A certain simpleton was once walking along, haling his ass after him by the halter, when a pair of sharpers saw him and one said to his fellow, “I will take that ass from yonder wight.” Asked the other, “How wilt thou do that?” “Follow me and I will show thee how,” answered the first. So the cony-catcher went up to the ass and, loosing it from the halter, gave the beast to his fellow; then he haltered his own head and followed Tom Fool till he knew the other had got clean off with the ass, when he stood still. The oaf haled at the halter, but the rascal stirred not; so he turned and seeing the halter on a man’s neck, said to him, “What art thou?” Quoth the sharper, “I am thine ass and my story is a wonderous one and ‘tis this. Know that I have a pious old mother and come in to her one day, drunk; and she said to me: ‘O my son, repent to the Almighty of these thy transgressions.’ But I took my staff and beat her, whereupon she cursed me and Allah changed me into an ass and caused me fall into thy hands, where I have remained till this moment. However, to-day, my mother called me to mind and her heart yearned towards me; so she prayed for me and the Lord restored me to my former shape amongst the sons of Adam.” Cried the silly one, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Allah upon thee, O my brother, acquit me of what I have done with thee in the way of riding and so forth.” Then he let the cony-catcher go and returned home, drunken with chagrin and concern as with wine. His wife asked him, “What aileth thee and where is the donkey?”; and he answered, “Thou knowest not what was this ass; but I will tell thee.” So he told her the story, and she exclaimed, “Alack and alas for the punishment we shall receive from Almighty Allah! How could we have used a man as a beast of burden, all this while? And she gave alms by way of atonement and prayed pardon of Heaven.119 Then the man abode awhile at home, idle and feckless, till she said to him, “How long wilt thou sit at home doing naught? Go to the market and buy us an ass and ply thy work with it.” Accordingly, he went to the market and stopped by the ass-stand, where behold, he saw his own ass for sale. So he went up to it and clapping his mouth to its ear, said to it, “Woe to thee, thou ne’er-do-well! Doubtless thou hast been getting drunk again and beating thy mother! But, by Allah, I will never buy thee more.”120 and he left it and went away. And they tell a tale concerning
119 i.e. for her husband’s and her sin in using a man like a beast.
120 See the Second Lady’s story (tantôt Kadi, tantôt bandit), pp. 20–26 by my friend Yacoub Artin Pasha in the Bulletin before quoted, series ii. No. 4 of 1883. The sharpers’ trick is common in Eastern folk-lore, and the idea that underlies is always metempsychosis or metamorphosis. So, in the Kalilah wa Dimnah (new Syriac), the three rogues persuade the ascetic that he is leading a dog not a sheep.
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid went up one noon-tide to his couch, to lie down; and mounting, found upon the bed-clothes semen freshly emitted; whereat he was startled and troubled with sore trouble. So he called the Lady Zubaydah and said to her, “What is that spilt on the bed?” She looked at it and replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, it is semen.” Quoth he, “Tell me truly what this meaneth or I will lay violent hands on thee forthright.” Quoth she, “By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, indeed I know not how it came there and I am guiltless of that whereof you suspectest me.” So he sent for the Kazi Abú Yúsuf and acquainted him of the case. The Judge raised his eyes to the ceiling and, seeing a crack therein, said to the Caliph, “O Commander of the Faithful, in very sooth the bat hath seed like that of a man,121 and this is bat’s semen.” Then he called for a spear and thrust it into the crevice, whereupon down fell the bat. In this manner the Caliph’s suspicions were dispelled,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
121 This is the popular prejudice and it has doubtless saved many a reputation. The bat is known to Moslems as the Bird of Jesus, a legend derived by the Koran from the Gospel of Infancy (1 chapt. xv. Hone’s Apocryphal New Testament), in which the boy Jesus amuses herself with making birds of clay and commanding them to fly when (according to the Moslems) they became bats. These Apocryphal Gospels must be carefully read, if the student would understand a number of Moslem allusions to the Injíl which no Evangel contains.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Kazi Abu Yusuf took the spear and thrust it into the crevice, down fell the bat, and thus the Caliph’s suspicions were dispelled and the innocence of Zubaydah was made manifest; whereat she gave loud and liberal vent to her joy and promised Abu Yusuf a magnificent reward. Now there were with her certain delicious fruits, out of their season, and she knew of others in the garden; so she asked Abu Yusuf, “O Imam of the Faith, which wouldst thou rather have of the two kinds of fruits, those that are here or those that are not here?” And he answered, “Our code forbiddeth us to pronounce judgement on the absent; whenas they are present, we will give our decision.” So she let bring the two kinds of fruits before him; and he ate of both. Quoth she, “What is the difference between them?” and quoth he, “As often as I think to praise one kind, the adversary putteth in its claim.” The Caliph laughed at his answer122 and made him a rich present; and Zubaydah also gave him what she had promised him, and he went away, rejoicing. See, then the virtues of this Imám and how his hands were manifest the truth and the innocence of the Lady Zubaydah. And amongst other stories is that of
122 Because it quibbled away out of every question, a truly diplomatic art.
The Caliph Al-Hákim bi-Amri’llah was riding out in state procession one day, when he passed along a garden, wherein he saw a man, surrounded by negro-slaves and eunuchs. He asked him for a draught of water, and the man gave him to drink, saying, “Belike, the Commander of the Faithful will honour me by alighting in this my garden.” So the Caliph dismounted and with his suite entered the garden; whereupon the said man brought out to them an hundred rugs and an hundred leather mats and an hundred cushions; and set before them an hundred dishes of fruits, an hundred bowls of sweetmeats and an hundred jars of sugared sherbets; at which the Caliph marvelled with much amaze and said to his host, “O man, verily this thy case is wondrous: didst thou know of our coming and make this preparation for us?” He replied, “No by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I knew not of thy coming and I am a merchant of the rest of thy subjects; but I have an hundred concubines; so, when the Commander of the Faithful honoured me by alighting with me, I sent to each of them, bidding her send me her morning-meal in the garden. So they sent me each of her furniture and the surplus of her meat and drink: and every day each sendeth me a dish of meat and another of cooling marinades, also a platter of fruits and a bowl of sweetmeats and a jar of sherbet. This is my noon-day dinner, nor have I added aught thereto for thee.” Then the Commander of the Faithful, Al–Hakim bi-Amri’llah prostrated himself in thanksgiving to the Almighty (extolled and exalted be His name!) and said, “Praise be Allah, who hath been so bountiful to one of our lieges, that he entertaineth the Caliph and his host, without making ready for them; nay, he feedeth them with the surplusage of his day’s provision!” Then he sent for all the dirhams in the treasury, that had been struck that year (and they were in number three thousand and seven hundred thousand); nor did he mount until the money came, when he gave it to the merchant, saying, “Use this as thy state may require; and thy generosity deserveth more than this.” Then he took horse and rode away. And I have heard a story concerning
123 This Caliph, the orthodox Abbaside of Egypt (A.D. 1261) must not be confounded with the Druze-god, the heretical Fatimite (A.D. 996–1021). D’Herbelot (Hakem”) gives details. Mr. S.L. Poole (The Academy, April 26, ‘79) is very severe on the slip of Mr. Payne.
The Just King, Kisrá Anúshirwán, one day rode forth to the chase and, in pursuit of a deer, became separated from his suite. Presently, he caught sight of a hamlet near hand and being sore athirst, he made for it and presenting himself at the door of a house that lay by the wayside, asked for a draught of water. So a damsel came out and looked at him; then, going back into the house, pressed the juice from a single sugar-cane into a bowl and mixed it with water; after which she strewed on the top some scented stuff, as it were dust, and carried it tot he King. Thereupon he seeing in it what resembled dust, drank it, little by little, till he came to the end; when said he to her, “O damsel, the drink is good, and how sweet it had been but for this dust in it that troubleth it.” Answered she, “O guest, I put in that powder for a purpose;” and he asked, “And why didst thou thus?”; so she replied, “I saw thee exceedingly thirsty and feared that thou wouldst drain the whole at one draught and that this would thee mischief; and but for this dust that troubled the drink so hadst thou done.” The Just King wondered at her words, knowing that they came of her wit and good sense, and said to her, “From how many sugar canes didst thou express this draught?” “One,” answered she; whereat Anushirwan marvelled and, calling for the register of the village taxes, saw that its assessment was but little and bethought him to increase it, on his return to his palace, saying in himself, “A village where they get this much juice out of one sugar-cane, why is it so lightly taxed?” He then left the village and pursued his chase; and, as he came back at the end of the day, he passed alone by the same door and called again for drink; whereupon the same damsel came out and, knowing him at a look, went in to fetch him water. It was some time before she returned and Anushirwan wondered thereat and said to her, “Why hast thou tarried?”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
124 The beautiful name is Persian “Anúshín-rawán” = Sweet of Soul; and the glorious title of this contemporary of Mohammed is “Al–Malik al-Adil” = the Just King. Kisra, the Chosroë per excellentiam, is also applied to the godly Guebre of whom every Eastern dictionary gives details.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Anushirwan hurried the damsel and asked her, “Why hast thou tarried?” she answered, “Because a single sugar-cane gave not enough for thy need; so I pressed three; but they yielded not to much as one did before.” Rejoined he, “What is the cause of that?”; and she replied, “The cause of it is that when the Sultan’s125 mind is changed against a folk, their prosperity ceaseth and their good waxeth less.” So Anushirwan laughed and dismissed from his mind that which he had purposed against the villagers. Moreover, he took the damsel to wife then and there, being pleased with her much wit and acuteness and the excellence of her speech. And they tell another tale of the
125 “Sultan” is here an anachronism: I have noted that the title was first assumed independently by Mohammed of Ghazni after it had been conferred by the Caliph upon his father the Amir Al- Umará (Mayor of the Palace), Sabuktagin A.D. 974.
There was once, in the city of Bokhara, a water-carrier, who used to carry water to the house of a goldsmith and had done this thirty years. Now that goldsmith had a wife of exceeding beauty and loveliness, brilliancy and perfect grace; and she was withal renowned for piety, chastity and modesty. One day the water- carrier came, as of custom, and poured the water into the cisterns. Now the woman was standing in the midst of the court; so he went close up to her and taking her hand, stroked it and pressed it, then went away and left her. When her husband came home from the bazar, she said to him, “I would have thee tell me what thing thou hast done in the market this day, to anger Almighty Allah.” Quoth he, “I have done nothing to offend the Lord.” “Nay,” rejoined she, “but, by Allah, thou hast indeed done something to anger Him; and unless thou tell me the whole truth, I will not abide in thy house, and thou shalt not see me, nor will I see thee.” So he confessed, “I will tell thee the truth of what I did this day. It so chanced that, as I was sitting in my shop, as of wont, a woman came up to me and bade me make her a bracelet of gold. Then she went away and I wrought her a bracelet and laid it aside. But when she returned and I brought her out the bracelet, she put forth her hand and I clasped the bracelet on her wrist; and I wondered at the whiteness of her hand and the beauty of her wrist, which would captivate any beholder; and I recalled what the poet saith,
‘Her fore-arms, dight with their bangles, show
Like fire ablaze on the waves a-flow;
As by purest gold were the water girt,
And belted around by a living lowe.’
So I took her hand and pressed it and squeezed it.” Said the woman, “Great God! Why didst thou this ill thing? Know that the water-carrier, who hath come to our house these thirty years, nor sawst thou ever any treason in him took my hand this day and pressed and squeezed it.” Said her husband, “O woman, let us crave pardon of Allah! Verily, I repent of what I did, and do thou ask forgiveness of the Lord for me.” She cried, “Allah pardon me and thee, and receive us into his holy keeping.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
126 The “Sakká” or water-carrier race is peculiar in Egypt and famed for trickery and intrigue. Opportunity here as elsewhere makes the thief.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the goldsmith’s wife cried out, “Allah pardon me and thee, and receive us into his holy keeping!” And on the next day, the water-carrier came in to the jeweller’s wife and, throwing himself at her feet, grovelled in the dust and besought pardon of her, saying, “O my lady, acquit me of that which Satan deluded me to do; for it was he that seduced me and led me astray.” She answered, “Go thy ways, the sin was not in thee, but in my husband, for that he did what he did in his shop, and Allah hath retaliated upon him in this world.” And it related that the goldsmith, when his wife told him how the water-carrier had used her, said, “Tit for tat, and blow for blow!; had I done more the water-carrier had done more”;—which became a current byword among the folk. Therefore it behoveth a wife to be both outward and inward with her husband; contenting herself with little from him, if he cannot give her much, and taking pattern by Ayishah the Truthful and Fatimah the virgin mother (Allah Almighty accept of them the twain!), that she may be of the company of the righteous ancestry.127 And I have heard the following tale of
127 A famous saying of Mohammed is recorded when an indiscretion of his young wife Ayishah was reported to him, “There be no adultress without an adulterer (of a husband).” Fatimah the Apostle’s daughter is supposed to have remained a virgin after bearing many children: this coarse symbolism of purity was known to the classics (Pausanias), who made Juno recover her virginity by bathing in a certain river every year. In the last phrase, “Al–Salaf” (ancestry) refers to Mohammed and his family.
King Khusrau128 Shahinshah of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he sat in his saloon, he and Shirin his wife, there came a fisherman, with a great fish, and he laid it before the King, who was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhams.129 Thereupon Shirin said to the King, “Thou hast done ill.” Asked he, “And why?”, and she answered, “Because if, after this, though give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will disdain it and say, ‘He hath but given me the like of what he gave the fisherman.’ And if thou give him less, the same will say, ‘He despiseth me and giveth me less than he gave the fisherman.’” Rejoined Khusrau, “Thou art right, but it would dishonour a king to go back on his gift; and the thing is done.” Quoth Shirin, “If thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to get it back from him.” Quoth he, “How so?”; and she said, “Call back, if thou so please, the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female. If he say, ‘Male,’ say thou, ‘We want a female,’ and if he say, ‘Female,’ say, ‘We want a male.’” So the King sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and astuteness, and said to him, “Is this fish male or female?” whereupon the fisherman kissed the ground and answered, “This fish is an hermaphrodite,130 neither male nor female.” Khusrau laughed at his clever reply and ordered him other four thousand dirhams. So the fisherman went to the treasurer and, taking his eight thousand dirhams, put them in a sack he had with him. Then, throwing it over his shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirham; so he laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now the King and Shirin were looking on, and the Queen said, “O King, didst thou note the meanness of the man, in that he must needs stoop down to pick up the one dirham, and could not bring himself to leave it for any of the King’s servants?” When the King heard these words, he was exceeding wroth with the fisherman and said, “Thou art right, O Shirin!” So he called the man back and said to him, “Thou low-minded carle! Thou art no man! How couldst thou put the bag with all this money off thy back and bend thee groundwards to pick up the one dirham and grudge to leave it where it fell?” Thereupon the fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered, “May Allah prolong the King’s life! Indeed, I did not pick up the dirham off the ground because of its value in my eyes; but I raised it off the earth because on one of its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set foot upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the King, and I be blamed for this offence.” The King wondered at his words and approved of his wit and shrewdness, and ordered him yet another four thousand dirhams. Moreover, he bade cry abroad in his kingdom, saying, “It behoveth none to be guided by women’s counsel; for whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirham, other twain.”131 And here is the tale they tell of
128 Khusrau Parwiz, grandson of Anushirwan, the Guebre King who tore his kingdom by tearing Mohammed’s letter married the beautiful Maria or Irene (in Persian “Shírín = the sweet) daughter of the Greek Emperor Maurice: their loves were sung by a host of poets; and likewise the passion of the sculptor Farhád for the same Shirin. Mr. Lyall writes “Parwêz” and holds “Parwíz” a modern form.
129 he could afford it according to historians. His throne was supported by 40,000 silver pillars; and 1,000 globes, hung in the dome, formed an orrery, showing the motion of the heavenly bodies; 30,000 pieces of embroidered tapestry overhung the walls below were vaults full of silver, gold and gems.
130 Arab. “Khunsá,” meaning also a catamite as I have explained. Lane (ii. 586) has it; “This fish is of a mixed kind.” (!).
131 So the model lovers became the ordinary married couple.
Yahya bin Khálid the Barmecide was returning home, one day, from the Caliph’s palace, when he saw, at the gate of his mansion, a man who rose as he drew near and saluted him, saying, “O Yahya, I am in sore need of that which is in they hand, and I make Allah my intermediary with thee.” So Yahya caused a place to be set aside for him in his house and bade his treasurer carry him a thousand dirhams every day and ordered that his diet be of the choicest of his own meat. The man abode in this case a whole month, at the end of which time, having received in all thirty thousand dirhams and fearing lest Yahya should take the money from him, because of the greatness of the sum, he departed by stealth.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the man, taking with him the money, departed by stealth. But when they told Yahya of this, he said, “By Allah, though he had tarried with me to the end of his days, yet had I not stinted him of my largesse nor cut off from him the bounties of my hospitality!” For, indeed, the excellences of the Barmecides were past count nor can their virtues be committed to description, especially those of Yahya bin Khalid, for he was an ocean132 of noble qualities, even as saith the poet of him,
“I asked of Bounty, ‘Art thou free?’ Quoth she,
‘No, I am slave to Yahyá Khálid-son!’
‘Boughten?’ asked I. ‘Allah forfend,’ quoth she,
‘By heirship, sire to sire’s transmission!’”
And the following is related of
132 Arab. “Jamm.” Heb. “Yamm.” Al–Haríri (Ass. Of Sinjar and Sáwah) uses the rare form Yam for sea or ocean.
Ja’afar bin Musá al-Hádi133 once had a slave-girl, a lutist, called Al–Badr al-Kabír, than whom there was not in her time a fairer of face nor shapelier of shape nor a more elegant of manners nor a more accomplished in the art of singing and striking the strings; she was indeed perfect in beauty and extreme in every charm. Now Mohammed al-Amín,134 son of Zubaydah, heard of her and was urgent with Ja’afar to sell her to him; but he replied, “Thou knowest it beseemeth not one of my rank to sell slave-girls nor set prices on concubines; but were she not a rearling I would send her to thee, as a gift, not grudge her to thee.” And Mohammed al-Amin, some days after this went to Ja’afar’s house, to make merry; and the host set before him that which it behoveth to set before true friends and bade the damsel Al–Badr al-Kabir sing to him and gladden him. So she tuned the lute and sang with a ravishing melody; whilst Mohammed al-Amin fell to drinking and jollity and bade the cupbearers ply Ja’afar with much wine, till they made him drunken, when he took the damsel and carried her to his own house, but laid not a finger on her. And when the morrow dawned he bade invite Ja’afar; and when he came, he set wine before him and made the girl sing to him, from behind the curtain. Ja’afar knew her voice and was angered at this, but, of the nobleness of his nature and the magnanimity of his mind he showed no change. Now when the carousal was at an end, Al–Amin commanded one of his servants to fill the boat, wherein Ja’afar had come, with dirhams and dinars and all manner of jewels and jacinths and rich raiment and goods galore. So he laid therein a thousand myriads of money and a thousand fine pearls, each worth twenty thousand dirhams; nor did he give over loading the barge with all manner of things precious and rare, till the boatmen cried out for help, saying, “The boat can’t hold any more;” whereupon he bade them carry all this to Ja’afar’s palace. Such are the exploits of the magnanimous, Allah have mercy on them! And a tale is related of
133 Al–Hadi, immediate predecessor of Harun al-Rashid, called “Al–Atbik”: his upper lip was contracted and his father placed a slave over him when in childhood, with orders to say, “Musa! atbik!” (draw thy lips together) when he opened his mouth.
134 Immediate successor of Harun al-Rashid. Al–Amin is an imposing physical figure, fair, tall, handsome and of immense strength; according to Al–Mas’údi, he killed a lion with his own hands; but his mind and judgement were weak. He was fond of fishing; and his reply to the courtier bringing important news, “Confound thee! leave me! for Kausar (an eunuch whom he loved) hath caught two fish and I none,” reminds one of royal frivolity in France.
Quoth Sa’íd bin Sálim al’Báhilí,135 I was once in very narrow case, during the days of Harun al-Rashid, and debts accumulated upon me, burdening my back, and these I had no means of discharging. I was at my wits’ end what to do, for my doors were blocking up with creditors and I was without cease importuned for payment by claimants, who dunned me in crowds till at last I was sore perplexed and troubled. So I betook myself to Abdallah bin Málik al-Khuza’í136 and besought him to extend the hand of aid with his judgement and direct me of his good counsel to the door of relief; and he said, ‘None can save thee from this thy strait and sorrowful state save the Barmecides.’ Quoth I, ‘Who can brook their pride and put up patiently with their arrogant pretensions?’ and quoth he, ‘Thou wilt put up with all this for the bettering of thy case.’”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdallah ibn Malik al-Khuza’i said to Sa’id bin Salim, “Thou wilt put up with all this for the bettering of thy case.” “So I left him suddenly (continued Sa’id) and went straight to Al–Fazl and Ja’afar, sons of Yahyá bin Khálid, to whom I related my circumstances; whereto they replied, ‘Allah give thee His aid, and render thee by His bounties independent of His creatures and vouchsafe thee abundant weal and bestow on thee what shall suffice thee, without the need of any but Himself; for whatso He willeth that He can, and He is gracious with His servants and knoweth their wants.’ So I went out from the twain and returned to Abdallah, with straitened breast and mind perplexed and heavy of heart, and repeated to him what they had said. Quoth he, ‘Thou wouldst do well to abide with us this day, that we may see what Allah Almighty will decree.’ So I sat with him awhile, when lo! up came my servant, who said to me, ‘O my lord, there are at our door many laden mules and with them a man, who says he is the agent of Al–Fazl and Ja’afar bin Yahya.’ Quoth Abdallah, ‘I trust that relief is come to thee: rise up and go see what is the matter.’ So I left him and, hastening to my house, found at the door a man who gave me a note wherein was written the following: ‘After thou hadst been with us and we heard thy case, we betook ourselves to the Caliph and informed him that ill condition had reduced thee to the humiliation of begging; where upon he ordered us to supply thee with a thousand thousand dirhams from the Treasury. We represented to him: ‘The debtor will spend this money in paying off creditors and wiping off debt; whence then shall he provide for his subsistence? So he ordered thee other three hundred thousand, and each of us hath also sent thee, of his proper wealth, a thousand thousand dirhams: so that thou hast now three thousand thousand and three hundred thousand dirhams wherewithal to order and amend thine estate.’” See, then, the munificence of these magnificos: Almighty Allah have mercy on them! And a tale is told of
A man brought his wife a fish one Friday and, bidding her to cook it against the end of the congregational prayers, went out to his craft and business. Meanwhile in came her friend who bade her to a wedding at his house; so she agreed and, laying the fish in a jar of water, went off with him and was absent a whole week till the Friday following;137 whilst her husband sought her from house to house and enquired after her; but none could give him any tidings of her. Now on the next Friday she came home and he fell foul of her; but she brought out to him the fish alive from the jar and assembled the folk against him and told them her tale.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
137 Moslem women have this advantage over their Western sisterhood: they can always leave the house of father or husband and, without asking permission, pay a week or ten days’ visit to their friends. But they are not expected to meet their lovers.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman brought out the fish alive from the water-jar and assembled the folk against her husband, and told them her tale. He also told his; but they credited him not and said, “It cannot be that the fish should have remained alive all this while.” So they proved him mad and imprisoned him and mocked at him, where upon he shed tears in floods and recited these two couplets,
“Old hag, of high degree in filthy life,
Whose face her monstrous lewdness witnesses.
When menstuous she bawds; when clean she whores;
And all her time bawd or adulteress is.”
And a tale is related of the
There was in times of yore and in ages long gone before, a virtuous woman among the children of Israel, who was pious and devout and used every day to go out to the place of prayer, first entering a garden, which adjoined thereto, and there making the minor ablution. Now there were in this garden two old men, its keepers, and both Shaykhs fell in love with her and sought her favours; but she refused, whereupon said they, “Unless thou yield thy body to us, we will bear witness against thee of fornication.” Quoth she, “Allah will preserve me from your frowardness!” Then they opened the garden-gate and cried out, and the folk came to them from all places, saying “What aileth you?” Quoth they, “We found this damsel in company with a youth who was doing lewdness with her; but he escaped from our hands.” Now it was the wont of the people in those days to expose adulterer and adulteress to public reproach for three days, and after stone them. So they cried her name in the public streets for three days, while the two elders came up to her daily and, laying their hands on her head, said, “Praised be Allah who hath sent down on thee His righteous indignation!” Now on the fourth day, when they bore her away to stone her, they were followed by a lad named Daniel, who was then only twelve years old, and this was to be the first of his miracles (upon our Prophet and upon him the blessing and peace!). And he ceased not following them to the place of execution, till he came up with them and said to them, “Hasten not to stone her, till I judge between them.” So they set him a chair and he sat down and summoned the old men separately. (Now he was the first ever separated witnesses.) Then said he to the first, “What sawest thou?”139 So he repeated to him his story, and Daniel asked, “In what part of the garden did this befal?” and he answered, “On the eastern side, under a pear-tree.” Then he called the other old man and asked him the same question, and he replied, “On the western side of the garden, under an apple-tree.” Meanwhile the damsel stood by, with her hands and eyes raised heavenwards, imploring the Lord for deliverance. Then Allah Almighty sent down His blasting leven-fire upon the elders and consumed them, and on this wise the Lord made manifest the innocence of the damsel. Such was the first of the miracles of the Prophet Daniel, on whom be blessing and peace! And they relate a tale of
138 The tale of “Susannah and the Elders” in Moslem form. Dániyál is the Arab Daniel, supposed to have been buried at Alexandria. (Pilgrimage, i. 16.)
139 According to Moslem law, laid down by Mohammed on a delicate occasion and evidently for a purpose, four credible witnesses are required to prove fornication, adultery, sodomy and so forth; and they must swear that actually saw rem in re, the “Kohl-needle in the Kohl-étui,” as the Arabs have it. This practically prevents conviction and the sabre cuts the Gordian knot.
The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, went out one day, with Abu Ya’Kúb the cup-companion140 and Ja’afar the Barmecide and Abu Nowas, into the desert, where they fell in with an old man, propt against his ass. The Caliph bade Ja’afar learn of him whence he came; so he asked him, “Whence comest thou?” and he answered, “From Bassorah.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
140 Who, in such case, would represent our equerry.
She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ja’afar asked the man, “Whence comest thou?”; he answered “From Bassorah.” Quoth Ja’afar, “And whither goest thou?” Quoth the other, “To Baghdad.” Then Ja’afar enquired “And what wilt thou do there?” and the old man replied, “I go to seek medicine for my eye.” Said the Caliph, “O Ja’afar, make thou sport with him,” and answered Ja’afar, “I shall hear what I shall exceedingly mislike.”141 But Al–Rashid rejoined, “I charge thee on my authority, jest with him.” Thereupon Ja’afar said to the Badawi, “If I prescribe thee a medicine that shall profit thee, what wilt thou give me in return?” Quoth the other, “Allah Almighty will requite the kindness with what is better for thee than any requital of mine.” Continued Ja’afar, “Now lend me an ear and I will give thee a prescription, which I have given to none but thee.” “What is that?” asked the Badawi; and Ja’afar answered, “Take three ounces of wind-breaths and the like of sunbeams and the same of moonshine and as much of lamp-light; mix them well together and let them lie in the wind three months. Then place them three months in a mortar without a bottom and pound them to a fine powder and after trituration set them in a cleft platter, and let it stand in the wind other three months; after which use of this medicine three drachms every night in thy sleep, and, Inshallah! thou shalt be healed and whole.” Now when the Badawi heard this, he stretched himself out to full length on the donkey’s back and let fly a terrible loud fart142 and said to Ja’afar, “Take this fart in payment of thy prescription. When I have followed it, if Allah grant me recovery, I will give thee a slave-girl, who shall serve thee in they lifetime a service, wherewith Allah shall cut short thy term; and when thou diest and the Lord hurrieth thy soul to hell-fire, she shall blacken thy face with her skite, of her mourning for thee, and shall keen and beat her face, saying ‘O frosty-beard, what a fool thou wast?’”143 thereupon Harun al-Rashid laughed till he fell backward, and ordered the Badawi three thousand silver pieces. And a tale is told of
141 The Badawi not only always tells the truth, a perfect contrast with the townsfolk; he is blunt in speech addressing his Sultan “O Sa’íd!” and he has a hard rough humour which we may fairly describe as “wut.” When you chaff him look out for falls.
142 The answer is as old as the hills, teste the tale of what happened when Amasis (who on horseback) raised his leg, “broke wind and bad the messenger carry it back to Apries.” Herod. Ii. 162. But for the full significance of the Badawi’s most insulting reply see the Tale of Abu Hasan in Night ccccxi.
143 Arab. “Yá sáki” al-Dakan” meaning long bearded (foolish) as well as frosty bearded.
The Sharif Husayn bin Rayyán relateth that the Caliph Omar bin Al–Khattáb was sitting one day judging the folk and doing justice between his subjects, attended by the best and wisest of his counsellors, when there came up to him a youth comely and cleanly attired, upon whom two very handsome youths had laid hold and were haling by the collar till they set him in the presence. Whereupon the Commander of the Faithful, Omar, looked at him and them and bade them loose him; then, calling him near to himself, asked the twain, “What is your case with him?” They answered, “O Prince of True Believers, we are two brothers by one mother and as followers of verity known are we. We had a father, a very old man of good counsel, honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness renowned for goodliness, who reared us tenderly in childhood, and loaded us with favours in manhood;”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the two youths said to the Commander of the Faithful, Omar son of Al- Khattab, “Our father was a man honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness and renowned for goodliness, who reared us delicately in childhood and loaded us with favours in manhood; in fine, a sea of noble and illustrious qualities, worthy of the poet’s praise,
Now he went forth this day to his garden, to refresh himself amongst its trees and pluck the ripe fruits, when this young man slew him wrongously and swerved from the road of righteousness; wherefore we demand of thee the retribution of his crime and call upon thee to pass judgement upon him, according to the commandment of Allah.” Then Omar cast a terrible look at the accused youth and said to him, “Verily thou hearest the complaint these two young men prefer; what hast thou in reply to aver?” But he was brave of heart and bold of speech, having doffed the robe of pusillanimity and put off the garb of cowardry; so he smiled and spake in the most eloquent and elegant words; and, after paying the usual ceremonial compliments to the Caliph, said, ““By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I have indeed given ear to their complaint, and they have told the truth in that which they tell, so far as they have set out what befel; and the commandment of Allah is a decreed decree.146 but I will forthright state my case between they hands, and it is for thee to give commands. Know then, O Prince of the Faithful, that I am a very Arab of the Arabies,147 the noblest of those that are beneath the skies. I grew up in the dwellings of the wold and fell, till evil times my tribe befel, when I came to the outskirts of this town, with my family and whatso goods I own: and, as I went along one of the paths leading to its gardens, orchards and garths, with my she-camels highly esteemed and by me most precious deemed, and midst them a stallion of noble blood and shape right good, a plenteous getter of brood, by whom the females abundantly bore and who walked among them as though a kingly crown he wore, one of the she-camels broke away; and, running to the garden of these young men’s father, where the trees showed above the wall, put forth her lips and began to feed as in stall. I ran to her, to drive her away, when behold, there appeared, at a breach of the wall, an old man and grey, whose eyes sparkled with angry ray, holding in his right a stone to throw and swaying to and fro, with a swing like a lion ready for a spring. He cast the stone at my stallion, and it killed him for it struck a vital part. When I saw the stallion drop dead beside me, I felt live coals of anger kindled in my heart; so I took up the very same stone and throwing it at the old man, it was the cause of his bane and ban: thus his own wrongful act returned to him anew, and the man was slain of that wherewith he slew. When the stone struck him, he cried out with a great cry and shrieked out a terrible shriek, whereupon I hastened from the spot; but these two young men hurried after me and laid hands on me and before thee carried me.” Quoth Omar (Almighty Allah accept of him!), “Thou hast confessed what thou committedest, and of acquittal there is no possible occasion; for urgent is the law of retaliation and they cried for mercy but it was not a time to escape.”148 the youth answered, “I hear and obey the judgement of the Imam, and I consent to all required by the law of Al–Islam; but I have a young brother, whose old father, before his decease, appointed to him wealth in great store and gold galore, and committed his affair to me before Allah, saying: ‘I give this into thy hand for thy brother; keep it for him with all thy might.’ So I took the money and buried it; nor doth any know of it but I. Now, if thou adjudge me to be justiced forthright, the money will lost and thou shalt be the cause of its loss; wherefore the child will sue thee for his due on the day when the Creator shall judge between His creatures. But, if thou wilt grant me three days’ delay, I will appoint some guardian to administer the affairs of the boy and return to answer my debt; and I have one who will be my surety for the fulfillment of this my promise.” So the Commander of the Faithful bowed his head awhile, then raised it and looking round upon those present, said, “Who will stand surety by me for his return to this place?” And the youth looked at the faces of those who were in company and pointing to Abu Zarr,149 in preference to all present, said, “This man shall answer for me and be my bail.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
144 P. N. of the tribe, often mentioned in The Nights.
145 Adnan, which whom Arab genealogy begins, is generally supposed to be the eighth (Al–Tabari says the fortieth) descendant from Ishmael and nine generations are placed between him and Fahr (Fihr) Kuraysh. The Prophet cut all disputes short by saying, “Beyond Adnan none save Allah wotteth and the genealogists lie.” (Pilgrimage ii. 344) M.C. de Perceval dates Adnan about B.C. 130.
146 Koran xxxiii., 38.
147 Arab. “Arab al-Arabá,” as before noticed (vol. i. 12) the pure and genuine blood as opposed to the “Musta’aribah,” the “Muta’arribah,” the “Mosarabians” and other Araboids; the first springing from Khatan (Yaktan?) and the others from Adnan. And note that “Arabi” = a man of pure Arab race, either of the Desert or of the city, while A’arábi applies only to the Desert man, the Badawi.
148 Koran xxxviii. 2, speaking of the Unbelievers (i.e. non-Moslems) who are full of pride and contention.
149 One of the Asháb, or Companions of the Apostle, that is them who knew him personally. (Pilgrimage ii. 80, etc.) The Asháb al-Suffah (Companions of the bench or sofa) were certain houseless Believers lodged by the Prophet. (Pilgrimage ii. 143).
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth pointed to Abu Zarr and said, “This man shall answer for me and be my bail,” Omar (Allah accept of him!) said, O Abu Zarr, dost thou hear these words and wilt thou be surety to me for the return of this youth?” He answered, “Yes, O Commander of the Faithful, I will be surety for him for three days.” So the Caliph accepted his guarantee and let the young man go. Now when the appointed time passed and the days of grace were nearly or quite at end yet the youth came not, the Caliph took seat in his council, with the Companions surrounding him, like the constellations about the moon, Abu Zarr and the plaintiffs being also present; and the avengers said, “Where is the defendant, O Abu Zarr, and how shall he return, having once fled? But we will not stir from our places till thou bring him to us, that we may take of him our blood revenge.” Replied Abu Zarr, “By the truth of the All–Wise King, if the three days of grace expire and the young man returneth not, I will fulfill my warranty and surrender my person to the Imam;” and added Omar (whom Allah accept!), “By the Lord, if the young man appear not, I will assuredly execute on Abu Zarr that which is prescribed by the law of Al–Islam!”150 thereupon the eyes of the bystanders ran over with tears; those who looked on groaned aloud and great was the clamour. Then the chiefs of the Companions urged the plaintiffs to accept the blood-wit and deserve the thanks of the folk; but they both refused and would accept nothing save the talion. However, as the folk were swaying to and fro like waves and loudly bemoaning Abu Zarr, behold, up came the young Badawi; and, standing before the Imam, saluted him right courteously (with sweat-beaded face and shining with the crescent’s grace) and said to him, “I have given the lad in charge to his mother’s brothers and have made them acquainted with all that pertaineth to his affairs and let them into the secrets of his monies; after which I braved the heats of noon and have kept my word as a free- born man.” Thereupon the folk marvelled, seeing his good faith and loyalty and his offering himself to death with so stout a heart; and one said to him, “How noble a youth art thou and how loyal to thy word of honour and thy devoir!” Rejoined he, “Are ye not convinced that when death presenteth itself, none can escape from it? And indeed, I have kept my word, that it be not said, ‘Good faith is gone from among mankind.’ “ Said Abu Zarr, “By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I became warrant for this young man, without knowing to what tribe he belonged, nor had I seen him before that day; but, when he turned away from all who were present and singled me out, saying, ‘This man shall answer for me and be my bail,’ I thought it not right to refuse him, and generosity forbade to disappoint his desire, there being no harm in compliance therewith, that it be not bruited abroad, Benevolence is gone from among mankind.” Then said the two young men, “O Commander of the Faithful, we forgive this youth our father’s blood, seeing that he hath changed desolation into cheerfulness; that it be not said, Humanity is gone from among mankind.” So the Caliph rejoiced in the acquittance of the youth and his truth and good faith; moreover, he magnified the generosity of Abu Zarr, extolling it over all his companions, and approved the resolve of the two young men for its benevolence, giving them praise with thanks and applying to their case the saying of the poet,
“Who doth kindness to men shall be paid again;
Ne’er is kindness lost betwixt God and men.”
Then he offered to pay them, from the Treasury, the blood-wit for their father; but they refused, saying, “We forgave him only of our desire unto Allah,151 the Bountiful, the Exalted; and he who is thus intentioned followeth not his benefits with reproach or with mischief.”152 and amongst the tales they relate is that of
150 Hence Omar is entitled “Al–Adil = the Just.” Readers will remember that by Moslem law and usage murder and homicide are offences to be punished by the family, not by society or its delegates. This system reappears in civilisation under the denomination of “Lynch Law,” a process infinitely distasteful to lawyers (whom it abolishes) and most valuable when administered with due discretion.
151 Lane translates (ii. 592) “from a desire of seeing the face of God;” but the general belief of Al–Islam is that the essence of Allah’s corporeal form is different from man’s. The orthodox expect to “see their Lord on Doom-day as they see the full moon” (a tradition). But the Mu’atazilites deny with the existence of matter the corporiety of Alah and hold that he will be seen only with the spiritual eyes, i.e. of reason.
152 See Gesta Romanorum, Tale cviii., “of Constancy in adhering to Promises,” founded on Damon and Pythias or, perhaps, upon the Arabic.
It is told that the Caliph Al–Maamun, son of Harun al-Rashid, when he entered the God-guarded city of Cairo, was minded to pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein; but, when he went about to do this, he could not succeed, albeit his best was done. He expended a mint of money in the attempt,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
153 Arab. “Al–Ahrám,” a word of unknown provenance. It has been suggested that the singular form (Haram), preceded by the Coptic article “pi” (= the) suggested to the Greeks “Pyramis.” But this word is still sub judice and every Egyptologist seems to propose his own derivation. Brugsch (Egypt i. 72) makes it Greek, the Egyptian being “Abumir,” while “pir-am-us” = the edge of the pyramid, the corners running from base to apex. The Egyptologist proves also what the Ancients either ignored or forgot to mention, that each pyramid had its own name.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al–Maamun attempting to pull down the Pyramids, expended his mint of money, but succeeded only in opening up a small tunnel in one of them, where in it is said he found treasure to the exact amount of the monies he had spent in the works, neither more nor less; whereat he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted from his determination. Now the Pyramids are three, and they are one of the Wonders of the World; nor is there on the face of earth aught like them for height and fashion and mysteries154; for they are built of huge rocks, and the builders proceeded by piercing one block of stone and setting therein upright rods of iron155; after which they pierced a second block of stone and lowered it upon the first. Then they poured melted lead upon the clamps and set the blocks in geometrical order, till the building was complete. Now the height of each pyramid was an hundred cubits, of the normal measure of the day, and it had four faces, each three hundred cubits long from the base and thence battering upwards to a point. The ancients say that, in the western Pyramid, are thirty chambers of parti-coloured syenite, full of precious gems and treasures galore and rare images and utensils and costly weapons which are anointed with egromantic unguents, so that they may not rust until the day of Resurrection.156 Therein, also, are vessels of glass which bend and break not, containing various kinds of compound drugs and sympathetic waters. In the second Pyramid are the records of the priests, written on tablets of syenite, to each priest his tablet, whereon are engraved the wonders of his craft and his feats; and on the walls are the human figures like idols, working with their hands at all manner of mechanism and seated on stepped thrones. Moreover, to each Pyramid there is a guardian treasurer who keepeth watch over it and wardeth it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the shifts of events; and indeed the marvels of these Pyramids astound all who have sight and insight. Many are the poems that describe them, thou shalt thereby profit no small matter, and among the rest, quoth one of them,
“If Kings would see their high emprize preserved,
‘Twill be by tongues of monuments they laid:
Seest not the Pyramids? These two endure
Despite what change Time and Change have made.”
And quoth another,
“Look on the Pyramids, and hear the twain
Recount their annals of the long-gone Past:
Could they but speak, high marvels had they told
Of what Time did to man from first to last.”
And quoth a third,
“My friend I prithee tell me, ‘neath the sky
Is aught with Egypt’s Pyramids can compare?
Buildings which frighten Time, albe what dwells
On back of earth in fear of Time must fare:
If on their marvels rest my sight no more,
Yet these I ever shall in memory bear.”
And quoth a fourth,
“Where is the man who built the Pyramids?
What was his tribe, what day and where his tomb?
The monuments survive the men who built
Awhile, till overthrown by touch of Doom.”
And men also tell a tale of
154 Arab. “Ahkám,” in this matter supporting the “Pyramidologists.”
155 All imaginative.
156 It has always been my opinion founded upon considerations too long to detail, that the larger Pyramids contain many unopened chambers. Dr. Grant Bey of Cairo proposed boring through the blocks as Artesian wells are driven. I cannot divine why Lane (ii, 592) chose to omit this tale, which is founded on historic facts and interests us by suggesting a comparison between Mediæval Moslem superstitions and those of our xixth Century, which to our descendants will appear as wild, if not as picturesque, as those of The Nights. The “inspired British inch” and the building by Melchisedek (the Shaykh of some petty Syrian village) will compare not unaptly with the enchanted swords, flexible glass and guardian spirits. But the Pyramidennarren is a race which will not speedily die out: it is based on Nature, the Pyramids themselves.
There was once a thief who repented to Almighty Allah with sincere penitence; so he opened himself a shop for the sale of stuffs, where he continued to trade awhile. It so chanced one day that he locked his shop and went home, and in the night there came to the bazar an artful thief disguised in the habit of the merchant, and pulling out keys from his sleeve, said to the watchman of the market, “Light me this wax-candle.” The watchman took the taper and went to light it,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the watchman took the taper and went to light it, whilst the thief opened the shop and lit another candle he had by him. When the watchman came back, he found him seated in the shop, account-books inhand, and reckoning with his fingers; nor did he cease to do thus till point of day, when he said to the man, “Fetch me a camel-driver and his camel, to carry some goods for me.” So the man fetched him a camel, and the thief took four bales157 of stuffs and gave them to the cameleer, who loaded them on his beast. Then he gave the watchman two dirhams and went away after the camel-driver, leaving the watchman believing him to be the owner of the shop. Now when the morning dawned and day broke the merchant came and the watchman began greeting him with blessings, because of the two dirhams; but the shop-keeper wondered at his words as one not knowing what he meant. When he opened his shop, he saw the droppings of the wax and the account-book lying on the floor, and looking round, found four bales of stuffs missing. So he asked the watchman what had happened and he told him what has passed in the night and what had been said to the cameleer, whereupon the merchant bade him fetch the man and asked him, “Whither didst thou carry the stuffs this morning?” Answered the driver, “To such a landing-place, and I stowed them on board such a vessel.” Said the merchant, “Come with me thither;” so the camel-driver carried him to the landing-place and said to him, “This be the barque and this be her owner.” Quoth the merchant to the seaman, “Whither didst thou carry the merchant and the stuff?” Answered the boat-master, “To such a place, where he fetched a camel-driver and, setting the bales on the camel, went his ways I know not whither.” “Fetch me the cameleer who carried the goods,” said the merchant; so he fetched him and the merchant said to him, “Whither didst thou carry the bales of goods from the ship?” “To such a Khan,” answered he; and the merchant rejoined, “Come thither with me and show it to me.” So the camel-man went with him to a place far distant from the shore and showed him the Khan where he had set down the stuffs, and at the same time the false merchant’s magazine, which he opened and found therein his four bales bound up as they had been packed. The thief had laid his cloak over them; so the merchant took the cloak as well as the bales and delivered them to the camel-driver, who laid them on his camel; after which he locked the magazine and went away with the cameleer. On the way, he was confronted with the thief who followed him, till he had shipped the bales, when he said to him, “O my brother (Allah have thee in His holy keeping!), thou hast indeed recovered thy goods and naught of them is lost; so give me back my cloak.” The merchant laughed and, giving him back his cloak, let him go unhindered; whereupon both went their ways. And they tell a tale of
157 Arab. “Rizm”; hence, through the Italian Risma our ream (= 20 quires of paper, etc.), which our dictionaries derive from (!). See “frail” in Night dcccxxxviii.
The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, was exceedingly restless one night; so he said to his Wazir Ja’afar, “I am sleepless to-night and my breast is straitened and I know not what to do.” Now his castrato Masrúr was standing before him, and he laughed: whereupon the Caliph said “At whom laughest thou? Is it to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?” Answered Masrur, “Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Harun al- Rashid said to Masrur the Sworder, “Dost thou laugh to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?” Answered Masrur, “Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I swear by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it not of my free will; but I went out yesterday to walk within sight of the palace and, coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk collected; so I stopped and found a man, Ibn al-Káribí hight, who was making them laugh; but just now I recalled what he said, and laughter got the better of me; and I crave pardon of thee, O Commander of the Faithful!” Quoth the Caliph, “Bring him to me forthright;” so Masrur repaired in all haste to Ibn al-Karibi and said to him, “Answer the summons of the Commander of the Faithful,” whereto he replied, “I hear and obey.” “But on condition,” added Masrur, “that, if he give thee aught, thou shalt have a quarter and the rest shall be mine.” Replied the droll, “Nay, thou shalt have half and I half.” Rejoined Masrur, “Not so, I will have three-quarters.” Lastly said Ibn al-Karibi, “Thou shalt have two-thirds and I the other third;” to which Masrur agreed, after much higgling and haggling, and they returned to the palace together. Now when Ibn al-Karibi came into the Caliph’s presence he saluted him as men greet the Caliphate, and stood before him; whereupon said Al–Rashid to him, “If thou do not make me laugh, I will give thee three blows with this bag.” Quoth Ibn al-Karibi in his mind, “And a small matter were blows with that bag, seeing that beating with whips hurteth me not;” for he thought the bag was empty. Then he began to deal out his drolleries, such as would make the dismallest jemmy guffaw, and gave vent to all manner of buffooneries; but the Caliph laughed not neither smiled, whereat Ibn al-Karibi marvelled and was chagrined and affrighted. Then said the Commander of the Faithful, “Now hast thou earned the beating,” and gave him a blow with the bag, wherein were four pebbles each two rotols in weight. The blow fell on his neck and he gave a great cry, then calling to mind his compact with Masrur, said, “Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Hear two words from me.” Quoth the Caliph, “Say on,” and quoth Ibn al-Karibi, “Masrur made it a condition with me and I a covenant with him, that whatsoever largesse might come to me of the bounties of the Commander of the Faithful, one-third thereof should be mine and the rest his; nor did he agree to leave me so much as one-third, save after much higgling and haggling. I have had my share and here standeth he, ready to receive his portion; so pay him the two other blows.” Now when the Caliph heard this, he laughed until he fell on his back; then calling Masrur, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out and said, “O Commander of the Faithful, the one-third sufficeth me: give him the two-thirds.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Masrur cried out, “O Commander of the Faithful! The one-third sufficeth me; give him the two-thirds.” So the Caliph laughed at them and ordered them a thousand dinars each, and they went away, rejoicing at the largesse. And of the tales they tell is one of
The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, had a son who, from the time he attained the age of sixteen, renounced the world and walked in the way158 of ascetics and devotees. He was wont to go out to the graveyards and say, “Ye once ruled the world, but that saved you not from death, and now are ye come to your sepulchres! Would Heaven I knew what ye said and what is said to you!”159 and he wept as one weepeth who is troubled with fear and apprehension, and repeated the worlds of the poet,
“Affright me funerals at every time;
And wailing women grieve me to the soul!”
Now it chanced one day, as he sat among the tombs, according to his custom, his father passed by in all his state, surrounded by his Wazirs and Lords of the realm and the Officers of his household, who seeing the Caliph’s son with a gown of woollen stuff on his body and a twist of wool on his head by way of turband, said to one another, “Verily this youth dishonoureth the Commander of the Faithful among Kings: but, if he reproved him, he would leave his present way of life.” The Caliph heard these words; so quoth he to his son, “O my dear child, of a truth thou disgracest me by thy present way of life.” The young man looked at him and made no reply: then he beckoned to a bird perched on the battlements of the palace, and said to it, “O thou bird, I conjure thee by Him who created thee, alight upon my hand.” Whereupon straightway it swooped down and perched on his finger. Then quoth he, “Return to thy place;” and it did so. Presently he said, “Alight on the hand of the Commander of the Faithful;” but it refused there to perch, and he cried to his father, “It is thou that disgracest me amongst the Holy160 Ones, by the love of the world; and now I am resolved to part from thee, never to return to thee, save in the world to come.” Then he went down to Bassorah, where he took to working with those which wrought in clay,161 receiving, as his day’s hire, but a dirham and a danik;162 and with the danik he fed himself and gave alms of the dirham. (Quoth Abú Amir of Bassorah) “There fell down a wall in my house; so I went forth to the station of the artisans to find a man who should repair it for me, and my eyes fell on a handsome youth of a radiant countenance. So I saluted him and asked him, ‘O my friend, dost thou seek work?’ ‘Yes,’ answered he; and I said, ‘Come with me and build a wall.’ He replied, ‘On certain conditions I will make with thee.’ Quoth I ‘What are they, O my friend?’; and quoth he, ‘My wage must be a dirham and a danik, and again when the Mu’ezzin calleth to prayer, thou shalt let me go pray with the congregation.’ ‘It is well,’ answered I and carried him to my lace, where he fell to work, such work as I never saw the like of. Presented I named to him the morning-meal; but he said, ‘No;’ and I knew that he was fasting.163 When he heard the call to prayer, he said to me, ‘Thou knowest the condition?’ ‘Yes,’ answered i. So he loosed his girdle and, applying himself to the lesser ablution, made it after a fashion than which I never saw a fairer;164 then he went to the mosque and prayed with the congregation and returned to his work. He did the same upon the call to mid-afternoon prayer, and when I saw him fall to work again thereafterward, I said to him, ‘O my friend, verily the hours of labour are over; a workman’s day is but till the time of afternoon-prayer.’ But he replied, ‘Praise to the Lord, my service is till the night.’ And he ceased not to work till nightfall, when I gave him two dirhams; whereupon he asked ‘What is this!’; and I answered, ‘By Allah, this is but part of thy wage, because of thy diligence in my service.’ But he threw them back to me saying, ‘I will have no more than was agreed upon between us twain.’ I urged him to take them, but could not prevail upon him; so I gave him the dirham and the danik, and he went away. And when morning dawned, I went to the station but found him not; so I enquired for him and was told, ‘He cometh thither only on Sabbaths.’ Accordingly, when Saturday came, I betook me to the market and finding him there, said to him, ‘Bismillah, do me the favour to come and work for me.’ Said he, ‘Upon the conditions thou wottest;’ and I answered ‘Yes!’ Then carrying him to my house I stood to watch him where he could not see me; and he took a handful of puddled clay and laid it on the wall, when, behold, the stones ranged themselves one upon other; and I said, ‘On this wise are Allah’s holy ones.’ he worked out his day and did even more than before; and when it was night, I gave him his hire, and he took it and walked away. Now when the third Saturday came round, I went to the place of standing, but found him not; so I asked after him and they told me, ‘He is sick and lying in the shanty of such a woman.’ Now this was an old wife, renowned for piety, who had a hovel of reeds in the burial-ground. So I fared thither and found him stretched on the floor which was bare, with a brick for a pillow and his face beaming like the new moon with light. I saluted him and he returned my salam; and I sat down at his head weeping over his fair young years and absence from home and submission to the will of his Lord. Then said I to him, ‘Hast thou any need?’ ‘Yes,’ answered he; and I said, ‘What is it?’ He replied, ‘Come hither to-morrow in the forenoon and thou wilt find me dead. Wash me and dig my grave and tell none thereof: but shroud me in this my gown, after thou hast unsewn it and taken out what thou shalt find in the bosom-pocket, which keep with thee. Then, when thou hast prayed over me and laid me in the dust, go to Baghdad and watch for the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, till he come forth, when do thou give him what thou shalt find in the breast of my gown and bear him my salutation.’ Then he ejaculated the profession of the Faith and glorified his God in the most eloquent of words, reciting these couplets,
‘Carry the trust of him whom death awaits
To Al–Rashid and God reward thy care!
And say ‘An exile who desired thy sight
Long loving, from afar sends greeting fair.
Nor hate nor irk (No!) him from thee withdrew,
Kissing thy right to Heaven brought him near.165
But what estranged his soul, O sire, from thee
Is that thy worldly joys it would not share!’
Then he betook himself to prayer, asking pardon of Allah’—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
158 Arab. “Taríkah” = the path trodden by ascetics and mystics in order to attain true knowledge (Ma’rifat in Pers. Dánish). These are extensive subjects: for the present I must refer readers to the Dabistan, iii. 35 and iii. 29, 36–7.
159 Alluding to the Fishár or “Squeeze of the tomb.” This is the Jewish Hibbut hakkeber which all must endure, save those who lived in the Holy Land or died on the Sabbath-eve (Friday night). Then comes the questioning by the Angels Munkar and Nakir (vulgarly called Nákir and Nakír) for which see Lane (M.E. chapt. xviii.). In Egypt a “Mulakkin” (intelligencer) is hired to prompt and instruct the dead. Moslems are beginning to question these facts of their faith: a Persian acquaintance of mine filled his dead father’s mouth with flour and finding it in loco on opening the grave, publicly derided the belief. But the Mullahs had him on the hip, after the fashion of reverends, declaring that the answers were made through the whole body, not only by the mouth. At last the Voltairean had to quit Shiraz.
160 Arab. “Walí” = a saint, Santon (Ital. Form) also a slave. See in Richardson (Dissert. iii.), an illustration of the difference between Wali and Wáli as exemplified by the Caliph al-Kádir and Mahmúd of Ghazni.
161 Arab. “Tín” = the tenacious clay puddled with chaff which serves as mortar for walls built of Adobe or sun dried brick. I made a mistake in my Pilgrimage (i.10) translating Ras al-Tín the old Pharos of Alexandria, by “Headland of Figs.” It is Headland of Clay, so called from the argile there found and which supported an old pottery.
162 The danik (Pers. Dang) is the sixth of a dirham. Mr. S. L. Poole (The Acad. April 26, ‘79) prefers his uncle’s translation “a sixth” (what of?) to Mr. Payne’s “farthing.” The latter at any rate is intelligible.
163 The devotee was “Sáim al-dahr” i.e. he never ate nor drank from daylight to dark throughout the year.
164 The ablution of a common man differs from that of an educated Moslem as much as the eating of a clown and a gentleman. Moreover there are important technical differences between the Wuzu of the Sunni and the Shi’ah.
165 i.e., by honouring his father.
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