Post-classical history


§ From the Introduction1

I have faced combat and battles with perils most dire, warmed myself I have on their blazing fire. I came to war early, while I was but fifteen years of age until I passed into my nineties, when I became a home-body, one of those left behind, from all warfare resigned. For I am no longer reckoned of any import, no longer called to assemblies of any sort, after being the first to be named when considering my kind, the most worthy at any gathering of worthies, you’d find. I was the first, at my comrades’ attack, to advance the banner royal, the last to be drawn from the field, for any ripostes I could foil.

To how many battles have I borne witness? If only

Before I was laid low with age, in one of them, I had been slain.

For it is a finer thing for a stripling to be killed in battle, more welcome,

Before Time can lay him waste or afflict him.

By your father’s name! I never held back from facing perdition in war:

My free-wheeling blade will testify to that much!

[17] But God has determined that I will be detained

Until my appointed time. What, then, can I do?

§ An Enumeration of Usama’s Battles

These battles include: the combat between us and the Isma’ilis in Shayzar citadel, when they attacked the castle in the year 507 (1114); the combat between the army of Hama and the army of Homs in the year 525 (1130–31); the battle at Tikrit between the atabeg Zangi and Qaraja, the lord of Fars province, in the year 526 (1132); the battle between al-Mustarshid and the atabeg Zangi near Baghdad in the year 527 (1132); the atabeg Zangi’s battle near Amid against the Artuqids and the lord of Amid, in the year 528 (1134); the battle at Rafaniya between the atabeg Zangi and the Franks in the year 531 (1137); the battle at Qinnasrin between the atabeg Zangi and the Franks, though there was no actual engagement, in the year 532 (1138); the combat between the Egyptians and al-Afdal Ridwan in the year 542 (1147); the fighting among the black troops in Egypt in the days of al-Hafiz in the year 544 (1149); the combat between Ibn al-Sallar and Ibn Masal in the same year; another battle between these two in the same year, at Dalas; the strife during which Ibn al-Sallar was killed in the year 548 (1153); the strife during which al-Zafir, his brothers and his cousin were killed in the year 549 (1154); the strife between the Egyptians and ‘Abbas in the same year; the other period of strife a month later when the army rose up against him; and the combat between us and the Franks in the same year.2

§ A Summary History of Shayzar3

In the year 468 (1076), my grandfather Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali ibn Munqidh began building the Bridge Fortress4 and thereby put pressure upon the citadel of Shayzar.

At Shayzar, there was a governor for the Romans, whose name was Demetrios.5 When this aforementioned Demetrios considered the blockade to have gone on too long, he (and those Romans with him) sent a message to my grandfather concerning handing over the citadel of Shayzar to him, adding certain conditions that they imposed upon him, including: a certain amount of money that he would give to the aforementioned Demetrios; maintaining the property of the bishop of the place, who lived there, for he continued to dwell there under the authority of my grandfather until he died at Shayzar; and that he would pay the quntariya6 – that is, the Roman infantrymen – their salaries for three years.

[16] So my grandfather handed over to them what they stipulated, and the citadel of Shayzar surrendered on a Sunday in Rajab, in the year 474 (December 1081). The aforementioned Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali remained as its lord until he died there on 6 Muharram, in the year 479 (22 April 1086). His son, Abu al-Murhaf Nasr, ruled after him until he died in the year 491 (1097–8). Nasr’s brother, Abu al-’Asakir Sultan, ruled until he died there and his son Muhammad ibn Sultan ruled until he died beneath its rubble, he and three of his own sons, in the earthquake7 in this aforementioned year, that is, the year 552, on Monday 3 Rajab (11 August 1157).

§ The Bravery of the Caliph al-Mustarshid8

The imam al-Mustarshid matched the foremost of his predecessors in ascending to the very height of zeal, good governance and great bravery. When he and Zangi encountered one another in battle at ‘Aqarquf9 (and I participated in that battle), a black satin tent was pitched for him and a litter built for him in it. As he sat upon it, the cavalry pursued and broke the army of the atabeg. That was on Monday, 27 Rajab of the year 526 (13 June 1132). In this way, the caliph took charge of everything there and the atabeg Zangi fled all the way to Mosul. The caliph’s great bravery was the cause of Zangi’s destruction.

§ Usama Gives Advice to a Friend in Peril10

I met with Jamal al-Din al-Mawsili11 in the year 555 (1160), while I was travelling on pilgrimage to Mecca. There existed between us an old bond of amity, familiarity and close companionship. He invited me to come into his home in Mosul, but I declined, and remained in my tent on the river-bank. Every day during my sojourn there, he would ride out and cross the bridge over to Nineveh, the atabeg having ridden out to the training-grounds.12

He would send a message to me saying, ‘Come out and ride: I’m standing waiting for you.’

So I would mount up and come, and he and I would talk. One day, I ran into him while we were apart from my companions. I said to him, ‘I’ve got something on my mind that I’ve wanted to tell you ever since we met, but it has never happened that there was a free moment. Now at the moment we are free.’

‘So tell me,’ he said.

I said, ‘I’ll tell you what al-Sharif al-Radi13 said:

This counsel for you comes from the innermost heart of one

Who does not just heap spite on you by way of blame.

For my affection for you denies me permission

To see you involved with any sin you may claim.

You have given very freely in the spending of treasury-moneys for alms and for the leading men of piety and good works, but rulers cannot bear to see money given away, and their hearts become unsettled about it, even if people give it away out of their own inheritance – this is what happened to the Barmakids.14 So think carefully about what you have given away of the funds you brought in.’

He remained silent for a moment, eyes downcast, and said, ‘May God reward you with good fortune! But the matter [22] has already surpassed what you feared.’

So I left him, travelled to the Hijaz15 and returned from Mecca by the Syrian Road. Jamal al-Din was ousted and he died later in prison.

§ Isma’ilis Capture Apamea16

A group of Isma’ilis from the populace of Apamea endeavoured to take possession of the place. They hatched a plot [23] whereby six of them, after having obtained a horse, a mule, some Frankish gear, a shield and a mail hauberk, went out from the region of Aleppo to Apamea with all that gear and those animals.

They said to Ibn Mula’ib (he was a generous and courageous man), ‘We came intending to enter your service, and we encountered a Frankish knight and killed him. So we bring you his horse, his mule and his gear.’

And so Ibn Mula’ib treated them with hospitality and bade them stay in the citadel of Apamea in a suite of rooms adjoining the city wall. The Isma’ilis dug a hole in the wall and set with the Apameans an appointed time – Saturday night, 24 Jumada al-Ula in the year 499 (1 February 1106) – to strike. The Apameans climbed up through that hole, killed Ibn Mula’ib and took possession of the citadel of Apamea.


§ Introduction

Verily, the soul is content when that which it desires is learned, and becomes importunate in its pursuit when it is spurned. My blessed father Majd al-Din Murshid (may God be pleased with him) related to me that when he went forth to serve the Sultan Malikshah17(may God have mercy upon him), while the latter was in Isfahan, he made for the home of the judge, the imam, the honourable and learned Abu Yusuf al-Qazwini18 (may God have mercy upon him), to visit him and to offer his greetings, as they had known [2] one another of old, and as Abu Yusuf was bound by a bond of gratitude to my grandfather Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali (may God have mercy upon him).

That bond of gratitude came about because, in the days of al-Hakim,19 the ruler of Egypt, the aforementioned judge travelled to Egypt. Al-Hakim treated him favourably, bestowed honours upon him and presented him with a splendid gift. But Abu Yusuf begged to be excused from this gift and asked if al-Hakim could instead make a gift to him of some books that he proposed to take from the caliphal library. Al-Hakim agreed to that and Abu Yusuf entered the library and selected from it what books he wanted. Later, he took ship, and those books with him, heading for the lands of Islam in the Levant. But the wind turned on him and hurled the ship to the city of Latakia,20which was controlled by the Romans. He grieved at his plight and feared for himself and the books he had with him, and so he wrote a letter to my grandfather Sadid al-Mulk (may God the Most High have mercy upon him), saying: ‘I find myself in Latakia in the midst of the Romans, and with me books of Islam; I am to be got cheap; are you willing to make the leap?’

[3] So that very day, Sadid al-Mulk dispatched to him his son, my uncle ‘Izz al-Dawla Nasr (may God have mercy upon him), sending with him many horsemen from his attendants and troops, and a mount to transport him and carry his belongings. Nasr came to him and carried him and his belongings away. Abu Yusuf remained with my grandfather (may God have mercy upon him) for a long period of time. During this time there formed between him and my father (may God have mercy upon him) bonds of solicitude and intimacy. And so when my father travelled to Baghdad, he went to Abu Yusuf to renew his acquaintance with him. My father (may God have mercy upon him) gave me the following account of it:

I went in to him, and with me was the sheikh Ibn al-Buwayn21 the poet, for he had been a scribe for my grandfather (may God have mercy upon him). I found that Abu Yusuf had reached such an age that those features with which I once could recognize him had changed and he had forgotten much of what he had once known. But, when he saw me, he recognized me after some questioning, for he had left me when I was but a youth and he now saw me as a grown man.22

And so he inquired after my travels and I informed him about my journey to the palace of the sultan. He said, ‘Extend my greetings to Khawaja Buzurk Nizam al-Din,23and inform him that the first part of the commentary that I compiled, which part is the commentary on the Qur’anic verse “In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful!”, has gone missing. Ask him to request that a copy be made from the copy that is in [4] his library and have it sent to me.’ He had compiled a commentary on the Qur’an in one hundred volumes.

As a result of his weakness and his advanced age, he reclined on his bed in a position somewhere between sitting and lying down, his books surrounding him, and he writing. The sheikh Ibn al-Buwayn greeted him, but he didn’t recognize him, and Abu Yusuf said, ‘Who are you?’ Ibn al-Buwayn replied, ‘Your servant, Ibn al-Buwayn, scribe to the amir Sadid al-Mulk.’ ‘Al-Buwayn?’ Abu Yusuf retorted. ‘What’s that? God damn al-Buwayn!’ Then he thought for a moment and asked, ‘Are you the poet, grammarian and scribe?’ Ibn al-Buwayn replied, ‘Yes.’ So Abu Yusuf recited:

They said, ‘It’s al-Sulami!’ So I said, ‘Lady, cover yourself. That’s a teat-squeezer, a seller of milk.’24

Then he returned to his conversation with me and noticed that the sheikh Ibn al-Buwayn had taken a book from those books that were surrounding his bed, and so Abu Yusuf snapped at him: ‘The idiot comes to a person, takes his ease and reads whatever is around of books, as if to say “I am of the learned sort!”. What you really need is for what is in your hand to be brought down upon it!’ And he took it from him, and that book was the Book of the Staff.

Ever since I heard this nearly sixty years ago, I have sought out the Book of the Staff in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, the Hijaz, Upper Mesopotamia and Diyar Bakr, but I never found anyone who knew of it. Every time its existence was denied to me, my covetousness for it increased, until despair induced me to compile [5] this book and title it the Book of the Staff. I do not know whether that other book took the same form as mine or a different form. Nevertheless, I saw to it that my soul attained what had set it afire, just as when Jacob satisfied his soul’s desire.25 I have no doubt that the author of that book had a purpose and in its composition and adornment he excelled, while I, having missed out on something I desired, was to its mere execution and over-embellishment compelled. This book of mine, even if it is empty of the sort of learning with which literary works are embellished or which those highest in virtue pursue, is at least not devoid of narratives and verses that comfort the soul in their expanse, and whose placement here will improve the lot of those who upon them should chance.

I open the book with an account of the staff of Moses (upon him be peace), then an account of the staff of Solomon, son of David (upon him be peace), then I abandon myself to mentioning narratives and poems that make reference to staves. I do not claim to have accomplished a definitive accounting about staves in what I have collected; only those accounts that I have memorized and heard myself have I selected.

In God (to whom belong glory and power) I seek refuge and beg Him to protect, should my hand write anything that is with sin or defect. From His mercy (may He be exalted) for forbearance and forgiveness I look, for my preoccupation with trifles instead of reciting His Holy Book. For He – may He be praised! – is the closest of those you might call, in entreating Him the most generous of all.

§ A Catchy Tune

At Hisn Kayfa in Shawwal of the year 567 (May–June 1172), someone in whom I trust related to me the following. ‘There was in the service of the amir Malik ibn Salim, lord of Qal’at Ja’bar, a lute-player called Abu al-Faraj. He told me:

One day I was in the assembly-hall of the amir Malik ibn Salim while he was drinking to the point of [184] drunkenness. I withdrew to my own house, but no more than two hours of the night had elapsed when his messenger came before me and said, ‘The amir calls for you.’ I said, ‘I waited until he got drunk before I went home!’ The messenger replied, ‘He has commanded me to take you into his presence.’

And so I went with him and I saw the amir sitting down. The amir said, ‘Abu al-Faraj! After you withdrew, I fell asleep and I saw in a dream a person singing to me a song, which I remembered but then forgot, and I would like you to remind me of it.’ So I said, ‘My lord, recite for me a word from it.’ He replied, ‘I do not remember anything about it. But instead, recite for me what you have on hand.’ So I recited for him many songs while he kept saying, ‘This is not the song that I dreamt about!’ He then said, ‘Leave me! And think so that you might remember!’

So I withdrew and woke early in the morning to rise to his service. The amir said, ‘Hey, Abu al-Faraj! Anything happen with that song?’ I replied, ‘My lord, only God (may He be praised and exalted) knows the unseen.’ The amir then said, ‘By God! If you do not remember it, I will expel you from the castle!’ ‘By God, my lord,’ I said, ‘I don’t know! How can I recall a song I never heard and from which not one word was ever mentioned?’ [185] ‘Take him and expel him,’ the amir ordered. And so, they took me out to al-Bulayl26 and I remained there for a day, after which he had me returned and I entered again into his service just as I was before.

Then, one day, I was in the assembly-hall singing when one of the servants said to me, ‘There is a man at the door asking for you.’ So I went out to him and saw a man wearing a dark turban, like those of the Maghrib. He greeted me and said, ‘I have come to you so that you might obtain access for me to be admitted into the hall of the amir, for I am a singer.’ So I went in and informed the amir of this man and said, ‘My lord, if he is a good poet, then listen to him and let him into your service, or, if not, then give him something and he will go away.’ The amir then admitted him, and the man entered, greeted the amir, sat down, took out his lute and sang:

The scout informed her that between her

And the villages of Najran and al-Darb there was no infidel.

So she threw down her staff and took rest,

Just as a traveller’s eyes take delight upon finding home.

The amir said, ‘There is no God but God! This, by God, is the song that I dreamt about and of which I asked you!’ I and all who were present were astounded at this coincidence.

§ Usama on Pilgrimage in Jerusalem

I went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 532 (1137–8), and accompanying me was one of its citizens who informed me about the places where one can pray and expect blessings. He led me into a structure next to the Dome of the Rock in which there were candles and curtains.

He said to me, ‘This is the House of the Chain.’27 I asked him to tell me about the chain and he said to me:

In this house in the time of the Israelites there was a chain. Whenever there was a dispute between two Israelites in which an oath bound one of them, they would enter this house and stand beneath the chain.28 The defendant would swear his innocence to his accuser, then extend his hand. If he spoke the truth, he would be able to grasp the chain; if he lied, the chain would retract from his hand and he would not be able to grasp it.

A man from the Israelites once entrusted a gem to another man, then demanded it back from him. That other man said, ‘I have given it to you already.’ Then he added, ‘Look, if you don’t believe me, put me to the test at the chain.’

He – the one entrusted with the jewel – went and took a staff and split it and pressed the jewel into it and left it there. Then he stuck it together and painted it, and, taking it in his hand, he entered the House of the Chain with his adversary. The man entrusted with the jewel said to his adversary, ‘Hold this staff for me.’ So the first man took the staff from the man with the jewel and the man with the jewel swore that he had returned the jewel to him. He extended his hand and grasped the chain, then took [235] back his staff and the two men left. From that day on, the chain has been raised.

I did not see this account in writing, rather, I have merely related it as I heard it.

§ A Staff of Invisibility

There was with us at Shayzar an ascetic, an excellent Muslim named Jarrar (may God have mercy upon him), who was exclusively devoted to a mosque on Jabal Jurayjis. He would not leave that mosque except to perform the communal prayers on Fridays. I used to visit him there and obtain blessings from him. Someone who had dealings with him once related to me what Jarrar had told him:

I once wanted to make a visit to the sheikh Yasin29 (may God have mercy upon him) and I thought him to be at Mambij,30 so I went out with a company of travellers. I hoped to ask for a staff from him. When we arrived in the vicinity of Mambij, we had with us some excess supplies and so we took apart a pile of stones and buried the supplies inside it and returned the stones on top. We then went to the sheikh (may God have mercy upon him) and we stayed there a while. Eventually, we said our farewells to him and made ready to depart, so he prepared some supplies for us, saying, ‘Take this, for a fox has eaten up your supplies.’ He then brought out a staff, took the skull-cap out from under his turban and said to me, ‘Take this staff and this cap.’

So we said our farewells again and departed, I being happy on account of the staff and the cap, and all of us in wonder over what he had said about the supplies. When we arrived at the spot where our supplies were, we looked for them but could not find them, for – guess what? – a wild beast had eaten them. We continued on and then we parted ways, [237] each one of us riding off to his own destination. I arrived in the territory of Shayzar, and what should be happening but the Franks were marauding the countryside, spreading out over the land between me and my destination. It then came upon me to take that skull-cap out from under my turban and place it on the tip of the staff while I walked along the road. The Franks were to the right and left of me while in my hands was that staff with the skull-cap on top of it. And no one – by God, not anyone – espied me. They were (God be praised and exalted) blinded to my presence, and no harm befell me from them, so I was able to return to the security of my home.

§ The Blind Men of Damascus

I was present in Damascus when a dispute occurred between the blind men of the city and a man who used to administer their endowment, known as Ibn al-Ba’labakki. They had brought the matter before the lord of Damascus, Shihab al-Din Mahmud31(may God have mercy upon him), numerous times, and so he said to the amir Mujahid al-Din Buzan ibn Mamin, ‘Mujahid al-Din, by God, take these people off my hands. Call them together in your residence and summon their supervisor32 at the same time and settle this affair.’

‘To hear is to obey,’ he replied.

Mujahid al-Din then said to me, ‘Please, [243] attend with us.’

And so we gathered in a great hall in a residence, and the supervisor Ibn al-Ba’labakki was present as was the former supervisor, who was called Ibn al-Farrash,33 and also present were about three hundred blind men, carrying their leader. They entered the hall, each one of them with a staff in his hand at his side. Then the discussion began, some of them preferring to talk with the first supervisor, Ibn al-Farrash, some of them preferring Ibn al-Ba’labakki. They contended and strove with one another for a while without any progress, due to their noise and their great number. Then they turned violent, and close to three hundred staves were raised in the hall, all in the hands of blind men who did not know whom they were hitting. The uproar and the shouting became so loud that I regretted being there. But the two supervisors gave in on the matter, the dissent between them quietened down and we resolved the affair according to what the blind men wished. We could hardly believe it when the blind men finally left.

§ On the Utility of Deception in Battle34

Those who are practised in war and know its stratagems – who know well that men fear deception and are wary of tricks and ruses that might have bad results or prove to be weak – these people do not hold to be true the tales that historians and poets have told about those events. For resoluteness in war is more effective than audacity. I have battled the Franks (may God confound them) in places and countries so numerous that I cannot count them, and I never once saw them defeat us and then persist in pursuing us, nor do their horses do more than amble or trot, fearing that some stratagem will befall them. How could anyone with a brain in his head [260] convince himself to get into a sack tied up around him or into a chest? How can a man hide with a sack tied around him?

§ At the Tomb of St John the Baptist near Nablus35

I went on pilgrimage to the tomb of Yahya ibn Zakariya (peace be upon him) at a village called Sebaste36 in one of the sub-districts of Nablus. When I had performed my prayers, I went out into an open space overlooking the tomb. There I saw a partially closed door; so I opened it and entered and saw there a church in which there were about ten old men. Their heads were bared and looked like carded cotton.37 They were facing east and had at their breasts staves topped by curved cross-bars the width of their chests. They propped themselves upon them while in front of them an old man recited to them.38

I saw there a sight that moved my heart but also grieved me and made me lament that I had never seen exertions like theirs among the Muslims. A period of time passed and one day, when he and I were passing by al-Tawawis,39 Mu’in al-Din Unur (may God have mercy upon him) said to me, ‘I’d like to dismount and visit the sheikhs.’ I said, ‘Certainly,’ so we dismounted and walked to a long building at the corner. We entered it and I did not think there was anyone there, but then I saw that there were around one hundred prayer-mats, on each one a Sufi exuding tranquillity, their humility apparent. What I saw of them there gladdened me and I praised God (may He 254 be glorified and exalted) that I saw in the Muslims exertions greater than those of those priests. I had not before that time seen Sufis in their house, nor did I know anything of their practice.


§ The Coptic Patriarch in a Fatimid Prison

The words of the philosopher, ‘The king has power only over his subjects’ bodies, not [73] their hearts’, reminded me of an affair I witnessed in Cairo in the year 547 (1152–3), to wit:

The messenger of the King of Ethiopia came bearing a letter to Ibn al-Sallar40 (may God be pleased with him). The king asked him to order the patriarch of Egypt to remove the patriarch of Ethiopia41 (for that entire country answers to the opinion of the patriarch of Egypt). So Ibn al-Sallar ordered the patriarch to be brought before him, and he came while I was in his presence. He was an old, emaciated and starving man. He was brought forward to the door of the throne room, where he stopped. He then greeted Ibn al-Sallar, turned away and sat down on a low bench in the outer court.

So Ibn al-Sallar sent a message to him saying, ‘The king of the Ethiopians complained about the patriarch who is currently appointed over his country, and he asked me to order you to remove him from his post.’

The patriarch replied, ‘My lord, I did not appoint this man simply to try him out. I think he is quite suitable to carry out the Holy Law to which he himself is subject. There does not appear to me to be anything in his conduct which would necessitate his removal. Moreover, it is not permitted in my religion to do anything about this matter that is not absolutely necessary, and so it is not lawful for me to remove him.’

Ibn al-Sallar (may God have mercy upon him) was enraged at his reply and ordered him to be imprisoned. After two days, Ibn al-Sallar sent a message to him (and I was present), saying to him, ‘You will eventually have to remove that patriarch, since it was the king of the Ethiopians who requested it.’

The patriarch answered, ‘My lord, I have no reply other than the one that I have already given you. Your authority and your power lie only over the humble body you see before you. As for my religious beliefs, you cannot touch them. By God! I will not remove him, even should every loathsome thing befall me!’

And so Ibn al-Sallar (may God have mercy upon him) ordered him to be released, and he apologized to the king of the Ethiopians.

§ The First Crusade and its Sequel in the North42

Something happened in my own time that was similar to this tale of Alexander, and I shall relate it. When the Franks (may God confound them) came in the year 490 (1096–7) and conquered Antioch and were victorious over the armies of Syria, they were seized with greed and gave themselves up to fancies of possessing Baghdad and the lands of the East. So they mustered and collected themselves, and marched forth, making for those lands.

At that time, the lord of Mosul was Jikirmish,43 and he assembled the Artuqid Turkoman amirs and those under their power and met the Franks in battle44 on the Khabur River; he defeated them, capturing their leaders King Baldwin the Prince and Joscelin,45 and conducted them to Qal’at Ja’bar, into the hands of the amir Malik ibn Salim, and entrusted them to him. The surviving Franks [133] returned to their lands. Their leader was Bohemond, lord of Antioch, who put to sea and returned to his land, where he sought the military assistance of the Franks; they mustered and collected troops. But he died before anything came of it, as did Jikirmish,46 lord of Mosul.

So then the sultan gave Mosul as a fief to Jawali Saqawa,47who decided to go on campaign. He made for Syria and arrived at Qal’at Ja’bar. There, he asked for the Frankish prisoners who were in the hands of the lord of the place, Malik ibn Salim.

‘They are in your custody,’ replied the lord of the place.

‘Set for them a price so that they may ransom themselves,’ said Jawali Saqawa.

So Malik ibn Salim conferred with them and established the price of 100,000 dinars for them; he informed Jawali of that, who said, ‘Bring Joscelin to me.’

When Joscelin was brought before him, Jawali said, ‘You have set a price of 100,000 dinars for your ransom?’

‘Yes,’ Joscelin replied.

‘Would you like me to give you 10,000 dinars?’

‘For someone like you to give 10,000 dinars is no bad thing.’

‘Would you like me to give you 20,000 dinars?’

‘It does not become a king such as you to play around with one such as me.’

‘By God! I am not playing around with you! If I had wanted to take that money from you, I wouldn’t have to see you or speak to you. I will set you free and forgive you the entire sum, but I have one favour to request. Will you grant it?’

‘What is it?’

‘The lord of Antioch and the lord of Aleppo are my enemies. I would like you to assist me in [134] fighting against them.’

At that time, the lord of Antioch was Tancred and the lord of Aleppo was Ridwan ibn Tutush.48

Joscelin replied, ‘We will go and assemble our cavalry and infantry and we will come to you to fight anyone who fights against you.’

So Jawali set them free, and they went and mustered and assembled troops, and came into his service. Then they all went together to meet the army of Aleppo and the army of Antioch in battle. Someone who participated in that battle told me:

The blows of the swords between them – that is, the Franks – were like the blows of axes on firewood, and so the lord of Antioch defeated them. As for the Muslims, those who surrendered fled. As for the Franks who assisted Jawali, a great number of their knights were taken prisoner.49 On the second day of their imprisonment, they went to Tancred, the lord of Antioch, and asked of him, ‘What do you want from us?’

‘I want to take you off to Antioch and throw you in prison.’

‘By God! There is not one among us who will follow you or go with you. We are destitute! We have neither clothes nor belongings, nor beds to sleep upon nor servants to wait upon us.’

‘Then what are you going to do?’

‘Let us go to our homes and attend to our affairs and then we will go to the prison.’

‘Right. Well off you go, then,’ said Tancred.

So they went and assembled their servants and belongings and their beds, and they went to Tancred in Antioch, where he threw them in prison until someone redeemed them.

§ Isma’ilis and a Naked Tutor at Shayzar

A battle took place between us and the Isma’ilis in the citadel of Shayzar in the year 507 (1114).50 Thanks to a ruse they played on us, they gained possession of the fortress of Shayzar while our bravest fighting men were out riding beyond the town. The sheikh and scholar Abu ‘Abdallah Ibn al-Munira51(may God have mercy upon him) was in my father’s house instructing my brothers (may God have mercy upon them). When the alarm sounded in the fortress, we galloped back and used ropes to climb up.

The sheikh Ibn al-Munira had moved to his own home near [191] the mosque (for his home was in the mosque). My uncle Fakhr al-Din Shafi’ (may God have mercy upon him) arrived just below the mosque, with the sheikh Ibn al-Munira looking from above. So a companion of my uncle shouted up to him: ‘Hey, Sheikh Abu ‘Abdallah! Dangle a rope down to us!’

Ibn al-Munira replied, ‘But I don’t have a rope!’

The other man then suggested, ‘Well, dangle down your turban-cloth!’

But he took a long time over it, so the other man gave up on him and climbed up at another location. It was later asked of sheikh Ibn al-Munira: ‘Were you actually naked while wearing a turban on your head?!’

He replied, ‘No, I didn’t even have on a turban!’

Then Ibn al-Munira thought for a bit and said, ‘No, wait! By God, Wahb ibn al-Tanukhi, who was with the amir Fakhr al-Din Shafi’, had said to me, “Dangle a rope down to us!” and I replied, “But I don’t have a rope!” So he said, “Dangle down your turban-cloth!” And if he had not seen a turban on me, he would not have said such a thing!’

And so, he was naked (may God have mercy upon him), wearing only a turban, and he, whether through fear or weakness of heart, didn’t even know what state he was in.

§ An Unarmed Warrior Defeats two Bandits

Something like that happened at Ascalon to one of the notables of the town, called Ibn al-Jullanar, who was infatuated with hunting with sparrow-hawks and famous for his strength. One day, he rode out from Ascalon with a sparrow-hawk on his wrist to hunt in a copse of sycamore trees, and a pair of Bedouin horsemen rode out against him.

They ordered, ‘Dismount!’

So he dismounted from his horse and said to them, ‘Do you want anything of this bird?’

‘No,’ they replied. So he perched the sparrow-hawk on the branch of a tree.

Then they disputed over the spurs52 that bedecked his feet, so Ibn al-Jullanar said to them, ‘There are two of you. Each one of you should take a single spur,’ and he extended his legs to them.

So they sat down trying to detach the spurs from his feet, and Ibn al-Jullanar grabbed one by the neck and the other by the neck, and beat their two heads together. They were locked in his grip, so he killed them. Then Ibn al-Jullanar took their horses, their weapons and his sparrow-hawk and entered the city!

§ A Lesson from a Bandit

There was with us at Shayzar a man called Muhammad ibn al-Bushaybish who used to serve my grandfather Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali (may God have mercy upon him) [193] as the supervisor of a village in the area of Kafartab, called Araja. I knew him when he was a very old man. He was strong and courageous. He said:

I once went on a hot day to the well at Araja to drink, and I saw a man wearing a woman’s get-up53 and on his shoulders was a sack of clothes.

A desire for this sack came over me, and so I said to him, ‘Hand over the sack,’ and he appeared to be afraid of me.

He replied, ‘Here it is, my lord,’ and he lifted it off his shoulders and I reached out to take it.

But he extended his hand, grabbed me by the knees, lifted me off the ground and then beat the ground with me and knelt on me. He took out from his midriff a knife as bright as a flame to kill me, and I cried, ‘Mercy!’

He then got up off me and let me go, saying, ‘Don’t be so contemptuous of your fellow-man.’ He then opened the sack and took a shirt from it and gave it to me.

So I said to him, ‘By God, where did you come from?’

He replied, ‘From Ma’arrat.54 Yesterday I knocked over a dyer’s shop and took everything in it.’

Then he took his sack and walked away.

§ Concluding Remarks

Learning is not a peak that the searcher climbs to the top of; it has no end-point where the seeker can finally stop. So multifarious is it, that it is impossible to embrace; too vast it is to gather in one place. Alas, our lifetimes are dwindling and evermore restricted, and still the vicissitudes of Time can never be predicted.

If only the soul, when it rebelled, did not get scarred55 in its spite, and, when it was chastised, did not quarrel or fight. For a man of ninety-one it is better to love piety and good deeds, than it is to compose books like these frivolous screeds. By Time was this man most convincingly persuaded – by its subtle effect on his senses, not some argument clearly related. In this way Time warned him to change his ways, as ever closer came the end of his days.

For though steadily through life has he sped, in fact he is most certainly dead, alive only metaphorically, it is said. Humbled in his captivity to the Lord of the Worlds does he now appear, he trusts in the promise, this son of his ninetieth year, a promise he heard from the Prophet Muhammad, sincere. May God grant His Messenger and his [468] family, who are pure without peer, and his pious Companions steadfast in God-fear, and his chaste wives the Mothers of the Faithful so dear, eternal blessings as the Day of Reckoning draws near.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!