Post-classical history

§ Fighting from a Sense of Commitment: Faris the Kurd

Some men fight out of integrity. An example of that is a Kurdish man called Faris who was like his name, a cavalier170 – and what a cavalier! My father and uncle (may God have mercy upon them both) fought a battle with Ibn Mula’ib, who plotted against them and deceived them, for he had mustered and assembled troops while they were completely unprepared for what happened. The reason for this was that Ibn Mula’ib had sent a message to them, saying, ‘Let’s go over to Asfuna,171where there are some Franks, and capture it.’ Our comrades got to Asfuna before him and, dismounting, attacked the fortress and began sapping the walls. As they were engaged in battle, Ibn Mula’ib arrived and seized the horses belonging to our companions who had dismounted. And so fighting broke out between them, after it had been directed at the Franks, and the fighting grew fiercer still.

Our Faris the Kurd fought furiously and was injured numerous times. But he continued fighting even though he ended up getting covered with wounds. Then the fighting ceased. My father and uncle (may God have mercy upon them both) passed by Faris as he was being carried away amidst our men. They stopped and congratulated him for surviving the melee.

To this, Faris replied, ‘By God, I did not fight out of desire for well-being, but because I am under obligation to you for your many kindnesses and favours [96] and because I had never seen you in such unfortunate straits as you were during this battle. So I thought I should go into battle with you and be killed before you to reward you for your kindness.’

God (glory be to Him) determined that Faris should recover from those wounds. He then travelled on to Jabala, where Fakhr al-Mulk ibn ‘Ammar172 was based while the Franks held Latakia. It happened that a group of cavalry went from Jabala to make a raid on Latakia, while a group of cavalry went from Latakia to make a raid on Jabala. So the two sides encamped en route, with a hill standing between them. A Frankish horseman climbed the hill from their side to reconnoitre from the hill, while Faris the Kurd climbed up from the other side to reconnoitre for his comrades. The two horsemen encountered one another on the top of the hill, each one charging on his opponent. They exchanged spear-thrusts and both fell dead. The horses remained on the hill attacking one another while the two horsemen lay there dead.

That Faris left with us a son whose name was ‘Allan. He was in the garrison and owned lovely horses and a splendid outfit, but he was not like his father. One day Tancred, lord of Antioch, encamped against us, fighting us before pitching his tents. This ‘Allan, the son of Faris, was stationed on a small elevation, riding a lovely, sprightly steed, one of the nicest horses around. As he stood there utterly heedless, a Frankish horseman charged him and thrust a spear into his horse’s neck. The spear stuck into the horse, so the horse reared and threw ‘Allan. The Frank then turned back, leading ‘Allan’s horse alongside him with the spear still in its neck as if he were leading it like a saddle-horse, swaggering off with his splendid bit of plunder.

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