arrange laws and rulings by subject matter instead of randomly; the second drawn up by Ibn al-'Assal was published in 1238 and remains to the present the main legal code of the Coptic community in the sphere of private law.
Collections of sermons and of hymns, obviously with liturgical uses in mind, constituted another literary form cultivated in the period under review. Since the churches preferred sermons made famous by the early Fathers, homiletic literature in Arabic began in the form of translations. In the eleventh century the Melkite deacon of Antioch, 'Abdallah ibn Fadl, translated most of John Chrysostom's sermons into Arabic. But in the twelfth century there started to appear sermons written in the rhymed and rhythmic Arabic known as saj', while hymns used the popular Arabic poetic metre of rajaz. The Nestorian catholicos Elias ibn al-Hadithi (1176-90) is usually regarded as the initiator of this genre. He wrote his sermons in a brilliantly rich Arabic characterised by the use of saj'. His employment of Arabic eloquence for Christian purposes found many imitators in the thirteenth century among the different Christian denominations. Can it have been sheer coincidence that at exactly this juncture Islam saw the development of the art of the sermon (wa'z) and the role of the preacher (wu'az)? Leaving aside the doctrinal divisions separating Christianity and Islam, it has become a vital task to examine their shared religious sentiment, as revealed by the use of similar literary forms and themes.
The numerous historical works written by Christian authors equally take up a variety of positions in relation to the Arabic and Muslim cultural context. Syriac historiography, properly speaking, is dominated by the magisterial works of Michael the Syrian and of Bar Hebraeus.59 Following a tradition going back to Eusebius of Caesarea, they set side by side two universal histories: the one secular and the other ecclesiastical. Their works reveal most of all the concerns of prelates intent on writing the history of their church: they wanted to bring comfort to the Jacobite community and to preserve its standing in the Near East. The Coptic and Nestorian communities equally produced their own works of history. In the twelfth century Mari ibn Sulayman inserted into the fifth chapter of his 'Book of the Tower' a veritable history of the Nestorian catholicate.
The Coptic Church has the monumental History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria.60 The first part to 1046 is a compilation of older sources, traditionally
60 Sawirusibn al-Muqaffa', History of the patriarchs oftheEgyptian Church, known as the History of the Holy Church, ed. and trans. Y. 'Abd al-Masih, A. Khater, A. S. Atiya and O. H. E. Burmester, 4 vols. (Cairo: Sociétéd'archéologie copte, 1943-74). SeeJ. denHeijer, Mawhub ibnMansUribnMujfarigh etl'historiographie copto-arabe: etude surlacomposition del' Histoire des Patriarches d'Alexandrie [CSCO 513, Subs. 83] (Louvain: E. Peeters, 1989).
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