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Mamluk

Mamluk or Mameluke (măm´əlōōk) [Arab.,=slaves], a warrior caste dominant in Egypt and influential in the Middle East for over 700 years. Islamic rulers created this warrior caste by collecting non-Muslim slave boys and training them as cavalry soldiers especially loyal to their owner and each other. They converted to Islam in the course of their training.

Mamluk Rule

The Mamluks were first used in Muslim armies in Baghdad by the Abbasid caliphs in the 9th cent. and quickly spread throughout the Muslim world. They served the Ayyubid sultans from the 12th cent. onward and grew powerful enough to challenge the existence of the rulers who were theoretically their masters. Aybak, the first Mamluk to actually rule, persuaded (1250) the mother of the last Ayyubid sultan to marry him after she had murdered her son. For more than 250 years thereafter, Egypt and Syria were ruled by Mamluk sultans supported by a caste of warrior slaves, from which the sultans were chosen. The Mamluks took advantage of their power to become the principal landholders in Egypt.

The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250–1382), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382–1517), chiefly Circassians who were chosen from the garrison of Cairo. The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on the average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia.

One of the strongest Mamluk rulers, Baybars I (1260–77) defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut in Syria (1260), the first serious setback they had received. Baybars also installed a relative of the last Abbasid caliph of Baghdad as a Mamluk puppet caliph at Cairo. The long reign of al-Nasir from 1293 to 1340, although interrupted three times, was one of ostentation and luxury that helped to undermine the Bahri dynasty. The Burji period that followed was one of bloodshed and treachery. It was marked by war against Timur and by the conquest (1424–26) of the Christian-held island of Cyprus.

Decline

Toward the end of the 15th cent. the Mamluks became involved in a war with the Ottoman Turks who captured Cairo in 1517. The Mamluks favored the cavalry and personal combat with sword and shield. They were no match for the Ottomans, who skillfully used artillery and their own slave infantry, the Janissaries, to defeat the Mamluks. The Ottoman ruler, Selim I, put an end to the Mamluk sultanate and established a small Ottoman garrison in Egypt. He did not, however, destroy the Mamluks as a class; they kept their lands, and Mamluk governors remained in control of the provinces and were even allowed to keep private armies.

In the 18th cent., when Ottoman power began to decline, the Mamluks were able to win back an increasing amount of self-rule. In 1769 one of their number, Ali Bey, even proclaimed himself sultan and independent of Constantinople. Although he fell in 1772, the Ottoman Turks still felt compelled to concede an ever greater measure of autonomy to the Mamluks and appointed a series of them as governors of Egypt. The Mamluks were defeated by Napoleon I during his invasion of Egypt in 1798, but their power as a class was ended only in 1811 by Muhammad Ali.

Bibliography

See studies by Sir William Muir (1896, repr. 1973), N. A. Ziadeh (1953), D. Ayalon (1956), and J. Glubb (1974).

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Mamluks

MAMLUKS

Rulers in Baghdad from 1749 to 1831.

The Mamluks emerged under Hasan Pasha (17041724) and his son Ahmad Pasha (17241747), both wali (provincial governor) of Baghdad. Hasan Pasha's intent was to strengthen his personal base of power by creating a group of disciplined military and civil functionaries committed uniquely to him and not to the government at Istanbul or the Arabs of Baghdad. A page corps was formed, originally recruited from local families but later composed almost exclusively of slaves (mamluks) imported from the Caucasus and Georgia. These slaves were instructed in reading and writing, but also horse-manship and swimming, a combination of martial and bureaucratic virtues making them superior to Turks and Iraqis as civil servants. Their training emphasized a sense of interdependence and "esprit de corps." They were made to feel that they owed their privilege to their master and to the Mamluk institution. They dominated the power elite, but as an alien force, and were merciless to any suspected rival to their authority. A close disciplined fraternity, and the only effective civil and military organization within the country, the Mamluks provided their pashas with the power of an independent monarch. Nevertheless, Mamluk pashas at no time renounced allegiance to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. They defended Iraq from the Wahhabis and Persians but did not war on neighbors within the empire.

The first Mamluk pasha, Sulayman Abu Layla (17501762), came to power two years after the death of Ahmad Pasha, following an unsuccessful attempt by the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman government) to check Mamluk power by naming nonlocal candidates as pasha of Baghdad. He was followed by Ali Agha (17621764) whose obscure Persian birth may have contributed to his fall. The reign of Umar Pasha (17641775), while peaceful, was feeble and characterized by ever-lessening authority. His deposition by the sultan introduced in interregnum (17751780) during which a number of mostly alien pashas (Abdi Pasha, 1775; Abdullah Pasha, 17751777; Hasan Pasha 17781780) reigned briefly and without much influence. Sulayman Agha (17801802), known as "the Great," restored the dominance and institutions of the Mamluks with such success that his period is known as the zenith of the Mamluk era. His immediate successors, Ali Pasha (18021807), Sulayman the Little (18081810), Abdallah Pasha (18101813), and Saʿid Pasha (18131817), all died violently after brief reigns. The last of the Mamluk rulers, Da'ud Pasha (18171831), confronted Ottoman resolve, ignited by his failure to provide suitable remissions in the desperate circumstances of the sultan's war with Russia, to end the century-long independence of Iraq and to bring the province once again firmly into the imperial fold. Plague and flooding helped weaken the Mamluk regime and Da'ud ultimately capitulated to the sultan in 1831. He and his family were exiled to Bursa. He was subsequently recalled to service and held a number of important posts throughout the empire before dying in 1851.


Bibliography


Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Four Centuries of Modern Iraq. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925.

Nieuwenhuis, Tom. Politics and Society in Early Modern Iraq: Mamluk Pashas, Tribal Shaykhs and Local Rule between 1802 and 1831. The Hague and Boston: M. Nijhoff, 1982.

albertine jwaideh

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Mamluk

Mamluk (Arabic, ‘slave’) Military elite in Egypt and other Arab countries. In 1250, the Mamluks of Egypt overthrew the Ayyubid dynasty. They halted the Mongols, defeated the Crusaders and crushed the Assassins. In 1517 Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, but the Mamluks continued to control Egypt until suppressed by Muhammad Ali in 1811.

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"Mamluk." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Mamluk." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mamluk