Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/Dispute between the Midharites and Yemenites

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T^ L.HAITHAM-IBN-*ADI Y relates that Abu- -*— ' 'l-'Abb^s, es-Saff4h, enjoyed the nightly ga- therings and discussions among the people. And I was present, he says, one night when Ibrahtm-ibn- Makhramah, el-Kindy, and men of the sons of el- Harith-ibn-Ka'ab* his mother's brethren, and Khdlid- ibn-Safu^n*-ibn-Ibrahim, et-Tamimy, were assembled. And they began their tales, and were discussing among themselves the Miidharites and the Y^menites,t

  • El - Hirith - ibn - 'Amr - ibn - Ka'ab was the grandfather of

Minkar, who gave his name to a numerous tribe the members of which were sumamed el-Minkiry. This tribe produced a great number of remarkable men, amongst whom were Khilid- ibn-Safuin, and his cousin Shabib-ibn-Shabba. They were both noted as good orators, speaking with elegance and precision. Khilid had frequent sittings with the Khalifah, es- Saffah.

t See Tale, p. 76, et seq.


and Ibrahim said, " O Commander of the Faithful ! in good truth, the Yemenites were the Arabs to whom everything was subjected. They possessed cities, and never lacked kings and rulers, but one illustrious ancestor transmitted their might to another from the beginning to the end. The Nuimanites, the Mundhirites, the Kabusites, iand the Tobbattes^ came from them. And from them came he who is praised in the writings of Da<!ld : * and he who was washed by angels.' And from them came he whose death shook el-'Arsh.* And from them came he who was spoken to by the wolf.* And from them came he who seized all vessels by force.' And there was nothing of value but derived its origin from them — whether thoroughbred steeds, or trenchant blades, or impenetrable armour, or rich robes, or precious pearls. If anything were asked from them, they granted it ; but if it were demanded of right, they refused it. And if guests came to them, they feasted them. None could excel their greatness, neither could any attain superiority over them. They were the Arabs of Arab descent, and all beside them were but Arabs by nurture." *

  • See Note *, p, 79.

250 'ilAm-en-nAs,

Then Abu-l-'Abbds, es Saffah, remarked, " I do not think that et-Tamimy agrees to thy words." And he asked him, " What dost thou say, O Khdlid ? "

Kh&lid replied, "If thou givest me permission to speak, I will speak."

Said es-Saffdh, "I give thee permission. Speak therefore, and fear no man." *

Then said Khalid, " He is in error, O Commander of the Faithful ! who enters into an argument without knowledge, and into a discussion without reflection. For how could it be as he states. when of a truth the people have not even eloquent tongues nor a correct dialect } And ther^ is no good proof that the Book * was sent down in their language, nor that theSunnahf were given in it And their country is a two days' journey from our country : if they stray away from where we have authority, they are eaten ; and if they leave our kingdom, they are murdered. They have vaunted themselves above us on account of the Nuamanites, and the Mundhirites, and other things which I shall soon mention ; but we glorify ourselves above them on account of the best of men, the noblest

  • El-Kurin.

t The traditions of the Prophet.

■ -- ~


of the noble, Muhammad, on whom be the greatest blessing and peace ! and the grace of God be upon us and upon them ! Verily they were followers of him, and gained esteem from him, having been generous to him * But the Prophet came from us, and from us came the chosen Khaltfah,t and to us belongs the Frequented House,^ and el-Ma*asa,® and Zem-zem,® and el-MakAm,^° and el-Mimbar," and er- Rukn,^ and el-Hatim,^ and el-Masha'ir," and el- Hijabat," and el-Batha'a,^' together with all the qualities which we are known to possess.^ And no excellent thing can be found that we cannot equal, nor can uttered words express our superiority. And from us came es-Sadik," and el-Far{ik," and el- Wasy,"^ and Asad-Aliah,«^ and Satd, esh-Shiihadah," and Zhu '1-Janahin,^ and Saif-AUdh.^ These knew God, and He brought them to the True Faith. And whosoever overrides us we will override him ; but whosoever shows enmity towards u$ we will exter- minate."

  • Alluding to the reception met with by the Prophet at

el-Medinah on his flight from Mekkah. See Note *, p. 137. t A compliment to es-Saffdh. X Courage, benevolence, liberality, etc.

252 'ILAM-EN'NAs,

Then he turned towards Ibrahim, and asked, ** Art thou acquainted with the dialect of thy people ?"

He replied, " Yes."

"Then what is the name of the eye?" asked Khilid.

" The observer," said Ibrahim.

" And what is the name of the tooth ? "

" The labourer," he answered.

" And what is the name of the ear ? "

" The listener," said he.

" And what is the name of the fingers } "

" The holders," answered Ibrahim.

" And what is the name of the beard ? "

" The thick hair," he replied.

"And what is the name of the wolf .^ "

" The avoider," he made answer.

Then Kh41id asked him, " Art thou a believer in Allah's book ? '*

" I am," said Ibrahim.

"But," continued Khalid, "of a truth the Most High says, * Verily We have caused to descend the Arabian Kurin, that perchance ye may be instructed.' And the Most High speaks in the plain Arabian tongue, and He says, 'We have not sent a messen-


ger except with (knowledge of) the language of his people. Now we are Arabs, and the Kurin was sent down in o\ir tongue. Hast thou never remarked that God says, 'An eye for an eye,' and does not say, ' An observer for an observer ; ' and He says,

  • A tooth for a tooth,' and does not say, * A labourer for

a labourer ; ' and He says, * An ear for an ear,' and does not say, *A listener for a listener ; ' and He says,

  • They shall put their fingers in their ears,' and does

not say, * Their holders ; ' and He says, 'Thou shalt not seize by the beard, neither by the head;' and does not say, *By the thick hair;' and the Most High says, * The wolf shall eat him,' and does not say, *The avoider shall eat him.' And now," continued Khalid, " I will ask of thee four things: if thou admittest them, thou art vanquished ; if thou deniest them, thou art an unbeliever."

" What are they } " asked Ibrahim.

" The Messenger," said Khilid, " was he of us or of you } "

" Of you," answered Ibrahim.

" And the Kur4n," asked Khdlid, " did it descend upon us or upon you ? "

" Upon you," said Ibrahim.


254 ilAm-eN'NAs.

" And the Holy House, is it ours or yours ? " " Yours," he replied.

" And the Khalifah, is he of us or of you ? "

    • Of you," he answered.

" Then," said Khdlid, " to all excepting these four things thou art welcome."

' Nuaman, Mundhir, Koubais, and Tobbi. Four powerful kings amongst the ancient Arabian tribes who gave their names to their followers and descendants. Tobba was retained as a title by the princes of the Himyarite d>Tiasty. See Note * p. 178.

■^ The Psalms of David. I imagine this refers to " Og the king of Bashan."

3 Hanzhalah, one of the Associates, who w^as killed at the battle of Ohod, a.h. 3, where Muhammad and his followers were defeated by the Kuraish under Abu-Sufyin. According to Muslim faith, those who die fighting for el-Isl^m are martyrs, and when their bodies are buried their souls depart at once to Paradise, where they eat and drink and sleep in bliss. Their bodies are buried unwashed, martyrdom being held in lieu of ablution, unless they were known to have entered the fight in a state of ceremonial impurity, — /. ^., in a state in which they could not have entered a mosque, nor performed their devotions. After the battle of Ohod, the Prophet beheld angels performing the last offices upon the body of Hanzhalah, showing thereby that he had entered the fight in a state of impurity, but raising him in the opinion of surviving Muslims to the rank of a saint. Occasionally a soul has been known to return in the form it wore while in the flesh, and wash its own lifeless corpse.

  • It is impossible to translate this word in the meaning here

intended. This is — What is above the seventh heaven, where


the Almighty dwells. The first heaven is of water, solid and hard like ice. The second of green emeralds. The third of brass. The fourth of silver. The fifth of gold. The sixth of fine steel. The seventh of red rubies. Then comes el-Arsh, of which no one knows aught save God alone. But of so vast an extent is it, that, were the world and the seven heavens united and laid therein, they would appear but as a scribe's seal set in the midst of the desert. The individual alluded to in the tale was Said, one of the Associates, a man of extra- ordinary piety, as the supposed effect of his death shows. Ac- cording to Muhammadan faith, when a corpse is laid in the grave, the sides of the tomb contract and crush the body: with good persons, only " like a mother pressing her child to her bosom," but in the case of sinners with such force as to drive the ribs thi*ough the opposite side of the body. When the surviving Associates found out the effect caused in el-'Arsh by the death of Said, they said to the Prophet, " Surely the tomb will not Contract upon him ; " but the Prophet told them it would, and it did. And the only person who has ever escaped this torture was Fitimah, daughter of el-Asad and mother of the Khalifah 'Aly, into whose tomb the Prophet descended, and in which he slept the night before her burial.

  • ' s I cannot discover anything fiirther concerning these heroes.

7 The Ka'abah at Mekkah. See Note *, p. 69.

® A road between two hills called Sdfah and Merwah, within the city of Mekkah. One of the rites observed by pilgrims con- sists in traversing this road seven times, and invoking blessings upon themselves, their families, and friends the while.

^ The holy well at Mekkah. Muhanmiadans are persuaded that this is the very spring which appeared miraculously in the desert for the relief of Ismael when he and his mother were cast out by Abraham. It is drank with particular devo- tion by the pilgrims, and sent in bottles to all parts of the Muslim dominions. According to a tradition derived through the Khalifah 'Omar-ibn-el-Khattib from the PYO^\\'eiX^x5csR. ^-a^sx

256 'ilAM'EN'NAs.

of this well is medicinal, and will heal many bodily distempers. Taken copiously, adds the same tradition, it will heal all spiritual disorders, and procure an absolute remission of sins.

w A stone upon which Abraham stood whilst rebuilding the Ka'abah, and which, as the walls grew higher and higher, was miraculously raised from the ground to form a platform upon which he might stand to work.

" The pulpit whence the Friday's sermon is preached.

" The Comer. Every comer in the Ka'abah has a name, but this is par excellence The Corner, as it contains the stone said to have been one of the precious stones of Paradise which fell to the earth with Adam, and became black on account of the iniquity of mankind. Pilgrims kiss this stone with great devotion, believing that at the end of time it will return to Paradise and bear witness to the faith of true believers.

  • ' A semicircular wall built to the height of a few feet, which

encloses a portion of ground belonging to the Ka'abah though not within its walls, and which the pilgrims are in duty bound to circumambulate when making the round of the building.

" All those places at Mekkah where any particular ceremony takes place during the pilgrimage.

    • The hereditary right to hold the office of Guardian of the


M The desert plain surrounding the city of Mekkah.

" The faithful witness. Surname given by the Prophet to Abu-Bekr.

" The Divider or Distinguishes Surname given by the Prophet to 'Omar-ibn-el-Khattib upon the following occasion. A wicked Muslim having a dispute with a Jew, appealed from the adverse decision of Muhammad to 'Omar. The latter, greatly angered that any one should dare to prefer his judgment to that of the Prophet himself, cut the Muslim in two with one blow of his scymitar. El-Fariik alludes both to the division of the pleader's body and to 'Omar's distinction between tmth and falsehood.


^ The legatee or heir — (of the Prophet). An honourable title or surname conferred by the Arabs upon 'Aly-ibn-Abu-Tilib.

  • The Lion of God. Surname given by the Prophet to his

uncle Hamzah-ibn-'Abd-el-Mdttalab, who was slain at the battle of Ohod A.H. 3.

'* The Prince or first of the Martyrs. I have not been able to discover to whom this title was applied.

'^ Possessing two wings. At the battle of Muta (a.h. 8) the Muslim general, Za'id, who bore the Prophet's standard, was killed. He was succeeded by Ja'afar-ibn-Abu-Tilib. A sabre stroke deprived him of his right hand, with which he held the standard. He then took it in his left hand, which he also lost. He then held it between his mutilated arms until he fell mortally wounded. The Prophet was greatly moved on hearing of his death, and said, " Of a truth, in the stead of those two hands which he has lost, God has given him two wings, with which he now traverses Paradise amongst the Angels."

^ The Sword of God. Surname given to the great conmiander KhMid-ibn-el-Walid.