Oriental Institute 17653 - A Papyrus Mentioning Invitation For The Ḥajj, Dated 86-99 AH / 705-717 CE
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First Composed: 21st December 2014
Last Modified: 11th September 2015
Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
(a) Papyrus OI 17653 showing sides (i) A and (ii) B. (b) Its transcription. The transcription of side B is shown at the bottom.
86-99 AH / 705-717 CE.
It has Arabic text. The place of discovery of this document is probably Egypt.
The translation of the document is given below. The Arabic part is in italics:
- In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful,
- from Sahl bin ʿAbd al-Azīz to
- ʿU]qba bin Muslim. Peace be upon you
- and I thank for your sake God besides Whom
- there is no] god but He.
- Now then, I have mentioned the pilgrimage (Ḥajj).
- The commander of the believers has proclaimed it to the people
- and he has exhorted (them) to it.
- So if you are able to go out with me, then do so,
- for, [i]f you want to do [......]
- this, God willing. Go out to me with my riding camels
- and do not oblige yourself to anything besides the rental costs of a camel.
- Peace be upon you and the mercy of G<o>d.
From Sahl b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, to ʿUqba b. Muslim
This letter, written on papyrus, was found in Egypt, where both men were probably living at the time it was sent. Sahl bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz wrote a letter to ʿUqba b. Muslim, conveying a message from the amīr al-muʾminīn, the caliph. The caliph had announced that the time had come to make the Ḥajj, and had exhorted all Muslims to do so. Sahl b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz can be identified as a son of the governor of Egypt, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Marwān (in office 65–86 AH / 684–705 CE). The recipient of the above letter is most likely ʿUqba b. Muslim al-Tujibī (died. c. 120 AH / 737 CE), who was appointed deputy governor of Fusṭāṭ when the governor of Egypt, Ḥanẓala b. Ṣafwān (in office 102–105 AH / 720–723 CE), temporarily moved to Alexandria in 103 AH / 721 CE. Furthermore, ʿUqba b. Muslim is a well-known narrator of ḥadīth whilst Sahl b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz has transmitted some of them as well.
After conducting historical analysis, Sijpesteijn concluded the date for the composition of this letter between the death of Egypt's governor ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz in 86 AH / 705 CE and Sahl b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz's move to Damascus in 99 AH / 717 CE to join his brother, caliph ʿUmar II. Sahl b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz died in 99 AH / 717 CE in Damascus and this serves as a terminus ante quem for the letter.
Sijpesteijn asserts this papyrus is "the earliest documentary evidence for the ḥajj currently known", suggesting the next earliest occurrence is from an unpublished papyrus document most likely from the 2nd century AH / 8th century CE. Sijpesteijn is perhaps unaware that al-Kilabi has already published a near contemporaneous inscription from 91 AH / 710 CE on the Syrian pilgrimage route that mentions the Ḥajj as well. Interestingly, the Syrian pilgrimage route has two more inscriptions that mention the Ḥajj - 97 AH / 715-716 CE and 100 AH / 719 CE – the former commemorates the Ḥajj of Umayyad Caliph Sulaymān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik. Furthermore, there also exists an earlier mention of the Ḥajj that comes from an inscription dated 82 AH / 701-702 CE on the Darb Zubayda pilgrimage route.
The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago (USA).
 P. M. Sijpesteijn, "An Early Umayyad Papyrus Invitation For The Ḥajj", Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 2014, Volume 73, No. 2, pp. 179-190. The first paragraph in the comments section has been summarised from her article.
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