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1 Bilateral Factionalism in Ottoman Egypt What makes a faction more than a group, a sect, or a household? In the case of the Faqaris and Qasimis, to say nothing of competing pairs of factions in numerous earlier, later, and contemporaneous societies, the defining characteristics of these factions were that there were only two of them; they opposed each other; and they divided most, if not all, of society between them. Accordingly, their identifying markers— names, colors, symbols—and the rituals in which they participated took on this same bilateral character: they were diametrically opposed, offered clear alternatives to each other, or were glaringly incompatible . This chapter illustrates this point by presenting definitive features of Egypt’s factional political cultural in comparison to similar features in other bilateral factional cultures. Breaking Out of the Mamluk Paradigm Before we undertake this task, however, it is worth asking why the bilateralism of the Faqaris and Qasimis has received so little attention. Our understanding of the origins and functions of these two factions has, I believe, been hampered by the Mamluk historiographical framework within which historians of premodern Ottoman Egypt have habitually placed them. I contend that if we are to understand these factions on their own terms and in their own historical and social context, we must adopt a framework that gives due weight to the fact that these two factions utterly polarized Egyptian society, forcing virtually every member of the military-administrative population, as well 25 26 A Tale of Two Factions as merchants, artisans, and bedouin tribes, to choose one side or the other side while not allowing for any alternative. We know very well that factions were an integral and unavoidable feature of the history of the Mamluk sultanate (1250–1517), which ruled Egypt, Syria, the Hijaz (the western Arabian peninsula), and southeastern Anatolia before the Ottoman conquest in 1516–17. Each Mamluk grandee, or emir, following his manumission, purchased large numbers of his own mamluks, or military slaves, whose education and military training he oversaw. These mamluks, whose paramount loyalty was to the patron who had nurtured them, formed the basis of the emir’s faction. With the support of his faction, the emir might attain the sultanate. In that event, his faction attempted to protect his interests from the mamluks of his predecessor, who formed a separate faction. The new sultan would typically keep the mamluks of his faction near him in Cairo, while giving the mamluks of his predecessor governorships and other administrative offices in the provinces, notably Syria.1 In this fashion, the sultan could keep his potential rivals at a reasonably comfortable distance, although he could not prevent them from building up their own power bases in the provinces. By the same token, the sultan’s own mamluks, once manumitted, could establish power bases in the capital; the sultan might promote one of them to succeed him. In short, each faction was closely associated with a particular Mamluk sultan. The names of these factions derive from the regnal titles of the sultans: thus, the faction of the founder of the Mamluk sultanate, al-Zahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari (r. 1260–77), came to be known as “Zahiris” while the faction of al-Mu˘ayyad Shaykh (r. 1412–21) were known as “Mu˘ayyadis.”2 Parallels to the factionalism of the Mamluk sultanate certainly existed in Ottoman-era Egypt, most notably in the great households and families of the Ottoman period. An enterprising Ottoman-era grandee established a household, either within a regimental barracks or within an elite residence, by purchasing mamluks, attracting mercenaries , and otherwise nurturing patron-client ties.3 In numerous cases, these households and followings came to be known by the names or sobriquets (laqabs) of their founders. This was true of the powerful households founded in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries by regimental commanders, above all the long-lived Qazda¶lı (a.k.a. Qazdughli) household, founded by Mustafa Kâhya al-Qazda¶lı, which came to dominate Egypt for most of the eighteenth century.4 Two households of the early eighteenth century, founded by the rival beys Çerkes Mehmed and Ismail b. ˜Ivaz, are memorialized in Arabic 27 Bilateral Factionalism in Ottoman Egypt chronicles by the names of illustrious predecessors: Çerkes Mehmed’s household is designated the “Shanabiyya,” after his patron, Ibrahim Bey Abu Shanab; Ismail Bey’s household, meanwhile, is called “Shawariba,” after his father’s patron’s patron’s father, Ridvan Bey Abu’l-Shawarib. (Coincidentally or...


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