Post-classical history

§ Good Governance Offers Rich Rewards: The Cases of Bitlis and Qal’at Ja’bar

In good governance will be found great gains, stemming from the prosperity of the land. Here is an example:

The atabeg Zangi (may God have mercy upon him) became engaged to the daughter of the lord of Khilat.155 Her father [89] having died, it was her mother who governed the region. But Husam al-Dawla ibn Dilmaj, lord of Bitlis,156 now sent a messenger requesting that the girl be engaged to his son. So the atabeg marched at the head of a good-sized army to Khilat, using a road other than the one that goes through the Bitlis pass. By this route, we passed through the mountains. We camped without tents, all of us stopping on the road, in formation, until we arrived at Khilat. The atabeg set up camp outside the city and we entered its citadel and drew up the terms of the marriage-contract and dowry.

Once business was concluded, the atabeg ordered al-Yaghisiyani to take the larger part of the army and march to Bitlis and attack it. So we rode out in the early part of the evening and greeted the next morning at Bitlis itself. Its ruler, Husam al-Dawla, came out and met us on an open space just outside the city and had al-Yaghisiyani set up camp in the training-grounds.157 He offered al-Yaghisiyani generous hospitality, waiting upon him and drinking with him there in the training-grounds.

He asked his guest, ‘My lord, what are you planning? You have put yourself through trials and tired yourself out just to get here.’

Al-Yaghisiyani replied, ‘The atabeg was angered by your seeking the hand of the girl to whom he was already engaged. You offered to give ten thousand dinars as dowry and we demand it from you now.’

‘Hearing is obeying,’ Husam al-Dawla replied, and he had a portion of the money brought to him right then, and then asked permission for a few days’ grace, the precise period which he fixed, for the payment of the remaining sum. We then turned back, and thanks to his wise governance his district remained prosperous and did not suffer the slightest damage.

That was similar to what befell Malik ibn Salim158 [90] (may God have mercy upon his soul). What had happened was that Joscelin159 had made a raid on al-Raqqa and al-Qal’a, seizing everything in its vicinity, taking prisoners and rustling many animals, finally encamping directly across from al-Qal’a, with the Euphrates between them. Malik ibn Salim set out in a skiff with three or four of his men and crossed the Euphrates to Joscelin. There were old bonds of acquaintance between these two and Joscelin actually owed Malik a favour. Joscelin was under the impression that the skiff merely carried a messenger from Malik, but one of the Franks came and told him, ‘That’s Malik in the skiff.’

‘That’s not true!’ replied Joscelin.

But another man came and said, ‘Malik just disembarked and here he comes!’

So Joscelin rose and, intercepting Malik, received him generously and returned to him all the prisoners and animals that he had seized. Thus, had it not been for Malik ibn Salim’s governing skills, his lands would have been ruined.

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