In the previous article we spoke of the Barmakids and the end of Harun al-Rashid’s tenure. We also started talking about Egypt’s proconsuls during that period of time. The last one we spoke of was Isaac bin Soliman whom the Egyptians rebelled against. The caliph deposed him and appointed Hartama bin A’yan in his stead.
Hartama bin A’yan (178 Hijri) (794-795 A.D.)
He was one of Harun al-Rashid’s brave commanders. Al-Rashid appointed him proconsul of Egypt after the rebellion that took place there during the tenure of Isaac bin Soliman. He was sent with a great army to fight Egyptians. Yet, Egyptians received him submissively. So, he reassured them, which he told al-Rashid. He did not rule Egypt for a long time, as the caliph deposed him and made him lead an army to Africa, appointing Abdul Malik bin Saleh, the Abbasid, in his stead.
Abdul Malik bin Saleh (178 Hijri) (795 A.D.)
His name is Abdul Malik bin Saleh bin Ali bin Abdullah, the prince of Egypt (aka. Abu Abdul Rahman al-Hashimi, the Abbasid.) He became proconsul of Egypt after Hartama had headed to Africa with his troops. He did not rule Egypt. Rather, he delegated Abdullah bin al-Musayyab. He was deposed by the end of 178 Hijri (795 A.D.) So, Ubaydullah bin al-Mahdi took over. Thus, three proconsuls ruled Egypt throughout 178 Hijri (794-795 A.D.)
Ubaydullah bin al-Mahdi (179 Hijri) (795 A.D.)
Ubaydullah was al-Rashid’s half brother. He became proconsul of Egypt after Abdul Malik bin Saleh. He had delegated Dawoud bin Hubaysh to come to Egypt and run her affairs. Then, Ubaydullah headed to Alexandria to combat the Romans, deputizing Abdullah bin al-Musayyab to run the country’s affairs until he returned. He remained proconsul until the caliph deposed him. Thus, he ruled Egypt for about nine months, after which Mussa bin Eissa, the Abbasid, took over.
Mussa bin Eissa (179-180 Hijri) (795-796 A.D.)
Mussa delegated his son Yahya to rule Egypt until he himself went to run her affairs, having already reconciled Qais and Yemen (the children of Hof). He remained proconsul of Egypt until the caliph deposed him, dispatching Ubaydullah bin al-Mahdi in his stead. During Mussa’s tenure, a great earthquake shook Egypt, demolishing the pinnacle of the Lighthouse of Alexandria which was built during the Ptolemaic era. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a model for all lighthouses.
Ubaydullah bin al-Mahdi (180-181 Hijri) (796-797 A.D.)
He became proconsul of Egypt for the second time after the deposition of Mussa bin Eissa. He deputized Dawoud bin Hubaysh to run the country’s affairs until his arrival. He was deposed after about fourteen months. Ismail bin Saleh took over after him.
Ismail bin Saleh (182-183 Hijri) (798-799 A.D.)
His name is Ismail bin Saleh bin Ali bin Abdullah, the Abbasid. He was appointed proconsul of Egypt by Harun al-Rashid. He deputized Awf bin Wahb to run the country’s affairs until his arrival. He was brave, eloquent and sensible. He was also a man of letters. He ruled Egypt for eight months, then he was deposed. Ismail bin Eissa took over after him. Historians are unsettled regarding the year of his reign: some maintain that it was 181-182 Hijri, while others say that it was 182-183 Hijri.
Pope John IV, the 48th patriarch, departed in that year. So, the bishops assembled to discuss who the best person to take over was, for they had heard Pope John say, prior his departure, that his secretary, Mark, would succeed him. They wrote to Abba Michael, bishop of Upper Egypt to tell him of their choice, and that Pope John had told them about it before his departure. They asked him to tell the proconsul about ordaining Presbyter Mark patriarch. So, Abba Michael assembled the elders and went to the proconsul to tell him about their need for a new patriarch. He asked them about his name. They told him, “Mark”. So, he ordered that his name be written in the council, and gave the bishops permission to ordain him patriarch in Pope John’ stead.
Pope Mark II (799-819 A.D.)
Pope Mark II is the 49th patriarch. His story started when Pope John IV was conducting a pastoral tour which had a deep impact on the congregation, for he was a teacher, mentor, and comforter. This made him very close to the congregation. Pope John was quite interested in youth. So, when he found that deacon Mark was quite spiritual, he rejoiced and appointed him his secretary. Mark was loved by the congregation. So, the Pope honored him exceedingly. In return, Mark multiplied his service and efforts. Yet, he became more humble. One hermit in St. Makarius’ Monastery said, “That deacon deserves to sit on the See of his great father, St. Mark, the beholder of God.”
It came to pass that after Abba Georgius, bishop of Babylon had departed, the congregation asked Pope John to ordain his secretary bishop. The Pope rejoiced, for he knew how worthy Mark was of the grace of bishopric. Yet, no sooner had Mark heard of this, than he disappeared. Nobody could reach him, which made the Pope ordain another monk called Michael bishop of Babylon. Mark remained the runaway, which made the Pope upset. He sent a message to a hermit, telling him that he was still upset with his disciple who he loved. So, the hermit replied to him, saying that Mark’s fleeing from bishopric is but God’s arrangement, for he will succeed him on St. Mark’s See. The Pope was happy with the answer and kept looking for his disciple until he found him, and restored him to work as his secretary. Mark was all obedient, and accompanied the Pope in all his tours.
When Mark got to know that he was chosen to succeed the departed pope, he was greatly saddened. He tried to flee in order to evade that great responsibility, and headed to St. Makarius’ Monastery. But, Abba Michael sent someone to fetch him. They found him and brought him in chains to Alexandria! There he was ordained patriarch. This took place in 799, during Harun al-Rashid’s tenure.
The Pope’s ordinance coincided with pre Lent Sunday. So, he conducted Mass and explained the Orthodox faith to the congregation, after which he headed to St. John the Dwarf’s Monastery (Dayr al-Zujaj) to seclude himself throughout Lent. Abba Michael sent him messages, asking him to return to Egypt after Easter to meet the proconsul. After Lent and Easter, Pope Mark arrived at Fustat to greet the proconsul. He was accompanied by Abba Michael and other bishops. When he reached the proconsul’s mansion, a new story began. Stories never end in Beautiful Egypt.