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The Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and the Judge Ibn Hajar the Big Criminals during the Plague of 841 A.H.: The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 5
The Death of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and Ceding Power to his Son Youssef

The Death of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and Ceding Power to his Son Youssef

The Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and the Judge Ibn Hajar the Big Criminals during the Plague of 841 A.H.: The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 5


Published in April 12, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy



The Death of the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and Ceding Power to his Son Youssef

The Mameluke Sultan Barsbay and the Judge Ibn Hajar the Big Criminals during the Plague of 841 A.H.: The Comments of Al-Makrizi about the Last Year of the Reign of Barsbay – 5



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

3- (...The Mameluke soldiers were divided into two disputing groups: those and their leaders who desired to obey the new, young sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Barsbay and his guardian prince Jaqmaq as per the wish of the dying, bedridden sultan Barsbay (and this group [though led by prince Jaqmaq] never entered into the palace for fearing the Al-Ashrafiyya Mameluke soldiers and personal guards who served the sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay) and those Al-Ashrafiyya Mameluke soldiers (supported by prince Einal and other princes) who favored the view that the sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Barsbay should rule alone without a guardian and any helpers who would manage the affairs of the sultanate...Yet, not all of Al-Ashrafiyya Mameluke soldiers held the same view; some favored the choice to submit to the prince Jaqmaq the guardian of the new, young sultan...). Of course, at the time, everyone knew for sure that Barsbay was about to die; it was only a matter of time; he ceded power to his son and heir before his entering into bouts of fainting and hallucinations; these disputes and divisions among Jilban Mameluke soldiers and leaders/princes meant that power centers were formed to prepare for the coming struggle for power by seekers of the throne of the Mameluke sultanate. Of course, this struggle reminds one of the struggle between Aybak (the Mameluke leader of personal guards inside the palace) and Aqtay (the Mameluke leader of the Al-Bahariyya Mameluke soldiers) to win the hand of Queen Shagaret Al-Dor in marriage to become the sultan. Al-Ashrafiyya Mamelukes desired to control Youssef Ibn Barsbay without interference from Jaqmaq, not out of loyalty or love to Barsbay and his son, but in order to maintain their status and to continue to live in the palace and in the towers near the palace and thus control the sultanate. They inwardly knew that the guardian Jaqmaq would, in the right moment, remove the young sultan and get enthroned in his place. Hence, the struggle at that point was like  hot steam contained inside a kettle and was about to get out; it was like a smoke under the ashes indicating a possible re-igniting of a raging fire. The judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset was the one who feared the destructive outcomes of a possible civil war among the Mamelukes since, at the time, he was the head of the civil wing of the big criminals (i.e., judges/clergymen). Hence, Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset interfered along with the four supreme judges (including Ibn Hajar Al-Askalany the supreme judge of the Al-Shafei doctrine and thus the head of the four supreme judges since Al-Shafei doctrine was the favorite and most applied one in the Mameluke Egypt) to restore and re-establish peace at any cost as per Al-Makrizi.   

4- (...Fearing that such disputes would lead to a full-fledged war in Greater Cairo, the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset came to the mosque of the palace and he brought along with him the four supreme judges to meet with the large part of Al-Ashrafiyya Mameluke soldiers, and prince Einal, to convince them to make peace and preserve order and to avoid turning disputes into a military struggle, and they swore on it...). Thus, the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset brought the four supreme judges to meet with many of the Al-Ashrafiyya Mamelukes, who live in the towers, inside the mosque of the palace to swear and take solemn oath to nip any possible military struggle in the bud.

5- (...An agreement was reached and everyone made solemn oaths to obey the new, young sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Barsbay and submit to his guardian, prince Jaqmaq, and the one who made each Mameluke soldier and leaders took turns in swearing by God's Name to hold peace and respect the agreement reached that day was the deputy of the sultan's secretary the judge Sharaf-Eddine Abou Bakr; everyone agreed to never attack, kill, or rob any Mameluke leaders, princes, and governors in Egypt and the Levant; prince Einal made a solemn oath as well as the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset about not to favor any group of Mameluke soldiers over the others; other princes swore to remain loyal to the young sultan and to his guardian prince Jaqmaq; each of the Mameluke princes, and prince Einal before them, kissed the hand of the prince Jaqmaq, who swore to keep peace and honor the agreement, inside his mansion, for he never attended the meeting inside the mosque of the palace, and this was done in the presence of Zayn-Eddine Adel-Basset and the four supreme judges; words of joy and love were expressed, and everyone praised and thanked God for avoiding war and bloodshed...). This was a temporary peace, of course; the princes and judges had to walk to the mansion of Jaqmaq in Greater Cairo because he feared that Al-Ashrafiyya Mameluke soldiers might kill him inside the palace mosque; he waited inside his mansion till an agreement of peace was reached first as per the plan of the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset.

6- (...On the 10th day of this month, the day of the Greater Bairam, the new sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Barsbay was the imam of the congregational prayers of the Greater Bairam inside the palace mosque; he was accompanied by his guardian, prince Jaqmaq, who followed him closely everywhere; many Mameluke princes attended the prayers on that day; after the prayers, the new sultan lavished many presents, garments, and money-gifts on the prince Jaqmaq and the other  Mameluke princes after him; the young sultan slaughtered many sacrificial animals in the backyard of the palace; meanwhile, the bedridden, dying sultan Barsbay suffered bouts of epilepsy and he fainted many times; when he was conscious, he screamed in pain; his pale was deathly white and the pupils of his eyes lacked brightness; even those who disliked him pitied him very much; eventually, the sultan Barsbay died in the afternoon of the 13th of Zu Al-Hijja, may God have mercy upon his soul and admit it into Paradise...). Of course, before entering into the phase of fainting and hallucinations, Barsbay ceded power in an official ceremony to his son and this is why the young sultan did in the Greater Bairam what his father would have done. Despite the criticism by Al-Makrizi of Barsbay in later parts of (Al-Solok), he seems to have pitied him as per what we infer in the last words of the passage we quote about the death of Barsbay.

7- (...Once the sultan Barsbay died, in the afternoon of the next day, the official ceremony of the coronation of the young sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Al-Ashraf Barsbay was held in the presence of the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset, prince Jaqmaq, prince Einal, and other high-rank Mameluke princes, as well as the judge Sharaf-Eddine the deputy of the sultan's secretary, the viziers, the treasurer, the Abbasid caliph, and the four supreme judges; the Mameluke soldiers of the towers witnessed the ceremony from the front garden and the backyard of the palace; the celebration continued until sunset; the 14-year-old young sultan was given a sword and a new crown and was made to sit on the throne after riding on horseback in the garden and the backyard around the palace so that all soldiers would see him; his cortege within such a procession was all princes lead by prince Jaqmaq and the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset; once enthroned, all Mameluke princes, military leaders, and judges kissed the ground under the feet of the new sultan who, by the end of the official ceremony, showered all princes and the Abbasid caliph and the guardian Jaqmaq with rich gifts, as usually expected in such occasions, before they left the palace...).

7/1: We see here the role of the civil wing of big criminals (judges/clergymen) since the four supreme judges representing the 'legitimacy' drawn from the sharia laws of the four Sunnite doctrines (led by Ibn Hajar Al-Askalany the supreme judge of Al-Shafei doctrine) attended the ceremony along with the Abbasid prince/caliph who was a source of power/authority and quasi-religious 'legitimacy' as well. 

7/2: The young sultan's age was 14 years and 7 months at the time; yet, he was made a sultan officially since Barsbay ceded power to him months before his death; as per the protocols at the time the guardian Jaqmaq was close to the young sultan all the time, and when the young sultan was enthroned, everyone, including Jaqmaq and other Mameluke princes/leaders and all judges like Ibn Hajar, prostrated to him and kissed the ground under his feet. This means that this was done by all big criminals (military leaders + clergymen/judges).  

8- (...The corpse of the sultan Barsbay was washed and wrapped in shrouds; the funeral procession marched from the wing of his bedchamber through the gate of the palace until the mosque of the palace where the supreme judge Ibn Hajar led the funeral prayers as an imam shortly before sunset; behind him in the funeral prayers were rows of Mameluke princes and leaders and all judges of Greater Cairo and the three other supreme judges; the funeral march carried the coffin by night until it reached a tomb beneath a dome in the desert, outside the capital, built earlier by the sultan Barsbay to be his own burial place; thousands of common people gathered to attend the burial; callers roamed the streets of Greater Cairo in the next day to spread the glad tidings of the newly enthroned  sultan, the son of Barsbay, and that no struggle would take place and that security would be maintained in the streets and markets for all merchants, street vendors, shopkeepers, purchasers/buyers,...etc., and people were enjoined to implore God to have mercy on the soul of Barsbay and to protect the new sultan Al-Aziz Gamal-Eddine Youssef Ibn Barsbay; people in Greater Cairo felt safe after they were expecting raids and turmoil which did not occur...Each of Mameluke soldiers received 100 dinars...).

9- (...On the 14th day of this month, statesmen and viziers gathered by the tomb of the sultan Barsbay and listened to reciters of the Quran there from noon to sunset for seven days...The new sultan appointed his new Mameluke guards and servants who were employed inside the palace; this event was attended by the prince Jaqmaq, the guardian of the sultan, the Abbasid caliph, and all statesmen, viziers, and princes, and high-ran government employees as usual; the young sultan offered an island on the River Nile as a gift to the already very wealthy Abbasid caliphs who had several assets...). The entire Quranic text was recited/sung by the tomb of Barsbay for seven consecutive days, and his son, the young sultan, bestowed an island as a gift to the Abbasid caliph/prince though he owned an immense wealth of his own!

10- The following lines contain some pieces of good news.

10/1: (...The governors of Egyptian regions and cities in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt received written decrees informing them of the glad tidings of the coronation of the new sultan Youssef Ibn Barsbay...).

10/2: (...On the 15th day of this month, the young sultan sat inside the backyard of the palace along with some princes and statesmen; he distributed money-gifts among the Mameluke soldiers; each one of them received 100 dinars...).

10/3: (...Prince Einal who was the governor-general of the Levant headed to the Levantine cities to bring the glad tidings of the coronation of the new sultan, Youssef Ibn Barsbay, to each governor of each city...).

10/4: (...On the 16th day of this month, more money-gifts were given to the rest of the Mameluke soldiers...).

10/5: (...Many governors of Egyptian and Levantine cities came to offer rich gifts and presents to the new sultan, Youssef Ibn Barsbay, and they swore fealty to him; a prince informed the new sultan that dirham and dinar coins in the Mint were now carrying his name and titles...).

11- The following lines contain some pieces of expected, bad news.

11/1: Al-Makrizi writes the following about the disputes among the big criminals who were the Mameluke military leaders/princes, while the 14-year-old enthroned sultan Youssef Ibn Barsbay who never controlled anything in the sultanate remained silent a he never understood anything of course: (...On the 20th day of this month, prince Jakam the maternal uncle of the sultan quarreled and disputed much over the affairs of the sultanate with the prince Einal and they spoke angrily and loudly to each other; the young sultan remained silent within such angry debates; the sultanate affairs were managed at the time mostly by three men only: prince Jaqmaq who was the guardian of the young sultan Youssef Ibn Barsbay, prince Einal, and the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset; one of the reasons of the quarrel between prince Jakam and prince Einal was that the latter interfered too much in managing the affairs of the sultanate and he spent his nights in the palace as if he were the sultan; eventually, prince Einal was furious and felt insulted; he had to spent his nights from now on in his own mansion; many disputes took place later on over other matters...).

11/2: (...After much disputes and quarrels inside the palace between the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset and the Mameluke soldiers of the towers who hated his commands and orders, some Mameluke soldiers waited for this judge to attack and murder him once he got out of the palace; yet, because the judge rode his horse while being heavily guarded, he managed to escape and reached his mansion in safety...).

11/3: (...A gathering of a great number of Mameluke soldiers waited before one of the gates of the palace; once they saw the judge Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Basset coming out of the gate and heading to his mansion, they attacked him while aiming to murder him, but he managed to escape those who surrounded and threatened to murder him; he went out while being guarded; he knew he was hated by the Mameluke soldiers of the towers because of much quarrels between them and him...). Poor judge Abdel-Basset who worked daily inside the palace was like an easy prey to the Mamelukes serving Barsbay; they tried or threatened to kill him twice in one month. (...During this month and the previous month, many people died of the plague in the cities of Alexandria, Damietta, Foh, and Damanhur and in the villages and estates surrounding such cities of Lower Egypt; at least one hundred persons died every day in Alexandria...).



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