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Volume :10 Issue : 38 1990      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

The Iqta' System of Egypt And Syria Under The Ayyubids

Auther : Sato Tsugitaka

Saladin, who set up the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt in 1169, proceeded to Syria when his master, NOr al-Din, died in 1174 and established a military regime based on the iqtâ' system. The iqtâ' holders (muqta'), as in the Seljuqid period, were obligated to participate in the campaign with their followers whom they supplied with their armor and provisions from their iqtâ' re-venues. Though the Ayyubid government was worried about a shortage of gold coins, the cities under the iqtâ' system could still enjoy full prosperity owing to active commercial transactions.

By studying the Ayyubid iqtâ' system from the contemporary sources, we find the characteristics peculiar not only to the Ayyubid period but also to the Mamluk period. For example, military service (khidma) rendered to the sultan and the burden of constructing citadels were levied according to iqtâ' revenue in both the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. Moreover, both the Ayyubid and Mamluk muqta's were in full charge of managing the irrigation system to promote the economic development ('imâra) of their iqtâ's. On the other hand, we see half-independent sâhibs in Syria sometimes struggling with the Ayyubid sultan over their iqtâ' holdings. The Egyptian amirs maintained close relations with their peasants by visiting the villages at harvest time every year.

We may also observe in the documentary evidence the actual conditions of iqtâ' management, by taking the case  of amir Fakhr al-Din (d. 1232). When he was granted Fayyûm province as "complete iqtâ' " in 1222, he endeavored to promote the prosperity of al-Fayyûm by dredging out the Canal YOsuf and opening a new canal. He built a tower outside Cairo and managed his iqtâ' using carrier pigeons connecting Cairo and al-Fayyum. He was praised as a noble and great amir for taking the helm of state as ustâdâr and constructing many public facilities such as mosques, schools and the Sufi convent.

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