The Sons of al-Nāṣir Muḥammad and the Politics of Puppets: Where Did It All Start?
By Frédéric Bauden
Mamluk Studies Review, Vol.13:1 (2009)
Introduction: The period from al-Nāṣir Muḥammad’s death (741/1341) until the emergence of the Circassian dynasty under al-Ẓāhir Barqūq (784/1382) witnessed the unbridled succession to the throne of Egypt and Syria of the scions of that sultan, who ruled for 31 years during his third reign. These eight sons, two grandsons, and two great-grandsons are generally characterized as puppets whom the amirs enthroned as they wished. Their youth is usually identified as the reason why these sultans could be deposed as easily as they were put on the throne; their lack of experience, or perhaps more exactly of proper training, may have led them to behave in inappropriate ways or to make decisions not in accordance with those expected from a ruler. The rationales which the modern historian can invoke to try to understand how and why this situation continued for such a long period of time, particularly after the very long and successful reign of al-Nāṣir Muḥammad, are numerous and can involve politics, sociology, and economics. As in many cases in history, it is probably a combination of several factors that played an undeniable role. From a historical point of view, it remains very tempting to try to generalize the whole period in that way, but the result necessarily offers a simplistic view of the events.