The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 9)

The Arab conquest of Egypt continues the story of the reign of Omar.  The small bands of Arabs naturally see their conquest of Egypt as merely a chance to loot. But faced with the enormous wealth of Egypt, Omar realises that if he can extract protection money on a continuing basis, this would be better for him than simply ruining the place.  The Egyptian corn supply is now diverted to Medina, and the ancient canal to the Red Sea is dug out again to make this easier.  Then the Muslims continue west, capturing Tripoli in Libya.  Meanwhile Omar’s reign comes to a sudden end when he is murdered while at the morning prayers.

15. After occupying Alexandria, Amr ibn al-As pursued the Rum who had retreated into the desert.  Then the Rum who had fled by sea returned to Alexandria and killed the Muslims who were there.  Hearing this, Amr ibn al-As hastily returned to Alexandria.  He engaged in a fierce battle at the citadel, but finally captured it and the Rum fled again by ship.  Amr ibn al-As then wrote to Omar ibn al-Khattab saying:  “I have conquered a city, but I will not describe here what is found there.  I will tell you only that I have found there four temples, four baths, forty thousand Jews who pay the personal tribute, four palaces for kings and twelve thousand sellers of fresh green vegetables.  I conquered by force without any promise of peace.”  In the letter he let him know that the Muslims were asking to divide up these things.  Omar ibn al-Khattab replied, condemning this opinion, and ordered him not to sack the city or to divide up what was there, and to provide that the proceeds of the kharag (Islamic land-tax) would serve as a strength and sustenance for Muslims in the Holy War against their enemies.  Amr then left the city as he had found it, he counted the villages and imposed on them the kharag.  All Egypt was placed under the protection of Muslims in exchange for two dinars kharag for every man, without anyone being asked more for his person, unless it was someone who possessed more: in which case he was taxed in proportion to the lands and the cultivated fields that he possessed.  The people of Alexandria were treated differently: they would have to pay the property tax as well as the personal tax that would have been asked by their administrators, because Alexandria had been conquered through war without any promise and no covenant, since there was no treaty or guarantee with its inhabitants.  Alexandria was captured on Friday the new moon of the month of Muharram in the year twenty of the Hegira, in the twentieth year of the reign of Heraclius, the eighth year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab.

Amr ibn al-As sent Uqba ibn Nafi, who went as far as to Zawīlah.  The territory between Barqah and Zawīlah became a territory of the Muslims.  At that time none of the collectors of poll tax came to Barqah because people sent in their own personal tribute at the appropriate time.

In those days a severe food shortage fell upon the inhabitants of Medina.  Omar ibn al-Khattab then wrote to Amr ibn al-As, informing him of the state of collapse and famine in which the people were struggling.  Amr sent camels laden with flour.  The caravan was an  uninterrupted line: when the first camel arrived in Medina the last one was still in Egypt.  Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote to Amr ibn al-As to dig out a channel to reach the Red Sea, so as to make the wheat transport easier.  Amr then ordered a canal dug, which is in the territory of al-Qantarah, known by the name of the Canal of the Prince of the Believers.  The boats transported wheat, barley and cereals from al-Fustat to the Red Sea through the canal, and from the Red Sea to Medina.

16.  Amr ibn al-As then conquered Tripoli in Africa, in the twenty-second year of the Hegira, the twenty-second of the reign of Heraclius and tenth of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab.  In Fustat in Egypt Amr constructed the great mosque.

17.  Omar ibn al-Khattab was murdered at Medina, while he was at the morning prayer.  He was killed by Abu Lu’lu’a, the slave of Ibn al-Mughira Shu’ba, on the twenty-seventh of the month of Dhul-hiğğa, in the twenty-third year of the Hegira, the twenty-third year of the reign of Heraclius.  He was sixty-three.  He had delegated the election of his successor to a committee consisting of six companions of Muhammad, i.e. of Othman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Talha, az-Zubayr ibn al-Arrām,  Abd ar-Rahman ibn Urf az-Zahri and Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas.  The funeral prayer was recited by Suhayb ar-Rumi and he was buried in the house where Muhammad had been buried.  His caliphate lasted ten years and nine months.  During his caliphate Omar made the pilgrimage to Mecca nine times.  He was of a reddish complexion, left-handed, bald, and his hair and beard were dyed with henna.  The head of his bodyguard was Abd Allah ibn Abbas and his hāgib was the freedman Barqa.

3 thoughts on “The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 9)

  1. As with “Marziq” earlier where Eutychius’ source meant Mazdaq, “az-Zubayr ibn al-Arrām” misreads the consonants. He is Ibn al-Awwām.

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