Abu-l-Fida'

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[pp. 460-467]

ABŪ-L-FIDĀ’

(1273-1331 A.D.)

Abū-l-fidā' Ismā'īl b. ‘Alī b. Maḥmud b. 'Umar b. Shāhinshāh b. Ayyūb 'Imād ad-dīn al-Ayyūbī. A descendant of Saladin's family (born in Damascus) who fought against the Crusaders and later became Prince of Hāma. Geographer and historian.

Brockelmann 2, 441-46, S II, 44; EI (s.v.)

1.) Taqwīm al-buldān (A Tableau of the Countries; from 1321 A.D.)

Ed.: J.T. Reinaud-MacGuckin de Slane, Géographie d’Aboulféda, Paris 1840. French transl.: J.T. Reinaud-S. Guyard, 3 vols., Paris 1848-1883.

T.: Reinaud-de Slane A: 0

2.) Mukhtaṣar ad-duwal (A Compendious Universal History; until 1329 A.D.)

Ed.: with Latin transl.: J.J. Reiske-J.G. Adler, 5 vols., Copenhagen 1789-94; H.O. Fleischer, Leipzig 1831, complete Arabic edition printed in Constantinople, 2 vols., 1869-1870, 4 vols., repr. Cairo 1907, repr. Beirut 1956.

Exc.: with Latin transl.: A. Schultens, Vita et resgestae Saladini, Leiden 1732.

T.: Beirut and Schultens A: 4


[p. 461] 1.) From Taqwīm al-buldān.

[About the Peoples of the Blacks (Sūdān) who Descend from Hām]

The countries (lying south of Egypt) are very numerous and contain many different peoples such as the Ḥabasha, the Zanj, the Nūba, the Takrūr, the Zayla' and others. We have only imperfect information about them; most geographical works (kutub al-masālik wa-l-mamālik) have accurately described only the Moslem countries and not even all of them. Yet, as the proverb says, when it is impossible to know all, something is better than nothing. (Reinaud-de Slane 2, p. 2).

[About Egypt]

South of Egypt are the countries of the Blacks (sūdān) such as the Nūba and others. The Nile of Egypt comes from that direction.<ref>We omit the description of the Nile and equatorial lakes, which is rather vague.</ref>

... Two barriers (ḥājizān muktanifān) beset Upper Egypt, one on the east bank of the Nile, the other west of it, also known as the Cataracts (janādil). The Cataract lies above Aswān; the navigation of the Nubian boats descending downstream towards the north and of the Egyptian boats sailing upstream southwards ends there. The Cataract is a mountain from which the Nile of Egypt rushes down; huge rock outcrops bar the boats from passing through, (ibid., p. 103).

[The Frontiers of Egypt]

The western frontier of Egypt lies between Alexandria and Barqa on the coast, then runs southwards passing [p. 462] behind the Oases to the borders of Nubia. The southern frontier begins from the above said border of Nubia and runs eastwards to Aswan and further on to the Red Sea. The eastern frontier begins on the Red Sea at the latitude of Aswān, then runs to 'Aydhāb, then to al-Quṣayr up to Tīh of the Children of Israel. (ibid., p. 103).

Aswān ... Near Aswān there is the mosque (masjad) of ar-Rudaynī a large shrine on the east bank of the Nile, at one (days') horse ride from Aswān. (ibid., pp. 104 - 105).

In the book of Ibn Sa'īd it is written that south of Aswān, in the east bank, there is a pilgrim route leading to 'Aydhāb, and other ports, whence the pilgrims sail to Mecca. The travellers who go from Aswān eastwards, [first] pass through al-Waḍaḥ, then arrive at [the junction of] the route leading to Qōs. This route [from Aswān] was called "al-Waḍaḥ" ("Open Country") because it does not pass through mountains like the route of Qōs. (ibid., p. 121).

'Allāqī. - Ibn Sa'īd says that 'Allāqī belongs to the Beja territory and its inhabitants are Blacks (sūdān), Moslems, Christians and Pagans... There is a gold mine, the output of which just equals the expenses... Al-Waḍaḥ is a halting place on the pilgrims route east of al-'Allāqī.

‘Aydhāb. The opinions are divided on 'Aydhāb. Some put the frontier of Egypt so as to include this town (in Egypt) and this seems the opinion most likely to be correct; some say that it belongs to the Beja territory and some others attribute it to the Ḥabasha. (ibid., p. 121).

[p. 463] [The Countries on the Southern Side]

The country of the Nūba extends [mostly] on the east bank of the Nile. Their capital is Dunqula.

The country of the Beja (al-bujāh) lies between the Red Sea and the Nile River. Between them and the Nūba there are impregnable mountains.

The country of the Zaghāwa borders on the Nūba, west of the Nile, (ibid., p. 153).

Jarmī is the capital of the Ḥabasha. It is mentioned by the majority of travellers in the books of routes.

Jīmī, on the Nile, is, according to Ibn Sa'īd the capital of Kanem.

Dunqula is the town of the Nūba. Its [astronomical] position is:

Longitude Latitude
according to Atwāl<ref>“The Book of Longitudes” known only through Abū-l-fidā’.</ref> 48° 40' 14° 30'
according to Qānūn<ref>“Al-Qānūn al-Mas’ūdī” of al-Bīrūnī.</ref> 53° 40' 14° 0'
according to Ibn Sa'īd 53° 10' 14° 15'

To the south and the west of Dongola are the dwellings of the Zanj who are subject to the Nūba: their capital is Kūsha, beyond the equator.

Zaghāwa. Ibn Sa'īd said: (Zaghāwa is) the capital of the Zaghāwīyyīn at Long. 55° and Lat. 14°. South of it are the dwellings of the Zaghāwīyyīn and the Bajāwīyyīn (probably to be read: Tajāwīyyīn), which extend as far as the Nile bends (i'uijāj).

Damdama: Ibn Sa'īd says: Damdama is the place from where the Damādīm came to invade the country of the Nūba... Near it is situated Qaljūr. (ibid., pp. 156-163 passim).

[p. 464] 2.) From "Mukhtaṣar ad-duwal" (Beirut edition).

[About the Sūdān who are Descendants from Hām]

Ibn Sa'īd says that among the Blacks (Sūdān) there are many different religions. Some are pagans (majūs)<ref>The original “majūs” literally indicates the Magian Parsees or the fire-worshippers in general. As it is applied here and by other writers to the inhabitants of interior Africa, we have interpretatively translated it as “pagans”, in general.</ref> others worship snakes, others worship idols.

Ibn Sa'īd, quoting Galenus, said: They [the peoples of Africa] are characterized by ten qualities: curly hair, small chin, broad nostrils, thick lips, sharp teeth, bad-smelling skin, abundant sweat.

One of the greatest peoples (umam) among them are the Ḥabash (or Ḥubsh), whose land is opposite to Ḥejāz and is separated from it by the sea. Their territory extends very greatly in length and width and borders on the Nūba on the east and south. Before the Islamic era they (Ḥabash) conquered Yemen... The Ḥabasha eunuchs are the highest priced among all. South of the Ḥabasha (al-Ḥabashah) live the Zayla' (az-Zaylaʿ) among whom the prevailing religion is Islam.

Another nation of the Blacks (Sūdān) are the Nūba, who border on the Ḥabasha on the north and the west. The Egyptians, who are their neighbours on the southern border, often wage war on them. Luqmān the Wise, who lived at the time of David (Dāwūd) the Prophet, is believed to be from the Nūba people, and son of Baylah. Dhū’-l-Nūn, the Egyptian, and Bilāl ibn Hamāma are also from the same nation.

Next comes the nation of the Beja (al-buja), men of very dark colour, who go naked and worship idols. They have gold (mines) in their country. They are honest and trustworthy with the traders.

[p. 465] Another nation are the Damādim who live on the Nile above the Zanj, and are "the Tartars (at-Tatar) of the Blacks (Sūdān)". They (the Damādim) waged war against them (the Zanj ?)<ref>Possibly the Nūba or other peoples may be meant here, but, grammatically, the adverb refers to the Zanj.</ref> and killed many, as it happened between the Tartars and the Moslems. They do not care about their religion (adyān); they have idols (awthān) and different manners. In their countries there are giraffes. In the land of the Damādim the Nile divides, one branch flowing towards Egypt, the other to the Zanj. (Beirut I, pp. 119 - 120).

[The Flight of 'Abdalla Marwān]<ref>Abū-l-fidā’ does not mention the 7th century Arab raids into Nubia.</ref>

When Marwān was killed, his two sons 'Abdalla and ‘Ubaydalla fled to the country of the Ḥabasha but the Ḥabasha fought against them: ‘Ubaydalla was killed, but 'Abdalla escaped death together with some of those who were with him; he survived until the time of the caliphate of al-Mahdī. It was Naṣr b. Muḥammad b. al-Ash'ath, the [Caliph's] agent in Palestine, who captured and sent him to al-Mahdī. (ibid. 2, p. 134).

[Campaigns against the Nubians]

In this year (558 H./1163 A.D.), Shawār became vizier to al-Āḍid līdinillah, the Alide. Shawār was loyal to aṣ-Ṣālih Talā'i' b. Ruzzīk, who appointed him governor of the Ṣa'īd. The governorate (wilāya) of the Ṣa'īd was the highest post after the vizirate. (ibid. 5, p. 55; Schultens, p. 2).

(Year 564 H./1168-69 A.D.). When Saladin felt he was prospering in his vizirate, the Commissioner of the Caliphate was murdered. He was the Commandant of the [p. 466] Blacks (muqaddam as-sūdān). The Blacks, who were entrusted with the guard of the Palace, gathered in great numbers and came into clash with Saladin's troops [in the square] between the two Palaces. The Blacks were defeated and suffered heavy losses. Saladin pursued them until they were totally destroyed, after he had aroused disputes among them.<ref>This detail is mentioned only Abū-l-fidā’, who generally overlooks details of Saladin’s rule in Egypt, particularly his campaign against Nubia and the repression of the supporters of the Fatimids.</ref> In this way Saladin became master of all the Palace, to which he appointed Bahā’uddīn Qarāqūsh al-Asad, a white eunuch, as superintendent. (ibid. 5, p. 66; Schultens, op.cit., p. 10).

At the beginning of the year [569 H./1173-74 A.D.], as Saladin and his family feared Nūraddīn, they agreed upon the occupation of a kingdom beyond the frontiers of Egypt, where they would have a kingdom in which to find shelter, were Nūraddīn to attack them and beat them ... Then Saladin sent his brother Tūrānshāh to Nubia. After he realized that this land was of no value, he instructed his brother, in the same year, to proceed with his army to Yemen. (ibid. 5, p. 73; Schultens, pp. 10 - 16).

In the month of Ramaḍān of this year [May 1174 A.D.] Saladin crucified a great number of prominent Egyptians, who had plotted against him and had endeavoured to restore the Alide (al-'uluwīyya) dynasty. (ibid. 5, pp. 74-75; Schultens, p. 17).

At the beginning of the year (570 H./1174 A.D.), many troops rallied around a man from the Ṣa'īd called al-Kanz. This man dared to march against Saladin; but, when Saladin sent an army against him, he was killed with many of his men and the remainder took to flight, (ibid. 5, p. 76; Schultens, p. 19).

[p. 467] In this year (674 H./1275-76 A.D.), after al-Malik aẓ-Ẓahir returned<ref>From a campaign against the Tartars, in Syria.</ref> to Egypt, he sent an army against Nubia, under the command of Aqsonqor al-Fāriqānī and 'Izzaddīn Aybek al-Afram. They marched against it, pillaging and killing, then returned with booty. (ibid. 7, p. 13).

In this year (686 H./1287—88 A.D.), the Sultan al-Malik al-Manṣūr sent a regular army (ʿaskar) against Nubia under the command of 'Alamaddīn Sanjar al-Masrūrī, known under the name of al-Khayyāṭ (The Tailor), who was the governor (mutawallī) of Cairo. They went there, raided (the country), took spoils and returned. (ibid. 7, p. 29).

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