Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Concealment and Flight of Ibrahlm-ibn-Sulaimin

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The concealment and flight of Ibrahim-ibn-sulaimAn[edit]

TTASAN-IBN-EL-HUSEIN relates, that when ■^ -■* the Khalifate came into the hands of the Benu-Abbds, amongst the numbers who concealed them- selves was Ibrahim-ibn-Sulaimin-ibn-'Abd-el-Malik. And he remained in hiding until he was weakened and exhausted by it ; and tlien a safety-warrant was taken to him from es-Saff^h. And Ibrahim, who was a well-educated, eloquent man, and agreeable in con- versation, was highly esteemed by es-Saffdh. And the latter said to him, "Verily thou didst remain a long while in hiding; tell me therefore the most won- derful thing thou sawest during thy concealment, for of a truth those were troubled times."

He replied, "O Commander of the Faithful! was ever anything heard more marvellous than this my tale ? Verily, I was hiding in a house which looked out upon the plain ; and whilst there, behold I received a black standard[1] which had certainly come from el-K(ifah, and was advancing towards el-Hirah. And the idea struck me that people had come out to seek for me. So I fled forth in disguise, and reached el-KClfah by another road. And, by AllAh! I was uncertain what to do, knowing nobody there. And lo ! I found myself at the great gate of an enclosed court ; so I entered the court, and stood near the house. And behold ! there came by a man of gracious mien, mounted upon a horse, and with him a crowd of friends and attendants. And Jie came into the court, and saw me waiting in perplexity. So he asked me,[2] What dost thou want?' I replied, ' I am a stranger who fears lest he should be murdered.' He said.

' Enter/ So I went into a small room in his house, and he said, * This is thine/ Then he fetched for me all that it required — 3. bed, dishes, clothes, food and drink. And I stayed with him, and, by AU^h! he never once asked who I was, nor of whom I was afraid. And during this time he used to ride out every day, and return weary and sad, as though he sought something he had lost, but found it not. So one day I said to him, * I observe that thou ridest out every day, and returnest tired and vexed, as though thou wert seeking something thou hast lost.' And he answered, * Verily, Ibrahim-ibn-Sulaim^n-ibn-Abd-el-MAHk slew my father, and I have been informed that he is in hiding from es-SaffSh, and I seek him that perchance I may find him and be revenged on him.' Then, O Commander of the Faithful ! I marvelled that having taken flight, a fatal chance should have led me to the abode of the very man who desired my death, and sought to take vengeance upon me. And when this misfortune overtook me, the idea of life grew hateful to me, and I prayed for death to deliver me from my misery. Then I asked the man the name of his father and the manner of his death. And he gave me an account of it which I found correct. So I cried, ' O thou ! of a truth it is incumbent upon me to do thee justice, and it is thy right that I should point out to thee the murderer of thy father, and spare thy footsteps, and bring that near to thee which is afar off/ Then he exclaimed, * Dost thou know where he is ?' I replied, ' I do/ ' Where is he V he asked. I said, ' By AllAh ! he is I; so take thy revenge upon me.* Then he, disbelieving me, said, ' I believe that concealment has weakened thee, and that thou art tired of life.' I answered, * No, by Allah ! I slew him on such-and-such a day' And when he was convinced that I spoke the truth, lie changed colour, and his eyes kindled, and he cast down his head for a while. Then he turned towards me and said, * However, he will meet thee on the Resurrection mom, and will cite thee before One from whom concealment will not hide thee ; and certainly I am not the betrayer of one who is under my protection, nor a traitor to my guest. Get thee away from me, for verily I will not answer for myself concerning thee after this day.' Then, O Commander of the Faithful! he ran to a chest, and took out of it a purse containing five hundred din&rs, and said, 'Take this to help thy concealment.' But I absolutely refused to take it, and went away from him. And he was the most noble-minded man I have ever seen."

And es-Saffdh was deeply touched, and marvelled at the tale.


  1. Black was the chosen colour of the Abbasside family. All its members, and the chief officers of their empire, wore that colour. Ibrahim-ibn-Muhanmiad, when he succeeded his father as Imim of the house of el-Abbis, sent to his general, Abu Muslim, a black standard, ordering him to have it borne before him while he proclaimed his master legal Khalifah and Imim, and published the title and pretensions of the house of el-Abbis. The standard was called es-Sdhab, the cloudy and a banner sent at the same time was called ezh-Zhill, the shadow^ which names he interpreted thus : that as the earth would never be uncovered by the clouds, nor quite void of shade, so the world would never henceforth be without a Khalifah of the house of el-Abbis.
  2. For el-K{ifah and el-Hirah, see Prefatory Note, p. 37.