Al-Nasir Muhammad (Arabic :الناصر محمد Epithet: al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al-Din Muhammad ben Qalawun)( Arabic: الملك الناصر ناصر الدين محمد بن قلاوون) ( Nickname: Abu al-Ma'ali (أبو المعالى 1285–1341) was the ninth Mamluk sultan of Egypt who was inaugurated three times, from December 1293 to December 1294, from 1299 to 1309 and from 1309 till his death in 1341 .
- 1 Background
- 2 1st reign : 1293 - 1294
- 3 2nd reign : 1299 - 1309
- 4 3rd reign : 1309 - 1341
- 5 Account of Al-Malik Al-Nasir in Ibn Battuta's book
- 6 Legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
Al-Nasir Muhammad was born and died in Cairo. He was the youngest son of Sultan Qalawun and the brother of Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil. He was born in Cairo at Qal'at al-Jabal ( Citadel of the Mountain ). His mother was of Mongol origin. His reign was in three stages, marked by temporary depositions.
1st reign : 1293 - 1294
After the assassination of Al-Ashraf khalil in December 1293, he was installed as Sultan with Zayn-ad-Din Kitbugha as regent and vice-Sultan and Emir Sanjar al-Shuja'i as Vizier. Al-Nasir was only a nominal 9-year-old Sultan. Kitbugha and al-Shuja'i were the actual rulers of Egypt. The two Emirs, Kitbugha who was of Mongol origin and al-Shuja'i were rivals and had bad relation with each other. al-Shujai with the support of the Burji Mamluks planned to arrest Kitbugha and assassinate his Emirs but Kitbugha sieged the Citadel and the conflict ended by the murder of al-Shuja'i and the removal of the Burjis from the Citadel.
When Emir Hossam ad-Din Lajin who fled after the murder of Al-Ashraf Khalil showed up in Cairo, the Burji Mamluks who were called al-Mamalik al-Ashrafiyah Khalil ( Mamluks of al-Ashraf Khalil ) and who were removed from the Citadel by Kitbugha, rebelled and went on rampage in Cairo as Lajin was not arrested and punished for his involvement in the murder of their benefactor Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil. The Ashrafiyah were defeated and many of them were killed and executed. Lajin convinced Kitbugha to depose Al-Nassir Muhammed and install himself as Sultan after he warned him that the Ashrafiyah and later Al-Nassir himself will seek revenge for the murder of Khalil in which Kitbugha also was involved. Kitbugha deposed Al-Nassir Muhammed and installed himself Sultan with Lajin as his vice-Sultan. Al-Nassir, who was by now 10-years-old, was removed with his mother to another section in the palace where they stayed until they were sent to Al Karak ending the first reign of Al-Nassir Muhammad. ( See Al-Adil Kitbugha and Lajin )
2nd reign : 1299 - 1309
In 1296 Kitbugha was deposed by his vice-Sultan Lajin and he fled to Syria and died in 1297 while holding the post of the governor of Hama. Lajin ruled as a sultan until he was murdered with his vice-sultan Mangu-Temur in 1299 known as the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar. Al-Nassir's ar In Egypt, the defeated soldiers of Al-Nasir kept arriving in disorder. The deposed Sultan Kitbugha who was in Syria also fled to Egypt. Cairo became overcrowded as a huge number of Syrians refugees fled to there. Al-Nasir Muhamed and the Emirs began to prepare for a new march to the Levant. Money, horses and arms were collected from all over Egypt. An attempt to reuse an old Fatwa which was issued during the reign of Sultan Qutuz and which obliged each Egyptian to pay one Dinar to support the army failed thus it was decided that the people should pay by free will and not by law. But suddenly the news arrived to Cairo that Ghazan left the Levant after he installed two of his commanders as his deputes there. Sultan Al-Nasir sent letters to Ghazan's deputes asking them to submit to him and they agreed. Kitbugha was granted the post of the governor of Hama and Salar and Baibars al-Jashnakir travelled with an army to the Levant to liquidate the remaining forces of Ghazan. The Druze who looted Al-Nasir's soldiers during their retreat to Egypt were attacked at their strongholds and they were forced to give back the weapons and the properties which they robbed from the retreating soldiers. The submitted deputes arrived in Egypt and were received by Al-Nasir Muhammed. The name of Sultan Al-Nasir was mentioned again at the Syrian Mosques. He was again the sovereign of the Levant.
In addition to Mongols threats in the Levant, the second reign of Al-Nasir Muhammed witnessed also disturbances inside Egypt itself. There were religious riots in Cairo and rebellions in Upper Egypt which were harshly suppressed. In 1301 parts of Armenian Cilicia were looted and Sis was attaked by Al-Nasir's forces led by his Emirs as the Armenians tried to support Ghazan  and in 1302 the Crusade island of Arwad was assaulted and looted as the crusaders used it as a base for attacks on Muslim ships. (See also Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar)
In 1303 Ghazan's army crossed the Euphrates river and marched towards Syria. The Syrians fled from Aleppo and Hama to Damascus. An Egyptian force led by Baibars Al-Jashnakir arrived to Damascus. The population of Damascus wanted to flee also but they were warned that they would be killed and their money would be seized if they tried do that. A force of Ghazan attacked Turkmen villages and took women and children as prisoners but the Sultan's forces led by his Emirs clashed with the Mongols and freed about 6000 Turkmen after they annihilated the Mongol force.
On April, 20, Al-Nasir Muhammed and the Caliph  arrived in Syria from Egypt and while the Emirs were greeting them, news reached them that a Mongol army of 50.000 soldiers led by Qutlugh-Shah, the deputy of Ghazan, was approaching. Al-Nasir and the Emirs decided to take the fight to Marj al-Saffar. The Caliph who stood beside the sultan at the heart of the army exclaimed to the soldiers: " Warriors, do not worry about your Sultan but worry about your women and the religion of your Prophet ". A force of about 10.000 men led by Qutlugh-Shah attacked the right flank of Al-Nasir's army but units of Baibars and Salar gave their support and pushed Qutlugh-Shah back. There was a confusion on the battleground as many thought that Al-Nasir's army was defeated when they saw the Mongols passed the right flank of Al-Nasir's army. Qutlugh-Shah withdrew to a mountain believing also that he had won. But from his position on the mountain he saw the army of Al-Nasir standing firm on the left flank and the soldiers were filling the field. Qutlugh-Shah who was puzzled asked an Egyptian Emir who was taken prisoner about the army which he was seeing. The Emir answered him that it is the army of the Sultan of Egypt. Qutlugh-Shah was shocked as he did not know that Al-Nasir has arrived with the Egyptian army. When Qutlugh-Shah saw his army defeated and fleeing he too fled at sunset. Next morning Qutlugh-Shah returned to the battlefield but he was defeated again. His third offensive happened early in the morning of the third day but his army was utterly annihilated. Only a small number of the Mongols survived. When Ghazan heard about the defeat of his army he was so stressed that he suffered a severe nose hemorrhage and he died a year later. Al-Nasir Muhammed returned to Egypt amid overwhelming festivity, Cairo, which was full of people who came from all over Egypt to celebrate, was decorated from Bab al-Nasr (Victory Gate) to Qal'at al-Jabal  The prominent Egyptian Mamluk historian Baibars al-Dewadar  was present at the battle of Marj al-Saffar (also called the battle of Shaqhab).
Achievements and withdrawal
In 1304 Sis was raided again by Al-Nasir's Emirs and a group of Mongols led by a prominent commander named Badr ad-Din Albaba were welcomed by Al-Nasir in Cairo. Al-Madrasah Al-Nasiryah which had the gate of the Cathedral of Acre which Al-Ashraf khalil brought to Egypt in 1291, was accomplished . 1304 witnessed also the birth of Al-Nasir's son Ali.
In 1309 Al-Nasir Muhammad felt fed up of being dominated by Salar and Baibars al-Jashnakir. He informed them that he is going to Mecca for pilgrimage but, instead, he went to Al Kark and stayed there ending his second reign. But Al-Nasir actually did not mean to resign. He knew he will not be able to rule while Baibars al-Jashnakir and Salar were there as he probably also was aware that sooner or later they would depose him or even kill him and take the power over. Al-Nasir tried to arrest Baibars and Salar  but when he failed he calculated that by being in Al Kark, faraway from their eyes, he would be able to make new alliances with the Sultanate deputies in the Levant who could offer him support against the two Emirs when he return later to Egypt. When Al-Nasir refused to go back to Egypt, Baibars al-Jashnakir installed himself as the Sultan of Egypt with Salar as his vice-Sultan  ( See Baibars II ) .
3rd reign : 1309 - 1341
Baibars al-Jashnakir ruled Egypt ten months and 24 days. His reign was marked by social unrest and threats from the Mongols and the Crusaders. The population of Egypt who hated him demanded the return of their beloved Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad. Baibars al-Jashnakir was forced to step down and flee from the angry mob (see Baibars II). Al-Nasir returned to Egypt. During his first reign he was dominated by Kitbugha and al-Shuja'i and during his second reign he was dominated by Baibars al-Jashnakir and Salar. Al-Nasir, who was by now 24-years-old, was determined not to be dominated or deprived from his Sultanic rights by any Emir. Al-Nasir executed Baibars al-Jashnakir  and accepted the resignation of Salar as vice Sultan and replaced him with Baktmar al-Jukondar then after a year he arrested him and he died shortly in prison. The Mamluks and proprieties of both Baibars and Salar were seized.
In 1310 the vice-Sultan Baktmar and Emir Bikhtas conspired to overthrow Al-Nasir and replace him with Emir Musa son of as-Salih Ali son of Qalawun. Musa agreed but the conspiracy was revealed to Al-Nasir by an Emir and both Bikhtas and Musa were arrested. The vice-Sultan Baktmar al-Jukondar was arrested a year later after being accused of plotting to overthrow Al-Nasir and throne himself. Baibars al-Dewadar became the new vice-Sultan. Because of his old experience with the Emirs and their tricks, Al-Nasir Muhammad was a very suspicious and sensitive Sultan who took attention of every detail. He even exiled the Caliph himself to Qus in 1338.
Crackdown on corruption
Slowly but systematically Al-Nasir Muhammed grasped his Sultanic power and took revenge on the Emirs who were unfair to him in the past and on the Emirs who plotted against him after his return to Egypt. He abolished a few official positions, seized wealths of corrupted officials, discharged the Oirats Mongols from royal services and annulled the exceptional taxes and surcharges (Mikoos)  which were imposed on the commons by the authorities and enriched officials and made Emirs more powerful. He employed Emir Ibn al-Waziri, a man who was known to be tough on corruption, as the head of Dar al-Adl ( Court of Justice )  and he himself used to sit there every Monday to listen to complaints from the commons against the officials and the Emirs. He prohibited his governors from executing or physically punishing convicts without his permission and he shut an infamous dungeon prison that was near the citadel. In 1314 he abolished the post of vice-Sultan. And in 1315 he made a land survey to re-establish the amount of the taxes which the land owners and the landlords had to pay to the state.
Internal and external situations
During the third reign of Al-Nasir Muhammad Egypt did not witness external threats as both the Crusadres and the Mongols were enormously weakened by their frequent defeats and their internal conflicts. However, Mongol ruler Oljeitu besieged Mamluk fortresses but left due to deadly heat in 1312-1313. In 1314 the city of Malatya was surmounted by Tunkuz the deputy of Al-Nasir in the Levant. Sis and other places were raided by the forces of Al-Nasir but no serious problems developed. Inside Egypt, there were a few disorders in Upper Egypt due to law breaking activities by Arabian tribesmen which were easily subdued. However, in February 1321, a rather serious uproar between Egyptian Muslim and Christian communities developed after a few Churches were suddenly destroyed simultaneously in various parts of Egypt and was followed by series of fires at Mosques and buildings in Cairo. A few Christians were arrested while they were trying to set fire at Mosques and buildings. Though the economy of Egypt flourished during the third reign of Al-Nasir, his era was struck a few times by financial problems and rise in prices caused by the circulation of underweight and alloyed coins. Al-Nasir minted a few thousands coins to fight the spurious coins.
Under Al-Nasir Muhammad the position of Egypt as a political power also flourished. Foreign delegations and king's envoys with gifts visited Cairo frequently seeking the help and the friendship of Al-Nasir. Most remarkable visits were from the envoys of Pope John XXII and King Philip VI of France. The Papal envoys arrived at Cairo in June 1327 with a gift and a letter from the Pope who appealed to Al-Nasir to treat the Christians well and to protect the Christian holy places and to stop his attacks against Sis. Those were the first envoys of a Pope to go to Egypt since the time of Sultan as-Salih Ayyub. In February 1330, King Philip VI sent a delegation of 120 men who appealed to Al-Nasir to grant Philip the city of Jerusalem and areas on the Levantine Coast. Al-Nasir reacted by insulting the French envoys and their King and ordered them to leave Egypt.
Al-Nasir Muhammad's long reign marked the apogee of Mamluk power and the high-water mark of culture in Egypt since Ptolemaic Alexandria . Extraordinary public works were set in motion. He redug once again the canal connecting Alexandria with the Nile: it was opened to traffic in 1311 and required workforces on a Pharaonic scale. Some of his marvelous works in Cairo were the huge square that was called al-Midan al-Nasiri, Qasr al-Ablaq (al-Ablaq Palace) and the restructuring of the Iwan which was built by his father Qalawun. In addition, he built Madrasas, magnificent public baths and renovated more than thirty Mosques  which belonged to the most splendid examples of Islamic architecture . His own Mosque in the Citadel which stands until today was decorated with stone brought in triumph from the ruined cathedral of Acre. He also added to his father's complex of structures Cairo's first sabeel, a fountain for the use of all, especially welcome to the poor who might not have access to a well.
Account of Al-Malik Al-Nasir in Ibn Battuta's book
Ibn Battuta was a famous traveler and arrived in Cairo while al-Malik al-Nasir was the Sultan. He related the following:
The Sultan of Egypt at the time of my entry was al-Malik al-Nasir Abu'l Fath Muahmmad, son of al-Malik al-Mansur Saif al-Din Qala-un al-Salihi. Qala'un was known as al-Alfi ['the Thousand-man'] because al-Malik al-Salih bought him for a thousand dinars of gold. He came originally from Qifjaq [Kipchak]. Al-Malik al-Nasir (God's mercy upon him) was a man of generous character and great virtues, and sufficient proof of his nobility is furnished by his devotion to the service of the two holy sanctuaries [of Mecca and Medina] and the works of beneficence which he does every year to assist the pilgrims, in furnishing camels loaded with provisions and water for those without means and the helpless, and for carrying those who cannot keep up with the caravan or are too weak to walk on foot, both on the Egyptian pilgrim-road and on that from Damascus. He also built a great convent at Siryaqus, in the outskirts of Cairo.
Al-Nasir Muhammad's Emblems and coins
Emblems : Eagle, Flower, lily, Bundel ( symbol of the Jomdar who was an official of the department at the Sultan's clothing ).
1st reign : Not available.
2nd reign : coins had Al-Nasir's name inscribed as al-Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al-Donya wa al-Din. Also a title of his father Qalawun was inscribed on his coins as : Al-Malik al-Mansur.
3rd reign : Al-Nasir Muhammad had on his coins the following remarkable titles which are unique in Mamluk's history : " al-Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al-Din wa al-Donia ( The Sultan King al-Nasir triumphant in faith and temporal world ) ", " al-Sultan al-Malik al-Azam ( The Greatest Sultan King )", " al-Sultan al-Malik Nasir al-Donya wa al-Din Qasim Amir al-Mu'amimin ( The Sultan King triumphant in temporal world and in faith, the one who shares with the Emir of faithfuls ( the Caliph ))". Unique beseeching phrases that were inscribed on his coins were : " Azz Nasroh ( May his victories be glorified )" and " khalad Allah Mulkoh wa Sultanoh ( May God makes his kingdom and his Sultanate eternal )".
The prominent Mamluk historian Ibn Iyas wrote the following about Al-Nasir Muhammad : " His name was mentioned everywhere like no other king's name. All the kings wrote to him, sent gifts to him and feared him. The whole of Egypt was in his grasp "
Both father and brother of Al-Nasir were celebrated Sultans and eight of his sons and four of his grandsons were throned as Sultans of Egypt :
Sons ( Sultans of Egypt from 1341 to 1361 ) :
- al-Mansur Abu Bakr
- al-Ashraf Kujuk
- al-Nasir Ahmad
- al-Salih Ismail
- al-Kamil Shaban
- al-Muzzafar Hajji
- al-Nasir Hassan
- al-Salih Salih
Grandsons ( Sultans of Egypt from 1363 to 1382 ) :
Saif ad-Din Abu-Bakr
- Al-Maqrizi, p.189/vol.2
- Qal'at al-Jabal (Citadel of the Mountain), the abode and court of the sultan in Cairo. It stood on the Muqatam mountain where the Mosque of Muhammad Ali of Egypt|Muhammad Ali stands now.
- Al-Maqrizi, p.326 and p.327 /vol.2
- The objection to use the Fatwa from Qutuz' reign was based on the fact that the Emirs of Qutuz have donated part of their properties and wealth before issuing the Fatwa which obliged ordinary Egyptians to pay a Dinar each. ( Al-Maqrizi,p.327/vol.2 )
- Al-Maqrizi, p.331/vol.2
- Al-Maqrizi, pp.335-347/vol.2
- Al-Maqrizi,p.348 and p.354/vol.2
- III - Franciscan Chronology of the Four Shrines (1333 - 1517)
- Al-Maqrizi, p. 355/vol.2
- The Abbasid Caliph al-Mustakfi Billah (Solayman ben Ahmad ben Ali) he succeeded his father al-Hakim Bi'amr-Ellah in 1302 and stayed a Caliph for 39 years. -(Al-Maqrizi,p.346/vol.2). * After the sack of Baghdad and the murder of the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustasim by the Mongols in 1258, Sultan Baibars al-Buduqdari installed an Abbasid Caliphate in Cairo.
- Many women accompanied Al-Nasir's army. -(Al-Maqrizi, p. 357/vol.2)
- al-Maqrizi, pp. 356-357/vol.2
- Ghazan died on May 11, 1304
- Rukn ad-Din Baibars al-khati'i al-Dewadar . An Egyptian Mamluk Emir and a historian who was born and died in Egypt at the age of 80 years. He was a Mamluk of Sultan Qalawun who made him his deputy in Al-Karak then a vice-Sultan. Though Al-Nasir Muhammed respected him, he imprisoned him. He was present in Al-Ashraf khalil's army which conquered Acre in 1291 and during the Battle of Marj al-Saffar he was in the right flank of Al-Nasir Muhammad's army. He is known for his important books "Zobdat al-Fikrah Fi Tarikh al-Hijrah ( 11 volumes ) and al-Tuhfah al-Mamlukiyah fi al-Dawlah al-Turkiyah ( about the Mamluk Sultans from 647 to 721 H ). -( Al-Maqrizi,p.356/vol.2)
- In 1291 Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil after reconquered Acre transported the Gate of its Cathedral to Cairo. ( See also Al-Ashraf Khalil )
- Mother of Ali ( al-Malik al-Mansur ) was Khatun Ordkin al-Ashrafiyah. She was originally the wife of his deceased brother sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil. Ali died in 1310 during the third reign of Al-Nasir and Al-Nasir divorced her in 1317. - (Al-Maqrizi, p.171, p.177, p.458 and p.527 /vol.2)
- Ibn Taghri, p. 170/vol.8
- During his stay in Al Karak, Al-Nasir corresponded with the deputies in the Levant and the Egyptian Emirs whom he trusted and explained to them why he left Egypt and he could have their support. (Al-Maqrizi, p,432/vol.2)
- Al-Maqrizi, pp. 421-423/vol.2
- When Baibars al-Jashnakir stood in chains before Al-Nasir after his arrest, Al-Nasir was rough on him and he recalled the bad deeds which Baibars committed against him including depriving him once from eating sweet with almond and another time from eating grilled goose. -( Al-Maqrizi, p.449/vol.2 )
- See above note on Baibars al-Dewadar.
- Ibn Iyas
- Mikoos were exceptional taxes imposed by the authorities on the common people. Some of the Mikoos which Al-Nasir abolished were the crops tax, the prisons tax, the poultry tax, the prostitutes' tax, the rubbish tax, the sailing tax and the wedding parties tax. - (Al-Maqrizi,pp.507-509)-(Shayyal,185/vol.2)
- Dar al-Adl ( Court of Justice ). The Mamluks had also Mahkamat al-Mazalim ( Court of complaint ) which was a court that heard cases of complaints of people against state officials and Emirs. This court was headed by the sultan himself.
- Al-Maqrizi, p.488 and p.504 /vol.2
- Ibn Iyas,p.446/vol.1
- Al-Maqrizi, pp.38-42/vol.3
- Al-Maqrizi, p.205-206 and p.253/vol.2
- Al-Maqrizi, p.100/vol.3
- al-Midan al-Nasiri, (The Nasiri Square ) was used for horse racing, It was situated in the present-day district of Garden-City. Al-Nasir Muhammad was known to be very fond of horses.
- The Iwan was situated on the ground which the Mosque of Muhammad Ali stands now
- Al-Maqrizi, p.317/vol.3
- Mahdi, pages 98,106 and 112
- Abu al-Fida, The Concise History of Humanity
- Al-Maqrizi, Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, Dar al-kotob, 1997.
- Idem in English: Bohn, Henry G., The Road to Knowledge of the Return of Kings, Chronicles of the Crusades, AMS Press, 1969.
- Al-Maqrizi, al-Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-'athar,Matabat aladab,Cairo 1996, ISBN 977-241-175-X.
- Idem in French: Bouriant, Urbain, Description topographique et historique de l'Egypte,Paris 1895
- Ibn Iyas, Badai Alzuhur Fi Wakayi Alduhur, Almisriya Lilkitab, Cairo 2007
- Ibn Taghri, al-Nujum al-Zahirah Fi Milook Misr wa al-Qahirah, al-Hay'ah al-Misreyah 1968
- History of Egypt, 1382-1469 A.D. by Yusef. William Popper, translator Abu L-Mahasin ibn Taghri Birdi, University of California Press 1954
- Mahdi, Dr. Shafik, Mamalik Misr wa Alsham ( Mamluks of Egypt and the Levant), Aldar Alarabiya, Beirut 2008
- Shayyal, Jamal, Prof. of Islamic history, Tarikh Misr al-Islamiyah (History of Islamic Egypt), dar al-Maref, Cairo 1266, ISBN 977-02-5975-6
- Reuven Amitai-Preiss, Mamluks and Mongols: an overview, Chapter 10 of his Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War, 1260–1281, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- Gibb, H.A.R., The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D. 1325-1354
- Stewart, Desmond, Great Cairo: Mother of the World
- Levanoni, Amalia. A Turning Point in Mamluk History, The Third Reign of al-Nasir Muhammad Ibn Qalawun