Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/49

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him up and passed him to his mother, who took him and gave him the breast; and he sucked and was full and slept. The midwife abode with them three days, till they had made the mothering-cakes of sugared bread and sweetmeats; and they distributed them on the seventh day. Then they sprinkled salt against the evil eye and the merchant, going in to his wife, gave her joy of her safe delivery, and said, "Where is Allah's deposit?" So they brought him a babe of surpassing beauty, the handiwork of the Orderer who is ever present and, though he was but seven days old, those who saw him would have deemed him a yearling child. So the merchant looked on his face and, seeing it like a shining full moon, with moles on either cheek, said he to his wife, "What hast thou named him?" Answered she, "If it were a girl I had named her; but this is a boy, so none shall name him but thou." Now the people of that time used to name their children by omens; and, whilst the merchant and his wife were taking counsel of the name, behold, one said to his friend, "Ho my lord, Ala al-Din!" So the merchant said, "We will call him Ala al-Din Abú al-Shámát."[1] Then he committed the child to the nurse, and he drank milk two years, after which they weaned him and he grew up and throve and walked upon the floor. When he came to seven years old, they put him in a chamber under a trap-door, for fear of the evil eye, and his father said, "He shall not come out, till his beard grow." So he gave him in charge to a handmaid and a blackamoor; the girl dressed him his meals and the slave carried them to him. Then his father circumcised him and made him a great feast; after which he brought him a doctor of the law, who taught him to write and read and repeat the Koran, and other arts and sciences, till he became a good scholar and an accomplished. One day it so came to pass that the slave, after bringing

  1. Alá al-Din (our old friend Aladdin) = Glory of the Faith, a name of which Mohammed who preferred the simplest, like his own, would have highly disapproved. The most grateful names to Allah are Abdallah (Allah's Slave) and Abd al-Rahman (Slave of the Compassionate); the truest are Al-Hárith (the gainer, "bread winner") and Al-Hammám (the griever); and the hatefullest are Al-Harb (witch) and Al-Murrah (bitterness, Abu Murrah being a kunyat or by-name of the Devil). Abu al-Shámát (pronounced Abushshámát)=Father of Moles, concerning which I have already given details. These names ending in -Din (faith) began with the Caliph Al-Muktadi bi-Amri 'llah (regn. A.H. 467= 1075), who entitled his Wazir "Zahír al-Din (Backer or Defender of the Faith) and this gave rise to the practice. It may be observed that the superstition of naming by omens is in no way obsolete.