Al-Malik an-Nasir Nasir ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun (Arabic: الملك الناصر ناصر الدين محمد بن قلاوون), commonly known as an-Nasir Muhammad (Arabic: الناصر محمد), or by his kunya: Abu al-Ma'ali (أبو المعالى) or as Ibn Qalawun (1285–1341) was the ninth Mamluk sultan of Egypt who ruled for three reigns: December 1293–December 1294, 1299–1309, and 1310 until his death in 1341.
An-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.
Al-Nasir Mohammad married Khawand Toghay, who started as his slave but was freed by him. She gave birth to Prince Anook.
His reign was in three stages, as he was deposed twice during his reign.
After the assassination of al-Ashraf Khalil in December 1293, he was installed as sultan with Zayn-ad-Din Kitbugha as the regent and vice-sultan and Emir Sanjar al-Shuja'i as vizier. As an-Nasir was only 9-years-old, he was a sultan in name only. 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 did not get on with each other. al-Shujai, with the support of the Burji Mamluks, planned to arrest Kitbugha and assassinate his emirs but Kitbugha laid siege to the Citadel and the conflict ended with the murder of al-Shuja'i and the removal of the Burjis from the Citadel.
When Emir Hussam ad-Din Lajin, who had fled after the murder of al-Ashraf Khalil, returned to Cairo, the Burji Mamluks, who were known as the al-Mamalik al-Ashrafiyah Khalil (Mamluks of al-Ashraf Khalil) and who were removed from the citadel by Kitbugha, rebelled and went on a rampage in Cairo because Lajin had not been 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 an-Nasir Muhammad and install himself as sultan after he warned him that the Ashrafiyah and an-Nasir would seek revenge for the murder of Khalil in which Kitbugha had been involved. Kitbugha deposed an-Nasir Muhammad and installed himself sultan with Lajin as his vice-sultan. An-Nasir, 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 Karak thus ending the first reign of an-Nasir Muhammad.
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 by a group of Emirs led by Saif al-Din Kirji. After the murder of Lajin and his vice-Sultan, the Emirs, including al-Baibars al-Jashnakir , assembled and decided to call an-Nasir Muhammad from Karak and re-install him as sultan with Emir Taghji Vice-Sultan. But the recall of an-Nasir was delayed for some time as Emir Kirji, who murdered Lajin, and the Ashrafiyah Emirs insisted that Taghji should become the sultan and Kirji be the vice-sultan. At last, an-Nasir was recalled and he arrived with his mother in Cairo amid widespread celebration by its population. An-Nasir, who was by now 14 years old, was re-installed with Seif ad-Din Salar, who was an Oirat Mongol as vice-Sultan and Baibars al-Jashnakir who was a Circassian as Ostadar. An-Nasir was, again, a nominal Sultan, with the actual rulers being Salar and Baibars al-Jashnakir.
The Burji Mamluks became more powerful during the second reign of an-Nasir Muhammad. They imposed taxes on people who needed their services or their protection. This official bribery was called " Himayah". The rivals of the Burjis, who were led by Baibars al-Jashnakir, were the Salihiyya and the Mansuriyya Emirs led by Salar and al-Ashrafiyy led by Emir Barlghi.
The Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar
News reached Cairo that Ghazan was preparing to attack the Levant with a big army and about 30 Crusade ships arrived in Beirut. The Emirs decided to send forces from Egypt to Syria. While the crusader ships were destroyed by a storm before the crusaders could get ashore, Ghazan, after arriving in Baghdad had to change his plan after one of his commanders named Solamish Ben Afal fled to Egypt and asked for help to fight him.
In 1299 Sultan An-Nasir led the Egyptian Army to Syria to take on the army of Ghazan. While the Sultan was on his way to Syria, some Oirats conspired with a mamluk of the Sultan to kill Baibars al-Jashnakir and Salar in order to bring Kitbugha who was in Hama back to power. The sultan's mamluk attacked Baibars al-Jashnakir and tried to kill him but he was himself killed. The Oirats attacked the Dihliz of the Sultan but they were stopped in a way that made Salar and Baibars think the Sultan was involved in the conspiracy. The Oirats were arrested and punished and the mamluks who were involved were sent to Al Kark.
The army of an-Nasir (about 20.000 soldiers) clashed with Ghazan’s army (about 100.000 soldiers) in a battle that became known as the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar. An-Nasir's army was defeated with relatively low casualties (200 to 1000 men ) after inflicted major casualties on Ghazan's army ( about 14000 casualties). An-Nasir's forces retreated to Homs followed by the army of Ghazan. An-Nasir left for Egypt and Ghazan took Homs. Many of the population of Damascus fled towards Egypt. The leaders of Damascus appealed to Ghazan not to kill the remaining population of the city. Ghazan arrived at the outskirts of Damascus and his soldiers looted the city. Damascus, with the exception of its citadel, submitted to the Mongol commander Qubjuq and Ghazan’s name was mentioned during the Friday prayer at the main mosque of Damascus as: " al-Sultan al-Azam Sultan al-Islam wa al-Muslimin Muzafar al-Donya wa al-Din Mahmud Ghazan ". The Mongols kept looting Syrian villages, towns and Damascus itself.
In Egypt, the defeated soldiers of an-Nasir kept arriving in disorder. The deposed Sultan Kitbugha, who was in Syria, also fled to Egypt. Cairo became overcrowded as many Syrians refugees fled to there. An-Nasir Mohammad 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 which obliged each Egyptian to pay one dinar to support the army failed. Therefore, it was decided that the Egyptian people should pay voluntarily and not by force of law. But suddenly the news arrived in Cairo that Ghazan had left the Levant after he had installed two of his commanders as his deputes there. Sultan an-Nasir sent letters to Ghazan's deputies 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 attacked and looted an-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 had taken from the retreating soldiers. The submitted deputies arrived in Egypt and were received by an-Nasir Muhammad. The name of Sultan an-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 an-Nasir Muhammad also witnessed disturbances inside Egypt. 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 attacked by an-Nasir's forces led by his Emirs as the Armenians tried to support Ghazan. In 1302 the crusader-held island of Arwad was attacked and ransacked because the crusaders had been using it as a base for attacks on Muslim shipping.
In 1308 Sultan an-Nasir Muhammad permitted the Georgians to celebrate on Calvary and probably in that year allowed two of them to stay closed in at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Battle of Marj al-Saffar
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 in Damascus. The population of Damascus wanted to flee but they were warned that they would be killed and their money would be seized if they tried do that. Ghazan's troops 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 destroyed the Mongol force.
On April, 20, an-Nasir Muhammad 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. An-Nasir and the Emirs decided to fight the Mongol forces at 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 an-Nasir's army but units led by Baibars and Salar gave their support and pushed Qutlugh-Shah back. There was confusion on the battleground as many thought that an-Nasir's army had been defeated when they saw the Mongols passing the right flank of an-Nasir's army. Qutlugh-Shah withdrew to a mountain also believing that he had won. But from his position on the mountain he saw the army of an-Nasir standing firm on the left flank and his soldiers were filling the field. Qutlugh-Shah was puzzled and asked an Egyptian Emir who was taken prisoner about the army which he was seeing. The Emir answered him that it was the army of the Sultan of Egypt. Qutlugh-Shah was shocked as he did not know that an-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 it was said that he was so upset that he suffered a severe hemorrhage and he died a year later. An-Nasir Muhammad returned to Egypt to great celebrations. Cairo 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.
Achievements and withdrawal
In 1304 Sis was raided again by an-Nasir's Emirs and a group of Mongols led by a prominent commander named Badr ad-Din Albaba were brought to Egypt and welcomed by an-Nasir in Cairo. Al-Madrasah Al-Nasiryah had the gate of the Cathedral of Acre installed which al-Ashraf Khalil had brought to Egypt in 1291. During 1304 an-Nasir's son Ali was born.
By 1309 An-Nasir Muhammad was no longer willing to be dominated by Salar and Baibars al-Jashnakir. He informed them that he was going to Mecca for a pilgrimage but, instead, he went to Al Kark and stayed there ending his second reign. But an-Nasir did not actually mean to resign. He knew he would not be able to rule while Baibars al-Jashnakir and Salar were in power as sooner or later they would depose him or even kill him. An-Nasir tried to arrest Baibars and Salar but when he failed he calculated that he would be able to make new alliances with the Sultanate deputies in the Levant who could offer him support against the two Emirs for a return later to Egypt. When an-Nasir refused to go back to Egypt, Baibars al-Jashnakir installed himself as the Sultan of Egypt with Salar as his vice-Sultan.
Baibars al-Jashnakir ruled Egypt for 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 an-Nasir Muhammad. Baibars al-Jashnakir was forced to step down and flee from the angry mob.
An-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. An-Nasir, who was now 24 years old, was determined not to be dominated or deprived of his full rights as a sultan by any emir. An-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 Salar and he died shortly thereafter in prison. The Mamluks and properties of both Baibars and Salar were seized.
In 1310 the vice-Sultan Baktmar and Emir Bikhtas conspired to overthrow an-Nasir and replace him with Emir Musa, the son of as-Salih Ali who was the son of Qalawun. Musa agreed to participate in the conspiracy, but the conspiracy was revealed to an-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 an-Nasir and take the throne for himself. Baibars al-Dewadar became the new vice-Sultan. Because of his experience with the Emirs and their plots, an-Nasir Muhammad became very suspicious and very sensitive to criticism. He even exiled the Caliph to Qus in 1338.
Crackdown on corruption
Slowly but systematically an-Nasir Muhammad increased his power as Sultan and took revenge on the emirs who had mistreated him in the past and on the emirs who plotted against him after his return to Egypt. He abolished a few official positions, seized the wealth and property of corrupt officials, discharged the Oirat Mongols from royal service and annulled the exceptional taxes and surcharges (Mikoos) which were imposed on the common people by the authorities and which enriched officials and made the 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 every Monday the Sultan would listen to complaints from the common people against the officials and the emirs. He prohibited his governors from executing or physically punishing convicts without his permission and he shut an infamous prison that was near the Citadel. In 1314 he abolished the post of vice-Sultan. In 1315 he carried out 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 an-Nasir Muhammad Egypt, did not witness any major external threats as both the Crusaders and the Mongols had been weakened by losses in battle and their internal conflicts. However, Mongol ruler Oljeitu besieged Mamluk fortresses but withdrew due to deadly summer heat in 1312-1313. In 1314 the city of Malatya was captured by Tunkuz, the deputy of an-Nasir in the Levant. Sis and other towns were raided by the an-Nasir's forces. Inside Egypt, there were a few disorders in Upper Egypt due to law breaking activities by Arab tribesmen which were easily subdued.
In February 1321, there was a serious disturbance between the Egyptian Muslim and Christian communities which developed after a few Christian churches were destroyed simultaneously in various parts of Egypt. This was followed by a series of fires at mosques and other buildings in Cairo. A few Christians were arrested as a result of these disturbances.
Though the economy of Egypt flourished during the third reign of an-Nasir, there were financial problems and a rise in prices caused by the circulation of underweight and alloyed coins. An-Nasir minted a few thousands new coins to replace the spurious coins.
Under an-Nasir Muhammad the position of Egypt as a political power grew. Foreign delegations and kings' envoys with gifts visited Cairo frequently seeking the help and the friendship of an-Nasir. Among these visits were envoys from Pope John XXII and King Philip VI of France. The Papal envoys arrived in Cairo in June 1327 with a gift and a letter from the Pope who appealed to an-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 an-Nasir to grant Philip the city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas along the Levantine Coast. An-Nasir reacted by insulting the French envoys and their King and ordered them to leave Egypt.
An-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 An-Nasir in Ibn Battuta's book
Ibn Battuta was a famous traveler and arrived in Cairo while al-Malik an-Nasir was the Sultan. He related the following:
The Sultan of Egypt at the time of my entry was al-Malik an-Nasir Abu'l Fath Muhammad, 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 an-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.
An-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 an-Nasir's name inscribed as al-Sultan al-Malik an-Nasir Nasir ad-Donya wa al-Din. Also a title of his father Qalawun was inscribed on his coins as: al-Malik al-Mansur.
3rd reign: an-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 an-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 an-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
- an-Nasir Ahmad
- as-Salih Ismail
- al-Kamil Shaban
- al-Muzzafar Hajji
- al-Nasir Hasan
- al-Salih Salih
Grandsons ( Sultans of Egypt from 1363 to 1382 ) :
- al-Mansur Muhammad
- al-Ashraf Nasir ad-Din Shaban
- al-Mansur Ala-ad-Din Ali
- al-Salih Haji