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Al-Makrizi as a Witness against an Era: Details about the Big Criminals of the Year 825 A.H. – 2

Al-Makrizi as a Witness against an Era: Details about the Big Criminals of the Year 825 A.H. – 2

 

 

 

Published in May 8, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

 

 

 

 

Sixthly: the month of Jamady Awwal:

News of corruption, fights, ruin, and destruction:

1- (...On the 7th day of this month, military troops were sent to Upper Egypt...). Of course, after the murder of the governor of Qos, it was impossible to collect taxes from Upper Egypt; military troops had to be sent to crush the rebellious desert-Arabs or Bedouins of all tribes there who caused so many troubles in Upper Egypt.    

2- (...News came about a severe plague in Aleppo, Hama, and Homs in the Levant; it caused the death of thousands of people there...). Of course, news of distant regions within the Mameluke State reached Al-Makrizi through the postal service which was highly stable and organized during the Mameluke Era.

3- (...News came about soaring prices in Iraq after a prolonged drought; another reason is that the Baghdad-based king of Iraq feared a possible military attack by the king of the East, Shah Rakh, and therefore, he stopped peasants from agricultural activities; many weak ones were driven out of Iraq by its king and settled in the Levant; the king mobilized only the rich and strong ones in Baghdad; we do believe that soaring prices and the prolonged drought are penalties exacted on them by Allah for their misdeeds and for the grave injustices committed by the king of Iraq...). Pieces of news of the struggle among the big criminals in Iraq and Iran reached Al-Makrizi and he recorded them within the events of this month.

News of fanaticism against the People of the Book:

 (...On the 8th day of this month, a decree was issued regarding that neither Jews nor Christians would be employed in the governmental sectors and departments of the sultan and the Mameluke princes; yet, this decree was never applied at all...). During the Mameluke Era, some short-lived waves of fanaticism against the People of the Book emerged; yet, they were temporary and forgotten quickly as per different historical circumstances.  

News of the religious institutions of the big criminals:

1- (...On the 9th day of this month, the mosque and madrassa of Shams-Eddine Shaker were rejuvenated and Friday congregational prayers were performed and their sermons were delivered there as per the commands of Alam-Eddine Ibn Al-Quiz, the secretary of the sultan Barsbay, since this mosque is the nearest to his mansion...).

1/1: So, the secretary of Barsbay had such a mosque rejuvenated and introduced to it the Friday prayers and sermons for merely being the nearest mosque to his mansion.

1/2: At the time, prayers were performed in the Mameluke religious institutions as per the dominant religion; i.e., Sunnite Sufism; yet, not all mosques housed the Friday prayers; they were not performed inside small mosques (or madrassas) but only inside grand mosques.

2- (...Friday prayers began to be performed, and Friday sermons were delivered, in the Al-Moayyad Sheikh hospital which was turned into a mosque the month before...).

News of calls of introducing reform to end corruption and how such endeavors failed:

 (...A decree was issued not to sell garments bought from Baghdad, Mosul, Alexandria, and the Levantine region for ready money; they must be sold on credit;...installments within such payment aimed to lower the prices, but the prices charged by the merchants increased nevertheless; when people complained, the decree was disregarded as garments gradually began to be sold for ready money; their prices were paid in full without any installments...). So, a decree was issued by the sultan to restrain the greed of the merchants, but as usual and typically expected, such a decree was applied only for a short time.

 

Seventhly: the month of Jamady Akhar:

News of the political struggle among the big criminals:

 (...On the 9th of this month, the honorable Shehab-Eddine Ibn Adnan Al-Husseiny, the secretary in Damascus and the head of the honorable ones, left Damascus and reached Greater Cairo on the 13th of this month as he was summoned by the sultan; he was imprisoned inside a madrassa adjacent to a mosque; he was obliged to pay twenty thousand dinars to the sultan; he was dismissed from his post and was replaced by a Jewish Samaritan man named Awdah who was from Damascus but he came to Greater Cairo during the reign of the sultan Al-Nasser Farag; he was the father-in-law of a Mameluke prince named Azbek; that is, this prince married the daughter of Awdah; when he returned back to Damascus, he was appointed, through the mediation of his son-in-law during the reign of the sultan Tatar, as a supervisor/overseer of the Mameluke troops there; by assuming this post, he replaced the Hanafy supreme judge Shehab-Eddine Ahmad Ibn Kishk. Later on, Awdah assumed the other post of the secretary in Damascus; he combined this post with his being overseer of the troops; this incited the envy of many low-rank Mameluke princes; at one time, Awdah was summoned to Greater Cairo; he was imprisoned and then released on bail; he paid ten thousand dinars; he was allowed to return to Damascus later on and to re-assume all his posts after the sultan Barsbay made sure that all complaints against him were groundless; they were filed only by envious people who coveted his posts in Damascus...).

1- Barsbay was a type of man who bore grudges and exact revenge against his rivals and foes once he was enthroned as the new sultan; when Barsbay was a minor Mameluke prince in the Levant, there was enmity between him andShehab-Eddine Al-Husseiny; this is why he summoned him to Egypt to imprison him and to impose a fine on him; he then dismissed him and replaced him by a Samaritan Jew who was an in-law of a Mameluke prince.   

2- The contradiction here is that a decree was issued by Barsbay about not to employ any men among the people of the Book; yet, Barsbay made a Jew replace an honorable man and a supreme judge.

News of pilgrimage:

  (...On the 14th of this month, those who wished to become pilgrims and travel to Mecca to perform Umrah were informed to gather and register their names within the caravan which will set out on its journey in the month of Rajab; this caused great joy in Greater Cairo as such journeys in Rajab were rare those days...); (...On the 27th of this month, the Umrah journey announced to take place in Rajab was cancelled suddenly...).

News of soaring prices and fighting:

1- (...During this month, news came about the spread of soaring prices in Persia and that rain has not come yet in Africa...). This means that the postal service brought news to Al-Makrizi about North Africa and Persia, regions which were outside the Mameluke sultanate.

2- (...The prince and governor Taghribirdi entrapped and murdered the prince Tanbak the governor-general of the Levantine region...).

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

1- (...On the 11th of this month, the supreme judge Shams-Eddine Al-Harawy came to Greater Cairo from Jerusalem...). This supreme judge was known for his corruption and he assumed his post for long years by paying several huge bribes to the royal palace in Cairo.  

2- (...During this month, the sultan Barsbay acted as a judge in Greater Cairo, thus imitating the manner of the late sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh and other sultan before him, and he assumed the seat of a judge only on Tuesdays and Saturdays within his stables adjacent to the royal palace...).

2/1: This indicates that people grew weary of the corrupt, unjust judges; hence, sultans like Al-Moayyad Sheikh, Barsbay, and Qaitbay had to act as judges among people in Greater Cairo.  

2/2: This means that sometimes, the big criminals who were the judges/clergymen were more corrupt than Mameluke sultans themselves; sultans had to introduce reforms which were unfortunately short-lived because corruption reached the marrow of the system/regime and no graft was possible. We tend to think that Egypt still suffers corruption, tyranny, and grave injustices of the Mameluke Era until now.

 

Eighthly: the month of Rajab:

News of the River Nile:

 (...The water level increased five arms and seven fingers and this gradual increase reached fifteen fingers within a week in the Coptic month of Epip...). Of course, unlike other historians at the time, Al-Makrizi in particular mentions the news of the River Nile since Egyptian life is based on its flood and water level; such a water level was measured at certain times as per the Coptic/Pharaonic calendar.  

News of pilgrimage:

1- (...During this month, all streets of Greater Cairo were filled with decorations to celebrate the caravan of pilgrims which also carried the Kiswah of the Kaaba; yet, the Muhtasib of Greater Cairo Sadr-Eddine Ahmad Ibn Al-Ajamy commanded all women from venturing out of their houses during the celebrations; they were not allowed to ship in any markets until the several-day celebrations are over; this command aimed at prevention of mingling between men and women that usually resulted in fornication; yet, days later, regrettably, women were allowed in the streets again and they mingled with men everywhere and in markets though many men praised the command of the Muhtasib and wished it would last within all days...).

1/1: During the Mameluke Era, crowds within quasi-religious events and celebrations and locations/mausoleums provided occasions for heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity/immorality; this was typical in Sufi religious institutions at the time; more details about this can be found in our online book on the relation between Sufism and immorality in the Mameluke Egypt.  

1/2: The backward masculine/patriarchal culture dominant at the time made women the only responsible party for promiscuity/immorality! It is as if most men at the time were not promiscuous; commands were often repeated about preventing women from getting out of their houses on certain occasions though several promiscuous men, during Sufi celebrations, had sex with male adolescents as per the Sufi traditions prevalent at the time.   

1/3: Typically, such commands by men in authority )to prevent women mingling with men) were overlooked and disregarded within few days because immorality and promiscuity spread during the Sufism-dominated Mameluke Era. 

2- (...On the 16th day of this month, the pilgrimage caravan carrying pilgrims and Kiswah of the Kaaba moved from Greater Cairo; the gathered masses approved of the high quality of the fabric of the Kiswah woven under the supervision of the chaste, honest overseer Sharaf-Eddine Mohamed Ibn Taj-Eddine Ibn Nasralla...). The Mameluke sultans invented the celebrations of the pilgrimage and Kiswah caravan which roamed all streets of Cairo; such celebrations included Mameluke soldiers and lower-rank leaders playing with spears, along with musicians and drummers...etc., before the sultans and viziers...etc. and the masses; they typically kissed the ground before the sultans; such celebrations were held in Rajab.    

News of the political struggle and fighting among the big criminals:

1- (...During this month, the governor of Aleppo led his troops to attack the Levantine city of...and he defeated its ruler with the help of prince Taghribirdi...).

2- (...The prince Einal Al-Dhahiry (who joined and was trained by the Mameluke leaders of the troops of the late sultan Tatar) who was the governor of Safad rebelled and dared to declare his disobedience; he justified his rebellion by the fact that the sultan Barsbay was enthroned after he dethroned the child-sultan who was the son of his master, the sultan Tatar. At first, Einal Al-Dhahiry swore fealty to the sultan Barsbay, but he planned rebellion and waited for the ripe moment; he released from the dungeon of the castle of Safad all princes and leaders who were imprisoned there as per the command of the sultan Barsbay; he also imprisoned those rich men and Mameluke leaders in Safad who refused to join his rebellion; of course, the sultan Barsbay sent letters to all governors of Levantine cities, and to the new governor-general of the Levant, to mobilize all troops to fight the governor of Safad and crush his rebellion to retrieve Safad to the Mameluke authority; he issued a decree to dismiss the rebellious governor of Safad from his post...).

3- (...On the 25th day of this month, the governor-general of the Levant sent a letter to the sultan Barsbay, bringing to him the glad tidings of victory; he also brought the good news that all released princes and leaders refused to join the troops of the dismissed governor of Safad and they surrendered themselves to the governor-general of the Levant...Drums of victory an glad tidings celebrated the event in the royal palace...).

4- (...On the 27th day of this month, the governor of Alexandria, the prince Fares, was summoned by the sultan to Greater Cairo and he was promoted and granted many gifts and was appointed within another new, prestigious post to make place for the new governor of Alexandria the prince Al-Noory...). Of course, such change in positions means more bribes which were paid to the Mameluke sultan.

News of fighting against desert-Arabs:

 (...During this month, the governor of Gaza, the prince Younis, had his military troops engaged in a battle against a tribe of desert-Arabs who were marauders; yet, the troops of prince Younis were defeated and many of his soldiers were killed...); (...During this month, many fights, battles, raids, and skirmishes occurred in Upper Egypt as many desert-Arabs and Bedouins looted and attacked several villages and towns there...).

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

1- (...On the 15th of this month, the supreme judge Shams-Eddine Al-Harawy left Greater Cairo to return to Jerusalem after offering precious gifts to the sultan, which worth more than 500 dinars, and other gifts to several high-rank Mameluke princes; he was promised to be re-appointed in his job in return for paying 80 thousand dinars annually, but in installments, to the royal palace; yet, he lost his chance of retrieving his job when he was told he had to sign a paper which requires him to pay the installments according to a certain plan; he refused and thus he lost his post; news came to Greater Cairo that many people in Jerusalem sighed in relief when they heard such news of his dismissal for they hated him so much for his injustice...). Thus, sometimes, the big criminals and thieves at the time disputed with one another and refused to gratify one another.

2- (...Callers and criers roamed the streets of Greater Cairo to urge people to resort to the sultan Barsbay as a judge in his stables as usual; he stopped going there for a while as he was busy planning to retrieve Safad from the rebellious prince...). This means that Barsbay had no solution for the problem of corrupt judges but to replace them by himself as a judge in the capital of the Mameluke sultanate.  

 

Ninthly: the month of Shabaan:

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

1- (...Callers and criers roamed the streets of Greater Cairo to urge all people who suffered injustices to resort to the sultan Barsbay as a judge...). This means, again, that Barsbay had no solution for the problem of corrupt judges but to replace them by himself as a judge in the capital of the Mameluke sultanate.

2- (...On the 2nd day of this month, as a judge, the sultan Barsbay interrogated and then imprisoned many judges/clergymen who managed Waqfs/estates which spent on several mosques and madrassas and other religious institutions; they were so corrupt that they stole the money of such Waqfs/estates and spent very little on the mosques and institutions which, as a result of their greed, lay in ruins; the sultan Barsbay confiscated such Waqfs/estates and gave them to two Mameluke princes to manage them on his behalf; he also imprisoned those judges/clergymen/sheikhs and told them they would be released only when they return to him all the sums they have stolen...).

3- (...During this month, similarly, as a judge, the sultan Barsbay investigated what happened to the Waqfs which spent on the Amr Ibn Al-As mosque...).

4- (...Thus, the sultan Barsbay indirectly encouraged people to expose all sins and injustices of all judges and clergymen and to file complaints against them to the governors and statesmen; this was really a sad affair since many sheikhs, fiqh scholars, and clergymen were humiliated and imprisoned after being accused of theft...). This means that Al-Makrizi sympathized with such big criminals and thieves for their merely being clergymen!

News of the River Nile:

 (...On the 4th day of this month, which was the 29th day of the Coptic month of Epip, the water level of the River Nile increased by 16 arms; this was rare within such a decade; usually, in Epip, the water level is expected to decrease; days later, the increase was 50 fingers and people were rejoiced; the measurement was done under the super vision of the big prince Baybagha...).

News of the victims of the political struggle among the big criminals:

 (...On the 16th day of his month, the child-sultan Ahmad, who was the son of the late sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh, and his brother were made to leave the royal palace in broad daylight and were escorted to a boat on the River Nile to be sent to Alexandria to be imprisoned there; there is a moral lesson to be drawn here: this occurred to them since their father, the late sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh, did the same with the sons of his master, the late sultan Al-Nasser Farag...). This was a tradition typical within the struggle among the big criminals.

News of changing posts among the big criminals who paid huge bribes:

 (...On the 22nd of this month, Sadr-Eddine Ahmad Ibn Al-Ajamy, the Muhtasib of Greater Cairo, was dismissed from his post and replaced by Badr-Eddine Mahmoud Al-Eintaby who paid a huge bribe to get his position...).

News of the struggle among the big criminals in Iraq and Iran:

 (...During this month, the king of Iraq received from one of his higher military leaders two severed heads which belonged to two of his Persian enemies who fought against him: the governor of Shiraz and the grand vizier of Shah Rakh, the king of the East...).

News of maritime attacks by the Crusaders:

 (...During this month, the fleets of the Europeans attacked several coastal cities in the Levant and one huge fleet attacked [the main Egyptian coastal city] Alexandria; they attacked the ships of some merchants which contained goods from India which worth 100 thousand dinars; the fighting went on for a whole night; the ships of the merchants were too far from the port and the Alexandrians could not help the merchants; their arrows never reached the fleet of the Europeans and they fell into the sea; eventually, the ships and goods of the merchants were burned, but the merchants escaped certain death in their small boats which reached the port in safety; the European fleet had nothing else to do but to attack Pentapolis/Cyrenaica and they Europeans stole many goods before they re-attacked Alexandria on their way back and then attacked to the Levantine coast before they reached Cyprus once more...). Of course, such maritime attacks on Mameluke ports drove Barsbay to conquer Cyprus which was mainly controlled by Crusaders.

 

 

 


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