Investigating the Comprehensive Legacy of Ibn Sanad: Unraveling the Dimensions of Arab Historiography

Aljarba, Abdullah, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Bishara, Fahad

This thesis examines the book “Mattali' al-sa’ud fi tayyib akbar al-vali Dawud” written in 19th century by an Arab historian Uthman Ibn Sanad as means to explores the historical significance of the book and the historiography of the region. In 1816 Ibn Sanad left Basra to travel to Baghdad, and in the same year, Dawud Pasha overthrew Saeed Pasha to take his place as Baghdad's governor to the Ottoman Empire. Dawud Pasha wanted to entrust Ibn Sanad with his legacy, partly because he was convinced that, as an intellectual himself, his work as a politician would only have become known by a historian. Ibn Sanad, however, used Dawud Pasha to write about the region's leaving Dawud Pasha with a fifth of the documentation period with only ten years. Although Ibn Sanad chose the year 1774 as the starting date of his book reflecting on the year Dawud was born, there was no mention of Dawud within these years only within the ten years of his rule that the author witnessed from 1816 until 1826. Instead, the book starts with the people of Basra suffering from the hegemonic power of Persians. Within these 52 years, Ibn Sanad wrote primarily about the political situation in the region with the people as his main concern, not about a single ruler. Questions that are the main concern of this thesis are: Why does thinking of Ibn Sanad as a historian tell us about his work and the world of scholarship in which he lived? What do his methodologies and styles of narration tell us? Why is it significant that these are long-standing features of history writing? More importantly, why is it significant for his time? This book analysis offers insights into Ibn Sanad's use of a historical narrative to discuss events, motives, style, and themes: scholarly significance and its enduring legacy as an Arab historian in the 19-18th century. This thesis attempts to develop a more holistic picture of Ibn Sanad's impact on Arab history and its progression over time by thoroughly evaluating his multifaceted contributions, Ibn Sanad's literary attempt reflects a purposeful intention to create a biography of an individual that transcends mere individualism and serves as a powerful lens through which to explore the greater historical context of a specific era and geographical region. Rather than perceiving this as a coincidental occurrence within his work, it is critical to understand Ibn Sanad's narrative method as intentional. He brilliantly conveys a moment of societal upheaval through his careful representation of Dawud Pasha’s life and times, using the individual's experiences as a vivid and compelling focal point for grasping the subtleties of the historical age. In essence, Ibn Sanad's work is a testament to biography's potential as a medium for portraying the varied dynamics of a certain time and place. By going extensively into Dawud’s life, he reveals not only the individual's personal experiences and aspirations, but also the larger socio-political and cultural context. This biographical method, far from being coincidental, highlights Ibn Sanad's conscious decision to use Dawud Pasha's life story as a vehicle for addressing the greater historical context.

MA (Master of Arts)
Ibn Sanad, Dawud Pasha, Hawli, saj', Nabati
Issued Date: