Finished Summary Workshop “Visualizing Trust” (Jan. 7)


Category: Workshop

Research Group: B01 State SystemsC01 Digital Humanities

The workshop “Visualizing Trust” will be jointly organized by Group B01 “The Ideas of the Muslim Community and State Systems”, Group C01 “Analyses of Connectivities by Digital Humanities Methods” and Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A) “A study of civilian elite nexuses via digital analyses of pre-modern Arabic historical sources” (21H05374).

Date & Time: January 7, 2023, 14:00-16:00

OTA (TSUKADA) Erina(ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies/Project Assistant Professor)
“Trust-building through nominal relationship among the 15th century intellectuals: Analysis of their connectivity using RDF graphs” (tentative title)

There is a lot of prosopographical research into prominent individuals and families as the study of intellectuals (ʻulamāʼ), who occupied the core of biographical dictionaries written in the Mamluk Sultanate. Previous studies of their connectivity have mainly focused on substantial relationships such as teacher-student and marriage.

 In this presentation, I will focus on nominal teacher-student relationships built by ʻulamāʼ in the 15th century based on ijāzas (licenses) of “istidʻāʼ” (prayer), which were recorded in biographical dictionaries. This type of ijāza was collectively applied and granted from remote places and had applicants who mediated between grantors and recipients; therefore, it had profoundly different characteristics from ordinary ijāzas, which guaranteed the academic attainment of the applicants.

 This presentation will aim to analyze the 15th-century ʻulamāʼ‘s networks formed and expanded from mediators using the RDF graph. After that, I will discuss the social meaning of the large-scale construction of nominal connectivity from the viewpoint of trust.

Discussant: ITO Takao (Kobe University/C01 Co-investigator)

Language: Japanese
Venue: Online meeting via Zoom, Open to public/Admission free, Pre-registration is required.

Pre-registration: Please use the form for pre-registration.

Co-organizer: Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A), “The Ideas of the Muslim Community and State Systems” (Principal Investigator: KONDO Nobuaki (ILCAA); 20H05827)/Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A), “Analyses of Connectivity by Digital Humanities Method” (Principal Investigator: KUMAKURA Wakako (ILCAA); 20H05830)/Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A) “A study of civilian elite nexuses via digital analyses of pre-modern Arabic historical sources” (Principal Investigator: OTA-TSUKADA Erina (ILCAA); 21H05374)

Contact: MORITA Madoka (mmorita[at]


This presentation essentially focused on two points. First, taking a Digital Humanities quantitative approach to analyzing connectivity among pre-modern era ulama, in order to reveal aspects undiscovered through previous qualitative research. Second, considering what forms of trust can be seen by analyzing visualizations of these connections.

With those two objectives in mind, this presentation looked at ijazah (certification / license / diploma) issued in response to istid’a’ (petition / request / appeal). These ijazah were used to establish a teacher-student relationship where none actually existed. As source material, the presentation used records of the names of the people involved in granting and receiving these ijazah. These names were found in text extracted from digitized biographical dictionaries from the 15th century. The names were tagged using the OpenITI mARkdown system for pre-modern Islamic texts, and visualized using an RDF graph.

Common characteristics of these ijazah issued in response to istid’a’ included:
1) There was no previously existing direct relationship between the teacher and student when the ijazah was bestowed.
2) They were mainly given and received en masse and between cities.
3) There was a person who functioned as a “coordinator” for their bestowal.
4) They were acquired even after the recipient had attained some degree of prominence as a scholar.
These characteristics indicate that, unlike the vertical transmission of conventional student-teacher ijazah, this type of ijazah flowed horizontally.

The presentation showed that ijazah issued in response to istid’a’ were a very efficient means of establishing teacher-student relationships, allowing the recipient to acquire numerous ijazah from distant and renowned teachers without the financial burden or risks associated with travel. This nominal type of teacher-student relationship could be regarded as a “weak” connection. But, given the efficiency with which the practice transmitted information, it presumably played a macro-level role in uniting and safeguarding separate ulama societies. And for the bestower, the act of granting a certification to unfamiliar petitioners can be seen as a kind of “wager” on their future prospects, as the bestower was entrusting the petitioners with a scholarly heritage that extended back to the Prophets. This “wager” was only secured because the intermediary who coordinated the process functioned as a node of trust.

Commentator Takao Ito made a number of valuable points, including the possibility of changes over time in the terminology used to refer to the practice of issuing ijazah collectively. He also presented detailed explanations of the historical source materials used to compile biographical dictionaries, including ijazah. In the Q&A section, attendees offered questions and comments about hadith scholars, about the motivations for compiling biographical dictionaries, and about expressions like “scholastic lineage” and “group” in regards to the ulama. I sensed a strong need to expand the scope and examine cases from beyond the 15th century.
In the future, I would like to explore the historical contexts in which the mass designation of teacher-student relationships became a common practice.

English translation by: Jeff Gedert

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