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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 – 4
Lessons to Be Drawn from the Reign of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay 825 – 841 A.H.

Lessons to Be Drawn from the Reign of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay 825 – 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 – 4



Published in April 10, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy



Lessons to Be Drawn from the Reign of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay 825 – 841 A.H.

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 – 4



Continuing this part from the previous article: Ninthly: the month of Zu Al-Qaeda, 841 A.H.:

4- (...On the 4th of Zu Al-Qaeda, the sultan Barsbay stood in the backyard of the palace; he was helped to stand on his feet by the eunuch Mameluke prince Khushqadam; the debilitating illness of the sultan made him so weak that he was unable to stand on his own feet by himself; he desired to see all Mameluke soldiers and guards whom he bought who lived in the towers as well as all employees, slaves,...etc. gathered in the palace's backyard to see who survived the plague and who died among them...).

5- (...The Abbasid prince/caliph attended the official ceremony along with the four supreme judges, prince Jaqmaq the higher military leader of all Mameluke troops, military leaders of groups of 1000 Mameluke soldiers, and other Mameluke princes except for the sultan's private secretary who was too ill and bedridden...Their presence blessed the decree to appoint the young prince Youssef Ibn Barsbay as successor and heir to the throne of the sultan Barsbay...). Thus such official ceremony was attended by the civil wing of the big criminals (i.e., judges/clergymen + the Abbasid prince/caliph), including Ibn Hajar Al-Askalany the supreme judge of the Al-Shafei doctrine, and the military big criminals like the defense minister Jaqmaq and other Mameluke princes/leaders. 

6- (...The judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset stood and delivered a speech in this official ceremony to declare to all attendees the decree of the sultan to appoint his son, prince Youssef, as his successor and heir to the throne after his death; the Abbasid caliph praised and approved of this idea in the presence of the sultan Barsbay and his son...). As we have mentioned earlier, the mission of the Abbasid caliph/prince in the Mameluke sultanate was to grant a sort of quasi-religious 'legitimacy' to any sultans and heirs to the throne.

7- (...The judges Sharaf-Eddine Abou Bakr presented the written decree to the sultan Barsbay to be signed by him and also by other witnesses who were the Abbasid caliph and the four supreme judges...). As we have mentioned earlier,Sharaf-Eddine Abou Bakr was the deputy of the secretary of the sultan; the secretary Salah-Eddine Ibn Nasr was taken ill and could not attend the ceremony to write anything. This deputy of the secretary wrote the decree that prince Youssef would be enthroned as the sultan after the death of his father, Barsbay, and the written decree was offered to the sultan to be signed; it was also signed by the Abbasid caliph/prince and the four supreme judges; this means that the major role here was played by the big criminals who were clergymen who assumed high-rank positions.

8- (...The sultan Barsbay delivered a rather long speech in the Turkish tongue to the Mameluke leaders and princes; it can be summarized, as per what was told to us, that the sultan addressed them by reminding them that he was the one who bought, brought, and trained them but they committed many sins and spread corruption on earth in several instances and he never disapproved of their misdeeds though he pardoned them; he told them that he invoked God's wrath against them and this was why many of them died of the plague of 833 A.H. and 841 A.H. and he had to buy new Mamelukes; he told them that he was dying and going to meet with God while leaving his son, prince Youssef, as his heir to be protected and obeyed by them; they must never quarrel and fight one another so as to avoid being annihilated as a punishment from God; he advised them never to remove Mameluke governors, who rule cities and  regions, from their posts and never to remove Mameluke military leaders from their posts; most of the attendees, Mamelukes and others, wept by the end of this speech delivered by the sultan; upon receiving the solemn oaths of obedience from all of them, the very ill sultan was carried back to his bedchamber after he read aloud the written decree he signed which was also signed by the Abbasid caliph and the four supreme judges...).

8/1: Despite his severe ailment, the shrewdness of Barsbay made him realize that the big criminals who were the Mameluke military leaders were the ones who controlled the sultanate regardless of the act played on stage, or in the palace, by the big criminals who were clergymen/judges; Barsbay insisted on making all high-rank Mameluke princes/leaders agree on never to engage into military strife over the throne and approve of his son as heir/successor to the throne; in fact, their weeping was also mere acting; once Barsbay died, they knew inwardly that they would never obey a 14-year-old sultan for merely his being the son and heir of a dead sultan; they inwardly knew that only any of the strong Mameluke princes/leaders deserved the throne after emerging victorious within the struggle for power; this is what happened eventually as the defense minister Jaqmaq was the winner within such struggle and he was enthroned as the Mameluke sultan and he dethroned Youssef Ibn Barsbay and he shamelessly brought the same actors (judges + the Abbasid prince) to replay the same act of lending him quasi-religious legitimacy within the official ceremony of his coronation.   

8/2: Barsbay delivered a quasi-religious speech in Turkish, the commonly used tongue by Mameluke princes at the time, to emotionally appeal to them so that they would take care of his son and heir and to obey him when he became their sultan; the cunning Barsbay made himself a Sufi saint whose supplications were supposedly answered by the Lord God; as if the plague was caused by his supplications to the Lord God against corrupt Mameluke criminals! The fact that they wept is part of playing their act; they deceived the dying sultan Barsbay by such act as a political maneuver since he was still enthroned as sultan and thus had the 'legitimate' power to put anyone among them to death on the spot by merely uttering a command to that effect.   

9- (...The written decree of the sultan written by the judge Sharaf-Eddine Abou Bakr and signed by the sultan and by the four supreme judges and the Abbasid caliph as witnesses included appointing the prince Jaqmaq as the guardian of prince Youssef when he would be enthroned as sultan...).

10- (...The sultan offered 30 dinars for each one of the Mamelukes of the palace and the towers; thus he spent the total sum of 120 thousand dinars...). Barsbay thus bribed his Mamelukes in the palace and in the towers to keep their evildoing at bay for a while.

11- (...The governor of Greater Cairo died of the plague and the sultan Barsbay appointed in this position the prince Taghribirdi...).

12- (...On the 6th day of this month, the private secretary of the sultan Barsbay,Salah-Eddine Ibn Nasr, died; his son Badr-Eddine Ibn Nasr, was summoned on that day by the sultan to be appointed in the same post left vacant by the death of his father; the sultan gave him a gift from his own stable: a fine horse and a saddle made of gold; upon the death of Khaja the Muhtasib of Greater Cairo, the sultan appointed in the same post the Mameluke prince Nour-Eddine Al-Seweify...). We see here that the sultan Barsbay still had his authority and power despite his severe ailment and his appointing his son as his heir and successor to the throne.

13- (...On the 11th day of this month, huge Mameluke troops left Cairo and headed to Gaza to meet with the other Mameluke troops (mostly of Turcoman origin) led by the governors of all Levantine cities; they headed towards the city of Aqshahar, in the eastern bank of the River Euphrates, to siege it and to warn its ruler...). So, the Mameluke State headed by Barsbay at the time was very strong and it sent military campaigns to assert its power, sovereignty, and control.

14- The ailment of Barsbay grew severer and he had to keep to his bed again: (...On the 15th day of this month, the number of deaths because of the plague decreased in Greater Cairo, but the sultan became bedridden again and no one among the princes was allowed to meet him in his bedchamber except four men: the prince Jaqmaq, the prince Einal, the secretary, and the treasurer. The judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset was not allowed to see the sultan but was allowed to manage the affairs of the palace on his behalf; rumors spread all over Greater Cairo that the sultan died; such rumors drove Mameluke princes and leaders to dispute and quarrel over who would be fit to rule the sultanate; each one of them coveted the throne and prepared his Mameluke soldiers and got them ready; the common people feared that a military strife would occur and cause much destruction and corruption in the streets and in houses and mansions; statesmen hid their treasures and their family members outside Greater Cairo since they feared looting and raping would occur; no one among the wealthy merchants dared to travel to Lower Egypt or to Upper Egypt or even to the Levantine region for lack of security and guards in the travel routes...).

14/1: When Barsbay became bedridden again and could not move and could not meet with anyone among the big criminals of the sultanate except four close ones among them and the judge was never allowed an audience with him, rumors spread that the sultan died; typically expected in such cases, other Mamelukes began to form factions or power centers and prepare for the military struggle for the throne; they knew inwardly that the adolescent sultan would rule for a short while in what would seem like a transitional stage or interim period until the mightiest and most powerful Mameluke leader would defeat the others and ascend the throne as sultan; no one would be allowed to be worthy of becoming a sultan unless he was a victorious Mameluke who forced others to submit to his will. Such struggle for power would have its victims among the civil wing of the big criminals (statesmen/clergymen) and they had to hide their women and children outside the capital so that they would not be raped by any warring Mameluke soldiers and to hide their wealth to avoid being robbed also by such soldiers (especially the ones who belonged to Barsbay) who always seized the chance of any chaos to loot and rape; the banquet was huge and the wolves were so many. 

14/2: Since this was the case at the time in Greater Cairo, this means that the conditions were worse in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt since lack of security allowed no one to travel there. Yet, Al-Makrizi, like other historians, does not provide more details about regions outside the capital since he resided only in Cairo; pieces of news that came from other regions in Egypt were scarce.


Tenthly: the month of Zu Al-Hijja, 841 A.H.:

1- (...During the months of Ramadan, Shawwal, and Zu Al-Qaeda, more than 100 thousand people died of the plague; all slaves and servants in all houses and mansions of Greater Cairo died and this made people suffer too much work they done inside their houses and this continued in Zu l-Hijja...). This means that the plight of the plague continued alongside with the anxiety and fear of a possible Mameluke military strife that would cause much troubles and chaos in the streets and houses of Cairo.

2- (...As for the sultan Barsbay, he lost appetite for food weeks ago and his physical strength dropped; he fainted many times each day for longer durations and had hallucinations when he was awake due to the weakness of the mind caused by lack of nourishment and severe pains; we think that the Lord God struck him with such a dreadful state so that he would stop his corruption and injustices shortly before his death...).

2/1: Barsbay suffered hallucinations and prolonged periods of fainting because of his perpetual severe physical pains.

2/2: The second half of the above passage is a funny yet painful and sharp comment by Al-Makrizi; when his mind was sharp, Barsbay the tyrant worshiper of Mammon/money spread corruption on earth; the fainting and the hallucinations stopped from committing more grave injustices.


Lastly: going back in time: in the year 825 A.H. when Barsbay became the Mameluke sultan:

1- We can imagine how people suffered from the tyranny and injustice of Barsbay since 825 A.H. when he became enthroned as the sultan of the Mameluke State.

2- We quote the lines by Al-Makrizi in (Al-Solok) about the events of 825 A.H. when Barsbay became the Mameluke sultan. The Mameluke sultan Al-Dhahir Tatar appointed his son, prince Mohamed Ibn Tatar, as his heir and successor to the throne; he also appointed the Mameluke prince and defense minister Barsbay as the guardian for prince Mohamed Ibn Tatar who became a child-sultan upon his father's death; soon afterwards, Barsbay removed this child-sultan and ascended the throne himself as the sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay; the story was repeated, as usual, since Barsbay appointed his son, the 14-year-old prince Youssef, as his heir and successor to the throne; he also appointed the Mameluke prince and defense minister Jaqmaq as the guardian for prince Youssef; of course, Jaqmaq removed the adolescent sultan and ascended the throne as the sultan Jaqmaq.

3- Al-Makrizi writes the following within the events of 825 A.H.: (...The newly enthroned sultan of Egypt and the Levant was Al-Saleh Mohamed Ibn Tatar under the guardianship of the Mameluke higher military leader the prince Barsbay; the affairs of the State were managed by prince Barsbay and the viziers, the secretary, statesmen, the treasurer, the four supreme judges, and Mameluke princes and military leaders, chief among them were princes Tarbay, Janbak, and Einal, and this is not to mention governors of regions of Egypt and Levantine cities...). Those men were the big criminals who were the Mameluke military leaders/princes and the judges/clergymen in 825 A.H.

4- The child-sultan Mohamed Ibn Tatar remained nominally enthroned for four months and three days until removed by Barsbay who replaced him as the enthroned sultan: (...Al-Saleh Mohamed Ibn Tatar was dethroned on the 8th of Rabei Al-Akhar, 825 A.H. and his reign lasted only for 4 months and 3 days...).

5- This is about Barsbay the new Mameluke sultan who was enthroned in 825 A.H.: (...The prince Barsbay the guardian removed the sultan Mohamed Ibn Tatar on the 8th of Rabei Al-Akhar, 825 A.H., and on the same day, the prince Barsbay summoned the four supreme judges and the Abbasid prince and all statesmen, Mameluke princes, Mameluke leaders to the official ceremony of his coronation; he became the sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay Al-Dhahiry; callers spread his name in the streets of Greater Cairo and imams of mosques prayed for him on Fridays; once enthroned, his first decree was to arrest and imprison his rival Tarbay by the help of Einal the governor-general of the Levant; his other rival Janbak feared a similar fate; he fled from both Egypt and the Levant and took hiding in Mesopotamia...).

5/1: So, Barsbay defeated his strong, power-seeking rivals including Janbak and Tarbay.

5/2: As typically expected at the time, the big criminals (who were judges and also the Abbasid prince/caliph) swore fealty to Barsbay as the new Mameluke sultan.

6- Earlier, the Mameluke sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh chose Tatar, a minor, low-rank Mameluke prince, and promoted him into a higher rank and then the defense minister and then the guardian of his heir and successor the child Al-Mozafar Ahmad Ibn Al-Moayyad Sheikh; soon enough, after the death of Al-Moayyad Sheikh, Tatar removed the child-sultan and ascended the throne as the sultan Al-Dhahir Tatar. When he fell ill later, the sultan Tatar appointed his son as his successor and heir to the throne under the guardianship of Barsbay; the story was repeated as usual since Barsbay removed the child-sultan and ruled as the newly enthroned sultan; Al-Makrizi draws a lesson here: (...One should draw a useful lesson here to be remembered only by those who have reasoning minds: when the sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh promoted and cared for a minor Mameluke prince, Tatar, until he became the most prominent Mameluke prince and the higher military leader, though he was among those who ran away out of fear from the sultan Al-Nasser Farag Ibn Barqoq, he trusted Tatar very much and appointed him as guardian to his son and heir; yet, months after the death of Al-Moayyad Sheikh, Tatar removed him and became enthroned as the new sultan; he detained the son and widow of Al-Moayyad Sheikh in wing inside the palace and they were never allowed to leave it. When the sultan Tatar fell ill and felt he was about to die, in an official ceremony, he made his son his heir and successor under the guardianship of his relative the prince Barsbay who was brought from Damascus, where he worked under the prince/governor of this city, to  be promoted as the higher Mameluke military leader; yet, months after the death of Tatar, Barsbay removed his son from the throne and became enthroned as the new sultan; he detained the son and widow of Tatar in wing inside the palace and they were never allowed to leave it...Thus, those who work evil will pay for it sooner or later as per the Quranic verse 4:123...).

7- The big criminals who were Jilban Mamelukes and the big criminals who were (supreme and ordinary) judges/scholars schemed and paid a heavy price for their scheming; this reminds us of the following Quranic verse: "And thus We set up in every city its big criminals to scheme in it, but they scheme only against themselves and they do not realize it." (6:123). As always, the Lord God says nothing but the Absolute Truth. May the Lord God the Lord of the worlds be glorified!  

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