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Daedalian promenades

2015-09-20
September 20, 2015

DAEDALIAN PROMENADES

 

 

Bejewelled picks from our literature

 

Literature is the lost nonpareil treasure of the Muslim ummah.

The great hāfiz Ibn ‘Abdi’lBarr said that no science of Islam was more essential, after studying the meanings of Allah’s Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa Sallam, than literature or adab.

Indeed, fiqh is akin to a radar monitored by experts so as to ensure the wellbeing of the Islamic community. It does not require constant engagement by the rankandfile Muslims; whereas Sufism is the ceiling of the structure, the marvelous finishing touches put, by the elite of the believers, and the elite of such elite, on a building for which one has already erected the solid foundations of Islam and Īmān.

Literature (adab means in Arabic, more faithfully, courteous refinement) is the matrix that teaches how to behave as a polite individual, benign to yourself and beneficial to your fellow human beings. Not every one, fortunately, can be a Rābi`ah alAdawiyyah; but most of us should aspire to acquire the urbane etiquette or adab of the noble men, simply by following the motto “I hear and I emulate”.

 

It is thus time to sweep away some of the cobwebs that have accumulated over this precious cache, beginning with this issue

 

Judge Abū ‘Alī b. al‐Muhassin b. ‘Alī at‐ Tanūkhī was not only an expert in Islamic Law, but also one of the buoyant pillars of dependable storytelling.

The under‐mentioned is a captivating anecdote which he included in his multi-volume AlFaraj Ba`da ashShiddah (“Relief after Distress”):

 

A highway robber philosophizes:

‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar b. al-Hārith al‐Wāsitī as‐Sarrāj, known as Abū Ahmad al- Hārithī,

related to me the following:

I was travelling through one mountain when Ibn Sabbāb al‐Kurdī (the Curser from Kurdistan) came out of his hiding post and assaulted us. He was wearing the Emirs’ dress rather than the clothes of highway brigands. I drew closer to him so as to gaze at him and hear his words.

I found in him the marks of acute understanding and literary refinement.

I thus decided to keep his company, and I came to know a virtuous man who transmitted poetry, and who comprehended grammar well.

I was eager to make an impression on him, and so I improvised some lines of poetry, a panegyric whereby I lauded his person.

He said to me, ‘I cannot know whether what you have just declaimed is truly your own composition. Do however compose on the spot a poem with the rhyme and meter of such and such a verse, for me to be sure that you are indeed its author.’

He then recited to me the verse in question which I had to use as my model.

I extemporized three verses, which I tossed out to him as per his request, granting him authorization to transmit them to third parties in turn.

He asked me, ‘Which one is the property that has been snatched away from you, so that I can return it to you?’. I accordingly mentioned to him what had been plundered from me, and added to the list the clothing fabric belonging to two of my travelling companions.

He returned all of that, whereupon he grabbed, from among the purses of the merchants he had pillaged from them, a purse containing 1000 silver coins. He gave it to me as a gift. I thanked him for his gesture, but I gave the purse back to him. He asked me why I did not take it, and I feigned my disinterest in assuming it into my possession.

Unconvinced, he said, ‘I would love you to tell me the true reason.’

I asked, ‘Is my safety assured if I do so?’.

He answered in the affirmative. I then said, ‘Because you do not own such a property. It is part of the assets of the people you have unjustly robbed a short while ago. How, then, could it be lawful for me to take it into my receipt?’.

He said to me in reply, ‘Have you not read what al‐Jāhiz mentioned in The Book of Thieves, from one of the thieves, to the effect that he said the following:

‘Surely these merchants have betrayed their trusts and withheld payment of the compulsory wealth‐tax of zakāt which the Law had levied on their properties. As a result, their whole wealth became consumed by the arrear zakāt they have failed to discharge, at a time when the thieves are in need of that wealth. If, then, the thieves were to seize and confiscate their assets – however much they might dislike such appropriation –, it would be permissible for them to do so. That is due to the fact that the original source of that wealth has been entirely devoured by the un-liquidated zakāt, and these people who are grabbing it from them are rightfully entitled by their poverty to take zakāt, regardless of whether the owners of the plundered properties are pleased with it or not’.’

I said, ‘Sure, that is what al‐ Jāhiz has quoted. However, what gives you to understand that the wealth of these traders whose assets you have just despoiled them of is one that has been fully consumed by unpaid zakāt?’. ‘Don’t worry!’, he answered, ‘I am going to bring in these tradesmen right now and I will demonstrate to you, by cogent proof, that their properties are halāl for us.’

He turned to his comrades and ordered that the merchants be dragged before him. His companions duly carried out his directive. Once they were in his presence, he asked one of them, ‘For how long have you been trading with this wealth which we have subtracted from you by our sudden attack?’. The man answered, ‘Since such and such a year.’ Ibn Sabbāb inquired from him, ‘How did you use to calculate the zakāt on it?’. The man thus addressed was rattled, and ventured into some unintelligible answer which showed his lack of familiarity with the reality of zakāt and the true mode of discharging it, let alone the evident absence of any payment by him of that tax.

He then summoned to him another trader from the same group, and said to him, ‘If you own 300 silver coins and 10 gold coins, and one full lunar year elapses upon your ownership of such wealth, how much zakāt do you pay on it?’. He was incapable of offering any answer. He then asked a third such trader, ‘Assume you have some trading stock, you are owed debts by two persons, one of them affluent and the other one indigent, and you also have an amount of silver coins, whereupon a whole lunar year is completed whilst you own that property: How do you compute your zakāt on all of that?’. The addressee did not even understand the question. Imagine, then, if he attempted any reply to it.

Ibn Sabbāb the Kurd chased them away, whereupon he proclaimed, ‘The veracity of the account narrated by Abū ‘Uthmān al‐Jāhiz has now become clear to you, and also the fact that these particular merchants never ever paid their zakāt. On that basis, you should take your purse now.’

I grabbed it, whereupon he drove the caravan ahead with the intention of moving away with it. I intervened, ‘Emir, if you deem it fit to dispatch someone who can escort us to a safe place, you will have the merit of that good deed.’

 

He complied with my request.

***

 

 

The indisputable master of Islamic literature is the squint‐eyed genius from Baghdad, al‐ Jāhiz, the author of the said Book of Thieves, who died at a very advanced age when his library collapsed on his frail body. Luckily, prior to that fatal accident he penned an impressive number of wondrous masterpieces. Though quite prolific, he was nearly at his very best when composing his large-sized opus “The Animals” (AlHayawān).

Here is a tasty excerpt from it:

 

“One of the witty rarities of people’s anecdotal accounts is that a man noticed another man, who had engaged in sexual intercourse with a female dog, tied by that animal.

He was thus imprisoned to the bitch, circling around her and unable to release himself. The man who had chanced upon the scene yelled at him to strike the bitch on her sides. Having done that, the dog set him free, whereupon the formerly entangled man raised his eyes to his saviour and exclaimed, ‘May Allah reward you! What an expert cohabiter with bitches you are!’.

 

Another man related this story:

Once he looked down from a terrace and noticed a black shape under the shade of the moon that was moving surreptitiously at the foot of a wall. Suddenly, the wailing groans of a female dog could be heard. The

onlooker then discerned the head of a man who walked inside the contours of the moon and then returned to his original spot. A security guard was having intercourse with a female dog!

The man who observed the scene pelted the guard and made him realize that he had noticed what he was doing.

Early in the morning, the guard paid him a visit and knocked at the door. The narrator of the story asked him, ‘What’s your need? I thought that you would be crawling on your face far into the desert, ashamed of your deed.’ The guard said in reply, ‘I am your ransom! Please secrete what you have witnessed from other people’s knowledge, for Allah will then spread a screening veil over your own faults. I am making tawbah right here at your hands!’.

The narrator said to him, ‘Woe unto you! What were you craving from a bitch?’. He answered, ‘Every security guard who has no wife or sweetheart cohabits with female dogs, since they are furnished with massive bodies.’ The narrator said inquiringly, ‘Are you not afraid that she would bite such a guard?’. He replied, ‘If other than the guard

owning the dog desired to get sexual gratification from her, and the bitch spent the night with him, caused by the man to wrap herself up in his clothes on cold and rainy nights, she would cling to that man without leaving him alone.

If such man desired to insert his whole sexual organ inside the beast, his penis would not hold firm.’

The narrator went on to recount:

I forgot on that occasion to inquire from him whether she would hold firmly onto human penises the way she does with the penises of male dogs.

The man who retold the story proceeded to say:

I met him again thirty years later, and I finally posed to him that question. He answered it thus, ‘I do not know. Maybe she does not hold firmly onto it, because he does not insert in her the initial segment of his sexual organ. It might well be that, by contrast, full penetration occurs when male and female dogs cohabit. Had they not been harmonious in that respect, immediate sexual contact would not have occurred between them.’

The narrator then asked the guard, ‘Is intercourse with them pleasant?’. ‘I had intercourse with the females of all animals ‘, was his answer, ‘and I found all of them to be sexually more pleasing than women.’ The narrator asked, ‘How can that be?’. He explained, ‘It is only due to the fact they are extremely hot.’

Having stated the general position, he then plunged into fine details on the issue, and in so doing he unveiled his full intimacy with the subject.

The narrator asked, ‘If water (= sperm) circulates in your loins, and you are close to emitting it, the bitch might find delight through you?’. ‘Dogs’, he answered, ‘have the most agreeable mouths and the sweetest saliva, but they are incapable of being penetrated from the front. If I set out to penetrate it from the back, and bend her head towards me, leaning down so as to kiss her, the bitch would not feel safe from the impression that I am desiring something else from her, in which case she would bite my mouth and face with her front teeth.’

The narrator then inquired from him as follows, ‘I ask by the One Who shields you from people’s sight:

Have you abstained from this practice since you swore to me your solemn oath that you had made tawbah about it?’.

He replied, ‘It might happen that I hanker for such deed, but I loathe to betray the word I have given you.’

The narrator pressed on, ‘And you actually yearn for it still?’. He said in reply, ‘By Allah. I do long for it, though subsequently to our first meeting I married two women, and fathered sons and daughters. Whoever is accustomed to something, however, can hardly restrain himself patiently from it.’

The narrator inquired, ‘Are you aware of security guards who have sex with female dogs nowadays?’.

‘Yes’, he promptly said. ‘Take for instance the one‐eyed Mahmawayh, and the security officers Yashjub, Qafā ash‐Shāt or Fāris al Hammāmī, who used to be the caretaker of the public bath, and was quite a morally conscientious person, yet he did cohabit with female dogs for fifty long years. He aged, turned skinny, became ugly, and his physique shrank until no one associated sexually with him. Even then, Fāris al-Hammāmī admitted that he used to find a stratagem enabling him to cohabit with a male dog of his.’

The narrator concluded:

The guard I had these two conversations with lived in a good state until some thieves killed him while he was discharging his professional duties”.

***

Part of the greatness of al‐Jāhiz is that, in a few strokes shorn of any complacent prolixity, he depicts a live scene from which readers can extract deep morals and sociological lessons within the folds of frolicking facetiousness.

Indeed, the repentant guard who managed to suppress his impulsive habits is a more elevated being than many a publicly revered Muslim, as evidenced by the following account from Wakī’s three‐volume work on judges in Islam, Akhbār alQudāt:

 

“’Abdur‐Rahmān b. Abī ‘Awn said: When (the Umayyad Caliph) al‐Walīd b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik first appointed ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz as governor of al‐Madīnah and then dismissed him from that post, he named ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān al‐Murrī as his successor. Al‐Murrī designated Abū Bakr b. Hazm as the judge in that city. In those days, the governors of the different administrative units (also referred to as Emirs) had full unrestricted discretion to appoint judges. They nominated whomever they chose, and any incumbent in a judicial post would not ride any mount or go out to fulfil any personal need of his, without first seeking and obtaining the authorization of the Emir of that region, in order for his nice stipend to be preserved.

Judge Abū Bakr b. Muhammad (b. ‘Amr) b. Hazm approached the governor ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān in the early morning of 23 Ramadān, at a time when Ayyūb b. Salamah (b. ‘Abdillāh b. al‐Walīd b. al‐Mughīrah) al‐Makhzūmī, who had some personal issues with Judge Abū Bakr, was in the governor’s company.

Abū Bakr said to ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān, ‘May Allah put the Emir right! I want to enliven this night by spending it in worship. If you deem it fit to grant me leave to go out on a trip of mine early tomorrow morning, please do so.’ The Emir said to him in reply, ‘Do as you prefer, as a responsible adult would do. As soon as Judge Abū Bakr departed, Ayyūb b. Salamah said to ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān, ‘By Allah, he is not going to devote his night to worship. He was only performing with the intention of impressing you.’ The Emir commented, ‘Leave him. By Allah, if he does not set out in the morning with his escort, I will whip him with 100 lashes.’

Ayyūb went on to state: I left the scene, having inflicted on Abū Bakr the damage I had desired to strike him by [since he was hostile to the said judge].

In the early part of the morning, Ayyūb b. Salamah went on to recount, I proceeded to the Mosque of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam).

Voices could be heard from Marwān’s house and I thus whispered to myself: “I wonder whether we are going to witness al‐Murrī (= ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān) making the first move by flogging Abū Bakr.” I then entered the house. Lo!

Abū Bakr b. Muhammad was attending the gathering of al‐Murrī, and al‐Murrī was seated right in front of him, while the ironsmith was affixing the fettering chains onto al‐Murrī’s foot. Al‐Walīd had passed away, and Caliphal power had shifted into the hands of (the new Umayyad ruler) Sulaymān b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik. The latter sent an official letter to Abū Bakr b. Muhammad, wherein he notified the latter that he had appointed him as the new governor of al‐Madīnah, and that his instruction demanded that ‘Uthmān (b. Hayyān) be kept enchained in a prison.

Ayyūb b. Salamah then narrated as follows:

As soon as he saw me, he said poetically, ‘O son of Salamah!

{They turned their backs, unshielded, vanquished *

New events succeed conjunctures}.

When al‐Murrī woke up in the morning, he asked for long‐necked bottles containing some beverage which was stored in the house of ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān (= his own house).

Abū Bakr b. Muhammad inquired from some people who were in attendance, ‘What is this?’. ‘It is wine’, they replied. He turned to the celebrious prisoner and asked him, ‘Did you use to drink this?’. Al‐Murrī answered in the affirmative, whereupon the new governor Abū Bakr b. Muhammad imposed on him the hadd, the prescribed penalty of 80 lashes for intoxication.

Thereafter, ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Amr b. ‘Uthmān produced proof that ‘Uthmān b. Hayyān had slandered him by saying to him, ‘O sodomite!’, and Abū Bakr imposed on al‐Murrī a further hadd for slander (this time one of 100 lashes)”.

_________________________________________________________

“Whoever is accustomed to something, however, can hardly restrain

himself patiently from it”

                                             _____________________________________­­­­­­­­­______

 

***

We came across a fleeting mention of the great Umayyad Caliph ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz at the beginning of the last anecdotal fragment, and that reminded me of another, inspiring incident, recorded by the great Tunisian historian Abu’l‐‘Arab at‐Tamīmī in his “Book of Testing Ordeals”, Kitāb alMihan, all of it being consecrated to the tribulations which afflicted great Muslims, and how they came out of them further purified and ennobled. It is found in the section titled “Mention of the noblemen and erudite savants who were made to ingest poison”:

 

“Sa`īd b. Ishāq related to me the following:

Muhammad b. ‘Abdillāh b. ‘Abdi’l‐Hakam related to us that news had reached the Byzantine king to the effect that ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz had been given some poison to drink. He accordingly dispatched to him his Archbishop. He accompanied the Archbishop’s visit by a letter in which he acquainted ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz with the high rank enjoyed by the Archbishop with his person, and reiterated the rightful entitlement owed to ‘Umar’s like, since he belonged to the ranks of people excelling in goodness and obedience of Allah. It was further stated in the monarch’s letter:

“I have come to know that you have been administered some poison through a drink. I have accordingly sent the Archbishop, who is the most medically competent person in treating the ailment that has befallen you”. After the contents of the letter were read out to ‘Umar, he said to the Archbishop, ‘Inspect the spot in my body where you can feel my veins.’ The Archbishop looked there and then commented, ‘You have indeed been poisoned, Commander of the Believers.’ ‘Umar asked, ‘And what remedy have you got?’. The Archbishop replied, ‘I am going to give you some beverage, whereby I shall remove the poison from your veins.’ ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz cut him short, ‘Even if the spirit of life was in your hands, I would not give you the power to carry out what you mentioned. Go back to your sire, for I am in no need of your cure.’

He then summoned the one he accused as having poisoned him, and the man confessed. ‘Umar asked him, ‘Which motive induced you to do what you did?’. He answered, ‘I was deceived and ensnared.’ ‘Umar said to his attendants, ‘He was duped. Set him free’, and he took no action against him.

***

We are taking a zigzag route between tales of humans and tales of animals.

There is no doubt among scholars that one of the most suave among prolific writers in Islam was the polymath from Damascus Ibn Abīk asSafadī. He was indeed a living encyclopaedia of profitable knowledge.

Islam has no pitiful attitude towards physical handicaps. Many of the stalwarts of the Dīn suffered from physical disabilities, such as blindness, which were simply regarded as quid pro quo for special gifts that were granted to the same individuals by Allah.

The use of agnomens (kind of nicknames), such as “the one‐eyed” or “the limping” or, as with al‐Jāhiz himself, “the squint‐eyed”, were common and in no way meant to be derogatory or noxiously offensive.

In his book on blindness and blind people, Nakt alHimyān fī Nukat al-‘Umyān, asSafadī surveys the astrologers’ exegesis of the causes of blindness, and debunks them comprehensively.

From the chapter in the said book immediately following that refutation, we shall mention three witty anecdotes (nukat) concerning blind men:

 

“A man once asked (the great blind poet) Bashshār b. Burd, ‘Allah never took away the two precious gifts of a mu’min (= his eyes) but that He substituted for them something better. By what, then, did Allah compensate you?’.

Bashshār replied at once, ‘By causing me not to have sight of burdensome people like you’”.

 

A narrator stated the following:

“It has been said that most of the inhabitants of the town of Hīta are one‐eyed, but I came across one of the men residing therein who was perfectly two‐eyed. I thus remarked to him, ‘That is astonishingly odd!’. He explained, ‘Sir, one of my brothers is fully blind. He appropriated both his own lot and mine!’”.

 

Ibn Abīk asSafadī went on to mention that a blind man married an ugly woman, who said to him at the time of the nuptials, ‘You have been given in sustenance the best person, though you are unaware of that.’ He retorted, ‘And where were the good‐sighted men before I came into the scene?!’

***

Since we are talking of women, I was reminded of two incidents I wanted to relate to the readers.

Let us shelve them aside for a while, however, and move to another superbly original author, the litterateur (not to be confused with the muhaddith) al‐Bayhaqī

(= Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad). The text in question, AlMahāsin wa alMasāwi, presents a collection of pros and cons, virtues and defects of plenty a thing.

We shall discuss the chapter on composite breeding or procreation:

 

The good points of crossbreeding

People have mentioned that the Arab tribe of Jurhum is the product of sexual association between angels and human females. They said that, if one of the angels were to disobey his Lord in heaven, He would cast him down to the earth in the shape of a man, with the natural disposition of a human being, just as was the case with Hārūt and Mārūt as far their story with the flower is concerned, until what was decreed to happen to the pair of them came to pass.

One of the angels disobeyed our Lord, Majestic is the mention of Him, and He expelled him to the earth in the form of a man who eventually married the mother of Jurhum, the original ancestor of the said tribe.

Jurhum’s mother gave birth to his son Jurhum (…) The mother of Dhu’l‐Qarnayn, Qīrā, was a human, whereas his father, ‘Īrā was an angel.

Once ‘Umar b. al‐Khattāb, may Allah be pleased with him, heard a man who was

loudly supplicating as follows: ‘O Dha’l‐ Qarnayn!’. On hearing that, ‘Umar commented, ‘You people have exhausted the names of the Prophets, and have ascended to those of the angels!’.

People have further alleged that crossbreeding and cross-fertilization take place between jinn and humans, on the strength of His statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «[A]nd share with them in their children and their wealth» (Sūrah al‐Isrā’: 64). An additional proof which they have adduced in support of their aforesaid allegation is that the females of the jinn interfere with the insane men through the medium of deep infatuation and the request to some of them to cause corruption.

Likewise do the males among the jinn behave in their dealings with some women from humankind.

As for those who claim that epilepsy originates in the bile, they have refuted the statement of Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic (in āyah 275 of Sūrah al‐Baqarah, 274 in the Warsh mushaf):

«Those who practice ribā will not rise from the grave except as someone driven mad by Shaytān’s touch». He, Majestic is mention of Him, also said:

«[A]nd share with them in their children and their wealth» (Sūrah al‐Isrā’: 64). Another of His statements, Majestic and Exalted is He, is, «untouched before them by either man or jinn» [Sūrah ar‐Rahmān: 56 and 74, 55 and 73 in the Warsh riwāyah]. [Epilepsy was thus related by al-Bayhaqī to interference by jinn]. ‘Abdullāh b. Hilāl was the scion of Iblīs on his mother’s side.

The grammarian Abū Zayd narrated that Si`lāt, the famous ghūl or desert demon, spent a period of time amid the tribe of Banū Tamīm, until she gave birth to some offspring.

One day, she saw a lightning from a split fissure in the land of the ghouls, and, hankering for her motherland, she flew to her peers.

As for the group of islands of Waqwāq (said to be in the Indian Ocean, though another such group bearing the same name was located by Arab geographers east of China), it is said that it arose out of the coming together of some plants and animals.

It has also been stated that the fox mounts the wild female cat and, by cohabiting with it, it begets a baby resembling both such species.

The poet of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam), Hassān b. Thābit, declaimed the following:

{Your dad is your dad, and his son you are * How wretched the son, and how wretched the father!

A black Nubian your

mother,* her fingertips locusts huge *

With her your dad lies, * dropping a snare as drape / as by the fox the wild cat’s assailed.}

Turning to what is engendered by the cross‐breeding between dogs and foxes, it

is represented by these Sulūqī dogs that are very clever in hunting down preys [Sulūqī is a noun of ascription to a village renowned for its choice dogs and exquisite coats of armour].

A view that has been propounded is that, from the intermingling between the wolf and the female dog, a baby is born that is called daysam, which is regarded as the offspring of the wolf (…)

People have also adduced the view that the product of the cohabitation involving the wolf and the hyena is a baby named sim` [= an animal from the canine family, larger than the dog in size, with long legs and a cleaved head, which is a proverbial paradigm of extremely sharp hearing]. The sim` is like the snake, in that it does not fall sick and does not die save as a result of an accidental occurrence that happens to it. It is stronger in pace than the wind and swifter than it (…)

One of the astounding wonders of composite procreation is represented by the huge exemplars of the two‐humped bukht, i.e. the Khorasani camels. If you were to fecundate the females of that species, no huwār (the baby camel, which is given that name from its birth until the time when it is weaned off and gains independence from its mother) would come out, save a short‐necked baby that is unable to get to herbage in a pasture or to a watering place.

If, by contrast, you have the large‐sized two-humped Khorasani camels fecundated by the ‘irāb camels, the product of such miscegenation would consist in swift‐paced and leaping animals and the noble‐stock bukht. In the event that you were to fertilize the females of the bukht through the potent virile males among the ‘irāb camels, you would get ugly‐looking camels as a result.

It has been said, concerning camels, that you find in them trace of hereditary descent from their cohabitation with jinn, as well as that you might come across, among the different varieties of camels, wild beasts that are the surviving progeny of Wabār’s camels, since Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, destroyed such nation, and they were survived by their camels. It is possible that the adult camel, the jamal, from among such survivors, headed for the resting places of those animals near the waterholes, and fecundated a she‐camel, thereby giving birth to the Mahriyyah camels [a type of bukht that race against horses], as well as the Ghasjadiyyah stock of camels [known as the Dhahabiyyah].

People have also made reference to the fact that in the Abyssinian lands the male hyenas approach wild she‐camels with sexual desire, mount them and get impregnated with a small animal that, in its shape, displays features of both the she‐camel and the hyena. If the hyena happens to be female, the wild ox assails it sexually, fecundates it, and begets a baby that is a gazelle, and which is called Ishtarkāubalnak in Persian, i.e. a creature that comes out of the cross‐breeding involving the adult male camel, the ox and the hyena.

The generality of people refute the possibility that the female gazelle might be fecundated by the male gazelle.

As for the female ostrich, she is only the product of the sexual encounter between a male and a female ostrich.

If we turn to the cross-fecundation of birds, we discover that one person narrated that he saw a bird with a beautiful sound, which people alleged was the product of cross‐fecundation between the qumrī variety of turtledove and the fākhitah, a type of collared dove which spreads the claws, wings and armpits wide when walking, and leans on one side [1].

Bird‐hunters assert that there are species of birds which gather by some watering places and have intercourse one with the other. Such bird‐hunters have alleged that they keep on seeing ornithological shapes that were previously unknown to them, and are accordingly convinced that they are the end‐product of cross‐breeding between those multifarious species.

The negative examples of crossbreeding – What comes out of crossbreeding between human beings?

Well, if a Khorasani man [Khorasan being a region that covered parts of modern‐day Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan] were to marry an Indian woman, pure gold would be the product of such miscegenation, provided one took care of safeguarding such a child, in the event she is a female, from the zinā of the Indians, and, if he is a boy, from the sodomy that is common among the Khorasani men.

One of the evil types of miscegenation occurs when a masculine woman and an effeminate man come together sexually.

The child born out of such a couple, in fact, is more wicked than the mule and of more corrupt stock than the aforementioned member of the canine family, the sim`. Nay, it will have more defects than any other creature. If such a child borrows the worst characteristics of the father as well as the foulest attributes of the mother, the marks of calamities conjoin with the springheads of evil traits. If the child is born with such an amalgam, no tutoring discipline can ever succeed, and every doctor will despair of curing him or her.

In one of the houses belonging to the tribesmen of Banū Thaqīf, we witnessed a young lad in whom all those peculiarities gathered. He never spent a single day on this earth but that people would talk critically about something that he did, one that was so worse than previous deeds of his that any prior sin he had committed was dwarfed in comparison.

Finally, among humans we encounter the khilāsī, who is the offspring of an Abyssinian (= black) man and a fair‐skinned woman.

There is the baysarī as well, who is the descendant of a white and an Indian. This latter is among the most handsome and beautiful of people”.

We have thus delved into some of the wonders of Allah’s creation, before genetically modified species came into being in this age of exponential devolution.

 

***

The coming anecdote requires a short presentation of the characters involved.

Sukaynah bint al‐Husayn, known as Sayyidah Sukaynah (d. 117 AH), was the great granddaughter of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam. She was a noble woman, and a generous poetess. She was one of the most beautiful ladies of her time, and among those with the most pleasant character. She is regarded as the foremost woman in her age, and the notables among Quraysh vied with one another to keep her company. The poets used to gather in her circle, and each would take a specific seat she would select for him, in such a manner that they could not see her face. She would then listen to her poems and rule on their respective merits, by discussing their contents and assigning prizes to the best of them.

She once visited the then Umayyad Caliph Hishām b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik, and asked him to gift herhis turban, his shawl and his belt, and he duly obliged.

A contemporary of her recounted how he once visited her house, and found at its door four of the supreme Arab poets: Jarīr, al‐Farazdaq, Jamīl (Buthaynah) and Kathīr (‘Izzah). She ordered each one of them to be handed the hefty sum of 1000 silver coins.

She married Mus`ab b. az‐Zubayr (one of the renowned sons of the great Companion), who was killed; then ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Uthmān b. ‘Abdillāh, who died and left her a widow; and later Zayd b. ‘Amr b. ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān, the grandson of the third rightly guided Caliph of Islam. Sulaymān b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik, another Umayyad ruler (so much for the defamatory lies that the members of the Prophetic lineage despised the unconditionally corrupt Banū Umayyah!), instructed Zayd to divorce her as he associated her person with evil omen in marriage, due to the deaths of her preceding consorts, and she acted by his order.

She resided and passed away in al‐Madīnah.

As for Ibn Surayj, he was one of the most exquisite singers and masters of that art in the early Islamic period. He died in the year 98 AH.

We then encounter our main character, Ash`ab b. Jubayr, whose name was Shu`ayb, and whose patronymic was Abu’l‐‘Alā’. His father was the freed slave of az‐Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with him.

He is the paradigm of material covetousness, but was also one of the wittiest Islamic individuals.

He was one of the expert reciters of the Qur’ān, and, in his life, he also devoted himself to much worship as well as participation in military expeditions. He was thus a far cry from some one‐dimensional personality or a human caricature. His was a well-rounded character.

He had a beautiful sound when reciting Allah’s Book, and oftentimes he led people in the nocturnal Ramadān prayers. He not only excelled in the transmission or improvisation of facetious rarities, but also sang tunes with a fine tone.

Ash`ab himself related that he would take a tune from a famous musician of his days and interpret it in his own unique way, whereupon such top musician would send the people asking him to sing it to Ash`ab, since he judged the latter’s rendition (a kind of “cover” ante litteram) to be finer than his own.

He was attached to the family of az‐Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with him, through his father’s said emancipation at az‐ Zubayr’s hands, while his mother was a freed slave of ‘Ā’ishah, the daughter of ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān, may Allah be fully satisfied with him. She gave herself to prostitution, and was corporally chastised for that, had her head shaven, and was carried around in the city on an adult male camel, while she kept on saying to the bystanders, ‘Whoever sees me, let him stay clear of zinā.’ A woman who witnessed her in that condition approached her and spicily commented, ‘O doer, Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, forbade us to perpetrate zinā, and yet we rebelliously disobeyed him. We are

certainly not going to discard zinā because you say so while you have your head shaven and, having been beaten up, you are paraded around on the back of a camel!’.

Another view that has been propounded by the biographers is that Ash`ab’s mother was a freed slave woman of Abū Sufyān b. Harb, and that one of the Mothers of the Believers, namely, Umm Maymūnah, took her along when the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, married her. As a result, she would visit the wives of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, in their private apartments, and entertain them with her narrative curios. She then stopped her engrossment in that, whereupon the wives of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, began to retell those censurable anecdotes to one another.

That prompted the intervention of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, who made a supplication against her, and she died as a consequence thereof.

Allah knows best the truth.

What we know is that Ash`ab’s wife was the daughter of Wardān, the person who built the grave of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, at the time that ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l‐‘Azīz had the extended Prophetic mosque erected.

I think the curtain can now be lifted to let our readers in the following story. It is found in that astonishing and astonishingly vibrant encyclopaedia of literature, al‐Asfahānī’s AlAghānī, as heard from Mus`ab and an unidentified Makkan shaykh:

 

“Ibn Surayj became afflicted with incontinence of foul‐smelling wind (= excessive malodorous farting). Because of the onset of such deleterious ailment, he took a solemn oath that he would not sing again. He accordingly consecrated himself to a life of worship, and decided to cling assiduously to the Inviolable Mosque of Makkah until he had recovered from that medical condition [Seemingly, he felt that his malady was a kind of punitive deterrent or warning to give up his career as a singer].

He eventually left the Haram of Makkah, largely convalesced, albeit with some lingering traces of the said illness. He then headed for the grave of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, and the spot where he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, was accustomed to pray.

When he arrived in al‐Madīnah, he put up at the house of a fellow devotee of worship and unwavering reciter of the Qur’ān. Singers would pay a visit to his lodgings, and convey their greetings to him, without him granting them leave to approach him so as to sit in his company and engage in conversations as per their ealier wont with him.

Ibn Surayj spent one full lunar year in al‐Madīnah, until, eventually, he could no longer feel any remnant of his disease. He thereupon set his resolve on departing for Makkah and relocating there.

News of his intention in that regard reached Sukaynah, the daughter of al‐Husayn [may Allah be fully pleased with him] (who, as we saw, was a resident in the Illuminated City of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam). She was very aggrieved by the idea of his planned move to Makkah, and felt uneasy about it, since she was unable to bear the thought of his estrangement.

At that time, Ash`ab used to serve her as one of her regular attendants, and would grant her solace by his genial conviviality, regaling her in the process with his facetious jokes and his exquisite rare accounts. As a result, she said to Ash`ab, ‘Woe unto you! Ibn Surayj is travellling away from us. He came to al‐Madīnah one full year ago and yet I never heard even a small sample of his singing, let alone anything more than that. The loss of that amenity weighs heavily on me. What stratagem can we resort to in order to ensure that we can listen to his singing, even if it might be no more than a single tune?’.

Ash`ab said to her in reply, ‘I have been placed at your mercy! What is for us to do, since the man is now devoted to relinquishing worldly superfluities, and no one can hatch a plan to deflect him away from his new life? Lift your aspiration atop that desire of yours, and lap up whatever is in your drinking bowl, for your mouth will then taste sweetness.’

On hearing that, Sukaynah instructed some of her slave girls to trample upon Ash`ab’s abdomen, with such a pressurizing force that his bowels would nearly come out, as well as to throttle him until his soul would be on the verge of passing out. They did as she commanded, whereafter, as per her bidding, they brought him before her person. He was dragged along the ground by his face, and violently thrown out of the house door. He exited it in the worst state, pining deeply and regretting to have engaged in a jesting response to Sukaynah’s

request at a time when anything but earnestness was unbecoming.

He arrived at night at the place where Ibn Surayj was dwelling, and knocked at the door. A voice asked, ‘Who are you?’. He replied, ‘Ash`ab.’ Those in charge of the place opened the door for him.

On his face and on his beard one could notice marks from the ground, and blood was flowing down from his nose onto his forehead and beard.

His clothes were torn, while his stomach, chest and throat had been squeezed by being trampled underfoot and by the strangling, his blood having congealed in those parts of his body.

Ibn Surayj glanced at his repugnant sight, which frightened and alarmed him. He thus addressed Ash`ab in an inquiring tone, ‘What is this, woe unto you?!’.

Ash`ab notified him of what had transpired. Ibn Surayj exclaimed, ‘Innā lillāhi wa‐innā illayhi rāji`ūn (= We surely belong to Allah, and, without doubt, to Him we are forever returning every single instance of our existence)! What has befallen you? The praise is owned by Allah for having delivered you to safety from what has alighted by you!’.

Ash`ab explained, ‘Your ransom lies with my mistress (Sukaynah). I cannot dispense with her. Is there, however, a roundabout way whereby you succeed in getting to our place and singing to her, for it to be a cause of her renewed satisfaction with me?’.

Ibn Surayj retorted, ‘Never! By Allah, that is never going to take place after I have renounced singing.’ Ash`ab pressed down on him saying, ‘You have severed my hope and removed my sustenance. Not only that: You have left me as a bewildered vagrant in al‐Madīnah, such that no one will accept me in, so long as she is angry with me. By Allah, by Allah I beseech you to assist me. I implore you by Allah: Will you not bear this sinful act (of going against your oath) for my sake?’. Ibn Surayj, however, resisted his entreaties.

When Ash`ab detected the unflinching nature of Ibn Surayj’s resolution, fixed as he was on refusing his humble petitions, he whispered to himself: “I’m bereft of any ruse I can artfully employ. This man is moving away, and if he moves away I shall meet my ruin.” He then yelled on top of his voice. His scream alerted the inhabitants of al‐Madīnah, and jolted the neighbours out of their slumber. People got up from their beds as a result of his shout. Having done that, he retreated into silence. When the obstreperous sound died down, people were at a loss to guess the story which lay behind the scream that had caused them dismay and panic.

Ibn Surayj said, ‘Woe unto you! What are you doing?’. Ash`ab said in reply, ‘If you do not walk with me to her residence, I am going to yell one more time, so that no one living in al‐Madīnah will be anywhere else but at the door of this very house you are staying in. I will then open the door and let them in to show them what has befallen me, and I shall inform them that you wanted to do such and such with so‐and‐so (being a youth renowned for the fact that Ibn Surayj was infatuated with him), and that I duly prevented you from carrying out your desires and delivered the boy from your hands, so that he could unlock the door of the house and walk away in safety. I will then acquaint them with the fact that you reduced me in this condition, swollen, aching and splattered with blood, out of raging fury and sadness about my rescuing intervention, as well as that you simulated a life of devout worship solely for the purpose of accomplishing your desire about that lad.’ The people of al‐Madīnah, in fact, were quite aware of Ibn Surayj’s feeling towards that youth.

Ibn Surayj, cornered by the above, said, ‘I am coming out, may Allah disgrace you!’. Ash`ab commented: ‘By Allah, other than Whom there is no god, if you do not act by this promise of yours, all my assets will be distributed as sadaqah, my wife is divorced thrice and irrevocably, and I am going to be slaughtered by the station (maqām) of Ibrāhīm and the Ka`bah, and by the house of the fire and the grave, I mean the grave of Abū Righāl [1].

All of that shall be verily done by me, unless you march at once beside me this very same night.’

As Ibn Surayj realized Ash`ab’s fierce earnestness about the matter, he said to him, ‘Woe unto you! Are you

blind to what we have stumbled into?’. The owner of the house where Ibn Surayj was lodging was a devout worshipper, so Ibn Surayj added, ‘What can I tell him about this wicked matter that we have become embroiled in?’. Ibn Surayj felt ashamed about his host’s likely reproach, and said therefore to Ash`ab, ‘Walk out of the man’s house.’ Ash`ab resisted saying, ‘So long as my foot is side by side with yours.’ They then egressed from the house together.

When the two of them had reached a spot on the road leading to Sukaynah’s residence, Ibn Surayj had a change of heart and said to Ash`ab, ‘Depart from me.’ ‘By Allah’, Ash`ab retorted, ‘if you are not going to implement what I said, I will yell right now, all the people will gather around us, and I will say that you have taken from me a golden bracelet belonging to Sukaynah as part of an agreement to come to her house and secretly sing to her, you have stubbornly insisted until you have prevailed over me to second your plan, and you then disavowed my right to repossess the bracelet, whereupon you beat me up into the state I am presently in.’ Ibn Surayj was thus ensnared in a trap he could no longer extricate himself from, no matter how many cunning artifices he might have deployed. He accordingly said in a defeated tone, ‘March on, may Allah not bless you!.’ He then pressed ahead with Ash`ab.

When Ash`ab reached the door of Sukaynah’s house, he knocked at it and was asked, ‘Who is this?’. He answered, ‘Ash`ab, who has come with Ibn Surayj.’

The door was opened for the pair of them, and they walked inside a room outside Sukaynah’s actual apartment. They sat there for a while, and were then granted permission to see her.

They appeared before Sukaynah, who said, ‘O ‘Ubayd (= Ibn Surayj’s first name), what is all this coarse neglect of us on your part?’. He replied, ‘You have no doubt realized that it was not something personal on my part.’

‘Sure’, she said. They then conversed for a period of time, during which he related to her what had occurred between him and Ash`ab. She laughed and said, ‘Ash`ab has succeeded in removing from my heart whatever I held against him.’ She then instructed that a sum of 20 gold coins be handed to Ash`ab as a reward, together with a (nice) garment.

Having taken care of that matter, Ibn Surayj then turned to her and said, ‘Will you grant me my wish to leave your premises?’. Sukaynah asked, ‘Where to?’. To my residence’, he replied. Her rejoinder was, ‘I have washed my hands of my “grandfather” for three days if you are allowed to leave my house; and I have washed my hands of my “grandfather” in the event that you refrain from singing and walk out of my house. That shall apply for one full month. Nay, I have also washed my hands of my grandfather in case you reside in my house for a month and I do not order you to be beaten ten times every day you spend in it, and I have also washed my hands of my “grandfather” if I do not fulfil my oath or grant anyone the right to intercede on your behalf.’

Ibn Surayj thus sang for her some rhymed lyrics.

Thereafter, Sukaynah said, ‘You have realized what I wanted from this.

We have now granted you the right to be interceded for, and we shall not prevent you from doing what you desire. My oath was only valid for a period of three says. Go away, now, under Allah’s protection and in His solicitous care’”.

***

Muslims of all ages have always found delectation in a bon mot well told, or a savoury anecdote. Brilliant litterateurs have sometimes strewn them together in the adorned necklace of a single work.

That is the case with Jam` alJawāhir fī alMulah wa anNawādir. We join its skillful author, al‐Husarī al‐Qayrawānī, as he broaches the subjects of:

 

a) Among the signs of foolishness

“Al‐Jāhiz said: ‘I never met a man with a huge beard but that I found him to have an intellect as small as a goatee.’

A Bedouin woman once said to a judge who issued a verdict against her: ‘Your head is big, your understanding is remote (from sound comprehension), your beard is let dangling, and your intellect is shrunk.

Prior to seeing you, I had never came across a corpse passing judgments between two living litigants!’.

Once, a man with a large beard rebuked a man whose beard only covered his chin, and recited: «Good land yields up its plants by its Lord’s permission, but that which is bad only yields up scantily» (Sūrah al‐A`rāf: 58, 57 as per the Warsh riwāyah). The man with the goatee retorted: «Say: ‘Bad things and good things are not the same, even though the abundance of the bad things may seem attractive to you’» (Sūrah al‐Mā’idah: 100).

One day, the Umayyad Caliph Hishām b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik (by now a regular associate of ours) said in the course of a gathering:

‘The idiocy of a person is gleaned from four characteristics: 1) The length of his beard; 2) The repugnancy of his patronymic (kunyā); 3) The engraving on his ring; and 4) The immoderation of his lustfulness.’

After uttering that speech, he turned his sight towards a man with a long beard who was sitting at the edge of the gathering, and summoned him to his person. When that man was in front of him, Hishām b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik commented, ‘That is already one such feature.’

He then interrogated him regarding his patronymic, and the man replied: ‘My kunyā is “the owner of the red hyacinth” (Abu’l‐Yāqūt al‐Ahmar).’ The Caliph (having ascertained the indelicate eccentricity of the man’s pompous patronymic) then asked, ‘What is the inscription on your ring?’. The man answered, «He (= Sulaymān, peace upon him) inspected the birds» (Sūrah an‐Naml: 20).’

Hishām b. ‘Abdi’l‐Malik sardonically concluded: «‘How is it that I do not see the hoopoe? Or is it absent without leave?» (Sūrah an‐Naml: 20)’ [That is, the man, in his excessive appetite and self-glamorization, wanted his “semblance of Solomon’s ring” to serve his material wishes].

 

b) Samples of bantering replies that occasion laughter

“Al‐ Jāhiz said:

Ju`ayfarān, known for being affected by abundant whispering, was walking alongside one of his close companions in the middle of the road, when that friend of his pushed him towards a dog. A stunned Ju`ayfarān exclaimed, ‘What was that?’. His friend replied, ‘I wanted you to begin an association with a dog.’

Ju`ayfarān commented, ‘And with whom have I been since we began our walk?’”.

[Ju`ayfarān b. ‘Alī b. Asfar b. as‐Sarī b. ‘Abdir‐Rahmān al‐Anbāwī was born and grew up in Baghdad. He leaned towards the partisanship of ‘Alī, may Allah be well pleased with him. Due to the fact that black bile overpowered him, his intellect would get muddled most of the time.

He did, however, compose poetry in which he confuted whoever alleged his mental disarray and lunacy, and called them liars].

***

Tawqān, a famous musician, drank some wine by the house of ash‐Sharīf ar‐Radī, whereupon his cloak got stolen. When he woke up, he realized that it had gone amiss,

and accordingly sighed, ‘My coat has been pilfered!’. Ash‐Sharīf said to him, ‘Glory be to Allah! Which one of us are you accusing?

Have you not learnt that an intoxicant is a carpet wherein things are folded up?’. Tawqān retorted, ‘Spread out your carpet that I can retrieve my cloak, and you can then fold it up until the Day of Rising!’.

[Muhammad b. al‐Husayn b. Mūsā, Abu’l‐Hasan, ar‐Radī al‐‘Alawī al‐Husaynī al‐Mūsawī, was the most famous exponent of the Tālibiyyīn. Born in Baghdad in 359 AH, where he passed away in the year 406 AH, he took over the chairmanship of the noble descendants of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, during the lifetime of his father. He authored seminal works on the subjects of Qur’ānic and Prophetic eloquence].

***

A glutton came upon a group of people, joined them and quickly consumed an abundant meal. One of those who were present said, ‘I am astonished by your eating and swallowing.’ Another fellow-diner commented, ‘Just one portion of his meal was chicken plus duck.’ A third one said, ‘His meal was a whole chicken and a duck.’

Yet another man in attendance observed, ‘It is as if Galen (= the famous doctor in ancient Greece) lay under his armpit!’.

The other three men said to the one who passed the last remark, ‘What we mentioned is well understood. What is, however, the meaning of your statement, ‘It is as if Galen lay under his armpit’?’. The man answered, ‘So that the digestive enzymes could metabolize it without him dying of indigestion.’

***

A descendant of ‘Alī, may Allah be pleased with him, said to Abu’l‐‘Aynā’, one of the wittiest eccentrics in Islamic history, ‘It is mandatory – as you have undoubtedly been commanded to send prayers on my person – for you to say, ‘O Allah, send prayers on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad.’

‘For sure!’, Abu’l‐‘Aynā’ retorted. ‘But if I were to add, “on the pure and righteous members of his family”, you would be ejected from the list.’

***

Yazīd b. Muhammad b. al‐Mulahhab (d. 259 AH), a famous poet, narrator of accounts and drinking companion of rulers, who  achieved fame in Baghdad though he was originally from al‐Basrah, used the same concept in the following poetical verses where he lambasted ‘Alī b. Muhammad al‐Warzanībī al‐‘Alawī, a military commander who led the revolt of the blacks against the Abbasids, and set up in the process a kind of socialist military encampment. He inter alia occupied the southern regions of Iraq and set the city of al‐Basrah alight. For 14 long years, the Baghdad‐based Abbasid Caliph was unable to crush his mutinous revolt, until, eventually, al‐Muwaffaq, reinforced by the troops under the command of Lu’lu’, crushed his insurgence conclusively.

The under‐mentioned verses were penned before al‐Mulahhab discovered the falsity of such insurrectionary’s allegation of a blood connection to ‘Alī, may Allah be thoroughly pleased with him, and

discovered that he was in fact an illegitimate child:

{You traitor who sacked alBasrah *:

For you glad tidings of

future ruin!

If you say, ‘The Prophet’s my granddad’,*

from the purely righteous ones you’re not

Allah in the Book Nūh’s

son expelled, *

as in the maze of kufr he did fall.}

***

Now, dear readers, I have to rebuke you for your remissness. You undertook not to let my recollection escape the promise to recount the anecdotes about the two women. I went on and on in the midst of your culpable silence, and it is only now that I’m quoting other material from al‐Husarī al‐Qayrawānī that I remembered the word I had given you. Ok, here’s the first, from al‐ Husarī’s largest opus, Zahr alĀdāb waThamar alAlbāb.

Qatrun‐Nadā, i.e. Asmā’ bint Khumārawayh b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn (d. 287 AH), is one of the famous women in Islamic history, renowned for joining beauty, exceptional intelligence and courteous refinement. The Abbasid Caliph al‐Mu`tadid proposed to her, and the marriage was contracted in 281 AH. She was given bridal gifts that no other spouse had been regaled with before.

Here is the text from the said work:

 

“When Qatrun‐Nadā, whose name was Asmā’ bint Khumārawayh b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn, was carried to the Calphal residence of al‐Mu`tadid, her father sent along with her a written message addressed to the ruler. Therein, he reminded him of the sacred inviolability that linked her ancestor with his, and mentioned the pompous pride associated with Caliphate as well as the majesty of such political office. He then asked him in that epistle to give her solace by his intimacy, and to expand her breast.

After she was taken to his palace in the bridal procession following the nuptials, she attained a very lofty place in his heart, and he found extreme delight in her company.

He then instructed the wazīr Abu’l‐Qāsim

‘Ubaydullāh b. Sulaymān b. Wahb to write a reply to her father’s said missive. The wazīr wanted to put it down in his own handwriting, but Abu’l‐Hasan b. Thawābah pleaded with him to give him preference over himself, and he obliged.

For a number of days, Abu’l‐Hasan b. Thawābah was nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, he came with a copy of his letter of reply. One passage thereof read: “As for the deposited asset, its status is that of an object which has been transferred from your right hand to your left one, because of your solicitous concern for the deposit, your circumspect handling thereof, and your loving attention for it”.

He approached the wazīr ‘Ubaydullāh, priding himself in the exquisiteness of his

imagery, and declaring, ‘My naming her an asset entrusted to the Caliph as a deposit is half of eloquence!’. ‘Ubaydullāh retorted, ‘How ugly an expression! You have found an inauspicious omen in a woman who has been carried as a bride to your master by comparing her to a deposit, although a deposit is something that is given back to its owner! Not only that: Your statement “from your right hand to your left one” is even more repugnant, because you made her father the right hand and the Commander of the Believers the left one!’ (…)

***

In spite of her physical beauty, Qatrun‐Nadā was characterized by an outstanding intellect. One day, al‐Mu`tadid withdrew in her company, to find genial fellowship in her person in a gathering from which he excluded any other person. Alone with him, she took his goblet from his hand, and he fell asleep on her thigh. When the arms of deep slumber encircled him, she moved his head onto a pillow, went out of the room, and sat in the courtyard of the royal castle, next to the door of the lounge where the gathering had been held. When he woke up without finding her, he called for her loudly. She quickly answered his call. He said, ‘What’s this? I have evacuated anyone else as a way of honouring and ennobling your person, and I handed my innermost self to you, to the exclusion of my concubines, and yet you place my head on a cushion?!’. ‘Commander of the Believers!’, she replied, ‘I have neither ignored the rank you have blessed me by nor the extent of your beneficence to me. However, part of what my father educated me by is that he said to me, ‘Do not sleep in the presence of people sitting in a place, and do not sit among those who are asleep’”.

 

Let us temporarily take a deliberate pause from the fulfilment of our word. As we mentioned bridal processions a short while ago, as‐Suyūtī, who was not only a hāfiz of hadīth boasting an impressively dilated palette of cognitive interests and pursuits, but also a lover of literature, as practically every ālim from our noble past was, authored a short book. In it, he made an anonymous human paradigm of each of the most common sciences of his time recount

the experience he had on the first night with his spouse. The parade takes us from the expert Qur’ānic reciter to the jurist, from the logician to the linguist, from the devotee of prosody or rhetoric to the professional scribe and the Sufi. The book, interweaving passages in prose and verses of poetry, is titled Rashf az-Zulāl min asSihr alHalāl (“Sipping fresh cooling water from the lawful magic”), where the “halāl magic” stands for enchantingly eloquent speech of an acceptable content.

In detailing his first night, every such savant expresses himself in accordance with the terminology of his specific branch of knowledge. What is inter alia evinced from the following passage, which records an arithmetician’s tasting of the first night after his nuptials, is that, whether in fiqh or literature, scholars were not shy of mentioning aspects of sexuality.

Shamefulness only attached, for them, to illicit sex:

 

“The arithmetician said: When the door was finally locked, and the woman’s long outer garment (jalbāb) was taken off, {Did a lambent light shine out * like

A moist plant that one’s hand has filled,

containing a vagina akin * to the number

twenty in one unit joined?}. A fat rhombus struck with its knee a whiteness that has been related from Ibn al‐Yasīn [= ‘Abdullāh b. Hajjāj, d. circa 560 AH / 1165 CE, who wrote a famous poem explaining the rules of algebra]. It has a square top, and a polygonal edge. I faced her with a penis that was a wide expanse of open land beyond the last houses of the town, and covered a huge distance, as if it were the props of mountains. It was eminently suited to the crescent shape, the penis. I hurled her onto the beddings as if making a subtraction [since the word tarh means subtraction in arithmetic, though the verb denotes the act of throwing or casting], and I hit the excess in the excess as if multiplying a supernumerary [given that darb stands for multiplication in his science, and the verb means to hit, strike, beat, while the word zā’id bears the general import of excess or surplus, and the specific import of the supernumerary in arithmetic]. I did some work on the foundation, as it is done on the exponent of a power. I inserted the penis up to the “root” in the breach, and I did not cease to hit (“multiply”) both the foundations [“the exponents of a power”) and the roots (being also the arithmetical “roots”], or to engage in a multiplication by which I mended the fractures [and thus the “fractions”]. Sometimes I would intentionally look in her for the path of squaring, as if to make a quadrangle, while at other times I would search for the direction enabling me to curve. On different occasions, I would compel the penis to incline to the left side, until the number of blossoming flowers managed to transcend twenty and reach up to the hundreds. I then explored the front part of a heptagon, after I exhausted the potential of a pentagon within a square”.

***

 The second story about women which I promised you about earlier comes from Ibn ‘Abdi Rabbih’s “The Peerless Necklace”, Al ‘Iqd alFarīd:

 

“It has been related from al‐Haytham from (his father) ‘Adiyy from (‘Abdullāh) Ibn ‘Abbās that he said: Mūsā as‐Salāmānī, the freed slave of al-Hadramī, who was the most affluent merchant in al‐Basrah, said the following:

 

I was sitting when a young servant of mine came in and said, ‘There is a man related to you on your mother’s side who is asking for leave to see you – his mother being in fact a freed slave of ‘Abdur‐ Rahmān b. ‘Awf.’ I told my attendant that he could let him in.

A youth then walked inside the room where I was seated. He had a sweet face, and from his bearing one could safely figure out that he was a Qurashite wearing two worn out garbs. I asked him, ‘Who are you, may Allah have mercy on you?’. He said in reply, ‘I am ‘Abdu’l‐Hamīd b. Suhayl b. ‘Abdir‐ Rahmān b. ‘Awf az‐Zuhrī (= the grandson of the great Companion, one of the ten who were guaranteed entry in the Garden in their own lifetimes), the maternal uncle of the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam.’ ‘Well, in terms of nearness, and broadly speaking’, I rectified.

I then turned to my servant and said, ‘Boy, treat him with reverence, honour and amiable kindness. Let him enter the bath, and robe him in a fine, soft‐fabric shirt, a white linen of the Qūhī variety and an ‘Umrī cloak, and make him wear two sandals from Hadramawt.

When the youth looked down his sides, pleased with his new appearance, he said, ‘Look at this! Seek for me the noblest virgin in al‐Basrah, or else the noblest woman who had previously tasted marriage.’ I asked, ‘Son of my brother, have you got wealth?’. He answered, ‘I am myself an asset of wealth!’. I said in an advisory tone, ‘Son of my brother, forget this matter.’ He replied in remonstration, ‘See what you are telling me!’. I made myself clearer, ‘The noblest woman in al‐Basrah who has been married before is Hind, the daughter of Abū Sufrah. She is a sister to ten people and a paternal auntie to ten as well. Her status among her people is well‐known to all. As for the noblest virgin in al‐Basrah, she is al‐Malā’ah, the daughter of Zurārah b. Awfā al‐Jarshī, the judge of al‐Basrah.’ He said, ‘Propose to the latter on my behalf.’ I retorted, ‘Man, her father is the judge of al‐Basrah!’ He insisted, ‘Let us head at once for his residence.’

The two of them thus proceeded to the mosque. The youth stepped forward and sat beside the judge. The judge asked him, ‘Who are you, son of my brother?’. The youth said to him in reply, ‘I am ‘Abdu’l‐Hamīd b. Suhayl b. ‘Abdir‐ Rahmān b. ‘Awf, the maternal uncle of the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam.’ ‘Welcome to you’, the judge remarked. ‘What is your need?’. ‘I came as a suitor’ was his answer. The judge inquired, ‘And which woman have you got in mind?’. He replied, ‘Your daughter al‐ Malā’ah.’ The judge said, ‘Son of my brother, she has no detestation for you and no desire for other than you’ [He thus made clear that he was not making any marriage proposal over a fellow Muslim brother’s].

The youth then approached me briskly, and I asked, ‘What did you do?’. He told me ‘this and that’, i.e. what had transpired.

I said, ‘Come back with us and refrain from proposing to her.’ The youth refused, ‘No, you must accompany us to her.’

We accordingly paid a visit to the house of Zurārah. A building with enclosed apartments stood in front of us. We asked leave to see her mother, who met us and told us a speech similar to what the old man, her father, had earlier verbalized in the mosque. Thereafter, she said, ‘There she is, in that room.’

I said to the youth, ‘Do not approach her.’ He was unmoved, ‘Is she not a virgin who never experienced marriage before?’. ‘For sure she is’, was my reply, so he said, ‘Come with us to her place.’

We requested permission to see her, and it was granted. We found her seated, wearing a Qūhī dress

of soft fabric, which was dyed red with safflower [hence it was very precious and expensive]. Behind that dress, she was wearing pants through which one could see the fairness of the skin of her body, together with a wrap (usually made of silk, wool or cotton) which she had gathered on her thighs. A mushaf of the Qur’ān was open in front of her on a chair. She closed the mushaf, joining its pages together, and put it aside.

We saluted her, and she returned our greeting and welcomed us. Thereafter she asked, ‘Who are you?’. The youth replied, ‘I am ‘Abdu’l‐Hamīd b. Suhayl b. ‘Abdir‐ Rahmān b. ‘Awf az-Zuhrī, the maternal uncle of the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam.’ He raised the tone of his voice as he answered her question. She said, ‘Man! This kind of tone is only reserved for the Sassanids (= the Persians from pre‐Islamic times)!’”.

Mūsā as‐Salāmānī, the narrator of the incident, said:  “My whole being was thrown upside down on hearing her reproof! She then added, ‘What is it that you need?’. He explained, ‘I came as a suitor.’ She asked, ‘And who have you got in mind?’. ‘I had you in mind’, he replied. She said, ‘Welcome to you, brother of the people of the Hijāz! What wealth is in your hands?’. He answered, ‘We have two lots in Khaybar which were given to us by the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam – and he raised his voice as he said that – as well as a spring in Egypt and another in al‐Yamāmah, in addition to some property in the Yemen’. ‘Chap!’, she said,  ‘All of those assets you have mentioned are away from us. What is it, however, that shall come into our hands from you? You know, I think that you want to make me like ‘Ikrimah’s sheep. Do you know who is ‘Ikrimah?’. He answered in the negative. She then said, ‘‘Ikrimah b. Raba`ī. He had grown up by the rural side, and subsequently relocated to al‐Basrah. He nourished himself with milk, whereafter he said to his wife, ‘Buy for us a sheep so that we can milk it, and you can prepare for us, from its milk, some beverages and pickles.’ She did as he requested.

They then had a sheep as their property until it was seized by sensual desire and sought a male companion. At that point, ‘Ikrimah’s wife said to their slave woman, ‘Come here. Grab the ear of the sheep and march with it to the breeder of billy goats, and let the sheep be mounted by a billy goat!’. The slave woman obliged. When she reached her destination, the breeder of billy goats said to her, ‘I shall take from you one silver coin for the sexual intercourse

between your sheep and my billy goat!’.

The slave woman retraced her steps to her mistress and informed her of his request. Her mistress commented, ‘We have only seen those who are merciful and give; as for one who is merciful and takes, we have never seen one such an exemplar!’. Brother of the inhabitants of al‐Madīnah! As for you, you merely wanted to turn me into the like of ‘Ikrimah’s sheep.’

When we left her house, I said to him, ‘You could have easily avoided all of this!’. He said in rebuttal, ‘I never thought that a woman would dare utter the like of her speech!’”.

[Al‐Malā’ah b. Zurārah was one of the virtuous women of her age. The great poet al‐Farazdaq celebrated her in a famous verse of his, where he explicitly mentioned her by name].

***

Now that I have kept my word, I feel lighter and relieved.

Talking about sleeping persons, the expert of hadīth Ibn Abid‐Dunyā, that gentle giant among admonishing instructors, wrote a whole pedagogical work of Islamic morals about dreams and people resting in the barzakh, AlManāmāt.

Let us grab a riveting bit from it:

 

“[The deceased’s rejoicing in his grave because of his son’s wholesome virtuosity”]

– Abū Bakr related to us: Abū Hishām related to us: Yahyā b. Yamān related to us from ‘Abdu’l‐Wahhāb from Mujāhid from his father that he said: ‘Surely the mu’min rejoices after his death for the virtuous wholesomeness of his child, in order for his eye to find coolness in that.’

Abū Bakr related to us: Muhammad b. al‐Husayn related to us: Khālid b. ‘Amr al‐Qurashī related to us: Sadaqah b. Sulaymān al‐Ja`farī related to us the following:

‘I had an evil youthful zeal and ardour. My father then passed away, and I grew up. I thus regretted the good which had eluded me in my young days. I thereafter lapsed into a serious error and I saw my father in a dream. He said: ‘My son, how intense has my delight in you been! Your actions are displayed to us, and we liken them to the deeds of the virtuous people. This time, however, I was deeply ashamed (of your slip). Make sure, please, that you do not

disgrace me among the dead people who are surrounding me’.’ Khālid (b. ‘Amr al‐Qurashī) went on to state:

Following that incident, the son devoted himself to worship and became infused with humility. I used to hear him supplicate as follows in the early pre‐dawn light – at a time when he was one of our neighbours in al‐Kūfah: ‘I ask You a returning to You allowing for no relapse and no recession, O You Who put the wholesome people right, O guide of those astray, O One Who is Merciful to the sinful wrongdoers’”.

***

Indeed, people are requited with equanimity in consonance with what emanated from them. Though not a prolific writer, Ibn ad‐Dāyah bequeathed to us a lovely work on recompense for actions and the outcomes of deeds, good or bad.

Let us listen together to the sound of a voice reaching us across the space of several centuries:

“‘Alī the medical practitioner, who was known as ad‐Daydān, was deeply conversant with the works of Plato, and the meanings of his philosophical symbols.

Besides his erudition, he excelled in the science of curing the sick.

He reported the following:

I went out in the company of a man called Ibn Barrūkh, who was one of the military generals in the service of the ruling Sultan. We headed for the Turkish city of Tarsus .

The said commander seized a hefty war booty comprising plentiful captives. The captives were kept in a dilapidated house by the site where the general had alighted and set up camp. I went inside the house in order to have a look at the prisoners. There was, among the combatants taken into captivity, a handsome youth of very fine manners, who was surrounded by most of his fellow captives. His rank among them resembled that of the master with his owned slaves: They would rush to fulfill whatever he hinted at, and would spare him the trouble of getting it by himself. I engaged one of the captives in a conversation regarding that lad, inquiring in the process about his identity. My interlocutor said to me, ‘He is one of Plato’s progeny!’. I felt joyful to have met him, because of all the benefit I had derived from his grandfather. I went to pay a visit to Ibn Barrūkh and said, ‘Gift me this captive as my private servant.’

He replied, ‘Take him.’

I called for a boy who could see to all my needs and cautiously take care of my affairs, and I described to him the lad who was lodged there among the captives. I said to that boy, ‘If Ibn Barrūkh’s servant surrenders him into my possession, feed him whatever food of mine you have prepared, dress him with my most sumptuous garb, perfume him with a lovely scent, and seat him in my usual place until I set out in your people’s direction.’

I then engrossed myself with Ibn Barrūkh’s affairs until late in the morning, whereupon I parted company with him.

I found the young lad in the outward shape which I had chosen for him as per my said instructions. He was intending to stand up, the way my servants were accustomed to do, but I stopped him from that.

He said to me in Latin, ‘My master! What is it that your self promised you to accomplish with me? If it is something I am capable of fulfilling, I shall strive to actualize it for your sake, as you would be rightfully entitled to. If, however, it falls beyond my capacity, I shall dissuade you from pursuing it further, and I shall turn you away from that, without my demanding from you to make such goal of yours a booty that is gained without effort, since that is not its nature.’ I

said to him in reply, ‘We have surely drawn from your grandfather refulgent lights by which his legacy to us acquired splendour, and on account of which we have become obligated to personally protect you.’ The youth commented, ‘By Allah! The innate dispositions which were found in our forefathers are still with us, but we have expended them in looking after pigs and breeding them. As a result, I have moved far away from the one you have accosted me to, and for whose sake you have honoured me.’

I then gave him the choice between travelling with me to my fatherland, Egypt, with the idea of making him a partner in my assets and my livelihood, or the implementation of a ruse whereby I would manage to send him back to his country. He chose the latter option. I then kindly lent him assistance, by sending some trustworthy persons along with the messengers chaperoning him back to his land, until he arrived safely at his destination”.

***

Readers who still pretend to be “shocked and dismayed” by al‐Jāhiz’s animated painting on bestiality, or as‐Suyūtī’s

rollicking shots on virile exploration, might find assuagement in this chaster tale of heightened yet doomed love. We have filtered it from the glutinous mass of prostate lovers’ woes as detailed by as‐Sarrāj in Masāri` alUshshāq:

 

“The professional scribe Muhammad b. Ja`far related to us from Muhammad b. al‐Hasan al‐Barjalānī from Ja`far b. Mu`ādh that the latter said: The devout worshipper Ahmad b. Sa`īd informed me from his father of what follows:

There was among us in al‐Kūfah a youth devoted to assiduous worship. He used to cling unfalteringly to the main mosque where the Jum`ah used to be prayed, and hardly left its premises. He had a comely face and a pleasant build, and was gifted with an endearing mode of conduct. A beautiful and intelligent woman stared at him one day, and she fell in love with him.

Her infatuation engrossed her for a lengthy period.

One day she stood by one spot on the road, waiting for him to make his appearance as he was directed to the mosque. On his arrival, she said to him, ‘Young man, listen to a speech of mine, whereupon you are free to do whatever you like.’ He went past her without talking to her.

Subsequently to that day, she again lurked on the road in wait for him, this time as he was heading for home. She addressed him thus, ‘Young man, please listen to some words I want to share with you.’ He bowed his head in silence, and then said to her, ‘This is a situation which arouses suspicions. I verily dislike to be made prey to accusations.’ She said to him in reply, ‘By Allah! I did not embark on this step without knowledge of your affair. Rather, may one seek refuge in Allah if any one of His slaves should look forward with longing to the like of what I am consumed with now. What led me to personally meet you concerning this matter is my awareness that a little of this is seen as something big by people, while you, assembly of solicitous worshippers, resemble the narrow long‐necked bottles, in that the slightest thing suffices in casting blame on your persons. The long and short of what I want to convey to you by my words is that all my limbs are engrossed with you.

Beware, beware of Allah in the matter between you and me.’

The youth left for his home, and resolved on performing some prayer. He was, however, unable to understand what he was saying in his devotions, or even the correct way prayer should be performed. He accordingly took a piece of paper, wrote down a message therein, and moved out of his house. Lo! the woman was still standing by her place. He handed her the piece of paper, and marched back to his house.

The following was written in the sheet of paper: “In the Name of Allah, the All‐Merciful, the Most Merciful: Know, woman, that if Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, is disobeyed, He treats the sinner clemently, and if the slave stumbles once more into error, He screens that from people’s sights.

If, however, the slave were to don the garment of peccant rebelliousness as his regular garb, Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, becomes enraged for His own sake with a wrath in the presence of which the heavens and earths contract, and the mountains, trees and animals shrivel. Who is the one who can endure His anger? If

what you have mentioned is false, I then remind you «of the Day when mankind will be like scattered moths, and the mountains like tufts of coloured wool»

[Sūrah al‐Qāri`ah: 3‐4], and when entire nations will genuflect to the pouncing force of the Magnificent Subduer. By Allah, I have been disabled, in my frailty, from putting my own self right, so how can I possibly put somebody else right?! If, by contrast, what you have stated corresponds to the truth, I shall guide you to the One Who offers a therapy for this and attends solicitously to the wounds that cause illness and to the doleful aches that wears out a person in grief and sorrow. That healer is Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. Direct yourself to Him, therefore, with a truthful entreaty, since I am indeed busied away from you through the medium of His statement, the Mighty and the Majestic: «And warn them of the Day of Immediacy when hearts rise chocking to the throat. The wrongdoers will have no close friend nor any intercessor who might be heard» [Sūrah Ghāfir: 18‐19, 17‐18 as per Warsh’s riwāyah]. Where is the place of refuge from this āyah which one can possibly repair to?”.

After a few days from receipt of the letter, she went out, intent on stopping him on his way. As soon as she noticed her from afar, he wanted to retrace his steps to his residence, so that he might avoid seeing her.

She said, however, ‘Youth, do not turn back! There will never be any more encounter between you and me after this day, save before Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic.’ She broke into intense weeping, whereafter she said, ‘I beseech Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He, in whose Hand the keys of your heart are found, to ease that part of your affair which had proven difficult.’ Having said that, she followed in his footsteps and said, ‘Graciously bestow on me an exhortation which I can receive from you, and gift me an admonishing instruction which I can act by.’ The youth

said to her in reply, ‘I urge you to safeguard your self from yourself, and I remind you of His statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «It is He who takes you back to Himself at night, while knowing the things you

perpetrate by day» [Sūrah al‐An`ām: 60, 61 in the Warsh mushaf].’

She bowed her hand and remained silent, and she wept more intensely than the previous time. She then recovered her self-control and said, ‘By Allah, no female carried in her womb or delivered the like of you in our city and in our districts.’

She followed up that statement by reciting some verses of poetry, which concluded as follows:

{No armour in this matter I shall wear, *

nor will I lean on the pleasures of this life.}

Thereafter, she clang to her house and began to engage in worship. Whenever a matter exhausted her, she would ask for his written message and place it on her eyes.

She used to be asked, ‘Does it avail anything?’, whereupon she would say as a repartee, ‘Do I have any cure other than it?’. Every time that night descended on her, she would stand by the mihb in her room, and if she prayed she would utter at the end of her oration:

{Inheritor of the earth, gift me from You

forgiveness, *

from love for this forsaking man

nearby unfastened

Look at my want,

You to whom pain’s lamented, *

by that one look

that every sorrow sunders.}

She remained unceasingly in that state until she died of grief. After her departure from this world, the youth used to mention her and weep over her fate. He was questioned about that attitude thus, ‘Where does your weeping issue from, given that you are indeed the one who caused her desperation?’. He would say in reply, ‘I tasted the fragrance of her person in my being since our first contact, and I made the severance of further relations with her a

treasure stored with Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, on behalf of my soul. I surely fear from Allah that He might reclaim the riches I have deposited with Him.’

Shaykh Abu’l‐Qāsim al‐Azajī, may Allah have mercy on him, said to us:

‘I came across an addition to the story, heard from our teacher az‐Zaynī, may Allah have mercy on him, in a manuscript. It read as follows:

The girl was then afflicted at once in her body. The doctor used to cut some of her flesh, as he was acquainted with her story with the youth. Whenever he resolved on cutting a piece of her flesh, he would entertain her with the mention of the youth, and she consequently experienced no pain, nor did she moan achingly. As soon as he had completed that operation, and stopped making mention of his person, she would wail and grumble. That remained her condition all the way until she passed away due to sadness”.

***

We began our stroll with a sapient bandit, and we have chanced now upon the honest scion of one of the foremost luminaries of philosophy. Had we taken a leaf from the cyclical style of composition of a Liszt or a Franck, we would have ended on this note.

But I feel I have not done full justice to one of our friends, remember?, the caretaker of the public bath we encountered in the account by al‐Jāhiz, whose agnomen is still buzzing in my mind.

No harm, then, in nearly sealing this short journey by learning some etiquettes on frequenting one such bath, from the pen of a notable Sufi and muhaddith, the Egyptian ‘Abdur‐Ra’ūf al‐Munāwī (in AnNuzhah azZakiyyah fī Ahkām al-Hammām ashShar`iyyah wa atTibbiyyah = “The Splendid Promenade on the Legal and Medical Rulings pertaining to Public Baths”):

 

“It befits a person making use of a public bath to exit the bath section as soon as he begins to feel pain in his body and strain in his self. The author of the book AlIrshād said: “Beware of entering or exiting the bath in a rush. You must rather linger on for a while in each room. Just as one fears palpitations in the heart and feebleness in the abdomen if he were to walk inside it at once, without any preparation, in the same way a man heated by a bath ought to avoid the risk of aching joints, catching a cold or getting ill with bronchial catarrh, or the risk of twitches and convulsions which might befall him as a result of hastening out of it. As for the person whose body temperature is low prior to entering the bath, he might be affected by congelation, shivers or incontinence of urine in the event that he precipitately storms inside the bath”.

One savant said:

“When one wishes to come out of a public bath, it befits him to cool off his extremities with some cold water, i.e. he moistens his hand and wipes his extremities with such cool water”. He further wipes his face with it, especially in summer, provided his body can take that and he suffers from no ailments in his head.

It might occur, however, that one affected by headache accompanied by high temperature needs to apply a lot of cold water on his head. Some of the Europeans used to anoint their heads with a bit of grease or with oil cooked in lime water.

After doing the aforesaid, they would not be able to endure pouring cold water over their heads. They allege that such a practice shields one from the danger of catching a cold.

It is likewise demanded of the one intending to walk out of a public bath to wipe his body dry with a clean towel. Anything, else, in fact, would block the pores of one’s skin or cause leprosy.

The user of such a bath is required to spend some time by the entrance room, and to place on his body cotton perfumed with the like of citron water”.

***

A perfect mix of human and animal prowess is found in the art of hunting and diving, on

which the Yemeni expert of plants, history and literature an‐Nāshirī wrote a mono-thematic book.

It is thus suitable as a coda to our anthology.

An odd and pleasant character, this an‐Nāshirī (d. 926 AH)! The famous hāfiz (a word which in Islamic terminology denotes a profound expert of hadīth, and not a mere memorizer of the sounds of the Qur’ān) as‐Sakhāwī personally met him in Makkah, and mentioned thereafter that his was a kind, cheerfully romping personality, and that he was a man given to marrying several women in his lifetime.

We wrest but one anecdote from his Intihāz alFuras as-Sayd wa alQanas:

 

“The Sultan Abu’l‐Fath, i.e. King Shāh b. Alb Arslān Muhammad b. Dāwud b. Saljūq [= a ruler from the Seljuk dynasty of Turkish stock, whose epithet was Jalāl ad‐Dawlah Malik‐shāh or simply Malik Shāh. He was the Seljuk Sultan from 1072 to 1092 CE. He expanded Seljuk power into Greater Syria at the expense of the Egypt‐based Shī`ī “Fatimids”, in the process setting up client princes in Edessa, Aleppo and Damascus)]ruled over a vast expanse of land exceeding in scope that of any of the preceding Muslim kings, save for the earlier Caliphs of Islam. Longitudinally, his realm extended from Kāshghar, an (oasis) city by the farthest extremity of Turkish lands, to Jerusalem, while, from a latitudinal point of view, it spanned the area from Constantinople to the region of the Khazar inside Indian territory.

[The celebrated historian] Ibn Khallikān said the following (in his biographical opus Wafayāt alA`yān): “He was eagerly devoted to hunting, so much so that it has been mentioned that he personally caught 10 000 preys. He gave in money a corresponding sadaqah of 10 000 gold coins”, after he had already handed a hefty sum in sadaqah. “He said in that connection: ‘I fear, vis‐à‐vis Allah, glory to Him, the consequences of annihilating creatures endowed with spirits without eating any such prey (= hunting them down without any need for food).’ After he expressed his said concern, he began to give out one gold coin in sadaqah for every prey which he successfully hunted. One day, he exited al‐Kūfah in order to bid farewell to the pilgrims heading for the hajj. He traversed al‐‘Udhayb (a valley situated in the outskirts of al‐Kūfah), and, in his travel across that locality, he caught plentiful wild animals. He decided to build therein a lighthouse made of hooves of wild donkeys and horns of gazelles from among the game he had triumphantly gained during that very same hunting expedition”.

Ibn Khallikān added: “That lighthouse is still in existence in our time”. Likewise has the anecdote been mentioned by the Aden‐born al‐Yāfi`ī in his History (= Mir’āt alJanān waIbrah al Yaqzān).

The lighthouse (known as the Lighthouse of the Horns) was erected in the year 480 AH, while Ibn Khallikān passed away in 681 AH.

Accordingly, it had stood intact for 201 years until the later date of Ibn Khallikān’s death. Not only that: It was still up and functioning during the lifetime of Ibn Abī Hajalah [Shihāhub-Dīn Ahmad b. Yahyā at-Tilimsānī], who is an ālim from the late generations, and one who lived after asSafadī [= the savant who authored the said work on blind people in Islam] [2]. Ibn Khallikān said:

“The Abbasid Caliph al‐Muqtadir billāh married a daughter of the afore‐mentioned Jalālud‐Dawlah as‐Saljūqī. The envoy who delivered the marriage proposal to her royal guardian was Shaykh Abū Ishāq ash‐Shīrāzī, the author of (the revered books on Shāfi`ī fiqh) AtTanbīh and AlMuhadhdhab.

The Abbasid Caliph dispatched Shaykh Abū Ishāq ash‐Shīrāzī to Nishapur (in Persia) to fulfill the said mandate. The inhabitants of Nishapur were accustomed to take the soil that had been treaded by Abū Ishāq ash‐Shīrāzī’s she‐mule, and used to seek blessing by carrying it with them”.

When Abū Ishāq resolved on riding his she-mule, the Imām of the Haramayn, the great scholar ‘Abdu’l‐Malik al‐Juwaynī, grabbed the stirrups of the mule so as to prevent the saddle from bending. He did so as a mark of ennoblement of Abū Ishāq on his part.

The daughter of the Seljuk Sultan was carried in a bridal procession to the residence of the Abbasid Caliph in the year 480 AH. She gave birth to a son of his named Ja`far.

Malik Shāh went out of Baghdad to take part in a hunting expedition. He caught some wild game and ate from their meat. Shortly after partaking of it, illness developed in his body. He adopted a middle course in the treatment of his ailment, and did not remove much blood from himself (by cupping). He returned to Baghdad in a sick condition, and met his death two days after his comeback to that city, on 16 Shawwāl 480 AH”.

 

 



[1] Abū Righāl, whose name was Zayd b. Mukhlif, was a slave of the Prophet Sālih, peace upon him. Sālih, peace upon him, sent him to collect some sadaqah. He arrived at the habitations of a group of people who had no milk except from a single sheep. They had one child whose mother had died, and they were treating him with the milk of that sheep, which was his sole nutriment.

Abū Righāl requested them to hand the sheep to him, refusing in the process to accept from

them any substitute for it as sadaqah. They said to him, ‘Leave aside the sheep, by which we are seeking to enliven this child’, but he declined their petition.

It is said that a calamitous event struck him from heaven, as well as that the owner of the sheep killed him. When Sālih, peace upon him, realized that he was not to be found, he stood up at the time of the people’s seasonal festivity, and urged them to return him to his person. He was accordingly clued about what his slave had done, and he cursed him. His grave is located between Makkah and atTā’if. In the past, people used to pelt it with stones.

[2] Ibn Abī Hajalah met his death in 776 AH, twelve years after as-Safadī.



[1] Fākhitah was the name of Mu`āwiyah’s wife .

 



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