Parution Ouvrage : P. M. SIJPESTEIJN, « Shaping a Muslim State. The World of a Mid-Eighth-Century Egyptian Official. » (Déc. 2013)


  • Accessible history of the formation of Islam and the first hundred years of Muslim rule in Egypt
  • Examines a corpus of previously unknown Arabic papyrus letters
  • Illustrated with 35 black and white plates

Shaping a Muslim State provides a synthetic study of the political, social, and economic processes which formed early Islamic Egypt. Looking at a corpus of previously unknown Arabic papyrus letters, dating from between AD 730 and 750, which were written to a Muslim administrator and merchant in the Fayyum oasis in Egypt, Sijpesteijn examines the reasons for the success of the early Arab conquests and the transition from the pre-Islamic Byzantine system and its Egyptian executors to an Arab/Muslim state.

By examining the impact of Islam on the daily lives of those living under its rule, the volume highlights the striking newness of Islamic society while also acknowledging the influence of the ancient societies which preceded it. The book applies theoretical discussions about governance, historiography, (social) linguistics, and source criticism to understand the dynamics of early Islamic Egypt, as well as the larger process of state formation in the Islamic world.


Readership: For students and scholars interested in classical and Byzantine studies, ancient history, and the history of Islam and the Islamic Empire.

Table of contents

Note on Editions, Dates, and References
List of Maps
List of Plates
Part I: Discussion
1: The Egyptian context: Geography and History
2: Arab Egypt: The first fifty years
3: The Second Fifty Years: Consolidation and Reform
4: Beyond Words
5: Conclusion
PART II: The Texts
Note on the Orthography and Grammar of the Papyri
Letters to ‘Abd Allah b. As’ad from Najid b. Muslim
Other Letters to ‘Abd Allah b. As’ad
Letter from ‘Abd Allah b. As’ad
Letters from/Related to Najid b. Muslim

Author informations

Petra M. Sijpesteijn, Professor of Arabic Language and Culture, Leiden University 


Petra Sijpesteijn is Professor of Arabic Language and Culture at Leiden University. Her research focuses on the transition from Late Antiquity to early Islam in Egypt.

Sterenn Le Maguer-Gillon

Archéologue spécialiste de la péninsule Arabique et du commerce dans l'océan Indien, vacataire à l'Institut catholique de Paris et à l'Université Rennes 2.

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