Copyright
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 5) online

. (page 11 of 41)
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 5) → online text (page 11 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Khattab, " Our father was a man honoured by the tribes, sound of
baseness and renowned for goodliness, who reared us delicately in
childhood, and loaded us with favours in manhood ; in fine, a sea
of noble and illustrious qualities, worthy of the poet's praise :

'Is Abu's-Sakr of Shaybdn 1 P'they asked; o Quoth I, " Nay, by my life, of

him's Shaybdn :
How many a sire rose high by a noble son, * As Allah's Prophet glorified

Adnan!" 2

Now he went forth this day to his garden, to refresh himself
amongst its trees and pluck the ripe fruits, when this young man
slew him wrongously and swerved from the road of righteousness ;
wherefore we demand of thee the retribution of his crime and call
upon thee to pass judgment upon him, according to the command-
ment of Allah." Then Omar cast a terrible look at the accused
youth and said to him, " Verily thou hearest the complaint these
two young men prefer ; what hast thou in reply to aver ? " But



1 P. N. of the tribe, often mentioned in The Nights.

8 Adnan, with whom Arab genealogy begins, is generally supposed to be the
eighth (Al-Tabari says the fortieth) descendant from Ishmael and nine generations are
placed between him and Fahr (Fihr) Kuraysh. The Prophet cut all disputes short by
saying, " Beyond Adnan none save Allah wotteth and the genealogists lie " (Pilgrimage
ii. 344). M. C. de Perceval dates Adnan about B.C. 130.



The Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab and the Young Badavji. 101

he was brave of heart and bold of speech, having doffed the robe
of pusillanimity and put off the garb of cowardry ; so he smiled
and spake in the most eloquent and elegant words ; and, after
paying the usual ceremonial compliment to the Caliph, said, " By
Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I have indeed given ear to
their complaint, and they have told the truth in that which they
tell, so far as they have set out what befei ; and the commandment
of Allah is a decreed decree. 1 But I will forthright state my case
between thy hands, and it is for thee to give commands. Know
then, O Prince of the Faithful, that I am a very Arab of the*
Arabics, 2 the noblest of those that are beneath the skies. I grew
up in the dwellings of the wold and fell, till evil times my tribe
befel, when I came to the outskirts of this town, with my family
and whatso goods I own : and as I went along one of the paths
leading to its gardens, orchards and garths, with my she-camels
highly esteemed and by me most precious deemed, and midst
them a stallion of noble blood and shape right good, a plenteous
getter of brood, by whom the females abundantly bore and who
walked among them as though a kingly crown he wore, one of the
she-camels broke away ; and, running to the garden of these
young men's father, where the trees showed above the wall, put
forth her lips and began to feed as in stall. I ran to her, to drive
her away, when behold, there appeared, at a breach of the wall, an
old man and grey, whose eyes sparkled with angry ray, holding in
his right a stone to throw and swaying to and fro, with a swing
like a lion ready for a spring. He cast the stone at my stallion,
and it killed him for it struck a vital part. When I saw the
stallion drop dead beside me, I felt live coals of anger kindled in
my heart ; so I took up the very same stone and throwing it at the
old man, it was the cause of his bane and ban : thus his own
wrongful act returned to him anew, and the man was slain of that
wherewith he slew. When the stone struck him, he cried out
with a great cry and shrieked out a terrible shriek, whereupon
I hastened from the spot ; but these two young men hurried after



1 Koran xxxiii., 38.

2 Arab. " Arab al-Arabi," as before noticed (vol. i. 12) the pure and genuine blood
as opposed to the " Musta'aribah," the " Muta'arribah," the " Mosarabians " and other
Araboids ; the first springing from Kahtan (Yaktan ?) and the others from Adnan. And
note that "Arabi" = a man of pure Arab race, either of the Desert or of the city,
while A'arabi applies only to the Desert man, the Badawi-



102 A If Laylah wa Laylak,

me and laid hands on me and before thee carried me." Quoth
Omar (Almighty Allah accept of him !), " Thou hast confessed
what thou committedest, and of acquittal there is no possible
occasion ; for urgent is the law of retaliation and they cried for
mercy but it was not a time to escape." The youth answered,
" I hear and obey the judgment of the Imam, and I consent
to all required by the law of Al-Islam ; but I have a young
brother, whose old father, before his decease, appointed to him
wealth in great store and gold galore, and committed his affair
to me before Allah, saying : I give this into thy hand for thy
brother ; keep it for him with all thy might. So I took the
money and buried it ; nor doth any know of it but I. Now, if
thou adjudge me to be justiced forthright, the money will be lost
and thou shalt be the cause of its loss ; wherefore the child will
sue thee for his due on the day when the Creator shall judge
between His creatures. But, if thou wilt grant me three days'
delay, I will appoint some guardian to administer the affairs of
the boy and return to answer my debt ; and I have one who will
be my surety for the fulfilment of this my promise." So the
Commander of the Faithful bowed his head awhile, then raised
it and looking round upon those present, said, " Who will stand
surety by me for his return to this place ? " And the youth looked
at the faces of those who were in company and pointing to Abu
Zarr, 2 in preference to all present, said, " This man shall answer

for me and be my bail." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn

of day and ceased saying her permitted say.



fo&m ft teas t$e ^fjtee f^untiirti an& J=tetB - sefont!) JUg&t,



She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
youth pointed to Abu Zarr and said, " This man shall answer for
me and be my bail," Omar (Allah accept of him !) said, " O Abu
Zarr, dost thou hear these words and wilt thou be surety to me for



1 Koran xxxviii. 2, speaking of the Unbelievers (i.e. non- Moslems) who are full of
pride and contention.

2 One of the Ashab, or Companions of the Apostle, that is them who knew him per-
sonally (Pilgrimage ii. 80, etc.)- The Ashb al-Suffah (Companions of the bench or
sofa) were certain houseless Believers lodged by the Prophet (Pilgrimage ii. 143)



The Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab and the Young Baaawi. 103

the return of this youth ? " He answered, " Yes, O Commander
of the Faithful, I will be surety for him three days." So the
Caliph accepted his guarantee and let the young man go. No\v
when the appointed time passed and the days of grace were nearly
or quite at end yet the youth came not, the Caliph took seat in his
council, with the Companions surrounding him, like the constella-
tions about the moon, Abu Zarr and the plaintiffs being also pre-
sent ; and the avengers said, " Where is the defendant, O Abu
Zarr, and how shall he return, having once fled ? But we will not
stir from our places till thou bring him to us, that we may take of
him our blood-revenge." Replied Abu Zarr, " By the truth of the
All-Wise King, if the three days of grace expire and the young
man return not, I will fulfil my warranty and surrender my person
to the Imam ;" and added Omar (whom Allah accept !), " By the
Lord, if the young man appear not, I will assuredly execute on
Abu Zarr that which is prescribed by the law of Al-Islam ! " l
Thereupon the eyes of the bystanders ran over with tears ; those
who looked on groaned aloud and great was the clamour. Then the
chiefs of the Companions urged the plaintiffs to accept the blood-
wit and deserve the thanks of the folk ; but they both refused and
would accept nothing save the talion. However, as the folk were
swaying to and fro like waves and loudly bemoaning Abu Zarr,
behold, up came the young Badawi ; and, standing before the
Imam, saluted him right courteously (with sweat-beaded face and
shining with the crescent's grace) and said to him, " I have giverc
the lad in charge to his mother's brothers and have made them'
acquainted with all that pertaineth to his affairs and let them into
the secret of his monies ; after which I braved the heats of noon
and have kept my word as a free-born man." Thereupon the folk
marvelled, seeing his good faith and loyalty and his offering him-
self to death with so stout a heart ; and one said to him, " How
noble a youth art thou and how loyal to thy word of honour and
thy devoir ! " Rejoined he, " Are ye not convinced that when
death presenteth itself, none can escape from it ? And indeed, I



, 'Hence Omar is entitled " Al-Adil = the Just. Readers will remember that by
Moslem law and usage murder and homicide are offences to be punished by the
family, not by society or its delegates. This system reappears in civilisation under
the denomination of "Lynch Law," a process infinitely distasteful to lawyers (whom
U abolishes) and most valuable when administered with due discretion.



IO4 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

have kept my word, that it be not said, Good faith is gone from
among mankind." Said Abu Zarr, " By Allah, O Commander of
the Faithful, I became warrant for this young man, without know-
ing to what tribe he belonged, nor had I seen him before that day;
but, when he turned away from all who were present and singled
me out, saying : This man shall answer for me and be my bail, I
thought it not right to refuse him, and generosity forbade to dis-
appoint his desire, there being no harm in compliance therewith,
that it be not bruited abroad, Benevolence is gone from among
mankind." Then said the two young men, "O Commander of the
Faithful, we forgive this youth our father's blood, seeing that he
hath changed desolation into cheerfulness ; that it be not said,
Humanity is gone from among mankind." So the Caliph rejoiced
in the acquittance of the youth and his truth and good faith ;
moreover, he magnified the generosity of Abu Zarr, extolling it
over all his companions, and approved the resolve of the two
young men for its benevolence, giving them praise with thanks
and applying to their case the saying of the poet :

Who doth kindness to men shall be paid again";"* o Ne'er is kindness lost
betwixt God and men.

Then he offered to pay them, from the Treasury, the blood-wit
for their father; but they refused, saying, "We forgave him only
of our desire unto Allah, 1 the Bountiful, the Exalted ; and he who
is thus intentioned followeth not his benefits with reproach or with
iL inischief." 2 And amongst the tales they relate is that of



1 Lane translates (ii. 592) "from a desire of seeing the face of God;" but the
general belief of Al-Islam is that the essence of Allah's corporeal form is different
from man's. The orthodox expect to " see their Lord on Doom-day as they see the
full moon " (a tradition). But the Mu'atazilites deny with the existence of matter the
corporiety of Allah and hold that he will be seen only with the spiritual eyes, i.e. of
reason.

8 See Gesta Romanorum, Tale cviii., " of Constancy in adhering to Promises,"
Jbunded on Damon and Pythias or, perhaps, upon the Arabic.



The Caliph al-Maamun and the Pyramids of Egypt. 1 05



THE CALIPH AL-MAAMUN AND THE PYRAMIDS'

OF EGYPT.

"

IT is told that the Caliph-al-Maamun son of Harun al-Rashid,
when he entered the God-guarded city of Cairo, was minded to
pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein ;
but, when he went about to do this, he could not succeed, albeit
his best was done. He expended a mint of money in the attempt,
- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to,
say her permitted say.



J2oto fo&cn it foas t&c Sfjtee f^untatfc an*

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al-Maamun
attempting to pull down the Pyramids, expended his mint of
money, but succeeded only in opening up a small tunnel in one of
them, wherein it is said he found treasure to the exact amount of
the monies he had spent in the works, neither more nor less ;
whereat he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted
from his determination. Now the Pyramids are three, and they
are one of the Wonders of the World ; nor is there on the face of
earth aught like them for height and fashion and mysteries 2 ; for
they are built of huge rocks, and the builders proceeded by pierc-
ing one block of stone and setting therein upright rods of iron 3 ;
after which they pierced a second block of stone and lowered it
upon the first. Then they poured melted lead upon the clamps
and set the blocks in geometrical order, till the building was
complete. Now the height of each pyramid was an hundred



1 Arab. " Al-Ahram," a word of unknown provenance. It has been suggested that
the singular form (Haram), preceded by the Coptic article " Pi " (= the) suggested to
the Greeks " Pyramis." But this word is still sub judice and every Egyptologist seems
to propose his own derivation. Bnigsch (Egypt i. 72) makes it Greek, the Egyptian
being " Aburair," while " pir-am-us" = the edge of the pyramid, the corners running
from base to apex. The great Egyptologist proves also what the Ancients either ignored
or forgot to mention, that each pyramid had its own name.

2 Arab. " Ahkam," in this matter supporting the " Pyramidologists."
8 All imaginative.



IO6 A If Laylah wa Lay la k.

cubits, of the normal measure of the day, and it had four faces,
each three hundred cubits long from the base and thence batter-
ing upwards to a point. The ancients say that, in the western
Pyramid, are thirty chambers of parti-coloured syenite, full of
precious gems and treasures galore and rare images and utensils
and costly weapons which are anointed with egromantic unguents,
so that they may not rust till the day of Resurrection. 1 Therein,
also, are vessels of glass which bend and break not, containing
various kinds of compound drugs and sympathetic waters. In
the second Pyramid are the records of the priests, Written on
tablets of syenite, to each priest his tablet, whereon are engraved
the wonders of his craft and his feats ; and on the walls are
human figures like idols, working with their hands at all manner
of mechanism and seated on stepped thrones. Moreover, to each
Pyramid there is a guardian treasurer who keepeth watch over it
and wardeth it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the
shifts of events ; and indeed the marvels of these Pyramids
astound all who have sight and insight Many are the poems that
describe them, thou shalt thereby profit no small matter, and
among the rest, quoth one of them :

If Kings would see their high emprize preserved, 'Twill be by tongues of

monuments they laid :
Seest not the Pyramids? These two endure Despite what change

Time and Chance have made.

And quoth another :

Look on the Pyramids, and hear the twain o Recount their annals of the long-
gone Past :

Could they but speak, high marvels had they told o Of what Time did to man
from first to last.



1 It has always been my opinion founded upon considerations too long to detail, that
the larger Pyramids contain many unopened chambers. Dr. Grant Bey of Cairo proposed
boring through the blocks as Artesian wells are driven. I cannot divine why Lane (li.
592) chose to omit this tale, which is founded on historic facts and interests us by
suggesting a comparison between Medieval Moslem superstitions and those of oui
xixth Century, which to our descendants will appear as wild, if not as picturesque, as
those of The Nights. The " inspired British inch " and the building by Melchisedek
(the Shaykh of some petty Syrian village) will compare not unaptly with the enchanted
swords, flexible glass and guardian spirits. But the Pyramidennarren is a race which
not speedily die out: it is based on Nature, the Pyramids themselves.



The Thief and the Merchant 107

And quoth a third :

My friend I prithee tell me, 'neath the sky o Is aught with Egypt's Pyramids

can compare?
Buildings which frighten Time, albe what dwells o On back of earth in fear of

Time must fare :
If on their marvels rest my sight no more, e Yet these I ever shall in memory

bear.

And quoth a fourth :

Where is the man who built the Pyramids ? o What was his tribe, what day

and where his tomb ?
The monuments survive the men who built o Awhile, till overthrown by touch

of Doom.

And men also tell a tale of



THE THIEF AND THE MERCHANT.

THERE was once a thief who repented to Almighty Allah with
sincere penitence ; so he opened himself a shop for the sale of
stuffs, where he continued to trade awhile. It so chanced one day
that he locked his shop and went home, and in the night there
came to the bazar an artful thief disguised in the habit of the
merchant, and pulling out keys from his sleeve, said to the watch-
man of the market, " Light me this wax-candle." The watchman

took the taper and went to light it, And Shahrazad perceived

the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.



Nofo fofjcn tt foas tfje Qfym f^unfcret) an* Ntntp - ntnt^

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the watch'
man took the taper and went to light it, whilst the thief opened
the shop and lit another candle he had by him. When the watch-
man came back, he found him seated in the shop, account-books
in hand, and reckoning with his fingers ; nor did he cease to do
thus till point of day, when he said to the man, " Fetch me a
camel-driver and his camel, to carry some goods for me." So the



io8 Alf Laylak wa Laylak.

man fetched him a camel, and the thief took four bales* of stuffs
and gave them to the cameleer, who loaded them on his beast.
Then he gave the watchman two dirhams and went away after the
camel-driver, leaving the watchman believing him to be the owner
of the shop. Now when the morning dawned and day broke
the merchant came and the watchman began greeting him with
blessings, because of the two dirhams ; but the shop-owner
wondered at his words as one not knowing what he meant.
When he opened his shop, he saw the droppings of the wax
and the account book lying on the floor, and looking round,
found four bales of stuffs missing. So he asked the watchman
what had happened and he told him what had passed in the
night and what had been said to the cameleer, whereupon the
merchant bade him fetch the man and asked him, " Whither
didst thou carry the stuffs this morning?' 1 Answered the driver,
"To such a landing-place, and I stowed them on board such a
vessel." Said the merchant, " Come with me thither ;" so the
camel-driver carried him to the landing-place and said to him,
" This be the barque and this be her owner." Quoth the
merchant to the seaman, " Whither didst thou carry the merchant
and the stuff ? " Answered the boat-master, " To such a place,
where he fetched a camel-driver and, setting the bales on the
camel, went his ways I know not whither." "Fetch me the
cameleer who carried the goods," said the merchant ; so he
fetched him and the merchant said to him, " Whither didst thou
carry the bales of stuffs from the ship ? " " To such a Khan,"
answered he ; and the merchant rejoined, " Come thither with
me and show it me." So the camel-man went with him to a
place far distant from the shore and showed him the Khan
where he had set down the stuffs, and at the same time the
false merchant's magazine, which he opened and found therein
his four bales bound up as they had been packed. The thief
had laid his cloak over them ; so the merchant took the cloak
as well as the bales and delivered them to the camel-driver, who
laid them on his camel ; after which he locked the magazine and
went away with the cameleer. On the way, behold, he was
confronted by the thief who followed him, till he had shipped
the bales, when he said to him, " O my brother (Allah have



1 Arab. " Rizm ;" hence, through the Italian Risma our ream (= 20 quires of paper,
etc.), which our dictionaries derive from fyify-o's (!) See "frail" in Night dcccxxxviii.



Masrur the Eunuch and Ibn al-Karibi, 109

thee in His holy keeping!), thou hast indeed recovered thy goods
and naught of them is lost ; so give me back my cloak." The
merchant laughed and, giving him back his cloak, let him go
unhindered; whereupon both went their ways. And they tell a
tale of



MASRUR THE EUNUCH AND IBN AL-KARIBI.

THE Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, was exceed-
ingly restless one night ; so he said to his Wazir Ja'afar, " I am
sleepless to-night and my breast is straitened and I know not
what to do." Now his castrate Masrur was standing before him,
and he laughed ; whereupon the Caliph said " At whom laughest
thou ? is it to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee ? "
Answered Masrur, " Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say

her permitted say.

Nofo fofjen tt has tjbe jpour p^unfcretit!) Nigfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Harun
al-Rashid said to Masrur the Sworder, " Dost thou laugh to
make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?" Answered
Masrur, " Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I swear
by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it not of my free
will ; but I went out yesterday to walk within sight of the palace
and, coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk
collected ; so I stopped and found a man, Ibn al-Karibi hight,
who was making them laugh ; but just now I recalled what he
said, and laughter got the better of me ; and I crave pardon
of thee, O Commander of the Faithful ! " Quoth the Caliph,
" Bring him to me forthright ;" so Masrur repaired in all haste
to Ibn al-Karibi and said to him, " Answer the summons of the
Commander of the Faithful," whereto he replied, " I hear and
obey." "But on condition," added Masrur, "that, if he give
thee aught, thou shalt have a quarter and the rest shall be
mine." Replied the droll, " Nay, thou shalt have half and I
half." Rejoined Masrur, " Not so, I will have three-quarters."
Lastly said Ibn al-Karibi, " Thou shalt have two-thirds and I



HO A If Lay la k wa Laylah.

the other third ;" to which Masrur agreed, after much higgling
and haggling, and they returned to the palace together. Now
when Ibn al-Karibi came into the Caliph's presence he saluted
him as men greet the Caliphate, and stood before him ; where-
upon said Al-Rashid to him, " If thou do not make me laugh,
I will give thee three blows with this bag." Quoth Ibn al-Karibi
in his mind, "And a small matter were blows with that bag,
seeing that beating with whips hurteth me not ;" for he thought
the bag was empty. Then he began to deal out his drolleries,
such as would make the dismallest jemmy guffaw, and gave vent
to all manner of buffooneries ; but the Caliph laughed not neither
smiled, whereat Ibn al-Karibi marvelled and was chagrined and
affrighted. Then said the Commander of the Faithful, " Now
hast thou earned the beating," and gave him a blow with the
bag, wherein were four pebbles each two rotols in weight. The
blow fell on his neck and he gave a great cry, then calling to
mind his compact with Masrur, said, " Pardon, O Commander
of the Faithful ! Hear two words from me." Quoth the Caliph,
" Say on," and quoth Ibn al-Karibi, " Masrur made it a condition
with me and I a covenant with him, that whatsoever largesse
might come to me of the bounties of the Commander of the
Faithful, one-third thereof should be mine and the rest his ; nor
did he agree to leave me so much as one-third, save after much
higgling and haggling. Now thou hast bestowed on me nothing
but beating ; I have had my share and here standeth he, ready
to receive his portion ; so pay him the two other blows." Now
when the Caliph heard this, he laughed till he fell on his back ;
then calling Masrur, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out
and said, " O Commander of the Faithful, the one-third sufficeth

me : give him the two-thirds." And Shahrazad perceived the

dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

Nofo fo&ert it foas tfje jpour f^untoretr anfc jptrst Nigijt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Masrur
cried out, " O Commander of the Faithful ! the one-third sufficeth
me ; give him the two-thirds." So the Caliph laughed at them
and ordered them a thousand dinars each, and they went away,
rejoicing at the largesse. And of the tales they tell is one of



The Devotee Prince. \ 1 1



THE DEVOTEE PRINCE.

THE Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, had a son
who, from the time he attained the age of sixteen, renounced the
world and walked in the way l of ascetics and devotees. He was



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 5) → online text (page 11 of 41)