Ibn Qutayba ad-Dinawari

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[pp. 64-67]

IBN QUTAYBA AD-DINĀWARī

(about 880)

Abū M. 'Abdalla b. Muslim b. Qutayba ad-Dināwarī, an Arabic polyhistor.

Brockelmann, 1, 120-123, S 1,184-186; EI. s.v. Ibn Kutayba. Wrote 'Uyun al-akhbār, or K. al-ma'ārif.

Ed.: F. Wüstenfeld, Ibn Coteibas Handbuch der Geschichte, Göttingen 1850; Ahmed Zaki al-'Adawi, Dār al-Kutub, Cairo 1924-30, 1963, 4 vols.

T.: Wüstenfeld and 'Adawi A:0


[p. 65] Wahb Ibn 'Munabbih said: 'Hām b. Noah was a white man, of good aspect, but God changed his colour as well as the complexion (alwān) of his descendants according to a request made by his father. He then left for the coastal region accompanied by his children. God multiplied them and made them grow in power; they are now the Sūdān. As they used to eat fish, they filed their teeth needle-like in order to avoid the fish getting caught between their teeth. Some of his descendants went to the Maghrib.

Hām begot as his sons Kūsh, Kana'ān and Fūt. Fūt settled in the land of Hind and Sind, therefore the inhabitants of those lands are his descendants. As for Kush and Kana'an, their descendants are the [various] races of Blacks such as the Nūba, the Zanj, the Qur'ān, the Zaghāwa, the Ḥabasha, the Qibṭ, and the Barbar'. (Wüstenfeld, pp. 13 - 14).

[The Flight of Marwān's Descendants Through Nubia.]

One night, while [the Caliph] al-Manṣūr was talking [with his friends] the subject of the conversation fell on the Omayyad Caliphs and their behaviour while they were in power until they were succeeded by lusty descendants. The latter, instead of taking care of government affairs and the glory of God, were mostly concerned with lust and pleasure. They disobeyed God, aroused His anger [not knowing] that God is slow to punish; or perhaps, feeling free from His punishment. Eventually God took the kingdom out of their hands and deprived them of all their wealth. Then Sālih b. 'Alī said: - "O Commandant of the Believers! When 'Abdalla b. Marwān fled to Nubia with his men, the king of Nubia enquired about them. After the king was duly informed, he went to 'Abdalla and gave him a wonderful lesson (kalām 'ajīb) on [p. 66] this topic. I do not remember his exact words; but the Nubian king expelled him from his country. If the Commandant of the Believers wishes to send for him in prison to stand here before us this very night, he may ask him directly!" Al-Manṣūr gave orders that 'Abdalla be brought into his presence and asked him to tell the story. 'Abdalla said: "O Commandant of the Believers! I entered the land of the Nūba, my carpets (thiyāb) with me. I spread some [carpets] on the ground and used three to make up a pavilion. The Nubian king came; he was already informed about us. He was a tall, fine-looking man. He sat on the bare ground without treading on the carpets. I asked: 'What prevents you from treading on my carpets?’ He answered[1]: 'I am a king, and every king must humble himself before the majesty of God who raised him to power.' The king added: 'Why did you dare to drink wine (khamr), which was forbidden to you?' I answered: - 'It was our slaves (ʿabīdu-nā) and our auxiliaries (atbā'u-nā) who did so after we had already lost all authority (mulk) over them."

Then he asked: 'And why do you wear brocade (dībāj) and silk (hārīr) dresses and have gold and silver furniture, while this too is forbidden to you?' I replied: 'As we were losing our authority (mulk) and our supporters (ansār) were decreasing in number, we [tried to] save the situation with [the help of] foreigners (ʿajām) who had embraced our religion: it was they who put on those dresses against our will.' After 'Abdalla had spoken so, the king remained silent for a long while, his eyes cast down; then he began gesticulating and slowly [p.67] pacing up and down and repeating: ['our slaves' Our auxiliaries, who embraced our religion! .. Power escaped from our hands!][2] Then he said: 'You have not told the full truth. Actually you have allowed yourselves what God had forbidden. You have transgressed God's law. You have abused your power. Therefore, God has deprived you of your kingdom and has covered you with shame on account of your evil actions. By God! Vengeance has not gone all its course. I am afraid that the punishment of God may fall on you while you are still in my own country and so it may affect me, too. As hospitality is only for three days, quickly take your fill of what you need and depart from my kingdom'.[3]

  1. It seems that the speech of the Nubian King may have been totally fabricated (or, at least, elaborated) by the pro-Abbasid environment.
  2. In the Cairo edition, the words [and repeating… our hands] are considered of doubtful authenticity.
  3. Ibn Qutayba’s account of the flight of the Marwanides through Nubia ends here. Al-Ya'qūbī [q.v.] and later historians went on describing the fateful flight. Fanciful tales about animals of different species mating on the Nile banks in Nubia have been omitted as irrelevant (edition Cairo, II, pp. 70 ff). The author, however, mentions that the “bukhatī” (bukhtī) camel is a cross-breed of the dromedaries (ibil al-urāb) and the two-humped camel (fālij). (edition Cairo, II, p. 70, footnote). (pp. 248 - 249).