Old age and the transmission of knowledge in the 1334 Mamluk illustrated manuscript of al-Hariri's Maqamat




Zajac, Linda Patricia

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This thesis examines ideas about old age in four anecdotes and their illustrations from the 1334 illustrated Mamluk volume of al-Hariri's (1054-1122) Maqamat in the context of early (1250-1382) Mamluk society. The Maqamat contains fifty short anecdotes with a common plot format and two main characters. In each anecdote, the narrator al-Harith relates an adventure of the hero Abu Zayd, an elderly beggar who travels throughout the medieval Islamic Middle East. Using his talent as an orator, Abu Zayd draws people together in a public place, performs an eloquent speech, and is rewarded with money and goods. Ideas about the status of old age in Muslim society originate in the Qur 'an and hadith. Attitudes about the elderly are expressed in other selected texts and in painting (frescoes and manuscript illustration). In the 1334 Mamluk volume, Maqamat illustrations either enhance the text or function independently of the text. Images portray old age as a vehicle for the transmission of knowledge and authority in the social roles of literary scholar, judge, religious leader, and teacher.



Hariri, 1054-1122, Old age in literature, Old age in art, Mameluke