MINA II, sixty-first patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (956-974).
Mina was a native of the village of Sandala. He became a monk in the monastery of Saint Macarius (DAYR ANBA MAQAR). He was a docile youth and his parents married him to a relative against his will. So when he joined his wife in seclusion, he preached to her the virtues of chastity and a godly life, which she accepted. After they had lived together for three days, without physical contact, she allowed him to silently withdraw to Wadi Habib. There he became the disciple of a saintly old monk, to whom he revealed his situation and his chastity in the seclusion of his cell. Consequently, his spiritual father accepted him for monastic life and instructed him in all religious traditions. Mina was thus concealed for three years, during which he proved his sanctity.
When the sixtieth patriarch, THEOPHANES, died, the bishops and clergy of Alexandria became aware of the old and saintly monk of Saint Macarius, whom they asked to succeed the deceased pope. But he declined on account of his advanced years and directed them to a younger person, his disciple Mina, whom they readily accepted and carried against his will in iron fetters to Alexandria for consecration. While touring the diocese with his bishops, he went to his village of Sandala, where a native divulged to the bishops that Mina was a married man. Mina confessed the marriage and told them to call on his wife for their secret. The revelation of their nominal marital relation and their purity appeased the bishops, and Mina began one of the most important patriarchal reigns, during which momentous events in the history of Egypt took place.
Nominally, Egypt was still a province of the moribund Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. Al-Muti‘ (946-974) was the Abbasid caliph, but Egypt, which had almost secured independence under the Tulunid dynasty, passed to the kingdom of the Ikhshids. The governor of the country was Abu al-Qasim Unjur ibn Muhammad al-Ikhshid ibn Tughj (946-960). But neither Abu al-Qasim nor his brother and successor, Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn al-Ikhshid (960-966), was in real command of the government of Egypt, for their father, al-Ikhshid ibn Tughj, had placed them under the tutelage of an Abyssinian slave and eunuch by the name of Abu al-Misk Kafur, whom he had bought for ten dinars.
Observing the unusual talents of Kafur, he appointed him regent over his two young sons, who cared only for the life of luxury and their stipend of 400,000 dinars a year. Neither of them was aware of what was happening in the church or the patriarchate. They were equally unaware that their regent had employed a Copt by the name of Abu al-Yumn Quzman ibn Mina as his vizier. In these circumstances, the Copts, their church, and the patriarchate had a breathing space and a period of relative peace and security, providing they rendered the KHARAJ tax.
The last of the Ikhshids, Abu al-Fawaris Ahmad ibn ‘Ali (968-969), had a short reign, during which the Shi‘ite caliphate of al-Mu‘izz in the west was biding its time for a fateful attack on the Sunni Abbasid regime in the east. In 969 al-Mu‘izz dispatched his able general, Jawhar al- Siqilli (the Sicilian), apparently an Islamized Christian from the island of Sicily, with an army for the invasion of Egypt.
After establishing permanent peace in the provinces of northwestern Africa, al-Mu‘izz had his eyes on Egypt. Along the littoral of the Mediterranean toward Alexandria, he began to prepare the road for the imminent invasion by digging wells and by constructing rest houses for his army. In February 969, headed by Jawhar, his troops began to move from Qayrawan toward the Egyptian capital. The situation in Egypt was full of confusion and discontent. A man from the inner Sunni circles and a descendant of the Prophet himself, Abu Ja‘far Muslim, hastened to meet Jawhar outside Alexandria and offer capitulation of the city for a promise of amnesty for all the population, both Muslims and Copts alike. With little or no resistance, his armies reached Giza in July of the same year. In little time, with a white flag, Jawhar’s heralds were marching along the streets of al-Fustat (Cairo), announcing total amnesty for all who surrendered without resistance (Lane-Poole, 1901, p. 102). The depressed Copts had nothing to lose by the change of masters. On the contrary, their prospects looked better with the advent of a more lenient regime.
However, according to the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS, there was resistance in Tinnis from a band of a thousand Muslim youths, who seem to have closed the gates of their city and fought the enemy resolutely. The Coptic majority of the population, pressed by the siege of their city and the depletion of drinking water, contacted al-Mu‘izz, who sent a representative by the name of Mash‘alah to deal with the situation. Negotiations with the rebels and the promise of ten dinars and a robe of honor for each of their hundred leaders ended the strife, and the gates of the city were opened. Subsequently, over food and drink, the rebels celebrated with the enemy for three days, after which the soldiers descended upon their drunken hosts, killed most of them outright and crucified the rest.
With peace and security established in the country, Jawhar started the founding of the new capital, al-Qahirah (the Victorious), to the northeast of al-Fustat. The new capital was made ready for the triumphant entry of the Shi‘ite caliph and his dynasty. The immense construction projects offered the native craftsmen, both Muslims and Copts alike, infinite opportunities, and people’s attention was concentrated on productivity rather than disaffection or rebellion. The new caliph was sympathetic toward the Coptic natives, who seem to have enjoyed more security than under the Umayyad or the Abbasid regimes.
During the events mentioned above, Mina lived outside Alexandria in a village called Mahallat Daniyal in the region of Tida between Sakha and Nastaruh, where a rich old Coptic woman named Dina took care of his needs. By then, many dioceses had lost their bishops and some were incorporated in others less populated. These included Tarnut, Arwat, Nastaruh, Anhalu, Istaf, Haryut, Abu Shuwa, Abu Rasha, Daqahlah, and Nikiou. Before he died, Mina founded a church in the name of Saint Mark at Mahallat Daniyal, to which he carried the chrism and celebrated his liturgies.
The History of the Patriarchs, despite the peace that reigned in the land, records that the country suffered from natural calamities for the first seven years of Fatimid rule. The first year, the land became desiccated because the Nile was low, and people’s provisions were depleted. The second year, the Nile flooded and the land became irrigated and produced ample crops, which swarms of rats and vermin consumed. The third year, strong winds spoiled the fields. The fourth year, a plague of locusts consumed the crops. The following three years, famine continued and wheat had to be imported from Palestine. In the end, however, the situation was ameliorated, and people began to prosper under Fatimid rule in the latter years of Mina, who died with peace and prosperity around him.
- Amélineau, E. La Géographie de l’Egypte à l’époque copte. Paris, 1893.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- . The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925. Parise, F., ed. The Book of Calendars. New York, 1982.