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History of the Muslim States

The Bahri dynasty or Bahriyya Mamluks (al-Mamalik al-Bahariyya المماليك البحرية ) was a Mamluk dynasty of mostly Kipchak Turkic origin that ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1382 when they were succeeded by the Burji dynasty, another group of Mamluks. Their name means 'of the sea', referring to the location of their original residence on Al-Rodah Island in the Nile (Bahr al-Nil) in Cairo[1] at the castle of Al-Rodah which was built by the Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub[2][3]



Reguib under Bahri Mamluks at its greatest extent, blue indicates the Ilkhanates.

The Mamluks formed one of the most powerful and wealthiest empires of the time, lasting from 1250 to 1517. In 1250, when the Ayyubid sultan as-Salih Ayyub died, the Mamluks he had owned as slaves murdered his son and heir Turanshah, and Shajar al-Durr the widow of as-Salih became the Sultana of Egypt. She married the Atabeg (commander in chief) Emir Aybak and abdicated, Aybak becoming Sultan. He ruled from 1250 to 1257.[4][5] The Mamluks consolidated their power in ten years and eventually established the Bahri dynasty. They were helped by the Mongols' sack of Baghdad in 1258, which effectively destroyed the Abbasid caliphate. Cairo became more prominent as a result and remained a Mamluk capital thereafter.

A Mamluk cavalryman.

The Mamluks were power cavalry warriors mixing the practices of the Turkic steppe peoples from which they were drawn and the organizational and technological sophistication of the Egyptians and Arabs. In 1260 the Mamluks defeated a Mongol army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in modern-day Israel and eventually forced the invaders to retreat to the area of modern-day Iraq.[6] The defeat of the Mongols at the hands of the Mamluks enhanced the position of the Mamluks in the southern Mediterranean basin.[7][8] Baibars, one of the leaders at the battle, became the new Sultan after the assassination of Sultan Qutuz on the way home.[9][10]

In 1250 Baibars was one of the Mamluk commanders who defended Al Mansurah[11] against the Crusade knights of Louis IX of France, who was later definitely defeated, captured in Fariskur and ransomed[12] . Baibars had also taken part in the Mamluk takeover of Egypt. In 1261 , after he became a Sultan, he established a puppet Abbasid caliphate in Cairo,[13] and the Mamluks fought the remnants of the Crusader states in Palestine until they finally captured Acre in 1291.[14] Many Tatars settled in Egypt and were employed by Baibars.[15][16] He defeated the Mongols at the battle of Elbistan[17] and sent the Abbasid Caliph with only 250 men to attempted to retake Baghdad, but was unsuccessful. In 1266 he devastated Cilician Armenia and in 1268 he recaptured Antioch from the Crusaders.[18][19] In addition, he fought the Seljuks,[20] and Hashshashin; he also extended Muslim power into Nubia[16] for the first time, before his death in 1277.

Sultan Qalawun defeated a rebellion in Syria that was led by Sunqur al-Ashqar in 1280,[21][22] and also defeated another Mongol invasion in 1281 that was led by Abaqa outside Homs.[23] After the Mongol threat passed he recaptured Tripoli from the Crusaders in 1289.[24] His son Khalil captured Acre, the last Crusader city, in 1291.[25][26]

Golden Horde's Domains in 1389

The Mongols renewed their invasion in 1299,[27] but were again defeated in 1303.[28][29] The Egyptian Mamluk Sultans entered into relations with the Golden Horde who converted to Islam[30] and established a peace pact with the Mongols[31 ] in 1322. Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad married a Mongol princess in 1319. His diplomatic relations were more extensive than those of any previous Sultan, and included Bulgarian, Indian, and Abyssinian potentates, as well as the pope, the king of Aragon and the king of France.[32] Al-Nasir Muhammad organized the re-digging of a canal in 1311 which connected Alexandria with the Nile.[31 ] He died in 1341, and the constant changes of sultan that followed led to great disorder in the provinces; meanwhile, in 1349 , during Al-Nasir Muhammad first reign, Egypt and the Levant were visited by the Black Death, which is said to have carried off many lives of the inhabitants.[33][34]

In 1382 the last Bahri Sultan al-Salih Salah Zein al-Din Hajji was dethroned and the Sultanate was taken over by the Circassian Emir Barquq. He was expelled in 1389 but returned to power in 1390, setting up the Burji dynasty.[35]

List of Bahri Sultans


  1. ^ There is another theory about the origin of the name which states that they were called 'Bahariyya' because they came by sea or from over sea. (Shayyal, 110/vol.2 )
  2. ^ (Al-Maqrizi, p. 441/vol.1 ) - (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 647H - Death of as-Sailih Ayyub) - (Ibn Taghri/vol.6 - Year 639H )
  3. ^ After the Castle of al- Rodah was built, As-Salih moved with his Mamluks to it and lived there. (Al-Maqrizi, p.405/vol. 1 ). Later, the Mamluk Sultans lived at the Citadel of the Mountain which was situated on the Muqatam Mountain in Cairo (Al-Maqrizi, al-Mawaiz, p. 327/vol.3 ) where the Mosque of Muhammed Ali and the remains of the Citadel (known now by the name Saladin's Citadel) stand now.
  4. ^ (Al-Maqrizi pp. 444-494. vol/1 ) (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Years 647H - 655H ) (Ibn Taghri/vol.6 - Year 646H )
  5. ^ See also Shajar al-Durr and Aybak .
  6. ^ Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Taking of Aleppo's Castle by the Mongols and new events in the Levant.
  7. ^ Shayyal, p. 123/vol.2
  8. ^ The victory of the Mamluks against the Mongols brought an end to the Ayyubid's claim in Egypt and the Levant . Ayyubid Emirs recognized the Mamluk Sultan as their sovereign. (Shayyal, p.126/vol.2 )
  9. ^ (Al-Maqrizi, p.519/vol.1 ) - (Ibn Taghri/ vol.7 )
  10. ^ Qutuz was assassinated near al-Salihiyah, Egypt. Those murdered him were emir Badr ad-Din Baktut, emir Ons and emir Bahadir al-Mu'izzi. (Al-Maqrizi, p. 519/vol.1 )
  11. ^ See Battle of Al Mansurah .
  12. ^ See Battle of Fariskur
  13. ^ Sultan Baibars recognized the Sovereignty of Abu al-Qasim Ahmad as the Abbasid Caliph in Cairo only in religious matters after a few Bedouins witnessed before the supreme judge of Egypt that he was the son of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Zahir Billah. The Caliph took the name al-Mustansir Billah. (Shayyal, p. 132/vol.2 ) - (Ibn Taghri/ vol.7 ) - (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Murder of al-Malik al-Nasir Yusuf) . Though the Abbasid Caliphs in Cairo during the Mamluk era legitimated the sovereignty of the Mamluks' Sultans, the Caliphs were actually powerless. However, contrary to the Ayyubids who were to some degree dependent on the Abbasid Chaliph in Baghdad, the fact that the Chaliph lived in Cairo gave the Mamluks independency and full freedom of action.
  14. ^ See al-Ashraf Khalil
  15. ^ In 1262 , during the reign of Sultan Baibars many Tartars from the Golden Horde tribe escaped from Hulagu to Egypt and were followed later by other Tartars. Baibars welcomed the Tartars and employed them in the army. They had their own army unit which was called al-Firqah al-Wafidiyah (the arrivals unite). Through out the Mamluk era, the Wafidiyah (Arriving Tartars) were free men and Mamluk system did not apply on them. Baibars resided the Tartars in Cairo and gave them various official posts. The Largest group of Tartars immigrated to Egypt in 1296 during the reign of Sultan Kitbugha who was himself of Mongol origin. They resided at the district of al-Hisiniyah in Cairo and many of their women married Mamluk Emirs. (Shayyal, p.144/vol.2 )
  16. ^ a b Ibn Taghri/ vol.7
  17. ^ (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/Year 675H- Al-Malik Al-Zahir entering land of the Roum) - (Ibn Taghri/ vol.7 )
  18. ^ (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Soldiers entering the land of the Armenians) - (Ibn Taghri/ vol.7 )
  19. ^ Cilician Armenia was devastated by Sultan Baibars's commander Qalawun upon the Battle of Mari in 1266. The Principality of Antioch was destroyed by Sultan Baibars in 1268.
  20. ^ Baibars defeated both the Seljuks and the Mongols at the battle of Elbistan . (Shayyal, p.138/vol.2)
  21. ^ Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 697H.
  22. ^ Shams ad-Din Sunqur al-Ashqar, was a prominent Emir and one of the most devoted Bahri Emirs since days of Sultan Baibars. He was taken prisoner by the Armenians and was freed in exchange for Leo the son of King Hethum I who was captured during the invasion of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in 1266. During the reign of Baibars' son Solamish he was the deputy of the Sultan in Damascus. During the reign of Qalawun he proclaimed himself a Sultan while in Damascus, taking the royal name al-Malik al-Kamil. He fought a few battles against Qalawun's Emirs but was pardoned later after he joined Qalawun's army against the Mongols. (Al-Maqrizi, p.51, 121, 127, 131-133, 145/vol.2 )
  23. ^ (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 688H ) - (Shayyal, p. 165/vol.2 )
  24. ^ (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ 688HYear) - (Shayyal, 168/vol.2 )
  25. ^ Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 690H
  26. ^ See Al-Ashraf Khalil .
  27. ^ Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 699H
  28. ^ Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 702H
  29. ^ See Battle of Shaqhab
  30. ^ Sultan Baibars sent his first emissaries to Berke Khan the ruler of the Golden Horde in 1261. (Shayyal, p. 141/vol2)
  31. ^ a b Shayyal, p. 187/vol.2
  32. ^ Shayyal, pp. 187-188 /vol.2
  33. ^ Shayyal, p.194/vol.2
  34. ^ The Black Death probably began in Central Asia and spread to Europe by the late 1340s. The total number of deaths worldwide from the pandemic is estimated at 75 million people; there were an estimated 25-50 million deaths in Europe. - (Wikipedia / Article Black Death.)
  35. ^ Al-Maqrizi, pp.140-142/vol.5

See also


  • 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 977-241-175X
  • Idem in French: Bouriant, Urbain, Description topographique et historique de l'Egypte,Paris 1895.
  • Ayalon, D.: The Mamluk Military Society. London, 1979.
  • Ibn Taghri, al-Nujum al-Zahirah Fi Milook Misr wa al-Qahirah, al-Hay'ah al-Misreyah 1968
  • Idem in English: History of Egypt, by Yusef. William Popper, translator Abu L-Mahasin ibn Taghri Birdi, University of California Press 1954.
  • Shayyal, Jamal, Prof. of Islamic history, Tarikh Misr al-Islamiyah (History of Islamic Egypt), dar al-Maref, Cairo 1266, ISBN 977-02-5975-6


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