Al-Baladhuri

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[pp. 79-83]

AL-BALĀDHURĪ

(d. 892 A.D.)

Abū-l-'Abbās Aḥmad b. Yahyā b. Jabir al-Balādhurī. Historian at the Court of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil.

Brockelmann, 1, 141; Sezgin 320; EI (s.v.)

Main work: Futūh al-buldān'

Ed.: De Goeje, El-Beladsori, Liber de Expugnatione Regionum, Leiden 1886; S. al-Munajjid, Cairo 1956-60. Engl, transl.: Ph. Khouri Hltti-Fl. Murgotten, Futūh al- buldān of ... al-Balādhurī, The Origins of the Islamic State, 1, New York 1916.

T.: Hitti and De Goeje A:0


[p. 80] [Terms made with Nubia:]

ʿUqbah leads the attack. Muḥammad b. Sa'd from Abū-l-Khayr: - When the Moslems subdued Egypt, 'Amr ibn al-'Āṣ sent to the surrounding villages, in order to overrun and pillage them, a detachment of cavalry under 'Uqbah ibn Nāfi’ al-Fihri (Nāfi’ being a brother of al-'Āṣ on his mother's side). The cavalry entered the land of Nubia as the summer expeditions (sawā’if) of the Greeks do. The Moslems met in Nubia determined resistance. They were subjected to such severe showers of arrows until most of them were wounded and had to return with many wounds and blinded eyes. Therefore were the Nubians called the "archers of the eyes" (rumāt al-hadaq).

The terms made.- This state of affairs continued until 'Abdalla ibn Sa'd ibn Abī Sarh ruled over Egypt. The Nubians asked for peace and conciliation from ‘Abdalla, who granted their request, the terms being that they pay no tax (jizyah), but offer, as a present (hudnah truce)[1], three hundred slaves per annum; and that the Moslems offer them, as a present, food equivalent to the value of the slaves.

The Nubians as archers.— Muḥammad b. Sa'd, from a shaykh of the tribe of Himyar. The latter said: 'I have been to Nubia twice during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, and I never saw a people who are sharper in warfare than they. I heard one of them say to the Moslems: "Where do you want me to hit you with my arrow?" and in case the Moslem would disdainfully [p. 81] say: "In such a spot", the Nubian would never miss it.

They were fond of fighting with arrows; but their arrows would scarcely ever hit on the ground. One day, they arrayed themselves against us and we were desirous to carry the conflict with the sword; but they were too quick for us and shot their arrows, putting out our eyes. The eyes that were put out numbered 150. We at last, thought that the best thing to do with such a people was to make peace (sulh). We could carry very little booty away from them; and their ability to inflict injury was great. 'Amr, however, refused to make peace with them and went on contending against them until he was dismissed and was succeeded by ‘Abdalla ibn Sa'd ibn Abī-Sarh, who concluded peace with them.'

According to al-Wakidī, Mu'awiyah ibn Hudayj al-Kindī lost his eye in Nubia and thus became one-eyed.

The legality of selling their children as slaves: Abū 'Ubayd al-Qāsim ibn Sallām from Yazīd ibn Abī-Habīb: - The latter said, "Between us and the black tribes (asāwīd), no treaty or covenant exists. Only a truce was arranged between us, according to which we agreed to give them some wheat and lentils, and they to give us slaves (raqīq). It is all right to buy their slaves from them or from others."

Abū 'Ubayd from al-Layth ibn Sa'd: The latter said: "The terms we made with the Nubians stipulated only that we neither fight against them, nor they against us, that they give us slaves (raqīq) and we give them their value in terms of food. If they desire, therefore, to sell their wives or children, there is no reason why they should not be bought."[2]

[p. 82] In a report of Abū-l-Bukhturī and others, it is stated that ‘Abdalla ibn Abī-Sarh made terms with the Nubians to the effect that they give four hundred slaves per year, whom they shall bring forth and for whom they shall receive food in exchange.

The caliph al-Mahdī ordered that Nubia be held responsible every year for 360 slaves (ra's) and one giraffe, and that they be given wheat, vinegar,[3] wine, clothes and mattresses or the value thereof.

The Nubians recently claimed that the tribute (baqṭ) is not due on them every year, and that it was demanded from them in the caliphate of al-Mahdī, at which time they told the caliph that the tribute (baqṭ) was a part of what they took as slaves (raqīq) from their enemies and therefore they had, if they could not get enough (slaves), to use their own children and offer them. Al-Mahdī ordered that they be tolerated, and that the tribute (baqṭ) of one year be considered as if of three. No confirmation, however, could be found in the registers of al-Ḥaḍrah;[4] but it was found in the register in Egypt.

Al-Qummī in Bejaland.[5] - Al-Mutawakkil ordered one Muḥammad b. 'Abdalla, known as al-Qummī, to be sent and put in charge of al-Ma'din (the mine) in Egypt. He also put him in charge of al-Qulzum (Suez), the road of al-Ḥijāz, and the furnishing of guides to the Egyptians [p. 83] when on holy pilgrimage. Arriving in al-Ma'din, he conveyed provisions in ships from al-Qulzum to the land of the Beja. He then proceeded to a sea-coast, called 'Aydhāb, where the ships met him. With these provisions he and his followers were strengthened and fed until they came to the castle (qal'ah) of the king of the Beja (malik al-bujah). Al-Qummī attacked his numerous men on camels fastened with girths. Al-Qummī brought bells and put them on his horses. As soon as the camels heard the bell sounding, they ran away with the Beja men over hills and valleys. The chief of the Beja was killed and was succeeded by his sister's son[6], whose father was one of the kings of the Beja (ahad mulūk al-bujāwīyyīn). He sued for a truce (hudnah), which al-Mutawakkil granted only on condition that he (the chief) should tread on his (Al-Mutawakkil's) carpet. Accordingly, he came to Surraman-ra'a[7]. and made terms in the year 241 (b. 22 May 855 A.D.), agreeing to pay tribute in money and slaves. He was then sent back with al-Qummī. Thus, the people of the Beja are in a state of truce in which they pay and do not prevent the Moslems from working in the gold mine, which terms are mentioned in the condition imposed upon their chief. (Hitti, op. cit., pp. 379 - 382; De Goeje, op. cit., pp. 280-282)

  1. The translator read “hadīyyah” (present) instead of “hudna” (truce).
  2. I.e. to sell their own children, if the war captives could not reach the number required under the agreement.
  3. In Arabic “khall”. Possibly, it is a misreading of khayl (horse).
  4. Baghdad. More probably to be read “al-khadrā’”(The Green One).
  5. This campaign is described by several other Arab historians with a variety of details. Cf. Ṭabarī, Miskawaih, Maqrīzī.
  6. The Arabic text in De Goeje (op. cit.) is uncertain and admits different readings according to the diacritic dots: e.g. his sister’s son (ibn ukhti-hi), his brother’s son (ibn akhī-hi).
  7. Surra-man-ra’a (=he who sees it, rejoices), also called “Samarra”, was the Caliph’s residence built by al-Ma’mūn