The Sword of Ambition

The Sword of Ambition

Bureaucratic Rivalry in Medieval Egypt

Library of Arabic Literature

by 'Uthman ibn Ibrahim al-Nabulusi

Translated by Luke Yarbrough

Foreword by Sherman 'Abd al-Hakim Jackson

Published by: NYU Press

224 pages, 5.50 x 8.25 in

  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781479824786
  • Published: March 2019



Patronage, power, and competition in the Sultan’s court

The Sword of Ambition opens a new window onto interreligious rivalry among elites in medieval Egypt. Written by the unemployed bureaucrat 'Uthman ibn Ibrahim al-Nabulusi, it contains a wealth of little-known historical anecdotes, unusual religious opinions, obscure and witty poetry, and humorous cultural satire. Leaving no rhetorical stone unturned, al-Nabulusi pours his deep knowledge of history, law, and literature into the work—addressed to the Ayyubid sultan—as he argues against the employment of Coptic and Jewish officials.

Written at a time when much of the inter-communal animosity of the era was conditioned by fierce competition for scarce resources that were increasingly controlled by an ideologically committed Sunni Muslim state, The Sword of Ambition reminds us that “religious” conflict must always be considered in its broader historical perspective.