Al-Ashraf Tuman bay better known as Tuman bay II succeeded as Sultan of Egypt during the final period of Mamluk rule in Egypt, prior to its conquest by the Ottoman Empire. He became sultan after the defeat of his predecessor, Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri by Ottoman Sultan Selim I at the Battle of Marj Dabiq in 1516 CE.
As a Circassian, like his predecessors having been in early youth a domestic slave of the palace, he gradually rose to be emir of a hundred, and then prime minister, an office he held until the departure of Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri, who left him in charge of Cairo. The Caliph Muhammad Al-Mutawakkil III having remained behind with Selim I after defeat of Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri, Tuman bay II was now inaugurated as sultan, but without pomp or ceremony, the royal insignia having been lost in battle. It was a dark and thankless dignity to which, now at the age of 40, he was called; Syria gone, the troops in disorder, the emirs distracted, the Mamluks as a mercenary horde. Yet he ruled well for the time he held the throne and was popular throughout the land. In the course of time, the fugitive chiefs, with Emir Janberdi Al-Ghazali, arrived from Damascus; but another month elapsed before an army could be organized.
Gaza campaign of 1516
Meanwhile, Tripoli, Safed and other Syrian strongholds, besides Damascus, had fallen into Ottoman hands. It was thus the beginning of December before the force now raised at Cairo, delayed and diminished by the insatiable demands and waywardness of the Mamluks, set out under Emir Janberdi Al-Ghazali in the forlorn hope of saving Gaza; but before it reached its destination, Gaza had already fallen, and the army was beaten back. During Emir Janberdi Al-Ghazali’s absence, an Embassy arrived with a dispatch from Selim I who, boasting of his victories, and the adhesion of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil III, judges and other leaders who had joined him, demanded of the Sultan that his supremacy should be acknowledged both in the Coinage and the public Prayers. He said;
Though the envoy and his followers were hooted and mishandled in the city, Sultan Tuman bay II was inclined to fall in with the Selim I's demand; but his infatuated emirs overcame his better judgment, and the Ottoman messengers were put to death. Tidings of disaster now followed rapidly on one another. Terror and dismay pervaded Cairo. The treachery of Khayr Baig and many other emirs made the prospect all the darker. The inhabitants of Gaza having, on a false report of Egyptian victory, attacked the Turkish garrison, whereby Selim's order in great numbers massacred. The news of Emir Janberdi Al-Ghazali's discomfiture increased the gloom; the more so as he, shortly after appearing, attributed the defeat not only to the numbers of the enemy but to the cowardice of his mercenary followers, while even his loyalty began to be suspected.
Battle of Ridanieh
Sultan Tuman bay II now resolved himself to march out as far as Salahia, and there meet the Turks wearied by the desert journey; but at the last yielded to his emirs who entrenched themselves at Ridanieh, a little way out of the city. By this time, the Ottomans having reached Arish, were marching unopposed by Salahia and Bilbeis to Khanqah; and on January 20 reached Birkat al-Hajj, a few hours from the capital. Two days later the main body confronted the Egyptian entrenchment; while a party was crossing the Mocattam Hill took them on the flank. The Battle of Ridanieh was fought January 22, 1517. Sultan Tuman bay II fought along with a band of devoted followers; he threw himself into the midst of the Turkish ranks and reached even to Selim's tent. But in the end, the Egyptians were routed and fled two miles (3 km) up the Nile. The Ottomans then entered the City of Cairo unopposed. They took the Citadel there and slew the entire Circassian garrison, while all around the streets became the scene of terrible outrage. Selim I himself occupied an island close to Bulac. The following day, his Vizier, entering the city, endeavored to stop the wild rapine of the troops; and the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil III, who had followed in Selim's train, led the public service invoking blessing on his name. The Caliph's prayer is thus given by Ibn Ayas;
The following night, Sultan Tuman bay II reappeared and with his Bedouin allies took possession of the weakly garrisoned city, and at daylight drove back the Ottomans with great loss. The approaches were entrenched, and the Friday service once more solemnized in the name of the Egyptian Sultan. But at midnight the enemy again returned in overpowering force, scattered the Mamluks into their hiding-places, while the Sultan fled across the Nile to Giza, and eventually found refuge in Upper Egypt.
Satisfied with this victory, Selim I, returning again to his island, had a red-and-white flag in token of amnesty hoisted over his tent. The Mamluks, however, were excluded from it. They were ruthlessly pursued, proclamation made that any sheltering them would be put to death, and 800 thus discovered were beheaded. Many citizens were spared at the entreaty of the Caliph, who now occupied a more prominent place than ever under the Egyptian Sultanate. The son of Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri was received with distinction and granted the college founded by the Sultan his father as a dwelling-place.
Soon after, the amnesty was extended to all the hidden emirs, who as they appeared were upbraided by Selim I, and then distributed in cells throughout the Citadel. Emir Janberdi Al-Ghazali who fought bravely at the Battle of Ridanieh, but now cast himself at Selim's feet, was alone received with honor and even given a command to fight against the Bedouins. There is a great diversity of opinion as to when Janberdi, either openly or by collusion, took the Turkish side. The presumption is that he was faithful up to the Battle of Ridanieh, and then seeing the cause hopeless retired and went over to the Ottomans about the end of January. Having strongly garrisoned the Citadel, Selim I now took up his residence there, and for security had a detachment quartered at the foot of the great entrance gate.
Guerrilla campaign from Giza
Sultan Tuman bay II had again assumed the offensive. Well supported by Mamluks and Bedouins, he had taken up a threatening attitude there, and stopped the supplies from Upper Egypt. At the last, however, wearied with the continued struggle, he made advances and offered to recognize Selim I’s supremacy if the invaders would retire. Selim thereupon commissioned the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil III with the four Qadis to accompany a Turkish deputation for the purpose of arranging terms, but the Caliph, disliking the duty, sent his Deputy instead. When Tuman bay II heard the conditions offered, he would gladly have accepted them; but was overruled by his emirs, who were distrusting Selim I, slew the Turkish members of the embassy with one of the Qadis, and thus stopped negotiations.Selim I upon this revenge himself by the equally savage act of putting to death the emirs imprisoned in the Citadel, to the number of 57.
Sultan Tuman bay II who had still a considerable following now returned to Giza; and Selim I, finding difficulty in the passage of his troops, was obliged to build a bridge of boats across the Nile. Tuman bay II gathered his forces under the Pyramids of Giza, and there, towards the end of March, the two armies met. Though well supported by his General Shadi Baig he was, after two days of fighting, beaten and sought refuge with a Bedouin chief whose life he once had saved, but who now ungratefully betrayed him into Turkish hands. He was carried in fetters into Selim I's presence, who upbraided him for his obstinate hostility and the murder of his messengers.
Capture and death
The captive Sultan held a noble front; he denied complicity in the assassination, and spoke out so fearlessly on the justice of his cause and duty to fight for the honor and independence of his people, that Selim I was inclined to spare him, and carry him in his train to Constantinople. But the traitor Khayr Baig, and even Janberdi Al-Ghazali, urged that so long as he survived, the Ottoman rule would be in jeopardy. The argument was specious; and so the unfortunate Tuman bay II was cast into prison, and shortly after, hanged as a malefactor at the City Gate on April 15, 1517. The body remained suspended thus three days, and then was buried.
General Shadi Baig, similarly betrayed, was at the same time put to death. The sad death of Sultan Tuman bay II created such a sensation that an attempt was made by an Emir and a body of devoted followers to assassinate Selim I by night. But the Palace guard was on the alert, or the desperate design might have succeeded. Tuman Bay II, forty years of age, had reigned but three months and a half. He left no family; his widow, a daughter of Akbercly, was tortured for her treasure.
Both as Governor during Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri’s absence, and during his short Sultanate, he proved himself brave, generous and just, and his death was mourned throughout the land. Last, of the race, he was one of the best. And so with the death of Tuman bay II, the Mamluk dynasty came to its end.
As late as 1968, some Copts still observed the anniversary of Tuman's death as "Holy Friday."2