Who was Baibars | Real history from a Slave to Sultan of Egypt
Introduction and Early Life
Baibars was the fourth Sultan of Egypt in the Bahri Dynasty of Mamluks. Baibars was born on 19th July 1223 CE in Cumania, a Eurasian Steppe. His full name was Al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari. He was famous with the name Abu al-Futuh (Father of Conquest) because of his extraordinary victories. He was named Baibars because he used to place a panther as heraldic blazon on both coins and buildings during his reign as Baibars means “great panther” in Turkish. This representation still present in al-Ludd (present-day Lod) on a bridge build by Baibars in which a panther or lion and a rat can be seen showing rat as Baibars’ crusader enemies.
Baibars was born in Cumania, Dasht-i-Kipchak which was between the Volga and Ural rivers. He was from the Barli tribe who, according to Badr al-Din Baysari, managed to settle in the Second Bulgarian Empire by fleeing the Mongols. While staying in Bulgaria, they were invaded by the Bulgarians and Baysari and Baibars got captured. Later they were sold as slaves in Sivas, Seljuk Empire. He became the slave of Ala al-Din Idikin al-Bunduqari who was a high-rank Egyptian and he brought him to Cairo. After the captivity of al-Bunduqari in 1224 CE, all of his slaves were given to As-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub, new sultan of Egypt.
How he came to throne
Like other slaves of As-Salih, he was sent to the Nile for the military training. During the training, Sultan inspired by his exceptional military powers appointed him as the commander of his personal bodyguards.
Baibars was a Mamluk commander of Ayyubids’ force. In 1250 CE, he defeated Louis IX of France in the Seventh Crusade. He was also commander in the Battle of Mansurah in which he allowed the crusaders to enter the town and besieged them and killed almost all of them including Robert of Artois and William of Salisbury. After the death of As-Salih, al-Muazzam Turanshah came to throne but for a short period of time as he was murdered by the Mamluks. After his assassination, the Ayyubids’ control over Egypt was lost and the Mamluks came into power. Aybak was the first Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. Because of some reasons, Baibars had to move to Syria.
In 1260 CE, the third Mamluk Sultan Saif al-Din Qutuz invited Baibars back to Egypt when the Mongols were planning to attack Egypt. Both armies faced each other in Jazreel Valley in Palestine in the Battle of Ain Jalut. Mamluks achieved decisive victory over Mongols (Click here to read more about the battle). Saif al-Din Qutuz couldn’t enjoy this victory as he was killed by a group led by Baibars. So Baibars became his successor as the fourth Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.
As Baibars took the throne, he hadn’t face any serious rebellion except Sinjar al-Halabi of Damascus. But on the other side, the Mongols threat was yet alive. So Baibars attacked Damascus on 17th January 1261 CE and pushed their forces into the city. The citizens tried to resist but soon suppressed by Baibars. On the other side, Mongols threat was lifted because of their defeat in the First Battle of Homs by the princes of Hama and Homs (previously Emisa). Then Baibars managed to compel the Ayyubids such as the prince of Hama Al-Mansur Muhammad II and the Prince of Homs Al-Ashraf Musa who recently defeated the Mongols, to recognize Baibars’ authority.
After the demise of Abbasids Caliphate in 1258 CE by the Mongols, Muslims lost their Caliph. In 1261 CE, an Abbasids refugee Abu al-Qasim Ahmad reached Cairo who was the of al-Musta’sim, the last Abbasids Caliph. Baibars announced him Caliph as al-Mustansir II and also was given the title of Sultan from the Caliph. Al-Mustansir II died in the same year. The next year, an Abbasid from the family of al-Mustarshid named Abu al-Abbas Ahmad was made Caliph as al-Hakim I and in this way, the Abbasids Caliphate line in Cairo lasted until the demise of the Mamluk Empire in 1517 CE. But these Caliphs are not taken seriously by most of the Muslims.
After coming to power, Baibars attacked the crusaders to strengthen his military position in Syria during the period 1265-1271 CE. All the crusaders’ leaders like Arsuf, Antioch, and Jaffa were included in the Mamluks. Baibars majorly ended the crusaders’ states. Later he also made expeditions on Mongols, the Makurians in Nubia, the Armenian Christians, and the Hashshashin sector. During his last year i.e in 1277 CE, he attacked the Seljuk Empire which was under the control of Mongols at that time. By successfully defeating the Mongols in the battle of Elbistan, he took control of Kayseri. After this success Baibars remarks were:
Except for victories, Baibars was also skilled in diplomacy. He built cordial relations with the Byzantine Empire. He introduced swift postal service between Damascus and Cairo. The irrigation system was improved and canals were built. Baibars also worked for his religion Islam. He was having good relations with the Mongols of Golden Horde and managed to travel them towards Egypt. Because of this migration, a lot of Mongols accepted Islam.
In the same year in 1277 CE, the fourth Mamluk Sultan of Egypt died. Baibars died because of being poisoned which was intended for someone else. Some historians claim that he was buried in the Al-Zahiriyah library in Damascus. Baibars managed several marriages and had three sons and seven daughters. Two of his sons, al-Said Barakah and Solamish became the Sultans in the coming years.