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Cambridge University Press

978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society

Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann


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Mamluk rule and succession

© in this web service Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org

Cambridge University Press

978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society

Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann


More information

© in this web service Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann Excerpt More information CHAPTER 1 Literary offerings: a genre of courtly literature P. M. HOLT In al-Sayf al-rnuhannad, a work which will be discussed below, the author, al-cAyni, says that 'it has been customary in ancient and modern times to make an offering to kings and sultans of what God has placed within the power and capacity of everyone'.1 He therefore makes his offering in the form of a book, presented to the sultan shortly after his accession. Seven such offerings form the subject of this chapter, five of them presented to Mamluk sultans, the sixth to the Ottoman Selim the Grim after the conquest of Syria and Egypt, and the seventh to a neo-Mamluk grandee of the eleventh/seventeenth century.

The first of these works is al-Tuhfa al-mulukiyyafi'l-dawla al-Turkiyya by the Mamluk chronicler Baybars al-Mansun (d. 725/1325).2 It has generally been regarded as a chronicle of the Turkish Mamluk sultans to 711/1311-12.

Ashtor described it as 'a first-hand report by a high ranking state dignitary...

Baybars is interested only in political history',3 and briefly discussed its relationship to Baybars al-Mansuri's chronicle of Islamic history, Zubdat al-fikra fi ta'rikh al-hijra. Little calls it 'a compilation from the sections of Zubdat alfikra that deal with the Turkish or Bahri dynasty'.4 These descriptions overlook, however, the specific character of al-Tuhfa as indicated by the author's life history, the time of the work's production, and its intended destination.

Although the sons and later descendants of Mamluks (awladal-nas) played a very important part in the cultural history of Egypt and Syria, Baybars alMansuri, a first-generation immigrant, is almost unique among the chroniclers of the period. Ashtor, and still more strongly Wiet,5 have emphasized his dependence on secretaries, but whatever their responsibility for the phraseology and style of al-Tuhfa, it bears the impress of Baybars al-Mansuri's own personality and experience. He was in the service of Qalawiin al-Alff (from Badr al-dln Mahmud b. Ahmad al-cAynI, al-Sayf al-muhannadfi sirat al-Malik al-Muayyad, ed. Fahlm Muhammad Shaltut (Cairo, 1387/1967), 6. (Hereafter, sayf).

Baybars al-Mansun, Kitdb al-Tuhfa al-mulukiyya fi*l-dawla al-Turkiyya, ed. cAbd al-Hamld Salih Hamdan (Cairo, 1407/1987) (Hereafter Tuhfa).

E. Ashtor, 'Some unpublished sources for the BahrT period', in Uriel Heyd (ed.), Studies in Islamic History and Civilization (Jerusalem, 1961), 13.

Donald Presgrave Little, An Introduction to Mamluk Historiography (Wiesbaden, 1970), 5.

Ashtor, u. s., at 12 and n. 4.

© in this web service Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann Excerpt More information

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whose royal title of al-Malik al-Mansur he obtained his nisba) by 664/1265-6.

After Qalawun's death in 689/1290 he remained loyal to his son, al-Nasir Muhammad, during whose first two (nominal) reigns he held the great office of dawdddr. He played a part in the final restoration of al-Nasir Muhammad, in 709/1310. When he ended al-Tuhfa with the events of 711/1312 he had been appointed vice regent in Egypt, the highest office in the sultanate. With his master restored, and at lastfirmlyestablished on the throne, and himself to all appearance the sultan's trusted lieutenant, the work could appropriately be closed, and placed in the royal library, for which (as he tells us in the colophon) it was intended.

Al-Tuhfa, then, is not simply the abridgment of another chronicle but a deliberate presentation of the history of the early Mamluk sultans to do honour to Baybars al-Mansun's former master, al-Mansur Qalawun, and to Qalawun's son, who had at last emerged victorious over his opponents and the usurpers of his throne. After an introduction in which Baybars describes his abridgement of the final bulky part of Zubdat al-fikra, and al-Nasir Muhammad's gracious interest in the work, he opens his history with the death of the Ayyubid sultan, al-Salih Ayyub, in 647/1249. The Bahriyya rising like lions overthrew his unworthy son, Turan Shah, and then disposed of the king of France and his soldiery. After this, Aybak al-Turkumani was appointed atdbak al-casdkir before being installed as sultan. In the annal for 650/1252-3 Qalawun makes his appearance with Baybars al-Bunduqdan in command of an expedition against the Arabs of Upper Egypt. He is most significantly mentioned in 656/1258, when he and Baybars al-Bunduqdan, both at that time exiles, visited a certain Shaykh CA1T al-Bakka living in Hebron, who foretold that both of them would obtain the sultanate. Alleged prophecies of this kind are not unusual as devices of legitimization, and here as in some other instances one may suspect that Baybars alone originallyfiguredin the incident, which was subsequently extended when Qalawun usurped the throne.

The presentation of Baybars al-Bunduqdari as champion of Islam and sultan was in the circumstances a somewhat delicate operation. His importance in the history of the Mamluk sultanate could not be ignored; on the other hand he could not be allowed to overshadow Qalawun, whose usurpation equally required careful handling. A crucial episode was the battle of cAyn Jalut in 658/1260, where credit for the victory over the Mongols is given to Baybars by his biographer and encomiast, Ibn cAbd al-Zahir.6 In al-Tuhfa, however, Baybars is shown merely as being sent to pursue the fugitives from the battlefield, when (in an incident not mentioned by Ibn cAbd al-Zahir) he is surprised by a relieving force of Mongols, who are defeated by the Mamluks.

The subsequent annals to 676/1277-8, twenty-two folios in the original manMuhyl al-din b. cAbd al-Zahir, al-Rawd al-zahir fi sirat al-Malik al-Zahir, ed. cAbd al-cAziz [b.

c Abdallah] al-Khuwaytir,' (Riyadh, 1396/1976), 64.

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uscript, cover the reign of Baybars, and give a fair and straightforward account of his achievements. One may compare with this the less sympathetic revisionist biography of Baybars, completed a few years later (716/1316) by Shafic b. CA1T.7 Baybars' death is ascribed to his accidentally drinking from a poisoned cup intended for an Ayyubid prince - a story which is not mentioned by Ibn cAbd al-Zahir or Shafic, and which may be a romantic legend although it is found in other sources.8 Since usurpation and restoration form in a sense the central theme of alTuhfa, it is instructive to compare Baybars al-Mansun's treatment of two usurpations. The first is that of Qalawun, who in 678/1279 brought about the deposition of Baybars' son, Baraka Khan, and the installation of his infant brother, Salamish, only to dethrone Salamish three months later, and take the sultanate himself. In Baybars al-Mansun's account of the course of events leading to the usurpation, he makes it clear that Qalawun exploited a power struggle between Baraka Khan's Mamluk household and his father's veterans, the Zahiriyya, to secure the ascendancy of his own comrades, the Bahriyya.

Baybars al-Mansurl justifies this usurpation in a significant passage:

Al-Zahir [Baybars] was confident that the command would pass to him [Qalawun], and this was a reason for his establishing a connection by marriage with him.9 The pious Shaykh CA1I al-Bakka foretold his sultanate, as we have mentioned. Then after that one of his retinue had a dream of him, as if an unseen speaker said, This Qalawun will break Halawun [Hiilegu].' When he was told of the dream, being yet an amir, he said, These are confused dreams.' But the matter was [divinely] recorded, and the dream was a foretelling; and the story of the dream spread in the talk of the people.10 So not only was the sultanate of Qalawun foretold by Shaykh CA1I al-Bakka, and foreseen by Baybars, but he was promised in a dream that he would be the victor at cAyn Jalut.

Very different is the presentation of the usurpation by Kitbugha alMansuri, who served as vice regent (nd'ib al-saltana) to the infant al-Nasir Muhammad at his first accession, then desposed him, and became sultan in Muharram 694/December 1294. Baybars al-Mansun represents Kitbugha as being incited by conspirators seeking to obtain assignments {iqtctai) and promotion, and he comments: 'He thought that kingly rule was by way of being seated on the throne, and he did not know that it was by the coincidence of good fortune and the coming of good luck'.11 He goes on to demonstrate that these tokens of legitimate kingship were lacking to Kitbugha, whose short and ShafT b. CA1I al-cAsqalani, Husn al-manaqib al-sirriyya al-muntazaa min al-sira al-Zdhiriyya, ed. cAbd al-cAziz b. 'Abdallah al-Khuwaytir, (Riyadh, 1396/1976). The nisba 'al-cAsqalanf may be found in the notice of ShafT b. CA1T in al-Safadi, al- Waflbi'l-wafayat, ed. Wadad al-Qadl (Beirut/Stuttgart, 1982), 29 vols., vol. XVI, 77 (no. 97).

Peter Thorau, The Lion of Egypt (London, 1992), 241-3.

Baybars' son and immediate successor, Baraka Khan, was married to Ghaziya Khatim, Qalawun's daughter; cf. Tuhfa, 83.

Ibid, 91. T h e people' (al-nas) probably signifies the Mamluks rather than the people generally.

Ibid., 144.

© in this web service Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann Excerpt More information

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luckless reign (694-6/1294—6) saw the dreaded traditional cycle of a low Nile, dearth, pestilence and high mortality; and who was himself ousted by another usurper, Lajin al-Mansun. Baybars al-Mansun makes no special comment on this coup, nor on the enthronement of Baybars al-Jashniklr in 708/1309, when, according to some accounts, al-Nasir Muhammad was not deposed but abdicated voluntarily.

Al-Tuhfa al-mulukiyya, then, presents the history of the Mamluk sultanate as proceeding to its glorious culmination in the third reign of al-Nasir Muhammad b. Qalawun. His reign was indeed to be both long and successful

- epithets which can by no means be applied to that of his son, al-Salih Ismacfl, to whom the second work now under consideration was addressed. Its full title is al-Nur al-laih wa'l-durr al-sddih fi 3stifac maw land al-sultdn al-Malik alSdlih.12 The author was one Shams al-dln Ibrahim b. cAbd al-Rahman alQaysarani, who died in 753/1352. He came from a Syro-Palestinian family; his great-grandfather, Khalid ibn al-Qaysarani, was the vizier of Nur al-din b.

Zangi (d. 569/1174). He himself was a chancery clerk in Damascus, and subsequently in Cairo. The sultan for whom he prepared this offering, al-Salih IsmaTl, was the fourth of al-Nasir Muhammad's sons to succeed to the throne in the two years following his death. Thefirsttwo sons had been victims of the factional ambitions of the great Mamluk amirs. The third, al-Nasir Ahmad, had withdrawn, after a few weeks' visit to Cairo, to his stronghold of al-Karak, against which eight expeditions were sent in al-Salih Ismail's reign. The last of these captured the great fortress, and the former sultan was put to death.

The enthronement of al-Salih IsmacH, who bore a reputation for piety, may have seemed to promise better times, but he died after three years' reign (743-6/1342-5). His name, cImad al-din Abu 31-Fida' IsmaTl, is identical with that of the Ayyubid ruler of Hamah who was al-Nasir Muhammad's favourite, and it may perhaps be surmised that he was born in 720/1320, when his namesake was granted the title of sultan.

In his opening pages al-Qaysarani stresses the divine election of al-Salih Ismacfl as sultan, and proceeds to give his titulature at considerable length, including the historical style of 'Servitor of the Two August Sanctuaries' (khddim al-haramayn al-sharifayn), which was to pass in due course to the Ottoman sultans. He pays a remarkable tribute to al-Salih Ismail's piety by asserting that 'it is he who is sent to this [Islamic] Community (hddhihi 7umma) at the end of these hundred years to renew its Faith'.13 This salutation of a Mamluk sultan as a mujaddid is surely unique.

The body of the work follows the same lines as al-Tuhfa but is a briefer and altogether feebler piece of historical writing. It opens with the statement that Ibrahim b. cAbd al-Rahman b. al-Qaysarani, al-Nur al-laih wa'l-durr al-sddih fi ^stifa mawldnd al-sultdn al-Malik al-Salih, ed. c Umar cAbd al-Salam Tadmuri (Tripoli, 1402/1982) (hereafter Nur)'.

Ibid, 50. The hundred years referred to are the first century of the Mamluk sultanate not, as usually with this belief, a hijri century.

© in this web service Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-59115-7 - The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society Edited by Thomas Philipp and Ulrich Haarmann Excerpt More information

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from the start of the Mamluk sultanate to the death of al-Nasir Muhammad is one hundred years; i. e. the period which was to be crowned by the coming of al-Salih Ismail as mujaddid. The period begins with al-Salih Ayyub and closes with al-Salih Ismacfl; a neat literary turn, although a slight blurring of the chronology. Al-QaysaranI does not, however, begin his narrative with al-Salih Ayyub, but goes back to al-cAdil Nur al-dln b. Zangl. This allows him to mention his two distinguished ancestors, Khalid b. al-Walld, the Companion of the Prophet, and Khalid Ibn al-Qaysaranl, Nur al-dm's vizier.

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