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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: One day I joined a company like unto the flowers of spring, or the stars of night after the third watch, with bright countenances and agreeable dispositions. They resembled one another in appearance and were alike in good circumstances. And we began to pull the skirts of conversation and to open the doors of debate. Now there was in our midst a youth, short of stature among men, with clipped mustachios, who uttered not a word, nor entered with us into a description, until, finally, the discussion led us to the praise of wealth and its possessors, to the mention of property and its excellence and to the assertion that it is the adornment of men and the goal of perfection. Then, as if he had awoke from a sleep, or presented himself after an absence, he opened his díwán4 loosed his tongue, and said: 'Silence! Verily ye have failed in a thing that ye lack; ye have come short in the search of it and

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then despised it. Ye have been cheated out of the eternal by the temporal, and the near 1 has preoccupied you to the exclusion of the remote. 2 Is the world other than the camping-ground of a camel-rider, or the hasty meal of the wayfarer? Is wealth aught but a loan to be returned, or a trust to be given up? It is transferred from one people to another, and those who come first hoard it for those who come after. Do ye see wealth with any but the niggards, to the exclusion of the generous? or with the ignorant, to the exclusion of the learned? Beware of delusion, for there is no glory except in one of two directions, and no precedence save in one of two lots, noble pedigree or eminent learning. And how excellent a thing is that whose bearer is borne on people's heads, and whose aspirant despaireth not! By heavens! were it not for the preservation of life and honour, I should have been the richest man on earth. For I know of two treasures, one of them is in the region of Ṭarsus 3 and men's minds crave for it. It belongs to the treasures of the Amalekites and to the stores of the Patricians. 4 There are in it a hundred thousand pounds weight. As for the other, it is between Sora 5 and Hilleh. 6 It contains of the treasures of the Persian

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kings 1 and of the hoards of the Tyrants sufficient for mankind and Jinn. Most of it consists of red rubies, pearls and gems, bejewelled crowns and ten thousand talents amassed.' Now when we heard that, we carne before him, leaned towards him, and began to consider his judgement weak in being content with a scanty livelihood in spite of his being aware of these stores. Then he hinted that he was afraid of the Sulṭán and relied upon none of his brethren. So we said: 'We have heard thy argument and we accept thy excuse. Now, if thou wouldst see fit to do us a kindness, to oblige us, and to acquaint us with one of these treasures, on condition that two-thirds shall be thine, do so.' Then he extended his hand towards us and said: 'He who sends something in advance will find it again, and to him who knows what is obtainable the bountiful giving of money is easy.' So each one of us gave him what was ready to hand and was eager for what he had mentioned. Now, when we had filled his palm, he raised his eyes towards us and said: 'We must get a bare sufficiency 2 of the means of subsistence and obtain what will maintain strength. 3 Our time is short and, if God will, exalted be He! the meeting-place will be here to-morrow.'

Said ‘Isá ibn Hishám: When that company dispersed, I sat after them for a while. Then I advanced towards him and seated myself before him and said--and verily I desired to make his acquaintance and my soul longed to converse with him: 'It is as though I knew thy pedigree and had met thee.' He said: 'Yes, a road united us and thou wast my travelling-companion.' So I said: 'Time hath changed thee to me and none made me forget thee except Satan.' 4

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Then he recited saying:--

'I am the tyrant of the time, 1 of folly I have many ideas
And, when money faileth, I spend from the purse of desires.
Whoever desires greedy feeding and deep drinking, to the sound 2 of the lute, 3
And prefers the smooth-faced, oblivious of so and so, and so and so,
Thou wilt see him secure against wealth and prosperity.'



182:4 His diwán: Figuratively for his store of prose and poetry, his repertoire.

183:1 The near: That is, the present life,

183:2 The remote: That is, the future life.

183:3 Tarsus: A well-known ancient city in the fertile plain of Cilicia. It was captured by the Arabs shortly after A.D. 660. For more than a century after its conquest it was in ruins. But Hárún al-Rashíd rebuilt its wall in A.D. 787 and made it the north-western capital of the Arab power in the long wars against the Byzantine empire. The Khalífa Mamúm died and was buried here in A.H. 218 (August A.D. 833). The ruins of the ancient city are extensive but are deeply buried. (Encyclopædia Britannica, xxvi, 433). The assertion that a treasure lay buried here was, therefore, not inappropriate.

183:4 Patricians: Plural of leader of an army, one who is over ten thousand men. It is arabicized from the Latin patricius. From the time of Constantine (A.D. 288-337) patrician became the title of a person high in office at court.

183:5 Sora: In Babylonia quite close to Hilleh and Waqf, the seat of a famous Jewish academy founded in the third century A.D. by the renowned scholar Abba Arika, which played a dominant rôle in Babylonian Judaism for several centuries. It was noted for wine. Jewish Encyclopædia, i, 145, and Yaqút, iii, 184.

183:6 Hilleh: of Banú Mazyad, a town of Asiatic Turkey between Kúfa and Baghdad and sixty miles south of the latter city. It is situated on both banks of the Euphrates. Many of the houses of the town are built of bricks, not a few p. 184 of them bearing an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, obtained from the ruins of Babylon which lie less than an hour away to the north. Encyclopædia Britannica, xiii, 467; and Yaqút, ii, 10 and 322.

184:1 The treasures of the Persian Kings: The royal treasures which fell into the hands of the Arabs on the overthrow of the Persian monarchy in the Khalífate of ‘Umar (A.D. 634-44) were enormous; see al-Fakhrí, p. 101. The term, consequently, came to be synonymous with immense wealth. Cf. Persian

184:2 A bare sufficiency: Literally, that suffices the cattle of what they obtain from trees or plants; hence food sufficient to maintain life.

184:3 What will maintain strength: Literally, what will arrest the remains () of life.

184:4 None made me forget thee except Satan: An allusion to Qur’án, xviii, 62.

185:1 I am the tyrant of the time: Metre, ramal.

185:2 The sound: Literally, a humming, or rumbling sound.

185:3 The lute: Literally, the chord (of a lute) composed of two strings, or, as some say, the second chord. See Ḥarírí, i. 244.

Next: LI. The Maqáma of Bishr