The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

History of Al-Hajjaj Bin Yusuf and the Young Sayyid.42

It is related (but Allah is All-knowing) that there was in times of yore a man named ‘Abdullah al-Karkhí and he was wont to tell the following tale:— One day I was present in the assembly of Al-Hajjáj the son of Yúsuf the Thakafí43 what time he was Governor of Kúfah, and the folk around him were seated and for awe of him prostrated and these were the Emirs and Wazirs and the Nabobs and the Chamberlains and the Lords of the Land and the Headmen in command and amongst whom he showed like a rending lion. And behold, there came to him a man young in years and ragged of raiment and of case debased and there was none of blossom upon his cheeks and the World had changed his cuticle and Need had altered his complexion. Presently he salam’d and deprecated and was eloquent in his salutation to the Governor who returned his greeting and looking at him asked, “Who are thou, O young man, and what hast thou to say and what is thine excuse for pushing into the assembly of the Kings even as if, O youth, thou hadst been an invited guest?44 So say me, who art thou and whose son art thou?” “I am the son of my mother and my father,” answered he, and Al-Hajjaj continued, “In what fashion hast thou come hither?"—“In my clothes.” “Whence hast thou come?"—“From behind me.” Whither art thou intending?"—“Before me.” “On what hast thou come?"—“On the ground.” “Whence art thou O young man?"—“I am from the city Misr.” “Art thou from Cairo?”45—“Why asketh thou me, oh Hajjaj?” Whereupon the Lieutenant of Kufah replied, “Verily her ground is gold and her Nile is rare to behold and her women are a toy for the conqueror to enjoy, and her men are nor burghers nor Badawis.” Quoth the youth, “I am not of them,” and quoth Al-Hajjaj, “Then whence art thou, O young man?"—“I am from the city of Syria.” “Then art thou from the stubbornest of places and the feeblest of races.”46 “Wherefore, O Hajjaj?"— For that it is a mixed breed I ween, nor Jew nor Nazarene.” “I am not of them.” “Then whence art thou, O young man?"—“I am of Khorásán of ‘Ajamí-land.” “Thou art therefore from a place the fulsomest and of faith the infirmest. Wherefore, O Hajjaj?” “Because flocks and herds are their chums and they are Ajams of the Ajams from whom liberal deed never comes, and their morals and manners none to praise presumes and their speech is gross and weighty, and stingy are their rich and wealthy.” “I am not of them.” “Then whence art thou, O young man?” “I am from Mosul.” “Then art thou from the foulest and filthiest of a Catamite race, whose youth is a scapegrace and whose old age hath the wits of an ass.” “I am not of them.” “Then whence art thou, O young man?” “I am from the land of Al-Yaman.” “Then art thou from a clime other than delectable.” “And why so, O Hajjaj?” “For that their noblest make womanly use of Murd47 or beardless boys and the meanest of them tan hides and the lowest amongst them train baboons to dance, and others are weavers of Burd or woollen plaids.”48 “I am not of them.” “Then whence art thou, O young man?” “I am from Meccah.” “Then art thou from a mine of captious carping and ignorance and lack of wits and of sleep over-abundant, whereto Allah commissioned a noble Prophet, and him they belied and they rejected: so he went forth unto a folk which loved him and honoured him and made him a conqueror despite the nose of the Meccan churls.” “I am not of them.” “Then whence art thou, O young man? for verily thou hast been abundant of prate and my heart longeth to cut off thy pate.”49 Hereupon quoth the youth, “An I knew thou couldst slay me I had not worshipped any god save thyself,” and quoth Al-Hajjaj, “Woe to thee and who shall stay me from slaying thee?” “To thyself be the woe with measure enow,” cried the youth; “He shall hinder thee from killing me who administereth between a man and his heart,50 and who falseth not his promise.” “’Tis He,” rejoined Al-Hajjaj, “who directeth me to thy death;” but the Youth retorted, “Allah forfend that He appoint thee to my slaughter; nay rather art thou commissioned by thy Devil, and I take refuge with the Lord form Satan the stoned.” “Whence then art thou, O young man?” “I am from Yathrib.”51 “And what be Yathrib?” “It is Tayyibah.” “And what be Tayyibah?” “Al-Madinah, the Luminate, the mine of inspiration and explanation and prohibition and licitation,52 and I am the seed of the Banú Ghálib53 and the purest scion of the Imam ‘Ali bin Abí Talíb (Allah honour his countenance and accept of him!), and all degree and descent54 must fail save my descent and degree which shall never be cut off until the Day of Doom.” Hereupon Al-Hajjaj raged with exceeding rage and ordered the Youth to execution; whereat rose up against him the Lords of the realm and the headman of the reign and sued him by was of intercession and stretched out to him their necks, saying, “Here are our heads before his head and our lives before his life. By Allah, ho thou the Emir, there is naught but that thou accept our impenetration in the matter of this Youth, for he is on no wise deserving of death.” Quoth the Governor, “Weary not yourselves for needs must I slay him; and even were an Angel from Heaven cry out ‘Kill him not,’ I would never hearken to his cry.” Quoth the youth, “Thou shalt be baffled55 O Hajjaj! Who art thou that an Angel from Heaven should cry out to thee ‘Kill him not,’ for thou art the vilest and meanest of mankind nor hast thou power to find a path to my death.” Cried Al-Hajjaj, “By Allah, I will not slay thee except upon a plea I will plead against thee, and convict thee by thy very words.” “What is that, O Hajjaj?” asked the Youth, and answered Hajjaj, “I will now question thee, and out of thine own mouth will I convict thee and strike off thy head.56 Now say me, O young man: - Whereby doth the slave draw near to Allah Almighty?” “By five things, prayer (1), and fasting (2), and alms (3), and pilgrimage (4), and Holy War upon the path of Almighty Allah (5).” “But I draw near to the Lord with the blood of the men who declare that Hasan and Husayn were the sons and successors of the Apostle of Allah.57 Furthermore, O young man, how can they be born of the Apostle of Almighty Allah when he sayeth, ‘Never was Mohammed the father of any man amongst you, but he was the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets.’”58 “Hear thou, O Hajjaj, my answer with another Koranic verse,59 ‘What the Apostle hath given you, take: and what he hath refused you, refuse.’ Now Allah Almighty hath forbidden the taking of life, whose destruction is therefore unlawful.” “Thou has spoken sooth, O young man, but inform me of what is incumbent on thee every day and every night?” “The five canonical prayers.” “And for every year?” “The fast of the month of Ramazan.” “And for the whole of thy life?” “One pilgrimage to the Holy House of Allah.” “Sooth thou hast said, O young man; now do inform me”— And Sharazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

42 Scott (vi. 259-267), “Story of Hyjuaje, the tyrannical Governor of Coufeh, and the Young Syed.” For the difference between the “Sayyid” (descendant of Hasan) and the “Sharíf,” derived from Husayn, see vol. v. 259. Being of the Holy House the youth can truly deny tat he belongs to any place or race, as will be seen in the sequel.

43 This masterful administrator of the Caliphate under the early Ommiades is noticed in vols. iv. 3, vii. 97. The succession to the Prophet began — as mostly happens in the proceedings of elective governments, republics, and so forth — with the choice of a nobody, “Abubakr the Veridical,” a Meccan merchant, whose chief claim was the glamour of the Apostolate. A more notable personage, and seen under the same artificial light, was “Omar the Justiciary,” also a trader of Meccah, who was murdered for an act of injustice. In Osman nepotism and corruption so prevailed, while distance began to dim the Apostolic glories, that the blood-thirsty turbulence of the Arab was aroused and caused the death of the third Caliph by what we should call in modern phrase “lynching.” Ali succeeded, if indeed we can say he succeeded at all, to an already divided empire. He was only one of the four who could be described as a man of genius, and therefore he had a host of enemies: he was a poet, a sage, a moralist and even a grammarian; brave as a lion, strong as a bull, a successful and experienced captain, yet a complete failure as a King. A mere child in mundane matters, he ever acted in a worldly sense as he should have avoided acting, and hence, after a short and disastrous reign, he also was killed. His two sons, Hasan and Husayn, inherited all the defects and few of the merits of their sire: Hasan was a pauvre diable, whose chief characteristic was addiction to marriage, and by poetical justice one of his wives murdered him. Husayn was of stronger mould, but he fought against the impossible; for his rival was Mu’áwiyah, the Cavour of the Age, the longest-headed man in Arabia, and against Yazíd, who, like Italy of the present day, flourished and prospered by the artificial game which the far-seeing politician, his father, had bequeathed to his house — the Ommiade. The fourth of this dynasty, ‘Abd al-Malik bin Marwán, “the Father of Flies,” and his successor, Al-Walid, were happy in being served thoroughly and unscrupulously by Al-Hajjáj, the ablest of Lieutenants. whose specialty it was to take in hand a revolted province, such as Al-Hijáz, Al-Irák, or Khorásán, and to slaughter it into submission; besides deaths in battle he is computed to have slain 120,000 men. He was an unflinching preacher of the Divine Right of Kings and would observe that the Lord says, “Obey Allah and ye can” (conditional), but as regards royal government “Hearing and obeying” (absolute); ergo, all opposition was to be cut down and uprooted. However, despite his most brilliant qualities, his learning, his high and knightly sense of honour, his insight and his foresight (e.g. in building Wásit), he won an immortality of infamy: he was hated by his contemporaries, he is the subject of silly tale and offensive legend (e.g., that he was born without anus, which required opening with instruments, and he was suckled by Satan’s orders on blood), and he is still execrated as the tyrant, per excellentiam, and the oppressor of the Holy Family — the children and grand-children of the Apostle.

The traditional hatred of Al-Hajjaj was envenomed by the accession of the Abbasides and this dynasty, the better to distinguish itself from the Ommiades, affected love for the Holy Family, especially Ali and his descendants, and a fanatical hatred against their oppressors. The following table from Ibn Khaldún (Introduct. xxii.) shows that the Caliphs were cousins, which may account for their venomous family feud.

family tree

44 [The word here translated “invited guest” reads in the MS. “Mad’úr.” In this form it is no dictionary word, but under the root “D’r” I find in the Muhít: “wa ‘l-’ámatu takúlu fulánun da’irun ya’ní ghalízun jáfin” = the common people say such a one is “daiir,” i.e., rude, churlish. “Mad’úr” may be a synonym and rendered accordingly: as though thou wert a boor or clown. — ST]

45 A neat specimen of the figure anachronism. Al-Hajjaj died in A.H. 95 (= AD 714), and Cairo was built in A.H. 358 (= AD 968).

46 Perfectly true in the present day. The city was famed for intelligence and sanguinary fanaticism; and no stranger in disguise could pass through it without detection. This ended with the massacre of 1840, which brought a new era into the Moslem East. The men are, as a rule, fine-looking, but they seem to be all show: we had a corps of them in the old Básh-Buzuks, who, after a month or two in camp, seemed to have passed suddenly from youth into old age.

47 In text, “Yasta’amilúna al-Mrd,” which may have a number of meanings, e.g. “work frowardness” (Maradd), or “work the fruit of the tree Arák” (Maradd = wild capparis) and so forth. I have chosen the word mainly because “Murd” rhymes to “Burd.” The people of Al-Yaman are still deep in the Sotadic Zone and practice; this they owe partly to a long colonization of the “‘Ajam,” or Persians. See my Terminal Essay, § “Pederasty,” p. 178.

48 “Burd,” plur. of “Burdah” = mantle or woolen plaid of striped stuff: vol. vii. 95. They are still woven in Arabia, but they are mostly white.

49 So in Tabari (vol. III. 127) Al Hajjáj sees a man of haughty mien (Abd al-Rahmán bin Abdullah), and exclaims, ”Regarde comme il est orgueilleux: par Dieu, j’aurais envie de lui couper la tête!

50 [The phrase is Koranic (viii. 24): “Wa ‘lamú anna ‘lláha yahúlu bayna ‘l-mari wa kalbi-hi,” which Rodwell translates: Know that God cometh in between man and his own heart. — ST]

51 “Yathrib,” the classical name ‘{Greek letters}, one of the multifarious titles of what is called in full “Madinat al-Nabi,” City of the Prophet, and vulgarly, Al-Madinah, the City. “Tayyibah,” the good, sweet, or lawful: “Al-Munawwarah” = the enlightened, i.e. by the light of The Faith and the column of (odylic) flame supposed to be based upon the Prophet’s tomb. For more, see my Pilgrimage, ii. 162. I may note how ridiculously the story-teller displays ignorance in Al-Hajjaj, who knew the Moslem’s Holy Land by heart.

52 In text “Taawíl,” = the commentary or explanation of Moslem Holy Writ: “Tanzíl” = coming down, revelation of the Koran: “Tahrím” = rendering any action “harám” or unlawful, and “Tahíl” = the converse, making word or deed canonically legal. Those are well known theological terms.

53 The Banú Ghálib, whose eponymous forefather was Ghálib, son of Fihr, the well known ancestor of Mohammed.

54 In text “Hasab wa Nasab.” It is told of Al-Mu’izz bi Díni’llah, first Fatimate Caliph raised to the throne of Egypt, that he came forward to the elective assembly and drew his sword half way out of the scabbard and exclaimed “Házá Nasabí” (this is my genealogy); and then cast handfuls of gold amongst the crowd, crying, “Házá Hasabí” (such is my title to reign). This is as good as the traditional saying of Napoleon the Great at his first assuming the iron crown —“God gave her to me; woe for whoso toucheth her” (the crown).

55 [In MS. “takhs-u,” a curious word of venerable yet green old age, used in the active form with both transitive and intransitive meaning: to drive away (a dog, etc.), and to be driven away. In the Koran (xxiii. 110) we find the imper. “ikhsaú” = be ye driven away, an in two other places (ii. 61, vii. 166), the nomen agentis “khási” = “scouted” occurs, as applied to the apes into which the Sabbath-breaking Jews were transformed. In the popular language of the present day it has become equivalent with “khába,” to be disappointed, and may here be translated: thou wilt fail ignominiously. — ST]

56 Scott introduces (p. 262), “the tyrant, struck with his magnanimity, became calm, and commanding the executioner to release the youth, said, For the present I forbear, and will not kill thee unless thy answers to my further questions shall deserve it. They then entered on the following dialogue: Hyjuawje hoping to entrap him in discourse.”

57 See the dialogue on this subject between Al-Hajjaj and Yáhyá ibn Yamar in Ibn Khallikan, iv. 60.

58 Surah xxxiii. (The Confederates), v. 40, which ends, “And Allah knoweth all things.”

59 Surah lix. (The Emigration), v. 40: the full quotation would be, “The spoil, taken from the townsfolk and assigned by Allah to His Apostle, belongeth to Allah and to the Apostle and to his kindred and to the orphan and to the poor and to the wayfarer, that naught thereof may circulate among such only of you as be rich. What the Apostle hath given you, take. What he hath refused you, refuse. And fear ye Allah, for Allah is sure in punishing.”

The Five Hundred and Twelfth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that Al-Hajjaj said, “Now do thou inform me who is the most excellent of the Arabs and the noblest and of blood the purest?"—“The Khoraysh.” “And wherefore so?” “For that the Prophets from them proceeded.” “And what tribe is the knightliest of the Arabs and the bravest and the firmest in fight?"—“The Banu Háshim.”60 “And wherefore so?” “For that my grandsire the Imám Alí ibn Abí Tálib is of them.” “And who is the most generous of the Arabs and most steadfast in the guest-rite?"—“The Banu Tayy.” “And wherefore so?” “For that the Hátim of Tayy61 was one thereof.” “And who is the vilest of the Arabs and the meanest and the most miserly, in whom weal is smallest and ill is greatest?” “The Banu Thakíf.”62 “And wherefore so?” “Because thou, O Hajjaj, art of them.” Thereupon the Lieutenant of Kufah raged with exceeding rage and ordered the slaughter of the youth; but the Grandees of the State rose up and prayed him for mercy, when he accepted their intercession and pardoned the offender. After which he said to him, “O young man, concerning the kid63 that is in the firmament, tell me be it male or female?” for he was minded on this wise to cut short his words. The young Sayyid replied, “O Hajjaj, draw me aside its tail so I may inform thee thereanent.”64 “O young man, say me on what pasture best grow the horns of the camel?” “From leaves of stone.” “O lack-wit! do stones bear leaves?” “O swollen of lips and little of wits and wisdom, say me do camels have horns?” “Haply thou art a lover fond, O youth?” “Yes! in love drowned.” “And whom lovest thou?"—“I love my lord, of whom I hope that he will turn my annoy into joy, and who can save me this day from thee, O Hajjaj.” “And dost thou know the Lord?” “Yes, I do.” “And whereby hast thou known Him?” “By the book of Him which descended upon His Prophet-Apostle.” “And knowest thou the Koran by heart?” “Doth the Koran fly from me that I should learn it by rote?” “Hast thou confirmed knowledge thereof?” “Verily Allah sent down a book confirmed.”65 “Hast thou perused and mastered that which is therein?” “I have.” “Then, O young man, if thou have read and learned what it containeth, tell me which verset is the sublimest (1) and which verset is the most imperious (2) and which verset is hopefullest (3) and which verset is fearfullest (4) and which verset is believed by the Jew and the Nazarene (5) and in which verset Allah speaketh purely by himself (6) and which verset alludeth to the Prophets (8) and in which verset be mentioned the People of Paradise (9) and which verset speaketh of the Folk and the Fire (10) and which verset containeth tenfold signs (11) and which verset (12) speaketh of Iblís (whom Allah curse!).” Then quoth the youth, “Listen to my answering, O Hajjaj, with the aid of the Beneficient King. Now the sublimest verset in the Book of Allah Almighty is the Throne verse;66 and the most imperious is the word of Almighty Allah, ‘Verily Allah ordereth justice and well-doing and bestowal of gifts upon kith and kin’;67 and the justest is the word of the Almighty, ‘Whoso shall have wrought a mithkál (nay an atom) of good works shall see it again, and whoso shall have wrought a mithkál (nay an atom) of ill shall again see it’;68 and the fullest of fear is that spoken by the Almighty, ‘Doth not every man of them desire that he enter into the Paradise hight Al-Na’im?’69 and the fullest of hope is the word of the Almighty, ‘Say Me, O My worshippers who have sinned against your own souls, do not despair of Allah’s ruth’;70 and the verset which containeth ten signs is the word of the Lord which saith71 ‘Verily in the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth and in the shifts of Night and Day and in the ships which pass through the sea with what is useful to mankind; and in the rain which Allah sendeth down from Heaven, thereby giving to the earth life after death, and by scattering thereover all the moving creatures, and in the change of the winds, and in the clouds which are made to do service between the Heavens and the Earth are signs for those who understand’; and the verset wherein believe both Jews and Nazarenes is the word of Alimighty Allah,72 ‘The Jews say the Nazarenes are on naught, and the Christians say the Jews are on naught, and both speak the sooth for they are on naught.’ And the verset wherein Allah Almighty speaketh purely of Himself is that word of Almighty Allah,73 ‘And I created not Jinn-kind and mankind save to the end that they adore Me’; and the verset which was spoken of the Angels is the word of Almighty Allah which saith,74 ‘Laud to Thee! we have no knowledge save what Thou hast given us to know, and verily Thou art the Knowing, the Wise.’ And the verset which speaketh of the Prophets is the word of Almighty Allah that saith75 ‘And We have already sent Apostles before thee: of some We have told thee, and of others We have told thee naught: yet no Apostle had the power to come with a sign unless by the leave of Allah. But when Allah’s behest cometh, everything shall be decided with truth; and then perish they who entreated it as a vain thing’; and the verset which speaketh of the Folk and the Fire is the word of Almighty Allah which saith76 ‘O out Lord! Bring us forth from her (the Fire), and, if we return (to our sins), we shall indeed be of the evildoers’; and the verset that speaketh of the People of Paradise is the word of Almighty Allah,77 ‘And they shall say: Laud to the Lord who abated to us grief, and verily our Lord is Gracious, Grateful’; and the verset which speaketh of Iblis (whom Allah Almighty accurse!), if the word of Almighty Allah,78 ‘He said: (I swear) therefore by thy glory, that all of them will I surely lead astray.’” Hereupon Al-Hajjaj exclaimed, “Laud to the Lord and thanksgiving Who giveth wisdom unto whoso He please! Never indeed saw I a youth like this youth upon whom the Almighty hath bestowed wits and wisdom and knowledge for all the tenderness of his age. But say me, who art thou, O young man?” Quoth the youth, “I am of the folk of these things,79 O Hajjaj.” Resumed the Lieutenant, “Inform me concerning the son of Adam what injureth him and what profiteth him?” And the youth replied, “I will, O Hajjaj; do thou and these present who are longing for permanency (and none is permanent save Allah Almighty!) be early the fast to break nor be over late supper to make; and wear light body-clothes in summer and gar heavy the headgear in winter, and guard the brain with what it conserveth and the belly with what it preserveth and begin every meal with salt for it driveth away seventy and two kinds of malady: and whoso breaketh his fast each day with seven raisins red of hue”— And Sharazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

60 The House of Háshim, great-grandfather to the Prophet.

61 Ibn Khallikan (vol. i. 354) warns us that “Al-Taî” means belonging to the Taî which is a famous tribe. This relative adjective is of irregular formation; analogy would require it to be Táîî; but the formation of relative adjectives admits some variations; thus from dahr (time) is derived duhrí (temporal) and from sahl (a plain), suhlí (plain, level). The author might also have told us that there is always a reason for such irregularities; thus ”Dahrí“ (from Dahr) would mean a Mundanist, one who believes in this world and not the next or another.

62 The “Banú Thakíf” was a noble tribe sprung from Iyád (Ibn Khallikan i. 358-363); but the ignorant and fanatic scribe uses every means, fair and foul, to defame Al-Hajjaj. It was a great race and a well known, living about Táif in the Highlands East of Meccah, where they exist to the present day. Mr. Doughty (loc. cit. ii. 174) mentions a kindred of the Juhaynah Badawin called El-Thegif (Thakíf) of whom the Medinites say, “Allah ya’alan Thegíf Kuddám takuf” (God damn the Thegíf ere thou stand still). They are called “Yahud” (Jews), probably meaning pre-Islamitic Arabs, and are despised accordingly.

63 In Arab. “Jady” = the Zodiacal sign Capricorn.

64 We find similar facetia in Mullah Jámí (Garden viii.). When a sheep leapt out of the stream, her tail happened to be raised, and a woolcarder said laughing:—“I have seen thy parts genital.” She turned her head and replied, “O miserable, for many a year I have seen thee mother-naked yet never laughed I.” This alludes to the practice of such artisans who on account of the heat in their workshops and the fibre adhering to their clothes work in naturalibus. See p. 178, the Beharistán (Abode of Spring). Printed by the Kamashastra Society for Private Subscribers only. Benares, 1887.

65 This passage is not Koranic, and, according to Prof. Houdas, the word “Muhkaman” is never found in the Holy Volume. [The passage is not a literal quotation, but it evidently alludes to Koran iii. 5: “Huwa’llazí anzalá ‘alayka ‘l-kitába minhu áyâtun muh-kamátun” = He it is who sent down to thee the book, some of whose signs (or versets) are confirmed. The singular “muhkamatun” is applied (xlvii.) to “Sáratun,” a chapter, and in both places the meaning of “confirmed” is “not abrogated by later revelations.” Hence the sequel of my first quotation these portions are called “the mother (i.e. groundwork) of the book,” and the learned Sayyid is not far from the mark after all. — ST]

66 Surah ii. (The Cow) v. 56, the verse beginning, “Allah! there be no God but He; . . . His Throne overreacheth the Heavens and the Hearth,” etc.

67 Surah lxxiii. (The Bee) v. 92, ending with, “And he forbiddeth frowardness and wrong-doing and oppression; and He warneth you that haply may ye be warned.”

68 Surah (Meccah) xcix. vv. 7 and 8: in text “Mithkála Zarratin,” which Mr. Rodwell (p. 28) englishes “an atom’s weight of good,” and adds in a foot-note, “Lit. a single ant.” Prof. Houdas would render it, Quiconque aura fait la valeur d’un mitskal de millet en fait de bien; but I hardly think that “Zarrah” can mean “Durrah” = millet. [“Mithkál” in this context is explained by the commentators by “Wazn” = weight, this being the original meaning of the word which is a nomen instrumenti of the form “Mif’ál,” denoting “that by which the gravity of bodies is ascertained.” Later on it became the well-known technical term for a particular weight. “Zarrah,” according to some glossarists, is the noun of unity of “Zarr,” the young ones of the any, an antlet, which is said to weigh the twelfth part of a “Kitmír” = pedicle of the date0fruit, or the hundredth part of a grain of barley, or to have no weight at all. Hence “Mukhkh al-Zarr,” the brains of the antlet, means a thing that does not exist or is impossible to be found. According to others, “Zarrah” is a particle of al-Habá, i.e. of the motes that are seen dancing in the sunlight, called “Sonnenstäubchen” in German, and “atomo solare” in Italian. Koran xxi. 48 and xxxi. 15 we find the expression “Mithkála Habbatin min Khardalin” = of the weight of a mustard-seed, used in a similar sense with the present quotation. — ST]

69 Surah lxx. 38, Mr. Rodwell (p. 60) translates, “Is it that every man of them would fain enter the Garden of Delights?”

70 Surah xxxix. 54: they sinned by becoming apostates from Al-Islam. The verset ends, “Verily all sins doth Allah forgive: aye, Gracious, and Merciful is He.”

71 Surah ii. 159; the quotation in the MS. is cut short.

72 Surah ii. 107; the end of the verse is, “Yet both are readers of the Book. So with like words say they (the pagan Arabs) who have no knowledge.”

73 Surah li. (The Scattering), v. 56.

74 Surah ii. v. 30.

75 Surah xl. (The Believer), v. 78. In the text it is fragmentary. I do not see why Mr. Rodwell founds upon this verset a charge against the Prophet of ignorance concerning Jewish history: Mohammed seems to have followed the Talmud and tradition rather than the Holy Writ of the Hebrews.

76 Surah (The Believers) lxiv. 108.

77 Surah xxxv. (The Creator or the Angels), v. 31: The sentence concludes in v. 32, “Who of His bounty hath placed us in a Mansion that shall abide for ever, therein no evil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us.”

78 Surah (“Sad”) lix. 54; Iblis, like Satan in the Book of Job, is engaged in dialogue with the Almighty. I may here note that Scott (p. 265) has partially translated these Koranic quotations, but he has given only one reference.

79 In text “Aná min ahli zálika,” of which the vulgar equivalent would be “Kizí” (for “Kazálika,” “Kazá") = so (it is)!

The Five Hundred and Fourteenth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the youth continued to Al-Hajjaj: - “And whoso breaketh his fast daily with seven raisins red of hue shall never find in his body aught that irketh him; moreover, whoso each morning eateth on the spittle80 three ripe dates all the worms in his belly shall be slain and whoso exceedeth in diet of boucan’d meat81 and fish shall find his strength weakened and his powers of carnal copulation abated; and beware lest thou eat beef82 by cause that ’tis a disease forsure whereas the soured milk of cows is a remedy secure and clarified butter is a perfect cure: withal is its hide a succor for use and ure. And do thou take to thee, O Hajjaj, the greater Salve.”83 Cried the Lieutenant, “What may be that?” and said the youth in reply, “A bittock of hard bread eaten84 upon the spittle, for indeed such food consumeth the phlegm and similar humours which be at the mouth of the maw.85 And let not the blood in the hot bath for it enfeebleth man’s force, and gaze not upon the metal pots of the Balnea because such sight breedeth dimness of vision. Also have no connection with woman in the Hammam for its consequence is the palsy; nor do thou lie with her when thou art full or when thou art empty or when thou drunken with wine or when thou art in wrath nor when lying on thy side, for that it occasioneth swelling of the testicle-veins;86 or when thou art under a fruit-bearing tree. Avoid carnal knowledge of the old woman87 for that she taketh from thee and giveth not to thee. Moreover let thy signet ring be made of carnelian88 because it is a guard against poverty; also a look at the Holy Volume every morning increaseth thy daily bread, and to gaze at flowing water whetteth the sight and to look upon the face of children is an act of adoration. And when thou chancest lose thy way, crave aidance of Allah from Satan the Stoned.” Hereupon quoth Al-Hajjaj, “Allah hath been copious to thee, O young man, for thou hast drowned me in the depths of thy love, but now inform me, Where is the seat of thy dignified behaviour?"—“The two eyes.” “And where is the seat of thy well-doing?"—“My tongue.” “And where is the seat of thy hearing?"—“The sensorium of mine ears.” “And where is the seat of thy smelling?"—“The sensorium of my nose.” “And where is the seat of thy taste?"—“My palate.” “And where is the seat of thy gladness?"—“My heart.” “And where is the seat of thy wrath?"—“My liver.” “And where is the seat of thy laughing?"—“My spleen.”89 “And where is the seat of thy bodily strenght?"—“My two shoulders.” “And where is that of thy weakness?"—“My two calves.” Hereupon Al-Hajjaj exclaimed, “Laud to the Lord and thanksgiving; for indeed, O young man, I see that thou knowest everything. So tell me somewhat concerning husbandry?"—“The best of corn is the thickest of cob and the grossest of grain and the fullest sized of shock.”90 “And what sayest thou concerning palm-trees?"—“The most excellent is that which the greatest of gathering doth own and whose height is low grown and within whose meat is the smallest stone.” “And what dost thou say anent the vine?"—“The most noble is that which is stout of stem and big of bunch.” “And what sayest thou concerning the Heavens?"—“This is the furthest extent of man’s sight and the dwelling-place of the Sun and Moon and all the Stars that give light, raised on high without columns pight and overshadowing the numbers beneath its height.” “And what dost thou say concerning the Earth?"—“It is wide dispread in length and breadth.” “And what dost thou say anent the rain?"—“The most excellent is that which filleth the pits and pools and which overfloweth into the wadys and the rivers.” Hereupon quoth Al-Hajjaj, “O young man inform me what women be the best”— And Sharazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

80 i.e. On an empty stomach, to “open the spittle” is = to break the fast. Sir Wm. Gull in his evidence before a committee of the House of Commons deposed that after severe labor he found a bunch of dried raisins as efficacious a “pick-me up” as a glass of stimulants. The value of dried grapes to the Alpinist is well known.

81 Arab. “Al-Kadíd” = jerked (charqui = chaire cuite) meat-flesh smoked, or (mostly) sun-dried.

82 I have noticed (i. 345) one of the blunders in our last unfortunate occupation of Egypt where our soldiers died uselessly of dysenteric disease because they were rationed with heating beef instead of digestible mutton.

83 Arab. “Al-Marham al-akbar.”

84 [In the text: “Al-Kisrat al-yábisah ‘alá ‘l-Rík fa-innahá tukhlik jamí’a má ‘alá fum al-mádah min al-balgham,” of which I cannot make anything but: a slice of dry bread (kisrah = piece of bread) on the spittle (i.e. to break the fast), for it absorbs (lit. uses up, fourth form of “khalik” = to be worn out) all that there may be of phlegm on the mouth of the stomach. Can it be that the dish “Khushk-nán” (Pers. = dry bread) is meant, of which the village clown in one of Spitta Bey’s tales, when he was treated to it by Harun al-Rashid thought it must be the “Hammám,” because he has heard his grandmother say, that the Hammám (bath) is the most delightful thing in the world?–ST]

85 The stomach has two mouths, oesophagic above (which is here alluded to) and pyloric below.

86 Arab. “‘Irk al-Unsá” = chordû testiculorum, in Engl. simply the cord.

87 The “‘Ajúz” is a woman who ceases to have her monthly period: the idea is engrained in the Eastern mind and I cannot but believe in it seeing the old-young faces of men who have “married their grandmothers” for money or folly, and what not.

88 Arab. “Al-‘Akík,” vol. iii. 179: it is a tradition of the Prophet that the best of bezels for a signet-ring is the carnelian, and such are still the theory and practice of the Moslem East.

89 Arab. “Tuhál;” in text “Tayhal.” Mr. Doughty (Arabia Deserta, i. 547) writes the word “Tahal” and translates it “ague-cake,” i.e. the throbbing enlarged spleen, left after fevers, especially those of Al-Hijáz and Khaybar. [The form “Tayhál” with a plural “Tawáhil” for the usual “Tihál” = spleen is quoted by Dozy from the valuable Vocabulary published by Schiaparelli, 1871, after an old MS. of the end of the xiii. century. It has the same relation to the verb “tayhal” = he suffered from the spleen, which “Tihál” bears the same verb “tuhil,” used passively in the same sense. The name of the disease is “Tuhál."— ST]

90 In text “Kasalah” = a shock of corn, assemblage of sheaves. It may be a clerical error for “Kasabah” = stalk, haulm, straw.

The Five Hundred and Sixteenth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that Al-Hajjaj said, “O young man, inform me what women be the best and the most enjoyable.”91—“One in winning ways excelling and in comeliness exceeding and in speech killing: one whose brow glanceth marvellous bright to whoso filleth his eyes with her sight and to whom she bequeatheth sorrow and blight; one whose breasts are small whilst her hips are large and her cheeks are rosy red and her eyes are deeply black and he lips are full-formed; one who if she look upon the heavens even the rocks will be robed in green, and if she look upon the earth her lips92 unpierced pearls shall rain; one the dews of whose mouth are the sweetest of waters; one who in beauty hath no peer nor is there any loveliness can with hers compare: the coolth of the eyes to great and small; in fine, one whose praises certain of the poets have sung in these harmonious couplets,93

‘A fair one to idolaters if she herself should show,

They’d leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know.

If in the Eastward she appeared unto a monk, for once

He’d cease from turning to the West and to the East bend low;

And into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit,

Assuredly the salt sea’s floods straight fresh and sweet would grow.’”

Hereupon quoth Al-Hajjaj, “Thou hast said well and hast spoken fair, O young man; and now what canst thou declare concerning a maiden of ten years old?” Quoth the youth, “She is a joy to behold.” “And a damsel of twenty years old?"—“a coolth to eyes manifold.” “And a woman thirty of age?"—“One who the hearts of enjoyers can engage.” “And in her fortieth year?"—“Fat, fresh and fair doth she appear.” “And of the half century?"—“The mother of men and maids in plenty.” “And a crone of three score?"—“Men ask of her never more.” “And when three score and ten?"—“An old trot and remnant of men.” “And one who reacheth four score?"—“Unfit for the world and for the faith forlore.” “And one of ninety?"—“Ask not of whoso in Jahím be.”94 “And a woman who to an hundredth hath owned?"—“I take refuge with Allah from Satan the Stoned.” Then Al-Hajjaj laughed aloud and said, “O young man, I desire of thee even as thou describest womankind in prose so thou show me their conditions in verse;” and the Sayyid, having answered, “Hearkening and obedience, O Hajjaj,” fell to improvising these couplets,95

“When a maid owns to ten her new breasts arise

And like diver’s pearl with fair neck she hies:

The damsel of twenty defies compare

’Tis she whose disport we desire and prize:

She of thirty hath healing on cheeks of her;

She’s a pleasure, a plant whose sap never dries:

If on her in the forties thou happily hap

She’s best of her sex, hail to him with her lies!

She of fifty (pray Allah be copious to her!)

With wit, craft and wisdom her children supplies.

The dame of sixty hath lost some force

Whose remnants are easy to ravenous eyes:

At three score ten few shall seek her house

Age-threadbare made till afresh she rise:

The fourscore dame hath a bunchy back

From mischievous eld whom perforce Love flies:

And the crone of ninety hath palsied head

And lies wakeful o’ nights and in watchful guise;

And with ten years added would Heaven she bide

Shrouded in sea with a shark for guide!”

Hereupon Al-Hajjaj laughed aloud and all who were with him in assembly; and presently he resumed, “O youth, tell me concerning the first man who spake in verse96 and that was our common sire, Adam (The Peace be upon him!), what time Kábil97 slew Hábil his brother when her forefather improvised these lines,

‘Changed I see my country and all thereon;

Earth is now a blackavice, ugly grown:

The hue and flavour of food is fled

And cheer is fainting from fair face flown.

An thou, O Abel, be slain this day

Thy death I bemourn with heart torn and lone.

Weep these eyes and ‘sooth they have right to weep

Their tears are as rills flowing hills adown.

Kábil slew Hábil — did his brother dead;

Oh my woe for that lovely face, ochone!’”98

Hereat Al-Hajjaj asked, “O young man, what drove our ancestor to poetry?” whereto answered youth — And Sharazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

91 Of course the conversation drifts into matters sexual and inter-sexual: in a similar story, “Tawad dud,” the learned slave girl, “hangs her head down for shame and confusion” (vol. v. 225); but the young Sayyid speaks out bravely as becomes a male masculant.

92 [In the text: “Allatí lau nazarat ilá ‘l-samá la-a’shab (fourth form of ‘ashab with the affirmative ‘la’) al-Safá (pl. of Safát), wa lau nazarat ilá ‘l-arz la amtar taghru há (read thaghru-há) Lúluan lam yuskab wa ríku-há min al-Zulál a’zab (for a’zab min al-Zulál),” which I would translate: Who if she look upon the heavens, the very rocks cover themselves with verdure, and an she look upon the earth, her lips rain unpierced pearls (words of virgin eloquence) and the dews of whose mouth are sweeter than the purest water. - ST.]

93 These lines have often occurred before: see index (vol. x. 395) “Wa lau anunahá li ‘l-Mushrikin,” etc. I have therefore borrowed from Mr. Payne, vol. viii. 78, whose version is admirable.

94 For the Jahín-hell, see vol. viii. 111.

95 For the Seven Ages of womankind (on the Irish model) see vol. ix. 175. Some form of these verses is known throughout the Moslem East to prince and peasant. They usually begin:—

From the tenth to the twentieth year

To the gaze a charm doth appear;

and end with:—

From sixty to three score ten

On all befal Allah’s malison.

96 [Here I suppose the word “kál” has been dropped after “bi ‘l-shi’r,” and it should be: He (the youth) replied, that was our common sire, Adam, etc. — ST.]

97 “Habíl” and “Kábíl” are the Arab. equivalent of Abel and Cain. Neither are named in the Koran (Surah v. “The Table,” vv. 30-35), which borrows dialogue between the brothers derived from the Targum (Jeirus. on Gen. iv. 8) and makes the raven show the mode of burial to Cain, not to Adam, as related by the Jews. Rodwell’s Koran, p. 543.

98 Sit venia verbo: I have the less hesitation in making Adam anticipate the widow Malone from a profound conviction that some Hibernian antiquary, like Vallancey who found the Irish tongue in the Punic language of Plautus, shall distinctly prove that our first forefather spoke Keltic.

The Five Hundred and Eighteenth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the youth replied, “He was driven to poetry by Iblis (whom Allah accurse!) when he spake in this verse,

‘Thou bewailest the land and all thereon

And scant was the breadth of Eden didst own,

Where thou was girded by every good

O’ life and in rest ever wont to wone:

But ne’er ceased my wiles and my guile until

The wind o’erthrew thee by folly blown.’”99

Whereupon quoth Al-Hajjaj, “O young man, inform me concerning the first couplet of verse spoken by the Arab in praise of munificence;” and quoth the youth, “O Hajjaj, the first Arabic distich known to me was spoken by Hátim of Tayy, and ’twas as follows,

‘And the guest I greet ere from me he go

Before wife and weans in my weal and woe.’”

Then cried Al-Hajjaj, “Thou hast said well and hast spoken fair, O young man; and thy due is incumbent upon us for that thou hast drowned us in the deeps of thy wisdom.” Presently the Lieutenant of Kufah turning towards one of his eunuchs said, “Bring me at this very moment a purse containing ten thousand dirhams100 upon a charger of red gold and a suit of the rarest of my raiment and a blood mare the noblest steed of my steeds with a saddle of gold and a haubergeon;101 and a lance of full length and a handmaid the handsomest of my slave-girls.” The attendant disappeared for a while, and presently brought all this between the hands of Al-Hajjaj, who said, “O young man, this damsel is the fairest of my chattels, and this be the purse on a charger of gold, and this mare is the purest in blood of my steeds together with her housings, so do thou take whatever thou desirest thereof, either the mare with all upon her or the purse of gold or the concubine,” presently saying to himself, “If the young man prefer the purse, ’twill prove he loveth the world and I will slay him, also if he choose the girl, he lusteth after womankind, and I will do him die: but if he take the mare and her furniture, he will show himself the brave of braves, and he meriteth not destruction at my hands.” Then the youth came forward and took the mare and her appointments. Now the damsel was standing by the young Sayyid, and she winked at him with her eye as one saying, “Do thou choose me and leave all the rest;” whereupon he began to improvise the following couplets,

“The jingling bridle at Bayard’s neck

Is dearer to me than what sign thou deign:

I fear when I fall into strait and fare

Abroad, no comrade in thee to gain:

I fear when lain on my couch and long

My sickness, thou prove thee nor fond nor fain:

I fear me that time groweth scant my good

And my hand be strait thou shalt work me bane:

A helpmate I want shall do what do I

And bear patient the pasture of barren plain.”102

Presently the handmaid answered his verse with the following couplets,

“Forfend me, Allah, from all thou say’st

Though my left with my right thou shalt hew in twain.

A husband’s honour my works shall keep

And I’ll wone content with his smallest gain:

Didst know me well and my nature weet

Thou hadst found me mate of the meekest strain.

Nor all of women are like to sight

Nor all of men are of similar grain.

The charge of a mate to the good belongs;

Let this oath by Allah belief obtain.”

Hearing these words Al-Hajjaj exclaimed, “Woe to thee, O damsel, dost thou answer him in his verse? and do thou O young man, take the whole, and may Allah give thee no blessing therein.”103 Answered by the young Sayyid, “Here with them, O Hajjaj, inasmuch as thou hast given them to me, I will not oppose the order of Allah through thee, but another time there is no union between us twain, me and thee, as there hath been this day.” Now the city of Al-Hajjaj had two gates — the door of Destruction and the door of Salvation; and when the youth asked him, “O Hajjaj, shall I go forth from this or from that?” the Lieutenant of Kufah cried, “Issue by this outlet,” and showed him the Gate of Safety. Then the youth took all the presents and fared forth by the passage which had been shown him, and went his ways and was seen no more. Hereupon the Grandees of the kingdom said to Al-Hajjaj, “O our lord, how hast thou given to him these gifts and he hath on nowise thanked thee, nor wished thee well104 for they favours, and yet hast thou pointed out to him the Gate of Salvation?” Hereupon he replied, “Verily, the youth asked direction of me, and it becometh the director to be trustworthy and no traitor (Allah’s curse be upon him who betrayeth!), and this youth meriteth naught save mercy by reason of his learning.”105

99 In text “Ríh,” wind, gust (of temper), pride, rage. Amongst the Badawín it is the name given to rheumatism (gout being unknown), and all obscure aching diseases by no means confined to flatulence or distension. [The MS. has: “ilá an káta-ka ‘l-‘amal al-rabíh,” which gives no sense whatever. Sir Richard reads: “kátala-ka ‘l-‘amal al-ríh,” and thus arrives at the above translation. I would simply drop a dot on the first letter of “káta-ka,” reading “fáta-ka,” when the meaning of the line as it stands, would be: until the work that is profitable passed away from thee, i.e., until thou ceasedst to do good. The word “rabíh” is not found in Dictionaries, but it is evidently an intensive of “rábih” (tijárah rábihah = a profitable traffic) and its root occurs in the Koran, ii. 15: “Fa-má rabihat Tijáratuhum” = but their traffic has not been gainful. — ST.]

100 Arab. “Badrah”: see vol. iv. 281. [According to Kámús, “Badrah is a purse of one thousand or ten thousand dirhams, or of seven thousand dínárs. As lower down it is called “Badrat Zahab,” a purse of gold, I would take it here in the third sense. — ST]

101 In text “Zardiyá,” for “Zardiyyah” = a small mail coat, a light helmet.

102 Arab. “‘Ind ‘uzzáti ’s -siníni” = lit. the thorny shrubs of ground bare of pasture.

103 This is another form of “inverted speech,” meaning the clean contrary; see vols. ii. 265; vi. 262; and vii. 179.

104 In text “Lam yakthir Khayrak”; this phrase (pronounced “Kattir Khayrak”) is the Egyptian (and Moslem) equivalent for our “thank you.” Vols. iv. 6; v. 171. Scott (p. 267) make Al-Hajjaj end with, “Cursed is he who doth not requite a sincere adviser, declareth our sacred Koran.”

105 In the W.M. MS. this tale is followed by the “History of Uns al-Wujúd and the Wazir’s daughter Rose-in-hood,” for which see vol. v. 32 et seq. Then comes the long romance “Mázin of Khorásán,” which is a replica of “Hasan of Bassorah and the King’s daughter of the Jinn” (vol. vii. 7). I have noted (vol. x. 75) that this story shows us the process of transition from the Persian original to the Arabic copy. “Mázin” is also the P.N. of an Arab tribe: De Sacy, Chrest. i. 406.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31