Post-classical history

§ Usama Ransoms Muslim Captives at Acre

I used to travel frequently to visit the king of the Franks during the truce that existed between him and Jamal al-Din Muhammad (may God have mercy upon him) on account of an act of generosity that my father (may God have mercy upon him) had done for King Baldwin, the father of the queen, the wife of King Fulk, son of Fulk.137 The Franks used to bring their captives before me so that I might buy their freedom, and so I bought those whose deliverance God facilitated.

Once a real devil of a Frank called William Jiba138 went out in a boat of his on a raid and he captured a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims from the Maghrib, around four hundred souls, men and women. Groups of these captives would be brought to me by their owners and I would buy those of them I could afford to buy. There was a young man among them who would offer a greeting but then sit and refuse to speak. I asked about him and I was told [82] that he was an ascetic and his master was a tanner.

So I asked his master, ‘For how much will you sell this one to me?’

‘By the truth of my religion,’ he replied, ‘I won’t sell him except as a pair with this old man, and for the same price I paid when I bought them, forty-three dinars.’

So I bought both of them. I also bought a few more for me and another few for the amir Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him), all for 120 dinars. I paid out all the money I had with me and offered a guarantee for the remainder.

I then went to Damascus and told the amir Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him), ‘I bought back some captives for you, putting them specifically under your charge, but I didn’t have the full amount with which to pay for them. And now I’ve arrived back at my home. If you want them, you can pay the remainder of their price; if not, I will.’

‘No, I’ll pay for them,’ he said. ‘By God, there’s no one who desires the spiritual rewards of such a good deed more than I.’

He was (may God have mercy upon him) the most eager person when it came to performing good works and meriting the spiritual rewards that came from them, so he paid for them. After a few days, I returned to Acre.139

There remained thirty-eight captives still with William Jiba, including the wife of a man that God (may He be exalted) had already delivered by my hand. So I bought her without paying her price just then. I then rode to Jiba’s home (may God curse him) and asked him, ‘Will you sell me ten of them?’

‘By the truth of my religion,’ he replied, ‘I’ll only sell all of them together.’

‘I don’t have enough on me to buy all of them together,’ I said. ‘I’ll buy some of them now. At the next opportunity, I’ll buy the rest.’

He merely replied, ‘I’ll only sell all of them together!’

So I left. But God (glory be to Him) decreed that the captives should run away that very night, all of them. Now, the inhabitants of the villages of Acre are all Muslims, so whenever a captive came to them, they would hide him and bring him to the lands of Islam. That damned Frank searched after his captives but never got hold of any of them, for God (glory be to Him) saw their deliverance to be good.

The next morning, the Frank demanded from me the price of that woman whom I had bought but whose price I had not yet paid, and who had been among those who had run away.

I said, ‘Bring her to me, and you can take her price.’

He replied, ‘Her price has rightfully been mine since yesterday before she ran away.’

And he obliged me to pay her price. So I paid it to him, considering it an easy thing given the joy I took at the deliverance of those poor people.

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