Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti

Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti (1753–1825) (Arabic: عبد الرحمن الجبرتي), full name: Abd al-Rahman bin Hasan bin Burhan al-Din al-Jabarti (Arabic: عبد الرحمن بن حسن بن برهان الدين الجبرتي), often simply known as Al-Jabarti, was a Somali-Egyptian scholar and historian who spent most of his life in Cairo.[2][3]

Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti
Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti portrait.jpg
A portrait of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti
TitleAbd al-Rahman al-Jabarti
Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, Egypt
Eralate 18th century – 19th century
RegionHorn of Africa/North Africa
Main interest(s)Islamic philosophy, Islamic Jurisprudence, Egyptian history
Alma materAl-Azhar University
Muslim leader


The book of "Sulayman al-Halaby Trial and killing of Sari Askar Klieber" by al-Jabarti

Little is known of al-Jabarti's life. According to Franz Steiner, he was born in the village of Tell al-Gabarti in the northern Delta province of Beheira, Egypt.[4] Abdulkader Saleh asserts that al-Jabarti was instead born in Cairo.[5]

Al-Jabarti was born into a prominent family of ulama[6] with ties to the Egyptian scholarly and political elite. Al-Jabarti's father was Hassan Al-Jabarti, a learned and highly venerated man in Cairo.[7] It is believed that Hassan Al-Jabarti travelled from Zeila to Cairo during the mid-18th century.[8] Al-Jabarti's family was of ethnically Somali background.[2][9][10][11] According to his writings, his name comes from his "seventh-degree grandfather," Abd al-Rahman, who was the earliest member of his family known to him.[12] The older Abd al-Rahman was from the Jabarah (located in the Horn of Africa).[7]

Abd al-Rahman visited the Riwaqs of the Jabarti communities in Mecca and Medina before making it back to Egypt, where he became Sheikh of the Riwaq there. Al-Jabarti's father was a Hanafi religious scholar and served as the director of the al-Jabarti residence hall for students at al-Azhar University, a title al-Jabarti inherited following his father's death in 1744.[13] As a result, al-Jabarti was trained as a Sheikh at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Through his family ties, al-Jabarti gained access to prominent scholars al-Muradi and al-Murtada, both of whom influenced his decision to write about Egyptian history.[14]

He began keeping a monthly chronicle of local events, from which he compiled his three most famous works. The last and lengthiest of these documents, in Arabic Aja'ib al-athar fi al-tarajim wal-akhbar (عجائب الاَثار في التراجم والاخبار), which is generally known in English simply as Al-Jabarti's History of Egypt, and sometimes as The Marvellous Compositions of Biographies and Events, became a world-famous historical text by virtue of its eyewitness accounts of Napoleon's invasion and Muhammad Ali's seizure of power. The entries from his chronicle dealing with the French expedition and occupation have been excerpted and compiled in English as a separate volume entitled Napoleon in Egypt. He was one of the first Muslims to realise the significance of the wave of modernity that accompanied the French occupation, and the gulf that existed between Western and Islamic knowledge "shocked him profoundly".[15]

Jabarti maintained a strict, puritanical tone in his reaction to his witnessing of the advanced military technology, material sciences and cultural values of the French occupiers. He abhorred the Republican ideas of the French revolution such as egalitarianism, liberty and equality; insisting on the supremacy of Wahy (Islamic Revelation) over European rationalism. Although he had acknowledged the advances made by Europeans in certain fields, Jabarti firmly believed in the eventual triumph of Islam over the West and advocated the restoration of Islamic prowess through his works.[16] Expressing a strong revulsion against the French occupiers in his writings, Jabarti famously prayed for God to:

"strike their tongues with dumbness … confound their intelligence, and cause their breath to cease"[17]


Al-Jabarti's ‘Aja’ib al-athar fi’t-tarajim wa’l-akhbar (The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Events), a 27-volume book chronicling the History of Egypt between 1688–1821 C.E/ 1099–1236 A.H

Al-Jabarti is known for three works: Tarikh muddat al-faransis bi-misr (The History of the Period of the French Occupation in Egypt), completed in late 1798; Mazhar al-taqdis bi-zawal dawlat al-faransis (Demonstration of Piety in the Demise of French Society), completed in December 1801; and ‘Aja’ib al-athar fi’t-tarajim wa’l-akhbar (The Marvellous Compositions of Biographies and Events), which was much longer and comprised elements from his first two works.[18] The History of the French Occupation in Egypt chronicles the first seven months of the three-year occupation of Egypt by the French. In this work, in addition to chronicling factual events, al-Jabarti criticises the social and moral depravity of the French, embarks on an extensive correction of the grammar in the French Proclamation, and expresses general feelings of anger towards the invasion. His second work, Demonstration of Piety in the Demise of French Society, is much less well known than his other two. The Marvellous Compositions of Biographies and Events is by far al-Jabarti's most famous work, as well as his longest. This work covers the history of Egypt from 1688 to 1821 but was banned in Egypt in 1870 due to its critical views about Muhammad Ali Pasha's reforms, among other controversial criticisms.[13] Towards the end of the 1870s the ban on his book was lifted, and it was printed in part in 1878 by the press of Alexandria newspaper Misr, and in full in 1880 by the Bulak printing press.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ De Bellaigue, Christopher (2017). "1: Cairo". The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason 1798 to Modern Times. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-87140-373-5.
  2. ^ a b Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1923). My diaries; Being a Personal Narrative of Events. p. 81.
  3. ^ Beattie, Andrew (2005). Cairo: A Cultural and Literary History. p. 144. ISBN 9781902669779.
  4. ^ al-Jabarti, 'Abd al-Rahman. History of Egypt: 'Aja'ib al-Athar fi 'l-Tarajim wa'l-Akhbar. vol.1. Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart. 1994.
  5. ^ Abdulkader Saleh, "Ǧäbärti," in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: D-Ha. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005, p. 597.
  6. ^ Guardians of Faith in Modern Times: ʻUlamaʼ in the Middle East. Hatina, Meir. Leiden: Brill. 2009. ISBN 9789047442936. OCLC 567763241.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ a b Huart, Clément (1903). "A History of Arabic Literature". New York, Appleton. p. 423.
  8. ^ Hassan al-Jabarti
  9. ^ Molefi K. Asante (2002). Culture and Customs of Egypt. p. 21. ISBN 9780313317408.
  10. ^ Stewart, Desmond (1981). Great Cairo, mother of the world. p. 173. ISBN 9780313317408.
  11. ^ Mohamed Haji Mukhtar (1987). "Arabic Sources on Somalia" (PDF). p. 149.
  12. ^ David Ayalon, "The Historian al-Jabartī and His Background," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1960, p.238
  13. ^ a b c The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Gibb, H. A. R. (Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen), 1895–1971., Bearman, P. J. (Peri J.) (New ed.). Leiden: Brill. 1960–2009. ISBN 9789004161214. OCLC 399624.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Ayalon, David (1960). "The Historian al-Jabartī and His Background". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 23 (2): 217–249. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00149912. JSTOR 609695. S2CID 162747847.
  15. ^ Christopher de Bellaige, The Islamic Enlightenment. The Struggle between Faith and Reason: 1798 to Modern Time, (New York, Liveright, 2017), ISBN 9780871403735, 6 and 33.
  16. ^ De Bellaigue, Christopher (2017). "1: Cairo". The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason- 1798 to Modern Times. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation. pp. 1–20. ISBN 978-0-87140-373-5.
  17. ^ De Bellaigue, Christopher (2017). "Introduction". The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason- 1798 to Modern Times. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation. pp. xxi. ISBN 978-0-87140-373-5.
  18. ^ Dammen, McAuliffe, Jane (26 September 2017). Islam. Miles, Jack. New York. ISBN 978-0393355024. OCLC 1004556269.

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