Page images
PDF
EPUB

Cairo on the night of Thursday 23rd Rebia the 1st, and was consequently eleven years five months and six days old when he ascended the pulpit of Cairo.

Early as maturity is attained in the East, this age was as yet too tender to be entirely independent; and it was not for three or four

years from this time that he began his career of blood and caprice by the deposition and execution of his prime minister. From this time his character began to display itself, and he proceeded to the extravagances which distinguish and disgrace his administration. His first act bore the affectation of humility (not an uncommon feature in similar characters): he pretended to revive the simplicity of the early Khalífs, and forbade the titles Said-na (our Lord) or Moollah-na (our Master) to be applied to him, contenting himself with that of Commander of Believers. All who disobeyed this rule were to be put to death without trial. In the year 391, being now sixteen years of age, he began to ride on horseback about the city, and was splendidly entertained by the citizens. The spirit of jealousy and suspicion so characteristic of the Moslem now induced him to publish some vexatious orders: he forbade that women should quit their houses at night, and desired that no man should remain in his shop during the night, but all retire to their houses. In the following years, his cruelty and zeal led him to put to death several of his ministers and a great multitude of other individuals, and to build the great mosque or jami, BábAl-Fotúh (Gate of the Victories). In the year 395 he manifested his cruelty towards the Jews and Christians, and his whimsical scraples respecting fermented liquors. He seems also to have borrowed and believed some of the prohibitory clauses of the Pentateuch. He commanded all Jews and Christians to wear the badges which distinguished them from Musalmáns, and ordered that none should eat the herb

melookhia, or the rocket, or certain others. He extended his prohibition to all shell-fish; and commanded that no ox or bullock (unless attacked by disease, infirmity, or accident) should be killed, except only at the feast of sacrifices. He forbade the sale or manufacture of the beer, or liquor, called Fokka. He ordered that no one should enter the baths without drawers; that no woman should on any account appear with the face uncovered ; and that fish without scales should neither be caught nor sold. All these ordinances were not suffered to remain inactive; they were vigorously enforced ; and many received the bastinado for neglecting them.

The Khalif's caprice now took a theological turn. He commanded curses and imprecations against the three first Khalífs, Abú Bekr, Omar, and Othmán, to be inscribed upon the principal mosques, shops, taverns, and cemeteries : he enjoined his subjects to write and paint these curses in different colours upon various places. By this he unfolded his inclinations for the sect of Alí. One of these tenets was certainly flattering ; that which regards the Khalíf or Imám, as the immediate personification or representative of the Deity upon earth, and offers the veneration due to so divine a Being. Hákim’s subjects took the hint, and rushed in crowds to proffer themselves of the Khalif's sect. Two days in the week were appointed for their initiation at the palace ; and it is recorded that several of the eager neophytes perished in the crowd. His restless mind had taken an unfortunate direction, and he was haunted by the idea that illicit intrigues were going on. He desired that no buying or selling, no traffic of any kind, should be carried on in the streets after sunset; nay, that no one should presume even to. be seen there : in consequence the streets were deserted. His zeal now flamed against the forbidden liquor: he caused

all casks and vessels containing wine to be broken, and the contents spilt. The Copts, who generally fill the offices of clerks, or scribes, and who, as Christians, had no doubt often violated the wine-prohibiting statute, were struck with dismay; but the capricious Khalíf granted them an amnesty and indemnity. He now ordered all dogs to be slain ; and an immense slaughter ensued. Still dwelling upon his notion of the prevalence of intrigues, his suspicions fell upon his Rikabee, or running-footmen, as probable means of intercommunication. Of these poor creatures many were executed; but, probably convinced of his mistake, he pardoned the rest. He commanded that no one should enter the gates of Cairo on a saddle; and that no persons who let out asses for hire should presume to enter with their beasts : no one, whether on foot or horseback, was permitted to pass by his palace. He now proceeded to a more dangerous exercise of caprice; he killed the Cádí, and burnt him, and beheaded a number of eminent persons. A revolt soon followed, under the standard of Abú Rakwa, who asserted that he was of the lineage of Ommia, the deposed branch of the Khalífs. This general defeated several of Hákim's armies, but was at length defeated and slain by 'Abú-Fadl-Ibn-Saleh. This revolt recalled Hákim to some moderation. He ordered that the imprecations and curses against the first Khalífs should be effaced.

Internal calamities now troubled the Khalíf. The Nile, upon which the fertility and subsistence of Egypt depends, did not rise high enough to inundate a sufficient portion of the country. To satisfy popular clamour, he confiscated the property of the Christian churches, and burnt a number of crosses before the door of the jámi, or great mosque. In spite of this, the lowness of the Nile continuing, he ordered public prayers, and forbade all public assemblies, all pro

menades for pleasure on the banks of the river, and all sale of inebriating liquors. To conciliate the Sonnites (or AntiAlíites) still more, he published a Declaration of Toleration, by which he permitted perfect liberty of conscience as regarded the various modes of performing the Five Prayers, the Funeral Prayer, and the Summons of the Muezzins. He ordered that no one should pronounce curses against the first Khalífs. He declared that all this was done from a sense of gratitude, on account of a lowering in prices. Still further to show his gratitude, he destroyed a number of churches, and gave up one to plunder. His jealous suspicions were excited against the eunuchs, clerks, and Sclavons. (The Sclavons, or Slavi, were probably the descendants of those Sclavonians who were driven out of Spain by the Visigoths in the fifth century.) Of these he killed numbers, having first amputated their hands, from the middle of the arm, by a hatchet, upon a block. He executed his victorious general, Fadl-Ibn-Saleh. His fury now exceeded all bounds: he destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, which, however, he subsequently rebuilt. He established a court to take possession of, and administer, the property of those whom he had put to death; of which he was sometimes capriciously liberal. Many were publicly exposed, and beaten, for having in their possession beer, the herb melookhia, or shell-fish. He renewed his severity towards the Jews and Christians, and destroyed the monastery Dair-AlKasr. The general consternation, and the flight of several chiefs, did not arrest his career. His bigotry, and jealousy continued; the orders against inebriating liquors were rigorously executed ; many clerks, eunuchs, and valets-dechambre were executed. He prohibited all pleasure-boats on the canal, and stopped up all windows, gates, or openings, that overlooked the water. Many were exposed, paraded,

and whipped for selling fish without scales. His folly was unaffected by a revolt, in which the Emir of Mecca was saluted Khalíf; which however came to nothing. He forbade the importation or sale of dried grapes (raisins), and threw a great quantity into the Nile, or burnt them. He commanded that no woman should visit even her nearest relatives. Pleasure-parties upon the banks of the Nile were forbidden. No fresh grapes were permitted to be sold, except in portions of four pounds' weight at one time at most. Their importation was prohibited. Quantities were throwr. into the streets, to be trodden under foot, or cast into the Nile. All the vines near Cairo were cut down, and directions sent to the different provinces, enjoining a similar proceeding

A. H. 403, the Khalíf commanded the unhappy Christians to dress in their distinguishing habits; to bear crosses of wood, five pounds in weight, a cubit (18 inches) wide, and the same thick; to ride upon mules and asses only; to use wooden saddles, covered with black leather, and without ornament; to wear girdles around their waists; to retain no Moslem in their service, and never to purchase either a man or woman slave. In consequence of these rigorous measures many became Musalmáns. Hákim ordered several persons to be beaten for infringing the precepts of the Korán in playing at chess. Christian churches were every where destroyed and plundered. He desired that no one should kiss the ground before him, or kiss his hand or stirrup. He lowered his titles to yet greater simplicity, and forbade timbrels or trumpets to be played before his palace. His extravagance, as he approached the end of his reign, seems reducible to no conceivable motives. He became profusely liberal. He affected frankness, plainness, and simplicity, Completely reversing his former conduct, he commanded

« PreviousContinue »