Anyone have more info on Black African troops under the Fatimids in Egypt? Ran across this blurb:
"Under the Fatimids the black guards of the caliph played a significant though diminishing role in the political and military life of the country, and for shorter spans of time gained, thanks to their numerical strength, a decisive influence. In no other medieval Muslim state did the black troops reach a comparable status; only the subsequent changes in warfare and tactics under the late Fatimids, and especially under Salah al-Din, brought about the downfall of the African infantry." --Cambridge History of Africa, vol 3.
Post by africurious on May 16, 2016 12:53:30 GMT -5
The Fatimid dynasty was started by a North African ethnic group who invaded from west of Egypt--Masmuda I believe. The Masmuda were described by people who saw them as black in general. So if you research info on the Masmuda or the other N AF ethnicities among the Fatimids and Egypt most likely you'll be reading about "black Africans". The problem is because the Masmuda are North African most scholars see them as "Berber" i.e. not "black African" but some off-white other. So they won't necessarily describe them as black. Or they'll say the blacks among them were just slave soldiers from sub-saharan Africa. But the eye witnesses who saw them don't have such modern day prejudices.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some text from an excerpt on the web- Bernard Lewis- Race and Slavery in the Middle East
"Most of the military slaves of Islam were white-Turks and Caucasians in the East, Slavs and other Europeans in the West. Black military slaves were, however, not unknown and indeed at certain periods were of importance. Individual black fighting men, both slaves and free, are mentioned as having participated in raiding and warfare in pre-Islamic and early Islamic times. According to the biographies and histories of the Prophet, there were several blacks, both in his army and in the armies of his pagan enemies. One of them, called Wahshi, an Ethiopian slave, distinguished himself in the battles against the Prophet at Uhud and at the Ditch; and later, after the Muslim capture of Mecca, he fought for the Muslims in the wars that followed the death of the Prophet. Black soldiers appear occasionally in early Abbasid times,"' and after the slave rebellion in southern Iraq, in which blacks displayed terrifying military prowess, they were recruited into the infantry corps of the caliphs in Baghdad. Ahmad b. Tulun (d. 884), the first independent ruler of Muslim Egypt, relied very heavily on black slaves, probably Nubians, for his armed forces; at his death he is said to have left, among other possessions, twenty four thousand white mamluks and forty-five thousand blacks." These were organized in separate corps, and accommodated in separate quarters at the military cantonments.''`
When Khumarawayh, the son and successor of Ahmad ibn Tulun, rode in procession, he was followed, according to a chronicler, by a thousand black guards wearing black cloaks and black turbans, so that a watcher could fancy them to be a black sea spreading over the face of the earth, because of the blackness of their color and of their garments. With the glitter of their shields, of the chasing on their swords, and of the helmets under their turbans, they made a really splendid sight.13 The black troops were the most faithful supporters of the dynasty, and shared its fate. When the Tulunids were overthrown at the beginning of 905, the restoration of caliphal authority was followed by a massacre of the black infantry and the burning of their quarters:
"Then the cavalry turned against the cantonments of the Tulunid blacks, seized as many of them as they could, and took them to Muhammad ibn Sulayman the new governor sent by the caliph]. He was on horseback, amid his escort. He gave orders to slaughter them, and they were slaughtered in his presence like sheep."14
A similar fate befell the black infantry in Baghdad in 930, when they were attacked and massacred by the white cavalry, with the help of other troops and of the populace, and their quarters burned.15 Thereafter, black soldiers virtually disappear from the armies of the eastern caliphate. In Egypt, the manpower resources of Nubia were too good to neglect, and the traffic down the Nile continued to provide slaves for military as well as other purposes. Black soldiers served the various rulers of medieval Egypt. and under the Fatimid caliphs of Cairo black regiments, known as Abid al- Shird', "the slaves by purchase," formed an important part of the military establishment. They were particularly prominent in the mid-eleventh century, during the reign of al-Mustansir, when for a while the real ruler of Egypt was the caliph's mother, a Sudanese slave woman of remarkable strength of character. There were frequent clashes between black regiments and those of other races and occasional friction with the civil population. One such incident occurred in 1021, when the Caliph al-Hakim sent his black troops against the people of Fustat (old Cairo), and the white troops joined forces to defend them. A contemporary chronicler of these events describes an orgy of burning, plunder, and rape.' In 1062 and again in 1067 the black troops were defeated by their white colleagues in pitched battles and driven out of Cairo to Upper Egypt.
Later they returned, and played a role of some importance under the last Fatimid caliphs. With the fall of the Fatimids, the black troops again paid the price of their loyalty. Among the most faithful supporters of the Fatimid Caliphate, they were also among the last to resist its overthrow by Saladin, ostensibly the caliph's vizier but in fact the new master of Egypt. By the time of the last Fatimid caliph, al-'Adid, the blacks had achieved a position of power. The black eunuchs wielded great influence in the palace; the black troops formed a major element in the Fatimid army. It was natural that they should resist the vizier's encroachments. In 1169 Saladin learned of a plot by the caliph's chief black eunuch to remove him, allegedly in collusion with the Crusaders in Palestine. Saladin acted swiftly; the offender was seized and decapitated and replaced in his office by a white eunuch. The other black eunuchs of the caliph's palace were also dismissed. The black troops in Cairo were infuriated by this summary execution of one whom they regarded as their spokesman and defender. Moved, according to a chronicler, by "racial solidarity" (jinsiyya)," they prepared for battle. In two hot August days, an estimated fifty thousand blacks fought against Saladin's army in the area between the two palaces, of the caliph and the vizier.
Two reasons are given for their defeat. One was their betrayal by the Fatimid Caliph al-`Adid, whose cause they believed they were defending against the usurping vizier: Al-'Adid had gone up to his belvedere tower, to watch the battle between the palaces. It is said that he ordered the men in the palace to shoot arrows and throw stones at [Saladin's] troops, and they did so. Others say that this was not done by his choice. Shams al-Dawla [Saladin's brother] sent naphtha-throwers to burn down al-'Adid's belvedere. One of them was about to do this when the door of the belvedere tower opened and out came a caliphal aide, who said: "The Commander of the Faithful greets Shams al-Dawla, and says: `Beware of the [black] slave dogs! Drive them out of the country!' "
The blacks were sustained by the belief that al-'Adid was pleased with what they did. When they heard this, their strength was sapped, their courage waned, and they fled.'8 The other reason, it is said, was an attack on their homes. During the battle between the palaces, Saladin sent a detachment to the black quarters, with instructions "to burn them down on their possessions and their children." Learning of this, the blacks tried to break off the battle and return to their families but were caught in the streets and destroyed. This encounter is variously known in Arabic annals as "the Battle of the Blacks" and "the Battle of the Slaves."" Though the conflict was not primarily racial, it acquired a racial aspect, which is reflected in some of the verses composed in honor of Saladin's victory. Maqrizi, in a comment on this episode, complains of the power and arrogance of the blacks:
If they had a grievance against a vizier, they killed him; and they caused much damage by stretching out their hands against the property and families of the people. When their outrages were many and their misdeeds increased. God destroyed them for their sins.20 Sporadic resistance by groups of black soldiers continued, but was finally crushed after a few years. While the white units of the Fatimid army were incorporated by Saladin in his own forces, the blacks were not. The black regiments were disbanded, and black fighting men did not reappear in the armies of Egypt for centuries. Under the mamluk sultans, blacks were employed in the army in a menial role, as servants of the knights.2' There was a clear distinction between these servants, who were black and slaves, and the knights' orderlies and grooms, who were white and free.
Toward the end of the fifteenth century, black slaves were admitted to units using firearms-a socially despised weapon in the mamluk knightly society. When a sultan tried to show some favor to his black arquebusiers, he provoked violent antagonism from the mamluk knights, which he was not able to resist. In 1498 "a great disturbance occurred in Cairo." The sultan (according to the chronicler) had outraged the mamluks by conferring two boons on a black slave called Farajallah, chief of the firearms personnel in the citadelfirst, giving him a white Circassian slave girl from the palace as wife, and second, granting him a short-sleeved tunic, a characteristic garment of the mamluks: On beholding this spectacle [says the chronicler] the Royal mamluks expressed their disapproval to the sultan, and they put on their ... armour . . . and armed themselves with their full equipment. A battle broke out between them and the black slaves, who numbered about five hundred. The black slaves ran away and gathered again in the towers of the citadel and fired at the Royal mamluks.
The Royal mamluks marched on them, killing Farajallah and about fifty of the black slaves; the rest fled; two Royal mamluks were killed. Then the emirs and the sultan's maternal uncle, the Great Dawadar, met the sultan and told him: "We disapprove of these acts of yours [and if you persist in them, it would be better for you to] ride by night in the narrow by-streets and go away together with those black slaves to far-off places!" The sultan answered: "I shall desist from this, and these black slaves will be sold to the Turkmans."24 In the Islamic West black slave troops were more frequent, and sometimes even included cavalry-something virtually unknown in the East. The first emir of Cordova, `Abd al-Rahman I, is said to have kept a large personal guard of black troops; and black military slaves were used, especially to maintain order, by his successors.
Black units, probably recruited by purchase via Zawila in Fezzan (now southern Libya), figure in the armies of the rulers of Tunisia between the ninth and eleventh centuries.25 Black troops became important from the seventeenth century, after the Moroccan military expansion into the Western Sudan. The Moroccan Sultan Mawlay Ismail (16721727) had an army of black slaves, said to number 250,000. The nucleus of this army was provided by the conscription or compulsory purchase of all male blacks in Morocco; it was supplemented by levies on the slaves and serfs of the Saharan tribes and slave raids into southern Mauritania. These soldiers were mated with black slave girls, to produce the next generation of male soldiers and female servants. The youngsters began training at ten and were mated at fifteen.26 After the sultan's death in 1727, a period of anarchic internal struggles followed, which some contemporaries describe as a conflict between blacks and whites. The philosopher David Hume, writing at about the same time, saw such a conflict as absurd and comic, and used it to throw ridicule on all sectarian and factional strife:
"The civil wars which arose some few years ago in Morocco between the Blacks and Whites, merely on account of their complexion, are founded on a pleasant difference. We laugh at them; but, I believe, were things rightly examined, we afford much more occasion of ridicule to the Moors. For, what are all the wars of religion, which have prevailed in this polite and knowing part of the world? They are certainly more absurd than the Moorish civil wars. The difference of complexion is a sensible and a real difference; but the controversy about an article of faith, which is utterly absurd and unintelligible, is not a difference in sentiment, but in a few phrases and expressions, which one party accepts of without understanding them, and the other refuses in the same manner..."
Besides, I do not find that the Whites in Morocco ever imposed on the Blacks any necessity of altering their complexion . . . nor have the Blacks been more unreasonable in this particular.27 In 1757 a new sultan, Sidi Muhammad III, came to the throne. He decided to disband the black troops and rely instead on Arabs. With a promise of royal favor, he induced the blacks to come to Larache with their families and worldly possessions. There he had them surrounded by Arab tribesmen, to whom he gave their possessions as booty and the black soldiers, their wives, and their children as slaves. "I make you a gift," he said, "of these abid, of their children, their horses, their weapons, and all they possess. Share them among you."29
--Bernard Lewis. 1989. Race and Slavery in the Middle East
Last Edit: May 19, 2016 21:56:09 GMT -5 by zarahan