It was only during the Ottoman period, beginning in 1517, that seals gained popularity in the Arab world as a means to document people’s interactions with books. Some seals came alone while others accompanied handwritten notes. Some spelled out their purpose clearly through formulations such as “min kutub”, “hāḏā mā waqafa” or the like; others contained only pious formulae and a name. But even the latter are generally assumed to denote ownership or endowment. In this article, I present the example of a seal that belonged to a judge in early Ottoman Egypt. I will argue that the seal did not denote ownership of the books on which it is found, and I will attempt to show that it was used by its owner in the process of an inventory of Cairo’s endowed libraries. I will also discuss what this insight could mean for interpreting the history of books and collections through seals.
The paper examines the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy in the context of wider changes in the Middle East and in the Arab world triggered by the Arab Spring. The author argues that during this decade the Kingdom’s foreign policy has witnessed a fundamental transformation: the very essence of the Saudi foreign policy course has changed signiﬁ cantly as the political es-tablishment has substantially revised its approaches to the country’s role in the region and in the world. Before 2011, Saudi Arabia — the land of the ‘Two Holy Mosques’ — positioned itself as a representative of the international Muslim community and in pursuing its foreign policy relied primarily on the religious authority and ﬁ nancial capabilities. However, according to Saudi Arabia’s leaders, the Arab Spring has plunged the region into chaos and has bolstered the inﬂ uence of various extremist groups and movements, which required a signiﬁ cant adjustment of traditional political approaches. Saudi Arabia, more explicit than ever before, has declared itself as a nation state, as a regional leader possessing its own interests beyond the abstract ‘Muslim Ummah’. However, the author stresses that these new political ambitions do not imply a complete break with the previous practice. For example, the containment of Iran not only remains the cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, but has become even more severe. The paper shows that it is this opposition to Iran, which is now justiﬁ ed on the basis of protecting the national interests, that predetermines the nature and the speciﬁ c content of contemporary Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy including interaction with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), approaches towards the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂ ict, combating terrorism, and relations with the United States. In that regard, the transformation of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has, on the one hand, opened up new opportunities for strengthening the Kingdom’s interaction with Israel, but, at the same time, has increased tensions within the framework of strategic partnership with the United States. The author concludes that currently Saudi Arabia is facing a challenge of diversifying its foreign policy in order to increase its international proﬁ le and political subjectivity.
In this study, I make audible a conversation in Alf Layla wa-Layla (The Thousand and One Nights) on the meaning and application of justice. Without assuming that Alf Layla constituted an organized whole, the study identifies, in the frame narrative and the first two chains of stories—all three understood to belong to the earliest bundle—a debate on the coincidence of successful interpretation and just rulership. By the end of these tales, i.e., by the twenty-seventh night, a complete tale is told. In these stories, I propose, Alf Layla adopts an attitude that privileges multiplicity over singular interpretation, in a fashion that affirms thecontingency of ethical questions. The popularity of Alf Layla and the afterlives it enjoyed up to our present times—in the Arab world and the West—need not eclipse or substitute the Arabo-Islamic character the work came to exhibit, and the ethical questions it set out to address. In what has been read as fate, arbitrary logic, enchantment, magic, irrational thinking, and nocturnal dreamlike narratives, I suggest we can equally speak of a concern for justice. The study looks at Alf Layla’s affinity with advice literature, but stresses the need to read it as a work of (semipopular) literature that pays witness to societal debates on justice. Alf Layla, I suggest, belongs to Islamic culture in that the act of reading has been construed within hermeneutics that are largely informed by the ethical implication knowledge sharing entails. In how the stories find resolution to the crisis of the king, Alf Layla understands justice as an artificial and communal enterprise. The stories, more urgently, seem to suggest reading gears us towards a concern for the greater good.
Keywords: The Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights, 1001 Nights, Alf Layla wa-Layla), Adab, Justice, Rulership, Readership, Advice Literature, Interpretation, Multiplicity, Legitimacy
This article analyzes the relations between France and the Middle East states through the prism of foreign policy course of Emmanuel Macron, who was elected as the president of France on May 14, 2017. The Middle East vector of foreign policy is traditional for the Republic, and therefore is one of the foreign policy priorities for the current leader. The author aim to determine the essence and key peculiarities of the Middle East course of E. Macron. For achieving the set goal it is necessary to outline the priority foreign policy vectors of the president and range of countries in the region that are subject to the measures of his chosen course; analyze in which states and to what extent the leader of the Republic continues the policy of his predecessors who were in power since the early XXI century; and changes in the relations between France and certain Middle East states. The conclusion is made on the presence of particular factors that hinder the conduct of smart policy in the region, which would meet the interests of all Middle Eastern actors. Disaccord of the French leader with his international partners regarding the Middle East regulation significantly complicates the implementation of smart foreign relative to the Arab world. E. Macron is currently paying scrupulous attention to the policy of European integration, which raises a number of unresolved issues regarding the Middle East. This alongside the domestic political issues undermines the authority of the current French leader.