Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion
New book

In the Sultan’s Salon

The book "In the Sultan’s Salon: Learning, Religion, and Rulership at the Mamluk Court of Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 1501–1516)" presents the first study of an Islamic court of Egypt as a centre of scholarship, religion, and politics.

picture of book cover

Main content

This book presents the first study of an Islamic court of Egypt as a centre of scholarship, religion, and politics. Its author Christian Mauder is associate professor in the study of religions at AHKR.

Based mainly on previously and in part unknown Arabic sources, this book, published with Brill, constitutes the first detailed study of the court culture of the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517), one of the most important polities in Islamic history. In the Sultan’s Salon develops the first reasoned theoretical conceptualization in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies of the term “court” that can be fruitfully applied to premodern Islamic societies, thereby facilitating comparative and interdisciplinary studies. It uses this conceptualization to analyse the reign of Sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 1501–1516) and argues that late Mamluk court culture reached a level of richness and sophistication irreconcilable with the notion repeatedly forwarded in recent scholarly literature that Islamic courts of the late middle period no longer functioned as prime centres of cultural production. This notion of the assumed cultural irrelevance of courts is exposed as one of the last unchallenged buildings blocks of the so-called decline narrative, according to which the Islamic world experienced a general and irreversible political, cultural, and economic decay during the middle period.

 In contrast to this narrative, In the Sultan’s Salon presents a new model for understanding Islamic courts of the late middle period as transregionally interconnected centres of intellectual exchange, theological debate, and performance of rule that triggered novel developments in Islamic material, scholarly, religious, and political culture. Based on award-winning research, the book combines perspectives from intellectual, religious, and political history to highlight the innovative, vibrant, and transregional character of Mamluk court life and thereby presents a new understanding of the role of Islamic courts at the turn of the late middle to the early modern period.