Letter: T-S 12.263

Letter T-S 12.263



Letter/petition from an unknown sender, in Alexandria, to Mevorakh b. Saʿadya, in Fustat. In Judaeo-Arabic, with some Hebrew. Dating: likely 1103–11 CE, based on the overlap of Mevorakh b. Saʿadya (d. 1111) and Makhlūf b. Mūsā (active ca. 1103–41). The sender apologizes for including this letter of complaint alongside his other letter of good wishes for the holiday. He has recently returned from a business venture to al-Andalus. He is writing with a complaint against the young man Baqāʾ Ibn Shuwayʿ (appears also in T-S AS 209.251 (PGPID 22788) and Bodl. MS heb. c 50/17 (PGPID 6439)). The sender had traveled with 400 dinars' worth of lac and other merchandise belonging either to this Baqāʾ or to his father and he made great profit on the journey, however he did not touch any of the profit, explaining that the Ibn Shuwayʿ merchandise is exempt (tanṣānu) "from the ʿushr of the jāliya" (the 10% customs tax intermittently imposed on dhimmī merchants?) and other people had to pay hefty duties. Once the sender had returned to Alexandria, Baqāʾ showed up with a power of attorney from his father and the partnership document (sheṭar... al-muwāṣafa). The sender paid him 200 dinars followed by another 400 dinars in the presence of the court. The sender then asked for the legal document (as he had fulfilled its terms), but Baqāʾ refused, whereupon the sender "nearly died" on the spot and said to the court and to the people around him, "This is my recompense?! I have become a widower and I lost many dinars of profit because I took his merchandise...." He then took the document from Baqāʾ by force. A new chapter of the story begins around here (r27). It seems that Baqāʾ enlists as support Ibn ʿAynayn Sārra (=Makhlūf b. Mūsā, well known from other documents; here his name is spelled with the insulting variant שרה, see Goitein and Friedman, India Traders, p. 338 note 4 on the different versions of his name) and a certain Mukhtār and other Maghribī merchants "who all band together (עצבה < ʿaṣabiyya) in taking the possessions of people and notables," and that Ibn ʿAynayn Sārra is the worst of all, and that he is notorious in Alexandria for defying religion and behaving badly toward everyone. In the margin, where the text is partially missing, and continuing onto verso, the sender refers to a calamity (nawba ʿajība) which took place in Bijāya, involving a fight between two merchants, Salmūn and his brother, and his surprise that Mevorakh b. Saʿadya, even in Egypt (iqlīm Miṣr), is not abreast of the problems in Bijāya involving Mukhtār. On verso there are also subsequent pen trials and Hebrew jottings. ASE