generously bred ; and in manners and morals more perfected
than a preacher of the people of Baghdad, by name Sitt al-
Masha'ikh. 3 It chanced that she came to Hamah-city in the
year of the Flight five hundred and sixty and one 4 ; and there
delivered salutary exhortations to the folk from the professorial
chair. Now there used to visit her house a number of students of
divinity and persons of learning and polite letters, who would dis-
cuss with her questions of theology and dispute with her on con-
troversial points. I went to her one day, with a friend of mine, a
man of years and education ; and when we had taken our seats,
1 Easterns during purgation are most careful and deride the want of precaution in
Europeans. They do not leave the house till all is passed off, and avoid baths, wine and
women, which they afterwards resume with double zest. Here " breaking the seal" 19
taking the girl's maidenhead.
2 Johannes, a Greek favoured by Al-Mutawakkil and other Abbaside Caliphs.
3 Lady of Shaykhs, elders in the faith and men of learning.
= A.D. U66.
'I he Man's Dispute witk the Learned Woman. 155
she set before us a dish of fruit and seated herself behind a cur-
tain. Now she had a brother, a handsome youth, who stood
behind us, to serve us. And when we had eaten we fell to dis-
puting upon points of divinity, and I propounded to her a theo-
logical question bearing upon a difference between the Imams,
the Founders of the Four Schools. She proceeded to speak in
answer, whilst I listened ; but all the while my friend fell to
looking upon her brother's face and admiring his beauties with-
out paying any heed to what she discoursed. Now as she was
watching him from behind the curtain ; when she had made an
end of her speech, she turned to him and said, " Methinks thou
be of those who give men the preference over women ! " He
replied, " Assuredly," and she asked, " And why so ? "; whereto
he answered, " For that Allah hath made the masculine worthier
than the feminine ;" And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of
day and ceased to say her permitted say.
Nofo fofjen ft teas tfje jFour f^untirrt anto t!Tfocntfet& Ntgfjt,
She said, It hath reached me, auspicious King, that the Shaykh
replied, " For that Allah hath made the masculine worthier than
the feminine ; and I like the excelling and mislike the excelled."
She laughed and presently said, " Wilt thou deal fairly with me
in debate, if I battle the matter with thee ? " and he rejoined,
" Yes." Then quoth she, " What is the evidence of the superiority
of the male to the female?" Quoth he, " It is of two kinds, tra-
ditional and reasonable. The authoritative part deriveth from the
Koran and the Traditions of the Apostle. As for the first we
have the very words of Almighty Allah, ' Men shall have the pre-
eminence above women because of those advantages wherein Allah
hath caused the one of them to excel the other j' 1 and again, 'If
there be not two men, let there be one man and two women ; ' 2
and again, when treating of inheritance, ' If there be brothers and
sisters let a male have as much as the portion of two females.' 3
Thus Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath in these places
preferred the male over the female and teacheth that a woman is
1 Koran iv. 38. I have before noted what the advantages are.
8 Koran ii. 282, " of those whom ye shall choose for witnesses."
' Koran if. 175, " Whereas if there be two sisters, they inherit only two-thirds between
I $6 A If Laylah wa Laylah.
as the half of a man, for that he is worthier than she As for
the Sunnah-traditions, is it not reported of the Prophet (whom
Allah save and assain !) that he appointed the blood-money for
a woman to be half that of a man : And as for the evidence
of reason, the male is the agent and active and the female the
patient and passive." 1 Rejoined she, " Thou hast said well, O my
lord, but, by Allah, thou hast proved my contention with thine
own lips and hast advanced evidence which telleth against thee,
and not for thee. And thus it is : Allah (extolled and exalted
be He !) preferred the male above the female solely because ot
the inherent condition and essential quality of masculinity ; and
in this there is no dispute between us. Now this quality of male-
hood is common to the child, the boy, the youth, the adult and
the old man ; nor is there any distinction between them in this.
If, then, the superior excellence of male masculant belong to him
solely by virtue of manhood, it behoveth that thy heart incline
and thy soul delight in the greybeard, equally with the boy;
seeing that there is no distinction between them, in point of male-
hood. But the difference between thee and me turneth upon the
accident of qualities that are sought as constituting the pleasure
of intercourse and its enjoyment ; and thou hast adduced no proof
of the superiority of the youth over the young girl in this matter
of non-essentials." He made answer, " O reverend lady, knowest
thou not that which is peculiar to the youth of limber shape and
rosy cheeks and pleasant smile and sweetness of speech ? Youths
are, in these respects superior to women ; and the proof of this is
what they traditionally report of the Prophet (whom Allah bless
and preserve !) that he said, ' Stay not thy gaze upon the beardless,
for in them is a momentary eye-glance at the black-eyed girls of
Paradise/ Nor indeed is the superiority of the lad over the lass
hidden to any of mankind, and how well saith Abu Nowas : 2
The least of him is the being free * From monthly courses and pregnancy.
1 The secondary meaning is " Fa'il " = the active sodomite and Mafa'ul = the pas-
sive, a catamite : the former is not an insulting word, the latter is a most injurious
expression. " Novimus et qui te ! "
2 It is an unpleasant fact that almost all the poetry of Hafiz is addressed to youths, as
we see by the occasional introduction of Arabic (e.g.) Afaka'llih). Persian has no
genders properly so called, hence the effect is less striking. Sa'di, the "Persian
Moralist" begins one of the tales, "A certain learned man fell in love with a beautiful
ton of a blacksmith," which Gladwin, translating for the general, necessarily changed to
The Man's Dispute with the Learned Woman. 157
And the saying of another poet :
Quoth our Imam, Abu Nowas, who was o For mad debauch and waggishness
'O tribe that loves the cheeks of boys, take fill o Of joys in Paradise shall
ne'er be found ! '
So if any one enlarge in praise of a slave-girl and wish to enhance
her value by the mention of her beauties, he likeneth her to a
youth," And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased
saying her permitted say.
Note foljm it foas tfje jpour f^untorefc anto Slentg=Ktst
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh
continued, " So if any one enlarge in praise of a slave-girl and
wish to enhance her value by the mention of her beauties, he
likeneth her to a youth, because of the illustrious qualities that
belong to the male, even as saith the poet :
Boy-like of backside, in the deed of kind, o She sways, as sways the wand-
like boughs a-wind.
An youths, then, were not better and fairer than girls, why should
these be likened to them ? And know also (Almighty Allah pre-
serve thee !) that a youth is easy to be led, adapting himself to
every rede, pleasant of converse and manners, inclining to assent
rather than dissent, especially when his side-face is newly down'd
and his upper lip is first embrowned, and the purple lights of youth
on his cheeks abound, so that he is like the full moon sound ; and
how goodly is the saying of Abu Tammam 1 :
The slanderers said There's hair upon his cheeks ; o Quoth I, Exceed not ;
that's no blemish there.
jWhen he could bear that haling of his hips o And pearl-beads shaded by
mustachio-hair ; 2
And Rose swore solemn, holiest oath that is, o From that fair cheek she
nevermore would fare,
I spoke with eyelids without need of speech, o And they who answered me
his eyebrows were.
He's even fairer than thou knewest him, o And cheek-down guards from all
1 The famous author of the Anthology called Al-Hamasah.
a i.e., teeth under the young mustachio.
158 A If Laylali wa Laylah.
Brighter and sweeter now are grown his charms, o Since down robes lip and
cheek before were bare.
And those who blame me for my love of him, o When him they mention
say of him, ' Thy Fair ' !
And quoth Al-Hariri 1 and quoth excellently well :
My censors say, What means this pine for him ? o Seest not the flowing hair
on cheeks a-flowing ?
i say, By Allah, an ye deem I dote, o Look at the truth in those fine eyes
But for the down that veils his cheek and chin, o His brow had dazed all eyes
no sight allowing :
And whoso sojourns in a growthless land, o How shall he move from
land fair growths a-growing ?
And quoth another :
My blamers say of me, ' He is consoled,' And lie ! o No consolation comes to
those who pine and sigh.
1 had no solace when Rose bloomed alone on cKeek, o Now Basil blooms
thereon and now consoled am I.
And again :
Slim-waisted one, whose looks with down of cheek o In slaughtering mankind
each other hurtle :
With the Narcissus-blade he sheddeth blood, o The baldrick of whose
sheath is freshest myrtle. 2
And again :
Not with his must I'm drunk, but verily t> Those curls turn manly heads like
newest wine 3 :
Each of his beauties envies each, and all o Would be the silky down on side-
1 The " Silk-man " and the celebrated author of the Makamat, assemblies or seances,
translated (or attempted) into all the languages of Europe. We have two in English,
the first by Theodore Preston, M.A. (London, Madden, 1850) ; but it contains only
twenty of the fifty pieces. The second by the late Mr. Chenery (before alluded to)
nds with the twenty-sixth assembly : one volume in fact, the other never having been
finished. English readers, therefore, are driven to the grand edition of the Makimat
in folio by Baron Silvestre de Sacy.
2 The sword of the eye has a Hamail (baldrick worn over right shoulder, Pilgrimage
. 352) to support the " Ghimd " (vulg. Ghamad) or scabbard (of wood or leather) : and
this baldrick is the young whisker.
3 The conceit of " Sulafat " (ptisane, grape juice allowed to dram on the slabs) and
"Sawalif" (tresses, locks) has been explained. The newest wine, is the most inebriating,
a fact not much known in England, but familiar to the drinker of " Vino novo."
The Man's Dispute with the Learned Woman. 159
Such are the excellencies of the youth which women do not own,
and they more than suffice to give those the preference over
these." She replied, " Allah give thee health ! verily, thou hast
imposed the debate upon thyself ; and thou hast spoken and hast
not stinted and hast brought proofs to support every assertion.
But, ' Now is the truth become manifest ; >l so swerve thou not from
the path thereof ; and, if thou be not content with a summary of
evidence, I will set it before thee in fullest detail. Allah upon
thee, where is the youth beside the girl and who shall compare
kid and wild cow ? The girl is soft of speech, fair of form, like
a branchlet of basil, with teeth like chamomile-petals and hair
like halters wTierefrom to hang hearts. Her cheeks are like blood-
red anemones and her face like a pippin : she hath lips like wine
and breasts like pomegranates twain and a shape supple as a
rattan-cane. Her body is well-formed and with sloping shoulders
dight 5 she hath a nose like the edge of a sword shining bright and
a forehead brilliant white and eyebrows which unite and eyes
stained by Nature's hand black as night. If she speak, fresh
young pearls are scattered from her mouth forthright and all hearts
are ravished by the daintiness of her sprite ; when she smileth
thou wouldst ween the moon shone out her lips between and when
She eyes thee, sword-blades flash from the babes of her eyes In her
all beauties to conclusion come, and she is the centre of attraction
to traveller and stay-at-home. She hath two lips of cramoisy,
than cream smoother and of taste than honey sweeter," And
Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her per-
ft foas tf) jfour f^un&rcfc nn&
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the preacher-
woman thus pursued her theme in the praise of fair maids, " She
hath two lips of cramoisy, than cream smoother and than honey
sweeter ; " adding, " And she hath a bosom, as it were a way two
hills between which are a pair of breasts like globes of ivory
sheen ; likewise, a stomach right smooth, flanks soft as the palm-
spathe and creased with folds and dimples which overlap one
1 Koran xii. 51, this said by the nobleman's (Potiphar's) wife who addl, "I selected
him to lie with me; and ^ ' T "";ph) is one of those who speak truth.*'
160 Alf Laylah iva Laylah.
another, and liberal thighs, which like columns of pearl arise, and
back parts which billow and beat together like seas of glass or
mountains of glance, and two feet and hands of gracious mould
like unto ingots of virgin gold. So, O miserable ! where are
mortal men beside the Jinn? Knowest thou not that puissant
princes and potent Kings before women ever humbly bend and on
them for delight depend ? Verily, they may say ; We rule over
necks and rob hearts. These women ! how many a rich man have
they not paupered, how many a powerful man have they not pro-
strated and how many a superior man have they not enslaved ! In-
deed, they seduce the sage and send the saint to shame and bring the
wealthy to want and plunge the fortune-favoured into penury. Yet
for all this, the wise but redouble in affection of them and honour ;
nor do they count this oppression or dishonour. How many a
man for them hath offended his Maker and called down on him-
self the wrath of his father and mother ! And all this because of
the conquest of their love over hearts. Knowest thou not, O
wretched one, that for them are built pavilions, and slave-girls are
for sale ; * that for them tear-floods rail and for them are collected
jewels of price and ambergris and musk odoriferous ; and armies are
arrayed and pleasaunces made and wealth heaped up and smitten off
is many a head ? And indeed he spoke sooth in the words, ' Whoso
saith the world meaneth woman.' Now as for thy citation from the
Holy Traditions, it is an argument against thee and not for thee ;
in that the Prophet (whom Allah bless and preserve !) compareth
the beardless with the black-eyed girls of Paradise. Now, doubt*
less, the subject of comparison is worthier than the object there-
with compared ; so, unless women be the worthier and the goodlier,
wherefore should other than they be likened to them ? As for thy
saying that girls are likened to boys, the case is not so, but the
contrary : boys are likened to girls ; for folk say, Yonder boy is
like a girl. As for what proof thou quotest from the poets, the
verses were the product of a complexion unnatural in this respect ;
and as for the habitual sodomites and catamites, offenders against
religion, Almighty Allah hath condemned them in His Holy Book, 9
1 Here we have a specimen of the strained Saj'a or balanced prose : slave-girl
(jawari) are massed with flowing tears (dam'u jari) on account of the Kafiyah or
3 The detected sodomite is punished with death according to Moslem law, but again
comes the difficulty of proof. At Shiraz I have heard of a pious Moslem publicly exe
exiting his son.
The Man's Dispute with the Learned Woman. 161
wherein He denounceth their filthy practices, saying, Do ye ap-
proach unto the males among mankind l and leave your wives
which your Lord hath created for you ? Surely ye are a people
who transgress ! These it is that liken girls to boys, of their
exceeding profligacy and ungraciousness and inclination to follow
the fiend and own lusts, so that they say, She is apt for two tricks; 2
and these are all wanderers from the way of right and the righ"
teous. Quoth their chief Abu Nowas :
Slim-waist and boyish wits delight o Wencher, as well as Sodomite,*
As for what thou sayest of a youth's first hair on cheek and lips
and how they add to his beauty and loveliness, by Allah, thou
strayest from the straight path of sooth and sayest that which is
other than the truth ; for whiskers change the charms of the comely
into ugliness ; (quoting these couplets) :
That sprouting hair upon his face took wreak o For lovers' vengeance, all did
I see not on his face a sign fuli- o genous, except his curls are hue of
If so his paper 4 mostly be begrimed e Where deemest thou the reed shall
draw a streak ?
If any raise him other fairs above, o This only proves the judge of wits
And when she ended her verse she resumed, " Laud be to Allah
Almighty," And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and
ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Koran xxvi. 165 et seq. The Lord speaks to the "people of Lot" (Sodomites).
Mr. Payne renders " Min al-alamlna," " from the four corners of the world."
2 Meaning before and behind, a Moslemah " Bet Balmanno."
3 Arab. "Luti," (plur. Lawati), much used in Persian as a buffoon, a debauchee, a
rascal. The orig. sig. is "One of (the people of) Lot." The old English was Ingle
or Yngle (a bardachio, a catamite, a boy kept for sodomy), which Minsheu says is..
*' Vox hispanica et significat Latine Inguen " (the groin). Our vulgar modern wore!
like the Italian bugiardo is pop. derived from Fr. Bougre, alias Bulgarus, a Bulgarian, z
heretic: hence Boulgrin (Rabelais i. chapt. ii.) is popularly applied to the Albigeoit
(Alhigenses, whose persecution began shortly after A.D. 1200) and the Lutherans. I
cannot but think that " bougre " took its especial modern signification after the French
became acquainted with the Brazil, where the Huguenots (in A.D. 1555) were founding a
Kouvelle France, alias Equinoctiale, alias Antarctique, and whence the savages were*
Carried as curiosities to Paris. Their generic name was " Bugre " (properly a tribe i
Southern Brazil, but applied to all the redskins) and they were all born Sodomites.
More of this in the terminal Essay.
4 His paper is the whiteness of his skin. I have quoted the Persian saying of a young
beard : "his cheeks don mourning for his beauty's death."
162 A If Laylah wa Laylah.
Jioto tofjett it toas tfje jpout l^untirttJ anfc tfocnt5=tfw&
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
preacher-woman ended her verse she resumed, addressing the man,
" Laud to Allah Almighty ! how can it be hid from thee that the
perfect pleasure is in women and that abiding blessings are not to
be found but with them, seeing that Allah (extolled and exalted
be He!) hath promised His prophets and saints black-eyed
damsels in Paradise and hath appointed these for a recompense of
their godly works. And had the Almighty known that the joy
supreme was in the possession of other than women, He had
rewarded them therewith and promised it to them. And quoth
he (whom Allah bless and preserve ! ), The things I hold dearest
of the things of your world are three : women and perfume and
the solace of my eyes in prayer. Verily Allah hath appointed
boys to serve his prophets and saints in Paradise, because Para-
dise is the abode of joy and delight, which could not be complete
without the service of youths ; but, as to the use of them for aught
but service, it is Hell's putridity } and corruption and turpitude.
How well saith the poet :
Men's turning unto bums of boys is bumptious ; % Whoso love noble women
show their own noblesse.
How many goodly wights have slept the night, enjoying o Buttocks of boys t
and woke at morn in foulest mess ;
Their garments stained by safflower, which is yellow merde c Their shame
proclaiming, showing colour of distress.
Who can deny the charge, when so bewrayed are they o That e'en by daylight
shows the dung upon, their dress ?
What contrast wi' the man, who slept a gladsome night o By Houri-maid
for glance a mere enchanteress,
He rises off her borrowing wholesome bonny scent ; o That fills the house with
whiffs of perfumed goodliness.
No boy deserved place by side of her to hold ; o Canst even aloes-wood with
what fills pool of cess ! 2
Then said she, " O folk ye have made me to break the bounds of
1 Arab. " Khabal," lit. the pus which flows from the bodies of the damned.
2 Most characteristic of Egypt is all this scene. Her reverence, it ib true, sits behind
a curtain ; but her virtue uses language which would shame the lowest European
picctitute; and which is filthy almost as Dean Swift's.
Abu Suwayd and the Pretty Old Woman. 163
modesty and the circle of free-born women and indulge in idle
talk of chambering and wantonness, which beseemeth not people
of learning. ""But the breasts of free-borns are the sepulchres of
secrets, and such conversations are in confidence.; Moreover,
actions are according to intentions, 1 and I crave pardon of Allah
for myself and you and all Moslems, seeing that He is the Pardoner
and the CompassionatedThen she held her peace and thereafter
would answer us of naught ; so we went our way, rejoicing in that
we had profited by her contention and yet sorrowing^to part^from
her. And among the tales they tell is one of
ABU SUWAYD AND THE PRETTY OLD WOMAN.
(QUOTH Abu Suwayd) I and a company of my friends, entered
a garden one day to buy somewhat of fruit ; and we saw in a
corner an old woman, who was bright of face, but her head-hair
was white, and she was combing it with an ivory comb. We
stopped before her, yet she paid no heed to us neither veiled her
face : so I said, to her, " O old woman, 2 wert thou to dye thy
hair black, thou wouldst be handsomer than a girl : what
hindereth thee from this ?"' She raised her head towards me
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say
her permitted say.
Koto tofjen it toas tije jpour f^un&rctf an* toemg=foutt!)
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu
Suwayd continued : When I spake these words to the ancient
1 Arab. " Niyat :" the Moslem's idea of intentions quite runs with the Christian's.
There must be a "Niyat" or purpose of prayer or the devotion is valueless. Lane
tells a pleasant tale of a thief in the Mosque, saying " 1 purpose (before prayer) to carry
off this nice pair of new shoes ! *''
2 Arab. "Ya'1-Ajuz" (in Cairo " Agooz " pronounce " Ago-o-oz ") : the address is
now insulting and would elicit " The old woman in thine eye " (with fingers extended).
In Egypt the polite address is " O lady (Sitt), O pilgrimess, O bride, and O daughter "
(although she be the wrong side of fifty). In Arabia you may say " O woman (Imraah)"
but in Egypt the reply would be " The woman shall see Allah cut out thy heart ! "
So in Southern Italy you address " bella K " (fair one) and cause a quarrel by " vecchi-<
1 64 Alf Laylak wa Laylah.
dame she raised her head towards me and, opening wide her eyes,
recited these two couplets :
I dyed what years have dyed, but this my staining o Lasts not, while that of
days is aye remaining :
Days when beclad in gear of youth I fared, o Raked fore and aft by
men with joy unfeigning.
I cried : By Allah, favoured art thou for an old woman ! How
sincere art thou in thine after-pine for forbidden pleasures and
how false is thy pretence of repentance from frowardness ! And
another tale is that of
THE EMIR ALI BIN TAHIR AND THE GIRL MUUNIS.
ONCE on a time was displayed for sale to Ali bin Mohammed
bin Abdallah bin Tahir 1 a slave-girl called Muunis who was
superior to her fellows in beauty and breeding, and to boot an
accomplished poetess ; and he asked her of her name. Replied
she, "Allah advance the Emir, my name is Muunis." 2 Now he
knew this before ; so he bowed his head awhile, then raising his
eyes to her, recited this verse :
What sayest of one by a sickness caught o For the love of thy love till he
waxed distraught ?
Answered she, "Allah exalt the Emir!" and recited this verse
If we saw a lover who pains as he ought, a Wi' love we would grant him all
favours he sought
She pleased him : so he bought her for seventy thousand dirhams
and begat on her Obayd' Allah bin Mohammed, afterwards minister
of Police. 3 And we are told by Abu al-Ayna 4 a tale of
1 Governor of Egypt, Khorasan, etc. under Al-Maamun.
* i.e. a companion, a solacer : it is also a man's name (voL i. xxiv.)