At-Tabari

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[pp. 95-103]

ABŪ JA'FAR Μ. B. JARĪR AṬ-ṬABARĪ

(d. 923 A.D.)

A Persian teacher of Ḥadīth and Fiqh at Baghdad. Author of the first Arabic world-history.

Brockelmann 1, 142 f; Sezgin 1, 323-328; EI (s.v.)

K. Akhbār ar-rusul wa-l-mulūk

Ed.: De Goeje, Annales, Leiden 1879-1901: Fadl Ibrahim, Ta'rikh, Cairo 1960-1969, 10 vo1s.

T.: De Goeje and Ibrahim


Al-Wāqidī said: In this year [637 A.D.] 'Umar Abū Mihjān ath-thaqafī went to Bāḍi’. (Annales I, pp. 2479-2480).

The descendants of Ḥām:<ref>Several genealogies are reported according to various oral traditions.</ref>

Kana'ān, son of Ḥām, son of Noah (Nūḥ), married Artīl [p. 96] [variant: Arsal] daughter of Batāwil, son of Tare, son of Yapheth ... he is the father of Asāwid, the Nūba, the Fazzān, the Zanj, the Za'āwa and the Aḥbāsh. (Annales, I, p. 212; Ta’rikh I, p. 202).

Among the children of Ḥām ... there are the Nūba, the Fazzān, the Hind and Sind and the inhabitants of the eastern and western coasts. (Ann. I, p. 216; Ta'rikh I, p. 204).

Ḥām, son of Noah, begot Kūsh, Meṣraīm, Qūt and Kana'ān. Among the children of Kūsh there is Nimrud, the proud giant who was at Babel ... the rest of the children of Ḥām inhabit the eastern and western coasts and [the land of] the Nūba, the Ḥabasha and Fazzān. (Ann. I, p. 217; Ta'rikh, I, p. 206).

The reign of Kisra Abrāwīz b. Hormoz:<ref>The story of the Persian invasion on the Byzantine Empire, 616-629 A.D.</ref>

... The second general (qā’id), whose name was Shāhin and bore also the title of Fādhūsabān al-Mughrib, set out and reached Miṣr, and Alexandria and the country of the Nūba. The third general, whose name was Farruhān and had the title of Shahrbarāz, marched towards Constantinople (al-Qustantīniyyah). (Ann. I, p. 1002; Ta'rikh 2, p. 182).

The Envoy of Allāh - blessings upon him - said: "If generosity were divided into ten parts, nine parts would become the Sūdān, the tenth one [would be divided] among the remainder of mankind." (Ann. I, p. 2516).

When 'Amrū settled with the people [i.e. the Arabs] at 'Ayn ash-Shams, at the time when the masters of the country were the Qibṭ, the Nūba and the Qaysar,<ref>The Greeks.</ref> and [p. 97] he conquered their land, he made peace with them and proposed a treaty under which, he would neither molest them nor be molested by them. That happened on the fourth day. But they [i.e. the local population] refused and attacked them [the Muslims] and those joined battle with them. Zubayr climbed the wall [of the town]. When they saw him, they opened the gates to 'Amrū and stood before him to sue for peace and he agreed. In this way they became "dhimma", and this is the text of the peace treaty;

"In the name of God, the Clement, the Merciful. This is [the agreement] which 'Amrū b. al-'Āṣ gave to the people of Miṣr as security (amān) for their lives and their community (milla), for their properties, their churches and their crosses (sulūb), for their land and sea. Nothing shall be added to, or removed from it [= the agreement]. The Nūb shall not remain among them. The inhabitants of Miṣr shall pay the gizya, if they accept the treaty. If the annual flood reaches the full level they shall pay 50,000,000; they shall reimburse whatever the thieves will deduct [from the tribute]. If any of them does not accept [this clause], let [the tax-collectors] take by force from him, as a punishment, an equal amount and he shall be deprived of the "dhimma" [status]. If the flood falls short of the full level, there shall be levied from them an amount proportional to the flood.

Those Rūm or Nūb who accept this agreement, shall be treated in the same way and shall be bound by the same obligations. But he who refuses and prefers to leave, shall be safe until [he arrives at] the frontier, or as far as our jurisdiction extends. They shall pay, like the others, one ninth, as tax on one-third of their dates. On this treaty rests the promise (ʾahd) of Allāh and His protection, the protection of His Prophet, the [p. 98] protection of the Caliph, Commander of the faithful, and the protection of the faithful.

The Nūba who shall accept [this convention] shall contribute with a certain number (kadhā wa-kadhā) of slaves (ra’s) and a certain number of horses, besides the condition that they shall not carry out any raid or prevent traders from leaving or entering [their country] ... Written by Wardān in the presence of Zubayr and his two sons 'Abdalla and Muḥammad as witnesses. This treaty was unanimously agreed upon by the citizens of Miṣr." (Ann. I, pp. 2587-89; Ta'rikh 4, pp. 108-109).

(Another tradition from ... Yazīd b. Abī Habīb)

When the Muslims conquered Egypt they made a raid among the Nūba of Miṣr, but the Muslims were driven back because of the wounds and the loss of [the pupils of] their eyes, for the shooting of the Nubians was perfect and they were called "pupil-smiters". When 'Abdalla b. Sa'd b. Abī Sarḥ was appointed wālī of Egypt, by order of 'Uthmān b. 'Affān, he signed a peace treaty with them, in return for [the delivery of] a specified number of slaves of theirs, which they should deliver to the Muslims every year, and the Muslims would supply them every year with specified foodstuffs and clothing of about the same value ... 'Uthmān ratified this treaty, the walls and emirs after him did the same. 'Uthmān b. 'Abd al-Azīz acknowledged it as a duty and an advantage to the Muslims. (Ann. I, p. 2593; Ta'rikh 4, p. 111).

In this year [22 May 855 A.D.] the Beja made a raid on Hursh (Ḥarash?)<ref>Uncertain reading.</ref> in the land of Egypt. Al-Mutawakkil sent one Muḥammad b. 'Abdalla al-Qummī to curb them ... The Beja had ceased raiding the Muslims and so did [p. 99] the Muslims to the Beja, because of a truce which existed between them since long before and which we have mentioned above.

The Beja (Buja) are Ḥabash, a branch of the race of the Ḥabash of the Maghrib. Other peoples who occupy the western lands of the Blacks (Sūdān) are the Buja, the Nūba, Ghānat al-Ghāfir (ahl ghānat al-ghāfir), Binur (?), Ra'uwīn (read: Zaghāwiyyīn), al-Farawiyyah, Yaksum, Mukarah Akram and al-Khams.

In the Beja land there are gold mines; they have a share in the profit of those who work in them and pay to the agents of the Sultan in Egypt, every year, 400 mithqal of gold from their mines before it is melted and purified.

At the time of al-Mutawakkil [847-861 A.D.] the Beja refused to pay this tribute for a succession of years. It is well known that al-Mutawakkil had entrusted the management of the mail (barīd) of Egypt to a man chosen from among his servants, whose name was Ya'qūb b. Ibrāhīm al-Badhāghisī, who had formerly been a slave of al-Hādī and was known under the name of Baqūsara (Biqawsara). He entrusted to him the barīd of Miṣr, Alexandria, Barqa and of the districts of the Maghrib. This Ya'qūb wrote to al-Mutawakkil that the Beja had transgressed the treaty that existed between them and the Muslims and had left their territory to go to the gold mines and the mines of precious stones - which are on the frontiers between Egypt and the Beja land. Also [according to the report] they had killed many Muslims who were working in the mines to extract gold and stones, had made prisoners from among children and women and had ostentatiously claimed that the mines belonged to them because they were within their own country, and that they would not permit the Muslims to settle there: so had they [p. 100] harassed the Muslims who were working in the mine, that these withdrew, fearing for their lives and for their children. As a consequence, the payment of the tribute ceased. The duty collected by the Sultan on the gold, silver and precious stones was one-fifth of the output of the mines. His anger increased and he became furious.

He sought advice about the Beja and the advisers told him that the Beja were nomads, owners of camels and sheep, that the way to penetrate into their country was so difficult, that the army could not attain it, because it was a sandy desert and between the country of Islam and them there was one month's Journey across a land devoid of all vegetation and water, without villages or fortresses; had an agent of the Sultan to go there, he should carry with him every kind of provisions for all the time he thought he would have to stay there before returning to the territory of Islam. If it would ever happen that he had to stay any longer he would be lost, together with all his equipment, and the Beja would seize it without fighting. Their land brought no profit to the Sultan, neither in the form of tribute nor in any other form. Al-Mutawakkil abandoned the idea of waging war on them. But this [policy] enhanced their initiative and audacity to the point that the inhabitants of Upper Egypt were in constant fear for their lives and for their children. Then al-Mutawakkil committed to one Muḥammad 'Abdalla, also known as al-Qummī, the government of the mines region, i.e. Qifṭ, Luxor, Esna, Armant and Aswān, and ordered him to march against the Beja. He wrote to 'Anbasa b. Isḥāq aḍ-Ḍabbī, the military governor (al-'āmil 'alā al-ḥarb) of Egypt, to make available to him whatever he wanted in the way of soldiers and mercenaries. 'Anbasa supplied him with all he demanded. Then he set out for Beja land. Many who [p. 101] had been working in the mines, joined him, in addition to many other volunteers; so that al-Qummī's army numbered about 20,000 men divided between horsemen and infantry. He marched towards Qulzum. He had seven ships loaded with meal, oil, dates, crushed barley (sawīq) and barley and ordered some of his men to sail to the coast of the Beja land. Muhammad al-Qummī proceeded into the Beja territory until he passed through the region of the gold mines. He arrived at one of their castles and fortified places. Their king moved against him. The name of the king was 'Alī Bābā and his son<ref>Probably “his nephew” [his sister’s son].</ref> was La'īs<ref>The reading of the text differs according to the diacritic dots. Al-Miskawaih (q.v.) has “Bughasha”.</ref>. Their army was several times bigger than al-Qummī's. The Beja were mounted on camels, and were armed with lances; their camels were very beautiful, similar to dromedaries because of their noble aspect (najābah). The two armies began skirmishing every day without Joining in a full combat; the king of the Beja began harassing Qummī, hoping that he would soon run short of his provisions and fodder so that in the end he would be exhausted; then the Beja would attack. Just when the Beja chief guessed that the provisions had come to an end, the seven ships which Qummī had loaded had just arrived. They landed on a shore near a place called Singat (Singah).<ref>Today’s Sinkat (?) at 100 km from Port Sudan, may be the place mentioned here, or, at least, has preserved this historical name.</ref> Qummī sent a party of his men to protect the ships against the Beja, and distributed among them the provisions which they carried [to the army]. They had enough victuals and fodder. When 'Alī Bābā realized that, he decided to attack them; when he drew near, the two armies engaged in a furious battle. The camels on which the [p. 102] Beja were fighting were in a bad temper, for they were afraid of everything. Qummī who had already noticed that, had all the horse bells and camel bells in his camp collected and fastened to the necks of the horses; then he joined the battle. 'The camels of the Beja frightened by the noise of the bells scattered around more and more; they, overthrew' the riders to mountains and valleys and caused a total confusion. Qummī with his men chased them and killed many and took: others prisoner, until the night fell. That happened at the beginning of the year 241 H [= 855 A.D.].

Qummī returned to his own camp but could not count the dead because of their multitude. The next morning he realized that a number of foot-soldiers had gathered in a place where they felt safe from attack by Qummī. Qummī pursued them with his cavalry by night. The king fled; his crown and the treasure fell into the hands of Qummī. Then 'Alī Bābā asked for safe-conduct, on the condition that he should be restored to his kingdom and his country, and Qummī granted [the request]. 'Alī Bābā paid the tribute (kharāj) for the years during which he had refused to pay, i.e. four years, four hundred mithqal [of gold] for every year. 'Alī Bābā placed on his throne his son La'īs. Qummī took 'Alī Bābā to the court of al-Mutawakkil. He arrived there about the end of the year 241 H [= 856 A.D.]. He had ‘Alī Bābā clad in a brocade tunic and a black turban and had his camel harnessed with a brocade saddle-cloth. He stopped at the Gate of the People (bāb al-'āmmah) together with a party of Beja, about 70 men, well dressed, mounted on camels, holding pikes, carrying the heads of the dead, i.e. those whom Qummī had killed. Al-Mutawakkil ordered that they [the Beja] be taken over by al-Qummī, on the day of al-Adhi in the year 241 H [= 20 April 856 A.D.]. Al-Mutawakkil appointed a certain Sa'd, one of the slaves of [p. 103] Itākh<ref>Itākh, a man who rose in power at the court of al-Mutawakkil.</ref> inspector of the Beja land and the route between Miṣr and Mecca; and Sa'd passed the charge on to Muhammad 'Abdalla al-Qummī.

Qummī left with 'Alī Bābā, who had persevered in his own religion. Some people state that they saw him carrying a small stone idol in the form of a child, to which he prostrated himself sometimes. (Ann. Ill, pp. 1428 - 1433).

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