Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)

Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)

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The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt was the final independent Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian state prior to the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty
Muhammad Ali Dynasty
The Muhammad Ali Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of Egypt and Sudan, from the 19th to the mid-20th Century. It is named after its progenitor, Muhammad Ali Pasha, regarded as the founder of modern Egypt. It was also more formally known as the Alawiyya Dynasty...

 in 1805. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty
Ayyubid dynasty
The Ayyubid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt. The dynasty ruled much of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The Ayyubid family, under the brothers Ayyub and Shirkuh, originally served as soldiers for the Zengids until they...

 until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt
Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–1517)
The Ottoman–Mamluk War of 1516–1517 was a conflict between the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate and the Ottoman Empire, which led to the fall of the Mamluk Sultanate and the incorporation of Syria, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula as provinces of the Ottoman Empire...

 in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, Arabised soldiers of predominantly Kipchak Turks
Kipchaks
Kipchaks were a Turkic tribal confederation...

/Cuman
Cumans
The Cumans were Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. After Mongol invasion , they decided to seek asylum in Hungary, and subsequently to Bulgaria...

, and Circassian slave origin. While Mamluks were purchased, their status was above ordinary slaves, who were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. Mamluks were considered to be "true lords", with social status above freeborn Egyptian Muslims. Though it declined towards the end of its existence, at it height the sultanate represented the zenith of Egyptian and Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

ine political, economic, and cultural glory in the Islamic era.

Rise to power


Mamluk regiments constituted the backbone of the Egyptian military under the Ayyubid Dynasty
Ayyubid dynasty
The Ayyubid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt. The dynasty ruled much of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The Ayyubid family, under the brothers Ayyub and Shirkuh, originally served as soldiers for the Zengids until they...

. Each sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

, and high-ranking emir
Emir
Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

 had his private corps, and the Sultan as-Salih Ayyub
As-Salih Ayyub
Al-Malik as-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub , also known as al-Malik al-Salih was the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt from 1240 to 1249.-Biography:...

 (r. 1240-1249) had especially relied on this means to maintaining power. His mamluks, numbering between 800 and 1,000 horsemen, were called the Bahris, after the Arabic word bahr , meaning sea or large river, because their barracks were located on the island of Rawda in the Nile. They were mostly drawn from among the Kipchak Turks
Kipchaks
Kipchaks were a Turkic tribal confederation...

/Cumans
Cumans
The Cumans were Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. After Mongol invasion , they decided to seek asylum in Hungary, and subsequently to Bulgaria...

 who controlled the steppes north of the Black Sea.

In 1249 Louis IX of France
Louis IX of France
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...

 led a crusade on an invasion of Egypt, capturing Damietta
Damietta
Damietta , also known as Damiata, or Domyat, is a port and the capital of the Damietta Governorate in Egypt. It is located at the intersection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile, about north of Cairo.-History:...

 and then proceeding slowly southward. As they advanced, as-Salih Ayyub died and was succeeded by his son al-Muazzam Turanshah
Al-Muazzam Turanshah
Turanshah, also Turan Shah was a son of Sultan As-Salih Ayyub. A member of Ayyubid Dynasty, he became Sultan of Egypt for a brief period in 1249-1250.-References:...

, but before Turanshah could arrive at the front, the Bahri mamluks defeated the crusaders at the Battle of Al Mansurah
Battle of Al Mansurah
The Battle of Al Mansurah was fought from February 8 to February 11, 1250 between crusaders led by Louis IX, King of France, and Ayyubid forces led by Emir Fakhr-ad-Din Yussuf, Faris ad-Din Aktai and Baibars al-Bunduqdari.-Background:...

 and captured Louis, effectively ending the crusade. Turanshah proceeded to place his own entourage and especially his own mamluks, called Mu`azzamis, in positions of authority to the detriment of Bahri interests. Four weeks after Louis' capture, on 2 May 1250, a group of Bahris assassinated Turanshah.

Wars with Mongols and Crusaders



Following the death of Turanshah a ten-year period of political instability in Egypt and Syria ensued as various factions competed for control. In 1254, when a rival faction under the leadership of Qutuz
Qutuz
Saif ad-Din Qutuz, also spelled Kutuz, was the third of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt in the Turkic line from 1259 until his death in 1260. It was under his leadership that the Mamluks achieved success against the Mongols in the key Battle of Ain Jalut...

 became powerful, most of the Bahris fled Cairo and took service with Ayyubid amirs in Syria. Meanwhile, the Mongols
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 under the command of Hulagu invaded the Middle East in force. They sacked Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 in 1258 and proceeded westward, capturing Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, and Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Qutuz and the Bahris agreed to put aside their differences to face the common threat. They met a contingent of Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut
Battle of Ain Jalut
The Battle of Ain Jalut took place on 3 September 1260 between Mamluks and the Mongols in eastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, not far from Ein Harod....

 and defeated them. With the Mongol threat temporarily over, rivalries among the mamluks revived, and Baibars
Baibars
Baibars or Baybars , nicknamed Abu l-Futuh , was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France and he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked...

, a leading Bahri, assassinated Qutuz and claimed the sultanate.

Change in regime



In 1377 a revolt broke out in Syria which spread to Egypt, and the government was taken over by the Circassians Barakah
Barakah
In Islam, Barakah is the beneficent force from God that flows through the physical and spiritual spheres as prosperity, protection, and happiness. Baraka is the continuity of spiritual presence and revelation that begins with God and flows through that and those closest to God. Baraka can be found...

 and Barquq; In 1382 the last Bahri Sultan Al-Salih Hajji
Al-Salih Hajji
Al-Salih Hajji , also Haji II, was a Mamluk ruler, and the last ruler of the Bahri dynasty in 1382. He briefly ruled again in 1389, during the advent of the Burji dynasty...

 was dethroned, thus ending the Bahri dynasty, and Barquq was proclaimed sultan. Barquq was expelled in 1389 but recaptured Cairo in 1390. Permanently in power he founded what came to be called the Burji dynasty.

Ottomans and the end of the Mamluk Sultanate


Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II
Bayezid II
Bayezid II or Sultân Bayezid-î Velî was the oldest son and successor of Mehmed II, ruling as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512...

 was engaged in Europe when a new ground of hostility with Egypt appeared in 1501. It arose out of the relations with the Safavid dynasty
Safavid dynasty
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning...

 in Persia. Shah Ismail I
Ismail I
Ismail I , known in Persian as Shāh Ismāʿil , was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1500 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran...

 sent an embassy to the Venetians
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 via Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 inviting them to join his arms and recover the territory taken from them by the "Porte" (Ottomans). Mameluk Egyptian sultan Al-Ghawri
Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri was the second last of the Mamluk Sultans. One of the last of the Burji dynasty, he reigned from 1501 to 1516.On the disappearance of Sultan Al-Adil Sayf ad-Din Tuman bay I, it was not till after some days that the choice of the Emirs and Mamluks fell upon Al-Ashraf...

 was charged by Selim at giving the envoys of the Safavid Ismail passage through Syria on their way to Venice and harboring refugees. To appease him, Al-Ghawri placed in confinement the Venetian merchants then in Syria and Egypt, but after a year released them.

After the Battle of Chaldiran
Battle of Chaldiran
The Battle of Chaldiran or Chaldoran occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavid Empire of Persia . As a result, the Ottomans gained immediate control over eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq...

 in 1514, Selim I
Selim I
Selim I, Yavuz Sultân Selim Khan, Hâdim-ül Haramain-ish Sharifain , nicknamed Yavuz "the Stern" or "the Steadfast", but often rendered in English as "the Grim" , was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to...

 attacked the Dulkadirids, an Egypt's vassal had stood aloof, and sent his head to Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri was the second last of the Mamluk Sultans. One of the last of the Burji dynasty, he reigned from 1501 to 1516.On the disappearance of Sultan Al-Adil Sayf ad-Din Tuman bay I, it was not till after some days that the choice of the Emirs and Mamluks fell upon Al-Ashraf...

. Secure now against Shah Ismail I
Ismail I
Ismail I , known in Persian as Shāh Ismāʿil , was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1500 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran...

, on 1516 CE he drew together a great army aiming at conquering Egypt, but to deceive it he represented his object to be the further pursuit of Shah Ismail I. In 1515 began the war which led to the later incorporation of Egypt and its dependencies in the Ottoman Empire, with Mamluk cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 proving no match for the Ottoman artillery and the janissaries
Janissary
The Janissaries were infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguards...

. On August 24, 1515, at the Battle of Marj Dabiq
Battle of Marj Dabiq
The battle of Marj Dābiq was a decisive military clash in Middle Eastern history, fought on 24 August 1516, 44 km north of Halab , Syria.- Battle preparations :...

 Sultan al-Ghawri was killed. Syria passed into Turkish possession, who were welcomed in many places as deliverance from the Mamluks.

The Mamluk Sultanate survived until 1517, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman sultan Selim I captured Cairo on January 20, the center of power transferred then to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. Although not in the same form as under the Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire retained the Mamluks as an Egyptian ruling class and the Mamluks and the Burji family succeeded in regaining much of their influence, but remained vassals of the Ottomans.

Mamluks independence from the Ottomans



In 1768, Sultan Ali Bey Al-Kabir declared independence from the Ottomans. However, the Ottomans crushed the movement and retained their position after his defeat. By this time new slave recruits were introduced from Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 in the Caucasus.

Napoleon defeated Mamluk troops in the Battle of the Pyramids
Battle of the Pyramids
The Battle of the Pyramids, also known as the Battle of Embabeh, was fought on July 21, 1798 between the French army in Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte, and local Mamluk forces. It occurred during France's Egyptian Campaign and was the battle where Napoleon put into use one of his significant...

 when he attacked Egypt in 1798 and drove them to Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt is the strip of land, on both sides of the Nile valley, that extends from the cataract boundaries of modern-day Aswan north to the area between El-Ayait and Zawyet Dahshur . The northern section of Upper Egypt, between El-Ayait and Sohag is sometimes known as Middle Egypt...

. The Mamluks still used their cavalry charge tactics, changed only by the addition of musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

s.

After the departure of French troops in 1801 Mamluks continued their struggle for independence, this time against the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. In 1803, Mamluk leaders Ibrahim Beg and Usman Beg wrote a letter to the Russian consul-general and asked him to act as a mediator with the Sultan to allow them to negotiate for a cease-fire, and a return to their homeland Georgia. The Russian ambassador in Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 categorically refused to mediate because the Russian government was afraid of allowing Mamluks to return to Georgia, where a strong national liberation movement was on the rise which might have been encouraged by a Mamluk return.

In 1805, the population of Cairo rebelled. This was an excellent opportunity for the Mamluks to seize power, but internal tension and betrayal prevented them from exploiting this opportunity. In 1806, the Mamluks defeated the Turkish forces several times, and in June the rival parties concluded a peace treaty by which Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha was a commander in the Ottoman army, who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan...

, who had been appointed as governor of Egypt on 26 March 1806, was to be removed and the state authority in Egypt returned to the Mamluks. However, they were again unable to capitalize on the opportunity due to conflicts between the clans; Muhammad Ali kept his authority.

End of Mamluk power in Egypt


Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha was a commander in the Ottoman army, who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan...

 knew that eventually he would have to deal with the Mamluks if he ever wanted to control Egypt. They were still the feudal owners of Egypt and their land was still the source of wealth and power. The constant strain on sustaining the military manpower necessary to defend the Mamluks's system from the Europeans and the Mongols would eventually weaken them to the point of collapse.

On March 1, 1811, Muhammad Ali invited all of the leading Mamluks to his palace to celebrate the declaration of war against the Wahhabis in Arabia. Between 600 and 700 Mamluks paraded in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

. Near the Al-Azab gates, in a narrow road down from Mukatam Hill, Muhammad Ali's forces ambushed and killed almost all in what came to be known as the Massacre of the Citadel. According to period reports, only one Mamluk, whose name is given variously as Amim (also Amyn), or Heshjukur (a Besleney), survived when he forced his horse to leap from the walls of the citadel, killing it in the fall.

During the following week, hundreds of Mamluks were killed throughout Egypt; in the citadel of Cairo alone more than 1,000 were killed. Throughout Egypt an estimated 3,000 Mamluks and their relatives were killed.

Despite these attempts by Muhammad Ali to defeat the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them escaped and fled south into what is now Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

. In 1811, these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah in the Sennar as a base for their slave trading. In 1820, the sultan of Sennar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with a demand to expel the Mamluks. In response, the pasha sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan, clear it of Mamluks, and reclaim it for Egypt. The pasha
Pasha
Pasha or pascha, formerly bashaw, was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political system, typically granted to governors, generals and dignitaries. As an honorary title, Pasha, in one of its various ranks, is equivalent to the British title of Lord, and was also one of the highest titles in...

's forces received the submission of the kashif
Kashif
Kashif is an Arabic word, commonly used as a male given name in the Muslim world. Its meaning is close to the English words 'revealer', 'discoverer', 'uncoverer' or 'pioneer'....

, dispersed the Dunqulah Mamluks, conquered Kordofan, and accepted Sennar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII
Badi VII
Badi VII 1805 - 1821 was the last ruler of the Kingdom of Sennar.Badi offered no resistance to Ismail Pasha, who had led the khedive army of his father up the Nile to his capital at Sennar...

.

The Mamluk households


The mamluks were organized into households under the leadership of an ustad
Ustad
Ustad is an Arabized Persian word is a honorific title for a Muslim man in South Asia. The title precedes the name and is usually used for well regarded teachers and artists, most often musicians. It is applied and used via informal social agreement. It is abbreviated as ut. or ud.-References:*...

. Mamluks had intense loyalty to their ustad and to their comrades in the regiment. The loyalty of a mamluk to his comrades was called khushdashiya

Mamluks' sons did not enter the ranks of the mamluks, and tended to blend in with the wider society. The ranks of the Mamluks were always replenished by importing fresh slaves from abroad.

Art and architecture



As part of their chosen role as defenders of Islamic orthodoxy, the Mamluks sponsored numerous religious buildings, including mosques, madrasas and khanqahs. Though some construction took place in the provinces, the vast bulk of these projects took place in the capital. Many Mamluk buildings in Cairo survive until today, particularly in the district of Old Cairo. As representatives of Islamic ideology, it was also the responsibility of the Mamluk dynasty to spread the holy word of Islam to its surrounding areas. One such way of doing this was by commissioning pages of the Quran and sharing it with the local population. This leaf contains portions of Surat (Chapter) Al’Ala(The most high) and was for use in a local mosque in Cairo. The leaf dates back to 1300 AD during the mamluk sultanate and its age clearly shows based on the tears that appear at the top of the leaf. Surat Al'Ala discusses the wonders that Allah has created and the rewards for those who believe the message of Islam, as well as the punishment for those who reject Islam. It is likely that the illuminator of the leaf was Abu Bakr aka Sandal, who was centered in the artistic hub of Islam at the time; Cairo, Egypt. The Qur’an verses are written in black ink and in the Naskh writing style, which was the easiest for the common man to read, opposed to other scripts that required individuals to be familiar with calligraphic styles.

See also

  • Mamluk
    Mamluk
    A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin, who were predominantly Cumans/Kipchaks The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior...

  • State of Turkey
    State of Turkey
    The State of Turkey was the official name of the Mamluk Sultanate which was a regime which ruled Egypt from the mid-13th century to the early 16th century. By the time of the fall of the Ayyubids, most Mamluks were Kipchak Turks....

  • Dawla al-Turkiyya
  • Furusiyya
    Furusiyya
    is the historical Arabic term for knightly martial exercise during the Middle Ages, during the Crusades and Mamluk period in particular, especially concerned with medieval Islamic martial arts and equestrianism...

  • History of Arab Egypt
  • List of Sunni Muslim dynasties

Sources

  • Abu al-Fida, The Concise History of Humanity
  • Al-Maqrizi
    Al-Maqrizi
    Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad al-Maqrizi ; Arabic: , was an Egyptian historian more commonly known as al-Maqrizi or Makrizi...

    , Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, Dar al-kotob, 1997.
  • Idem in English: Bohn, Henry G., The Road to Knowledge of the Return of Kings, Chronicles of the Crusades, AMS Press, 1969.
  • Al-Maqrizi, al-Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-'athar, Matabat aladab, Cairo 1996, ISBN 977-241-175X
  • Idem in French: Bouriant, Urbain, Description topographique et historique de l'Egypte, Paris 1895.
  • Ibn Taghribirdi
    Ibn Taghribirdi
    Jamal al-Din Yusuf bin al-Amir Sayf al-Din Taghribirdi or Ibn Taghribirdi was an Egyptian historian born into the Turkish Mamluk elite of Cairo in the 15th century. He studied under al-Ayni and al-Maqrizi, two of the leading Cairene historians and scholars of the day...

    , al-Nujum al-Zahirah Fi Milook Misr wa al-Qahirah, al-Hay'ah al-Misreyah 1968
  • Idem in English: History of Egypt, by Yusef. William Popper, translator Abu L-Mahasin ibn Taghri Birdi, University of California Press 1954.

Studies

  • Ayalon, David: The Mamluk Military Society. London, 1979.
  • Shayyal, Jamal, Prof. of Islamic history, Tarikh Misr al-Islamiyah (History of Islamic Egypt), dar al-Maref, Cairo 1266, ISBN 977-02-5975-6