First Advisor

Frederick J. Cox

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Kings and rulers -- Duties



Physical Description

1 online resource (140 pages)


This thesis is intended to be an analysis of a book entitled "Important Counsels to Kings and Imams." It is, in the same time, a research on the book's author, named Alwan Ibn Atiyyah al-Hamawi. Alwan was a Syrian muslim scholar, who lived in the sixteenth century. Alwan witnessed the Ottoman conquering of Syria, so, he wrote his book, Important Counsels to Kings and Imams, as a reflection of his views toward the Ottoman regime. Alwan addressed his book to Sultan Selim I, encouraging him to establish justice through the religious law, the Sharia.

The thesis is composed of four main sections; which are the following:

  1. The Middle East in the time of Alwan. This section contains a short history of the Islamic states and the political relations among them. Those states were the Ottoman Turks in Anatolia, the Safawid Dynasty in Persia and the Mamluks' State in Egypt.
  2. Life and career of Shaykh Alwan, his education and his influence upon his society and students.
  3. Analysis and commentaries on the manuscript, “Important Counsels to Kings and Imams.” This section discusses the causes and goals of writing the book, the issues, which Alwan talked about, and finally the style of writing and organizing of the book.
  4. Complete English translation of the Arabic copy including all those chapters which are arranged by the author of the book, Shaykh Alwan.

The writer of this thesis has faced several problems with collecting information about Alwan's life, tracing prophetic hadiths and Quranic ayats, that Alwan included in his book, also translating an old manuscript, written in a classic language.

Although, Alwan was one of the leading sixteenth century scholars and mystics, he has not been well-known to editors and publishers in this time in the Arab world. Only two books, out of twenty-four books and essays, are published.

All those references which I have used at Portland State University Library and al-Zahiriyya Library in Damascus, mention little information about the life and career of Alwan; especially his family and early life.

As for Quranic ayats and prophetic hadiths, which Alwan included in his book, all were mentioned without references or footnotes. Therefore, the writer footnoted every aya, but in the case of those hadiths, it was almost impossible to trace every hadith used in Alwan's book, and evaluate them according to texts, because of the writer's limited knowledge of the "Science of Hadith."

Alwan's book, which exists in manuscript form only, is grammatically correct in language, and the style of writing is generally good. However, the translation was difficult because some ideas are not clear and some classic Arabic words must be fully understood by using old Arabic dictionaries, then English dictionaries.

It seems that Alwan penned his thoughts haphazardly because the book seems rather unorganized in its contents. Alwan divided his book into twenty-seven chapters. In fact some of those chapter titles are not necessary. He, sometimes, discussed some issues more than once, such as alcohol and adultery.

Alwan in his book discussed numerous social problems. and issues, i.e., alms, commanding good, forbidding evils, adultery, alcohol, wearing pure gold for men, decorations of cities for the Sultan's joy, land taxes, and enslaving free people, all attempting to set rules for the Sultan's judgment.

At any rate the manuscript "Important Counsels to Kings and Imams" reflects the attitudes of a Syrian Arab scholar toward the new Ottoman regime that conquered Syria and Egypt between 1516-1517.

Alwan and his book are a significant commentary of Islamic history of Syria and Egypt in the beginning of the sixteenth century. This research shows that Alwan felt that the regime of Sultan Selim I was not following its responsibilities toward the Sharia and the, only law of the Empire. The most important consideration for Alwan, in his manuscript, was his concern for justice for the subjects of the Ottoman Empire. His goal in writing that book was that all people should benefit from the Quran and Sharia, and that justice would be established through only the religious law (Sharia) within the Ottoman Empire.


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