History of the Saracens/Abdalmelik
ABDALMELIK THE SON OF MERWAN, FIFTH CALIPH OF THE HOUSE OF OMMIYAH, AND THE ELEVENTH AFTER MOHAMMED.
Hejirah 65-86. a.d. 684-705.
On the third day of the month Ramadan, in the sixty-fifth year of the Hejirah, Abdalmelik the son of Merwan was inaugurated caliph, and succeeded his father in the government of Syria and Egypt. It is reported, that when the news was first brought to him, he was sitting with the Koran in his lap; whereupon he folded it up and laid it aside, and said, “I must take my leave of thee now.”
Abdallah still holding out against him at Mecca, Abdalmelik was not willing the people should go thither on pilgrimage. For that reason he sent and enlarged the temple of Jerusalem, so as to take the “stone into the body of the church,” and the people began to make their pilgrimages thither.
All this while Al Moktar was making the best use of his time. During his imprisonment he found means to keep up his correspondence with the sect. Letters being conveyed to him in the lining of a cap, he was soon informed of Solyman’s fate, and thought the season was arrived for him to exert himself. Abdallah the son of Zobeir being still in arms at Mecca against Abdalmelik the new caliph, Ibrahim the son of Alashtar was courted by the sect, who answered, that he would join with them if they would place themselves under his command; but they told him that that was impossible, because they were already engaged to Al Moktar, who soon afterwards being released, produced, at a meeting where Ibrahim was present, a letter from Al Mohdi the son of Mohammed, the son of Ali, who was head of the sect in a lineal succession, and Ibrahim gave him his hand without any more to do. Accordingly Al-Moktar took upon him the sole command of the forces. Not only so, but a great many of them inaugurated him caliph upon these terms, that he should govern according to the contents of the book of God and the tradition of the apostle, and destroy the murderers of Hosein and the family. The first Al Moktar proceeded to sere was Shamer, whom he overcame and killed; the next was Caula, who had carried Hosein’s head to Obeidollah, him he beseiged in his own house, and slew and burned him to death. Afterwards he slew Ammar, who commanded the army that had murdered Hosein, and gave orders that the horsemen should trample over his back and breast; he also took the life of his son, and sent both their heads to Mohammed Ben Hanifiyah. The sect were afraid lest he should pardon Ali the son of Hathem, and therefore begged of him to let them kill him; he told them that they might dispose of him as they thought fit. They took him and bound him, saying, You stripped the son of Ali before he was dead, and we will strip you alive; you made a mark of him, and we will make one of you.” Thereupon they let fly a shower of arrows at him, which stuck so thick over all parts of his body that he looked like a porcupine. In short, Al Moktar found means to surprise the enemies of Hosein wherever they were, and destroyed them with a variety of deaths.
Abdalmelik had about this time sent an army against Abdallah the son of Zobeir, who was at Medina; Al Moktar, who had two such powerful enemies to deal with, determined to try if he could get rid of them one by one. Accordingly, he endeavoured in the following manner to overreach Abdaliah, by sending an army, pretendedly, to his assistance.
Abdalmelik having sent an army out of Syria towards Irak, Al Moktar was afraid lest they should not only-fall upon him on that side, but that he should be at the same time hard pressed on the other by Abdallah’s brother Musab, from Bassorah. He therefore wrote a deceitful letter to Abdallah, telling him, that being informed that Abdalmelik the son of Merwan had sent an army against him, he was ready to come to his assistance with a competent force. Abdallah answered, “That if he would only assure him of the sincerity of his allegiance he might come; and in order to satisfy him in that point, he desired him to take the votes of his men for him. If he did this, he would believe him, and not send any more forces into his country; and that in the meantime he must send his proffered assistance with all possible speed against Abdalmelik’s army that lay at Dilkora.” Upon this, Al Moktar called Serjabil the son of Wars to him, and despatched him with three thousand men, most of them slaves, for there were not above seven hundred Arabs amongst them, and bade him march directly to Medina, and write to him from thence for further orders. Al Moktar’s design was, as soon as they came to Medina, to send an Emir to command them, whilst Serjabil should go and besiege Abdallah in Mecca. But Abdallah, who had no great confidence in Al Moktar, especially as he had not given him the security he expected, did not intend to allow himself to be surprised. He therefore sent Abbas the son of Sahel, from Mecca to Medina, with two thousand men, ordering him, if he found the army in his interest, to receive them, if otherwise, to use the best of his endeavours to destroy them. When Abbas, who observed no order in his march, came up with Serjabil, he found his men in order of battle, the horse on the right, and Serjabil himself marching before the foot on the left. After they had saluted one another, Abbas took Serjabil aside, and asked him if he did not own himself to be Abdallah’s subject? To which question when Serjabil had answered in the affirmative, Abbas bade him march along with him to Dilkora; but Serjabil told him, that he had received no such orders from his master, who had commanded him to proceed directly to Medina. Abbas however told him, that his master took it for granted, that he was come to join the expedition against Dilkora; but the other still insisted that his instructions were to move upon Medina. Abbas, perceiving how matters stood, concealed his suspicion, and told him he was in the right to obey his orders; but for his own part he must go to Dilkora. Now Serjabil and his men were almost famished for the want of provision, which in their long march had ran short. Abbas therefore made Sejabil a present of a fat sheep, and also sent one to every ten of his men. The sharpness of their hunger soon set them on work, and, leaving their ranks, they were quickly in disorder, running backwards and forwards for water, and whatsoever else was necessary for the dressing their victuals. Abbas in the meantime having drawn up a thousand of his best men, advanced upon Serjabil, who, perceiving his danger, attempted to rally his men; but had scarcely got together a hundred of them, before Abbas was close upon him, crying out to his men, “O troop of God! come out and fight with these confederates of the devil; you are in the right way, but they are perjured villains!” They had not fought long before Serjabil and seventy of his guard were killed; whereupon Abbas held up a flag of quarter, to which Serjabil’s men readily ran, except three hundred, who were all afterwards put to the sword. When Al Moktar heard the news, he wrote to Mohammed the son of Hanifiyah, acquainting him with the disaster, and proffering to send a powerful army to his assistance, if he would please to accept of it. Mohammed answered, that he was very well assured of the sincerity of his zeal; that if he thought fit to make use of arms, he would have no want of assistance; but that he was resolved to bear all with patience, and leave the event to God, who was the best judge. When the messenger who had brought Al Moktar’s letter took his leave, Mohammed said to him, “Bid Al Moktar fear God, and abstain from shedding blood.” The messenger asked him, if he had not better write that word to him. But Mohammed replied, “I have already commanded him to obey the great and mighty God; and the obedience of God consists in the doing all that is good, and the abstaining from all evil.” When Al Moktar received the letter he gave it another turn, and said to the people, “I am commanded to do that which is just, and reject infidelity and perfidiousness.”
This same year the Hoseinians went to Mecca, and performed a pilgrimage there, under Abu Abdallah Aljodali. Upon this occasion Abdallah seized Mohammed the son of Hanifiyah, and all the rest of Ali’s family, though they behaved themselves very inoffensively, and were so far from making any disturbance, that they strongly recommended peace to their friends, who were ready to hazard their lives in their service; Abdallah had found by experience, that it would be impossible for him to succeed as long as they were alive, and refused the oath of allegiance. For though they did not stir themselves, they had a very strong party; and a great many others made good use of the pretext of revenging the death of Hosein to cover their disaffaction. Resolving therefore to make an end of it all at once, he seized Mohammed and his family, and seventeen of the principal Cufians, and imprisoned them in the Zemzem, and, setting a guard over them, threatened them, that if they did not come in within a certain time and do him homage, he would put them to death, and burn them to ashes. The Zemzem is the name of a pit at Mecca which (the Mussulmaus say) was made out of that spring which God caused to appear in favour of Hagar and Ishmael, when Abraham had turned them out of his house, and obliged them to retire into Arabia. Here they were shut up, but (says my author) God, whose name be magnified and glorified, gave to them courage and resolution not to come in, though Abdallah should execute all his threats upon them. Whilst they were in this condition, they found means to write to Al Moktar and acquaint him with their circumstances, entreating the Cufians also not to desert them, as they did Hosein and his family. When Al Moktar received the letter, he called the people together, and, having read it to them, said, “This is from your guide, and the purest of the family of the house of your prophet, upon whom be peace; they are left shut up like sheep expecting to be killed and burnt; but I will give them sufficient assistance, and send horse after horse, as the streams of water follow one another.” Then he sent Abu Abdallah Aljodali with threescore and ten troopers, all men of approved valour. After him a second with four hundred. Then a third with one hundred. A fourth with one hundred. A fifth with forty. And last of all a sixth with forty more. In all, seven hundred and fifty. These went out at several times one after the other, and Abu Abdallah the chief who had first gone out, made a halt by the way, till he was joined by the two companies, consisting of forty each, and with this one hundred and fifty made haste to the temple of Mecca, crying out “Vengeance for Hosein!” At last they went to the Zemzem, where they arrived opportunely, for Abdallah had got the wood ready to burn his prisoners, if they did not swear allegiance within the appointed time, to the expiration of which there wanted but two days. Having beaten off the guard, and broken open the Zemzem, they begged of Mohammed to allow them full liberty in treating with the enemy of God, Abdallah the son of Zobeir; but Mohammed answered that he would not permit any fighting in the sacred place of the most high God. Abdallah, now coming up, said to them, “Do you think I will dismiss them, unless they swear allegiance to me? nay, and you shall swear too.” But Abu Abdallah answered, “By the Lord of this sacred place, thou shalt let them go, or we will cut thee to pieces.” Abdallah, despising the smallness of their number, swore that he had only to give the word to his men and within an hour all their heads would be off. Mohammed the son of Hanifiyah kept back his friends, and would not let them fight, and in the meantime another captain came up with a hundred men, and a second with the like number; then two hundred, more in a body; who, as they came into the temple all cried out, “Allah Acbar, vengeance for the death of Hosein.” At this sight Abdallah’s passion began to cool, and before he could leave the temple he was taken prisoner. His captors entreated Mohammed to give them leave to dispose of him as they thought fit, but he would not suffer them. The money which they brought with them was distributed amongst four thousand of Ali’s friends, and the whole business, through the exceeding gentleness of Mohammed’s temper, was amicably compromised.
Before Merwan’s death, Obeidollah was sent towards Cufah with an army, with leave to plunder it for three days. Against him was sent Yezid the son of Ares, who is worthy to be mentioned for his heroic courage and presence of mind; for, being wounded in the battle, when death appeared in his face, and he was forced to be held by two men on his ass, he appointed three generals who if necessary were in succession to take the command of the army during the fight. Obeidollah never reached Cufah. In the first month of the sixty-seventh year, Al Moktar sent his forces against him under the command of Ibrahim the son of Alashtar. There was one thing very remarkable in his preparation; he made a throne, and pretended that there was something mysterious in it, telling the people, that it would be of the same use to them that the ark had been to the children of Israel. Accordingly, in this expedition against Obeidollah, it was carried into the battle upon a mule, and a prayer was said by the whole army before it. “O God!” they prayed, “grant us to live long in thy obedience, and help us and do not forget us, but protect us.” And the people answered, “Amen, Amen.” After a sharp engagement, Obeidollah’s forces were beaten and himself killed in the camp. A greater number of the son of Ziyad’s men were drowned in the flight than were slain in the field. Ibrahim, having cut off his head and sent it with several others to Al Moktar, burned his body. Thus did God avenge the death of Hosein by the hands of Al Moktar, though Al Moktar had no good design in it. After the success of this battle, the people had such a reverence for this ark, that they almost idolized it.
Al Moktar was now sole master of Cufah, where he persecuted all that he could lay his hands on, who were not of Hosein’s party; but this year, Abdallah sent his brother Musab to govern Bassorah. Musab rode muffled into Bassorah, and when he alighted at the temple, and went up into the pulpit, the people cried out Emir, Emir, that is, “a governor, a governor.” He bade Hareth his predecessor give place, which he did immediately, sitting one step below Musab. Then, having first, according to custom, praised God, he began with these words of the twenty eighth-chapter of the Koran; “We relate to thee the history of Moses and Pharaoh with truth, for (the satisfaction of) those that believe;” going on till he came to these words, and “was of them that defile the earth; when he pointed out with his hands towards Syria.” And when he came to the words, “who were weakened in the earth, and we shall make them rulers, and make them heirs;” he pointed towards Hejaz or Arabia Petræa: while at the words, “and we showed Pharaoh and Haman, and their armies what they most feared,” he pointed again towards Syria. Then he said to the Bassorians, “I hear that you used to gave names to your emirs; I have named myself Hejaz, that is Arabia.”
Soon after one came into Bassorah, upon a crop-eared bob-tailed mule, with his clothes rent, crying out as loud as he could, Ya gautha, ya gautha, “help! help!” As soon as they had described the manner of his appearance to Musab, he said, “he was sure it must be Shebet, for nobody else would do so but him, and ordered them if it was so to give him instant admission.” Musab was right. Shebet had come with a heavy complaint, enforced by the names of a great many of the chief men of Cufah, who represented the great disorders committed in that city, and their sufferings under the administration of Al Moktar. They particularly complained of an insurrection of their slaves, which Al Moktar, if he did not encourage, did not endeavour to put down, and therefore begged his assistance, entreating him earnestly to march with an army against Al Moktar. He was very much inclined to hearken to their proposal, but was resolved not to stir till Al Mohalleb his lieutenant over Persia should come to his assistance. He therefore wrote to summons Al Mohalleb, who, however, made no great haste, not overmuch approving of the expedition. But he obeyed the second summons, and came with large supplies both of men and money. Joining their forces, they marched towards Cufah against Al Moktar, who was not wanting to his own defence, but mustered his forces, and gave them battle. After a bloody fight Al Moktar was beaten, and made his retreat into the royal castle of Cufah, where Musab closely besieged him. Al Moktar defended the castle with great bravery till he was killed; and, upon his death, his men surrendered, at discretion, to Musab, who put them every man to the sword. They were in all seven thousand.
Thus, in the sixty-seventh year of his age died that great man, who had beaten all the generals of Yezid, Merwan, and Abdalmelik, all three caliphs of the house of Ommiyah, and made himself master of all Babylonian Irak, whereof Cufah was the capital. He never pardoned, when he had them in his power, any one of those who had declared themselves enemies of the family of the prophet, nor those who, as he believed, had dipped their hands in Hosein’s blood, or that of his relations. On this account alone, without reckoning those who were slain in the battles which he fought, it is said that he killed nearly fifty thousand men.
This year the sect of Separatists called Azarakites, sworn enemies to all established government, both temporal and spiritual, and particularly to the house of Ommiyah, made an eruption out of Persia, and overran all Irak, till they came near Cufah, and penetrated as far as Madayen. They committed all manner of outrages as they went, destroying all they met, and exercising the utmost cruelty without distinction of sex or age. There was a lady of extraordinary piety as well as beauty, which one of them would have spared, to whom another answered, “What! thou art taken with her beauty, thou enemy of God, and hast denied the faith!” and killed her. Al Mohalleb, the governor of Mausal and Mesopotamia, mustered his chosen troops at Bassorah, and met them at a place called Saulak, where they fought desperately for eight months, without intermitting one day. This year there was such a famine in Syria, that they could not undertake any expedition, nor lay siege to any town, because of the great scarcity of provisions. Abdalmelik encamped in a place called Botnan, near to the territories of Kinnisrin; his camp was very much incommoded by the great showers of rain; however, he wintered there, and afterwards returned to Damascus.
In the sixty-ninth year, Abdalmelik left Damascus to go against Musab the son of Zobeir, and appointed Amrou the son of Saïd to take care of Damascus, who seized upon it for himself, which obliged Abdalmelik to return. Others say, that when he went out, Amrou the son of Saïd to him, “Your father promised me the caliphate after him, and upon that consideration I fought along with him, and you cannot be ignorant of the pains I took in his service; wherefore, as you are going to Irak, give me your nomination to the caliphate after you. Abdalmelik would not hearken to his proposal, and Amrou returned to Damascus, whither Abdalmelik followed him close. They skirmished in the streets several days; at last the women came between them with their children, crying out, “How long will you fight for the government of the Koreish, and destroy one another?” and with some difficulty, parted them; and articles of peace were drawn between Amrou and Abdalmelik.
But standing in competition for a crown is a crime never to be forgiven. Three or four days after, Abdalmelik sent for Amrou, who, when the messenger arrived, was in company with his wife and two or three friends. They all tried to dissuade him from trusting himself into the caliph’s hands, but he resolved to run the risk. As he went out he stumbled and his wife, taking the omen, repeated her persuasions to stay him, but to no purpose. He put on his sword, and took a hundred men along with him. When he came to Abdalmelik’s house, he was admitted himself, but the gates were shut upon his men, and only a little foot-boy permitted to go in with him. When he came in, Abdalmelik spoke very civilly to him, and placed him by his side on his own couch, After a long discourse, he commanded a servant to take his sword off. Amrou, showing some unwillingness to part with it, “What,” said Abdalmelik, “would you sit by me with your sword on?” Amrou at this submitted, and was disarmed; whereupon Abdalmelik told him, that when he first rebelled against him he had taken an oath, that if ever he got him into his power, he would put him into fetters. Amrou said he hoped he would not expose him in them to the people. Abdalmelik promised him he would not, and at the same time pulled the fetters from under his cushion, which were accordingly put upon his hands and feet. Then he pulled him so violently against the couch that he beat out two of his fore-teeth. After which he told him that he would still let him go if he thought he would continue in his duty, and keep the Koreish right. “But,” said he, “never were two men in one country engaged in such an affair as you and I are concerned in, but one pursued the other to the death.” Some say that when Abdalmelik saw Amrou’s teeth dropped out, as he took them in his fingers, he said, “I see your teeth are out; after this you will never be reconciled to me,” and immediately commanded him to be beheaded.
The muezzin at the same time called to evening prayers. Abdalmelik went out to prayers, and left the execution of Amrou to his brother Abdolaziz the son of Merwan; whom, as he stood over him with his drawn sword, Amrou begged for God’s sake not to do that office himself, but to leave it to some other person that was not so nearly related to him; whereupon he threw away his sword and let him alone. Abdalmelik made but short prayers, and when he came back, the people observing that Amrou was not long ago with him, acquainted his brother John with the matter, who, immediately gathering together some of his own friends, and a thousand of Amrou’s slaves, made an assault upon Abdalmelik’s house, broke open the gates, and killed several of the guards. In the meantime Abdalmelik, wondering to find Amrou alive, asked Abdolaziz the reason of it, and learning that he had forborne to kill him out of compassion, Abdalmelik gave him reproachful language, and calling for a javelin, struck Amrou with it, but as it did not penetrate, he repeated his blow, but still to no purpose. Thereupon, feeling Amrou’s arm, he discovered that he had a coat of mail beneath his vest, at which he smiled and said, “Cousin, you come well prepared!” Then, calling for his sword, and commanding Amrou to be thrown upon his back, he killed him; but he had no sooner despatched him, than he was seized with such a trembling that they were forced to take him up and lay him upon his couch. All this while John and his friends were pressing in, killing and wounding all they met. Wherefore, by Abdalmelik’s command, to satisfy them that their fighting would be to no purpose, they threw out Amrou’s head; and Abdolaziz the son of Merwan, to appease their rage, threw money amongst them in plenty. When they saw the head and the money, they left off fighting and fell to picking it up. After the heat was over, however, it is said that Abdalmelik, such was his covetousness, recalled it all again, and ordered it to be repaid into the public treasury. John was taken prisoner and sentenced to death, but Abdolaziz begged of his brother not to kill two of the Ommiyan family in one day: whereupon he was put in prison. After a month or more, Abdalmelik consulted with those about him as to the putting him and his friends to death; but he was answered that it would be better to leave them alone, for they were near relations; and the best way, perhaps, would be to give them their liberty and let them go, if they would, to his enemy Musab the son of Zobeir. For if they were killed in that service, he would be rid of them by the hands of others; but if they returned and fell into his hands again, he might then, without incurring any censure, deal with them according to his own discretion. This advice was followed, and they went to Musab the son of Zobeir. When Abdalmelik sent to Amrou’s wife for the articles of peace between him and her husband which he had signed, she bade the messenger go back, and tell him that she had wrapped them up in his winding-sheet, in order that Amrou might have them to plead his cause with against him before God. There was an old grudge between Abdalmelik and his cousin Amrou which dated from their infancy, and was occasioned by an old woman of their own family, whom when they were boys they frequently visited. She used to dress victuals for them, and give each of them his dish by himself; and always managed, by showing a preference to one or the other, to raise a jealousy between them, and set them together by the ears; so that they were either always quarrelling, or else so obstinately sulky as not to exchange a single word. Merwan, before he died, had received information that Amrou entertained hopes of the caliphate after his decease, which made him seize the first opportunity to propose to the congregation to swear allegiance to his sons Abdalmelik and Abdolaziz after him, with which, without any exception, they all readily complied.
In the seventieth year, the Greeks made an incursion into Syria. Abdalmelik, who had business enough on his hands already, between the two sons of Zobeir, Abdallah in Arabia, and Musab in Irak, was not at leisure to go against them, but agreed to pay the Grecian emperor a thousand ducats every week. This same year, Musab went to Mecca with prodigious wealth and cattle, which he distributed amongst the Arabians. Abdallah the son of Zobeir also went the pilgrimage this year.
Abdalmelik, being now resolved upon an expedition into Irak against Musab, put to death the principal persons among those who had been confederates of Amrou the son of Saïd. He had sent before him to Bassorah Kaled the son of Asid, who, privately entering the city, began to form a party for him. Musab, having received intelligence of his proceedings, went to Bassorah in hopes of surprising him. But Kaled, getting out of the way, he sent for the chief of the Bassorians, and upbraided them, reproaching one with the meanness of his family; another with some scandalous action, either of his own or some of his relations; in short, raking up something against all of them. But this way of proceeding only exasperated them, and made them more averse to his interest. In the meantime, Abdalmelik had sent letters, full of large promises, to each of the leading men. Amongst the rest, he sent one to the faithful Ibrahim the son of Alashtar, who delivered it to Musab sealed up as it came to him. The purport of it was to offer him the lieutenancy of Irak if Ibrahim would come over to his party. Ibrahim told Musab that he might depend upon it that Abdalmelik had written to the same purpose to all his friends, and advised him to behead them. Musab, however, not approving of that measure, because, he said, it would alienate all their tribes, Ibrahim advised him at least to imprison them or put them in chains, and set some one to watch them, who if he should be conquered should strike their heads off, but if he got the victory he might make a present of them to their tribes. Musab answered, “I have other business to mind; God bless Ahubehran, who gave me warning of the treachery of the Irakians, as if he had foreseen this very business wherein I am now engaged.”
The Syrian nobility did not approve of Abdalmelik’s engaging in this enterprise. They did not, indeed object to the expedition itself, but they wished rather that he should stay at home with them at Damascus, and reduce Irak by his generals, and not expose his person to the hazards of war; for they feared lest, if he were to miscarry, the caliphate might be unsettled, and their own affairs embroiled. To this he answered, that nobody was fit for that undertaking but a man of sense as well as of courage; and perhaps if he chose a man of courage he might nevertheless be wanting in prudence; but he considered himself qualified for it, both by his abilities in war and his personal courage. As for the danger, Musab, he remarked, was of a courageous family, and his father Zobeir had been one of the most valiant of the Koreish, and he was himself also brave enough, but he did not understand war, and loved an easy life. Moreover, Musab had some with him that would be against him, whereas he could depend on the fidelity of his own men.
The battle was joined at a place called Masken. The Irakians, according to their custom, had made up their minds to betray Musab, for they did not intend to expose their country to be ravaged by a Syrian army for his sake. His faithful friend Ibrahim, the son of Alashtar, gave the first charge, and repulsed Mohammed, the son of Haroun, to whose support Abdalmelik advanced with a fresh company, when at the second charge Ibrahim was killed. Musab’s general of the horse ran away, and a great many of the rest stood by and would not obey his command. Then he called out, “O Ibrahim! but there is no Ibrahim for me to-day.” It is said, that when Musab was upon his march against Abdalmelik, Abdalmelik asked if Omar, the son of Abdallah, was with him; being answered, “No, he has made him lieutenant of Persia,” he next inquired if Almohalleb was there, and was told ”No, he is lieutenant over Mausal;” and when he had demanded the third time if Ibad, the son of Hossem was there, and was answered in the negative, for he had been left behind at Bassorah, he was exceeding glad, and presaged a certain victory; “for,” said he, “he will have nobody to help him.”
When Musab perceived his forlorn condition, he endeavoured to persuade his son Isa to ride with the men under him to Mecca, and acquaint his uncle with the treachery of the Irakians. But Isa (who must be very young, for his father was but six and thirty) would not leave him, but told him that his life would be hateful to him if he survived his father, and advised him rather to retreat to Bassorah, where he would find his friends, .and from whence he might be able to join the governor of the faithful, meaning his uncle Abdallah, the son of Zobeir. But Musab said, “It shall never be said among the Koreish that I ran away, nor that I came defeated into the sacred temple of Mecca.” He therefore bade his son, if he chose, to come back and fight; which order he joyfully obeyed, and died in battle, his father Musab being killed shortly after him. It is said, that during the engagement Abdalmelik sent to Musab, tendering him quarter; but he answered, that men like himself did not use to go from such a place as that (meaning the field of battle) without either conquering or being conquered. After being grievously wounded with several arrows, he was stabbed, and his head being cut off, was carried to Abdalmelik, who proffered the bearer a thousand ducats; but he refused to accept them, saying, that he had not slain Musab from any wish to do him service, but to avenge a quarrel of his own, and for that reason he would take no money for bringing the head. Musab had been Abdalmelik’s intimate friend before he was caliph, but marrying afterwards Sekinah, Hosein’s daughter, and Ayesha, the daughter of Telha, by those marriages he was engaged in the interest of two families who were at mortal enmity with the house of Ommiyah.
As soon as this battle was over, Abdalmelik entered into Cufah, and with it took possession of both the Babylonian and Persian Irak. As soon as he signified to the people his command that they should come in and take the oaths to him, they obeyed unanimously. Soon after he came into the castle he inquired for John, the brother of Amrou, whom he had put to death. Being informed that he was not far off, he commanded him to be produced; but this the Cufians refusing, unless he would promise to do him no harm, Abdalmelik seemed at first to take it ill that they should presume to stipulate with him, but at last he condescended to make the required promise, and John made his appearance. When he came into his presence, Abdalmelik thus greeted him, “Thou vile wretch! with what face wilt thou appear before thy Lord, after having deposed me?” “With that face,” answered John, “that he himself hath created.” As John took the oath of allegiance to him, there was an end of that business. Abdalmelik ordered vast sums of money to be distributed among the people, and made a splendid entertainment, to which everybody that would come was welcome. When they were sat down to supper, Amrou, the son of Hareth, an ancient Mechzumian came in, Abdalmelik called to him, and placing him by his side upon the sofa, asked him what meat he liked best of all that ever he had eaten; the old Mechzumian answered, “An ass’s neck well seasoned and roasted.” “You don’ t know what’s good,” says Abdalmelik; “what say you to a leg or a shoulder of sucking lamb, well roasted, and with a sauce of butter and milk?” Whilst he was at supper he said,
- ”How sweetly we live, if a shadow would last!”
After supper was over he took the old Mechzumian along with him to satisfy him concerning the antiquities of the castle; and when the answers to all his questions began, of course, with “this was,” and “that was,” and “he was,” and the like, it raised a melancholy reflection in the caliph, and he repeated the verse out of an ancient Arabic poet:—
- “And everything that is new (O Omaim!) goes to decay, and he that is today is hastening to he was yesterday.”
Then, returning to his sofa, he threw himself upon it, and repeated these verses:—
- “Proceed leisurely because thou art mortal, and chastise thyself, O man!”
- For what was will not be when it is past, also what is will soon be it was.”
When Musab’s head was brought to him in the castle, one that stood by said, “I will tell you something particular that has passed within my own observation. In this same castle I saw Hosein’s head presented to Obeidollah, Obeidollah’s to Al Moktar, Al Moktar’s to Musab, and now at last Musab’s to yourself.” The caliph, surprised and alarmed at this coincidence, commanded the castle to be forthwith demolished, to avert the ill omen.
When the news of Musab’s death was brought to his brother Abdallah, the son of Zobeir, he immediately made a speech to the people. “Praise be to God,” he said, “to whom belongs the creation and the command of all things; who bestows and withdraws dominion to and from whom he pleases; who strengthens and weakens whom he pleases; only God never weakens him that hath truth on his side, though he stands alone, nor cloth he strengthen him whose friend is the devil, though all the world should join in his assistance. There is news come from Irak which is matter both of sorrow and joy to us-it is the death of Musab, to whom God be merciful. Now what rejoiceth us is, that his death is martyrdom to him, and what is matter of grief to us is the sorrow wherewith his friends will be afflicted at his departure; but men of understanding will have recourse to patience, which is of all the most noble consolation. As for my own part, if I be a sufferer in Musab, I was so before in (my father) Azzobier. Nor was Musab aught else but one of the servants of God, and an assistant of mine. But the Irakians are treacherous and perfidious; they betrayed him and sold him for a vile price. And if we be killed, by Allah, we do not die upon beds, as the sons of Abilasi die. By Allah, there was never a man of them killed in fight, either in the days of ignorance or Islam. But we do not die but pushing with lances and striking under the shadow of swords. As for this present world, it diverts from the most high King, whose dominion shall not pass away, and whose kingdom shall not perish; and if it (the present world) turns its face I shall not receive it with immoderate joy, and if it turns its back I shall not bewail it with indecent sorrow. I have said what I had to say, and I beg pardon of God both for myself and you.”
Whilst Mohalleb was engaged against the Separatists, they received intelligence of Musab’s death before he and his men knew anything at all of it. Whereupon they called out to his men, “What! will you not tell us what you think of Musab?” They said, “He is the Imam of the right way.” “And he is,” replied the Separatists, “your friend both in this world and that to come?” They answered, “Yes.” “And you are his friends, both alive and dead?” “Yes.” “And what do you think of Abdalmelik, the son of Merwan?” They said, “He is the son of the accursed; we are clear of him before God, and we feel ourselves more free to shed his blood than yours.” “And you are,” continued the Separatists, “his enemies both alive and dead?” Yes; we are his enemies both alive and dead.” “Well,” said the Separatists, “Abdalmelik hath killed your Imam Musab, and you will make Abdalmelik your Imam to-morrow, though you wash your hands of him to-day and curse his father.” To which the other answered, “You lie, ye enemies of God.” But the next day, when they were informed of the truth of the matter, they changed their note, and Mohalleb and all his men took the oath to Abdalmelik. Upon this account they were bitterly reproached by the Separatists, who said to them, “Now, you enemies of God! yesterday you were clear of him both in this world and the world to come; and affirmed that you were his enemies both alive and dead; and now to-day he is your Imam and your caliph, who killed your Imam whom you had chosen for your patron. Which of these two is the right?” They could not deny what they had said the day before, and were loath to give themselves the lie, so they answered, “You enemies of God! we were pleased with the other so long as he presided over us; and now we approve of this as we did before of the other.” To which the Separatists answered, “No, by Allah! but you are brethren of the devils, companions of the wicked, and slaves of the present world.” This is the account of that conference.
Abdalmelik, upon his return into Syria, made Bashur his brother governor of Cufah, and Kaled, the son of Abdallah, governor of Bassorah. When Kaled came to the latter city, he made Mohalleb supervisor of the tribute, indiscreetly enough, for Mohalleb was the best general of the age, and in all probability the victory of the Azarakites now was owing to his absence; for Abdolaziz being sent against them, they defeated him and took his wife prisoner. While they were disputing about her worth, some valuing her at about a hundred thousand pieces, one of their chief men said, “This heathen doth nothing but cause disturbance amongst you, and shall she escape?” at which words he cut her head off. Some of the bystanders telling him upon this that they did not know whether to praise him or blame him for what he had done, he answered, he at least had done it out of zeal. When Kaled wrote to Abdalmelik, acquainting him with the loss of the array, and desiring to know his pleasure, he received the following answer:— “I understand by your letter that you sent your brother to fight against the Separatists, and have received the account of the slaughter and flight. When I inquired of your messenger where Mohalleb was, he informed me that he was your supervisor of the tribute. God rejected thy counsel when thou sentest thy brother, an Arabian of Mecca, to battle, and kept Mohalleb by thy side to gather taxes, who is a man of a most penetrating judgment and good government, hardened in war, and is the son of the grandson of it; see, therefore, and send Mohalleb to meet them in Ehwaz, or beyond Ehwaz. I have sent to Bashur, ordering him to assist thee with an army of Cufians; and if thou goest and meetest thy enemy, do not undertake any enterprize against him until thou hast shown it to Mohalleb, and asked his advice about it, if please God. Peace be unto thee, and the mercy of God.” Kaled was not well pleased with the contents of the letter, both because Abdalmelik had blamed him for sending his brother to manage the war, and because he had laid him under an injunction to do nothing without the advice of Mohalleb. Abdalmelik kept his word, and ordered Bashur to assist them with five thousand Cufians; but first he was to send a messenger to consult with Mohalleb, who was a person of too great consideration not to be treated with the utmost respect.
Their combined forces being now ready, Kaled and Bashur marched, and met the enemy near the city Ehwaz, for the Azarakites were advanced so far. There were in the river certain ships which Mohalleb advised Kaled to seize; but before that design could be put in execution, a party of the enemies’ horse set them on fire. As Mohalleb passed by one of his generals, and perceived he had not intrenched himself, he asked him the reason of it. The other swore, he was no more afraid of them than of a fly. Mohalleb bade him not despise them, for they were the lions of the Arabians. The Azarakites remained in their entrenchments about twenty days; when at last Kaled and Mohalleb fell upon them, and, after as bloody a battle as was ever fought in the memory of man, entirely routed them and took possession of their camp. Kaled sent David to pursue them, and despatched an express to Abdalmelik, acquainting him with the success; who immediately commanded his brother Bashur to send four thousand horse more to join David and pursue them into Persia: these orders were obeyed till they had lost almost all their horses, and were themselves quite worn out, and almost starved to death, so that the greatest part of the two armies returned on foot to Ehwaz.
Thus Abdalmelik, in the seventy-second year, having brought all the eastern part of the Mussulman empire entirely under his subjection, had no opposition to encounter, but that of old Abdallah the son of Zobeir at Mecca. Against him Abdalmelik sent Hejaj the son of Joseph, one of the most eloquent as well as warlike captains that flourished amongst them, during the reigns of the caliphs. One reason among others that led to his employment in that service was the following. When Abdalmelik was upon his return into Syria, Hejaj said to him, “I have had a dream that I had taken the son of Zobeir and slayed him; wherefore send me against him, and commit the management of that war to my charge.” The caliph was pleased with the dream, and sent him with a strong body of Syrians to Mecca, whither he had written before, promising pardon and security, upon condition of their submitting immediately to his authority. Abdallah sent out parties of horse against him, but in all the skirmishes they came by the worst. Hereupon Hejaj wrote to Abdalmelik to send him sufficient force to besiege Abdallah, assuring him that his fierceness was very much abated, and that his men deserted daily. Abdalmelik ordered Tharik the son of Amer to assist him, who joined him with five thousand men. Hejaj came to Taïf (a town lying sixty miles eastward of Mecca) in the month Shaaban in the seventy-second year, and Tharik came to him in the new moon of Dulhagiah, but he did not go round the temple, nor come near it, because he was under a vow; but kept himself in arms, neither sleeping with his wives, nor anointing himself till after the death of the son of Zobeir. Abdallah killed the sacrifice (either camels or oxen) on the killing day, that is the tenth of Moharram; but neither he nor his friends performed the rites of pilgrimage, because they had not been at Mount Arafat, which however is necessary to make a true pilgrimage. As they were under siege it was impossible for them to do so. This same year Abdalmelik wrote to Abdallah the son of Hazim to persuade him to come in, promising him if he did to give him the revenues of Khorassan for seven years. But he received the offer with so much disdain, that he made the messenger eat the letter he had brought, telling him at the same time that if it were not for making a disturbance between the two tribes, he would have killed him. Afterwards Abdalmelik sent against him a general with sufficient force, who defeated and slew him. Others say, that he was not killed till after the death of Abdallah the son of Zobeir, and that Abdalmelik sent the head of the son of Zobeir to the son of Hazim, imagining that he would not after that sight stand out any longer. But it had the quite contrary effect, for as soon as he saw it, he swore he would never acknowledge his authority as long as he lived. Then calling for a bason he washed the head and embalmed it, and wrapped it up in linen, prayed over it, and sent it to Abdallah’s relations at Medina. He then cut off the messenger’s hands and feet, and afterwards beheaded him.
The siege of Mecca lasted eight months and seventeen nights. The Syrians battered the temple with their engines, and it thundered and lightened so dreadfully, as put them into a terrible consternation, and made them give over. At this Hejaj, sticking the corner of his vest into his girdle, and putting into it one of the stones they used to propel with the engines, slang it towards the city; his example encouraged his mere to resume their work afresh. The next morning there came upon them storm after storm, and killed twelve of his men, which quite dispirited the Syrians. Hejaj, however, said to them, “O Syrians, do not dislike this, I am a son of Tehamah. This is the storm of Tehamah. Victory is just at hand: rejoice at the news of it. The enemy’s men suffer as much by it as you do.” The next day there was another storm, and some of Abdallah’s men were killed, which gave room to Hejaj to encourage his men and say, “Do not you see that they are hurt, and you are in a state of obedience, and they of disobedience?” Thus they continued fighting till a little before Abdallah was killed. His followers in the meanwhile deserted from him every day, and went over to Hejaj. The inhabitants of Mecca having done so, to the number of ten thousand: even his two sons Hamm and Chobeib left him, and went and made conditions for themselves. When he perceived himself forsaken on all sides, he went to his mother (who was grand-daughter to Abubeker the first caliph, and was then ninety years of age, a woman of a most undaunted spirit) and said to her, “O mother! The people, and even my own children and family, have deserted me, and I have but a few left who will hardly be able to stand it out one hour. These people are ready to give me, if I will submit, whatsoever I can desire in this world; what do you advise me to do?” “Son,” said she, “judge for yourself; if, as you pretend to be, you know that you are in the right, persevere in it, for your friends have died for the sake of it. Be not so obstinately resolved to save your neck as to become the scorn of the boys of the Ommiyan family! But if thou choosest the present world, alas! bad servant! thou hast destroyed thyself, and those that were killed with thee. And if thou sayest I stood to the truth, and when my friends declined I was weakened! this is neither the part of an ingenuous nor a religious man. And how long can you continue in this world? Death is more eligible.” Then Abdallah drew near, and kissed her head, and said, “By Allah, this is the very thought which I have ever persisted in to this day; neither did I incline to-wards this world, nor desire to live in it, nor did any other motive but zeal for God, persuade me to dissent. However, I had a mind to know your opinion, and you have confirmed my, own: wherefore, mother, look upon me as a dead man from this day; nor let your grief be immoderate, but resign yourself to God’s command: for your son hath not stood in the footsteps of the scandalous, nor done anything worthy of reproach. He has not prevaricated in the judgment of God, nor dealt treacherously in giving his faith: nor supported himself by doing injury to any person that delivered up himself or entered into covenant; nor did any injustice done by any of my officers ever reach me that I approved of, and did not discourage; nor was there any thing that I preferred before the doing the will of my Lord. O God! thou knowest that I do not say this for the justification of myself, but to comfort my mother, that she may receive consolation after my decease.” She answered, “I hope in God, I shall have good comfort in thee, whether thou goest before me, or I before thee. Now go out and see what will be the issue.” To which he answered, “God give thee a good reward, O mother! You will not cease praying for me, both before and after.” She answered, “That I never shall; others are killed in vain, but thou for the truth. O God! be merciful to him for his watchfulness in the long nights and his diligence, and his piety towards his father and me; O God, I resign myself to what thou shalt command concerning him I am pleased with what thou dost decree; give me in Abdallah the reward of those that are grateful and persevering.” This was about ten, or according to some only five, days before he was slain. The day whereon he was killed he went into the house of his mother, with his coat of mail on and his helmet, and took hold on her hand and kissed it. She said, “This farewell is not for a long time.” He told her he was come to take his leave of her, for this was his last day in this life. As he embraced her, she felt the coat of mail, and told him that the putting that on did not look like a man that was resolved to die, and when he said that he had only put it on, in order to be the better able to defend her; she said she would not be so defended, and bade him put of. Then she bade him go out, assuring him that if he was killed he died a martyr; he said he did not so much fear death as the being exposed after it; to which she courageously answered, “That a sheep when it was once killed never felt the flaying.” Before he went out she gave him, to increase his courage, a draught with a pound of musk in it. At last he went to the field and defended himself to the terror and astonishment of his enemies, killing a great many with his own hands, so that they kept at a distance, and threw bricks at him; which made him stagger; and when he felt the blood run down his face and beard, he repeated this verse:—
- ”The blood of our wounds doth not fall down upon our heels, but upon our feet,”
meaning, that he did not turn his back upon his enemies. Then they killed him, and as soon as Hejaj heard the news he fell down and worshipped. His head was cut off, and his body hung up; and for several days after, they smelled the perfume of the musk he had drunk.
Tharik said to Hejaj that never woman bore a braver man. “How,” said Hejaj, “do you commend a man that was in rebellion against the emperor of the faithful?” Yes, answered Tharik, and he himself will agree with us; for only consider we have been besieging him these seven months, and he had neither army nor strong place of defence, nevertheless he was always a match for us, nay superior to us, This discourse of theirs reached Abdalmelik’s ears, who said that Tharik was in the right.
Abdallah was caliph nine years, being inaugurated in the sixty-fourth year of the Hejirah, immediately after the death of Yezid the son of Moawiyah. He was a man of extraordinary courage, but covetous to the last degree. So that this sentence passed among the Arabians for a sort of a proverb, “That there was never a valiant man, but was also liberal, till Abdallah the son of Zobeir.” He was in a great repute for his piety. He is said to have been so fixed and unmoved when he was at prayer, that a pigeon once lighted upon his head, and sat there a considerable time, without his knowing anything in the matter. Abulfeda says he wore a suit of clothes forty years without putting them off his back, but doth not inform us of what they were made. This family of the Zobeirs passed amongst the Arabians for a half-witted sort of people.
After he was dead, all Arabia acknowledged Abdalmelik for their caliph, and Hejaj took the oaths of allegiance for him. This year Mohammed the son of Merwan took Assaphiyah, and beat the Greeks; and in this same year it was that Othman the son of Walid fought the Greeks on the side of Armenia with four thousand men, and beat their army consisting of sixty thousand.
Hejaj being now, in the seventy-fourth year, master of all Arabia, pulled down the temple of Mecca, which Abdollah had repaired, placing the stone on the outside of it again, and restoring it to the very form it had before Mohammed’s time. He exercised the most pitiless cruelties on the poor Medinians, branding them in their necks and hands. He used frequently to pick quarrels with them without provocation, and punish them without any crime. Meeting once with one of them, he asked what was the reason he did not assist Othman the son of Affan? He answered, he did. Hejaj told him he lied, and immediately commanded a stamp of lead to be put upon his neck. Thus he continued plaguing and tormenting them, till the Azarakites rising new commotions in the east, Abdalmelik thought his service necessary in those parts, and made him governor of Irak, Khorassan, and Sigistan; upon which he removed from Medina to Cufah, Abdalmelik’s brother Bashar being then dead. As he entered into Cufah, muffled up in his turban, curiosity drew the people round him; whereupon he assured them that they should soon know who he was. Going directly to the mosque, he mounted the membar or pulpit, where he assailed them with very rough words, swearing that he would make the wicked bear his own burden, and fit him with his own shoe. And a great deal more said he to the same purpose, both then and on other occasions, which increased their terror and aversion. Thus, one day, he went into the pulpit, and after a short pause, he rose up and said:—
- “O Irakians! methinks I seethe heads [of men] ripe and ready to be gathered; and turbans and beards sprinkled with blood.”
The day after he came to Cufah, hearing a noise in the street, he went directly to the pulpit, and made a most reproachful speech, protesting that he would make such an example of them by the severity of his punishments, as should exceed all that went before, and be a pattern for all that should come after. He then began to give daily instances of his cruelty, and his rage vented itself particularly upon those that had any hand in the murder of the caliph Othman. Not long after this he went to Bassorah, where he made them a speech much to the same purpose as those he had delivered at Cufah; and to give them a taste of his discipline, caused one of them, who had been informed against as a rebel, to be beheaded upon the spot. This provoked the Irakians to such a degree, that they made an insurrection against him; but having beaten them in a drawn battle, he quickly put it down, and then sending eighteen of their heads to Mohalleb, returned to Bassorah.
The Azarakites now appearing in considerable force, Hejaj sent Mohalleb and Abdarrhaman the son of Mehnef against them. These generals had good success at the beginning; but Abdarrhaman, thinking it a disparagement to his own dignity to be commanded by Mohalleb, neglected his advice and would not entrench, which gave the enemy an opportunity of cutting him off. But whatever encouragements the insurrection of the Bassorians against Hejaj gave, the Azarakites at first, who hoped to make the best use of the dissensions of their adversaries, that tumult was soon quelled, and they found themselves disappointed.
But the greatest opposition that Hejaj ever met with in the whole course of his life, was begun by Shebib a Karegite, and Salehh another sectary, who having been both on pilgrimage at Mecca, in the seventy-fifth year, when Abdalmelik was there, formed a conspiracy against him. The caliph being informed of it, sent orders to Hejaj to seize them. But notwithstanding Hejaj’s vigilance, Salehh remained safe for a month, at least, in Cufah, where he concerted measures with his friends, and provided all things necessary for his undertaking. His sect were called the Safrians, and he was the first of them that ever appeared openly in arms; he was a man much given to devotion, and had a great many followers both in Mausal and Mesopotamia, to whom he used to read and expound the Koran. Some of his hearers desired him to send them a copy of what they once heard him deliver; he condescended to their request, and wrote as follows:—
“Praise be to God, who hath created the heavens and the earth, and appointed the darkness and the light. They that deny the faith make an equal to the Lord. ‘O God! as for us, we will not make any equal to thee,’ nor will we hasten but to thee; nor will we serve any besides thee. To thee belong the creation and the government, and from thee come good and evil, and to thee we must go. And we testify that Mohammed is thy servant, and thy apostle whom thou hast singled out, and thy prophet whom thou hast chosen, and in whom thou hast delighted, that he should convey thy message, and thy warning to thy servants: and we bear witness that he conveyed the message, and admonished the people, and invited to the truth, and stood in righteousness, and helped religion, and made war upon the associators, till God took him, on whom be peace. I exhort you to trust in God, and to abstain from the present world, and to desire the other, and frequently to remember death, and to love the believers, and to separate yourselves from the conversation of evil doers. For abstinence from the present world increaseth the desire of the servant towards that which is with God, and causeth his body to be at leisure to obey God; and the frequent remembrance of death maketh the servant stand in the fear of his Lord, so as to be moved with love towards him, and to humble himself before him. The separating from evil doers is a law to the Mussulmans. God Most High saith in his book:—‘Never pray for any of them that are dead, nor stand at their grave, for they denied God and his apostle, and died doing evil.’ And the love of the faithful is a means whereby the favour of God is attained, and his mercy, and his paradise (God make us and you of the number of those that bear witness to the truth, and persevere). Now it is of the gracious doing of God towards the believers, that he sent them an apostle of their own, who taught them the book and wisdom, and cleansed them, and purified them, and kept them in their religion, and was gentle and merciful to the faithful, till God took him, the blessing of God be upon him. And then the verifier succeeded him, with the good liking of the Mussulmans; and governed according to his direction and tradition, till he went to God, God be merciful to him. He left Omar his successor, and God made him the governor of his flock, and he managed by the book of God, and revived the tradition of the apostle of God; neither did he cease to do justice to the people committed to his charge; nor feared any accusation in the cause of God till he went to, him. God have mercy upon him. After him Othman governed the Mussulmans, and he pursued a shadow, and broke down the bounds, and perverted judgment, and weakened the faithful, and strengthened the wicked, and the Mussulmans went to him and killed him, and God and his apostle are clear of him. And after him the people agreed to give the government to Ali the son of Abu Taleb, who did not make it his business to judge according to the command of God to men; but joined himself to erroneous people, and was mixed among them, and played the hypocrite; and we are clear of Ali and his sectaries. Wherefore prepare yourselves (God have mercy upon you; with alacrity for the holy war against these jarring people, and these erroneous and unjust Imams; and for the going out of this transitory mansion to the mansion that shall remain, and for the being joined to your brethren the faithful, who have certain assurance, who sold the present world for the other, and laid out their substance in quest of the favour of God in the latter end. Neither be afraid of being killed for the sake of God; for the being killed is easier than death; and death cometh upon you quicker than thought, and makes a separation between you, and your children, and your families, and your present world, notwithstanding your exceeding aversion to it, and your fear of it. Wherefore sell yourselves and your substance in obedience to God, that you may securely enter into paradise, and embrace the black-eyed girls. God make us and you thankful, and full of remembrance, and keep us among such as are directed in the truth, and do according to that which is right.”
Once, when he was amongst his friends, he broke out into these expressions, “What do you stay for? How long will you stand still? For iniquity hath spread itself, and this injustice is grown to an exceeding height and vast distance from the truth, in defiance of the Lord. Wherefore let us see what is to be done, and come to some resolution.” In the midst of these speeches there came a letter from Shebib to Salehh, desiring him, since he had complied with his request, to make an attempt upon the present powers, to inform him in what condition his al airs were; for there was no time to be lost; since he could not be sure that he would not be overtaken by death before he had an opportunity of engaging in a holy war, against these wicked ones. Salehh returned answer, “that he only waited for him; that his delay had already raised some suspicion in the rest, who were making all necessary preparations, and stayed for nothing but his coming.” Shebib gathered together his small company and joined Salehh in Dara’leizirah, over which Mohammed Ben Merwan was governor. They seized some of his horses in a neighbouring village, upon which they mounted their foot. Mohammed soon received intelligence of their movements; but despising the smallness of their number (which did not exceed one hundred and twenty), commanded Adi to go against them with five hundred men, who however begged to be excused, affirming that he knew that one of their men was as good as a hundred of their own, and that it was unreasonable to send him with such an unequal force. Mohammed thereupon ordered him five hundred more: but with this thousand he marched from Harrad as unwillingly as if he had been going to the place of execution. When he drew near to Salehh, he sent a messenger to let him know that he had no wish to attack him; but if he would depart out of that territory, he might invade some other, and he would not oppose him. Salehh replied to the messenger, “Go and tell him, that if he is of our opinion, it shall be so; but if he be in the measures of the tyrants, and the Imams of enmity, we know what to do.” To which Adi answered, “that he was not of his opinion, but that he did not come to fight either against him or any one else.” Salehh had no sooner received this answer, than he ordered his men to ride full speed, and by this means surprised Adi saying the noon prayers, who suspected nothing of the kind, till he saw the horsemen close upon his camp; Adi’s men were all out of order, and put to the rout before they could offer any resistance. Salehh trampled down Adi and his standard as he was at prayers, and moving directly to his camp, took possession of all that was in it. They that escaped carried the sad news to Mohammed, who was very angry, and ordered Baled the son of Jora to march against them with one thousand five hundred men, and Hareth with one thousand five hundred more. Calling them both together, he bade them go out against these wicked Separatists; and, to add to their speed, told them that he that first came up with the enemy should have the supreme command. Being informed that the enemy had marched towards Amed, they kept together in pursuit, and towards the evening came up with Salehh, who sent Shebib against Hareth, whilst he charged the other general himself. Notwithstanding the disproportion of numbers, the victory was a long time doubtful; for one of the Separatists could beat ten or twenty of the others. At last Baled and Hareth, perceiving that their horse were repulsed, alighted and fought on foot. This movement quite altered the condition of the combatants, for by this means, they supported themselves with their lances against the enemies’ horse, while at the same time their archers galled them, and the remainder of their horse trampled them down. Thus they continued fighting till night parted them, by which time Salehh had lost thirty men, and Kaled and Hareth more than threescore and ten. Both parties were sufficiently weary of one another, for the battle was very sharp as long as it lasted, and a great many were wounded on both sides. After they had said prayers, and refreshed themselves with such fragments as they had, Salehh asked Shebib his advice, who told him that they were over-matched, and that the enemy would by entrenching themselves render hopeless any attempt against them. Upon this they decamped under the protection of the night, and marched across Mesopotamia till they came to Mausil, and from thence to a place called Dascarah, where Hejaj having received intelligence of their approach, sent against them a body of five thousand men, under the command of Hareth Alhamdani. Three thousand of them were Cufians, and tried veterans, and the other two thousand were chosen men. On the march to Dascarah, Salehh, having gone with a small party to Jalouta and Catikin, Hareth pursued him to a place called Modbage, on the borders of Mausil, between Mausil and Juchi. There they came to an engagement. Salehh had then with him no more than ninety men, and these he divided into three companies, thirty in each. In a short time Salehh was killed. Shebib, having had his horse killed under him, fought on foot till he came to the place where Salehh lay dead; whereupon he called out to the Mussulmans to come to him, for they had no commander left, and bade them turn back to back, and so make good their retreat to a deserted castle in the neighbourhood. This they performed in good order, seventy of them getting there in safety. Hareth surrounded them in the evening, and bade his men set fire to the castle-gates, and then leave them till the morning, when they would be sure to find them. Shebib, having called his people together, told them that, whatever they proposed to do must be done by the favour of the night, because it would be absurd to expect that they should be able to defend themselves against such a force in the morning; upon this his men having first given him their hands in token of their submission, he ordered them to sally out and attack the enemy in their camp; the gates of the castle being burnt to coals, they wetted their saddle cloths, and, spreading them over the coals, stepped over. Hareth and his men were sleeping in their tents without any apprehension of danger, when about midnight they found Shebib and his men in the midst of the camp, slaying all before them. Hareth himself was struck down to the ground, but his men succeeded in carrying him off, and ran away in the greatest confusion and consternation. This victory, which is the first that Shebib got, added such courage to his party that his numbers daily increased, and became terrible to Hejaj himself, who made every exertion to extirpate them. After a great many battles, in all which Shebib , came off superior, he seized the city of Cufah, in the absence of Hejaj, who was gone to Bassorah.
This year Mohalleb died, whom Hejaj had made governor of Khorassan. He was a person of extraordinary character, both for his abilities and his generosity of temper. When he Belt the approach of death, he called his sons about him, and gave them a bundle of arrows to break, which they told him they could not. Upon this he asked them, if they could break them one by one, and when they answered in the affirmative, he bade them imagine themselves to be like that bundle of arrows.
This year Abdalmelik caused money to be coined; this was the first coinage of their own that ever was in use among the Arabians; for before they used to trade with Greek or Persian money. The following was the occasion of his so doing. Abdalmelik used to commence the letters that he sent to the Greek emperor, with these words, “Say, God is one;” or, “Say, there is one God,” and then mention the prophet with the date of the Hejirah. Whereupon the Grecian emperor sent him word, that he had made certain innovations in his style of writing, and therefore requested him to alter it, or else he would send him some coins with such a mention of their prophet upon them as he would not very well like. Abdalmelik was angry at this, and said, “A curse upon their coins;” and from that time began to make money of his own. Hejaj stamped some with this inscription, “Say, there is one God,” which gave great offence to the Mussulmans, because, they said, the sacred name of God would be exposed to the touch of unclean persons of both sexes. Somyor a Jew regulated their coinage, which was but rude at first, but, in the succeeding reigns, it received several improvements.
Shebib had beaten the army which Hejaj had sent against him, and made such a vigorous opposition, that the Cufians were not able to keep the field. Hejaj, however, resolved not to bear his insults any longer, represented the state of that part of the country to the caliph Abdalmelik, who reinforced him with a strong number of Syrians; whereupon Hejaj gave Shebib battle near Cufah. Shebib, who had in all but six hundred men, made a noble defence, but was forced at last to give way to the Syrians, when Hejaj was scarce able to hold up against him. At last Shebib’s brother was killed, and his wife Gazalah, who had attended him when he went first to Cufah, having made a vow to say her prayers in the great temple, and read the “Cow” and the “Family of Amram” there, (i. e. the second and third chapters of the Koran), all which she had duly performed. A body of Syrians pursued Shebib, who killed a hundred of them with the loss of only thirty of his own men. Some of them were so tired with their march and the fight, that when they struck with their swords the blows fell powerless; and some of them struck as they sat, being unable to rise. In this condition Shebib left them, and, despairing of doing anything, passed over the Tigris and went towards Juchi. Afterwards repassing the Tigris at Waset, he bent his course towards Ehwaz; going from thence into Persia, and so on to Kerman, where he rested and refreshed himself and his men. In the meantime Hejaj ordered his wife Gazalah’s head to be washed and buried. Soon after Shebib began to advance again, when Hejaj sent against him Sofian the son of Alabrad, whom Abdalmelik had sent to his assistance out of Syria. They met at a bridge called Dojail el Ehwaz. Shebib was the first to pass the bridge, but after a sharp encounter was repulsed. Returning once more, he renewed the battle with fresh vigour, but was again beaten back; and when he came to the bridge, he made a stand with about a hundred men, who fought so bravely till the evening, that the Syrians declared they had never been so roughly handled before. Sofian, perceiving that at close quarters he could prevail nothing against them, commanded the archers to shoot at them, which they did for a while, till Shebib and his men rushed in upon them, and, having killed above thirty of them, wheeled about, and fell upon the main body, where they continued fighting desperately till night, when, they retreating, Sofian commanded his men not to pursue them. When Shebib, who had resolved to renew the fight in the morning, came to the bridge, he ordered his men to go over before him, and he brought up the rear himself. He was the last upon the bridge, and, his horse suddenly rearing, Shebib’s foot struck against a boat which was moored alongside the bridge, by which he was suddenly dismounted, and fell into the water. When he came up to the surface, he said, “When God decrees a thing it is done.” Then coming up a second time, he cried, “This is the decree of the Almighty, the all-wise [God]!” and sank to rise no more. These were the last words of that great captain, concerning whose mother they relate the following remarkable story.
Yezid the son of Naim was sent by Othman to assist the Syrian Mohammedans against the Greeks in the twenty-fifth year of the Hejirah. The Mussulmans, obtaining the victory, the Christians were exposed for sale. Among the captives, Yezid espied a tall, beautiful, black-eyed maid, whom he bought, and, carrying her to Cufah, commanded her to turn Mohammedan. Upon her refusal he caused her to be beaten, which only increased her aversion towards him to such a degree that, to bring her to a good humour, he was glad to let her alone. Afterwards she proved with child of Shebib, and her fondness to her master increasing daily, she turned Mohammedan of her own accord, in order to please him, so that she changed her religion before Shebib was born, which was on the tenth of the month Dulhagiah, being the day on which the pilgrims kill the sacrifices at Mecca. Awaking out of a slumber; she said, “I saw, as one that sleeps sees, that there went out from before me a flame which diffused itself round about the heavens, and spread itself to every quarter; after which, I saw that a coal dropped into a great water, and was quenched. Now, as I brought him forth upon the day wherein you shed blood, I thus interpret my dream. This son of mine will be a man of blood, and his condition, in a short time, will be exalted to a very high degree.” Hearing once a false rumour of his being killed, she gave no credit to it, but as soon as she heard he was drowned she believed it, saying that she knew from the time of his birth that he would come to no other end.
His body being drawn up with a net, his head was cut off, and sent to Hejaj; when he was opened, his heart was found prodigiously firm and hard like a stone.
In the eighty-first year died Mohammed Ebn Hanifiyah, the third son of Ali, who, because he was not descended from Mohammed as Hasan and Hosein were, is not reckoned amongst the Imams, notwithstanding there were many who, after Hosein’s death, secretly acknowledged him to be lawful caliph. Some of the sectaries look upon him as a great prophet, and believe that God hath taken him away, preserving him alive in a certain mountain where he is to appear again, and fill the earth as full of justice and piety as it is at present of impiety and wickedness.
The Saracenic empire was free from all internal dissension from the time of Shebib’s death till the eighty-second year, when Abdarrhaman, the son of Mohammed, raised a dangerous commotion in the east, upon the following occasion. Hejaj, who hated him, sent him against Zentil, king of the Turks, with orders to carry the war into the midst of his country. Having a malicious design to destroy him, he gave him a very inconsiderable force. Abdarrhaman received secret intelligence of his barbarous intentions towards him, and soon acquainted his men with the object of the expedition they were engaged in. The soldiers were all in a rage at being so basely betrayed, and under a pretence of war sent to be murdered as a sacrifice to Hejaj’s malice against their general. Vowing revenge, they unanimously swore to be true and faithful to Abdarrhaman, and, renouncing the service of Hejaj, prepared themselves to revenge his perfidiousness. Abdarrhaman, having first concluded a peace with the Turk, returned into Irak and marched directly against Hejaj, who, having been informed of his hostile intentions, had petitioned Abdalmelik for succour from Syria, who sent him a considerable army. With these supplies Hejaj marches against him, but being beaten in the first battle, Abdarrhaman moved with his victorious army to Bassorah, where a great many of the citizens, throwing off their allegiance to Abdalmelik, took the oath to him. Entrenching himself on one side of the city, he soon obtained a second victory over his enemies. From thence he proceeded to Cufah, where he was so far from meeting with any opposition, that the citizens came out of their own accord to meet him, and took the oath of allegiance to him. In the meantime, Hejaj gathered together all the forces he could; while, on the other hand, Abdarrhaman’s army increased to the number of a hundred thousand men, among whom were several of prime note among the Bassorians, by whom Hejaj was hated for his cruelty. The two armies encamped near one another; and in the space of a ‘hundred days fought fourscore and one battles. At last, Hejaj put Abdarrhaman to flight, and slew four thousand of his men. Abdarrhaman retreated to Sahan, where he was seized by Hejaj’s lieutenant. But Zentil the Turk, Abdarrhaman’s friend and ally, having received notice of it, rescued him as he was being carried captive to Hejaj. Zentil, however, being threatened with a war by Hejaj in case he refused to deliver him up, was preparing to surrender him; but Abdarrhaman, abhorring the thought of falling into the hands of his most implacable enemy, took an opportunity of killing himself by falling from the top of a high house.
In the eighty-third year, Hejaj built a city upon the river Tigris, which he called Waset, from its lying in the middle between Bassorah and Cufah, that being the signification of the Arabic word. The Persian geographer says, that it is situate at an equal distance from Bagdad, Cufah, Ehwaz, and Bassorah, that is, about fifty leagues from each of them.
Hejaj survived Abdalmelik, and managed all the chief affairs for some time under his son Walid. We, however, must terminate this part of our history (which we intended to carry down to the line of the Abbassides) with the reign of the former caliph; and it is uncertain whether we shall ever have either opportunity or inclination to continue it; therefore, before we take our leave of this great man, by whose vigilance, courage, and conduct, the empire of the Saracens was restored to perfect quiet, and firmly established under the government of the house of Ommiyah, it will not be amiss to relate here a few instances of the greatness and singularity of his genius.
One day, as he was taking a walk in the field, he met with a wild Arab, who knew nothing at all of him, and asked him what sort of a man this Hejaj was, whom every one talked so much of. The Arab answered that he was a very wicked man. “Then,” said Hejaj, “do you not know me?” The Arab answering “No,” “I would have you to know, then,” said Hejaj, “that it is Hejaj you are talking to now.” The Arab, having heard this, said, without expressing the least concern, “And do you know who I am?” “No,” answered Hejaj. “I am,” said the Arab, “of the family of Zobeir, whose posterity all become fools three days in the year, and this I suppose is one of them.” Hejaj could not forbear laughing, and admiring the ingenuity of the Arab. Although, therefore, he was extremely severe, and reckoned cruel, for he had, they say, in his lifetime, put to death a hundred and twenty thousand persons, and when he died had fifty thousand in his prisons, yet he pardoned this Arab out of esteem for his wit and courage.
The following anecdote, while it shows plainly enough what Hejaj’s general character was, gives a remarkable trait of his occasional generosity. Having taken a great many officers prisoners in the battle where he defeated Abdarrhaman, he resolved to put them all to the sword. One of the captives cried out, just as he was going to be executed, that he had a piece of justice to demand of Hejaj. Greatly surprised, Hejaj asked what he had to demand of him. The prisoner answered, “When our general, Abdarrhaman, railed against you most violently, I told him he was in the wrong.” Upon this Hejaj asked the prisoner if he had any witness to produce. “Yes,” answered the prisoner; and pointed out one of his comrades condemned to death as well as himself, who was present when he said it. Hejaj, being satisfied of the truth of the fact, said to the witness, “And why did not you do so as well as your comrade?” This undaunted man answered him fiercely, “I did not do it because you are my enemy.” Hejaj gave them both their lives; the one in acknowledgment of his obligation, the other for having confessed the truth with so much frankness and courage.
Some people having complained of the cruelty of his behaviour towards his subjects, and set the fear of God before his eyes; he instantly mounted the pulpit; to harangue the people, and without any preparation, with his usual eloquence, addressed them in these words:— “God hath at present given me the power over you, and if I exercise it with some severity, do not think that you will be better off after my decease! In the way you live you will always be treated with severity. God hath a great many servants, and when I shall be dead he will send you another, who may possibly execute his commands against you with greater rigour. Would you have a prince sweet and moderate? Then exercise justice among yourselves and obey his orders. Depend upon it, that the behaviour of yourselves is the origin and the cause of the good or ill treatment which you receive. The prince may justly be compared to a looking-glass; all that you see in that glass is nothing but the reflection of the objects you present to it.”
Once, when he was hunting, he lost his company, and found himself in a lonesome place, where an Arab was feeding his camels. His sudden appearance scared away the camels, which made the Arab, who at the time was minding something else, lift up his head in a great passion and say, “Who is this with his fine clothes that comes here in the desert to scare my camels? the curse of God light upon him.” Hejaj, without taking notice of what he said, came up to him, and saluted him very civilly, wishing him peace; but he, instead of returning his salutation, answered him roughly, that he neither wished him peace, nor any blessing of God. Hejaj pretended not to understand him, and being parched with thirst, begged of him some water to drink. The Arab told him, that if he had a mind to drink, he might alight and help himself, for he was neither his fellow nor his man. Hejaj did as he bade him, and having drunk, asked him, “Whom do you believe to be the greatest and most excellent of all men?” “Why, the prophet sent by God, to be sure,” said the Arab. “And what do you think of Ali,” added Hejaj? The Arab answered, “His excellency cannot be expressed in words.” Hejaj, continuing his discourse, inquired what he thought of Abdalmelik! The Arab was silent at first, but being pressed, gave him to understand that he took him to be a bad prince. “Why so?” answered Hejaj. “Because he has sent us for a governor the most wicked man under the heavens.” Hejaj, knowing that the Arab meant him, said no more; but just at that moment, it happened that a bird flying over their heads made a sort of noise, which the Arab had no sooner heard, but he looked stedfastly upon Hejaj, and asked him who he was. Hejaj, having asked the, reason of his question, the Arab replied that the bird which flew by a moment ago, told me that there was a company of people not far off; and I think very likely you are the chief of them. The Arab had no sooner made an end of this discourse, when Hejaj’s people came up, and received orders to carry the Arab along with them.
The day after, Hejaj called for him, and made him sit down at his table, and commanded him to eat; the Arab, before he began to eat, said his usual grace, “God grant that the end of this meal may be as fortunate as the beginning.” Whilst they were eating, Hejaj asked him if he remembered the discourse that had passed between them the day before. The Arab answered him immediately; “God prosper you in everything; but as for yesterday’s secret, take care you do not divulge it to day.” “That I will,” said Hejaj; “but you must choose one of these two things, either to acknowledge me for your master, and then I will retain you in my service; or else to be sent to Abdalmelik, to whom I will give an account of all that you have said of him.” The Arab, having heard Hejaj’s proposal, answered him instantly: “There is a third way you may take, which seems to me to be much better.” “What is that?” said Hejaj. “It is,” said the Arab, “to send me home, and never to let me see your face any more.” Hejaj, as fierce as he was, being pleased to hear the man talk with so much spirit, sent him home according to his desire, and gave him ten thousand drachms of silver.
It is proper to observe here, with regard to this bird that made itself understood by the Arab, that there are people in Arabia who pretend to know the language of birds. They say that this science has existed among them ever since the time of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, who had a bird called Hudhud, that is “the houp,” who was the messenger of their amours.
There lived in the time of Hejaj, one Kumeil, the son of Ziyad, a man of fine wit, who by no means approved of his conduct in the government. One day Hejaj summoned him before him, and reproached him with having in a certain garden, and before such and such persons, whom he named, uttered many imprecations against him, such as, “The Lord blacken his face,” that is, “Fill him with shame and confusion,” and “May his neck be cut off, and his blood shed.”
Kumeil, who had a very ready wit, answered him instantly: “It is true that I did say these words in that garden, but then I was under a vine-arbour, and was looking upon a bunch of grapes that was not yet ripe, and I wished that they might soon turn black, that they might be cut off and made wine of.” This ingenious explication pleased Hejaj so well, that he sent Kumeil home, and restored him to his favour.
Hejaj also admitted to his familiar intercourse Elm Corrah, a person celebrated for his piety and his learning, and whose father had been one of the companions of the apostle. One day when he was with him, the porter came to say that there was a Kateb or secretary at the gate; on which Ebn Corrah said:— “These secretaries are the worst of all sorts of people.” The secretary, however, was well received by Hejaj, who, after he had dismissed him, said to Ebn Corrah, “Were it not for the title of companion of Mohammed that is in your family, I would slit your neck, for the Koran says, “Honour the writers.” Ebn Corrah immediately answered, “I spoke of the secretaries of the Divan, and not of the angels who are called writers in the Koran, because they write the actions of men to produce them at the last judgment.”
It is reported that Hejaj, to excuse the severity which he exercised over those that were under him, used frequently to say, “That a severe, or even violent government, is better than a weak and indulgent one. Because the former doth wrong only to some particular persons, whereas the latter hurts and injures the whole people.”
He also used to say, that the obedience due to princes is more absolute and necessary than that which men owe to God. For the Koran, speaking of the latter, says, “Obey God as far as you are able.” In which words there is a condition or exception. But of that which concerns princes, it is said, “Hear and obey,” without any exception. “Therefore,”, said he, “if I command any one to submit to such or such a thing, and he refuses it, he is guilty of disobedience, and is consequently worthy of death.”
Some one having heard him talk after this manner, said to him:— “You are an envious and an ambitious man, because you desire to have greater authority than others.” To which he answered:— “He is still more envious and ambitious, who says to God, ‘Give me, O Lord, a condition of life which nobody can enjoy after me.’”
Hejaj having once commended himself to the prayers of a religious Mussulman, he instantly prayed that it would please God to kill him quickly, for, said he, nothing better can happen either for him or for the people.
Mircond writes, that when he was seized with his last sickness, he consulted his astrologer, whether he did not find from his ephemerides that some great captain was near the end of his days. The astrologer answered, that according to his observations, a great lord, called Kolaib, was threatened with speedy death. Hejaj replied, “That is the very name which my mother gave me when I was a child.” This word signifies in Arabic, “a little dog.”
The astrologer, no less imprudent in his discourse, than skilful in his art, went on very bluntly to say:— “Then it is you that must die; there is no room to doubt it.” Hejaj, offended at this discourse, said instantly to the astrologer, “Since I must die, and you are so dexterous in your predictions, I will send you before me into the other world, that I may make use of you there;” and at the same time, gave orders for his being despatched.
The death of Hejaj is placed in the ninety-fifth year of the Hejirah, and the fifty-fourth of his age. They say he was so magnificent in his entertainments, that he had sometimes a thousand tables furnished, and that he was so liberal in his presents to his friends, as to give away a million of pieces of silver at one time.
Abulfaragius observes, that he fell sick with eating dirt. This dirt was a sort of medicinal clay, called by the Latins “Terra Lemnia,” and by the Arabians, Thin, and Thin Mechtoum, Lutum, et Lutum sigillattum; this threw him into a consumption of which he died. Thus much concerning Hejaj out of Monsieur D’Herbelot.
In the 86th year of the Hejirah, Abdalmelik died. When he was sick the physicians had told him, that if he drank he would die; but his thirst increased so violently, that he was not able to forbear any longer, but commanded his son Walid to give him some water, which the son refusing he called to his daughter Fatima to do so; but Walid, willing to keep him alive as long as he could, held her, and would not suffer it. Whereupon Abdalmelik told him in a passion, that if he did not let her go, he would disinherit him. So she gave him water, and he quickly expired. He died in the middle of the month Shewal: but he was always afraid of the month Ramadan, and used to say he should die in it; because in it he was born and weaned, had learned the Koran by heart, and also was saluted emperor.
He had two nicknames given him, the one was “the sweat of a stone,” because of his extreme covetousness; the other was “father of flies,” upon the account of his stinking breath, which was so nauseous that it killed all the flies that lighted upon his lips.
The inscription of his seal was, “I believe in God our Saviour.”
Abulfeda says, “that he was a man of foresight, and of very good capacity and understanding; he was courageous, learned, and wise; but his being made caliph quite turned him, and spoiled all his good qualities.”
He died in the sixtieth year of his age. He was much more powerful than any of his predecessors. He subdued Abdallah the son of Zobeir, and added Arabia to his dominions: quelled all the revolts of the Sectaries. In his reign India was conquered in the east, while in the west his victorious arms penetrated as far as Spain.
- See p. 214, at the siege of Jerusalem. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- Here the Arabic is somewhat obscure.
- It is prohibited in the Koran, chap. ii. 187.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A. Abulfeda.
- With 3000 cavalry Yezid ventured to oppose 6000 troops of Obeidollah, and though chained to his litter by a violent and fatal disorder, yet he obtained a very signal victory. As a foretaste to the scheme of vengeance which the avengers of Hosein seemed determined to pursue, three hundred prisoners of different descriptions, who had fallen into their hands, were massacred in cold blood; Yezid, who was speechless, and in the agonies of dissolution, could only communicate the sanguinary fiat bypassing his hand across his throat. This general soon afterwards expired, and his successor, receiving intelligence of the approach of Obeidollah at the head of the main body of the Syrians, thought it expedient for the present to retire within the frontiers of Irak.” —Price.
- “After a most sanguinary conflict, and towards the decline of day, victory declared for the standard of Al Moktar, and the defeat of the Syrian general was rendered more complete by the following circumstance. Ibrahim was perambulating the bank of the river after the hour of evening prayer, when his attention was attracted by the appearance of a stranger, whose splendid apparel bespoke him to be of the highest distinction. The curiosity of Ibrahim, was however more especially excited by the rich and valuable scimitar which the stranger bore in his hand, and to make himself master of this he immediately attacked and killed him. Next day, in relating the circumstance, he expressed an opinion that the person he had slain was no other than the Syrian general, as he was known to be extravagantly fond of musk, and the murdered stranger was highly scented with that perfume. In this he was not mistaken, for, on proceeding to the spot, the body was found and identified to be that of Obeidollah Ziyad.” —Price.
- MS. Laud. Num. 161. A.
- Price declares it was the chair of Ali which Moktar exhibited, and gives the following account:— “Not less artful than ambitious, Moktar about this period determined to employ the chair from which the venerated Ali had been accustomed to pronounce his decisions, as a means to animate the enthusiasm of his followers. Of this precious deposit, Teffeil, the nephew of Ali, now residing at Cufah, was supposed to be either in possession, or capable of giving information concerning it; and to him Moktar applied, promising him the most valuable compensation if he could contrive to procure it. Either unwilling to part with the article or ignorant of its existence, Teffeil vainly made use of every protestation to relieve himself from the threats and importunities of Moktar; but at last the latter admonished him to produce it in three days at his peril. In the anxiety of his heart Teffeil had recourse to an imposition, and going to a dealer in oil who lived at the head of the same street, he purchased an old chair; which, having secretly conveyed home, he carefully washed and scoured, and carried to Moktar. With as much apparent transport as if the mantle and staff of the prophet had fallen into his hands, the latter rewarded Teffeil to the utmost of his promise; then quitting his seat, he pressed the precious relic to his lips, and raised it above his head, and, having repeated two courses of prayer, he declared to his auditors that the chair should be as much an object of reverence to the Schiahs as the sanctuary of Abraham was to the Mussulmans, or the ark of the covenant to the children of Israel. He further hailed it as a pledge that God would be present in all their enterprises; and when it had been received by his followers with the same veneration, he caused the sacred memorial to be enclosed in a wooden cabinet under a lock and key of silver, and lodged in the principal mosque of Cufah; where it remained in the custody of a particular set of men whom he distinguished by the appellation of ‘guards of God.’ It continued here to excite the veneration of the people, and in the expedition against Obeidollah it was carried at the head of the army, and may possibly have produced such an impression at the battle, as to have contributed in no small degree to the ultimate success of the day.” —Price.
- Kcoran, ch. xxviii.
- When he pointed towards Syria he meant Abdabmelik, whom he compares to Pharaoh and Haman; and when he pointed towards Arabia he meant his brother Abdallah.
- This was in the month Ramadan, an. 67.
- The particulars of the death of Al Moktar are thus related by Price “With six thousand troops, the remnant of his army, Al Moktar prepared to defend himself against his pursuers in the palace at Cufah. He was soon invested by the army of Musab, and as the place was entirely destitute of provisions, he proposed to his followers to cut their way through the besiegers and perish, sword in hand, rather than by the accumulating horrors of famine. This they declined, desiring to throw themselves on the mercy of Musab; but Moktar had resolved never to throw himself on the discretion of his enemies, but to combat them to the last extremity and surrender his sword only with his life. The next morning, accordingly, after performing his ablutions, and despatching the early duties of his religion, he took leave of his followers with a solemn assurance, that when he was fallen they were not to flatter themselves that they should escape the unsparing vengeance of the enemy. Perceiving, however, that they continued deaf to every appeal, he finally quitted the palace at the head of nineteen of his most faithful associates, all clad like himself in their winding-sheets; and generously sought, and obtained a glorious death in the thickest ranks of the enemy. The besieged immediately surrendered at discretion; and being led handcuffed to the great square of Cufah, they were all put to death through the importunities of their fellow citizens, although Musab himself seemed very well disposed to spare them.”
- D’Herbelot in Moktar.
- An. Hej. 68, cœpit July 17, A.D. 687.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- An. Hej. 70, cœpit Jun. 24, A.D. 689.
- An. Hej. 71, cœpit Jun. 14, A.D. 690.
- That is, as we pronounce, Mahomet, the son of Aaron.
- Yacut Hamawi.
- The death of Musab was commemorated by a distinguished poet of the time named Ubeid Allah Ebn Kais, who was on terms of friendship with him, and had fought in his cause. The poet seems, however, to have possessed more genius than principle; for he subsequently became as warm a panegyrist of his friend’s adversary, Abdalmelik. The following incident is recorded by Weil:—When Musab was surrounded by the enemy, he said to Ubeid Allah, ‘Take as much as you wish from my treasury, and preserve your life.’ ‘Not so,’ replied the poet, ‘I will never forsake thee.’ He then continued fighting by the side of Musab until the latter was slain, when he fled to Cufah. At this place, whilst looking cautiously round the entrance of a house, he was invited into it by a female, who concealed him in a top room for a space of four months; during which time she lodged and attended him without even desiring to know his name, though every morning and evening, throughout the whole period, the public crier was proclaiming his flight, and offering a price for his head. One day, he expressed a wish to his hostess to return to his home and family, and in the evening she invited him down stairs, when he beheld two camels standing at the door, one for himself, and one for two slaves, whom she presented to him to be his guides. Before he started he begged to know her name; but she replied by reciting some of his own verses, and adding, ‘To me didst thou dedicate them.’ He now departed, and travelled without halting to Medina, where he arrived in the depth of night, and was received by his family with tender affection, though at the same time they warned him that his life was in the greatest danger there, as the very day before he had been sought for everywhere. He accordingly resumed his journey, and repaired to Abdallah Ebn Djafar, and begged his protection; who thereupon rode off to Abdalmelik, and prayed him to grant him a favour. ‘All that thou desirest is already granted,’ said the caliph, ‘only do not ask pardon for Ubeid Allah.’ ‘Hitherto thou hast always granted my requests without reserve,’ answered Abdallah. ‘Then I make no exceptions this time,’ said Abdalmelik; ‘what is thy wish?’ ‘Pardon for the offences of Ubeid Allah,’ cried Abdallah. ‘I pardon him;’ said the caliph; and the poet immediately repaired to the court of Abdalmelik, and recited to him an ode in his praise.”
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- That is as much as in him lay; for they use that expression, though a prince were not actually deposed.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- Hence I observe, that the Arabians had not altered their cookery since Abraham’s time, who made use of butter and milk when he entertained the angels. See Gen. xviii. 8. There is some obscurity in the Arabic.
- MS. Hunt.. No. 495. D’Herbelot.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- Here is a difficulty in the Arabic.
- An. Heg. 72. cœpit Jun. 3, a.d. 691.
- MS. Laud. Num. 161. A.
- Arabic, Yaumolnehri.
- An. Hej. 73. cœpit Maii 22, a.d. 692.
- According to Price, the government of Khorassan was offered to Abdallah, the son of Hazim, for seven years longer, provided he would transfer his allegiance from the son of Zobeir to Abdalmelik. The proposal was however rejected with disdain, though the messenger returned unhurt; and the irritated caliph wrote to Wokkeil, the lieutenant of Abdallab, offering the government of Khorassan to him, if he would put his principal to death. The temptation was too powerful for the integrity of Wokkeil, and he accordingly proceeded to swear the inhabitants against the authority of his master; but the latter, discovering the treachery, put himself at the head of his troops and attacked his lieutenant, before his designs were ripe for execution. The treason was however already too formidable and extensive. In the midst of battle Abdallah Hazim was attacked from behind by a body of Arabs, and thrown from his horse covered with wounds. In this situation Wokkeil approached him for the purpose of taking off his head, when Abdallah suddenly opened his eyes and recognized his lieutenant. “Miscreant,” said he, spitting in his face, “art then, whom I have reared to manhood, the wretch to supersede me? Away with thee! no longer disturb the attention of the brave by thy polluted presence.” But these stern reproaches were not sufficient to deter Wokkeil from his purpose: he immediately struck off his head and sent it to Abdalmelik, and for this acceptable piece of service he retained the government of Khorassan till an. Hej. 75.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- Here is a word or two which I do not so well apprehend the meaning of: Watthema, Phi’l Hawajeri’l Medina wa Mecca.
- Abulfed. MS. Poc. No. 303.
- The Arabian historians never use figures to express their numbers, but write them in words at length. It is hardly to be supposed that the transcriber would be guilty of such a mistake as to write Arbaina for Arbaah, i. e. forty for four; and yet the other account is incredible.
- An. Hej. 74. cœpit Maii 12, a.d. 693.
- An. Hej. 75. cœpit Maii 1, a.d. 694.
- Abulfaragius. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- An. Hej. 76. cœpit April 21, a.d. 695.
- Koran, ch. vi. 1
- Arabic, “is the going.”
- So they call all idolaters and Christians, as joining partners with God
- Koran, ch. ix. 85.
- Arabic, Assidik. It is the surname of Abubeker, which Mohammed gave him because he verified or asserted the truth of Mohammed’s journey to heaven in the night.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
- Ebn Al Athir. MS. Pocock, 137.
- Koran. Where God is introduced, speaking so to Mohammed.
- An. Hej. 77. cœpit April 9, a.d. 696. MS. Laud. 161. A.
- This is by way of prolepsis, for Waset was not then built.—Ebn Al Athir.
- MS. Laud. No. 161. A. Ebn Al Athir. MS. Pocock, No. 137.
- “As a proof of the spirit of Shebib, we are told that on one occasion lie appeared suddenly before the gates of Cufah, and would have made himself master of the place but for the unexpected return of Hejaj from Bassorah. Compelled to quit the town, Shebib determined to leave behind him a proof at least of his matchless personal strength, and with a single stroke of his mace demolished the castle gate.” —Price.
- An. Hej. 81. cœpit Feb. 25, a.d. 700
- An. Hej. 82. cœpit Feb. 14. a.d. 701.
- Hejaj in Dairkorrah, and Abdarrhaman in Dairalimaiim.
- “Of the many distinguished persons who had associated with Abdarrhaman, Saïd, the son of Hoban, rendered himself particularly obnoxious to Hejaj; but on the final defeat of the design Saïd escaped to Mecca. Several years afterwards, in the reign of Al Walid, Kaled the son of Abdallah was created governor of Mecca; and one of his first actions was to apprise Hejaj of the residence of Saïd, with other of the rebellious chiefs, at Mecca; in consequence of which orders were despatched that the obnoxious persons should be seized and conveyed to Hejaj. Saïd was one of the last of the survivors of the prophet’s companions; and such was the veneration in which he was held, that during the journey one of his guards entreated him to escape; but the latter, resolving to abide his destiny, declined the offer. On being taken into the presence of Hejaj, he candidly acknowledged his error, and the tyrant appeared to relent; but being exasperated by some further observations of Saïd, he directed the executioners of his vengeance to strike off his head. Strange to relate, after the head was severed from the lifeless trunk, and weltering on the floor, it repeated three times, in a perfectly intelligible manner, the former half of the Mohammedan creed, ‘La illah il Allah,’ ‘there is no God but God!’ Surprised and disconcerted by a circumstance so extraordinary, Hejaj gave expression to his feelings by bitterly cursing that spawn of a Christian parent, Kaled, the son of Abdallah, whose officiousness had compelled him to witness so appalling a spectacle. In forty days from the execution of the son of Hoban, Hejaj was himself summoned before the eternal Judge to answer for his deeds, the ghastly resemblance of Saïd never ceasing to haunt his imagination to the day of his death.” —Price.
- An. Hej. 83. coe=pit Feb. 3, a.d. 702.
- D’Herbelot in Vasseth.
- D’Herbelot in Hejaj.
- D’Herbelot in Corrah.
- D’Herbelot in Hejaj.
- An. Hej. 86. cœpit Jan. 1. a.d. 705. Ebn Al Athir.
- Arab. Rafhbol Hejer.
- Abdalmelik, who was himself a poet, assembled around him at his court, the most distinguished poets of his time, whom he rewarded in a most princely manner, and upon some settled handsome salaries. The poet Djerir received, for a single panegyrical ode, one hundred camels, eighteen slaves, and a silver jug. A Bedouin poet of some eminence once recited to the caliph a poem with which he was very much pleased. At the conclusion of it, the caliph asked him which he considered to be the best verse in any panegyrical ode; upon which the Bedouin selected and recited the following verse, which had been addressed by Djerir to Abdalmelik: “Art thou not the noblest among all who ride on camels? Is not thy hand the most generous in the whole world?” The caliph then inquired what he considered the best lyrical and satirical verses, when he again quoted from the compositions of Djerir. The latter, who was present, but unknown to the Bedouin, was so delighted with his opinions, that be immediately kissed and embraced him, and begged the caliph to present him with the whole of his own running salary, amounting to 15,000 dirhems. “Good!” said the prince of the Faithful, “That he shall have, and I myself will add to it another sum of the same amount.” On one occasion Abdalmelik caused a camel to be laden with gold, and then summoned the three lyrical poets, Omar the son of Abdallah, Djamil Elm Mimar, and Kutheir Azza, and said, “Whichever of you three improvise the most tender verses upon his beloved, shall receive the camel.” Omar commenced thus:— “Oh might I but venture to kiss thy cheeks when my last moment approaches! might I, when dead, be moistened with the dew of thy lips, and embalmed with thy blood and with the dust of thy feet! Oh would that Suleima (this was the name of his beloved) might rest beside me in the grave, and be my companion whether in paradise or in hell.” Djamil next began:— O Butheima! I swear—and be sure my oath is sincere, for let me become blind if I swear falsely!—I swear by the consecrated animals which are sacrificed with the knife, that love has broken my heart, and I can no longer endure my life. But, if after I am dead, an exorciser will seek to resuscitate me with one single word from the lips of my beloved, I will instantly return to life.” Kutheir in his turn repeated:— “By the life of my father and that of my mother! My beloved Azza puts all her enemies to the blush. Beautiful women visit me to prejudice me against Azza, but their cheeks are not to be compared to the beauty of the soles of my Azza’s feet. Verily, should my Azza dispute with the morning star for the prize of beauty, impartial judges must inevitably award it to her.” Abdalmelik then said: “Friend of hell! (Omar) take the camel with all it bears upon its back.” Even the Christian poet, Achtal, experienced a kind reception from this caliph, and took his place in the first rank amongst the royal poets; for he had praised Yezid the son of Moawiyah, and derided the companions of the prophet who had opposed him. He was a contemporary and rival of Djerir and Ferasdak, and together with them formed the poetical triumvirate of the period. Djamil died in an. Hej. 82. In Egypt he was once asked why beloved Butheima, who was so lean that birds might be cut to pieces with her bones. He replied, “Then seest her only with thine eyes, otherwise thou wouldst not hesitate to appear before God as an adulterer in order to possess her.” Butheima was inconsolable at the tidings of Djamil’s death. On one occasion she appeared before Abdalmelik, but her presence prepossessed him so little in her favour, that he observed to her, “Tell me what is it that excited Djamil to compose and dedicate to thee such tender verses.” To which she replied, “What is it that the people found in thee, that they should have created thee caliph?” Abdalmelik smiled and granted her what she desired.—Weil.
- The following anecdotes of Abdalmelik are extracted from Lane’s notes to the Arabian Knights:— “Al Walid, the son of this prince, spoke so corrupt a dialect that he often could not make himself understood by the Arabs of the desert. Abdalmelik was greatly grieved at this deficiency in his son, which he considered would incapacitate him from being a future ruler of the Arabs, as they were great admirers of purity of speech, although a large proportion of them spoke very corruptly. To remove this defect he sent him to be instructed by a grammarian, but after the youth bad remained there a long time, he returned to his father more ignorant than before. Vulgarisms, however; would sometimes escape from the mouth of Abdalmelik himself; yet, so fully did he appreciate eloquence, that when a learned man, with whom he was conversing, informed him in elegant language of an error of this kind, he ordered his mouth to be filled with jewels. “These,” said his courteous admonisher, “are things to be treasured up; not to be expended:” and for this delicate hint, he was further rewarded with thirty thousand pieces of silver, and several costly articles of apparel. This caliph was, in the beginning of his reign, an unjust monarch; and is said to have been recalled to a sense of duty by the following hint:—Being one night unable to sleep, he called for a person to tell him a story for his amusement. “O prince of the faithful,” said the man thus bidden, “there was an owl in El-Mosil, and an owl in El-Basrah; and the owl of El-Mosil demanded in marriage, for her son, the daughter of the owl of El-Basrah: but the latter said, ‘I will not consent unless thou give me, as her dowry, a hundred desolate farms.’ ‘That I cannot do,’ said the owl of El-Mosil, ‘at present; but if our sovereign, may God preserve him! live one year more, I will give thee what thou desirest.’” This simple fable sufficed to rouse the prince from his apathy, and he thenceforward applied himself to fulfil the duties of his station. “Abdalmelik was the first who gave his, lieutenant in Africa, (who at that time was Hassan the son of An Nooman), instructions to possess himself of the arsenal in Tunis, to build vessels, and to collect all kinds of maritime stores, so as to enable the Arabs to continue by sea their conquests and incursions. It was with these vessels that Sicily was conquered.” —Don Pascual de Gayangos.