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The Archival Mind In Early Islamic Egypt: Two Arabic Papyri

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Chapter Summary

The two texts examined in this chapter are important because they throw additional light on the workings of the Muslim administration, and, by extension, the Muslim bureaucratic instinct. While they did not necessarily belong to archives, they both show the premium placed in early Islamic Egypt on keeping careful track of people and property in lists, record books, ledgers and registers. First papyrus, dating from the second/eighth century, takes us into the vexed and complicated world of early Islamic taxation. This papyrus deals with an aspect of the early Islamic tax régime that throws up particular complexities: the practice of religiously assigned fiscal privileges. Second/eighth-century Arabic papyri recording Ṣadaqāt payments, often in lists, also mention the poll tax, meadow-tax, and other levies. Two late second/eighth-century letters relating to tax levies are specifically addressed to two distinct categories of Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants of administrative districts in Egypt.

Keywords: Ṣadaqāt payments; Arabic Papyri; early Islamic Egypt; Muslim administration; non-Muslim inhabitants



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