Post-classical history

§ Relief after Misfortune: Escape from a Frankish Prison

This same man of mine, who went up to Egypt with me in the year 538 (1144), told me a story about the son of the lord of Mount Sinai135 (Mount Sinai is a distant province belonging to Egypt; when al-Hafiz – may God have mercy upon him – wanted to banish one of the amirs, he would make him governor of Mount Sinai. It’s close to Frankish territory).

‘The son of the governor of Mount Sinai,’ my man said, ‘told me the following story:136

My father was made governor of Mount Sinai, and I went with him to the province, being rather fond of hunting. So I went out one day to go hunting and a band of Franks fell on me, took me captive and carried me back to Bayt Jibril, where they shut me up in a pit all by myself. The lord of Bayt Jibril set a ransom of two thousand dinars for me. I remained in that pit for a year, without anyone ever asking about me. But one day as I was in the pit, what should happen but the cover was lifted and a Bedouin man was lowered down towards me. ‘Where’d they get you?’ I asked. ‘Right from the road,’ he replied. He stayed with me for a few days and they set for him a ransom of fifty dinars. One day he said to me, ‘You want to know something? I’m the only one who can rescue you from this pit. Rescue me, and I’ll rescue you.’ I said to myself, ‘This is a man who, having fallen into misfortune, desperately wants to escape,’ and I did not answer him. Then, after a few days more, he repeated what he said to me. I said to myself, ‘By God, I damn well will try to rescue him, and perhaps God will rescue me in recompense.’ So I shouted for the jailer and said, ‘Tell the lord that I wish to speak with him.’ He then came back and pulled me out of the pit and brought me before the lord. I said to him, ‘I have been in your prison for a year now and no one has asked for me and no one even knows whether [81] I am living or dead. But you have imprisoned this Bedouin with me and set for him a ransom of fifty dinars. Add that amount to my own ransom and let me send him to my father to get him to free me.’ ‘You may do so,’ he said. So I returned and informed the Bedouin who, saying goodbye, went away.

I waited for two months for him to do something, but I saw no trace of him and heard no news, so I despaired of him. But one night, to my astonishment, he emerged before me from a tunnel dug through the side of the pit. ‘Get up!’ he said. ‘By God, it’s been five months that I’ve been digging this burrow from a ruined village to get to you.’ So I stood up with him and we went out through that burrow. He then broke my chain and brought me to my home. I don’t know what should surprise me more – his integrity, or his sense of direction being so good that his burrow ended right at the side of the pit!

When God (glory be to Him) decrees that relief should come, then what an easy thing it is to bring it about!

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