IBRAHIM AL-JAWHARI (d. 1795)
A minister of finance in Ottoman Egypt who was the most important Coptic political figure and personality in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. His father, Yusuf al-Jawhari, was, according to oral tradition, a cotton weaver. Ibrahim learned the profession of secretary and worked for some time in the service of a Mamluk amir, then for the Coptic patriarch MARK VII and his successor, JOHN XVIII. He was probably an apprentice and protégé of Mu‘allim Rizq, the Coptic secretary and administrator of finances of ‘Ali Bey. The basis of his career and his reputation was established in this period.
After the overthrow of ‘Ali Bey and Mu‘allim Rizq, Ibrahim’s social rise began under Muhammad Bey. The peak of his influence and fame came after 1775, under the joint reign of Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey. Ibrahim Bey especially favored him and made him a sort of minister of finance. He controlled and managed not only the private properties of the bey, which consisted mostly of tax farms, but also the public income and expenditure. He was, so to speak, the de facto chief of the supreme revenue office in Ottoman Egypt. He was also the director of the corporation of tax collectors and state scribes, who administered the finances of the whole country. These positions were held almost exclusively by Copts at the end of the eighteenth century.
A. al-Jabarti (1879-1880) describes Ibrahim al-Jawhari as one of the most influential and capable personalities of his time, a person who dealt with everyone properly and who acquired sympathy on all sides through his charity and generosity. His deferential attitude toward the political leaders and his presentation of gifts to people in power earned him their friendship and support. His influence among the dominant class was so great that he was able to construct, restore, and maintain Coptic churches and monasteries, and his actions were supported by juristic opinions of famous ‘ulama’ (religious chief justices).
Muslim resistance against this renaissance of Coptic self-confidence was stirred only during the Ottoman expedition of Hasan Pasha to punish the obstinate beys in 1786. Throughout this time and during the following rule of Isma‘il Bey in Cairo, Ibrahim stayed in safety in Upper Egypt under Ibrahim Bey, Murad Bey, and their followers. His possessions in Lower Egypt were confiscated by Hasan Pasha. After the death of Isma‘il Bey, he returned with his protectors to Cairo in 1791 and resumed his former functions.
When Ibrahim al-Jawhari died on 31 May 1795, Ibrahim Bey was deeply afflicted by the loss of his friend. Even though it was improper for a Muslim to do so, he did not refrain from giving him the last farewell and accompanying his mortal remains to the cemetery. Al-Jawhari left the Coptic patriarchate some real estate in the al-Azbakiyyah quarter of Cairo, and he also was able to obtain official permission to start building a church there, which his brother JIRJIS AL-JAWHARI later completed. The Coptic patriarch MARK VIII transferred his residence to that place. On the literary side, al- Jawhari left a commentary on the prophets. In the course of the nineteenth century several legends arose about his piety and his care of the poor.
- Motzki, H. Dimma und égalité. Die nichtmuslimischen Minderheiten Ägyptens in der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts und die Expedition Bonapartes (1798-1801). Bonn, 1979.