Usama Ibn Munqidh

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[pp. 301-304]

USĀMA IBN MUNQIDH

(1095-1168 A.D.)

Abū Muzaffar Usāma ibn Munqidh al-Kinānī, a Syrian-Arab emir and an ardent supporter of the Fatimite dynasty of Egypt, was invited to become the adviser of the vizier Sāliḥ b. Ruzzīk, under the reign of al-Ḥāfiẓ (1130-1149 A.D.). He eye-witnessed the last years of the Fatimite dynasty in Egypt and returned to Damascus under Saladin. He wrote his memoirs, Kitāb al-I'tibār, which is an invaluable source for the history of Egypt under az-Zāfir (1149-1154 A.D.).

Kitāb al-I'tibār was first edited and translated into French by H. Derenbourg, Vie d'Ousama Ibn Mounkidh, un Emir syrien au premier siècle des Croisades, Paris, I (Arabic) 1886, II (French) 1893. It was translated into English by Ph. K. Hitti, Memories of an Arab-Syrian gentleman in the Crusades (from the unique MS) Beirut, 1964.

T.: Derenbourg 1 and Hitti A: Hitti


As [Afḍal Riḍwān] left Miṣr on his way to Syria, his residence was plundered and his women folk were carried off. A man by name al-Qā'id Muqbil saw a girl (jāriya) being carried off by some Blacks: he bought her from them and sent her to his own house. He had a good wife. The girl climbed to a room in the upper part of the house and the housewife heard her saying: "We have vanquished him who oppressed us (baghā 'alay-nā also = "to commit adultery") and showed no gratitude for our favour". The housewife asked her: - "Who are you?" and she answered: "I am Qatr an-nadā, the daughter of Riḍwān." The woman went immediately to her husband al-Qā'id Muqbil who was on duty at the gate of the castle (Qaṣr). She [p. 302] informed him about the identity of the girl. He wrote a note to al-Ḥāfiẓ about the situation, and [al-Ḥāfiẓ] sent some slaves (khuddām) of the castle to take her from the house of Muqbil and bring her to the castle. (Derenbourg, p. 22).

[Riḍwān, from Syria] wrote to al-Ḥāfiẓ asking for safe conduct; then he returned to Egypt. No sooner had he arrived than al-Ḥāfiẓ ordered that he be arrested with his son; both were put in jail. I arrived in Egypt (Miṣr) while he was still in jail (ḥabs) in a house near the Palace. He made a breach [in the wall] with iron rods, 14 cubits long, and escaped on the night of Thursday. Among the emirs there was one of his relatives who was aware of the situation and stood by the castle together with an accomplice from the Lawāta, awaiting him. They went to the Nile, crossed [the bridge] to Gīza. The city of Cairo (al-qāhira) was shocked by his escape. At dawn he was already at Gīza and the people gathered around him. The army of Miṣr (ʿaskar Miṣr) got ready the preparations to fight him. On Friday morning [the army] crossed to Cairo, led by Qāīmāz, the officer in charge of the gate, and was equipped with breast-plates to join battle. When the army reached Riḍwān, he defeated them and entered Cairo. I and my men, we were entering the gate of the castle Just before he arrived in Cairo.

I found the gate closed, and nobody standing by. So I went to my residence. Riḍwān went to al-Aqmar mosque. The emirs joined him and brought him food and more provisions. Al-Ḥāfiẓ gathered a corps of Black troops (qawm min as-sūdān) who were in the Castle; they ate and drank, then al-Ḥāfiẓ opened the gate of the Palace and they went to attack Riḍwān. As soon as [their] shouts were heard, the emirs who were with Riḍwān mounted on [p. 303] their horses and fled. Riḍwān came out from the mosque and found that his horse had been taken by the groom who vanished. A man of the special guard (sibyān al-khāss) saw him standing by the door of the mosque and said to him: - "My Lord (mawlāyā), why don't you ride my horse?" He said: "Oh yes!" and rushed towards him, holding his sword by the hand. He simulated to dismount from his horse, but he [instead] struck Riḍwān by the sword, and he fell. The sūdān fell upon him and killed him and the population of Miṣr divided his flesh among themselves to eat as to become courageous [like him]. (ibid., p. 23).

[A Mutiny among the Nubian Forces in Egypt]

My arrival in Cairo was on Thursday, 2nd of Jumadā al-Ākhira of the year 539 [30th November 1144 A.D.]<ref>The author describes the luxurious dwelling given to him by al-Ḥāfiẓ.</ref>... A great dispute and trouble developed among the sūdān, who were found [in Cairo] in great numbers. Precisely, the dispute was between the Zanjānīyya (Rayḥānīyya)<ref>Derenbourg’s Arabic edition has “Zanjāniyya”, while his French translation has “Rayhāniyya”, as clearly shown in the text of Ibn Muyassar [q.v.]. Although either reading is equally possible as no diacritic marks are marked on the MSS, Ibn Muyassar [q.v.] definitely has “Rayhāniyaa”.</ref> who are the slaves (ʿabīd) of al-Ḥāfiẓ; and the Juyushīyya,<ref>Derenbourg [Arabic]: “Habūshiyya”; id. French: “Djouyoushites”. The latter reading is found also in Ibn Muyassar [q.v.].</ref> the Iskandārānīyya and the Farjīyya.<ref>Or: “Farahiyya”.</ref> On the one side stood the Zanjānīyya alone, on the other [p. 304] gathered all the other factions allied against the Zanjānīyya (Rayḥānīyya). A party of the special guard (sibyān al-khāṣṣ) joined the Juyushīyya. Many people had assembled on both sides. Al-Ḥāfiẓ kept indoors,<ref>Hitti read “ghāb” (“he was absent”); Derenbourg read “ghalab” (“he tried to gain mastery”).</ref> but his emissaries were going back and forth between the factions, because he [al-Ḥāfiẓ] was anxious to bring peace among them. Although they [the troops] were siding with him,<ref>“wa-hum fī jānib al-balad”. Derenbourg transl.; “The troops concentrated around his palace”.</ref> they did not yield to that [request]. On the next morning, a clash took place in Cairo. The Juyushīyya and their allies won the victory over the Zanjānīyya (Rayḥānīyya), of whom one thousand fell in Suwayqa amīr al-jūyūsh (the Little Market of the Emir al-Jūyūsh). We had remained under arms by night and day lest they might turn against us, as they had already done on an occasion prior to my arrival in Egypt. After such a slaughter of Zanjānīyya (Rayḥānīyya), the population expected that al-Ḥāfiẓ would manifest his disapproval of that Incident, and execute the murderers. But al-Ḥāfiẓ was lying sick on the verge of death, and actually died two days later. Then "not even two goats locked their horns"<ref>A proverb, the meaning of which, in this case, is that “no one was prepared to fight over the succession” to the deceased al-Ḥāfiẓ (Derenbourg), or “… to disapprove the massacre” of the Zanjāniyya (Hitti).</ref> [to dispute over the succession] and aẓ-Ẓāfir<ref>Aẓ-Ẓāfir, then 17 years old, appointed as his vizier one Ibn Maṣṣāl. A province governor by name Sayfad-dīn Ibn Sallār, rose against Ibn Maṣṣāl, after which the king, regretfully recognized him as new vizier.</ref>, his youngest son, reigned. (ibid., pp. 26 - 27).

Ibn Maṣṣāl enrolled in the Ḥawf a large troop consisting of Lawātha (sic! for Lawāta), of soldiers of the Egyptian army (jund Miṣr), of Blacks (sūdān) and Arab nomads (ʿurban). Ibn Maṣṣāl was killed together with seventeen thousand sūdān ... During that revolt a great number of Egyptians and sūdān were slain.<ref>Usāma (p. 29) also told the story a Black (rajul min as-sūdān) who in being chased by Ibn Sallār’s soldiers, found shelter in Usāma’s house and escaped death thanks to the intervention of Usāma.</ref> (ibid., pp. 27 - 29 passim).

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