Abu Shama

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[pp. 364-372]


(1202-1267 A.D.)

Shiḥāb ad-dīn Abū Shāma A. Rahmān b. Ismāʿīl al-Maqdisī ad-Dimishqī ash-Shāfiʿī. An historian born in Jerusalem, who lived mostly at Damascus and summarized al-Qaḍī al-Faḍil’s History of Saladin. Rosenthal 455 n.1, 491 s.; GAL 1, 317; EI (s.v.). K. ar-rawḍatatayn fī akhbār ad-dawlatayn (The Book of two Gardens for the History of the two Dynasties).

Ed.: Cairo 1870, 2 vols. French transl.: Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Hist. Orientaux 4, Paris 1898.

Exc.: 875, 940.

T. : Cairo A: 0

[The Murder of the Commissioner of the Caliphate and the Battle of the Sūdān between the two Palaces]

ʿImād<ref>ʿImād ad-dīn al Ispahānī, the secretary of Saladin and author of “Kharīda”</ref>. said: Saladin cancelled [all grants of] land estates (iqṭā’) to the Egyptians and took from them the administration [of the estates] (dawā’ir)<ref>Thus in the 1870 Cairo edition. Mus’ad Al-Maktaba p. 174 quoting a 1962 edition has “dābir” instead of “dawā’ir”. The general meaning, however, remains the same.</ref> in order to favour his soldiers.”

There was in the royal palace a eunuch whose title was: “The Commissioner of the Caliphate” (Mu’taman al-khilāfa), who actually ruled supreme in the Palace. He and his entourage agreed to contact the Franks (al-Faranj), to arrest the soldiers of Asad and those of Saladin, whom Saladin had left behind when he marched out to meet the [p. 365] Franks, and also to arrest Saladin’s men at Cairo, then to attack him in the rear so as to vanquish him completely. They dispatched a letter with this information to the Franks. It happened that a Turk (Turkumānī) crossing Biʾr al-Bayḍāʾ [near Bilbeis] noticed that a messenger, wearing shabby clothes, had a pair of new sandles that bore no trace of having been used before. He confiscated them and brought them to Saladin who had them unstitched and found the letter send to the Franks by the officials of the Palace (ahl al-qasr). They hoped to succeed through guile. Saladin took the letter and said: - “Show me the man who wrote this letter”. They showed him a Jew, one of those who wore the [yellow] shash (rahṭ). When they brought him to Saladin to be requestioned and punished for having written the letter and to verify his handwriting, he declared himself a Moslem, before everyone, made a profession of the Islamic faith and embraced Islam wholeheartedly. Then he confessed his guilt and gave his own version [of what happened] saying that he was ordered to do this by the Commissioner of the Caliphate and that he was innocent of this crime. The Sultan was pleased with his profession of Islam, forgave him of his fault and accepted his admission of guilt. It was agreed to keep this [discovery] a secret, but the eunuch feared that he would be beaten and that the clubs would put down the insurrection before its start. He feared to leave the Palace and if he ever went out he did not go far away. Saladin was very angry but concealed it. He just did nothing either to reassure him or to arrest him, until the eunuch returned to his habitual way of life and felt that he was out of danger: he thought that the hideous crime he had planned to commit had remained undiscovered. He had a palace (qaṣr) in a village near Qaliyūb, called al-Kharqāniyya – for it was really a folly (khurga) and “the tear (kharga) [p. 366] was larger than could be mended.”<ref>ʿImād here plays with the words khurga (“folly”) and kharga (“tear”) and ironically links them to the place name Kharqaniyya. The general meaning of ‘Imād’s comment is that the Commissioner of the Caliphate unwisely went to his country’s villa to meet his fate</ref>. One day he retired there for pleasure without suspecting that the day would see his final ruin and the hour for the total collapse of his power had come. Saladin sent some [soldiers] who beheaded him and stripped him of his clothes. That happened on Wednesday, the 25th of Dhū-l-Qa’da of the fourth year [of Saladin, i.e. 7 July 1173 A.D.]. He met his fate in the most shameful way.

ʿImād said: - when [the eunuch] was killed the Sūdān were enraged and rose up [against Saladin]. They numbered over 50,000. It was their habit, whenever they rose against a vizier, to kill him and totally destroy him, always thinking that it was in their power to do that, and that they could always be victorious. Saladin’s men rallied to the fight (hayjāʾ) led by the emir Abū-l-Hayjā’ [=the Father of the Army]. War broke out [in the square] between the two Palaces, and the soldiers encircled the Sūdān on both sides. The fight went on for two days until the courage of the Blacks (asāhim) dwindled. Every time they took shelter in a quarter, it was set on fire. They [eventually] collected what they could and fled towards Gīza, evacuating their own homes. That happened on Saturday, the 28th day of Dhū-l-Qa’da [10 July 1173 A.D.]. After this [incident], the misfortunes of the Sudan did not end, nor had they any escape to safety: whenever they stopped, they were caught and killed ruthlessly. At Bāb az-Zuweila (b. adh-dhuwayila) they occupied a quarter of theirs, known as al-Mansūra, where they had [their] houses solidly built. There houses were pulled down to their foundations and, after demolishing them the land was ploughed up and some [p. 367] emirs transformed it into gardens, which still exist with a sāqiyah.

Before this incident (nūba), Saladin’s elder brother, Fakhraddin Shams ad-Dawla Tūrānshāh b. Ayyūb, whom Nureddin had sent from Damascus to bring reinforcements [to Saladin] against the Franks and the people of the Palace, had arrived in Cairo on the 3rd day of Dhū-l-Qa’da [= 20 June]. He personally led the fight against the Sūdān, playing a decisive role [in the victory]. It was surprising that al-‘Ᾱḍid stood on the balcony looking at the battle [going on] between the two Palaces. Someone said that he gave orders to those who were inside the Palace to discharge arrows and throw stones at the soldiers who had come from Syria (al-ʿasākir ash-shāmiyya); others said that it happened against his will. Then Shams ad-Dawla gave an order to the grenadiers (az-zarrāqīn) to set fire to the balcony where al-‘Ᾱḍid was standing. One of the grenadiers hastened to execute the order, when suddenly the door of the balcony opened and the “Spokesman of the Caliphate” (Za’īm al-khilāfa)<ref>This was the title of the other eunuch, who, together with the “Commissioner of the Caliphate” virtually held all power in the Palace of al-‘Ᾱḍid.</ref> appeared and shouted: “The amīr al-muʾminīn salutes Shams ad-Dawla!” and added: “Beware of the slaves! (ʿabīd). Beware of the dogs! Chase them out of your country!” The slaves were fighting with great energy because they thought that al-‘Ᾱḍid was pleased with them; but, when they heard those words their courage failed, they lost all strength and fled. (Cairo I, p. 178).

[The Conquest (fatḥ) of Nubia]

‘Imād said: In the month of Jumadā al-Ulā, Shamsaddīn [=Shams ad-Dawla] Tūrānshāh b. Ayyūb, Saladin’s [p. 368] brother, raided (ghazā) the country of the Nūba and displayed his much feared severity. He captured their citadel called Ibrīm, and swore that he would never depart (from it). The country was devoid of resources and abounding in hard ships. After that he returned with some prisoners to Aswan and distributed his booty consisting in Blacks (sūdān) to his men.

Ibn Abī Tayy, the Alepin, says: In that year [1174 A.D.], the Blacks and the slaves (as-sūdān wa-l-‘abīd) from Nubia assembled and went out in great numbers, with the aim of conquering (mulk)<ref>Ar. : “qāsidīn m.l.k. Misr” may also be interpreted: “with the aim of assisting the (Fatimite) king (malik) of Egypt”.</ref> Egypt. They penetrated into the districts of the Ṣa’īd and planned to march on Aswan to lay siege to it and pillage its villages. The emir (of Aswan)<ref>Under the Fatimids, the Kanz family had established a semi-independent emirate in the Aswan district.</ref>, by name Kanz ad-Dawla, sent a message to al-Malik an-Nāṣir [Saladin] asking for reinforcements, and Saladin sent a regiment from his army under the command of Shujā’ al-Ba’labakkī [= al-Baalbeki]. When they arrived at Aswan they found that the slaves had already withdrawn after having devastated the country. Shujā’ and Kanz chased them and there was a fierce battle, in which many fell on both sides. Shujā’ went back to Cairo and reported on the deeds of the slaves and their power in the Ṣa’īd. Al-Malik an-Nāṣir despatched his brother Shams ad-Dawla with a huge army. Shams ad-Dawla found that they had already withdrawn into the Nūba country. He marched on them, sending many ships by the river loaded with men and provisions, having ordered them to him in the Nūba country. He arrived at the fortress of Ibrīm and captured it within three days, and took spoils of all that he found there: money, cattle and [p. 369] provisions. He freed a large number of captives and took prisoners all those whom he found there, but the Lord (ṣāḥib) of the fortress had escaped. Then (Shams ad-Dawla) wrote to the Sultan informing him (of his victory).<ref>A laudatory poem by one Abūl-Hasan b. adh-Dharawī is reported at this point.</ref>

After that, Shams ad-Dawla went back to Aswan and Qos. He had with him an emir called Ibrāhīm al-Kurdī. Al-Kurdī requested Shams ad-Dawla to grant him the citadel of Ibrīm as a fief. He granted him that and sent with him a company of Kurds who had received no pension or fief (battālīn). When they arrived at the citadel, they divided themselves into smaller groups and began raiding the Nūba country around. They troubled them with extortion and amassed a large amount of wealth so that their property consisted of much booty and a huge number of cattle.

It happened one day that while they were swimming across the river to an island of the Nūba called Dhabdān<ref>Ibn Wāsil – who reported the same story, wrote: “Ḥabdan”. Today it is called Adindān.</ref>, their emir Ibrāhīm was drowned together with a number of his companions. Those who survived waded back to the citadel of Ibrīm, collected all they possessed and left it empty with a two year stay. The Nūba came back to reoccupy the citadel.

The king of the Nūba sent an envoy with a letter to Shams ad-Dawla, who was at Qos. The envoy carried a letter asking for a peace treaty (ṣulḥ) and also brought with him two slaves, a girl and a man, as a gift. [Shams ad-Dawla] wrote an answer, and added two pairs of arrows saying: - “ I have no other reply than this.” He appointed one Masʿūd from Aleppo to accompany the [Nubian] [p. 370] envoy back, and to spy out the country was to prepare for an invasion. The Alepin proceeded with the envoy to Dongola, the royal town.

Masʿūd reported: I found it to be a narrow country, with no crops other than dhurra and with small palm trees from which they obtain their foodstuffs (adām)<ref>Lit. “the little food that is eaten with bread”. Cf. Italian “companatico”.</ref>. Of their king, Masūd said: - “One day he came to us (almost) naked, mounting a horse without a saddle and being wrapped only in a robe of satin (aṭlas), he was completely hairless (aqra’). I went up to him and greeted him; he burst into wild laughter. He ordered (his men) to stamp a cross on my hand with a red hot iron, which they did; he also ordered them to bring me fifty pounds (riṭl) of flour, then he dismissed me.” Masʿūd also said: -“Dongola has no brick-built houses, except the royal residence (dār al-malik) ; all the rest consists of houses built of reeds (akhṣāṣ)”. (Cairo I, pp. 208-209).


About the fall of al-Kanz, Ibn Shaddād said: Al-Kanz was in the past a most prominent chieftain among the Egyptians. He settled at Aswan, where he never ceased ruling like an emir. He rallied around him the Blacks (sūdān), whom he made believe that he was about the conquer the [whole] country and restore the dynasty to the Egyptians. Those native people, being supporters (muhāwāh) of the Egyptians, thoughtlessly accepted this boast as true. The Blacks rallied in great numbers around him and he marched on Qos and the neighbouring districts. The news reached Saladin, who dispatched a [p. 371] numerous army against him. The Army, fully equipped, consisted of veterans who had already tasted the pleasure of the land of Egypt and feared very much to be driven out. Saladin gave the command of the army to his brother Sayf ad-dīn [Tūrānshāh], who marched until he drew near the insurgents, fell upon them in the battlefield and cut them to pieces. He killed so great a number of them that he cut the rebellion at the root and broke every dream of revenge. That took place on the 7th day of Safar of the year (5)70 [= 8 Sep 1174 A.D.]. As a consequence the [Ayyubid] power grew stronger.

ʿImād wrote (about this): “At the beginning of the year (5)70 [b. 2 August 1174 A.D.], the so-called Kanz rose up in Upper Egypt, followed by a multitude of Blacks (sūdān) and slaves (ʿabīd)<ref>Thus were commonly known the Nubians in Egypt (cf. Usama Ibn Munqidh, Ibn Muyassar…).</ref>. He fled away and invited anyone, far and near, to join him. One of the emirs he had with him was the brother of Ḥisām ad-dīn Abū-l-Hayjāʾ as-Samīn. Kanz treacherously murdered the emir as well as his devotees (munqati’īn). The garrison commanded by his [Ḥisām’s] brother moved against him [Kanz] to avenge his blood. For this [punitive expedition] they received help from Sayf ad-dīn, the brother of the Sultan, ‘Izzaddīn Musak, his cousin (ibn khāl) and his army. They marched on the town of Tūd [Tawd], which put up resistance against them.<ref>See the statement by Ibn Abī Tayy, below.</ref> The Balyy rushed in to fight and the population [of Tūd] was utterly exterminated by the sword. The army took much glory from this deed. Then [Abū-l-Hayjā’] marched against al-Kanz who had not given up his ambitious plans [p. 372] and hostility, nor his evil behaviour (su’), nor his sūdān.<ref>‘Imād’s pompous style is evident here.</ref> His blood was shed and after his brilliant rise there was found nobody to rise [after him]… and the dynasty had no more Kanz (“treasure”) after her Kanz”.<ref>The writer played on words, as the meaning of “Kanz” is “Treasure”.</ref>

Ibn Abī Ṭayy said: “A man, by name ‘Abbas ash-Shādhī, rose in a village of Upper Egypt and proclaimed the rebellion at Qos; he plundered the town and brought about destruction and robbery. The news reached Sayf ad-dīn Abū Bakr b. Ayyūb, whom the Sultan [Saladin] had appointed his deputy in Egypt. He gathered an army and fought him; he defeated and dispersed his bands and killed them. After this, he went on to chase Kanz ad-Dawla, the wālī of Aswan, who had attacked Qos. Most of his [Kanz’s] men were killed; he fled but was captured by some soldiers of al-Malik al-‘Ᾱdil and was killed.” (Cairo II, p. 235).