Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Bedawy who taught the Khalifah Manners

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THE BEDAWY WHO TAUGHT THE KHALIFAH MANNERS.[edit]

TRANSLATOR'S PREFATORY NOTE.[edit]

Hishim-ibn-'Abd-el-Mdlik was the fourth of that KhaKfah's sons who reigned over the Muslims. He succeeded his brother YezidAJl. io5(a.d. 724), and died of quinsy at er-Rusdfa, a.h. 125 (A.D. 742), aged from fifty-three to fifty-six years, accord- ing to different authors. He was buried at er-Rusifa, a town which lay opposite to er-Rcikkah, at one day's journey west of the Euphrates ; and which is placed by Abu1-Fed4 in lat. 36° N. It was founded by Hishim, who made it his summer residence, and retired there to avoid the plague which desolated Syria. Hishim governed without any prime minister, and greatly harassed his subjects by his rapacious and covetous disposition. He was richer than any of his predecessors, but the Persian historian Khondemir says that Hishim would not trust any person with the keys of his coffers, and that he was one of the most avaricious princes that ever lived.

T T is related, amongst other anecdotes, that HishAm- jbn-'Abd-el-Mdlik was engaged one day in hunt- ing and sport. And he saw a gazelle being pursued by the dogs. And he followed it. And it passed round the hut of an Arab who was pasturing his flocks. So


228 'ilAm-en^nAs,

Hisham cried, " Ho, young man ! here is work for thee. Bring me that gazelle."

But the youth turned his head towards him, and said, " O ignorant of the manners of high estate 1 verily thou hast looked upon me scornfully, and spoken to me disdainfully ; and thy speech was the speech of a tyrant, and thy deed the deed of an ass ! "

Then cried Hish^m, " Woe be to thee ! O young man ! Dost thou not know me ? "

He replied, " I know this of thee, that thou hast been badly educated ; for thou didst begin talking to me before saluting me/*

"Woe upon thee!" repeated ^ HishAm. "I am Hish^m-ibn-'Abd-el-Mdlik/'

Then cried the Arab, " May good be far from thy dwelling, and may thy grave be forgotten ! Do not add to thy words and diminish thy dignity."

And he had scarcely ceased speaking before the soldiers gathered round them from all sides, each one of them saying, " Peace be upon thee, O Commander of the Faithful ! "

"Enough of words!" said Hishdm ; "secure this



young man.

So they seized him ; and Hishdm returned to his


THE BEDAWY AND THE KHALIFAH. 229

palace, and seated himself in his council-hall, and said, " Bring the young B^dawy to me."

So they brought him. And when he beheld the multitude of slaves, and porters, and waztrs, and scribes, and scions of royalty, and lords of justice, he paid no heed to them, and sought no notice from them ; but

let his chin fall on bis breast, and watched his own foot-

steps until he reached Hishim, and stood before him. Then the young man cast his eyes upon the ground, and stood still, and spoke no word. And one of the attendants exclaimed, "O dog of an Arab! what hinders thee from saluting the Commander of the Faithful } "

Then he turned towards him in a fury, and cried, "O saddle of an ass ! I am prevented by the length of the approach, and the projecting steps, and other obstacles."

Then said Hishdm, and verily his anger was in- creasing, " O young man ! of a truth the day has arrived when thy death is near, and thy desires frus- trated, and thy life at an end."

The young man replied, " By A114h ! O HishAm ! even were the term of my life to be prolonged, thy words, whether little or big, could do me no hurt."

Then the chamberlain cried, " Has it come to this,


230 'ILAM'EN-NAS.

that one in thy position, and of thy station, O most vile Arab ! should bandy words with the Commander of the Faithful?"

The young man instantly replied, " May disappoint- ment attend thee, and woe and destruction smite thee ! Hast thou never heard what saith the Most High — * At the coming day, every man will argue concerning his soul.** Therefore, if God may be argued with, pray what is Hishim that he v& not even to be spoken to ? "

Upon this Hishim rose up in a towering rage, and cried, " Ho ! executioner ! bring me the head of this young man, for verily he has added to his words more than any one would believe possible."

So the executioner came forward, and laid hold of the young man, and made him kneel upon the Nit&'a f of Blood, &nd unsheathed above his head the Sword of Vengeance, and cried, "O Commander of the Faithful ! is it by his own act that thy wretched

  • " A day is coming when every soul shall plead [or argue]

for itself." — el-Kurdn, Sun xvi., V. 112. el-Beidhdwy explains: " Every soul shall be solicitous for his own salvation, not con- cerning himself with the condition of another.'* The Bddawy, however, gives it a turn to suit his purpose, and the language quite bears him out.

f See Note *, p. 141.


THE BEDAWY AND THE KHALIFAH. 231

'I ' .

slave descends to his grave ? If I strUce off his head, shall I be guiltless of his blood ? "

Hishdm answered, " Yes."

Then the executioner asked permission a second time, and Hishclm consented. And then he asked it a third time ; and the Amir was about to grant it, when the young man laughed until his eye-teeth were visible. Then Hishdm wondered more and more

ft

at him, and exclaimed^ "O young man, it appears to me that thou must have lost thy reasfpn. Thou knowest that thou art about to quit this world, and to end thy life, and. yet thou canst laugh derisively to thyself!"

" O Commandex! of the Faitiiful ! " the young man replied, "were my days to Be prolonged, and were not my life to be cut short, nothing, on thy part, whether great or small, could injure me. But, never- theless, some lines occurred to me a moment ago ; listen to them, for my death will not escape, and let there be great silence."

So Hish^m said, " Repeat them, and that quickly ; for these moments are thy last in this world, and thy first in that which is to come."


2\z 'ILAM-EN'NAS.


Then the young man composed and recited these vcracs :

J tiave heard that once a partridge, led by Fate,

Wa5 by a falcon seized upon ;

Suspended from his claws the partridge hung.

And, absorbed in him, the falcon flew away.

Then, in bird-language, came a voice which said,

    • Yes, thou hast conquered me, and I am captive;

f5ut the hunger of thy like my like cannot appease, for even when Tm eaten, as nothing shall I seem ! "

At this the falcon smiled, touched by his self-abasement. And set that partridge free.

The historian continues: "Then Hishim smiled, and said, ' By my relationship to the Messenger of Cjod I had he thus spoken at the first moment, and asked anything short of the Khaltfate, verily I would have given it to him. Here, attendant ! cram his mouth with pearls and jewels, and be liberal in compensating him, and let him go about his business.'