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Some Notes on the Representation of Non-Muslim Officials in al-Ǧahšiyārī’s (d. 331/942) Kitāb al-Wuzarāʾ wa-l-kuttāb

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Rather than a handbook or chronological history of secretaries and viziers, or a straightforward guide to administrative terminology, the Kitāb al-Wuzarā⁠ʾ wa-l-kuttāb by Muḥammad b. al-ʿAbdūs al-Ǧahšiyārī (d. 331/942) is a collection of ʿAbbāsid-era narratives on the history of early Islamic administration. Related to other works in the genre adab al-kātib, the Kitāb al-Wuzarā⁠ʾ wa-l-kuttāb provides insight into one compiler’s literary techniques as well as his social/cultural agenda. The portion of al-Ǧahšiyārī’s work analyzed here focuses on key events in the Umayyad period and illustrates his apologetic stance on the non-Muslim foundations of ʿAbbāsid administrative structures especially well. Using short anecdotes that contain pithy, repetitive tropes of non-Muslim administrative officials’ arrogance or incompetence, al-Ǧahšiyārī polemically mythologized a foundations narrative for early Islamic administrative history. Several studies of another portion of this text, on the ʿAbbāsid caliphs and the Barmakids, have determined the literary/historical value of al-Ǧahšiyārī’s work. In these brief comments, four short anecdotes from a relatively understudied portion of the Kitāb al-Wuzarā⁠ʾ wa-l-kuttāb are assessed in order to demonstrate al-Ǧahšiyārī’s mode of representation for the earliest stages of Islamic administration.

Affiliations: 1: Brown University


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