‘ We desire to know which is the true religion’: Inter-communal rivalry and the verdict of Nile in an episode from The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria
Oxford University Press
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Oxford University Press.
The Nile flood remained a potent phenomenon in the lives of Medieval Egyptians just as it had in the pharaonic era. On its success depended the harvest; navigation and the mercantile economy; state revenues; and the very stability of Egyptian society. Although Medieval Egyptians now viewed the annual cycle of the river through the monotheistic lenses of Islam and Christianity, they continued to perceive it as an manifestation of divine providence and, in consequence, a judgement on Egypt’s rulers and people. A narrative from the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria (HPA), based on a lost Coptic source, probably one John the Deacon, highlights the role that the flood was accorded in contestations of religious authenticity and political legitimacy in the Egyptian capital al-Fusṭāṭ in the 8th century AD. Using the progress of the flood as an indicator, John has the first Abbasid governor of Egypt declare: “We desire to know which of the religions is the true one.” In the subsequent narrative, this Christian author not surprisingly delivers vindication to his co-religionists. But in the meantime, he sheds light on the role of the flood and the ceremonials surrounding it in validating religious belief, devotional practice, and political legitimacy in a multi-faith Egyptian society.
This is the Accepted Manuscript of a chapter to be published by Oxford University Press in E.R. O’Connell (ed.) Egypt and empire: Religious identities from Roman to modern times.
In O'Connell, ER., (Eds.) Egypt and empire: Religious identities from Roman to modern times. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2018
Place of publication