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The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast [1915] at


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I was at Isfahan 6

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intending to go to Rayy 1 and so I alighted in the city as alights the fleeting shade. I was expecting to see the caravan 2 at every glance and looking out for the mount to appear at every sunrise. Now, when that which I expected, was about to happen, I heard the call to prayer and to respond to it was obligatory. So I slipped away from my companions, taking advantage of the opportunity 3 of joining in public prayers, and dreading, at the same time, the loss of the caravan I was leaving. But I sought aid against the difficulty of the desert through the blessing of prayer, and, therefore, I went to the front row and stood up. The Imam went up to the niche and recited the opening chapter of the Qur’án according to the intonation of Ḥamza, 4 in regard to using 'madda' and 'ḥamza,' while I experienced disquieting grief 5 at the thought of missing the caravan, and of separation from the mount. Then he followed up the Súratal-Fátiḥa with Súrat al-Wáqi‘a 6 while I suffered the fire of patience and tasked myself severely. I was roasting and grilling on the live coal

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of rage. But, from what I knew of the savage fanaticism of the people 1 of that place, if 2 prayers were cut short of the final salutation, there was no alternative but silence and endurance, or speech and the grave. So I remained standing thus on the foot of necessity till the end of the chapter. I had now despaired of the caravan and given up all hope of the supplies and the mount. He next bent his back 3 for the two prostrations with such humility and emotion, the like of which I had never seen before. Then he raised his hands and his head and said: 'May God accept the praise of him who praises Him,' and remained standing till I doubted not but that he had fallen asleep. Then he placed his right hand on the ground, put his forehead on the earth and pressed his face thereto. I raised my head to look for an opportunity to slip away, but I perceived no opening in the rows, so I re-addressed myself to prayer until he repeated the Takbír 4 for the sitting posture. Then he stood up for the second prostration and recited the Súras of al-Fatíḥa 5 and al-Qári‘a with an intonation which occupied the duration of the Last Day 6 and well-nigh exhausted the spirits of the congregation. Now, when he had finished his two prostrations and proceeded to wag his jaws 7 to pronounce the testimony to God's unity, and to turn his face to the right and to the left 8 for the final salutation, I said: 'Now God has made escape easy, and deliverance is nigh'; but a man stood up and said: 'Whosoever of you loves the Companions and the Muslim community let him lend me his ears for a moment.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: I clave to my place in order to save my dignity. Then he said: 'It is incumbent upon

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me that I should speak nothing but verity and testify to nought but the truth. I have brought you good tidings from your Prophet, but I will not communicate it until God hath purged this musjid of every vile person who denies his prophetic office.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Now he had bound me with cords and fettered me with bands of iron. 1 Then he said: 'I saw the Prophet in a dream!--May God send His blessings upon him--like the sun beneath the clouds, and the moon at the full. He was walking, the stars following him; he was trailing his skirts and the angels held them up. Then he taught me a prayer and admonished me to teach it to his people. So I wrote it down on these slips of paper 2 with the perfumes of Khalúq, 3 musk, saffron and socc, 4 and whoever asks for a copy as a gift, I will present it to him, but whosoever hands me back the cost of the paper I will accept it.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Dirhems poured upon him to such an extent that he was bewildered. Then he went out and I followed him wondering at the cleverness of his imposture 5 and his artifice to gain his living. And I determined to question him concerning his condition, but I restrained myself, and to converse with him, but I remained silent, and I pondered over his eloquence with his shamelessness, his pleasantness with his mendicity, his catching men by his artifice and his drawing gold from men by his ingenuity. Then I looked and lo! it was Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí. So I asked: 'What set thee on this stratagem?' He smiled and recited, saying:--

'Men are asses, 6 so lead them one after the other,
Compete with, and excel them,
Till thou hast obtained from them
What thou desirest, then quit.'


55:6 Isfahan: A well-known city and a former capital of Persia. Captured during the Khalífate of ‘Umar in A.H. 23 or 24.

56:1 Rayy: A town in Persia, 160 parasangs from Qazwín, and the seat of the government of the province known under the Khalífate as the Daylam. Conquered in the Khalífate of ‘Umar. During the Arab ascendancy, and under the Seljúks, it was a place of considerable importance. Ibn Fáris, the poet and grammarian and instructor of al-Hamadhání, was born here. The derivative adjective from Rayy is Rází.

56:2 The caravan: The commentator considers it to mean a company of persons returning together from a journey, so called as auguring their safe return but more likely from καπηλος through Talmud ‏י־קפיָלה‎ a trader.

56:3 Taking advantage of the opportunity: Because of the greater merit in Islám of public over private prayers. See al-Madhírí, Kitáb al-Targḥíb wa Tarhíb (d. A.H. 656) i, 74.

56:4 According to the intonation of Ḥamza in regard to using madda and ḥamza. Al-Madda () is the orthographical sign of prolongation = Hamzah () and written as in . For the rules as to its use, in intoning the Qur’án, see Suyúṭí, Itqán, pp. 227-31. (Calcutta, edition, 1852). Ḥamza ibn al-Habíb (80-156 A.H.) buried at Húlwán, was one of the seven recognized readers of the Qur’án. He is charged with exaggerating the use of madda and hamza. The objection is repudiated, however, by Ḥamza's admirers, see Manduat al-‘Ulumín Turkish, i, 483 (Constantinople edition, A H. 1313). Al-Hamadhání evidently believed the charge to be well grounded and hence the appropriateness of the allusion.

56:5 Disquieting grief: Literally causing to stand up and sit down, hence occasioning restlessness.

56:6 Al-Waqi‘a: The Inevitable. Qur’án lvi. It contains ninety-six verses. According to Sháfi‘i, Umm 88, the choice of the Súra rests entirely with the reader or reciter. See Margoliouth, Early Development of Muḥammadanism, p. 21.

57:1 From what I knew of the savage fanaticism of the people. Cf. Yaqút, i, 296.

57:2 should be vocalized See Wright, Grammar, ii, 348 (b).

57:3 His back: Literally his bow.

57:4 Takbír: The repetition of the well-known formula--God is great, God is great, there is no god but God.

57:5 Al-Fátíḥa: The opening chapter of the Qur’án.

Al-Qári‘a: The 'striking'. Qur’án ci. It contains eight verses.

57:6 The duration of the Last Day: Literally 'the hour'. According to Qur’án, lxx, 4, fifty thousand years, and Qur’án, xxxii, 4, a thousand years.

57:7 , His jaws: Literally, the two branches of the occipital artery which are distributed upon the occiput branches from the carotid artery.

57:8 Turn his face to the right and left: To salute the guardian angels.

58:1 Bands of iron: Literally, with black ropes.

58:2 Paper: Arabicized from the Greek χαρτης.

58:3 Khalúq: A certain species of perfume also termed Khiláq. It is composed of saffron and other things, and redness and yellowness are the predominant colours.

58:4 Socc: A sort of perfume prepared from ramik which is a kind of black substance like pitch that is mixed with musk.

58:5 Fraud or imposture: Seems to be a foreign word, probably borrowed from Persian.

58:6 Men are asses: Then quit: Literally, then die. Metre, mujtath.

This maqáma has been translated by De Sacy, see Chrestomathie Arabe, iii 255.

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