Post-classical history

§ Franks do not Mix: From Queen-Mother to Shoemaker’s Wife

That was a source of plunder that God (the Glorious, the Almighty) bestowed upon our people. A number of serving-girls were taken from the ranks of these prisoners and passed on to the house of my father (may God have mercy upon him). But the Franks (God curse them) are an accursed race that will not become accustomed to anyone not of their own race. My father spotted among them a lovely young serving-girl, so he said to the manager of his household,231 ‘Bring this one into the baths, repair her clothes and get her ready for a journey.’ And so she was prepared. My father then handed her over to a servant of his and packed her off to the amir Malik ibn Salim, the lord of Qal’at Ja’bar, who was a friend of his.

My father wrote a message to him, explaining, ‘We have captured some plunder from the Franks. I send you a share of it herewith.’ Malik found the girl very agreeable, and he was pleased with her, and took her for his very own. In time she bore him a son, named Badran. Malik made him his heir apparent, and then he came of age and his father died. Badran then took control of the town and its populace, though his mother was the real power. She hatched a plot with a group of people and let herself down from the castle by a rope. The group of people took her to Saruj,232 which belonged at that time to the Franks. So: she married a Frankish shoemaker, while her son was the lord of Qal’at Ja’bar!

§ A Frank Converts to Islam, Temporarily

Among those Frankish captives who passed into my father’s household was an old woman accompanied by her daughter – a young woman, beautifully formed – and a son who had come of age. The son converted to Islam and was quite a good Muslim, judging from what one saw of his praying and fasting. He learned the craft of working with marble from a stonecutter who used to [131] cut stone for my father’s house. After staying for a long time in my father’s household, my father gave him as wife a woman from a pious family and paid all the expenses required for his wedding and home. His wife bore him two sons and they grew well and their father was pleased with them.

When the boys were six or seven years old, their father, the attendant Ra’ul, took them and their mother and everything he had in his house and, the next day, joined the Franks at Apamea. There, he and his sons became Christian again after having been Muslim, despite all their praying and fasting. May God (may He be exalted) purify the world of these people!

§ The ‘Wonders’ of the Frankish Race233

[132] Glory be to the Creator, the Maker! Indeed, when a person relates matters concerning the Franks, he should give glory to God and sanctify Him! For he will see them to be mere beasts possessing no other virtues but courage and fighting, just as beasts have only the virtues of strength and the ability to carry loads. I shall now relate something of their ways and the wonders of their intelligence.

§ The Franks’ Lack of Intelligence: An Invitation to Visit Europe

In the army of King Fulk, son of Fulk, there was a respected Frankish knight who had come from their country just to go on pilgrimage and then return home. He grew to like my company and he became my constant companion, calling me ‘my brother’. Between us there were ties of amity and sociability. When he resolved to take to the sea back to his country, he said to me:

‘My brother, I am leaving for my country. I want you to send your son (my son, who was with me, was fourteen years old) with me to my country, where he can observe the knights and acquire reason and chivalry. When he returns, he will be like a truly rational man.’

And so there fell upon my ears words that would never come from a truly rational head! For even if my son were taken captive, his captivity would not be as long as any voyage he might take to the land of the Franks.

So I said, ‘By your life, I was hoping for this very thing. But the only thing that has prevented me from doing so is the fact that his grandmother adores him and almost did not allow him to come here with me until she had exacted an oath from me that I would return him to her.’

‘Your mother,’ he asked, ‘she is still alive?’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘Then do not disobey her,’ he said.

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