(B2-3) At the Intersection of Discourses. Ibn Nubāta al-Miṣrī (1287-1366) and the Culture of Ambiguity
For centuries, Ibn Nubāta, “the marvel of his age and solitaire of his era” (according to the lawyer and religious scholar as-Subki), was regarded as the most eminent man of letters of the 14th century. He lived in Damascus and Cairo, first as a detached intellectual, later as a state chancellery clerk. He was admired in equal measure for his poetry, his prose style, his calligraphy, and his knowledge in the religious field and in history. He left numerous works (some of which were preserved in the autograph) including poetry (all genres, from panegyric to erotic poetry), literary works in prose, a hunting epic, private letters, official letters and documents, anthologies, polemics and many more. He handled virtually all of the media and genres of language communication that were popular in his time and invented several new ones in order to reach a broad middle- and upper-class audience. To this day, these texts are almost entirely original, they have, to a large extent, not even been edited.
The person of Ibn Nubāta is a particularly suitable example to demonstrate the discourse plurality of the age of the Mamluks and their tolerance of ambiguity. The pious writer of hymns praising the Prophet Muhammad simultaneously composed a completely secular ruler’s guide, which in its “Machiavellianism” was in no way inferior to Machiavelli’s Principe published exactly 200 years later. He published an anthology of obscene poems and at the same time received a panegyrical entry in a collections of biographies of the most important Shafiʿitic religious scholars etc. All of these contradictions can be shown using the person of Ibn Nubāta as an example of the “culture of ambiguity” of the period.