Ibn Muyassar

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[pp. 389-395]

IBN MUYASSAR

(d. 1278 A.D.)

Muḥammad b. 'Alī b. Yūsuf b. Jalab Ibn Muyassar[1].

Wrote a Chronicle (1047 - 115 7 A.D.).

Ed.: H. Massé, Annales d'Egypte: Les Khalifes Fatimites, IFAO, Cairo 1919.

T.: Massé A:0


[A Clash between Nubian and Turkish Troops [454 H. /1062 A.D.]]

Every year al-Mustanṣir used to parade riding dromedaries, accompanied by women (nisāʾ) and servants (ḥashm) [p. 390] to Jubb 'Amīra, which is a delightful place for relaxation. He held this parade for his own amusement to mock the Hajj.[2] In the water-skins he carried wine instead of water and gave it to his men to drink, as is done on the Journey to Mecca. In the month of Jumadā al-Ākhira of that year [June 1062 A.D.], he went on parade according to his habit. It happened that a Turkish soldier drew his sword' while he was in a state of drunkenness and struck one of the imported slaves (ʿabīd ash-shirāʾ). A number of slaves rushed upon him and killed him. Then the Turks went to al-Mustanṣir protesting: - "If this happened by your permission, we have only to submit and obey: but if it has happened against your will,’ we are grieved by this action." Al-Mustanṣir disapproved the incident. Then a group of Turks assembled and killed a number of slaves in a clash they had at Kom Sharīk, where the slaves were defeated by the Turks.

But the mother of Al-Mustanṣir helped the slaves with money and arms. One day, a Turk chanced to witness the fact. He gathered a number of Turks and all went to Al-Mustanṣir protesting and uttering curses at him. He swore that he was completely unaware, but the swords had already been unsheathed. He went to his mother (wālida) and blamed her. Abū-l-Faraj Muḥammad b. Ja'far al-Maghribi, who was the first holder of the office of Secretary of State (Kitābat as-sirr) in Egypt and was the vizier, brought together a number of Turks and slaves and persuaded them to make a temporary agreement. The slaves went out to Shubrā Damanhūr: this was the beginning of the rebellion in Egypt. Its cause was the multitude of Blacks (sūdān) then serving in Egypt. In fact, the mother of al-Mustanṣir [formerly] was a black slave-girl (jāriya [p. 391] sawdāʾ) of Abū [Ṣa'īd] al-Tustarī, the Jew.[3] When al-Mustanṣir became caliph[4] and the vizier Ṣafīaddīn al-Jarjāra'ī died in the year [4]36 H. [b. 29 July 1044 A.D.], the mother of al-Mustanṣir ruled the state and appointed as vizier her [former] master Abū Sa'd. Then al-Fallāḥī[5] became vizier of al-Mustanṣir, but he could not agree with al-Tustarī. He won the support of the Turks, increased their salaries and they, eventually, murdered Abū Sa'd. Al-Mustanṣir's mother angered by that [crime] had Abū Nasir al-Fallāḥī murdered. She decided to buy [more] black slaves and chose her bodyguard from them. The number of the slaves increased so much that a slave became as powerful as if he were the sovereign. The mother of al-Mustanṣir hated the Turks.

When Abū-l-Barakāt al-Jarjarā'ī, the nephew of the vizier Abū-l-Qāsim was appointed, she ordered the slaves to provoke the Turks. Al-Jarjarā'ī, fearing the evil consequences, did not pay heed to her. She dismissed him from the vizirate and chose al-Yāzūrī, to whom she gave the same order. He conducted the state affairs in the best way until he was murdered. After him al-Bābilī, was chosen. She enjoined him the same. He refused to comply with the order and conducted the State affairs in the best way. Then the minds [of the opposite factions] changed for the worse. Hatred grew in the heart of each faction against the other and that was the beginning of the end. (Massé, pp. 13 - 14).

[The Second Great Clash between Turks and Nubians in Egypt[6]]

In this year the Turks became ever more arrogant. They asked for increased pay. On the other hand, the [p. 392] conditions of the slaves grew worse and their distress became greater while they were growing in number[7] to fifty thousand horsemen and infantry. The treasury was empty and the government lost power. The mother of al-Mustanṣir sent for the commandants (quwād) of the slaves and instigated them against the Turks. They assembled from Shubrā Damanhūr to Gīza. The Turks went to oppose them, headed by Nāṣir ad-Dawla al-Ḥusayn b. Ḥamdān. There was an encounter between the two armies, in which the Blacks (sūdān) were broken and defeated. They withdrew to Upper Egypt and Ibn Ḥamdān returned to Cairo where his prepotence grew stronger.

In Upper Egypt, fifteen thousand [slaves] between horsemen and footmen gathered together. The Turks were greatly disturbed [by the news] and their chiefs went to al-Mustanṣir to complain. The mother of al-Mustanṣir gave orders to the slaves who were in her service and they attacked the Turks and killed some of them. No sooner had the news reached Ibn Ḥamdān than he fled outside Cairo, where the Turks joined him. There ensued a great combat for some days between them and the slaves who were resident in Cairo and Miṣr [Fusṭāṭ]. Ibn Ḥamdān swore that he would not dismount from his horse before the battle was decided either in his favour or against him. The soldiers fought a fierce battle, in which Ibn Ḥamdān won the victory over the slaves. He personally directed their slaughter until a very few of them remained in Miṣr [Fusṭāṭ] and Cairo. As for the slaves who were in Upper Egypt, they were in the same position. There was also a group of them in Alexandria. [p. 393] Ibn Ḥamdān went thither and besieged them. The slaves who were there asked for a safe-conduct and it was granted to those in whom there was some trust. All that year was spent in warfare against the slaves.

[The Decline of the Influence of the Nubian Bodyguard in Egypt [460 H./1067 A.D.]]

Ibn Ḥamdān left for Upper Egypt with a multitude of Turks to combat the slaves, who had become more dangerous and aggressive than before. There was a clash between the two armies in which the Turks were routed and went back defeated: they camped at Gīza and hurriedly went to al-Mustanṣir, accusing him of sending money secretly to the slaves. He denied the accusation with an oath. Then the Turks reorganized and prepared themselves to fight the slaves. They marched against them a second time and fought a pitched battle in which the slaves were broken and were killed in great numbers: the slaves fought until only a few of than survived. Their power (dawla) ended while the prestige of Naṣir ad-Dawla ibn Ḥamdān Increased. (ibid., pp. 17 - 18).

[Kanz Ad-Dawla [469 Η./= 1 August 1076 A.D.]]

In this year, Kanz ad-Dawla Moḥammed rose at Aswān and conquered the town and districts around it. His prestige grew enormously and he had many followers. The Emir al-Juyūsh moved against him, joined battle and killed him. This was the last fight. Then the situation improved all over Egypt after the rebels had been killed at the hands of her armies. (ibid., p. 25).

In this year [472 H./1079 A.D.] the King of the Nūba[8] went out towards Aswān to pay a visit to some of his churches. The wālī of Qos sent people after him, seized him, [p. 394] and brought him to Cairo and told Emir al-Juyūsh to treat him with honour. He overwhelmed him with valuable presents, but it happened that his end was at hand and he died in Cairo without going back to his country.

[The Great Famine of the Year 487 H./1094 A.D.]

The exceptional rise in the prices (ghalā) [in the year 487 H.] was not caused so much by the failure of the Nile flood as by the quarrels and warfare of the armies (ajnāb) one against the other. There were many armies: the Lawatha [sic!] and the Maghāriba had occupied Lower Egypt, the Blacks (Sūdān) Upper Egypt, the Malīḥiyya and the Turks Fusṭāṭ (Miṣr) and Cairo. (ibid., pp. 33-34).

In this year [527 H./1132 A.D.] a multitude of slaves concentrated in the Sharqiya [district] and a war broke out between them and the army (al-‘askar). (ibid., p. 76).

[The Vizier Riḍwān Killed by the Blacks [541 H./1146 A.D.]]

It is said that [Riḍwān] sent someone to ask for money from al-Ḥāfiz, who sent him twenty thousand, dinars. Then al-Ḥāfiz sent behind him the leaders (muqaddamīn) of the Sūdān with orders to assault Riḍwān and kill him. They went after him and attacked him; he, as soon as he saw them, hurriedly mounted a horse. Some of the Sūdān fell unexpectedly on him and killed him as well as his brother with his own sword. The Sūdān took the two heads and brought them to al-Ḥāfiz and the revolt was so ended, (ibid., p. 87).

[p. 395] [The Battle between two Parties of the Nubians][9]

In that year [544 H./b. 11 May 1149 A.D.] there was a quarrel between the party of the Juyūshīyya and the party of the Sūdāniyya ar-rayhānīyya. Pitched battles were fought between them and many from both sides were killed. The population no longer travelled to Cairo nor went to Fusṭāṭ (Miṣr). The first encounter between the two parties took place on Thursday, 18th of Jumadā al-wulā (23 September), then on Saturday 4 Jumadā al-Ākhira (13 October). The Rayḥāniyya withdrew to Gīza and the people were busy with the (situation arisen from the) death of the Caliph [al-Ḥāfiz], as they were eager to rise against him and depose him from the caliphate. (ibid., p. 88).

On the 4th of Sha'bān [7 December 1149 A.D.] a great number of Sūdān and rebels assembled in [a place called] Hāwiya. The vizier Ibn al-Maṣṣal moved against them and defeated them. (ibid., p. 89).

Year 549 H. [b. 18 March 1154 A.D.]. 'Abbās thought that his situation was about to improve, but the opposite was true. In fact, the Court (ahl al-qusūr) went into deep mourning for aẓ-Ẓāfir and hastened to devise snares against 'Abbās. All the emirs of the Blacks (sūdān) abandoned him because of his participation in the murder: they withdrew their allegiance from him and a rebellion developed in Cairo, the army (ʿaskar) divided themselves into small units and took up arms. (ibid., p. 93).

  1. Other readings [less probably]: "Ibn Maysar" or "Mīsa"
  2. The Fatimids of Egypt used to mock the Companions of the Prophet and the Sunnite rites.
  3. This slave-girl belonged to Ḥasan Ibrāhīm Abū Sa’d [or Abū Sahl Abū Nasr] al-Tustarī (from Tustar, Al-Ahwāz, a Jew who later embraced Islam. The Caliph aẓ-Ẓāhir took her for himself and begat al-Mustanṣir; al-tustarī rose in prestige and power, and after the death of aẓ-Ẓāhir, he was chosen as vizier. He was later murdered by the Turks. (Ibn Muyassar, op. cit., pp. 1-2).
  4. At the age of seven years.
  5. A Jew.
  6. This incident is reported almost word for word in Maqrīzī, Khitaṭ, 11, Ch. 43, p. 165. [Year 459 H./ 1066 A.D.]
  7. Maqrīzī [see note 6] has: “they decreased in number”.
  8. King Solomon of Nubia who retired to monastic life in the church of al-Wādī. Somewhere at 10 days journey from Aswān. Cf. Severus and Abū-Salih [q.v.].
  9. Cf. the same incident reported by Usama ibn Munqidh [q.v.].