Post-classical history

PART II WONDERS OF WARFARE, AGAINST INFIDELS AND MUSLIMS

§ Introduction

[36] In the midst of these events, there were periods when I saw countless battles against infidels and against Muslims. Of the wonders that I witnessed and experienced in these various wars, I will mention here only those that come to mind. For forgetful-ness is not to be disparaged in someone who has seen time pass without cease; it is indeed a legacy of all sons of Adam passed on from their father (God’s blessing be upon him, and peace).

§ The Haughtiness of Horsemen

One such wonder is what I witnessed of the haughtiness of horsemen and the way they oblige themselves to face dangers. We were engaged in battle with Mahmud ibn Qaraja,1 the lord of Hama at the time, and the fighting between us was having no result,2 the contingents of infantry standing at the ready while the melee carried on between the fast cavalry.

One of our men came up to me, a celebrated soldier and horseman called Jum’a, of the Banu Numayr tribe, and he was crying. So I asked him, ‘What’s the matter with you, Jum’a? Is this really the time to be crying?’

He replied, ‘Sarhank ibn Abi Mansur stabbed me with his spear!’

‘What if Sarhank did stab you,’ I asked, ‘so what?’

‘So nothing,’ he said, ‘except for being hit by someone like Sarhank! By God, death would be easier for me than to have been hit by him! But he tricked me and took me by surprise.’

I then started to quieten him down and make light of the matter to him, but he turned the head of his horse around and headed back towards the melee.

‘Where are you going, Jum’a?’ I asked.

‘To Sarhank!’ he replied. ‘By God, I’ll stab him good or die trying!’

He disappeared for a time, while I was busy with the enemy facing me. Then he came back laughing, so I asked him, ‘What [37] did you do?’

‘I stabbed him!’ he replied. ‘And, by God, if I hadn’t stabbed him, my soul would have withered.’

He had attacked him while Sarhank was with a group of his companions, and then he came back. It is as if the poet had Sarhank and Jum’a in mind when he said:

You do not even think, so great is your benevolence, Of the thirsty avenger who is conscious of his inheritance.

Indeed, you doze yourself and awaken further his ire For he slept not; how could he, given his desire?

Now, one day, it may be Time’s pleasure To let him mete out to you an extra measure.3

This Sarhank was a noteworthy horseman, a leader among the Kurds. But he was just a youngster, whereas Jum’a was a mature man, distinguished by his age and his experience in acts of courage.

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