Richard Francis Burton.

The book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) online

. (page 36 of 38)
Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 36 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in the family-annals of a certain Pir or religious teacher. See History of Sindh (p. 230)
jand Sind Revisited (i. 156).

2 In the texts, " Sixth."

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers.- 337

Nofo foben it foas the Nine f^unUtcU anto lEtgfjtp-sixtf) Nig&t,

She resumed, It hath reached me, auspicious King, that
Abdullah bin Fazil said to his brothers, " Rejoice ye in the
prospect of comfort and gladness." And when they heard his
words they fell to whining with the whining of dogs, and rubbed
their jowls against his feet, as if blessing him and humbling them-
selves before him. He mourned over them and took to stroking
their backs till supper time ; and when they set on the trays he
bade the dogs sit. So they sat down and ate with him from the
tray, whilst his officers stood gaping and marvelling at his eating
with dogs and all said, " Is he mad or are his wits gone wrong ?
How can the Viceroy of Bassorah city, he who is greater than a
Wazir, eat with dogs ? Knoweth he not that the dog is unclean 1 ? "
And they stared at the dogs, as they ate with him as servants eat
with their lords, 2 knowing not that they were his brothers ; nor did
they cease staring at them, till they had made an end of eating,
when Abdullah washed his hands and the dogs also put out their
paws and washed ; whereupon all who were present began to laugh
at them and to marvel, saying, one to other, " Never in our lives
saw we dogs eat and wash their paws after eating ! " Then the
dogs sat down on the divans beside Abdullah, nor dared any ask
him of this ; and thus the case lasted till midnight, when he dis-
missed the attendants and lay down to sleep and the dogs with
him, each on a couch ; whereupon the servants said one to other,
" Verily, he hath lain down to sleep and the two dogs are lying
with him." Quoth another, " Since he hath eaten with the dogs
from the same tray, there is no harm in their sleeping with him ;
and this is naught save the fashion of madmen." Moreover, they
ate not anything of the food which remained in the tray, saying,
" 'Tis unclean." Such was their case ; but as for Abdullah, ere he
could think, the earth clave asunder and out rose Sa'idah, who said
to him, " O Abdullah, why hast thou not beaten them this night
and why hast thou undone the collars from their necks ? Hast thou

1 Arab. "Najis "= ceremonially impure especially the dog's mouth like the cow's
mouth amongst the Hindus ; and requiring after contact the Wuzu-ablution before the
Moslem can pray.

2 Arab. "Aid al-hashamah" (hashamah:= retinue ; hishmah = reverence, bashfulness)
which may also mean "decorously and respectfully," according to the" vowel-points.


338 Alf Laylah wa Laylak.

acted on this wise perversely and in mockery of my command-
ment ? But I will at once beat thee and spell thee into a dog like
them." He replied, " O my lady, I conjure thee by the graving
upon the seal-ring of Solomon David-son (on the twain be peace !)
have patience with me till I tell thee my cause and after do with
me what thou wilt." Quoth she, " Say on," and quoth he, " The
reason of my not punishing them is only this. The King of man-
kind, the Commander of the Faithful, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid,
ordered me not to beat them this night and took of me oaths and
covenants to that effect ; and he saluteth thee with the salam and
hath committed to me a mandate under his own hand, which he
bade me give thee. So I obeyed his order for to obey the Com-
mander of the Faithful is obligatory ; and here is the mandate.
Take it and read it and after work thy will." She replied, " Hither
with it ! " So he gave her the letter and she opened it and read as
follows, " In the name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Com-
passionate ! From the King of mankind, Harun al-Rashid, to the
daughter of the Red King, Sa'idah ! But, after. Verily, this man
hath forgiven his brothers and hath waived his claim against them,
and we have enjoined them to reconciliation. Now, when recon-
ciliation ruleth, retribution is remitted, and if you of the Jinn
contradict us in our commandments, we will contrary you in yours
and traverse your ordinances ; but, an ye obey our bidding and
further our orders, we will indeed do the like with yours. Where-
fore I bid thee hurt them no hurt, and if thou believe in Allah
and in His Apostle, it behoveth thee to obey and us to com-
mand. 1 So an thou spare them, I will requite thee with that
whereto my Lord shall enable me ; and the token of obedience is
that thou remove thine enchantment from these two men, so they
may come before me to-morrow, free. But an thou release them
not, I will release them in thy despite, by the aid of Almighty
Allah." When she had read the letter, she said, " O Abdullah, I
will do nought till I go to my sire and show him the mandate of
the monarch of mankind and return to thee with the answer in
haste." So saying, she signed with her hand to the earth, which
clave open and she disappeared therein, whilst Abdullah's heart
was like to fly for joy and he said, "Allah advance the Com-
mander of the Faithful ! " As for Sa'idah, she went in to her
father ; and, acquainting him with that which had passed, gave

1 i.e. as the Vice- regent of Allah and Vicar of the Prophet.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 339

him the Caliph's letter, which he kissed and laid on his head.
Then he read it and understanding its contents said, " O my
daughter, verily, the ordinance of the monarch of mankind
obligeth us and his commandments are effectual over us, nor
can we disobey him : so go thou and release the two men forth-
with and say to them : Ye are freed by the intercession of the
monarch of mankind. For, should he be wroth with us, he would
destroy us to the last of us ; so do not thou impose on us that
which we are unable." Quoth she, " O my father, if the monarch
of mankind were wroth with us, what could he do with us ? "; and
quoth her sire, " He hath power over us for several reasons. In
the first place, he is a man and hath thus pre-eminence over us 1 ;
secondly he is the Vicar of Allah ; and thirdly, he is constant in
praying the dawn-prayer of two bows 2 ; therefore were all the
tribes of the Jinn assembled together against him from the Seven
Worlds they could do him no hurt. But he, should he be wroth
with us would pray the dawn-prayer of two bows and cry out
upon us one cry, when we should all present ourselves before him
obediently and be before him as sheep before the butcher. If he
would, he could command us to quit our abiding-places for a
desert country wherein we might not endure to sojourn ; and if he
desired to destroy us, he would bid us destroy ourselves, where-
upon we should destroy one another. Wherefore we may not dis-
obey his bidding for, if we did this, he would consume us with
fire nor could we flee from before him to any asylum. Thus is it
with every True Believer who is persistent in praying the dawn-
prayer of two bows ; his commandment is effectual over us : so
be not thou the means of our destruction, because of two mortals,
but go forthright and release them, ere the anger of the Com-
mander of the Faithful fall upon us." So she returned to Ab-
dullah and acquainted him with her father's words, saying, " Kiss
for us the hands of the Prince of True Believers and seek his
approval for us." Then she brought out the tasse and filling it
with water, conjured over it and uttered words which might not
be understood ; after which she sprinkled the dogs with the water
saying, " Quit the form of dogs and return to the shape of
men ! Whereupon they became men as before and the spell of the
enchantment was loosed from them. Quoth they, " I testify that

1 For the superiority of mankind to the Jinn see vol. viii. 5 ; 44.

3 According to Al-Siyuti, Harun AJ-Rashid prayed every day a hundred bows.

34 -A If Laylah wa Laylah.

there is no god but the God and I testify that Mohammed is the
Apostle of God ! " Then they fell on their brother's feet and
hands, kissing them and beseeching his forgiveness : but he said,
"Do ye forgive me;" and they both repented with sincere re-
pentance, saying, " Verily, the damned Devil lured us and covetise
deluded us : but our Lord hath requited us after our deserts, and
forgiveness is of the signs of the noble." And they went on to
supplicate their brother and weep and profess repentance for that
which had befallen him from them 1 . Then quoth he to them,
" What did ye with my wife whom I brought from the City of
Stone?'* Quoth they, "When Satan tempted us and we cast
thee into the sea, there arose strife between us, each saying, I
will have her to wife. Now when she heard these words and
beheld our contention, she knew that we had thrown thee into the
sea ; so she came up from the cabin and said to Us : Contend not
because of me, for I will not belong to either of you. My husband
is gone into the sea and I will, follow him. So saying, she cast
herself overboard and died." Exclaimed Abdullah, " In very sooth
she died a martyr 2 ! But there is no Majesty and there is no
Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great ! " Then he wept for
her with sore weeping and said to his brothers, " It was not well
of you to do this deed and bereave me of my wife." They
answered, " Indeed, we have sinned, but our Lord hath requited
us our misdeed and this was a thing which Allah decreed unto us,
ere He created us." And he accepted their excuse ; but Sa'idah
said to him, " Have they done all these things to thee and wilt
thou forgive them ? " He replied, " O my sister, whoso hath power*
and spareth, for Allah's reward he prepareth." Then said she,
" Be on thy guard against them, for they are traitors ;" and fare-
welled him and fared forth. And Shahrazad perceived the

dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

Koto tofjen it foas tije Nine f^un&rrti antr 3Eigf)tg=Sbent|) 1Srfgf)t,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah,
when Sa'idah warned him and blessed him and went her ways,

1 As the sad end of his betrothed was still to be accounted for.

2 For the martyrdom of the drowned see vol. i, 171, to quote no other places.

3 i.e. if he have the power to revenge himself. The sentiment is Christian rather
.than Moslem.

Abdullah bin Fasil and his Brothers. 341

passed the rest of the night with his brothers and on the morrow,
he sent them to the Hammam and clad each of them, on his
coming forth, in a suit worth a hoard of money. Then he called
for the tray of food and they set it before him and he ate, he and
his brothers. When his attendants saw the twain and knew them
for his brothers they saluted them and said to him, " O our lord,
Allah give thee joy of thy reunion with thy dear brothers!
Where have they been this while?" He replied, " It was they
whom ye saw in the guise of dogs ; praise be to Allah who hath
delivered them from prison and grievous torment ! " Then he
carried them to the Divan of the Caliph and kissing ground before
Al-Rashid wished him continuance of honour and fortune and
surcease of evil and enmity." Quoth the Caliph, " Welcome, O
Emir Abdullah ! Tell me what hath befallen thee." And quoth
he, " O Commander of the Faithful (whose power Allah increase !)
when I carried my brothers home to my lodging, my heart was at
rest concerning them, because thou hadst pledged thyself to their
release and I said in myself, " Kings fail not to attain aught for
which they strain, inasmuch as the divine favour aideth them." So
I took off the collars from their necks, putting my trust in Allah,
and ate with them from the same tray, which when my suite saw,
they made light of my wit and said each to other, " He is surely
mad ! How can the governor of Bassorah who is greater than the-
Wazir, eat with dogs ? " Then they threw away what was in the'
tray, saying, " We will not eat the dogs' orts." And they went on
befool my reason, whilst I heard their words, but returned them
no reply because of their unknowing that the dogs were my
brothers. When the hour of sleep came, I sent them away and
addressed myself to sleep ; but, ere I was ware, the earth clave in
sunder and out came Sa'idah, the Red King's daughter, enraged
against me, with eyes like fire." And he went on to relate to the
Caliph all what had passed between him and her and her father
and how she had transmewed his brothers from canine to human
form, adding, " And here they are before thee, O Commander of
the Faithful ! " The Caliph looked at them and seeing two young
men like moons, said, " Allah requite thee for me with good, O
Abdullah, for that thou hast acquainted me with an advantage 1 I

1 i.e. the power acquired (as we afterwards learn) by the regular praying of the dawn-
prayer. It is not often that The Nights condescend to point a moral or inculcate a
lesson as here ; and we are truly thankful for the immunity.

342 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

knew not ! Henceforth, Inshallah, I will never leave to pray
these two-bow orisons, before the breaking of the dawn, what while
I live." Then he reproved Abdullah's brothers for their past
transgressions against him and they excused themselves before
the Caliph, who said, "Join hands 1 and forgive one another and
Allah pardon what is past ! " Upon which he turned to Abdullah
and said to him, " O Abdullah, make thy brothers thine assistants
and be careful of them." Then he charged them to be obedient
to their brother and bade them return to Bassorah after he had
bestowed on them abundant largesse. So they went down from
the Caliph's Divan whilst he rejoiced in this advantage he had
obtained by the action aforesaid, to wit, persistence in praying two
inclinations before dawn, and exclaimed, He spake truth who
said, " The misfortune of one tribe fortuneth another tribe." *
On this wise befel it to them from the Caliph ; but as regards
Abdullah, he left Baghdad carrying with him his brothers in all
honour and dignity and increase of quality, and fared on till they
drew near Bassorah, when the notables and chief men of the place
came out to meet them and after decorating the city brought
them thereinto with a procession which had not its match and all
the folk shouted out blessings on Abdullah as he scattered
amongst them silver and gold. None, however, took heed to his
brothers ; wherefore jealousy and envy entered their hearts, for all
he entreated them tenderly as one tenders an ophthalmic eye ; but
the more he cherished them, the more they redoubled in hatred
and envy of him : and indeed it is said on the subject :

I'd win good will of every one, but whoso envies me Will not be won on

any wise and makes mine office hard :
How gain the gree of envious wight who coveteth my good, <* When naught will

satisfy him save to see my good go marr'd ?

Then he gave each a concubine that had not her like, and eunuchs
and servants and slaves white and black, of each kind forty. He
also gave each of them fifty steeds all thoroughbreds and they got
them guards and followers ; and he assigned to them revenues and
appointed them solde and stipends and made them his assistants,

1 Arab. " Musafahah " which, I have said, serves for our shaking hands : and extends
over wide regions. They apply the palms of the right hands flat to each other without
squeezing the fingers and then raise the latter to the forehead. Pilgrimage ii. 332, has
also been quoted.

2 Equivalent to our saying about an ill wind, etc.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 343

saying to them, " O my brothers, I and you are equal and there
is no distinction between me and you twain, -And Shah-
razad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted

foljen it foas t&e Nine f^un&rclr anto lig!)tn=Eigf)t!) Nigtt,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that
Abdullah assigned stipends to his brothers and made them his
assistants, saying, " O my brothers, I and you are equal and there
is no distinction between me and you twain, and after Allah and
the Caliph, the commandment is mine and yours. So rule you at
Bassorah in my absence and in my presence, and your command-
ments shall be effectual ; but look that ye fear Allah in your
ordinances and beware of oppression, which if it endure depopu-
lateth ; and apply yourselves to justice, for justice, if it be prolonged,
peopleth a land. Oppress not the True Believers, or they will
curse you and ill report of you will reach the Caliph, wherefore
dishonour will betide both me and you. Go not therefore about
to violence any, but whatso ye greed for of the goods of the folk,
take it from my goods, over and above that whereof ye have
need; for 'tis not unknown to you what is handed down in the
Koran of prohibition versets on the subject of oppression and
Allah-gifted is he who said these couplets :

Oppression ambusheth in sprite of man o Whom naught withholdeth

save the lack of might :
The sage shall ne'er apply his wits to aught o Until befitting time direct his

sight :
The tongue of Wisdom woneth in the heart ; o And in his mouth the tongue

of foolish wight.
Who at occasion's call lacks power to rise o Is slain by feeblest who would

glut his spite-
A man may hide his blood and breed, but aye <* His deeds on darkest hidden*

cast a light.
Wights of ill strain with ancestry as vile o Have lips which never spake

one word aright :
And who committeth case to hands of fool o In folly proveth self as fond

and light ;
And who his secret tells to folk at large o Shall rouse his foes to work

him worst despight.
Suffice the generous what regards his lot o Nor meddles he with aught

regards him not.

344 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

And he went on to admonish his brothers and bid them to equity
and forbid them from tyranny, doubting not but they would love
him the better for his boon of good counsel ! and he relied upon
them and honoured them with the utmost honour ; but notwith-
standing all his generosity to them, they only waxed in envy
and hatred of him, till, one day, the two being together alone,
quoth Nasir to Mansur, " O my brother, how long shall we be
mere subjects of our brother Abdullah, and he in this estate of
lordship and worship ? After being a merchant, he is become an
Emir, and from being little, he is grown great : but we, we grow
not great nor is there aught of respect or degree left us ; for, be-
hold, he laugheth at us and maketh us his assistants ! What is the
meaning of this ? Is it not that we are his servants and under his
subjection ? But, long as he abideth in good case, our rank will
never be raised nor shall we be aught of repute ; wherefore we
shall not fulfil our wish, except we slay him and win to his wealth,
nor will it be possible to get his gear save after his death. So,
when we have slain him, we shall become lords and will take all
that is in his treasuries of gems and things of price and divide
them between us. Then will we send the Caliph a present and
demand of him the government of Cufah, and thou shalt be
governor of Cufah and I of Bassorah. Thus each of us shall have
formal estate and condition, but we shall never effect this, except
we put him out of the world ! " Answered Mansur, " Thou sayest
sooth, but how shall we do to kill him ? Quoth Nasir, " We will make
an entertainment in the house of one of us and invite him thereto
and serve him with the uttermost service. Then will we sit through
the night with him in talk and tell him tales and jests and rare
stories till his heart melteth with sitting up when we will spread
him a bed, that he may lie down to sleep. When he is asleep,
we will kneel upon him and throttle him and throw him into the
river ; and on the morrow, we will say: His sister the Jinniyah
came to him, as he sat chatting with us, and said to him : O
thou scum of mankind, who art thou that thou shouldst complain
of me to the Commander of the Faithful ? Deemest thou that we
dread him ? As he is a King, so we too are Kings, and if he mend
not his manners in our regard we will do him die by the foulest of
deaths. But meantime I will slay thee, that we may see what the
hand of the Prince of True Believers availeth to do. So saying,

A proof of his extreme simplicity and bonhomie.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 345

she caught him up and clave the earth and disappeared with him
which when we saw, we swooned away. Then we revived and we
reck not what is become of him. And saying this we will send to
the Caliph and tell him the case and he will invest us with the
government in his room. After awhile, we will send him a sump-
tuous present and seek of him the government of Cufah, and one
ofus shall abide in Bassorah and the other in Cufah. So shall
the land be pleasant to us and we will be down upon the True
Believers and win our wishes." And quoth Mansur, " Thou coun-
sellest well, O my brother," and they agreed upon the murther.
So Nasir made an entertainment and said to Abdullah, " O my
brother, verily I am thy brother, and I would have thee hearten
my heart thou and my brother Mansur and eat of my banquet in
my house, so I may boast of thee and that it may be said, The-
Emir Abdullah hath eaten of his brother Nasir's guest meal ;
when my heart will be solaced by this best of boons." Abdullah
replied, " So be it, O my brother ; there is no distinction between
me and thee and thy house is my house ; but since thou invitest
me, none refuseth hospitality save the churl." Then he turned to
Mansur and said to him, " Wilt thou go with me to thy brother
Nasir's house and we will eat of his feast and heal his heart ? ' :
Replied Mansur, " As thy head liveth, O my brother, I xvill not
go with thee, unless thou swear to me that, after thou comest
forth of brother Nasir's house, thou wilt enter my house and eat
of my banquet ! Is Nasir thy brother and am not I thy brother?
So, even as thou heartenest his heart, do thou hearten mine."
Answered Abdullah, " There is no harm in that : with love and
gladly gree ! When I come out from Nasir's house, I will enter
thine, for thou art my brother even as he." So he kissed his
hand and going forth of the Divan, made ready his feast. On the
morrow, Abdullah took horse and repaired, with his brother
Mansur and a company of his officers, to Nasir's house, where
they sat down, he and Mansur and his many. Then Nasir set
the trays before them and welcomed them'; so they ate and drank
and sat in mirth and merriment ; after which the trays and the
platters were removed and they washed their hands. They passed
the day in feasting and wine-drinking and diversion and delight
till night-fall, when they supped and prayed the sundown prayers,
and the night orisons ; after which they sat conversing and ca-
rousing, and Nasir and Mansur fell to telling stories whilst Ab-
dullah hearkened. Now they three were alone in the pavilion,

346 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

the rest of the company being in another place, and they ceased
not to tell quips and tales and rare adventures and anecdotes, till
Abdullah's heart was dissolved within him for watching and sleep

overcame him. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

Nob fofjen ft foas tlje jlt'ne f^un&refc anfc 3Eft$tgsnmt&

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
Abdullah was a-wearied with watching and wanted to sleep, they
also lay beside him on another couch and waited till he was
drowned in slumber and when they were certified thereof they
arose and knelt upon him : whereupon he awoke and seeing them
kneeling on his breast, said to them, " What is this, O my
brothers ? " Cried they, " We are no brothers of thine, nor do
we know thee unmannerly that thou art ! Thy death is become
better than thy life." Then they gripped him by the throat and
throttled him, till he lost his senses and abode without motion; so
that they deemed him dead. Now the pavilion wherein they were
overlooked the river; so they cast him into the water; but, when
he fell, Allah sent to his aid a dolphin 1 who was accustomed to
come under that pavilion because the kitchen had a window that
gave upon the stream ; and, as often as they slaughtered any
beast there, it was their wont to throw the refuse into the river
and the dolphin came and picked it up from the surface of the
water ; wherefore he ever resorted to the place. That day they
had cast out much offal by reason of the banquet ; so the dolphin
ate more than of wont and gained strength. Hearing the splash
of Abdullah's fall, he hastened to the spot, where he saw a son of
Adam and Allah guided him so that he took the man on his back

Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 36 of 38)