Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/How Hasan-ibn-'Aly by his Eloquence discomfited his Adversaries
HOW HASAN-IBN-'ALY BY HIS ELOQUENCE DISCOMFITED HIS ADVERSARIES.
From " Thamaralt-el-Aurik, or Speaking Leaves/' concerning the eloquent and pungent replies of Hashim.
TRANSLATOR'S PREFATORY NOTE.
'Amru-ibn-el-'As, son of 'Omeyyah of the tribe of Kuraish, was one of three Mekkan poets whose satires caused so much vexation to the Prophet that he engaged three poets of the tribe of el-Khdzraj to answer them. One of the latter was Hdsan son of Thibit, of whom mention is made in the story of Jdbalah (see page 34). 'Amru fought against Muhammad under Abu-Sufyin at the battles of Bedr and Ohod. He professed el-Isldm in the eighth year of el-Hijrah, and was sent by the Prophet to destroy Salwah, the idol worshipped by the tribe of Hudhail at Rohat, a place about three miles from Mekkah. He was also sent on an embassy inviting to el-Isldm two princes of the tribe of el-Azd, who were reigning at 'Omin. In the reign of Abu-Bekr he was sent into Lower Palestine in commiand of a large force, and in that Khalifah's last year, A.H. 13, 'Amru laid siege to and took Gaza, and Theophanes asserts that he forced the in- habitants of the whole tract from Gaza to Mount Sinai and the borders of the desert, to submit to the Khalifah. He was one of the generals who this same year, under the supreme command of Khilid son of el-Walid, sat down before Damascus and reduced it. On Abu-Bekr's death
THE ELOQUENCE OF HASAN-IBN-' ALY. 65
and the accession of 'Omar, Khilid was deposed, and Abu- 'Obaidah appointed in his stead. Under him 'Amru held command at the siege of Jerusalem. In A.H. 16, that city- surrendered to the Khalifah in person (see Note *, page 11); after which 'Omar despatched 'Amru to invade Egypt He
was, however, delayed in Syria, in order to reduce certain towns and fortresses which still held out ; and it was not
until A.H. 1 8 that he entered Egypt.* Having conquered that
country, he was made its governor, but was, in a,h. 24, dis-
- Now that the energy and indomitable perseverance of Mons.
de Lesseps has accomplished the great work of cutting the Suez Canal, it is interesting to note that rather more than twelve centuries ago a design to cut a channel through the present Isthmus of Suez, and thereby open a communication between the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea, was formed by 'Amru-ibn-el-'As. It did not, however, meet with the Khalifah's approval, for he considered that the execution of it would facili- tate the entrance of Christians into Arabia.
It was 'Amru who, by the order of 'Omar, destroyed the noble and most valuable library at Alexandria. It was in the Sera- poeum and suburb Rhaqptis, and was called tjte daughter of that founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus . The latter was burnt, and the four hundred thousand volumes it contained entirely con- sumed, in the time of J«lius Caesar ; and the former, which con- tained when the other perished at least five hundred thousand MSS., and was afterwards greatly increased, was destroyed, as stated, by 'Amru-ibn-el-'As, in accordance with 'Omar's fanatical order which said that if these books agreed in all points with the Book of God (el-Kurin), the latter would still be perfect without them, and they would therefore be superfluous ; but that if they contained anything repugnant to the doctrine of that book, they ought to be condemned as pernicious, and destroyed. And thus was caused an irreparable loss to science, philosophy, and history.
missed from that post by 'Othm^, 'Omar's successor. He then retired into Palestine, and led a private Ufe until after the murder of 'Othmdn the dissensions arose betwixt 'Aly and Muiwiyah. 'Amru joined himself to the latter under the promise of being returned to the lieutenancy of Egypt, and he it was who,. when the dispute between 'Aly and Muiwiyah was to be decided by two persons nominated by either party, was chosen as Muiwiyah's advocate. In A.H. 40, a conspiracy was formed to assassinate on the same day 'Aly at el-Medinah, Miiiwiyah at Damascus, and 'Amru 4 in Egypt ; but it was successful only in the case of 'Aly. 'Amru died A.IL 43. He was justly esteemed one of the greatest men amongst the Arabs of the age in which he lived. The Prophet is reported to have said, " There is no truer a Muslim, nor any one more steadfast in the faith, than 'Amru."
^ I ^HE following is one of the best among them.
^ There assembled before MtiAwiyah, 'Amru- ibn-el-'As, and Waltd^ibn-'Ukbah,* and 'Utbah-ibn- Abu-Sufyftn, anil el-Mugh!rah-ibn-esh-Shuabah,t who said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful! send to Hdsan son of *Aly, J and le^im appear before us:"
" And why } " asked Mudwiyah.
"In order,*' they replied, "that we' may reprove him, and inform him that his father killed 'Othm&n.**
- See Note t, p. 72.
t See Note *, p. 38. X See Prefatory Note, pp. 52, 53.
THE ELOQUENCE OF HASAN-IBN-'ALY. 67
"But," said MiiAwiyah, "you cannot cope with him, and you will get nothing out of him ; nor can you say anything to him without his giving you the lie ; and if he makes use of his eloquence s^ainst you, all his hearers will be convinced."
But they persisted, saying, "Send for him, for we are certainly a'match for him."
So Miidwiyah sent a message to Hasan^ and when the latter appeared, MiiAwiyah said to him, " O Hisan ! I did not wish to send for thee ; but never- theless these others would have thee brought. Hearken therefore to their words."
Then Hdsan replied, "Let them speak, and we will give heed."
So 'Amru-ibn-el-'As arose, and having praised and glorified God, said : " O Hdsan ! art thou aware that thy father was the first who incited to insur- rection, and aimed at the sovereign power } * And what didst thou think of the judgment of the Most High.?"
Then rose el-Walid-ibn-*Ukbah, and praised and glorified God, and then said : " O ye sons of Hdshim ! ye were of kin to 'Othm4n-ibn-'Aff4n, and thanks
- See Note *, p. 75.
to that kinship ye were brought into connection with the Apostle of God, whereby ye greatly benefited, and were fulfilled with good.* But ye rebelled against him, and slew him. And of a truth we sought your father's death ; but God delivered us from the fear of him ; though, had we slain him, it had been no sin in the sight of God."
Then 'Utbah-ibn-Abu-Sufydn rose up, and said, " O Hdsan ! because thy father transgressed against 'Othmdn, and killed him, coveting the kingdom and things of this world, God snatched both away from him. And verily we desired thy father's death, until he was slain by the Most High."
Then el-Mughirah-ibn-esh-Shiiabah stood up, and uttered blameful words concerning 'Aly, and lauda- tory concerning 'Othmdn.
And when they had all spoken, Hcisan rose ; and he gave praise and glory to God, and then said : " With
- El-Walid apparently chose to overlook the fact that 'Aly's
blood-relationship to the Prophet was much nearer than '0th- min's. The latter, it is true, married two of Muhammad's daughters, but 'Aly was also married to his best-beloved, and, according to Abul-Fedd, eldest, daughter, Fitimah. The common ancestor of the Prophet and 'Othmin was 'Abd Manif, from whom Muhammad and 'Aly were descended in the fourth, and 'Othm^ in the fifth generation.
THE ELOQUENCE OF HAsAN-IBN-'ALY, 69
thee, O Muiwiyah ! will I begin, for such as these others cannot insult me. But thou dost insult me, by thy hatred, and enmity, and opposition to my maternal grandfather the Prophet of God." Then he turned to the people, and said : " God is my witness before you, that he whom these men have insulted was without doubt my father. And he was the first who believed in God^ and prayed at the two Kiblahs.* Whilst thou, O Mudwiyah ! wert an infidel
- According to Abu'1-Fedi, the second year of the Hijrah was
ushered in by a change in the Kiblah, or the part to which Muhammadans are to turn their faces in prayer. At first the Prophet and his followers observed no particular rite in turning their faces towards any certain place when they prayed. But when he fled to el-Medinah, he directed them to turn towards the temple of Jerusalem (probably to ingratiate himself with the Jews) ; this continued to be their Kiblah for seventeen or eighteen months. Afterwards, either finding the Jews too in- tractable, or despairing of otherwise gaining the pagan Arabs, who could not forget their respect to the temple of Mekkah,* he ordered that prayers should for the future be towards that place. It would consequently be proof of having been one of the earliest converts to el-Isldm to have prayed towards both Kiblahs.
- The genuine antiquity of the Ka*abah ascends beyond the Christian
era. In describing the coast of the Red Sea, the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Saboeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians. The linen or silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by a pious king of the Homerites, who reigned 700 years before the time of Muhammad. Muslims believe that Adam, after his expulsion from Paradise, implored of God that he
and an idolater. And on the day of Bedr,* my father bore the standard of the Prophet, whilst the standard of the idolaters was borne by Mudwiyah ! And the Most High is my witness before you, that Mudwiyah was scribe to my maternal grandfather,t who one day sent for him, but the messenger returned and said, ' He is eating/ And he sent the messenger to him three times, and every time he said, * He is eating/ Then cried the Prophet, ' May AUAh never appease the craving of thy belly ! . . . Dost thou
- The first great battle gained by Muhammad, which vastly
helped his cause. Fought A.H. 2. t See Prefatory Note, p. 52.
might erect a building like what he had seen there, called Bait-el- Mamur, or the Frequented House, towards which he might direct his prayers, and which he might compass as the angels do the celestial mansion. In compliance with this request, God exhibited a representa- tion of that house in curtains of light, and set it in Mekkah perpen- dicularly under its original, ordering Adam to turn towards it when he prayed, and to compass it by way of devotion. After Adam's death, his son Seth built a house in the same form of stones and clay, which being destroyed by the deluge, was rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael, at God's conunand, in the same place and after the same model, they being directed by revelation. Abu-Horeira affirms thai this model, or the celestial building from whence it was taken, was a thousand years older than Adam, and that the angels ^began to form that heavenly ed^ce the same number of years before the creation of the world.
The Kuraish rebuilt the Ka'abah after the birth of Muhammad ; it was afterwards repaired by Abd 'AUah-ibn-Zubair (^ee Note *, p. 55), Khalifah of Mekkah ; and el-Hajjaj (see Notes, p. 126, and p. 151), in A.H. 74 (a.d. 694-5), put it in the form in which it now remains.
THE ELOQUENCE OF hAsAN-IBN-' ALY, 71
acknowledge this of thy gluttony or not, O MuA- wiyah ? " Then HAsan continued : " And I call God to witness before you whether you are not aware that MuAwiyah was leading a camel on which his father was riding, while his brother here present was driving her. And the Prophet of God said what he said.* And thou, thou knowest this ! So much for thee, O Muiwiyah ! — As for thee, O 'Amru ! five of the Kuraish were disputing with thee, and one of them got the better of thee, like el-Aiham.* He was the meanest of them in estimation, and of lower degree than the others. Then thou didst rise in the midst of the Kuraish, and saidst : * I have ridiculed Muhammad in a poem of thirty lines.' And when the Prophet heard this, he cried, ' O AUih ! I am no poet. O AUih ! do thou for every line curse 'Amru-ibh-el- 'As with a curse ! * Then thou didst depart with thy poem to the en-Najdshy,t and didst tell him
♦ The circumstances here alluded to were probably well known at the time ; but I have failed to discover further par- ticulars about them.
t The king of Ethiopia, from whom some of the earliest con- verts to el-Isldm sought protection when persecuted by the Kuraish. He received them kindly, and refused to give them up to those whom the Kuraish sent to demand them.
about it. And he gave thee the lie, and drove thee away in disgrace. So thou hast shown thyself an enemy to the sons of HAshim both as an infidel and as a Muslim. — I do not blame thee for thy hatred at the present time, O thou son of Abu-Mait!* and
♦ Abu- Matt was grandfather to el-Walid, the son of 'Ukbah. It is supposed by some that a denunciatory passage in the 25th chapter of the Kurin particularly relates to 'Ukbah son of Abu-Matt El-Beidhdwy relates that 'Ukbah used to be much in the Prophet's company, and having once invited him to an entertainment at his house, the Prophet refused to taste of his meat unless he would profess el-Isldm. He did so, but soon after, meeting an intimate friend, and being reproached by him for changing his religion, 'Ukbiah assured him that he had only pronounced the profession of faith because he could not for shame allow the Prophet to leave his house without eating. His friend, however, declared that he should not be convinced unless 'Ukbah went to Muhammad, set his foot on his neck, and spat in his face. He did this in the pubUc hall where the Prophet was sitting ; whereupon the latter told him that if ever he met him out of Mekkah he would cut off his head. And he was as good as his word, for when 'Ukbah was taken prisoner at Bedr, the Prophet immediately condemned him to death. El-Aghiny states that his executioner was Astm son of Thibit, and not 'Aly. 'Ukbah's children obtained the surname of Sibydt-en-Ndr (Children of the Fire, or of Hell-fire,) in consequence of the Prophet's answer to their father's question at the time of his execution. El-Waltd ('Ukbah's son) was one of Abu-Bekr's generals in Upper Palestine, and was nominated governor of that province before its conquest. In an engagement before Damascus, he was, however, seized with panic, and with his troops fled before the enemy, for which conduct he was deposed.
THE ELOQUENCE OF HASAN-IBN-^ALY, 73
indeed how can I reproach thee for thy invectives against my father, when of a truth he lashed thee with eighty lashes for drinking wine ? And by com- mand of my maternal grandfather he killed thy father who had been taken and bound, and my maternal grandfather killed him by command of my Lord God? And when thy father stood before the executioner, he said, 'Be gracious unto my young sons after me, O Muhammad !' But my maternal grandfather replied, * Hell-fire is their portion/ For with him there could be no place for them excepting hell-fire, and with my father there could be nothing for them excepting the lash and the sword. — And as for thee, O 'Utbah ! how canst thou reproach any one for murder ? For why didst thou slay him whom thou didst discover with thy wife, though taking her back again after that she had sinned ? — And as for thee, O thou one-eyed Thaktfy !* for what reason dost thou
- Mughirah is generally believed to have lost one of his eyes
at the battle of Yermiik, though some historians say that the loss was occasioned by watching an eclipse. At the battle of Yermiik, fought A.H. 15 (A.D. 636), between the army of the Emperor Heraclius and the Muslims, (see Note J, p. 28,) the Christian archers are said to have done sucli execution that seven hundred of the Arabs lost either one or both of their eyes.
revile *Aly ? Is it because his relationship to the Mes- senger of God was so very distant ? or because of the injustice of his administration towards his subjects in this world ? For if thou sayest any such thing, thou dost lie, and men will belie thee. And if thou sayest 'Aly killed *Othmdn, verily thou dost lie, and men belie thee. And, moreover, such as thou resemble the gnat which settled on the palm-tree in the fable. The gnat cried out to the tree, * Hold fast, for I am going to fly off!' The palm-tree replied to her, ' I was not even aware of thy presence, so how could thy taking flight harm me ? * And how, O thou one-eyed Thakify ! could thy blame hurt us } " Then Hisan shook his garments and went out. And Muawiyah said to them, "Did I not tell you that you could do nothing with him ? And, by Alldh ! verily the house was dark unto me until he departed." *
- The religious discord of the friends and enemies of 'Aly has
been renewed in eveiy age of the Hijrah, and is still maintained in the immortal hatred of the Persians and Turks. The former, who are branded with the appellation of Shtahs, or Sectaries, have enriched the Muslim creed with a new article of faith, viz., that if Muhammad be the Apostle, his companion 'Aly is the Vicar of God. In their private converse, in their public worship, they bitterly execrate the three usurpers (Abu-Bekr, 'Omar, and 'Othmin), who intercepted his indefeasible right to the dignity of Imdm and Khalifah. Even the sanctity of the Prophet's burial-place is no safeguard against riot and bloodshed, which have often been occasioned by the attempts of Persian pilgrims to pollute the tombs of Abu-Bekr and 'Omar (which are in close proximity to that of the Prophet)^ by throwing upon them some unclean substance wrapt in a handsome shawl or turban. In the language of the Shiahs, the name of 'Omar expresses the perfect accomplishment of wickedness and im- piety.
There appears no reason to suppose that 'Aly was personally connected with the rebellion in which 'Othmdn was slain. But though he did not directly join the Khalifah's enemies, yet he did not help him with that vigour and activity which his relation and sovereign might naturally have expected of him ; and this want of zeal was made the most of and exaggerated by 'Aly's enemies.