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Al-Makrizi as a Witness against an Era: Details about the Big Criminals of the Year 825 A.H. – 3

Al-Makrizi as a Witness against an Era: Details about the Big Criminals of the Year 825 A.H. – 3

 

 

 

Published in May 10, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

 

 

 

 

Tenthly: the month of Ramadan:

News of the Mameluke religious institutions:

 (...On the 9th day of this month, as per the decree of the sultan Barsbay, Friday sermons and prayers were restored in the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo...The madrassa/school of the Sultan Hassan Mosque was reopened after a long duration of being closed down by the decree of the late sultan Barqoq...). By the way, until today, the Sultan Hassan Mosque is an architectural monument which draws the deep admiration of tourists and archeologists of the West when they visit the Egyptian capital; this mosque was closed down by the spiteful sultan Barqoq who ended the Mameluke Qalawun dynasty to which the sultan Hassan belonged; the sultan Hassan was among the descendants of the last strong Qalawun Mameluke sultan Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun. Barsbay reopened the Sultan Hassan Mosque and its madrassa.       

News of corruption:

(...On the 11th day of this month, the River-Nile Nayrouz feast of the Copts of Egypt took place; unexpectedly, the Rive-Nile water level reached nineteen arms and 6 fingers; this brought joy and prosperity in rural regions all over Egypt; yet, unfortunately, the high water level crushed many bridges and water canals which required maintenance for a long time; such maintenance was never done by the reluctant Mameluke princes...too much water corrupted some summer crops like sesame and watermelon...). The big criminals at the time were active and busy in spreading corruption and confiscating the money of others unjustly; they were reluctant to maintain bridges and water canals which made the River-Nile water reach rural villages; this is one of the reasons that accounts for the fact that the Upper Egyptian rural areas were ruined during the reign of Barsbay; this is in contrast to the era of Moses' Pharaoh whose capital was in Upper Egypt and he bragged of the River-Nile branches in one of his conferences among his people: "Pharaoh proclaimed among his people, saying, “O my people, do I not own the Kingdom of Egypt, and these rivers flow beneath me? Do you not see?" (43:51).

News of prices:

 (...The prices of grains like wheat, parley, and beans plummeted this year...). (...Because the fields of sesame were drowned and corrupted by too much water, the price of sesame soared because of its scarcity...).

News of the biggest among the big criminals:

 (...On the 22nd day of this month, the sultan Barsbay acted as a judge in a mansion within the walls of the royal palace in Greater Cairo...The sultan received the messengers of the Europeans who brought precious gifts to him; it is in this mansion that the sultan would hold other meetings with others for a long while...).

News of changing of posts and positions distributed by and among the big criminals:

1- (...On the 21st day of this month, the prince Aytmash Al-Khodary was allowed to remain in his post in return for a large sum of money...).

2- (...On the 23rd day of this month, Sadr-Eddine Ibn Ahmad Al-Ajamy was given some gifts and garments and permitted to keep his post for another year in return for a large sum of money...).

3- (...Prince Arghon Shah was summoned from the Levant to assume his new post as the governor of the rural regions in Upper Egypt as he replaced a prince named...). Of course, Barsbay drew financial and political benefits from such changing of posts/positions among his men; he received more bribes and he avoided the evils of allowing any of his men to grow too powerful if they kept a position for too long anywhere in the Mameluke sultanate. 

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

 (...On the 27th day of this month, a decree was issued by the sultan Barsbay to prevent fiqh scholars and sheikhs/clergymen from leaving their posts in Waqfs and Sufi schools/madrassas and mosques to their sons and relatives or deputizing them to perform any missions instead of the appointed sheikh; this bad practice made unqualified people control and inherit such posts and the money within the Waqfs...This bad practice continued months later despite the royal decree! Let souls of good men live in earnestness since this era is one of trivialities and mockery!...).

1- Part of the greatness of Al-Makrizi as a historian is his being an independent thinker; this allowed him to criticize the big criminals of his era and to expose the several aspects of their corruption typically ignored by historians who belonged to the class of the big criminals such as Al-Ainy, Ibn Hajar, Abou Al-Mahasin, Ibn Al-Sayrafi, and Al-Sakhawy.

2- It pertains to corruption to inherit posts or to deputize someone to assume posts in return for money; this made unqualified men who never deserve such posts control the religious schools, for instance, despite their being unknowledgeable and their lack of expertise; this indicates the absence of justice and the failure of education; this means that corruption reached all levels at the time.   

3- We admire very much this comment by Al-Makrizi who attacks and criticizes his era:(...Let souls of good men live in earnestness since this era is one of trivialities and mockery!...).

News of fanaticism against the People of the Book:

 (...The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem was closed down as per the decree issued by the sultan Barsbay...).

News of immorality and promiscuity:

 (...Callers and criers roamed the streets of Greater Cairo to inform people of the decree issued by the sultan to prevent women from visiting graveyards during the Lesser Bairam; penalties were specified for women who would violate this decree; in fact, most women never stepped out of their homes during the Lesser Bairam to visit any tombs...).

1- As usual, many obeyed the royal decree for a short while and then people pretended to forget about this decree later on.

2- The reason of this decree (which never mentions men!) was not to prevent fornication when men and women mingled in graveyards; rather, the reason was to prevent free extramarital sex; men who desired to fornicate were urged to pay for illicit sex with female sex workers who pay heavy taxes to the sultan Barsbay since the existence of brothels was legal at the time. 

 

Eleventh: the month of Shawwal:

News of the biggest among the big criminals:

 (...The sultan Barsbay performed the Lesser Bairam prayers in the mosque of the royal palace...). Such keenness on performing congregational Friday prayers and Bairam prayers (in order to be seen by onlookers among the subjects) was a common feature among the big criminals especially sultans and rulers; such religiosity and superficiality encouraged them to continue committing grave injustices and crimes since everyone believed in the devilish religion of Sunnite Sufism whose notions promised everyone Paradise even if they committed so many grave sins as long as they prayed! No one paid attention to the fact that acts of worship which never lead to piety are useless; of course, typically at the time, the big criminals who are rulers were surrounded during congregational prayers by the big criminals who are judges/sheikhs/clergymen; this practice goes on from the eras of caliphates until now in the countries of the Muhammadans.     

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

1- (...On the 4th day of this month, the supreme judge of the Hanafy doctrine Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Rahman was dismissed from his post as an overseer of the Waqfs of a certain mosque which offered free shrouds for the dead people among the poor; yet, he was allowed to assume his post days later after he paid a large sum of money to the royal palace and after he promised never to consume the money of the Waqfs anymore...The sultan Barsbay made the mosque in the royal palace responsible for offering free shrouds for the dead people among the poor in Greater Cairo...).

2- (...During this month, the Al-Shafei supreme judge Ahmad Walley-Eddine was dismissed from his post as an overseer of the Waqfs of the Qaraqosh mosque; his post was assumed days later by the governor of Greater Cairo M. Al-Shobaky...Sadly, no judges were allowed to control Waqfs anymore since they were rumored to steal most of the money from such Waqfs; this tarnished the reputation of judges; rumors spread about how the sultan Barsbay hated judges and scholars who controlled Waqfs and he desired to end their corruption very soon...).

2/1: So, the Al-Shafei supreme judge was corrupt like other supreme judges and ordinary judges though he was number one among the four supreme judges in the Mameluke Era; this means he controlled lots of Waqfs (i.e., religious endowments) and posts; of course, money of such Waqfs/estates were mostly stolen since their original owners were dead such as the vizier Bahaa-Eddine Qaraqosh who built the royal palace (used by the Mameluke sultans for centuries) for the Ayyubid sultan Saladin. Barsbay never cared to end corruption; rather, he envied the supreme judges for confiscating large sums of money to themselves without sharing them with him; he dismissed most judges from posts related to Waqfs and he made use of their ad reputation as thieves. This is why no one protested against allowing the governor of Greater Cairo, who was also the head of the policemen at the time, to control the Waqfs of Qaraqosh. Al-Makrizi laments the fact that judges/clergymen/scholars were unjust and were thieves never to be trusted by Barsbay.    

2/2: Of course, the damaged reputation of unjust judges as thieves made Barsbay, who was the biggest among the big criminals at the time, appear in the light of a 'reformer'; people were encouraged to expose the corruption and thefts committed by any (supreme) judges during the reign of Barsbay.

3- (...The sultan Barsbay issued a decree to turn a wasteland in Greater Cairo into a large marketplace with many shops; this wasteland was originally a large marketplace which was being built in 770 A.H. by the command of Khond Baraka the mother of the sultan Al-Ashraf Shabaan Ibn Qalawun; sadly, she died during the building process of the shops of this marketplace which intended to be part of Waqfs; decades later, a Mameluke prince named Jamal-Eddine Youssef confiscated this wasteland to himself and annexed it to his own Waqfs, but he died before making any use of it. For years, this waste land remained the same until the decree issued by the sultan Barsbay who needed much money within this project...). Such money to finance this project came from illicit means as per the next piece of news.

4- (...On the 9th of this month, more heavy taxes/customs were imposed on all merchants; the tax-collection and customs house closed down by the late sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh was re-opened as per the decree issued by the sultan and was controlled by the vizier Taj-Eddine Abdel-Razik who was an unjust, cruel, sinful man...The unjust ones will be returned to Allah Who will punish them in the Hereafter for sure!...).

4/1: So, the late sultan Al-Moayyad Sheikh closed down a center of injustice but it was re-opened by the unjust Barsbay who needed to finance his project of building a large marketplace; the vizier easily convinced Barsbay to re-open this customs house which caused grave injustices to be inflicted on merchants.   

4/2: Al-Makrizi criticizes the vizier but he should have included Barsbay in this criticism in the last phrase of the above quotation.

News of the struggle among the big criminals:

 (...On the 27th day of this month, thirty men in chains were brought from Safad to Greater Cairo and the sultan Barsbay commanded that their hands would be cut off (except for one man who was put to death by being halved) for their joining the rebellious governor of Safad, Einal, who revolted against the sultan; the rest of these men were made to return to the Levant, but most of them died within their journey back; they were buried in Al-Ramla...At the time, news came about the prince Moqbil who sieged Safad; its rebellious governor Einal was later deceived by a letter from the sultan offering him peace and that he would cede Safad to prince Moqbil in return for his assuming a new post as the governor of Tripoli; the deceived Einal never guessed the trap behind this plan; once he surrendered Safad to prince Moqbil and demanded peace and security to be allowed to reach Tripoli as its governor as per the sultan's commands, prince Moqbil put him to the sword after torturing him in the dungeon of the castle of Safad as per the sultan's commands he received earlier! Another one hundred men who joined the revolt of Einal were put to the sword and their bodies were crucified on the walls of the castle of Safad...During this month, prince Taghribirdi assumed his new post as the governor of Aleppo; yet, as per the commands of the sultan Barsbay, he was imprisoned in the dungeon of the castle of Aleppo and was put in fetters by the governor-general of the Levantine region once victory was achieved over the rebellious prince Einal the slain governor of Safad...).

News of pilgrimage:

 (...On the 14th day of this month, the caravan of pilgrims and the Kiswah of the Kaaba roamed the streets of Greater Cairo amidst celebrations; the musicians and the players of spears led by the eunuch Mameluke prince and military leader Eftikhaar-Eddine Yacoot...).

News of the River Nile:

 (...The water level of the River Nile reached 20 arms but it began to decrease since the 24th day of the Coptic month of Tot...).

 

Twelfth: the month of Zu Al-Qaeda:

News of the sultan who is the biggest among the big criminals:

1- (...On the 2nd day of this month, the sultan Barsbay rode on horseback from the royal palace to a far district of Greater Cairo to distribute woolen garments among the poor before winter; many Mameluke princes joined in this charitable act; later on within the same day, the sultan Barsbay reached the main gate in the Cairo Wall to distribute dinars and dirhams among the poor; this was his first time to do so since the beginning of his reign...).

2- (...On the 7th day of this month, the sultan Barsbay rode on horseback through the main streets of Greater Cairo since noon and returned to the royal palace by sunset...).

News of corruption:

 (...On the 4th day of this month, the vizier Taj-Eddine Abdel-Razik disappeared suddenly and mysteriously; his vacant post was granted to the prince Arghon Shah; when Taj-Eddine Abdel-Razik re-appeared on the 10th day of this month, it was transpired that he fled from the wrath of the sultan Barsbay; two days later, news came from the royal palace that the sultan pardoned the former vizier in return for a huge fine he paid to the royal palace; Taj-Eddine Abdel-Razik agreed to stay at his mansion while assuming no posts at all until his death...On the 5th day of this month, the prince Aytmash Al-Khodary was dismissed for not being able to perform the mission of his post; besides, many complaints were filed against him by people for his cruelty and injustice...). This means that Barsbay was furious because such vizier stole large sums of money from the taxes/customs collected from merchants. Of course, any man could assume any high-rank position by paying huge bribes even if such a man was unjust, cruel, and unqualified.  

 

Thirteenth: the month of Zu Al-Hijja:

News of the corruption of judges/clergymen:

 (...On the 6th day of this month, after paying a large sum of money as a bribe to the royal palace, Alam-Eddine Saleh the son of the late Sheikh Al-Eslam Al-Balkini was allowed to assume the post of Al-Shafei supreme judge instead of Ahmad Walley-Eddine who died recently...). So, a large bribe was paid by the son of a dead 'Sheikh Al-Eslam' to assume the post formerly occupied by his father.   

News of the struggle among the big criminals in Yanba' in Arabia:

 (...On the 27th day of this month, pilgrims reached Yanba' and they were guarded and protected by the Mameluke troops of soldiers who served the sultan in the royal palace; they were led by the high military leader prince...in order to fight the rebellious honorable governor of Yanba', prince Moqbil, who refused to leave his post to his nephew, the honorable prince Aqil, who paid a huge bribe to the royal palace for obtaining this post as per the decree of the sultan Barsbay. Sadly, Aqil and Moqbil fought one another as one was struggling to get his new post and the other struggled to keep his post despite of the decree of the sultan; in this military struggle between the troops of Moqbil and those of the Mameluke sultan who supported Aqil, many common people (free ones, slaves, and desert-Arabs) and soldiers died and many were wounded; when Moqbil was finally defeated, he ran away from Yanba' while the Mameluke soldiers, who allowed Aqil to assume his post as the governor/emir of Yanba', raped and enslaved many honorable women and confiscated as spoils 550 camels, 30 horses, huge loads of goods, heaps of money, and heaps of richly embroidered garments; when the Mameluke troops left Yanba' and the pilgrims returned to Egypt on board of a large ship, Moqbil retuned with new troops to fight against Aqil once more; yet, Moqbil was defeated once more after so many honorable men were killed; sadly, this struggle was because of greed and bad manners....).

1- Yanba'  was the most important Red-Sea port in Arabia at the time for the Mameluke-controlled Hejaz region; many Egyptian from Upper Egypt lived in Yanba' which was the land and sea station for all pilgrims and merchants especially who came from Egypt and the Levant; Yanba' was a prosperous and flourishing market; this explain the struggle in the above-quoted passage. Al-Makrizi is partial for the so-called honorable ones; this is why he writes that the struggle was because of greed and bad manners.      

2- Of course, the so-called honorable men (i.e., alleged descendants of the two sons of Ali and Fatima) were the worst type of the big criminals in Hejaz (and its main cities: Mecca, Yathreb, and Yanba') who never hesitated to initiate any civil strife; they often massacre and rob pilgrims; their black page in history goes on from the Second Abbasid Era until the 20th century A.D. They never showed respect for the four sacred months of Hajj/pilgrimage (including Zu Al-Hijja when such events in the passage took place); they rarely adhered to peace during the pilgrimage season. 

News of pilgrimage:

 (...On the 27th day of this month heralds came from Arabia to bring glad tidings of the safe arrival of the pilgrims to Mecca...). Typically, heralds came to the Mameluke sultans to inform them either of the safe arrival of pilgrims to Mecca or their being raided and massacred by desert-Arabs or marauding Bedouins. 

News of the weak, oppressed ones on earth:

 (...During this month, an event took place from which reasonable readers should draw a moral lesson since this strange story spread among people all over Greater Cairo: a very poor breadwinner of a family consisting of his wife and his many daughters could never provide enough food for them; they lived in a hut near the ruins of a poor district in Cairo; when the daughters smelled the barbecued meat during the Greater Bairam as rich people slaughtered sacrificial animals and consumed meat in large quantities in such feast, the daughters of the poor man cried and wept loudly as they pined for meat all day long; yet, after the hungry daughters of this wretched family slept by night, but their father and mother remained sleepless out of sorrow, strange noises were heard outside the door of their hut all night; when the worried and sad parents dared to open the door of their hut after sunrise, they were mightily surprised to see that weasels stole pieces of raw meat and placed them neatly at the doorstep of this poor man! The man and his wife rejoiced and woke up their daughters who were overjoyed; for several days, they cooked and consumed the pieces of meat brought to them by the weasels; they said that this was the first time in their lives to feel satiated for several days on end...Verily, Allah brings provisions to whoever He chooses without limits!...). Since such family members were among the weak, oppressed ones on earth, no historian mentions their names or the name of the poor breadwinner of such a family though their story spread in Cairo at the time.

News of the struggle among the big criminals in Asia Minor (or today's Turkey):

1- (...War broke out for days between Muslims and Christians in Asia Minor near the northern borders of the Levant; the Christians remained fortified in their castle sieged by Muslim troops; yet, suddenly, a miracle occurred by night; the Muslim troops heard frightening cries coming from the inside of the sieged castle; after sunrise, the Muslim soldiers found out that all Christians inside the castle died and also all their cattle and horses died for some unknown reason; many people took this miracle as a sign of victory lent by Allah to the Muslim troops who entered the castle and seized its city without fighting...). This military struggle was between the Ottomans and Christians in Asia Minor or Turkey.

2- (...The troops of the sultan Morad marched from Adana to Constantinople or Istanbul in Rajab since its rebellious governor, prince Mustapha the brother of the sultan, rebelled against the sultan and ruled the city independently; they cut all the trees and sieged the city so that no victuals or wheat would reach it; this siege ended in Ramadan after fierce fighting when the sultan Morad was defeated since many of his soldiers deserted him and joined the troops of prince Mustapha; only 20 thousand soldiers remained with the sultan Morad out of 150 thousand soldiers since about 130 thousand rebelled and joined the troops of prince Mustapha; the defeated sultan Morad had to retreat and leave Constantinople to his brother for a longer while...). This was about the struggle inside the Ottoman dynasty between the sultan Morad and his brother Mustapha.

News of climate, plagues, prices, and the River Nile: a summary about them during 825 A.H.:

 (...During this year, heavy rains occurred in the Hejaz region and in the Levantine region; too much and too big hail fell in Safad in an unprecedented manner on the 6th day of Zu Al-Hijja; a piece of hail weighed at least seven pounds; one piece of hail was as big as an ox...During this year, several pestilences/plagues occurred in Greater Cairo and Lower Egypt when water levels decreased in the River Nile in autumn...The prices of grains plummeted this year and abundant crops were affordable for everyone...). This event or piece of news is the last one within the events of the year 825 A.H.

 

Lastly:

 We note that Al-Makrizi does not mention the event or piece of news which is, in our view, the major or most important one within the events of the year 825 A.H.; namely, Barsbay bought and brought into Egypt more Jilban Mamelukes from among the criminals and lowliest men in Caucasia who raped, looted, committed bloodshed, and spread more corruption, aggression, violence and terror in Egypt and the whole Mameluke sultanate.    

 


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