Notes on Qansuh El-Yahyawi's decree at Aleppo's al-Utrush Mosque abolishing tax increases on singers and weddings (874 AH/ 1470 AD)

Document Type : research articles


Department of Islamic archaeology, faculty of archaeology, Luxor university


This paper provides a comprehensive analysis and interpretation of a Mamlūk decree found on the façade of al-Utrush Mosque in Aleppo. The decree is dated 874 AH/1470 AD. The governor of Aleppo, Amir Qansuh el-Yahyawi, issued this decree to eliminate a recently imposed tax on singers and weddings, which was charged by the Amir and Mihtar (مهتار) of the Ṭabl-K̲h̲āna. This tax, known as manfouʿ el-maghānī (منفوع المغاني), has now been abolished. The edict did not include provisions for the elimination of the levy known as ḍaman al maghānī (ضمان المغاني), nor did it prohibit singers and dancers from participating in wedding celebrations or practicing their profession. The inscription garnered the interest of numerous orientalists who captured photographs of it and endeavoured to decipher its meaning. Ernst Herzfeld was one of those who tried to read the inscription. Consequently, the reading was insufficient and riddled with several deficiencies. This failed to assist him in attaining information regarding the subject matter of the inscription or its intended objective. The decree persisted throughout that period, albeit with some elements missing. In 2005, I captured a photograph of this inscription prior to its significant damage during the recent conflict. Additionally, I accessed the images in the Herzfeld archive at the Freer/Sackler Gallery, which is associated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Subsequently, I utilised various advanced software programmes to magnify the images multiple times without compromising their quality, thereby enhancing the visibility of the letter shadows. This process required considerable effort to complete.
This paper provides a thorough examination of the Mamlūk decree, elucidating its substance, purpose, and historical importance. The findings enhance our comprehension of the socio-economic dynamics and legal practices that were prevalent in Aleppo throughout the Mamlūk period.


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