"The madrasa was built by Arghun Khatun and her husband, Izz al Din Aydamir al Ashrafi. The Khatuniyyah was built as a funerary madrasah in accordance with the will of Arghun Khatun, the freed-slave wife of Amir Izz al-Dm Aydamir al-Ashrafi. As in the case of the Saqraqiyyah, the lengthy founding inscription in the entrance bay gives the names of the founders and the dates of the establishment of the waqf as A.H. 773 (A.D. 1371) and the completion of the building as A.H. 775 (A.D. 1373-74), and lists the waqf along with precise and minute details regarding the distribution of its revenues. It is clear from the waqfiyyah that Arghun Khatun was a very pious woman: she took care that after her death prayers would continuously be read by her tomb, the Muslim poor would be fed, and orphans clothed and educated. Married to a man of wealth and stature she could afford to donate a waqf that would ensure the maintenance of her will.
Her husband, Izz al-Din Aydamir al-Unuki al-Ashrafi al-Dawadari, was originally a Mamluk of Unuk, son of Sultan Muhammad al-Nasir, who became a guard of Sultan Hasan with whom he had good relations. He eventually was made his secretary (dawadar) and was influential at court. After the sultan's death Izz al-Dm was sent to Syria and subsequently appointed governor of Tripoli, a post he held until 1371, the date of the waqfiyyah's establishment. Sobernheim gives a full account of Amir Izz al-Dm's life drawn from his biographies found in the Manhal, in Ibn Hajar al- Asqalam, and in al-Maqrizi's Suluk.
The founding inscription is set over the door of the entrance bay. It is organized in three sections and reads consecutively, although the first ten lines are interrupted by a decorative panel and are followed by a band of four lines separated from another band of four lines by a course of ablaq. The eighteen lines of the inscription read:
"In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate, Glory to Allah, God of the universe and may God bless our Lord Muhammad, our master has built this blessed place, the very noble, high excellency, the master, the well served, the governor Izz al-Din Aydamir al Ashrafi, our master king of the princes, may God fortify his victories in concert with his noble wife, the well-guarded Lady Arghun, may God protect her with His mercy, according to the will previously prepared by her. She has constituted as waqf: the entire qaysariyyah known as Duhaysha and the establishment of silk weavers, and the nine shops and stores to the outside of it and known after it-and the store to the outside of the qiblah wall attached to it to the right hand side of the person entering it, and of the nine shops: four large shops next to it, to the right hand side of the person entering it from the qiblah door, two shops to the left and two to the right, the other five shops also next to the qaysariyyah; and the whole of the three adjoining shops facing the qiblah door of the qaysariyyah; and all the shops adjoining the center of the eastern suq in the eastern row close to the qaysariyyah of the merchants; all these plans being located in Tripoli the well guarded. She [constituted these as waqfl for herself during her lifetime, and afterwards it is to be spent in accordance with the following specifications, that the legal director of the waqf shall establish, to the mausoleum which was designated for her who established the waqf, and in which she is to be buried, four men knowing the Qur an by heart [huffuz] to whom he shall give a salary according to his judgment, on condition that they go daily to the mausoleum of the founder and recite a complete quarter of the Qur an and pray afterwards for the founder and for him who freed her, her husband above mentioned, and implore God for His mercy for both of them and His forgiveness and indulgence, and that they transmit the benefits of the reading [of the Qur an] to the souls of the two [founders] and that they associate all Muslims in the prayer, and finish the prayer with prayers for the Prophet, and arrange things in such a way as to complete the whole Qur an on the eve of each Friday, thus reading on her grave a complete Qur an weekly. And whoever comes with them from among the Muslims and the poor should also complete the noble reading on her grave, pray for her, and implore for her mercy, as mentioned above. Also the legal supervisor is to prepare two different meals as he sees proper in his own judgment, and get a quintal of good pure bread flour and put it in the mausoleum for distribution to the poor of Muhammad's people, and this is to take place every Friday eve after the completion of the reading of the noble Qur an. Also he is to spend for the mausoleum on whatever is needed in terms of furnishings and other [things] as well as pay a permanent intendant whose job is to sweep and clean and dust and furnish and light the mausoleum. He is also to establish in Tripoli a primary school for orphans and employ a salaried scholar and eight orphan boys with whom the scholar should sit, as is customary, and teach the reading of the Qur an as well as writing; and whenever one of the students finishes the Qur an, dies, or stops attending, the director is to find a replacement from among the Muslim orphans. He is to provide the scholar with a salary of thirty dirhams each month, give each of the orphans a quarter of a dirham per day, and provide him with complete clothing as the supervisor sees fit in terms of a shirt, a hat, trousers, a coat, and a change of clothes. And the income from this waqf, when and if the ways and means of its distribution should stop, is to go to the poor among the Muslims. The beginning of the revenue should go for the construction. And she has retained for herself the right to use the income as she pleases and to give its custody to whomever she wants, and then after her life the supervision devolves on him who freed her, our master king of the amirs mentioned above, may God strengthen his victories, then on the wisest, followed by the wisest of his children born from her, then on the person specified in the written waqf dated twenty-third Sha ban of the year seven hundred and seventy-three [March 1372]. And the pious Amir Jamal al-Dm Yusuf, son of the late
Izz al-Dm Ghazan al-Sayfl, has supervised the construction of this whole blessed place, may God bestow on him a high reward. The completion of this was in the year seven hundred and seventy-five [1373-74]
The Khatuniyyah is a corner building, with fac,ades on its north and west; the northern one includes the main entrance. It is opened by a portal and a set of double windows framed in alternate courses of black and white stone topped by a course of joggled stone. The gateway itself is a tall, arched opening of no particular architectural or decorative merit. The wall with the door has a simple decoration of black and white stones with one course of complex joggling between the two bands of inscription. Above, the vertical inscriptions frame a square plaque containing a geometric star motif in relief that often appears on metal work. In place of the more common, but also more expensive, muqarnas hood, the upper part of this deep archway has a concave Tripoli rosette over two deeply set arches. This gateway seems to have influenced that of the nearby Mosque of Arghun Shah, which was built some twenty-five years later in an even simpler version. Such entrances with two areas instead of one, often two semidomes framed by an arch, were popular in fifteenth-century Cairo64 at a time when breaking up the unity of the facade was common practice.
The west facade has five windows organized in an arrangement of double-single-double, using the same framing of black and white stones and joggled course as the main facade, except that here the lintels of the double windows have three blazons set at either end and in the middle of each lintel. They all display the same cup on the middle field of a three-fielded shield. According to Mayer, this blazon is associated with the name of Aydamur al-Anuki, the husband of Arghun Khatun.
Of the superstructure all that can be seen from the outside is the dome over the tomb chamber at the corner. A plain cupola is set over an octagonal zone opened by eight deep arches (now mostly blocked) resting on the roof. The small dome seen on the elevation is not visible from the street.
For many years now, the Khatuniyyah has been inhabited by an exceedingly pious old man who will not allow anyone into the building. But luckily we do have a plan and a cross-section drawn in 1953 by architects from the Department of Antiquities in Lebanon. They show a rambling building with a central entrance, what seems to be a dwelling area to the east, and the main part of the monument containing tomb chamber and pIayer hall to the west. The tomb chamber is, as expected, the most important room of the building, and its dome, which is plain from the outside, inside shows a system of narrow concave ribs alternating with wider ribs.
he two areas forming a corridor by the entrance are both covered with cross-vaulting having the Tripoli type of concave edges and central rosette. The prayer room with an askew mihrab has a complex superstructure designed to make this small unit seem as lofty as possible.
The Khatuniyyah is large for a funerary monument but otherwise not particularly ostentatious or elaborate, reflecting the will of the founder who did not seem to want to attract attention, but did want to make ample provisions for the needy. She could certainly have afforded something more grandiose, but preferred to put her money in businesses that would provide revenues to support prayer and charitable activities.
Salam-Liebich, Hayat, 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. pp. 144-152.)