Ibn Abd az-Zahir

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[pp. 425-433]

IBN ABD AẒ-ẒĀHIR

(1223 - 1292 A.D.)

Muhiy ad-dīn Ibn 'Abd aẓ-Ẓāhir, born and died in Cairo as the Sultans Secretary in the Cairo diwan, wrote biographies of Baybars I, Qalāwūn and Al-Ashraf.

EI (s.v.)

1.) Rawḍ aẓ-Ẓāhir ... (Biography of Baybars I; unpublished thesis, London 1960).

2.) Tashrīf al-ayyām (Biography of Qalāwūn)

MS. Paris, Bibl. Nat., MS ar. 1704; Exc.: Mus'ad, Al-Maktaba, pp. 196 - 203 from a Cairo MS.

T.: Paris MS and Al-Maktaba[1] A:0

3.) Al-Alṭāf ... (Biography of Al-Ashraf)

Ed.: Moberg, Leipzig 1902

Exc.: Al-Maktaba, pp. 204 - 205

T.: Al-Maktaba A:0


From: "Tashrīf" [The Biography of Sultan Qalāwūn]

In the month of Ramaḍān of this year [685 H./b. November 1286 A.D.], envoys arrived from king Adūr, king of al-Abwāb, bringing as a present an elephant and a giraffe. They brought also a letter from their king in which he professed his obedience had respectfully proclaimed his friendship to our lord (mawlānā) the Sultan. The envoys complained about the king of Dongola (Dunqula). Some time before 'Alam ad-dīn Sanjar al-Mu'aẓẓamī had been sent from the Sultan's Court as an envoy to him [the king of al-Abwāb] and made his return Journey with the king's [p. 426] envoys passing through Dongola. The king of Dongola arrested him and was determined to kill him, but the nobles (aṣḥāb) and his entourage (jamā’atu-hu) rushed to warn him : - 'Do you intend to ruin our country (diyyāra-nā) and our homes (a' mār)?’ They made another king in place of him. Then the envoys of the king of al-Abwāb arrived [to Cairo] by way of 'Aydhāb. (MS Paris, fol. 290 r, pp. 195 - 1S6).

On the 20th Dhū-l-Qa'da of this year [7 January 1287 A.D.] the emir 'Alam ad-dīn Sanjar al-Mu'aẓẓamī was sent as ambassador to the king of Nubia, who was Adūr king of al-Abwāb[2], and to the Lord (ṣāḥib) of Bāra, the Lord of at-Tāka, the Lord of Kadurū, the Lord of Danrū, the Lord of Arā (Ari?), the Lord of Bifāl (Tegale?), the Lord of Anaj, the Lord of Karsā (Kursī?). At the same time, 'Ala'-ad-dīn al-Hisnī was sent as ambassador to Shemāmūn, king of Dunqula, to accompany [home] the ambassador [of Shemāmūn].[3] (MS Paris, fol. 293 r).

On the river [Nile] they[4] found someone who informed them that king Anī had left two days before in the direction of the country of the Anaj. The army (ʿaskar) pursued him for some distance, then returned. They came back with great booty, after they had slain a great number of men and taken their women prisoner, and seized their property as spoils. But king Anī had a narrow escape with seven men (anfār) who were with him. What prevented the army from reaching him was the fierce thirst and the country they crossed, which was only a wasteland, the abode of elephants, monkeys, boars, giraffes and ostriches.

[p. 427] Meanwhile, the man sent from the Sultan's court and appointed to become king of Nubia, arrived; his name was Budemma.[5] Soon after his arrival, the emir 'Izzaddīn al-Afram, leader (muqaddam) of the army, convened the nobles (akābir) before the emirs and he [Budemma] was crowned according to the custom of their kings. He was compelled to swear allegiance to our Lord the Sultan, and his subjects were compelled to swear allegiance to him; they had to swear that they would obey him only so long as he was loyal to our lord the Sultan, and that, should he break his loyalty, he ought to be stripped of the crown and sent to the Sultan's Court. The natives (ahl al-bilād) said [to him]: - 'Were it not for sake of our lord the Sultan, we should not obey you; if you ever change your allegiance we should arrest you. We agree that our lord the Sultan appoint as our king a peasant (fallāḥ) or a highlander (jabalī), because the country of the Nūba has no other king than our lord the Sultan and we are his subjects.'

[A Story Concerning the Kings of Nubia]

A king by name Meshkedet[6] [M.Sh.K.D.T.] was enthroned in the kingdom of Nubia after king David (Dāwūd) [II], in the time of [Baybars] aẓ-Ẓāhir. Al-Malik aẓ-Ẓāhir had sent from the court a man (shakhṣ), one of the Assassins (fīdāwī)[7] who belonged to the sect of the Ismailis (mīn al-ismā'īliyya): his name was Salāma. He made friendship with the said king, but he ordered him to conceal that he was a fīdāwī. It happened that this [p. 428] Salāma took as his companion a youth (sabī) who was initiated (lazīq)[8] in the sect, but Salāma feigned as if he had a grudge against his young friend [and sometimes abandoned him] and then the initiated friend (al-lazīq) stayed with king Meshkedet [M.S.K.D.T.]. The king was weak with [Salāma] and made him his equerry (silāh-dāri-hi); they sat down in a grove (mashrabah) and the young man jumped on king Meshkedet and killed him. The young man, too, was killed and a person (shakhṣ), by name Berek (B.R.K.; Al-Maktaba: Birik) became king and was crowned in the time of the Sultan. Under him relations grew worse. The emir 'Almamaddīn Sanjar al-Masrūrī seized him and killed him shortly after his accession, and another person, by name Shemāmūn was installed (wulliyā). He [Shemāmūn] remained until his countrymen rose against him - as already mentioned. Our lord the Sultan sent from his jail (i’tiqāl) the present king, who acceded to the throne and was crowned: his name was Budemmah who is still reigning.

Later on, the emir ‘Izzaddīn al-Afram returned to Dongola after he had marched 33 days beyond it. When he entered it, the soldiers of the Sultan's army, the grenadiers (harārīq) and the boats made a display of fireworks with nafṭ and the military band (tubulkhānāt), too, made a display; they entered the church of Sūs (Yasus), compelled the king to swear allegiance to the Sultan, and Jurays to swear allegiance to him [the king]; [they swore] that if either broke his oath, the other would rise against him for the sake of our lord the Sultan. The natives and the priests (qusūs) too, took the oath. The [p. 429] emir 'Izzaddīn al-Afram dispatched a company of the army and a number of footmen and gave them a certain quantity of flour and barley and other provisions; then the emir 'Izzaddīn al-Afram left with his men [for Egypt]. Five days after his departure, a letter arrived from king Budemma who said that the natives had returned to their homes. Also a letter arrived from the king of al-Abwāb who said that he had been prevented from meeting the emir through being engaged in pursuing king Anī and that the country of the Anaj had been overcome by an envious king who had seized power, and that he [the king of al-Abwāb] was doing his best to oust him: if he succeeded in dispossessing him, all the countries (jamī’ bilād) of the Blacks (Sūdān) would come under the power (qabada) of our lord the Sultan and under his obedience; [he added that] the hearts of the natives had been impressed with great fear, by the army of our lord the Sultan, as they had reached such places [Inside Nubia] that no other army had reached before, if exception is made for the army of Alexander Dhū-l-Qarnayn. And all that was achieved without a loss in the victorious army, but one man (nafr) who had been slain for sake of Allah (fī sabīl Allah) and another who was drowned.

The emir ’Izzaddīn al-Afram arrived on the island of Mikā'il on Thursday 3rd of Rabī' al-Awwal [14 March 1290 A.D.]. The emir 'Izzaddīn al-Afram and his men arrived [at Cairo] on the 5th of Rabī' al-Ākhar [15 April 1290 A.D.]. Our lord the Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf,[9] in order to honour him together with the emirs who had taken part in the campaign with Ezzeddin, went out to meet them at Qarafah. The emir Ezzeddin asked for 300 camels to carry the prisoners of war and they were sent to him. [p. 430] A number of Nubian nobles (akābir), mounted on dromedaries (hujin) and holding spears in their hands marched on parade, an elephant and a large number of elephant tusks followed [them], the army of the emir carried loads of such goods from the country as the emir Ḥisāmaddīn had instructed them to carry away. The soldiers paraded dressed in their best uniforms (zāy), the populace rushed out to see them: it was a huge crowd indeed: all passed at the feet of the well-guarded citadel (al-qala'at al-maḥrūsah). Our lord the Sultan watched the spectacle and thanked God for all these gifts (mawāhib) [which were] so great that he could see every day prisoners of war arriving before him. Sometimes [these were brought] from the east, others from the west.

Since he and his armies in all countries of the infidels had either a raid (ghazū) or wars (ḥurūb) or an attack (ṭa'n) or an encounter (ḍarb) - and God had destined that his armies should advance - every month there was some expedition (marḥala) and a step forward (khaṭwa) in the country of the Rūm and another step forward in Dunqula. All from the bounty of God. (MS fols. 307 r - 313 r; Al-Maktaba, pp. 196 - 203).

From: Al-Alṭāf [The Biography of Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalīl]

The arrival of the gifts of the king of Nubia, together with his brother al-Barsī and Jurays, the governor (nā'ib) of the district of al-Jabal.

In the month of Ṣafar of this year[10], the king (malik) or the Regent (mutamallik) of Dunqula and of the country of the Nūba, apologised for [not being able to [p. 431] pay] the arrears of the baqt imposed on the kings of Nubia. The reason he gave was that utter destruction (kharāb) had been brought about in his country since the arrival of the Moslem armies (al-ʿasākir al-islāmiyya) more than once (karra ba'd karra ba'd karra). He also raised a complaint against the Lord (ṣāḥib) of al-Abwāb,[11] who was king Adur because he had made the situation of his country even worse by causing more and more devastations (kharāb 'alā kharāb), death, secret plots [?] (sawād) and discords (fasād). But his excuse was not accepted by the Sultan.

New ambassadors were sent taking to him an ultimatum. Then he was held by a fear which crippled him. Our Lord the Sultan sent him a message of assurance, as to dispel his fear and strengthen his hope, that his mother (wālida), his sisters (akhawāt), his paternal aunt (ʿamma) and other relatives who were detained as hostages in the Guest House of the Sultan's Court, were receiving their pensions (rawātib) regularly, and also generous gifts (hadāya).

When [the Nubian king] received the ultimatum he sent his brother called al-Barsī (al-Bursi?) and the nobleman (ḥaḍarah) Fāris ad-dawla Jurays, the Nubian, who had been appointed governor (nā’ib) of al-Jabal and other districts, together with a message, in which [the king] humbly implored mercy and pardon and asked that his apology be accepted. He also tried to placate the Sultan by saying that [in the court of] the kings of Nubia, it was only the women who direct (tudabbir) the kings; therefore he asked that his mother be sent back to direct him - not only his mother but also those who were with her. [p. 432] He added that the Regent (mutamallik) of al-Abwāb perhaps will arrive at the Sultan’s Court and asked [the Sultan] not to pay heed to his sayings. He sent his gift (hadīyya) which consisted of 200 slaves (raqīq), 200 camels and dromedaries, 200 ardab of dry dates (tamr), 120 qinṭār of alum (shibb), 1,500 riṭl of emery (sunbadhij), four she-leopards (fuhūd) and big lions (hizbar), besides other gifts, which it was customary to offer. When the brother of the king arrived together with Jurays, the gift was accepted and the two were received with great honour.

[Note: There follows a poem – quoted below in a literal prose translation – which seems to have direct connection with the story]

“The Black and the Red have made submission to you [Sultan]: The kingdom has blossomed, and even flourished, thanks to you; You have the power over the time and it obeys you whatever you order or forbid. The Nuba (an-nūba) became afraid that you send against them another invasion (nawba ukhra). How their faces turned dark when you reminded them that they were turned white by him who drove them away; Boast crowed [with their prisoners] arrived whenever you raised your eye to look afar. The blackness of the night is over when you utter a word of assurance shining like a full moon; How many dromedaries and tawny camels did they hasten to send, fast like arrows or even like the lightning, as soon as they were threatened: The sharpest intellect breaks down before the sharp eye of the ever watchful viper, [p. 433] The moon disk dropped dirhems together with its light coming from above. O you the best of all kings on Earth, you have never ceased conquering by the sword of Islam; every nation, which has become obedient, comes, or even crowds, into your court. (Al-Maktaba, pp. 204-205).


  1. For “Tashrīf” I have compared the printed edition (“Al-Maktaba”) with the Paris MS ar. 1704.
  2. As no mention is made here of ‘Alwa and Soba, possibly “Al-Abwāb” stands here for the southern Nubian kingdom [‘Alwa].
  3. Two or three pages [which probably covers the events after 687 H./1287 A.D.] are missing in the MSS.
  4. “They”, i.e. a Moslem expeditionary force.
  5. In the Paris MS it is variously spelt: “Būdemma” or “Budemma”.
  6. This name is spelt by historians in different forms: Meshked, Shekanda, Mintashkīl [?] (Mertashkar?), Marqashenkus. Obviously the vowelling is tentative.
  7. Fīdāwī” (or fidā’ī) were called the professional killers hired by kings to murder political or other opponents.
  8. Quatremère (Mém. II, p. 111) takes the name “lazīq” as the name of a people. We surmise that it should be a common name meaning [“intimate friend”], or indicating some initiation degree in the “Fīdāwī” sect.
  9. Al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalīl reigned in 1290-93 A.D.
  10. Probably the year 691 H., corresponding to January-February 1292 A.D.
  11. cf. note 2.