Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/A wonderful Tale of another Period

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IT is said that when Bahrim[1] succeeded to the kingdom of Persia after his father, he gave no heed to his government or his subjects, but devoted himself to amusement, and enjoyment, and pleasure, and sport ; until at length the towns threw off his yoke and fell into ruin, and cultivation diminished, and the treasuries became empty.

And one moonlight night, he was riding out towards Seleucia and Ctesiphon, where he had certain pleasure and hunting-grounds. And he sent for the Maubadz — who is amongst the Magiatis as the High-priest amongst the Jews, and the Bishop amongst the Christians — to talk over his affairs with him. And as they journeyed they passed through the ruins of a large town which had fallen into decay during his reign. There was no living creature to be found therein excepting owls. And one of the owls was screeching, and his mate was answering him from amidst the ruins.

Then Bahrdm asked his companion. "Hast thou ever known amongst men one who understood the language of this bird which screams through the darkness of the night V

The Maubadz answered, "I, O King! am of those whom God has thus endowed."

" Then tell me," said Bahrim, " what each of these birds is saying."

" This male owl," said the Maubadz, '* is courting the hen bird, and he has said to her, * Mate with me that we may bring up children who will praise God, and that there may remain of us in this world a pos- terity to invoke abundant blessings upon us.' And the hen owl has answered, * In this which you de- mand there is great happiness and good fortune for me, both in this present life and in the future. But I must impose one condition upon you ; if yoM'Sw^c.^'^^.S^.^

112 'ilAm-eN'NAs.

I will agree to what you wish.* Then the male bird asked her, 'What is your demand?' She replied,

  • That out of the ruins belonging to this large town,

you will bestow upon me twenty of those villages which have fallen into decay during the reign of the present fortunate prince/ "

Then the King asked the Maubadz, "And what did the male owl say to her ?"

" His reply to her," answered the Maubadz, " was,


  • If the days of this fortunate prince endure, I will

bestow upon you a thousand of these villages. But what will you do with them V And she made an- swer, * Through our union our race will become famous, and our memory great ; and we will give one village from amid these ruins to every son amongst our children.' And he said to her, * This is a light task that you have demanded of me, and I will fulfil it if this King lives.' "

Then when Bahrim heard the words of the Maubadz, his soul was moved within him, and he awoke from his sleep, and pondered over what had been told him. And he alighted at once, and his attendants followed his example. Then he and the Maubadz went aside, and the King cried, "O thou supporter of the laws of religion, and wise counsellor of the King, and his admonisher of neglect of the duties of his government and the misery of his country and his subjects! what are these words in which thou hast spoken to me ? For verily thou hast troubled in me that which was at rest.**

So the Maubadz made answer, ** I found that this was the time to obtain help from the fortunate prince for the wretched people and the towns. There- fore made I a fable of my words, and an admonition in. the language of birds, in order that the King might ask me that which he did ask me."

" O wise counsellor!" said the King; "recount to me the aim thou hadst in view."

The Maubadz replied, " O King ! surely the empire is not secure except by obedience to the Divine law and unswerving obedience to God. And the Divine law cannot be maintained except by the King. And the King has no strength except by men. And there is no supporting men except by wealth. And there is no road to wealth except by the cultivation of the soil. And there is no road to cultivation except by justice. And justice is — upright dealing betwixt the creatures created by God, the Glorious, the Most High. And He has appointed for Himself a deputy, who is — the King.

" Then said the King, " Certainly what thou hast described is true. But explain to me what thou dost mean by it, and enlighten me fully."

He replied, " Willingly, O King ! Verily thou hast caused suffering to the villages by bestowing them upon retainers and idle persons, who too^c for themselves the first-fruits of the crops, and forestalled the harvest, and neglected cultivation, and the consideration of consequences, and of what would profit the villages. And they themselves being exempt from taxation on account of their relationship to the King,

the burden fell upon the subjects and the tillers of the village lands. Then these deserted their homes, and wealth decreased, and both soldiers and labourers dwindled. And the country of Persia was coveted greedily by the neighbouring kings and peoples, for in their opinion the means whereby the pillars of the State were supported had been destroyed."

Then when the King heard this he remained where he was for three days. And he sent for the wazirs, and secretaries, and members of the diwdns. And he wrested the villages from the hands of his minions and adherents, and restored them to their owners. And they resumed their former habits, and applied themselves to tillage ; and those of them who had become weak, again grew strong, and thus the ground was cultivated and waxed fertile. And the farmers increased in substance, and the armies became power- ful, and the growth of enmity ceased. And the King set himself earnestly to business, and his conduct was praised, and his kingdom was so well governed that after him his reign was known as — The happy days of him who extended bounty to all men, and over- shadowed them with justice.

Translator's footnotes[edit]

  1. "Bahrim the son of Bahrim" was the third of that name among the kings of Persia. He was the fifth of the dynasty of the Sassanidae, and was only the adopted son of his predecessor. Ibn-Batrik says that this prince was a contemporary of the Emperors Gordian and Gallienus, which would bring his reign somewhere between a.d. 237 and A.D. 268, ot somewhat less than four hundred years before the time of Muhammad.