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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: In the year A.H. 75 3 I took part in a raid, on the frontier of Qazwín, 4 with those that raided it. We crossed not a rugged upland, but we also descended into a valley, until our march brought us to one of the villages. The scorching noon-day heat impelled us to seek the shade of some tamarisk trees in the centre 5 of which was a spring, like unto the flame of a torch, 6 more limped than a tear, gliding over the stony ground as glides the restless serpent. We took what food we were inclined to take, then we sought the shade and addressed ourselves to the noon-day nap. But sleep had not yet overcome us when we heard a voice more disagreeable than the braying of an ass 7 and a footfall lighter than that of a camel's colt; accompanying these two was the sound of a drum which seemed to proceed from the jaws of a lion and which drove away

p. 79

the scout of sleep from the people. I opened both my eyes 1and looked towards him, but the trees intervened between us. So I listened and lo! he was reciting to the beat of the drum:--

'I invite to God, 2 is there an answerer?
To a spacious shelter and luxuriant pasture.
To a lofty garden 3 the fruits whereof 4 cease not to be near to gather and never vanish from sight.
O people, verily I am a man returning 5
From the land of infidelity, and wondrous is my story.
If now I have believed, how many nights
Have I denied my Lord and committed the questionable thing? 6
Ah! many the swine the ends of whose soft bones I have chewed,
And the intoxicant of which I have obtained a share!
Then did God guide me and zealous and effectual endeavour raised me from the baseness of unbelief,
But I continued to conceal my religion from my people,
And to worship God with a penitent heart.
I adored the goddess al-Lát, 7 for fear of the enemy,
And in dread of the Watcher, I looked not towards the Ka‘ba.
I besought God when night enveloped me and dreadful day wasted me,
Lord, as Thou hast saved me,
Now deliver me, for I am a stranger among them.
Then did I take the night as my steed,
And I had before me  8 no spare mount, except resolution.

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Suffice thee to know of my journey, that it was in a night,
In which the head of a child would almost turn grey,
Until I passed from the enemy's territory
Into the guarded domain of the Faith, and then I shook off fear.
When the signs of the Faith came in sight, I said:
Assistance from God and a speedy victory.' 1

Now, when he reached this verse, he said: 'O people! I have entered 2 your dwelling with a resolution which love hath not excited, nor poverty impelled. I have left behind my back gardens planted with trees, and vineyards, damsels 3 of equal age with swelling breasts, and excellent horses, 4 heaped up wealth, 5 equipments, a numerous tribe, mounts and slaves: But I came forth as the serpent issues from its hole, 6 and the bird goes forth from its nest, preferring my religion to my worldly possessions, bringing my right to my left, 7 and joining my day march to my night journey. Now I pray ye will ye combat the fire with its own sparks, 8 and stone the Byzantine empire with its own missiles, and with assistance and aid, with support and succour, and help me in invading them, but not exceeding bounds, every one according to his several ability and in proportion to his wealth? I will not regard a bag of ten thousand dirhems too much; I will accept a mite 9 and not decline a date. For each one from me

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there will be two arrows, 1 one of which I will sharpen for future recompense, and the other I will notch with prayer 2 and with it from the bow of darkness 3 shoot at the gates of Heaven.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám 'His admirable diction excited me, so I cast off the robe of sleep and ran to the company and lo! it was our Shaikh, Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí, with a sword which he had drawn, and in a garb which he had adopted as a disguise. Now when he saw me he winked his eye at me and said: 'May God be merciful to him who from his abundance 4 will help us and apportion to us a share of his favours.' Then he took what he got, then I led him aside and said: 'Art thou of the sons of the Nabateans? 5 He answered:--

'As is my state with fate,  6 such is my state with pedigree.
'My genealogy is in the hands of Time, if it is hard upon it, it will change.
In the evening a Nabatean am I, in the morning an Arab.'



78:3 The year A.H. 75: If we accept this date the author goes back to the raid made by al-Bara ibn ‘Azíb appointed governor of Rai in A.H. 24. If we take it to be A.H. 375 which is the more probable date, that would place the episode five years before Hamadhání is said to have left his native city. De Sacy has adopted the latter view (Chrestomathie Arabe, iii, 243.) The year 375 was an eventful one, but there is no allusion to a raid on the frontier of Qazwín. See Ibn al-Athír, ix, 29-33.

78:4 Qazwín: A well-known city and the capital of the province of the same name situated ninety-two miles by road from Teheran.

78:5 The centre: Literally, the enclosure.

78:6 The flame of a torch: Literally, the tongue of a torch, in its purity and sheen.

78:7 More disagreeable than the braying of an ass: An allusion to Qur’án, xxxi, 18.

79:1 Eyes: Literally, twins.

79:2 I invite to God: Metre, sari‘.

79:3 To a lofty garden: An allusion to Qur’án lxix, 22.

79:4 The fruits whereof: An allusion to Qur’án lxix, 23.

79:5 Returning: In the sense of repenting. Another reading bred which is more agreeable to the context.

79:6 And committed the questionable thing: Another reading, I have adored the Cross.

79:7 Al-Lát: One of the three goddesses worshipped by the ancient Arabians. The other two were al-‘Uzza and Manáh.

79:8 Before me does not yield a good sense: by my side, would be better.

80:1 Assistance from God and a speedy victory: Qur’án lxi, 13. This text was the battle cry of the early Muslims. Cf. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, p. 231, line 4.

80:2 I have entered: Literally, I have trodden.

80:3 Damsels: Qur’án lxxviii, 32-3.

80:4 Excellent horses: Qur’án iii, 12.

80:5 Heaped up wealth: Qur’án iii, 12.

a large quantity or aggregate of property, or much property heaped up. Its weight in the present day is one hundred pounds. aggregated, the latter word is corroborative. (centenarius) in the author's time was equal to 120 ratls (Mafatiḥ al‘Ulúm p. 179, edited by Vloten).

80:6 As the serpent issues from its hole: i.e. with nothing.

80:7 Bringing my right to my left: Either (1) bringing the feet together as a preliminary to a determination to step forward, opposite of, I advanced one foot and drew back the other, as a sign of indecision, or (2) bringing the hands together as a sign of resolution, or (3) clenching the hands as a sign of determination.

80:8 Combat the fire with its own sparks: This appears to be a proverbial expression.

80:9 A mite: the weight of an ant. See Qur’án xxxiv, 3.

81:1 Two arrows: The primitive meaning of is missile with which one draws lots in the game called al-maisar, then applied to the thing won by him whose arrow is successful in the game above mentioned.

81:2 With prayer: for present need.

81:3 From the bow of darkness: A reference to the belief that prayer at night is more effectual; another reading is thirst.

81:4 His abundance: Literally, his superfluous skirts.

81:5 Art thou of the sons of the Nabateans? Another, and more appropriate reading in the Constantinople edition, and in the Cambridge MS is 'Art thou of the children of the daughters of the Greeks'?

81:6 As is my state with fate: Cf. p. 13 of the Text. Metre, Khafif.

This maqáma is a strange medley of references to paganism, Christianity and Islám based upon the imaginary conversion of a Greek to Muḥammadanism.

Next: XIX. The Maqama of Sásán