Madrasa al-'Ajamiyya
Tripoli, Lebanon
This small corner madrasa carries two inscriptions: a founding inscription on the alley side and a Quranic inscription on the facade by the stairs. The first, two lines of naskh carved on the lintel over the door, reads: "The pious slave of God, Muhammad al-Sukkar, may God forgive him, has ordered the construction of this blessed mausoleum. It was completed at the beginning of the month of Ramadan in the year seven hundred and sixty-six [May A.D 1365].

The founder of this mausoleum, Muhammad al-Sukkar, would be totally unknown were it not for an inscription in Damietta that also bears his name. The minbar he endowed in Damietta is dated Rajab 771 (1370) and gives his name as "al-Hajj Shams al-Dm Muhammad al-Tarabulsi known as al-Sukkar." After building his mausoleum in Tripoli in 1365, al-Sukkar went on a pilgrimage to Mecca (he is known to have been on a Hajj in 1370) and on his return endowed the minbar in Damietta. He probably died in Egypt, for he was not buried in his mausoleum; had he been, the madrasa which shelters the tomb would have been named after him. Instead it is known as the Ajamiyya, probably after a Persian buried in it.

The other text, a large and bold inscription above the windows on the main facade side of the Ajamiyya, is not recorded by Sobernheim. It is a Qur anic text (Surat al-Dukhan, 55: 51-54) with stylized flowers at either end and scattered in the field of the inscription. It reads: "Surely the God-fearing shall be in a station secure among gardens and fountains, robed in silk and brocade, set face to face. Even so and we shall espouse them to wide-eyed houris." This text, which often appears on mausoleums, is more important for its decorative value than for its contents, for it does not add to our understanding or interpretation of the building.

The Ajamiyya presents a very simple cube at the corner of two streets; its only adornments are the two inscriptions. Its front side is framed by an arch which is opened by two rectangular windows topped by the Quranic inscription, and its entrance side has only a plain door with the founding lintel.

The interior is equally plain. Two rooms, a madrasa and a mausoleum, comprise the whole monument. The madrasa room is now a storeroom, and the mausoleum room has a marble tomb decorated with Quranic inscriptions but no text to tell us who is buried there. The Ajamiyya is a typical example of a small, religious building, endowed by an ordinary man seeking to immortalize his name before departing on the Hajj in case he did not return; he could only afford a modest unadorned structure" (Salam 1983: 142-144).

The madrasa is currently used as a prayer place.

Sources:

Salam-Liebich, Hayat. 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

Tadmouri, Omar. "Ajamiyah Madrasa." Tripoli City Website. http://tripoli-city.org/madrasah.html#ajamiyah. [Accessed April 18, 2006]
Location
Janb Shari' al-Dinnawi, Tripoli, Lebanon
Documents
Events
1365/766 AH
Style Periods
1250-1517
Variant Names
Madrasa al-'Ajamiyya
Ajamiyya Madrasa
Variant
al-Madrasa al-'Ajamiyya
Variant
Ajamiya Madrasa
Variant
al-Madrasah al-'Ajamiyyah
Variant
Building Usages
mosque
religious
madrasa
educational