Letter: T-S 10J15.15

Letter T-S 10J15.15


Input date

In PGP since 2017


Letter from Isma’il b. Farah, Alexandria, to his son Farah, Fustat. Dating: November 1056. The writer describes the terrible famine in Egypt, which even leads to cases of eating people. The writer also describes the epidemic in the area. Despite all that, business continues. He writes about pepper, flax, and oil. (Information from Gil, Kingdom, Vol. 3, #495) VMR. The part about the epidemic begins in line 14 of recto. "There is a great epidemic (wabā') in the cities of the coast. As for Qayrawān, no one remains there [alive? or who has not fled?]—may God preserve you in health. Do not go roaming about the villages, for these are difficult times. [Or, if you read mā instead of lā, "Difficult times have recurred in the villages."] By God, by God, be vigilant for yourself. 'Who is called wise? He who sees the consequences' [Tamid 32a]. Be vigilant in all things before you enter into them." The next sentence is difficult; Gil marks his translation as doubtful and suggests that Ismāʿīl is exhorting his son to be careful about whom he puts his trust in. But perhaps it reads instead, "wa-lā taṭam'an man yabqa li-yabqa wa-lā lī hūwa waqt yūjibuhu bihi lā ḥīla," meaning "do not trust in [the belief that] 'he who [is destined to] survive, will survive,' for in my view this time does not call for a 'nothing can be done.'" This would be an unusual use of "lā ḥīla," since usually the writer means to say, "nothing can be done [except trust in God]." But it would fit the preceding exhortation to be exceedingly vigilant and to consider the consequences of his actions instead of simply trusting in God. ASE. On verso in line 2, he mentions the arrival of some letters ḍabāratan, in a bundle or a file, possibly one pierced and loosely bound with string (on which see this short lecture by Marina Rustow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1nMtoEDbmc).

T-S 10J15.15 1r



Moshe Gil, In the Kingdom of Ishmael‎ (in Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1997), vol. 3.


  1. קד כאתבך ר נהראי אדאם אללה ע[זה] פי מא בקי לנא במצר וקד אעלמתך איש הו אן לם יקר לי עלי שי

  2. או אעמל עלי טלועי [     ] בל אנה יטלע ללמדינה ולא יעצם פי נפסך חאלנא לו

  3. סמעת אחואל אלנאס ל[ ] אולאד אלתאהרתי חלף אבו סעיד לאביה אן מא יבקי מענא כרובה ואנא הלכנא

  4. ומא יערפו אין מצא ואלי אין ימציו וכל מן כרג מן באבה אלי אמא אראד הלך ואוכל ואן קעד מאת באל

  5. גוע ואנא אסאלך סואל אן תשתרי בדינארין קמח תטחנהא בשכא<י>ר ותנחי נסאלתהא ותעמלהא פי מיזר

  6. או פי מיזרין ותנחי אלאקראף מן נפסך פי מתל דלך אלפן הנא קדח מ[ ]ן אנה ב [ ] ונצף

  7. תשתרי מנה בדינארין או בדינ פי איש מא וגדה יעני אלצבי אלדי אכדהא אלרקעה הו יטלע מע

  8. מעלמה אלי מא קבלך וכתבי תצל אליך בידה במא יטרא ועמך יוסף אנבאע לך אלפלפל סער [     ]צ אלק[נטאר]

  9. עקלו עליה מימון לסו אלתמן ווצלת לכם מן תוגיה ברוך סרירה דנ פיהא ס דנ זאיד או נאקץ ווצל לך תמן

  10. עדל כתאן ווצל זית אלקאבסי כלצנא אללה מן אלנאס כמא כלצו מנא אלכהן לם יצל שיי אלי סרירה כאנת

  11. מן עאם אול ענד אבי יוסף לא גיר ואלדי וצל מן אצחאבנא אבו אלפצל בן כלפה ואלקאבסי צאחבה ואבן אלחגאג

  12. ואבן אכתה אבו אברהם בן כלף ובן אלדיין אלסקלי וצבי בן יוסף אלביסאני נערף אנא אכתר האולאי אלדי וצלו ואל

  13. מחבב וסקהא ברקי סקלי ופיהא ו אלאף זק זית ולו כאן מעי דנ לאשתרית לאן אלזית קאל עמך בסוסה ד [        ]

  14. בדינ ופי אלמהדיה ה בדינ וובא אן עצים מי מדן אלבחר ואמא אלקירואן לם יבקא פיהא אחד געלך אללה פי חיז

  15. אלסלאם לא תגרר פי אלציאע הי אוקאת אן צעבה אללה אנצר לנפסך איזה הוא חכם הרואה את הנולד

  16. אנצר ללאשיא קבל אן תחל פיהא ולא תטמאן מן יכף ליכף ולא לי הו וקת יוגב לכן לא חילה ואנא אן קוית

  17. נייתי טלעת בעד אלעיד אלי מצר עלי קדר מא ארא מן כתבך אללה יטלעני מנך עלי כיר ויגעלך פי חיז אלסלאמה

  18. ויתקבל מני פיך צלאח אלדעא ויסתגיבה מני לך ופיך כתב אללה פיך כי ת[ש]פ[ט[ עמים וגו ואנא לא בד לי

  19. מן שרא זקין זית במקדאר [ ] עלי מוהוב וקד וזנת לך מן עבד אלקאדר ה דנ חבה חבה וקאלו אל[ ]

  20. מא אשתרינא אלי בדנ אקלה [       ] סתה דנ אלי יוגב ב[ ]

recto - right margin

  1. …לאכן אללה יסאהל ולא תצייק עלי נפסך

recto - top margin

  1. עאם אול כאן יגב יביע אלאנסאן נפסה וישתרי אלאן קד קא[     ] אל[        ]הא ען קליל ומע הדא מא יערף אחד


Yusuf Umrethwala, PGP Translations (n.p., 2022).


The office of Ismaʿīl b. Faraḥ, from Alexandria to the Banū Faraḥ in Fusṭāṭ

    1. Nahray wrote to you, may God perpetuate his glory, regarding what remained for us in Fusṭāṭ, and I acquainted you with what it was, if nothing is kept for me

    2. That I work on my rising [.....]but it will rise/appear for the city (Fusṭāṭ), and do not be contended in yourself for our condition if

    3. You hear about the condition of people [...], the sons of Tāhartī, Abū Saʿīd, swore that his father’s distress will not remain with us, and we died

    4. And they do not know where he went or towards where he is proceeding, and whosoever left its gate, either wished for death or was eaten, and if he sat, he died

    5. Of hunger. And I ask you to purchase two dīnārs worth of flour, grind them in their bags, and remove its husks and wrap it in a waist cloth 

    6.  Or in two waist cloths, and release yourself of jealousy in this type of business…and half 

    7. Buy it with 2 dīnārs, or with one dīnār, whatever you deem fit, the errand boy (ṣabīyy) who took the letter will arrive with 

    8. his master and my letters will be delivered to you in his hands. Your uncle Yusuf has purchased peppers for you, at the price [...], qinṭar (100 pounds)

    9. Which was ransomed by Maimūn at a very inferior price. A bag containing approximately 60 dīnārs has arrived for you from the consignment of Barūk/kh, and the price of 

    10. A bale of flax and Qābisī oil has arrived. May God free/save us from the people as Kohen was freed/saved from us, not a single bag (of coins?) has reached Abī Yūsuf 

    11. from the first year. And the ones that reached safely from our colleagues are Abū l-Faḍl b. Khalfa and his friend Qābisī, and Ibn Ḥajjāj

    12. And his nephew Abū Ibraham b. Khalf, and Abū l-Dayyin al-Siqillī and a slave Ibn Yusuf al-Baysānī. I know most of these people who have arrived

    13. And the Muḥabbab (ship) whose freight/cargo is from Cyrenaica and Sicily contains 6,000 skins of olive oil, if I would have had a dīnār I would have purchased it, because olive oil according to your uncle in Sūsa 

    14.  sells (in Egypt) for a dīnār and in Mahdīyya for 5 dīnārs. The epidemic/plague has spread across coastal cities, as for Qayrawān, no one remains, may God keep you in his safety.

    15. Do not roam about the villages for these are trying times. By God, be vigilant in yourself, 'who is called wise? He who sees the consequences' [Tamud 32a].

    16. Be vigilant in all things before you enter into them. Do not trust in [the belief that] he who [is destined to] survive, will survive, for in my view this time does not call for nothing can be done [except for the trust in God]. And if I reaffirm

    17. My will/intention, I will travel to Fusṭāt after the holiday, for the duration I deem fit. May God only acquaints me of your well-being and keep you in his safety

    18. And fulfill in you my prayers and desires, ‘judge your kin wisely’. And I have to purchase, in earnest,

    19. Two skins of oil in the quantity of [....] on Mawhūb (name of a person/boat?), and I have counted every single dīnār for you of the 5 dīnārs that were received from ʿAbd l-Qādir. And they said [...]

    20. We purchased it for a dīnār less [..] 6 dīnārs….

Right margin

But God eased it, do not get anxious

Top Margin

  1. First year, it was apparent that a man would sell himself, and purchase now in a negligible amount, what is this? No one is spending


T-S 10J15.15 1v



  1. מא כתב לה וכתבי תצל ללכהן אלרמלי

  2. צבארה וצלת למימון עמלת עליה כרקה

  3. ואנפדתהא אליה מע חאמל כתאבי הדא

  4. תדפעה א פצה פי אלגמיע

verso - address

  1. [לולדי] אלעזיז עלי אבו אלסרור פרח בן אסמעיל מן אסמעיל בן פרח נע

  2. בן פרח נע

  3. אטאל אללה בקאה ואדאם תאידה וסלאמתה וסעאדתה

  4. תצל למולאי אלשיך אבי יחיי ר נהראי בן

  5.                              נסים נע


  1. What was written for him, and my letters which were supposed to reach Kohen al-Ramlī

  2. In the ḍubāra binding, reached Maimūn, which I had pierced with a hole

  3. And I have sent them towards Kohen with the messenger carrying this letter

  4. Will deliver it…

Verso (Address)

  1. For my beloved son, Abū Surūr Farḥ b. Ismaʿīl b. Faraḥ                  from Ismaʿīl b. Farḥ

  2. May God prolong his life and perpetuate his help, safety, and glory

  3. Deliver to my Master Abī Yaḥyā Nahray b. Nissīm

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