Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Process of Islamization in Egypt

possible causes and the extent thereof
up to the 14th century A.D.

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements for the degree of
MA Islamic Societies and Cultures
of the University of London in 1992

M. Wassermann

[School of Oriental and African Studies University of London]

List of Contents

  1. Introduction
    Preliminary Remark: Conversion - Adhesion to a religion
  2. The Rise and Decline of the Arab Aristocracy
    in Conjunction with conversion

    1. The Arab Aristocracy and Muwalat
    2. The Decline of the Arab Aristocracy

  3. The two subject people: Arabs and Copts
  4. The Copts and the changing Muslim society
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The call to Islam resounded in Egypt with the arrival of the Arab Muslims into the Christian country in 640 A.D.. They entered the country to subdue it and bring it under their dominion. Although we cannot ascertain what the precise beliefs of the invading Arabs were it should be maintained that Islam was the "raison d'etre" [1] of their military organization. As such they had distinguished themselves by 'iman (= faith) from the rest of the world which was regarded kufr [2] (= disacknowledgement [sic] of God [3]). Their arrival in Egypt sparked off the process of islamization in Egypt. Although conversion to Islam throughout the history of Egypt was slow in coming [4] a steady trickle of Copts converting to Islam was inevitable. At times this trickle swelled to a steady or even massive flow of new converts. The islamization of Egypt went through stages which were different in nature and occurred at different junctures in its history.

H.J.Fisher noted in his article "Conversion reconsidered" that in Black Africa the process of conversion to Islam consisted of three steps [5]. The first step was that of the first converts which he called "Quarantine". This phase was marked by conversion on a small scale since a convert had to leave his "old community" and pass into the strange and "new world" of his "new brothers-in-faith". By his action he became an outcast rejected by his old community and had to work hard to establish himself in his new world. The second stage was that of "Detachment" in which the new and growing community of Muslims started to do things relating to their own religion in a new way. This stage was marked by voluntary conversions and the mixing of different faiths. The third stage he labelled "Reform". This stage was marked by the new religious community starting to develop a separate consciousness and self-expression. It is characterized by new forms of religious education. This development was enhanced by an ever increasing percentage of literacy [6]. The views of this new community on what was right or wrong i.e. what was legal or illegal according to their law would begin to be imposed on the society as a whole. The imposition of the new values as well as dogmas was "dyed with blood" [7]. Although these observations were made in Black Africa I think that to a certain extent they are applicable to the history of the process of islamization in Egypt.

The three stages are in my opinion distinguishable in the process of the islamization in Egypt. All three stages overlap and do not start with one decisive incident or a definable juncture in the history of Egypt. The first stage is marked by the emergence of the new Arab aristocracy and the system of muwalat. The second stage begins with the fading away of the supremacy of the Arab aristocracy and goes on with the levelling of the differences in the social status between Arabs and Copts. The third stage detaches itself from the second by the violent call of the mob to implement the shariah with regard to the protected people - the `ahl al-dhimma - by the Muslim populace of Egypt.

The aim of this paper is to identify and elaborate some of the characteristics of these three stages. But before I go on I deem it necessary to define the meaning of 'conversion' in contrast to 'adhesion to a religion' in a preliminary remark.

Preliminary Remark: Conversion - Adhesion to a religion

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Conversion is the "crossing of religious frontiers, in which an old spiritual home was left for a new one" [8]. When we speak of conversion we think of the "reorientation of the soul of an individual, his deliberate turning from indifference or from an earlier piety to another" [9]. When an individual turns in such a way he considers his former life of piety or indifference as wrong and judges the new religion to be the only true way to relate to God and to his neighbour. This definition applies mostly to the religions which have a prophet and a holy book at their centre and which demand a "positive response" [10] from their adherents to their teachings. This is in contrast to adhesion which is rather an outward and more indifferent attitude towards the doctrine and teachings of another religion. Adhesion is a cultural influence of a religion on someone, prompting him to accept new forms of worship without fully rejecting the old forms and replacing with the new ones.

2. The Rise and Decline of the Arab Aristocracy in Conjunction with conversion

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2.1. The Arab Aristocracy and Muwalat

As the city of Alexandria was abandoned in accordance with the treaty of Alexandria [11] in Sept. 642 A.D. by the Byzantine army, which in turn had been the only source of resistance to the Arabs during their campaign in Egypt [12], the new rulers concerned themselves with the organization and the securing of the country. They did this by maintaining public order and thereby ensuring the social stability of the conquered, mainly Coptic, Egyptian population. The necessity thereof was commanded by the Arab dependence on the taxes of the newly subjected people to maintain their standing army in the country [13]. As the Arab rulers did not interfere in the internal affairs of the Copts they were left with their churches, monasteries and even their own internal administration. This was always conditional on the constant and uninterrupted payment of taxes [14]. The Arabs withdrew from the cities and the countryside they had conquered and left some contingents [15] of forces in the coastal cities and especially in the newly founded city of Fustat which was to become the new capital of the country in the late seventh century [16].

Fustat was a garrison city located at a strategic point near the banks of the river Nile, close to the former Babylon [17]. It was centred on the house of the commander [18]. In it each tribe was allocated a quarter for itself [19]. In the beginning the Arabs settled largely in cities leaving the countryside to the indigenous people for cultivation [20]. Receiving taxes from the indigenous farmers the Arabs soon developed a new form of aristocracy prompted by the wealth of the country flowing into the city. In these centres the Arabs enjoyed amn amân (= security). As a mu'min (= believer) the Arab belonged to the sociopolitical group of people who had accepted the monotheistic faith. Within this group the individual enjoyed security from outward danger (amn, aman) [21]. Thus the designation mu'min stood in contrast to the term kafir [22] denoting the one rejecting the monotheistic revelation as Muhammad had received it. The term mu'min seems to have been reserved for the first adherents to Islam - the Arabs. Therefore the definition of the term `amir al-mu'minin receives a new and narrower meaning [23], i.e. the prince of the Arab believers whose security was assured [24]. The mu'min receives the free protection of his leader. The dhimmi on the other hand will not receive free protection and is a "non-Arab of inferior status" [25] because he has not yet submitted to the religion of the Prophet. To come out of this semi-protected and inferior sociopolitical position a dhimmi had to submit and enter into the realm of the religion of the Arabs. Islam as such denotes the total [26] "submission and entering into peace and pronouncing the creed and giving up hostility that one has shown" [27]. A Muslim was a man who had given up his "hostility" to Islam and entered into a patronage relationship with an Arab master. This relation was called muwalat [28]. Therefore any submitted non-Arabic person was not a mu'min, but a mawla of an inferior status.

The new Arab lords of Egypt granted security to those "submitting" and settling in Fustat under the protection of a Arab master [29]. The mawla who had associated himself with an Arab master served him as a personal attendant. Most of the mawali were slaves of their masters and enjoyed little standing within the new and aristocratic society [30]. This practice of muwalat originated from the time of the conquests and served then to recruit people "to a largely military following" [31]. This was the only real close contact the Arabs had with the indigenous people of that time. But since only little is known about the nature of Islam before the ninth century we cannot ascertain what the real implications of becoming a Muslim at that time were [32]. On the other hand we do not hear of many people changing their faith and religion thus seeking the protection of Arab aristocrats [33]. In later Arabic sources all initial "conversions" were attributed to the conquests [34].

Since the Arab centre of power in the first 226 years of Muslim rule in Egypt was located outside the country the Arabs did not look to the local customs for self-identification but rather to Mecca, Damascus and eventually to Baghdad [35]. The local tradition was largely ignored and if it was taken up then it was only by "superimposing an Islamic emblem on the techniques of their conquered subjects" [36]. The Arabs guarded their Arab lineage very jealously by hardly ever mixing with the locals. Exceptions were made when it came to mixing with men and women of the conquered peoples who were of royal decent [37]. Furthermore the superiority of the Arabs was enhanced by being Muslim. Being Arab and Muslim at the same time distinguished them from the masses of the "vanquished Middle Eastern people" [38]. Islam became the hallmark of the ruling Arab elite.

At this first stage of the process of islamization there were not many conversions. The Copts were allowed to live under their own administration and their religious life did not suffer from interference as was the case under the Byzantines. As conversion to Islam then did not offer any improvement of the social status of the Copts in the 'old Christian' cities they remained faithful to their religion and thereby ensured that the majority of their inhabitants remained Christian [39]. Skilled workmen were able to keep on working in their craft without becoming Muslims. We hear of Christian quarters in the garrison city of Fustat where the Arab Christian tribes who had arrived with the armies of `Amr ibn al-As had settled. The Copts intermingled with the Arabs [40] and even built there their own churches [41]. Coptic was even spoken in Fustat [42]. The Copts were sought after since their workmanship was renowned. We hear of Copts being architects [43] and good shipbuilders assisting the Arabs in forming the Arab fleet [44]. Further career opportunities for the Copts in the eighth and ninth century were in the fiscal regime where the Copts remained in office, though with some interruptions, for a very long time [45]. Another career opportunity was in the ecclesiastical service of the church or in the estate management of a tax farm on behalf of an aristocratic land owner [46]. As the financial burden of the taxes on the professional classes was not so heavy there was little incentive to convert and thereby rid oneself of a high tax load. However the peasants tending the land were taxed more heavily due to the proportionate system of taxation on the produce of their land [47].

At the conquest of Egypt the administration of the country was organized as it was in the times of Justinian. The country was divided into five provinces each ruled by an official with civil and military powers - called a duke. Each province was subdivided into eparchies and they in turn were subdivided into pagarchies, municipalities and autopract estates [48]. The Arabs employed the local property owners (pagarch) to deal with the complicated administration of taxes. These rich people who had good contacts with the church were responsible for the administration of the taxes in their area to the central diwan in Fustat [49] where there were two departments, one for Upper and one for Lower Egypt. All villages, monasteries and towns as well as all the domain lands were under the administrative responsibility of these pagarchs [50].

Two types of taxes are distinguishable. The first type was a poll-tax (levied on the head) and the other one was a land-tax, which was a proportionate tax levied on the produce of land. Taxes on trades were collected collectively [51]. The Landless paid according to an assessment on their professions. The poll-tax constituted about 35% of the tax load on the male individual who had attained majority [52]. It was assessed according to the wealth of a man and it averaged about two dinars a person [53]. The taxes were collected by the local authorities from the individuals who were enlisted in a 'taxation-assessment-list'. These taxes were then passed on as a lump sum to the central diwan [54]. The taxation was not uniform. This became apparent in differences in the amounts collected by every town and village [55]. On the other hand people who could not afford to pay their full tax load were able to substitute their personal quota by natural produce and/or services [56]. As the collection of taxes was mainly the responsibility [57] of the Copts the individual tax paying peasant or professional hardly came in contact with the Muslim authorities receiving the taxes. The only important matter to the central diwan was the steady flow of taxes regardless of the manner in which they were collected.

As the tax load on peasants increased quite a number of them fled the region, in which they were enlisted in the tax register, to another area where they worked in taxfarms. The landowners of these farms employed such people secretly giving them a salary for working their land. In order to catch such fugitives the Arabs took a census in the year 730/112 [58] and issued the order that every individual carry a passport certifying whether he had paid his taxes or not [59]. But the fugitives were harboured by the new communities to which they had fled and this caused large losses in the annual tax revenue [60].

To what extent can we link taxation and the decline of the annual tax revenue with the conversion of the Copts to Islam? The argument is put forward by Arab sources that the decline of taxes is directly linked with a high rate of conversions. ‘Umar II who abolished the poll-tax for converts is mentioned among others to indicate how the Copts converted to escape taxation [61]. But this and other repeated exemptions of the poll-tax show that the converts were not constantly exempt from the payment of poll-tax. In retrospect Arabic literature describes this practice of making the Muslim converts pay poll-tax and adjudges it as contrary to the Qur`an and its teachings [62]. In any case converts were not exempt from the land-tax. The Arabic sources speak of a decline in tax income from about 14-20 million dinars annually down to 3-4 million dinars. First of all the initial figure seems to be inflated [63] and secondly these figures do not indicate whether these taxes consisted of the poll-tax alone or whether they included the land-tax. Dennett sees another cause for the decline of the state revenue in the fugitives who fled the taxation load as a whole [64]. On the other hand the Arab rulers, e.g. Abd al-Aziz in 717/8 A.D. were confiscating lands which in turn were hardly taxed, if at all. Since the taxation load on the peasants did not decrease or remain the same but on the contrary increased and had to be shared by an ever decreasing number of farming peasants, the peasants fled their lands and villages searching for a life with a lower tax burden [65]. As a consequence of the landflight the lands that were left behind were appropriated because all abandoned lands were given to the Caliph and thus the tax revenues again declined. It should be mentioned that the landflight also caused a deterioration in the agricultural system. After revolts in particular the irrigation system was neglected and as a consequence thereof arable land was lost to the desert [66]. The loss of arable land has to be taken as another reason for the decline of the tax revenue. Therefore it seems very unlikely that the steep decline in tax revenues in the first two centuries can be linked directly with a high rate of conversion of Copts to Islam.

When the landflight of the peasants became 'en vogue' many of them also fled to monasteries. As the monasteries had much land [67] and a high working ethos [68] they could take in many manual labourers. Suspecting this the Arabs also counted the monks in the monasteries during their census in 112/730 because some monks appeared to not be wearing a ring which was the distinguishing mark for a monk. Before that the monks were already taxed a dinar a head [69]. This was in violation of the laws which the Arabs say had been in existence since the Caliph ‘Umar, exempting all clergy and monks from taxation [70]. Churches were also taxed from time to time and the utensils therein confiscated [71]. Although the treaty of ‘Umar forbids the building of new and the renovation of old churches the building of churches never really ceased during the first 150 years of Muslim rule. This became possible because the Copts paid the authorities a sum of money whereby they received the right to build and renovate churches [72]. The early existence of a law forbidding the erection of new churches seems to be a backward projection of laws which were enacted in the ninth century, since archeological evidence seems to suggest a building activity well into the eighth century [73]. The anger of the masses however was aroused by building the churches [74]. As the power shifted from the Ummayads to the Abbasids [75] the fury of the mob was especially aroused by and directed against the erection and renovation of churches. The placing of Christian symbols on the churches evoked several edicts from the rulers. The frequency of the orders banning Christian emblems on the churches can be interpreted as a slackness in the enforcement of these laws and orders which were mainly issued by and in the time of the Caliph Abd al-Aziz [76]. It also has to be mentioned that in the time of the Ummayads churches were turned into mosques or were even demolished and their stones and in particular their pillars used to erect new mosques [77].

However on the whole the Copts benefited from the Muslim takeover of Byzantine. The Byzantines had been fighting the Coptic monophysite church and persecuting it. The patriarch Cyrus who had been sent by Constantinople was very cruel. The patriarch Benjamin who had been in hiding from the Byzantines was able to come out and appear publicly. His church was declared the official church and it came into the possession of the ecclesiastical property which previously had been taken away from it by the Byzantines [78]. The question however remains whether and to what extent the Copts aided the Arabs in conquering the land of Egypt. Allegations to Coptic aid to the Arabs are made by Arabs from the fourteenth century onwards [79]. The time of the conquest was never a time of clear polarity between the invader and the invaded because the Arabs accepted the assistance of any group [80]. John of Nikoui who was a contemporary of that time speaks of Coptic aid only after the region of the Fayyum was taken [81]. On the other hand we hear of accusations made by the Byzantines regarding the disloyalty of the Copts towards the Byzantine conscript army based largely in the garrisons which was the only force to actively resist the Arab invaders. If we take into account that the armed forces in the cities played largely a policing role and that it was composed of mainly Copts then we can understand the claim that passivity on the side of the Copts aided the Arabs and disadvantaged the Byzantine conscript army [82]. The attitude must have abounded amongst the Copts that "they regarded the advent of the Muslims as a plague sent by divine vengeance upon their persecutors" [83]. However active aid of the Copts to the Arabs was at times forced and in cases of opportunists voluntary.

Generally speaking in the first two centuries of Muslim rule conversion was discouraged by the ruling Arab Muslim aristocracy. At times the Arab government opposed it actively. The small number of conversions was mainly due to the lack of incentives for becoming a Muslim like the exemption of converts from the poll-tax. On the other hand we have to remind ourselves of the strong solidarity of the Coptic community, which a person had to leave when he changed his faith [84]. Finally conversion alone was not enough to establish social equality with the ruling Arab Muslims. To attain this equality a person had to not only convert but also be of Arab origin as well [85]. Thus the aristocracy was a strong obstacle to conversion by keeping aloof from the subjects and not wanting to eliminate the differences between the elite and the masses of subjects. As the two communities were strong they kept apart and intermingled only when necessary. Crossing over to the other community meant the loss of solidarity with the community in which one grew up. Only the socially depraved and desperate who saw in conversion a betterment of their social status took this step out of their old community if it was still in existence [86]. The other group of converts were high officials who were forced to convert [87].

2.2. The decline of the Arab aristocracy

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As the Arabs took on a new system of administration and government the notion of the Caliph being the 'primum inter pares', (first among equals) which was a cornerstone of the Arabic governmental system, started to fade away. It gave way to a despotic system in which all were ruled irregardless of their origins by one despotic leader and a group of aristocrats who congregated around him [88]. The leaders in the power centres of the Arab empire appointed governors to Egypt who were the chargés d'affaires on their behalf. Sometimes two persons were sent at a time thus separating the political and the financial offices. Later the Abbasids appointed a third person who was an information minister. Anxious that the governors in Egypt did not become independent and break away with the granary of the Arab empire the central leaders replaced the governors in Egypt frequently. During the first 226 years [89] of Arab rule 108 governors were appointed to Egypt [90]. No real policy making was possible under such circumstances. Egypt was to remain a colony producing and supplying the Arabs in the east with grain, as well as paying taxes [91]. As the Abbasid regime took root in Baghdad and started centralizing its powers it alienated itself all the more from the Egyptian population and their needs.

During the rule of the Ummayad Caliph Hisham (724-743) in the year 732 Arabs were settled in Egypt to enlarge the Arab presence in the country. 5000 men from the tribe of Qais were settled in the eastern Hawf area [92]. The Arab historians see this development as the beginning of the arabization of the rural population of Egypt. Later on in the Abbasid period in 830 two tribes were settled in Upper Egypt, i.e. the tribe of Kenz [sic] and Hillal. These settlement activities indicate a growing Arab population in Egypt. The individual and voluntary settlements in the country are not accounted for in the report of the state sponsored settlements [93]. What seems to be important is that the Arab settlers represented all social strata of the Arabs, poor and rich [94].

These bedouin settlers or colonizers [95] lived alongside the Copts. They even worked in the same tax-farms sometimes under one and the same landowner. The two groups of people came to be on the same social level [96]. I see this development as a starting point for the second stage of islamization in Egypt. In order to have a wide enough foundation it was bound to start among the mixed rural population of Copts and Muslims [97]. To understand the process of islamization in Egypt we will have to examine the process of social equalization as a consequence of this settlement activity.

The bedouins living alongside the Copts are said to have been a new burden on the indigenous population [98]. On the other hand the intermingling of the bedouins and the indigenous population introduced Arab blood to the Copts. Here is an early indication for conversion. In intermarriage Coptic men had to convert in order to marry a Muslim girl [99]. But when a Muslim married a Copt girl the children were automatically Muslims [100]. In addition to this growth of Muslim population we have to consider the natural growth rate among Muslim Arabs.

Copts who had fled their land and were seeking employment and protection entered into the services of the feudal landowners whose land estates were growing on the same scale as the Copts who had fled their land in order to evade taxation [101]. The same feudal lords also employed the newly settled Arabs. However if an Arab chose to settle and work independently he was obliged to pay the land-tax [102]. The tax load seems to have been very heavy. The taxes of natural produce which were collected in the beginning at the time of harvest were later on collected in form of money three times a year [103]. Baladhuri's remarks on taxation are enlightening:

"I lived seven years in Egypt and married there. The people were taxed above their means and were in distress, although Amr had made a fixed treaty with them with fixed conditions..." [104]

The Copts were again in the same social level as they were under the Byzantines [105]. The feudal regime of the Byzantines was reestablished by the Arabic feudal landlords. But the difference this time was that Arabs who were the brothers of the feudal lords were on the same social level as they were. Thus as the central diwan in Fustat started to demand more taxes [106] the Arabs and Copts revolted together [107]. It must be noted that the Arab farmers revolted and not the soldiers who were unhappy with their pay.

Before we go on to consider the revolts and their implications we have to discuss a more immediate consequence of the settlements of the bedouins in the rural areas which is the arabization of Egypt.

Since the introduction of Arabic as the only legitimate language for the administration in 706 by Abd al-Malik Arabic began to spread [108]. It spread especially in the cities where people in administration and trade had to learn the language for their day to day life [109]. It was also in the cities where the dhimmis started to adapt to the new life style which was dictated by the laws of the Muslim community [110]. Thus the mawali learned Arabic not only for their new religious practices but also for communication in the Arabic speaking surroundings. But the original language of the Copts must have been preserved among the illiterate people in the rural areas [111]. The tax-farm became something like a melting pot where the Copts and Arabs communicated in one language - Arabic. Gradually the Coptic peasants had to learn Arabic as a matter of survival [112]. As a consequence of the spread of Arabic in the rural areas it became easier to convert [113] - "at least outwardly" [114] - and be accepted in the Muslim community without the same social discriminations which the mawali were faced with in the cities. Therefore the arabization can be seen as an 'icebreaker' clearing the way for the process of islamization. The speaking of Arabic began to hide the different origins of the new converts. It became easier to profess Islam and become a Muslim [115] instead of a mawla [116]. The fading away of the social differences between converts from a non-Arab background and the Arab Muslims is a clear indication of the decline of the Arab aristocracy. A similar development became apparent in the cities where difference of race started to become increasingly insignificant when it came to the profession of faith in Islam and conversion. The "new Muslims" belonged now to one class of Muslims [117]. To prove its sincerity in being a good Muslim government the Abbasid regime tried increasingly to make Islam appear as the religion of God - din 'Allah. The religion as such ceased to be the religion of the Arabs since so many different races had started to join it. On the other hand universal claims of Islam started to rise and become outspoken. At that time it became increasingly the practice that whoever entered Islam received peace and was protected by the Caliph with all other Muslims [118]. Arabic sources speak of the new Muslims priding themselves on their new religion. They wanted to appear as the best Muslims [119].

In spite of these developments we do not hear of many conversions. Only after the revolts which had started in 725 and which had been going on and on until they were put down in 832 by al-Ma'mun personally with the aid of his Turkish generals [120] we hear of the Muslims forming the majority in Egypt [121]. After these revolts the Copts were decimated. Although the Arabs had revolted alongside with the Copts it was the Copts who paid the main price of the uprisings [122]. Wiet quotes Makrizi describing the situation of the Copts as follows:

"From that time they (the Copts) were in subjection throughout the Egyptian territory, and their power was definitely crushed. None of them had the power to revolt or even resist the government; the Muslims were in the majority in the villages". [123]

As the revolts were put down by force and the country was pacified, a wide-scale persecution against the Copts broke out [124]. In this time the attitude of the Muslim public towards the Copts changed. But it must be stressed that the official policy of the government had not changed so as to sanction persecutions by the state, since the Muslim legal attitudes towards conversion and the ahl al-dhimma were still in a period of transition [125]. In the aftermath of the revolts the new social position of the Copts in the rural areas ceased to offer them any advantages, especially in the Delta, where the main revolts had taken place [126]. Thus the ground for massive conversions was prepared. The taxation policy of the rulers never really stopped being oppressive particularly on the monasteries and the monks who had harboured fugitives [127]. High taxes were collected and restrictive laws were issued, which the church leadership tried to by-pass with bribery. This practice was to become in later periods a real financial burden on the church. Laws were issued in order to exact money from the church. In another incident the patriarch was kidnapped in order to exact ransom money. Thus the church had to pay to legitimatize any action it was to take [128]. This was mainly due to the fact that the governors started to intervene in church affairs and disputes within the church [129].

The revolts up to 832 and subsequent revolts from 866 onwards brought changes within the Arabic society. The Arabic society had ceased to be a "fully fledged military society". The history of recruitment by the system of muwalat ended [130]. The conquering armies developed into subjects [131] tending the land [132]. The standing Arab armies were replaced by Turkish slave armies. As a consequence of the revolts the Arabs were stricken [133] off the army records and were no longer paid their army pensions. With these changes the scene was set for the second stage of the process of islamization in Egypt.

3. The two subject people: Arabs and Copts

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The second stage of the process of islamization is characterized by the coexistence of the Coptic and the Muslim communities. Politically it is marked with the emergence of governments independent of Baghdad. On the interreligious level we see that the convert started to be fully integrated into the Muslim society he chose to live in. Gradually the restrictions on the new converts fell away [134]. In contrast we can observe the effective and tight communal solidarity of the Copts. Therefore in the tenth century we still hear of very substantial Coptic communities in rural Egypt [135]. With all these changes we also see the emergence of a new class of people who gradually became more and more influential in the economy of the state, the traders.

As the Tulunid dynasty took over [136] and a defiant and somewhat independent minded government was established in Egypt the country started to prosper. It was now in the interest of the new ruling dynasty to cause the economy of the state to flourish. The political upheavals in the east were one factor which helped the Egyptian governments of that time in that task. The Zanj wars tied the hands of the government in Baghdad thus decreasing their influence over the governor in Fustat. Traders on the other hand who used the trade route through Mesopotamia were forced to choose new and safer routes for trade [137]. Acquiring more power through higher taxes as a result of trade attracted from Persia and India Ibn Tulun in 877 led his government into open confrontation with Baghdad. Although the Tulunids did not gain full independence and were soon deposed by Baghdad and the taxes started to flow to the east again [138], those years gave the people of Egypt a taste of things to come.

Whenever Baghdad was weakened by internal strife or when another power was seeking to extend its influence over certain areas which were under Abbasid control, countries on the fringes of the empire were able to form some kind of independence. This was the case with Egypt when the Fatimids in the Maghrib were seeking to extend their influence and control over Egypt and while the Abbasid government was weighed down with internal strife and mutiny [139]. In this time of power struggle and vacuum the Ikhshid dynasty emerged (after 933 A.D.) and took effective control over Egypt. Their control was later recognized by the Caliph in Baghdad. They were entrusted with the guardianship of the Hijaz including the holy cities of Islam [140]. What seems to be noteworthy was that a Jew called Yacqub bin Killis took over the control of the administration which was then separated from 'the men of the sword'. Under his influence the abusive tax-farming was abolished, the civil service was reformed and made efficient and importance was given to internal and international trade [141]. The Ikhshid dynasty stood in the way of Fatimid ambitions in the east which included the guardianship over the Hijaz [142]. Egypt was attacked repeatedly from the west until the Fatimid forces were able to gain power in 969 by conquering Fustat [143]. The way they were able to take the country was quite remarkable. The Fatimids stepped into the place of the Ikhshid dynasty without war and promised a just government. This quick takeover of power had been made possible by the administration which the former Ikhshid dynasty had established, and which the new lords were simply able to take over [144].

As a sign of their conquest and new power the Fatimids built a new capital - al-Kahira - Cairo where the Caliph al-Muciz settled with his whole household thus abandoning his estate in Ifirqiya [145]. This new capital soon attracted traders [146] and the city and the country prospered. Egypt became the main trading link between the West and India [147].

The Fatimids were Ismacili Shicites. This is one of the reasons why they did not treat the Sunnis as tolerantly as the Copts [148]. Since the majority of the Muslims of Egypt remained Sunnis and thus loyal to the Abbasids in Baghdad the Fatimids came to rely increasingly on the Copts for administration [149]. Therefore the Copts remained in high positions in the administration of state finances. Apart from the time of al-Hakim the Copts and Jews enjoyed under the Fatimids a "rarely seen freedom of religion" [150]. In their times the social distinctions between Muslims and the dhimmis were suppressed. The Copts were excused from extraordinarily high taxes. Old churches were renovated and even new ones built. Christians were further protected from the mob. Converts to Islam who had converted under compulsion were allowed to revert to their original faith. Muslim converts to Christianity were not punished [151].

As the Coptic peasants enjoyed religious freedom and saw that people of their faith were in high positions of the administration I believe they did not see any necessity for conversion. The identification with the 'upper class' Copts must have boosted the moral of the Coptic peasant which helps to explain the fact that conversions then were still slow in coming [152]. As a sign of the good relations between the Copts and the Fatimids the Coptic patriarchate under the patriarch Christodoulos -Abd al-Masih- was moved from Alexandria to Cairo [153]. We even read of the participation of the Fatimid Caliphs in Christian festivals [154].

Although the relations between the Fatimids and the Copts were good we see that the populace was increasingly growing weary of the Coptic "tax-collector". Hatred against these Copts started mounting since they were seen by the lower Muslim classes as usurpers and unjust tax-collectors [155]. Therefore it is no surprise that the populace's demand for the treatment of the dhimmis as prescribed by the sharia got ever louder and more outspoken [156]. It was under the feeble minded al-Hakim (996-1021) that the Christians were persecuted. The Christians were forced to distinguish themselves with their clothing, to ride only on donkeys and to display crosses or bells hanging from their necks. Christian churches were ordered to be destroyed and the Christians were given the choice to either convert, leave the country or face various forms of humiliation. In the time of al-Hakim many Copts left Christianity for Islam [157]. But a couple of years later, still during the rule of al-Hakim they were allowed to return to their old religion. Destroyed churches were ordered to be renovated and confiscated church property was returned.

Though the developments and the treatments of the Copts under al-Hakim were exceptional for the rule of the Fatimids they were the foreshadow of things to come. The harassments were the first real state sanctioned persecutions of the Copts and were also caused by the anger of the mob. Since the weak al-Hakim did not want to endanger his ruling position he bowed to public pressure, a phenomenon which will characterize the third and final stage of the process of islamization in Egypt.

But before we go on to the last and final stage let us discuss the situation of the Copts under the Ayyubids who were fighting the Christian Crusaders in the east and who even became the target of attacks by the Crusader kings.

As the rule of the Fatimids started to crumble and the street fights between the factions of the Fatimid slave army worsened we hear of churches being destroyed and monks being executed for their unwillingness to apostasize. But it must be stressed that during the street fights Muslims and Copts suffered alike [158].

As the Ayyubids (1171) took over power from the Fatimids a great uncertainty broke out among the Copts as the new lords distrusted the Copts and started to take action against them. The reason for this distrust was the very fact that the Ayyubids were engaged in a war against whom they perceived to be the Christian brothers of the Copts [159]. As a consequence of this distrust the Copts were dismissed from all public services including the administration. The discriminatory laws were put into force again and the Copts were taxed highly [160]. The big church of St. Markus in Alexandria was destroyed during that time [161]. On the whole the Muslim population grew much more critical and intolerant of the Copts in those years [162].

But after the Ayyubid Salah al-Din (ruled 1171-1193) had defeated the Crusaders in 1187 and later the Christian Nubians in the south, he eased the pressure on the Copts and appointed Copts to high offices [163]. Copts also built the citadel for Salah al-Din [164]. Copts and Jews were allowed to participate in the intellectual life of the time. They were also employed as doctors. The taxes were relaxed and even taken away [165]. As al-Kamil (ruled 1218-1238) took over the reign from al-Adil (ruled 1199-1218) he continued to rule the country in a just way and to understand the needs of the population.

The disappearance of the Coptic language is another feature of the relaxed times of the Ayyubid rule. Until the 13th century we hear of efforts to preserve the Coptic language in the way of Coptic grammars written in Arabic. Arabic-Coptic dictionaries were compiled [166]. However the 13th century is seen as the golden age of Christian Arabic literature [167]. That century also saw the emergence of theological literature written in Arabic [168]. These observations show that the Coptic language as a vernacular finally died out in the 13th century. At the same time Egypt developed into the main centre of Islamic teaching as the Ayyubids introduced the madrasa in which, among other subjects, the Arabic language was taught [169].

It is not surprising that we do not hear of many conversions in this relaxed period when Egypt was ruled by governments based in the country itself. The Arab Muslims were adjusting to their new situation as the ruled people who were equal in rank with the Non-Muslims. They shared the noble and the "normal" positions in administration and society with the Copts and the Jews. As trade that was attracted from Europe grew and was made into a state monopoly [170] Muslims, Copts and Jews participated in the business. The social differences between Copts and Arabs seem to be finally abolished in the trade with Europe. The people of the three religious communities were socially speaking on a par and were influencing one another. The Copts learned Arabic and the Arabs learned the crafts and land tenure from the Copts. This interaction and the parity of social status was only disturbed by one point of contention with the Muslims and that was the Coptic tax-collector. The Muslim riots against the Christian in the centuries to come were sparked off by what the Muslim sources called the arrogant misconduct of these Coptic tax-collectors [171]. The islamization of the Copts in the administration had failed repeatedly and completely. Their behaviour towards the Muslims seems to have at times unjust. This situation gave rise to the demand for the implementation of the sharia concerning the Copts, which is in my opinion the characteristic of the third stage of the process of islamization in Egypt.

This stage of the islamization had its origin in the oppressive laws of al-Hakim who gave in to the pressure of the populace. As the Islamic theological and legal teachings grew more elaborate the Muslims became much more insistent on the observance of their ordinances. As the teachings on the rights of the ahl al-dhimma were expanded and expounded the rules which were formerly a military precaution to restrict the 'unbelievers' movement inside the own domain of power "were sanctified and incorporated in the holy law" [172]. The development of these teachings in conjunction with the discontent of the populace about the Coptic tax-collector sparked off several riots which were to culminate in the riots during the Mamluk period.

4. The Copts and the changing Muslim society

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The new era that the Mamluk rulers, who themselves were converted slaves, brought about was the last big stage of the process of islamization in Egypt. If we look at the development of the church in Egypt we see that in this time it was reduced to its current size constituting a minority in Egypt.

To begin with the church consisted of about 100 dioceses in the fourth century A.D. At the beginning of the seventh century the number had not changed significantly. But already in 695 we hear of a decline to 70 dioceses. In the 14th century the church had finally shrunk with the population of the Copts to 40 dioceses on the whole [173]. This development is surprising if we think of the relaxed nature of Islamic Ayyubid rule over Egypt and the Copts. But internal decline led to a moral decline in the church leadership. In the 13th century the church was weakened by frequent quarrels over who the patriarch should be. The patriarchate was vacant for about 19 years. The Sultan is said to have intervened to restore order in the church [174]. The consequence of simony (the system of bribery mentioned above) was that the patriarch only invested those persons as priests who were able to pay him the required amount to bribe the authorities whose consent he needed [175]. Problems like these weakened the church. It could not take up its role in leading and keeping the Copts together any more. The spiritual leaders of church had alienated themselves from the Copts. As a consequence thereof the Coptic community had little 'spiritual' support. The lack of leadership at the change from the Ayyubid to the Mamluk era proved fateful in the turbulent times of the 14th century as we shall see.

The Mamluks (ruled 1259-1523) were a military caste of enslaved soldiers first of Russian (Bahri Mamluks) and later from Caucasian (Burji Mamluks) origin [176]. They were rather fierce and brave soldiers who had defeated the Crusaders in 1302. Their military victory was marked by the slaughterings of their vanquished opponents. Survivors were all sold into slavery. "Just as the crusades began with horrible bloodshed committed by Christians, so they were ended in the same way by the Muslims." [177] They were furthermore able to stop the Mongol advance. As a military caste they were never in close contact with the population. Their "peculiar institutions .... tended to insulate rulers from the ruled to an unprecedented degree." [178] The upkeep of this insulated military caste had to be paid by the Egyptian peasant [179]. On the other hand the Copts were also pressured to pay especially in times of financial hardship. It seems that the government was hoping for the payment of ransom money from the Copts as already mentioned above [180]. But on the whole the Mamluks relied on the Copts for the administration of taxes.

The "Mamluks did not ordinarily impose or enforce restrictions upon the minorities. In other words, the Mamluks left the dhimmis to their own devices except when they realized that to do so would constitute a threat to public order and stability, which would in turn jeopardize the Mamluks' own well-being." [181]

The Mamluks were not disturbed by the increasing wealth of the Coptic tax collectors nor by their behaviour. The reason for that was that they depended on the Coptic administrator for their own wealth and well-being [182]. This constellation put the Copts in an awkward position. On the one hand the Mamluks relied on them to maintain the administration and keep it going. On the other hand they were hated by the poor people of the society. The Copts did not only administer the taxes but also managed the fiefs of the Mamluk princes and lords in Cairo who possessed patches of land scattered all over the country [183]. Taxes resulting from land tenure which had to be paid to the state directly were lower than those paid to the landlord via a Coptic tax-collector [184]. Until 1293 we hear of Coptic affluence. The Copts were not only wealthy but also displayed their wealth openly, by riding on horses, wearing turbans and very fine clothes [185]. This behaviour was, according to Muslims, in direct contravention of the pact of ‘Umar. Jews and Christians were frequently accused of overstepping their assigned place in society which the pact of ‘Umar had given them [186].

The situation became intolerable in the eyes of the Muslims. when in the 1250's the propaganda machine started to entice the people who already were on a jihad-footing from the wars against the Crusaders and the Mongols it found ready listeners. The propaganda "movements were fostered with the express purpose of whipping up popular antagonism" [187]. The weakness of the Muslim state was undoubtedly blamed on the misconduct of the ahl al-dhimma [188]. This was especially true after the Crusader wars when the enforcement of the restrictions became more rigourous. The Muslims accused the Christian of a hateful bias against Islam. The Christians were therefore bound to betray the Muslim state [189]. Further they were seen as the cheating rulers and could not be trusted. This argument was enhanced by the reference to the wealth of the Copts and Jews which was said to come only from the secret robbery they had been undertaking as officials of the state [190]. Another accusation was that of the Coptic inspectors beating and laying the Muslim fellah in chains and thus humiliating them [191]. Makrizi himself did nothing to smooth the picture and also accused the Copts of running the state and of "Coptic domination" [192].

We see that the Muslims, who by then had come to form the majority of the people, developed a strong self-realization and self-identification which they started to express in an exaggerated way. The islamization of Egypt had arrived at its last stage. The mob took the shariah to legalize their actions against the Christians. The society of Egypt was changing. Its outward expression changed from a mixed one to that of a predominantly Muslim one. Egypt had become a Muslims state in which the shariah was to be implemented!

As accusations multiplied the theologians started to explain certain verses in the Qur'an about the poll-tax as an opportunity to humiliate the dhimmi in public. The ultimate aim thereof was to push the dhimmi to profess faith in Islam. The jurists were more cautious about this matter [193]. Considerations like these must have prompted ibn-Taymiya in 1309 to persuade the Sultan not to relieve the Copts of the taxes, but to maintain their high level [194]. On the other hand whenever a ship laden with trading goods arrived at the eastern ports its goods were taxed at a rate of ten per cent if it was Muslim and thirty percent if it was Christian [195].

All this led to the incident in 1293 when a well dressed Coptic administrator (katib) riding on a horse was leading one of his Muslim debtors bound with a rope behind him. This scene infuriated the Muslims who freed the Muslim and killed the Copt. The following riot was the first of its kind and consequently all Copts were dismissed from the administration. The mob then set off killing Copts and burning and looting their houses [196]. We subsequently hear of an open ceremony in which a group of Coptic kuttab administrators converted. The group consisted of just three people. The campaigning seems further to have been restricted to Cairo. At this incident the Sultan gave in to the mob. He failed to protect the dhimmis. This failure was in itself in direct violation of the pact of ‘Umar. The Muslims started to watch the Coptic administrators. As soon as they grew wealthy and influential the mob started to demand their dismissal. But when the mob had settled down again the dismissed officials used to be reinstated. On the whole eight complete dismissals of Non-Muslim administrators were decreed. This only points to the fact that the Mamluks were afraid of a breakdown of the whole administration without the Copts [197]. But these clearly were hard times as the mob was waiting for another incident to lash out at the Copts.

In the year 1301 the Mamluk Sultan bending to public pressure and to the pressure of a visiting Moroccan king in 1299 [198] ordered all churches to be closed [199]. They were being accused of accumulating wealth by buying up uncultivated land and consequently were forbidden to do so. The Muslims saw that the churches were buying slaves. The church was then accused of wanting to convert them. Therefore the church was forbidden to buy slaves [200]. It was the churches who were the target of the next bigger incident in 1321 [201]. In that year up to sixty churches were destroyed. In the aftermath of 1321 many monasteries also were attacked leaving only eight monasteries and five nunneries in tact [202]. It was as if the backbone of the church was systematically crushed and taken away with no replacement but the offer to convert to Islam.

The mob was then further infuriated by the accusations against the Copts that they had been planting incendiary devices to burn mosques in retaliation for the destruction of the churches [203]. This new development caused the following declaration by the Sultan:

"A group of corrupt Christians have committed aggressive and tyrannical acts and persisted in transgressions which require the abrogation of our covenants... therefore our judgement requires that we apply to them the dictates of the law and renew against them the cUmarian covenants so that we place everyone of them who was under our protection under our sword as a hostage...." [204]

As a consequence of this proclamation many Copts seem to have converted. But only the name of one high ranking official who is said to have converted is known [205]. It must be said that the number of conversions seems to have increased whenever the bribes of the Copts did not effect the withdrawal of the edicts against them [206].

The mob attacked the Copts on the roads openly. The Copts did not even ride donkeys in this time. They were terrified and did not leave the houses for fear they might be seized and killed. If however they needed to leave their houses they tried to disguise themselves as Jews who were not as hard hit. The fact that the Sultan had to intervene in the course of the pillaging against the Copts, though sanctioned by himself, helps to illustrate the graveness of the situation [207]. Undoubtedly many Copts in the administration chose to become Muslims in these times fearing for their jobs [208]. But the fact seems to be that there were still not many conversions because of the mutual hatred of the masses. The reason for the lack of conversions seems to be, as Little sees it, that this hatred towards the Copts was not shared by the Sultans [209].

In the following more relaxed 35 years the Copts were able to regain some of their wealth. Not many incidents were reported after 1321. It was in 1354 that we read of a similar incident in which a Coptic administrator was killed like in 1291 and the mob went on the rampage again [210]. The renewed pressure on the Copts drove them to convert. But these conversions created a hotbed for suspicion. Converts were accused of not really leaving their Coptic communities and of not regularly attending the prayers in the mosques. This accusation seems to show a more realistic picture of the reality of the so called conversions of the time. The men concerned, being employees in the government offices, would be the only members of their families who converted in order to retain their jobs. Furthermore the newly converted Copts were not Muslims with a great conviction [211]. It was after the 1354 riots that the measures against Christians seemed to work in all of Egypt. Makrizi notes that from that time onwards lineages really got mixed [212]. Converts were made to visit the mosque regularly. They further could not bequeath their possessions to a member of the family who was not a Muslim convert as well. This created pressure on family members to convert in order to retain their wealth within the family. If conversion did not occur within the family the inheritance was confiscated. As the power of the Sultan was dwindling the Copts lost their high positions and did not regain them after a while as had been usual. The very livelihood of the Copts was taken from them [213]. A change in tone also took place among the jurists who started to write against the Copts in their fatwas like for instance the jurist al-Nakkash in the year 1357/8:

"Muslims cannot offer to unbelievers either friendship (walaya) or offices (wilaya); Muslims can have no other feeling but hatred for unbelievers". [214]

This wave of persecution seems to have been very difficult to live through since even Copts who converted were not to be employed by the government in the whole of Egypt [215]. Relief through foreign intervention could not change the situation of the Copts considerably [216].

Further infringements on the freedom of the Copts took place. The Nile festival in which a finger of a martyr was thrown into the Nile to secure the rise of the river was abandoned finally in 1354 [217]. As the Sultan Shacban was waging a war in Cyprus in 1365 he needed money. He confiscated properties of the church in order to appease the mob and thereby help finance his campaign [218]. When in 1389 Copts who converted to Islam outwardly wanted to return to their original faith as they had been doing previously most of them were executed openly [219].

I have not enumerated all infringements, persecutions or rampages by the mob in the fourteenth century. But what seems to be clear is that the Copts who had been a considerable group of the population had finally become a minority in the fourteenth century. We realize that they had many reasons to convert for their situation had become unbearable. We cannot assess the reasons of the individuals but we can see that mass pressure produced conversions which were later not reversible.


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In the light of the events in the 14th century in Egypt I have a question as to the identity of the Muslim mob. Since the Muslims were by then a mixture of people originating from various backgrounds we cannot say the 'Arabs' were persecuting the Copts and Jews. Many of the Muslims were undoubtedly of Coptic origin. But how long did it take for a convert to start attacking his former "brothers-in-faith"? From the accusations made by the Muslims against the converts in the 14th century we could guess that it took quite a considerable time for this change to take place within the conscience of a convert. This assumption also can be concluded from the fact that the Coptic community was a very tight one and that Muslim converts in high government positions still used to help their former Christian "brothers-in-faith". Let me ask in another way. When did the Coptic convert to Islam start to realize fully what the shariah said about his relatives who maybe had not converted yet? And when did he take positive action to implement what he had been taught?

If we take into consideration that Islam is an orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy it can be assumed that the pressure from the new "brothers-in-faith" i.e. the Muslims, was considerable on the new convert to show his sincerity about his conversion. I think that this pressure on the converts was not always the same. I have the impression that this pressure was only really put on the converts during the height of the persecutions. Therefore I would want to state that Islam started to grip a family only when the third generation of a convert came to establish itself. Since all children of a convert had to be Muslims by Islamic law we see here that Islam only really penetrated the family when the children of the father were educated in an Islamic school. Here we see that the difference between conversion and adhesion cannot positively be defined. Therefore I am inclined to speak of a process of islamization in Egypt. The three mentioned stages of conversion of a society try to define this process. Only at its end can we start to speak of full conversion. Any conversion and islamization and the claims thereof on either side have to be taken cautiously, since the sources do not elaborate on what happened. On the other hand conversions are never fast in coming. They take time to grip the person fully and take even longer to change the outlook of a society! Therefore Egypt today may have a Muslim majority. But it has not been totally islamized yet.


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Abdul Rauf, M. Some Notes on the Qur`anic Terms islam and iman, in MW, 57, 1967, pp. 94-102

Abu-Loghud, J. Cairo, Princeton, PUP, 1971 pp. 13-36

Anawati, G.C. Factors and Effects of Arabization and Islamization in Medieval Egypt and Syria, in Islam and Cultural Change in the Middle Ages, ed. Vryonis, Wiesbaden, 1975, pp. 17-41

Arnold, T.W. The Preaching of Islam, Lahore, 1914

Atiya, A.S. Article: kibt, in EI2

Atiya, A.S. The History of Eastern Christianity, Notre Dame, Ind., 1968, pp. 18-98

Baneth, D.Z.H. What did Muhammad mean when he called his religion Islam (the original meaning of aslama and its derivatives), in IOS 1, 1971, pp. 183-190

Becker, C.H. Beiträge zur Geschichte Ägyptens unter dem Islam, 2 vols., Strasbourg, 1902-3

Becker, C.H. Islamstudien I+II, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1924, vol.1 pp.146-247

Bell, H.I. Egypt from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest, Oxford, 1966

Bishai, W.B. The Transition from Coptic to Arabic, in MW 53, 1963, pp. 145-150

Brett, M. The Arab Conquest and the Rise of Islam in North Africa, in Cambridge History of Africa, vol.2, Cambridge, 1978, pp. 490-555

Brett, M. The Fatimid Revolution (861-973) and its Aftermath in North Africa, in Cambridge History of Africa, vol.2, Cambridge, 1978, pp. 589-636

Brett, M. The Spread of Islam in Egypt and North Africa, in Northern Africa: Islam and Modernization, ed. M.Brett, London, 1973, pp. 1-12

Butler, A.J. The Arab conquest of Egypt, Oxford, 1902

Dennett, D.C. Conversion and the Poll Tax in Early Islam, Cambridge, Mass., 1950

Fisher, H.J. Conversion Reconsidered: Some Historical Aspects of Religious Conversion in Black Africa, in Africa, 43, pp. 27-40

Goitein, S.D. The Community, in A Mediterranean Society, II, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971, pp. 5-40

Grunebaum, G.E. von Islam: in its Inherent Power of Expansion and Adaption, in Modern Islam, New York, 1964, pp.3-19

Hrbek, I. Egypt, Nubia and the Eastern Deserts in Cambridge History of Africa, vol.3, Cambridge, 1977, pp. 10-98

Jomier, J. Fustat, in EI2

LÝkkegard, F. Islamic Taxation in the Classical Period, Copenhagen, 1950, pp. 72ff; 128ff

Lapidus, I. The Conversion of Egypt to Islam, in IOS, 2, pp. 148-262

Levtzion, N., ed. Conversion to Islam, New York, 1979

Lewis, B. The Jews of Islam, Princeton, 1984, pp. 3-66

Little, D.C. Coptic Conversion to Islam under the Bahri Mamluks, 692-755/1293-1354, in BSOAS, 39, 1976, pp. 552-569

Nock, A.D. Conversion: the Old and the New Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo, Oxford, 1933

Perlmann, M. Notes on Anti-Christian Propaganda in the Mamluk Empire, in BSOAS X, 4, 1942, pp. 843-861

Riggren, H. Islam, Aslama and Muslim, Uppsala, 1949

Robson, J. Islam as a Term, in MW 44, 1954, pp. 101-109

Rogers, M. al-Kahira, in EI2, IV, pp. 424-441

Shaban, M.A. Islamic History A.D. 600-750 (A.H. 132), Cambridge, 1971

Spuler, B. Die koptische Kirche, in Handbuch der Orientalistik, Achter Band: Religion, Zweiter Abschnitt, Leiden, 1961, pp. 269-306

Tritton, A.S. The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, Oxford, 1930

Wiet, G. Article: kibt, in EI1, pp. 990-1003


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[1] Grunebaum, Islam: in its Inherent Power of Expansion and Adaption, p. 5

[2] Abdul Rauf, Some Notes on the Qur`anic terms islam and iman, pp. 99+100

[3] Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, p. 2621

[4] Lapidus, Conversion of Egypt, p. 248. Lapidus ascribes the lack of Islamic sources on conversion to the "embarassingly slow pace of the movement to Islam".

[5] Fisher, Conversion Reconsidered: Some Historical Aspects of Religious Conversion in Black Africa, pp. 30-34

[6] ibid., pp. 35+6

[7] ibid., p. 37

[8] Nock, Conversion, p. 7

[9] ibid., p. 7

[10] ibid., p. 7

[11] Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, pp. 320-323. As the treaty was recorded only 200 years later there seems to be some confusion as to whether the city was taken by force or if it had surrendered.

[12] Wiet, kibt, EI1, pp. 990/1

[13] Lapidus, The Conversion of Egypt to Islam, pp. 248/9

[14] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 6

[15] Wiet, op. cit., p. 992. The coast and the desert frontiers of the Delta were sedured by approximately 30000 men.

[16] Brett, The Arab Conquest and the Rise of Islam in North Africa, p. 501

[17] On the history and location as well as development of Fustat read: Loghud, Cairo, here p. 13

[18] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 501

[19] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 4; Jomier, Fustat, EI2, p. 958

[20] Becker, ibid.

[21] Abdul Rauf, op. cit., pp. 97-100

[22] Abdul Rauf, ibid., p. 96; Baneth, op. cit. p.189 the term used in contrast to iman was shirk.

[23] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 502

[24] Abdul Rauf, op. cit., p. 99

[25] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 502

[26] See Ringgren in Baneth, What did Muhammad mean when he called his religion Islam, p.184, where Baneth stresses that the usage of islam in connection with submission to God always emphasizes the totality of the submission.

[27] Ringgren, Islam, Aslama and Muslim, p. 31

[28] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 503

[29] ibid., p. 501

[30] ibid., p. 504

[31] Brett, The Spread of Islam, p. 3

[32] ibid.

[33] Dennett, Conversion and the Poll Tax in Early Islam, pp. 86/7; Lapidus, op. cit., p. 251

[34] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 545

[35] Becker, Islamstudien I, p. 206

[36] Grunebaum, op. cit., pp. 3-4

[37] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 5

[38] Lapidus, op. cit., p. 249

[39] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 547

[40] Jomier, op. cit., EI2, p. 958

[41] Lapidus, op. cit., pp. 249/50

[42] Anawati, Factors and Effects of Arabization and Islamization in Medieval Egypt and Syria, p.32

[43] Becker, Islamstudien I, p. 198

[44] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p.499

[45] ibid., pp. 546/7

[46] ibid., p. 547

[47] Brett, The Spread of Islam, p. 2

[48] Dennett, op. cit., p. 65

[49] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 501

[50] Dennett, op. cit., p. 74

[51] ibid., p. 68

[52] ibid., pp. 86/7

[53] ibid., p. 107

[54] ibid., p. 98/9

[55] ibid., p. 73

[56] ibid., pp. 99-100

[57] Atiya, The History of Eastern Christianity, p. 83

[58] Wiet, op. cit., p. 993

[59] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 513

[60] Dennett, op. cit., pp. 110-112

[61] Dennett, ibid., pp. 84/5; Lapidus, op. cit., p. 252

[62] Lapidus, ibid., p. 250

[63] Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, p. 103; Brett, The Fatimid Revolution (861-973) and its Aftermath in North Africa, p.590; Lapidus, op. cit., p. 250

[64] Dennett, op. cit., pp. 110-112 and 115

[65] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 514

[66] Atiya, kibt, EI2, p. 91

[67] Spuler, Die koptische Kirche, pp.267/7

[68] Atiya, The History of Eastern Christianity, p.66

[69] Spuler, op. cit., p. 287; Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 513

[70] Lewis, The Jews of Islam, p. 25. He refers to the chapter in Tritton dealing with the pact of Umar; For an evaluation of the pact of cUmar read: Tritton, The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, Chapter on the Pact of cUmar

[71] Spuler, op. cit., p. 287

[72] Lapidus, op. cit., pp. 249-250. The building of churches was even encouraged at that time; Wiet, kibt in EI1, p.992

[73] Spuler, op. cit., p. 287. He also notes that churches which were destroyed were renovated immediatly in the eighth century.

[74] Lapidus, op. cit., p. 254; Wiet, op. cit., p. 992

[75] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 522 for further details on the situation of the Copts at that time of change of power.

[76] Lapidus, op. cit., p.250; Spuler, op. cit., p. 287; Wiet, op. cit. p.993

[77] Wiet, ibid., p. 992

[78] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 499

[79] Butler, op. cit., p. 211

[80] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 497

[81] Butler, op. cit., p. 211

[82] Wiet, op. cit., pp. 990/1

[83] Butler, op. cit., p. 192

[84] Dennett, op. cit., pp. 87/8; Lapidus, op. cit., p. 250

[85] Lapidus, ibid., p. 255

[86] Read Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval period, the chapter on Conversion as a Social Process, pp. 33-42

[87] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 504

[88] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 9

[89] That is up to the beginning of the rule of the Tulunids in 868 A.D.

[90] Atiya, The History of Eastern Christianity, p.85

[91] For the adminstrative developments after the Abbasid takeover read: Brett, The Arab Conquest, p.527

[92] Becker, Beiträge zur Geschichte Ägyptens unter dem Islam, pp.125, 128; Bishai, The Transition from Coptic to Arabic, p. 147

[93] Bishai, op. cit., p. 147. Bishai speaks of 'mass Arab settlement' and 'numerous individual immigrations'.

[94] Becker, op. cit., p. 130

[95] Becker, Islamstudien I, pp. 151-153; Brett, The Spread of Islam, p. 4

[96] Brett, The Arab Conquest, pp. 548/9

[97] Becker, op. cit., p. 135

[98] Becker, Islamstudien I, pp. 151-153 for details on the new problems caused by the bedouins.

[99] Becker, Beiträge, p. 135 quotes Makrizi:"Die Araber hatten sich niedergelassen in den Ackergebieten Ägyptens, diese mit ihren Familien zum Wohnsitz und die Bestellung der Äcker zur Quelle ihres Lebensunterhaltes und des Gewinnes gewählt, während die Kopten wenigstens aüßerlich den Islam angenommen hatten und ihre Familien mit denen der Muslimen vermengten dadurch, daß die muslimische Frauen heirateten".

[100] Brett, The Spread of Islam, p. 4

[101] Brett, The Arab Conquest, pp. 548/9

[102] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 9

[103] Becker, Beiträge, p. 118; Islamstudien I, p.207

[104] Butler, op. cit., p.324

[105] Brett, The Arab conquest, p. 547; The Spread of Islam, pp. 3+4

[106] Becker, Beiträge, pp.117/8

[107] Becker, Beiträge, p.131

[108] Becker, ibid., pp. 130/1; Anawati, op. cit., p.38

[109] Anawati, ibid., p. 38 with notes on the development of Arabic-Coptic papyri; Atiya, op. cit., p. 18; Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 546

[110] Anawati, ibid.

[111] ibid.

[112] See Anawati, ibid., pp. 32/3 for other causes of the arabization of Egypt.

[113] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 546

[114] Brett, The Spread of Islam, p. 4

[115] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 530

[116] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 546

[117] Becker, Islamstudien II, p. 9

[118] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 530

[119] Brett, ibid., p. 547

[120] Brett, ibid., p. 535

[121] Brett, ibid., p. 547

[122] Becker, Beiträge , pp. 120/1. Becker quotes al-Kindi in this context: "von da ab machte Gott die Kopten gering im ganzen Lande Ägypten und vernichtete ihre Macht und keiner vermochte mehr, sich zu empören und sich wider den Sultan zu erheben. Auch bemächtigten sich die Muslime der Ortschaften. Da kehrten die Kopten zurück zur List gegen den Islam und seine Bekenner...."

[123] Wiet, kibt, in EI2, p.994 addition included by me!

[124] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 547; Lapidus, op. cit. p.258

[125] Lapidus, ibid., p.256

[126] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 547

[127] Becker, Islamstudien I, p. 154

[128] Spuler, op. cit., pp. 289/90

[129] Lapidus, op. cit., p. 258

[130] Brett, The Arab Conquest, p. 545; See also ibid., p. 503 on army duties of the mawali and the ahl aldhimma; See also above p. 11

[131] Becker, Islamstudien I, p. 204

[132] Becker, ibid., pp. 210/1

[133] Becker, Beiträge, p. 134

[134] Anawati, op. cit., p. 28

[135] Lapidus, op. cit., p. 261

[136] Brett, The Fatimid Revolution, p. 593. This was in the year 866/7 when Ibn Tulun's authority was increased and he was appointed chief of the taxes....!

[137] ibid., p. 596

[138] ibid., p. 597 + p. 601

[139] ibid., pp. 604+607

[140] ibid., pp. 608/9 + p.614

[141] Hrbek, Egypt, Nubia and the Eastern Deserts, p.12

[142] Brett, The Fatimid Revolution, p. 614

[143] Brett, The Fatimid Revolution, p. 622; Hrbek, op. cit., p.10

[144] Brett, ibid.

[145] Brett, ibid., pp. 622/3

[146] Brett, ibid. p.631

[147] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 16

[148] Hrbek, ibid., p. 12

[149] Spuler, op. cit., p. 291

[150] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 23

[151] Anawati, op. cit., p. 39; Atiya, op. cit. p. 88

[152] Lapidus, op. cit., p. 261

[153] Spuler , op. cit., p. 291; Atiya, op. cit., p. 90

[154] Wiet, op. cit., p. 995

[155] Atiya, op. cit., p. 91

[156] Becker, Islamstudien I, pp. 154/5

[157] Hrbek, op. cit., pp.12/3. It was also in his time that the church of Holy Sepulchure in Jerusalem was destroyed.

[158] Wiet, kibt EI1, p. 995

[159] But read in Hrbek, op. cit., p. 26 How Alamaric the king of Jerusalem invaded Egypt and massacred Copts nad Muslims alike.

[160] Atiya, op. cit., p. 94

[161] Atiya, kibt EI2, p.95

[162] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 39

[163] Atiya, op. cit., p. 95

[164] ibid.

[165] Arnold, op. cit., p. 107

[166] Atiya, op. cit., p. 19

[167] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 39

[168] Spuler, op. cit., p. 294

[169] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 32

[170] Hrbek, ibid., p. 29

[171] Becker, Islamstudien I, p. 154

[172] Lewis, The Jews of Islam, p. 25

[173] Spuler, op. cit., p. 289

[174] Spuler, ibid., p. 294

[175] Spuler, ibid., p. 290

[176] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 53

[177] Hrbek, ibid., p. 45

[178] Abu Loghud, Cairo, p. 31

[179] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 47

[180] Wiet, op. cit., p. 996

[181] Little, Coptic Conversion to Islam under the Bahri Mamluks, 692-755/1293-1354, p. 557

[182] Little, ibid., pp. 553+4

[183] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 47

[184] ibid.

[185] Little, op. cit. pp.553+4

[186] Lewis, op. cit., p. 44

[187] Perlmann, Notes on Anti-Christian Propaganda in the Mamluk Empire, p. 843

[188] Lewis, op. cit., p. 32

[189] Perlmann, op. cit., p. 850

[190] ibid., pp. 846/7

[191] ibid., p. 861

[192] ibid., p. 843

[193] Lewis, op. cit., p. 15

[194] Little, op. cit., p.559

[195] Hrbek, op. cit., p. 52

[196] Little, op. cit., p. 554

[197] Little, ibid., p. 565; Spuler, op. cit., p. 295

[198] The Moroccan king was enraged that the Copts were so well off in a Muslim state. For details on the effect of the visit read Little, ibid. pp.555-559

[199] Wiet, op. cit., p.996

[200] Perlmann, op. cit., p. 849

[201] For a detailed account on the riots in Cairo read Tritton, op. cit., pp. 61-77; Spuler, op. cit., p. 295; Little, op. cit., p. 563

[202] Spuler, ibid., p. 295

[203] Perlmann, op. cit., p. 854 Some Copts were caught and confessed after torture to have set fire to mosques. They were later burned alive. See also Little op. cit., p. 564

[204] Al Ayuni in Little, op. cit., p. 564

[205] Little, ibid., p. 564

[206] Wiet, op. cit., p. 999

[207] Little, op. cit., p.564

[208] ibid., p. 558

[209] ibid., p. 565

[210] ibid., p. 567

[211] Perlmann, op. cit., p. 858

[212] Little, op. cit., p. 568

[213] ibid.; compare Perlmann, op. cit., p. 855 for the account of Makrizi

[214] Perlmann, ibid., p. 856

[215] Little, op. cit., p. 568

[216] Atiya, kibt, EI2, p. 93

[217] Wiet, op. cit., p. 997

[218] Atiya, op. cit., p. 93

[219] Spuler, op. cit., p. 295