Post-classical history

§ When God was Young

I saw one of the Franks come up to the amir Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him) while he was in the Dome of the Rock,239 and say, ‘Would you like to see God when He was young?’

‘Why yes,’ Mu’in al-Din replied.

So this Frank walked in front of us until he brought us to an icon of Mary and the Messiah (Peace be upon him) when he was a child, sitting in her lap. ‘This is God when He was young,’ he said.

May God be exalted far beyond what the infidels say!240

§ Franks have no Honour or Propriety

The Franks possess nothing in the way of regard for honour or propriety.241 One of them might be walking along with his wife and run into another man. This other man might then take his wife to one side and chat with her, while the husband just stands there waiting for her to finish her conversation. And if she takes too long, he’ll just leave her alone with her conversation partner and walk away!

[136] Here is an example that I myself witnessed. Whenever I went to Nablus, I used to stay at the home of a man called Mu’izz, whose home was the lodging-house for Muslims. The house had windows that opened onto the road and, across from it on the other side of the road, there was a house belonging to a Frankish man who sold wine for the merchants. He would take some wine in a bottle and go around advertising it, saying, ‘So-and-So the merchant has just opened a cask of this wine. Whoever wishes to buy some can find it at such-and-such a place.’ And the fee he charged for making that announcement was the wine in the bottle. So one day, he came back home and discovered a man in bed with his wife. The Frank said to the man, ‘What business brings you here to my wife?’

‘I got tired,’ the man replied, ‘so I came in to rest.’

‘But how did you get into my bed?’ asked the Frank.

‘I found a bed that was all made up, so I went to sleep in it,’ he replied.

‘While my wife was sleeping there with you?’ the Frank pursued.

‘Well, it’s her bed,’ the man offered. ‘Who am I to keep her out of it?’

‘By the truth of my religion,’ the Frank said, ‘if you do this again, we’ll have an argument, you and I!’

And that was all the disapproval he would muster and the extent of his sense of propriety!242

Here is another example. We had with us a bath-keeper called Salim, who was originally an inhabitant of Ma’arra,243 and who served in the bath-house of my father (may God have mercy upon him). He told me:

I once opened a bath-house in Ma’arra to earn my living. Once, one of their knights came in. Now, they don’t take to people wearing a towel about their waist in the bath, so this knight stretched out his hand, pulled off my towel from my waist and threw it down. He looked at me – I had recently shaved my pubic hair – and said, ‘Salim!’ Then he moved in closer to me. He then stretched his hand over my groin, saying, ‘Salim! Good! By the truth of my religion, do that to me too!’

He then lay down on his back: he had it thick as a beard down in that place! So I shaved him and he passed his hand over it and, finding it smooth to the touch, said, ‘Salim, by the truth of your religion, do it to Madame!’ – madame in their language means ‘the lady’,244 meaning his wife. He then told one of his attendants, ‘Tell Madame to come here.’

The attendant went and brought her and showed her in. She lay down on her back and the knight said, ‘Do her like you did me!’ So I shaved her [137] hair there as her husband stood watching me. He then thanked me and paid me my due for the service.

Now, consider this great contradiction! They have no sense of propriety or honour, yet they have immense courage. Yet what is courage but a product of honour and disdain for ill repute?

Here is an example close to that one. I once went to the baths in the city of Tyre245 and took a seat in a secluded room there. While I was there, one of my attendants in the bath said to me, ‘There are women here with us!’ When I went outside, I sat down on the benches and, sure enough, the woman who was in the bath had come out and was standing with her father directly across from me, having put her garments on again. But I couldn’t be sure if she was a woman. So I said to one of my companions, ‘By God, go have a look at this one – is she a woman?’ What I meant was for him to go and ask about her. But instead he went – as I watched – and lifted her hem and pulled it up. At this, her father turned to me and explained, ‘This is my daughter. Her mother died, and so she has no one who will wash her hair. I brought her into the bath with me so that I might wash her hair.’

‘That’s a kind thing you’re doing,’ I assured him. ‘This will bring you heavenly reward.’

§ Another Example of their Medicine

Another example of their wondrous medicine was related to us by William de Bures,246 lord of Tiberias and a man with some standing among the Franks. It happened that he travelled with the amir Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him) from Acre to Tiberias, and I accompanied him. On the way, he related to us the following story:

In our land there was a highly esteemed knight who took ill and was on the point of death. We went to one of our notable priests and asked him, ‘Will you come with us and have a look at Sir So-and-So?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied and walked back with us. We were certain now that if only he would lay his hands upon him, he would recover. When the priest saw the knight he said, ‘Bring me some wax.’ So we brought him a bit of wax, which he softened and shaped like a knuckle-bone. Then he inserted one in each nostril and the knight died. [138] ‘He’s dead!’ we remarked. ‘Yes,’ the priest replied. ‘He was in great pain, so I closed up his nose so that he could die and find relief.’

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