An Intellectual History of Printed Muslim Devotional Works in 19th Century Cairo and Beyond

Lecture by N.A. Mansour, PhD Candidate, Princeton University

  • 6:00 p.m.Cairo Center
  • 2 Midan Simon Bolivar
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This lecture details an intellectual history of Dala’il al-Khayrat (Waymarks of Benefits, written by Muhammad Bin Sulayman al-Jazuli al-Shadhili, d.1465), a heavily celebrated book of blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad in the Islamic tradition of tasawwuf, set in the 19th century.

The press at Bulaq (Cairo) – arguably the first major Arabic-language book press – published multiple editions of Dala’il over the first half-century of its existence (1820s-1870s) amongst other devotional texts. Using Dala’il as an example, this paper demonstrates that Bulaq published them because they were lucrative and easy to sell, despite low literacy rates (some estimates are 3%). This is demonstrated through the materiality of printed books, the intellectual content of Dala’il, and the institutions surrounding the text in Egypt.

This presentation seeks to contribute to both the history of the Arabic-language book and to the history of 19th century tasawwuf. More specifically, it aims to apply intellectual history to the history of the book, using the content and materiality of a book to approximate its audience. With regards to tasawwuf and Sufi studies, it will look to establish the intellectual weight of devotional works.


About the Speaker

N.A. Mansour is a doctoral candidate at Princeton University’s department of Near Eastern Studies working on the transition between manuscript and print in the Arabic-speaking world. She also hosts the Middle East studies Channel for the New Books Network and edits Hazine, an archive blog.  


This free event is open to the public. Doors close at 5:50 p.m. Refreshments will be served after the lecture.