Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

The Contribution to Islam                  357
A branch of literature—though hardly recognized as such by
the native Arabic scholar—in the history of which Egypt has
played an important part, is the imaginative romance, of which
the most celebrated example is the collection known as 'The
Arabian Nights' (Alj layla wa-layla). Less known in Europe,
but equally popular in Arab countries, are the romances of
'Antar, of Abu Zayd and the Banu Hilal, of al-Zahir Baybars
the (Bahri) Mamluk Sultan, and similar collections. The art of
story-telling, at one time a familiar feature of Egyptian life,
appears now to be dying out, at all events in the big towns, but
perhaps it may one day be transmuted into a truly native litera-
ture of the Novel, in which tentative beginnings are already
being made.
There remains to be mentioned what is perhaps Egypt's
greatest and most characteristic contribution to Muslim litera-
ture, her historical writings.
On the no longer extant authorities upon which later accounts
of the early history of Muslim Egypt are based, a detailed state-
ment is prefixed to A. R. Guest's edition of al-Kindi's (d. 961)
Governors and Judges of Egypt (Kitdb al-Wulat wa-kitab al-
Qudat), an invaluable source for the period down to the author's
own lifetime. An earlier writer whose history of the conquest
of Egypt has survived is the Egyptian-born Ibn 'Abd al-Kakam
(Futub Misr wa 'l-Magbrib}, who died at Fustat in 871. Euty-
chius, Patriarch of Alexandria (d. 939), known to the Arabs as
Sacid ibn al-Bitriq, wrote several historical works, of which the
best known is his chronicle Nazm al-jawbar: he also wrote on
medicine. A native of Fustat, al-Musabbihi (976-1029), was
the author of a voluminous history of Egypt (Akbbdr Misr
wa-fada?ilba), of which only one part, the fortieth, has survived.
A detailed account of the regulations of the State chanceries in
the time of Saladin is contained in al-Mammati's (d. 1209)
Qawdnin al-dawdwin.
In al-Maqrizi, born at Cairo in 1364, we have one of the