Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Apostacy of Jabalah son of el- Aiham

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AND now comes a somewhat similar story in so far as it regards obtaining safety by a trick. It was told by * Abd-el-Milik, son of Badrftn, the commentator upon the Kastdah of 'Abd-el-Majtd, son of 'Abdfln, and relates to what befell Jdbalah * son of el-Aiham, when he struck the Faz4ry in the face for treading upon his Ridi.t 'Omar having said to him, " Let the

♦ J^halah was the last chief of the Christian tribe of the Penu-Ghassftn, which must have had its dwellings to the east and north of the Lake Tiberias. Their ancestor was Jifhah bin-'Amr, bin-Thalabah, bin-'Amr, bin-Muzaikiyah (of the tribe qf Aj4) bin-Ghauth, bin-Nabt, bin-MAlik, bin-Udad, bin-Zeid, bin-K^hUn, bin-S4ba (also called 'Abd-esh-Shems), bin-Yashjub, bin-Va4rab, bin-KahtAn (supposed to be the same as the Juktan of our Scripture). The Ghass&n section of the tribe of Ai4 left el-V^men on occasion of the Sail-el-Arim, or flood of Arim, at M^rcb, ami migrated to the Syrian desert, wherein ti^ey btittlc4 near a stream called Ghassin, whence their subset juuiu name. Abu'l-FedA's MuhhtAsarji Akhbdr-el-Bdshar, - Abritigment uf the Uistury of Mankind. t l he Hiti^ wab a piece of stuff, usually cotton, resembling it


man retaliate upon you," or words to that effect, Jdbalah asked^ " And are we upon an equality in this matter?" To which 'Omar replied, " Certainly ; the law of el-Isldm is the same for both of you." Then Jibalah said, " Let me wait until to-morrow." And when day dawned he went off to Caesar, Emperor of Rome, and apostatized. Afterwards he repented, and composed these lines : —

A Prince has apostatized by reason of a blow I But had I pardoned it, what were the harm ?

Obstinacy and pride have hindered me,

And on its accoimt I bartered true vision for one*eyedness.

Would that my mother had never borne me ! and would that I

Had hearkened to the words which 'Omar spake !

is said the herdm^ worn at the present day by pilgrims on passing within certain limits of the holy towns of Mekkah and el-Medinah. This piece of stuff, in the form of a long white cotton (or sometimes woollen) shawl, is wound about the upper part of the body. Another white piece of stuff, called the Izdr^ is worn round the waist. The shoulder-piece might in Jdbalah's days have been broader than is now worn. I find this anecdote shortly related in Modern Universal History (London, a.d. 1766). it is there stated that Jdbalah and the men of his tribe having embraced el-Isldm, performed the pilgrimage to Mekkah. And whilst walking in procession round the Kiabah, a man of the tribe of Fazireh accidentally trod'upon Jdbalah's vest, whereby it fell from his shoulders ; upon which, though the man swore he did not mean to aflront him, Jdbalah struck him, broke his nose, and beat out four of his front teeth.

28 'ILAM'EN'NAs.

Would that I were herding camels in Kdfrah,* Or were a slave to the Rabta or Mddhar If Would that I had in Syria the scantiest portion, Dwelling among my people, tho' deaf and sightless.^

And when Jdbalah-ibn-el-Aiham had returned to Christianity, he became a follower of Heraclius, lord of Constantinople, who allotted to him lands and money ; and so he remained according to the will of God. And some time after this, 'Omar sent a mes- senger to Caesar (HeracHus) to give him his choice of professing el-Isldm, or of paying the capitation tax.§

♦ Kifrah means in the abstract a barren valley, but it is pro- bable that Jdbalah here alludes to some known place connected with Ghassin on the confines of Sjrria.

t Arab tribes of the 'Adnanlyeh. Miidhar was the earliest well-ascertained ancestor of the Prophet

X All this sentiment refers to his position in Syria before the Christians conquered it. And for the sake of his former home he wishes that he had, after becoming a Muslim, remained one instead of returning to Christianity. At the battle of Yermfik, which decided the fate of Syria (a.h. 15, A.D. 636), Jdbalah at the head of his Christian Arabs fought for Heraclius, and it was after the signal defeat of the Greeks in this battle that Jibalah became a Muslim. YermAk is the name of a river (in Latin Hieromax, and in Greek pepwovKo), five or six miles east of the south end of Lake Tiberias.

§ In the infancy of Muhammadism, all the enemies of that religion taken in battle were doomed to death without mercy. But when that religion was firmly established, this sentence was


And when the messenger was about to return, Heraclius asked him : " Have you seen your paternal cousin who is with^ us ? I mean, Jdbalah who came here wishing to rejoin our religion ? "

" No," replied the messenger.

"Then go and see him," said Heraclius, "and afterwards come to me, and I will give you an answer to your letter."

The messenger relates : So I went to the house of Jdbalah, and behold! about it were household officers, and janitors, and splendour, and a great concourse like that around the door of Heraclius. And I did not cease begging with all courteousness for permission to enter until leave was granted me. Then I went in to him, and I found him with a light deemed too severe. So afterwards the Muhammadans, on declaring war against a people of a different faith, gave them choice of three courses : to embrace Muhammadism ; to submit and consider themselves as subjects of the Khaltfah, and pay an annual tribute and the usual capitation tax of four dinirs a head, in which case they were allowed to profess their own religion, provided it was not gross idolatry ; or, thirdly, to decide the quarrel by the sword. If it was decided to fight, and the Muslims prevailed, the conquered women and children became absolute slaves, and the men were either slain or otherwise disposed of according to the will of the Khalifah, unless they professed el-Isldm.

coloured beard and with long moustaches, though my recollection of him was with a black beard and head. So I did not at once recognize him ; but lo! he verily called for gold-dust, and sprinkled it upon his beard until it became red. And he was seated upon a chair of state of polished silver, on the l^s of which were four lions kA gold. And when he recognized me, he placed me with himself upon the seat. And he b^an asking me about the Muslims. So I gave him good news of them, and said : " Of a truth they have increased much beyond what you remember them/' Then he said : "And how did you leave 'Omar-ibn-el-Khatt4b ? " I replied, In excellent case. And I saw anguish in his face when I spoke of 'Omar's health.

Then I descended from the chair; whereupon he asked, "Why do you refuse the honour with which we would honour you } " I replied, " Because the Messenger of God (may God bless and grant salvation to him !) has prohibited us from this." And he said, " Yes. He has prohibited it. May God bless and grant salvation to him. But nevertheless your heart is pure, and do not think of what you have been sitting on." And when I heard him saying, "May God bless and grant salvation to him," I yearned


over him, and said to him, " O unhappy Jdbalah ! will you not return to the Faith ? for you certainly had knowledge of the law el-Isldm and the excel- lence thereof"

Then he cried, "How can I return after what I have done ? "

I replied, "You certainly can return, for verily a man of Fazireh did more than you have done. He apostatized from the true faith, and fought against the Muslims with the sword. Afterwards he returned to el-Isldm and was received ; and I left him at el- Medinah a Muslim.

And I only told him that he who did this deed was of Fazdreh, and that he fought against the Muslims with the sword, and apostatized, and returned to el- Isldm, because the man upon whose account Jdbalah apostatized when he had struck him, and 'Omar wished the latter to retaliate, was also a FazAry. And I added, " It is even easier for you to return to el-Islam, for you have not fought against the Muslims with the sword as did he."

Then he said : " I should like to hear more about this. If you would assure me that 'Omar would give me his daughter in marriage, and would appoint me

32 'ilAm-en-nAs,

to succeed him in the government, I would return to


So I promised him the marriage, but I could not

promise him the succession to the government

And after we had been thus talking for a while, he motioned to a servant standing near him, who went out quickly, and lo ! a train of servants came in bear- ing boxes containing refreshments. These were set down, and tables of gold and platters of silver were laid out. And Jdbalah said to me, " Eat" But I drew back my hand, and said, "The messenger of God has prohibited from eating off vessels of gold and silver." He said, "Yes. He has prohibited. May God bless and grant salvation to him. There- fore let your heart be pure, and eat off whatever you like." So he ate off gold, while I ate off Khalanj.* And after we had done eating, he called for lavers of gold and ewers of silver. And he washed his hands in the gold, but I washed mine in yellow brass. Presently he made a sign to a servant in front of him, who went out quickly. And soon I heard a slight noise, and lo ! a train of servants appeared

  • The name of a certain kind of wood of which bowls are

made, or other vessels of wood, having variegated streaks.


carrying chairs encrusted with precious stones, And these they placed, ten on his right hand, and ten on his left. Then came slave-girls wearing coronets of gold. And they seated themselves upon the chairs on his right hand, and on his left. And they were followed by another slave-girl, like unto the sun for beauty. Upon her head was a coronet, and on the coronet a bird, than which I have never seen one more beautiful. And in one hand she had a vase of powdered musk, and in the other a vase of rose-water. And she made a sign, and whistled to the bird which was upon her coronet, and he flew down into the VBse of musk and bestirred himself in it Then she whistled to him a second time, and he flew into the vase of rose-water, and splashed about in it. And then she made a sign to him, and he flew up, and alighted upon the cross which surmounted Jabalah s crown, and did not cease fluttering his wings until he had scattered what was on his feathers over Jabalah, who laughed in the excess of his delight until his eye-teeth were visible.

Then he turned to the slave-girls who were upon his right hand, and said to them, "Make us laugh," So they broke forth into singing, and began sounding their lutes, and sa^ng the song which begins —

May God reward the companions with whom I consorted in early days in GiUik •

until it says :

Sons of Gdfnah around the grave of their father,

The grave of the generous, the excellent son of Mariyah ;

They gave to drink to their cup companions

Ice-^cold drinks mixed with the sweetest wine.

And when Jdbalah heard this, he laughed until his eye-teeth appeared, and asked me, " Do you know who composed that?" I replied, "No." He said, " Hdsan-ibn-Th4bit,t the Prophet's poet."

Then he made a sign to the slave-girls upon his left hand, and said, " Make us weep." So they burst into song, striking their lutes, and recited this poetry :

By whom were desolated the homes in Ma'adn, Between the heights of Yerm^k and Khimdn ?

until the song runs :

Twas a dwelling for the tribe of Gifhah for a time, But now a place for tales in future ages. Verily they regarded me there as of authority awhile, With the master of a crown was my resting and dwellingplace.

  • Damascus and surrounding villages. All this evidently alludes to some story (perhaps also poetry) well known to the

hearers at the time.

t See Prefatory Note, p. 64.


And Jibalah wept until the tears streamed down his beard. Then he asked me, " Do you know who was the composer of that ?" And upon my answer- ing that 1 did not, he said, " Hdsan." And he then repeated to me the lines beginning —

A prince has apostatized by reason of a blow ! to the end. And presently he asked me about Hisan : " Is he alive V And when I said " Yes/' he ordered for him a robe of honour, and another like it for me. And he also ordered treasures for Hdsan, and she-camels laden with wheat ; and said to me, "If you find him still alive, make over the gift to him, and transmit to him my salutations. But if you find him dead, give the presents to his people, and slay the camels on his grave."

And when I returned to 'Omar, and gave him an account of Jdbalah, and told him of the conditions which the latter had imposed upon me, and of the answer which I had given, 'Omar said, "And why did you not also promise him the succession to the govern- ment.^ For if the Most High chose to give the power into his hands, and to decree against me, it would be in His wisdom. Nothing would happen except what He had willed."

And after this, 'Omar sent me a second time to Heraclius, and commanded me to agree to Jdbalah's conditions. But even as I entered Constantinople, I met the people returning from his burial. And then I knew that his name had been written among the condemned, in the Almighty's Book of Reckoning.*

♦ Umm-el-Kitdb, The Mother of Books. On one page are inscribed the names of all good Muslims ; on the other, the names of infidels, and of those Muslims who do not live up to their religion. My sheikh gravely and persistently asserted that, be as perfect as I might (according to my lights Men entendu), I could as a Christian never hope that my name would be written upon the former !