Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/Another Wonderful Story

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ANOTHER WONDERFUL STORY[edit]

EL-ASMAIY[1] is said to have related the following wonderful tale.

At the time that Khilid,+ the son of 'Abd-A114h, Kh^lid-ibn-'Abd-Aliah, el KtSsary, was appointed governor of Arabian and Persian 'Irik by Hishim-ibn-'Abd-el-MMik. Before that, in A.H. 89, he was governor of Mekkah. His mother was a Christian, and his grandfather Yeztd was one of the Associates q& the Prophet. KhMid was considered as one el Kijsary, was governor of el-Bdsrah, I went to that place seeking the Bedawin of the Benu-Saad. And one day when I went into Khdlid's presence, I found people surrounding a young man of prepossessing appearance, and evidently possessed of elegance and polite manners. He was well made, and of a grace- ful figure ; his odour was fragrant, his countenance striking, and his mien calm and dignified. And Khilid inquired his history of those who had brought him in. Whereupon they affirmed, " This is a robber whom we found yesterday in our abode."

So Khdlid looked at him ; and the comeliness of his appearance, and his cleanliness, astonished him. And he said to the people, "Loose him/' Then he caused him to be brought near, and asked him concerning his story ; to which the young man replied, " Verily it occurred as they have said ; and the affair took place as they have related."

of the most elegant and correct pulpit orators of the Arabian nation ; he was also very beneficent, and generous to profusion in his donations. Doubts were cast on the sincerity of his religious belief, as he had built a church for his mother to pray in. In A.H. 125 or 126 (a.d. 743) he was deposed from the government of 'Irdk, and put to death with cruel tortures at el-Htrah (see Prefatory Note, p. 37) by his successor Ydsuf-ibn-'Omar-eth-Thakify.

" What possessed one so well-conditioned, and of so pleasing an aspect as thine, to do such a thing ? " asked Khilid.

" The wickedness of the world overcame me/* he answered, " and God [may He be praised and exalted]

is judge of the same."

" May thy mother be bereft of thee ! " cried Khalid. " Hadst not thou with a good countenance, and a sound mind, and excellent manners, a con- science to preserve thee from theft ? "

He replied, " Let that pass, O Prince ! and make known the command of the Most High concerning that upon which my hands laid hold, for God is not unjust to His slaves."

Then was Khdlid silent' awhile, pondering over the affair of the young man. Presently he caused him to approach, and said to him, "Although thou hast confessed before the face of witnesses, verily I am in doubt, for I do not believe thee to be a thief If therefore thou hast a story other than that of the robbery, make it known to me."

" O Prince ! " said the young nian, " do not imagine that there is anything but what I have confessed to thee ; neither have I anything further to say than that I did enter the house of these people, and stole therefrom of their property ; and they followed itie, took it from me, and brought me before thee."

So KhAlid ordered him to prison, and commanded the herald to proclaim in el-Basrah : "Let all who desire to witness the punishment of So-and-so the robber, and the cutting off of his hand,[2] be present to-morrow.

And when the young man had been cast into prison with fetters fastened to his feet, he sighed deeply, and recited, saying :

Khalid threatens the loss of my hand
If I reveal not to him her story ;
But I said, " Far be it from me to disclose!
What the heart has received from its mistress !
To lose my hand for what J have confessed .
Is less g^vous to the heart than her shame.

And the gaolers happening to overhear him, came and reported the same to Khatlid. And when night fell, the latter ordered him into his presence, and wh^n he was brought in, entered into conversation with him ; and found him so well-bred, sensible intelligent, and refined, that he was astonished at him. Then Khilid ordered some food to be brought, and when they had eaten and talked together for some time, said to him, " Of a truth, I felt convinced that thou hadst some other tale besides that of the theft. Therefore, to-morrow, when the people and the judges are present, and I ask of thee concerning the robbery, if thou dost deny it and throw doubt upon it, thou wilt save thyself from mutilation. For verily the Prophet of God has said, * Doubts invali- date penal sentences.'*' Then he ordered him]^back to the prison.

And when the morning dawned upon the world, there was left in el-Bdsrah neither man nor woman who abstained from coming to witness the punish- ment of that young man. And Khilid was enthroned, and with him were the chief people of el-Bdsrah, besides others. And he sent for the judges, and desired the young man to be brought, who came hobbling in his chains ; and there was not a woman but wept for him, crying aloud and bewailing him. But silence was imposed upon the people, and then Khdlid said to the young man, " Verily these people

a

ANOTHER WONDERFUL STORY.'* 121

assert that thou didst enter their house and didst steal their goods. What sayest thou ?"

He replied, " They speak the truth, O Prince ! I did enter their house, and did steal of their pos- sessions."

" Perhaps," said Khdlid, " it was something of no great value that thou stolest V*

" On the contrary,'* said he, '* I stole their goods of greatest worth."

" Then it may be," said KhAlid, " that it was not in its proper place when thou didst lay hands upon it ? "t

"Not so," he answered, "it was placed in security."

"But it may chance that thou wert partner with these people in a portion of it," suggested Khilid.

" No," said he, " the whole of it was theirs ; I had no right whatsoever to it."

Then Khdlid grew fyrious, and went up and struck

  • According to the Siinnahy or Traditions of the Prophet,

the punishment of mutilation was not to be carried out if the value of the stolen property was less than a quarter of a din^. In Sale's translation of the Kurin the sum in question is erroneously stated as four dinars.

t To render a thief liable to the ptmishment of mutilation, it it was held necessary that the stolen property should have been takeii from a place to which he had not eas'j ^.cc^'^'^.

iisi 'ILAM'ENsNAs.

him in the face with his whip, and cried, It verifies

the lines,

Man desires that his wish may he granted, But God denies except what He thinks good."

And then he sent for the executioner to cut off the culprit's hand. So he came, and drew forth his knife, and stretched out the young man's hand. But a girl, bedraggled with mud, rushed from the midst of the women, and shrieking aloud threw herself upon him. Then she cast aside her veil, and revealed a face resembling the moon in its fullest beauty. And a great confusion arose amongst the people, one would almost have thought it to be a riot. Then she cried with a loud voice, " I adjure thee in the name of Allah, O Prince ! that thou delay the mutilation until thou hast read this petition^— and she presented a paper to him.

So Khatlid broke the seal, and lo! within it were

written the following lines :

Ah, Kh^id ! This fellow is mad through love, is enslaved thereby.

His eye has been wounded by an arrow from my bow.

A dart from 'neath my eyelids deafened him. And his heart

Is as a flaming fire. His state is like one void of reason.

He has confessed to a crime which he did not comfnit, holding

That better than the dishonour of his beloved.

Therefore deal gently with the sad lover; for he

Is of a noble disposition^ by nature not a thie£

ANOTHER WONDERFUL STORY." 123

And when Khdlid had read the lines, he turned away, and withdrew from the people, and caused the woman to be brought before him, and inquired her history. So she informed him that this young man loved her as she loved him ; and that he wished to come and see her; and in order to let her know where he was he threw a stone into the house. And h^r father and her brothers heard the noise made by the stone, and went towards him. And when he saw them coming he collected all the things belonging to the house and made them up into a bundle. So they seized upon him, and said, ** This is a thief." " And they brought him," said she, "to thee. And he confessed the theft and persisted in it, in order to savfe me from getting into trouble amongst my brethren. And the loss of his hand was a light thing for him to bear, provided he screened me, and I was not dis- graced. And all this by reason of his extreme generosity and the nobility of his soul."

Then said Khdlid, " He is worthy through this deed." And he called the young man to him, and kissed him on the forehead, and commanded to fetch the father of the girl, and said to him, " O Sheikh ! verily we had determined upon e:«.^c\v\Axv^>i\fc\a^N ^'v

124 'ILAM'EN-NAS.

mutilation upon this young man. But God, the Glorious and Most High, has preserved us from so doing. And verily I have ordered for him ten thousand dirhems as a compensation for his hand, and a reward for his care of thy and thy daughter's reputation, and for preserving the honour of you both. And verily I have ordered another ten thousand dirhems for thy daughter, and I pray thee to grant me permission to unite her in marriage with him."

Then said the old man, "Certainly I grant permission for that, O Prince !*'

So Khilid praised and magnified God, and preached a beautiful sermon ; and said to the young man, "Verily I have united thee to this girl, Such-an-one, here present, by her consent and wish, and by the consent of her father, for this dowry, of which the sum is ten thousand dirhems."

And the young man said, " I accept this marriage at thy hands.

Then Khdlid ordered that the money should be carried on trays in procession to the young man's house. And the people dispersed rejoicing. And there was not one in the market of el-Bdsrah but threw almonds and sugar upon the pair, until they entered their dwelling happy and contented.

el-Asmaly adds : "And I never saw a more wonderful day than that : the beginning of it weeping and mourning, the end of it joy and gladness".

  1. El-Asmaiy was a celebrated philologer, a complete master of the Arabic language, an able grammarian, and the most eminent of all those persons who transmitted orally historical narrations, singular anecdotes, amusing stories, and rare expressions of the language. He was heard to say that he knew by heart sixteen thousand pieces of verse composed in the measure called rajaz^ and it was observed of him that he never professed to know a branch of science without its being discovered that none knew it better than he. His works consisted of treatises upon every variety of subject. Doubtful points of literature were sent to him to be resolved, and it was said that none ever explained better than he the idiom of the desert Arabs. He was born a.h. 122 or 123 (a.d. 740), and died at el-Bdsrah, of which place he was a native, or, as some say, at Marw, A. H. 214, 216, or 217, according to different authorities.
  2. " If a man or a woman steal, cut off their hands, in retribution for that which they have committed ; this is an exemplary punishment appointed by God ; and God is mighty and wise." -El Kurdn, Sur. v., V. 42.