Ibn Wasif Shah

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[pp. 298-300]

IBN WAṢĪF SHĀH

(d. 1203 A.D.)

Historian of Egypt and the Maghrib, quoted by Maqrīzī.

MS: Cairo, Bibl.Nat., MS hist. 2255

Ed.: (partly) Mus'ad, pp. 121 - 123.

T.: Mus'ad A:0


When the caliphate passed to the Abbasids and 'Abdalla as-Saffāh seized the power, 'Abdalla b.'Alī went to Syria to hunt the remnants of the Omayyads. Then he sent to arrest 'Ubaydalla b. Marwān the emir of Egypt. Then 'Ubaydalla was informed about this move, he hastened to his treasury, took out ten thousand gold dinars and ordered that twelve mules be brought and loaded with carpets (firash), cloth (qumāsh) and other precious things; then he tied a leather strap (kharīta) full of precious jewels around his waist, took with him his servants and attendants (ghilmān) and fled from Fusṭaṭ (Miṣr) towards Nubia. When he arrived in Nubia he found towns in ruins, but the castles were well built; so he settled in one of them and ordered his attendants to have it swept. Then they spread his carpets [there].

He ordered one of his trusted attendants to go to the king of the Nubians and ask permission for him to settle in his kingdom and [grant him] a safe-conduct. When the attendant met the king, he saluted him and then asked permission to dwell in his kingdom and obtained from him the safe-conduct for 'Ubaydalla. Then the king sent one of his messengers to accompany him back. When the messenger arrived he said to 'Ubaydalla: "The King gives you his "salām" and asks: 'Have you come here to wage war or [p. 299] to seek protection?" He answered: "Peace be with you! Tell him that I have come to seek protection against an enemy who wants to kill me."

When the messenger returned to the king and informed him about it, the king was anxious to meet him personally<ref>Ibn Iyās’s story goes on with the following detail: “The messenger came back [to ‘Ubaydalla] announcing: ‘The king himself is coming to you at once’. He set a thick carpet in the middle of the place reserved to the king of the Nūba ; then a servant announced: ‘The king of the Nūba is coming!’ Then the emir ‘Ubaydalla hurried up to the upper storey of the castle to watch the king of the Nūba coming. He was a man of a black complexion, tall and thin, wearing two burdas, one wrapped (i’tazar) around his waist, the other covering (irtadā) his shoulder. He was accompanied by ten blacks (sūdān) who held javelins with shining spearheads. When the emir ‘Ubaydalla saw him, he conceived a poor idea of him and despised him. Then the king came near the place where ‘Ubaydalla was standing, about 10,000 men of the king’s army arrived, all armed with spears. On entering, the Nubian king hastened to hold the hand of the emir and kissed it.”</ref>. When he arrived, the emir 'Ubaydalla rose up, descended from his thick carpet (martaba) and invited him to sit on it, but the king refused and pushed the carpet away with his foot saying<ref>Ibn Iyās adds: “’Ubaydalla said to the guide (turjumān): ‘Why does he not sit on that carpet which we have prepared for him?’ The drogman immediately translated the words into the king’s own language; then the king answered: ‘etc…’.</ref>: "Every king who does not humble himself to God is a proud, stubborn and vain glorious man." Then he sat and began tracing signs with his fingers on the ground. Then, turning to the emir, he said: "How is it that your kingdom has been stripped out of your hands, while you are the closest relation to your Prophet?" The emir said: "He who took the kingdom out of our hands is a closer relation to our Prophet than we are." Then [the king] asked: "How is it that you disobey the words of your Prophet and drink wine, which God [p. 300] has forbidden you, and wear silk tunics and ride on gilded saddles, none of which your Prophet ever did? It has also been reported to us that while you were emir of Egypt, you used to go out hunting and exacted from the population of the villages such supplies that they could not afford, and you used to destroy their cultivations and receive gifts from the peasants?"<ref> Ibn Iyās adds the following details: “And all this for the sake of [catching] a Numidian crane (kurki", ardea virgo) which you went on hunting, because the price of it is seven or eight times that of a woman”.</ref> The king of Nubia went on enumerating to the emir 'Ubaydalla many trespasses, while he was standing silent. The King then said to him: "Because you have allowed to your selves to do what God has forbidden you, [God's] punishment has befallen you. I fear for myself that, if I offer you hospitality, God's anger may fall also upon me because of you. In fact, favour is a privilege, but punishment is general. Therefore, depart from me within three days, or shall I take all your goods and put you to the most shameful death." As the emir 'Ubaydalla heard this speech, he immediately left the country of the Nūba and went back to Egypt<ref>Other historians [e.g. Mas’ūdī, Ibn al-Athir, q.v.] reported that ‘Ubaydalla, with his brother ‘Abdalla, tried to escape towards Bāḍi’ through the Nubian and the Beja deserts; eventually ‘Ubaydalla was killed in an encounter with Ḥabasha robbers, and ‘Abdalla crossed to Ḥejaz and was finally arrested.</ref> where the agent of the caliph Al-Manṣūr arrested him and sent him to Baghdad where Al-Manṣūr put him in Jail until he died.

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