Arabic letter from ʿUthmān Abū-Bakr Diqna



Arabic letter from ʿUthmān Abū-Bakr Diqna


ʿUthmān Diqna was the Mahdī’s leading amīr or general in the Red Sea Hills region of eastern Sudan.

The letter reads:
"In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate. Praise be to Allah, the Protector, the Bountiful! May prayers and blessings be conveyed to the Prophet Muḥammad and his descendents.

"This is from the slave of Allah who is dependent on his God, ʿUthmān Abū-Bakr Diqna, to his beloved fellow worshipper, Jibrein Rimāī, may God protect him. We present to you our formal greetings and then we advise you, beloved one, that your gracious letter has reached us, in which you confirm that you are heeding our instructions in respect of the levy on your assets and handing over 50% to our comrade, as per our instructions, with the exception of 24 female camels. Your apology for your previous activities is well understood and appreciated. Your submission and unhesitating obedience to our orders has pleased and delighted us: it proves your good will and faithful intent. May Allah give you the best reward and place his blessing upon you and guide your steps!

"What is now required is your continued obedience to us – and your continued surrender to the will of Allah under all circumstances. As to your reference to the slaved purchased by you, and your request that we tell our comrade, al-Majdhūb, to give you the slaves for a price, as a reward for your correct attention to the instructions of Allah, we have instructed him to leave to you the remainder of your camels without taking any further levy – i.e. leaving the whole herd to you except for those animals already seized. We also told him to give you two slaves free of charge, as well as the young girl – assuming they have not already been sold. We are doing all this because we care for you and sympathise with you; this is also a reward for your adherence and obedience to the will of Allah. As almighty God has said: “Will the reward for doing good be anything other than good?" [The Koran, Sūrat al-Raḥmān 55:60]

"If it emerges that the two slaves and the young girl have already been sold, forget about them. Your reward from Allah in His heavenly abode will be far more satisfactory: for each maiden on earth there will be 70,000 in Paradise, so congratulation to you!

"It is now your responsibility, our beloved comrade, to maintain integrity and propriety from now on, join the Shinhab camp together with the others, and remain diligent over jihad for the sake of Allah. Refrain from repeating the offences you committed! Learn your lesson, avoid repeating such behaviour and – when you have observed your religion with integrity – you can choose for yourself what camp to join. Peace!"
[ON/FHM/FN 2019]


Making African Connections


Part of Royal Engineers Museum item reference: 4801.96.4 and GR105.



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