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Monday, December 06, 2004

The Conquest of Alexandria, Egypt

It is interesting to see that there are two opinions as to why Amr was replaced. One says he preferred to be a soldier opposed to taking the role of governorship of the city, the other says that he was ousted by the Caliph because the way in which he conquered Alexandira was by force - especially his neglect of a desire for a peaceful solution by al-Mukaukis.

Throughout the life of Prophet Muhammad we see the example of a man who always preferred a peaceful solution, making this the priority in all that he did. May Allah the Almighty help us so that we can find peaceful solutions to all things in our lives, ameen.


...The battle of al-Kiryaun. When Amr ibn al As conquered Misr (modern day Egypt), he settled in it and wrote to Umar ibn al Khattab soliciting his orders to march against Alexandria (al-Iskandariyah). Umar wrote and ordered him to do so; so Amr marched against it in the year 21, leaving as his substitute over Misr Kharijah ibn Hudhafah ibn Ghanim....ibn Ghalib. In the meantime, those Greeks and Copts who lived below Alexandria had gathered and said, 'Let us attack al-Fustat before he reaches here and makes an attempt on Alexandria'. Amr met them at al-Kiryaun and defeated them with a great victory. In their ranks were men from Sakha, Bilhit, al-Khais and Sultanis, and others who came to their assistance and support.

Alexandria reduced. Amr kept his way until he arrived in Alexandria, whose inhabitants he found ready to resist him, but the Copts in it preferred peace. Al-Mukhaukis communicated with Amr and asked him for peace and a truce for a time; but Amr refused. Al-Mukaukis then ordered that the women stand on the wall with their faces turned towards the city and that the men stand armed with their faces towards the Muslims, thus hoping to scare them (the Muslims). Amr sent word saying 'We see what you have done. It was not by mere numbers that we conquered those who we have conquered. We have met your king Heraclius, and there befell him what has befalled him'. Hearing this a;-Makaukis said to his followers, 'These people are telling the truth. They have chased out king from his kingdom as far as Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). It is much more preferable, therefore, that we submit'. His followers, however, spoke harshly to him and insisted on fighting. The Muslims fough fiercely against them and lay siege to them for three months. Eventually Amr captured the city, took all that was in it, sparing the inhabitants of whom none was killed or taken captive. He reduced them to the position of
dhimmis like the people of Alyunah. He communicated the news of the victory to Umar through Muawiyah ibn Hudaij al Kindi snf drnt him with one fifth (of the booty).

Some state that al-Mukaukis made terms with Amr to the effect that he should pay 13,000 dinars, that those who prefer to leave Alexandria should leave, and those who prefer to stay should stay, and that two dinars be assessed on every adult Copt. To this end, Amr wrote a statement. he then left in his place over Alexandria Abdullah ibn Hudafah....ibn Luai at the head of a cavalry guard of the Muslims, and departed for al-Fustat.

Manuwil captures Alexandria. The Greeks wrote to Constantine, son of Heraculius, who was their king at that time, telling him how few the Muslims in Alexandria were, and how humiliating the Greeks's condition was, and how they had to pay poll-tax (jizya). Constantine sent one of his men, called Manuwil (Manuel), with 300 ships full of fighters. Manuwil entered Alexandria and killed all the guard that was in it, with the exception of a few who by the use of subtle means took flight and escaped. This took place in the year 25 AH. Hearing the news, Amr set out at the head of 15,000 men and found
the Greek fighters doing mischief in the Egyptian villages next to Alexandria. The Muslims met them and for one hour were subjected to a shower of arrows, during which they were covered by their shield. They then advanced boldly and the battle raged with great ferocity until the Greeks were routed; and nothing could divert or stop them before they reached Alexandria. Here they fortified themselves and set mangonels (a military device to throw stones and other
projectiles). Amr made a heavy assault, set the vallistae and destroyed the walls of the city. He pressed the fight so hard until he entered the city by assault, killed the fighters and carried away the children as captives. Some of its Greeks inhabitants left to join the Greeks somewhere else; and as Allah's enemy, Manuwil was killed. Amr and the Muslims destroyed the wall of Alexandria in pursuance of a vow that Amr made to that effect, in case he captured the city.

According to certain reports, this invasion took place in the year 23; according to others, the insurrection took place in the years 23 and 25; but Allah knows best. Amr assessed on the land of Alexandria kharaj; and on its people, poll-tax (jizyah).

Al-Mukaukis. Some report that al-Mukaukis forsook the people of Alexandria awhen they violated the covenant, but Amr reinstated him with his people on the terms of their first capitulation. Otherse assert that he died before this invasion.

Alexandria taken by capitulation. Muhammad ibn Saad from Umar ibn AbdulAziz, the latter said, 'Not a town in al-Maghrib did we take by capitulation except three: Alexandria, Kafartis and Sultais. Umar used to say, 'Whoever of the inhabitants of these places accepts Islam will be set free together with his posessions''

How the dwellings were divided. Amr an-Nakid from Yazid ibn abi Habib: Amr ibn al Asi conquered Alexandria and some Muslims took up their abode in it as a cavalry guard. Later, they withdrew, after which they made an assault and hastened to secure dwellings. Some of them would come to the houses they once occupied and find them already held by a fellow Muslim. regarding this, Amr remarked, 'I am afraid the dwellings would fall into ruins if different ones of you should occupy them in turn'. Consequently, when the invasion was
made and the Muslims arrived in ak-Kiryaun, he said, 'Go with Allah's blessing. Whoever of you sticks his lancet into a house, that house is his and his father's sons'. Thus, the Muslim would enter a house and stick his lancet into some apartment of it, then another would come and stand his lancet in the same house. The same house would thereby be in the posession of two or thre epersons, which they would occupy until their withdrawl, at which the Greeks
would come and occupy it.

Yazid ibn abi Habib used to say, 'No money from the rent of these houses is legal. They can neither be sold now bequeathed, but they are dwelling places for the Muslims during the time they hold their post as guard'.

The second conflict. During the second conflict with Alexandria, when Manawil, the Greek eunuch, came, the people closed the gates; but amr reduced it and destroyed its wall.

Abdullah ibn Saad replaces Amr. No sooner had Amr returned to al-Fustat after assigning his freedman, Wardan, as governor of Alexandria, was he dismissed. In the place of Amr, Uthman appointed Abdullah ibn Saad ibn Abu Sarh ibn al Harith of the Banu Amr ibn Luai, Uthman's foster brother. That took place in the year 25.

According to others, Abdullah ibn Saad was in charge of the Kharaj of Egypt on behalf of Uthman. Between Abdullah and Amr, a verbal dispute arose and Abdullah wrote and accused Amr. Amr was dismissed by Uthman, who assigned Abdullah to both functions, and wrote to him saying that Alexandria was taken by force and revolted two times, and ordering him to station in it a cavalry guard that would never depart from it, and to assign abundant subsistence allowances to the guard, and change its personnel one in every six months.
(Markrizi, vol i, p 270)

Ibn Hurmuz. Muhammad ibn Saad from al-Wakidi ibn Hurmuz al Araj al Kari (the lame 'reader') used to say, 'Your best coast, from the standpoint of guard, is Alexandria'. At last he left Medina and joined the guard stationed in Alexandria, where he died in the year 117.

The capitation tax. Bakr ibn al Haitham from Musa ibn Ali's father: The capitation tax from Alexandria was 18,000 dinars; but when Hisham ibn Abdul Malik became Caliph, it amounted to 36,000.(Markrizi, vol i, p 269)

Abdullah ibn Saad made governor. Amr from Yazid ibn abi Habib: Uthman dismissed Amr ibn al As from Egypt and assigned in his place Abdullah ibn Saad. But when the Greeks occupied Alexandria, the Egyptians asked Uthman to keep Amr until he was through with the fight against the Greeks, because he had special knowledge warfare and inspired awe in the enemy. Uthman did so, and Amr defeated the Greeks. Uthman then wanted Amr to be in charge of the army and Abdullah in charge of the kharaj; but Amr refused saying, 'My case
is that of one who holds the horns of the cow while the chief milks it' Uthman then appointed ibn Saad to the governorship of Egypt.

The Abyssinians of al-Bima. For seven years after the counquest of Egypt, the Abyssinians of al-Bima kept up their resistance, and could not be subjugated because of the water with which they flooded their thickets.(Tabari, vol iii, p 1106)

The second conquest of Alexandria. Abdullah ibn Wahb from Missa ibn Ali's father: Amr conquered Alexandria for the second time by capitulation, which conquest took place in the Caliphate of Uthman after the death of Umar.

[Refernce for the above extracts: Balduhiri, Kitab Futuh al Buldan, Vol 1, pp 346 - 351 (Columbia University, trans 1918)]

May God Almighty have mercy and increase us all in knowledge, ameen.

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