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Old 22nd April 2021, 08:23 PM   #15
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,557

Ed and Kubur, absolutely intriguing on these religious matters which were certainly at hand in the uprisings and jihad which were of course the basis for the Mahdiyya, I must admit that I do not fully comprehend these complex matters, but it seems that I read the Mahdi was Sufi, then forbad it? but then it became prevalent again under the Caliph?

Persian influences which prevailed throughout India, Central Asia, Ottoman Empire and Arabia etc. as far as I have known were often 'indirect' but surely notable. While it is sometimes hard to explain the importance of religious character and influence concerning arms, as we rely on decoration and motif in identifying them it is most certainly pertinent.

More on the 'thuluth' I found in my notes (passim),
"...workshops set up in towns such as Omdurman produced a range of artifacts including regalia, weaponry and armor which in one way or another reflected the Mahdists ideology, but which occasionally also displayed stylistic influences from much more diverse sources. Among such objects were these
non functional replica throwing knives, cut out of sheet metal and covered with the acid etched Arabic script known as thuluth in which exhortations from the Quran are written. Most likely these were given as Islamicized status symbols to the leaders of the elements of the Mahdist armies that consisted mainly of slaves".
"Art of a Continent", Philips, p.134, as noted by
Christopher Spring.

" is interesting to note that Central African throwing knives were found on the field at Omdurman, having been made at Khartoum. These were carried as an emblem of rank by leaders of certain slave elements of the Mahdist army who were pressed into service".
"Soldiers of the Queen", Victorian Military Society.

Many of these were throwing knives, haladies, and certain curious trowel type knives.
This illustrates, and dispels the notions that these were 'tourist' items, not used in battle, and that the calligraphy was 'jibberish' or nonsensical.
Some of these inscriptions actually note manufacture at Omdurman, and the reference to Khartoum derives from the fact that the arsenal at Khartoum was one of the few buildings not razed by Mahdist forces at its capture in 1885. There were huge supplies of material accumulated by Gordon for infrastructure including railroads and river boats, these and machinery were moved to Omdurman by the Caliph after the Mahdi's death in 1885.

So here is the true picture concerning the familiar calligraphy covered blades of not only kaskara, but the sundry other tribal weapons at Omdurman as well.
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