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The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 2
What Did the Big Criminals Do during the Plague of 841 A.H.?:

What Did the Big Criminals Do during the Plague of 841 A.H.?:

 The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 2



Published in April 6, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy




The Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and the Judge Ibn Hajar the Big Criminals during the Plague of 841 A.H.: What Did the Big Criminals Do during the Plague of 841 A.H.? The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 2



Fourthly: the month of Jamady Awwal, 841 A.H.:

1- (...On the 3rd of this month, the sultan Barsbay left his palace in horseback along with some guards and other Mameluke princes; he passed through one of the gates of Cairo and reached the rural areas of Al-Qalyubiyya Governorate in his first hunting trip that year;...The governor of Gaza, prince Timraz, came suddenly to Cairo...).

1/1: So, Barsbay went in a hunting trip while the plague spread and caused the death of thousands of people!

1/2: Al-Makrizi does not mention – yet – the reason for summoning the governor of Gaza to meet Barsbay in Cairo.

2- (...On the 5th of this month, the sultan Barsbay returned from his hunting trip and traced his way through the same gate of the wall of Cairo until he reached his palace; he did not bring along with him any hunted birds...). So, Barsbay was not an excellent hunter; he could not catch anything; he returned empty-handed; he never thought at the time about the deadly plague that hunted people down to end their lives swiftly.

3- (...On the 6th of this month, the sultan Barsbay commanded the arrest of prince Timraz, the governor of Gaza, and he had him tied and imprisoned in Alexandria. The sultan sent for the warden of the prison of Damietta to bring him prince Girbash, who was imprisoned there, as the sultan thought about appointing him as the governor of Gaza; yet, for some unknown reason, this did not take place; prince Girbash was returned to the prison in Damietta...). So, here comes out the reason for summoning the governor of Gaza; Barsbay desired to embezzle him out of his ill-gotten money he amassed in Gaza; we guess that Barsbay threatened replace him with another governor; Barsbay always feigned he would dismiss and appoint others in high-rank posts to confiscate more ill-gotten money; he knew that any Mameluke prince, leader, or governor diligently robbed money from the common people and offer money-gifts or bribes to the sultan which were a small share from such stolen money. Barsbay coveted more money all the time; he would typically dismiss any governor/prince and confiscate his money and/or re-appoint him in return for huge bribes; this is typical behavior of Mameluke sultans (who are big criminals: rulers) with their princes/governors who were also military leaders and also with the civil wing of the big criminals (clergymen, scholars, and judges) who held high-rank positions and desired to maintain them. Of course, the Al-Burji Mamelukes (sultans, princes, statesmen, leaders, soldiers,...etc.) were originally lowliest highwaymen and gangsters in their respective homelands; their criminal behavior continued and increased as they dealt with one another in the Mameluke sultanate and as they dealt with their allies among the big criminals: clergymen/judges. Hence, they were more unjust and aggressive with the weak ones on earth: common people, peasants, workers, craftsmen, the helpless poor ones,...etc.   

4- (...On the 8th of this month, the sultan Barsbay lead a group of princes in a one-day hunting trip and before he left Cairo, he visited his mosque at the Khanqah (i.e., Sufi religious institution) in the district of Sariaqos, in Cairo,...The next hunting trip was in the rural areas of Atfieh, outside Cairo, on the 10th of this month, and it lasted for two days; the sultan returned to his palace on the 12th of this month...). Again, Barsbay journeyed and hunted merrily during the plague.

5- (...On the 17th of this month, the sultan Barsbay eventually decided to appoint the Mameluke prince Akbardee as the governor of Gaza...). at last, the 'auction' for this vacant post, offered for anyone who offered the biggest bribe to Barsbay, ended.

6- (...The governor of Aleppo, who was the Mameluke prince Taghri Bermash, managed to arrest Janbak and put him to death beheading; to gratify the sultan Barsbay, the governor of Aleppo sent the severed head of Janbak to him in his palace. The sultan commanded that this severed head must be put on a spear and his guards should show it to all people in all streets of Cairo. Eventually, the severed head was thrown into a water canal...When Janbak sought refuge in the small kingdom in northern Iraq ruled by an Iraqi king who hated the Mameluke sultan, he thought he reached safety; yet, the governor of Aleppo managed to convince this Iraqi king to arrest Janbak and send him to Aleppo in return for 5000 gold dinars; upon receiving such dreadful news, Janbak tried to escape along with his 20 cavaliers, the soldiers of the Iraqi king chased him, fought him, and threw arrows at him; he was wounded and fell from his horse; he was arrested and imprisoned; he was sent to the governor of Aleppo who imprisoned him and instead of healing his wounds he beheaded him; his severed head was sent to the sultan Barsbay by a special envoy dispatched, along with a letter of greetings and the good news of how Janbak was caught, by the governor of Aleppo; the sultan never concealed his being overjoyed; he felt he was safe since he got rid of his powerful rival; yet, rumors spread in Greater Cairo among the common people that the reign of the sultan is about to end and he will die soon; this actually happened later in the same year; people were shocked that instead of being thankful to Allah, the sultan committed more injustices than before! People were angry and invoked the wrath of Allah against the sultan; months later, before his death, the ailment of the sultan increased for a long while and his happiness never lasted since he suffered unbearable pains; Allah has punished him severely...).

6/1: Barsbay was overjoyed since he finally got rid of his fearful rival, the runaway Mameluke prince Janbak, since he was beheaded and his severed head was sent to Barsbay in his palace in Cairo   

6/2: Instead of expressing gratitude to the Lord God, the tyranny and injustices of Barsbay increased! We like very much the comment by Al-Makrizi in the last lines of the passage above; of course, the public opinion, or the view of the common/ordinary people, expressed the belief among the residents of the capital, Cairo, that when a sultan's happiness is completed or fulfilled, this is a sign that the end of his reign draws near.

7- (...The sultan went on a one-day hunting trip in the rural areas of Al-Qalyubiyya Governorate...). As usual, Barsbay loved to go hunting during the plague!

8- (...The king of Abyssinia sent his envoy with a letter to the sultan Barsbay along with many gifts of gold...etc., and his letter contained greetings and peace as he ardently sought to obtain the friendship of the sultan; he beseeched him in his letter to be merciful to Coptic Christians in Egypt and to take care of their churches...). So, the king of Abyssinia (today's Ethiopia) submitted to the Egyptian powerful sultan and sought to gratify him and to avoid incurring his wrath; in contrast, Egypt's current pharaoh is being deceived and disregarded by Ethiopia whose dam, when built, will lessen very much the River Nile water reaching Egypt; the Egyptians may suffer scarcity of water for years to come!  


Fifthly: the month of Jamady Al-Akhar, 841 A.H.:

1- (...The sultan's secretary was dismissed from his post to be appointed in Damascus as a leader of the Mameluke military troops there in return for paying 4  thousand dinars annually; the military leader in Damascus was dismissed from his post earlier and he will assume the post of the sultan's secretary in Cairo in return for paying 1 thousand dinars...). As usual, Barsbay dismiss and re-appoint some men in some posts to hoard as much money as possible; his ill-gotten earnings this time was 5000 dinars; yet, the losers were wronged common people whereas judges/scholars/clergymen applaud all deeds of the sultan!

2- (...On the 2nd of this month, the sultan went on a hunting trip; in this month, in fact the sultan went on several long hunting trip...). As usual, Barsbay was addicted to hunting during the plague! A reminder: Al-Makrizi mentions in the events of this month that on a daily basis, thousands of people died of the plague in Egypt and in the Levant.

3- (...When a war occurred in Tabriz, in Persia, between its ruler and his brother who was his rival, though this ruler was appointed officially by the Mongol king, many battles took place and the ruler of Tabriz was defeated eventually and had to seek refuge in a certain castle on the borders with Iraq; yet, his bother sieged the castle; another rebellious prince fought against his brother the ruler of the city of Amida, in Mesopotamia, ad he became its rule after deposing his defeated brother; the sultan Barsbay felt worried because of such wars near the borders of the Mameluke sultanate; at first, he decided to journey into the Levantine region himself and to head some troops going there; he sent letters to governors of some Levantine cities to prepare for his visiting them; yet, his ailment grew severer and he had to cancel such a journey...).

3/1: So, battles and military strife made Barsbay worry about the borders of his sultanate so much that he decided to head some troops to make sure the borders were safe from any ambitious Iraqi or Persian governors. This means the Mameluke military regime sultans, despite their grave injustices, tyranny, and ruthlessness as big criminals, they protected Egypt so well and made its borders reach Iraq. Cairo remained protected against invasion since the Mameluke sultans guarded the outside-Egypt borders of their sultanate very well.

3/2: By the way, we salute and greet and applaud the Egyptian military regime that continues to occupy Egypt until now after the 1952 coup d'état and it caused the loss of Sinai in 1967 (i.e., the Six-Day War), and it sold two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia few years ago; the head of this military regime submits and bows now to Ibn Salman of Saudi Arabia and to Ibn Zayed of the UAE.


Sixthly: the month of Rajab, 841 A.H.:

1- (...On the 5th of Rajab, the caravan of pilgrimage and pilgrims and armed guards ,which headed to Mecca while carrying the Kiswah of the Kaaba and huge amounts of goods and money, left Cairo; the typically timing for this caravan was 15th of Rajab but the sultan Barsbay commanded that the caravan should set out in its journey ten days earlier. The night before this event, some serious troubles occurred; some Mameluke soldiers and guards who live in towers near the palace of the sultan, and who hated and despised the common people since they knew that the sultan Barsbay hated and despised his subjects who are the people of Cairo, decided to raid many mansions in Greater Cairo; they looted and robbed and they raped women and their sons and daughters; some mansions had black slaves who carried cudgels and other arms to fight back the Mameluke drunkards who spread terror in the streets and in the mansions and houses; five black slaved who defended their masters were killed in such street battles; many Mameluke soldiers were wounded; many goods and pieces of furniture and huge amounts of money were stolen from many mansions; the Mameluke guards even stole headwear from the head of men in mansions, houses, and streets; no one at the time heard of such a similar serious ordeal before...). 

1/1: So, the Mamelukes who serve Barsbay in his palace got drunk an raided the houses of the people of Cairo to steal and rob valuable items and money; they also raped women and male and female children.

1/2: Some people of Cairo had black African slaves who defended their masters as much as they could by fighting the drunk, aggressive Mamelukes.

1/3: In his sharp remarks, Al-Makrizi knew that Barsbay hated the Egyptians and his guards knew it and they also hated the Egyptians; they knew that he would condone their raid to loot and rape.

1/4: Sadly, no historians at the time lived outside Greater Cairo to write about the grave injustices that were inflicted by governors in other regions on the peasants and other poor ones in Upper- and Lower-Egyptian villages and towns.

2- (...On the 7th of Rajab, military troops were prepared to be sent to the borders of the Mameluke Levantine region and Mameluke region in northern Iraq; these troops were headed by eight Mameluke leaders who were the princes......  ...). This means that Barsbay sent a military campaign to protect the borders of the Mameluke sultanate in the borders with Mesopotamia and Persia; in contrast, the military regime generals who occupy Egypt since the 1952 coup d'état never achieved any victories except the one over the Egyptian nation itself! 

3- (...On the 9th of Rajab, a decree was issued by the sultan Barsbay that no male slaves would be allowed to carry arms of any types, even wooden ones, and they are never to be allowed to stir out of doors after sunset; the decree included that no Mameluke guards and soldiers would attack any slaves owned by the people; this decree, no doubt, was the result of the fighting that occurred days ago between black slaves, who defended their masters, and the raiding, drunk Mameluke soldiers. People of Cairo felt relieved and happy to hear callers announce this decree in the streets of Cairo; people no longer felt afraid; their fears in the last days were due to their expecting another attack by the revengeful Mameluke soldiers who were wounded...). Thus, black slaves owned by the rich ones in Cairo no longer had the right to carry arms or to step outdoors by night; besides, in order to appease the anger and allay fears of the rich people, Barsbay had to command his personal guards/soldiers never to fight and kill slaves.

4- (...Another decree of the sultan Barsbay was about banning the Mameluke soldiers of the towers from walking in the streets of Cairo; this was because they tended to loot and rob and to insult and humiliate people for no reason; they spread corruption on earth; apart from their stealing everything, they enjoyed raping women and male children and female children; sadly, weeks after abstaining from walking into the streets of Cairo, those Mameluke soldiers continued their evildoing and their mischievous deeds as they seized the chance of the severe ailment and unbearable physical pains of the sultan Barsbay who no longer could stop them...). Thus, after their appetite was abetted for raiding the people of Cairo, especially the rich ones in their mansions, to rob and rape, the Mameluke guards/soldiers who served Barsbay felt that spoils would be huge and the Egyptians were easy preys! They spent their time merrily as their pastime was to rape and rob and terrorize the people of Cairo! They humiliation of men in the streets consisted of removing their headwear (e.g., turbans and hats) and this was shameful and a source of disgrace at the time for men to walk bareheaded. Such evil Mameluke soldiers stole goods of all street vendors and raped children of both sexes and women. No one among the (supreme) judges and other scholars/clergymen talked against such violation and aggression or acted to prevent such terrorism; their silence in such cases was part of their sharia to obsequiously serve Mameluke sultans; this applied also to Ibn Hajar Al-Askalany the prince of hadiths.  

5- (...On the 10th of Rajab, the eight Mameluke princes who led the military campaign were rewarded 2000 dinars each...).

6- (...On the 18th of Rajab, after the fourth of fifth hunting trip, the sultan Barsbay returned very ill to his palace and rumor had it that he lost his appetite for food; he was bedridden for a longer while...Meanwhile, the plague increased in Cairo and Lower Egypt and it reached Upper Egyptian towns and villages; thousands of people died on a daily basis...). The plague reached Upper Egypt and increased all over Lower Egypt and Greater Cairo; yet, Barsbay who felt a little better focused only on his enjoying the hunting trips; yet, his severe ailment increased once more and forced him to keep to his chamber in the palace for a long time. 


Seventhly: the month of Shabaan, 841 A.H.:

1- (...On the 1st of this month, the sultan was still bedridden; he made his men distribute some money for charity among the poor so that Allah may spare him his severe pains; he remained bedridden until the 9th of Shabaan. When he sat on his throne once more, the sultan gave rich gifts to his physicians because he got better; the sultan, on horseback along with his guards, visited some mausoleums of saints and distributed some money for charity among the poor; yet, most people noticed that his pale face indicated that he would never get well or recover at all...). So Barsbay feared death, and so, he did some charity and worshiped tombs of Sufi saints! It is as if this would keep death away or help him get better as far as his health is concerned! Barsbay never thought about the plague that made all Egyptians suffer at the time.

2- (...On the 13th of Shabaan, the Mameluke prince who was the governor of Hejaz left Mecca and embarked a ship from Jeddah to reach Egypt and then he went to Cairo as he was summoned by the sultan Barsbay; instead of dismissing him from his post and confiscating his money as intended, the sultan re-appointed him as the governor of Jeddah only (and not the whole of Hejaz) since he paid a huge sum of money; this Mameluke prince was accompanied on his way back by the newly appointed governor of Hejaz...). The ailment of Barsbay never prevented him from confiscating money of his followers, princes, and governors and from imposing on them to pay bribes to maintain their posts; any Mameluke sultans assumed that all money of his men belonged to the sultans only since they amass such money from people in the name of the sultan; though all princes and governors gave part of their money to the sultan Barsbay on a regular basis, he coveted more money by missing and re-appointing men in several high-ran posts.

3- (...When the sultan Barsbay heard rumors that the Fatimid mosque of Al-Hakim contained a treasure of gold inside one of its columns, he went to this mosque on horseback since he coveted to confiscate such a treasure; yet, he was told by sheikhs of that mosque that if he would destroy all columns of the mosque in search of this treasure, he must have enough money to rebuilt the mosque and its roof which will fall; when the sultan saw that the costs of rebuilding it would be very much, he decided not to look for the treasure of gold which might not be there and he returned to his palace...).

3/1: The severe ailment of Barsbay and the increasing plague never prevented him from making any trips of pleasure and seeking more money; maybe he insisted on making a public appearance to prove to the common people that he was OK and he was not dying.

3/2: The Fatimid mosque of the caliph Al-Hakim was surrounded with mysteries and myths/legends; the greed of Barsbay drove him to seek the assumed treasure but he relinquished the project when he felt he would spend much money to rebuild the mosque in case he would make his soldiers smash all columns (and the roof would fall on their heads and kill them for sure) in search of the treasure whose existence was not proven.

4- (...On the 17th of this month, the prince/governor of the Upper Egyptian estates, villages, and manors from Giza to Aswan was allowed to keep his post in return for a huge annual sum to be paid by him...). Such governors at the time oversaw rural areas and controlled all peasants; they robbed and killed the peasants and common people as per their whims; they kept huge amounts of ill-gotten money and sent a percentage of it to any enthroned sultan to maintain their posts as long as they gratify greedy sultans. It is rare to find historians in Cairo who write about the despicable conditions of the peasants outside Greater Cairo; even Al-Makrizi was no exception to this rule; this entails that a researcher would read between the lines and look for few details mentioned indirectly about this topic.

5- (...The bedridden sultan Barsbay sent some Mameluke troops headed by Mameluke princes/leaders to the Levantine region; he allowed no one among the Mameluke guards/soldiers of the towers near the palace to join such troops because they tend to be troublemakers and their notoriety reached everywhere; no Mameluke princes trusted them; the troops reached the governor-general of the Levant, prince Einal, on the 27th of this month and he read the letters containing the commands of the sultan Barsbay to accompany the princes and the troops to Aleppo and to visit and check other Levantine cities to meet with their governors and receive the annual money from them; if they would not pay, they would be either dismissed or fought and arrested, or even killed as the case may be...). Barsbay prevented his Mameluke guards/soldiers of the towers from joining this campaign not only because they were incorrigible but because he needed them to be near him in Cairo during his severe ailment. 

6- (...On the 26th of this month, the bedridden sultan Barsbay commanded that all prisoners (thieves, highwaymen, criminals, and those who could not settle their debts) to be released from all prisons; he commanded that all prisons would be closed down in Greater Cairo. Yet, such evildoers spread corruption on earth; they looted and raided in the streets, markets, and houses; those merchants who ran debts decided not to settle them since they would not be imprisoned...). The reason for this decree of Barsbay is unknown; keeping prisoners was not costly; this was no act of repentance or charity; he typically forced prisoners to walk in chains, while being heavily guarded, to beg for money; those who failed to bring certain daily sums of money were tormented severely in prison cells; many of them committed suicide to escape such torment. We do not think that Barsbay intended to repent; such forcing prisoners to beg in the streets was a punishment for all prisoners except the Mameluke princes/leaders or big criminals imprisoned for political (e.g., for their being power-seeing rivals). The struggle for power and for the throne caused many Mameluke princes to be imprisoned but they were usually released and were given high-rank posts by new Mameluke sultans recently enthroned; this occurred also to some wealthy clergymen/judges who were the civil wing of big criminals.  

7- (...Some mean, vile evildoers among the courtiers urged the sultan Barsbay to control the distribution of inheritance money left by dead Jews and Christians in Greater Cairo; this was previously undertaken by popes of Copts and by the head of the Jewish community; hence the sultan Barsbay imposed heavy taxes to be exacted from inheritance money left by dead rich Jews and Christians; the sultan Barsbay was very greedy and never hoarded amounts of money that would be satisfactory for him; the more he amassed money, the more he coveted more money!...). This means that Barsbay stole most of any inheritance money left by dead rich Jews and Christians!

8- (...The Mameluke policemen and soldiers attacked houses of Jews and Christians to search for wine bottle to destroy them and to pour such wine in the streets as if this fighting against the spread of wine-drinking would make Allah remove the increasing plague from Greater Cairo and make the sultan Barsbay get better soon...). This violation/persecution never occurred in houses of rich Muhammadans who drank wine in their palaces and mansions!

9- (...By the end of this month, a holy monastery we described in our book titled (Al-Khetat) located in the north of Lower Egypt by the Mediterranean Sea was demolished and Coptic pilgrims who worshiped there during the Assumption Feast wept to lose such a holy monastery; this monastery to them was as holy as the one in Jerusalem (the Church of the Resurrection) to which they travelled as pilgrims...).Barsbay persecuted Christians during their feasts as if his persecuting 'infidels' would help him get better and help remove the plague; he never disrupted Sufi feasts and mausoleums to which thousands of polytheistic Muhammadans journeyed and at which they worshiped as pilgrims!


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