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Al-Makrizi as an Eyewitness within the Era of the Big Criminals during the Plague of 833 A.H. – 1

Al-Makrizi as an Eyewitness within the Era of the Big Criminals during the Plague of 833 A.H. – 1  



Published in April 14, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy



1- Barsbay came to Egypt among the Jilban Mamelukes; he was bought by a Mameluke prince named Diqmaq and was given as a gift to the sultan Al-Dhahir Barqoq who freed him from slavery and made his a special Mameluke who got promoted at times as the prince/governor Barsbay, and at other times, he to imprisoned; this occurred alternatingly until Barsbay became the enthroned sultan of  the Mameluke sultanate on the 8th of Rabei Awwal, 825 A.H. – 1st of April 1422 A.D.  

2- As a typical behavior expected from all Mameluke sultans at the time, in 825 A.H., the sultan Barsbay bought many Mamelukes to be loyal to him and serve him as the sultan; he chose to buy youths who could be trained swiftly and carry arms and he did not buy children. Of course, ambitious youths of Central Asia and Central Europe willingly chose to be enslaved to be bought and brought to Greater Cairo while hoping they would be Mameluke princes or sultans one day; such mean, base youths were originally criminals, thieves, gangsters, and highwaymen; hence, the Al-Burji Mameluke soldiers, princes and sultans were more brutal and savage; their victims were mostly the common people.

3- Most of the Jilban Mamelukes bought by Barsbay in 825 A.H. and in the years after it to serve him as the sultan died of the plague of 833 A.H.; hence, Barsbay had to buy more Mamelukes in the years after 833 A.H.; yet, again, most of them died of the plague of 841 A.H. and this is also the year when Barsbay died in the last month of it. Thus, such Jilban Mamelukes were youths who were brought to Greater Cairo, Egypt, in 825 A.H. and later years, and they committed many evils, sins, injustices, and acts of aggressions for eight years until most of them died of the plague of 833 A.H. Again, the youths who were also Jilban Mamelukes brought to Greater Cairo in 833 A.H. and later years committed many evils, sins, injustices, and acts of aggressions for eight years until most of them died of the plague of 841 A.H. This means that the plague is the hero/protagonist of the historical events at the time.

4- The vital importance of the plague of 833 A.H. and that of 841 A.H. is derived from the fact that the plague was a divine punishment of infliction of torment upon the big criminals who were the Mamelukes and clergymen/judges and also upon those who committed a grave injustice against the Lord God at the time (when Sufi-Sunnite religion of Satan dominated) by deifying mortals and things/tombs and committed all grave sins while ascribing them to the name of the religion of Islam.

5- Human beings now fear the Coronavirus pandemic and they should be warned and take heed; the scientific and technological advancement of humanity are being defeated – until now – by the tiniest of viruses (billions of the Coronavirus when grouped together will be less than a grain of rice). The Coronavirus pandemic threatens now everyone including the big criminals who are rulers and clergymen who appear on TV and are applauded by the masses; would all of us be warned and draw a useful lesson? Within our writings regarding Quranic ponderings and quoting and analyzing lines of history, we, of course, desire to introduce reform: "...I desire nothing but reform, as far as I can. My success lies only with God. In Him I trust, and to Him I turn.”" (11:88).

6- Al-Makrizi as an eyewitness within the era of the plague of 833 A.H. writes the following lines in his book titled (Al-Solok).


Firstly: the month of Muharram, 833 A.H.:

1- (...On the 2nd day of this month, the treasurer and the governor of Upper Egypt were allowed to keep their positions; each paid 20 thousand dinars to the sultan...On the 9th day of this month, rumors spread about the removal of the grand vizier but he paid a large sum to the sultan who allowed him to keep his position and to have more control over the governmental departments...). Of course, that a Mameluke prince maintained his post meant that he paid a huge bribe to the sultan and he imposed, in his turn, many bribes on people to be received by him to collect more ill-gotten money and make up for the bribes/sums he lost.

2- (...On the 12th day of this month, on his way to the palace, the private treasurer of the sultan carried the salaries of the Mameluke soldiers of the towers as usual every month; yet, they refused to get paid; they demanded that their salaries would be increased; they demanded extra 300 dirhams every month; they were reminded that their received an increase of extra 400 dirhams in the previous month; when their demand was respected, each of them thus received 5000 dinars per month; before the sultan would decide to gratify them, their evildoing and aggression increased so that they posed a veritable threat and a source of terror to both the common people in the streets of Greater Cairo and to the statesmen, judges, viziers, leaders/governors, and princes; the statesmen had to hid their wealth outside Greater Cairo as they feared that their mansions would be robbed by revolting Mameluke soldiers...). This means that the Mameluke soldiers serving Barsbay terrorized everyone, especially the civil wing of the big criminals and even the Mameluke princes/leaders (the military wing of the big criminals), in order to force the sultan to agree to increase their monthly salaries; of course, the big criminals had to hide their wealth and treasures outside Greater Cairo and away from their mansions to avoid being robbed; what about the poor, helpless subjects who were defenseless?!

3- (...On the 24th day of this month, an envoy sent to the sultan Barsbay by the king of the East, Shah Rakh Ibn Taymour, whose letter contained a request of a copy from the exegeses of Al-Bokhary book authored by the supreme judge Shehab-Eddine Ibn Hajar and a copy of our own book (Al-Solok); as a token of friendship and gratitude, the king Shah Rakh Ibn Taymour offered to pay for the expenses of the Kiswah of the Kaaba and to offer water and victuals this year to pilgrims in Mecca...). We tend to think that the king of the east desired the first volumes of (Al-Solok) and not the last volumes which were not yet written at the time. This king was also keen to get a copy of the seminal book by Ibn Hajar: his exegeses/commentaries on the hadiths-book of Al-Bokhary.


Secondly: the month of Saffar, 833 A.H.:

1- (...On the 14th day of this month, an official ceremony took place in a grand mosque, built earlier by the sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh, to celebrate appointment of the judge Shehab-Eddine as the secretary of the sultan Barsbay; the decree was written and then read aloud by the deputy-secretary the judge Sharaf-Eddine Abou Bakr; the celebration was attended by only three of the supreme judges; the Al-Hanafiyya doctrine supreme judge did not attend; other attendees included many high-rank princes and wealthy landlords and merchants...). Of course, let us not forget that such high-rank posts were bought by huge bribes paid to Barsbay.

2- (...The prices of crops increased and so the gold dinar; its worth reached 160 dirhams; news came from the Levantine region that soaring prices in Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs coincided with the spread of the plague there...). So, we read here about soaring prices of gold and crops in Egypt and the Levant and that the plague increased in certain Levantine cities.

3- (...On the 26th day of this month, the supreme judge Shehab-Eddine Ibn Hajar was removed from his post and Al-Balkini took his place as per the decree of the sultan Barsbay, whereas the supreme judge Badr-Eddine Al-Ainy was allowed to continue in his post; new judges were appointed for the first time; the sheikh Sadr-Eddine Al-Ajamy was granted the post of the sheikh and overseer of the Khanqah/madrassa of the prince Shaykhun as he replaced Adel-Rahman Al-Tafhany who became one of the four supreme judges...). So, Ibn Hajar was removed temporarily from his position as a supreme judge to be replaced by Al-Balkini; yet, Ibn Hajar would get re-appointed and restore his position by paying a larger bribe to Barsbay who loved to play this game a lot (of removing and re-appointing) to amass more ill-gotten money since he offered posts for sale; the poor subjects were the ones who pay a heavy price for such corruption since the big criminals who were clergymen/judges and military Mameluke princes/leader impose on common people paying both heavy taxes and huge bribes. 


Thirdly: the month of Rabei Awwal, 833 A.H.:

1- (...The sheikh Sadr-Eddine Al-Ajamy was allowed to continue in his post as the sheikh and overseer of the Khanqah/madrassa of the prince Shaykhun; Saad-Eddine Ibn Kareem-Eddine Baraka the son of the sultan's private treasurer who died (i.e., Kareem-Eddine Baraka) replaced his deceased father in the same post in return for paying 60 thousand dinars...). Again, assuming a high-rank post is linked to paying bribes whose sums were imposed personally by Barsbay!

2- (...Days later, prices of crops plummeted as the Muhtasib of Greater Cairo temporarily prevented the selling of crops coming from Upper- and Lower-Egyptian villages until all crops of the estates of the sultan Barsbay would be sold first; a large sack of wheat from the estates of the sultan was sold for 360 dirhams; later on, people were allowed to sell their too many crops and prices plummeted as a result, and common people were happy to be able to afford to buy them...). This means that Barsbay interfered in the trade and sometimes monopolized markets and imposed certain prices for crops of his own estates since he allowed no one to sell anything before he sold his own crops in markets of Greater Cairo; this sometimes was for the benefit of the common people who were saved from the greed of merchants since prices plummeted. 


Fourthly: the month of Rabei Akhar, 833 A.H.:

1- (...On the 4th day, the supreme judge of the Al-Hanafy doctrine Badr-Eddine Al-Ainy was allowed to combine between this posts as a supreme judge and as an overseer of Waqfs and his new post as the Muhtasib of Greater Cairo instead of the Muhtasib who was removed from his post recently...). This means that since Al-Ainy (who was among the civil wing of the big criminals at the time) combined three high-rank positions, he enjoyed much authority and power during the reign of sultan Barsbay who constantly received large sums of money as bribes from Al-Ainy, of course.

2- (...On the 9th day of this month, many Mameluke governors and princes such as.......were removed from their posts to assume other different posts or to be re-appointed in the same posts in return for bribes.....One of them failed to pay the sum demanded by the sultan Barsbay, 100 thousand dinars, and he was removed forever and never assumed any posts ever since...). Again, the sums of bribes were imposed by force if one would desire to maintain one's post or to assume other higher posts. The same game was repeated by Barsbay every now and then to allow him to hoard more ill-gotten wealth.

3- (...The plague spread and increased in Lower Egypt starting from the city of Damanhur; thousands of people died of the plague; at least 5 thousand persons died in the city of Al-Mahalla and 600 persons in Damietta; the plague also spread and increased this winter in the Levantine cities of Gaza, Jerusalem, Damascus, and Safad; this was strange because plagues are typically expected in spring and not in winter; regardless of the reasons for this phenomenon offered by physicians (especially that some Levantine rich merchants settled in Greater Cairo to flee the plague in their original cities), we ourselves attribute it to the Divine Will of Allah. In Greater Cairo, where people, and even children in alleys, expected the plague to reach them sooner than they thought, at least 12 persons died on a daily basis and the number increased almost every week to reach 48 persons a day; the total number of those who died of the plague in this month in Greater Cairo was 477 persons; yet, the recorded number in the department of inheritance was less since it recorded only the dead ones among the rich people; many weak, bedridden people in hospitals died in the plague; no one counted their numbers; also no one counted the number of the so many poor, penniless people who died of the plague and fell in the streets of Greater Cairo...News came that the plague reached many Byzantine cities as well...). Thus, the plague spread from the Levant to Lower Egypt and then Greater Cairo, and it reached some cities of the Byzantines as well on the borders with the Levantine region; the Mameluke government cared only to register names of the dead among the rich to steal a large percentage of the money/assets they left to inheritors; no one cared about counting the large numbers of the poor ones who died of the plague in hospitals and those who died of it in the streets and their corpses filled the streets of Greater Cairo. 


Fifthly: the month of Jamady Awwal, 833 A.H.:

1- (...The prince Saad-Eddine Ibn Al-Morrah, governor of Jeddah, was stationed outside Greater Cairo to register the names of those who desired to perform pilgrimage (or Hajj and Umrah) to Mecca this year...). Of course, traveling to Mecca for pilgrimage in times of the plague means spreading the plague among other people.

2- (...In the department of inheritance, the number of the rich dead one who died of the plague this month in Greater Cairo was 100 persons; but this was not the exact number since some families of deceased rich ones were too reluctant to register the names of the dead ones to the vizier/prince who managed the department of inheritance...). This means that the number of the rich victims who died of the plague in Greater Cairo was more than 100 persons.

3- (...In this month, callers of the sultan proclaimed among the residents of Greater Cairo that the sultan Barsbay issued a decree that everyone would observe a three-day fast while repenting of their sins, injustices, and disobedience; on the 4th day, after purifying their souls with repentance, the common people should gather in the desert outside Greater Cairo to supplicate to Allah in unison to remove the affliction of the plague from Egypt. This was very strange, in our view, since the sultan's decree does not include the rulers, princes, governors, judges, and high-rank employees despite their having committed grave injustices for a long time! It is the worst shame that unjust sinners would urge the common people to repent and fast while the unjust sinners would never do that!...). The last words indicate the ridicule and the comment by Al-Makrizi; why would repentance, fasting, and supplications be confined to the common people and would not include Mamelukes and judges and employees?!

4- (...On the 4th day of this month, in the early morning, the supreme judge Alam-Eddine Saleh led a large group of common people (men and women) and they passed through one of the gates of the wall of Cairo and headed towards the desert outside the capital; they reached the tomb of the sultan Al-Dhahir Barqoq; they sat down while the supreme judge stood to deliver a sermon about repentance and deliverance; the congregations wept and cried and began to implore and supplicate to God for deliverance from the plague; they returned to Cairo shortly before noon...Sadly, on a daily basis, greater numbers of people died of the plague in Greater Cairo since that day!...). So, one of the big criminals who was a clergyman/judge led the 'campaign' of repentant ones in the desert, but the unexpected result was that the number of deaths because of the plague increased. One cannot help but to pose this question here: What if the big criminals (rulers + clergymen) among the Muhammadans of today would do the same and supplicate in the desert for the removal of the Coronavirus pandemic?! Would this cause the defeat of the pandemic or would it spread and increase the more?!

5- (...On the 21st day of this month, the prince and governor Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag and many of his henchmen and followers got arrested by the private treasurer of the sultan Barsbay who imprisoned them; yet, on the 24th day of the same month, they were released in return for a large sum of money to be paid to the sultan Barsbay by prince Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag...). This man who was not a Mameluke; he was among the civil wing of the big criminals as a governor/ruler who had many henchmen and followers under him and the title (prince) was bestowed upon him several years earlier. Let us examine the background of such event as per the details provided by Al-Makrizi in his annals in (Al-Solok).

5/1: This occurred earlier in Rabei Awwal of the same year: (...The Jilban Mameluke soldiers who resided in the towers near the palace of the sultan complained to the sultan Barsbay that their salaries were late for two months; the sultan Barsbay gave them leave to march to the high-rank employees and statesmen to file their complaint; hence, such Mameluke soldiers raided and robbed the palace of the sultan's private treasure prince Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag who was absent; they stole all what they could lay their hands on; the same occurred within palace of one high-rank military Mameluke leader; they also desired to raid and rob the palace of the grand vizier but they were convinced not to do so by some Mameluke princes who offered themselves as mediators to examine their complaint and promised to solve the problem...Common people were very much afraid lest the angry soldiers would attack their houses on their way back to the palace of the sultan; it was a terrible day...). The Jilban Mameluke soldiers knew that Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag was a big thief and they deserve to steal his wealth; this is why they raided and robbed his palace and the palaces of others.

5/2: The evil man Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag decided to make up for the money and precious items stolen from his palace by stealing more from the villages and poor peasants: (...Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag imposed heavy taxes in villages and peasants of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt; the peasants of each of the villages were forced to collectively pay him the total sum of 100 dinar, the sum increased as per his whims when he would see how rich and abundant the crops in some villages; the poor peasants suffered a lot from this plight and this manifested itself later on; may Allah come to their help and aid...).

5/3: When this big thief Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag returned to Greater Cairo, in Jamady Awwal of the same year, with the ill-gotten money he stolen from the poor peasants in all Egyptian villages, he found his master the big criminal and bigger thief, Barsbay, waiting for him to share his spoils/booty: (...On the 21st day of this month [i.e., Jamady Awwal], the prince and governor Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag and many of his henchmen and followers got arrested by the private treasurer of the sultan Barsbay who imprisoned them; yet, on the 24th day of the same month, they were released in return for a large sum of money to be paid to the sultan Barsbay by prince Zayn-Eddine Ibn Abou Al-Farag...).

5/4: The fish gets rotten from its head first and so are any State headed by the likes of Barsbay or Al-Sisi; indeed, there is nothing new under the sun inside Egypt and also outside Egypt!

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