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COPTIC BISHOP YUSAB OF FUWWAH OF THE 13TH CENTURY ON THE ARABS WHO INVADED EGYPT IN THE 7TH CENTURY: THEY WERE A NATION THAT LOVED EVIL (وكانت أمة مُحبّة للشر)

February 3, 2014

Yusab (Joseph), bishop of Fuwwah, lived in the 14th century. He was appointed bishop by Pope Cyril III (1235 – 1243) for Fuwwah (فُوَّة), an important town that is located in the far north of the Nile Delta, on the eastern bank of the Rosetta (Rashid) branch. Yusab was contemporaneous with six Coptic patriarchs: John VI (1189 – 1216), Cyril III, Athanasius III (1250 – 1261), John VII (1262 – 1268; first patriarchate), Gabriel III (1268 – 1271), and then the second patriarchate of John VII (1271 – 1293). He was heavily involved in the ecclesiastical politics of that period.

Bishop Yusab wrote an important book in Arabic, Tarikh al-aba’ al-batarika (History of the Fathers, the Patriarchs).[1] It was edited and published in 1987 by Samwu’il al-Suryani and Nabih Kamil. The book relies on History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, attributed to Severus of Ashmunein, but has important original material in it. It starts with Saint Mark and ends with Gabriel III.

What sentiment did Yusab have for the Arab invaders in the seventh century? Yusab describes the Arabs and Muslims, in his Live of Benjamin I ( ), in the following words: “وكانت أمة مُحبّة للشر”, which translates into: “And it was a nation that was evil-lover.”[2]

I am not writing this to demonise a nation but to document how the Copts felt about the invading Arabs and Muslims. In Egypt, all state resources are dedicated to represent the invading Arabs (they don’t even call them invaders) as liberators – every effort is made to conceal the massacres and destruction committed by the Arabs against the Egyptians at the conquest. It is only fair to try to correct the misinformation.


[1] Samu’il al-Suryani and Nabih Kamil, eds. Tarikh al-aba’ al-batarika li-Anba Yusab usquf Fuwwah (Cairo, Institute of Coptic Studies, 1987).

[2] See Tarikh al-aba’ al-batarika li-Anba Yusab usquf Fuwwah (edition by Deacon M. M. Iskander, Cairo, 2003); p. 82.

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