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

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plentiful, while radishes and onions will be dear ; but Allah is
All-knowing! (<) " What if it fall on Fifth Day ? "That is
Jupiter's day and portendeth equity in Wazirs and righteousness
in Kazis and Fakirs and the Ministers of religion ; and that good
will be plentiful : rains and fruit and trees and grain will abound,
and flax, cotton, honey, grapes and fish be cheap; and Allah is
Omniscient ! Q) " What if it fall on Meeting Day or Friday ? "
That day appertaineth to Venus and portendeth oppression in the
chiefs of the Jinn and talk of forgery and back-biting ; there will
be much dew; the autumn crops will be good in the land and there
will be cheapness in one town and not in another : ungraciousness
will be rife by land and sea ; linseed will be dear, also wheat, in
Hatur, but cheap in Amshir ; honey will be dear and grapes and
water-melons will rot ; and Allah is Omniscient ! (<;) " What if it
fall on the Sabbath (Saturday) ? " That is Saturn's day and por-
tendeth the preferment of slaves and Greeks and those in whom
there is no good, neither in their neighbourhood ; there will be
great drought and dearth ; clouds will abound and death will be
rife among the sons of Adam and woe to the people of Egypt and
Syria from the oppression of the Sultan and failure of blessing
upon the green crops and rotting of grain ; and Allah is All-

1 The 8th and I2th months partly corresponding with April and August : Hatur is the
Jrd (November) and Amshir the 6th (February).

Abu al-Husn and his Slave- Girl Tawaddud. 233

knowing ! " ! Now with this, the astronomer hung his head very
low, and she said to nim, " O astronomer, I will ask thee one
question, which if thou answer not, I will take thy clothes. " Ask,"
replied he. Quoth she, " Where is Saturn's dwelling-place ? "; and
he answered, " In the seventh heaven." (<;) " And that of Jupi-
ter ?" In the sixth heaven, (<) " And that of Mars?" In the
fifth heaven. (,;) " And that of the Sun ? " In the fourth heaven.
(<i) "And that of Venus ? "In the third heaven. (<) "And that of
Mercury ? " In the second heaven. (<) " And that of the Moon ? "
In the first heaven. Quoth she, " Well answered ; but I have one
more question to ask thee ; " and quoth he, " Ask ! " Accordingly
she said, "Now tell me concerning the stars, into how many
parts are they divided." But he was silent and answered nothing ;
and she cried to him, " Put off thy clothes." So he doffed them
and she took them ; after which the Caliph said to her, " Tell us
the answer to thy question." She replied : O Commander of the
Faithful, the stars are divided into three parts, whereof one-third
is hung in the sky of the earth, 2 as it were lamps, to give light to
the earth, and a part is used to shoot the demons withal, when
they draw near by stealth to listen to the talk in heaven. Quoth
Allah Almighty, ' Verily, we have dight the sky of the earth with
the adornment of the stars ; and have appointed them for projec-
tiles against every rebellious Satan.' 3 And the third part is hung
in air to illuminate the seas and give light to what is therein.
Quoth the astronomer, " I have one more question to ask, which if

1 Moslems have been compelled to adopt infidel names for the months because Mo-
hammed's Koranic rejection of Nasy or intercalation makes their lunar months describe
the whole circle of the seasons in a cycle of about thirty-three and a half years. Yet they
have retained the terms which contain the original motive of the denomination. The
first month is Muharram.the "Holy," because war was forbidden ; it was also known as
Safar No. i. The second Safar = " Emptiness," because during the heats citizens left
the towns and retired to Taif and other cool sites. Rabf'a (first and second) alluded to
the spring-pasturages ; Jumada (first and second) to the " hardening" of the dry ground
and, according to some, to the solidification, freezing, of the water in the highlands.
Rajab (No. 7) = " worshipping," especially by sacrifice, is also known as Al-Asamm
the deaf; because being sacred, the rattle of arms was unheard. Sha'aban = " collect-
ing," dispersing, ruining) because the tribal wars recommenced : Ramazan (intensely
hot) has been explained and Shawwal (No. IO.) derives from Shaul (elevating) when the
he-camels raise their tails in rut. Zii'l-Ka'adah, the sedentary, is the rest time of the
year, when fighting is forbidden and Zu'1-Hijjah explains itself as the pilgrimage-

2 The lowest of the seven.

3 Koran xxxvii. 5.

234 -dff Laylah wa Laylah.

she answer, I will avow myself beaten." " Say on," answered she,

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Koto foJ)m it toas tfje Jour |^un&rc& antf jpiftB-scbctitf)

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
astronomer said, " Now tell me what four contraries are based
upon other four contraries?" Replied she, "The four qualities
of Caloric and Frigoric, Humidity and Siccity; for of heat Allah
created fire, whose nature fs hot-dry ; of dryness, earth, which is
cold-dry ; of cold, water which is cold-wet ; of moisture, air, which
is hot-wet. Moreover, He created twelve Signs of the Zodiac,
Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio,
Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces ; and appointed them
of the four humours ; three fiery, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius ; three
earthy, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn ; three airy, Gemini, Libra
and Aquarius ; and three watery, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces."
Hereupon the astronomer rose, and saying, " Bear witness against
me that she is more learned than I," away he went beaten. Then
quoth the Caliph, "Where is the philosopher 1 ?"; at which one
rose hastily and came forward and said to Tawaddud, " What is
Time and what be its limits, and its days, and what things bringeth
it?" Replied she, "Time is a term applied to the hours of the
night and day, which are but the measures of the courses of the
sun and moon in their several heavens, even as Allah Almighty
telleth us when he saith, * A sign to them also is the Night, from
which we strip off the day, and lo ! they are plunged in darkness,
and the Sun runneth to her place 'of rest ; this is the ordinance
of the Sublime, the All-knowing.' " 2 (<;) t{ How cometh unbelief to
the son of Adam ? " It is reported of the Apostle (whom Allah
bless and preserve !) that he said, ' Unbelief in a man runneth as
the blood runneth in his veins, when he revileth the world and
Time and night and the Hour.' And again, ' Let none of you

1 Arab. "Faylasuf," an evident corruption from the Greek. Amongst the vulgar it
denotes a sceptic, an atheist; much the same a "Frammasun" or Freemason. The
curious reader will consult the Dabistan, vol. iii. chapt. xi. p. 138 et seq. "On tha
Religion of the Wise" (philosophi), and, Beaconsfield's theft from Shaftesbury.

2 Koran xxxvi. 37-38.

Abu al-Husn and his Slave-Girl Tawaddud. 235

revile Time, for Time is God ; neither revile the world, for she
saith, May Allah not aid him who revileth me ! neither revile the
hour, for, ' The Hour is surely coming, there is no doubt thereof ; l
neither revile the earth, for it is a portent, according to the saying
of the Most High, 'Out of the ground have we created you, and
into the same will we cause you to return, and we will bring you
forth yet thence another time.' 2 (<i)"What are the five that ate
and drank, yet came not out of loins nor womb ? " Adam and
Simeon 3 and Salih's she-camel 4 and Ishmael's ram and the bird
that Abu Bakr the Truth-teller saw in the cave. 5 Q) " Tell me of
five that are in Paradise and are neither humans, Jinns nor
angels ?" Jacob's wolf and the Seven Sleepers' dog and Esdras's
ass and Salih's camel and Duldul the mule of the Prophet (upon
whom be blessings and peace !). (<;) " What man prayed a prayer
neither on earth nor in heaven ? " Solomon, when he prayed on
his carpet, borne by the wind. Q) " Ree me this riddle : A man
once looked at a handmaid during dawn-prayer, and she was un-
lawful to him ; but, at noonday she became lawful to him : by
mid-afternoon, she was again unlawful, but at sundown, she was
lawful to him : at supper time she was a third time unlawful, but
by daybreak, she became once more lawful to him." This was a
man who looked at another's slave-girl in the morning, and she

1 Koran xxii. 7. The Hour i.e. of Judgment.

8 Koran xx. 58. The Midrasch Tanchumah on Exod. vii. gives a similar dialogue
between Pharaoh and Moses (Rodwell, in locd]\

3 Arab. ''Sham'un" or "Shim'un," usually applied to Simon Peter (as in Acts
xv. 14). But the text alludes to Saint Simeon (Luke ii. 25-35). See Gospel of Infancy
(ii. 8) and especially the Gospel of Nicodemus (xii. 3) which makes him a High-priest.

4 Salih the Patriarch's she-camel, miraculously produced from the rock in order to
convert the Thamud-tribe (Koran vii).

5 When Abu Bakr was hiding with Mohammed in a cave on the Hill Al-Saur (Thaur
or Thur, Pilgrimage ii. 131) South of Meccah, which must not be confounded with the
cave on Jabal Hira now called Jabal Nur on the way to Arafat (Pilgrimage iii. 246), the
fugitives were protected by a bird which built her nest at the entrance (according to
another legend it was curtained by a spider's web), whilst another bird (the crow of whom
I shall presently speak) tried to betray them. The first bird is popularly supposed to
have been a pigeon, and is referred to by Hudibras :

Th' apostles of this fierce religion
Like Mahomet, were ass and widgeon.

The ass I presume alludes to the marvellous beast Al-Burik which the Greeks called
Bpax&xv from Bpa^ (Euthymius in Pocock, Spec. A.H. p. 144) and which Indian Mos-
lems picture with human face, ass's ears, equine body and peacock's wings and tail.
The " widgeon " I presume to be a mistake or a misprint for pigeon.

236 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

was then unlawful to him ; but at midday he bought her, and she
became lawful to him : at mid-afternoon he freed her, and she
became unlawful to him ; but at sundown he married her and she
was again lawful to him. At nightfall he divorced her and
she was then a third time unlawful to him ; but, next morning
at daybreak, he took her back, and she became once more lawful
to him. (<;) " Tell me what tomb went about with him that lay
buried therein?" Jonah's whale, when it had swallowed him.
Q) " What spot of lowland is it, upon which the sun shone once,
but will never again shine till Judgment-Day?" The bottom of
the Red Sea, when Moses smote it with his staff, and the sea
clave asunder in twelve places, according to the number of the
tribes ; * then the sun shone on the bottom and will do so never-
more until Judgment-Day. And Shahrazad perceived the

dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

Jlofo tofjen tt toas ifce jfour ^unfctetr ana jFtftg=eu$t& JLtgfjf,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
philosopher then addressed the damsel saying, " What was the
first skirt that trailed over the face of the earth ? " She replied,
"That of Hagar, out of shame before Sarah; and it became a
custom among the Arabs." Q) " What is that which breatheth
without life?" Quoth Almighty Allah, 'By the morning when
it breatheth ! ' 2 (,;) " Ree me this riddle : A number of pigeons
came to a high tree and lighted, some on the tree and others
under it. Said those on the tree to those on the ground : If one
of you come up to us, ye will be a third part of us all in number ;
and if one of us descend to you, we shall be like unto you in
number. How many pigeons were there in all?" Twelve: seven
alighted on the tree and five beneath ; and, if one go up, those
above would be eight to four; and, if one go down, both would be
six and Allah is all-knowing." 3 With this the philosopher put

1 The Arabs are not satisfied with the comparative moderation of the Hebrew miracle,
and have added all manner of absurdities (Pilgrimage ii. 288).

z Koran Ixxxi. 18. Sale translates "by the morning when it appeareth;" and the
word (tanaffus) will bear this meaning. Mr. Rodwell prefers, " By the dawn when it
clears away the darkness by its breath."

3 As a rule Moslems are absurdly ignorant of arithmetic and apparently cannot
master it. Hence in Egypt they used Copts for calculating-machines and further East
Hindus. The mildest numerical puzzle, like the above, is sure of success.

Abu al-Husn and his Slave-Girl Tawaddnd. 237

off his clothes and fled : whereupon the next contest took place,
for she turned to the Olcma present and said, " Which of you is
the rhetorician that can discourse of all arts and sciences ? "
There came forward a sage hight Ibrahim bin Siyydr and said
to her, " Think me not like the rest." Quoth she, " It is the more
assured to me that thou wilt be beaten, for that thou art a boaster ;
and Allah will help me to victory over thee, that I may strip thee
of thy clothes. So, if thou sentest one to fetch thee where-
withal to cover thyself, 'twould be well for thee." Cried he, " By
Allah, I will assuredly conquer thee and make thee a byword
among the peoples, generation after generation ! " Rejoined she,
"Do penance in advance for thy broken oath." Then he asked,
" What five things did Allah create before he made man ? " ; and
she answered, " Water and earth and light and darkness and the
fruits of the earth." (<) " What did Allah create with the hand
of omnipotence ? " The 'Arsh, throne of God or the empyreal
heaven and the tree Tuba * and Adam and the garden of Eden ;
these Allah created with the hand of His omnipotence ; but to all
other created things He said, " Be," and they were. Q) " Who is
thy father in Al-Islam ? " Mohammed, whom Allah bless and
preserve ! Q) Who was the father in Al-Islam of Mohammed ? '
Abraham, the Friend of God. QV'What is the Faith of Al-
Islam ? " The professing that there is no God but the God and
that Mohammed is the apostle of God. (,;)"What is thy first
and thy last ? " My first is man's seed in the shape of foul
water and my last filthy carrion : the first of me is dust and the
last of me is dust. Quoth the poet :

Of dust was I created, and man did I become, o In question ever ready and

aye fluent in reply,
Then, I unto the dust return'd, became of it again, o For that, in very deed,

of dust at first create was I.

He continued, " What thing was it, whose first state was wood and

' The paradiseal tree which supplied every want. Mohammed borrowed it from the
Christians (Rev. xxi. 10-21 and xxii. 1-2) who placed in their paradise the Tree of Life
which bears twelve sorts of fruits and leaves of healing virtue. (See also the 3rd book
of Hermas, his Similitudes.) The Hebrews borrowed it from the Persians. Amongst
the Hindus it appears as " Kalpavriksha ; " amongst the Scandinavians as Yggdrasil.
The curious reader will consult Mr. James Fergusson's learned work, "Tree and Serpent
Worship," etc. London, 1873.

238 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

its last life ? " Moses* staff, 1 when he cast it on the valley-ground
and it became, by permission of Allah, a writhing serpent.
(<) " What is the meaning of the word of the Lord, 'And I have
other occasion for it ?' " 2 He, Moses, was wont to plant his staff
in the ground, and it would flower and fruit and shade him from
the heat and from the cold. Moreover, it would carry him when
he was weary, and whilst he slept guard his sheep from lions and
wild beasts. (<) " What woman was born of a man alone and
what man of a woman alone ? " Eve of Adam and Jesus of
Mary. 3 Q) " Tell me of the four fires, what fire eateth and
drinketh ; what fire eateth but drinketh not ; what fire drinketh
but eateth not and what other neither eateth nor drinketh ? "
The fire of the world eateth but drinketh not ; the fire which
eateth and drinketh is Hell-fire ; the fire of the sun drinketh but
eateth not, and the fire of the moon neither eateth nor drinketh.
(<) " Which is the open door and which the shut ? " The Tradi-
tional Ordinances are the open door, the Koranic the shut door.
(d) " Of what doth the poet speak, when he saith :

And dweller in the tomb whose food is at his head, o When he eateth of that
meat, of words he waxeth fain :

1 Aaron's Rod becomes amongst Moslems (Koran vii. 110) Moses' Staff; the size being
that of a top-mast (Pilgrimage i. 300, 301). In Koran xx. 18, 19, we find a notice of
its uses ; and during the Middle Ages it reappeared in the Staff of Wamba the Goth
(A.D. 672-680) : the witch's broomstick was its latest development.

2 Christ, say the Eutychians, had only one nature the divine ; so he was crucified in

3 Jesus is compared with Adam in the Koran (chapt. iii.) : his titles are Kalamu 'llah
(word of God) because engendered without a father, and Ruhu 'llah (breath of God)
because conceived by Gabriel in the shape of a beautiful youth breathing into the
Virgin's vulva. Hence Moslems believe in a "miraculous conception" and con-
sequently determine that one so conceived was, like Elias and Khizr, not subject to
death ; they also hold him born free from " original sin " (a most sinful superstition), a
veil being placed before the Virgin and Child against the Evil One who could not touch
them. He spoke when a babe in cradle ; he performed miracles of physic ; he was
taken up to Heaven ; he will appear as the forerunner of Mohammed on the White
Tower of Damascus, and finally he will be buried at Al-Medinah. The Jews on the
other hand speak of him as "that man :" they hold that he was begotten by Joseph
during the menstrual period and therefore a born magician. Moreover he learned the
Sham ha-maphrash or Nomen tetragrammaton, wrote it on parchment and placed it in
an incision in his thigh, which closed up on the Name being mentioned (Buxtorf, Lex
Talmud 25-41). Other details are given in the Toldoth Jesu (Historia Joshuas Nazareni).
This note should be read by the eminent English litterateur who discovered a fact, well
known to Locke and Carlyle, that " Mohammedans are Christians." So they are and
something more.

Abu al-Husn and his Slave-Girl Taivaddud. 239

He riseth and he walketh and he talketh without tongue ; o And returneth to

the tomb where his kith and kin are lain.
No living wight is he, yet in honour he abides ; o Nor dead yet he deserveth

that Allah him assain."

She replied, " The reed-pen." 1 Quoth he "What doth the poet
refer to in these verses :

Two vests in one ; blood flowing easiest wise ; o Rosy red ears and mouth

wide open lies ;
It hath a cock-like form, its belly pecks o And, if you price it, half a dirham


She replied, " The ink-case." Quoth he, " And in these :

Ho say to men of wisdom, wit and lore To sapient, reverend, clever coun-
sellor :

Tell me what was't you saw that bird bring forth o When wandering Arab-land
and Ajam o'er ?

No flesh it beareth and it hath no blood, o Nor down nor any feathers e'er it

'Tis eaten cooked and eke 'tis eaten cold ; o Tis eaten buried 'neath the flames
that roar :

It showeth twofold colours, silver white o And yellow brighter than pure
golden ore :

*Tis not seen living or we count it dead : o So ree my riddle rich in marvel-
store !

She replied, " Thou makest longsome the questioning anent an
egg worth a mite." M And this ? :

I waved to and fro and he waved to and fro, o With a motion so pleasant,

now fast and now slow ;
And at last he sunk down on my bosom of snow ; o " Your lover friend ? "

" No friend, my fan ;"' 2 said she. (<j) "How many words did
Allah speak to Moses?" It is related of the Apostle that he
said, " God spoke to Moses fifteen hundred and fifteen words."
(<) " Tell me of fourteen things that speak to the Lord of the
Worlds ? " The seven heavens and the seven earths, when they

say, 'We come obedient to Thy command.' 3 And Shahrazad

perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 In the Kalamdan, or pen-case, is a little inkstand of metal occupying the top of the
long, narrow box.

2 A fair specimen of the riddle known as the " surprise.
8 Koran xli. 10.

240 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Nofo foDm it foas tbe Jpour f^untrrefc antr jftft2 - nmtb

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
damsel made the answer, the philosopher continued, " Tell me of
Adam and how he was first created ? " and she said, " Allah
created Adam of clay : the clay He made of foam and the foam
of the sea, the sea of darkness, darkness of light, light of a fish,
the fish of a rock, the rock of a ruby, the ruby of water, and
the water He created by His Omnipotence according to His
saying (exalted be His name!), 'His commandment when He
willeth aught, is but to say, BE, and IT IS.' " (<) " What is
meant by the poet in these verses :

And eater lacking mouth and even maw ; o Yet trees and beasts to it are daily

bread :
Well fed it thrives and shows a lively life, o But give it water and you do

it dead?"

" This," quoth she, " is Fire." " And in these ; " he asked :

" Two lovers barred from every joy and bliss, e Who through the livelong

night embracing lie :
They guard the folk from all calamities, o But with the rising sun apart they


She answered, " The leaves of a door." Quoth he, " Tell me of
the gates of Gehenna ?" Quoth she, " They are seven in number
and their names are comprised in these two couplets :

Jahannam, next Lazd, and third Hatfm ; o Then count Sa'fr and Sakar eke,

Sixth comes Jahfm and Hawiyah the seventh ; o Here are seven Hells in four

'lines briefly told."

Quoth he " To what doth the poet refer when he saith :

She wears a pair of ringlets long let down o Behind her, as she comes and

goes at speed,
And eye that never tastes of sleep nor sheds o A tear, for ne'er a drop it hath

at need ;
That never all its life wore stitch of clothes ; o Yet robes mankind in every

mode of weed ?"

1 Koran xxxvi. 82.

Abu al-Husn and his Slave-Girl Tawaddud. 241

Quoth she, "A needle." (<;)"What is the length and what the
breadth of the bridge Al-Sirat ? " Its length is three thousand
years' journey, a thousand in descent and a thousand in ascent
and a thousand level : it is sharper than a sword and finer than a

hair. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of da}/ and ceased

to say her permitted say.

fofjnt it foas tfje jpour l^imfcreti anfc ^txtietf)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
damsel had described to him Al-Sirat, the philosopher said,
" Inform me how many intercessions with Allah hath the Pro-
phet for each soul ? " * Three. Q) " Was Abu Bakr the first
who embraced Al-Islam?" Yes. (<;)"Yet Ali became a Moslem
before him ? " Ali came to the Prophet, when he was a boy of
seven years old, for Allah vouchsafed him knowledge of the way
of salvation in his tender youth, so that he never prostrated him-
self to idols. Quoth he, " Tell me which is the more excellent,
Ali or Abbas ? " Now she knew that, in propounding this question,
Ibrahim was laying a trap for her ; for if she said, " Ali is more
excellent than Abbas," she would lack excuse with the Caliph for
undervaluing his ancestor ; so she bowed her head awhile, now
reddening, then paling, and lastly said, " Thou askest me of two
excellent men, each having his own excellence. Let us return to
what we were about." When the Caliph Harun al-Rashid heard
her, he stood up and said, " Thou hast spoken well, by the Lord of
the Ka'abah, O Tawaddud ! " Then quoth Ibrahim the rhetorician,
" What meaneth the poet when he saith :

Slim-wasted one, whose taste is sweetest-sweet, Likest a lance whereon no

head we scan :
And all the lieges find it work them weal, o Eaten of afternoon in Ramazan."

She answered, " The sugar-cane ;" and he said, " Tell me of many

1 Here we enter upon a series of disputed points. The Wahhabis deny the interces-
sion of the Apostle (Pilgrimage ii. 76-77). The Shi ahs place Ali next in dignity to
Mohammed and there is a sect (Ali-Ilahi) which believes him to be an Avatar or incar
nation of the Deity. For the latter the curious reader will consult the " Dabistan," ii.
451. The Koran by its many contradictions seems to show that Mohammed never could
make up his own mind on the subject, thinking himself at times an intercessor and then
sharply denying all intercession.


242 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

things." Asked she, "What are they?" and he said, "What is
sweeter than honey ; what is sharper than the sword ; what is
swifter than poison ; what is the delight of a moment and what
the contentment of three days ; what is the pleasantest of days ;

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 24 of 41)