Many may have heard of Al-Mustansiriya’s distress, the great famine that struck Egypt for seven continuous years with the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustansir by Allah, at the beginning of the second half of the fifth century AH, when the land became desertified and people perished, so that Caliph Al-Mustansir himself became hungry, as some accounts indicate. But what many do not know is that the cause of this great famine is that the Abyssinian king cut off the Nile water from Egypt, and that he did not change his mind and allow the Nile to flow again only under the pressure of the Coptic Patriarch, after Egypt fell for years prey to thirst and hunger.
This view was repeated on a larger scale in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The monk Gore Danos mentioned in 1330 AD that the Sultan of Egypt was paying a tribute to the Ethiopians so that they would allow the Nile water to flow into Egypt. Then Egypt will be destroyed.” In the year 1384 AD, the historian Simon Segoli mentioned that if the king of Abyssinia opened a certain river course in his country, he would “flood Cairo, Alexandria and all the land of Egypt.” (1)
The saying of the Greek historian Herodotus, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile,” was valid to explain life in Egypt, but rather to explain the reasons for the rise, growth and advancement of civilization in this ancient country, which is considered one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Today, with Ethiopia building the largest dam that poses an imminent threat to Egypt, the state, history, civilization and humans, history tells us that these attempts are not the first of their kind, as there are ancient attempts in which Abyssinia sought to prevent the Nile waters from reaching Egypt, especially during periods of political dispute between the two countries. .
Egypt has had religious and political relations with Abyssinia (today’s Ethiopia) since the contribution of the Egyptian Coptic (Orthodox) Church to the introduction of Christianity to it by an Alexandrian clergyman named Frumontius in about 320 AD. As the first bishop of the Abyssinian Church of Alexandria in the middle of the fourth century AD. (2), (3)
A few centuries did not pass until Egypt came to know Islam in the year 20 AH / 643 AD, while Abyssinia received the first delegation of Muslim immigrants at the beginning of the seventh century AD in the year 615 AD. May God bless him and grant him peace in the sixth year of the Hijrah, and when he died in the ninth year of the Prophet’s Hijrah, the Prophet and his companions prayed for him in absentia. (4)
The land of Abyssinia, then, was a mixture of Muslims and Christians alike, and since the seventh century AH / the thirteenth century AD, Egypt has become a destination for the Christians of Abyssinia and the focus of their attention, and at the same time it was a destination for the Muslims of Al-Zayla’ (Muslims in the Horn of Africa and Somalia), heading towards it seeking knowledge and support from it, After the fall of Baghdad in the hands of the Tatars in the year 656 AH, and the movement of the Islamic center of gravity to Cairo, in which the return of the Abbasid Caliphate was announced, under the strong state of the Mamluks, the Christians were the rulers of Abyssinia, and the presence of Muslims in it was a follower of the Christian Abyssinian Kingdom, which was followed by Look closely at the situation of Christians in Egypt who belong to their “Jacobin” sect. (5)
The kings of Abyssinia used to send letters to the Mamluk sultans in Cairo asking them to treat the Christians in Egypt well, and not to restrict them, or to harm their churches. Otherwise, the Ethiopian Muslims would be subjected to torture and abuse, and the Ethiopians were true to their threats when Egypt did not listen to their messages or recommendations regarding Christians. in Egypt.
However, it is remarkable that since the eighteenth century AH / fourteenth century AD, the kings of Abyssinia began to launch a new tone in their threatening messages to Egypt. Egypt, which has the strength of its affairs and the welfare of its inhabitants, flows from my country, and I am the ruler of it.” On the other hand, the Mamluk sultans received these messages with mockery and sarcasm because of the great difference between the two powers at the time, as the Mamluk Sultanate was a global state that was only equal in strength to the Mughal state, and the Ethiopians did not dare to go along with them or expand in their areas. (6)
For example, the King of Abyssinia, Jabra Miqal (712-744 AH/1312-1344 AD) sent a letter to this effect to Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun in Egypt threatening to cut off the waters of the Nile, and harm the Muslims in Abyssinia if Cairo did not deal with the Orthodox properly; And when his force was not able to prevent the Nile from flowing, he carried out his threat to persecute the Muslims of Abyssinia, which made Nasser issue a decree to the patriarch in Egypt to send to the king of Abyssinia a letter ordering him to stop harming the Muslims of Abyssinia, which he complied with, and the king of Abyssinia acquiesced to him in contrast; Because “the patriarch’s orders are inviolable to him as his law,” as the contemporary historian of those events mentions al-Qalqashandi. (7)
However, the tension between Muslims and Christians continued in Abyssinia. In the year 826 AH / 1423 AD, the Christian king of Abyssinia reported that the Mamluk Sultan Barsbay had closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. He only poured out his anger on his Muslim subjects, killing the men, capturing the women and children, and closing Mosques and demolished, then attacked the neighboring Muslim kingdom in “Jabart” and defeated it, and abused its people. In the year 833 AH / 1430 AD, a clash occurred between the Christian and Islamic kingdoms of Abyssinia, in which victory was on the side of the strong Christians, so much so that they captured two of the sons of the Muslim king. (8)
The Abyssinian King Zara Yaqoub bin Dawood (1434-1468 AD/837-872 AH) was known for his extreme cruelty in persecuting Muslims in his country, and he was more hater of Egypt than his predecessors, and this hatred led him to think of separating the Abyssinian Church from the Egyptian Church and linking it to the Church of Rome; In order to ensure the spiritual assistance of the Pope and the support of the European countries, it is likely that Zare Yacoub actually issued a decision linking the Church of Abyssinia to the Roman Church; For this reason, the Pope allowed him to establish an Abyssinian monastery in Rome. (9)
After Zara Yaqoub was assured of the completion of the Abyssinian European alliance, he sent a message to the Sultan of Egypt at the time, Al-Zahir Jaqmaq, which arrived in Cairo in Rajab 847 AH / November 1443 AD, and what was stated in it was: And we have the ability to prevent the increase with which you narrate your country from walking to you, because we have countries that we open to higher places in which they can be disposed of to other places before they come to you. Inform him, so you know what you need and what God puts in your hearts, and there is no excuse left for you to show.” (10)
This message was a repetition of the messages of the kings of Abyssinia sent to Egypt, who had always taken the Nile as a card to pressure Egypt’s policy towards minorities. He thought it was good politics not to be driven by the emotion of anger and disregard, in order to preserve and guarantee the security of the oppressed Muslims of Abyssinia, so he sent a letter to Zura Yaqoub, accompanied by his ambassador, Yahya bin Ahmed bin Shadbek, and with him a gift. (11) https://www.youtube.com/embed/yQVs8RSN15E?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=ar&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
The Egyptian diplomatic message included the reasons for Cairo’s restriction on building churches at that time, justifying the matter on the grounds that “Christians of the Egyptian lands had greatly trespassed and extended in building and establishing churches (without permission from the state).” Zara Yaqoub did not accept the justifications of Sultan Jaqmaq, and decided to prevent Ambassador Yahya bin Ahmed from returning to Cairo, and on top of that he ordered the killing of one of the Abyssinian Muslim kings captured by him; He is Shihab al-Din Ahmed Badlai, in front of the Mamluk ambassador, Yahya ibn Shadbek, further insulting the Mamluks, but after a tug of war, the Mamluk ambassador returned to Cairo after being detained for four full years. (12), (13)
Political relations remained tense between the two countries, and in the year 852 AH / 1448 AD, the Sultan decided to sever religious relations between the two sides. Jaqmaq summoned the Christian Patriarch in Egypt to his council in the presence of the four judges. He does not write to the king of Abyssinia himself or his representative, whether outwardly or inwardly, and he does not appoint anyone in the land of Abyssinia, neither as a priest nor higher than him or inferior, except with the permission of the sultan, and that when he violates that, his covenant is broken, and his neck is struck.” (14)
At that time, Zara was preparing to invade the Mamluk lands, including the Hijaz. In the spring of the second in 854 AH / 1450 AD, the judge of Suakin arrived in Egypt (on the Red Sea coast in the present Sudan), and informed Sultan Jaqmaq that the King of Abyssinia prepared a fleet of two hundred ships to invade the coasts of the country Hijazi, in addition to what he intended to cut off the Nile and obstruct it so that it does not reach Egypt, and this news was repeated again in Shawwal of the same year; In the end, none of these threats materialized. (15th)
Apparently, then, the idea of building a dam that prevents the waters of the Nile from reaching Cairo is not a product of modern and contemporary history, but rather had its ancient historical roots, to the extent that some historians suggested that the Al-Mustansiriya force that occurred in the Fatimid era and wiped out tens of thousands of Egyptians was from The Abyssinians who prevented the arrival of the Nile waters did in that period. Although Abyssinia’s threats to cut off Egypt’s water did not cease during the following centuries, the power of the Egyptian state deterred it from carrying out its threats. Today, with Ethiopia building a dam that threatens to reduce Egypt’s share of water, the Egyptians are facing a repeated chapter of their long struggle to maintain the flow of the Nile, which was And it will remain the lifeblood of this ancient country.