29.7.10

Sieur de Joinville discribes the Bedouins

DISCOURSES OF THE BEDOUINS
by Jean de Joinville

"...AFTER we had routed the Turks and driven them from their quarters, and during the time that the Saracens' camp was left empty by our people, the Bedouins, who were a very numerous race, broke into it. Not a single thing did they leave in the camp, but carried off everything that the Saracens had left behind. Yet I never heard it said, that the Bedouins, who were subject to the Saracens, suffered any discredit for anything they had taken or stolen from them; for such is their custom and practice, ever to attack the losing side...

...Since it has to do with the subject, I will tell you, what manner of people the Bedouins are...

...The Bedouins do not believe in Mahomet, but they follow the law of Ali(1) , who was Mahomet's uncle, and so obey the Old Man of the Mountain, the same who maintains the Assassins. They believe, that when a man dies for his lord, or for any good purpose, that his body passes into a better way of life and a happier than before. And this is why the Assassins offer no resistance if they are slain while carrying out the orders of the Old Man of the Mountain(2). Of the Old Man of the Mountain we will say no more at present, but will speak about the Bedouins...

...The Bedouins dwell neither in towns nor cities nor castles, but lie always in the open fields; and in the evening their servants, wives and children creep for the night, or by day when the weather is bad into a sort of shelter that they make out of the hoops of casks lashed to poles; just like the [Sedan] chairs of these ladies here; and over these hoops they throw sheepskins, called "Damascus hides," cured with alum. The Bedouins themselves have great pelisses of these skins, which cover their whole body, legs and feet and all. When the evening is rainy or the weather bad at night, they wrap themselves up inside their pelisses, and take off their horses' bridles and let them graze beside them; and when morning comes, they spread out their pelisses again in the sun, and dress them, and there is not a trace to be seen of their night's wetting...

...The Bedouins' creed is this: That no man can die, save on his appointed day; and for this reason they will not wear armour; and when they curse their children they say: " Mayst thou be accurst, even as the Frank who arms himself for fear of Death!" In battle they carry nothing but sword and spear. Nearly all of them are clad in surplices, like priests. They wear napkins twisted round their heads and passing under their chins, so that they are loathly people and hideous to behold, for the hair of their heads and beards is all black. They live on the milk of their flocks and herds, and purchase from the wealthy men the grazing of the prairies, which feeds their beasts...

...Their number is past reckoning, for one finds them in the realm of Egypt, and in the realm of Jerusalem, and in all other countries that belong to the Saracens and Infidels, to whom they pay heavy tributes every year...

...I have seen in our own country, since I returned from beyond seas, certain disloyal Christians, who held the faith of the Bedouins, and said that no man could die, save at his appointed hour. Their belief is so disloyal, that it is as much as saying, that God has no power to help us. For we should be mad, who serve God, if we did not believe that He has power to prolong our lives and to keep us from harm and mishap; and in Him we ought to believe, that He has power to do all things..."

Jhesu+Marie,
Brantigny

(1) Ismailis. The Ismailis broke away from the main body of The Shi'as on the question of the line of imams in succession to Muhammad (precisely the issue on which the Shi'as and Sunnis have broken away from each other). Between Shi'as and Ismailis the dispute concerns the seventh imam, in the later years of the 8th century. The Shi'as give this position to Musa; the Ismailis support his elder brother, Ismail.

(2) Founder and head of the Assssins, see Secrets of the Assassins

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