The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume IV

Part 6 out of 8

mat in one of the cells, with bare head and eyes fixed upon the
wall. We saluted him, and he returned our greeting, without
looking at us; and one said to us, "Repeat some verses to him;
for, when he hears verses, he speaks." So I repeated the
following verses:

O best of all the race whom Eve gave birth unto, Except for
thee the world were neither sweet nor bright:
Thou'rt he, whose face if God unveil to any man, Eternity is
his; his head shall ne'er grow white.[FN#152]

When he heard this, he turned towards us and repeated these

God indeed knows that I am sore afflicted: I suffer so, I
cannot tell the whole.
I have two souls; one in this place is dwelling; Another
country holds my second soul.
Meseems the absent one is like the present And wearies under
the same weight of dole.

Quoth he, "Have I said well or ill?" "Thou hast said well and
excellent well," replied we. Then he put out his hand and took
a stone, that was by him; whereupon we fled from him, thinking
he would throw it at us; but he fell to beating his breast
therewith violently and said to us, "Fear not, but draw near
and hear somewhat from me and receive it from me." So we came
back, and he repeated the following verses:

When they made their beasts of burden kneel as day drew nigh
and nigher, Then they mounted and the camels bore away my
heart's desire,--
When my eyes perceived my loved one through the crannied
prison-wall, Then I cried, with streaming eyelids and a
heart for love a-fire,
"Turn thou leader of the camels, let me bid my love farewell!"
For her absence and estrangement, life and hope in me
Still I kept my troth and failed not from her love; ah, would I
knew What she did with that our troth-plight, if she kept
her faith entire!

Then he looked at me and said, "Dost thou know what she did?"
"Yes," answered I, "she is dead; may God the Most High have
mercy on her!" At this his face changed and he sprang to his
feet and cried out, "How knowest thou she is dead?" "Were she
alive," answered I, "she had not left thee thus." "By Allah,
thou art right," said he, "and I care not to live after her."
Then his nerves quivered and he fell on his face; and we ran up
to him and shook him and found him dead, the mercy of God be on
him! At this we marvelled and mourned sore for him and laid him
out and buried him. When I returned to Baghdad and went in to
the Khalif El Mutawekkil, he saw the trace of tears on my face
and said to me, "What is this?" So I told him what had passed,
and it was grievous to him and he said, "What moved thee to
deal thus with him? By Allah, if I thought thou didst this with
intent, I would punish thee therefor!" And he mourned for him
the rest of the day.


(Quoth Abou Bekr Mohammed ibn el Ambari[FN#153]), I once left
Ambar, on a journey to Ammouriyeh, in the land of the Greeks,
[FN#154], and alighted midway at the monastery of El Anwar,
[FN#155], in a village near Ammouriyeh, where there came out
to me the prior of the monastery and superior of the monks,
Abdulmesih[FN#156] by name, and brought me into the monastery.
There I found forty monks, who entertained me that night
with the most liberal hospitality, and I saw among them such
abounding piety and diligence in devotion as I never beheld the
like of in any others. On the morrow, I took leave of them and
went on to Ammouriyeh, where I did my business and returned to
Ambar [without again visiting the monastery].

Next year it befell that I made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and as
I was compassing the Holy House, behold, I saw Abdulmesih the
monk also making the circuit of the Kaabeh, and with him five
of his fellows, the monks. When I was certified that it was
indeed he, I accosted him, saying, "Art thou not Abdulmesih er
Rahib?"[FN#157] "Nay," answered he; "I am Abdallah er Raghib."
[FN#158] Therewith I fell to kissing his hoary hairs and weeping;
then, taking him by the hand, I led him aside into a corner of
the sanctuary and said to him, "Tell me the manner of thy
conversion to Islam." "It was a wonder of wonders," answered
he; "and befell thus. Know that, not long after thy visit to
us, a company of Muslim devotees came to the village, in which
is our monastery, and sent a youth to buy them food. He saw,
in the market, a Christian damsel selling bread, who was of
the fairest of women, and became then and there so passionately
enamoured of her, that his senses failed him and he fell on his
face in a swoon. When he revived, he returned to his companions
and told them what had happened, saying, 'Go ye about your
business; I may not go with you.' They blamed him and exhorted
him, but he paid no heed to them; so they left him and went on,
whilst he entered the village and seated himself at the door
of the woman's shop. She asked him what he wanted, and he told
her that he was in love with her, whereupon she turned from
him; but he abode in his place three days, without tasting
food, with his eyes fixed on her face.

When she saw that he departed not from her, she went to her
people and acquainted them with her case, and they set the boys
of the village on him, who pelted him with stones and bruised
his ribs and broke his head; but, for all this, he would not
budge. Then the people of the village took counsel together to
kill him; but one of them came to me and told me of his
condition, and I went out to him and found him lying prostrate
on the ground. So I wiped the blood from his face and carried
him to the convent, where I dressed his wounds, and he abode
with me fourteen days. But, as soon as he could walk, he left
the convent and returned to the door of the woman's shop, where
he sat gazing on her as before. When she saw him, she came out
to him and said, 'By Allah, thou movest me to pity! If thou
wilt enter my faith, I will marry thee.' 'God forbid,' answered
he, 'that I should put off the faith of the Unity and enter
that of Plurality!'[FN#159] Quoth she, 'Come in with me to my
house and take thy will of me and go thy ways in peace.' 'Not
so,' answered he, 'I will not barter the pious service of
twelve years for the lust of a moment.' 'Then depart from me
forthright,' said she; and he rejoined, 'My heart will not
suffer me to do that;' whereupon she turned her face from him.
Presently the boys found him out and began to throw stones
at him; and he fell on his face, saying, 'Verily, God is my
keeper, who sent down the Book and who protecteth the righteous!'
[FN#160] At this juncture, I sallied forth and driving away
the boys, lifted his head from the ground and heard him say,
'O my God, unite me with her in Paradise!' Then I took him in
my arms, to carry him to the monastery; but he died, before
I could reach it, and I dug him a grave without the village
and buried him there.

In the middle of that night, the people of the village heard
the damsel give a great cry, and she in her bed; so they
flocked to her and questioned her of her case. Quoth she, 'As I
slept, the Muslim [who ye wot of] came in to me and taking me
by the hand, carried me to the gate of Paradise; but the keeper
denied me entrance, saying, "It is forbidden to unbelievers."
So I embraced Islam at his hands and entering with him, beheld
therein palaces and trees, such as I cannot describe to you.
Moreover, he brought me to a pavilion of jewels and said to me,
"This is my pavilion and thine, nor will I enter it except with
thee; but, after five nights, thou shalt be with me therein, if
it be the will of God the Most High." Then, putting his hand to
a tree that grew at the door of the pavilion, he plucked
therefrom two apples and gave them to me, saying, "Eat this and
keep the other, that the monks may see it." So I ate one of
them and never tasted I aught sweeter than it. Then he took my
hand and carried me back to my house; and when I awoke, I found
the taste of the apple in my mouth and the other in my hand.'
So saying, she brought out the apple, and it shone in the
darkness of the night, as it were a sparkling star. So they
carried her to the monastery, where she repeated to us her
vision and showed us the apple; never saw we its like among all
the fruits of the world. Then I took a knife and cut the apple
into as many pieces as we were folk in the company; and never
knew we aught more delicious than its taste nor sweeter than
its scent; but we said, 'Haply this was a devil that appeared
to her, to seduce her from her faith.' Then her people took her
and went away; but she abstained from eating and drinking till
the fifth night, when she rose from her bed and going forth the
village to the grave of the young Muslim, threw herself upon it
and died.

Her people knew not what was come of her; but, on the morrow,
there came to the village two Muslim elders, clad in hair-
cloth, and with them two women in like garb, and said, 'O
people of the village, with you is a woman of the friends of
God,[FN#161] who died a Muslim, and we will take charge of her,
instead of you.' So the damsel's family sought her and found
her dead on the young Muslim's grave; and they said, 'This our
sister died in our faith, and we will take charge of her.' 'Not
so,' rejoined the two old men; 'she died a Muslim and we claim
her.' And the dispute waxed hot between them, till one of the
Muslims said, 'Be this the test of her faith. Let the forty
monks of the monastery come all and [essay to] lift her from
the grave. If they succeed, then she died a Nazarene; if not,
one of us shall come and lift her up, and if she yield to him,
she died a Muslim.' The villagers agreed to this and fetched
the forty monks, who heartened each other and came to her, to
lift her, but could not. Then we tied a great rope about her
middle and tugged at it with our might; but the rope broke in
sunder, and she stirred nor; and the villagers came and joined
their endeavour to ours, but could not move her from her place.
At last, when all our devices failed, we said to one of the two
old Muslims, 'Come thou and lift her.' So he went up to the
grave and covering her with his mantle, said, 'In the name of
God the Compassionate, the Merciful, and of the Faith of the
Apostle of God, on whom be peace and salvation!' Then he lifted
her and taking her in his bosom, betook himself with her to a
cave hard by, where they laid her, and the two women came and
washed her and shrouded her. Then the two elders bore her to
the young Muslim's grave and prayed over her and buried her by
his side and went their way.

Now we were witness of all this; and when we were alone with
one another, we said, 'Of a verity, the Truth is most worthy to
be followed;[FN#162] and indeed it hath been publicly manifested
to us, nor is it possible to have a clearer proof of the truth
of Islam than that we have seen this day with our eyes.' So I
and all the monks embraced Islam and on like wise did the people
of the village; and we sent to the people of Mesopotamia for a
doctor of the law, to instruct us in the ordinances of Islam and
the canons of the Faith. They sent us a pious man, who taught us
the rites of devotion and the tenets of the faith and the
service of God; and we are now in great good case. To God be
the praise and the thanks!"


(Quoth Amr ben Mesaadeh[FN#163]), Abou Isa, son or Er Reshid
and brother to El Mamoun, was enamoured of a girl called Curret
el Ain, belonging to Ali ben Hisham,[FN#164] and she also loved
him; but he concealed his passion, complaining of it to none
neither discovering his secret to any, of his pride and
magnanimity; and he had used his utmost endeavour to buy her of
her lord, but in vain. At last, when his patience failed him
and his passion was sore on him and he was at his wits' end
concerning her affair, he went in, one day of state, to El
Mamoun, after the folk had retired, and said to him, "O
Commander of the Faithful, if thou wilt this day make trial of
thy governors,[FN#165] by visiting them unawares, thou wilt the
men of worth from those that lack of it and note each one's
[due] place, after the measure of his faculties." (But he
purposed, in saying this, to win to sit with Curret el Ain in
her lord's house.) El Mamoun approved his proposal and bade
make ready a barge, called the Flyer, in which he embarked,
with his brother and a party of his chief officers. The first
house he visited was that of Hemid et Tawil of Tous, whom he
found seated on a mat and before him singers and players, with
lutes and hautboys and other instruments of music in their
hands. El Mamoun sat with him awhile, and presently he set
before him dishes of nothing but flesh-meat, with no birds
among them. The Khalif would not taste thereof and Abou Isa
said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, we have taken the
owner of this place unawares, and he knew not of thy coming;
but now let us go to another place, that is prepared and fitted
for thee."

So the Khalif arose and betook himself, with his brother and
his suite, to the abode of Ali ben Hisham, who, on hearing of
their approach, came out and received them after the goodliest
fashion, and kissed the earth before El Mamoun. Then he brought
them into his palace and opened to them a saloon, than which
never saw eyes a goodlier. Its floors and walls and columns
were of vari-coloured marble, adorned with Greek paintings: it
was spread with Indian matting, on which were carpets and
divans of Bassora make, fitted to the length and breadth of the
room. The Khalif sat awhile, examining the house and its roof
and walls, then said, "Give us to eat." So they brought him
forthwith nigh upon a hundred dishes of fowls, besides other
birds and brewises and fricassees and marinades. When he had
eaten, he said, "Give us to drink, O Ali;" and the latter set
before him raisin-wine, boiled with fruits and spices, in
vessels of gold and silver and crystal, served by boys like
moons, clad in garments of Alexandrian cloth of gold and
bearing on their breasts flagons of crystal, full of rose-water
mingled with musk. El Mamoun marvelled exceedingly at all this
and said, "Harkye, Aboulhusn!"[FN#166] Whereupon Ali sprang to
the carpet [on which the Khalif was seated] and kissing it,
said, "At thy service, O Commander of the Faithful!" and stood
before him. Quoth El Mamoun, "Let us hear some pleasant songs."
"I hear and obey, O Commander of the Faithful," replied Ali and
said to one of his servants, "Fetch the singing-women."

So he went out and returned in a moment, followed by ten
eunuchs, bearing ten golden stools, which they set down; and
these in their turn were followed by ten damsels, as they were
shining full moons or flowerful gardens, clad in black brocade,
with crowns of gold on their heads. They sat down on the stools
and sang various songs. Then El Mamoun looked at one of them
and captivated by her elegance and the beauty of her aspect,
said to her, "What is thy name, O damsel?" "My name is Sejahi,
O Commander of the Faithful," answered she; and he said, "Sing
to us, O Sejahi!" So she took the lute and playing a lively
measure, sang the following verses:

Right stealthily, for fearfulness, I fare, the weakling's gait,
Who sees unto the watering-place two lion-whelps draw
With cloak, instead of sword, begirt and bosom love-distraught
And heart for eyes of enemies and spies fulfilled of fear,
Till in to one at last I come, a loveling delicate, Like to a
desert antelope, that's lost its younglings dear.

"Well done, O damsel!" said the Khalif. "Whose is this song?"
"The words are by Amr ben Madi Kerib er Zubeidi,"[FN#167]
answered she, "and the air is Mabid's."[FN#168] Then the Khalif
and Ali and Abou Isa drank and the damsels went away and were
succeeded by other ten, clad in flowered silk of Yemen,
brocaded with gold, who sat down on the chairs and sang various
songs. The Khalif looked at one of them, who was like a wild
cow of the desert, and said to her, "What is thy name, O
damsel?" "My name is Zebiyeh, O Commander of the Faithful,"
answered she. "Sing to us, O Zebiyeh," said he; so she warbled
some roulades and sang the following verses:

Houris, noble ladies, that reck not of disquiet, Like antelopes
of Mecca, forbidden to be slain;
Of their soft speech, they're taken for courtezans; but Islam
Still makes them from unseemliness and lewdness to

When she had finished, "Bravo!" cried the Khalif. "Whose is
this song?" "The words are by Jerir,"[FN#169] answered she,
"and the air by Suraij." Then the Khalif and his company drank,
whilst the girls went away and there came yet another ten, as
they were rubies, bareheaded and clad in red brocade, gold
inwoven and broidered with pearls and jewels, who sat down on
the stools and sang various airs. The Khalif looked at one of
them, who was like the sun of the day, and said to her, "What
is thy name?" "O Commander of the Faithful," answered she, "my
name is Fatin." "Sing to us, O Fatin," quoth he. So she played
a lively measure and sang the following verses:

Vouchsafe me of thy grace; 'tis time to yield consent: Enough
have I endured of absence and lament.
Thou'rt he whose face unites all charms, on whose account My
patience have I lost, for very languishment.
I've spent my life for love of thee; ah, would to God I might
receive return for that which I have spent!

"Bravo, O Fatin!" exclaimed the Khalif, when she had finished.
"Whose song is that?" "The words are by Adi ben Zeid," answered
she, "and the tune is an old one." Then they drank, whilst the
damsels retired and were succeeded by other ten, as they were
sparkling stars, clad in flowered silk, embroidered with gold,
and girt with jewelled zones. They sat down and sang various
airs; and the Khalif said to one of them, who was like a
willow-wand, "What is thy name, O damsel!" "My name is Reshaa,
O Commander of the Faithful," answered she. "Sing to us, O
Reshaa," said he. So she played a lively measure and sang the
following verses:

There's a houri healing passion [with her kiss], Like a sapling
or a wild gazelle at gaze.
Wine I quaff unto the vision of her cheeks[FN#170] And dispute
the goblet with her, till she sways.
Then she lies and sleeps the night long in my arms, And I say,
"This is the wish of all my days."

"Well done, O damsel!" said the Khalif. "More." So she rose and
kissing the ground before him, sang the following verse:

She came out to gaze on the bridal at leisure, In a tunic with
ambergris smeared, worth a treasure.

The Khalif was much pleased with this verse, which when Reshaa
saw, she repeated it several times. Then said El Mamoun, "Bring
up the barge," being minded to embark and depart: but Ali said
to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, I have a slave-girl, whom
I bought for ten thousand dinars; she hath taken my whole
heart, and I would fain show her to the Commander of the
Faithful. If she please him and he will accept of her, she is
his: and if not, let him hear something from her." "Bring her
to me," said the Khalif; and there came forth a damsel, as she
were a willow-wand, with heart-seducing eyes and eyebrows like
a double bow. On her head she wore a crown of red gold, set
with pearls and jewels, under which was a fillet, wrought in
letters of chrysolite with the following words:

Behold, a Jinniyeh this is; and Jinn hath she also, I trow, Who
teach her men's hearts to transfix, by means of a
stringless bow.

She walked, with a gait like that of a fleeing gazelle, till
she came to a chair, on which she seated herself. The Khalif
marvelled at her beauty and grace; but when Abou Isa saw her,
his colour changed and he was in ill case. "O Abou Isa," said
the Khalif, "what ails thee, to change colour thus?" "O
Commander of the Faithful," answered he, "it is because of pain
that seizes me bytimes." "Hast thou known yonder damsel before
to-day?" asked El Mamoun. "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful,"
answered he. "Can the moon be hidden?" Then said El Mamoun to
her, "What is thy name, O damsel?" "My name is Curret el Ain, O
Commander of the Faithful," replied she; and he said, "Sing to
us, O Curret el Ain." So she sang the following verses:

The loved ones passed from thee in middle midnight's shade And
fared forth in the dawn, with the pilgrims' cavalcade.
The tents of pride they pitched round their pavilions And
veiled themselves about with hangings of brocade.

Quoth the Khalif, "Bravo, O Curret el Ain! Whose song is that?"
"The words are by Dibil el Khuzai," answered she, "and the air
by Zourzour es Seghir." Abou Isa looked at her and his tears
choked him; so that the company marvelled at him. Then she
turned to El Mamoun and said to him, "O Commander of the
Faithful, wilt thou give me leave to change the words?" "Sing
what thou wilt," answered the Khalif. So she played a lively
measure and sang the following verses:

If thou please me and he please thee in public, look thou hide
And keep in secret straiter watch o'er love, lest ill
And disregard and put away the tales of slanderers; For seldom
seeks the sland'rer aught but lovers to divide.
They say that when a lover's near, he wearies of his love And
that by absence passion's cured. 'Tis false; for I have
Both remedies, but am not cured of that which is with me,
Withal that nearness easier is than distance to abide.
Yet nearness of abode, forsooth, may nowise profit thee, An If
the grace of him thou lov'st be unto thee denied.

When she finished, Abou Isa said, "O Commander of the Faithful,
we will be at peace, though we be dishonoured. Dost thou give
me leave to reply to her?" "Yes," answered the Khalif. "Say
what thou wilt to her." So he swallowed his tears and sang
these verses:

I held my peace nor said, "I am in love;" and eke The passion
that I felt even from my heart hid I:
And natheless, if my eyes do manifest my love, It is because
they are the shining moon anigh.

Then Curret el Ain took the lute and rejoined with the

If what thou dost pretend were very truth, Thou woulst not with
mere wishing rest content,
Nor couldst endure to live without a girl, In charms and beauty
wonder excellent.
But there is nought in that thou dost avouch, Save only idle
talk and compliment.

When Abou Isa heard this, he fell a-weeping and lamenting and
discovered the trouble and anguish of his soul. Then he raised
his eyes to her and sighing, repeated the following:

Under my wede there is a wasted body And in my soul an all-
absorbing thought.
I have a heart, whose suffering is eternal, and eyes with tears
like torrents ever fraught.
When a wise man meets me, he rebukes me, Chiding the love that
thou in me hath wrought.
Lord, I've no strength all this my dole to suffer; Prithee,
come Death or quick relief be brought!

When he had ended, Ali ben Hisham sprang up and kissing his
feet, said, "O my lord, God hath heard thy prayer and answered
thy supplication, and consenteth to thy taking her with all her
gear, so the Commander of the Faithful have no mind to her."
"Had we a mind to her," answered the Khalif, "we would prefer
Abou Isa before ourselves and help him to his desire." So
saying, he rose and embarking, went away, whilst Abou Isa
tarried for Curret al Ain, whom he took and carried to his own
house, with a breast dilated for gladness. See then the
generosity of Ali ben Hisham.


El Amin,[FN#171] son of Er Reshid, once entered the house of
his uncle Ibrahim ben el Mehdi and saw there a slave-girl
playing upon the lute. She was one of the fairest of women,
and his heart inclined to her. Ibrahim, seeing how it was with
him, sent the girl to him, with rich apparel and precious
jewels. When he saw her, he thought that his uncle had lain
with her; so he was loath to have to do with her, because of
this, and sent her back to Ibrahim, accepting the present that
came with her. Ibrahim learnt the reason of this from one of
El Amin's servants; so he took a shift of flowered silk and let
work upon his skirt, in letters of gold, the following lines:

By Him to whom all fronts do bow, of that which is Beneath her
skirt, I swear, I'm ignorant outright;
Nor have I had in aught to meddle with her mouth, Except it
were by way of hearing and of sight.

Then he clad her in the shift and giving her a lute sent her
once more to his nephew. When she came into the latter's
presence, she kissed the earth before him and tuning the lute,
sang thereto the following verses:

By returning the gift, thou showest what's hid in thy breast,
And thine aversion to me is made manifest.
As thou bear malice for aught that hath been,--forgive The
past, for the Khalifate's sake, and let it rest.

When she had made an end of her song, El Amin looked at her and
reading that which was wrought upon her skirt, could not
control himself, but drew near unto her and kissed her and
appointed her a separate lodging in his palace. Moreover, he
thanked his uncle for this and bestowed on him the government
of Er Rei.[FN#172]


The Khalid El Mutawekkil[FN#173] was once again taking
medicine, and folk sent him all manner of presents and
rarities. Amongst others, El Feth ben Khacan[FN#174] sent him
a virgin slave, high-bosomed, of the fairest of women of her
time, and with her a vase of crystal, containing red wine, and
a goblet of red gold, whereon were graven in black the following

When th' Imam's made an end of taking medicine And health and
strength ensue to him thereon, in fine,
There's no medicament befits him but to drink, From out this
cup, a draught of this decocted wine.
And break the seal[FN#175] reserved to him, for this, indeed,
Right salutary is, hard after medicine.

Now the physician Youhenna[FN#176] was with the Khalif, when
the damsel entered; and when he read the above verses, he
smiled and said, 'By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, Feth
is better versed than I in the art of medicine: so let not
the Commander of the Faithful gainsay his prescription.'
Accordingly, the Khalif followed El Feth's prescription and was
made whole by the blessing of God.


(Quoth a certain man of learning) I never saw a woman sharper-
witted, more intelligent, better furnished in learning, more
excellent of faculties or more pleasant of ingredients than
a female preacher of the people of Baghdad, by name Sitt el
Meshayikh.[FN#177] It chanced that she came to the city of
Hemah in the year [of the Hegira] 561[FN#178] and there
delivered salutary exhortations to the folk from the pulpits.
Now there used to visit her house a number of students of
divinity and [other] persons of learning and culture, who
would argue with her upon questions of theology and discuss
controversial points with her. I went to her one day, with a
friend of mine, a man of education; and when we had taken our
seats, she set before us a dish of fruit and seated herself
behind a curtain. Now she had a [young] brother, a handsome
youth, who stood by us, to serve us.

When we had eaten, we fell to disputing upon points of divinity,
and I propounded to her a theological question, bearing upon a
difference between the Imams.[FN#179] She proceeded to speak in
answer, whilst I listened; but my friend fell the while to
looking upon her brother's face and considering his charms,
without paying any heed to what she said. Now she was watching
him from behind the curtain; so, when she had made an end of
her exposition, she turned to him and said, "Meseems thou art
of those that give men the preference over women!" "Assuredly,"
answered he. "And why so?" asked she. "Because," replied he,
"God hath preferred the male over the female; and I love that
which excels and mislike that which is excelled." She laughed
and said, "Wilt thou deal fairly with me in argument, if I
argue the matter with thee?" "I will," answered he. Then said
she, "What is the evidence of the superiority of the male to
the female?" "It is of two kinds," answered he, "that which
is founded on authority and that which is founded on reason.
The authoritative part derives from the Koran and the Sunneh
[Traditions of the Prophet]. As for the former, quoth God the
Most High, 'Men stand above women, in that God hath given
these the preference over those;'[FN#180] and again, 'If
there be not two men, then [call] one man and two women;'
[FN#181] and again, when treating of the law of inheritance,
'[If there be brothers and sisters,] let each male have the
like of the portion of two females.'[FN#182] Thus God, blessed
and exalted be He, hath in these places preferred the male over
the female and teaches that a woman is as the half of a man,
for that he is worthier than she. As for the Sunneh, is it not
reported of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) that he
appointed the blood-wit for a woman to be half that of a man?
As for the evidence of reason, the male is the agent and the
female the patient."

"Thou hast said well, O my lord," rejoined she; "but, by Allah,
thou hast proved my contention with thine own lips and hast
advanced arguments that tell against thee, and not for thee.
Thus: God (blessed and exalted be He) preferred the male above
the female, solely because of the quality of masculinity; and
in this, there is no difference between us. Now this quality
[of masculinity] is common to the child, the boy, the youth,
the adult and the graybeard; nor is there any distinction
between them in this. Since, then, the superior excellence of
man enures to him solely by virtue of the quality of masculinity,
it behoves that thy heart incline to the graybeard and thy soul
delight in him, equally with the boy, seeing that there is no
distinction between them, in point of masculinity. But the
difference between thee and me turns upon the qualities that
are sought as constituting excellence of intercourse and
delight of usance; and thou hast adduced no proof of the
superiority of the male over the female in this."

"O my lady," answered he, "knowest thou not that which is
proper to the boy of symmetry of shape and rosy cheeks and
pleasant smile and sweetness of speech? Boys are, in these
respects, superior to women; and the proof of this is what is
reported of the Prophet, that he said, 'Stay not thy gaze upon
the beardless boys, for in them is the similitude[FN#183] of
the black-eyed girls of Paradise.' Nor indeed is the superiority
of the boy over the girl hidden to any, and how well saith Abou

The least of his virtues it is that thou'rt free From
uncleanness with him nor with child can he be.

And what another poet says:

Quoth th' Iman Abou Nuwas, past-master sure was he In every
canon of debauch and jolly knavery,
"O ye that love the downy cheeks of younglings, take your fill
Of a delight, in Paradise that will not founden be."

So if one enlarge in praise of a girl and wish to enhance her
value by the mention of her charms, he likens her to a boy,
because of the illustrious qualities that belong to the latter,
even as saith the poet:

Boylike of buttocks, to and fro, in amorous dalliance, She
sways as sway the nodding canes that in the north wind

If boys, then, were not superior to girls, why should the
latter be likened to them? And know also, may God the Most High
preserve thee, that a boy is easy to be led, adapting himself
to the wish, pleasant of commerce and manners, inclining to
assent rather than difference, especially when the down on his
face creeps lightly and the hair darkens on his lips and the
vermilion of early youth runs in his cheeks, so that he is like
the full moon; and how goodly is the saying of Abou Temmam:

"The whiskers on his cheek appear;" the slanderers said to me;
Quoth I, "That's none of his defect; so give me no more
What time he came of age to bear buttocks that here and there
Pulled him and over beads of pearl his lips' hair darkened
And eke the rose a solemn oath, full fast and binding, swore
Its ruddy marvels from his cheek should never separate,
I with my eyelids spoke to him, without the need of speech, And
for reply thereto was what his eyebrows answered straight.
His goodliness still goodlier is than that thou knewst of yore,
And the hair guardeth him from those his charms would
Brighter and sweeter are his charms, now on his cheek the down
Shows and the hair upon his lips grows dark and delicate;
And those who chide me for the love of him, when they take up
Their parable of him and me, say evermore, "His mate."

And quoth El Heriri[FN#185] and saith well:

My censors say, "What is this love and doting upon him? Seest
not the hair upon his cheeks that sprouts? Where is thy
Quoth I, "By Allah, an ye chide at me, I rede you note The
exposition of the truth that in his eyes is writ.
But for the blackness of the down, that veils his chin and
cheeks, Upon the brightness of his face no mortal gaze
might sit.
A man who sojourns in a land, wherein no herbage is, Whenas the
very Spring arrives, shall he depart from it?"

And quoth another:

"He is consoled," say the censors of me; but, by heaven, they
lie! For solace and comfort come hardly to those for
longing that sigh.
When the rose of his cheek stood blooming alone, I was not
consoled; So how should I now find solace, that basil has
sprung thereby?

And again:

A slender one, whose glances and the down upon his cheeks Each
other, in the slaying of folk, abet and aid.
A sabre of narcissus[FN#186] withal, he sheddeth blood, The
hangers[FN#187] of its scabbard of very myrtle made.

And again:

Not with his wine I'm drunken, but with his tresses bright,
That make all creatures drunken, yea, all beneath the sky.
Each of his charms doth envy the others; ay, and each To be the
down so silky upon his cheek doth sigh.

These are the excellences of the boy, that women do not
possess, and these suffice and more to give boys the preference
in grace and glory over women."

"God give thee health!" cried she. "Verily, thou hast imposed
the discussion upon thyself; and thou hast spoken and hast not
stinted and hast adduced these arguments, in support of thy
contention. But now is the truth made manifest;[FN#188] so
swerve thou not from the path thereof; and if thou be not
content with a summary of proof, I will set it out to thee in
detail. God on thee, where is the boy beside the girl and who
shall liken the kid to the wild cow? The girl is soft of
speech, fair of shape, like a stalk of sweet basil, with teeth
like chamomile-petals and hair like halters. Her cheeks are
like blood-red anemones and her face like an apple; she hath
lips like wine and breasts like double pomegranates and a shape
flexile as a willow-wand. Her body is rounded and well-formed:
she hath a nose like the point of a shining sword and a
forehead brilliant with whiteness and joined eyebrows and black
and melting eyes. If she speak, fresh pearls are scattered from
her mouth and all hearts are ravished by the daintiness of her
charms; when she smiles, thou wouldst think the moon shone out
from between her lips and when she gazes, swords flash from her
eyes. In her all beauties have their term, and she is the
centre of attraction of traveller and stay-at-home. She hath
two red lips softer than cream and sweeter of taste than honey,
and a bosom, as it were a way between two hills, wherein are a
pair of breasts like globes of ivory; likewise, a smooth belly,
soft of flanks as palm-flowers[FN#189] and creased with folds
and dimples that overlap one another, and luxuriant thighs,
like columns of pearl, and buttocks, that beat together like
seas of crystal or mountains of light, and two slender feet and
hands like ingot of virgin gold. So, O wretched fellow, where
are mortal men besides the Jinn? Knowest thou not that mighty
kings and captains and noble princes still submit themselves
humbly to women and depend on them for delight? Verily, they
[women] say, 'We rule over [all] necks and captivate [all]
hearts.' How many a rich man have they not made poor, how many
a powerful one have they not humbled and how many a noble have
they not reduced to servitude! Indeed, they seduce the learned
and bring the pious to shame and make poor the rich and plunge
the favoured of fortune into misery. Yet, for all this, the
wise but redouble in love and honour of them, nor do they count
this oppression or dishonour. How many a man for them hath
transgressed against his Lord and called down on himself the
wrath of his father and mother! And all this because of the
preponderance of the love of them over hearts. Knowest thou
not, O wretched fellow, that for them are palaces built and
slave-girls bought, and over them curtains are let down, that
for them do tears flow and for them armies levied and pleasure-
houses raised up and riches gathered and heads smitten off? And
indeed he spoke sooth who said, 'The world is a commentary
[FN#190] upon women.'

As for thy citation from the Holy Traditions, it is an argument
against thee and not for thee; for the Prophet (whom God bless
and preserve) compares boys to the houris of Paradise. Now,
without doubt, the subject of comparison is more worthy than
the object compared with it; so, except 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, it
is not so, but the contrary: boys are likened to girls; for
folk say, 'Yonder boy is like a girl.' As for that thou quotest
from the poets, the verses in question were the product of an
unnatural complexion in this respect; and as for the confirmed
sodomists and debauchees, that sin against religion, whom God
hath condemned in His Holy Book, wherein He denounceth their
filthy practices, saying, 'Do ye betake you to males from the
four corners of the world and forsake that which your Lord hath
created for you of your wives? Nay, but ye are a froward
folk.'[FN#191] These it is that liken girls to boys, of their
exceeding profligacy and frowardness and inclination to follow
the devil and their own lusts, so that they say, 'She is apt
for two men;' and these are all wanderers from the path of
right. Quoth their chief Abou Nuwas:

A slender one, boyish of waist and of wit, For wencher as well
as for sodomite fit.

As for what thou sayest of a boy's whiskers and moustaches and
how they add to his beauty and grace, by Allah, thou wanderest
from the right path and sayest that which is other than the
truth; for whiskers change the charms of the comely into
ugliness; even as saith the poet:

The whiskers, that sprout on the cheek of the wight, His lovers
avenge, if he 've done them unright.
I see not on 's face what is like unto smoke, Except that his
curls are as coals to the sight.
If the most of his paper[FN#192] thus blackened be, where Is
there room, deemest thou, for the pen to indite?
If any prefer him another above, 'Tis ignorance makes them thus
turn from the light.

Glory be to God", continued she, "how is it hidden from thee
that the perfection of delight is in women and that abiding
pleasure is not to be found but with them? Seeing that God
(blessed and exalted be He) hath promised His prophets and
saints black-eyed damsels in Paradise and hath appointed them
for a recompense of their pious works: and had God the Most
High known that the supreme delight was in the possession of
other than women, He had rewarded them therewith and promised
it to them. And quoth he whom God bless and preserve, 'The
things in which I most delight of [the things of] your world
are three: women and perfume and the solace of my eyes in
prayer.' Verily, God hath appointed boys to serve His prophets
and saints in Paradise, because Paradise is the abode of
delight and pleasance, which could not be complete without the
service of boys; but, as to the use of them for aught but
service, it is sin and corruption. How well saith the poet:

Men's turning unto boys is very frowardness; Who noble[FN#193]
women loves is noble[FN#194] none the less.
What difference 'twixt the lewd and him whose bedfellow A houri
is, for looks a very sorceress.
He rises from her couch and she hath given him scent; He
perfumes all the house therewith and each recess.
No boy, indeed, is worth to be compared with her: Shall aloes
evened be with what not filthiness?"

Then said she, "O folk, ye have made me overpass the bounds of
modesty and the province of free-born women and indulge in idle
talk and freedoms of speech, that beseem not people of learning.
But the breasts of the noble are the tombs of secrets, and
conversations of this kind are in confidence. Moreover, actions
are according to intents, and I ask pardon of God for myself
and you and all Muslims, seeing that He is forgiving and

With this she held her peace and thereafter would answer us of
nought; so we went our way, rejoicing in that we had profited
by her discourses and sorrowing to part from her.


(Quoth Abou Suweid), I entered a garden one day, I and a
company of my friends, to buy somewhat of fruit; and we saw, in
a corner of the place, an old woman, who was bright of face,
but her hair was white, and she was combing it with a comb of
ivory. We stopped before her, but she paid no heed to us
neither veiled her face So I said to her' "O old woman, wert
thou to dye thy hair black, thou wouldst be handsomer than a
girl. What hinders thee from this?" She raised her head and
looking at me with great eyes, recited the following verses:

That which the years had dyed, I dyed erewhen but, sooth to
tell, My dye endureth not, whilst that of Time's
Clad in the raiment of my youth and beauty, of old days,
Proudly I walked, and back and front, men had with me to

"By Allah," cried I, "bravo to thee for an old woman! How
sincere art thou in thy yearning remembrance of sin and how
false in thy presence of repentance from for bidden things!"


There was once shown to the Amir Ali ben Mohammed ben Abdallah
ben Tahir[FN#195] a slave-girl, who was excellently handsome
and well-bred and an accomplished poetess; and he asked her of
her name. 'May God advance the Amir,' replied she, 'my name is
Mounis.' Now he knew this before; so he bowed his head awhile,
then raising his eyes to her, recited the following verse:

What dost thou say of one, on whom sickness and pain have
wrought, For love and longing after thee, till he is grown

'God exalt the Amir!' answered she and recited this verse in

An if we saw a lover true, on whom the pangs of love Were sore,
we would to him vouchsafe the favours that he sought.

Her reply pleased him; so he bought her for threescore and ten
thousand dirhems and begat on her Obeidallah teen Mohammed,
after police-magistrate [at Baghdad].


(Quoth Abou el Ainaae[FN#196]), There were in our street two
women, one of whom had to lover a man and the other a beardless
boy, and they foregathered one night on the roof of a house,
not knowing that I was within hearing. Quoth one to the other,
"O my sister, how canst thou brook the harshness of thy lover's
beard, as it falls on thy breast, when he kisses thee, and his
moustaches rub thy cheek and lips?" "Silly wench that thou
art," replied the other, "what adorns the tree but its leaves
and the cucumber but its bloom? Didst ever see aught uglier
than a scald-head, with his beard plucked out? Knowest thou not
that the beard is to men as the side-locks to women; and what
is the difference between the chin and the cheek? Knowest thou
not that God (blessed and exalted be He) hath created an angel
in heaven, who saith, 'Glory be to Him who adorneth men with
beards and women with tresses?' So, were not the beard even as
the tresses in comeliness, it had not been coupled with them, O
silly woman! How shall I underlie a boy, who will be hasty with
me in emission and forestall me in flaccescence, and leave a
man, who, when he takes breath, clips close and when he enters,
goes leisurely, and when he has done, repeats, and when he
pushes, pushes hard, and as often as he withdraws, returns?"
The other was edified by her speech and said, "I forswear my
lover by the Lord of the Kaabeh!"


There lived once, in the city of Cairo, a merchant by name
Hassan the Jeweller of Baghdad, who had great store of wealth
in money and jewels and lands and houses beyond count. God
had blessed him with a son of perfect beauty and elegance,
rosy-cheeked, fair of face and well-shaped, whom he named Ali
of Cairo and taught the Koran and science and elocution and the
other branches of polite letters, till he became proficient
in all manner of knowledge and was under his father's hand
in trade. After awhile, Hassan fell sick and his sickness
increased upon him, till he made sure of death and calling his
son to him, said, 'O my son, verily this world passeth away;
but the next endureth for ever. Every soul must taste of death;
and now, O my son, my last hour is at hand and I desire to lay
on thee an injunction, which if thou observe, thou shalt abide
in peace and prosperity, till thou meet God the Most High; but
if thou follow it not, there shall befall thee weariness galore
and thou wilt repent of having transgressed my admonitions.' 'O
my father,' replied Ali, 'how shall I do other than hearken to
thee and do after thine enjoinder, seeing that I am bounden by
the law of God to obey thee and give ear to thy word?' 'O my
son,' rejoined his father, 'I leave thee lands and houses
and goods and wealth past count; wert thou each day to spend
thereof five hundred dinars, thou wouldst miss nought of it.
But, O my son, look that thou live in the fear of God and
follow His Chosen One (whom may He bless and preserve) in
what he is reported to have enjoined and forbidden in his
traditions. Be thou assiduous in good works and the practice of
beneficence and in consorting with men of worth and piety and
learning; and look that thou have a care for the poor and needy
and shun avarice and meanness and the converse of the wicked or
those of doubtful character. Look kindly upon thy servants and
family, and also upon thy wife, for she is of the daughters
of the notables and is with child by thee; belike God will
vouchsafe thee virtuous offspring by her.' And he went on to
exhort him thus, weeping and saying, 'O my son, I beseech God
the Bountiful, the Lord of the Empyrean, to deliver thee from
all straits that may betide thee and grant thee His speedy

His son wept sore and said, 'O my father, I am consumed by thy
words, for they are as the words of one that saith farewell.'
'Yes, O my son,' replied the merchant, 'I am ware of my
condition: forget thou not my enjoinder.' Then he fell to
repeating the professions of the Faith and reciting [verses of
the Koran], until the appointed hour arrived, when he said,
'Draw near unto me, O my son.' So Ali drew near and he kissed
him; then he sighed and his soul departed his body and he went
to the mercy of God the Most High. Therewith great grief fell
upon Ali; the noise of lamentation arose in his house and his
father's friends flocked to him. Then he betook himself to
preparing him for burial and made him a splendid funeral. They
bore him to the place of prayer and prayed over him, then to
the cemetery, where they buried him and recited over him what
was fitting of the Koran; after which they returned to the
house and condoled with the dead man's son and went each his
own way. Moreover, Ali prayed the Friday prayers for his father
and let make recitations of the whole Koran for the [accustomed]
space of forty days, during which time he abode in the house
and went not forth, save to the place of prayer; and every
Friday he visited his father's tomb.

He ceased not from his prayers and devotions, till, at last,
his fellows of the sons of the merchants came in to him one
day and saluting him, said, 'How long wilt thou keep up this
thy mourning and neglect thy business and the company of
thy friends? Verily, this is a fashion that will bring thee
weariness, and thy body will suffer greatly for it.' Now,
when they came in to him, Iblis the accursed was with them,
prompting them, and they went on to press him to accompany them
to the bazaar, whilst Iblis incited him to consent to them,
till he yielded and went forth the house with them, that the
will of God (blessed and exalted be He) might be fulfilled.
'Mount thy mule,' quoth they, 'and ride with us to such a
garden, that we may divert us there and that thy grief and
melancholy may depart from thee.' So he mounted and taking his
slave, went with them to the garden in question, where they
entered, and one of them went and making ready the morning-
meal, brought it to them there. So they ate and made merry and
sat, talking, till the end of the day, when they mounted and
returned each to his own lodging, where they passed the night.
On the morrow, they said to Ali, 'Come with us.' 'Whither?'
asked he, and they answered, 'To such a garden; for it is
finer than the first and more pleasant.' So he went with them
to the garden, and one of them, going away, made ready the
morning-meal and brought it to them, together with strong wine;
and Ali said, 'What is this?' Quoth they, 'This is what dispels
grief and unveils gladness.' And they went on to commend it to
him, till they prevailed upon him and he drank with them. Then
they sat, drinking and talking, till the end of the day, when
each returned home.

As for Ali, he was giddy with wine and went in, in this plight,
to his wife, who said to him, 'What ails thee?' Quoth he, 'We
were making merry to-day, when one of my companions brought us
liquor; so my friends drank and I with them, and this giddiness
came upon me.' 'O my lord,' said she, 'hast thou forgotten thy
fathers injunction and done that from which he forbade thee, in
consorting with lewd folk?' 'These are of the sons of the
merchants,' answered he; 'they are no lewd folk, only lovers of
mirth and good cheer.' And he continued to lead this life with
his friends, day after day, going from place to place and
feasting and drinking with them, till they said to him, 'Our
turns are ended, and now it is thy turn.' 'Welcome and fair
welcome!' answered he; so, on the morrow, he made ready all
that the case called for of meat and drink, double what they
had provided, and taking cooks and tent-pitchers and coffee-
makers, repaired with the others to Er Rauzeh[FN#197] and
the Nilometer, where they abode a whole month, eating and
drinking and hearing music and making merry. At the end of the
month, Ali found that he had spent a great sum of money; but
Satan the Accursed deluded him and said to him, 'Though thou
shouldst spend every day a like sum, yet would not thy wealth
fail.' So he took no account of expense and continued this way
of life three years, whilst his wife remonstrated with him and
reminded him of his father's injunctions; but he hearkened not
to her, till he had spent all his ready money, when he fell to
selling his jewels and spending their price, till they were all
gone. Then he sold his houses and lands and farms and gardens,
one after another, till they were all gone and he had nothing
left but the house in which he lived. So he tore out the marble
and wood-work and sold it and spent of its price, till he had
made an end of this also, when he bethought himself and finding
that he had nothing left to spend, sold the house itself and
spent the purchase-money.

Presently, the man who had bought the house came to him and
said, 'Look thyself out a lodging, for I have need of my
house.' So he bethought himself and considering that he had
nothing requiring a house, except his wife, who had borne him a
son and daughter,--for he had not a servant left,--hired a room
in one of the mean lodging houses and there took up his abode,
after having lived in honour and luxury, with many servants and
much wealth, and came to lack of one day's bread. Quoth his
wife, 'I warned thee of this and exhorted thee to obey thy
father's injunction, and thou wouldst not hearken to me; but
there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the
Supreme! Whence shall the little ones eat? Arise, go round to
thy friends, the sons of the merchants: it may be they will
give thee somewhat on which we may live this day.' So he went
the round of his friends, one by one; but they all hid their
faces from him and gave him nothing but injurious and revolting
words; and he returned to his wife and said to her, 'They have
given me nothing.' Thereupon she went out to beg of her
neighbours wherewithal to sustain themselves and came to a
woman, whom she had known in former days. When she came in to
her and she saw her plight, she rose and receiving her kindly,
wept and said, 'What hath befallen thee?' So she told her of
her husband's conduct, and the other said, 'Welcome and fair
welcome! Whatever thou needest, seek it of me, without price.'
'May God abundantly requite thee!' answered she. Then her
friend gave her as much victual as would suffice herself and
her family a whole month, and she took it and returned to her
lodging. When her husband saw her, he wept and said, 'Whence
hadst thou that?' 'I got it of such a woman,' answered she;
'for, when I told her what had befallen us, she failed me not
in aught, but said, "Seek of me all thou needest."' 'Since thou
hast this,' rejoined her husband, 'I will betake myself to a
place I have in my mind; peradventure God the Most High will
bring us relief.'

So saying, he took leave of her and kissing the children, went
out, not knowing whither he should go, and walked on till he
came to Boulac,[FN#198] where he saw a ship about to sail for
Damietta. Here he met a man, between whom and his father there
had been friendship; and he saluted him and said to him,
'Whither away?' 'To Damietta,' replied Ali; 'I have friends
there, whom I would fain enquire after and visit and return.'
The man took him home and entreated him hospitably, then,
furnishing him with victual [for the voyage] and giving him
somewhat of money, embarked him on board the vessel bound for
Damietta. When they reached that place, Ali landed, not knowing
where to go, but, as he was walking along, a merchant saw him
and had pity on him. So he carried him to his house, where he
abode awhile, till he said in himself, 'How long shall this
sojourning in other folks' houses last?' Then he left the
merchant's house and went down to the quay, where he saw a ship
ready to sail for Syria. His host provided him with victual and
embarked him in the ship; and it set sail and arrived, in due
course, at the coast of Syria, where he landed and journeyed
till he entered Damascus. As he walked about the town, a
benevolent man saw him and took him to his house, where he
abode awhile, till, one day, going abroad, he saw a caravan
about to start for Baghdad and bethought himself to journey
thither with it. So he returned to his host and taking leave of
him, set out with the caravan.

Now God (blessed and exalted be He) inclined to him the heart
of one of the merchants, so that he took him with him, and Ali
ate and drank with him, till they came within one day's journey
of Baghdad, where a company of highwaymen fell upon the caravan
and took all they had. But few of the merchants escaped and
these made each for a [separate] place of refuge. As for Ali,
he made for Baghdad, where he arrived at sundown, as the
gatekeepers were about to shut the gates, and said to them
'Let me in with you.' So they admitted him and asked him
whence he came and whither he was bound. 'I am a man from
the city of Cairo,' replied he, 'and have with me mules laden
with merchandise and slaves and servants. I forewent them, to
look me out a place wherein to deposit my goods; but as I rode
along on my mule, there fell upon me a company of highway robbers,
who took my mule and gear; nor did I escape from them but at
the last gasp.' The warders entreated him hospitably and bade
him welcome, saying, 'Abide with us this night, and in the
morning we will look thee out a place befitting thee.' Then he
sought in his pocket and finding a dinar remaining of those he
had gotten of the merchant at Boulac, gave it to one of the
gatekeepers, saying, 'Take this and change it and bring us
something to eat.' The man took it and went to the market,
where he changed it and brought Ali bread and cooked meat. So
he ate, he and the gatekeepers, and he lay the night with them.

On the morrow, one of the warders carried him to a merchant of
the town, to whom he told the same story, and he believed him,
deeming that he was a merchant and had with him loads of
merchandise. So he took him up into his shop and entreated him
with honour. Moreover, he sent to his house for a splendid suit
of his own apparel for him and carried him to the bath. So,
[quoth Ali], I went with him to the bath, and when we came out,
he brought me to his house, where he caused set the morning-meal
before us, and we ate and made merry.

Then said he to one of his slaves, "Harkye, Mesoud, take this
thy lord and show him the two houses in such a place. Whichever
pleases him of them, give him the key of it and come back." So
I went with the slave, till we came to a place where stood
three houses, side by side, new and shut up. He opened the
first and the second, and I looked at them; after which he said
to me, "Of which of them shall I give thee the key?" "To whom
does yon large house belong?" asked I. "To us," answered he;
and I said, "Open it, that I may view it." Quoth he, "Thou hast
no call to it." "Wherefore?" asked I; and he, "Because it is
haunted, and none lodges there but in the morning he is a dead
man; nor do we use to open the door, to take out the corpse,
but mount the roof of one of the other two houses and take it
up thence. For this reason, my master has abandoned the house
and says, 'I will never again give it to any one.'" Quoth I,
"Open it, that I may view it;" and I said in myself, "This is
what I seek. I will pass the night there and in the morning be
a dead man and be at peace from this miserable plight of mine."
So he opened it and I entered and found it a splendid house,
without its like; and I said to the slave, "I will have none
other than this house; give me the key." But he answered, "I
will not give thee this key till I consult my master," and
going to the latter, said to him, "The Egyptian merchant saith,
'I will lodge in none but the great house.'"

When the merchant heard this, he rose and coming to Ali, said
to him, 'O my lord, thou hast no need of this house.' But he
replied, 'I will lodge in none other than this; for I care
nothing for this saying.'[FN#199] 'Then,' said the other,
'write me an acknowledgment that, if aught happen to thee, I am
not responsible.' 'So be it,' answered Ali; whereupon the
merchant fetched an assessor from the Cadi's court and taking
of him the prescribed acknowledgment, delivered him the key,
which he took and entered the house. The merchant sent him
bedding by a slave, who spread it for him on the bench behind
the door and went away. Presently Ali went into the inner court
and seeing there a well with a bucket, let down the latter and
drew water, with which he made the ablution and prayed the
obligatory prayers. Then he sat awhile, till the merchant's
slave brought him the evening meal from his master's house,
together with a lamp, a candle and candlestick, a basin and
ewer and a gugglet; after which he left him and returned home.
Ali lighted the candle and supped at his ease and prayed the
evening prayer; after which he said to himself, 'Let us take
the bed and go upstairs and sleep there, rather than here.' So
he took the bed and carried it upstairs, where he found a
splendid saloon, with gilded ceiling and walls and floor of
variegated marble. He spread his bed there and sitting down,
began to recite somewhat of the sublime Koran, when suddenly he
heard one calling to him and saying, 'O Ali, O son of Hassan,
shall I send thee down the gold?' And he answered, 'Send away.'

Hardly had he spoken, when pieces of gold began to rain down on
him, like [pebbles from] a mangonel, nor stinted till the
saloon was full. Then said the voice, 'Set me free, that I may
go my way; for I have made an end of my service and have
delivered unto thee that which was committed to me for thee.'
Quoth Ali, 'I adjure thee by the Most High God to tell me the
history of this gold.' 'This is a treasure that was enchanted
to thee of old time,' replied the voice; 'and to every one, who
entered the house, we used to come and say to him, "O Ali, O
son of Hassan, shall we send down the gold?" Whereat he would
be affrighted and cry out, and we would come down to him and
break his neck and go away. But, when thou camest and we
accosted thee by thy name and that of thy father, saying,
"Shall we send thee down the gold?" and thou madest answer,
saying, "Send away," we knew thee for the owner of it and sent
it down. Moreover, there is yet another treasure for thee in
the land of Yemen, whither thou wouldst do well to journey and
fetch it. And now I would have thee set me free, that I may go
my way.' 'By Allah,' said Ali, 'I will not set thee free, till
thou bring me hither the treasure from Yemen!' Quoth the voice,
'If I bring it thee, wilt thou release me and the servant of
the other treasure also?' 'Yes,' replied Ali; and the genie
said, 'Swear to me.' So he swore to him, and he was about to go
away, when Ali said to him, 'I have one other service to ask of
thee.' 'What is that?' asked the genie. Quoth Ali, 'I have a
wife and children at Cairo, in such a place; thou must fetch
them to me, at their ease and without hurt.' 'I will bring them
to thee in state,' answered the genie, 'in a litter, with a
train of slaves and servants, together with the treasure from
Yemen, if it be the will of God the Most High.' Then he took of
him leave of absence for three days, at the end of which time
all this should be with him, and departed.

When it was morning, Ali went round about the saloon, seeking a
place wherein to lay the gold, and saw in the wall of the dais
a marble panel, with a knob in it. So he pressed the knob and
the panel slid back and discovered a door, which he opened and
entering, found a great closet, full of linen bags. So he took
out the bags and fell to filling them with gold and replacing
them in the closet, till he had transported thither the whole
treasure, whereupon he shut the door and pressing the knob, the
panel returned to its place. Then he went down and seated
himself on the bench behind the door. Presently, there came a
knock at the door; so he opened it and found the merchant's
slave, who, seeing him, returned in haste to his master with
the good tidings, saying, 'O my lord, the merchant, who is
lodged in the haunted house, is alive and well and sits on the
bench behind the door.' When the merchant heard this, he rose
joyfully and went to the house, taking breakfast with him; and
when he saw Ali, he embraced him and kissed him between the
eyes, saying, 'How hath God dealt with thee?' 'Right well,'
answered Ali. 'I slept upstairs in the marble saloon.' Quoth
the merchant, 'Did aught come to thee or didst thou see aught?'
'No,' replied Ali; 'I recited some little of the Koran and
slept till morning, when I arose and after making the ablution
and praying, came down and seated myself on the bench behind
the door.' 'Praised be God for safety!' exclaimed the merchant,
then left him and presently sent him slaves and servants, black
and white and male and female, with furniture. They swept the
house from top to bottom and furnished it magnificently, after
which three black slaves and the like number of white and four
slave-girls abode with him, to serve him, and the rest returned
to their master's house. When the merchants heard of him, they
sent him presents of all manner of things of price, even to
meat and drink and clothes, and took him with them in the
market, saying, 'When will thy baggage arrive?' And he answered,
'After three days it will come.'

Accordingly, when the three days had elapsed, the servant of
the first treasure came to him and said, 'Go forth and meet thy
harem, together with the treasure I have brought thee from
Yemen, part of which is by way of costly merchandise; but the
slaves, black and white, and the horses and camels and mules
are all of the Jinn. (Now the genie, when he betook himself to
Cairo, found Ali's wife and children in sore straits for
nakedness and hunger; so he carried them forth of the town in a
travelling-litter and clad them in sumptuous raiment of that
which was in the treasure of Yemen.) When Ali heard this, he
rose and repairing to the merchants, said to them, 'Come, go
forth the city with me, to meet the caravan, with my merchandise,
and honour me with the presence of your harems, to meet my
harem.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they and sending for
their harems, went forth all together and alighted in one
of the gardens without the city. As they sat talking, behold, a
cloud of dust arose out of the heart of the desert, and they
came out to see what it was. Presently, it lifted and discovered
mules and muleteers and tent-pitchers and linkmen, who came on,
singing and dancing, till they reached the garden, when the
chief of the muleteers came up to Ali and kissing his hand,
said to him, 'O my lord, we have been long on the way, for
we thought to enter some days ago; but we were in fear of
the highway-robbers, so abode in our station four days, till
God the Most High rid us of them.'

Then the merchants mounted their mules and rode forward with
the caravan, wondering at the [number of] mules laden with
chests, whilst their harems followed them, with Ali's harem,
marvelling at the richness of the apparel of his wife and
children and saying to each other, 'Verily, the King of Baghdad
hath no such raiment, no, nor any other of the kings or
merchants or notables.' So they entered Baghdad in great state
and rode on till they came to Ali's house, where they alighted
and brought the mules and their burdens into the midst of the
courtyard. Then they unloaded them and laid up the goods in the
storehouses, whilst the merchants' wives went up with Ali's
family to the saloon, which they found as it were a luxuriant
garden, spread with magnificent furniture. They sat in mirth
and good cheer till noon, when they brought them up the noon
meal, of all manner meats and sweetmeats of the best; and
they ate and drank costly sherbets and perfumed themselves
thereafter with rose-water and scented woods. Then they took
leave and departed, men and women. When the merchants returned
home, they all sent presents to Ali, according to their
conditions; and their wives likewise sent presents to his wife,
so that there came to them great plenty of slaves, black and
white and male and female, and store of all manner goods, such
as grain and sugar and so forth, beyond count. As for the
landlord of the house, he abode with Ali and quitted him not,
but said to him, 'Let the slaves and servants take the mules
and the other cattle into one of my other houses, to rest.'
Quoth Ali, 'They set out again to-night for such a place.' Then
he gave them leave to go forth the city, that they might set
out on their journey at nightfall; whereupon they took leave of
him forthright and departing the city, flew off through the air
to their several abodes.

Ali and the merchant sat together till a third of the night
was past, when the latter returned to his own house and Ali
went up to his wife and children and greeted them, saying,
'What hath befallen you all this time?' So she told him what
they had suffered of hunger and nakedness and toil, and he
said, 'Praised be God for safety! How did ye come?' 'O my lord,'
answered she, 'I was asleep, with my children, yesternight,
when suddenly one raised us from the ground and carried us
through the air, without doing us any hurt, nor did he give
over flying with us, till he set us down in a place as it were
a Bedouin camping-place, where we saw laden mules and a litter
borne upon two great mules, and round them servants, boys and
men. So I said to them, "Who are ye and what are these loads
and where are we?" And they answered, "We are the servants of
the merchant Ali ibn Hassan of Cairo, who has sent us to fetch
you to him at Baghdad." Quoth I, "Is it far or near, hence to
Baghdad?" "Near," answered they; "there lies but the darkness
of the night between us and the city." Then they mounted us in
the litter, and on the morrow, we found ourselves with thee,
without having suffered any hurt. 'Who gave you these clothes?'
asked he, and she said, 'The chief of the caravan opened one of
the chests on the mules and taking out the clothes, clad me and
the children each in a suit; after which he locked the chest
and gave me the key, saying, "Take care of it, till thou give
it to thy husband." And here it is, safe.' So saying, she gave
him the key, and he said, 'Dost thou know the chest?' 'Yes,'
answered she. So he took her down to the magazine and she
pointed it out, whereupon he put the key in the lock and opened
the chest, in which he found much raiment and the keys of all
the other chests. So he took them out and fell to opening the
other chests, one after another, and feasting his eyes upon the
jewels and precious metals they contained, whose like was not
found with any of the kings; after which he locked them again
and took the keys, saying to his wife, 'This is of the bounty
of God the Most High.'

Then he returned with her to the saloon and bringing her to the
secret panel, pressed the knob and opened the door of the
closet into which he entered with her and showed her the gold
he had laid up there. Quoth she, 'Whence hadst thou all this?'
'It came to me by the grace of my Lord,' answered he and told
her all that had befallen him, from first to last. 'O my lord,'
said she, 'all this comes of the blessing of thy father's
prayers, whenas he prayed for thee, before his death, saying,
"I beseech God to cast thee into no strait, except He bring
thee speedy deliverance [therefrom]!" So praised be God the
Most High for that He hath brought thee relief and hath
requited thee with more than thou didst lose! But God on thee,
O my lord, return not to thy sometime fashion and companying
with folk of lewd life; but look thou fear God the Most High,
both in public and private!' And she went on to admonish him.
Quoth he, 'I accept thine admonition and beg God the Most High
to remove the wicked from us and stablish us in His obedience
and in the observance of the law of His Prophet, on whom be
peace and salvation!'

Ali and his wife and children were now in all delight of life and
gladness; and he opened him a shop in the merchants' bazaar and
stocking it with jewels and precious metals, sat therein with
his children and servants. He soon became the most considerable
of the merchants of Baghdad, and his report reached the King of
that city, who sent a messenger to command his attendance. So
he took four trays of red gold and filling them with jewels and
precious metals, such as no king possessed, went up to the
palace and presenting himself before the prince, kissed the
earth before him and wished him continuance of glory and
prosperity, in the best words he could command. 'O merchant,'
said the King, 'thou honourest our city with thy presence;'
and Ali rejoined, saying, 'O King of the age, thy slave hath
brought thee a present and hopes for acceptance thereof from
thy favour.' So saying, he laid the four trays before the King,
who uncovered them and seeing that they contained jewels,
whose like he possessed not and whose worth equalled treasuries
of money, said, 'O merchant, thy present is accepted, and so
God please, we will requite thee with its like.' And Ali kissed
his hands and went away. Then the King called his grandees
and said to them, 'How many kings have sought my daughter in
marriage?' 'Many,' answered they. 'Hath any of them given me
the like of this gift?' asked he. 'Not one,' replied they;
'for that none of them hath its like;' and he said, 'I have
consulted God the Most High,[FN#200] as to marrying my daughter
to this merchant. What say ye?' 'Be it as thou deemest,'
answered they. Then he bade the eunuch carry the four trays
into his harem and going in to his wife, laid them before
her. She uncovered them and seeing therein that whose like
she possessed not,--no, nor a fraction thereof,--said to him,
'Of which of the kings hadst thou these? Peradventure of
one of those that seek our daughter in marriage?' 'Not so,'
answered he, 'I had them of an Egyptian merchant, who is lately
come to our city. I heard tell of him and sent to command him
to us, thinking to make his acquaintance, so haply we might
find with him somewhat of jewels and buy them of him for our
daughter's equipment. He obeyed the summons and brought us
these four trays, as a present, and I saw him to be a handsome
and elegant young man[FN#201] of dignified aspect and accomplished
wit, well-nigh as he were of the sons of the kings. Wherefore my
heart inclined to him and I rejoiced in him and thought to marry
my daughter to him.' Then he told her what had passed between
himself and his grandees on the subject and added, 'But what
sayst thou?' 'O King of the age,' answered she, 'the affair
is in God's hand, and thine, and what God willeth shall come
to pass.' 'If it be His will,' rejoined the King, 'I will marry
her to none other than this young man.'

So, on the morrow, he went out to his Divan and sending for Ali
and the rest of the merchants of Baghdad, bade them be seated.
Then he summoned the Cadi of the Divan and said to him, 'O
Cadi, draw up the contract of marriage between my daughter and
the merchant Ali of Cairo.' But the latter said, 'Thy pardon, O
our lord the Sultan! It befits not that a merchant, such as I,
be the King's son-in-law.' Quoth the King, 'It is my will to
bestow this favour upon thee, as well as the Vizierate.' And he
invested him forthwith in the Vizier's habit. Then Ali sat down
in the seat of the Vizierate and said, 'O King of the age, thou
hast bestowed on me this; and indeed I am honoured by thy
bounties; but hear one word from me.' 'Say on,' answered the
King, 'and fear not.' Quoth Ali, 'Since it is thine august will
to marry thy daughter, thou wouldst do better to marry her to
my son.' 'Hast thou then a son?' asked the King; and Ali
replied, 'Yes.' 'Send for him forthright,' said the King;
whereupon, 'I hear and obey,' answered Ali and sent a servant
to fetch his son, who came and kissing the ground before the
King, stood in an attitude of respect. The King looked at him
and seeing him to be yet comelier than his daughter and
goodlier than she in symmetry and brightness and perfection,
said to him, 'O my son, what is thy name?' 'O our lord the
Sultan,' replied the young man, who was then fourteen years
old, 'my name is Hassan.' Then the Sultan said to the Cadi,
'Write the contract of marriage between my daughter Husn el
Wujoud and Hassan, son of the merchant Ali of Cairo.' So he
wrote the contract of marriage between them, and the affair was
ended on the goodliest wise; after which all in the Divan went
their ways and the merchants escorted the Vizier Ali to his
house, where they gave him joy of his advancement and departed.
Then he went in to his wife, who, seeing him clad in the
Vizier's habit, exclaimed, 'What is this?' So he told her all
that had passed, and she rejoiced therein with an exceeding

On the morrow, he went up to the Divan, where the King received
him with especial favour and seating him beside himself, said
to him, 'O Vizier, we purpose to celebrate the wedding festivities
and bring thy son in to our daughter.' 'O our lord the Sultan,'
replied Ali, 'that thou deemest good is good.' So the Sultan
gave orders for the festivities, and they decorated the city
and held high festival thirty days, in all cheer and gladness;
at the end of which time, the Vizier Ali's son Hassan went
in to the princess and enjoyed her beauty and grace. When
the queen saw her daughter's husband, she conceived a warm
affection for him, and in like manner she rejoiced greatly in
his mother. Then the King bade build his son-in-law a palace
beside his own; so they built him with all speed a splendid
palace, in which he took up his abode; and his mother used to
abide with her son some days and then return to her own house.
After awhile, the queen said to her husband, 'O King of the
age, Hassan's mother cannot take up her abode with her son and
leave the Vizier; neither can she abide with her husband and
leave her son.' 'Thou sayst sooth,' replied the King and bade
build a third palace beside the two others, which being done in
a few days, he caused remove thither the Vizier's goods, and
the latter and his wife took up their abode there. Now the
three palaces communicated with one another, so that, when the
King had a mind to speak with the Vizier by night, he would go
to him or send to fetch him; and so with Hassan and his father
and mother.

They dwelt thus in the greatest happiness and contentment awhile,
till the King fell ill and his sickness increased on him. So he
summoned the grandees of his realm and said to them, 'There is
come upon me a sore sickness, peradventure a mortal one, and I
have therefore summoned you to consult you respecting a certain
matter, on which I would have you counsel me as you deem well.'
'What is the matter of which thou wouldst take counsel with us,
O King?' asked they; and he answered, 'I am old and sickly and
I fear for the realm, after me, from the enemies; so I would
have you all agree upon some one, that I may proclaim him king
in my lifetime and so ye may be at ease.' Whereupon quoth they
all, 'We all approve of thy son-in-law Hassan, son of the
Vizier Ali; for we have seen the perfectness of his wit and
understanding, and he knows the rank of all, great and small.

'Are ye indeed agreed upon this?' asked the King, and they
answered, 'Yes.' 'Peradventure,' quoth he, 'ye say this to my
face, of respect for me; but, behind my back, ye will say
otherwise.' But they all answered, saying, 'By Allah, our word,
in public and in private, is one, varying not; and we accept
him frankly and with all our hearts.' 'Since the case is thus,'
said the King, 'bring the Cadi of the Holy Law and all the
chamberlains and captains and officers of state before me
to-morrow, and we will settle the affair on the goodliest
wise.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they and withdrawing,
notified all the doctors of the law and the chief Amirs.

So, on the morrow, they came up to the Divan and saluted the
King, who said to them, 'O Amirs of Baghdad, whom will ye have
to be king over you after me, that I may invest him in my
lifetime, in the presence of you all?' Quoth they all, 'We are
agreed upon thy daughter's husband, Hassan, son of the Vizier
Ali.' 'If it be so,' said the King, 'go all of you and bring
him before me.' So they all arose and repairing to Hassan's
palace, said to him, 'Come with us to the King.' 'Wherefore?'
asked he, and they answered, 'For a thing that will advantage
both us and thee.' So he went in with them to the King and
kissed the ground before the latter, who bade him be seated and
said to him, 'O Hassan, all the Amirs have approved of thee and
agreed to make thee king over them after me; and it is my
purpose to proclaim thee, whilst I yet live, and so make an end
of the business.' But Hassan arose and kissing the earth once
more before the King, said to him, 'O our lord the King, among
the Amirs there be [many] who are older than I and greater of
worth; hold me quit therefore of this thing.' Quoth all the
Amirs, 'We consent not but that thou be king over us.' Then
said Hassan, 'My father is older than I, and he and I are one
thing; and it befits not to advance me over him.' But Ali
said, 'I will consent to nothing but what is pleasing to my
brethren; and they have all chosen and agreed upon thee.
Wherefore gainsay thou not the King's commandment and that
of thy brethren.' And Hassan hung his head in abashment before
the King and his father. Then said the King to the Amirs, 'Do
ye all accept of him?' 'We do,' answered they and recited
thereupon seven Fatihehs.'[FN#202] So the King said to the
Cadi, 'Draw up a legal act testifying of these Amirs that they
are agreed to make my daughter's husband Hassan king over
them.' So the Cadi wrote the act and made it executory,[FN#203]
after they had all taken the oath of fealty to Hassan. Then the
King invested him with the insignia of royalty and bade him
take his seat on the throne; whereupon they all arose and
kissed King Hassan's hands and did homage to him.

The new king dispensed justice among the people that day, in
right royal fashion, and invested the grandees of the realm in
splendid robes of honour. When the Divan broke up, he went in
to his father-and-law and kissed his hands; and the old King
said to him, 'O my son, look thou govern the people in the fear
of God.' 'O my father,' replied Hassan, 'through thy prayers
for me, the grace of God will come to me.' Then he entered his
own palace and was met by his wife and her mother and their
attendants, who kissed his hands and gave him joy of his
advancement, saying, 'This is a blessed day.' Then he went in
to his father and mother, who rejoiced with an exceeding joy in
that which God had vouchsafed him of his advancement to the
kingship, and his father exhorted him to the fear of God and to
affectionate solicitude in his dealings with his subjects. He
passed the night in joy and gladness, and on the morrow, having
prayed the appointed prayers, concluding with the customary
recitation of part of the Koran, he repaired to the Divan,
whither came all his officers and dignitaries. He passed the
day in dispensing justice among his subjects, enjoining to
beneficence and forbidding from iniquity and appointing and
displacing, till nightfall, when the Divan broke up, after the
goodliest fashion, and all present withdrew and went each his
own way. Then he arose and went in to the palace, where he
found his father-in-law's sickness grown heavy upon him and
said to him, 'May no hurt befall thee!' At this the old King
opened his eyes and said, 'O Hassan!' 'At thy service, O my
lord,' replied the young man. Quoth the old King, 'My last hour
is at hand: be careful of thy wife and her mother and look
thou fear God and honour thy parents, being still in awe of
the majesty of the Requiting King and remembering that He
commandeth to justice and beneficence.' And Hassan replied,
'I hear and obey.'

The old King lingered three days after this and was then
received into the mercy of God the Most High. They paid him
the last offices and buried him and held over him readings and
recitations of the Koran, to the end of the [customary] forty
days. And King Hassan, son of the Vizier, reigned in his stead,
and his subjects rejoiced in him and all his days were gladness.
Moreover, his father ceased not to be his chief Vizier on his
right hand, and he took to himself another Vizier, to be at his
left hand. His reign was a prosperous one and he abode long
King in Baghdad. God blessed him, by the old King's daughter,
with three sons, who inherited the kingdom after him; and they
abode in the enjoyment of all delight and solace of life, till
there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer
of Companies. And glory be to Him who is eternal and in whose
hand are annulment and confirmation!


A man of the pilgrims once slept a long sleep and awaking,
found no trace of the caravan. So he arose and walked on, but
lost his way and presently came to a tent, at whose door he saw
an old woman and a dog by her, asleep. He went up to the tent
and saluting the old woman, sought of her food. 'Go to yonder
valley,' said she, 'and catch thy sufficiency of serpents, that
I may broil of them for thee and give thee to eat.' 'I dare not
catch serpents,' answered the pilgrim; 'nor did I ever eat
them.' Quoth the old woman, 'I will go with thee and catch
them; fear not.' So she went with him, followed by the dog, to
the valley, and catching a sufficient number of serpents,
proceeded to broil them. He saw nothing for it but to eat, for
fear of hunger and exhaustion; so he ate of the serpents.

Then he was athirst and asked for water to drink. 'Go to the
spring and drink,' answered she. So he went to the spring and
found the water thereof bitter; yet needs must he drink of it,
for all its bitterness, because of the violence of his thirst.
Then he returned to the old woman and said to her, 'O old
woman, I marvel at thy choosing to abide in this place and
putting up with such meat and drink!' 'And how is it then in
thy country?' asked she. 'In my country,' answered he, 'are
wide and spacious houses and ripe and delicious fruits and
sweet and abundant waters and goodly viands and fat meats and
plentiful flocks and all things pleasant and all the goods of
life, the like whereof are not, save in the Paradise that God
the Most High hath promised to His pious servants.' 'All this,'
replied she, 'have I heard: but tell me, have you a Sultan who
ruleth over you and is tyrannical in his rule and under whose
hand you are, who, if one of you commit a fault, taketh his
goods and undoth him and who, when he will, turneth you out of
your houses and uprooteth you, stock and branch?' 'Indeed, that
may be,' answered the man. 'Then, by Allah,' rejoined she,
'these your delicious viands and dainty life and pleasant
estate, with tyranny and oppression, are but a corroding
poison, in comparison wherewith, our food and fashion, with
freedom and safety, are a healthful medicine. Hast thou not
heard that the best of all boons, after the true Faith, are
health and security?'

Now these[FN#204] [quoth he who tells the tale] may be by the
just rule of the Sultan, the Vicar of God in His earth, and the
goodness of his policy. The Sultan of times past needed but
little awfulness, for that, when the people saw him, they
feared him; but the Sultan of these days hath need of the most
accomplished policy and the utmost majesty, for that men are
not as men of time past and this our age is one of folk
depraved and greatly calamitous, noted for folly and hardness
of heart and inclined to hatred and enmity. If, therefore, the
Sultan that is set over them be (which God the Most High
forfend) weak or lack of policy and majesty, without doubt,
this will be the cause of the ruin of the land. Quoth the
proverb, 'A hundred years of the Sultan's tyranny, rather than
one of the tyranny of the people, one over another.' When the
people oppress one another, God setteth over them a tyrannical
Sultan and a despotic King. Thus it is told in history that
there was, one day, presented to El Hejjaj ben Yousuf[FN#205] a
docket, in which was written, 'Fear God and oppress not His
servants with all manner of oppression.' When he read this, he
mounted the pulpit, (for he was ready of speech,) and said, 'O
folk' God the Most High hath set me over you, by reason of your
[evil] deeds; and though I die, yet will ye not be delivered
from oppression, with your evil deeds; for God the Most High
hath created many like unto me. If it be not I, it will be a
more fertile than I in mischief and a mightier in oppression
and a more strenuous in violence, even as saith the poet:

For no hand is there but the hand of God is over it And no
oppressor but shall be with worse than he oppress.

Tyranny is feared: but justice is the best of all things. We
beg God to better our case.'


There was once in Baghdad a man of rank and rich in money and
houses and lands, who was one of the chiefs of the merchants,
and God had largely endowed him with worldly goods, but had
not vouchsafed him what he longed for of offspring; and there
passed over him a long space of time, without his being blessed
with children, male or female. His years waxed great, his bones
became wasted and his back bent, and weakness and trouble
increased on him, and he feared the loss of his wealth and
possessions, seeing he had no child, whom he might make his
heir and by whom he should be remembered. So he betook himself
with supplication to God the Most High, fasting by day and
rising by night [to pray]. Moreover, he made vows to God the
Living, the Eternal, and visited the pious and was instant in
supplication to the Most Migh, till He gave ear to him and
accepted his prayer and took pity on his striving and complaining;
so that, before many days were past, he lay with one of his women
and she became with child by him the same night. She accomplished
the months of her pregnancy and casting her burden, bore a male
child as he were a piece of the moon; whereupon the merchant,
in his gratitude to God, (to whom belong might and majesty,)
fulfilled his vows and gave alms and clothed the widow and the

On the seventh night after the boy's birth, he named him
Aboulhusn, and the wet-nurses suckled him and the dry-nurses
dandled him and the slaves and servants carried him, till he
grew up and throve and learnt the sublime Koran and the
ordinances of Islam and the things of the True Faith. Moreover,
he learned writing and poetry and mathematics and archery and
became the pearl of his age and the goodliest of the folk of
his time and his day, fair of face and fluent of tongue,
bearing himself with a proud and graceful port and glorying in
his symmetry and amorous grace. His cheeks were red and his
forehead white and brilliant and the tender down of the
whiskers darkened upon his face, even as saith one, describing

The Spring of the down on his cheeks to the eye shows clear;
And how shall the rose endure, after Spring is here?
Dost thou not see that the growth on his cheek, forsooth, A
violet is, that forth of its leaves doth peer?

He abode awhile with his father, in the best of case, and the
latter rejoiced and delighted in him, till he came to man's
estate, when the merchant one day made him sit down before him
and said to him, 'O my son, the appointed term draws near; my
last hour is at hand and it remains but to meet God (to whom
belong might and majesty). I leave thee what shall suffice
thee, even to thy son's son, of money and farms and houses and
gardens; wherefore, O my son, fear thou God the Most High in
[dealing with] that which I leave thee and follow none but
those who will help thee [in this].' Not long after, he
sickened and died; so his son ordered his funeral, after the
goodliest fashion, and burying him, returned to his house and
sat mourning for him [many] days and nights, till certain of
his friends came in to him and said to him, 'Whoso leaveth the
like of thee after him is not dead; indeed, what is past is
past and mourning beseemeth none but girls and cloistered
women.' And they ceased not from him, till they wrought on him
to enter the bath and break off his mourning. Then he forgot
his father's injunctions, and his head was turned by his
riches; he thought fortune would still abide with him, as it
was, and that wealth would never come to an end. So he ate and
drank and made merry and took his pleasure and gave gifts of
money and raiment and was profuse with gold and gave himself up
to eating fowls and breaking the seals of wine-flasks and
listening to songs and to the laugh of the wine, as it gurgled
from the flagon; nor did he give over this way of life, till
his wealth was wasted and the case became straitened [upon him]
and he bit his hands [for repentance] and gone was all he had.

In good sooth, he had nothing left, after that which he had
squandered, but a slave-girl that his father had bequeathed to
him with the rest of his estate: her name was Taweddud and she
had no equal in beauty and grace and brightness and symmetry
and all perfection. She was past mistress in all manner of arts
and accomplishments and endowed with [many] excellences,
surpassing all the folk of her age and time. She was grown more
notorious than a way-mark,[FN#206] for the versatility of her
genius, and outdid the fair both in theory and practice and
elegant and flexile grace, more by token that she was five feet
high and in conjunction with fair fortune, with strait arched
brows, as they were the crescent moon of Shaaban,[FN#207] and
eyes like those of gazelles, nose like the point of the sabre
and cheeks like blood-red anemones, mouth like Solomon's seal
and teeth like necklaces of pearls, navel holding an ounce of
benzoin ointment and waist more slender than his body whom love
hath wasted and whom concealment [of his passion] hath made
sick, and buttocks heavier than two hills of sand; brief, in
all she answered to the saying of him who says:

Her fair shape ravisheth, if face to face she did appear, And
if she turn, for severance from her she slayeth sheer.
Sun-like, full-moon-like, sapling-like, unto her character
Estrangement nowise appertains nor cruelty austere.
Under the bosom of her shift the garths of Eden are, and the
full-moon revolveth still upon her neck-rings' sphere.

She seemed [at once] a rising full moon and a browsing gazelle,
a girl of nine and five,[FN#208] putting to shame the moon and
the sun, even as saith of her the eloquent and ingenious poet:

The likeness of the full-moon, faring o'er The heavens, five
and five and after four;
'Tis not my fault, if she have made of me Its likeness, when it
first in heaven doth soar.

White of skin, odoriferous of breath, it seemed as if she were
[at once] fashioned of fire and moulded of crystal; rose-red
was the cheek of her and perfect her shape and figure; even as
saith of her one, describing her:

Scented with sandal and musk, right proudly doth she go, With
gold and silver and rose and saffron-colour aglow.
A flower in a garden she is, a pearl in an ouch of gold Or an
image in chapel set for worship of high and low.
Slender and shapely she is; vivacity bids her arise, But the
weight of her hips says, "Sit, or softly and slowly go."
Whenas her favours I seek and sue for my heart's desire, "Be
gracious," her beauty says; but her coquetry answers,
Glory to Him who made beauty her portion, and that Of her lover
to be the prate of the censurers, heigho!

Indeed, she captivated all who saw her, with the excellence of
her beauty and the sweetness of her smile, and transpierced
them with the arrows she launched from her eyes; and withal she
was eloquent of speech and excellently skilled in poetry.

When Aboulhusn had squandered all his wealth and there remained
to him nought but this slave-girl, when [I say] the wretchedness
of his plight became manifest to him, he abode three days
without tasting food or taking rest in sleep, and Taweddud
said to him, 'O my lord, carry me to the Khalif Haroun er
Reshid, fifth of the sons of Abbas, and seek of him ten thousand
dinars to my price. If he deem me dear at this price, say to
him, "O Commander of the Faithful, my slave is worth more
than this: do but prove her, and her value will be magnified
in thine eyes, for she hath not her equal, and it were unfit
that any but thou should possess her." And beware, O my lord,
of selling me for less than the sum I have named, for it is
but little for the like of me.' (Now Aboulhusn knew not her
worth nor that she had no equal in her day.) So he carried
her to the Khalif, to whom he repeated what she had bidden
him say, and the Khalif said to her, 'What is thy name?'
'Taweddud,' answered she. 'O Taweddud,' asked he, 'in what
branches of knowledge dost thou excel?' 'O my lord,' answered
she, 'I am versed in syntax and poetry and jurisprudence and
exegesis and lexicography and music and the knowledge of the
Divine ordinances and in arithmetic and geodesy and the fables
of the ancients. I know the sublime Koran [by heart] and have
read it according to the seven and the ten and the fourteen
[modes]. I know the number of its chapters and verses and
sections and words and letters and its halves and fourths
and eighths and tenths, the number of acts of adoration,
that occur in it, and what there is in it of cancelling and
cancelled;[FN#209] also what parts of it were revealed at
Medina and what at Mecca and the manner of the different
revelations. I know the Holy Traditions, their history and
variants and the manner of their recitation and interpretation,
together with those of them whose chain of descent is unbroken
and those for which it is broken; and I have studied the exact
sciences, geometry and philosophy and medicine and logic
and rhetoric and composition; and I know many things and am
passionately fond of poetry. I can play the lute and know its
gamut and notation and so forth. If I sing and dance, I ravish,
and if I adorn and perfume myself, I slay. In fine, I have
reached a pitch of perfection such as can only be estimated by
those who are stablished in knowledge.'[FN#210]

When the Khalif heard her words, he wondered at them and at the
eloquence of her speech, seeing the tenderness of her age, and
turning to Aboulhusn, said to him, 'I will summon those who
shall examine her in all she lays claim to; if she answer
[correctly,] I will give thee the price thou askest for her and
more; and if not, thou art fitter to [possess] her [than I].'
'With all my heart, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied
Aboulhusn. So the Khalif wrote to the Viceroy of Bassora, to
send him Ibrahim ben Siyyar the poet, who was the first man of
his day in argument and eloquence and poetry and logic, and
bade him bring with him readers of the Koran and doctors of the
law and physicians and astrologers and sages and geometricians
and philosophers; and Ibrahim was more learned than all. In a
little while they all arrived at the Khalif's palace, knowing
not what was to do, and the latter sent for them to his
sitting-chamber and bade them be seated. So they sat down and
he bade fetch the damsel Taweddud, who came and unveiling,
showed herself, as she were a sparkling star. The Khalif caused
set her a stool of gold; and she saluted and speaking with an
eloquent tongue, said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, bid the
learned men present contend with me in argument.' So he said to
them, 'I desire of you that ye dispute with this damsel on the
things of her faith and make void her argument, in all she
avoucheth;' and they answered, saying, 'We hear and obey God
and thee, O Commander of the Faithful.'

Thereupon Taweddud bowed her head and said, 'Which of you is
the doctor of the law, the scholar, versed in the interpretation
of the Koran and in the Traditions?' Quoth one of them, 'I am
the man thou seekest.' 'Then,' said she, 'ask me of what thou
wilt.' Quoth the doctor, 'Hast thou read the precious book of
God and dost thou know its abrogating and abrogated parts and
hast thou meditated its verses and expressions?' 'Yes,' answered
she. 'Then,' said he, 'I will proceed to question thee of the
obligatory ordinances and the immutable institutions: so tell
me of these, O damsel, and who is thy Lord, who thy prophet,
and who thy brethren. Also, what is thy [point of] fronting
[in prayer], what thine exemplar, what thy path and what thy
highway?' 'Allah is my Lord,' replied she, 'and Mohammed (whom
God bless and preserve) my prophet and the true-believers are my
brethren. The Koran is my exemplar and the Kaabeh my [point of]
fronting; the practice of good is my path and the Sunneh[FN#211]
my highway.' (Q.) 'With what do we know God the Most High?'
(A.) 'With the understanding.' (Q.) 'And what is the understanding?'
(A.) 'It is of two kinds, natural and acquired. The first is that
which God (to whom belong might and majesty) bestoweth on whom He
will of His servants; and the other is that which men acquire
by dint of study and fair knowledge.' (Q.) 'Thou hast answered
well. Where is the seat of the understanding?' (A.) 'God casteth
it in the heart, whence its lustre ascendeth to the brain and
there becometh fixed.' (Q.) 'How knowest thou the Prophet of God?'
(A.) 'By the reading of God's Holy Book and by signs and proofs
and portents and miracles.' (Q.) 'What are the obligatory
ordinances and the immutable institutions?' (A.) 'The obligatory
ordinances are five in number. (1) Testification that there is no
god but God alone, that He hath no partner in divinity and that
Mohammed is His servant and His apostle. (2) The scrupulous
performance of the enjoined prayers. (3) The payment of the
poor-rate. (4) Fasting Ramazan. (5) The performance of the
Pilgrimage to God's Holy House [at Mecca] for all to whom it
is possible. The immutable institutions are four in number; to
wit, night and day and sun and moon, the which build up life and
hope, neither knoweth any son of Adam if they will be destroyed
on the Day of Judgment.' (Q.) 'What are the obligatory rites of
the Faith?' (A.) 'Prayer, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage,
fighting for the Faith and abstinence from what is forbidden.'
(Q.) 'Why dost thou stand up to pray?' (A.) 'To express the
devout intent of the slave submitting himself to [or acknowledging]
the Divinity.' (Q.) 'What are the conditions precedent of standing
up to pray?' (A.) 'Purification, covering the privy parts,
the avoidance of soiled clothes, standing on a clean place,
fronting [the Kaabeh,] a standing posture, the intent[FN#212]
and the magnification of prohibition.'[FN#213] (Q.) 'With what
shouldest thou go forth thy house to pray? (A.) 'With an intent
of worship.'[FN#214] (Q.) 'With what intent shouldest thou
enter the mosque?' (A.) 'With an intent of service.'[FN#215]
(Q.) 'Why do we front the Kaabeh?' (A.) 'In obedience to three
Divine and one Traditional ordinance.' (Q.) 'What is the
commencement, the consecration and the dissolution [end] of
prayer?' (A.) 'Purification, the magnification of prohibition
and the salutation of the angels [concluding prayer].' (Q.)
'What of him who neglecteth prayer?' (A.) 'It is reported,
among the authentic (Traditions of the Prophet, that he said),
"He, who neglecteth prayer wilfully and without excuse, hath no
part in Islam."' (Q.) 'What is prayer?' (A.) 'Prayer is
communion between the slave and his Lord, and in it are ten
virtues, to wit, (1) it illumines the heart (2) makes the face
shine (3) pleases the Merciful One (4) angers Satan (5)
conjures calamity (6) wards off the mischief of enemies (7)
multiplies mercy (8) forfends vengeance [or punishment] (9)
brings the slave nigh unto [or in favour with] his Lord and
(10) restrains from lewdness and iniquity. It is one of the
written obligatory ordinances and the pillar of the Faith.'
(Q.) 'What is the key of prayer?' (A.) 'Ablution.' (Q.) 'What
is the key of ablution?' (A.) 'Nomination.'[FN#216] (Q.) 'That
of naming God?' (A.) 'Faith.' (Q.) 'That of Faith?' (A.) 'Trust
in God.' (Q.) 'That of trust in God?' (A.) 'Hope.' (Q.) 'That
of Hope?' (A.) 'Obedience.' (Q.) 'That of obedience?' (A.) 'The
confession of the unity and the acknowledgment of the divinity
of God.' (Q.) 'What are the Divine ordinances of ablution?'
(A.) 'They are six in number, according to the canon of the
Imam Es Shafi Mohammed ben Idris (of whom God accept) to wit,
(1) intent[FN#217] to wash the face (2) washing the face (3)
washing the hands and elbows (4) wiping part of the head (5)
washing the feet and heels and (6) observing the prescribed
order of ablution, whose statutes are ten in number, to wit,
(1) nomination (2) washing the hands before putting them into
the vase (3) rinsing the mouth (4) drawing up water through the
nostrils (5) wiping the whole head (6) washing the ears within
and without with fresh water (7) separating a thick beard (8)
separating the fingers and toes (9) washing the right foot
before the left and (10) doing each of these thrice and all in
unbroken succession. When the ablution is ended, the devotee
should (quoth Es Shafi[FN#218]) say, "I testify that there is
no god but God alone, who hath no partner, and that Mohammed is
His servant and apostle. O my God, make me of those who repent
and are made clean! Glory to Thee, O my God, and in Thy praise
I testify that there is no god but Thou! I crave pardon of
Thee and repent to Thee!" For it is reported, in the Holy
Traditions, that the Prophet (whom God bless and keep) said of
this prayer, "Whoso ensueth every ablution with this prayer,
the eight gates of Paradise are open to him; he shall enter at
which he pleases."' (Q.) 'When a man purposes to make the


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