She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman continued, “‘Now while the boy lay on my bosom and the waves beat upon me, there swam up to me one of the sailors, who climbed on the plank and said, ‘By Allah, I desired thee whilst thou wast yet in the ship, and now I have come at thee: so yield thy body to me, or I will throw thee into the sea.’ Said I, ‘Out on thee! hast thou no memory of that which thou hast seen and is it no warning to thee?’ Quoth he, ‘I have seen the like of this many a time and come off safe and care not.’ Quoth I, ‘O fellow, we are now in a calamity, whence we hope to be delivered by obedience to Allah and not by disobedience.’ But he persisted with me, and I feared him and thought to put him off; so I said to him, ‘Wait till this babe shall sleep’; but he took the child off my lap and threw him into the sea. Now when I saw this desperate deed, my heart sank and sorrow was sore upon me; so I raised my eyes heavenwards and said, ‘O Thou that interposest between a man and his heart, intervene between me and this leonine brute; for Thou over all things art Omnipotent!’ And by Allah, hardly had I spoken when a beast rose out of the sea and snatched him off the plank. When I saw myself alone my sorrows redoubled and my grief and longing for my child, and I recited,
‘My coolth of eyes, the darling child of me
Is lost, and racked my heart with agony;
My body wrecked, and red-hot coals of love
Burning my liver with sore pangs, I see.
In this my sorrow shows no gleam of joy;
Save Thy high grace and my expectancy:
Hast seen, O Lord, what unto me befel;
My son aye lost and parting pangs I dree:
Take ruth on us and make us meet again;
For now my stay and only hope’s in Thee!’
I abode in this condition a day and a night; and, when morning dawned, I caught sight of the sails of a vessel shining afar off, nor did the waves cease to drive me and the winds to waft me on, till I reached the ship, whose sails I had sighted. The sailors took me up and I looked and behold, my babe was amongst them: so I threw myself upon him and said, ‘O folk, this is my child: how and whence came ye by him?’ Quoth they, ‘Whilst we were sailing along the seas the ship suddenly stood still and lo! that which stayed us was a beast, as it were a great city, and this babe on its back, sucking his thumbs. So we took him up.’ Now when I heard this, I told them my tale and all that had betided me and returned thanks to my Lord for His goodness, and vowed to Him that never, whilst I lived, would I stir from His House nor swerve from His service; and since then I have never asked of Him aught but He hath given it me.’ Now when she had made an end of her story (quoth the Sayyid), I put my hand to my alms-pouch and would have given to her, but she exclaimed, “Away from me, thou idle man! Have I not told thee of His mercies and the graciousness of His dealings and shall I take an alms from other than His hand?” And I could not prevail with her to accept aught of me: so I left her and went away, reciting these couplets
‘How many boons conceals the Deity,
Eluding human sight in mystery:
How many graces come on heels of stresses,
And fill the burning heart with jubilee:
How many a sorrow in the morn appears,
And turns at night-tide into gladdest gree:
If things go hard with thee some day, yet trust
Th’ Eterne, th’
Almighty God of Unity:
And pray the Prophet that he intercede;
Through intercession every wish shalt see.’
And she left not the service of her Lord, cleaving unto His House, till death came to her.” And a tale is also told by Málik bin Dínár1 (Allah have mercy on him!) of
1 A theologian of Bassorah (eighth century): surnamed Abú Yahyá. The prayer for mercy denotes that he was dead when the tale was written.
“We were once afflicted with drought at Bassorah and went forth sundry times to pray for rain, but saw no sign of our prayers being accepted. So I went, I and ‘Itaa al-Salamí and Sábit al-Banáni and Naja al-Bakáa and Mohammed bin Wási’a and Ayyúb al-Sukhtiyáni and Habíb al-Farsi and Hassán bin Abi Sinán and ‘Otbah al-Ghulám and Sálih al-Muzani,1 till we reached the oratory,2 when the boys came out of the schools and we prayed for rain, but saw no sign of acceptance. So about mid-day the people went away and I and Sabit al-Banani tarried in the place of prayer till nightfall, when we saw a black of comely face, slender of shank3 and big of belly, approach us, clad in a pair of woollen drawers; if all he wore had been priced, it would not have fetched a couple of dirhams. He brought water and made the minor ablution, then, going up to the prayer-niche, prayed two inclinations deftly, his standing and bowing and prostration being exactly similar in both. Then he raised his glance heavenwards, and said, ‘O my God and my Lord and Master, how long wilt Thou reject Thy servants in that which offereth no hurt to Thy sovereignty? Is that which is with Thee wasted or are the treasuries of Thy Kingdom annihilated? I conjure Thee, by Thy love to me forthwith to pour out upon us Thy rain-clouds of grace!’ He spake and hardly had he made an end of speaking, when the heavens clouded over and there came a rain, as if the mouths of waterskins had been opened; and when we left the oratory, we were knee-deep in water,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 A theologian of Bassorah (eighth century).
2 Arab. “Musallá”; lit. a place of prayer; an oratory, a chapel, opp. to “Jámi’” = a (cathedral) mosque.
3 According to all races familiar with the negro, a calf like a shut fist planted close under the ham is, like the “cucumber shin” and “lark heel”, a good sign in a slave. Shapely calves and well-made legs denote the idle and the ne’er-do-well. I have often found this true although the rule is utterly empirical. Possibly it was suggested by the contrast of the nervous and lymphatic temperaments.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that “hardly had he spoken when the heavens clouded over and there came a rain, as if the mouths of waterskins had been opened. And when we left the oratory we were knee-deep in water, and we were lost in wonder at the black. So I accosted him and said to him, ‘Woe to thee, O black, art thou not ashamed of what thou saidst?’ He turned to me and asked, ‘What said I?’; and I, ‘Thy saying to Allah, ‘By Thy love of me;’ and what giveth thee to know that He loveth thee?’ Replied he, ‘Away from me, O thou distracted by the world from the care of thine own soul. Where was I, when He gave me strength to profess the unity of the Godhead and vouchsafed unto me the knowledge of Him? How deemest thou that He aided me thus except of His love to me?’ adding, ‘Verily, His love to me is after the measure of my love to Him.’ Quoth I, ‘Tarry awhile with me, so may Allah have mercy on thee!’ But he said, ‘I am a chattel and the Book enjoineth me to obey my lesser master.’ So we followed him afar off, till we saw him enter the house of a slave-broker. Now the first half of the night was past and the last half was longsome upon us, so we went away; but next morning, we repaired to the slave-dealer and said to him, ‘Hast thou a lad to sell us for service?’ He answered, ‘Yes, I have an hundred lads or so and they are all for sale.’ Then he showed us slave after slave; till he had shown us some seventy; but my friend was not amongst them, and the dealer said, ‘These are all I have.’ But, as we were going out from him we saw a ruinous hut behind his house and going in behold, we found the black standing there. I cried, ‘’Tis he, by the Lord of the Ka’abah!’ and turning to the dealer, said to him, ‘Sell me yonder slave.’ Replied he, ‘O Abu Yahya, this is a pestilent unprofitable fellow, who hath no concern by night but weeping and by day but repentance.’ I rejoined, ‘It is for that I want him.’ So the dealer called him, and he came out, showing drowsiness. Quoth his master, ‘Take him at thine own price, so thou hold me free of all his faults.’ I bought him for twenty dinars and asked ‘What is his name?’ and the dealer answered ‘Maymun, the monkey;’ and I took him by the hand and went out with him, intending to go home; but he turned to me and said, ‘O my lesser lord, why and wherefore didst thou buy me? By Allah, I am not fit for the service of God’s creatures!’ Replied I, ‘I bought thee that I might serve thee myself; and on my head be it.’ Asked he, ‘Why so?’ and I answered, ‘Wast thou not in company with us yesterday in the place of prayer?’ Quoth he, ‘And didst thou hear me?’; and quoth I, ‘It was I accosted thee yesterday and spoke with thee.’ Thereupon he advanced till we came to a mosque, where he entered and prayed a two-bow prayer; after which he said, ‘O my God and my Lord and Master, the secret that was between me and Thee Thou hast discovered unto Thy creatures and hast brought me to shame before the worldling. How then shall life be sweet to me, now that other than Thou hath happened upon that which is between Thee and me? I conjure Thee to take my soul to Thee forthright.1 So saying, he prostrated himself, and I awaited awhile without seeing him raise his head; so I shook him and behold, he was indeed dead, the mercy of Almighty Allah be upon him! I laid him out stretching his arms and legs and looked at him, and lo! he was smiling. Moreover, whiteness had got the better of blackness on his brow, and his face was radiant with light like a young moon. As we wondered at his case, the door opened and a young man came in to us and said, ‘Peace be with you! May Allah make great our reward and yours for our brother Maymun! Here is his shroud: wrap him in it.’ So saying, he gave us two robes, never had we seen the like of them, and we shrouded him therein. And now his tomb is a place whither men resort to pray for rain and ask their requirements of Allah (be He extolled and exalted!); and how excellently well saith the poet on this theme,
‘The heart of Gnostic2 homed in heavenly Garth
Heaven decks, and Allah’s porters aid afford.
Lo! here they drink old wine commingled with
Tasním,3 the wine of union with the Lord.
Safe is the secret ‘twixt the Friend and them;
Safe from all hearts but from that Heart adored.’”
And they recount another anecdote of
1 These devotees address Allah as a lover would his beloved. The curious reader will consult for instances the Dabistan on Tasawwuf (ii. 221; i.,iii. end, and passim).
2 Arab. “Ma’rifat,” Pers. Dánish; the knowledge of the Truth. The seven steps are (1) Sharí‘at, external law like night; (2) Taríkat, religious rule like the stars; (3) Hakíkat, reality, truth like the moon; (4) Ma’arifat like the sun; (5) Kurbat, proximity to Allah; (6) Wasílat, union with Allah, and (7) Suknat, dwelling in Allah. (Dabistan iii.29.)
3 Name of a fountain of Paradise: See Night xlix., vol. ii., p.100.
There was once, among the Children of Israel, a man of the worthiest, who was strenuous in the service of his Lord and abstained from things worldly and drave them away from his heart. He had a wife who was a helpmate meet for him and who was at all times obedient to him. They earned their living by making trays1 and fans, whereat they wrought all through the light hours; and, at nightfall, the man went out into the streets and highways seeking a buyer for what they had made. They were wont to fast continually by day2 and one morning they arose, fasting, and worked at their craft till the light failed them, when the man went forth, according to custom, to find purchasers for his wares, and fared on till he came to the door of the house of a certain man of wealth, one of the sons of this world, high in rank and dignity. Now the tray-maker was fair of face and comely of form, and the wife of the master of the house saw him and fell in love with him and her heart inclined to him with exceeding inclination; so, her husband being absent, she called her handmaid and said to her, “Contrive to bring yonder man to us.” Accordingly the maid went out to him and and called him and stopped him as though she would buy what he held in hand. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Atbák”; these trays are made of rushes, and the fans of palm-leaves or tail-feathers.
2 Except on the two great Festivals when fasting is forbidden. The only religion which has shown common sense in this matter is that of the Guebres or Parsis: they consider fasting neither meritorious nor lawful; and they honour Hormuzd by good living “because it keeps the soul stronger.” Yet even they have their food superstitions, e.g. in Gate No. xxiv.: “Beware of sin specially on the day thou eatest flesh, for flesh is the diet of Ahriman.” And in India the Guebres have copied the Hindus in not slaughtering horned cattle for the table.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the maid-servant went out to the man and asked him, “Come in; my lady hath a mind to buy some of thy wares, after she hath tried them and looked at them.” The man thought she spoke truly and, seeing no harm in this, entered and sat down as she bade him; and she shut the door upon him. Whereupon her mistress came out of her room and, taking him by the gaberdine,1 drew him within and said, “How long shall I seek union of thee? Verily my patience is at an end on thine account. See now, the place is perfumed and provision prepared and the householder is absent this night, and I give to thee my person without reserve, I whose favours kings and captains and men of fortune have sought this long while, but I have regarded none of them.” And she went on talking thus to him, whilst he raised not his eyes from the ground, for shame before Allah Almighty and fear of the pains and penalties of His punishment; even as saith the poet,
“‘Twixt me and riding many a noble dame,
Was naught but shame which kept me chaste and pure:
My shame was cure to her; but haply were
Shame to depart, she ne’er had known a cure.”
The man strove to free himself from her, but could not; so he said to her, “I want one thing of thee.” She asked, “What is that?”: and he answered, “I wish for pure water that I may carry it to the highest place of thy house and do somewhat therewith and cleanse myself of an impurity, which I may not disclose to thee.” Quoth she, “The house is large and hath closets and corners and privies at command.” But he replied, “I want nothing but to be at a height.” So she said to her slave-girl, “Carry him up to the belvedere on the house-terrace.” Accordingly the maid took him up to the very top and, giving him a vessel of water, went down and left him. Then he made the ablution and prayed a two-bow prayer; after which he looked at the ground, thinking to throw himself down, but seeing it afar off, feared to be dashed to pieces by the fall.2 Then he bethought him of his disobedience to Allah, and the consequences of his sin; so it became a light matter to him to offer up his life and shed his blood; and he said, “O my God and my Lord, Thou seest that which is fallen on me; neither is my case hidden from Thee. Thou indeed over all things art Omnipotent and the tongue of my case reciteth and saith,
‘I show my heart and thoughts to Thee, and Thou
Alone my secret’s secrecy canst know.
If I address Thee fain I cry aloud;
Or, if I’m mute, my signs for speech I show.
O Thou to whom no second be conjoined!
A wretched lover seeks Thee in his woe.
I have a hope my thoughts as true confirm;
And heart that fainteth as right well canst trow.
To lavish life is hardest thing that be,
Yet easy an Thou bid me life forego;
But, an it be Thy will to save from stowre,
Thou, O my Hope, to work this work hast power!’”
Then the man cast himself down from the belvedere; but Allah sent an angel who bore him up on his wings and brought him down to the ground, whole and without hurt or harm. Now when he found himself safe on the ground, he thanked and praised Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) for His merciful protection of his person and his chastity; and he went straight to his wife who had long expected him, and he empty-handed. Then seeing him, she asked him why he had tarried and what was come of that he had taken with him and why he returned empty-handed; whereupon he told her of the temptation which had befallen him, and she said, “Alhamdolillah — praised be God-for delivering thee from seduction and intervening between thee and such calamity!” Then she added, “O man, the neighbours use to see us light our oven every night; and, if they see us fireless this night, they will know that we are destitute. Now it behoveth in gratitude to Allah, that we hide our destitution and conjoin the fast of this night to that of the past and continue it for the sake of Allah Almighty.” So she rose and, filling the oven with wood, lighted it, to baffle the curiosity of her woman-neighbours, reciting these couplets,
“Now I indeed will hide desire and all repine;
And light up this my fire that neighbours see no sign:
Accept I what befals by order of my Lord;
Haply He too accept this humble act of mine.”
— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that after the goodwife had lit the fire to baffle the curiosity of her women-neighbours, she and her husband made the Wuzu-ablution and stood up to pray, when behold, one of the neighbours’ wives came and asked leave to take a fire-brand from the oven. “Do what thou wilt with the oven,” answered they; but, when she came to the fire, she cried out, saying, “Ho, such an one (to the tray-maker’s wife) take up thy bread ere it burn!” Quoth the wife to her husband, “Hearest thou what she saith?” Quoth he, “Go and look.” So she went up to the oven, and behold, it was full of fine bread and white. She took up the scones and carried them to her husband, thanking Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) for His abounding good and great bounty; and they ate of the bread and drank water and praised the Almighty. Then said the woman to her husband, “Come let us pray to Allah the Most Highest, so haply He may vouchsafe us what shall enable us to dispense with the weariness of working for daily bread and devote ourselves wholly to worshipping and obeying Him.” The man rose in assent and prayed, whilst his wife said, “Amen,” to his prayer, when the roof clove in sunder and down fell a ruby, which lit the house with its light. Hereat, they redoubled in praise and thanksgiving to Allah praying what the Almighty willed,1 and rejoiced at the ruby with great joy. And the night being far spent, they lay down to sleep and the woman dreamt that she entered Paradise and saw therein many chairs ranged and stools set in rows. She asked what the seats were and it was answered her, “These are the chairs of the prophets and those are the stools of the righteous and the pious.” Quoth she, “Which is the stool of my husband such an one?”; and it was said to her, “It is this.” So she looked and seeing a hole in its side asked, “What may be this hole?”; and the reply came, “It is the place of the ruby that dropped upon you from your house-roof.” Thereupon she awoke, weeping and bemoaning the defect in her husband’s stool among the seats of the Righteous; so she told him the dream and said to him, “Pray Allah, O man, that this ruby return to its place; for endurance of hunger and poverty during our few days here were easier than a hole in thy chair among the just in Paradise.”2 Accordingly, he prayed to his Lord, and lo! the ruby flew up to the roof and away whilst they looked at it. And they ceased not from their poverty and their piety, till they went to the presence of Allah, to whom be Honour and Glory! And they also tell a tale of
1 The phrase means “offering up many and many a prayer.”
2 A saying of Mohammed is recorded “Al-fakru fakhrí” (poverty is my pride!), intelligible in a man who never wanted for anything. Here he is diametrically opposed to Ali who honestly abused poverty; and the Prophet seems to have borrowed from Christendom, whose “Lazarus and Dives” shows a man sent to Hell because he enjoyed a very modified Heaven in this life and which suggested that one of the man’s greatest miseries is an ecclesiastical virtue —“Holy Poverty”— represented in the Church as a bride young and lovely. If a “rich man can hardly enter the kingdom” what must it be with a poor man whose conditions are far more unfavourable? Going to the other extreme we may say that Poverty is the root of all evil and the more so as it curtails man’s power of benefiting others. Practically I observe that those who preach and praise it the most, practise it the least willingly: the ecclesiastic has always some special reasons, a church or a school is wanted; but not the less he wishes for more money. In Syria this Holy Poverty leads to strange abuses. At Bayrut I recognised in most impudent beggers well-to-do peasants from the Kasrawán district, and presently found out that whilst their fields were under snow they came down to the coast, enjoyed a genial climate and lived on alms. When I asked them if they were not ashamed to beg, they asked me if I was ashamed of following in the footsteps of the Saviour and Apostles. How much wiser was Zoroaster who found in the Supreme Paradise (Minuwán-minu) “many persons, rich in gold and silver who had worshipped the Lord and had been grateful to Him.” (Dabistan i. 265.)
Al–Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Sakafi had been long in pursuit of a certain man of the notables, and when at last he was brought before him, he said, “O enemy of Allah, He hath delivered thee over to me;” and cried, “Hale him to prison and lay him by the heels in heavy fetters and build a closet over him, that he may not come forth of it nor any go into him.” So they bore him to jail and summoned the blacksmith with the irons; and every time the smith gave a stroke with his hammer, the prisoner raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Is not the whole Creation and the Empire thereof His?”1 Then the gaolers built the cage2 over him and left him therein, lorn and lone, whereupon longing and consternation entered into him and the tongue of his case recited in extempore verse,
“O, Wish of wistful men, for Thee I yearn;
My heart seeks grace of one no heart shall spurn.
Unhidden from thy sight is this my case;
And for one glance of thee I pine and burn.
They jailed and tortured me with sorest pains:
Alas for lone one can no aid discern!
But, albe lone, I find Thy name befriends
And cheers, though sleep to eyes shall ne’er return:
An thou accept of me, I care for naught;
And only Thou what’s in my heart canst learn!”
Now when night fell dark, the gaoler left his watchmen to guard him and went to his house; and on the morrow, when he came to the prison, he found the fetters lying on the ground and the prisoner gone; whereat he was affrighted and made sure of death. So he returned to his place and bade his family farewell, after which he took in his sleeve his shroud and the sweet herbs for his corpse, and went in to Al–Hajjaj. And as he stood before the presence, the Governor smelt the perfumes and asked, “What is that?” when the gaoler answered, “O my lord, it is I who have brought it.” “And what moved thee to that?” enquired the Governor; whereupon he told him his case — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the gaoler told his case to Al–Hajjaj, the Governor cried, “Woe to thee! Didst thou hear him say aught?” Answered the gaoler, “Yes! whilst the blacksmith was hammering his irons, he ceased not to look up heavenwards and say, ‘Is not the whole Creation and the Empire thereof His?’” Rejoined Al–Hajjaj, “Dost thou not know that He, on whom he called in thy presence, delivered him in thine absence?” And the tongue of the case recited on this theme,
“O Lord, how many a grief from me hast driven
Nor can I sit or stand without Thy hold:
How many many things I cannot count,
Thou sav’st from many many and manifold!”
And they also tell a tale of
It reached the ears of a certain pious man that there abode in such a town a blacksmith, who could put his hand into the fire and pull out the iron red-hot, without the flames doing him aught of hurt.1 So he set out for the town in question and asked for the blacksmith; and, when the man was shown to him, he watched him at work and saw him do as had been reported to him. He waited till he had made and end of his day’s work; then, going up to him, saluted him with the salam and said, “I would be thy guest this night.” Replied the smith, “With gladness and goodly gree!” and carried him to his place, where they supped together and lay down to sleep. The guest watched, but saw no sign in his host of praying through the night or of special devoutness and said in his mind, “Haply he hideth himself from me.” So he lodged with him a second and a third night, but found that he did not exceed the devotions prescribed by the law and custom of the Prophet and rose but little in the dark hours to pray. At last he said to him, “O my brother, I have heard of the gift with which Allah hath favoured thee and have seen the truth of it with mine eyes. Moreover, I have taken note of thine assiduity in religious exercises, but find in thee no such piety as distinguisheth those who work saintly miracles: whence, then, cometh this to thee?” “I will tell thee,” answered the smith, “Know that I was once passionately enamoured of a slave-girl and ofttimes sued her for love-liesse, but could not prevail upon her, because she still held fast by her chastity. Presently there came a year of drought and hunger and hardship; food failed and there befel a sore famine. As I was sitting one day at home, somebody knocked at the door; so I went out and behold, she was standing there; and she said to me, ‘O my brother, I am sorely an-hungered and I lift mine eyes to thee, beseeching thee to feed me for Allah’s sake!’ Quoth I, ‘Wottest thou not how I love thee and what I have suffered for thy sake? Now I will not give thee one bittock of bread except thou yield thy person to me.’ Quoth she, ‘Death, but not disobedience to the Lord!’ Then she went away and returned after two days with the same prayer for food as before. I made her a like answer, and she entered and sat down in my house being nigh upon death. I set food before her, whereupon her eyes brimmed with tears and she cried, ‘Give me meat for the love of Allah, to whom belong Honour and Glory!’ But I answered, ‘Not so, by Allah, except thou yield thyself to me.’ Quoth she, ‘Better is death to me than the wrath and wreak of Allah the Most Highest;’ and she rose and left the food untouched”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This commonest conjuring trick in the West becomes a miracle in the credulous East.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the man set food before her, the woman said, “Give me meat for the love of Allah to whom be Honour and Glory!’ But I answered, ‘Not so, by Allah, except thou yield to me thy person.’ Quoth she, ‘Better is death than the wrath and wreak of Allah;’ and she rose and left the food untouched and went away repeating these couplets,
‘O Thou, the One, whose grace doth all the world embrace;
Thine ears have heard, Thine eyes have seen my case!
Privation and distress have dealt me heavy blows;
The woes that weary me no utterance can trace.
I am like one athirst who eyes the landscape’s eye,
Yet may not drink a draught of streams that rail and race.
My flesh would tempt me by the sight of savoury food
Whose joys shall pass away and pangs maintain their place.’
She then disappeared for two days, when she again came and knocked at the door; so I went out to her, and lo! hunger had taken away her voice; but, after a rest she said, ‘O my brother, I am worn out with want and know not what to do, for I cannot show my face to any man but to thee. Say, wilt thou feed me for the love of Allah Almighty?’ But I answered, ‘Not so, except thou yield to me thy person.’ And she entered my house and sat down. Now I had no food ready; but, when the meat was dressed and I laid it in a saucer, behold, the grace of Almighty Allah entered into me and I said to myself, ‘Out on thee! This woman, weak of wit and faith, hath refrained from food till she can no longer, for stress of hunger; and, while she refuseth time after time, thou canst not forbear from disobedience to the Lord!’ And I said, ‘O my God, I repent to Thee of that which my flesh purposed!’ Then I took the food and carrying it to her, said, ‘Eat, for no harm shall betide thee: this is for the love of Allah, to whom belong Honour and Glory!’ Then she raised her eyes to heaven and said, ‘O my God, if this man say sooth, I pray Thee forbid fire to harm him in this world and the next, for Thou over all things art Omnipotent and Prevalent in answering the prayer of the penitent!’ Then I left her and went to put out the fire in the brasier.1 Now the season was winter and the weather cold, and a live coal fell on my body: but by the decree of Allah (to whom be Honour and Glory!) I felt no pain and it became my conviction that her prayer had been answered. So I took the coal in my hand, and it burnt me not; and going in to her, I said, ‘Be of good cheer, for Allah hath granted thy prayer!’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Kánún”; the usual term is Mankal (pron. Mangal) a pan of copper or brass. Some of these “chafing-dishes” stand four feet high and are works of art. Lane (M.E. chapt. iv) gives an illustration of the simpler kind, together with the “Azikí,” a smaller pan for heating coffee. See Night dxxxviii.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the blacksmith continued: “So I went in to her and said, ‘Be of good cheer, for Allah hath granted thy prayer!’ Then she dropped the morsel from her hand and said, ‘O my God, now that Thou hast shown me my desire of him and hast granted me my prayer for him, take Thou my soul, for Thou over all things art Almighty!’ And straightway He took her soul to Him, the mercy of Allah be upon her!” And the tongue of the case extemporised and spake on this theme,
“She prayed: the Lord of grace her prayer obeyed;
And spared the sinner, who for sin had prayed:
He showed her all she prayed Him to grant;
And Death (as prayed she) her portion made:
Unto his door she came and prayed for food,
And sued his ruth for what her misery made:
He leant to error following his lusts,
And hoped to enjoy her as her wants persuade;
But he knew little of what Allah willed;
Nor was Repentance, though unsought, denayed.
Fate comes to him who flies from Fate, O Lord,
And lot and daily bread by Thee are weighed.”
And they also tell of
There was once, among the children of Israel, a man of the devout, for piety acclaimed and for continence and asceticism enfamed, whose prayers were ever granted and who by supplication obtained whatso he wanted; and he was a wanderer in the mountains and was used to pass the night in worship. Now Almighty Allah had subjected to him a cloud which travelled with him wherever he went, and poured on him its water-treasures in abundance that he might make his ablutions and drink. After a long time when things were thus, his fervour somewhat abated, whereupon Allah took the cloud away from him and ceased to answer his prayers. On this account, great was his grief and long was his woe, and he ceased not to regret the time of grace and the miracle vouchsafed to him and to lament and bewail and bemoan himself, till he saw in a dream one who said to him, “An thou wouldest have Allah restore to thee thy cloud, seek out a certain King, in such a town, and beg him to pray for thee: so will Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) give thee back thy cloud and bespread it over thee by virtue of his pious prayers.” And he began repeating these couplets,
“Wend to that pious prayerful Emir,
Who can with gladness thy condition cheer;
An he pray Allah, thou shalt win thy wish;
And heavy rain shall drop from welkin clear.
He stands all Kings above in potent worth;
Nor to compare with him doth aught appear:
Near him thou soon shalt hap upon thy want,
And see all joy and gladness draw thee near:
Then cut the wolds and wilds unfounted till
The goal thou goest for anigh shalt speer!”
So the hermit set out for the town named to him in the dream; and, coming thither after long travel, enquired for the King’s palace which was duly shown to him. And behold, at the gate he found a slave-officer sitting on a great chair and clad in gorgeous gear; so he stood to him and saluted him; and he returned his salam and asked him, “What is thy business?” Answered the devotee, “I am a wronged man, and come to submit my case to the King.” Quoth the officer, “Thou hast no access to him this day; for he hath appointed unto petitioners and enquirers one day in every seven” (naming the day), “on which they may go in to him; so wend thy ways in welfare till then.” The hermit was vexed with the King for thus veiling himself from the folk and said in thought, “How shall this man be a saint of the saints of Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) and he on this wise?” Then he went away and awaited the appointed day. “Now” (quoth he)“when it came, I repaired to the palace, where I found a great number of folk at the gate, expecting admission; and I stood with them, till there came out a Wazir robed in gorgeous raiment and attended by guards and slaves, who said, ‘Let those, who have petitions to present, enter.’ So I entered with the rest and found the King seated facing his officers and grandees who were ranged according to their several ranks and degrees. The Wazir took up his post and brought forward the petitioners, one by one, till it came to my turn, when the King looked on me and said, ‘Welcome to the ‘Lord of the Cloud’! Sit thee down till I make leisure for thee.’ I was confounded at his words and confessed his dignity and superiority; and, when the King had answered the petitioners and had made an end with them, he rose and dismissed his Wazirs and Grandees; then, taking my hand he led me to the door of the private palace, where we found a black slave, splendidly arrayed, with helm on head, and on his right hand and his left, bows and coats of mail. He rose to the King; and, hastening to obey his orders and forestall his wishes, opened the door. We went in, hand in hand, till we came to a low wicket, which the King himself opened and led me into a ruinous place of frightful desolation and thence passed into a chamber, wherein was naught but a prayer-carpet, an ewer for ablution and some mats of palm-leaves. Here the King doffed his royal robes and donned a coarse gown of white wool and a conical bonnet of felt. Then he sat down and making me sit, called out to his wife, ‘Ho, such an one!’ and she answered from within saying, ‘Here am I.’ Quoth he, ‘Knowest thou who is our guest to-day?’ Replied she, ‘Yes, it is the Lord of the Cloud.’ The King said, ‘Come forth: it mattereth not for him.’ And behold, there entered a woman, as she were a vision, with a face that beamed like the new moon; and she wore a gown and veil of wool.”-And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that ‘when the King called to his wife, she came forth from the inner room; and her face beamed like the new moon; and she wore a gown and a veil of wool. Then said the King, ‘O my brother, dost thou desire to hear our story or that we should pray for thee and dismiss thee?’ Answered the hermit; ‘Nay, I wish to hear the tale of you twain, for that to me were preferable.’ Said the King, ‘My forefathers handed down the throne, one to the other, and it descended from great one to great one, in unbroken succession, till the last died and it came to me. Now Allah had made this hateful to me, for I would fain have gone awandering over earth and left the folk to their own affairs; but I feared lest they should fall into confusion and anarchy and misgovernment so as to swerve from divine law, and the union of the Faith be broken up. Wherefore, abandoning my own plans, I took the kingship and appointed to every head of them a regular stipend; and donned the royal robes; and posted slave-officers at the doors, as a terror to the dishonest and for the defence of honest folk and the maintenance of law and limitations. Now when free of this, I entered this place and, doffing my royal habit, donned these clothes thou seest; and this my cousin, the daughter of my father’s brother, hath agreed with me to renounce the world and helpeth me to serve the Lord. So we are wont to weave these palm-leaves and earn, during the day, a wherewithal to break our fast at nightfall; and we have lived on this wise nigh upon forty years. Abide thou with us (so Allah have mercy on thee!) till we sell our mats; and thou shalt sup and sleep with us this night and on the morrow wend thy ways with that thou wishest, Inshallah!’ So he tarried with them till the end of the day, when there came a boy five years old who took the mats they had made and carrying them to the market, sold them for a carat;1 and with this bought bread and beans and returned with them to the King. The hermit broke his fast and lay down to sleep with them; but in the middle of the night they both arose and fell to praying and weeping. When daybreak was near, the King said, “O my God, this Thy servant beseecheth Thee to return him his cloud; and to do this Thou art able; so, O my God, let him see his prayer granted and restore him his cloud.” The Queen amen’d to his orisons and behold, the cloud grew up in the sky; whereupon the King gave the hermit joy and the man took leave of them and went away, the cloud companying him as of old. And whatsoever he required of Allah after this, in the names of the pious King and Queen, He granted it without fail and the man made thereon these couplets,
“My Lord hath servants fain of piety;
Hearts in the Wisdom-garden ranging free:
Their bodies’ lusts at peace, and motionless
For breasts that bide in purest secresy.
Thou seest all silent, awesome of their Lord,
For hidden things unseen and seen they see.”
And they tell a tale of
1 See vol. iii., p.239. The system is that of the Roman As and Unciae. Here it would be the twenty-fourth part of a dinar or miskal; something under 5d. I have already noted that all Moslem rulers are religiously bound to some handicraft, if it be only making toothpicks. Mohammed abolished kingship proper as well as priestcraft.
The Commander of the Faithful, Omar bin al-Khattáb (whom Allah accept!), once levied for holy war an army of Moslems, to encounter the foe before Damascus, and they laid close siege to one of the Christians’ strongholds. Now there were amongst the Moslems two men, brothers, whom Allah had gifted with fire and bold daring against the enemy; so that the commander of the besieged fortress said to his chiefs and braves, “Were but yonder two Moslems ta’en or slain, I would warrant you against the rest of their strain.” Wherefore they left not to set for them all manner of toils and snares and ceased not to manoeuvre and lie in wait and ambush for them, till they took one of them prisoner and slew the other, who died a martyr. They carried the captive to the Captain of the fort, who looked at him and said, “Verily, to kill this man were indeed a pity; but his return to the Moslem would be a calamity.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the enemy carried their Moslem captive before the Captain of the fort, the Christian looked at him and said, “Verily to kill this man were a pity indeed; but his return to the Moslem would be a calamity. Oh that he might be brought to embrace the Nazarene Faith and be to us an aid and an arm!” Quoth one of his Patrician Knights, “O Emir, I will tempt him to abjure his faith, and on this wise: we know that the Arabs are much addicted to women, and I have a daughter, a perfect beauty, whom when he sees, he will be seduced by her.” Quoth the Captain, “I give him into thy charge.” So he carried him to his place and clad his daughter in raiment, such as added to her beauty and loveliness. Then he brought the Moslem into the room and set before him food and made the fair girl stand in his presence, as she were a handmaid obedient to her lord and awaiting his orders that she might do his bidding. When the Moslem saw the evil sent down upon him, he commended himself to Allah Almighty and closing his eyes, applied himself to worship and to reciting the Koran. Now he had a pleasant voice and a piercing wit; and the Nazarene damsel presently loved him with passionate love and pined for him with extreme repine. This lasted seven days, at the end of which she said to herself, “Would to Heaven he would admit me into the Faith of Al–Islam!” And the tongue of her case recited these couplets,
“Wilt turn thy face from heart that’s all thine own,
This heart thy ransom and this soul thy wone?
I’m ready home and kin to quit for aye,
And every Faith for that of sword1 disown:
I testify that Allah hath no mate:
This proof is stablished and this truth is known.
Haply shall deign He union grant with one
Averse, and hearten heart love-overthrown;
For ofttimes door erst shut, is opened wide,
And after evil case all good is shown.”
At last her patience failed her and her breast was straitened and she threw herself on the ground before him, saying, “I conjure thee by thy Faith, that thou give ear to my words!” Asked he, “What are they?” and she answered, “Expound unto me Al–Islam.” So he expounded to her the tenets of the Faith, and she became a Moslemah, after which she was circumcised2 and he taught her to pray. Then said she to him, “O my brother, I did but embrace Al–Islam for thy sake and to win thy favours.” Quoth he, “The law of Al–Islam forbiddeth sexual commerce save after a marriage before two legal witnesses, and a dowry and a guardian are also requisite. Now I know not where to find witnesses or friend or parapherne; but, an thou can contrive to bring us out of this place, I may hope to make the land of Al–Islam, and pledge myself to thee that none other than thou in all Al–Islam shall be wife to me.” Answered she, “I will manage that”; and, calling her father and mother, said to them, “Indeed this Moslem’s heart is softened and he longeth to enter the faith, so I will grant him that which he desireth of my person; but he saith: ‘It befitteth me not to do this in a town where my brother was slain. Could I but get outside it my heart would be solaced and I would do that which is wanted of me.’ Now there is no harm in letting me go forth with him to another town, and I will be a surety to you both and to the Emir for that which ye wish of him.” Therefore her father went to their Captain and told him this, whereat he joyed with exceeding joy and bade him carry them forth to a village that she named. So they went out and made the village where they abode the rest of their day, and when night fell, they got ready for the march and went their way, even as saith the poet,
“‘The time of parting,’ cry they, ‘draweth nigh’:
‘How oft this parting-threat?’ I but reply:
I’ve naught to do but cross the wild and wold
And, mile by mile, o’er fountless wastes to fly,
If the beloved seek another land
Sons of the road, whereso they wend, wend I.
I make desire direct me to their side,
The guide to show me where the way doth lie.”
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Al–Islam, where salvation is found under the shade of the swords.
2 Moslems like the Classics (Aristotle and others) hold the clitoris (Zambúr) to be the sedes et scaturigo veneris which, says Sonnini, is mere profanity. In the babe it protrudes beyond the labiæ and snipping off the head forms female circumcision. This rite is supposed by Moslems to have been invented by Sarah who so mutilated Hagar for jealousy and was afterwards ordered by Allah to have herself circumcised at the same time as Abraham. It is now (or should be) universal in Al–Islam and no Arab would marry a girl “unpurified” by it. Son of an “uncircumcised” mother (Ibn al-bazrá) is a sore insult. As regards the popular idea that Jewish women were circumcised till the days of Rabbi Gershom (A.D.1000) who denounced it as a scandal to the Gentiles, the learned Prof. H. Graetz informs me, with some indignation, that the rite was never practised and that the great Rabbi contended only against polygamy. Female circumcision, however, is I believe the rule amongst some outlying tribes of Jews. The rite is the proper complement of male circumcision, evening the sensitiveness of the genitories by reducing it equally in both sexes: an uncircumcised woman has the venereal orgasm much sooner and oftener than a circumcised man, and frequent coitus would injure her health; hence I believe, despite the learned historian, that it is practised by some Eastern Jews. “Excision” is universal amongst the negroids of the Upper Nile (Werne), the Somál and other adjacent tribes. The operator, an old woman, takes up the instrument, a knife or razor-blade fixed into a wooden handle, and with three sweeps cuts off the labia and the head of the clitoris. The parts are then sewn up with a packneedle and a thread of sheepskin; and in Dar–For a tin tube is inserted for the passage of urine. Before marriage the bridegroom trains himself for a month on beef, honey and milk; and, if he can open his bride with the natural weapon, he is a sworder to whom no woman in the tribe can deny herself. If he fails, he tries penetration with his fingers and by way of last resort whips out his whittle and cuts the parts open. The sufferings of the first few nights must be severe. The few Somáli prostitutes who practised at Aden always had the labiæ and clitoris excised and the skin showing the scars of coarse sewing. The moral effect of female circumcision is peculiar. While it diminishes the heat of passion it increases licentiousness, and breeds a debauchery of mind far worse than bodily unchastity, because accompanied by a peculiar cold cruelty and a taste for artificial stimulants to “luxury.” It is the sexlessness of a spayed canine imitated by the suggestive brain of humanity.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the prisoner and the lady abode in the village the rest of their day and, when night fell, made ready for the march and went upon their way; and travelled all night without stay or delay. The young Moslem, mounting a swift blood-horse and taking up the maiden behind him, ceased not devouring the ground till it was bright morning, when he turned aside with her from the highway and, alighting, they made the Wuzu-ablution and prayed the dawn-prayer. Now as they were thus engaged behold, they heard the clank of swords and clink of bridles and men’s voices and tramp of horse; whereupon he said to her, “Ho, such an one, the Nazarenes are after us! What shall we do?: the horse is so jaded and broken down that he cannot stir another step.” Exclaimed she, “Woe to thee! art thou then afraid and affrighted?” “Yes,” answered he; and she said, “What didst thou tell me of the power of thy Lord and His readiness to succour those who succour seek? Come, let us humble ourselves before Him and beseech Him: haply He shall grant us His succour and endue us with His grace, extolled and exalted be He!” Quoth he, “By Allah, thou sayest well!” So they began humbling themselves and supplicating Almighty Allah and he recited these couplets,
“Indeed I hourly need thy choicest aid,
And should, though crown were placed upon my head:
Thou art my chiefest want, and if my hand
Won what it wisheth, all my wants were sped.
Thou hast not anything withholdest Thou;
Like pouring rain Thy grace is showered:
I’m shut therefrom by sins of me, yet Thou,
O Clement, deignest pardon-light to shed.
O Care–Dispeller, deign dispel my grief!
None can, save Thou, dispel a grief so dread.”
Whilst he was praying and she was saying, “Amen,” and the thunder of horse-tramp nearing them, lo! the brave heard the voice of his dead brother, the martyr, speaking and saying, “O my brother, fear not, nor grieve! for the host whose approach thou hearest is the host of Allah and His Angels, whom He hath sent to serve as witnesses to your marriage. Of a truth Allah hath made His Angels glorify you and He bestoweth on you the meed of the meritorious and the martyrs; and He hath rolled up the earth for you as it were a rug so that, by morning, you will be in the mountains of Al–Medinah. And thou, when thou foregatherest with Omar bin al-Khattab (of whom Allah accept!) give him my salutation and say to him: ‘Allah abundantly requite thee for Al–Islam, because thou hast counselled faithfully and hast striven diligently.’” Thereupon the Angels lifted up their voices in salutation to him and his bride, saying, “Verily, Almighty Allah appointed her in marriage to thee two thousand years before the creation of your father Adam (with whom be peace evermore!).” Then joy and gladness and peace and happiness came upon the twain; confidence was confirmed and established was the guidance of the pious pair. So when dawn appeared, they prayed the accustomed prayer and fared forward. Now it was the wont of Omar, son of Al–Khattab (Allah accept him!), to rise for morning-prayer in the darkness before dawn and at times he would stand in the prayer-niche with two men behind him, and begin reciting the Chapter entitled “Cattle”1 or that entitled “Women,”2 whereupon the sleeper awoke and he who was making his Wuzu-ablution accomplished it and he who was afar came to prayer; nor had he made an end of the first bow, ere the mosque was full of folk; then he would pray his second bow quickly, repeating a short chapter. But, on that morning he hurried over both first and second inclinations, repeating in each a short chapter; then, after the concluding salutation, turning to his companions, he said to them, “Come, let us fare forth to meet the bride and bridegroom”; at which they wondered, not understanding his words. But he went out and they followed him, till they came to the gate of the city, where they met the young Moslem who, when the day broke and the standards of Al–Medinah appeared to him, had pushed forward for the gate closely followed by his bride. There he was met by Omar who bade make a marriage feast; and the Moslems came and ate. Then the young Moslem went in unto his bride and Almighty Allah vouchsafed him children — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Omar (on whom be peace!) bade make a marriage-feast; and the Moslems came and ate. Then the young Moslem went in unto his bride and Almighty Allah vouchsafed him children, who fought in the Lord’s way and preserved genealogies, for they gloried therein. And how excellent is what is said on such theme,
“I saw thee weep before the gates and ‘plain,
Whilst only curious wight reply would deign:
Hath eye bewitcht thee, or hath evil lot
‘Twixt thee and door of friend set bar of bane?
Wake up this day, O wretch, persist in prayer,
Repent as wont repent departed men.
Haply shall wash thy sins Forgiveness-showers;
And on thine erring head some ruth shall rain:
And prisoner shall escape despite his bonds;
And slave from thraldom freedom shall attain.”
And they ceased not to be in all solace and delight of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies. And a tale is told by Sídi Ibrahim bin Al–Khawwás1(on whom be the mercy of Allah!) concerning himself and
1 Sídi (contracted from Sayyidí = my lord) is a title still applied to holy men in Marocco and the Maghrib; on the East African coast it is assumed by negro and negroid Moslems, e.g. Sidi Mubárak Bombay; and “Seedy boy” is the Anglo–Indian term for a Zanzibar-man. “Khawwás” is one who weaves palm-leaves (Khos) into baskets, mats, etc.: here, however, it may be an inherited name.
“My spirit urged me, once upon a time, to go forth into the country of the Infidels; and I strove with it and struggled to put away from me this inclination; but it would not be rejected. So I fared forth and journeyed about the land of the Unbelievers and traversed it in all its parts; for divine grace enveloped me and heavenly protection encompassed me, so that I met not a single Nazarene but he turned away his eyes and drew off from me, till I came to a certain great city at whose gate I found a gathering of black slaves, clad in armour and bearing iron maces in their hands. When they saw me, they rose to their feet and asked me, ‘Art thou a leach?’; and I answered, ‘Yes.’ Quoth they, ‘Come speak to our King,’ and carried me before their ruler, who was a handsome personage of majestic presence. When I stood before him, he looked at me and said, ‘Art a physician, thou?’ ‘Yes,’ quoth I; and quoth he to his officers, ‘Carry him to her, and acquaint him with the condition before he enter.’ So they took me out and said to me, ‘Know that the King hath a daughter, and she is stricken with a sore disease, which no doctor hath been able to cure: and no leach goeth in to her and treateth, without healing her, but the King putteth him to death. So bethink thee what thou seest fitting to do.’ I replied, ‘The King drove me to her; so carry me to her.’ Thereupon they brought me to her door and knocked; and behold, I heard her cry out from within, saying, ‘Admit to me the physician, lord of the wondrous secret!’ And she began reciting,
‘Open the door! the leach now draweth near;
And in my soul a wondrous secret speer:
How many of the near far distant are!1
How many distant far are nearest near!
I was in strangerhood amidst you all:
But willed the Truth2 my solace should appear.
Joined us the potent bonds of Faith and Creed;
We met as dearest fere greets dearest fere:
He sued for interview whenas pursued
The spy, and blamed us envy’s jibe and jeer:
Then leave your chiding and from blame desist,
For fie upon you! not a word I’ll hear.
I care for naught that disappears and fleets;
My care’s for Things nor fleet nor disappear.’
And lo! a Shaykh, a very old man, opened the door in haste and said to me, ‘Enter.’ So I entered and found myself in a chamber strewn with sweet-scented herbs and with a curtain drawn across one corner, from behind which came a sound of groaning and grame, weak as from an emaciated frame. I sat down before the curtain and was about to offer my salam when I bethought me of his words (whom Allah save and assain!), ‘Accost not a Jew nor a Christian with the salam salutation;3 and, when ye meet them in the way, constrain them to the straitest part thereof.’ So I withheld my salutation, but she cried out from behind the curtain, saying, ‘Where is the salutation of Unity and Indivisibility, O Khawwas?’ I was astonished at her speech and asked, ‘How knowest thou me?’; whereto she answered, ‘When the heart and thoughts are whole, the tongue speaketh eloquently from the secret recesses of the soul. I begged Him yesterday to send me one of His saints, at whose hands I might have deliverance, and behold, it was cried to me from the dark places of my house, ‘Grieve not; for we soon will send thee Ibrahim the Basket-maker.’ Then I asked her, ‘What of thee?’ and she answered, ‘It is now four years since there appeared to me the Manifest Truth, and He is the Relator and the Ally, and the Uniter and the Sitter-by; whereupon my folk looked askance upon me with an evil eye and taxed me with insanity and suspected me of depravity, and there came not in to me doctor but terrified me, nor visitor but confounded me.’ Quoth I, ‘And who led thee to the knowledge of what thou wottest?’ Quoth she, ‘The manifest signs and visible portents of Allah; and, when the path is patent to thee, thou espiest with thine own eyes both proof and prover.’ Now whilst we were talking, behold, in came the old man appointed to guard her and said, ‘What doth thy doctor?’; and she replied, ‘He knoweth the hurt and hath hit upon the healing.’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 i.e. in spirit; the “strangers yet” of poor dear Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton.
2 Al–Hakk = the Truth, one of the ninety-nine names of Allah.
3 The Moslem is still unwilling to address Salám (Peace be with you) to the Christian, as it is obligatory (Farz) to a Moslem (Koran, chapt. iv. and lxviii.). He usually evades the difficulty by saluting the nearest Moslem or by a change of words Allah Yahdí-k (Allah direct thee to the right way) or “Peace be upon us and the righteous worshipers of Allah” (not you) or Al–Samm (for Salam) alayka = poison to thee. The idea is old: Alexander of Alexandria in his circular letter describes the Arian heretics as “men whom it is not lawful to salute or to bid God-speed.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that “when the Shaykh, her guardian, went in to her he said, ‘What doth thy doctor?’; and she replied, ‘He knoweth the hurt and hath hit upon the healing.’ Hereupon he manifested joy and gladness and accosted me with a cheerful countenance, then went and told the King, who enjoined to treat me with all honour and regard. So I visited her daily for seven days, at the end of which time she said to me, ‘O Abu Ishak, when shall be our flight to the land of Al–Islam?’ ‘How canst thou go forth,’ replied I, ‘and who would dare to aid thee?’ Rejoined she, ‘He who sent thee to me, driving thee as it were;’ and I observed, ‘Thou sayest sooth.’ So when the morrow dawned, we fared forth by the city-gate and all eyes were veiled from us, by commandment of Him who when He desireth aught, saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it becometh;1 so that I journeyed with her in safety to Meccah, where she made a home hard by the Holy House of Allah and lived seven years; till the appointed day of her death. The earth of Meccah was her tomb, and never saw I any more steadfast in prayer and fasting than she; Allah send down upon her His mercies and have compassion on him who saith,
‘When they to me had brought the leach (and surely showed
The signs of flowing tears and pining malady),
The face-veil he withdrew from me, and ‘neath it naught
Save breath of one unsouled, unbodied, could he see.
Quoth he, ‘This be a sickness Love alone shall cure;
Love hath a secret from all guess of man wide free.’
Quoth they, ‘An folk ignore what here there be with him
Nature of ill and eke its symptomology,
How then shall medicine work a cure?’ At this quoth I
‘Leave me alone; I have no guessing specialty.’”
And they tell a tale of
1 Koran xxxvi. 82. I have before noted that this famous phrase was borrowed from the Hebrews, who borrowed it from the Egyptians.
A certain Prophet1 made his home for worship on a lofty mountain, at whose foot was a spring of running water, and he was wont to sit by day on the summit, that no man might see him, calling upon the name of Allah the Most Highest and watching those who frequented the spring. One day, as he sat looking upon the fountain, behold, he espied a horseman who came up and dismounted thereby and taking a bag from his neck, set it down beside him, after which he drank of the water and rested awhile, then he rode away, leaving behind him the bag which contained gold pieces. Presently up came another man to drink of the spring, who saw the bag and finding it full of money took it up; then, after satisfying his thirst, he made off with it in safety. A little after came a woodcutter wight with a heavy load of fuel on his back, and sat down by the spring to drink, when lo! back came the first horseman in great trouble and asked him, “Where is the bag which was here?” and when he answered, “I know nothing of it,” the rider drew his sword and smote him and slew him. Then he searched his clothes, but found naught; so he left him and wended his ways. Now when the Prophet saw this, he said, “O Lord, one man hath taken a thousand dinars and another man hath been slain unjustly.” But Allah answered him, saying, “Busy thyself with thy devotions, for the ordinance of the universe is none of thine affair. The father of this horseman had violently despoiled of a thousand dinars the father of the second horseman; so I gave the son possession of his sire’s money. As for the woodcutter, he had slain the horseman’s father, wherefore I enabled the son to obtain retribution for himself.” Then cried the Prophet, “There is none other god than Thou! Glory be to Thee only! Verily, Thou art the Knower of Secrets.”2 — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The story of Moses and Khizr has been noticed before. See Koran chapt. xviii. 64 et seq. It is also related, says Lane (ii. 642), by Al–Kazwíni in the Ajáib al-Makhlúkát. This must be “The Angel and the Hermit” in the Gesta Romanorum, Tale lxxx. which possibly gave rise to Parnell’s Hermit; and Tale cxxvii. “Of Justice and Equity.” The Editor says it “contains a beautiful lesson:” I can find only excellent excuses for “doing evil that good may come of it.”
2 Koran chapt. v.108.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Prophet was bidden by inspiration of Allah to busy himself with his devotions and learned the truth of the case, he cried, “There is none other god but Thou! Glory be to Thee only! Verily, Thou and Thou alone wottest hidden things.” Furthermore, one of the poets hath made these verses on the matter,
“The Prophet saw whatever eyes could see,
And fain of other things enquired he;
And, when his eyes saw things misunderstood,
Quoth he, ‘O Lord, this slain from sin was free.
This one hath won him wealth withouten work;
Albe appeared he garbed in penury.
And that in joy of life was slain, although
O man’s Creator free of sin he be.’
God answered ‘’Twas his father’s good thou saw’st
Him take; by heirship not by roguery;
Yon woodman too that horseman’s sire had slain;
Whose son avenged him with just victory:
Put off, O slave of Me, this thought for I
In men have set mysterious secrecy!
Bow to Our Law and humble thee, and learn
For good and evil issues Our decree.’”1
And a certain pious man hath told us the tale of
1 The doggrel is phenomenal.
“I was once a ferryman on the Nile and used to ply between the eastern and the western banks. Now one day, as I sat in my boat, there came up to me an old man of a bright and beaming countenance, who saluted me and I returned his greeting; and he said to me, ‘Wilt thou ferry me over for the love of Allah Almighty?’ I answered, ‘Yes,’ and he continued, ‘Wilt thou moreover give me food for Allah’s sake?’; to which again I answered, ‘With all my heart.’ So he entered the boat and I rowed him over to the eastern side, remarking that he was clad in a patched gown and carried a gourd-bottle and a staff. When he was about to land, he said to me, ‘I desire to lay on thee a heavy trust.’ Quoth I, ‘What is it?’ Quoth he, ‘It hath been revealed to me that my end is nearhand and that to-morrow about noon thou wilt come and find me dead under yonder tree. Wash me and wrap me in the shroud thou wilt see under my head and after thou hast prayed over me, bury me in this sandy ground and take my gown and gourd and staff, which do thou deliver to one who shall come and demand them of thee.’ I marvelled at his words, and I slept there. On the morrow I awaited till noon the event he had announced, and then I forgot what he had said till near the hour of afternoon-prayer, when I remembered it and hastening to the appointed place, found him under the tree, dead, with a new shroud under his head, exhaling a fragrance of musk. So I washed him and shrouded him and prayed over him, then dug a hole in the sand and buried him, after I had taken his ragged gown and bottle and staff, with which I crossed the Nile to the western side and there nighted. As soon as morning dawned and the city gate opened, I sighted a young man known to me as a loose fellow, clad in fine clothes and his hands stained with Henna, who said to me, ‘Art thou not such an one?’ ‘Yes,’ answered I; and he said, ‘Give me the trust.’ Quoth I, ‘What is that?’ Quoth he, ‘The gown, the gourd and the staff.’ I asked him, ‘Who told thee of them?’ and he answered, ‘I know nothing save that I spent yesternight at the wedding of one of my friends singing and carousing till daylight, when I lay me down to sleep and take my rest; and behold, there stood by me a personage who said, ‘Verily Allah Almighty hath taken such a saint to Himself and hath appointed thee to fill his place; so go thou to a certain person (naming the ferryman), and take of him the dead man’s gown and bottle and staff, for he left them with him for thee.’ So I brought them out and gave them to him; whereupon he doffed his clothes and, donning the gown, went his way and left me.1 And when the glooms closed around me, I fell a-weeping; but, that night, while sleeping I saw the Lord of Holiness (glorified and exalted be He!) in a dream saying, ‘O my servant, is it grievous to thee that I have granted to one of My servants to return to Me? Indeed, this is of My bounty, that I vouchsafe to whom I will, for I over all things am Almighty.’ So I repeated these couplets,
‘Lover with loved2 loseth will and aim!
All choice (an couldst thou know) were sinful shame.
Or grant He favour and with union grace,
Or from thee turn away, He hath no blame.
An from such turning thou no joy enjoy
Depart! the place for thee no place became.
Or canst His near discern not from His far?
Then Love’s in vain and thou’rt a-rear and lame.
If pine for Thee afflict my sprite, or men
Hale me to death, the rein Thy hand shall claim!
So turn Thee to or fro, to me ’tis one;
What Thou ordainest none shall dare defame:
My love hath naught of aim but Thine approof
And if Thou say we part I say the same.’”
And of the tales they tell is one concerning
1 He went in wonder and softened heart to see the miracle of saintly affection.
2 In Sufistical parlance, the creature is the lover and the Creator the Beloved: worldly existence is Disunion, parting, severance; and the life to come is Reunion. The basis of the idea is the human soul being a divinæ particula auræ, a disjoined molecule from the Great Spirit, imprisoned in a jail of flesh; and it is so far valuable that it has produced a grand and pathetic poetry; but Common Sense asks, Where is the proof? And Reason wants to know, What does it all mean?
There was once a notable of the Children of Israel, a man of wealth who had a pious and blessed son. When his last hour drew nigh, his son sat down at his head and said to him, “O my lord, give me an injunction.” Quoth the father, “O dear son, I charge thee, swear not by Allah or truly or falsely.” Then he died and certain lewd fellows of the Children of Israel heard of the charge he had laid on his son and began coming to the latter and saying, “Thy father had such and such monies of mine, and thou knowest it; so give me what was entrusted to him or else make oath that there was no trust.” The good son would not disobey his sire’s injunction, so gave them all they claimed; and they ceased not to deal thus with him, till his wealth was spent and he fell into straitest predicament. Now the young man had a pious and blessed wife, who had borne him two little sons; so he said to her, “The folk have multiplied their demands on me and, while I had the wherewithal to free myself of debt, I rendered it freely; but naught is now left us, and if others make demands upon me, we shall be in absolute distress, I and thou; our best way were to save ourselves by fleeing to some place, where none knoweth us, and earn our bread among the lower of the folk.” Accordingly, he took ship with her and his two children, knowing not whither he should wend; but, “When Allah judgeth, there is none to reverse His judgment;”1 and quoth the tongue of the case,
“O flier from thy home when foes affright!
Whom led to weal and happiness such flight,
Grudge not this exile when he flees abroad
Where he on wealth and welfare may alight.
An pearls for ever did abide in shell,
The kingly crown they ne’er had deckt and dight.”
The ship was wrecked, yet the man saved himself on a plank and his wife and children also saved themselves, but on other planks. The waves separated them and the wife was cast up in one country and one of the boys in another. The second son was picked up by a ship, and the surges threw the father on a desert island, where he landed and made the Wuzu-ablution. Then he called the prayer-call — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Koran xiii. 41.
Last updated Monday, September 7, 2015 at 12:07