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Jackson reviews accounts of a host of top-tier Muslim administrators in service of the Chinggisids, above all in the Ilkhanate, and argues that the upper echelon of imperial servants remained heterogeneous and un-integrated, and it is difficult to talk about a cohesive governing class with an esprit de corps and stable position in office--this being, in fact, a feature of both early Mongol and classic Islamic administration under the Caliphs and Sultans.

In part, this was the reason the local Muslims viewed the Mongol rule as oppressive and tyrannical, a theme Jackson explores in the next chapter. The most important factor, of course, was the fact that the Mongols were "infidels" and as such did not follow Muslim practices: they imposed even-handed treatment of all faiths, and imported and imposed traditions of administration, taxation, and religion, which were contrary to Islamic law and custom and in some cases led to suppression of the latter.

Jackson briefly outlines the clashes between Mongol tolerance appointments of Shiites in Sunni domains, or various dhimmis and Muslim strict monotheism, Islamic norms and steppe customary law stressing the uncertainties in the area to which the latter applied.

The Muslim authors viewed all this as undermining the foundation of their faith and society and there was a profound sense of insecurity among the broad Muslim population. How did they come to terms with that turn of affairs? The growth of Sufism and the proliferation of sheikhs may have been a response to the insecurity thus felt by the commoners; the literati, for the their part, embarked on learned projects that sought to "acculturate" the Mongol elite by incorporating them in the natural trajectory of the history of the regions they ruled over, especially in Iran.

The rulers themselves, it seems, were not adverse to furthering their affiliation with the conquered population, including growing components of Islam into their cultural practices.

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Islamization, therefore, was only a matter of time. What, exactly, this meant in context, and what were the dimensions of "conversion to" and "adoption of" Islam in the context of the Mongol Middle Eastern experience, are questions that Jackson explores in the two concluding chapters.

In the first, subtitled "Common themes," he reviews recent discussions on the nature of religious conversions and opines that for the Mongols, it was mostly a social transition signified by change of practice, acceptance of the religious custom prevailing in the majority of the Chinggisid subjects. And even though the sources mostly speak about the conversion of rulers, the "top-down" model may be an optical illusion: the rulers, in fact, accepted the new creed in order to reclaim the loyalty of their Mongol subjects who may have already Islamized as a result of their acculturation and entanglement with the local Muslim population.

Evidence from all three western Mongol khanates testifies for the relatively early and widespread adoption of Islam among the Mongol troops, rank and file and commanders alike, even though the process may have been slow and fitful. Political factors certainly played a role in the princes' conversion, as the only allies they could seek in the inter-Mongol wars, for example, were Muslim powers. Royal consorts of Muslim extraction and Sufi sheikhs were instrumental in the conversion, and although Jackson discounts the sheikh-shaman identification, he accepts that the Mongol elite may have been influenced by the magical and thaumaturgical skills attributed to the sheikhs as they were to the Mongol shamans.

The last chapter, on "Royal Converts and Muslim resurgence," discusses a number of Mongol khans whose conversion has been handled in a contradictory fashion by the sources. Jackson concludes that in the first several generations, the Chinggisid princely converts exhibited the traditional Mongol religious and customary-law syncretism, even when officially declaring themselves Muslim. That heterogeneity, however, rapidly faded in the early fourteenth century, as demonstrated by the Ilkhans' treatment of the dhimmis , for example, even though outside hardliners, such as Ibn Taymiyya, denounced the Mongols as expansionist polytheists for whom religion was merely a political tool.

Informative and eminently readable, Jackson's synthesis is also quite dense.

Article excerpt

In addition persecution of the Muslim community also currently presents a danger in lands such as India and Serbia, which are not listed as parts of battles or wars such as the Gujurat pogrom in in India. The most peaceful period was between the eighth and tenth centuries, in the middle of the Islamic Golden Age a cultural, intellectual, political and technologically advanced age , and the worst during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries during the White European imperial age.

The Early Middle-ages 7thth Centuries saw twenty-seven campaigns, the High Middle-ages 11thth Centuries thirty-seven campaigns, the Late Middle-ages 14thth sixty-one campaigns, and in the Contemporary Era 18thth Centuries fifty-nine campaigns, with the Post-Early Modern Era 19thth Centuries registering at least eighty-seven campaigns in total. The list of battles in not fully complete and only includes additions made in Alexander Mikaberidze's "Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia"' where for example the Siege of Silistria , is not mentioned.

However the number of campaigns appears accurate and are listed chronologically. Certain campaigns known elsewhere may also have names different to those remembered in Islamic history.


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  • The Places in Between?

In addition there are more than several notable battles in Islamic history that have had several important implications in relation to Islamic warfare. We encircle and are encircled ad infinitum. If we let go of our rigid definition of what constitutes a map, we can see manifestations of the encircling ocean motifs in other visual forms. Those familiar with Islamic visual vocabulary know that the double-ringed circle dominates the art and architecture of the Middle East. The study of history through maps warrants, among other things, a close analysis of place from the point of view of time and space.

Graphics of territory—whether real or imagined, macro or micro—imply the collapsing of space from an infinite three-dimensional expanse to a constrained two-dimensional sheet. The production of space on maps revolves around two issues: what places to include and how to create the illusion of an identifiable landscape.

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The Islamic World Faces Its Future

It is in the resolution of these issues that the signs of form mimetic or not , symbol, boundary, label, marker, and place come into active play. The constraints of space play a vital role in the act of creating any map. The limitations of space require that the map be ordered, and this, in turn, requires that it be distorted. Since the map is a product of a specific time, in a particular milieu, the distortion of space is culturally located. It is in the selections, the distortions, and the omissions that we find telling biases of structure and imagination.

In this way the constraints of space turn paradoxically into a window overlooking a set of cultural constructs. Space is informed if not determined by time: One without the other would result in a map that is no more than a dot…. Nowhere are the constructs of time more apparent than in the case of world maps, where space is at the highest premium.

The ambitious scope of a world map means even less can be included, and the cartographer, whether medieval or modern, situated in a global whirl of events composed of reproductions and retentions, as Husserl suggests , is faced with the task of choosing that which is most important and its form of representation. It is aspects of this cartographic process of choice, signification, and distortion that I seek to explore through a close analysis of place.

The object is to understand the meaning behind the territorial allocation of place and space. Place of copy is one of the most telling features of any manuscript—where it was made, the ambiance of the atelier in which it was produced, the guiding principles employed, all these factors influenced the final product. What can the illustrations of the Ottoman cluster tell us about the ambiance in which they were copied?

Have the artisans of the maps deliberately communicated certain messages through the forms? This may be read as an affirmation of the idea that the Ottomans saw themselves as heirs to Byzantium. The study of the Ottoman cluster points to the distinction between public and private dimensions we must make when studying cartographic collections. It also proves that the counterintuitive thrives in maps and history.

The Islamic Conquests

We just have to uncover it. Maps are not territory; they are spaces, spaces to be crossed and recrossed and experienced from every angle. The only way to understand a map is to get down into it, to play at the edges, to jump into the center and back out again. We must lay bare the ideograph in order to grasp the keys that it holds. Only then can we use maps as alternate doorways into history. This book is about the many ways of seeing maps, Islamic maps of the world in particular, that take us to different places, spaces, and gazes.

These Islamic maps are unique in the way they cross time and space, from medieval to early modern, from one end of the Islamic world to another, retaining from India to Spain across the span of eight centuries an iconographic singularity of form that enigmatically resists cartographic encroachments from modernity. Nuances of the cartographers lurk in the crevices of map lines and patterns of illumination that when studied reveal surprising new insights into medieval and early modern Islamic history….

It is my hope that through these three different approaches this book will prove useful in revealing new ways of reading maps. In the same way that a digital file can be compressed and yet mysteriously contain a larger set of data encoded in its symbols, so it is with maps. We can apply the methods in this book as decryption keys to unfold from maps a larger picture—that of the history surrounding them.

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This book is deliberately not a comprehensive study of all aspects of Islamic maps. It asserts that Islamic cartography, like all cartography, is best understood through in-depth analysis of its many dimensions. This book explores only a few of these dimensions as a contribution to assembling an understanding of the tantalizing world of Islamic mapping.