Al-Balawi

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[pp. 180-184]

AL-BALAWĪ

(about 950 A.D.)

Abū Muh. Abdalla b. Maḥfūẓ al-Madīnī al-Balawī, an historian from Medina. Author of the most important source for Ibn Ṭūlūn, the Abbasid Caliphs and of the events in the Near East during the 9th century.

Sīrat Aḥmad b. Ṭūlūn

Ed.: M. Kurd Ali, Damas. 1939.

T.: Kurd A:0


The Building of Qaṭā'i':

Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn went up the mountain and planned (to build) a castle on it. He ordered his men (aṣḥāb), his attendants (ghilmān) and helpers (tubbāʾ) to choose a place, for their houses, near him. They planned and built (their houses) so that the residential quarters extended as far as the town. Then the quarters (qaṭā’iʾ) were allotted and named each quarter after the name of the occupants. The Nūba had their own quarter called after them. (Kurd, p. 52).

The Story of Al-'Omarī<ref>We write "al-Omari" to conform with Monneret, Storia, pp. 110-113.</ref>:

Ibn aṣ-Ṣūfī went to the [districts of the] Oases and stayed there sometime, then he returned to the district of Ashmunein. Ibn Ṭūlūn sent a general named Abū-l-Mu'īth against him. Actually, he had already been in the Ṣa'īd to fight against a man who had arisen there claiming that he was ’Abd al-Hamīd b. 'Abdalla b. 'Abd al- 'Azīz b. 'Ubaydalla b. 'Umar al-Khaṭṭāb, of blessed memory. His actual name was 'Abd ar-Raḥmān. The reason [p. 181] why this man ['Abd ar-Raḥmān] rose up was that [a party of] Beja mounted on dromedaries and led by a seditious one-eyed man, had made a raid in Upper Egypt, had taken the inhabitants by surprise in the place of prayer (masalla), had robbed and killed them and then had returned home unmolested. At other times in the past, they had done similar actions. This al-Omarī, full of zeal for God and for the Muslims, rose up and laid an ambush for them on their way. As the Beja came again [to raid Upper Egypt] according to their habit, he [al-Omarī] took them by surprise and killed their one-eyed leader and his companions. For this reason the Tulunids and other emirs of that time had a numerous army stationed at the foot of the mountain which extends into the country known as al-Ḥabash, in order to protect the population - until today.

Then this al-Omarī moved to the country of the Beja, killing a great number of people and harassing them in their own country. He became for them like a bone planted in their ribs, to such an extent that, in order to rid themselves of him, they agreed to pay him the "jīzya", a thing that they had never done with anybody before him. He did not harm anybody, either non-moslem (dhimmi) or muslim (millī).

[Al-Omarī] was at peace with the Nubians (an-nūba) because of the treaty they had, until the first Nubian (an-nūbī al-awwal)<ref>"An-Nūbī" probably stands for the Nubian Eparch "Lord of the Mountain".</ref> who lives in the land called Marīs, made his appearance [against him] (badā la-hu). Al-Omarī turned against him, drove him out of his country, burned (haraq) his towns and took so many prisoners that Omarī's men could buy goods from a green-grocer and pay him with [p. 182] a Nubian slave, male or female, because of the multitude of slaves in the hands of al-Omarī's men.

Al-Omarī had an encounter with aṣ-Ṣūfī, the Alide. The two fought a fierce battle in which the Alide was beaten and withdrew to the district of Aswān, where he caused trouble and destruction. He [aṣ-Ṣūfī] wrote to Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn and the latter wrote to Bahm b. al-Ḥusayn to move to the Ṣa'īd to chase him wherever he might go. When this news reached the Alide, he fled to 'Adhāb (sic!), embarked on a ship to Mecca, while his men were disbanded. When he arrived there, the Lord of Mecca (ṣāḥib Makka) being informed, arrested him, jailed him in his palace and then extradited him to Ibn Ṭūlūn. When he arrived at Miṣr, he was taken by camel round the town. Ibn Ṭūlūn kept him in his jail; then, as the Alide gave signs of repentance, he freed him from prison, gave him presents and allowed him to go to Medina where he died.

When Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn received information about al-Omarī and his growing power among the Buja and others, he feared the serious consequences that might follow, if he ever underestimated [the power of] that man. Therefore, he decided to discourage him from his adventures and sent against him an army under the command of one of his generals named Shu'ba b. Kharkān al-Bābikī. When the general came near, al-Omari went out to meet him. He said to his own men: - 'Do not make haste to attack, because this man is a foreigner (a’jamī): I shall speak to him personally and find out what his intentions are.’ He then left his camp and said to the sentinels of the camp of Shu'ba: - Ί want to speak to the emir before the battle begins between us.' Shu'ba was informed about this and went out to meet him. He came forth and al-Omarī went towards him so that they could hear each other. [p. 183] Al-Omarī said to him: - 'Surely, the emir Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn is not properly informed about me. He was not told that my rising here is not a revolt, the proof being that I have caused no harm to either a Muslim or a dhimmi. Indeed I came out to check (salb) the enemies of the Muslims. Lay down your arms for a while, so that I may write to the emir - may God prosper him - and disclose to him the whole truth about me. You, too, write to him. If he accepts my apology, my men will not fight against him; if he writes to you to stop and withdraw, you will go back without blame and we shall be grateful to you. If he orders you otherwise, you will comply with his orders without blame.' But Shu'ba said: - I am not concerned with your own affairs. Take the letter [to him] yourself. Between you and me the only affair is the sword.' Omarī; I replied: - 'Oh! God made you [like] a stick (shu'ba)<ref>A game of words is made here as the name of Shu'ba is used as a common name, shu'ba, ("stick"), or "branch or a tree"), rhyming with lu'bah ("puppet").</ref> but you are [now] similar to a puppet of women (lu’ba). Such evil action and wrong behaviour can be expected only from people of this kind! Omarī returned to his men and said: - 'This man is ignorant (jāhil) and a fool (aḥmaq). Beware of him!' They [Omarī's men] marched against him, attacked him and inflicted upon him the worst of all defeats. Shu’ba went back to Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn and gave him a full account He replied to him: - 'You have acted wrongly; you have made a mistake. You should have left him alone without harassing him and sent me a truthful report so that I could have formed my own opinion about; him. On the contrary, you preferred to fight it out and were beaten yourself instead. Aḥmad Ibn Ṭūlūn called a truce and left al-Omarī unmolested.

[p. 184] After a few months, two men who introduced themselves as servants of al-Omarī, arrived at the court of Ibn Ṭūlūn carrying his head. He gave order to let them in, and they brought the head. He then gathered some people from Upper Egypt, who had personally known al-Omarī and showed them the head. They recognized it and testified it was truly the head of al-Omarī. Then he said to the servants: - 'Did your master do you any wrong?' - 'None' - they said. - 'Did he ever prevent you from taking your [share of] spoil?' - 'No’. 'Did he ever behave badly in your presence so as to justify [your action] ?' -'No'. - ‘then, why did you kill him?' They answered: - 'To cause the pleasure of the emir and receive from him a reward.' He answered: - 'By God! It is extremely difficult for you to receive that, whether it be from God or from me. He ordered them to be beheaded. They were beaten [on the neck] and crucified. Then he ordered that the head of al-Omarī be washed, wrapped, treated with perfumed ointments and buried, (ibid., pp. 64 - 67).

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