimage ceremonies. In fact, the Hejaz became the new wrestling field for Mamluks and Mongols.
The passing without heir of Abu Sa‘id in 1335 opened the fourth phase, which was characterised by the establishment of a “post-Il-Khan order” and by the creation of a “Mamluk regional supremacy (1335-82).” A few changes occurred on an ideological level. The Qalawunid sultan became “a patron, a senior sovereign, and the supreme Guardian for several Il-Khan successors by 1340-41” (p.144) and the expressions of kingship seem to have shifted to the idea of dynasty. In the Il-Khan heartland, several successors submitted to the Sultan and became Mamluk governors in exchange for the Sultan’s military support and patronage. With the Artuqids of Mardin, the Lords of Sinjar, the Qara Qoyunlu, and Dögerid Turkmen, relations were established on a patron-client basis, with “an intermittent sovereignty.” Turkmen leaders used Seljuk titles (sultan) as an alternative to the Il-Khan and Chingizid models, but it was rejected by the Mamluk chancery. In Anatolia, relations ranged from alliance between the Sultan and a client such as that with the Qaramanids, to the direct incorporation of Anatolia to Mamluk administration (Eretna, the Dulqadirids, the Ramadanids). There were creative attempts on the part of the Chobanids and Jalayirids to connect to the Muslim Il-Khan tradition, but Genghizid legitimacy was always an influential element as evidenced by the use of the title of Great Khan (khaqan).
The fifth phase was characterised by “the Tëmurid invasions and the destruction of Mamluk sovereignty (1382-1404).” Timur creatively manipulated Chinggisid imperial history in order to make a place for himself within it. This forced the Mamluks to react by bringing back the notion of infidel threat represented by the Il-Khans. However, just like other post-Mongol rulers, Timur also used Islam to justify both his rule and his military campaigns. On the opposite end, Mamluk ideologues revitalised their role as guardians of Islam and portrayed Timur as an infidel warlord like the early Il-Khans, and this despite the fact that their adversary used Islam to justify his actions.
This is a very well-documented work of synthesis, offering an exhaustive view of the various embassies mentioned in the Arabic and Persian sources. Relations with the various powers of the Turkmens of Anatolia or Iran are also analysed. The extent of the period under consideration shows that some of the letters could have become diplomatic models such as the letter written by Hülegü to al-Nasir Yusuf asking him to surrender and submit, which was sent by Timur to Barquq. However, more details on the real masterminds of the ideology would have been welcome. These masterminds include the religious circles that made up the chancery staff and ensured a certain “ideological continuity,” like Ala’ al-Din ‘Ali b. Fadl-Allah who served under several successive Mamluk Sultans until 1369.