Cyprus and Its Legal and Historiographical Significance in Early Islamic History

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Ryan J. Lynch



During the early Islamic period Cyprus was a frontier territory unlike most—control, influence, and tax revenue over the island were shared mutually by both the Byzantine and Islamic states—and the historiographical record demonstrates that its legal and administrative status was fraught with challenges. The present study is based on the surviving Arabic material in Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim b. Sallām’s (d. 224/838) Kitāb al-Amwāl, subsequently transmitted in Kitāb Futūḥ al-buldān of al-Balādhurī (d. ca. 278/892). It argues that the problematic nature of Cyprus in this period, coupled with Abū ʿUbayd’s unprecedented access to genuine correspondence of jurists from the end of the eighth century, led the author to enshrine important documentary evidence that did not survive elsewhere. Furthermore, it suggests that the continued source-critical and comparative analysis of early Arabic narrative source material can still yield fruitful information for an understanding of the earliest centuries of Islamic history despite the sources’ many limitations.

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